Category Archives: secondary

Lycée Régional René Goscinny

Lycée Régional René Goscinny in Drap, France, by José Morales with Rémy Marciano, 2012.

The following text and images are courtesy of José Morales.

The building is accessed from an upper platform which leads to common facilities rooms and to the main entrance hall itself sheltered by an overhang that supports the Document and Information Centre. It is the only part that juts out of the homogeneous body of the building making the entrance clearly stand out. The existing Goscinny house has been reclaimed and features administrative offices on the ground floor and teachers’offices on the first floor. The dry stone-wall foundations make the house part of the land in its own right and, moreover, enable from a scale perspective the transition from the villages of the valley to the new building.

Since the activity center operates independently from the rest of the building it has been tucked under the main entrance where it can run on its own. The rest of the building is comprised of three levels which feature a shifting overlap pattern to closely follow the land grade, thereby providing a very clear and efficient distribution of spaces for discrete activities. Teaching classrooms spread over two floors in one building and give onto a covered hall that runs around a planted patio. Anchored right into the ground, the cafeteria sits to the east side sheltering the student recess courtyard from eastern winds.

Built out of cyclopean concrete, the lower parts of the building feature openings of different styles - traditional or creative - which alternate in sizes and shapes. The upper floor, dedicated to general secondary education classes, is wrapped in a wood facade which unifies the volumes while describing large gauche-looking surfaces. Sun protection systems have been set up on the facades to allow to modulate the natural light, to provide venting, to blackout or close spaces, all within an optical art style. As a result, the building seems to be moving continuously more or less in sync with the movement of the blinds. New outlines have been drawn and set against the rugged hills of the landscape. Our project has created a dialog between the existing buildings and the surrounding landscape. It has also capitalized on the best exposure and the best views to offer students the best functional set up where they can feel protected, in harmony with the location and in tune with the region where they live.

Designed from the very beginning to be cost effective as regards to energy needs, the project totally qualifies to be HQE certified. It is the first school built partly in wood in the PACA region. The wood part of the structure rests on a wood floor which itself is set on wooden subflooring. The lumber used comes from neighboring forests sustainably managed and the insulating material used is wood fiber. In so choosing, we were able to reduce the energy consumption regarding the construction materials life cycle, something we could not have done with traditional cement structures and rock wool insulation. The wood construction acts as a carbon sink; particularly so when the wood is produced locally as the energy cost for delivering the supplies to the site is much lower. Seventy per cent of the energy needs are provided by the pellet wood furnace, with a capacity of 200 kW, the rest by a gas furnace with a capacity of 350 kW. The gas furnace is sized however to be able to supply all of the energy needs and therefore be used as a full backup if necessary for any reason. Semi-transparent solar panels are installed over the outside corridors covering a total surface of 540 m2. Such installation is completed over the class room building by the laying of amorphous waterproof roofing panels.

Universidade Agostinho Neto

Universidade Agostinho Neto in Luanda, Angola by Perkins + Will, 2011.

Luanda, the capital of Angola and its largest city, is located on the country's Atlantic coast, only 8.4-degrees latitude south of the equator. Both the city and country are undergoing reconstruction after a civil war that stretched from the mid-1970s, when the Portuguese pulled out, until 2002, when a cease-fire was reached. Even before some peace came to the country, plans were under way to create a proper campus for Universidade Agostinho Neto, which dates back to the 1960s and is named for the country's first president. Located on 5,000 acres southeast of Luanda, the new campus will build out to 6-1/2 million square feet (600,000 sm) and serve 40,000 students when complete; a handful of buildings for phase one were completed in 2011.

Perkins+Will's master plan for the new campus strives to create a sustainable urbanism through propinquity and responses to climate. The first is addressed through a pinwheel plan, with the library, plaza and student union occupying the center. Each college occupies a linear bar that radiates from the core, meaning that the buildings are equidistant from the central services and open space (one college is not closer to the center than another). Second, the siting of the pinwheel on the site is turned about 20 degrees from north-south to funnel breezes from the coast to the southwest. Furthermore, a strong identity and definition of the university on the area is formed through an elliptical ring road, half of which can be seen in the aerial view at bottom.

