MVRDV unveils sustainable Chengdu Sky Valley masterplan

November 24, 2020 by  
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MVRDV has revealed designs for Chengdu Sky Valley, a competition entry for the Future Science and Technology City, which is a planned district on the outskirts of Chengdu, China. Guided by sustainable and placemaking principles, the masterplan seeks to differentiate itself from the country’s other high-tech cities with an emphasis on retaining the existing agricultural landscape, promoting self-sufficient lifestyles and designing with site-specific analyses in mind. Developed as part of Chengdu’s Eastward Development Strategy, the planned Future Science and Technology City will be developed on a rural swath of land adjacent to the new Tianfu International Airport with access to the city’s Metro Line 18. Rather than raze the rural area, the architects sought to retain and enhance the existing landscape — characterized by agricultural fields, rolling hills and scattered villages — while embedding new areas of development in between preserved farming areas.  Related: MVRDV designs a sustainable “urban living room” for Shenzhen “The dichotomy between the existing rural landscape and the future science and technology campus demands a solution that balances tradition and innovation, past and future, young and old, East and West, technology and agriculture,” MVRDV explained. “The design therefore preserves the agricultural valleys, incorporating this activity as a key component of the Future Science and Technology City. New buildings are clustered on the hills, and shaped in a way that amplifies the valley skyline, augmenting the appearance of the Linpan landscape.” MVRDV’s tech taskforce, MVRDV NEXT, developed a series of digital scripts to analyze the site’s topography. The site analyses informed decisions on several parts of the design: which areas should be designated for agricultural zoning versus new building development; the optimization of pathways and bridges to ensure accessibility across the entire site while never exceeding a slope of 4%; the shape and height of human-made hills; and building height limits. As a result, the design features three main valleys — the Knowledge Valley, the Experience Valley and the Venture Valley — around which seven mixed-use developments will be clustered. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV and Atchain

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MVRDV unveils sustainable Chengdu Sky Valley masterplan

Brussels train station transformed into wooden shopping and event center

November 17, 2020 by  
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The Gare Maritime railway station in Brussels has seen a huge transformation. The building, formerly one of Europe’s largest railway stations for goods, has been renovated into a new city district shopping and event development made of cross-laminated timber. Reimagined as a multi-purpose public space for companies and events, the building is covered entirely in  wood  and highlights sustainable architectural practices such as solar energy and rainwater collection systems. According to the architects at Neutelings Riedijk, the structure is the largest  cross-laminated timber  project in Europe. Architects added a series of 12 new building volumes to accommodate a new program of 45,000 square meters. Along with the existing halls, roofs and side aisles, the new design creates a structure that mimics a small city with streets and parks. Related: Sweden’s tallest timber building could save 550 tons of CO2 The choice of wood came down to sustainability and weight, as a concrete construction would have been five times heavier. Cross-laminated timber with a facade finishing in oak offered the perfect solution to create a prefabricated and dry construction method with shorter building time. As a result, the design features demountable connections and modular wooden building elements to promote sustainability. The central space is reserved for public events and contains a green walking boulevard on both sides. Routes measure 16 meters wide, giving pedestrians plenty of room to enjoy the spacious inner garden complete with a hundred trees. Overall, the space includes a total of 10 gardens based on four themes: woodland, flowers, grass and fragrance. As Brussels enjoys a Mediterranean climate, designers chose plants that adapt to the specific growing conditions. The Gare Maritime also remains completely energy neutral and fossil-free thanks to glass facades and solar cells, with a total area of 17,000 square meters of roof space dedicated to  solar panels . The building uses geothermal energy and a rainwater collection system to water the massive gardens. + Neutelings Riedijk Architects Via ArchDaily Photo: Filip Dujardin/Sarah Blee/Tim Fisher | © Neutelings Riedijk Architects

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This nature center proves zero-energy is possible even in wintry Minnesota

