martedì, novembre 28, 2006

Paris plans rival to Eiffel tower

Developers unveiled a curving skyscraper design on Monday, rivalling the Eiffel Tower in height and echoing London's famous "Gherkin", as the centrepiece of a redevelopment of Paris's La Defence business district.
The design, by U.S. architect Thom Mayne, was selected last week ahead of proposals from nine other star architects including Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas of the Netherlands and is expected to be completed in 2012.
It is intended to be one of the most significant construction projects in Paris since former President Francois Mitterrand's ambitious "Grands Travaux" developments of the 1980s including the Louvre's glass pyramid or the National Library.
"It's about an icon, and one of the major buildings in Paris," Mayne told reporters.
The 300 metre tall structure will be one of the highest buildings in Paris, rivalling the Eiffel Tower, which is 324 m tall, including its antennas. But Mayne said he wanted to retain a human dimension to the design.
"There's a fluidity, a sensuousness, a softness to the form as it reaches to the sky," he said, describing the asymmetric twist of the building, which swells out over an elevated lobby in the lower portion before tapering off to a thicket of wind turbines on the roof.
La Defence, a somewhat bleak 160 hectare development of banks, company headquarters and office buildings just outside the city of Paris proper is to undergo major shake up that will involve around a fifth of the buildings being redeveloped.
The overhaul reflects worries that Paris has been losing business to rival cities including London and Milan and offers a chance to create a tower to match developments like Foster's glass Swiss Re building in the City of London, nicknamed the "Gherkin"

With strict height restrictions on buildings in Paris itself, skyscrapers are largely restricted to areas like La Defence but Mayne's "Phare" ("lighthouse") development will stand out clearly over the city skyline.
The building, which will cost the developers Unibail an estimated 800 million euros (542,000 pounds) to build, will house some 130,000 square metres of office space.
But Mayne said it would also be "a prototype for a green building" with a wind farm generating its own heating and cooling for five months of the year and a movable "double skin" to cut the heat from direct sunlight through the windows.
Unibail Chief Executive Guillaume Poitrinal said the project showed private sector developers were just as capable as the public sector of creating landmark buildings, even if it is dwarfed in height by mega developments in Asia.
"It's a real symbol of modernity but it's not a record tower, we're not trying to go to 800 metres. The idea is to have something which is modern and iconic rather than just high."

