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  • Beinahe Alles

    F-Lab, Beinahe Alles.
    los angeles CALIFORNIA

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    Heather FLOOD (principal, F-Lab): In 1951 Mies Van der Rohe completed the Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago, Illinois. The slenderness of the structural frame afforded by the Chicago skeleton in combination with the transparency of the envelope afforded by the curtain wall allowed Mies to push architecture towards his ideal of “Beinahe Nichts” or “Almost Nothing.” This proposal seeks to re-frame the envelope of the tower typology toward an architecture of “Beinahe Alles” or “Almost Everything.” Instead of focusing on the singular objective of transparency, Beinahe Alles, proposes a thick skin that through excessive materialization produces a wide range of performance and atmospheric effects.

    Beinahe Alles is a strategy for skinning existing towers whose predominantly glass enclosure isn’t performing in a robust and multivalent manner. The majority of these buildings were constructed during the forty years that span between the 1951 completion of the Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago and the 1981 completion of the Occidental Chemical Building in Niagara Falls. Lake Shore Drive Apartments ushered in modernisms penchant for transparency. However, the architectural backlash of the energy crisis in the 1970’s splintered the ideals of modernism by demanding that buildings become more aware of their environmental footprint. The Occidental Chemical Building is the first building in the United States with a double skin and operable louvers. It is our belief that sustainable performance alone does not decree good design. In this proposal, we seek ways of exploiting the atmospheric by-products of sustainable strategies.

    We have selected 222 South Riverside Plaza in Chicago, IL to demonstrate our strategic proposal. Completed in 1971, the steel skeleton and glass curtain wall encloses 2.15 million sf of commercial leasing space distributed over 75 floors. This 900’ tall volume is enclosed in an undifferentiated manner with glass planes spanning between steel structural members. Our proposal is to add a second skin to the existing building that reduces solar gain, produces energy, and generates a wide range of interior atmospheres.

    In terms of geometric organization, metal fins are organized into a diagrid that corresponds to the existing structure of the building. Each fin is 2’ in depth where it meets ground and 14’ in depth where it meets sky. Rotation of the fins and depth of the fins are modulated according to sun exposure. On the south side of the building the degree of rotation increases by 5 for every six floors of vertical rise so that each fin has a 0 degree of rotation where it meets the ground and a 65 degree of rotation where it meets the sky. Furthermore, the direction of rotation (from left to right to left) also changes at every sixth floor producing metal fins with a sinuous wave pattern. As the fins become deeper and the wave pattern intensifies, a greater degree of shade and opacity begin to emerge. On the north side of the building, where there is no direct sunlight, the fins do not rotate. On the east and west sides of the buildings the fins transition from rotated towards their southern corner to not rotated towards their northern corner. The level of geometric intensity corresponds to the orientation of the building so that there is a greater degree of coverage where the sun is most intensive.

    Beinahe Alles explores the visual effects of a plaid pattern at an architectural scale by weaving together stainless steel, copper, and zinc. These three materials were chosen both for their visual and their technical performance capabilities. Stainless steel was selected for its strength. The stainless steel fins form the border of each prefabricated woven panel. The panels are installed on site so that two stainless steel members are joined at their faces. Copper was selected for its radio frequency shielding capabilities. Copper is capable of reducing the transmission of electrical or magnetic fields from one space to another making unwanted surveillance difficult. As the copper thickens towards the top of the building, the interior environments become more hack-proof. Finally, zinc was selected because together, Zinc and copper produce electricity. When zinc and copper are in contact with an electrolyte substance and then wired together, their positive and negative charges produce energy. While it’s understood that run-off from the copper will corrode the zinc overtime, we feel that the erosion process could produce interesting visual effects and contribute to the interior atmosphere of the building.

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    Project Team: Heather FLOOD, Justin KIM, & Juanita ESTRADA

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