schlaich bergermann partner is celebrating its
10th anniversary and remembering the story of many competitions and realized projects.
Through this time we appreciated the opportunity to contribute to New York City by sharing our design solutions and helping to deliver exceptional structures such as the Sky Reflector for the Fulton Center, canopies for the first new subway station since 1989, the 34th Street Hudson Yards Subway Station, and of course, the iconic antenna for the One World Trade Center and its cable-net glass structure for the façade and the foyer.
“sbp realizes seemingly impossible thin glass shells, integrated load carrying forms, curved bridges, adaptive stadia roofs and structures that leverage three dimensional systems over two dimensional extrusions – the biological over the mechanical approach to the way things work and the efficiencies and beauty found therein.“
— Mark Mistur, AIA
We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the built environment with our emphasis on Baukultur, a German word that refers to ‘the art of building to enhance the quality of life’.
This contribution was only possible because of the relationships we have developed and our reputation for holistic design thinking.
"Architecture, engineering, urban planning, land-scaping – all part of one big discipline of the art of building."
We have collaborated with great architects, designers, and builders to deliver projects that create great spaces and experiences.
We encouraged creative thinking, and looked for opportunities to demonstrate that creativity is an essential part of our toolkit and that applying creative thinking to structural understanding delivers more attractive solutions.
Our team of engineers work on different types of structures throughout their careers.
This cross pollination explains the evolution of some recurring themes in our design, which can be the use of unique structural aspects like the behavior of curved beam in bending or the modification of a geometric shape, such as the hyperbolic paraboloid. Inspired by Shuchovs lightweight towers in Russia, we transformed that particular shape into a new lightweight approach for a cooling tower over fifty years later.
This mega-structure mutated into a little sibling 30 years later in form of an distinctive Panoramic Tower as the center piece of an urban landscape design at the Killesberg in Stuttgart, in 2001.
In New York City the metamorphose went on:
First, into the form giving shape of an artistic idea from James Carpenter for the Fulton Street Terminal, and then into the rationale behind the backbone structure of the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, a large infrastructure project in one of the seismically most active regions of the world.
We have learned a great deal in the past 10 years. The competitions were exciting and gave us great opportunities to develop as an engineering design firm. Competitions drive innovation, are a great design exercise and an opportunity for intense interactive experience with design teams.
Design competitions are not very common in the United States, perhaps due to concerns over establishing design teams to follow a certain design process rather than searching for a design solution. But, when there is an opportunity, we take it!
design competitions… our beginnings in New York
THINK New York brought in 2002 an exceptional team together to enter the competition for the Master Plan of the World Trade Center site. There were more than 400 participants and our THINK Group took the second prize.
schlaich bergermann's experience in the Master Plan of the World Trade Center Site competition led us to be named ‘specialty engineers’ for the design of the One World Trade Center, and this is how we opened our U.S. office, and first office outside of Europe. Other offices would come to have similar experiences and design incredible projects, but schlaich bergermann partner’s office in New York set the foundations to make sbp an international structural engineering consulting firm.
Hans Schober takes on the challenge and brings schlaich bergermann partner’s international reputation to the U.S.
“They [sbp] are pioneers and providers of new possibilities – enablers of adaptive systems that are lighter, thinner and more beautiful – the architecture of which resides in the solution, not on top of it.”
— Mark Mistur, AIA
Operating internationally prior to opening our first office outside of Europe had provided us with some understanding about the implications of working in a global environment. Nevertheless, when we faced the realities of New York’s real estate market, we understood the different values given to a square meter, or better saying, a square foot.
Finding space in a new environment requires understanding the local environment. So the question was: Where does an innovative young consulting engineering firm belong?
There are quite a few important decisions to be made when starting a branch office in a foreign country. In the case of NYC - which neighborhood to settle?
Good economic planning and cultural fit were crucial to our success
We found our first small office in Chelsea and a few years later market changes led us to relocate. By then, schlaich bergermann partner had developed a stronger reputation and sought to be in a single floor office space in Midtown, a neighborhood packed with creative start-ups and a maturing innovation market economy.
We made the Garment District our home and have been enjoying our light flooded top floor 200m² space. Our open plan office fosters a collaborative environment amongst our team.
Yet, as it happens in a constantly evolving city, new trends and cultural shifts will likely see sbp New York continuing to grow and evolve.
2005 — 2014: New York, USA
Designing transparency. Living natural light.
The Sky Reflector of the Fulton Center is 25 meters high capturing the daylight and transporting it deep into the New York City subway system.
The Fulton Center offers a greatly improved commuter experience and is the embodiment of modern Manhattan; it is revitalized, well connected and experienced by a large number of commuters (300,000 passengers per day).