giovedì, novembre 23, 2006

Architecture in Italy goes green

When the American architect Richard Meier was asked to create a church in Rome to commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity, he designed an imposing white concrete structure dominated by three soaring "sails."
The project's main technical sponsor got to work on a cement that would enhance Meier's trademark white sculptural forms. It came up with a material that essentially cleans itself, minimizing the need for maintenance.
What the sponsor, Italcementi Group, did not know at the time was that the new material - which contained titanium dioxide, a compound used as a white pigment - had another peculiarity. It "eats" surrounding smog.
Extensive testing, sponsored in part by a European Union research project into "smart" antipollution materials, has since determined that construction products containing titanium dioxide help to destroy air pollutants found in car exhaust and heating emissions, scientists say.
Several companies are now developing "smog-eating" products that can be used not just for the facades of buildings, but also in paint, plaster, and paving materials for roads. The new environment- friendly substances are quietly being tried out in buildings, squares and highways in Europe as well as Japan.
Hailed by some scientists as a breakthrough, the process is still being evaluated by others. The question, said Melanie Sattler, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Texas in Arlington, is "whether coatings on buildings would be able to treat enough of the atmospheric air to make a difference."
Italcementi began developing its product after Meier got his assignment to build the Dives in Misericordia church in 1996 and asked for help.
Titanium dioxide had been used in self-cleaning coatings before because of its photocatalytic properties: sunlight touching the compound triggers a chemical reaction that accelerates natural oxidation.
Upon testing its new cement, however, Italcementi realized that the material also had the ability to break down nitrogen oxides emitted in the burning of fossil fuels.
"That means there will be a reduction of pollutants in the atmosphere," said Dimitrios Kotzias, who carried out tests on titanium dioxide construction materials at a center in Ispra, Italy, one of seven institutes that together make up the European Commission's Joint Research Center.
As part of the EU study - known as Picada, for Photocatalytic Innovative Coverings Applications for Depollution Assessment - Italcementi applied the technology to various construction materials, and later patented them. Picada also tested materials developed by other companies, including a paint made by Millennium Chemicals of Britain.
The Picada tests were the first to examine how titanium dioxide would react in common building materials, said Kotzias, who heads the physical and chemical exposure unit at the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection in Ispra.
"Theoretical work in photocatalysis has been going on since the 1980s," said Enrico Borgarello, Italcementi's head of research and development. "The problem is that no one had developed any practical applications."
In this context, Kotzias said, "Picada was a breakthrough because it showed in large-scale experiments that materials exist that can be efficient in destroying atmospheric pollutants."
According to Italcementi, tests in urban settings determined that some pollutants could be reduced by 20 to 70 percent, depending on atmospheric and light conditions as well as the size of the area treated with the cement.
The reduction of pollutants is greatest within 2.5 meters, or 8.2 feet, of a surface that has been treated, the company said. This means that a pedestrian walking down a street with traffic would inhale fewer pollutants while walking past buildings treated with the substance.
In one test, paving material using photocatalytic cement was used to cover the asphalt surface of a 230-meter- long stretch of road outside Milan with an average traffic flow of 1,000 vehicles per hour. Tests showed a reduction in nitrogen oxides at street level of about 60 percent, according to Italcementi.
The Italcementi product, known as TX Active, has been used at the new Air France headquarters at the Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris; the police headquarters in Bordeaux; and a multistory apartment building in Ostend, Belgium.
Road surfaces have been paved with the product in Italy - it was notably tried on a square in Florence, Piazza Tanucci - while median barriers have been treated along some divided highways in France.
Elsewhere, in a three-year European research project known as Nanocrete, Swedish and Finnish companies are developing concrete with photocatalytic properties for roads and tunnel walls that break down car exhaust fumes. Among the partners are research institutes and companies, including Swedish construction group Skanska and the Finnish chemical group Kemira.
Environmental scientists and engineers are following the development of such materials with keen interest.
"Philosophically, it is better never to form pollutants than to find ways to destroy pollutants, but this is a useful technique for air pollutants that humans already make," said Howard Liljestrand, an expert in environmental chemistry at the University of Texas in Austin.
He cautioned, however, that the cost- efficiency of such products would depend on long-term performance, adding, "Catalysts tend to lose their effectiveness over time."
TX Active costs about 10 times as much as normal cement, or about €1, or $1.30, per kilogram. But since the photocatalytic concrete is applied very thinly and only to areas that are exposed to the atmosphere, officials at Italcementi say, the cost of treating the façade of a five-story building with the product would be just €100 higher than with traditional paint or plaster. Paving with photocatalytic blocks would raise the price by 10 to 20 percent.
Now that TX Active has gone beyond the testing phase, does it work? Three years after Meier's church opened in the eastern Rome neighborhood of Tor Tre Teste, the bulk of the majestic structure remains remarkably bright, in contrast to the grimy gray joints not treated with the product. Since building Dives in Misericordia, Meier has used the same material in a Rome museum, Ara Pacis, that was inaugurated this year.
"It's hard to say if it's revolutionary, but we're happy with the results," Meier said, adding that most architects tried to use environment-friendly materials.

mercoledì, novembre 22, 2006

mercoledì, novembre 15, 2006

Banca Lombarda Headquarter

Headquarter of Banca Lombarda in Brescia (Italy)
Designed by Vittorio Gregotti

Palavela in Turin

Palavela in Turin, Designed by Gae Aulenti
The new Palavela is Gae Aulenti’s reinterpretation of Palazzo a Vela, a building inaugurated as part of the Italia ’61 centennial celebrations for the Unification of Italy. The new design preserved the spirit of the building, exalting its unique "vaulted" structure, which remains the symbolic element. Palavela will host figure skating and short track events.

martedì, novembre 14, 2006

The Morgan Library Expansion

(The Morgan library Expansion, designed by Renzo Piano)
During the final decade of the twentieth century, the growing popularity of the Morgan's programs and services brought a doubling of attendance and ever greater demands on its museum and library offerings and services. Beginning in the late 1990s, Morgan Trustees and staff studied and analyzed the programs and facilities and articulated essential institutional goals for the future. In 2000 the Trustees engaged the Renzo Piano Building Workshop to develop an architectural plan for expansion and enhancement that would realize the Morgan's expectations for the future. Permitting the Morgan to do what it has always done—but better—the plan's principal features are:
a welcoming entrance on Madison Avenue;
improved internal circulation, including greater wheelchair accessibility;
new and renovated galleries that will enable more art, books, and manuscripts to be exhibited;
a modern auditorium;
a new Reading Room with greater capacity and electronic resources; and
substantially expanded space for collections storage.
The scheme that the Piano Workshop developed in conjunction with Beyer Blinder Belle of New York retains the time-honored ethos of the Morgan—its elegance, intimacy, and commitment to excellence. New and old elements are persuasively integrated, in part because the new structures will be no higher than existing buildings, and in part because Piano's scheme combines a Renaissance appreciation of geometry with a modernist celebration of clarity.The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and community and municipal groups have enthusiastically endorsed the project as a beautiful, imaginative response to the Morgan's needs.

