Intimate Building

The Armature of Design Build Use

Three Projects


In May, 2002, we (MG Taylor and AI with SFIA Architect-Master Builders) started three projects, one in California, one in Tennessee and the third in Maryland. Different parts of our organization and the Habitat Makers ValueWeb has worked on each of these projects.


These projects could not be more different in purpose, scale, scope nor basic character. Yet, they each have many elements in common and each has been instrumental in providing key insights to the others. Each have been the means to bringing into physical reality some ideas that have waited their time for a very long time.


These key points of integration are: developing Armature; extensive use of Design/Build/Use and FasTracking methods; an intimate relationship between the architecture, use of the spaces and the work processes to be employed; client/users who see the environment as a tool to advance their work, as well as, a thing of beauty and quality. All three projects have extremely tight time schedules to get to move-in and first use. With each project, after occupancy, work will continue to evolve the environment, for an extended period, in a “timeless way” (Alexander)


In addition, each project makes extensive use of ValueWeb architecture as a means of execution and each has embedded, in their program requirements, intrinsically interesting and difficult architectural challenges. All are redoing existing spaces to a scale where genuine architectural space is being created where there was none before.


The Vanderbilt project is a MG Taylor NavCenter designed to support a specific health care industry-wide initiative, The Vanderbilt Center for Better health, is being created by Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The present scope of the NavCenter portion of the VCBH project, which will be called the VCBH Innovation Center, is about 8,000 square feet. The NavCenter will support internal and external client design events, internal research and design teams and project management processes for the entire initiative and the ValueWeb that will be built around it.


The Joseki Offices are in Menlo Park California and this location, itself, has a significant impact on the design. This office design has to support a wide variety of functions including the running of one enterprise and the creation of new ones. What message it sends in the present business circumstances of Silicone Valley is an important element in the design.


Sojourner-Douglass College is located in Baltimore, Maryland and is one of about 13 private colleges in the state. SDC is moving into a school building built in the 20s and expanded in the 60s. Physically, the scope of this project is much larger than Joseki or Vanderbilt: in excess of 160,000 square feet when completed, and ultimately, on three and a half acres of land. The Campus, when complete, will take between two and four years to finish and it will house the College Administration, Classrooms, Facility Development Areas, a Graduate School, a MG Taylor NavCenter, a Performing Arts Center, Visiting Facility Residency House and more. It will make a compact, complete and extraordinary urban campus. The Campus will be developed from the beginning to gracefully evolve to other uses if that becomes useful or necessary.


Besides these general common points, there are several specific areas where one project “informs” the other. The Vanderbilt project required that we design, develop and install a new Armature System in less than a month. This system had to be at a lighter scale than any we had created before. Joseki required the exercise to be repeated: even faster with the client team moving in within 10 days of starting and us then working in their space every night for several weeks. The Joseki work is functioning as a prototype for an entire interior system, a variation of which, will ultimately make the basis for retrofitting the Sojourner-Douglass school buildings into a modern facility while keeping their basic character and charm.


Of the three projects, Sojourner-Douglass is the largest and will take a significantly longer time to realize. Like the others, however, it has an extremely tight first-use move-in date. Joseki had to be usable by the first of June, Vanderbilt by the 6th of June and SDC ready for August classes.


Note: for a variety of reasons The Property and Loan closing for the project took place on the 27th of August. After closing, all budgets had to be revised. The move in date remains agressive but is, of course, pushed back, now, until late November/early December.

Joseki is the smallest (under 2,000 square feet) and in many ways is the most complex. It is also the first time that I have employed extensive on-site fabrication of partitions and furniture since the Lee Wald project in 1975. This technique is useful when conditions warrant it. In this case, as was the case with Lee Wald, a tight schedule and budget that precluded employing shop time or the completion of drawings in advance of starting the work. This may prove to be the best way to proceed with Sojourner-Douglass in some phases of the project.


Armature & Tracery


At SDC, the hallways and existing walls, opened at various places, become the landscape Armature that will be supplemented with one like Joseki.
The Armature developed for the Joseki Offices is a first level Tracery that is intimately connected to screens, WorkWalls, partitions and workstations. It creates the space the people actually “live in.” The original “box” become the background of this reality.
The Vanderbilt Armature Tracery is a second level one. This type is used to define larger zones of several hundred square feet.
The 1999 AI Concept of the Armature System creates a language of architectural components with the innate variety required to solve the majority of the specific challenges of the modern workplace with a “manufactured” solution.


These three Armature types pus the 3rd level as employed in the Palo Alto knOwhere Store make a complete system of Armatures capable of serving the vast majority of architectural challenges. The exploration of this technique started in 1990 and it has taken 12 years to get examples built and tested. The first employment of the idea, by me, not as a “furniture” solution - as built in place architecture and component “kit” system - was the Affordable Housing Project of 1980. With the completion of these three projects, it will be possible for people to see how many Armature layers can work as a system of environment shells, each self-contained, each leading to the other, each possessing an intrinsic work process support and human psychological component.



ValueWeb Armature



I titled this piece Intimate Building - the Armature of Design Build Use because there is a process side and organizational aspect to the Armature concept. That is the ValueWeb architecture. And, within the construct of the ValueWeb architecture, there is an intimacy that is both required to build this way and results from building this way.


Extraordinary work requires extraordinary clients. Not just good conventional client relationships. It takes clients that work as ValueWeb members to produce the architecture not just “take it” when the work is done. These three projects have this kind of interaction and trust between the Design/Build/Use team members. Because of this, it was possible to take design and manufacturing risks that typically cannot be taken.


With the Joseki Offices projects, we are deliberately rebuilding a modern version of the “swimming pool process” that I developed in the 1960s. This capacity is growing as a ValueWeb in association with SFIA, SFIA architects and SFIA Architects-MasterBuilders. The idea is to link this ValueWeb with MG Taylor, knOwhere and AI ValueWeb capabilities to create an unique design-build organization that can deliver turnkey work all over the world.
October 5, 2010 Update:
All three of these projects developed in different way to different ends. Two were built and one remains in operation today. I will come back at some point and document their story further. For a a new look at navCenters visit the link below.
click on graphic above to go to the Making, Ownership and Use
of navCenters


Matt Taylor
May 12, 2002
Palo Alto


SolutionBox voice of this document:


Building ValueWebs • ValueWeb Communities

posted: May 26, 2002

revised: October 5, 2010 • •
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Copyright© Matt Taylor 2002

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