Northwestern University’s Medical Research Center Competition

by Dan Madryga

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The finalists (from left to right): Perkins+Will, Adrian Smith+Gordon Gill, Goettsch Partners

Northwestern University is getting a major architectural facelift. Over the past few years, the university has staged several invited design competitions for large-scale building projects on its Chicago and Evanston campuses. A new 152,000 square foot building for the Bienen School of Music and Communication, designed by Goettsch Partners, is currently under construction and slated to open later this year. Meanwhile the 410,000 square foot Kellogg School of Business—for which Toronto firm KPMB beat out Kohn Pedersen Fox, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, and Pelli, Clark & Pelli for the commission—is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2016. As large as these projects are, Northwestern’s most recent invited competition dwarves them both in scale, budget, and ambition: a brand new Medical Research Center for the Feinberg School of Medicine.

 

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Bienen School of Music © Goettsch Partners
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Kellogg School of Business © KPMB

The new Medical Research Center is a huge undertaking for Northwestern. Once complete it will introduce 1.2 million square feet of state-of-the-art lab space, with which the University expects to attract an additional $150 million a year for medical research, as well as create 2,000 new full-time jobs. Needless to say, the project is at the forefront of the university’s projected master plan.

 

Of course the architectural evolution of any urban campus necessitates some selective purging of the existing building stock. For the Medical Research Center’s central location on the Chicago campus, this has unfortunately meant the loss of Bertrand Goldberg’s 1975 Prentice Women’s Hospital. This move created no small amount of controversy amongst preservationists and fans of Goldberg’s distinctive, sculptural concrete cloverleaf form. Goldberg was a Chicago architect—a protégé of Mies van der Rohe—who also designed the instantly recognizable twin corncob towers of Marina City. Originally hailed for its innovative engineering and striking form, the Prentice took an innovative approach to organizing medical wards in clusters, thus lending to its distinct form. General reactions have always been mixed: for some it was an iconic work of Brutalism, for others it was simply an eyesore. Either way the hospital was clearly dated by the 21st century standards of functionality, and Northwestern’s development future did not include the Prentice.

 

Proponents of the Prentice pulled out all the stops to try and save the endangered hospital. Preservationist groups sought to protect it with a Landmark status designation that was ultimately denied. Chicago’s Studio Gang offered up a striking design idea that would save and incorporate the Prentice into the new research center. The efforts even extended to an ideas competition. In 2012, the Chicago Architectural Club organized “Future Prentice” as the timely theme of the annual Chicago Prize Competition. Entrants were challenged to find creative solutions for repurposing the old hospital building, in hopes that thought-provoking design could spark a useful public dialogue about solutions that went beyond full-on preservation or wholesale demolition. In addition to the 71 entries received, the Chicago Architectural Club commissioned designs from ten up-and-coming local architecture firms. Together these 81 ideas were displayed at the Chicago Architecture Foundations “Reconsidering an Icon” exhibit in late 2012 and early 2013.

 

The Future Prentice entries ranged from compelling yet largely grounded adaptive reuse ideas (the first prize entry by Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta imagines the Prentices distinctive concrete shell as a museum presented amongst the boxy volumes of a new research lab facility), to wildly left-field theoretical concepts (the second prize entry by Noel Turgeon and Natalya Egon, where various architectural additions are vertically stacked upon the Prentice to form a “timeline of trends in architecture”). In the end, the competition might have created an interesting dialogue but not with the people who really needed convincing. Given the longstanding plans to demolish the vacant hospital, Northwestern made it clear that all ideas for saving the Prentice would not be seriously reviewed by the University. Like the attempts to enact landmark status, the Future Prentice ideas competition was too little, too late.

 

Not long after the ideas competition came and went, Northwestern officially released their request for qualifications for the new Medical Research Center, with proposals due in April 2013. The RFQ was sent to 23 architecture firms, six of which were local Chicago firms, and most of which had previous experience in large research and medical projects.

 

Northwesterns program called for a research center that would be implemented in two phases. Phase 1 will consist of a 600,000 square foot, 12-story mid-rise complex to fit the former site of the Prentice, with a groundbreaking slated for early 2015 and completion forecasted for 2018 or 2019. It will also serve as a base for the second phase, capping Phase 1 with a multistory tower featuring even more lab space and offices. It should be noted that there is currently no timetable or funding in place for the Phase 2 tower. Thus it is of particular importance that the design for Phase 1 does not end up looking like a vacant pedestal, should Northwesterns long-term development goals not pan out.

