History and Culture of Kieran Timberlake
The alchemy of art, science, analysis, and intuition with regard to the built environment is our core mission.
Founded in 1984, KieranTimberlake brings together the experience and talents of over 100 professionals of diverse backgrounds and abilities in a practice that is recognized worldwide. Their projects include the programming, planning, and design of new structures as well as the conservation, renovation, and transformation of existing buildings, with special expertise in education, government, arts and culture, civic, and residential projects.
Common to all their work is that each project begins with a question and continues its development within a culture of continuous asking, ensuring that design results from deep investigation. KieranTimberlake is committed not only to delivering the highest quality services to their clients, but also to pursuing ideas that push the practice of architecture forward.
They have received hundreds of design citations, including the Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects in 2008 and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Architecture from the Smithsonian Institution in 2010.
They provoke change within the practice of architecture by pushing the boundaries of current norms for design and construction, pursuing broad questions like, How do they reconcile the contradictory demands for low energy consumption and abundant natural light? How do they recover the embodied energy in a building? and How do they achieve greater quality and environmental responsibility in less time? They rely on collective intelligence and nonhierarchical production structures for gains in economy, efficiency, and quality. Some of the provocations we have pursued include re-envisioning the traditional building envelope, developing new techniques in off-site fabricated architecture, and building new tools for sustainable design. They work toward the evolution of the field, toward an architecture that embraces transformation and progress. In the spirit of making change through meaningful collaboration, they participate in lectures, conferences, symposia, and exhibitions around the world.
They seek ways to improve the art, quality, and craft of architecture through research into new materials, processes, assemblies, and products. Their commitment to research has provided a way for deep investigation to be conducted during design—and for the results to stimulate and augment the processes of designing and building at KieranTimberlake. Exploratory, empirical, and applied research brings added value to our commissioned architectural projects and allows us to develop new custom products and tools for the architecture industry.
KieranTimberlake takes a holistic view to designing for sustainability. It is our belief that current standards can result in a checklist approach to environmental design. They advocate designing for the integrity of the structure as a whole rather than a sum of individual parts, and we utilize integrated systems that work together for greater gains. Whenever possible, features serve multiple purposes: A pond on site may serve as a leisure amenity, a stormwater management strategy, and a source for landscape irrigation. Their research focus allows us to pursue the latest developments in environmental technology and materials and to develop our own sustainable building methodologies. They understand the need to balance the ideals of resource conservation, energy efficiency, and environmental stewardship with the realities of performance criteria, constructability, and budget.
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Kieran Timberlake Selected Projects
UNC Charlotte has historically made its home on a 1,000-acre, neo-Georgian campus ten miles from downtown Charlotte. As part of its strategic plan, the university wanted to bring its educational offerings closer to the city, making graduate and continuing education programs accessible to students living and working downtown. As a state university, it needed to achieve its ambitious vision for an urban academic building on a limited budget. Working in collaboration with Charlotte-based Gantt Huberman Architects, we undertook a simultaneous investigation of program, environmental performance, systems, and architectural identity that allowed the design to emerge based on analysis, options, and frequent feedback. The process linked design and cost review, resulting in a building that establishes a new paradigm for the University of North Carolina.
The Center City Building defines UNC Charlotte as a vibrant addition to Charlotte’s central business district and establishes a lively urban presence within the burgeoning First Ward neighborhood. As the UNC system’s first urban campus, it provides visibility within the city, anchors the creation of a new 4-acre park on the adjacent site, and brings a new academic presence to the downtown fabric. By engaging with the city and helping to activate the neighborhood, the Center City Building helps to catalyze future development.
The building’s form responds to its context in Charlotte. The tower is designed to enhance the skyline, with upper floors articulated as three rotated masses. Unlike the individual departmental buildings at the main campus, the Center City Building is shared by multiple departments and users, including urban design, health administration, the Belk College of Business MBA program, among others. The rotated volumes define a more intimate community scale for learning within the building. Each “block” combines one office floor and two instructional floors connected by a multi-story lounge. This organization provides a mix of teaching, administrative, and gathering spaces throughout the building and encourages interdepartmental interaction, with shared office and teaching spaces that further enhance community.
The bottom block is dedicated to large gatherings and public amenities. At street level, a bookstore, gallery, café, and landscaped plaza provide a welcoming pedestrian experience. The double-height atrium, auditorium, and lecture hall occupying the second and third floors share the scale of the adjacent plaza, future park, and surrounding neighborhood. Their scale, transparency, and visibility from the outside define the building as uniquely public. Throughout these public levels, the main flooring material is brick, which has historical roots in North Carolina and provides a reference to the prevalent material of the main campus.
