Form + Function

Metro Magazine
November 2011

Center for Architecture and Design Opens

By J. Michael Welton

The American Institute of Architects North Carolina Chapter’s (AIA NC) new Center for Architecture and Design opens this month at the intersection of Wilmington and Peace streets in downtown Raleigh. The 12,000-square-foot building, clad in native Carolina cypress harvested from the Great Dismal Swamp, with roof and siding of rose-colored zinc, was designed by Frank Harmon Architect PA.

The $5.4 million project brings new meaning to the concept of teamwork. AIA NC and Harmon worked closely with Clancy & Theys Construction, John Moore with 4SE Structural Engineers, Carl Simmons of CMS Engineering, RMF Engineering, and landscape architect Gregg Bleam to make the headquarters building — one that serves all seven AIA sections across North Carolina — a reality less than a year from groundbreaking. AIA NC’s David Crawford was responsible for hunting down and securing a $3 million bond through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Of the $3.2 million in construction costs, $1.15 million was delivered in pledges through a fundraising campaign — much of it from architects themselves — with another $600,000 coming from in-kind donations from state and national suppliers.

The building employs a distinctly North Carolina vernacular, with its very form, its south-facing porch and its wide, shade-giving roof all derived from the agrarian sheds found on farmsteads across the state. It’s also the only AIA headquarters building in the nation built from the ground up. The building is a heroic gesture and a symbol of a can-do spirit prevailing here in the worst economic times since the grueling 1930s.

Office space is available on the third floor, with dramatic views that favorably frame the Archdale Building and others on the legislative mall, with a sweeping vista in the distance of Edward Durell Stone’s legislative building, Verner Johnson’s Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Capitol building by Ithiel Town, Alexander Jackson Davis and David Paton.

Meanwhile, Harmon’s staying busy. His firm recently announced a commission to transform an old wastewater treatment plant near Jacksonville, NC, into The Riverworks at Sturgeon City. The old plant once polluted Wilson Bay, and Harmon will design an environmental education and exhibition center to celebrate the bay’s restoration and to prevent any repetition of the environmental mistakes of the past.

Raleigh-based Umicore Building Products USA received three national Metal Construction Association (MCA) Chairman’s Awards this year for the exceptional use of metal in innovative architectural designs. In the residential category, the company received the 2011 MCA Chairman’s Award for Kristi and Bobby Walters’ “GREENville House” in Greenville, NC. Designed and built by Tonic Design + Construction of Raleigh, the exterior cladding of this modern, thoroughly “green” house is a mix of brick veneer, vertical cedar panels and VMZINC® architectural zinc. Metalworx was the installer.

In Situ Studio, celebrating its first full year in practice, has broken ground on the Chasen Residence on East Hargett Street in Raleigh. It’s located in the hip and growing historic neighborhood several blocks east of downtown. Architects Erin Lewis and Matt Griffith say it’s also affordable, small, modern and urban. The plan confines the entries, stairs, hallway, kitchen and half bath to one side of the house, opening up the rest of the space for living. It has an efficient envelope and uses a number of sustainable strategies to collect and preserve energy. It’s being built by Axiom Green Build.
J. Michael Welton writes about architecture, art and design for national and regional publications. He also publishes an online design magazine at