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Coachella Valley Link

Coachella Valley Link, Cathedral City, CA

Design Partner: Alta Planning + Design, Coachella Valley Association of Governments

CV Link is a revolutionary new concept in active and alternative transportation that combines pedestrians, bicyclists, and low-speed electric vehicles (including golf carts) on a dual pathway.

The first segment of CV Link opened earlier this year in Cathedral City from Ramon Road to Vista Chino in Palm Springs. Ultimately spanning more than 50 miles across nine cities and three tribal governments, CV Link is the largest, most ambitious project of its kind in the region, the state and the nation.

The Coachella Valley has long had a need for a transportation route and recreational pathway that will provide a safer, healthy alternative to Highway 111. CV Link will provide that alternative allowing residents and tourists access to shopping, work, restaurant, golf, tennis and other activities. It will also provide a safer route for kids to go to school and serve as a meeting place for community activities and events.

This alternative transportation corridor will enable healthier lifestyles, spur economic innovation, and make the Coachella Valley a more sustainable and appealing place to live, work and play.

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University of Michigan Gerstacker Grove, Ann Arbor

Design Partner: Stoss

The Eda U. Gerstacker Grove is a renovation of an underutilized campus quad at the heart of the University of Michigan's North Campus, home to the Schools of Engineering, Art, and Architecture and freshman dorms. The transformation has turned four acres into an active and lush space that accommodates a range of rotating performances, events, and everyday activities. The central plaza connects the campus community and can host larger-scale activities, student and alumni events, and casual play. The elevated lawns beyond provide a quiet place to relax in the sun or shade.

Benches of precast concrete clad in two-inch wide steel ribs provide nearly continuous seating along the quad’s walkway and were created by Landscape Forms’ Studio 431 and design firm Stoss’ Boston office. The 240 linear feet of sinuous bench forms, with a multitude of concrete base and steel seat dimensions, were based on a study of seated positions and student activity. In total, 97 bench modules, each requiring 2400 welds, were produced in 18 different forms and installed to build five 48-foot benches.

The Grove is a dynamic place, with people walking to and from classes or stopping to visit or play. The contours and linear scale of the benches lining pathways that connect buildings, disciplines, and students reinforce the dynamic nature of this new landscape.

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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia

Design Partner: Ground Reconsidered

“Intricate” and “challenging” are two words used to describe the creation of the custom benches dotting the public area of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) Roberts Center for Pediatric Research Schuylkill Avenue campus. The benches were conceptualized by Cooper Robertson & Partners, the project’s master planner, and brought to life through a collaboration between landscape architecture firm Ground Reconsidered and Landscape Forms’ Studio 431.

To give a sense of the ipe benches’ complexity, here are some numbers: 10,000 individual boards-4,000 of which were unique boards each requiring their own CNC program-were assembled into 123 bench pieces that eventually formed 32 benches of varying shapes and sizes.

“We received a great vision from Cooper Robertson,” says Ground Reconsidered Principal Karen Skafte. “They wanted the campus that connected Schuylkill Avenue to the Schuylkill River Trail to express both the rectilinear grid of the city and the curvilinear nature of the river. It was critical that the benches move, bend, and grow like the river, which brought us to the challenge of how to make them.”

Ground Reconsidered’s Justin DiPietro felt that Landscape Forms was “one of the few companies that could execute the benches at the scale, schedule, and level of quality we were looking at.” Once Landscape Forms was selected, Studio 431 and Ground Reconsidered worked collaboratively on the engineering, manufacturing, and installation of the wood benches over precast concrete bases.

“Studio 431 provided input that ultimately led to a better product,” says DiPietro. “A successful installation lies in details such as how to conceal connections or the exact spacing between wood slats. The Landscape Forms team’s thoughts on the interface of wood, particularly on the bullnose pieces where two slats are held off of each other ever so slightly, resulted in a nice shadow line that emphasizes the movement and expressive nature of the benches.”

