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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Drawing Jewel

There was an exhibition called, ‘Industrial Beauty’ dedicated to the french engineer, artisan and designer Jean Prouvé (1901-1984). Original posting is here. The drawings are absolutely beautiful and lovely. Human touch of pen, and pencil drawings make them artistic.

         ‘industrial beauty’ is an exhibition which is dedicated to the french engineer, artisan and designer jean prouvé (1901-1984).
curated by architect norman foster and professor of architecture projects luís fernández-galiano, this show revisits
and provides a detailed overview of his career.

following a chronological layout of prouvé in ten sections, each one featuring original drawings and photographs
accompanied by critical texts, the selection of works on view at ivorypress art + books mirrors the diversity of this multifaceted creator.
alongside original drawings, the show includes a large number of pieces of furniture, scale models, fragments of buildings
and even ‘6×6 house’, a prefab emergency housing for refugees from the second world war. the objects and documents on view,
many for the first time in spain, come from the collections of centre georges pompidou (paris),
he archives départementales de meurthe-et-moselle (nancy) and galerie patric seguin (seguin).

brought up in the artistic setting of the art nouveau school of nancy (of which his father, the painter victor prouvé, was a foundingmember),
apprenticing in metalworking, jean prouvé defined himself as a ‘constructor’, and le corbusier – one of the many architects who worked with prouvé –
called him the architect-engineer. his career was centred on a search to make the most off the techniques and materials available at any given time,
especially in the field of metal. to this end, he employed a highly elaborate constructive and structural intuition underpinned by the praxis
and creation of prototypes, which led him to conceive and fabricate with equal success everything from exquisite pieces of furniture
(such as the cité or visiteur armchairs, true icons of 20th century design) to components for construction and even whole flat-packed,
industrialized buildings.

        among his most significant architectural works are such seminal examples as the maison du peuple in clichy
(in conjunction with architects eugène beaudouin and marcel lods, and where prouvé designed one of the first ‘curtain walls’);
the maison tropicale (aprefabricated house featuring ingenious insulation and ventilation systems, designed with his brother,
the architect henri prouvé); his own home in nancy (built with pieces salvaged from the factory in maxéville,
precisely during the years in which the company’sfinancial backer took over control); the pavilion for the centennial of aluminium
(one of the few buildings for which he is wholly responsible,and completely dismountable); the pump room for the cachat spring in évian-les-bains
(where he rehearsed the original structural system of‘crutches’ which he would later use in various schools);
or the grenoble exhibition centre (together with his son, the architect claudeprouvé, and the engineer léon petroff,
and where he developed a new, highly efficient lattice structural system).

a founding member of the union of modern artists, active in the french resistance, mayor of nancy (france),
director of a factory self-run by over 300 workers in maxéville, teacher at the conservatoire national des arts et métier in paris,
independent consultant… jean prouvé’s career is a prime example of engagement with the technological and social advances of his time.

via www.designboom.com

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Dan Holdsworth

This exhibition is ‘Transmission: New Remote Earth Views’ at National Glass Centre, Sunderland.

To borrow words from the review by Dawn Bothwell:

“Within the polished and high precision images of ‘Transmission: New Remote Earth Views’, the boundaries of photography and place blend into one new perspective.

Dan Holdsworth’s new series of images depict the great, glacial landscapes of the west coast of North America. He has worked with the United States Geological Survey database, collaborating with experts in geomorphology and airborne laser mapping. The resulting works take on the role of highly tuned maps, containing vast amounts of data about their environments. These ‘maps’ offer a snapshot of the formation of the landscape which we now see, and by their scientific nature, could provide an accurate future picture.

The selection from this series currently shown at the National Glass Center in Sunderland is taken from Salt Lake City, Grand Canyon and Yosemite Valley: sites famously captured in the past by photographers like Carleton Watkins, defining the genre of documentary landscape photography.
Watkins’ images of Yosemite inspired the great naturalist John Muir to visit the cavernous landscape, which he lived by and fought to preserve: founding the first protected natural site and the concept of the National Park.

