The National Park Service has published their environmental assessment report outlining options for Richard Netura’s 1961 Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg. Their recommended fate for the building: demolition. This comes after two decades of argument and a three year lawsuit between preserving the building in place and removing the building to rehabilitate the battlefield beneath it.
Buildings suffer many fates over the course of time. Physical markings, renovations, and the stresses of time all take their toll on materials. The Hayden Building suffered a huge fire in 1985 that burned out the upper floors and roof completely; leaving it in an abysmal state until Historic Boston stepped in years later. While cleaning the interior brick some areas proved more than stubborn. The images above show how fire has marked the building and why we have the codes and regulations we have today.
MATERIALS – Image One: The area of brick to the right is clean to the touch, but the brick itself has turned black from the overwhelming heat of the fire. The area to the left looked very similar before cleaning. The black area most likely had a flammable wall covering material that raised the temperature of the fire and chard the brick more deeply – like putting it in a kiln. Today interior materials are classified by the degree with which they propagate fire and how fast it spreads. There is a whole industry around this from your bed sheets to the insulation in your walls.
CONSTRUCTION – Image Two: On a lower floor the charred pattern is indicative of a previous stair along the wall. The fire most likely started here. To the right you can see a recessed shaft in the brick – a nineteenth century chase for plumbing pipes. This area has also been cleaned to the touch. Note the charred brick in the shaft – this is where the fire spread from one floor to the next. Today we have strict regulations for the construction of all shafts and equipment that span from floor to floor or connect dissimilar rooms to avoid fire from quickly spreading throughout a building.
It’s all yet one more layer of legible history in the Hayden Building.
One of the concepts that we are pushing in our design for the Hayden Building is the activation of the building’s edge: the line between the building’s interior and the urban exterior. The facade is perhaps the most unique quality of the building, and with its striking masonry walls and deep windows, we are installing program to allow people, both internally and externally, to engage with the building’s facade. We are actively experimenting with the exterior lighting to reinforce the building’s edge and to cast emphasis on what was once a forgotten facade.
A few images of our submission to Dwell’s ‘playhaus’ competition. Thanks to Eric Yang for his help with the development of our newest play structure design.
We love working with clients who are as inquisitive as we are. Rather than relying on what has been done over and over, Historic Boston and CUBE put together a market survey and design exhibition to gather data. Over 100 people came out for the event. Check out the results!
I recently read an article in Metropolis on Social Media by Andrew Blum. Andrew states that within the last decade our social media has gone from one-way (the video wall) to two-way (the facebook wall) and notes: “Architecture has yet to acknowledge the impact of social media on our experience of physical space.” He cites a number of architects who are experimenting with this interface, including some in Boston, but I’d agree we have only scratched the surface.
We have a thing for old barns, sheds, silos, and all objects in the landscape. On a trip to Iceland I photographed many of these structures. CUBE’s work is heavily rooted in the building site. Many of our ideas arrive from a thorough reading of the land itself: its shape, its vegetation, its views, its light, each place is very unique. Two of us grew up in rural parts of the Southeast which may have something to do with it.
Unlike architectural styles, these structures normally arise out of utility in response to a basic agricultural need. Every part has a job. They are pure, simple, expressive structures that use what is available. They are by definition a response to their place, and in many ways they are what contemporary architecture ascribes to.
We are often asked about our name. No, we don’t design cubes, but the cube is a basic unit of spatial measurement. Back in St. Petersburg Junior College our first design exercise was to draw 10 perfect cubes in perspective – freehand. Don’t even try to use a straight-edge to draw them; Professor Bergsma would call you right out. We did a lot in class that first semester, but every night we had to draw those damn cubes for months until they were perfect. Then we began carving them up to develop space. It was a form of architectural bootcamp. We learned how to draw with precision, we learned how to control proportion, we learned how to see. We are forever grateful to those two first professors, Don Bergsma and Robert Hudson, who taught us not only how to see, but instilled a drive to reach far beyond what our young minds had imagined. The name CUBE is a nod to our roots.
The above photo is reflective of our very different personalities and illustrates how we work together to create meaningful architecture. Now in our mid-30’s, we are fortunate to have known each other since the age of 18 as friends, roommates, work colleagues, and business partners. It’s this lineage that helps our partnership to operate as one.
We work collectively on each project. While we have similar backgrounds, our minds process information in often-opposite ways. It allows us to consider things we otherwise would not have seen. This diversity of thought is what keeps us fresh; without it we’d grow complacent and repetitive.
Outside our office we are normally very organized, but inside our office, design is a passionate and nonlinear process: we argue, we contradict, we reason, we take sides, and eventually we reach a consensus that aligns with a concept. When an idea comes to the table it goes through what we call the machine: it’s studied from all angles, transformed, built upon, and reemerges with new understanding. Each of our projects is grounded by a concept that drives the entire process. Without this goal we’d simply be decorating. The concept gives meaning and purpose to the design and helps inform all project decisions from budget to detail.
Our larger goal is to make environments that move the human spirit, and to have fun while doing it. This is why we became architects. We are curious people who want to have an impact on our world. We believe in the power of design to enrich life, and it is our collaborative approach that allows us to realize the full potential of each project.
While digging into the Hayden archives, we stumbled upon this famous portrait of HH Richardson wearing a robe in his studio. The image has been both a source of humor and inspiration for us these past few months. We couldn’t help but wonder the story behind the photo. We’ve determined that the architect used the robe to mystify the architect/client relationship.
According to lore, Richardson’s clients would make the trek from Boston to his Brookline studio to meet with him. When they arrived, Richardson’s assistant would sound a gong and the architect would appear from the back wearing his monk’s getup. In her book H.H. Richardson: the Architect, His Peers, and Their Era, Maureen Meister claims that Richardson wore the robes (and regularly disseminated the portrait to his potential clients) to reinforce his medieval and gothic design roots.
Richardson was prolific and successful early in his life, unlike the typical trajectory of an architect. Although unusual, one must assume that this unique marketing tactic actually worked. To Richardson, the architectural experience extended beyond that of buildings: He wanted your experience to begin when he entered the room.