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South College Academic Facility Tour at UMass Amherst

Published July 21, 2016 in

A few weeks ago, Andrew, Thom and I toured the South College Academic Facility at UMass Amherst with a group of other Western Mass AIA Emerging Professionals. This project involves the renovation of an 1885 building and a new 67,000 sf addition which, together, will create new instructional and office space for The College of Humanities and Fine Arts. Designed by Kliment Halsband Architects out of New York City, the new addition better connects two axes on the campus and strengthens the objectives of the campus master plan. The new addition sits in the crook of the L-shaped 19th century building and extends backwards towards Hicks Way. At the convergence of the two spaces there is a three story atrium that is the highlight of the entire building. Standing here you can see the old brick exterior of the original building on one side and the new addition on the other. The vision for this space is that the white steel will be painted a dark green and the white wall will be covered in wood that extends almost all the way through the building. On the floors above there is almost always a view to the central atrium and therefore visitors can get their bearings at any location in the building. The atrium is filled with natural light from the glass roof and it really creates a great atmosphere.

One of my favorite features of this project is how they used materials to link the old with the new. Originally the 1885 building had a slate roof that was later replaced with an asphalt one. Kliment Halsband Architects returned the roof back to its former glory and also used more slate on the new addition but this time on the façade. This creates a great balance on the exterior and relates the new addition to the original building but without duplication.

South College Academic Facility is estimated to be completed in 2017. 

- Shannon Haley

Chris Riddle and the Living Building Challenge

Published January 22, 2016 in

Last week Chris Riddle, KRA Principal Emeritus, came in to talk about the Living Building Challenge project he is working on as the Owner's Project Manager (OPM) for the Hitchcock Center. He is working with DesignLAB Architects of Boston and Wright Builders of Northampton to provide the center with a new public environmental education building. Located on Hampshire College ground, this new center will double their capacity for educational programs and promote sustainability in every way of life.

Founded in 1962, the Hitchcock Center for the Environment "connects people with nature and encourages a deeper emotional bond with the natural world". They accomplish this by providing environmental education programs with a focus on children as they are the next generation to make an impact on it. This includes promoting resilience, demonstrating sustainability in the built environment, understanding main topics in ecology and encouraging active citizenship. By 2020, through this new center, they hope to increase program participation from 8,500 to 11,500 children and adults and more than triple the center's visitors. They'll also increase their public hours from 35 hours per week to 60 hours per week, and expand their K-12 field trips. The opportunities that this Living Building Challenge project brings to the Hitchcock Center are innumerable and they are sure to take advantage to everyone.

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is the built environment's most rigorous performance standard and can be described as "LEED on steroids". It was created in 2006 to encourage the creation of building projects that function cleanly, efficiently and beautifully just like nature's architecture. To be certified as an LBC building the project must complete the criteria in 7 categories called "petals". The petals topics are:

  • Place
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Health & Happiness
  • Materials
  • Equity
  • Beauty

Within these petals are 20 imperatives that must be fulfilled to receive a full certification. For example, one imperative under the Place petal is Limits to Growth and looks to reuse land already built upon and preferably one that remedies contaminated land. The site of the new Hitchcock Center is located on an old apple orchard that was contaminated with arsenic before this project started but now is clean. Other major requirements of the LBC are that the project must supply 100% of its energy needs through on-site renewable energy and 100% of its water needs through recapture of precipitation or other closed loop water systems. Also, the use of "Red List" materials, which are worst-in-class materials, chemicals and elements that are known to cause harm to humans and the environment, must be avoided. If all 20 imperatives and 7 petals cannot be achieved but 3 petals can then the project is up for Petal Certification as long as one of the 3 petals is either water, energy or materials. If that cannot be accomplished the project may be recognized for a Net Zero Energy Certification. But if the project seeks to be recognized as a Living Building Challenge project it must complete all 7 petals and 20 imperatives which is what the Hitchcock Center is aiming to do.

