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Anatomy of a building III
TOPIC: Construction & Developments
By: Alan Markoff | alan@cfp.ky
07 September, 2011

Part I:     Anatomy of a building 

Part II:    Anatomy of a building 

Part IV:  Anatomy of a Building

Part V:   Anatomy of a Building

Part VI:   Anatomy of a Building

The third segment of a six-part series about the new Solaris Avenue building at Cayman Bay looks at the exterior design elements and how they fit into the development’s overall design philosophy. 

One of the challenges in designing Camana Bay is making the various buildings and other elements look unique, while at the same time connected, the way it happens in the best towns and cities in the world. 

Jared Grimes, Camana Bay’s senior manager design and development, said the goal is authenticity. 

“We really wanted Camana Bay to feel like a real town, rather than a Disney town,” he said. “We don’t want it to feel like you’re walking on an avenue of sameness.” 

For example, sun shading on the buildings in Camana Bay is a standard aspect of the design element, but the form is different everywhere.

When the team of designers set out to plan the Solaris Avenue building - the five storey, 68,000-square-foot, Class A office building that will become the new home of the law firm Mourant Ozannes in July 2012 - they clearly knew their mandate.

 

 Architecture

The Solaris Avenue building sits on a site on the northern part of The Crescent, the area of the Town Centre along Camana Bay’s Harbour that features restaurants and residential apartments.

Grimes called the building the terminus of The Crescent, the point where it transitions from the Town Centre to the residential area of Camana Bay.

John Torti, president of US-based Torti Gallas and Partners, which provided the architectural design for the Solaris Avenue building, said his firm designs buildings in the context of their surroundings.


“When we were given the task to design the building, we understood this was a very important site in Camana Bay,” he said. “This is, as we call it in the office, the end of The Crescent, and the building had to perform its role.”

In addition to putting a “punctuation” on the north end of The Crescent, the Solaris Avenue building also sits directly on The Harbour, making it a very high-profile site.


We understood the building had to respond architecturally,” said Torti. “The tower in the corner was the architectural element we used to do that with a certain degree of dignity and power.”


Grimes believes the Solaris Avenue Building tower will become a key design element at Camana Bay.


“The tower really defines The Crescent,” he said.

The fifth floor is also a strong architectural element, Torti said.

“The other big form-giving device on the building is the special treatment given to the top floor,” he said, referring partially to the maximised window glazing that almost gives the appearance of a band of continuous windows. In addition, there is a slight set back of the fifth floor from the first four floors that breaks up the plane of the building’s walls and gives it a four-storey line even though it’s five storeys. 

“It helps mediate the scale of this building to the scale of [the other] The Crescent buildings,” Torti said.

Because of the orientation of the building site in relation to the Harbour, a large percentage of the offices inside will have great views toward the North Sound. However, the building was situated in a way to limit the blockage of view from the rest of the buildings in The Crescent, particularly the apartments above ‘restaurant row’.

Sunshades  

As is the case with the other buildings in Camana Bay, the Solaris Avenue building has unique sunshading, something Grimes said is very important in the Cayman Islands.

“We do try to pay attention to where the sun is,” he said. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s beware of the sun here.”

Torti said sunshades are also an important piece of the building’s design.

Protruding airfoil sunshades above the top floor windows will help crown the Solaris Avenue building, while a variety of shade solutions are used on the first four floors, depending on the direction they face. 

Athorough computer model solar study was conducted for the site to determine the needs before designing.


“That’s one of the greatest advantages to being in the computer age,” Torti said, explaining that a computer programme modelled the track of the sun for every day of the year, allowing his firm to develop an efficient shading solution for the building.

“Each facade was designed for its sun orientation. For example, on the south side, where the sun is the harshest, we have a beautifully articulate, large sunscreen,” he said, noting that it still allowed great views out of the building from the inside.

Other special shading solutions include the 10-foot deep horizontal sunshades for the ground floor retail outlets and the shading for the canal-side restaurant spaces, so people can enjoy al fresco dining.

“The fact that the first floor is going to be active retail is a big plus for the building,” Torti said.

Not all sides of the building will look like retail; however, the Solaris Avenue building has been designed with one side that has a corporate look that will be used as the entrance for the office tenants on the second through fifth floors.

“It provides the feel of dignity, privacy and elegance as you come in the building,” Torti said. 

Landscaping

Elaborate landscaping design around the buildings is another common thread in Camana Bay.

Jean Weston, associate for the US-based landscape designers OLIN, said that because of the transitional nature of the Solaris Avenue Building, part of the challenge was making the landscaping around the building similar, but different, from the landscaping in the rest of The Crescent.

“But still wanted a cohesive whole, sort of like moving from the living room to the dining room in a house,” she said.

Instead of the formal lawns and the grid of date palms on The Crescent, the retail-side of the Solaris Avenue building will have clusters of coconut palms.

However, even though the elements are different, the south side of the Solaris Avenue building will still mainly consist of trees and lawn.

“That simplicity works with the rest of The Crescent.”

The Harbour-side boardwalk will also transition next to the Solaris Avenue Building, starting with a boardwalk’s only significant shade feature, a specially designed tensile structure that will provide shade to those on the lower boardwalk without blocking the views from The Crescent.

“It will create a nice quiet place to sit,” she said.

The wall along the boardwalk will also transition and its width will narrow as it turns the corner next to the Solaris Avenue building.

Weston said the idea of the transition was to create “a subtle clue that you’re moving from one place to another place without it being a sudden break”.

The north side landscaping, where the corporate entrance is located, will have a more formal feel, with tall palm trees, lush plants and an open-air atrium. 

The facade of the atrium will look like it’s part of the building, even though it will be outside.

Weston said plants like tall, thin palm trees will be able to grow right up through the atrium’s opening.

“It’s almost a gesture of having an indoor garden, but it’s not indoors.”

Strength  

The Solaris Avenue building was also designed with structural strength in mind, taking into consideration hurricane and earthquake hazards. The materials used in construction are selected based on their ability to survive the elements and hazards and the architectural design follows suit, said Torti. 

“This building is reinforced concrete everything,” he said, adding that all of the windows and sunscreen were designed to withstand hurricane winds. 

“This building is essentially built like a fortress, but looks like an elegant, downtown, Caribbean building. It’s as strong as you can possibly imagine... all in a very elegant suit of clothes.”  

 
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