Collaborative Research Work on Daylighting presented at the Façade Tectonics 2018 World Congress in California

Helena Zambrano, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, of Overland Partners and Dr. Jae Yong Suk, an assistant professor within the UTSA Department of Architecture presented their collaborative research work at the Façade Tectonics 2018 World Congress in Los Angeles on March 13, 2018. Their effort appropriately aligns with the theme of the international conference, “Bridging Industry and Academia in pursuit of Better Buildings and Urban Habitat.” The title of their peer-reviewed conference proceeding is “Daylighting Post-Occupancy Evaluation Study: Baylor University Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation.” As noted in the title, the study thoroughly documents and investigates the daylighting design performance of Overland Partner’s recently completed award-winning sustainable architecture project located in Waco, TX. More detailed project information can be found on our website here.

Read the white paper from the conference publication here.

First Look: Zachry unveils vision for Hemisfair development

Hemisfair Mixed Use Development - Overland Partners

Originally published by San Antonio Business Journal

Zachry Hospitality unveiled formal plans for a new hotel, office tower and market that represent a major milestone in the transformation of Hemisfair.

The plans include a 200-room hotel spanning 14 floors along the western edge of Hemisfair that will fly Hilton’s Curio brand flag. San Antonio-based Zachry, which played a prominent role in developing HemisFair ’68, also plans to build a 150,000-square-foot class-A office tower, which will be eight stories tall and complement the new hotel to the north.

Both projects, along with a planned market, have been designed to frame new green space at Hemisfair and to provide unique passageways offering compelling views of downtown landmarks. All three projects have been designed as mixed-use developments that will incorporate public and retail space, reinforcing the desire to attract locals and visitors to the area.

“Everything that we did was focus on what [Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corp.] had started,” said Rene Garcia, vice president of development for Zachry Hospitality. “When they were trying to decide how this master plan should look and feel and what it needed to do for the community, they did a lot of public outreach. We took the work product that was part of that.”

That’s one reason why Zachry officials believe there is support for the projects from an important list of groups, including the Lavaca and King William neighborhoods, Centro San Antonio, the San Antonio Conservation Society and the Urban Land Institute, among others.

San Antonio’s Historic and Design Review Commission still must weigh in on the proposed designs.

Seeking a single vision

Omar Gonzalez, director of real estate for HPARC, said it was clear Zachry was the right pick for the public-private projects.

“The Zachry group met all of our criteria and in fact exceeded our criteria in some places,” he said.

The fact that one developer has been selected for the multiple projects is expected to create continuity in the connection with Hemisfair’s planned civic park and other green spaces.

“Having a single developer gives us a single vision,” HPARC’s Drew Hicks said. “It lets these spaces work together.”

Zachry has turned to San Antonio-based Overland Partners to design the multistructure development, which also includes two levels of underground parking with 800 spaces connected to the hotel and office building.

“We looked across the country. But we wanted someone that had the qualifications — which they do by far — and also someone who understood San Antonio,” Garcia said. “Our focus was not another development that is for tourists. This is genuinely about creating a destination spot for our community.”

Robert Shemwell, principal with Overland Partners, said the Hemisfair site represents the “mythical corner” of Main Street and Main Street, and what happens there is critical because it’s “within a stone’s throw of all of the historic and cultural icons that form the collective memory of what San Antonio is and of what people expect San Antonio to be.”

Said Shemwell, “What you will see is a lot of coordination between the building footprints and passageways and how they connect to gathering areas in the park. That will build vitality and purpose with these spaces.”

For Zachry, the Hemisfair projects represents an opportunity to extend a legacy.

“It’s is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on a project like this,” Garcia said. “This area continues to live. To be part of this is amazing.”

The plan is to begin construction in late summer and have the projects completed by first or second quarter 2021, Garcia said.

The original story can be found here.

Realizing the Artist’s Vision: Alumnus Rick Archer on Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin”

Austin by Ellsworth Kelly

Originally published by The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture

Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin opened at the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin in February 2018. It is the final work and only building designed by the celebrated American artist. Envisioned as a site for joy and contemplation, Kelly’s Austin is a prime example of the powerful relationship between architecture and art.