For Muir, living in and truly knowing first hand the Yosemite Valley, it represented spiritual planes thriving with proof of creation, marvelling in the unpredictable wilderness and its gradual formation far beyond human scale. In stark contrast to the early images taken by Watkins in the 1860s, Holdsworth’s images show a new side of man’s modern relationship with nature.

Built using algorithms produced from aerial laser scans and containing millions upon millions of co-ordinate data, each of these images show the new sublime – the modern technological sublime. This transfer of power from nature to technology holds unthinkable potential. The undiscerning view of these images unearths a primary concern of the documentary genre, removing the photographer from site. They embrace modern technology’s style and adopt its indifferent gaze: flatly downward, scanning the terrain, recording its gradual transformation with astounding detail.

This removal looks back to that seen in the work of artists like Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, noted in the famous exhibition New Topographics, whose distanced photographic style was a mirror to the conscience of a rapidly changing society. The cool, sheen, rendered images in Transmission: New Remote Earth Views, take on a benign presence, echoing the formal concerns of the south-west ‘Light and Space’ artists of the nineteen-sixties. They inhabit a space and denote their own underlying ambition: revealing the unpredictable clauses of nature and the ever-expanding unknown of the realm of technology.”

There are more of his photography at his website, herehttp://www.danholdsworth.com/

I also like ‘blackout’ collection among others.

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Barajas Airport Spain, Madrid

Currently, I am working on the airport CONRAC (Consolidated Rental Car Facility) project and my colleague have recommended to check out the Barajas Airport in Spain. I soon have been moved and inspired by the project of Richard Rogers and Estudio Lemela.

Terminal 4 is the one that captured my attention.

The Barajas Airport was constructed in 1927, opening in 1931. Terminal 4, designed by Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers was built in 2006. It’s the one of the world’s largest airport terminals in terms of area with 8,180,572 SQ FT in separate land-side and air-side structure according to Wiki.  The terminal’s design focus was to have a stress-free start experience in passengers’ travel. Elements that stands out are:

  • 25 acres of undulating aluminum standing -seam flying carpet roof  held by painted steel truss support on top of concrete base columns
  • A series of skylight domes to allow natural light on the roof with the bamboo suspended ceiling.
  • Endless transparent, light-filled vast halls and concourses with a structural glazing curtain wall system

From e-architect,

Aims of the Design

The design selected by AENA has four basic principles:

Integration into the landscape
Airport terminals are normally surrounded by secondary elements (car parks, power plants etc.) that obscure orientation through the airport. In this design, such structures are integrated into the main building, taking into account the topography of the local area. The canyons – large courtyards full of daylight – establish a sequence that incorporates the landscape into the interior space.

Despite the extreme heat of summer in Madrid, the design team were committed to the use of passive environmental systems wherever possible, while maximising transparency and views towards the aircraft and the mountains beyond. The building benefits from a north-south orientation with the primary facades facing east and west – the optimum layout for protecting the building against solar gain. The facades are protected by a combination of deep roof overhangs and external shading. A low energy displacement ventilation system is used in the pier, and elsewhere a more conventional high velocity system is used. Given the multi-level section, a strategy was also needed to bring natural light down into the lower levels. The solution is a series of light-filled ‘canyons’. The canyons are spectacular full-height spaces, spanned by bridges in which arriving and departing passengers, though segregated, can share the drama of the imposing space.

Spatial Clarity
Barajas is a model of legibility, with a straightforward linear diagram and a clear progression of spaces for departing and arriving passengers. The accommodation is distributed over six floors; three above ground for check-in, security, boarding and baggage reclaim, and three underground levels for maintenance, baggage processing and transferring passengers between buildings. The flow of passengers starts in the forecourt and goes through the check-in counters and the security control until the boarding lounge.

The layout proposed is adaptable to all activities at the airport, maintaining a strong architectural identity through all stages of the project, with a view to the need for potential extensions of the buildings.


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