Thursday, June 19, 2014

A New 1967 Building

Well actually, the building isn't new.  But it doesn't look old either.  Erected during the frenzy of modernism in 1967 the Celebreeze Federal Building stands at the epicenter of business in Cleveland. Expressed with a grid metal frame and window panels, the 32 story tower was designed by Peter van Dijk, a disciple of Eero Saarinen, as a building that broke the through the existing skyline in the 1960’s.  Today is stands amongst peers and is almost ready to unveil its new makeover.

Existing Facade
Rendering of Double Skin

Close-Up rendering of Double Skin

Call it a mid-life crisis.  Blame it on global warming.  The building is receiving a second skin to alleviate heating and cooling demands.  Still scratching your head?  The problem is the original construction, although beautiful, streamlined, and modern, is no match for the climate.  Over 3,000 non-insulated, single panes of glass are at war with the single digit winter winds off Lake Erie and the direct summer sun creating a giant greenhouse.  After over 4 decades of this cyclical battle, and with stimulus bucks available, the General Services Administration (GSA) is moving forward with an out-of-the-box idea, which ironically is an outside-of-the-existing-box idea. 

Designed by Interactive Design Eight Architects in Chicago, an additional glass wall will be hung from the existing façade and yet offset 30 inches to create an air buffer.  So there it is.  That is the big idea.  Although wrapped in flashy words like green, continuous occupancy, energy conservation, economical operation, and blast resistant in is weighted down with a heavy price tag of $121 million.  It is going to be completed this year and will join two other local examples of this approach.  But lets think about this as a bigger picture.

The building is 44 years old, which is just shy of 6 years to a National Register of Historic Places nomination.  Did we eliminate a chance to save a mid-century modern building from alterations and in extreme cases demolition OR did we alter a mid-century modern building to be saved from its own ill designed climate demise?

Construction at interface of new skin to existing facade.

30 inch air space between new and existing facades.

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