The Monthly European Architectural Newsletter
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November 2011


Architecture taking height

Precisely ten years ago the world has changed. The September 11th attacks have marked everyone deeply. A few days afterwards the validity of erecting such high buildings was debated. But these very painful New York events didn’t challenge the principle. The proof being the One World Trade Centre Tower, also called Freedom Tower (540 m), from the architects SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) foreseen on the site in 2013. Since their invention at the end of the 19th century, the skyscrapers remain the symbol of the modern world. The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (452 m) built in 1998 and designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates were head of the ranking during many years and have now been beaten by the Taipei 101 Tower (509 m) in Taiwan and the Shanghai World Finance Center (492 m). In China, all the apartment buildings are built in 40 to 50 storeys towers. Each year hundreds of them have been erected. Thanks to its towers, Dubai has become one of the most important international business Centres and tourist attractions. More than the immediate return on investment was the City’s Image. The Burj Khalifa (SOM) towering at 828 m being now by far the world record holder. The implementation of these buildings with strict constraints regarding weight, wind resistance and exceptional stability, are a real challenge in itself, arousing interest and fascination. The craziest and most improbable Towers are permanently imagined in all the architecture schools and agencies. This type of construction is indeed still a place for creation and imagination. After a century of race towards the sky, it is probably time to think about the environmental norms. Today the Tower is permanently reinventing itself. In green. The architect Ingrid Taillandier is wondering which will be its role in the future urban civilization: ”Obliged to become ecological, will it serve as a laboratory for the new sustainable development processes?”

The ArchiWorld® Team

Portrait of the month

1. Jeff Case, Greg Cook,
James Baird & Jim Miller

2. Tacoma Building

3. Marquette Building

4. Chicago Board of Trade Building

5. Beloit College Center for the Sciences

6. Waubonsee Community College, New Plano Classroom Building

7. General Services Administration, Training Center Addition and Childcare Center

8. Winona Unviersity, Integrated Wellness Center

9. Davenport Pedestrian Skybridge

10. Newaygo Foundation, Dogwood Center for the Performing Arts

Holabird & Root, Chicago

Exceptional case in Architecture: the Chicago agency founded by William Holabird and Ossian Simonds is now 130 years old.

Started in 1880, Holabird & Roche is an integral part of American Architecture. The agency becomes rapidly well known by designing skyscrapers (which have become icons) in the style of the Chicago School, such as the Tacoma Building (1889) or the Marquette Building, ended in 1895. By the early 1890s, the agency employed as many as forty draftsmen and up to a hundred, twenty years later. At that moment it stood as one of the largest architecture firms in the United States, designing the Chicago City Hall (1911) and the Palmer House Hilton (1927).

In 1927 after the death of one of the two founders, the agency changed its name to Holabird & Root, after John Augur Holabird (William Holabird’s son) and John Wellborn Root.Jr took over. Throughout the years, their architectural style changes, going on to Art Deco with the 333 North Michigan Building (34 storeys, 1928), the Palmolive Building (37 storeys, 1929), the Chicago Board of trade Building (44 storeys, 1930), etc. By this time the firm employed some 300 people. During many decades, it will closely follow the transformations of American Architecture. Holabird & Root stays one of the biggest agencies in Chicago.

If much has changed since 1880, yet much has remained the same. Especially regarding their approach which believes in the power of collaboration and not of individualisms, that is to say, the combined efforts of many specialized experts interacting to produce solutions with greatest value as a whole. Going through their numerous projects gives a feeling of specialisation in innovative education buildings. The proof is given by the Waubonsee College Plano. Situated at Sugar Grove (Illinois), it is designed as a stand-alone satellite campus. Spread over two stories the spaces contain classrooms, laboratories, student study areas, etc all strategically placed to enjoy the view on the Plano Lake.

Winner of many prizes and having obtained the platinum LEED certification, the highest in terms of sustainability, the Beloit College shows a clear ecological concept: many environmentally friendly features such as a green, vegetated roof, high-recycled content in building materials and furnishings, significant reduction in energy and water use and storm-water cistern for watering plants in the greenhouse.

