I had the extreme pleasure of meeting and hearing Keith Boswell (FAIA Technical Director) talk from Skidmore, Owens, & Merrill, LLP at the recent Glass Association of North America (GANA) annual conference in California. Boswell is key partner of SOM, an amazing architecture, engineering, and visionary firm that creates amazing buildings all over the world. Boswell is specialist in designing and executing technically complex building systems; creating highly sustainable, innovative techniques that integrate materials and technology in case-specific design solutions for custom building envelopes, elevator systems, and building systems. I was dazzled as he talked about creating innovative designs that demanded new ways of utilizing glass.
In his photo-heavy talk during lunch in San Diego last week, Boswell stated, “Architects like glass. They want to use more glass, and use it new and innovative ways. Not just for the sake of doing it.”
Boswell continued to express the sentiment that construction is coming back to North America. Yes, renovation is important. Yes, governmental is good. But also real, commercial construction is beginning again. All of what he said was music to this audience’s ears.
To illustrate SOM’s commitment to innovation,they developed a method for cold-bending on-site for one specific project. Insulated glass units as big as my office were manipulated up to 3 inches out of square to serve the design and function. Boswell’s team developed innovative curtain wall systems to help deflect heat and insulate the occupants. It was a wonderful slide show, and I wish I could show you everything. But just go to their website for a taste.
One such example is below:
According to the SOM website, “This next-generation tower maximizes performance, efficiency, and occupant experience. Its faceted form is derived from the juxtaposition of the innovative double-skin façade and the external lateral bracing that wraps the tower from crown to base and defines the dimensions and folds of the building envelope.” At night it is especially stunning:
The willingness to explore new and different ways to push the capabilities of glass on a tremendous scale was so amazing to see. The New Beijing Poly Plaza for example was a marvel from a design aspect to be certain. I mean, just LOOK at it. Wow!
But then, once you realize that they erected a glass cable net wall that was nearly 300 ft. tall,…an audible gasp was heard from the GANA audience. It is truly an engineering marvel in glass. For a terrific breakdown on the engineering aspects of this project, go to Steel Guru.
Another topic he addressed was that of lobby renovations as a growing trend. Opening up the spaces with larger and larger expanses of glass to get more daylighting and large-scale art within is more and more important in urban environments. It is essential that I/G units get bigger and better, that testing data is up to the challenge, and that models – even full-scale mockups – are a part of the process extremely early on in the development of the project.
As Boswell said during the lunch talk, “Nothing beats a good ol’ fashioned mock up!” Which was made all the more charming with his subtle Southern drawl.
Keith Boswell is the author of the forthcoming book, “Exterior Building Enclosures: Process and Composition for Innovative Skins“ to be released June 2013. After that brief but memorable talk in California, I’ve already pre-ordered my copy from Amazon.