Monday, February 21, 2011

Harvard NW Science Building : By SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Post By:Kitticoon Poopong
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
A new laboratory building aims to find its own voice on a historic campus. 
Building at harvard is fraught with complication. Historic works of architecture by H.H. Richardson, Le Corbusier, and Walter Gropius are down the street. When one tries to keep to those standards, the world at large deems it wasteful (a 2009 Vanity Fair article pointed to recent construction — estimated at 6.2 million square feet and $4.3 billion since 2000 — as an example of the university’s profligate spending). And the neighbors, the faculty, and the
students all have to be appeased. If that weren’t enough, when Craig Hartman, FAIA, head of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)’s San Francisco office, designed his first university lab building for Harvard, he also had to deal with the outsize personality of then-president Lawrence Summers (who resigned in 2006 after a number of missteps, including his controversial comments on women in science, and is now director of President Obama’s National Economic Council). “He was a very, very challenging person,” recalls Hartman, whose equanimity seems an uneven match for Summers’s famed bluster. Summers’s taste tended toward a Georgian aesthetic, but then he saw the movie My Architect, a film about Louis Kahn by his son, Nathaniel. “After that,” says Hartman, “when I talked about wood, when I talked about brick, it was a home run.” Such fortuitous occurrences brought this massive steel-and-concrete structure to realization, where concerns of history and culture were balanced with the extraordinary technical requirements of a contemporary science building.
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
The process began in 2002, when Harvard commissioned Philip Enquist, FAIA, partner in charge of urban design and planning for SOM Chicago, to design a master plan for the northwest corner of campus. That area consists of a haphazard mix of buildings, among them a 1962 lab by Minoru Yamasaki and a museum designed by Henry Greenough and George Snell in 1871. After the scheme’s completion, the university decided to pursue the construction of two new buildings at the edge of the site.
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
Nazneen Cooper, assistant dean for campus design and planning, worked with a faculty committee to select Hartman for the project, arguing that “you can always get a lab expert to join the team, but if you fail on the architecture, there’s no going back.” Hartman began by meeting with the residential community that borders the site to the north. While the master plan had called for a series of small buildings to connect to the neighborhood, Hartman and the faculty felt that domestically scaled structures would be insufficient for its resident scientists. Proposing instead to set the building back from the street, he offered the neighbors a generous landscape and convinced community members to support the project. 
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
It was determined early on that the most efficient use of space would be to combine the proposed buildings — one for the Department of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the other for Organismic and Evolutionary Biology — into a single structure. To accommodate those functions, as well as to provide storage space for university collections, the four-story building twists and turns through the tangled campus fabric, never seeming as large as its 530,000 square footage suggests, partly because it cannot be perceived all at once.
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
Accordingly, the overall organization of the building is complex. Most of the physical-science labs run along the north and west brick elevations, next to a massive mechanical spine constructed with a steel-braced ladder-frame system that provides a large interior scaffold for the heavy m/e/p requirements of the labs. With regard to the latter, SOM worked with lab planners GPR to develop a 10-foot-6-inch module that provides flexibility for a range of uses. Across from the “wet” labs on the upper floors, the architects allowed the computational labs and offices to assume a lighter, more flexible quality. These rooms on the south and east sides are framed in glass — translucent toward the hallway, and clear with operable windows toward the exterior. There, the monotonous procession of offices is punctuated by a series of “living rooms” — informal double-height meeting spaces.
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
Large staircases, a ground-level café, and an underground event space also encourage an environment of openness and collaboration, as opposed to the often insular nature of science buildings. This idea is carried to the exterior planning, as well. Coming from the central campus, one approaches alongside a generous courtyard with twelve large, square, bench-height boxes. Designed by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, the lawn doubles as a green roof over the event space — the boxes act as skylights for the room below. Stacking the open and closed communal spaces directly on top of one another characterizes the building’s architectural strategies — more than half the square footage is underground, and spaces with more flexibility, like circulation corridors and stairways, are exploited to create opportunities for encounter and collaboration. 
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
All of this is very far from Louis Kahn’s innovative design for the 1961 Richards Medical Labs at the University of Pennsylvania. There, Kahn conceived the building’s organization by proposing the idea of “served” and “servant” spaces — hollow concrete towers for mechanical equipment and circulation serving glazed labs that ended up being too small and too difficult to control temperature. Perhaps in part due to that history, SOM’s contribution seems less integral than Kahn’s, as if the architecture only needed to wrap around a technically overdetermined whole.
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
Because of the interior programming, the domain of architecture was pushed farther and farther out until everything jammed into a single surface. It’s not that the building doesn’t achieve its intentions — the wood and brick lend a sensitive touch. Yet, the north and west brick facades feel as if they belong to another structure. They refer to a sort of generic “Harvard brick building,” while at the same time they demonstrate their nonstructural role with syncopated fenestration. Ultimately, the gesture is neither contextual nor tectonic. On the opposite facade, SOM’s desire to express “human” materials led to placing wood beneath glass — a seemingly elegant solution that actually required a complex system of venting so the wood wouldn’t be damaged under heat stresses — showing that even small gestures were subject to severe technical demands. On both sides, Modernism’s lucid simplicity, which was conceived partly as the rejection of ornament, acts as a front (quite literally) for the complex and inscrutable contingencies of modern science.
Photo © Courtesy of Timothy Hursley
In this way, the building begins to express the bind of architecture in the present. Hartman continually stated a desire for the building to reflect its own time, as most of the structures at Harvard have done. His achievement may not have the power and clarity seen in the works of nearby “masters,” but the complexity of our moment precludes such heroics. Hartman’s architectural decisions — weaving the building into its surroundings, creating space for collaboration — are hard-won victories in this context. Modern lab buildings are not so much works of architecture as they are machines.
basememt floor plan--drawing Courtesy of SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
ground floor plan--drawing Courtesy of SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
third floor plan--drawing Courtesy of SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
exploded axo--drawing Courtesy of SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
section perspective--drawing Courtesy of SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

