Jan 30, 2011

On the Boards

We have some exciting projects in our office these days, currently under design.   Here's a look at a few things we have "on the boards" in our Workplace Studio:

King Arthur Flour
Norwich, Vermont
This major expansion and revisioning of the King Arthur Flour campus will provide a welcoming destination for the legions of fans who visit America's oldest flour company every year.  The facility includes the Baker's Store and Cafe, the Baking Education Center, and the King Arthur Bakery that supplies artisan breads and pastries to regional outlets.
The Institute for Sustainable Communities
Montpelier, Vermont
The ISC is a global non-profit organization that helps communities around the world address environmental, economic and social challenges. TruexCullins is currently working with the leadership of the ISC to reconfigure and improve their interior office workspace at their headquarters in Montpelier, Vermont.


Champlain Investment Partners
Burlington, Vermont
This employee-owned investment management firm is slated to occupy the top floor of the newest Class-A office space in Burlington, Waterfront Plaza.  TruexCullins is designing a spacious, refined interior workspace with access to rooftop terraces and sweeping lake views.  The project is registered as LEED for Commercial Interiors, with an anticipated Silver rating.

Jan 25, 2011

A Sustainable Vocabulary

posted by Matthew Bushey, AIA, LEED AP

The topic of sustainability has always been a heated source of discussion among architects and designers, but the recent conversation has shifted to the use of the word itself.  This is in part a reaction to the fact that Advertising Age recently named the word sustainability as one of the top ten “jargoniest jargon” words of 2010.

This is what they had to say about this ubiquitous term:
 A good concept gone bad by mis- and overuse. It's come to be a squishy, feel-good catchall for doing the right thing. Used properly, it describes practices through which the global economy can grow without creating a fatal drain on resources. It's not synonymous with "green." Is organic agriculture sustainable, for example, if more of the world would starve through its universal application?

The commonly understood definition of sustainability is, if I may paraphrase, that which provides for the present without compromising the future.  Or, more precisely: that which meets our needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs in the future.  Still, it is a broad definition because sustainability applies to so many different interrelated issues.  We have thus layered it with so many additional meanings that it has essentially become meaningless.  We speak of sustainable architecture, sustainable food, sustainable energy, and if you can believe it, sustainable growth.  (Can growth really be sustainable?  Or is true sustainability only found in equilibrium?)

But let’s get back to architecture.  The folks at Ad Age are correct in pointing out that sustainability is not synonymous with “green”.  This is a distinction that is not always recognized.  Upon first blush, it would seem that green architecture is simply a subset of sustainable design.  It’s a matter of degree: green architecture decreases its environmental impact, while sustainable architecture dramatically eliminates its environmental impact.

However, it’s not always so.  Like the example of organic agriculture, the architecture industry has its own “green” practices that are not necessarily sustainable: the use of petroleum-based insulation, for example.

Clearly, Green design is a more easily understood concept.  Green is eco-friendly.  It’s environmentally preferable.  Sustainable design, on the other hand, is burdened with ever more complicated sub-definitions and concepts like net-zero energy, passive house design, and biomimicry, to name a few. 

There is another term that perhaps better articulates the concept of environmentally conscious design:  sufficiency.

To be sufficient is to be satisfied, but without excess.  It rejects greed and overindulgence, and focuses on just what is necessary for a comfortable survival, whether in the house you build or by the food you eat.

To take it one step further, I would offer up the concept of self-sufficiency:  relying on no one but yourself for what you eat or how you live.  There are no negative impacts on others, because you are not relying on others for your own survival.  Put in these terms, the concept of self-sufficiency has an intrinsic appeal to our adventurous, independent spirit, something we proudly associate with as Vermonters and as Americans.

Advertising Age says sustainability is a word they “wish you would stop saying”.  I don’t disagree that the word has become overused, misrepresented, and indeed stripped of all meaning.  But I hope that in spite of the backlash, the conversation can continue.   Instead of dropping the word – and the subject – from our vocabulary, let’s explore other ways to communicate the concept of living and building in environmentally beneficial ways.

Jan 18, 2011

Casa Madrona, Phase 1

We just received these photos of our work at the Casa Madrona Resort in Sausalito, California.

