Smart Skin-Architecture is by nature a ‘slow’ profession. Only through avant-garde movements and technological inventions has architecture challenged notions such as traditional craftsmanship, proportional systems, and aesthetics. A generative architecture becomes nothing but a re-cording of the performance of analyzed behavioral processes, a registration of sur-face, surface tension. The relation of the skin-body, animate body, investigates the close relationship between artificial intelligence and smart skin.
Located on the edge of Soho, NYC, a former six-story warehouse will be renovated, with a new 11 story 'smart loft' building wrapping up and over it. The once dilapidated urban condition of abandoned warehouses will be reinvigorated with the insertion of art galleries, retail and modern living. An amazing view over the river is facilitated through the introduction of the folded glass skin of the new structure.
CONCEPT // CREASE // CODE
The integration of the existing building with the new 11 story steel & glass structure, will instigate a mediation between past and present. In the narrow crease rising between the two structures a set of cantilevering balconies will juxtapose and differentiate between the old and the new, the urban and the private, thus inserting an interactive space into an otherwise neutral streetscape. The Greenwich building has as its main feature a fully custom and innovative glass curtain wall, a light suspended waterfall of insulated bent glass panels, the first of its kind. Herbert Muschamp of the New York Times writes: "Dubbeldam's folds are philosophically as well as visually grounded....[She] crystallizes urban complexity within the discrete architectural object." The NYC building code is here re-interpreted; the horizontal plane of the traditional urban fabric is questioned by the insertion of a diagonal surface that bifurcates the facade plane. It integrates the strict building setback codes into the new folded vertical landscape of the glass facade. The crease as mediation and the glass inflections as spatial device allow for slippage between interior urbanism and urban privacy. “For we conceive of human beings as fluctuating between the extreme images that we have categorized as fluctuation and frame, in a sort of back and forth where the simple positions - one, two and three - mark the formal stages in an overall process of individuation. There would thus be a first movement, that of fluctuation towards crystals, where being would be stored in intermediary images as a tendency at most, then following a passage through a frame, there would be a second movement: a turning back where tendency would become a vector, and fluctuation inflection. Such is the pendulum motion of being we wish to describe”, writes Bernard Cache in “Earth Moves”. The crystalline facets of the façade allow for the façade to move away from a seperative 2D membrane into a 3d zone to be occupied, inhabited.
STRUCTURE // PERFORMANCE // VIC [VERIFY IN COMPUTER]
The new building's innovative angled facade was originally thought of as a standard curtain wall system with slight transmutations; but it proved financially not feasible for a 10,000 SF curtain wall. The choice was clear; either there was not going to be a curtain wall; or one simply did not call it a curtain wall and thus could create a custom-designed glass wall. This last option seemed the most challenging and was chosen…..
The then following performance based study suggested the differentiation between the façade’s structural [steel] components and the waterproofing [aluminum] industrial design intelligent components, thus maximizing the façade’s performance and minimizing costs and effort. Elegant small steel spacers separate thin steel verticals from a suspended structure of insulated glass planes and horizontal aluminum fins, floating, folding horizontal bands replace the static grid. The further digital analysis of the façade’s structure led to the decision to actually bend the glass panels to minimize forces and create completely transparent seams. The result was that the glass was folded in Barcelona, Spain, the aluminum mullions custom-extruded in Hong Kong to match the façade’s angles, and finally all was assembled in Brooklyn. Installation was then a simple action of suspending the glass panels off the steel structure on site. The [electronic] communication was simply through digitally transmitted 3D computer drawings between Barcelona, Hong-Kong and Brooklyn, the 2D drawings were no longer made by the architect, but the manufacturers made all 2D documents, thus minimizing mistakes, and facilitating a fast manufacturing process. The installation was no longer based on VIF [verify in field], but on VIC [verify in computer]. Site installation now moves away from a site oriented construction method to a construction method which is based on the digital data of abstract computer drawings, the site had to adjust to that abstract model.
A central core provides the structure’s stiffness and contains vertical transportation and utilities, tying together the hybrid structure in an efficient manner. The building's new structure is a light steel frame with cantilevering concrete floors, allowing for the curtain wall to ‘float’ off the structures as a curtain. The exterior walls, other then the glass wall, are shot-blast gray concrete block walls with insulated Norwegian windows, a hybrid composition of aluminum and hardwood. All walls and floors are doubly insulated to create a comfortable living environment with low energy-use and perfect acoustics.
The building’s 23 loft apartments offer an open loft plan with integrated amenities but no interior divisions. Each loft has been wired for electronic communication, satellite TV and a variation of heating and cooling systems. The large modern open-plan lofts offer an abundance of exterior spaces, balconies and roof terraces are situated on both west and east facades. Residents can thus enjoy sunsets over the Hudson River from the comfort of their living space.
At the ground floor the glass facade folds out to form a structurally glazed ‘wing’ over the entry; here the delicate curtainwall meets a concrete structure of ramps, stairs, and platforms folding up away from the street surface. The main lobby and art gallery and retail spaces are all accessible by this concrete structure finished with a recently developed form of concrete terrazzo. This elongated entry zone fosters a filter to a more re-active streetscape, which eases the transition of the former industrial area into an integrated residential neighborhood.