The People

Harvard University

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
One Front Street, Suite 2400
San Francisco, CA 94111
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Design Partner: Craig W. Hartman, FAIA
Managing Director/Project Manager: Carrie Byles, AIA, LEED® AP
Campus Planning: Philip Enquist, FAIA
Technical Director: Keith Boswell, AIA
Senior Design Architect: Leo Chow, AIA
Project Architect: David Frey, AIA NCARB, LEED® AP
Design Architect: Mike Temple, AIA, LEED® AP
Senior Graphic Designer: Lonny Israel
Project Team:
Mark Schwettman
Zhui Hui
Brian Mulder
Sandra Ventura
Susanne Kim
Frank Grima
Patricia Tjandrawinata
Eric Chou
Steve Aldrich
Charles King
Emily Borland
Bob Beier
Bradley Skipton
David Loo
Marguerite Eid
Richard Rowe
Angus Eade

Architect of record: Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP
Interior designer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Senior Interior Designer: Tamara Dinsmore

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Structural Engineering Director: Mark Sarkisian, PE, SE
Senior Structural Engineer: Neville Mathias, PE, SE
Structural Engineer: John Gordon, PE, CEng, MlStructE

Program Manager: Fluor, Robert Wiggins and David Bendzin
MEP: Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting Engineers LLC, Ted Athanas, Britt Ellis, Dan Caren, Grant Anderson
Lighting Design: Flack + Kurtz, Inc., Jonathon Plumpton
Laboratory Planners: GPR Planners Collaborative, Inc., Josh Meyer, Christopher Czenszak
Geotechnical: Haley & Aldrich, Mark X. Haley
Landscape: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. Michael Van Valkenburgh Emily Mueller DeCelis
Code Consultants: Rolf Jensen & Associates, John Eisenberg
Vertical Transportation: Lerch, Bates & Associates
Wind Tunnel: Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc. (RWDI)
Central Plant Engineers: RMF Engineering, Inc., Bill Mahoney

General contractor:       
Bond Brothers
145 Spring Street
Everett, MA 02149
David Shrenstinian, Vice President
Kevin Cooke, Project Manager
Mike Spodek
Bob Colarossi

Timothy Hursley: 501.372.0640
Esto/Anton Grassl: 914.698.4060

Renderer(s): DBox

CAD system, project management, or other software used: AutoCAD

The Products

Structural system: The building’s superstructure utilizes steel columns and floor framing beams supporting composite metal deck floor slabs. An innovative steel braced ladder-frame lateral system runs along the central spine of the two main wings of the building. The below-grade structure consists of a combination of conventional reinforced concrete flat slabs and reinforced concrete beams and girders with one-way spanning slabs. The foundation system typically consists of a combination of perimeter slurry walls and interior rectangular load bearing elements (LBE) supporting the building columns, with a slurry wall retention system at the basement perimeter or caissons.

Exterior cladding
Masonry: Glen Gary Brick/Harding Blend/Norman Brick – Pizzotti Brothers, Everett, MA
Metal/glass curtainwall: Ipswich Bay Glass, David Wennekamp and Chris Broulidakis
Wood: Pucte, Imperial Woodworking Co., Paul J. Garvin III

Elastomeric: Sarnafil®  Roofing Membrane
Wood: Wood Shadow Box Insert – Parklex Silicone Impregnated Wood Veneer

Glass: Solar Ban 70 XL

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: Armstrong World Industries, Inc. and USG Interiors
Suspension grid: Armstrong World Industries, Inc., USG Interiors, BPB celotex, Life Science Products, Inc., and Lindner USA
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Imperial Woodworking Co., Paul J. Garvin III
Paints and stains: Benjamin Moore, ICI Dulux Paint, Fuller O’Brian Paints, Sherwin Williams, Duron Inc., Pittsburgh Paints, DuPont, Devoe, and PPG Architectural Finishes
Wallcoverings: EZ Rite by Koroseal and Maharam Fabric
Plastic laminate: Formica
Special surfacing: Corian
Floor and wall tile: Daltile and American Olean
Resilient flooring: Armstrong and Johnsonite
Carpet: Shaw
Window Treatment: Mechoshade Systems, Inc.

Lab Furniture:  Bedco
Lounge Seating: Paolenti
Office Furniture and Seating: Steelcase
Upholstery:  Paul Brayton Designs (leather) and Steelcase

-Kurt Versen
-Lithonia Gotham

Elevators/Escalators: Kone Machinroomless Elevators (Manufacturer)

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