Design Wire August 2022
In early May the city of Prague announced that Danish architecture firm BJARKE INGELS GROUP (BIG) had been selected from a pool of 19 anonymous entrants as the winner of an international competition to design the European city’s VLTAVA PHILHARMONIC HALL. The winning design focuses on both the modern music center and public spaces surrounding it (such as the riverbank), creating equal opportunities and access for all. Featuring a series of structural roofs and outdoor terraces that will serve as an extension of public space, the building aims to be a place where visitors (classical music fans and the public alike) can easily engage with Prague’s culture. The structure, which will be built in Prague’s Holešovice, will include three music halls and will house the music department of the Municipal Library of Prague. It will also serve as the home of the PRAGUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA FOK and the CZECH PHILHARMONIC, both of which will be able to provide educational programs for the public there. Construction on the project is set to begin in 2027, and it is slated to be finished in 2032.
After sitting abandoned for nearly three decades, a Brutalist building in New Haven, Connecticut, that was designed by MARCEL BREUER has reopened as the HOTEL MARCEL NEW HAVEN, TAPESTRY COLLECTION BY HILTON (called the HOTEL MARCEL for short), which is in the works to become the first net-zero hotel in the United States. Formerly the headquarters for the ARMSTRONG RUBBER COMPANY in the late 1960s and later for PIRELLI TIRES, the building was sold in 1999. In 2019 BRUCE BECKER of architecture firm BECKER AND BECKER purchased the complex and, after performing extensive asbestos removal, reimagined it as a luxury hotel that now serves as the lodging accommodation closest to Union Station. In collaboration with interior design firm DUTCH EAST DESIGN, which specializes in adaptive reuse hotels, Becker took inspiration from the women of the Bauhaus for the hotel’s interiors, creating a soft counterpoint to the structure’s Brutalist exterior. In addition to net-zero status, the Hotel Marcel is anticipated to achieve LEED Platinum certification. It will use no natural gas; instead, the building will run on all electric power and, in theory, should be able to operate off the grid indefinitely.
In an exciting turn of events, Orland-based masonry company FRESHWATER STONE has been selected to restore FORT HOOD, the immense, 11-pointed, star-shaped base of the STATUE OF LIBERTY. It is the latest in a long line of the company’s restoration projects of historically significant landmarks, which include the BROOKLYN BRIDGE, THE CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE, and bridges throughout ACADIA NATIONAL PARK. Preserving and renovating the base at Fort Hood will include replacing the deteriorating original granite with Freshwater Pearl granite from the company’s Mosquito Mountain quarry in Frankfort. Due to the structure’s immense size and complicated geometry as well as an inner layer of crumbling limestone that also needs to be replaced, the project will require thousands of granite slabs cut to extremely specific geometric dimensions. As a finishing touch, the company is distressing the edges of the stone with torches and hammers to make sure the look is cohesive with the original structure. The first phases of the project have already begun, with an estimated finish date set for later this year.
Continuing the trend of collections of chic, private cottages for vacation getaways, in early July renowned developer and hotelier TIM HARRINGTON, in partnership with ATLANTIC HOSPITALITY, opened two new luxury hotels: the SALT COTTAGES in Bar Harbor (associated with THE CLAREMONT HOTEL in Southwest Harbor) and the WANDERER COTTAGES in Kennebunk. Situated close to Acadia National Park in the location of the former Colony Cottages (and adjacent motor lodge), the Salt Cottages are reminiscent of classic seaside retreats in Maine, leaning into vintage traditions while focusing on clean, bright interiors. Offering 30 stand-alone cottages and 10 motor lodge rooms, the Salt Cottages are designed to appeal to both couples and families. The Wanderer Cottages, which were styled by interior designer MARK COTTO, emulate laid-back surf lodges mixed with a decidedly New England aesthetic. Offering 17 cabins in studio or two-bedroom layouts, these getaways are filled with beachy decor that includes wicker and bamboo accents, and some are even dog-friendly.
In an effort to find sustainable replacements for traditional building materials, Colorado- based startup PROMETHEUS MATERIALS has created a low-carbon cement alternative with which to form masonry blocks. Mimicking the binding agents found in coral, this bio-cement is made from a mixture of micro-algae, seawater, sunlight, and CO2 that is then combined in a bioreactor, allowing it to grow and reproduce on its own while it is biomineralized. This is then mixed with an aggregate and put into molds to create the blocks. Initially developed by professors at the UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER, the concept of the cement was created as a response to a call for sustainable material prototypes from the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE. Backed by investors such as MICROSOFT CLIMATE INNOVATION FUND, architecture studio SOM, and European venture capital firm SOFINNOVA PARTNERS, the company was founded in 2021 with the goal of making the material available for public use. In late 2022 the component is set to go through the American Society for Testing and Materials protocols, and within the next two years the company plans to branch into sustainable replacements for roofing tiles, wall panels, sound barriers, and other traditional concrete elements of buildings.
The EQUALITY COMMUNITY CENTER (ECC), which serves as an inclusive gathering space for LGBTQ+ and allied nonprofit organizations, has plans to open a collaborative workplace at 15 CASCO STREET in the former location of Maine Savings Bank in Portland. Thanks to a donation of $200,000 from NORWAY SAVINGS BANK that went toward the center’s ongoing capital campaign, the ECC bought and began renovating the 18,000-square-foot building last year, to serve as a headquarters for LGBTQ+ and allied organizations. Once opened, the new center will include expanded programming, shared and private workspaces, a coffee shop, and community meeting and entertainment spaces. Moving forward, plans are now in place to build a second structure next to the collaborative workspace that will serve as a mixed-use space, including providing housing options for vulnerable members of the community and older LGBTQ+ adults, as well as retail spaces and parking.
Developed by researchers at the MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, a new construction technique relies on using tree forks as load-bearing joints in architectural projects. Indicating where a single branch of a tree split into two, these often discarded, Y-shaped pieces of wood have proved promising as replacements for structural components made from strong but high-emissions-based materials like steel. Created by the DIGITAL STRUCTURES RESEARCH GROUP at MIT, a five-step approach to the building process combines generative design and robotic fabrication to make use of tree forks’ natural ability to transfer force due to their internal fiber networks. A demonstration structure made from this technique is now on view on the MIT campus, and plans for building a larger pavilion from the same method are currently in the works.