 

The design criteria included: an iconic design that respected the campus context and would be a major asset to Northwestern, the Streeterville neighborhood, and the Greater Chicago community; a building that best met all the functional needs of the Medical School; a building that could be easily implemented in two phases; a design that respected and enhanced the neighborhood connections at ground level (particularly with the labs of the adjacent Lurie Medical Research Center); and a design that provided extensive green space. The University also expected at minimum a LEED silver ranking.

 

Similar to Northwesterns most recent invited competitions, the RFQ procedure was a hybrid between a pure design competition and an interview. Or rather a series of interviews, as the shortlisted teams underwent a series of meetings during the design phase with the client group. The university prefers that the names of this evaluation committee remain anonymous, although Northwestern spokesperson Alan Cubbage has disclosed that the group included members of the University Board of Trustees as well as key administrators of the Feinberg School of Medicine. Two outside architects also sat in as advisors.

 

During these design meetings, the committee offered comments and critiques to each shortlisted team. Northwestern has chosen to keep the specifics of these meetings confidential, but we do know through reliable sources that the each team felt that the evaluation comments were well founded, and that no single competitor was singled out for criticism.

 

By November of 2013, the three shortlisted teams final designs were ready for a final verdict. In a gesture of transparency, Northwestern officially unveiled the resulting shortlist designs in an exhibit at the Lurie Medical Research Center. The university welcomed and recorded comments from faculty, staff, students, and other visitors to this public display. The three projects on display were by Perkins+ Will, Adrian Smith+Gordon Gill, and Goettsch Partners. It is good to see that all three firms have local Chicago offices; it seems fitting to replace a building by the indelibly Chicagoan architect Goldberg with a new generation of successors.

 

A casual observer of the shortlisted designs could be forgiven for finding them all remarkably similar. In fact, no one design stands out as wildly out of the box, an obvious winner. Instead we see three elegant, highly competent, if rather predictable options. Part of this stems from the nature of the building program—the rigid constraints of medical and research facilities often have a way of confining creativity. Theres also the persistent issue of making glazed skyscrapers energy efficient. Each entry uses high-performance building skins, which give them similar façade materiality and depth, not to mention employment of textbook sun shading techniques (cue the obligatory vertical fritted glass fins on the east and west facades). Just as the chunky Brutalism of the Prentice had become emblematic of 1970s modern architecture, the sleek, crystalline forms of the shortlist are very much of our own time. Theres nothing wrong with that, but it would have been interesting to see at least one unconventional curve ball, even if it had no chance of winning the commission. *

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Science and Fiction Museum, Washington, DC

Science Fiction Museum, Washington, DC

By Stanley Collyer

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1st Place entry by Emily Yen (image copyright Emily Yen)

The recently completed Science and Fiction Museum competition in Washington, DC is not unusual, in that it contemplates the marriage of literature and architecture in one location, as do libraries. It is different in that it deals with a very specialized theme, much as the Poetry Museum in Chicago. Still, Science Fiction is a relatively recent phenomenon in literature, but has rapidly gained a large audience. Although there is already such a facility in Seattle, it was time that an institution focusing on this subject to be located in our nation’s capital—a primary destination for tourists.

To start, this emerging non-profit has been seeking a site in Washington, DC, and, until that occurs, is planning an easily accessible temporary structure, which can be moved from one location to another—the subject of this 2014 design competition.

The competition drew 121 entries from all over the world, with the first- and second-place winners residing in the U.S. The entries were adjudicated by a largely local jury from the Washington, DC area. And the competition was ably administered by local architect, Jerry Vanek.

 

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Vienna School of Economics

An Academic Cluster Pointing to the Future

The Vienna School of Economics Campus Plan

By Stanley Collyer

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School of Economics Library by Zaha Hadid (all photos by Stanley Collyer)

At the turn of the 21st Century, the Vienna School of Economics (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien), the largest of its kind in Europe, was bursting at the seams. Over 23,000 students were scattered throughout different locatons in the city. When it became obvious that it would be necessary to consolidate the programs at a central location, the decision was made to select an area near the Prater for the new campus—the site of the World Exhibition Area and Fairgrounds. The building program was ambitious, with a number of facilities planned to accommodate all the programs, and the strategy was typically European, as student dormitories were not envisaged as an integral part of the overall campus plan.

