A look at the process behind five projects – including 60 Richmond Street East housing, Langara College Library and River of Death and Discovery Dinosaur Museum – by the Toronto firm.
When Stephen Teeple, the principal of Toronto firm Teeple Architects, delivered a talk at the University of Toronto architecture school last month, he gave the audience a behind-the-scenes look at his studio's design strategy through five buildings either completed or under development. For each project, the outcome from the outset is unknown, and while each begins with a different starting point, the firm's open process leads to multiple possibilities. “We’re interested in how you can make boring realities inspirational,” the architect said. “You take those actual facts, needs, necessities and come up with solutions.” Ironically titled "Enough is never enough," his presentation was organized under the five major themes – intriguing banalities, dislodging, fear condition, warped productions and measured space shaping – that guide the firm's work.
As climate change exacerbates droughts, architects are focusing on water efficiency.
When architects were designing a new 200,000-square-foot biotechnology lab in 2009 to accommodate the University of California, San Diego’s burgeoning student population, the Golden State was in the midst of a withering drought.
No surprise then that water conservation became a focus of the team at Portland’s Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects. They created a system to harvest condensate that collects on the building’s air conditioning coils during hot summers. That water – supplies of which grow as temperatures rise and the air conditioning is cranked up – is piped elsewhere to irrigate the campus during dry months.
The university, which is seeking LEED Platinum certification for the lab, will also reclaim much of the wastewater from the building’s 150,000 square feet of wet bench labs and restrooms as well as from the air conditioning system. That should help slash use of potable water by 360,000 gallons annually. READ MORE >>
A new development from MIT could slash a home's energy budget in half. Researchers Matthew Aldrich and Nan Zhao built a system that's able to monitor available light and adjust it automatically. The setup was made using LEDs, the most efficient form of lights that are commercially available. Unlike compact fluorescent bulbs, LEDs can be adjusted to any level of lighting intensity.
An important component of the light-adjusting system is a control device about the size of a business card that's placed on a work surface. The card contains sensors that measure the intensity of light coming from different fixtures or windows.
The control device then adjusts the lighting accordingly. If plenty of natural light is coming in through the windows, for example, the controller lowers the amount of artificial light. READ MORE >>
Sure, you can’t judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to architecture, the facade is an inescapable measure of design quality. And in the last few years there has been an ever-growing variety of materials and applications available for exteriors. Of course, this isn’t just a question of looks. As clients demand more efficient buildings, architects must find glazing and facade solutions that will boost performance. For instance, ventilated rain screens, which have been commonplace in Europe for decades, are finally making inroads in North America, with companies like Trespa, Abet Laminati, and Boston Valley Terra Cotta offering the U.S. market some particularly creative options for colors and textures. This roundup of recent projects highlights the changing face of architectural design.
Of the three essential material necessities – food, clothing and shelter – buildings represent the biggest capital cost and embody the most energy. Depending on how you add up life cycle costs and inputs, they account for about 40 percent of our energy usage.
Many have long argued that we design and make buildings in a flawed way. It is only relatively recently, however, that alternatives have been proposed that employ paradigms, rather than just forms, from nature. Are these paradigms just extensions of the old “building as machine” utopian dream? I think they are fundamentally different and will outline below why I think so and describe one of the pioneering partnerships that may change the way we make buildings. READ MORE >>
Stormwater in New York City is everybody’s and nobody’s problem. Rain falls everywhere: on public property, on private property, everywhere. But even with PlaNYC in the works and ambitious stormwater management initiatives inching closer to home via Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, New York has yet to make a dent in the approximately 27 billion gallons of stormwater-induced sewer overflow that contaminate our waterways every year.
In the summer of 2009, members of the North Brooklyn Compost Project, a volunteer-run compost pile in McCarren Park, Brooklyn sought permission to retrofit a section of vegetation on N. 12th Street to manage the stormwater from the road. Compost, in addition to literally bringing dead city soil back to life, can help absorb and detox polluted urban runoff. We had noticed a long grassy strip between the sidewalk and gutter where the old slate curb had already sunken to the level of the roadway. Here, water pooled into the vegetated area during rainstorms whereas an intact curb would have hurried the rain down to the storm drain on the corner.
This eureka moment led to a game of “What If?” What if we took out a section of the curb and brought the water into the vegetated area on purpose? What If we planted a rain garden there? What If all gutters around the city had similar depressions in them where soil and plants could thrive and drink up some of the extra rain? What if the air was cooler and cleaner? What if the sewers no longer overflowed when it rained?
The growing crisis of pollution and global climate change has made the chemistry of the earth’s atmosphere the most pressing problem of the 21st Century. It has also made the performative aspects of architecture much more a part of architectural discourse. If we learn to see air as the essential medium of architectural space, we will also begin to see it as a fundamental material shaping habitation and form. If we avoid building metaphors of fluidity in favor of acting directly upon the temporal field, we may gain a new understanding more appropriate to contemporary conditions of architecture as a mediator of the environment. Architects could even move beyond ceding the design of air movement to mechanical engineers and HVAC systems and engage it as an essential issue in defining the shape of buildings.