Saturday, October 25, 2008

ConocoPhillips Science Building @ UAA

The ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building on the campus of UAA is finally nearing the completion of its exterior facade. Construction for the building broke ground in 2007 and is expected to be open in time for the fall semester of 2009. At 120,000 square feet, the building will house departments focused on chemistry, astronomy, geology, environmental science, physics, and a few other disciplines under one roof. A parking garage to accommodate the building will be built in the rear with spaces for over 400 vehicles. Now for those wondering, the new building will NOT be part of the campus "spine"-- the network of buildings connected via skybridge walkways. Yes, that's right; If you're planning to major in bio-chemistry or physics next fall, be sure to wear a thick coat come winter. The Nothern Light (the school's paper) is also reporting that the parking garage will be far from the new building and will therefore offer shuttle rides to and from the ISB from the garage entrance. Besides the Integrated Science Building, UAA recently held a ceremony for the ground breaking of its new Health Sciences Building which will be built across the street from campus next to Providence Hospital. Interestingly enough, this building will have a skybridge attached to it so that it can be accessible from the main campus without students and staff having to step outside. It'll be pretty cool to see a skybridge hanging over the busy Providence Drive.

Now to make things clear, I personally don't like the idea of skybridges when it comes to crowded urban areas. I'm against the idea that has been floating around for the last few years of connecting the new Dena'ina Center to the Performing Arts Center via City Hall. Don't like it, don't want it. It takes away potential foot traffic from the street while disfiguring the architectural sovereignty of each building with the connection of a non-conforming bridge. Most importantly, in a crowded area such as Downtown, destinations are much closer. The campus of UAA on the other hand is a relatively low density area in which buildings are surrounded by acres of surface parking. With its extremely tight availability of available parking near the building along with the bitter winter temperatures early in the year, it can make for a living hell when doing the walk to and from your car. Now I understand the skybridges wont fix this particular problem, but UAA has got to realize when doing its longterm planning that it has to start doing infill construction. Until then, skybridges will remain a solution for at least part of the low density problem. My $0.02.

Anyways here's a vid from UAA on the new ConocoPhillips building:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ADN editorial on Anchorage's new Title 21 codes

The staff at the Anchorage Daily News just recently published an editorial in which the newspaper takes the side of city planners and looks forward to the implementations of the Title 21 Rewrite which is in the homestretch of having its remaining sections approved by the Anchorage Assembly. For those still not in the know, Title 21, which covers zoning and planning, was ordered by the Anchorage 2020 Comprehensive Plan to be rewritten after decades of no alterations so as to address the need for alternative transportation, traffic calming, and having more sustainable use of land for the increasingly shrinking amount of available land in the Anchorage Bowl. Changes included in the rewrite of Title 21 range from small things such as having commercial properties with entrances accessible from the sidewalk, to designating Downtown and Midtown as hubs for which commercial and residential should be intermixed to give people greater freedom from having to rely on their car to make their errands or go to work. By the way, I'll always be sure update the joop and let readers know in advance whenever a public Title 21 Rewrite meeting is taking place later in the week. Meanwhile, check out the editorial:

ADN editorial on Title 21

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dena'ina officially opens to the public

So over the weekend the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center officially opened its doors to the public to show off what capabilities the new building can handle for future events that the much smaller Egan Center just couldn't take on. I wouldn't say it was as crowded as I initially feared, but there was a good showing by the public, most of whom were just impressed with the interior of the new civic center. As I've said in an earlier post, the Dena'ina Center is blessed to have been built in the 21st century and not the previous. The Egan Center's purple walls, stale art, casino-like carpet, and total absence of natural light in the main exhibition room (along with obviously the second exhibition room underground), was not aging well, to say the least. Thank goodness they at least took down those bicycle-like streamers that once hung over the main room from the ceiling. Now those were really gaudy. The Dena'ina, on the other hand, is a breathe of fresh air that took me back to the opening of Concourse C at the Anchorage International Airport with its abundant amount of natural light, clean and minimalist design, and use of a narrower Native color palette whenever color was needed. I think it's safe to say the rest of the public saw what I saw and were pleased with the results.

Just to restate some basic info, the Dena'ina Center broke ground in 2006 after the public approved use of bed-tax to fund the entire project. The Center contains 200,000 square feet and has increased the city's capacity of convention space by more than 300%. Recently, the ADN reported that the Dena'ina will operate at a loss for its first year (scroll down for the post on that story). The building is roughly the same height as the Hill Building (aka City Hall... but it will always be Hill Building to me) across the street.

Some pictures from the weekend opening (click to view):

By the way, I was pleased to see that the new convention center has a concession stand built into the main exhibit room. That was clearly the make or break for me...