Alumnus Rick Archer [BArch ‘79], FAIA, and a team of designers at Overland Partners worked closely with the artist before his death to bring his vision to fruition. We recently spoke with Archer about his experiences working with Ellsworth Kelly, how immersive art spaces are transforming student life, what surprises him most about Austin, and more.

Overland’s James Lancaster, who served as project manager for Austin, also lends insights behind the project.
UTSOA: How was Overland Partners selected for this unique and monumental project?

Rick Archer (RA): We were originally invited to work with the artist, Ellsworth Kelly, by Hiram Butler, an artist agent from Houston. We had previously worked with Hiram on The Color Inside at UT’s Student Activity Center and on several other Skyspaces with the artist, James Turrell. Hiram, Tom Butler (no relationship) of Linbeck Construction, and I visited Ellsworth’s home and studio in Spencertown, New York, and began meeting with him in the middle of 2012. The intention of these meetings was to convert Ellsworth’s ideas and preliminary drawings into a building that could be realized. In early 2013, Hiram and I, along with Mickey and Jeanne Klein, met with (former) President Bill Powers and several other key people at UT to present the concept. At that time, President Powers decided that he wanted the work to be at UT and committed a million dollars toward the effort. The process was a complex one, first being invited by the artist, then working with the university to present the concept, and finally being selected through an official public process by the university.

UTSOA: Can you tell us a little bit about your working relationship with Ellsworth Kelly? How did you collaborate to merge the artist’s vision with architectural and engineering realities?

RA: To ensure we were executing Ellsworth’s vision effectively required considerable collaboration between Ellsworth and our team throughout the design process.

Beginning in 2012, we went to Spencertown, met Ellsworth in his studio, and talked extensively about his vision for the piece. He shared with us drawings that had been done in 1986 by another architect, which were very rough “blueprints” of a design concept. These drawings were not fully formed, but were descriptive of what Ellsworth envisioned. His studio also had a model, which was frankly more valuable than the drawings in terms of understanding what he hoped this would become.

Ellsworth spoke eloquently about his vision for why he was creating this space and his aspirations for it. We began to address with him some of the concerns about the realities of building—the project’s location in Austin, Texas, and other constructability factors like wall thicknesses, air conditioning, etc. So, we began a dialogue about what it would take to build this in Austin under UT’s institutional standards, with Linbeck Construction providing feedback about constructability throughout.

We worked with Ellsworth very closely in the beginning, presenting drawings and materials inspired by his design ideas. The design—every bit of it—is Ellsworth Kelly’s. We were the architects but Ellsworth was the designer.

While every aesthetic decision was his, we did not simply abdicate to whatever Ellsworth asked for. He trusted us as the architect and respected our perspective. Codes, material selection, constructability, structure, HVAC, etc., resulted in modifications to Ellsworth’s original design in terms of the scale and proportion. Other changes were made during the design process since it was to be a public building at The University of Texas rather than a private building, such as lengthening the nave to create space for visitors to pause before they encountered his interpretations of the Stations of the Cross, increasing the height, and adding the plaza. We worked with him very closely as these changes were made, and built models for him to experiment with to arrive at the final design.

One major hurdle was reconciling his vision of an eight-inch-thick wall. We ended up with closer to sixteen-inch walls, which accommodated for structure, heating and air conditioning systems, and interior and exterior finishes. We went through many iterations, because to keep the interior exactly as he had originally drawn it made the exterior appear squat. So, the entire building was raised as a result of the walls thickening. There was also collaboration regarding its location and orientation on campus. Again, Ellsworth oversaw every single detail.

As an artist unaccustomed to reading architectural drawings, we translated his ideas into architectural drawings and then further translated those into three-dimensional computer-generated renderings so he could actually experience the space as it was being designed, and understand the implications of his decisions, rather than referring to construction documents.

Another big collaborative effort was material selection, with a priority to ensure the selections—specifically the stone—were tested and would perform over time. Originally, Ellsworth envisioned the project to have a dark exterior similar to his studio, but, over time, he kept dreaming of the building being white. We went back through the selection process and then did a worldwide search for a stone that would meet his aesthetic desires and perform, finally choosing a beautiful hard limestone in Alicante, Spain. We also went back and forth about materiality and finish for the stones that compose the Stations of the Cross.

