Rethinking the Airport Passenger Experience – The BaltiCloud Terminal

BaltiCloud-concourse view

Perspective view of arrivals concourse level with “cloud” EFTE roof structure above – Riga Terminal design concept for AirBaltic Airlines.  Rendering courtesy of Hartnessvision, in collaboration with XChange Architects

As we kick off the busy summer travel season, we were interested to read Vanity Fair architecture contributor and former New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger’s observations of the modern passenger experience in today’s airports.  In a CNN article, entitled “Airports where the architecture soars, ” he laments that there really is no “there” in many of today’s passenger terminals; these proverbial 21st Century global gateways that (in many cases) now fill the role formerly held by the grand urban rail stations in welcoming arriving visitors.

Mr. Goldberger noted:

Where they exist at airports, the more impressive spaces are usually located in the airports’ departure halls. Those passengers are rushing to clear security and catch flights and don’t have time to appreciate their space. The arrivals hall usually doesn’t inspire much.

For baggage access reasons and the sad reality that most arriving passengers are generally motivated to get as far away from the airport as possible, it is not all that unusual to find arrivals halls – with baggage claim devices and customs screening facilities – located on the very bottom and being fairly uninspiring spaces to greet travelers into a city.  Many new airport passenger terminals are reconsidering this paradigm, both at airports with a large proportion of travelers ending their journey at the airport as well as those with a significant population of passengers connecting to other flights where the arriving “gateway” experience and the immigration / customs clearance process really matters and may affect passenger decisions when selecting air travel alternatives.

BaltiCloud - downtown aerial

Airside aerial of the proposed “BaltiCloud” Terminal, evening view with downtown Riga in the background.

BaltiCloud-cloud study screen shot

Preliminary geometric studies of the EFTE “cloud” roof in 3D Studio MAX.  Screenshots courtesy of Hartnessvision LLC.

In a joint effort to develop a new terminal design concept in collaboration with Hartnessvision LLC, for a new passenger terminal in Riga, Latvia, for their primary air carrier, AirBaltic, we chose to literally invert the sectional arrangement of the arrivals and departures flows as well as the way we conceive the roof of the passenger terminal building.  We were intrigued by the possibilities of an EFTE plastic membrane in offering a virtually roof-less airport experience.  Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, or EFTE, is a highly durable and tensile plastic membrane with a high range of temperature and climatic tolerance.  Made famous in the 2008 Water Cube pavillion in the Beijing Olympics, we believe very strongly in the possibilities of integrating this dynamic enclosure material to “dematerialize” the roof.

Our terminal design concept, which we refer to as the “BaltiCloud” –  a play on the Air Baltic identity and the notion of the building as a simple floating cloud – is characterized by 2 simple ideas of re-introducing passengers with the unique sensibilities of air travel:  first, the inversion of the arrivals (above) and departures (below) experience and second, the introduction of a simple, but multi-functional cloud roof serving to both eliminate the all-too-common dreary travel experience while using EFTE air pillows of varying opacity to serve as a way-finding device.

Without compromising functionality, safety, and operational excellence, we like to think that design is the glue that synthesizes all of the core elements that define successful, world-class transportation facilities.  These lines of enquiry provided us a vehicle to debate and rethink the airport passenger building type and most importantly, the potential re-imagination of the passenger air travel experience.

BaltiCloud-exploded axon

Exploded axonometric view of the proposed terminal facilities – Riga International Airport, Latvia

All photographs, images and drawings copyright Hartnessvision LLC and XChange Architects LLC, unless otherwise noted.

Take Back the Streets (Part Deux): UBurger Faneuil Hall

UBurger-perspective

Proposed sidewalk cafe,  UBurger at Faneuil Hall – 16-18 North Street

UBurger-Existing

Existing sidewalk conditions at 16-18 North Street, adjacent to the Millennium Hotel at Faneuil Hall

It’s the first of June and time for our restaurant clients to get their sidewalk cafes up and running.  We’re delighted to have been invited by the Management Team at UBurger at Faneuil Hall to help design their new sidewalk cafe this spring and assist in renewing the establishment’s lease agreement with the City of Boston Public Improvement Commission and Department of Public Works.

New restaurant applicants in the City of Boston shall contact the City’s Public Improvement Commission (PIC) to initiate the application and approvals process for their sidewalk cafe.  For those taking over existing restaurant occupancies: 1) check your Common Victualler (CV) license to verify if you have been approved for outdoor seating, 2) determine if the previous establishment was issued a valid sidewalk cafe permit and agreement, and 3) if you have both, provide evidence of both documents and prepare a letter requesting the renewal of the permit.  Please consult with your licensed design professionals (e.g. engineers, landscape architects, and architects) for assistance in the design and permitting process.  Here’s to a spectacular outdoor dining season in Boston!