Attention to detail was demonstrated in real-time when DiPietro traveled to Michigan to meet with the Studio 431 team. “When I saw the shop, the process, and understood the culture, it all made sense to me. I had imagined a more automated process, but I saw folks employing their craft by hand. The attention to detail was evident.”

Skafte was also impressed by the detailed attention given to each step of the engineering and manufacturing process. “One of the best things about the bench design is its very subtle change in height along the benches. At one point, the bench back diminishes to nothing. It seemed impossible to achieve that subtlety, but Landscape Forms did it beautifully. The slope is so smooth and consistent as each piece steps down a fraction of an inch.” In Skafte’s view, hitting a detail like that is amazing. “It’s the fact that they did it. The slats could have been installed as flat pieces of wood, but Landscape Forms didn’t skimp; they stayed true to that detail.”

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Henry B. González Convention Center, San Antonio

Design Partner: Olin

The Henry B. González Convention Center is nestled in the heart of historic downtown San Antonio, along the banks of the world famous River Walk.

The facility is the central component of the city's successful convention industry. The Center, named for the late U.S. Congressman Henry B. González, hosts more than 300 events each year with over 750,000 convention delegates from around the world.

The original convention center was built as part of Hemisfair in 1968. Today, it is now 514,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space. The Henry B. González Convention Center is also home to the Lila Cockrell Theatre, a performing arts venue.

Studio 431 developed and manufactured a wide variety of custom site furnishings and amenities for this space, including, module benches, perch bars, and high tables. Each piece was constructed of powdercoated steel frames, ipe wood, and corten steel.

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16th Street Mall, Denver

Design Partner: Clanton and Associates

Denver’s 16th Street Mall has been the centerpiece of the city’s downtown since 1982. The original 13 block pedestrian retail space and public transit corridor designed by architect I.M. Pei is now over a mile long and serves more than 45,000 shoppers and public transit riders a day. After years of heavy use a new Denver Downtown Area Plan called for upgrades to the Mall, including refurbishing the custom light designed by Howard Brandston that had become an iconic element. Strikingly original in form and groundbreaking in function, it was designed to provide multiple layers of light and employ incandescent bulbs.

Three decades later, the fixtures were in disrepair, the multilayered lighting scheme had been abandoned, and warm-color bulbs had been replaced by yellow-color high pressure sodium sources. The non-profit Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) looked to lighting specialists Clanton & Associates for expertise and Clanton turned to Landscape Forms lighting engineers and Studio 431 custom products division to carry out the retrofit.

Studio 431engineers determined that it would be more cost effective to replicate than to repair the fixtures and advised replacing the steel materials with long-lived, corrosion-resistant aluminum parts. Studio 431Vice President Robb Smalldon explains, “We reverse-engineered the fixture, working from existing lights to replicate the intention and dimensions of the original design as closely as possible. It was an honor for us to help realize the vision for this important public place.”

In parallel efforts, the Landscape Forms Lighting Group assessed DDPs performance expectations and recommended using LEDs, rather than proposed metal halide bulbs, to achieve greater energy efficiency and better light color and distribution, and re-enable the multi-dimensional illuminance central to the original design.

Drawing on its innovative work with LED arrays and diffuser lenses, the group engineered and built a prototype for testing on site. The re-engineered LED light illuminates the pedestrian walkway with light of comfortable intensity, in color that properly renders skin and clothing, and replicates the original “twinkle ring” of small lights encircling the pole that casts light sideways to illuminate the fronts of stores and restaurants. Two lights were installed and tested for more than a year. At the end of the trial period DDP enthusiastically opted for LED and 187 lights were installed on the Mall in the fall of 2016. The Studio 431team was on site during the installation, training the contractors and monitoring the process.

