Prof. Diane Armpriest

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ARCH 504



Perkins & Will founded
in 1935, on the belief that design has the power to transform lives and enhance
communities, they collaborate with clients all over the world to create
healthy, sustainable places in different building categories. The firm has more
than 2,000 professionals in over 20 Perkins & Will
offices who work in architecture, interior design, branded environments, urban
design, and landscape architecture. They are famous for their leadership and
expertise in areas like sustainability, resilience, health and wellness, and
mobility. Additionally, their Research Labs catalyze innovative design
technologies and solutions that as they believe result in better, smarter, more
competitive built environments. The firm is recipient of hundreds of design
awards each year, and a progressive leader in corporate social responsibility, also
consistently ranked among the world’s top design firms. The list of their partner
companies includes retail strategy and design consultancy Portland; sustainable
transportation planning consultancy NelsonNygaard; healthcare technology
planning firm Genesis Planning; and luxury hospitality design firm Pierre-Yves
Rochon (PYR).

Research for a
Research-Informed Practice

the effects of building environment on human experience, finding the latest
energy efficiency strategies, or discovering the most innovative, resilient,
and healthy building materials and technologies; Perkins & Will has created
several research mechanisms over 80 years of practice to foster, support and
communicate our research. These include:

Innovation Innovator
program fosters an invigorating culture of idea generation by supporting small,
focused research projects proposed by staff members through micro-grants of
money and time.


The Research Labs
collaborate with experts and academics to do their own original research and
help the firm for being progressive in architectural research including
Process, Human Experience, Mobility, Community, Building Technology, Material
Performance, Energy, Water, and Resilience.


·       In
2009, they started a firm-wide effort to research toxins and carcinogens
commonly found in building materials. Two years later, Perkins & Will launched
its Transparency website, that is a free and universally accessible database designed
to create greater transparency into building materials. The Transparency site
features not only the Precautionary List which the firm published it self, but
also a list of known or suspected asthma triggers, a list of flame retardants
commonly found in the built environment, and a collection of white papers,
research and relevant news reports.


Perkins & Will’s
Research Journal is a twice-a-year, peer-reviewed publication dedicated to
documenting and presenting researches based on architectural practice, related to
buildings and their environments.


AREA Research is a
nonprofit organization that brings the design professions, academia, and
research institutions, and grant givers together to support experimental
research, improve the built environment and by extension, the lives of its inhabitants.



Thesis Statement


important role of materiality and material innovation in Perkins & Will in
my opinion is their selection strategies and values which they select materials
based on. As John Fernandez mentions in Material Architecture, chapter four:

any type of design scenario two sets of entities
need to be defined, the first – a set of values, the second – things. The first
set describes the goals, or performance criteria, that the design must fulfill.
The performance criteria may be any number of goal-oriented values, such as
maximum insulation per unit thickness, stiffness per unit weight, fracture strength
per density, embodied energy per unit tensile strength etc. A complete set of
criteria is often a complex mix of diverse values, including thermal,
mechanical, aesthetic, cost and other needs. This set defines the functional
domain. The second set defines the set of physical entities that will satisfy
the needs of the function domain. This set is composed of real things- building
products. The materials, components and assemblies of this set can be
successfully applied to the design scenario when the particular mix of
attributes fulfills the needs of the functional domain. This set is called
physical domain.”

John.  Material Architecture

4 Material Selection” pp. 266 – 267


After look into numbers of
their projects I found Perkins and Will is really good at identifying the
project’s goal or in another word what could satisfied clients and then defining
a set of design values based on that. To reach that, they are always looking
forward to innovating solutions for structural and functional problems that I
think its what Fernandez calls ‘physical domain’. Having high expectations in
design especially in huge projects needs exploring new materials, building
products and structural systems and I think this is the point that connects two
sets of entities in Perkins & Will projects.