Chris Riddle was enjoying retirement when the Hitchcock Center approached him to be their OPM for this project. He said he never thought he'd be on a project like this but is very happy he joined because it has been a great educational experience for him and the whole team. The biggest challenge has been in the search for products that don't use any of the materials and chemicals on the "Red List". LBC prohibits certain toxins to protect the workforce along with the environment and ultimately want to promote the industry to make materials without them. "I agree with that," Chris said, "You can build without them so why not?" This doesn't come without its share of challenges however. Chris spoke about how it took 3-5 weeks to get a simple sheet metal housing for the sump pump because they couldn't find a material that passed the red list test. The Living Building Challenge is still a very new standard so there isn't a huge archive of products that pass their standards; therefore much of the research has to be done by the team itself on each project for every material. But Chris is confident that this will change once more of these projects are done and documented. Another challenge in regards to materials is that they need to be sourced as locally as possible. They break it up into four radii: 20% or more of materials construction budget must come within 500km of the construction site, an additional 30% from 1000km or closer, an additional 25% from within 5000km and the last 25% can be sourced from anywhere. This is to try to help promote local business and cut down on the embodied energy of the product.

The team working on the Hitchcock Center is all new to LBC and as John Kuhn said "there's a learning curve for everyone". This education is what Chris Riddle and the Hitchcock Center value the most and that influenced parts of the design. To address the Water petal they could have just drilled a well, however they decided to collect rain water instead because they could show that happening and their visitors can learn from seeing it happen.

It was agreed among us at the office that the Living Building Challenge isn't right for every project and "getting close" but not getting the full certification is still a really good goal to strive for. However, there are great opportunities for educational institutions to take these on because they are in fact very educational for the team involved in creating it and the users after. LBC requires a community buy-in because everyone, the design team, the town, the contractors, board, staff and general supports of the program need to work together to make it happen.

The new Hitchcock center looks to be completed summer 2016 and we are all excited to see the final product and the positive impacts it has on the community!

To learn more about this exciting project follow the links below:

Hitchcock Center http://www.hitchcockcenter.org/our-living-building-project/

Living Building Challenge http://living-future.org/lbc

While our discussion mostly focused on the Hitchcock Center, we were also pleased that John Robinson joined us. He is the OPM for Hampshire College’s LBC project, The Kern Center. We are indeed fortunate to have two LBC projects happening down the street. For more on the Kern Center, check-out Hampshire’s website: https://www.hampshire.edu/discover-hampshire/rw-kern-center

-Shannon Haley

KRA Intern

Thom Barry Volunteers to Facilitate LEGO Architecture gathering.

Published October 22, 2015 in

This past weekend I spent a couple hours at our local Barnes and Noble Bookstore facilitating a low-key workshop with the LEGO Architecture Studio set.  It turned out to be a bunch of fun and a profound way to explore architectural principles with those without any architectural training and unfamiliar with the enigmatic lingo of architects.

I've been a LEGO builder since way back and it is certainly a reason that my life headed towards building and architecture.  I love the simple tactile pleasure of putting pieces together and I love playing and imagining with the finished creation.  Even now, I get great pleasure out of paging through a set of LEGO directions - they have the same kind of logic and beauty as a well-crafted construction document set for a building.

LEGOs, in the past ten or so years, have really undergone a transformation - with the company stretching out in a lot of different directions (like the movies, and computer games).  At the core, though, LEGO is still a company that sells plastic toys to kids. And that's fine, I was one of those kids (my desire for last year's TGV set suggests that I'm still one of those kids...).  But, what Lego is selling, and what parents are buying, is something different than plastic toys: they are selling creativity.

There is a dissociation between buying a set and building a preordained, designed-to-the-brick model, and the boundlessly creative clean-slate that LEGOs purport themselves to be.  This is particularly true for us grown-ups.  Gone are the days when simply holding a LEGO pirate ship inspired an entire day of imagination and play for me.  And I suspect that most adults share my inability to do something as simple as build a house when faced with a pile of bricks in a whole mish-mash of colors.  The simple presence (or purchase) of LEGOs does not assure creativity.

