Tech Briefs

Tech Book Review
Three new books offer inspiration and practical advice for integrated, high-performance design.


Acoustics in school building moves toward the head of the class
From cacophony in the schoolyard and tense quiet during finals to the social jungle of the cafeteria and the read-out-loud of Roald Dahl: Maybe no acoustic environment is expected to perform in such a variety of ways as the contemporary school.

Photo ©Jon Linkins

Guggenheim face-lift retains original wrinkles
Architects, engineers, and consultants restoring Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim grapple with the meaning of "authenticity.”

Photo © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation/David Heald

BAM’s Next Wave: A Forward-Looking Institution Updates Its Own Look with a Nod to the Past
Since the 1970s, Hugh Hardy’s work for the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has run the gamut, spanning new cinemas and a café for the experimental film and performing arts venue to, most recently, a faithful restoration of the 1908 facade of its historic Peter Jay Sharp Building.

Pictured: Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM); Photo © Peter Mauss/Esto

Crimps, Facets, and Folds
An ingenious Y-shaped mullion supports a quartz-like facade on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.

Pictured: Spertus Insitute of Jewish Studies in Chicago, Illinois; Photo © William Zbaren

Groups advance two sets of high-performance building standards
In the not-too-distant future, there could be two U.S. standards for green buildings.

Pictured: Chandler Airport Commerce Center in Chandler, Arizona; Photo courtesy Green Building Initiative

Aiming at super-tall market, Mitsubishi opens record-breaking elevator testing tower
Inazawa City, Japan, is the home of Mitsubishi Electric’s elevator division, and accordingly, the city skyline includes six small peaks—all towers that the company uses to test its product.

Photo courtesy Mitsubishi Electric Corporation

Microalloy promises better steel structures
The U.S. Army, in conjunction with private industry, is involved in a multiyear research project that could yield stronger, lighter, and longer-span structures, for both civil and military applications. The research is examining the benefits of adding vanadium to steel.

Photo courtesy Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

Book Reviews
We review two recently published books: One tracks the relationship between the practice of medicine and architecture from ancient times to the present, while the other discusses the urgent need to reinvent medical facilities so they are better for patients and the environment.


Behind SANAA’s illusion of weightlessness
Now that the New Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is complete, and its structure enclosed, there is little evidence of the system that supports the seven-story building that seems to be made up of nothing heavier than precariously stacked cardboard boxes.

Diagrams courtesy Guy Nordenson and Associates

Multifaceted structure supports audaciously sculptural BMW Welt
The 172,000-square-foot roof that seems to hover over Coop Himmelb(l)au’s BMW Welt in Munich does more than keep out the elements.

Photo © Duccio Malagamba

A base-isolated makeover for Pasadena's historic City Hall
Structural base isolation—effectively "floating" a building on rubber pads to safely ride out an earthquake—is nothing new in California.

Photo Victor Muschetto

California hospitals get a seismic reprieve
The California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) moved in December 2007 to allow the reclassification of potentially hundreds of seismically questionable hospitals in the state to avoid possible closure due to code noncompliance.

Fashioning an aural architecture
How do you protect a concert hall from extreme desert heat and noise generated by planes flying overhead? We examine how Barton Myers Associates and Architekton solved this problem in their roof design for the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Photo John Edward Linden

Hanging Loose
Perhaps the most famous cantilever in America is one of the shortest: Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1935 design for the exterior concrete terraces at Fallingwater, the longest of which extends a mere 15 feet to hover over the rush of Pennsylvania’s Bear Run stream.

Photo: © Justin Maconochie

Owners tout operational advantages, but dual LEED certification is slow to catch on
Since the launch of LEED for Existing Buildings (EB) three years ago, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has seen modest participation in its program focused on encouraging best practices in the ongoing operations and maintenance of already constructed buildings.

Photo: © Timothy Hursley

ASLA green roof yields impressive benefits
Earlier this fall, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) released performance data for the green roof planted on its Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Photo: Courtesy ASLA

Conference examines a single material’s properties and its inherent ironies If there were a prize for the project most often mentioned during the conference “Engineered Transparency: Glass in Architecture and Structural Engineering,” it would go to the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art, in Ohio, designed by SANAA.

Photo: © Christian Richters

A structural riff in Norway: Snøhetta’s Tubaloon band shell
Now hear this. For a giant, cochlear band shell called Tubaloon, which hovered over Norway’s annual Kongsberg Jazz Festival this past summer, the designers of Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta caught an echo from architectural history.

Photo: © Bjørn Owe Holmberg

Book Reviews
We seem to have two camps emerging in the nascent field of sustainable design: an informed one that remains sensitive to the high aims of architecture, ecology, and site, and then one we might call “design services 2.0,” a kind of appliqué of green technologies onto the leftover bin of expired architecture.


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