In addition to reducing energy and maintenance costs, the new 16th Street Mall light is a thing of beauty that provides a better user experience. In a post-installation survey, Mall users showed a perceived increase in visual performance and safety. Rick Utting, Landscape Forms Director of Engineering + Lighting, declares, “The gem of this story is that we were able to use new technology to fulfill a lighting legend’s forty-year-old vision.”

Watch the full video series.

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TriMet, Portland

Design Partner: Mayer Reed

Cities across the country are reviving and thriving – and public transportation is key to their success. TriMet (Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon), the public transit agency for the Portland metropolitan area, understands the role of meaningful design, exemplary service, and community culture in attracting and retaining public transit riders. TriMet’s new City Center/Milwaukie light rail line is an ambitious project designed to create high quality public transportation connecting downtown with hubs outside the central city for people from all economic strata. Informed by Portland’s culture and values of collaboration, transparency and regional approach to development and growth, the project is based on the conviction that pride in the transit system and the respect it conveys for the people who use it directly impact the volume of ridership. The Studio 431 team engineered, developed and manufactured the large pedestrian shelters and stainless steel site furnishings for the twelve stations on the new line. Designed by Mayer Reed, the elements were built and finished at Landscape Forms’ production facility and installed on site with custom detailing by a local glass artist. Studio 431 won the project because of its superior experience, capability and site furniture knowledge. It succeeded at the process because it shares TriMet’s values of open collaboration, rigorous problem solving and commitment to providing great public amenities that enhance experience and create a sense of place.

“What makes this project exciting is the role it can play in creating livable communities and supporting a vision for how we want to grow as a region. We ask, 'How can we attract people and add value to their lives?' Art, architecture and design are tools that facilitate humanization. They take this project beyond being just a machine for moving people to something that actually connects us as humans and as a culture, that provides shared experiences that promote shared values.”

Michael Kiser
Resident Engineer for Station Architecture/Public Art, TriMet

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Central Park, NY

Design Partner: Landor

It started with a walk in the park. Alcoa CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld, offered his host, Central Park Conservancy’s CEO, Doug Blonsky, an Alcoa grant to develop a sustainable, custom designed receptacle to advance the park’s environmental stewardship program. Landor designed the three-unit system and the branding and signage that support it. Inspired by the classic 1930s Central Park bench, the design re-envisions hooped arms and seat slats for a new purpose. Receptacles are identical in size and shape, different in color and the size of top openings: gray with blue around the aperture for cans and bottles, “conservancy” green for paper, and tan for waste. Made of 30% recycled material and 100% recyclable, the units have a hinged top and hold a plastic bag, making them easy for park workers to empty and transport. Studio 431 engineered, developed and manufactured the custom receptacles, working closely with Landor and the Conservancy throughout the process. And what started as a walk has turned into a victory lap. Central Park removes about 2,000 tons of trash and 58 tons of recyclables annually. With the extended system of receptacles it reports fewer pests and fewer vehicles on paths. And using a greater number of recycling units placed in smarter locations has resulted in a 30% increase in recyclables collected. The receptacles are keeping tons of recyclable material out of landfill, helping to streamline the waste management process, and enhancing cleanliness and convenience for 40 million annual park visitors. The design has won multiple awards, including a coveted Cannes Lion, and, in partnership with the Conservancy, Landscape Forms is now proud to offer the Conservancy Recycling System as a standard product.

“We wanted the design to relate to the Olmsted environment and to be vernacular but also modern. The form is derived from the classic Central Park bench and the hoops and slats of traditional barrel making. The Studio 431 team looked at the design and immediately knew how we wanted to build it.”

Anthony Deen
Creative Director for Environments and Experiences, Landor

“This is the latest step in a 20-year effort by the Conservancy to improve waste management in Central Park and it is attracting a lot of positive attention. It is important for our brand, it is environmentally responsible, and it is good management practice.”