To begin with, a local Viennese firm, BUSarchitektur, was engaged to complete a masterplan for the site, and a number of renowned architects were then commissioned to design the various facilities: No.MAD Arquitectos, CRABstudio Architects, Estudio Carme Pinós, Atelier Hitoshi Abe, and BUSarchitektur, the latter local firm being the author of the masterplan.

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A Challenging Site for Calgary’s New Library: Snøhetta Tops Four Firms in Invited Competition

A Challenging Site for Calgary’s New Library

Snøhetta Tops Four Firms in Invited Competition

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Winning design by Snøhetta (image courtesy Calgary Public Library)

The site of Calgary’s new public library will occupy part of a city block, directly across from the City Hall. One might assume that a project of this size would have deserved a more spacious, flexible site. However, the location the library here was regarded as an important urban statement, not just for downtown Calgary, but also for the East Village neighborhood. That the intended site was also home to a trolley line was not enough to cause the City to abandon this strategy. According to the client, “The location of the new library, adjacent to City Hall, will strengthen the fabric of community life by weaving East Village, the original heart of Calgary, back into the story of Centre City. From this prime location, the library will not only serve Calgary’s growing population but also the 140,000+ workers and students who travel downtown every day.”

Locating a main library in the center of a metropolitan area, regardless of the density issue, is a logical solution. The location of the new Grande Bibliothèque by Patkau Architects in Montreal’s downtown is a great example of what a major public institution can do for a neighborhood. In that case, a nearby Metro line has made the library easily accessible to most of the city’s inhabitants. It can be assumed that the same will hold true for Calgary.

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Adaptive Reuse of a Hospital Site: The Royal Adelaide Hospital Competition

Adaptive Reuse of a Hospital Site

The Royal Adelaide Hospital Competition

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Winning entry by SLASH + Phillips with Pilkington Architects

As a building type, hospitals have an unfortunate propensity toward early obsolesce and therefore are often the target of adaptive reuse, if not total demolition. This has been the case in Adelaide, Australia, where the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) is being replaced by a brand new structure, to be dedicated in 2016. Faced with this impending change, the South Australian Government decided to initiate a “design led engagement process to explore possibilities for the current RAH site.” A significant element in this process included an international open ideas design competition, and the focus of this competition was “to create an iconic place within the Greater Riverbank Precinct of Adelaide.

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University of Chicago North Campus Student Residence

University of Chicago North Campus Student Residence

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Winning entry by Studio Gang with Mortenson Construction—Image courtesy Studio Gang ©University of Chicago

Like many American universities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the University of Chicago viewed Gothic architecture as a recognizable symbol to suggest academic excellence in the tradition of Ivy League universities and Oxford. In this, Chicago was not alone, as other schools used a similar formula to imply a connection to a pre-existing academic tradition—Duke University and Butler University in the 1920s being prime examples. As time passed, and to accommodate Chicago’s reputation architecturally as a forward-looking community, the university gradually hired contemporary architects such as Eero Saarinen, Mies van der Rohe, Edward Larrabee Barnes, Walter Netsche and Harry Weese to add to the university’s built fabric. Beginning with the early 21st century, the look on the campus has been updated even more to reflect current trends with buildings by Cesar Pelli, Helmut Jahn, Rafael Viñoly, Joe Valerio, and most recently, the musum by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.

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ADD-ON ’13

ADD-ON '13

Affordable Housing for Cape Cod

by William Morgan

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Winning entry by CxMxD

 

The goal of the Add-on '13 competition was to "seek design proposals for a freestanding, affordable, accessory dwelling unit on outer Cape Cod." Specifically, the town of Wellfleet, Massachusetts has a bylaw that allows a second living unit–and even up to three extra units–on the lot of an existing home. At the moment, the fishing and resort village has a dozen such accessory dwellings. But the nobler aim of the Add-on competition was to "consider the role of affordable housing" in a non-urban context and to "re-envision the relationship between architecture, infrastructure, resources and the land." Despite the seeming modesty of the program–800 square-foot, single bedroom units, to cost less than $150,000, Add-on '13 was a significant contest.

