Ateliers Jean Nouvel
It is not everyday that somebody expects you to do the impossible. When one is faced with an impossible challenge one must seize the moment. Often the most important moments in history are marked by impossible odds.
The detail shown is an example of the high tech curtain wall system developed for a condo tower in Century City California. By the time I was asked to prepare a detailed solution for a so called Southern California verdant machine for living, Ateliers Jean Nouvel had already perfected a vertical vegetal wall with Patrick Blanc – albeit of poor quality in my judgement. What had not been done was a horizontal terraced garden that engulfed a facade for 45 stories. The design concept called for a building that had two faces, a dry desert like flora for the facade to the south, and a dense lush flowering garden facade to the north. The overall appearance in fact is of an overgrown garden for living with vast expanses of space.
The concept for the building envelope was to wrap the building with enormous spans of a horizontal curtain wall mega-panel system that allowed for cantilevered hydro-ponic open loop gardens. The detail had to allow for a 3 1/4” seismic drift in all directions. Not only did the mega-panels test the boundaries of the manufacturing limits in the US, they required sophisticated stick/stack erection and an adjustable cleat system which tied back into the post tensioned perimeter beam of the building’s structure.
Although the design vision called for no vertical curtain wall elements, I had to explain that the limits of physics as we know them still restrict the possibilities of the impossible. However, what we were able to do was create horizontal munton spans of over 15’ in some cases. The mega-panels were set on tracks in certain areas to allow for the full length of the exterior wall to slide open, providing areas within that were completely open to the cantilevered gardens.
The cantilevered gardens encircled the entire perimeter of the facade for the full height of the building. The gardens were maintained from the exterior and accessible via a window washing system. The hydro-ponic system was tied into the buildings grey-water system and were circulated through an advanced nutrient cycle. A removable grow tray was locked into the cantilevered structure and connected to the nutrient drip supply and drainage loop. The grow trays were 2’x6’ St. Stl. and were easily replaced or interchanged with new lush plants as required. This also allowed for the vegetation to be grown during construction and installed for full effect at commissioning. The building presented its architectural appeal upon substantial completion.