Identifying the patterning of the stone was an interesting exercise. Designing to be aesthetically agnostic (as the architect), we originally devised a grid pattern on the exterior. Ellsworth hoped for a more random pattern, like the random course ashlar on his home patio. So, we used a computer program to select the stone randomly as opposed to deciding what piece of stone would go where as we often do as architects, and he loved the idea. It was an example of designing the way that Ellsworth thought.

UTSOA: Can you describe your approach to the project? What did you prioritize? What challenges did you overcome? How long was the process from start to finish?

RA: We approached the project with one thing in mind—execute Ellsworth’s intention. Now, the challenge in that is the architect cannot abdicate our role because we know things that an artist does not, including how to actually execute the vision for a building. We needed to get inside his head, and did so through an iterative process of what ultimately became the artist agreement book—a several hundred page-long document of drawings of every single little detail. We did not bring aesthetic judgment to these other than how to precisely and perfectly execute what we heard Ellsworth describing or what his drawings indicated, which was challenging because architects are trained to have aesthetic opinions. What Ellsworth wanted was the priority, but it was not only about executing his idea. It was about understanding how he thought as an artist and how he created.

In the 1950s, he created a series of paintings where the color was selected by chance. He always wanted to take himself out of the picture. He did not want people to see the artist. He did not want people to see a brush stroke. So, we took the same attitude toward our role in this work—we wanted it to seem like it was not created by hand. That is the way he worked. Trying to understand who he was as an artist went into both the product and the process.

Fortunately, the university was great about that, too. While we were concerned about budget, the university believed that this is a work of art, not just another building, and OFPC made it their prerogative to realize Ellsworth’s intentions. So, the priority was what Ellsworth wanted, which sometimes meant spending more money than expected.

We faced many technical challenges and had to tackle questions like, how do we hold this structure up? How do we design a stone roof and walls? How do we deal with air and light and sprinklers and wireless access points and security cameras but also make them invisible? And then there were subsurface challenges of utilities and positioning the building just like any building project has, but with a heightened awareness because this was art.

Finally, the challenge that we all faced—UT, Overland, and the Blanton Museum of Art—was that Ellsworth was already 87 years old when we began working on the project. Everyone felt the acute need to get every decision made while Ellsworth was alive so that it would be a work with clear provenance. This had to be an Ellsworth Kelly work. There was a lot of pressure on everybody to move quickly but also to move carefully. Ellsworth passed away in 2015, at the age of 92, right before the project broke ground.

James Lancaster (JL): Our approach was to be aesthetic agnostic. Priority was given to space and form, meaning aesthetic drove design decisions. This posed a great challenge as architecture is often about give-and-take—about striking balance between aesthetic and building systems. Austin required the building systems to conform to form and space. This required us not only to be innovative, but to invent.

UTSOA: How is working with a visual artist and museum different from working with more traditional clients?

RA: As architects, we are trained to develop a strong aesthetic sense and share it in a respectful way that does not abdicate our responsibilities. Most clients come to us expecting us to bring aesthetic judgement and to tell them what they should and should not do, even if they come in with ideas of what they are hoping for. They trust us with their building design just like they would a good writer to understand the right syntax and sentence structure. In the case of working with an artist, we have to leave all of that behind. When Ellsworth made a decision we might have made differently, we had to let go of that, and at first that was hard. James Turrell said that architects he worked with in the past tended to fall in one of two camps—either they completely abdicated to him and doing so led to design problems he wished they would have prevented, or they were not willing to work with him because their egos got in the way. Working with artists is challenging for architects because many of us consider ourselves artists. The challenge of working with Ellsworth was that he had never designed a building before and had never worked in stone or glass. There was a steep learning curve for him, for us, and for the museum, but I think it held together because everyone was committed to his vision.

JL: Visual artists are focused on what is seen. They are often not as sympathetic to the many necessary elements required in a building (ie, fire sprinklers, speaker strobes, security cameras, motion sensors, wireless antennas, etc.). Traditional clients are more understanding and we rarely go to great length to make them invisible.