PLANTER DESIGN CONCEPT – Taking advantage of remaining interior metal siding material left over from the interior construction, we are re-purposing them into our sidewalk planters to help tie-in the sidewalk cafe into the overall interior architecture.  All DIY legwork, elbowgrease, haggling and heartache courtesy of Co-owner, George Gianarikas.

UBurger - planter concept

All photographs, images and drawings copyright XChange Architects LLC, unless otherwise noted.

The Biscayne Bird – a Seaplane Terminal for Watson Island


DT-main_airside_persp

DT-airside_elev

Dawntown Miami announced the results of their 2013 design competition last week for a forward-thinking landmark for the City of Miami.  Since 2008, Dawntown Miami has been hosting annual design competitions that facilitate a healthy dialogue about the City of Miami and its evolving urban condition.  Competition topics range from new ideas for metromover stations to sewer pump stations to a concept for a seaplane terminal.

DT-site

Site plan and perspectives – Watson Island

We participated in the Dawntown 2010 ideas competition for a new seaplane terminal on Watson Island – located along the Biscayne Bay across from downtown Miami.  Coincidentally, a new tunnel boring connection between the Island and the Port of Miami was completed last week.  Inspired by the unique vantage point of the Island (vis-à-vis the City) and its bio-diversity, our proposal, “The Biscayne Bird,” explores an architectural and urban design solution that both harmonizes with the site’s natural and man-made assets and stands alone as a distinctive public space to see and be seen.

DT-Diagrams

Diagrams

The Bird – a singular massing concept was deployed to optimize the use of the space-constrained site while giving the building its own unique waterfront presence.  The proposal seamlessly integrates public access to the waterfront with the operational requirements of a modern seaplane terminal.  The resultant form at once responds to the Biscayne Bay context while harmonizing with the natural open space that is an integral part of Watson Island. The design’s response to the operational and sustainability objectives raised by the competition resulted in a form evoking the spirit of the seagulls in the immediate area – connecting air, sea and land.

DT-sust_section

Building section illustrating sustainable design elements in the new seaplane terminal building

All photographs, images and drawings copyright XChange Architects LLC, unless otherwise noted.

Battery Conservancy Chair Design Competition Entry: A Seat for the Seasons

Battery-main_persp

Perspective – “Seat for the Seasons” outdoor seating prototype along the new Battery Green oval

Battery-sequence

Outdoor Seating Prototype – unfolding sequence

The Battery Conservancy in Lower Manhattan has announced the results of their 2012 Draw Up A Chair Competition.  The competition, launched last fall, seeks to identify a winning permanent outdoor chair design for Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, New York City.  According to the Conservancy website:

The design competition has three phases. The first phase is an open design competition. In the second phase, the jury will select Top Designs and Finalists, which will be featured online and on exhibition banners in the park. The Battery Conservancy will develop full-scale prototypes of the Finalists’ Designs and has been invited by Design Miami/ to exhibit these prototypes. In the third phase, the winner(s) will be awarded a cash prize and their designs will go into fabrication for use in the new Battery Green, a 3-acre oval at the park’s Broadway entrance, scheduled to open in 2014.

This is a great step forward in the post-Hurricane Sandy revival of the Lower Manhattan area.  Hearty congratulations to the Conservancy, the competition finalists and the top 50 designs.

Battery-board1

Draw Up a Chair Competition Board – “A Chair for the Seasons,” copyright Derrick Choi AIA & XChange Architects LLC

Battery-principles

Process book diagram of first principles – copyright Derrick Choi AIA & XChange Architects LLC

We have posted some of our studio’s ideas and one of the submission boards we prepared to the competition.

Entitled, “A Seat for the Seasons,” our concept for a seating prototype integrates the repurposed wood bench slat stock with a high-density polyethylene seating shell.  The end result is a new flexible outdoor furniture concept that would be comfortable, yet vastly reconfigurable for myriad Battery Green events and resilient enough to operate throughout the year in the Battery.

Battery-bush_persp

Perspective – chair prototype in its retracted setting & curvilinear configuration by the East Coast Memorial

All photographs, images and drawings copyright XChange Architects LLC, unless otherwise noted.

Greening our Buildings: one rejuvenated structure at a time

BTC-facebk

Construction progress at 40 Aspinwall Avenue – source: Brookline Teen Center Facebook site

On this Earth Day week, we are heartened to see the construction progress at the Brookline Teen Center project site in Brookline Village.  Designed by Studio MLA with Graham/Mues Inc. and being built by Kaplan Construction, the dramatic transformation of this 12,000 SF building – a former autobody shop located at 40 Aspinwall Avenue – is expected to be completed at the end of this summer.  We are ardent supporters of the idea that the “greenest” buildings are the ones already standing.  Existing buildings, like the structure being repurposed by the Brookline Teen Center, have the potential of enjoying great second acts.

