June 2013 Newsletter

Big Tech Companies Go for Big HQs

Great architecture often depends on deep-pocketed companies, and that seems to be the case with three giant tech company headquarters now on the drawing board: Apple, Facebook, and Google.


Spaceship Apple

Apple’s new headquarters building, which looks like a giant ring-like spaceship, has gotten the most press lately.  The proposed building, designed by British architect Norman Robert Foster, sits in the middle of a 175-acre orchard and is estimated to cost $5 billion.

“Apple proposes to create Apple Campus 2 – an integrated, unified, and secure 21st century campus surrounded by green space,” according to the proposal submitted by Apple to the city of Cupertino, California. “This new development will provide a serene environment reflecting Apple’s brand values of innovation, ease of use, and beauty. The entire 176-acre site will be redeveloped with sustainable, state-of-the-art office, research, and development facilities.”

The main building includes 2.82 million square feet to house the HQ’s 12,000 employees. Forty-foot, floor-to-ceiling concave glass panes for the exterior will be imported from Germany, and the main cafeteria will seat 3,000. An important “green” feature is the fact that the main parking lot – more than 8,000 spaces – will be underground, beneath some of the planned 6,000 new trees.

The company plans to start tearing down existing buildings this summer, and then endure six months of excavation. The building is scheduled to be ready for occupancy in 2016.

If you would like more info, read this article: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-04/apples-campus-2-shapes-up-as-an-investor-relations-nightmare


Facebook Finds Gehry

Facebook turned to perhaps the most famous living “starchitect” for its new headquarters, Frank Gehry. The design Gehry rendered for Facebook is far from the waves of steel he is known for – the new Facebook HQ will be a quarter-mile long room with a massive roof-top garden; the whole thing will be mostly unnoticed by drivers on the surrounding highways.

Like the Apple HQ, the parking will be underground. Trees surround the new site, which is across the street from Facebook’s current headquarters.

The interior is the most interesting part of the design. A person will be able to walk from one end of the building to the other without passing through a door. Clusters of desks and meeting rooms will dot the floor, and can be moved as needed.  The building will contain 433,555 square feet of space.

Here is a link to the plans that were filed with the City of Menlo: http://www.menlopark.org/projects/comdev_fb_plans.htm


Google Goes Green

Google’s new headquarters, which is under construction in Mountain View, California, is going to be green in a big way. Among the green features are native landscaping, lots of natural light, and a storm water cleaning plan.

Google’s  HQ is more conventional than Facebook’s or Apple’s, in that it sticks to the “campus” type of HQ tech companies are known for. It consists of nine glass-clad, three-to-five story buildings designed by NBBJ of Seattle. The buildings are arranged around a number of courtyards, and are designed to minimize heat and glare from the sun.

In a Google-like twist, the company says it collected data about staff behavior and used the data to create an atmosphere that will encourage “casual collisions,” with the hope that this will spur good ideas among the workers.

The new buildings, which constitute the first time Google has built its own headquarters instead of occupying an existing building, will contain 1.1 million square feet. The buildings are situated on a 42-acre site called Bay View.

For more details, here’s an interesting article: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-24/google-s-new-campus-has-light-fresh-air-low-power-use.html


Human Error, Part 2: Three More Stories of Human Construction Blunders Costing Millions

Stories of how human error creates construction blunders are always interesting. Here are three more from around the world:


Centimeters Matter

It took 10 years for residents of St. Neots, a town in Great Britain, to persuade a developer to build a new theater complex in their community, on the site of a former recycling center. Construction finally began at the end of November 2012, and for six months everything progressed nicely on the complex, which will feature a six-screen cinema, four restaurants, apartments, and parking.

Then someone noticed a minor problem: The complex was being built about 70 centimeters closer to neighboring houses than the original plan called for. No big deal, right? Wrong. The local authorities decided that those centimeters were quite important, and the developer has agreed to dismantle the work already done and start again, a bit farther away from the houses.

The project, which is budgeted to cost 8 million pounds (about $12 million), will be delayed by four months because of the reconstruction.

A representative of the construction company blamed the lead design consultant in an article published in the Daily Mail. “This situation results from an error in design information provided to us by our lead design consultant,” Paul Halfpenny said. “This inaccuracy, which was present from the earliest stages of the scheme, sadly wasn’t picked up by any members of the client, design, or construction teams.”

To read the complete Daily Mail article and see some good pictures of the project, click here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2324969/8million-cinema-leisure-complex-pulled-design-blunder-means-metre-place.html?ito=feeds-newsxml


No, Not THAT Beam!

Anyone involved with construction knows that load-bearing walls and beams are pretty important – you mess with them at your own risk. The workers renovating a house in Queens last summer apparently didn’t get that memo.

The men were enlarging the rear of a house and removing an illegal basement apartment. They had the correct permits to do the work, so the homeowner presumably figured they knew what they were doing.

But as they were tearing out the walls of the illegal apartment, they also removed a critical support beam in the rear wall. Listen to what happened next, according to a witness quoted on newschannel NY1:

“The building kinda rocked for a while then all of a sudden it just collapsed and came down in a split second.”