Frank LoCastro
Vice President for Operations Management, Central Park Conservancy

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Intuit Campus, CA

Design Partner: AECOM

The company whose QuickBooks and TurboTax software changed the way small business and individuals do financial accounting has redesigned its Mountain View, California campus in ways that are changing the experience of visitors and workers alike. Intuit replaced parking lots and paved drives adjacent to buildings with pedestrians paths on the LEED Gold campus redevelopment. It installed new Landscape Forms furniture and lighting and created a striking steel canopy structure to serve as a hub and meeting space for large groups. Designed by AECOM to provide a sense of enclosure and filter sunlight, the ribbed giant provides a mini-amplitheater and new visual icon. Studio 431 engineered and built the 35-foot long, 14 foot high structure with 15-foot cantilever cover. 24 vertical steel ribs, each a different shape and width, support a thin perforated steel canopy that appears to float. Built in sections for assembly on site, the structure showcases Studio 431 capability in addressing complexity, scale and scope.

The amphitheater is the one place on campus where all employees and departments can come together. This is reflected in the design of the canopy in which individual structural “ribbons” appear as a unified whole from certain angles, then open up to reveal the separate components from others.

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Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), NY

Design Partner: Ken Smith

BAM Fisher is an intimate new theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a powerhouse for musical, dramatic and cultural performance in New York’s hippest borough. Landscape architect Ken Smith designed the seating for the plaza that fronts the building, a space of special social importance for the theater which lacks a traditional lobby. Smith set out to create what he calls “a convivial space, a social world,” and collaborated with Studio 431 to engineer and build the benches he designed for the site. As most of the theater’s performances occur at night, Smith took inspiration from historic models of New York nightclubs. The result is a group of five curved benches, three backless and two with high backs, each fourteen feet in diameter with generous flowing contoured seats that suggest the fullness and comfort of banquettes. Studio 431 engineers created stainless steel support structures and developed the curved seat profiles using rolled and tubular steel welded to appear as one continuous piece. High backs are crafted of perforated sheet steel to provide transparency, in a pattern that mimics upholstery tufting. Bench seats are powdercoat finished in glamorous red and LED lights mounted under the seats shed a dramatic glow.

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Barclays Center, NY

Design Partner: SHoP Architects

Barclays Center is the Big Apple’s newest arena, home to the NBA Brooklyn Nets and host to blockbuster concerts. Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects designed the LEED-Silver certified building, which is dramatically defined by three encircling bands, a glass curtain wall covered by a latticework of steel panels, and a large “oculus” over a section of the main entrance plaza containing an LCD screen that loops around the inside of the structure. Studio 431 engineered and constructed the custom seating for the plaza and surrounding streetscape. The plaza seating is a complex geometry of wood seats mounted to angled cast-in-place curved concrete planters laid out in a sweeping oval. Studio 431 engineers used laser scans of the cast concrete wall to engineer the parts for more than 20 separate sections in which each piece of Ipe wood and stainless steel support is unique in shape. The close collaboration between Studio 431, developer Forest City Ratner and SHoP Architects was a dream partnership with players who understand how great design draws people to a site.

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Cornell University, NY

Design Partner: IBI Group - Gruzen Samton Architecture with W-Architecture

You can’t miss the bench on the West Terrace Entry Plaza of Cornell University’s Human Ecology Building. Designed by New York based Gruzen Samton Architecture with W-Architecture, the low wave-like cast-concrete wall with cantilevered marigold yellow acrylic seat runs the full length of the terrace north side. Engineering and fabricating this unusual element was an interesting challenge for the Studio 431 team. No two curves of the ninety-one foot long concrete spline are exactly alike, so Studio 431 engineers used a laser scan of the poured wall, rather than CAD data, to define the curves for seventeen separate seat sections. Mounting was achieved via a pocket along the spline into which the 2” thick acrylic seat sections are slotted and secured from the back, Studio 431 provided the performance criteria used by the material manufacturer to develop a special HV protective formulation for the acrylic material that prevents fading and material degradation.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park, NY

