Solving the cube

Nick Myall
Tuesday 07 Jun 2016

A multi-layered cube-like façade achieves diversity in high-rise design

A big compliment to architects is hearing that one of their building designs has become a recognisable landmark.

That’s the case for architects at the Los Angeles office of Arquitectonica International Corp. (www.arquitectonica.com) who designed the Olume residential building in San Francisco’s Mission District with a unique multi-layered cube-like metal façade featuring a total of five custom earth-toned colors of Alucobond® Plus aluminum composite material (ACM) by 3A Composites USA (www.AlucobondUSA.com).

Architect Leon Cheng, AIA, of Arquitectonica, frequently travels to San Francisco for business and often grabs a taxi or car service there. When he’s mentioned the Olume residential building to drivers, he’s heard: “Oh, yeah. That’s the building with the cubes” and other positive reactions. 

“It’s heartening to know that the building already is recognisable as a fixture in San Francisco,” said Cheng.

The 12-storey 138,512 sq ft Olume multifamily residential community opened in March 2016 with owner Monogram Residential Trust, Inc., of Plano, Texas,  offering 121 luxury rental units – including studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments – as well as two levels of subterranean parking. Monogram Residential Trust partnered with Martin Building Co., of San Francisco, to develop the boutique-style community.

Arquitectonica was brought in to re-design the façade of the building after the project’s entitlement process had been completed.

 “We were asked to re-think the exterior,” said architect Ilon Keilson, who shared project management duties with Cheng at Arquitectonica. “This building is located on a prominent corner (Mission and 10th streets). We were asked to create a more vibrant landmark. We needed to maximize square footage for the client while also creating depth in the elevation to get a sense of relief.”

Added Cheng: “The aesthetic of relief is often tricky to successfully incorporate in sales-driven projects. Doing so has a direct correlation with sellable square footage in the interiors, so we began playing with the exterior skin to maximize the perception of depth and movement without impacting sellable area.” 

The resulting façade design for the L-shaped building appears as an abstract series of coloured metal cubes created from Alucobond Plus ACM and installed at five variable depths – ranging from minus-8 inches to plus-8 inches – with the building’s glazing set back two inches to eight inches from the metal panels.

“From a thematic standpoint, we wanted to introduce dynamism through depth,” said Cheng. “We wanted to reflect diversity in the neighbourhood and in residential buildings.”

The varying façade depths “were accentuated with the colour palette,” according to Cheng, who said the architects wanted to incorporate red in the building as one of San Francisco’s more prominent colors associated with both the city’s Golden Gate Bridge and its NFL 49ers professional football team.

“We wanted to take the idea of redness but turn it more toward earth tones so there wasn’t an immediate brightness to the building all around,” said Cheng, who described the custom colours of the Alucobond panels installed onsite as “spot on.”

 “We referenced a lot of colours as well as a lot of variations of colours as well as combinations of colours,” said Keilson. 

A total of 40,700 sq ft of 4mm Alucobond Plus ACM was installed on the Olume building in five custom colours, including: 19,200 sq ft of Cajun Clay, 5,500 sq ft of Burnt Russet, 3,400 sq ft of Baked Clay, 6,200 sq ft of Pumice Stone and 6,400 sq ft of Baked Terracotta.

Alucobond consists of two sheets of 0.020” aluminum thermobonded to a plastic core. Alucobond provides extraordinary flatness and rigidity, excellent formability, low weight and outstanding weather resistance. Alucobond aluminum-faced panels are manufactured with a polyethylene core in a standard 4mm thickness. Alucobond Plus wall panels have a flame-spread index of less than 25 and a smoke-developed index of less than 450 when tested in accordance with ASTM E 84, and have a Class A interior finish classification.

3A Composites USA worked closely with the architects and fabricator Keith Panel Systems Co. Ltd. (KPS) (www.keithpanel.com), of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to match the custom colours in the 1,400 Alucobond Plus panels fabricated by KPS for the façade.

“The varying depths and multiple colours of this façade made this project extremely complex,” said Paul Dalzell, operations manager, Keith Panels Systems.  “We used 3-D modelling to determine the shape and appropriate colour of returns. The part count on this project was enormous. This was a very labour intensive job. … We created a detailed set of shop drawings that not only showed the location of each colour but how the parts and pieces fit together.”

The Alucobond Plus panels were installed by Pacific Erectors, Inc. (www.pacificerectors.com), of Rocklin, Calif., with the KPS System A Pressure-Equalized Rainscreen System.

“KPS gave us an extensive set of shop drawings that basically served as an erector set,” said Jeff Young, project manager, Pacific Erectors. “Our biggest challenge was installing all of the colours. We were able to assist the design team in determining where colours should transition in the articulation. This colour scheme was a complete departure from the original façade design. It really looks unique. It’s a great-looking building.”

KPS and Pacific Erectors worked on the project with general contractor Build Group, Inc. (www.buildgc.com), of San Francisco.

The architects said they specified Alucobond Plus for the Olume residential building because they knew it could achieve their unique multi-layered facade design.

“Alucobond is certainly the standard – if not the gold standard – of aluminum composite material,” said Cheng. “Beyond its name recognition, it was recommended in partnership with our contractors.  Alucobond was selected for its product characteristics of flatness and light weight.”

Added Keilson: “With the sense of relief we created – installing the metal panels from minus-8 inches to plus-8 inches – we knew Alucobond wouldn’t create a sense of warp.”

“Another product might have limited our design opportunities,” said Cheng. “We didn’t want a product that would produce more noise and be distracting.”

Recyclable Alucobond – which is manufactured with both post-manufacturing and post-consumer content – contributes LEED credits to building projects. The Olume residential building is designed to achieve LEED Silver certification.

In addition to its multi-layered façade, other unique Olume building design features include a 4,000-sq ft rooftop deck that offers views of Mission Bay and downtown San Francisco and features an entertainment area, fitness centre and dog run. A second-level garden area offers 6,000 sq ft of usable, open green space.

Nick Myall

News Editor

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