Volume 26, Issue 2 - March/April 2012


Figure Eight: A Look at One of Denmark’s Latest Developments

We go through hundreds of ideas, layers and layers and layers, until we come up with the final design,” said Kai Bergmann, an architect with BIG, a Copenhagen- and New York-based firm during a presentation last fall. He said it’s important to think of a building not only as an object but as a potential for public space. The firm’s design of the award-winning 8 House in Copenhagen is no exception. The 65,000-square-foot 8 House, which allows its residents to bike all the way from the street up to its 10th level penthouses, received the 2012 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Institute Honor Award for Architecture. The use of glazing in the bowtie-shaped, mixed-use building helps enhance natural light, creating bright, open spaces.

Commissioned by St. Frederikslund and Per Hopfner in 2006, the 8 House sits on the outer edge of the city as the southern most outpost of Orestad. Rather than a traditional block, the 8 House stacks all ingredients of an urban neighborhood into horizontal layers of typologies connected by a continuous promenade and cycling path up to the 10th floor.

“8 House is a three-dimensional neighborhood rather than an architectural object. An alley of 150 row houses stretches through the entire block and twists all the way from street level to the top and down again,” says Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of BIG. “Where social life, the spontaneous encounter and neighbor interaction traditionally is restricted to the ground level, the 8 House allows it to expand all the way to the top.”

Architects say 8 House uses size to its advantage by creating immense differences in height, providing a sense of community. The project is made up of 476 housing units, including apartments of varied sizes, penthouses and townhouses, as well as office spaces, in one single building.

The façade windows of the row houses were supplied by Krone Vinduer, while Velfac supplied windows for the apartments. Eiler Thomsen Alufacader supplied windows for the office/retail portions. Architects say the glass, used in different shades of blue and green, controls sun and light transmittance. “The glass façades are optimized according to light and sun,” say the project leaders.

The AIA’s Institute Honor Awards are known as the profession’s highest recognition of works that exemplify excellence in architecture, interior architecture and urban design. The 8 House was selected from more than 700 total submissions; 27 recipients located throughout the world will be honored at the AIA 2012 National Convention and Design Exposition in Washington, D.C.

“Having established ourselves in New York City this past year we are honored that the AIA has given this great distinction to the 8 House, which is a further realized example of our approach called architectural alchemy–the idea that by mixing traditional ingredients, retail, row houses and apartments in untraditional ways–you create added value if not gold,” says Ingels. “Housing projects are rarely brought out as world architecture. The fact that the 8 House has now achieved this honorable status can be seen as a symbol of a piece of architectural alchemy that works. Moreover, I am genuinely happy that our long and inspiring cooperation with Per Høpfner and St. Frederikslund is rewarded in the other parts of the world.”

The 8 House was previously awarded the World’s Best Residential Building at the 2011 World Architecture Festival in Barcelona and the Scandinavian Green Roof Award, among others. According to the architects, the project is Denmark’s largest private development ever undertaken.

Making the Grade: Glazing Stands Out on Virtual Learning Academy

The Berrien Springs School District’s Virtual Learning Academy in Michigan was designed with an abundance of glazing features, including its storefront system, which helps make it unique. The building’s exterior, designed by Edwardsburg, Mich.-based CARMI Design Group, is one indication that this school is different from others in Southwestern Michigan.

According to Tony Leininger, president of CARMI Design Group, his firm was approached by the school board superintendent with whom they had worked for many years, about creating a virtual learning program in the school district. Leininger says the superintendent had a vision that the virtual program should be connected to something visual and not be something tucked away; they wanted a stand-alone building and wanted the form to relate to what was going on inside.

“So it needed to have a high-tech, edgy look,” says Leininger. “We wanted the building’s form to portray the modern style of learning that occurs within its walls.”

The resulting design features three distinct spaces, sharp angles and generous uses of glass framed in recycled aluminum by Walker, Mich.-based Tubelite’s 14000 and T14650 Series Storefronts. Midwest Glass & Mirror of Stevensville, Mich., was the contract glazier and Linetec of Wausau, Wis., painted the aluminum in Hartford Green fluoropolymer finish. PPG Industries was the glass supplier.

While the building is only 6,700 square feet, Leininger says material selection helped them achieve the look they were seeking.

“The materials helped create the unique geometry of the structure,” he says. Speaking of the entrance system, Leininger points out that it was neither orthogonal nor perpendicular to the earth. Likewise, the building is single-story and he wanted to be able to stretch the storefront horizontally. In order to achieve the design, Leininger and his team worked collaboratively with Tubelite and the company’s engineers to create the structure. This was important, he says, as it’s the entrance that gives the building its signature look.

“It’s not everyday you have a project come along where the owner wants to create such a signature look,” says Leininger, who adds, “From the beginning we wanted to emulate the feeling of progressing upward … and the entrance helps [to create that effect].”

The $1.8 million Virtual Learning Academy , which offers area students both traditional on-site education and online courses, opened for high school students at the start of the fall semester, September 2010, and now offers enrollment for middle school students.

The Virtual Learning Academy’s edgy architecture has garnered positive reviews from district staff and the community, and has helped the building become the face of the district.

Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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