UTSOA: You worked with artist James Turrell and Landmarks to create another immersive art space, The Color Inside, on the UT Austin campus. Together with Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, how do you think these spaces are transforming campus and student life? What makes UT Austin the ideal location for these community-oriented works?

RA: When we designed the Student Activity Center (where The Color Inside is located), one of the things the students expressed was a need for a place to escape. In our ever-connected world, it is really hard to find peace. While the generation of students today love that sense of connectedness—of seeing and being seen—there is also a deep need for a place to decompress. Prior to The Color Inside and Austin, the campus did not have a place like that. Ellsworth wanted Austin to be a place of peace, joy, and rest for anyone who visited and especially for students. He loved the idea that young people would come here and find peace in an often-chaotic world. I saw a recent post of a bride having her portrait taken out in front of Austin. I think it is going to be the kind of place where memories are made and where life is lived. It is sacred in that sense. Not religious, but sacred. Both artworks provide a place where students can go to contemplate and see the world differently. Both pieces are having a powerful transformational impact on the campus and its identity. They have also brought a tremendous amount of focus to the university from the art world and beyond. I think that the university’s courage and commitment to accomplishing this work are going to be hugely important for the future of the campus. When we met with Bill Powers for the first time and brought this idea to him, he said, “Fifty years from now this will probably be seen as the most important thing that I did as President.” He understood that this work of art by Ellsworth Kelly was going to be transformational for the university in many ways.

UT has a very pluralistic culture. If you look at the student body and the faculty, there are people from all over the world, from every background and perspective. This melting pot creates neutral ground where these things are not loaded with one particular perspective. They do not get co-opted by any one group. For example, when we were designing The Color Inside, the Muslim students were very excited about it because they wanted a place to pray. There was discussion around the idea of providing a place for foot washing, but the student representatives decided against designs that would suggest ownership by one religious group. Instead, they encouraged their peers to use it for prayer anyway. Austin is similar even though its form, the marble panels, and the totem are based on Christian tradition. It is not a Christian space, which makes it welcoming for all. Had it gone to a Christian university, then it would have been seen as a Christian thing. I think that it is really beautiful that it has already been and will continue to be adopted by people from all backgrounds.

UTSOA: What experience do you hope visitors to Austin walk away with? How does the architecture of the space guide people through this experience?

RA: The architecture of the space is the experience. It does not actually guide. Ellsworth wanted to create an experience. He said, “I do not want the art to be on the walls. I want the art to be the walls.” In the case of Austin, the art is not only the walls. It is the ceiling. It is the floor. It is an all-encompassing immersive environment. From the moment you see it from the outside, approach it, and go into it, the experience is what I think Ellsworth intended. He would have hoped that it would bring people a sense of joy, peace, and rest. That is my hope as well. My hope is when visitors see it that they do not see Ellsworth because he would not want to be seen, and that they do not see the architect because we do not want to be seen in it. I hope that they see the work for what it is and are able to find their place in it and maybe reframe their view of the world—or view of their own life—and somehow be transformed by that experience.

JL: To put it simply…joy. Although the work is not a chapel and has no religious connection, there is something deeply spiritual that visitors experience. The interior surfaces serve as a stage of sorts and the colored windows are its actors.

UTSOA: What would you say is the most surprising aspect of Kelly’s Austin?

RA: The most surprising and yet the most expected aspect is how the colored light plays in the space. We had modeled and tested how the light would move to see what it would do at various times of the year, but a computer model cannot truly model sunlight. It cannot model the nature of the sun beaming through a nearly perfect spectrum and casting a glow. You just do not know what is going to happen. Every day is different depending on the quality of light. The space is ever-changing. It is always a surprise every time you walk in. On a cloudy day, for example, there is a sense of walking in and being at first disappointed because of not seeing the colored tumbling squares vibrantly cascading over the walls. But, after a little while, you begin to see colors that you had not seen before. They begin to merge in these spectral ways on the white plaster walls that is surprising. It causes you to slow down, to really look carefully, and to experience the art in ways that you did not know you were going to experience it. Every visit is a unique encounter.