The sustainable aspects of Perkins+Will's planning also extend to the buildings designed by principal Ralph Johnson, who probably has more experience with schools incorporating sustainable principles than any architect practicing today. The campus buildings that comprise phase one—the library and classroom buildings for chemistry, mathematics, physics and computer sciences—are immediately recognizable as Johnson buildings, layering well-detailed shading elements over linear, modern forms. As the first two photos here attest, the library peeks above the surrounding buildings and landscape to be visible from even the far reaches of future phases, and the classroom buildings have consistent zigzagging roofs that create a strong silhouette meeting the expansive sky.

An admirable aspect of the design, particularly the classroom buildings, is an emphasis on passive cooling, developed with consulting engineers Battle McCarthy. Most evident are the louvered roofs that extend well past the glass exterior walls; some stretches extend across the courtyards to help shade these outdoor zones from the high sun (remember, the school is very close to the equator). Further, these canopies heat up from the sun's rays, pulling the hot air up through the courtyards, and working together with the classroom and single-loaded exterior corridors to naturally ventilate the classrooms. These are not new ideas, but their execution serves to create a strong sense of place, modern yet rooted in the particularities of Luanda.

KU Lied Center Addition

KU Lied Center Addition in Lawrence, Kansas by Helix Architecture + Design, 2011.

The Lied Center of Kansas at the University of Kansas (KU) consists of a 2,000-seat multi-purpose theater with rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, and administrative spaces. Completed in 1993 per a design by Omaha's HDR Architects, the building is a brick hulk sitting in a sea of parking west of the KU campus. Three years later Topeka's HTK Architects added the Bales Organ Recital Hall (which serves the KU School of Music) on the west side of the Lied Center. Rounding out the architectural context in this patch of Lawrence is the nearby Dole Institute of Politics, designed by ASIA Architecture and completed in 2003; it fronts a large reflecting pool next to the large shared parking lot.

On the opposite side of the Lied Center from the Recital Hall, Helix Architecture + Design has added an educational wing and expanded the lobby and offices. Like the original building, the addition is funded primarily by the Lied Foundation Trust, which aims at making performances, lectures, and educational programs accessible to the people of Kansas. The new addition is anchored by a multi-purpose rehearsal/presentation space that also accommodates meetings, receptions, dinners, and pre- and post-performance activities.

From the exterior the addition fits quite seamlessly with the existing, at least in terms of the matching brick color. Helix eschews the decorative stone that is found elsewhere, particularly as banding on the ground floor. Instead the addition is relatively minimal, basically comprised of brick and glass. The latter zig-zags from the education space down to the new entry, giving a glimpse of each from the exterior. The combination of stepped glass walls (in plan) and angled brick walls at the base gives the impression that the addition is carved from a mass of brick. Aside from this impression, they also make clear where the building access is located.

Entering the addition from the outside, the visitor first encounters some very red carpeting leading to a display on the far wall and the theater beyond; to the right is the education space, visible through a glass opening in the wall with glass doors. Walls and ceilings are folded to give the impression that it's been carved from a white solid; in this sense exterior and interior merge, even though the materials are distinct. But the ceiling's folds are not arbitrary. They conceal vents, cove lights, and equipment suspended from the ceiling. Randomly located downlights give a celestial appearance to the folded overhead plane.

Helix was faced with a bit of challenge, like putting lipstick on a pig, as they say. They made the most of it and subtly sculpted the addition, inside and out, to create an impressive space for appreciating art in eastern Kansas.

Photographs are courtesy of Aaron Dougherty.

A, B, C Lecture Halls

A, B, C Lecture Halls at Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice, Poland by Zalewski Architecture Group, 2011.

In undergraduate architecture school I recall hearing a professor say, during a crit for a proposed addition to the art school on campus, that about the only spaces that can be given any sort of architectural flair are circulation. Aimed at the educational program of our project, the professor asserted that classrooms, offices, and support spaces are driven by concerns (function, acoustics, wear) that necessitate fairly straightforward designs. In this regard, another space that is more aligned with circulation than classrooms would be auditoriums, aka lecture halls.

