Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Archiporn, Critters, Caltech and Turkey

Sometimes the creative fulcrum is a response to issues that at first seem at complete odds with each other. Let's say you need to fast-track a structure beyond all reasonable possibility due to politics. Well, start by re-using everything and designing as you go into construction. There's this existing building, a dynamic client program, and, oh by the way, an earlier unused design in your hip pocket. The design concept as it was originally born in Pasadena, for Caltech, was unused when that project was canceled. Its original idea was the passive cooling strategies in the taller central core, facilitating air ventilation flows to the exterior.

The "wolf in sheep's clothing" was a response to the need to minimize the materials used in a structure, as well as provide flexibility during construction as the design is actually resolved. Good idea, but wasn't used, at least not at Caltech. But, when the same architect has another design opportunity in a country across the globe that required immediate design and construction to beat a one-year deadline, the mashup happened. A building was re-used, an idea about a flexible construction process with locally adapted materials evolved, and a highly integrated team used a 24-hour design and construction cycle to make the deadline. The result is a highly thought-provoking building that was born in adaptive reuse and came out as a landmark solution. The Nakkastepe structure in Istanbul is the corporate headquarters of two corporations - Vakko Fashion House and Power Media Center.

It involves not only the need for a structure adapted to the language and the culture of Turkey, but also to be able to withstand the severe earthquakes that would challenge even California structural design:

“Given only two weeks after initiating design to submit the Showcase’s steel order, REX and its engineers designed a set of steel boxes that could be assembled in a myriad of configurations. This strategy allowed the steel shapes and quantities to be ordered from the steel mill before the final Showcase design was complete. Ultimately, space use requirements, code restrictions, and a circulation path winding from bottom to top of the tower dictated the final stacking of the boxes.

“Whereas the Annenberg Center’s Ring was a fragile, post-tensioned concrete structure which depended upon the robust, steel interior for support, the Vakko/Power’s existing Ring is painfully over-designed, the byproduct of numerous deadly earthquakes in Turkey."

Yet the simplified steel design allowed for a very effective and streamlined response to the seismic problem; it is a research-driven response rather than computer-generated form for its own sake. The resulting facility is unusual in its expression of these structural issues, which tend to drive a massive scale into some smaller programmatic spaces that become subservient to its overarching physical demands. Intentionally chaotic in its expression, the final form is deceptively calm on the exterior. It's a rather pure interplay of structure, material and purpose due to necessity, and stands as an example of how this problem produced an expressive facility grounded in its culture that has roots in ideas half a world away.