Which brings us back to the Lego Architecture set: I was really impressed by this set and the way that it facilitated some real creativity for me and for the members of the workshop.  The Set is around 1200 pieces, primarily white, with a good amount of clear as well.  The importance of the monotone white shouldn't be understated; it really allowed the builder to focus on the shape, space, and form of the creation, rather than the miss-matching of colors.  I was pleasantly surprised with the selection of pieces - I kept finding new ones to use - even when I thought I'd used all of the options.  I was also pleased with the scale, from 1x1s up to some decent sized plates. Even the cardboard box shows thoughtfulness, with some trays to help the pieces stay on the table and in a central place.  I would say the set is big enough to keep about 5 people building, any more than that would be too many.  The Studio set would be fun for most any age, I suspect, but I think it does a really good job at removing 'unfun' barriers, like color, for us grownups who find it hard to focus on being creative, and, let's be honest, find it hard to allow ourselves to play.

In essence, that's what the workshop turned out to be - an opportunity for us, a range of ages from early twenties to middle-aged, to play and explore the LEGO set.

I was unsure how much structure the attendees would be looking for and so I had us start out with the simple architectural task of making sketch models - we gathered around 20-30 pieces and took 5 minutes to make a model, just letting the pieces be our guide and not judging the outcome.  We did this twice and then I asked the builders to take a concept - a shape, a piece, an idea - from each of those sketches and incorporate them into a more advanced model.  We took about a half hour on that third model and then we talked as a group about our impressions of our own models. 

The best part about facilitating a LEGO workshop is that the people who sign up will already love LEGOs: for the last hour we worked on a final piece that pursued ideas from the earlier models and it was really cool to sit with a group of strangers, all of us completely absorbed in the task of creating with bricks.

I was especially impressed with what was created, and the willingness of the participants to 'go there': to imagine these plastic hand-held models as habitable spaces many many times larger (I had to re-learn that in architecture school - the skill that I had as a child playing with LEGOs having atrophied).  Also impressive were how many architectural concepts were revealed in these quick exercises: civic vs. residential form, hard vs. porous, organic vs. man-made, symmetry vs. asymmetry, site as canvas, historical reference, bottom-middle-top, and many more.  I was happy to share my experience as a builder, student, and now architectural intern pursuing licensure, but I was really struck by the quality of the creations from the participants.  I actually learned a lot from other people's models - seeing them work in concepts I hadn't considered, or, for instance, the happy accident of seeing that the pieces used to make a texture on one side of a wall had an entirely different, but equally compelling texture on the inside.

All in all, it was a great opportunity for me to share my experience of architecture with others; but, even more than that, the Studio set provided an ideal foundation for the entire team to explore the architectural impulse we have in common.

- Thom Barry

Sarah Nolan Mentors at STCC’s Design Camp

Published August 27, 2015 in

This July, I was honored to be a guest speaker and critic at the excellent summer camp that Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) hosted: STCC Builds Architecture and Design Summer Camp. The camp’s mission was “…to engage young female minority students in a camp that links Art & Architecture, demonstrating their professional application while emphasizing the role of Women in Art & Design. Central to our mission statement is the belief that everyone can be a designer.”  In two weeks the students learned the basics of the design process from geometry and construction concepts, through design, and finally construction. The students learned to express and develop their ideas using sketches, Photoshop, paper and cardboard sketch models, and full-size models of their designs. It was so impressive to see all they accomplished and learned in such a short time!

In my first visit, I spoke to the camp about my path to becoming an interior designer and about the field of interior design. I loved sharing my excitement for design with students who might like to consider interior design as their own career path. When I visited the camp the students were working on a residential design project for their clients: local urban birds. Each student had a different bird as her client, who she researched to learn what design requirements should be incorporated in its home. The students used 2-D and 3-D sketches to work through the design process, and at the end had a full-scale construction of their bird’s home. I returned on the last day of camp to see the students’ final pin-up. As you can see, they compiled a huge amount of work, and did an excellent job presenting their designs. The house designs were creative, well thought out, articulately presented, and perfectly suited for each bird.

At the end of the pinup, we were all surprised to see a red-tailed hawk right outside the window, peering in at an armature the student had designed for that very bird! Apparently the design was a success in the client’s eyes– every designer’s goal.