Lecture halls can be considered over-sized classrooms, but their size, sectional tiering, and acoustical/technological requirements make them both more complex functionally and more ripe for architectural exploration. These three lecture halls for Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice, Poland by Zalewski Architecture Group are good examples of how these types of spaces can be imbued with design elements that respond to these three factors -- size, section, acoustics/technology -- all the while creating a strong identity for the educational institution.

The service rooms, in contrast to the lecture halls, are designed in white color which intensifies the effect of "immersion" of the user in "the space of color" after entering the auditoriums. -Zalewski Architecture Group

As the quote above attests, color is used to differentiate the three lecture halls, and the effect starts in the circulation spaces. The photo at top shows the corridor that gives access to the top of each lecture hall; A, B, and C are written in light-gray graphics on the white and dark-gray walls to be legible from the photos vantage point. The corridor adjacent to the bottom of the auditoriums is rendered differently: seats with astroturf bottoms are tucked beneath the wall, hinting at the space beyond. It's clear that the architects have a good sense of humor and likewise don't expect all education to be dry and serious.

Lecture halls A, B, and C are respectively colored green, orange, and blue. A is the largest and the most exceptional in the way the green walls and ceiling are wrapped in a wood liner that is carved to admit lighting and some interesting effects. Where needed for acoustics, the wood panels are perforated. Green seats and carpeting further accentuate the space's color coding. The other rooms are pared-down versions of the same: colored floors and wall are lined with simpler wood surfaces with integral lighting; wood seats mean A is the most saturated in terms of color. These pleasing and well-crafted spaces may even make students want to go to class.

Netherlands Institute for Ecology

Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) in Wageningen, Netherlands by Claus en Kaan Architecten, 2011.

In the influential book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, William McDonough and Michael Braungart argue that recycling is in effect "downcycling," since the quality of the material is degraded. Instead they push for "upcycling," where the material, such as a plastic, is after use turned from, say, a bottle back into a bottle. This type of recycling, keyed to the chemistry of the materials in the things we make, theoretically produces a closed loop, hence the cradle-to-cradle (c2c) moniker. According to Claus en Kaan Architecten their design for the NIOO-KNAW is based on the c2c concept.

NIOO-KNAW is a research institute that sits on the campus of Wageningen University, but falls under the aegis of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. The institute's main building houses laboratories, offices, a restaurant and an auditorium; some smaller separate buildings are used for botanical and zoological research, and the compact site also contains test beds and ponds. The main building, shown here, is a long, rectangular two-story building that is oriented a few degrees off of true north-south. The primary elevation, above and at left and right, faces west; behind the glass wall are laboratories that are shaded by continuous wood canopies that wrap the two short sides.

The compact building ... generates an enormous amount of space that stands for the most important principle of the building: informal encounters. -Claus en Kaan Architecten

The other long edge of the building -- photo at left, the facade facing east and the secondary buildings and the test beds/ponds -- is where the offices are located on both floors. These offices are also located behind expansive glass walls, but sun control is via operable exterior shades, and the glass includes natural ventilation and is framed with wood mullions, whereas the other sides feature butt-glazed glass walls that span from floor to ceiling. The two exterior expressions are unified by materials but also the large wood-slat cap that houses a conference room and canteen, and provides access to a roof terrace.

This wood penthouse hints at the core of the building, the zone between the west-facing labs and east-facing offices. Here we find support laboratories, restrooms, and other support and service spaces, as well as horizontal and vertical circulation. The corridors ring the support spaces, and people are afforded glimpses into the labs and offices. The stairs are located in atrium spaces that brings sunlight to the middle of the building. This simple plan of perimeter and center rooms rung by corridors, all punctured by atria lit from above, gives the building a strong internal focus that jibes with the architects' desire to spur informal encounters. Likewise the glass perimeter links the labs and offices to the larger site, giving some awareness of the part they and their building plays in the larger environmental context.

M3A2 – Cultural and Community Tower

M3A2 - Cultural and Community Tower in Paris, France by Antonini + Darmon Architectes, 2011.