November 16, 2020 by  
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Environmental stewardship comes alive in spectacular fashion at the new Westwood Hills Nature Center, an interpretative center in the heart of St. Louis Park, Minnesota that blends energy efficiency, environmental education and beautiful architecture. Designed by multidisciplinary design firm HGA, the center not only serves as a teaching tool about Minnesotan flora and fauna but also as a beacon of sustainable architecture with its net-zero energy design. With passive and active strategies installed, from solar panels to high-performance thermal mass walls, the Westwood Hills Nature Center is on track to achieve International Living Future Institute’s zero-energy certification — the first of its kind in the state. Commissioned by the City of St. Louis Park as an extension of its Green Building Policy and Climate Action Plan, the new Westwood Hills Nature Center was built to replace a small, nondescript building from the 1980s. At 13,000 square feet, the environmental learning center will have ample space to host classrooms and public events in multipurpose rooms as well as an outdoor classroom space, an expanded public exhibit, offices for staff and additional flexible learning and support spaces. Related: Ugakei Circles sustainable nature park set to open in 2021 The architects drew inspiration for the building design from nature. The structure features Alaskan Yellow Cedar glue-laminated columns and beams left exposed in a nod to the larger scale of “the microscopic structure of bundled parallel cellulose fibers of wood.” The varied cladding mimics bark-like layers while the fiber cement panels and wood window designs abstractly evoke the geometry of trunks and branches. To meet zero-energy standards, the architects used several site analyses to optimize daylighting and natural ventilation while minimizing exposure to glare and biting, wintry conditions. Active energy strategies — put continually on display on an interactive dashboard — include a geothermal wellfield, in-floor radiant heating and solar panels. The building also captures rainwater as part of its responsive stormwater management plan.  + HGA Photography by Peter J. Sieger via HGA

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This nature center proves zero-energy is possible even in wintry Minnesota

Hauser & Wirth gallery, where adaptive reuse and art thrive

November 3, 2020 by  
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New York’s West Chelsea neighborhood has a distinct character that residents have worked to preserve over the years. The neighborhood is full of historic buildings and architecture that showcases America’s design past. But West Chelsea has also become a home for innovation, art and culture. The new Hauser & Wirth building in West Chelsea celebrates this culture by preserving the community’s history and allowing art to flourish all in the same space. Selldorf Architects designed the space, which resides in the West Chelsea Arts District. Working in collaboration with Hauser & Wirth, Selldorf Architects has created multiple adaptive reuse projects in New York. The new Hauser & Wirth building has a contemporary facade composed of concrete blocks and zinc panels. The concrete blocks were sustainably sourced and partially made with recycled waste glass and aggregate. Additionally, glazed openings fill the interior spaces with light. Big, open spaces inside provide plenty of room for art installations. Gleaming polished concrete runs throughout the building, and walls of white plaster provide a bright, clean background for bold, imaginative art displays. The ground floor’s 16-foot glass door can be folded and opened up completely, giving the world outside a view of the amazing art within. The second floor has 12-foot glass doors that open up the same way. Another opening, a glazed roof hatch, resides on the fifth floor. This hatch serves two purposes: to bring natural light into the space and to allow large artworks to be lifted by crane into the building. A bar and event space on the second floor hosts artist appearances and public gatherings. Appropriately, the first project displayed in the building was called “Artists for New York.” Artists donated pieces to help raise funds for a group of 16 non-profit visual arts organizations in New York impacted by COVID-19. + Hauser & Wirth Images via Hauser & Wirth

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The Night Ministry building is a stunning showcase of adaptive reuse

