VS-1 Curtainwall System

When I was researching structural curtain wall systems, I realized most of them cost at least $200-250 to $300 range depending on the clips, hardware, and glass make-up.  I became interested to find the alternative system that would cost within our budget, yet features frameless curtain wall look.

In this case, VS-1 curtain wall system from the Innovation Glass seemed a good fit that cost generally (based on 2014 Feb. inquiry) between $80 and $110/SQFT installed. (depending on wall complexity, accessories, vents, etc.) This is almost half price of the typical structural glass system.  Thanks to Franz Safford from Innovation Glass for providing very helpful information about the product.

VS-1 curtain wall system is a vertical blade system without the horizontal mullions. Thus, aesthetically it can accomplish the planar look from the outside like more expensive conventional pin-point connection type (spider or glass fin) system without the sacrifice of cost. The vertical blade mullions in the back of the system can be customized to minimize the visual attention with over 40ft clear spanning.

VS-1 system

image courtesy of VS1 Innovationglass.com

courtesy of VS1 Innovationglass.com

courtesy of VS1 Innovationglass.com

The best case study would be the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership building on Michigan Ave in Chicago.  It was designed by Chicago-based Krueck & Sexton Architects and completed in 2007.  The main feature of the building can be the facade with 10 stories high faceted curtain wall system.  Typical glass panel size was 4′-4″ x 7′-0″ with custom shaded aluminum mullion spanning 14′ and 21′ on floors. The glass was manufactured by Viracon and installed by Arcadia.

image courtesy of Krueck & Sexton Architects

image courtesy of Krueck & Sexton Architects


When I visited the building for closer look of the system, I could see customized vertical mullion members in the back of the glass panels.VS1 Custom SystemVS1 Spertus System

It may look too busy here like the back of Frank Gehry’s typical metal panel facade system, however please note the customized vertical mullion profile was specially designed to accommodate the various multiple angles for the faceted facade system.

courtesy of VS1 Innovationglass.com

VS-1 system interior

courtesy of VS1 Innovationglass.com

Although it requires the vertical mullion blade system in the back of glass panels, I could easily see this as a strong alternative system that is cost effective and offers aesthetically planar flushed uninterrupted look as other conventional pin-point connection structural glass systems.

Dynamo for Revit

When Facades + Performance event was held in Chicago, I soon became interested to see what it was about.  Fortunately, when asked, my office offered me the opportunity for participating the Dynamo workshop conducted by Nathan Miller from CASE among various programs in the event.

If you know the Grasshopper, then Dynamo should sound familiar. Dynamo is a node-based visual programming environment for Revit. Just like the Grasshopper, Dynamo works with Revit and Vasari for parametric capabilities with a graphical algorithm editor.  It is an open source (free) plugin tool for developers and designers.

As the whole event is about current technologies of Facades + Performance of system, I was excited to learn the new tool that could be beneficial in designing process.

According to Nathan (from his blog):

What can you do with Dynamo?

Dynamo features a very similar node-based interface as Grasshopper.  However, Dynamo is built on top of a very different platform and API… and that fact is the key to its potential novelty and relevance.  Here are some thoughts on where I see Dynamo offering unique opportunities for the design team:
  • Customize Revit:  Up front, Dynamo lets users build automation routines for Revit without the need to learn the Revit API (a challenge, to be sure!).  This opens up numerous opportunities for users of Revit to customize their workflow with a significantly reduced learning curve.
  • Control Model Information:  As Building Information Modeler, the real power of Revit is not in pure geometry creation, but in how you can track and control model information.  Dynamo lets users design systematic relationships for manipulating model elements and parameters that would be otherwise impossible with conventional Revit tools.
  • Design with BIM:  BIM is often put in the box of being only for ‘production’… not for designing.  Dynamo has the potential to turn this preconception on its head and allow designers to explore iterative frameworks in the context of a BIM tool.

In the workshop, we started with the basics (of course) and built towards an architectural application. It went a bit fast for me to catch up with everything on the projected screen as I didn’t have sufficient understanding of building a algorithmic relationship for building models. But it was still both fun and exciting, but overwhelmed a little, time to time.  However, when I started to feel more comfortable, I really liked the fact that we could combine standard Revit modeling techniques with Dynamo. (Revit project, Revit families,..) So to continue, we could create conceptual massing through Dynamo with geometric data.  When we had the form to work with, we used Dynamo to create/ control Revit family elements like adaptive components. We also explored the Dynamo for manipulating family instance parameters. (e.g. opening size)

Towards the end of workshop, we could also explored a set of Excel components that can read/ write information using Excel.  This could be utilized to re-create complex structures retrieved from other applications like Grasshopper. Honestly, I couldn’t understand how we could get the Excel worksheet from Grasshopper for complex structure nodes without the experience of creation, but as long as we could derive the data, output was possible in recreating with Dynamo which was pretty cool.