Paris Diderot Unversity, which bills itself as "the multidisplinary university in the heart of Paris," is located on the Left Bank of the Seine, just south of the National Library of France, the building designed by Dominique Perrault that opened in 1995. The university is expanding its facilities in this "new fast-developing part of Paris," which it has called home since relocating there in 2007. One of the six original campus buildings is the massive Halle aux Farines (Flour Market), which dates back to the 1950s but was overhauled by Agence Nicolas Michelin & Associés. A small corner lot abuts the market, what is now occupied by the M3A2 - Cultural and Community Tower.

Designed by Paris-based Antonini + Darmon Architectes, the sliver building takes on a strong presence through its height and the articulation of the exposed facades. The main elevation (facing left in the photos here) faces north, so then the narrow elevation on the street faces west. A generous park -- Esplanade Pierre Vidal-Naquet -- parallels the Flour Market to the north. This open space, combined with the Jardins Grands Moulins Abbé Pierre to the west, ensure that M3A2 is highly visible. At night the building acts as a beacon for the university.

[M3A2] acts as a light, gravitational counterpoint [to the Flour Market]. An architectural dialectic and emulation come into play much like a castle and its keep, both intrinsically inseparable. -Antonini + Darmon

The building, which totals 550 square meters (almost 6,000 square feet), stacks seven enclosed floors above an open ground floor. Eight round concrete columns mark the latter, as does an open stair that lands at the northern end of the building. The north facade of the Flour Market is visible through the base of the building. Above, each floor plate is approximately 6.5 meters by nearly 18 meters. A glass wall enclosure with operable windows occurs at this point, but a perforated corrugated skin projects approximately a half a meter in front of each elevation. This skin is what gives the building its character and presence.

The architects wrap the raised box with dark and light rectangles; as the building rises it shifts, at least on the north and west, from mainly dark to mainly light. The appearance of each section of the facade varies according to one's angle and the time of day. At dusk and later the light and dark blocks of the facade act as a foil to the bands of light that wrap the building; they create variety where it otherwise would not exist. Atop the building is an open floor, which makes the structure for the outer skin readily apparent. It gives the impression that this perforated skin is slid over another object; and to a certain extent that is what is happening.

Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center

Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center in Ithaca, New York by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, 2011.

Cornell Plantations is, as the name indicates, part of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. It consists of a dozen themed gardens in its 25-acre botanical garden and specialty gardens, collections of trees and shrubs in a 150-acre arboretum, and 4,000 acres of natural areas, consisting of "ecologically important sites on and off campus." At the heart of Cornell Planatations is the Botanical Garden, located east of the school's main quads and south of Fall Creek's Beebe Lake. Recently added to the garden is the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center designed by Toronto-based Baird Sampson Neuert Architects.

Just as Cornell University is adding buildings to its campus (see my recent "half dose" on OMA's Milstein Hall), Cornell Plantations also underwent building renovation and new construction projects, what they call "Plantation Transformations." Started in 2000, the Nevin Welcome Center is an important part of that modernization and infrastructural improvements; it is actually referred to as the "grand finale" of the decade-long construction. Sited in the center of the Botanical Garden, at the confluence of existing walking paths, the building tucks itself into a plateau on the west and opens up towards the flatland to the south. A new parking lot, which features a bio-swale for cleansing stormwater from the lot, is also found to the south, but access to the Welcome Center also occurs from the north.

[D]emarcating the route of an ancient glacial river... [the] bioswale is designed to receive stormwater from the upper campus, to provide environmental benefits beyond the immediate project. -Baird Sampson Neuert

The two-story building is primarily defined by its south facade, which curves gently from over a stone wall on the west to a double-height space with glass walls on the east, where cafe seating is also found. Wood louvers above the first floor's door height follow this curve and serve to filter summer sunlight but admit winter sun for passive heating. Other green-building strategies include rooftop solar thermal panels and a motorized vent/skylight that draws cool air through the building. The latter is based around the cool air that pools at the base of the knoll atop the plateau on the west. Combined with the usual green features (recycled materials, high-efficiency water fixtures, etc.), the project is tracking to become Cornell's first LEED Platinum project.

