Award-winning Architecture

Sean Meehan, LEED AP, ADMG

Writing these articles every month isn’t easy.  Between the various responsibilities of running a design firm, running a personal life, running through California’s endless regulations (in preparation for the California Supplemental Exam) and just plain running (literally…I’m planning on running another marathon in the fall), time is sometimes at a premium.  Whew.

So this month, I’m combining activities to save on time.  I like to surf the web and check out notable architecture projects around the country and beyond.  ADMG will be submitting one of our restaurant projects for design awards in the near future, but while we eagerly await completion…check out a few award-winning projects that others have done:

Combs Point Residence – A serene lake house in upstate New York

U.S. Land Port of Entry – U.S. Customs checkpoint on the Canadian border

John E. Jaqua Center for Student Athletes – Proof  that college sports is a big business

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People that Live in Glass Houses…

Glass technologies

Sean Meehan, LEED AP, ADMG

I recently had to move an old 37” cathode-ray tube television set down a couple flights of stairs, and my back is still recovering.  Fortunately, glazing and glass display technologies have made incredible advancements in recent years, and will likely feature heavily (but weigh less) in the built environment of the future.

I keep encountering electrochromic glazing in hotels, allowing users to control the privacy or shading function of their glazing with the flip of a switch.  While ‘smart window’ technology has been around for some time, the low quality and high price of the technology has generally precluded its widespread use.  But as the technology has matured and energy costs have risen, the incentive to make glazing do more for the building is finally becoming persuasive.

Even more innovative ideas appear to be on the horizon.  Smart glazing will likely be advanced so that it won’t just block the sun, but will incorporate solar panels to harness electricity and offset energy costs.  Another potential application is the addition of OLED lighting into glazing, allowing it to serve as a window during the day, and a light fixture at night.  Add in possible uses in the transportation sector – automotive, public transportation and aircraft glazing, and the opportunities appear to be endless.

The one application where we have all experienced recent advancements in glass technology is the touchscreen.  This application in our computing and smartphone devices has revolutionized the efficiency and simplicity of these devices, and touchscreen technologies may have a myriad of uses in the future.  Check out this recent, rather corny video from Corning (pun intended), showing some of the possibilities for the future:

A Day Made of Glass

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Programming – Criteria Development Consultant

Ryan Davis, Assoc. DBIA, ADMG

What does my proposed new facility need to include?  This is one of the most daunting questions an owner has to answer. The problem is that most organizations and businesses do not have the ability to allocate the required time and resources into exploring this question. Or, they do not have staff that is trained in preparing and organizing this type of technical information. The end result is usually a lot of wasted time (and dollars) spent with a design professional starting at square one to develop the standard from the bottom up.  Worse yet, is getting to opening with a building that does not fully meet your needs!

At the heart of the question lie all the requirements for a building to function properly for its intended end use.  These requirements do not only include the structural and aesthetic considerations, but more importantly the “programmatic elements” or the various pieces, such as different functional spaces that make up the “whole.”

A client may approach an architect or engineer and spend a lot of time trying to determine the spaces a building requires, their sizes, the seating, storage, the adjacency and circulation to other spaces, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing requirements, audio visual and the list goes on.  Figuring out what each pieces is, what its requirements are, how it fits in to the puzzle, and that it includes everything you intend is where a Criteria Development Consultant can come in.

The solution to this problem is to have a written standard of requirements, “criteria”, used as a guideline standard for your organization or business.  By doing this you can ensure all stakeholders have their say in the design process and that nothing is left out when it may be too late, too costly to redesign or even rebuild.

Before starting a new building project it may be a cost effective solution for your organization to talk with a Criteria Development Consultant. Handing off an approved written standard to a designer is a lot easier than trying to get all stakeholders on the same page, let alone the same room during design and construction.   Doing so just might save you a lot of time, money, and headaches down the road!

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The Future of Retail

 

 

 

 

 

Sean Meehan, LEED AP, ADMG

An open letter to Retail projects:

Dear Retail,

We miss you.  We cherish the fond memories of partying with you just a few years ago.  You used to overwhelm us with acres of square footage, generous fees and an endless supply of tenants…and now, we would consider ourselves lucky to find a hot dog cart or a lemonade stand remodel.

Please send us a sign.  Were you kidnapped by an Amazon warrior?  Were you Netflix’d out of the picture?  Were you auctioned off into slavery on Ebay? Retail, we will not give up the search.  We are holding out hope for your safe return.

Sincerely,

ADMG

Okay, let’s be serious.  There is a glimmer of hope for retail, especially here in Southern California.  Marcus and Millichap recently released a promising 2011 retail report for San Diego, LA and Orange County.  While all of these locales have traditionally been at the top of this list due to the development restrictions inherent in California, even a slight projected strengthening is promising news.