October 27, 2020 by  
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The new headquarters for Chicago’s The Night Ministry is a three-story adaptive reuse project that truly showcases what this building stands for: refuge and recovery. The design makes the most of an existing structure to become a welcoming center for the community. The Night Ministry provides housing, healthcare and help to those in the Chicago area who need it. According to the organization’s website, 86,000 people in Chicago experience homelessness every year. This organization wants to help the community, so it makes sense that the nonprofit should be housed in a building that adds to the community in itself. Related: Community First! provides affordable, permanent micro-housing Chicago-based firm Wheeler Kearns Architects designed the headquarters, which is located in the Mural Building in the Bucktown neighborhood. An old loading dock was converted into an accessible entrance, while the first floor of the building has become The Crib, an overnight shelter for young adults. This floor includes a sleeping room, administration offices, a serving kitchen, meeting rooms and a multipurpose space. The mural in the multipurpose area is actually carried through the entire building, continuing up to the next two floors. The overall design is meant to relieve stress. The glass doors and plentiful windows allow light to enter the space, creating a feeling of openness while also reducing reliance on artificial lighting during the daytime. Landscaping and trees create a natural screen to block the highway and create a peaceful atmosphere. “The Night Ministry is thrilled with its new space in Bucktown. The ability to provide guests at The Crib with modern, larger facilities has already shown several benefits, such as the guests sleeping better at night,” said Paul W. Hamann, president and CEO of The Night Ministry. “We worked with Wheeler Kearns Architects to develop adequate storage space, so that youth don’t need to worry about the security of their belongings at night. The upstairs space for administrative and program leadership functions allows us to operate more efficiently with room to grow. We couldn’t be happier.” The Night Ministry seeks to lift the community up through not just services but also beautiful design. This is adaptive reuse at its best. The new Night Ministry headquarters sets an example for others to follow. + Wheeler Kearns Architects Photography by Kendall McCaughterty and Hall + Merrick Photographers via Wheeler Kearns Architects

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Beautiful Washington bridge with lace-like metal walls shimmers at night

October 26, 2020 by  
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When Seattle-based LMN Architects and KPFF Consulting Engineers were tapped to design the Grand Avenue Park Bridge in Everett, Washington, the team worked to not only meet functional demands but to also achieve aesthetic appeal. The newly completed bridge, which took three years of construction, is now an iconic community asset that connects the elevated Grand Avenue Park with the city’s growing waterfront district — bringing along with it a series of new civic spaces . In a nod to the traditional railroad trusses common across the Pacific Northwest, the architects designed the bridge with weathering steel and brilliant, aluminum guardrails with bespoke perforation that creates a shimmering effect when illuminated at night. Completed in August 2020, the 257-foot-long asymmetrical Grand Avenue Park Bridge provides city residents with a new connection to the growing waterfront district, which had long suffered a disconnect due to a five-lane highway, BNSF railroad tracks and a steep slope of 80 feet. The design team mitigated the challenging grade changes by weaving together pedestrian ramps and stairs into the bridge — much of the bridge structure is tucked below Grand Avenue Park to preserve views from the elevated park — and anchoring the structure with a vertical concrete tower and utility core on the waterfront side. The bridge also carries major utilities across its span. Related: LAVA designs a cyclist bridge to make Heidelberg bike-friendly “As designers, we found these circumstances the perfect opportunity to create a place where the accessible features would define the experience,” said LMN Partner Stephen Van Dyck, AIA in a press statement. “In its design, the Grand Avenue Park Bridge is also a destination. The bridge’s paths, stairs and spaces create a variety of views beyond and within that make it a place of discovery.” The exposed and raw structural elements that are constructed of weathering steel are contrasted with lace-like aluminum guardrails. The 400 aluminum panels were perforated with a CNC Waterjet using a computer script that automated the layout, numbering and cut file production to ensure each aluminum panel is unique and responsive to the geometry of the bridge while fulfilling varying guardrail requirements. The varied density of perforations were also engineered to enhance reflectivity of the lights integrated at the top of the rail while minimizing glare and light pollution.  + LMN Architects Photography by Adam Hunter via LMN Architects

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Beautiful Washington bridge with lace-like metal walls shimmers at night

