Archive for November, 2011

Circle West Architects

Detailing the Invisible

Nov 28, 2011


Detailing is about connections and how those connections translate into a meaningful expression. Glass as a building material allows for a single material to combine the simplicity of its transparency with its natural characteristic of structural and load bearing behavior. The transparent expression for this single family residence is one of openness. Set in the middle of the natural Sonoran Desert, the landscape and the sky become “living art” for the residents. A wholistic expression of glass is developed by utilizing the 12 inch long structural glass fins to support the 3′-6″ wide by 13′-0″ tall lites of glass. The interior space is planned to host a variety of events both private and public. With the quality of invisibility, natural daylight and moonlight are able to brilliantly amplify the expression.


Circle West Architects

Radical Hospitality

Nov 14, 2011


The project proposes a radical and innovative urban boutique hotel for a desert site and climate. It compacts the amenities and services of a sprawling resort into a dense urban hotel on a much smaller site. At the same time, it challenges the way that program is typically incorporated into urban buildings, where all of one type is located in the same place and stacked linearly above the next. Each primary programmatic component of this hotel has been broken down into multiple facets and distributed organically throughout the entire building in spaces of different size, proximity, and character.

Within its urban context, the hotel is able to take on a micro-urbanism of its own. Different zones of the hotel offer unique experiences, both spatially and experientially, bringing the traditional idea of a neighborhood into a single building. Guests pass through and past all kinds of different amenity and gathering spaces on the way to their rooms, and no two routes are the same. It is encouraged to try a different one and explore new areas of the hotel along the way. It would be a treat, not a frustration, to get lost.

Unlike sprawling desert oasis resorts, which are all-inclusive and usually have little connection with their contexts, this hotel is tightly associated with its urban context. Taking advantage of this context, the hotel can serve as a node within a larger network rather than needing to be the entire network.

By providing an appropriate proportion of amenities within the hotel itself and by encouraging guests to experience the urban area around them, the hotel enters into a reciprocal relationship with the surrounding context.

How should a building respond to the extreme heat and harsh sun of the desert, while providing and encouraging the use of outdoor space, without the need to condition all spaces? The project takes cues from the natural desert environment. Looking closely at desert vegetation, it is apparent how specifically and innovatively it is designed to survive comfortably in its severe environment. A palo verde tree, for example, has leaves that are broken up into many tiny, thin leaves. Aided by breezes that move through the slender and delicate structure of the tree, these smaller leaves are able to dissipate the intense heat without drying up. Barrel and saguaro cactuses have a fluted skin that is self shading. All surfaces of its skin are never fully exposed to the harsh sun. Looking at how desert animals adapt to their environment and survive without artificial means, it is apparent that shade is a key factor. The hotel avoids heavy, massive elements in favor of thin, porous, and dispersed approach. It also significantly shades itself and creates more temperate microclimates.

The project takes the uniform rectilinear mass of a traditional hotel, stretches it into a more slender and delicate form, and then folds it to create two primary wings that embrace the site and the lake. At this fold in the building, the mass splinters into smaller floor-height bars that overlap and jut out. The wings of the hotel building are made up of programmed spaces arranged along a single-loaded, open-air externalized circulation system. This keeps them much more slender than the traditional hotel building composed of programmed spaces mirrored over an often dark and depressing double-loaded corridor. The external circulation system also provides a unique opportunity to experience the project and its urban context from a variety of different heights and vantage points.

The overall mass of each wing is broken up into smaller, highly varied masses that are organically arranged. Floor levels step in an out and slip past one another, creating a multitude of unique and interesting outdoor spaces which are self shaded by the building itself. On a network of different terraces, there are numerous opportunities to occupy the roof of one floor of the building while being shaded by an overhanging floor above. The fragmented terraced levels of the project create rich visual connections between both floor levels and wings of the hotel simultaneously. In addition to the grand views of the lake, guests will enjoy a rich variety of views of the hotel itself as well as its urban context, framed and edited by the building itself. The terraces range in size and are available throughout the hotel to create miniature neighborhoods where proximal privacy is retained but distant tier-to-tier relationships can be created. The hotel showcases its public outdoor activities and becomes a vibrant point within its urban context.