At street level, transparency connects the space to the outside world. Inside, the sky reflector invites users to look up to the sky and enjoy the light. This is made possible by the hyperbolic cable-net stretched within the conical atrium design. The net of 6mm steel cables supports an inner skin of diamond shaped perforated aluminum reflector panels, optimized to capture and distribute year round daylight to the deepest levels of the transit center, transforming the subway experience for users.
Conceptual design: collaboration with James Carpenter Design Associates + Grimshaw Architects. Engineering design by schlaich bergermann partner, final design: Arup.
Photo: Patrick Cashin, MTA
The business of construction in the U.S. makes registration a near-necessity, particularly for structural engineers.
In 2007, Michael Stein became a registered Professional Engineer.
For an international firm, local professional registration is an essential qualification and a competitive advantage.
In the meantime, what was happening with the One World Trade Center?
By the end of 2007 the footings and foundations were nearly completed.
"Kennedy Violich Architects were commissioned to design a Master Plan for seven ferry landings along the Harlem/East Rivers from Yankee Stadium to the Battery Maritime Building at Wall Street with a terminal hub at 34th Street.
This is a story of disruption, perseverance and adaptation. But it is also a story about how architecture and structural engineering can complement one another.
In the fifth year of the project, the NYEDC [New York City Economic Development Corporation] decided to consider a specialty engineer in lightweight structures - the New York office of schlaich bergermann, as we had worked on the design of the 134 meter spire on top of One World Trade Center."
"For 34th Street, KVA [Kennedy Violich Architecture] and sbp worked collaboratively to develop a “soft” approach creating a soft lenticular textile that is more opaque by day and translucent at night. The lenticular structure, with continuous textile cladding along the ceiling and roof is designed to efficiently self-resolve horizontal loads that are common in tensile systems. This structural solution uses a double row of columns, one of which is triangulated to provide lateral bracing and reduce and minimize the use of steel in the canopy structure.
Fourteen years after being commissioned, the East 34th Street Terminal doors finally opened to the public in 2014. Today, the East 34th Street Terminal is the multi-modal hub of the East River Ferry system. It provides a viable alternative to link Brooklyn and Queens to both the East and West sides of Manhattan. Ridership continues to increase annually at 120%."
— Frano Violich - Kennedy Violich Architects
2008 – 2012: Vancouver, British Columbia
A sports landmark in the middle of the city.
Revitalizing BC Place was a great challenge. Respecting the existing structure whilst completely modernizing the stadium required the design of a lightweight roof and façade with an extraordinary visual engagement.
The skyline would be transformed and thus we respected every aspect of the surroundings. The retractable roof and inflatable membrane cushions can hold up to 200 kg/m² (40psf) of snow but can still be perceived as a floating roof lightly attached to the 36 iconic masts at the top of the structure.
Our history with stadiums and lightweight structures.
Ever since schlaich bergermann partner designed the cable-net roofs for the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadiums we have been selected to design many. The ways in which we employ lightweight materials and structural principles based on tensile forces have made sbp's design approach very successful for long span elegant roof systems.
Ring roofs which follow the principle of bicycle wheels by balancing out the forces of pre-stressed spokes in a circular rim prove to be very economical for stadium structures. Over the past 20 years sbp has built over twenty of these roofs without ever repeating the same design twice, always pushing the envelope and introducing new concepts.
The colorful façade
The very transparent 9,500 m² (100,000 ft²) ETFE perimeter façade has a significant influence on the architectural design and the interior light conditions. The individual façade panels can be illuminated independently in various colors schemes to offer visitors and passersby a dynamic experience.
Photo by: Michael Elkan
In 2008 the construction of the tower begun. At the end of 2009 the second floor of the tower was nearly completed.
“Professor Stein teaches what he and sbp demonstrate in their work: the confidence to imagine new solutions from first principles, reintroducing delight into both the process and the outcome.”
– Mark Mistur, AIA
In 2010, Michael Stein was named Bedford Visiting Professor at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, one of the oldest and most prestigious technological research universities in the country.
In 2010 we were invited for a bridge design competition targeting for a better connection between Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Residential Areas in Brooklyn Heights.
Key parameters for the design were a significant drop in height and the fact that the bridge itself will hardly be seen from a side elevation due to adjacent building developments. A curved bridge with a 3 dimensionally curved arch was chosen, which enables the structure to carry loads without causing undesired bending moments. This shape had the exciting side effect that the arch becomes recognizable when looking in bridge direction:
The "Brooklyn Eye" - visible from Manhattan would have been a landmark design pointing to a Park which already has become a destination for locals and visitors alike.
Unfortunately we lost that competition - but we established long lasting working relationships from which we still benefit. A fact which shows again that the credo of 'you better love competitions' is a central factor for our successful strategy in new markets.
2007 – 2017: San Francisco, California
The façade. The RoofPark. The dramatic light column.