450bway-exstg

View of existing building, 450 Broadway

In 2012, XChange Architects was retained by an early education client to prepare a feasibility analysis for the re-use of a 1950s-era industrial flex space building for an indoor children’s play gym.  The 14,000 SF facility, located in the Greater Boston area is an aggregation of 3 older structures built over the years.  Our redevelopment proposal is characterized by a dramatic, color-intensive exterior makeover, the raising of the rear building roof (to accommodate larger inflatables),  and new clerestory glazing around the largest warehouse volume to maximize ventilation and passive daylighting.

450bway-streetpersp

Perspective view of renovated building along Broadway

450bway-model04

Study Model

450bway-south_elev

 Proposed south elevation – 450 Broadway

All photographs, images and drawings copyright XChange Architects LLC, unless otherwise noted.

Springing Forward on Newbury Street (Part Deux): Diane von Furstenberg Boston

DVF - exteriorAs the Greater Boston area returns to normalcy, we are inspired by the resilience of the American people and reminded of the price of living in a free, democratic society.  With investigation scenes in Boston, Cambridge and Watertown scaling down, we encourage our friends and neighbors to take back our streets.  Please be advised that Newbury Street is open for business and hope indeed springs eternal here in the heart of the Back Bay.  Please consider (re)visiting some of our clients out there, including our first Newbury Street project – the DvF Boston store.

XChange Architects was invited to collaborate with Diane von Furstenberg Studio in 2010 on the design and construction administration of the first DvF store in New England at 73 Newbury Street.  Although an extensive corporate design standard was available, there were considerable challenges in applying them to a turn-of-the-century brownstone.  A range of custom design solutions – from unique universal access concepts to a considerable re-use of the existing HVAC system – resulted in the skillful merging of a contemporary design aesthetic with a New England flair.  We are most appreciative of the collaborative problem-solving spirit of our design team – including DvF’s New York City-based interior architecture team and R.G. Vanderweil Engineers – as well as our unflappable General Contractor, Sleeping Dog Properties.

DVF - interior1

Interior view of the main retail bays, looking towards Newbury Street. Copyright Roberto Farren Photography, 2011.

DVF - diagrams

DVF axon

DVF - details

CREDITS

Photography:  Roberto Farren Photography

Design Lead:  David Del Villar, VP of Design and Construction – DvF Studio LP

General Contractor:  Sleeping Dog Properties, Inc.

M/E/P & FP:  R.G. Vanderweil Engineers, LLP

All photographs, images and drawings copyright XChange Architects LLC, unless otherwise noted.

Take Back the Streets: Time to Renew Your Outdoor Seating Permits

OneFundFlag-smIn acknowledgement of the recent events in Boston, Cambridge, and Watertown, our thoughts go out to the affected and we owe a debt of gratitude to our region’s resilient citizenry, first-responders and law enforcement officials. Please consider making a contribution to the One Fund to aid those affected by the events of April 15, 2013 in Boston http://onefundboston.org/

The lock-down in the Greater Boston area was challenging, but proved to be a necessary inconvenience. Ironically, we were scheduled to meet with our client today, Yoki Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar, in Central Square in the City of Cambridge, to update a sidewalk seating concept requiring approval by the Department of Public Works for the spring-summer outdoor seating season.

For our hospitality clients, please check with your local building and planning officials to confirm permitting requirements for outdoor restaurant seating.  The criteria may include service restrictions (especially with alcohol being served), seating requirements (typically limited by available restroom fixtures), structural and dimensional requirements for outdoor dividers, exterior signage, lighting, plantings and applicable insurance coverage.

Let’s take back our streets in the Greater Boston Area.

Yoki-Exterior-FINAL

An earlier outdoor seating concept for 485 Massachusetts Avenue

About the project – XChange Architects was invited by Yoki’s management team to develop a cost-effective design solution for their second restaurant that could 1) absorb the extant interior and building systems of a previous restaurant and 2) help develop a new visual and graphic identity that could be standardized and deployed in future roll-outs. The 3,000 SF interior renovation was completed in August 2012.

Yoki-1-lores

View of main sake bar. Copyright Roberto Farren Photography, 2012

Yoki-Sushi bar-FINAL

Perspective view – Sushi Bar

CREDITS

Photography – Roberto Farren Photography

Electrical engineer – BLW Engineers, Inc.

All photographs, images and drawings copyright XChange Architects LLC, unless otherwise noted.