Among the varied and staggered masses that make up each wing of the hotel, there is a variety of voids which fully penetrate the building. Unlike the massive and impermeable hotel buildings one typically sees, this building is lightweight, delicate, and porous. The voids become outdoor pocket parks and allow breezes to pass through the building. These breezes, in conjunction with outdoor pools scattered throughout, will create a passive evaporative cooling system. Both shaded and passively cooled, the outdoor spaces within the building will be significantly more comfortable relative to the ambient desert environment.

The south and west sides of the building’s wings are shaded by a detached screen that is held off the building and appears to float outside the external circulation paths. Like a veil that has blown up against the building, the screen gently undulates and responds to the massing of the building behind. Where there are solid masses in the building behind, it billows out, and where there are voids, it dips in. The density of the screen also varies to allow greater air movement where the wind is passing through voids in the building. Where it is more open, guests have views out to the street and their activity is revealed to pedestrians on the street. In the space between the buildings masses and the shade screen, the external circulation paths and ramps navigate the different floor levels of the project. They do so through an intermediate, semi-conditioned zone that is at once interior and exterior, program and expression, obscured and exposed. At the top and bottom of the building, the veil wraps around in places, which serves to shade the roof decks as well as the façade.


A Catalyst for Change

Nov 01, 2011

ASU Changemaker Central

Arizona State University has been selected as part of Ashoka U’s Changemaker Campus Initiative which aims to solve social issues through entrepreneurship at universities. ASU was given this prestigious label last fall and is one of 10 Changemaker Campuses nationwide — a list that includes Duke University and the University of Maryland.

Circle West Architects was selected to transform an existing facility into a flexible designed environment which allows innovations to paint a picture of where they want to go. “Changemaker Central is at the forefront of designing environments which leverage educational intiatives,” said Peter M. Koliopolous AIA, President of Circle West Architects. “The underlying premise is that ASU’s educational experience is a key part of developing awareness and demand for social and environmental innovation.” The space provides students with the resources, through meeting space, technology, and social connections, to go out and make a difference in their community. Changemaker Central brings together student volunteers, student entrepreneurs, and socially engaged students to allow opportunities for community service, service learning, high impact careers, and entrepreneurship to blossom.

The concept for Changemaker Central is to develop and nurture students by providing resources and opportunities to inspire, catalyze, and sustain student-driven social change. Circle West Architects took on the task of converting a relatively dormant 1960’s space in ASU’s Memorial Union into a bright, lively space that encourages change and innovation in the student community. The existing walls are made up of precast concrete blocks with embedded strips of art glass in their centers, filling the space with colorful (but still very dim) light. The space needed to be naturally brightened while still limiting the demolition of the existing block. This was accomplished by demolishing minimal block on the east and west walls of the space and installing butt glazed floor-to-ceiling lites of glass. By making the glass Low-E, the insulation value of the existing walls were not decreased, but increased to create a well-lit space protected from the desert’s environment.

To achieve the objectives of the mission for Changemaker Central, the 2,090 square foot interior space was opened up for a communal central space with defined interior spaces. Users will converge in this space encouraging interaction while allowing for various groups to engage in distinguishable processes. Space for active discussion and brainstorming is provided by lining the block walls with floating wall panels finished in dry erase paint, allowing the freedom to write and post directly on the walls. The walls floating in front of the the block created this reverberating character finishes over structure that repeats itself through the space: the carpet floats in the center of the concrete floor, leaving an exposed band of concrete around the edge, and the suspended open ceiling grid float in front of the waffle slab structure above. Kellie Lowe, Director of Memorial Union, stated “The collaboration between ASU and Circle West Architects for the design of Changemaker Central on the Tempe campus has resulted in an aesthetically pleasing and highly functional space for our students. The design incorporates the elements of the New American University, and complements the design of the Memorial Union’s second floor, while meeting the needs of today’s students.”