Morphosis Architects - Thom Mayne
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Architecture is a confluence of cultural, political, and ethical decisions that occurs in an estuary of broad societal currents; thus, ever-changing, it encompasses the aesthetic, the tectonic, and the functional, the urban and the global—and now the sustainable. The San Francisco Federal Building offers a frank, contemporary response to its context, but more importantly it establishes a benchmark for sustainable design in its use of natural energy sources. During the design process, we learned that the same decisions that maximize energy efficiency could also help create a high-quality workspace that redefines bureaucratic culture. The building physically democratizes the workplace as it enhances health and comfort and empowers its users with a sense of control over their surroundings.
Repositioning Proceedings of Business as Usual Today, the architecture of justice drifts away from symbolic iconography; courtrooms are routinely located in generic office towers indifferent to the gravity of the judicial process. The Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse challenges this trend, expressing courtrooms as discrete objects steadfast against a dynamic field of forces, recalling the historic single-room courthouse in which the court’s raison d’être was made palpable by the architecture. The Morse Courthouse expresses the stature and sobriety of the traditional courthouse in a contemporary language that makes it relevant to the present. In the form and space of the building, the legibility of the distance between the new and its historic origin physically manifests the spectrum between strict and loose interpretation, a conceptual strategy that reinforces both the necessity of persistence and the openness and freedom afforded to law and architecture by interpretation.
In keeping with NOAA’s mission to monitor and safeguard the earth, the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility integrates architecture with landscape. A field of iconic antennae crowns a bar building conceived as the brain, the mission control center, while a disk-shaped building conceived as the body, containing offices and support services, slips beneath a landscape of lofted ground. The project thus harkens back to the materialization of cosmologies in the architecture of ancient dwellings that echoed the natural forms of the surrounding landscape to align with nature’s order. So, too, the Satellite Operations Facility reflects the growing reality—and NOAA’s mandate—that our we no longer take the environment for granted but, rather, treat it with respect and strive to live with it in harmony.
Using the Old as a Generative Source
Since the construction of the Palomar Observatory in 1948, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has continuously pioneered new ways of observing and explaining the heavens. Caltech scientists and engineers have deployed ever-changing telescopes on satellites, rockets, and balloons, and with these have made fundamental discoveries leading to new theoretical models. In 2007 alone, Caltech astronomers found the largest object orbiting the sun since the discovery of Pluto in 1930, as well as the most distant galaxy in the universe. Yet, over the decades, the various specialists dispersed across the Caltech campus.
A Typology of Porosity to Realize Social Ideals
The model we developed in the Madrid Public Housing, located in the PAU of Carabanchel, provides a responsive alternative to conventional housing blocks. Instead of a rigid tower structure essentially owned by no one, we suggested that a rhythmic structure would better resonate with the patterns of a neighborhood. With various levels of social association, communication, and organization, the scheme is simple, respectful of traditional dwelling customs, and flexible enough to be updated and altered as needed or desired. Changing the typology of housing is a slow process; however, it is faster and more effective than changing an entire New Town configuration.
The new academic facility is conceived as a stacked vertical piazza, contained within a semi-transparent envelope that articulates the classroom and laboratory spaces. The vertical campus is organized around a central atrium that rises to the full height of the building. This connective volume, spanned by sky bridges, opens up view corridors across Third Avenue to the Foundation Building.
Drawing on the power of parametric scripting, the design of the Phare Tower gathers disparate programmatic, physical, and infrastructural elements from the requirements of the building and synthesizes these into a form that seamlessly integrates the building into the idiosyncrasies of its site while expressing multiple flows of movement. In the spirit of the Paris Exposition competition proposals, the tower embodies state-of-the-art technological advances to become a cultural landmark.
Continuities of the Incomplete documents ten years of discrete works by Morphosis forged into a unique panoramic of models, drawings, photographs, and videos. The exhibit components, presented under a continuous folding surface that mediates the spectator’s experience, enable a broader perspective and different durations of experience, allowing each work to be appreciated in connective isolation. Like Alice’s looking glass, the glazed surface acts as window and mirror to become the datum of the project. Its surface reflects the viewer and the context of the Pompidou, overlaying both reflections onto the work exhibited below. The viewer thus sees himself or herself in relation to the work and sees the exhibit in relation to its context, the exposed ductwork and infrastructure of the Pompidou’s ceiling.
Dissolve the boundaries between the building systems and the ground
Program is slipped between layers of lifted landscape to dissolve the boundaries between the building systems and the ground and to prioritize views of the historically significant Armory building and the existing landscape of the Rose Garden. The hybrid campus of primary education and scholastic research serves as a gateway to the greater University of Southern California/Exposition Park area and establishes a community foothold in the heart of South Los Angeles.
Intensifies circulation and encourages productive social exchange
While its material language and structural elements allude to freeway infrastructure, the kinetic architecture of the building façade borrows its characteristic animation directly from the car. The outer layer of the double façade delaminates from the body of the building - functioning like the car body to protect and shield its inhabitants via a constantly shifting mechanical skin of perforated aluminum panels that alternately open or close depending on the sun’s angle and intensity. Appearing to be windowless and opaque at mid-day, the building transforms in appearance over time until it reaches near complete transparency at dusk – the fundamental reading of the building is in terms of transformation.
Weaving as a Means for Establishing Flow
The Campus Recreation Center at the University of Cincinnati ties together incongruous buildings into a unified expression. Both keystone and connector, the building encourages social exchange and harnesses flows onto the campus green. Appropriating and magnifying specific site conditions, the project taps the potential energy of found material. Its formal genesis is a result of programmatic superimposition and found site conditions—relationships to surrounding buildings, ground formation, and directional flows. The building is grounded in its context yet monumental in stature, a physical phenomenon and a cultural artifact. Negotiating between local specificity and universal idealism, the recreation center is both background and foreground—a fabric building become infrastructure that connects and provokes.
Incorporating Systems of Eccentricity
Configured as an interwoven series of building components, the Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank headquarters melds forms with landscape. Relieved of its obligation to serve as an institutional symbol, the Hypo bank headquarters is free to engage the specificity of context, climate, and environment with acute agility, resulting in a new icon for the bank, one that does not represent power or stability but instead responds constructively to its context. Following the line of inquiry of the earlier Hypo bank project outside Klagenfurt, Austria, the Udine, Italy, building is part “earth building,” engaging its contoured landscape, and part tower, leaning fourteen degrees to the south to shade itself from harsh solar exposure. Its form mediates between building, landscape, and climate, and thus it integrates the inherent complexities at the edge city’s shifting relations to the local, the rural, the suburban, the urban, and the metropolitan.