- Sarah Nolan 

Shannon Visits the DC Beach

Published July 28, 2015 in

This past weekend I attended a leadership conference that's annually held by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) called Grassroots in Washington DC. For those who don't know what AIAS is, they are a student run organization that bridges the gap between the student and the professional world. There are over 150 chapters based out of architecture schools across North America and the popularity is spreading to other parts of the world. At Grassroots these chapters can interact and collaborate with one another to generate new ideas which then can be brought back to the college or university for implementation.

On the first night of the conference there was an opening ceremony held at the National Building Museum which, for the summer, has an exhibit called the DC Beach. This temporary exhibition is a giant ball pit yet it was designed to look and be used like a beach by including umbrellas and chairs and a sloped floor to allow "wading" into the pit. The DC beach was designed by Snarkitecture who gave a presentation to the AIAS and AIA before allowing us into the beach. They said one of their favorite parts of designing projects like this is seeing how the people interact with it once it's complete because that can't always be anticipated beforehand. I saw what they meant when we were all  allowed into the beach because members of the people immediately started using it in different ways. Some waded in, some went down the center runway and dove right in  while others sat on the edge and let their feet dangle in amongst the clear balls. At its deepest it was probably 3 feet but with people moving around pushing the balls sometimes it felt deeper and gave it a life of its own. All around people were laughing and having a great time exploring. The DC Beach brought the "kid" out of everyone.

To learn more visit: 

http://www.nbm.org/exhibitions-collections/exhibitions/the-beach.html

http://www.snarkitecture.com/projects/the-beach/

- Shannon Haley

A Red Letter Day - Congrats, Brad!

Published July 16, 2015 in

It’s always a red letter day when someone passes all their exams in the quest to become a licensed architect and today is that day for one of our fine people – Brad Hutchison. 

The exam has changed radically over the years.  When I took the exam in 1977 it was a two-day exam taken in a large room with a bunch of other wannabe architects hunkered over desks spread around a large room at the Boston Architectural Center (BAC).  You passed or failed in one shot. 

Today interns have to pass seven tests of varying subject matter, all taken within a five year time span.  The tests are taken on a computer at one of the many testing sites around the state.  You’re more likely to be sitting in a cubicle next to someone taking a GRE than another architect.  You wait a week or so to find out on-line if you’ve passed a section, or not, then move on to the next exam once you have.  You can take them in any order you want

In addition to passing the exams interns have to...

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Why Hire a Professional Designer

Published June 26, 2015 in

Why hire a professional designer?

Because good design matters! Building or renovating your home can be one of the largest investments in your lifetime, so don’t you want it to be the design that fits you best? As architects and interior designers, our aim is to help you realize your vision through good design. 

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Introducing Shannon Haley; Kuhn Riddle’s New Summer Intern

Published June 25, 2015 in

Hi my name is Shannon Haley and I am very pleased to be interning at Kuhn Riddle this summer. I just finished my sophomore year at Keene State College where I am studying a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture. After Keene State, I plan on taking a couple years to work in the field and then go on to graduate school. In the meantime however, I play an interactive role as the Vice President in the Society of Architecture Students of Keene State and look forward to studying abroad in Florence next spring.

When I was searching the area for summer internships I was hoping to find a place that could show me how a real architecture firm works and gain experience outside of the classroom or studio. So far Kuhn Riddle has not disappointed. I’ve worked on numerous projects already and have been included in client meetings and site visits alike, making my interning experience fun and exciting. I can’t wait for what the rest of the summer has to hold. Thank you Kuhn Riddle for having me!    

Citizen M Hotel, NYC

Published March 19, 2015 in

On a recent trip to New York we stayed in a new hotel called citizen M. It’s a small chain, started in Amsterdam, and this is their first US hotel. It’s a new 20 story building on West 50th Street and has a notable European flair, as you’d expect.

While the public spaces are over-scaled and kicky, the typical rooms are extremely small, but well-designed and very cool. The interior measures 7’-6” x 20’-0”. That clocks in at 150 square feet – all of it used as efficiently as possible.

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