Design Partner: Michael Van Valkenburgh

This popular park on New York’s East River just south of the Brooklyn Bridge offers heart-stopping views of the iconic span, the Statue of Liberty, and the Manhattan skyline. Until little more than a decade ago it was a gray, flat, former industrial site. Today it is a green oasis of gently undulating topography, meandering trails, and quiet niches along the water’s edge. Landscape Architect Michael Van Valkenburgh made sustainable materials a priority in his design for the park. Studio 431 developed and manufactured the custom benches he designed for it, all of which are made of refurbished wood reclaimed from abandoned 19th century structures. Studio 431 turned battered beams into slats for backed benches, transformed massive metal-studded support columns into smooth slabs for low flat benches, and engineered the steel frames to support them.

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Bryant Park, NY

Design Partner: Bryant Park Corp 34th Street Partnership BID, Ingacio Ciocchini, Product Design

Bryant Park in busy midtown New York is one of the city’s best-loved public places. It is also one of the great comeback stories in urban lore. From dereliction and virtual abandonment in the late 1970s, to restoration in the 80s and reopening in 1991, it has become a model for thriving, people centered parks worldwide. More than 4,000 people visit Byant Park daily. One of the contributing factors to the turnaround was a management focus on the “softscape:” small things that make a big difference. This includes thousands of movable chairs, hundreds of small tables and enough litter and recycling receptacles to handle the remains of several thousand lunches in a two-hour period on a typical day.

As humble elements that impact the comfort, hygiene and aesthetic experience of visitors, litters are the unsung heroes of public places. The Bryant Park Corporation recognized their added potential as bearers of the brand and design icons in their own right. It chose Studio 431 as its partner to develop and manufacture whimsical workhorses that celebrate nature in the center of the city and capture the spirit of this special place.

Studio 431 engineers worked closely with Bryant Park’s Director of Design, Ignacio Ciocchini, to develop and manufacture litter and recycling receptacles that are highly original and seriously strong. The tulip-petal shapes are delicate in appearance but built to withstand heavy use. Cast aluminum bodies make them light enough to move around in this most flexible of spaces, while cast iron bases keep them from tipping over. Recycling units for newspapers and magazines are incised with linear motifs that suggest New York’s scraper-scape with those intended for bottles and cans have bubble shaped cutouts that are just plain fun. Park litters and recycling units in green, red, and blue bear the Bryant Park logo.

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The Yards Park, DC

Design Partner: M. Paul Friedberg & Partners

The Yards Park is the 5.5 acre centerpiece of a LEED Gold certified mixed-use development on a former wharf and industrial site along the Anacostia River. Adjacent to the Washington Navy Yard and connected to National Park Stadium by a striking new pedestrian bridge, the park included a riverfront boardwalk, public art, a great lawn for recreation and events, and landscaped outdoor rooms designed as places for respite and quiet enjoyment. Friedberg & Partners Managing Director, landscape architect Rick Parisi, design custom site furniture elements that compliment the park’s design and reflect its maritime history. Studio 431 provided creative engineering and precision woodworking to achieve the distinctive curves and fine joinery that give the furnishings a character that is both robust and refined. Working closely with the designer, the Studio 431 team refined, engineered and manufactured the “wave” benches, deck-style lounge chair, lattice table and shade canopy that contribute to the site’s compelling sense of place.

The “wave” benches were designed and manufactured in 5-foot and 10-foot versions, with and without backs, and are mounted to granite slabs. The precision-cut oiled pie boards of the undulating wood seats are flat on the bottom, curved on top and thin out at the crest of the curve, where they are held in place by a threaded rod. Six foot diameter tables have an inticate basket weave patterned top and steel perimeter rim. Canopies, designed to provide sun protection for retail shops in the park, are made of thinner formed pie slats and mounted to concrete wall. At the request of the designers, Studio 431 developed and manufactured all custom pieces, including the 12-foot long canopies, to ship fully assembled to ensure high quality fit and finish.

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