the Ephemeral

I also
believe that Perkins and Will has different and interesting approach in using
glass in projects. For example challenging the boundary between inside and
outside or using glass to bring the experience of volumetric light into space.
I am referring to ‘Capturing the Ephemeral’ by James Carpenter to analyze this

approach architectural design through the architectonics of volumetric light.
The architectonics of light considers the material qualities of glass as having
the most comprehensive ability to generate a volumetric quality of light. Light
simultaneously occurs on multiple surfaces, thereby implying a depth to that
field of light. This is a key concept that results in the building surfaces
becoming sensitized to qualities of light through the use of materials;
however, our approach to materials originates in our understanding of the
extraordinary characteristics of glass. The idea of the “responsive field” is
fundamental to this approach – observation; synthesis of that observation; the
testing of materials and ideas resulting in an understanding of how glass and
other materials can embody the original observation. We think of materials
beyond their typical place within a palette available to architects. We explore
materials in order to find the qualities that are fleetingly observed in nature
and that define a unique sense of place. Every material reacts to light, though
some materials are more actively responsive. By taking advantage of those
materials’ characteristics, the surfaces can appear optically porous and
dimensionally responsive.”

James. “Capturing the Ephemeral”.  p 106

Great River Energy

Maple Grove, Minnesota

Completion Date: 2008
Square Footage: 166,000
LEED NC Platinum

Top Ten Green Projects Award, 2009

Merit Award Winner, 2009

Public Education Category Honor Award, 2008
American Planning Association, Minnesota Chapter

on Fernandez opinion I am trying to identify: first, performance criteria and
second, physical domain.

Performance criteria: Great
River Energy (GRE) is a not-for-profit, member-owned electric utility
cooperative. As the designer mentiones, new office environment was designed to
showcase workplace productivity, energy-efficient technologies, and a
collaborative culture within the most electric-energy-efficient building in the
state. Providing on-site renewable energy and modest amounts of grid-supplied
green power reduced the use of fossil fuels by 75% and cut CO2 emissions by 60%
that is a notable achievement.


o   Physical
domain: The project achieved performance criteria while providing efficient
daylight and views to the exterior, indoor air quality, and a quality work
environment within a reasonable budget—demonstrating that green design can be
efficient, affordable, comfortable and healthy. According to designer’s
provided information, post-tensioned concrete frame uses 45% post-industrial
recycled flyash. Great River Energy supplied the flyash from its Coal Creek
Station power plant to reduce the carbon footprint and energy demand of the
concrete manufacturing process. The GRE headquarters uses 87% FSC-certified
wood; 23% of materials are locally sourced; 18.5% of materials are recycled;
and 96% of construction waste was diverted from the landfill. The picture shows
the cafeteria where Organic waste bins are located, also the waste is composted
and sold to residential and commercial customers.





goal-oriented value that had big impact on material selection in GRE and I
found really interesting is long-term operations and maintenance considerations.
The office building was designed for a 100-year life, anticipating the
replacement of various components at regular intervals. Exterior and interior
materials were selected for their durability and low maintenance needs.


Another approach that I want
to have to this project is based on the idea of Volumetric light from James
Carpenter. As he mentions in ‘Capturing the Ephemeral’ article:

architectonics of light considers the material qualities of glass as having the
most comprehensive ability to generate a volumetric quality of light. Light
simultaneously occurs on multiple surfaces, thereby implying a depth to that
field of light. This is a key concept that results in the building surfaces
becoming sensitized to qualities of light through the use of materials.”

As we
see in pictures of interior, use of glass is a great example of bringing a
volumetric quality of light. Building space planning, long rectangular shape of
building and huge panels of glass are providing natural light. Glass
particularly is defining light phenomena as an observable experience.