With a multipurpose central space connecting two adjacent buildings, its strategic location and its glass façade provide a connection to the nearby river. Another project received the Silver LEED label from the Green Building Council: the General Services Administration (GSA) Childcare Centre which takes advantage of the surrounding natural environment and provides a strong connection between the interior and exterior spaces. It provides also light-filled classrooms with access to the outdoors while respecting the requirements of security and access controls.

Holabird & Root has recently designed the Wellness Center for the Winona State University The design is one of the first of its kind in the nation to truly integrate the six dimensions of wellness: intellectual, social, emotional, physical, occupational and spiritual, in both the buildings program and its operations (indoor athletics and fitness tracks, gymnasiums, health services clinic, etc.).

Furthermore, it is worthwhile mentioning the pedestrian cable-stayed Davenport Skybridge, which has become a touristic attraction with a magnificent view on the Mississippi River, whilst being the safest way to cross the highway. The inside of the Skybridge contains kaleidoscope lighting with 228 LED fixtures and 8036 individual lights.

Holabird & Root has also undertaken the enlargement of the Chicago History Museum, to include gallery spaces, offices, conservation labs, archival space and a museum store. The three story addition follows the perimeter lines of the 1931 building, envelops the 1971 structure and encloses an original courtyard. The museum’s façade has a strong presence on the street. The Art Centre of the Newaygo Foundation with theatre, dance and singing activities is dressed with a metallic skin, its look changing with the sun’s position. Its lobby offers space for events and an art gallery.

Managed to-day by James Baird, Jeff Case, Greg Cook and Jim Miller, with a team of partners and colleagues, Holabird & Root, one can notice, keep open to innovative methods, new materials and changing technologies. “Our process encourages individuals to expand their knowledge through research and discovery in order to allow the company to create intelligent, attractive and professional solutions. While many of our projects are complex, we strive to create straightforward solutions. We believe that great architecture can only result when all of the parts are fully integrated in a clear well reasoned design.”

As a conclusion let’s come back to the Marquette Building, mentioned earlier. Referred to as an example of the Chicago School, this building is one of the first skyscrapers with a steel structure. It is built around a central courtyard and features several distinct elements that have earned it honors as a National Historic Landmark. The façade sculptures and the mosaics have been designed and produced by Studio Tiffany showing different scenes from Jacques Marquette’s expedition through the Great Lakes region, at the end of the 17th century. Fully renovated in 2006, this building is now Holabird & Root’s head office. This is obviously a return to basics.

1. Jeff Case, Greg Cook, James Baird & Jim Miller

2. Tacoma Building (1889)

© Ben Cody

3. Marquette Building (1895)
© J.Crocker

4. Board of Trade Building (1930)
© Antoine Taveneaux

5. Beloit College Center for the Sciences (2008)
© Mark Ballogg Photography

6. Waubonsee Community College, New Plano Classroom Building
©Jim Steinkamp Photography

7. General Services Administration, Training Center Addition and Childcare Center (2009)
© Boris Feldblyum Photography

8. Winona Unviersity, Integrated Wellness Center (2010)
© Mark Ballogg Photography

9. Davenport Pedestrian Skybridge (2005)
© Lambros Photography, Inc.

10. Newaygo Foundation, Dogwood Center for the Performing Arts (2002)
© Bénédiction Hedrich

Project of the month

First Tower, Paris
Arch. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (USA)

Emerging from the La Défense urban landscape, the former AXA Tower has been completely renovated and renamed “First” becoming with its 231 m the number 1 skyscraper in France. It is the first one indeed to receive the Environmental High Quality certification.

Four years work and € 300 millions were needed to modernize the 155 m high tower erected in 1974. The objectives of the American KPF practice in charge of its important renovation were to significantly improve the quality of the spaces, to ennoble the building’s entrance and to create a new, strong architectural image on the Paris skyline. The design also focuses on integrating the building in the dense urban context surrounding it, improving the quality and accessibility of public areas and strengthening the connection between the building and the Grande Esplanade located at the heart of La Défense.