Six workers were trapped by the collapse. Four of them escaped on their own, but two were trapped and required help from the fire department. The two were seriously hurt, but not with life-threatening injuries.

Read more here: http://www.ny1.com/content/top_stories/167559/dob–worker-error-caused-queens-house-collapse


The True Cost of Bribes

Some people call bribes “victimless crimes.” The families of people killed in the recent bridge collapses in China probably don’t feel that way.

The most recent collapse, which killed eight people, was caused when a truck carrying fireworks crashed and exploded, so that crash evidently doesn’t have a construction blunder story behind it. But three other bridges collapsed in the year prior to that, and those collapsed under much less dramatic circumstances, such as heavy rain.

Two people died when a bridge collapsed in Hainan Province last August. A bridge in Hangzou collapsed the previous month, and it had been overhauled only six years before.

The most recent collapse was of a bridge still under construction in Fushun City.  The bridge, which was scheduled to open in six weeks, cost nearly $4.7 million to build. It fell during a rainstorm, and inspectors determined that steel girders between two piers gave way. Fortunately, since the bridge was not open, no one perished in that crash.

The root cause of all these collapses? Local officials who evidently have been looking the other way as workers skip important steps in construction, in exchange for bribes. The bribe money might pad these officials’ wallets, but do they sleep well at night?


 Amazing Architecture – Library Edition

Nagle Hartray of Chicago created the new Oak Park Public Library main branch, which features an undulating copper façade:  http://www.naglehartray.com/portfolio/civic-cultural/oak-park-public-library.htm

Check out the beautiful lines of this library in Norway designed by the firm Helen & Hard: http://www.paranoias.org/2012/02/vennesla-library-and-culture-house-by-helen-hard/

Seattle selected Rem Koolhass to design their central library, so there’s no surprise it turned out this beautiful: http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Seattle_Public_Library.html

This library in Villanueva, Colombia resembles an ancient temple, but it was designed in 2006 by Carlos Meza, Alejandro Piñol, Germán Ramírez, Miguel Torres: http://www.archdaily.com/13853/villanueva%E2%80%99s-public-library-meza-pinol-ramirez-torres/

The Jose Vascancelos Library in Mexico City, designed by Eric Owen Moss Architects, blends into its environment: http://ericowenmoss.com/project/jose-vasconcelos-library/


Being Green – Deck Edition

Cali Bamboo decking combines 60 percent reclaimed bamboo and 40 percent recycled plastic to create long-lasting composites: http://www.calibamboo.com/bamboodecking.html?gclid=COXeya-UybcCFehAMgodG0QAFw

Real wood can be an environmentally responsible material for decking, especially if it’s reclaimed wood such as this from Terramai: http://www.terramai.com/products/product_category.aspx?cat=3&gclid=CKHAg_SUybcCFbFAMgodhwoAGA

Moisture Shield decking is made from recycled plastic wrap and food containers: http://www.moistureshield.com/green/

Aluminum decking, which is low maintenance and made from an easily recyclable metal, is an option for many homeowners: http://www.fsihp.com/

An upscale option? Try recovered old-growth wood for a discriminating client’s new deck: http://www.krantzrecoveredwoods.com/?gclid=CI-4v_mWybcCFfA7MgodmwcA6g


 ArciList: Five Forgotten Drafting Tools

(Courtesy of the Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies)

Drawing templates – These handy plastic tools made shapes easy – http://www.forgottenartsupplies.com/?what=artifacts&cat=51

Proportion wheel – Remember the days before Photoshop? http://www.forgottenartsupplies.com/?what=artifacts&image_id=25&cat=58

Scum-X Pad – An important Dietzgen product in the day: http://www.forgottenartsupplies.com/?what=artifacts&image_id=113&cat=58

Agfa Repromaster – Millions of reproductions were made on these: http://www.forgottenartsupplies.com/?what=artifacts&image_id=178&cat=60

Waxer – Remember the warm, sticky results of this machine? http://www.forgottenartsupplies.com/?what=artifacts&image_id=213&cat=53


 News You Can Use

Austin architect reveals plan for Waller Creek area: http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/blog/at-the-watercooler/2013/06/photos-waller-creek-project-unveiled.html

Construction of new central library underway: http://www.myfoxaustin.com/story/22458787/construction-begins-on-austins-new-central-library

Building boom creates shortage of skilled workers in Austin: http://austin.ynn.com/content/top_stories/292372/building-boom-creates-shortage-of-skilled-construction-workers

Construction begins on 29-story downtown building: http://www.kvue.com/news/Groundbreaking-for-29-story-downtown-office-building-210169881.html

Foodies rave over design of new Austin restaurant: http://austin.culturemap.com/news/food_drink/06-10-13-paul-qui-shares-a-dazzling-preview-of-soon-to-open-qui-restaurant/

Architecture Billing Index Back Into Negative Territory: http://www.dexigner.com/news/26535