Viewing the marbled panels has also been surprising to me. Hand drawn in the ‘80s, we digitized them and brought marble samples to him for selection. Even though they are pretty small—40 inches by 40 inches—in a fairly large space, I was just dumbstruck by their power. I think Ellsworth actually may have said this—that he wanted to hang something on the walls so that no one would be tempted to hang something else—but they are not just something on the walls. They are so powerful and integral to the experience. They are very soft. They don’t have a shiny finish but still reflect and absorb light. They’re masterful. Carol, my wife, and I stood in front of each one to meditate on that panel. Each one is profound. I think there is a potential for every individual person visiting to encounter something very deep, real, sacred, and spiritual no matter where they are coming from. That was a surprise to me.

As an architect, it might have been more of a revelation than a surprise that what we had created, while it is a building, is not a building. It is hard to even put your hands around what it is. It is not a Richard Serra—a piece of sculpture that exists in the landscape. It feels, on the one hand, really tiny and, on the other hand, just enormous. If you could somehow remove the buildings behind it and take a photograph of it, you would have no idea how big or small it was. It is extraordinary. It is unusual. I think for architects it is hard to wrap our minds around that. For artists, it is hard to wrap their mind around that because it is also a building. It raises a lot of questions—that is part of its beauty. As you wrestle with those questions, you realize there actually are not any answers. You make peace with that. I think there is a beauty in not getting your questions answered. I think that would also please Ellsworth.

JL: The most surprising aspect, for me, is how well it has been received by all that have visited. Looking back, it was a daunting task to help Ellsworth execute his vision in such a way that it appears he sculpted the building with his own hands.

UTSOA: As an alumnus of the School of Architecture, what is one piece of advice you’d like to share with students and recent graduates?

RA: It is amazing how much you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit. Sometimes, as architects, we get caught up in our egos. We think that somehow ideas spring from our brain, but that is not how it happens. We are not the great creators who sit in our ivory tower and dream up stuff that is then realized. In fact, inspiration comes from various places. I do not know where Ellsworth found his inspiration beyond the Romanesque churches in southern France, but our job was to take that inspiration and to make it into a building, which is always the case. We took his invisible ideas and had the privilege to see it realized. We should lay down our egos and contemplate how we can contribute to making the world a better, more ethical, more just, more beautiful place through our practice of architecture. In doing that we can accomplish remarkable things.

UTSOA: Thank you, Rick and James.

The Overland “Austin” team included Rick Archer (Principal in Charge), James Lancaster (Project Manager), Garrett JonesBrad Bailey, and Lucas Mackey.

The original story can be found here.

Remembering Our Friend Mark Barnet Headley

We are privileged to know such a rich community of diverse and talented people whose impact and influence have shaped who we are, and were deeply saddened by the recent loss of our friend and previous Overland Principal, Mark Barnet Headley.

Mark played a significant role in many of our projects over the ten years of his career at Overland (1992–2004) including the Bridger Bowl Base Lodge, Montana State University Animal Bioscience Building, Bozeman Public Library, and University of Montana School of Journalism. He also heavily influenced all of the lab work at the BSL-4 Lab Facility for the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and acted as a lab consultant for The Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at The University of Texas Health Science Center. In his last five years with Overland, he relocated to Bozeman, Montana, where he opened an Overland office and served as a principal.

Mark will always be remembered as an incredible influence on our community.

Our deepest sympathy to Mark’s family and all that knew him.

“Grateful for the years that we had the privilege to work with Mark. He was an exceptional architect, but more than that he was an extraordinary human being. ”

— Rick Archer, FAIA, Senior Principal

“Mark was one of the first people that I met in San Antonio. He and his wife Ann befriended and encouraged me. He was a consummate architect with full command over the complexities of our profession, a faithful friend, and a man of great integrity. He will be missed!”

— Bob Shemwell, FAIA, LEED AP, Senior Principal

“Mark was a really nice guy. I probably stayed in contact with him more than any of the other guys. I spoke with him before his diagnosis. Back in one of my earlier lives in marketing, I’d call him and ask for pictures and other things I needed. He was very supportive and helpful. He was always a sweetheart.”

