Lunch with Leslie Laskey

By: John Berendzen

Frank Rosario and I had the pleasure of lunch with Leslie Laskey today.   We both left saying “That was the best discussion I’ve had in a long time”!  All these years later, after having “Professor Laskey” at Washington University School of Architecture for our 2nd year studios, he’s still teaching and making us think.  Sooner or later the topic always gravitates to the school, what’s happening over there, are we still connected with them (and if not, why not).    I’m paraphrasing now, but he gave us homework:

“We have a responsibility as practicing architects. We need to get involved with the schools, and let them know that good design is more than just a seductive drawing – it’s being involved with the community.  As Architects, our job is to get out of our shells, ask questions, listen to what people have to say.  Architecture isn’t a singular event that comes out of your head, gets built and takes a nice photograph.  It’s about the process of design, drawing in others and building something memorable.”

Time to finish my homework…..

Wyly Theater Visit

By: John Berendzen

I recently had the good fortune to attend a behind the scenes tour of the Wyly Theatre in Dallas, given by the Artistic Director.  Designed by REX/OMA, this is a building I’ve wanted to visit since it’s opening in late 2009.  While the exterior is striking (designed to mimic the flowing nature of a stage curtain) it’s the interior that gets most of the attention.  Unlike most theaters, which are limited by their stage/seating design (proscenium, thrust, round) the Wyly is designed something like an inside-out transformer.  The stage floor, seating and components can all be manipulated, moved up, down, rotated etc to suite the particular needs of the play.

The comment I most take out of the tour came from the artistic director.  He told the group that the experimental nature of the building has changed the way they act and produce plays – not just in this space, but everywhere they act.  The building has changed them – made them open themselves to new ways of performing.

exterior 3

Theatre Exterior

interior 1

Costume Shop with concrete structure visible

Performance Space

Performance Space

Buildings have effect on us – good or bad, rarely indifferent.  The Wyly theater isnt’ just a great building: it’s made the troupe better artists!

SLU-Stainability Expo

By: John Berendzen

Yesterday, Brett, Jacob and I had the privilege of presenting our work at the SLUstainability Expo, held in the Center for Global Citizenship. It featured information and booths from many organizations, including Chartwells, Laclede Gas, Big Shark Bicycles, Shoeman Water Projects, Electronics Recyclers, McCarthy and others.


Jacob and Brett manning our booth at the CGC

We had many conversations with students and staff concerning the sustainable aspects of the CGC, specifically the daylighting concepts and the preservation of the existing building (preserving the embodied energy).

We presented examples of sustainable products we often incorporate into our work, and printed material describing our  philosophy for sustainable design.

1.    Start simple: exhaust all passive strategies before moving to active ones.  Maintenance costs for intensive energy saving systems can often lead to  those systems being disabled before their intended lifespan is up.

2.    Explore Alternatives: Sustainable design requires a full exploration of the alternatives, with ROI included.  Working through alternatives early in a project is a critical part of the sustainable design process.

3.    Support cities:  Density makes sense.  Cities are by their nature sustainable, in that they minimize energy use per person compared to suburban or rural areas.  Cities have shorter travel distances, more mass transit and require less infrastructure per person.  But for cities to remain vibrant, they need care and constant renewal.

4.    Aesthetics matter:  The most sustainable buildings are the ones that people love, and no one loves an ugly building.  Sustainable design is composed, well crafted and intriguing.

5.    Old is New:  Renovation and Adaptive Reuse are key sustainable strategies.  Often the most sustainable solution is to re-purpose the building that is already built.

6.    Be Productive:  Human productivity is as important as energy efficiency.  Flexibility is key.  To be successful a building must become a resource for it’s occupants.  As Churchill said “We shape our buildings: thereafter, they shape us.”

7.    Invest in your Envelope:  it makes sense to invest in the best, most robust building envelope you can.  It’s important to invest in MEP systems too, but often it’s more feasible to upgrade your system than your building’s skin.  Remember, a building’s envelope is part of the mechanical system.

8.    LEED Works: LEED is a great way to engage everyone in a proven sustainable design process.  LEED is prescriptive, and it has it’s limitations, but when applied with a collaborative spirit, LEED ultimately results in a better project.

It was a great event and we look forward to SLUstainability 2014!

New Harmony then and now

By: John Berendzen

The year was 1983, spring break.  Three of us (Marc, David and me) from Wash U School of Architecture decided to get out of town for the week.   Everyone else was headed to Florida but we were flat broke.  The best we could do was hop in Marc’s Olds Cutlass and head to David’s parents house in Berea Kentucky.  This was to be an architectural trip though – besides Berea, we would visit Columbus and New Harmony.  We made the drive in to New Harmony to see Richard Meier’s recently completed (1979) Atheneum.  We drove all the way into town, went into the building and were told it would cost $5.00 to go through it.   Being broke college students, we walked around the exterior (free), visited Phillip Johnson’s Open Air Church, and left town.

The Atheneum was the progenitor of about half the projects my friends and I completed at Wash U as undergrads.  Meier, Graves and  Eisenman had a huge effect on the profession then – we devoured their work – pre-internet – through magazines and books like “5 Architects”.

