Page B1.2 . 03 December 2008                     
ArchitectureWeek - Building Department
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Green Skyscraper by Cook + Fox


The raised floor plenum contains a filtered displacement system fed by floor-by-floor air-handling units. This decentralized strategy facilitates greater individual control and response to local conditions. Carbon dioxide sensors adjust fresh air ventilation based upon local, current room air conditions rather than predetermined air exchanges per hour for the whole building.

At the core of the building's energy system is a 4.6-megawatt natural gas-fired cogeneration plant. The plant supplies steam and electricity for the building. During the night, the plant produces ice for cooling loads the following day, offsetting electrical demand during the days.

The building also captures and reuses almost all of its stormwater and graywater in 329,000-gallon (1.25 million-liter) tanks. Waterless urinals and low-flow toilet and sink fixtures throughout the building, along with storm- and graywater systems, will save ten million gallons (38 million liters) of water annually.

Complexity, Composition, and Integrated Design

Contemporary architecture is characterized by a growing awareness of its inherent complexities. While the notion of complexity in architecture is occasionally expressed in complex building shapes, the actual complexity of architecture is difficult to apprehend visually. Rather than the composition of static objects, complexity in architecture can be more productively understood in terms of its own contingencies, performances, and potential effects.

Any building project is contingent upon an idiosyncratic assemblage of theoretical, practical, ecological, economical, political, social, and cultural parameters that presuppose the design and performance of architecture. Reflexively, architecture in turn affects these parameters. The role of architecture in the effectuation of sustainability is a prime example. The real complexity of architecture is in the cogent organization and integration of these multivariate parameters directing its potential effects toward some larger end through an architectural agenda.

Integrated design is typified by architects integrating and practicing this complexity. Thus integrated design involves not only deftly integrating the increasing complexity of building production — an expanding list of consultants and communications, increasingly complex building technologies and envelopes, energy-efficient techniques and technologies, software, fabrication and construction delivery methods, economic and ecological limits — but it also formally incorporates and directs the behavior of complexity.

Complexity in scientific thinking focuses upon systems that self-organize or otherwise produce novel effects not evident in the initial conditions or state of a system. Familiar examples include practices that denigrate a milieu (ecological, economic, or social) and also practices that sponsor mutually beneficial and productive ends for multiple, simultaneous milieus. The difference between the two practice types is the degree to which the respective agencies acknowledge and integrate the complexities of the assemblage that presupposes their work.

Depending upon the context, integrated design may mean that a building's spatial, construction, energy, and systems logics are intertwined. It may also mean that a building is the product of new social relationships amongst architects, clients, developers, buildings, communities, and consultants. Integrated design inevitably means many things to different practices depending on the context; however, each form of integration promises new futures for architecture and its constituencies.

In all cases, it is apparent that architects are uniquely positioned to engage the systemic nature of integrated practices that will characterize the new century. While architecture may not yet have overt theories of integration, all complexity thinking requires creativity, multiple-variable problem-solving, spatial and temporal thinking, the ability to visualize complex phenomena, and the ability to articulate rich — if not simple — and appropriate solutions to complex information. These are all characteristics evident in architectural education, and in the Bank of America Tower.

Another important theme from complexity thinking is that the concept of context is shifting to more comprehensive and productive applications that reflect the inherent complexity of architecture. No longer merely considered in the context of the adjacent real estate surrounding a project, the Bank of America Tower and other examples of integrated design emerge from a much more conscientious understanding of the systemic yet idiosyncratic contexts of any project: physical, social, economical, ecological, climatic, regulatory, and programmatic. Integrated design fundamentally involves a strategic reconstructing of the given, yet broadly defined, context(s) of a project.

The incorporation of architecture's complex contexts is central to integrated design and accordingly shifts what constitutes the term "composition" in architecture. Until recently, this term had always been dominated by the logic of a visual image. The logic of construction and its delivery, the logic of a high-performance building, or the logic of a particular market condition, for instance, provide equally potent and rigorous logics for composition alongside the role of visual logic.

In buildings such as the Bank of America Tower, it is clear that what composes architecture materially and immaterially is a broadened understanding of context and the multivariate assemblage of factors and forces that compose buildings. This understanding of "composition" is particularly evident at the confluence of two salient aspects of this expanded understanding of context: the energy milieu of every building site and the social construction of architecture.

Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

Kiel Moe is assistant professor at the School of Architecture at Northeastern University.

This article is excerpted from Integrated Design in Contemporary Architecture by Kiel Moe, copyright © 2008, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.

Project Credits

Architect: Cook + Fox Architects
Executive Architect: Adamson Associates Architects
Structural Engineer: Severud Associates
Mechanical Engineer: Jaros, Baum & Bolles
Geotechnical Engineer: Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers
Lighting Consultant: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design
Code Consultant: JAM Consultants
Base Building Acoustician: Shen Milsom & Wilke
Theater Acousticians: JaffeHolden Acoustics
Theater Consultant: Fisher Dachs Associates
Elevator Consultant: VDA
Construction Manager: Tishman Construction Corporation
Exterior Wall Consultant: Israel Berger & Associates
Security Consultant: Ducibella Center & Santore
Exterior Maintenance Consultant: Entek Engineering
NYC Transit Consultant: Vollmer Associates
Historic Consultant: Higgins & Quasebarth
Energy/Environmental Consultant: Steven Winter Associates
Solar Design/Photovoltaic Consultant: Solar Design Associates
Wind Consultant: altPOWER
Developers: The Durst Organization and Bank of America


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The play of sunlight on the angular surfaces of the Bank of America Tower changes throughout the day.
Image: © dbox Extra Large Image

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Bank of America Tower wall section rendering.
Image: © dbox Extra Large Image

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Bank of America Tower site plan drawing.
Image: Cook + Fox Architects Extra Large Image

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Plan drawing of 20th floor.
Image: Cook + Fox Architects Extra Large Image

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Plan drawing of 50th floor.
Image: Cook + Fox Architects Extra Large Image

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Detailed wall section drawing.
Image: Cook + Fox Architects Extra Large Image

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The Bank of America Tower is expected to earn LEED Platinum certification.
Image: Cook + Fox Architects Extra Large Image

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Integrated Design in Contemporary Architecture by Kiel Moe.
Image: Princeton Architectural Press Extra Large Image


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