And while some brick and mortar retailers like Blockbuster and Borders have fallen on hard times due to virtual competitors, others are poised to increase their market share.  The same report forecasts significant future development for drug stores and ‘extreme value’ retailers like Dollar General and Family Dollar.

ADMG boasts an extremely strong and diverse portfolio of retail projects, and we will be working hard to ensure we are in attendance at Retail’s big welcome back party.  Just as value is driving the decisions of the average consumer in a down economy, so too will it drive those of our clients.  Our service-oriented approach benefits both small-box and big-box retailers alike.

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Check Your Steel Studs

Ryan Davis, Assoc. DBIA, ADMG

When it comes to steel stud framing for interior non-load bearing partitions it might be worth your time as an owner to take a second look at what your designer or contractor has specified.  It could save you some headaches down the road.  Throwing around 25 GA (18 mils) flimsy steel studs for your partitions is not always the right answer, and most often times not!

A junior project manager or draftsmen might take wall details and notes off an old set of drawings for a simple T.I. project that might not necessarily be what is correct for yours.  Something that is commonly overlooked is specifying the correct steel stud thickness, size, and spacing.

As an owner you might want to think about the following: Are my walls full height, demising or just above the ceiling?  What is the wall finish going to be; paint, stone veneer, how many layers of drywall?  What kind of sound attenuation am I seeking?  Does the wall contain any mechanical or plumbing?

Typically for any material other than a single layer of drywall each side you are going to want to go with something thicker than 25 GA (18 Mil). We usually specify nothing less than 20 GA (33 mils) for high end interiors. Also, Check to make sure the studs have the appropriate corrosion protection as required (galvanizing, G40, 60, 90) ASTM A653.  There are also many stud options, smooth, dimpled, high performance, each affecting strength, sound attenuation, and of course cost.  Finally make sure walls have the appropriate stud spacing.  Not all steel stud walls are 24” O.C. as some like to believe!

The specification of your steel stud framing can have dramatic effects on project cost, whether or not that expensive stone veneer on your wall cracks, whether or not can hear a conversation in the next room, and if you see a nice ghosting line on your expensive wall paint.  When it comes to steel stud framing it pays to be informed.

Here are some links for more information on steel stud framing.

http://www.conspectusinc.com/downloads/Documents/publications-download-TT-C1010-3.htm

http://www.steelframing.org/sfa_howto.shtml

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How We See Architecture

Ryan Davis, Assoc. DBIA

There are many factors that contribute to great Architecture.  One very important factor is our visual perception of the built environment and the elements that contribute to the pleasure we derive from what we see.

How the mind interprets forms and patterns is the subject of Gestalt psychology (Gestalt, German for “form” or “shape”).   It is through this study and the understanding of our brain’s hardwired inner workings that Architects are better able to design buildings that are pleasing to the eye.

So what is it about Architecture then that makes it great, beautiful, or ‘pleasing’?  Is it merely in the eye of the beholder?  Is it subjective? Why does something look “just right” to you?   Is the Pritzker Architecture Prize winner doing the same things as the guy who drew up your local big box store?  Well, it all depends…

Our mind, without us necessarily knowing it, organizes visual data using certain built-in preferences such as:

Proximity: Click Link

Repetition: Our mind will equate things as equal (spacing, etc.) when we see more of them, even though they might not actually be equal.

Simplest and Largest Figure:  Our mind will complete/subtract (from) images in order to recognize and understand the simplest and largest figure.

Figure/Ground Relationship: Click Link

The ‘parts’ we perceive are greater than the whole.  Each part or element contributes to what we perceive as the ‘whole’ and thus how we interpret and enjoy it.  It is order out of visual chaos.

Important Elements that contribute to our “delight” in seeing Architecture include:

Proportion: The mind seeks out mathematical and geometrical relationships whether we like it or not.  Some are more pleasing than others.  This concept is as old as time and is the foundation and basis for not only Art and Architecture, but music and many other sciences.                        The most well known proportional system in architecture is based on the Golden Section or Golden Mean. Also see, Modular.

Scale: The relationship of the building and all its elements to the average size of the human body.  It is our perception of how ‘big’ things are and/or supposed to be.  The parts (e.g. doors, windows, etc) relate to the whole and give us visual clues to piece together a full concept of what we are looking at and how big it is. When elements are ‘out of scale’ our minds typically are confused by this and     therefore it is less enjoyable.  More information on Scale in Architecture.

Rhythm: Click here for more on Rhythm in Architecture and an exercise.

Texture: In terms of building materials/methods, both optical (visual pattern at the large scale as compared to smaller local human scale) and tactile (what can be physically felt by the human being). Each greatly affects our perception, feelings, and understanding of a building.

Light and Color: One of the most powerful element in the perception of Architecture. Without light we do not see, and the light determines ‘what’ we see.  Colors can affect our mood and change the perception of elements.

