AIAS NEQuad Fall Conference 2012 Recap 2

AIAS NEQuad Fall Conference 2012 Recap 2 ::
Firm Tour and Design Charrette
by Chris Kirch, B. Arch Candidate + AIASBAC Vice President

Firm Tour
The Background: Formed as a partnership in 2007, Grimshaw Architects now has firms around the world. They continue the tradition of Sir Nicholas Grimshaw; merging architecture and technology to create more efficient, innovative, and creative design. Each office operates independently, but collaborate and trade architects based on the expertise needed in each project.

The result: A quirky and diverse group of architects in an office that is equally quirky and diverse in its architectural projects.

The Deliverables: The New York office is quickly adapting to Revit when it comes to project deliverables. As for sketching, the architects use pencil, Rhino, and Grasshopper (an application for Rhino) for sketching. At the start of a project, the project team of designers will come together to have a sketch charrette in order to flush out all the possible design solutions before developing the design further.

The Character: Scattered among the three floors are full scale mock-ups of their project details and some of them are ‘kinky’. If you love finding new ways to apply what you learn in structures, Grimshaw architects should be at the top of your list of dream jobs. Every architect has international experience, passionate about what they do, intelligent, and still know how to have fun.

I strongly encourage everyone to look at the work of Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, and other late 1900 British architects that follow this industrial approach to design.  I knew this attitude towards design was progressive, but without visiting Grimshaw Architects, I would have forgotten how fun the process can be.

Design Charette

The Experience: The design charrette is always an awesome experience.  One, you are introduced to a site outside of Boston that is victim to its own unique issues. For at least a week-end, I was liberated from the city of neighborhoods. Second, it is an unrivaled collaborative experiment that you can only achieve by merging a multitude of colleges. For me, it is one of the best ways to meet people during the conference.

The Project: The site, 52 James Street, was an empty 25’ wide, 50’ deep lot in the middle of a historic Newark neighborhood. After 45 minutes on the site and a couple hours of presentations, our team had an hour to come up with a design and deliverables to be judged. The goal was to turn this empty lot into an active public space that the community would find useful and enjoyable.

We were given two shipping containers and an unlimited choice of materials. Our team was a group of four, with each member from a different university; Penn State University (3rd year), Syracuse University (2nd year), University of Hartford (1st year), and Boston Architectural College (3rd year).

The Solution: One common trait of any historic neighborhood is that mimicry is important. In this case it was also beneficial. We started by creating a false façade that continued the street’s arrangement of stoops and added a layer of security to the site. For the rest of the design we used the idea of the Piazza. It provided the familiar social setting of the stoop with a programmable open and sunlit space.

The shipping containers were cut up into planes and used for the cover and façade design with small timber as structure. To fill up the volume we used three of the narrow, but tall trees found nearby. It was quick, raw, and fun.