Initially composed of three wings, the height of the original building has been raised and the top of one of the wings has been trimmed to create ten levels. The buildings enlargement on all its facades facilitated passages between the three wings which were before separated. KPF is quite used to very high towers, for instance, the Shanghai World Financial Centre or the Hong Kong International Commerce Centre both close to 500 m high. The First Tower with its 52 floors and its extended area of 87 000 square metres, doesn’t want to compete with its Asiatic cousins. If the architects have preserved 80% of the old concrete structure, the whole building was reinforced. The design also increases the indoor environmental quality by replacing opaque gable walls by 40 000 square metres of glazed façade to bring natural daylight into office spaces and to open views out to the city. A naturally ventilated double skin wraps half of the building. “Its application is a balance between engineering constraints and the aesthetic goals of a dynamic form” added the designers. This insulation, the low emissivity glazing and all the automatically regulated equipments helped to reduce the heating needs by 80%, the air-conditioning costs by 50% and the general energy consumption fivefold. Beyond its architectural qualities, the First Tower shows exceptional ecological performances which will be a striking event in the La Défense history. First is to-day a renewal symbol and the flagship of this business area. Until the new Phare Tower (architects Thom Mayne/ Morphosis) arrives in 2016 to take the lead.

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For more information:


Competitions in the spotlight
Archi-World® Academy

The first worldwide architecture contest for students in architecture Archi-World® Academy Award (AWA) 2011/2013: "Energy-saving projects and ideas for the future of architecture and urbanism".

Click here to see the Archi-World® Academy Trailer

Click here to register!

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MosBuild (2-5 and 10-13 April 2012) is proud to launch its first international contest in architecture. The competition is open to young architects (max 45 years) and students in architecture worldwide. The projects may be carried out individually or in groups, with no restriction on the number of members of the team. Deadline for presenting the entries is 15 March 2012.

Projects can be presented in the following topics:

Solutions for disabled people or people with limited abilities
Sustainable and Energy saving solutions in new buildings as well as challenging projects of renovation

Event in the spotlight

07 - 12 November 2011
BATIMAT is the essential meeting place for the French and international construction industry. Playing a central role in tackling the energy challenges facing buildings, BATIMAT is the place where the technical solutions emerge that will characterize sustainable construction and renovation projects. BATIMAT is a real springboard for manufacturers who want to launch their technological innovations and massively speeds up the rate at which new ideas and products are adopted.

Visit Archi-Europe in Hall 7.2, Stand L19

Álvaro Siza – von der linie zum raum
(> 4/03/2012) - Neuss (DE)
PassiveHouse symposium
(07/01/2012) Brussels (BE)
(7 - 12/11/2011) Paris (FR)
International Art Biennale
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ARS 11
(15/04 – 27/11/2011) - Helsinki (FI)
(1/11/2011) London (UK)
(10 – 13/11/2011) Moscow (RU)
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reCONNECT - An Open Ideas Competition
Deadline: 02/11/2011
Station 20 Competition
Deadline: 09/12/2011
eVolo 2012 Skyscraper Competition
Deadline: 17/01/2012
Deadline: 01/03/2012
MADA - Mosbuild Architecture and Design Awards
Deadline: 15/04/2012
Archi-World® Academy Awards 2011-2013
Deadline: 30/10/2012
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21st-Century London The New Architecture
Kenneth Powell

352 pages
€ 22.25
Merrell Publishers
ISBN 978-1-8589-4537-8
>> read more
The Design Hotels™ Book Edition 2011

424 pages
€ 44.00
Design Hotels™
ISBN 978-3-89955-340-6

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Droit de l'Aménagement, de l'Urbanisme, de l'Habitat – 2011

672 pages
€ 80.00
Editions du Moniteur
ISBN 978-2281128352
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Copyright 2011 Archi-Europe Group nv/sa
Responsible Editor: Jacques Allard
Chief Editor: Marie-Claire Regniers

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