Dec 31, 201312:35 PMPoint of View

Working With Steel: FXFOWLE

Working With Steel: FXFOWLE

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The Living Cities Competition is open for entries until January 10. What follows is a commentary from FXFOWLE Senior Partner Sylvia Smith on three of the firm's projects which make heavy and innovative use of steel. 

My father was a steel man. He was a metallurgical engineer so I grew up getting excited about W-section columns sections and what steel can do. As architects we work with engineers and think of steel as a tool. Steel has given properties and you can do certain things with it. You can open up space, span over space, use steel as steel or beams. You can create trusses or even trusses you can walk through. It’s ironic, it’s flexible in a lot of ways.

Juilliard School and Alice Tully Hall

The key to the Juilliard and Tully project was to expand the school without adding structure to it. Alice Tully Hall needed more space outside the house, a place where people could gather and socialize in the lobby. Beyond that the mandate for Juilliard and Tully was to make the programs there more exposed. The building was a ‘60s concrete citadel. The goal was to make the building more open, with greater connection to the city.

It soon became clear that we would have to expand the building to reach out toward Broadway. We had to do find a way to do so that would create a new public space for Alice Tully without tons of structure. We introduced parallel trusses in the Juilliard school that were spectacular in their scale because they were basically the height of the floors. We maniupulated those trusses to allow for entrances.

That got us the space above the school and below in Alice Tully. Then we had to put a skin on both. We collaborated with Arup who a series of trusses that ran perpendicular to the glass wall of the Juilliard. We suspended the beautiful glass wall from the top, hanging the skin from a truss that was running north-south.

There’s a very long cantilever towards Broadway, and the fact that it doesn't have structure really enhances that openness. Steel allowed us to keep that glorious sense of openness.

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