November 28, 2011

Slideshow: Aqua Tower - Chicago, Illinois - Designed by Studio Gang

The Aqua tower, designed by Studio Gang, has received a lot of well deserved press over the past year since its completion. However, what has failed to be discussed is the dismal condition of the podium and how the tower interacts with the street. It almost seems as if a different designer worked on the tower vs. the podium as they have no clear relationship. These images capture the undulating balconies from a variety of angles, unclose and as glimpses through the surrounding towers.

Last summer I was lucky enough to be invited to Chicago as a guest of DuPont Corian® to see their new product line and its integration with the DIRTT wall system. As part of the trip I also got to explore the city, see its amazing architecture, and visit NEOCON. This slideshow, as well as few others that will be posted in the coming weeks was a result of their generosity. Check out the Corian® Design Facebook page for more information on their new products:

November 24, 2011


BIG + Paris-based architects OFF, engineers Buro Happold, consultants Michel Forgue and environmental engineer Franck Boutte is the winning team to design the new 15.000 m2 research centre for Sorbonne’s Scientific university Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris.

The new multidisciplinary research centre, Paris PARC, located between Jean Nouvel’s Institut du Monde Arabe and the open green park of the Jussieu Campus will become a significant addition to the campus, strengthening the international appeal and openness of the leading French University for Science and Medicine. The facility will bring together academic scholars and the busi­ness community, while re-connecting the university physically and visually with the city of Paris. The winning team was honored as the best design among proposals from MVRDV, Lipsky Rollet, Mario Cucinella and Peripherique.

Paris PARC is located in the visual axis of the Notre Dame Cathedral in a dense context of university buildings from different historical periods. BIG proposes a building geometry that adapts to the specific conditions of all adjoining sides, optimized for daylight, views and accessibility. The three-dimensional envelope retracts from the neighboring facades, opens up towards the square of Institut du Monde Arabe and the park, and folds into a publicly accessible rooftop landscape, resulting in an adapted sculptural building volume situated between the emblematic architectural monuments of the university.

“As a form of urban experiment the Paris PARC is the imprint of the pressures of its urban context. Wedged into a super dense context – in terms of space, public flows and architectural history – the PARC is conceived as a chain of reactions to the various external and internal forces acting upon it. Inflated to allow daylight and air to enter into the heart of the facility, compressed to ensure daylight and views for the neighboring classrooms and dormitories, lifted and decompressed to allow the public to enter from both plaza and park and finally tilted to reflect the spectacular view of the Paris skyline and the Notre Dame to the Parisians.” Bjarke Ingels, Founder, BIG.

A central canyon provides daylight and a visual connection between laboratories and offices. In the atrium a cascade of informal meeting spaces lead to the public rooftop terrace and faculty club. A public stair to the rooftop offers glimpses into the activities of the laboratories which are divided by transparent walls throughout the building to ensure visual connections between the working spaces. The upper levels have panoramic views towards the Notre Dame and the skyline of Paris.

“We propose a building that creates the optimum conditions for encounters and exchange among the academics and visitors of Paris PARC. Like a scientific incubator the new building will provide the physical environment for nurturing growth of cultures and sharing of ideas - through the internal mix of laboratories, research facilities and informal meeting spaces, and through a reunification with the public life of the city.” Andreas Klok Pedersen, Partner-in-Charge, BIG.

The Paris PARC becomes the interface between campus life and city life by reuniting the Jussieu Campus with the city of Paris. The iconic view of the Notre Dame Cathedral is brought into the daily life of the building through the large panoramic windows while the façade towards the entrance square is slightly tilted, hence, a mirrored image of the Cathedral becomes visible at eyelevel on the square, connecting the building to its iconic location.

TYPE: Competition
CLIENT: UPMC University
SIZE: 15.000 m2
LOCATION: Paris, France
STATUS: 1. Prize
Partners-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Andreas Klok Pedersen
Project Leader: Daniel SundlinArchitect: Gabrielle Nadeau
Team: Camille Crepin, Edouard Boisse, Tiina Liisa Juuti, Alexandre Carpentier

Partners-in-Charge: Manal Rachdi, Tanguy Vermet, Ute Rinnebach
Project Leader: Daniel Colin, Antonio Rovira
Team: Akram Rachdi, Olfa Kamoon

November 22, 2011

Slideshow: Bagsværd Church - Copenhagen, Denmark- by Jørn Utzon

Best known for the stunning architectural icon the Sydney Opera House, the danish architect Jørn Utzon designed one of the most beautiful churches I've visited. Bagsværd Church sits quietly in a suburb of Copenhagen and is rather unassuming from the exterior. It barely hints at the drama of the interior spaces. Tte way Utzon captures light and reflects it into the chapel through his undulating ceiling and light wells is spectacular. The concept is so clear and straight forward and the effect is dramatic. The materials are simple and understated, mostly just white washed concrete with some wood and metal accents. This is a splendid piece of modern architecture that rivals some of the more famous work of its author and his peers.