 

 

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Surfer’s Paradise Goes Cultural: The Gold Coast Precinct Competition

by Stanley Collyer

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Winning entry by ARM Architecture

Are a Surfer’s Paradise and a significant emphasis on culture mutually compatible? Australia’s City of Gold Coast thinks so, as evidenced by its ambitious competition for a new cultural precinct. The site of the Cultural Precinct competition is the Evandale district, separated by a river and Chevron Island from the city’s premier attraction—Surfer’s Paradise. As indicated by the latter’s name, the city has gained a large share of its revenue as a tourist attraction. Outside of the inviting coastline, there is much to supplement the entertainment needs of tourists, including 40 golf courses and five theme parks. But as Australia’s fastest growing city—now at almost 600,000—the focus has now turned to the arts as a major asset.

The city already has a performing arts center and film theater on the site; but the new plan envisions adding a brand new art museum and amphitheater. All this will necessitate some major changes in the built fabric, including the removal of a present, outdated government administrative building—to be moved to an adjoining neighborhood location across the water to the west. The City Council Chambers will be retained at the present location, since the quality and footprint of this more recent structure indicate that it is not an obstacle to intended developmen.

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Present site conditions

To create a more attractive park environment, it is assumed that the large surface parking area, which covers almost half of the site, will be removed and accommodated below grade. Also, improved bus service and a new bridge to Chevron Island should facilitate more accessibility from the east and Surfer’s Paradise. Aside from the above challenges, competitors were to indicate that their projects can be built in phases and within budget.

The competition itself was organized in two stages, with Stage One held over a six-week period. It asked competitors to “present an exciting collaborative team demonstrating a high level of capability, as well as a concise yet compelling design response to The Brief, in both words and images.” Stage Two was held over a 12-week period through which up to three design teams were

commissioned for intensive exploration and presentation of ideas and possibilities for the cultural precinct. Stage Two asked that the competitors present designs “that represent a substantial cross-disciplinary design investment.” Competitors were expected to respond to Stage One with a full understanding of the overall competition ambition as outlined in the brief. Most importantly, the client stated, “Stage One Submitted Designs are expected to be only high-level and indicative, with depth and detailed definition to come in Stage Two.” The client also stated that the three Stage Two finalists would each receive AUD225,000 for their work.

The competition jurors were:

• Gordon Holden, Head of Architecture at Griffith University

• Tom Tate, Mayor of Gold Coast

• Michael Sorkin, author and editor of 15 books on architecture, Principal, Michael Sorkin Studio and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at The City College of New York.

• Geoffrey London, Victorian Government Architect

• Greg Forgan-Smith, Gold Coast architect

• Helen Armstrong, Emeritus Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Queensland University of Technology

• Destry Piuia, General Manager of the Arts Centre Gold Coast

• John Kotzas, Chief Executive of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane.

After Stage One, which attracted over 70 submissions, the jury shortlisted three entries for Stage Two. They were:

CRAB Studio / Vogt Landscape / DBI; London/Zürich/Gold Coast

ARM Architecture / TOPOTEK1 Landscape Architecture / ARUP; Melbourne/Berlin/Global

NIKKEN SEKKEI / Earthscape / Mori Art Museum; Tokyo/Tokyo/Japan

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The Old and the New: Glasgow’s Schools of Art

The Old and the New

Glasgow’s Schools of Art

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photo by Iwan Baan, courtesy Steven Holl Architects

by Brian Carter

The competition, organized and administered by Malcolm Reading Consultants under the auspices of the Glasgow School of Art in 2009, focused on the selection of an architect to develop proposals for a new school of art on Renfrew Street to be built directly opposite the 1896 building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. After some initial opposition from Scottish architects, the competition was opened to international participation. Seven practices (1) were reviewed by an eight member selection committee chaired by David MacKay. The committee agreed unanimously to appoint Steven Holl Architects, who worked in collaboration with JM Architects and Arup. (2)

 

 

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DawnTown Competition: Landmark Miami

DawnTown Competition: Landmark Miami

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Imagining a design competition for a Miami landmark raises a common question: “Aren’t Miami and Miami Beach actually one big city?” Since both municipalities have their own local administrative institutions and history, focusing exclusively on Miami would suggest that each entity also has its own unique identity and, therefore, its own iconic symbols. Miami Beach has no such identity problem. Ocean Drive with its art deco architecture has long been a recognizable advertising staple for the community. Moreover, a number of its recent modern buildings—Publix Supermarket by Carlos Zapata and Lincoln Road Parking Garage by Herzog de Meuron—have bolstered the city’s image as a place where cutting edge design takes place. 

 

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