Inside, the building is fairly straightforward, split roughly 50/50 on the first floor between the exhibition space and gift shop/cafe on the east and service spaces (mechanical, restrooms, office) on the west. Upstairs houses a multi-purpose room that spills out onto an event terrace at plateau level and a conference room housed in a wood-slat volume over the gift shop. While the south facade is most striking, the north elevation is equally important, as a connector of the two levels that the building spans. Lastly, the circulation that wraps much of the building -- be it at the flatland level or paralleling the stair to the north -- points to an interpretation of the building as an element that inserts itself into the landscape and allows bodies (people, water, etc.) to flow around it. In this regards, the southern curve is a perfect symbol for the Plantation's new Welcome Center.

SCI-Arc Graduation Pavilion

SCI-Arc Graduation Pavilion in Los Angeles, California by Oyler Wu Collaborative, 2011.

In 2000 the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) moved to its current location just southeast of downtown Los Angeles. It occupies the 1907 Sante Fe Freight Depot, a roughly 1,250-foot-long (380m) concrete building fronting, appropriately, Sante Fe Avenue on one side and a large parking lot on the other side. The latter is the site of experimentation and construction for the architecture school, not just a place for cars. It was the construction site for this year's Solar Decathlon, which the school developed with CalTech, and annually it is the home of a temporary graduation pavilion designed and built by SCI-Arc faculty with students.

This year's pavilion was designed by Dwayne Oyler and Jenny Wu, aka Oyler Wu Collaborative, with their studetns. The duo's work exhibits a lightness that is countered by a structural complexity, a combination that results in daring designs with a layered network of pieces (be it wood, metal, or even rope) held in a seemingly magical, floating tension. Such is the case with this pavilion, yet it is a leap in scale from their Pendulum Plane, Suburban Intervention, and other small-scale interventions. It is basically a backdrop and canopy for the graduation ceremony, but it elevates the ceremony into something even more special.

Based on a conventional knitting technique, like that used in the making of a sweater, the pavilion exploits the malleability of this technique as it stretches to conform to the three-dimensional shape of the structure. -Oyler Wu Collaborative

Called "Netscape," the pavilion, which seats 900 people, consists of  "45,000 linear feet of knitted rope, 6,000 linear feet of tube steel, and 3,000 square feet of fabric shade louvers." The architects further state, not surprisingly, that the "design of the project involved an elaborate back and forth between digital and analog systems of investigation." In particular Nous Engineering analyzed the tension of the nets using computers, but large models also "provided a means of studying the behavior of the grids and their resulting geometries."

The overall geometry is symmetrical in plan and elevation, but less so in the smaller parts and in one's experience of the whole. The three materials -- rope, tube steel, fabric shades -- work in concert yet they read as distinct entities with their own purpose. The steel structure leans and extends to create a soaring space, while the rope is knitted to become a dense yet porous plane up high. Lastly, the shades are supported by the first two but angled according to the sun at the time of the ceremony; as well, the wind lets them billow independently of the structure.  It's natural to want to try to describe what the pavilion looks like, to strive for metaphors, but I think it's best to see it as the sum of these three parts, a synthesis that works through its contrary reconciliation of lightness and monumentality. In turn it makes the graduation ceremony a grand affair.

Project Credits:

  • Principal Architects: Dwayne Oyler, Jenny Wu
  • Project Team, Oyler Wu Collaborative:  Nick Aho, Chris Eskew, Matt Evans, Andy Hammer, Michael Ho, Richard Lucero, Sanjay Sukie, Yaohua Wang
  • Project Team, SCI-Arc: Jacob Aboudou, Casey Benito, Paul Cambon, Julian Daly, Hung Diep, Jesus Guerrero, Clifford Ho, Duygun Inal,  Mina Jun, David Kim, Noorey Kim, Jacques Lesec, Zachery Main, Tyler McMartin, Richard Nam, Kevin Nguyen, Manuel Oh, Carlos Rodriquez, Bryant Suh, Kyle von Hasseln, Liz von Hasseln, Jie Yang
  • Engineering:  Nous Engineering (Principal Engineer: Matt Melnyk)

Sra Pou Vocational School

Sra Pou Vocational School in Oudong, Cambodia by Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen, 2011.