100-year-old Buda Mill & Grain Co. has new life as a community gathering spot

October 16, 2020 by  
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Often, culture and community are so intertwined that one defines the other, as is the case with a rural town in Texas, where the residents embraced a dilapidated historic site, called the Buda Mill & Grain Co., and brought it back to life. The Buda Mill & Grain Co. was a landmark in Buda, Texas dating back to 1890, when members from the Farmers Alliance founded a cotton gin to counter the rising costs of freight and lack of control of the market system that left farmers feeling out of control. Later, following a change of hands, the site was home to the first brick gin, built in 1914, which supported the Buda Gin Company. With the fall of cotton prices in the 1930s, the company was sold again and converted into a milling company for grinding dairy feed. Grain elevators and silos were added as the business grew. Related: Heatherwick Studio updates 90-year-old grain silo in South Africa with pillowed glass windows In more recent decades, the buildings housed grain for the U.S. government and were leased out to private hobbyists. Nearly every Buda citizen from any generation has memories of working the mill or picking up grain at the complex, catching up with neighbors in the process. With this common interest, the community enlisted the help of architecture and engineering firm Cushing Terrell in nearby Austin, Texas with the goal of repurposing the existing structures while converting the site into a modern community space. The result is a compound that offers more than 27,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and community-oriented spaces for the citizens to gather like they have for the past century. The three new buildings meld with the conversion of the old in a complex made up of five structures. The largest of the buildings, nicknamed the Big’un, is a 6,000-square-foot steel-framed equipment barn that measures roughly 120 feet long by 60 feet wide. The simple aspects of the structure allowed designers to remove walls in the first bay, creating a massive covered porch that faces the main street. This area is partitioned from the rest of the building with a glass wall and future plans to incorporate retail space, a restaurant and a brewery. The historic, 3,000-square-foot brick cotton gin building was left largely intact with a focus on improving structural support and creating a small addition to the back of the building. Steel, concrete and brick were used throughout the preservation and construction to honor the original architecture. Throughout the process, some items were removed, but most were blended back into the design in another location. For example, when a load bearing wall in the cotton gin building required repair, each brick removed was labeled and reused in repairs on other sections of the building. “A number of artifacts of the buildings past were kept and repurposed like the auger system, which was converted into the mill’s entry signage,” said Alex Bingham, architect and lead designer at Cushing Terrell. Bingham stated that the biggest challenge was updating the property while maintaining the priority of maintaining the historical relevance, a goal the architects accomplished when they, “kept the rusty metal bits and framed them with black steel and glass.” The result is a center that preserves the past while paving a path forward for the community. + Cushing Terrell Photography by Peter Molick via Cushing Terrell

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100-year-old Buda Mill & Grain Co. has new life as a community gathering spot

San Diego Zoo successfully clones an endangered Przewalskis horse

October 16, 2020 by  
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Kurt, a baby Przewalski’s horse, looks and plays like any other baby horse. But the now two-month-old colt is unique in that he is a clone. The endangered Przewalski’s horse colt was created from stallion cells that had been frozen at the San Diego Zoo in 1980. The frozen cells were recently collected and fused with an egg from a domestic horse to create the world’s first cloned Przewalski’s horse. The process of cloning started several decades ago. In 1980, cells from a 5-year-old stallion were collected and stored at the San Diego Frozen Zoo facility. According to officials at the San Diego Zoo, the cells were merged with an egg after removing the nucleus. The egg was then implanted in a mare, who became the mother to Kurt two months ago. Related: Scientists in China have successfully cloned monkeys The San Diego Zoo now sees the birth of the cloned horse as a huge step forward in the efforts to restore the population of Przewalski’s horses. Also known as the Asiatic Wild Horse or Mongolian Wild Horse, this species was formerly extinct in the wild and only about 2,000 are left, mostly residing in zoos. Intensive breeding programs have aided in conservation efforts but have also limited the gene pool. Zoo officials say that it is necessary to take measures that will help repopulate the endangered species. Cloning, depending on cells available in the Frozen Zoo, can help prevent genetic diversity losses. “This colt is expected to be one of the most genetically important individuals of his species,” Bob Wiese, chief life sciences officer at San Diego Zoo Global, said in a statement. “We are hopeful that he will bring back genetic variation important for the future of the Przewalski’s horse population.” The baby horse has been named after Kurt Benirschke, who was instrumental in founding the Frozen Zoo facility. “A central tenet of the Frozen Zoo, when it was established by Dr. Benirschke, was that it would be used for purposes not possible at the time,” said Oliver Ryder of San Diego Zoo Global. The cloning was made possible through a partnership among the San Diego Zoo, conservation organization Revive & Restore and genetic preservation company ViaGen Equine. Przewalski’s horses are said to be the only truly wild horses in the world today. Although there are some horses in the wild in the U.S. and Australia, most are actually the ancestors of escaped domesticated horses. This species is named for Nikolai Przewalski, a Russian geographer who came across a horse skull and hide, then donated his findings to a museum. + San Diego Zoo Via Huffington Post Photography by Scott Stine via San Diego Zoo