The Architecure of Genhelix - a contemporary biopharma facility

Here is a description a elegant new building built in spain, designed by Estudio SIC. I love the simplicity of the design - the architects didn't try to do too much, but rather provided a great building with a reasonable budget - this is where creativity really shines.


The biopharmaceutical facility, the first antibody monoclonal manufacturing plant built in Spain, is the expression of the complex inner manufacturing processes of the product: a technological, efficient and sustainable solution. The new biopharma facilities Genhelix is located in a place marked by the passing of the High Speed Train Madrid-Asturias, with this condition becoming the generator of the place: a dynamic and orientated “genius loci”. The building incorporates this status, taking advantage of the maximum visibility in both directions and responding to the different mobility levels that occur in the science park: HST, private vehicle and pedestrian.

The five main volumes - offices, laboratories, production, utilities and warehouse- are combined in a compact scheme, structured through the circulation between each piece, freeing each program and allowing access control to each of them. The necessity to have spaces of internal growth to future extensions, anticipated by the company in a short term of time, is incorporated as design criteria from the beginning of the process. The existing voids in east and west facades allow the growth with no volume modification or outer image affection. The facade can also grow, encompassing the new bodies.

The offices body proposes a working place related to the outside through the metallic skin and the great glass hollows - exhausting the diurnal necessity luminance- which conform the facade. In the ground floor the corporative stairs are placed as first perception of the company as well as the connection between the lower semipublic space with the collective working zone upstairs. This space works as the encounter place, informal meeting, multifunctional area and communication node of the company. In the first level two well-differentiated working places coexist: the open room, as a landscape office, and the room area separated both by a divisible meeting room. The circulations are maximized from the work space to the rest of activities, finalizing in the most distant points to the access, always in facade hollow to the corridor. This scheme allows the combination of outer distant views with the surroundings of immediate work.

The project is generated from an optimized modulated structure -6 x 7.5 meters- according to the particular conditions of load and the disposition of the program. In addition the standard and modular construction achieves a budget adjustment and a specific answer of each structural element to the request and precise efforts, generating a customized and strong identity structure: the canopy projection of the access locates the beginning of the path and the building access, being the reception point of visitors.

Those design criteria are extended to the whole construction of all the existing programs, unifying them with a constructive system formed by sandwich panel of 40 mm. and length up to 12 m. enclosing the building. The façade pace, repeated each meter of length, is defined by the curvature of the outer plate, allowing to distinguish both skins in a unique constructive solution. The façade structure is fitted between the panels, letting see the metallic mesh from the outside. The transformation of the standard and industrialized constructive systems is personalized and adapted to the project.

The façade, as an interface between the environment and the working space, expresses the underlying enterprise concept: health, hygiene and quality, generating a white, clean, aseptic and corporative architecture, which shares the communicative concepts of the company. The expanded metal skin unifies the offices and the R+D laboratories offering a unique homogenous image to all the plant. On the skin the company logo appears as an unstructured typography. An exhaustive system of decomposition the letters are disturbed according to the different perception points, simulating the movement of the enterprise logo based on the direction and the speed of the observer: the fragmented central vision takes step to lateral and fleeting visions totally constructed.

For more information on this project: estudio SIC

November 13, 2011

Video: Deadlines

A great video aimed to educate clients on why creative design solutions take time. Wouldn't it be great if they understood that the quality of the end product is correlated to how much time they allow architects/designers to work on their project? Considering they will be using/occupying the end result for years or hopefully a lifetime, perhaps a few extra days/weeks is a worthy investment.

November 7, 2011

The Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene Oregon - Designed by TVA Architects

by Kevin Young

Recently there has been a great deal of construction happening on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene. Since 2009, there have been three major construction projects completed – the John E. Jaqua Academic Center, the Matthew Knight Arena, and the Ford Alumni Center - along with a new addition to the science building, Streisinger Hall. However, these buildings are not open to the public or general student body. Is this new architecture worth the investment? Do they improve campus life for the students? Do they improve life for athletes? Recently, I was fortunate enough to have a private tour of Matthew Knight Arena, and formulated some answers to the questions that many of the students on campus have about these new edifices.

Upon the arena’s conception, there was instant criticism. Everything from the $227 million construction costs, to the 65,000-pound center-hung scoreboard (the largest in college sports), to even the etched tree design on the arena floor. However, these immediate concerns are only just the tip of the iceberg – beyond the arena floor, there is a multitude of luxuries that are provided for VIP members and athletes. Touring the facility obviously reveals where the majority of the money was spent – not on the arena floor, exterior, entryway, or the gigantic scoreboard, but on the areas that the majority of the campus will probably never see, the areas dedicated to wealthy, elite donors.