This is phase one of the renovation, which  was recently completed and included a complete overhaul of the street-level lobby.  A towering bookcase, stone fireplace, and deep blue wing chairs now invite you in from the street and orient you to a truly unique guestroom experience that lies ahead:  the accommodations include three floors of contemporary guestrooms directly abutting Bridgeway Boulevard; an 1885 Victorian Mansion listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and 22 cottage rooms and suites that cascade down the picturesque hillside.  The challenge for the lobby was to craft a space that was appropriate to all three of these differing aesthetic languages.  Neither strictly modern nor traditional, the solution lies in the integration of key historic elements into a singular language of modern sensibilities.

The cottage rooms are currently under construction, and the Mansion suites will follow after that.  We're also working with the Terra Resort Group to renovate their full-service spa.  Here are the shots of the completed lobby:  Click to enlarge.

A fortuny pendant hangs in the main lobby:

Jan 16, 2011

Singapore – Part I

posted by David Epstein, AIA, LEED AP

I was recently invited to visit the Singapore American School to speak with them about some upcoming work. So in December, after a working trip to ICS Addis in Ethiopia, I headed east thru Istanbul to Singapore. I was excited about traveling to southeast asia, a place I had never been.

Singapore is not your typical country. It is really a city-state – a small island with 5 million inhabitants. It is very modern and clean. There is a large middle class and low unemployment.  People seem generally satisfied despite (or perhaps because of) the government’s tight control.

The school is impressive. Singapore American School has over 3800 students from Pre-K to Grades 12 on a very compact 20 acre site. I was hosted by William Scarborough, the Finance Director and Anthony Wong, Facilities Director.  Anthony took me on a morning tour of the facilities. The morning drop-off, fondly nicknamed the “bus ballet” was especially impressive, with over 120 full size busses arriving, dropping and departing within 20 minutes. The facility boasts multiple gyms, theaters, pools, gardens – all operated with Singaporian efficiency.

It was a great visit. It was interesting to learn about the sustainability initiatives underway both in Singapore and in the school. There is a local green building council and the school has a sustainability coordinator on staff to help lower their environmental impact. As you can imagine, on a facility this large, small incremental changes can go a long way.

Coming next… my visit to the Singapore Marina Bay Sands Hotel by Moshe Safdie.

Jan 11, 2011

Villa Verde Vermont

Building a house can be a deeply personal and consuming project.  It can be exhausting, it can seem neverending, but it can also be one of the most rewarding endeavors you ever take on.

Many of us have tackled renovations of varying degrees of scope, from a single room to a whole-building gut reno.  But building your own house from the ground up opens up whole new opportunities.  It's a chance to fulfill dreams and change lives.  It's an opportunity that usually comes along just once in a lifetime.

Some who embark on this challenge choose to share the adventure by recording each step of the process online.  You can find a few very good blogs by (future) Vermont homeowners who are documenting their construction adventures and posting photos of their home as it slowly takes shape.  If you're thinking of making your own dreamhouse someday, these blogs are a good source of ideas, advice and inspiration.

Tina and Michael are two of our clients who are currently building their own home about 20 minutes outside of Burlington.  They've been recording the process since January 2010 on their blog: Villa Verde Vermont.  The modern home is designed by Rolf Kielman, with landscape design by Keith Wagner.  Currently, the house has been framed and the exterior siding is going up.

You can follow the progress as the house gets closer to completion with each passing day.  As they put it: A modern/minimal design, we're including as many "green" and energy-efficient elements as our budget will allow.

Jan 5, 2011

People's Choice

To all our loyal followers, fans and friends: Happy New Year!  Our resolution for 2011 is to (continue to) feed the blog on a regular basis with news, events, and plenty of random musings on architecture and design.
There are certainly many great stories to tell.  The new year at TruexCullins is off to a roaring start, with new people, exciting projects, and further recognition of our work.  We’re very pleased to say that the Maltex Building was one of the winners of the 2010 AIA Vermont Excellence in Architecture Design Awards: the People’s Choice Award.  
Unlike the other categories that are awarded by jury, the People’s Choice award is determined by popular vote, from the general public’s viewing of all the design entries on display. The new Maltex fa├žade is a very engaging piece of architecture that reactivates one of the busiest pedestrian stretches of the emerging Pine Street corridor, so it makes sense that the general public relates so well to this project and voted it their favorite.  Thank you to all who voted.
The former 1950s warehouse building was transformed into a modern landmark, with a contemporary palette of corrugated metal and wood panels.  The newly renovated commercial building complements the adjoining 1899 historic brick structure, and has become a very desirable place to work.
We had a little fun with this view of the building for our annual holiday card this year.   It’s all in good spirits, and good wishes to all our clients and colleagues for a healthy and prosperous year ahead!