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Tartu turns a major street into a car-free haven for a month

October 1, 2020 by  
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For the entire month of July, the Estonian city of Tartu transformed one of its main streets in the heart of the city into the Autovabaduse (Car-Free) Avenue, a popular pedestrian-friendly paradise. The project not only observed COVID-19 social distancing guidelines but also gave local businesses a much-needed economic boost. Commissioned by the local government, the Car-Free Avenue 2020 project was designed by Tõnis Arjus, Ragnar Kekkonen, Maris Peebo and Anna-Liisa Unt. The area used for the urban intervention spanned approximately 8,000 square meters and accommodated a wide range of programming, from dance courses and morning yoga to national radio broadcast pop-ups, concerts and more. Tartu is the second-largest city in Estonia and is slated to become the European Capital of Culture in 2024 with the slogan “Arts of Survival.” The recent Car-Free Avenue project fits in perfectly with the city’s agenda for development, which prioritizes sustainability. The main street that was closed — known as Vabaduse (Freedom) Avenue — was selected for its location between the classical old town and the river Emajogi that flows through the city. The Car-Free Avenue helped to better connect the old town and river and provided a jumping-off point for revitalizing the riverside. Related: London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens “It [also] created a public discussion all over Estonia on climate change, excessive car ownership and different methods in tackling the issues of building a sustainable future,” the designers explained in a project statement. The month-long urban intervention attracted people from all over Estonia and abroad, counting around 18,000 visitors in the first three days. The road was completely redesigned to create a versatile, car-free public space that abided by social distancing rules. All of the design elements follow a 2-by-2-meter module, including the grass portions, which were cut into 2-meter stripes. + Tartu Autovabaduse Images by Mana Kaasik, Maanus Kullamaa, To?nis Arjus, Eva-Maria Tartu

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Tartu turns a major street into a car-free haven for a month

Midcentury warehouse becomes a community-building asset in Mexico City

September 30, 2020 by  
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In a bid to sustainably create more inclusive and connective space in Mexico City, local architecture practice BAAQ’ has rehabilitated Dr. Atl 285 — an industrial structure from the late 1960s — into a mixed-use community hub topped with a productive urban garden. Located in the neighborhood of Santa Maria la Ribera just west of the historic center, the adaptive reuse project responds to the area’s ongoing densification process that has attracted a younger population in recent years. In adapting the building into a community-forward space rather than tearing it down to start anew, the architects have also carefully preserved the cultural and architectural heritage of the the structure while minimizing the project’s environmental impact. Primarily built with reinforced concrete beams and columns, Dr. Atl 285 was originally used for industrial purposes. The architects left the reticular concrete structure exposed in a nod to the building’s past while inserting new cubic elements of wood as part of a new, flexible, modular design that can adapt to different program needs of varying sizes and configurations. The permeable construction also allows natural light to pass through the building. Related: A lush rooftop oasis flourishes on this renovated Art Deco townhouse in Mexico City In addition to a rooftop urban farm that produces food for all users, the architects have created a series of common spaces in the outdoor areas. A water treatment plant was installed beneath the building’s old courtyard to eliminate drainage discharge. By recirculating all of the water used, the water treatment plant helps save up to 45% of water. A garden was planted atop the water treatment plant to provide additional outdoor green space and to improve air quality.  “The project aims to demonstrate the adaptability of architecture in the existing resources, the regenerative potential of the city, and the ability to generate sustainable projects nowadays,” the architects explained in a project statement. “All this to preserve the cultural and architectural heritage through the restoration of these constructions and projects, not only to maintain the presence of each neighborhood but also to reduce the environmental impact of real estate development.” + BAAQ’ Phototography by Jaime Navarro via BAAQ’

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