The design of Helios House embraces the paradox of creating a green gas station. It is located in Los Angeles at the intersection of two major north/south and east/west crossroads, on a site that had a preexisting gas station. An important goal of the project was to upgrade the original station in an environmentally conscious manner by “upcycling,” recycling old materials, and installing new materials that are sustainable and recyclable. Helios House transforms the site's existing features - the ground, canopy, cashier kiosk, back building, and two price signs - while incorporating green building features and messages into the project.Conceived as a “learning lab,” Helios House was designed to stimulate dialog, promote education, and foster discussion on the topic of environmental stewardship. The water, heat, energy, lighting, and material systems of the station were all built to maximize sustainability and energy efficiencies, including: solar panels that cover the canopy’s roof; energy-efficient lights and sensors throughout; a green roof of native plants over the back building; an on-site water collection system that contains the run-off of contaminated water in an underground cistern, filters, and distributes to irrigate plants on-site;100% recycled glass aggregate in the concrete mixture; as well as prefabricated recyclable stainless steel panels that conserve labor costs and reduce material waste. As a laboratory, the project takes small steps toward a sustainable future, and creates an opening for community outreach and education. For example, recycling receptacles collect paper, cans, bottles, and even old cell phones, which are donated to local charity.
Helios House engages the urban, car-oriented culture of Los Angeles as a landscape for brand communication and architectural invention. The design of the canopy is the most emblematic feature of the project. While conventional gas stations combine functionally distinct elements (canopy, columns, kiosk, and sign), this project develops a formal logic to integrate all of these elements into one seamless whole. Using a structural bay as a starting point, the cladding system unifies the relationship between column base, shaft, and capital with the canopy. Furthermore, the surface works parametrically to incorporate various architectural and technical features using the same technique. Thus, the pay kiosk, the structure, the fin panels (as signs), and the canopy are all shaped from the same faceted surface. The triangulated stainless steel panels reconcile complex, and sometimes contradictory, requirements of the site, program, codes, and zoning ordinances, and establish the site identity and core of the brand experience. Helios House melds bold design, inventive fabrication, and sustainable building practices with a multifaceted communication strategy to inspire a community that’s eager to raise its environmental awareness.