University of British Columbia, Earth Sciences Building (ESB)

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Completion Date: 2012
Square Footage: 170,005
LEED-NC Gold Certified

Innovation Award, 2013
Architectural Institute of British Columbia

Institutional Wood Design – Large, 2013
Wood WORKS! BC Wood Design Awards

Merit Award, Excellence in Architecture for a
New Building, 2013

Wood Innovation Engineering Award, 2012
Forest Products Society / American Wood Council


criteria: The main goal of project is ‘Science on Display’ with consideration
of environmental issues and energy efficiency. An example of science on display
-a feature of the building’s façade- is a “geology teaching wall” where various
stones are silicone glazed into a unitized curtain wall. This interactive wall
allows students and faculty to connect with large format slabs of stone at eye
level. UBC also wanted this building to be environmentally sustainable and s
vibrant and animated center for faculty and students on campus. The mostly
exposed wood structure creates a welcoming environment for users. As an added
environmental benefit, refer to the results from architecture firm, the 1,317
cubic meters of wood in the structure has been calculated to store 1,094 tons
of carbon, the equivalent of taking 415 cars off the road for a year. To
provide rain cover for pedestrians in line with the University’s design
guidelines, a solid wood CLT canopy wraps three sides of the project. It
extends from inside the building, where it forms the interior ceiling finish of
the museum and cafe, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior

domain: A free-floating cantilevered solid timber staircase is located in the
atrium. The dramatic stair is fully cantilevered off the bridge floors and is
composed of a seamless folding “ribbon” of rigid glulam stringers, a first of
its kind in the world. It seems that the clean and elegant lines of the massive
timber is defying gravity, and dramatically showing off the aesthetic and
structural capabilities of the engineered timber. The structural performance of
heavy timber construction in ESB project sets a new standard of modern
engineered timber and material efficiently. Beside amazing engineerg part of the project that is not the
focus of this paper, the idea of selecting a traditional material that is
sustainable and efficient for the region is important. With help of technology
(using strong joints and minimum structural depth with wood concrite composite
floor system) building a giant wood structure and leave it expose is the
powerful physical domain of ESB.












Technology, originality, feeling
of nature, innovative engineered timber and beauty all in one element.




concrete composite floor system (minimum structural depth)






About use of glass in this building there are several
interesting apporoches that I want to mention. If we start from a more detailed
point of view, we can see some rockes that are covered with glass cylinders.
Here the use of glass is redifining the way we react to these rocks; it gives
this message to users -even if they are not interested- that they are in front
of something valuable and immediatly changes the first impression.


The other interesting approach about use of glass that is easy
to read in this picture (according to Carpenter’s ideas) is what Carpenter
explain it as: “Extend the experience of the boundary between interior and
exterior well beyond the physical depth of the building skin by understanding
the optical and perceptual transition that occurs at that boundary”

The first floor of building is glazed on all sides to
maximize visibility into the space and at the same time is challenging the
meaning of indoor and outdoor with bringing light, colors, nature and walkway
in to Earth Sciences Building.

As conclusion, in terms of material seletion I think Perkins
& Will has strong commitment to the sets of values for each project and that’s
what pushes the boundries of material and structural innovation in their design
process. Meanwhile, playful and creative use of glass that adds volumetric
character of light to the space in my idea is one of the impressive key strategies
in their project.



Carpenter, James.
“Capturing the Ephemeral”.  pp 106 – 117

John.  Material
Architecture. Burlington, MA:  Architectural Press, 2006. “Chapter 4 Material Selection”
 pp. 263 – 276

·       Aiatopten.org.
(2017). Great River Energy

·       Transparency.perkinswill.com.
(2017). Transparency.

·       Perkinswill.com.
(2017). Great River Energy

·       Perkinswill.com.
(2017). Firm Profile.

·       Techconnect.org.
(2017). Materials for Sustainable

·       WIRE,
B. (2017). Perkins+Will Wins Two
AIA/COTE Top 10 Green Projects Awards.

·       Research.perkinswill.com.
(2017). Material Performance |
Perkins+Will Research

·       “Advocating
for Transparency: Six Tips for Thinking About Building and

·       Material
Health.” Ideas buildings,

·       Architectmagazine.com.
Accessed 8 Dec. 2017

·       ArchDaily.
(2017). Earth Sciences Building /
Perkins + Will.

·       YouTube.
(2017). a Mass Timber Case Study:
The Earth Systems Science Building, UBC — (Part 4 of 5).

·       YouTube.
(2017). Large Wood Structures.

·       Perkinswill.com.
(2017). University of British
Columbia, Earth Sciences Building (ESB). 

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