sabato, novembre 11, 2006

Ferrari Research Center

Ferrari ResearchCcenter designed by Massimiliano Fuksas
The design for the new Management Headquarters by Massimiliano Fuksas, for Ferrari S.p.A, was the winning project in an International Competition.
Construction of the new Ferrari Complex in Maranello, home town of the Ferrari factoria and the Scuderia Ferrari, started in 1997 with completion of the 150,000 square meter area planned for 2005.The general concept behind the project was to create an environment that would bring the employees closer to nature.
Water, bamboo, ecological materials and biotechnology were the main factors in Massimiliano Fuksas' design of new Management Headquarters.
The main image of the building will be the shallow pools of water, bordered by rows of slender bamboo, that separate the two main volumes.The pools will reflect the light from the floor above through asymmetrical glass boxes that contain the vertical circulation and, at the same time, provide the structural elements for the suspended upper level.
To further emphasize the idea of suspension the upper level is cantilevered 7 meters over the entrance and reception area.
The new Management Headquarters building will be situated by the future main entrance between the "Wind Tunnel" building, designed by Renzo Piano, and the "Meccanica Building", designed by Marco Visconti.
The first building at the new Ferrari Complex site was a "safe" low red brick building, placed next to the old vest entrance. In 1998 the first high-tech building "Wind Tunnel" by Renzo Piano was completed and in 2001 construction started on the "Nuova Officina Meccanica" designed by Marco Visconti.In July 2002 Ferrari moved to the new two-floor "GeS Nuova Logistica" building, next to the Fiorana Test area, designed by Luigi Sturchio.
The "Centro Sviluppo Prodotto" (product development building), "Nuova Verniciatura" (high-tech lacquer center) by Marco Visconti, a new restaurant and a new complex, "Gestione Sportiva", for the Formula 1 Team are also planned.

giovedì, novembre 09, 2006

Jubilee church in Rome

Church Dio Padre Misericordioso (Jubilee Church) in Rome
Designed by
Richard Meier

Given the extraordinary quantity and quality of churches Rome already offers, did the city need another, and would you want to take the time to travel out to a workaday suburb to visit it? The Vatican was apparently sufficiently clear on the first question to fund the construction of an additional 50 churches to celebrate the "Jubilee" (Millennium) in 2000, and after a visit out to Tor Tre Teste I am just as clear on the second.
Meier's building is a dramatic church and community center surrounded by 1970s apartment blocks in a salubrious but nondescript suburb six miles to the east of Rome. Won in an invited competition against Tadao Ando, Santiago Calatrava, Peter Eisenman and Frank Gehry, the bright white church makes dramatic use of light both outside and inside. As Meier describes it:
"Light is the protagonist of our understanding and reading of space. Light is the means by which we are able to experience what we call sacred. Light is at the origins of this building... In the Jubilee Church, the three concrete shells define an enveloping atmosphere in which the light from the skylights above creates a luminous spatial experience, and the rays of sunlight serve as a mystical metaphor of the presence of God...

"Transparency and light cascade down from the skylit roof, literally invading the interior of the church also penetrating from below through a narrow slot opened at floor level. People in the atrium are enveloped with mystical light."
The narrow slot at floor level, teasingly emphasising the non-load-bearing nature of the concrete panels immediately above it (vs. the steel skeleton hidden within the shell), is reminiscent of the similar slot between wall and ceiling in Le Corbusier's chapel at Ronchamp which, together with La Tourette, are Corbusier influences Meier acknowledges, along with Alvar Aalto and Frank Lloyd Wright:
"These are the contemporary churches that have impressed me most, and I would say that what they all share is the importance of light."

The color palette and materials in the Jubilee church is restrained and beautiful: traditional Roman travertine; more recently-Roman smooth, white concrete, invented for the Olympic Stadium in Rome in 1960 and created by Italcementi; and light wood panelling and pews.
With the structure supported by the curved cantilever of the concrete-clad shells, reaching over towards the opposite "spine" wall, the west (altar) and east (organ) walls are light glazing, surrounding the bright, white set pieces for the cross and organ respectively. As the church guide describes it, "Taking part in a prayer, you feel like celebrating in the presence of God thanks to the roof of the nave, the eastern and the western facade entirely made in glass." Despite all the glazing, the geometry is such that direct sun almost never comes into the church.