Photos by Kieran Timberlake
Centered around Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, New York University’s campus exists within a dense mix of traditional and modern buildings. Because of this urban campus, the school’s various programs are dispersed across a number of separate buildings, each functioning with far less space than the University’s peer institutions.
Based on University planning studies, NYU needed to increase space for faculty and students to strengthen its academic culture. In addition to more classrooms, the University needed specialized space for its renowned performing arts programs, student and faculty housing, and athletic facilities. Working in collaboration with Davis Brody Bond, KieranTimberlake designed a building on the campus’s southern edge that would graciously accommodate NYU’s academic needs, embody its character and vibrancy, and offer new ways for the University to engage with its own community and the larger city of New York.
Designed to optimize interactions between diverse student groups and academic disciplines, 181 Mercer includes classrooms, informal study spaces, performing arts theaters, rehearsal and practice rooms, varsity sports arenas, a recreational sports gymnasium, and a café, as well as faculty and first-year student housing. Each of these spaces will be organized into unique “neighborhoods,” all of which will be connected to an open and expansive commons that provides collaborative study, meeting, and gathering places.
181 Mercer’s design takes advantage of its 360-degree relationship with the neighborhood by placing hallway circulation along its transparent perimeter and classroom and instructional spaces towards the center of the building. This reversal of conventional building organization will provide faculty and students with one-of-a-kind city views while also giving outside observers a sense of the building’s activity. This distinct layout, along with the building’s prominent stairways, creates a sense of openness and connection by encouraging the casual encounters and intellectual exchanges that are at the center of the NYU experience. Outside, the design continues to develop connections by creating a new pedestrian “greenway” that links two major thoroughfares along the building’s west side.
Photos by Kieran Timberlake
Iowa State University is a public, land grant university known for its strong engineering programs and commitment to hands-on learning. To further strengthen its multidisciplinary culture of innovation, the University needed a high-quality, centralized space for undergraduate students to explore ideas outside the bounds of conventional curricular structures. The Student Innovation Center provides a flexible, dynamic space that encourages around-the-clock experimentation, collaboration, and free exchange of ideas.
A SHARED SPACE
The concept of the Center is unique and had no precedent at the time of design in 2016. To design a building that truly supported the needs of students, the team created an in-depth discovery process to gather feedback from more than 4,000 students, 50 faculty in six colleges, and dozens of professional staff, including university leadership. Key concepts such as visual connectivity between spaces emerged as project aspirations and became defining characteristics of the Center. As a result, a central atrium and adjacent courtyard create visual connections between interior and exterior spaces. These moments of simultaneity suggest potential collaborations and encourage students to expand beyond their disciplines.
A STRIKING FIRST IMPRESSION
The Center’s facade makes a striking first impression as the pleats develop and transition from three dimensions to two. The facade expresses the dynamism of the program and is juxtaposed against the resilience of the maker spaces inside. This intentional dichotomy establishes a dialogue between the act of making and the results of the endeavor. The facade is also performative. Solar heat gain due to incident radiation is reduced by one-third because of the pleats’ careful orientation. This facade, coupled with high efficiency heat recovery, greatly contributed to the Center’s LEED Gold certification.
The Center is flexible as a rule. This was a priority for the university that is acknowledged in the Special Projects component of the building program. Intended to change per semester, Special Projects spaces are open areas that place student work on display and throughout the building. Flexibility is also in the DNA of the building itself. Through the use of raised access flooring, the team was able to conceal infrastructure in a plenum and facilitate the relocation of partitions above the assembly without revision to building systems.
Activity defines the character of each floor. A glassblowing studio in the first floor’s atrium, home to the university’s Gaffer’s Guild, sets the tone of the building’s hands-on, collaborative culture. The atrium is the largest public space in the Center, and one of four attractor spaces located across each of the building’s levels that draw visitors up and through the building. On the second floor, a sunken courtyard provides a moment of discovery with a semi-private outdoor space and art gallery; on the third floor, a demonstration kitchen and food-producing terrace offer respite and space for gathering. A student-run café, SPARKS, and a cantilevered outlook define the building’s highest level. With views across campus students enjoy a vantage that inspires.
Photos by Kieran Timberlake
Do not forget that we will be posting more work by Kieran Timberlake in the coming weeks and months, so keep an eye out for more of their incredible work!! Every Friday we will be posting a new Featured Company, so join us again next week!