Almost 30 years later, I finally made it back to see the entire building.  Now you can tour for free (the movie on New Harmony cost $3.00).  I was amazed with how well this building is aging.   The metal panels and glass look great.  The exterior steel stairways and handrails need some painting but seem to be doing OK.  The interior is holding up well.  This is a great building.  One of Meier’s best.

The woman who was in charge told us that “a lot of people wonder why we have such a modern building as the visitor center for what’s essentially a historic town.  The people who planned this building believed that the original settlers of New Harmony were looking to the future.  We wanted our visitor center to look to the future too.”

Today, 30+ years later this building still “looks to the future”.  I really loved going back and touring the building and the town.

The Atheneum

The Atheneum


Detail, Open Air Church

Detail, Open Air Church

Saint Louis University dedicates new Center for Global Citizenship

By: Frank Rosario

West Pine Mall entry to the CGC, looking east at new fountain

West Pine Mall entry to the CGC, looking east at new fountain

Friday evening, September 27 marked the ceremonial dedication of the new Center for Global Citizenship on the main campus of Saint Louis University.

Saint Louis University Center for Global Citizenship

C S Huh Auditorium, Dedication ceremony Sep 27, 2013

Addressing an audience of several hundred, Fr. Lawrence Biondi, President Emeritus, congratulated all involved in the transformation of the former Bauman-Eberhardt Hall, including specific mention of Fox Architects and McCarthy Construction plus the SLU Design & Construction Department.  Common to all of the remarks offered by speeches from the podium were compliments of appreciation and awe in the transformation of the old West Pine Gym in support of its new role this century as a campus home to international studies students and faculty.  Exemplifying the conviction that the most sustainable building is the one that already exists, this renovation marks another remarkable example of the responsible stewardship of resources embodied in that belief.  Congratulations to the Saint Louis University community in the realization of this effort.

ATT&T student Commons space, looking east at the international-theme Caffe Second Level

AT&T student Commons space, looking east at the international-theme Caffe, Second Level

Emerson Sorocaba receives LEED Silver certification!

By: John Berendzen

We received our construction review comments from the GBCI this week, and it’s official, Emerson Sorocaba has earned LEED  Silver from the Green Building Certification Institute.  The project received a total of 51 LEED points.   Some of the major credits within our LEED Strategy included:

EA Credit 1, Optimize Energy:

Measurement and verification.  (Sorocaba is the first project to install this new Emerson-manufactured BAS system – so far the monitoring system has allowed them to optimize power usage for considerable energy savings)

Water Efficiency

Construction Waste Management

Recycled and Regional Content

FSC Certified Wood.

We had a great team to work with, including Emerson Electric do Brasil, Project Manager Camargo Penteado  Engenharia, General Contractor,Tha Engenharia, Architect Alcindo Dell’ Agnese Arquitetos Associados, Mechanical Engineer Fundament AR, Electrical Engineer MA2 + Qualieng Engenharia de Montagens Ltda, Civil Engineer Infraestrutura Engenharia Ltda, Structural Engineer Crescencio Petrucci Consultoria e Engenharia,

Our project manager Laerte Camargo Penteado has an excellent slideshow of the construction up on their website, located here.

Below are some photos, courtesy of Alcindo Dell’Agnese.

Birdseye View

Birdseye View

Entry, Administration Building

Entry, Administration Building



Roof Garden

Roof Garden


SLU CGC finalist for Keystone Award

By: John Berendzen

We received news last week from McCarthy that the St. Louis University, Center for Global Citizen project has been named a finalist for the AGC Keystone awards!  This is a great honor for McCarthy and the whole team.  A few years back, when I was president elect/president of the St. Louis Chapter AIA, I had the opportunity to be on the jury (twice) and I know first hand how tough the competition can be.

The interesting thing about the Keystone award is that unlike AIA awards, it is not based upon project aesthetics – the awards are given based upon the challenge presented to the project team and the creativity and craft applied to solving that problem.  The project at the CGC had more than it’s share of challenges – from working within a historic, 1920’s era building that’s essentially one large space to meeting the program within a restrictive budget and schedule.

Below are some recent photos of the completed project.

IMG_0283 IMG_0288 IMG_0289 IMG_0295 IMG_0304 IMG_0310 IMG_1310

Summer Sketching begins again

By: John Berendzen

This morning was our first 2013 summer sketching session.  We met at the Gelateria Tavolini   at 14th and Washington Avenue.   The proprietor was gracious about accommodating our group, and I would highly recommend the gelato!

In addition to myself, we had Frank Rosario, Albie Mitchell and Aaron Senne.  Albie gave us an update on his latest venture with his firm, COLLAB, crowd sourcing his design for the InTray on Kickstarter.

Here’s some pics from this morning:

group hand

Fox Architects in the News

By: Michael Fox

New Fox Architects article on St. Louis Business Journal web site. This piece hi-lights our new offices located on the eighteenth floor of 1 Memorial Drive. We set the bar very high for this facility and no one is disappointed!



Happy Birthday Mike Fox

By: John Berendzen

Today is Mike’s 65th birthday!  After a rousing version of “Happy Birthday to You” we all celebrated with a stack of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee.