This article is the first in a series that that tells the story of how Source — Architizer’s new marketplace for building products — helps architects create brilliant buildings. HEAD THIS WAY For more information on the platform.
When SHoP Architects unveiled its proposal for the Uber Headquarters — a gleaming “vertical city” set to land in San Francisco’s Mission Bay district later this year — one particular part of their presentation will undoubtedly have sparked pangs of joy in the minds of many architects. Those in the profession — not to mention architecture students and design enthusiasts across the globe — love a good scale model, and the New York-based firm’s sectional slice, pictured below, is a thing of real beauty.
SHoP’s sectional model cuts through Uber’s multi-functional workspaces (left) and a soaring, street-facing atrium (right), crossed by multiple connecting walkways.
This carefully crafted model, complete with bustling, light-filled atriums, a welcoming entrance and an expansive green roof, perfectly illustrates the architects’ vision for a new kind of contemporary office space. It gives a tantalizing glimpse of a building that looks completely in keeping with the forward-thinking philosophies of its future inhabitants. Indeed, Uber is no ordinary startup.
Along with AirBnB, Uber Technologies Inc. is the quintessential poster child of 21st-century business, tapping into the sharing economy with a savvy combination of accessible apps and brilliant branding. The company’s success has led to the exponential growth of both revenue and staff, the latter of which sparking their need for a large new headquarters. Enter SHoP Architects, who share Uber’s penchant for out-of-the-box thinking and a love of simple, inventive solutions.
The highly transparent building evokes the form and material qualities of the Centre Pompidou, and transforms into an urban beacon by night.
The architects have expressed their desire to produce what they call an “inside-out” building, evoking memories of the convention-busting glass cuboid of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers’ oeuvre séminale of functionalist, high-tech architecture. Like the Pompidou, the design of the Uber Headquarters is driven by the belief that transparency brings with it positive qualities pertaining to the connectivity between the interior and exterior of the building.
For the Centre Pompidou, transparency was deployed to allow the public glimpses of exhibition interiors from across the plaza, offering a welcoming face in contrast with the monolithic stone museums of the past. In the case of Uber, the building’s soaring walls of glass will stand as a metaphor for the company’s ethical values: transparency engenders a sense of honesty and trustworthiness, allowing the public to observe the day-to-day activities of Uber employees. This should serve to reinforce the sense of integrity that has made the company so successful to date.
A detail of the sectional model highlights the multi-layered glazing system that SHoP are proposing for the six-story-high front façade of the building.
The glazing system is therefore a critical aspect of the design — and the specification of this particular component will be vital to the project’s success. "We see product development, materials development, as a form of open architecture," says Chris Sharples, Principle at SHoP. "To begin understand how we source the different material systems for that — it's a new science."
Having devised bespoke details for this element of the building, SHoP Architects now know exactly what they are looking for, and Source — Architizer’s new marketplace for building products — could play a key role.
"Architizer Source is an online tool that we use to put in material requests," explains Garth Priber, Senior Associate at the firm. “We can put in information about product performance, product aesthetics; we can upload images or drawings, and we can get a single question out to a lot of manufacturers with one click.”
This kind of convenience effectively releases the creative shackles from architects, many of whom spend an inordinate amount of time — “hours or even days,” according to Priber — searching for that elusive product that aligns with their vision. Instead of trawling countless websites and catalogs for the proverbial holy grail of glass products, SHoP can spend more time doing what it does best — designing innovative buildings.
The street-level entrance space and interiors of the buildings display warm finishes in stone and timber.
As well as the glass façade, the platform also has the potential to aid the sourcing of materials throughout the interiors, which are being designed in collaboration with interior design firm Assembly. The renderings portray spaces defined by a plethora of natural finishes, including rich stone surfaces and warm timber for walkways, soffits, stairs and internal walls. For both the interior and exterior details of this building, selecting the right building products will clearly be crucial, and Source has the capability to ease the pain of this meticulous process.
In this respect, Katherine Anderson — SHoP's Material Librarian — is particularly excited about the platform's time-saving potential. "The vendors will supply me with prices, with images, with data sheets, and slash my time in half," she explains. "Where I see Architizer Source going is acting as a 'mini-me' for every single designer and architect."
The “vertical city” concept is formalized by a network of glazed walkways between the two main volumes, increasing accessibility throughout the complex.
SHoP have already run numerous searches through Source for the project, and will continue to build their connections with building product manufacturers as the project progresses.
For architects, the advantages of such a platform are clear — but perhaps more significantly, it will benefit clients too, as design fees are channeled into the creative process rather than an onerous hunt for materials. As a result, Uber looks like it’s being treated to an exceedingly good-looking office building, if the completed structure is even half as elegant as the renderings suggest.
Uber has helped to turn an entire industry on its head, raising the bar for accessibility and convenience across the globe. Source aims to do the same for building product specifications — watch this space for developments.
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