A project that could easily fit within the vein of the books reviewed this week, this vocational school in the Cambodian village of Sra Pou, Udong started with Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen in an Aalto university design studio in Finland. According to the architects, they "travelled to Cambodia to find a design task with a local NGO" and eventually "decided to organize the construction of Sra Pou vocational school, since there was an urgent need for it and their design inspired both the community and donors." As part of Ukumbi, they provided a training center that enables people in the village to start sustainable businesses in order to secure stable income.

The school is a simple two-story brick rectangular building with a workshop and classrooms, and a covered "community room" to the side. It immediately recalls other projects featured previously on this web page: the Primary School in Gando, Burkina Faso by Diébédo Francis Kéré; the Handmade School (METI) in Rudrapur, Bangladesh by Roswag & Jankowski and Anna F. Heringer; and the Wadi El Gemal Visitor Center in Marsa Alam, Egypt by MADA Architects. These projects share a blend of the contemporary and the local in their form and materials, as well as serving unprivileged communities in developing countries.

[In addition to a vocational school,] it is also a place for public gathering and democratic decision-making for the whole community. -Hilla Rudanko and Anssi Kankkunen

Like the Handmade School, color is used on doors and shutters to give the building a strong presence by creating a rhythm across its facade. In the Vocational School these woven pieces also paint the light in various colors as it enters the workshop and classroom. The primary material is handmade brick made from the local soil, giving the building its distinctive red color. This gives the impression that the building is of its place...because it is. As well, local residents participated in the school's construction, both to make the building affordable to build and, more importantly, give them training to use the same techniques for their own houses.

Other additions to the minimal palette include wood beams and columns for the roof of the building and the outdoor space and woven mats for the roofs themselves. A particularly nice touch in the small building can be found in the gaps in the brick walls, gaps that allow air to move through the interior spaces. These breezes can be modulated by the woven shutters. The gaps dapple the light that enters the spaces, and they do the inverse, giving the building another unique presence in spots of light glowing from the inside at night.

Sauder School of Business

Sauder School of Business in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada by Acton Ostry Architects, 2010.

The Vancouver campus of the 100-year-old University of British Columbia (UBC) is located at the western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula, a dramatic site surrounded by forests on three sides and overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the fourth side. At about 1,000 acres (400 hectares) the campus is large, but it is also green, earning Canada's first Gold rating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). The renewal and expansion of the Sauder School of Business by Acton Ostry Architects is a standout building in the campus-wide efforts to reduce carbon emissions, reduce waste, reduce water usage, and increase public transit and walking.

Located in the center of the campus, the new design greets students on the Main Mall with a long glass elevation that "embeds and reflects the rhythm, cadence and pattern language associated with the universal transfer of digital commerce and business information -- a barcode." This facade, which extends around the corner to the south, wraps the existing complex to create a strong image for the school. Regardless of any rational for the glazing pattern and colors, the new exterior manages to unify the disparate collection of dated school buildings.

Our design approach incorporates new technologies and materials that contribute to the realization of projects rooted in a considered, modernist idiom that offer sustenance to those who inhabit and experience them. -Acton Ostry Architects

Besides the new glazed elevation, the main elements in the project are a new five-story volume to the west, a completely renovated ground floor, and a central atrium. The last links old and new and creates a new circulation spine for the school whose spaces have have accrued over time. The narrow space also serves as a helpful wayfinding device by drawing ones attention to the daylight that enters from above and diffuses the building. On the ground floor the atrium stands out because the architects have opened this level dramatically, expressing it through the lime-green columns and bracing that hold up the existing building overhead. One can enter the building and see all the way into the new building through the atrium. Another nice touch is the donor program, which uses currency symbols as pixels that paints the likeness of the donors, reminiscent of the visage of Mies van der Rohe at the entrance to IIT's student center.

Returning to the building's green features, the school taps into a campus-wide steam system for heating, but also utilizes waste steam from the campus heating plant. One area in which this happens is the lecture halls. On the flip side, the building is cooled by a steam absorption chiller that operates via waste steam from the plant. So, as the architects put it, "much of the building uses scavenged energy," helping the project to earn an SAB Canadian Green Building Award. The first phase of the project was completed in 2010, with the second and third phases -- the renovation of the rest of the existing -- expected to be complete by the end of 2011.