— Becky Rathburn, Senior Principal

“Mark was an amazing man of great integrity. Chief among his many superlatives were his unwavering dedication, to God, to his family, to community involvement, and to practicing architecture with a meticulous professionalism that is rarely found. He also has a heck of a good singing voice. We are poorer without him here.”

— Madison Smith, Principal, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

“It was always a pleasure working with Mark. One of my favorite memories I had with him was interviewing with him to design the Bozeman Public Library. What a great time we had together on that and many other wonderful projects. He will be missed and always loved by all of his friends and colleagues here at Overland.”

— Timothy Blonkvist, FAIA, LEED, Senior Principal

You can read more about the life of Mark Barnet Headley on the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

From left: Rick Archer, Becky Rathburn, Timothy Blonkvist, Madison Smith, and Mark Headley

Aztec Theatre to add boutique hotel, terrace garden to rooftop

Originally published by KSAT

SAN ANTONIO – The Aztec Theatre in San Antonio is getting an upgrade, converting the empty office spaces above the theatre into a 55-room boutique hotel, and adding a glass terrace garden to the rooftop of the building.

The project, which is being designed by Overland Partners, will be a renovation of former office spaces, which will also include a terrace and lounge addition.

Design inspiration for the boutique hotel came from the Centre Georges Pompidou, and the rooftop concept was inspired by the Louis Vuitton Foundation Building.

Both buildings are located in Paris, France, the hometown of Sam Penchevre, a part owner of Aztec Theatre.

“The covered outdoor rooftop canopies and gardens create a wonderful space in Paris. We thought ‘Why shouldn’t San Antonio have something equally as interesting and dramatic that overlooks our city and our Riverwalk?’” said project architect, Timothy Blonkvist, a founding principal of Overland.

The Historic and Design Review Commission granted conceptual approval Wednesday for rooftop additions to the Aztec Theatre, according to the Rivard Report.

Preliminary renderings show the conceptual design for the project.

See the renderings here.

The original story can be found here.

HDRC OKs Rooftop Addition, Sculptural Canopy for Aztec Theatre

Originally published by The Rivard Report


The Historic and Design Review Commission granted conceptual approval Wednesday for rooftop additions to the Aztec Theatre. Preliminary renderings show a glass structure with a sculptural canopy and terrace on top of the
six-story building.

San Antonio developer Samuel Panchevre plans to convert the empty office space above the 1926 theater into a 55-room boutique hotel. Panchevre envisioned adding a terrace, and possibly a restaurant, on the roof of the building, he told the Rivard Report in September.

Overland Partners designed the additions, and Timothy Blonkvist, the firm’s founding principal architect, delivered the presentation to commissioners.

“It looks like a very simple glass addition to the top, and when you get in and you go up to the roof, then there will be something there that is very memorable and very unexpected,” Blonkvist said. “Not something you’re really seeing from the ground.”

Blonkvist said inspiration for the design came from visiting the Louis Vuitton Foundation Building in Paris, which was designed by Los Angeles-based architect Frank Gehry.

“We need to do something special up there,” Blonkvist said. “Something other than just another flat rooftop trellis in San Antonio.”

Along with the additions to the rooftop, another terrace that will be connected to the north facade of the building and constructed over West Crockett Street will give visitors an overview of the San Antonio River. A staircase will replace a fire escape currently on the north side of the building and connect viewers to both the terrace overlook and the rooftop.

“It’s a real nice break from the historic building,” said Commissioner Michael Connor. “Something that’s very contemporary … theatrical.”

In other action, HDRC also recommended giving historic designation status to the proposed Westfort Historic District. The neighborhood located in City Council District 2 includes around 60 parcels that are surrounded on three sides by Fort Sam Houston.

The two-street neighborhood features homes and apartments designed in a variety of styles, including Tudor, Prairie, Craftsman, Spanish Eclectic, Folk Victorian, post-war mid-century apartments and neoclassical homes, according to documents presented to Commissioners. It was platted in 1909.

Eight residents in the the neighborhood voiced support for the designation. The recommendation goes next to the Zoning Commission and City Council, which will decide whether to grant historic designation status.

The original story can be found here.