Our mind looks for these elements whether we like it or not.  It is wired into us as human beings.  These principles are all around us in nature and we experience them every minute of every day.  The design of great architecture is not accident.

Whether it is a big box store, or any other building, if it is designed with these principles in mind then it should prove to be good Architecture and pleasing to the eye.   What is pleasing to the eye should draw more attention and hopefully customers thus helping your bottom line.

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Notable Architecture of Orange County

Lovell House

Sean Meehan, LEED AP

While Los Angeles boasts a bevy of architectural landmarks, Orange County’s prominent buildings are far fewer in number.  LA features the works of prominent masters of the past and present such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Eames, Richard Meier and Frank Gehry, but the suburbia of Orange County has given rise to few memorable buildings.  In a sea of generic Italianate quasi-villas, I will lead you on a brief virtual tour of a few of the OC’s notable exceptions.

Lovell Beach House, Rudolph Schindler, Newport Beach

On the National Register of Historic Places and dating all the way back to 1926, the Lovell Beach House was designed by Rudolph M. Schindler for Dr. Philip Lovell, a health and fitness advocate.  Schindler came to the US from Austria, and ended up in Chicago where he became an embattled employee of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Eventually he came to Los Angeles to work on some of Wright’s local projects, and the Lovell Beach House was one of his first commissions on his own, and historically considered one of his most important.  This thing is still standing, though looking a bit beat up, as it celebrates its 85th birthday.

This poorly-translated page has some excellent historical photos and drawings:  WikiArquitectura

Segerstrom Concert Hall, Cesar Pelli, Costa Mesa

Designed by Cesar Pelli to accompany his nearby stainless steel Plaza Tower office building, the Renee & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is Orange County’s answer to the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry in LA.  I was fortunate enough to live and work in the area as this project was under construction, and the glass façade is truly a spectacle, especially at night.  30,000 sf of curved, laminated glass encloses the main lobby and circulation areas.  The project went $40 million dollars over budget and endured a lengthy legal battle as a result.  Troubles aside, this is a good looking building.  If you have a chance to visit, be sure to check out the enormous COR-TEN steel sculpture by Richard Serra in the nearby plaza.

A few high-res photos of the Concert Hall may be found here:  South Coast Metro Galleries

Portabello Estate, Brion Jeannette, Corona del Mar

This project garnered national press a few years ago as one of the most expensive homes in the U.S.  While it was probably something of a publicity stunt to list this house for $75 million dollars, it is a stunning yet corny (see the underground mall) example of Orange County excess.  It recently sold for $34.1 million – a real bargain.

There is a great gallery of pictures for the ‘Portabello Estate’ here: Portabello Estate

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Forecast 2011

Sean Meehan, LEED AP

Another year has passed, and many in the construction industry are still waiting for that elusive ‘recovery’ to kick in.  Statistically speaking, 2010 was disappointing in the overall sense, but there were also some highlights that may foreshadow a better outlook for 2011.  Let’s take a look at the data and forecasts that are out there for present activity, as well as for the future.

The AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is an economic indicator that tracks architecture billings and new project inquiries on a month-to-month basis.  A cross-section of A/E firms is polled to gather billing data, and this data is then adjusted for historical seasonal variation using the Census Bureau X-12 software.  Currently, the November ABI shows an overall national strengthening in billings, but the West region continues to lag behind other parts of the country, and commercial/industrial construction has dipped slightly from the previous three months, which had reflected modest growth.  Read more about the current ABI here:  November Architectural Billings Index

McGraw-Hill Construction, the construction industry division of the publishing giant, issues a construction index that reflects new construction valuations.  Their November report reflects an overall decline, but with some strengthening in residential construction.  The data in this report is not encouraging, but there is typically a lag that occurs between architectural billings and construction activity and in their discussion of this month’s index, they describe an up-and-down pattern for construction at the moment.  See more details on the current construction index here:   November Construction Index

McGraw-Hill also releases an annual forecast for the construction industry, and while 2011 is predicted to reflect a slow recovery, their 2010 forecast was quite a bit off, and these kinds of far-reaching predictions should be taken with a grain of salt.  The Wall Street Journal analyzes the predictions of the 2011 Construction Forecast here:  McGraw-Hill 2011 Construction Outlook

Statistics and predictions are one thing, but at ADMG we have seen and heard of first hand growth which looks promising.  We know some architects that are doing very well with design work, and we hear that some local firms are re-hiring employees laid off earlier in the recession.  Overall activity still seems low in California (with the exception of healthcare and K-12), but there is a sense that things have bottomed out and that we may experience a slow but steady growth in the future.    We are optimistic, we are setting our goals appropriately, and we will be wishing all of our friends and associates a fantastic 2011!

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