Moving earth is always exciting to watch. For me, it was even more so as I watched them break ground on the Colorado State University Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory’s (EECL) expansion into the Powerhouse Energy Institute. This development is the latest step in a march of innovative progress that has characterized the lab since it’s beginning in 1992. Three years ago, when I decided to attend CSU for Mechanical Engineering, the lab with its innovative, student-involved research approach played a major role in my choice. Interestingly the EECL was named one of the top 25 ‘Awesome College Labs’ by Popular Science in 2011 – Wow!
The great research environment within the EECL may have pushed me to apply for a position at the lab, but it is the building that has made the lab comfortable and inspirational. The 1936 Art-Deco brick structure with its large, welcoming doors and multitude of windows, combined with the work and people, houses the true spirit of ‘The Engines Lab’ as a location that has served to unite private and university research and development with the goal of innovation to improve human life.
Three years and many great projects later, the power of the building has come to the forefront of the lab with the development of the new Powerhouse Energy Institute. Led by architect Bob Hosanna, the Neenan Company has worked collaboratively with the Powerhouse Energy Institute staff to design a highly sustainable solution for its expansion. The new building is a 65,000 square-foot addition onto the south end of the former Fort Collins power plant in North Old Town Fort Collins. The new workspace is exciting in itself. But this addition is especially meaningful to the lab as the design (and present construction) has been in complete alignment with the innovative, yet historically respectful tradition of the lab. The current structure is an awesome tribute to the individuals who made the building, Fort Collins, and Colorado so great. As a result, the design team was inspired to create an addition that complements the building, mimicking the original structure while still making it cutting-edge (LEED Platinum rating is expected). Fittingly, the facility will be a laboratory for the development of green building technologies. The vertical-axis wind turbines and a woodchip hopper for a gasifier system will stand where four smokestacks and a coal-hopper once stood, creating a modern study tool for the historic building’s former structures.
The Argentinean blog Ombu Architecture recently posted a wonderful animation that shows off, in alphabetical order, some of the world’s most influential architects and their greatest works. “The ABC of Architects” begins with Alvar Aalto and runs all the way to Zaha Hadid, bouncing through the list in a playfully minimal style.
In the animation, each building disappears almost as quickly as it appears, but by reducing them to their most basic elements, the buildings become instantly familiar. When the video ends, don’t be surprised if you find yourself starting all over again.
In 1632 Rembrant van Rijn painted The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp, in which a doctor reveals the internal mechanics of the body for a rapt audience. A sense of wonderment envelops the scene as the doctor pulls taut the subject’s tendons with a pair of medical shears, while a meditative gaze and raised hand give him the presence of a divine figure. This striking image serves as an unlikely metaphor for the recently held symposium “Is Drawing Dead?” at the Yale School of Architecture from February 9-11. While its title suggests an ideological showdown, we witnessed something more like the anatomy lesson. The analog and digital camps may have given competing testimony of the role and nature (and vitality) of drawing, but what was shared by all was the articulation of the mechanics of the process that creates architecture.