The attention to detail around every corner of the interior is apparent – wood interior finishes curved and bowed slightly on the wall adjacent to the staircase giving it a ripple effect, in the VIP room the floor was painted and finished to imitate the original basketball court flooring. Even the tables and other furniture were given a great amount of attention, with important names and numbers etched into the surfaces. Every major large interior space had at least 8 large flat screen TVs, and every private VIP room (including Phil Knight’s suite) sports a large, private, lime green bathroom, an immense flat screen TV, and luxurious furnishings. Even the gyms and hydrotherapy rooms are filled with extravagant items, including a treadmill for injured players to run on while submerged in therapeutic waters. Despite the inherent beauty of the design, is all of this extravagance necessary?

For the athletes, the answer would probably be a big “yes.” It is more than likely that the student athletes greatly appreciate all of these fancy amenities, and the arena’s beautiful interiors probably attract more recruits to the University’s athletic programs. On the other hand, the luxury of the VIP rooms for honored guests, might not have been so essential. There was a long hallway of private rooms solely dedicated to the elite of the VIPs, but we were informed that majority of the time, they remain empty. Apparently, even Phil Knight’s own room has been empty for almost the entire time since the arena’s opening. The executive areas are divided into two zones, segregating the “elite” from the “super-elite,” and though both are extremely exquisite in detailing, finishes, and design, there becomes a question of time of usage, and whether or not it truly is necessary to segregate the VIPs in this fashion at all.

As for attracting athletes, there is some question as to the new facilities effectiveness. A recent talk show questioned whether all the amenities that are now available on campus truly do attract more, and better athletes. Because that is the true purpose of these facilities: to create a more inviting campus for athletes. The resulting consensus was that no matter how many new facilities Phil Knight may help build on campus, the University of Oregon will not be able to recruit to the same level as teams in other conferences (i.e. – the Big Ten), simply because of the location. The truth is, Eugene itself is not nearly as attractive as other cities, and no amount of shiny new facilities can alter that perception. It is debatable as to whether or not the Jaqua Center and the Matthew Knight Arena actually the goals they were intended for.

That being said, the Matthew Knight Arena is a well-detailed space, with great intentions, and considering the large price tag, all that money had to go somewhere. There is truly a feeling that not a single corner or space was left or forgotten by the architects, and the spectacle of the interior space is magnificent. The amount of drama that has been orchestrated shows that with great vision, one can create great spaces. The arena also has become a strong visual landmark, standing tall at the Northeast corner of campus.

The Arena does more than students probably originally thought when it comes to improving student life. The arena floor is a flexible space and allows for a multitude of events to take place directly on campus, with easy access for all students. Early on, when the arena first opened, it hosted a charity event called “Clash of the Champions,” where Roger Federer, Raphael Nadal, and Maria Sharapova all played a series of tennis matches. Soon after Elton John graced its stage, and recently there was a performance by Miranda Lambert. These non university events range from concerts and professional sports to monster truck rallies. Although the building was originally intended as a draw for potential student athletes, it has also provided the added benefit of bringing major cultural events to campus and the city.

The exterior of the building speaks to the luxury within – its sleek metal and glass finish is indicative of Phil Knight’s desire to be seen as modern and cutting edge. Along with the other new buildings – Jaqua Center, and the Ford Alumni Center – these new, Phil Knight sponsored, additions to campus represent both a disconnect from the history of the campus, as well as the current trend in architecture. As the majority of buildings on campus are clad in brick, the metal and glass edifices feel aloof. The only design trait, which helps alleviate this disconnect in aesthetics, is the proximity of the three buildings to each other, as well as their location on campus. All three are located next to each other on the North East corner of campus. Here they serve as a beacon of modern architecture while transitioning the campus onto a busy commercial strip. With Matthew Knight Arena soaring above most of the surrounding architecture, it is impossible to miss, and has easily become an identifiable landmark. In a way, the design of all three buildings represents the University of Oregon’s overall attitude towards athletes – they are held up on a pedestal, removed, and in a league of their own, separate from the rest of campus.

As a draw for athletes, the Matthew Knight Arena might not be as successful as was intended by Phil Knight and the University of Oregon athletics department. Yet, despite that intention, the building does come as an exquisitely detailed interior space, flashing great vision and great architecture despite its great price tag. Beyond this, probably the greatest effect of the arena is that it provides a flexible public space, that is easily accessibility for students and local residents. It successfully anchors the eastern edge of campus and provides a landmark along Franklin Blvd.

(Note: The building is shooting for a LEED rating. Currently, none of the sustainable features are made apparent or conspicuous for the public to see. As a result, without insider knowledge, no one would be aware of the sustainability of the building.)

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