Tectonic | Skin
The Market Hall studio is one of four ARCH 501 tectonic studios this term taking deep dive investigations into the skin and bones of buildings. This studio is developing design proposals for a neighborhood market hall where local growers, vintners, distillers, and crafts people can sell their products in a well-tempered environment and where the neighborhood can gather for food, beverages and entertainment, seven days a week, year around. The site is the current location of the University District’s farmer’s market on 50th and University, next to the University Heights Elementary School.
Studio members have investigated a number of local buildings this term including the Miller Hull designed Bullitt Center, “the world’s greenest urban office building,” nearing completion on Capitol Hill. On Monday (2/25) the studio traveled to Everett for a visit to Northshore Sheet Metal and Goldfinch Brothers Windows to see how this building’s skin was fabricated.
Northshore’s president, Brian Elbert, showed us machines that punch, bend, shape and finish copper, steel, aluminum, zinc and composite materials into interlocking wall and roof panels. Because of Northshore’s experience working on highly specialized projects such as Seattle’s Experience Music Project, and their state-of-the-art equipment from Finland and Austria, Northshore is supplying metal and composite skins for projects around the country. This week they used their automated equipment to produce their first pixelated, punched-metal screen depicting a mother bear and cub, for a building for the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Just down the road the studio got a tour of Goldfinch Brother’s curtainwall assembly facility where they saw workers putting the finishing touches on one of the final doors for the Bullitt Center, a triple-glazed Schüco terrace door. The elaborate extrusions, gaskets and hardware assemblies are designed to keep the heat in and water out, with thermal breaks and multi-point latches. Outside we were shown two full-sized building envelope mock-ups, one of the Stone 34 project by LMN and Scanska, and the other for the UW Medical Center addition by NBBJ. These assemblies are tested with high-pressure water jets to test seals, gaskets and other parts of the envelope for leakage. Full-scale assemblies can reveal unexpected bowing or “oil-canning” of large steel wall panels, limiting expensive surprises before the actual building is constructed.
We were impressed by the skill, technology, and detailed design effort that go into creating all the parts and pieces of a beautiful and well-performing building envelope, and to see the work of two industry leaders located in our region.
Written by Rob Peña, Associate Professor