Time to time, we had to relaunch the app. from multiple crashes during the workshop. However, now (time of posting) that I realized there is newer updated Dynamo available. It should be more stable and I am sure it will get better every iteration as it is an open-source application.

I think Dynamo has enough potential that anyone should give it a try for once if interested in computational design.

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Toyo Ito’s ‘Architecture after 3.11’

About two weeks ago, there was a lecture of Toyo Ito’s Architecture after 3.11 at Rubloff Auditorium of Art Institute of Chicago.

It was free to Public.  I was a little worried in case of not being able to attend due to the popularity of his lecture series. When my colleague alerted me with the long line at the entrance, I felt almost giving up the wait and leave.  However, luckily the line went quickly and I was able to attend the lecture although the seat was quiet far away from the stage.  It was OK though.  Good enough to see the full presentation.

After the introductory by Peter Exley, Toyo Ito was with his translator as he spoke Japanese mostly. As the title of the lecture implies, he started his lecture with his insight of the devastating 3.11 tsunami caused by the Earthquake.  He showed briefly a footage that was taken inside of the Sendai Mediatheque (2001) at the moment of the earthquake.

fallen books in the library of the Sendai Mediatheque

Damaged interior space caused by devastating 3.11earthquake

Damaged interior space caused by devastating 3.11earthquake, Jody Verser.

Although interior space may appear damaged heavily with the ceiling materials and furniture, main structure survived the earthquake.  When Toyo Ito visited the closed Sendai Mediatheque after the tsunami, he saw the group of temporary houses provided by the government for the people who lost their home.

Temporary Houses, (The Atlantic, Kimimasa Mayama/Bloomberg via Gertty Images)

Government also considered to raise the seawall to protect.  As it appeared to be an effective choice regardless how much it may cost or how hideous it may look.  However, Toyo Ito had a different idea.

As he felt strongly rebuilding good communities is the most important mission, he began asking, what is architecture here.  He felt that ‘Nature, history, and locality, Modernism cannot embody. (to borrow his words)’  He thought it is too homogeneous. Often he felt that there is no relationship between spaces, floors, and buildings.  With a help from the people who lost their home, the project, ‘Home for All’ was born to reflect the context (nature, history, and locality).

Home for All, Miyagino-ku, Sendai, Toyo Ito, Designboom

Home for All, Miyagino-ku, Sendai, Toyo Ito, Designboom

He pointed out its design enhanced the gathering/community element of the house rather than privacy, and lack of communication.  There is no private room but small bathroom, kitchen, dining room with the outdoor deck for communicating/gathering space.

Next project was ‘Home for all’ in Rikuzentakata (Oct. 2012).  This time, he collaborated with younger fellow Japanese architects, Kumiko Inui, Sou Fujimoto, and Akihisa Hirata. He said it was great to see many different ideas about how architecture can rebuild a community.  As far as a building material goes, they agreed to utilize local cedar logs that are blighted by sea (salt) water.  The tall cedar logs became the main structural material for the new home in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture.  In fact, this was not designed to be inhabited.  In his mind, this will provide a place for the people who lost their home can gather/meet/communicate.  Bringing people together became the main service of the building.


Home for All in Rikuzentakata, Toyo Ito

He went on with other projects showing use of earth floor, and revived traditional cooking stove,

As the government planned 5-6m of soil over the land  for safety.  He also showed a couple of rendered sketches (illustrations) to show higher ground ‘mounds’ ideas as many felt the same way.  He had several rebuilding/restoring plans sketched but declined.

Sketch by Toyo Ito, Designboom

Sketch by Toyo Ito, Designboom

He went over Tobu district reconstruction plan, and the revival future town of Kamaishi project.

Sketch by Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office

Then, as a last and latest under development project, he showed us the Gifu media cosmos.

Interior view of Gifu media cosmos, Toyo Ito, SAIC

Its concept was both open to nature and harmonize with people.  A couple of things I found interesting were the ceiling materials. Woven ceiling structure with skylight pod hood suspended at various areas throughout the library space.  I think one can get a similar design cue from the previous Sendai Mediatheque project and it may show how the ideas evolved over time.  Another feature of the building is that it uses underground water for cooling and heating the building.  Either cooled or heated underground water flows under the concrete slab through the building and helps circulating the either cooled or heated air inside.  In hot summer, hot air is all vented out through the top of the building, and the circulation of warm air can be kept inside in winter.

As I walked out from the lecture, I thought this was a very different lecture from him as the title goes ‘architecture after 3.11’

Except for the last library project in the presentation, all the projects he has shown looked a bit far from ‘modern architecture.’  They were surely minimal, but fundamental, traditional, localized, and public(open). encouraging interactions.  All, common goal was the rebuilding communities, connecting people, shifting attitude from healing to support the recovery.  It would be very interesting to see how those projects helped people from reconstructing communities at each implemented town a few years from now.