This multimodal transit station and mixed used facility will include many impressive features of urban design and engineering. The whole complex is innovative and the undulating façade is clad with metal panels to soften the robustness of the concrete building. The double curved grid shells span 15,000 square meters.
The unique façade on the outside in addition to the dramatic light column and the filigree skylights on the inside contribute to achieving LEED Gold Certification for the building. The station is set to help reduce CO2 emissions by 1.4% statewide.
The 5.4 acre rooftop park is designed to contribute to the urban quality of life, but also to enhance the environmental experience of the building that will be the hub that connects 11 different transportation modes serving 45 million passengers a year.
Follow the construction progress of the facade here!
Design collaboration with Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
Renderings courtesy of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA)
2006 — 2012: Fort Worth, Texas
The conceptual development for the Phyllis Tilley Memorial Bridge combined a stress ribbon and arch bridge principle that won many awards. It crosses the Trinity River to connect Trinity Park to a new trail that leads to downtown Fort Worth.
“The stress ribbon bridge‘s graceful profile enhances the serene landscape. A steel arch supports the steel stress ribbon and precast concrete planks over the river, complementing the adjacent historic Lancaster vehicular bridge. At night, the bridge is illuminated by a combination of white and blue LED lighting for increased safety and aesthetic appeal. This elegant and cost effective bridge will become a visual asset along the Trinity River and a new symbol of the city of Fort Worth. This steel stressed ribbon / arch combination bridge is the first of its kind in North America.”
Collaboration with Rosales + Partners and Freese and Nichols.
Engineering the pinnacle of One World Trade Center
On May 10th 2013 the last section of the Antenna was installed. Stay cables still to come!
Watch a time-lapse video of the installation of the Antenna here.
2010 – 2014: Glen Jean, West Virginia
Lightweight, rooted in nature and adventurous in itself; a bridge for the true Boy Scout spirit
Yes, we still do competitions. We teamed up with Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM) and entered into a competition for the new pedestrian bridge, which besides the pure functional requirements should embody the Boy Scout‘s sense of adventure. Two engineering companies entered a competition to design something visionary!
The bridge provides a crossing for a wide, deep ravine and was designed as a key feature of the new national camp for the Boy Scouts of America. It bridges the forested valley in a manner that invites the user onto the span. The unique form invokes a sense of wonder and curiosity about the design.
The design team opted for a cable supported bridge which, given the overall bridge length of 240m and main span of 175m, a most efficient option, particularly given the existence of bedrock at each end. An exciting design component allows the Boy Scouts to select their pathway across the bridge: they can either walk on the 4.5m (15 ft) wide main deck or walk on 75cm (30in) wide secondary walkways located directly on top of the suspension cables. The latter provide splendid views as users walk just above the tree tops.
The bridge profile is unique in that the bridge uses an underslung cable configuration, where the main cables rise up to 7m (23 ft) above the deck at the piers and dip 4.5m (15 ft) below the deck in the center of the bridge. This reduces the height of the towers while maintaining an efficient cable profile.
Photo: Boy Scouts of America
New York, USA
The inauguration of the 34th Street Hudson Yards Subway Station makes transportation history.
The first new addition to New York’s subway system since 1989, the 1.5-mile extension of the line 7 provides a new connection in the city and develops the area around the new Hudson Park and Boulevard, which is surrounded by beautiful green areas and open space.
The 34th Street subway access locations were enclosed by double-curved grid-shell structures made of glass and stainless steel. The form of the shell was designed to minimize support points, so the edge beams supporting the canopies touch the ground at only three points.
The canopies are New York’s largest two subway access enclosures, covering a total of 762m² (8200 ft²) and 518m² (5500 ft²), respectively. Each lightweight grid is strengthened with deeper elements in specific axes and with reinforcing cables positioned underneath the glass roof on the upper half of the grid beams.
The canopies and the café in the adjacent park are the culmination of a winning competition design in collaboration with Toshiko Mori Architects. The structural steel internal frame and external screen supports of the café add color and convenience to the site and adds to the revitalization of an area of the city.
The One World Trade Center
New York, NY
This was an exceptional project to start with: the respectful remembrance of the meaning of the site, the architectural design, certain iconic status, and the newly embraced architectural and environmental standards that would establish precedents for social responsibility in urban planning and design in New York made it a rare opportunity that we enthusiastically welcomed.
The inauguration of the One World Observatory in May 2015 also marks 10 years of design, re-design, and construction and our 10th anniversary of sbp in New York.
The 10th anniversary marks a milestone
The One World Trade Center and its soaring spire provided the opportunity for schlaich bergermann partner to produce an iconic design and establish ourselves in New York. 10 years on, we celebrate its completion, our history together and schlaich bergermann partners future in New York.