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Architect of Dreams

Last year, I went to see ‘Architect of Dreams (2008)’ at Music Box Theater for the event of 2012 Architecture and Design Film Festival. I left this article as a draft, but I decided to finish before it is too late.  The Program 8 that I watched included 3 different films, but the main show, Architect of Dreams was the one that inspired me the most.

Architect of Dreams is a documentary written and directed by Geoffrey Cawthorn featuring the life of New Zealand’s architect, Ian Athfield.

One thing that grabbed my attention the most was his monumental Athfield House situated on the hillside called Khandallah.

Ian Athfield House

It appears as a village but it is actually a collection of multiple homes along with the office for whoever works there.  The village concept was very surprising to me at first. The documentary showed how all the people who work there became a whole family all together. In addition, the ‘village’ was growing along the hill as the families were growing.  I am not sure how it would be received politically, and socially, but It was very interesting to see that he built the ‘village’ brick by brick with his vision in mind.

As the film documented his life and work, I also really like the Adam Art Gallery.


Adam Art Gallery

Adam Art Gallery


Adam Art Gallery Exterior Pre-weathered Zinc Panels

Adam Art Gallery, Aerial

Adam Art Gallery

Adam Art Gallery, Exterior

Adam Art Gallery, Interior

Adam Art Gallery, Interior

Adam Art Gallery, Interior

Adam Art Gallery, Interior

Adam Art Gallery, Interior

The Adam Art Gallery, Te Pataka Toi is the purpose-built gallery for Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (1999).  As one can see from the plan drawings and photographs, it is an unusually narrow building.  In fact, when Ian Athfield designed the building, it was an invited competition he won that he had to build on top of an existing “Culliford Stair (back stairwell)” which was once a staircase that connecting various campus buildings (mid-sixties) but later abandoned due to safety issues.  I think this project shows Ian Athfield’s great use of internal space. The space that embrace how people move through and use with a variety of flexible gallery spaces.  It may seem so little from outside with a thin wedge look, but once one turns the corner from the front gallery, a (three story) tall dramatic space would surprise any visitors with astonishment with a vertical beam of light at the end.  It was a tight foot print project, but providing the tall space really worked well here.

One thing I learned here was that a building is a building of spaces.  Great spaces make a great building. And it performs.



Adam Art Gallery, Te Pataka Toi Book




Digital Desk Technology

Random Research took me here to Xerox Research Center’s work article about the vision of the future digital desk system.
source: prosthetic knowledge

The Digital Desk 

An experimental gestural interface developed in 1991 by Pierre Wellner combining projection and computing turning a physical desktop into a computer desktop-like environment – video embedded below:

The idea for using cameras and projectors together to form an interactive desk-top system was first proposed by Pierre Wellner. He began his PhD work by considering the potential benefits of using video in the office environment. This quickly led to the conclusion that the desk-top was the most important focus of office work and that there was great potential for any system that eased the transition between paper and electronic information (Wellner 1993). The idea was tested in a project that used video scanning to translate selected foreign words from paper documents lying face-up on the desk.

You can find out more about the project at Xerox Research Centre’s website here, as well as this online presentation (very 90’s HTML) here

For reference, I could think of Minority ReportTron, and 007 Quantum of Solace at the moment, taking on similar ideas.
from MK12
In Microsoft, they call it, SURFACE.
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Shingle Skin Facade

I am working on a new Green line train station project in Chicago and we are interested in using shingle skin type for cladding, currently. I found it very cool, but difficult to find enough precedent cases from web research. If there is a project that shares similar type of facade idea, please share with us your thoughts.

First project I found is Peter Zumthor’s Kunsthaus Bregenz building in Austria.  It is completed in 1997 by the lake. Using exposed etched glass shingles as a light filter for interior gives very unique experience for interior space. Frosted glass was used for ceiling tiles. These translucency quality of light was detailed with consistency.



For details,


Second project is Community Rowing Boathouse by Anmahian Winton Architects. It is completed in 2008 in Boston, MA. The interesting part of this project is that facade is actually operable panels.  To promote the mission of Community of Rowing Inc., facade is consisted with flowing operable louver wall system. In addition, shingle glass curtain wall system is also designed for smaller boathouse which is detailed nicely.


via WentworthAchitectureReview

Third project is Baker Street building in London, England by Make Architects, UK. This building also consists of laminated safety glass shingle system. The particular Scholl Glas GEWE-safe glass shingles have intermediate layers of highly tear-proof, clear transparent polyvinyl butyral films that will hold all the broken fragments together in the event glass breaks. I could not find any details of how clips work though.


via Stylepark

The last one is 1099 New York Avenue building designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners. This $ 90 mil. 11 story high office building also has the shingle glass curtain wall system that each pane of glass is tilted six inches in both plan and section. Each glass panel is 12′ 6″ x 5′ 6″ which is large.  Due to the reflectivity, shingle texture looks great with sky reflections.

via Architect’sNewspaper & ganno5

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