This is the first in a series of post that will describe LMNts involvement in the design of the Cleveland Medical Mart. In February of 2010, a joint partnership between Merchandise Mart Properties (MMPI) and Cuyahoga County chose LMN Architects as the designer for the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center project. The scope includes demolition of the existing convention center, and construction of new below-grade exhibition spaces and an above ground, five storey Medical Mart building. The site, located in downtown Cleveland, includes the Burnham Malls that were the centerpiece of the 1903 Cleveland Group Plan. The Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center is the city’s most prominent effort to date in reinventing itself as the country’s hub of medical research and trade activity.
From the beginning of LMN’s involvement on this project, an extremely aggressive schedule was the project’s biggest challenge. Only 8 months were allocated to complete Pre-Design, Schematic Design, and Design Documents, less than half the time we would normally spend on a project of this scale and complexity. This forced us to devise faster ways of designing and working with our consultants, design-assist partners, and fabricators in order to resolve many design challenges and bring the ambitious facade design from concept through shop drawings in under 4 months. And all of this was to be done within a tight budget…
The Med Mart will house 235,000 square feet of permanent showrooms, meeting rooms, and offices for major medical equipment suppliers and service providers. The building shares circulation and mechanical systems with the adjacent below-grade convention center, and its central atrium will serve both as a major entry to the complex as well as a large special-events space. From within the atrium, one will be able to view both the Mall and the exhibition spaces below.
The Burnham Malls form Cleveland’s most significant civic space and is surrounded by several historic buildings dating back to the early 1900s. As the newest addition to the Mall, the Med Mart must be both respectful of its historic context and reflective of its role as home to some of the world’s leading medical technology companies.
The building is conceived as a monolithic hovering solid, whose main atrium is expressed as a vast carved opening in the main east elevation facing the Malls. The hovering solid allows the more public ground level to connect informally to its varied urban surroundings, and unifies the upper three floors of medical showrooms overlooking the four level atrium and the Malls.
Our goal was to develop a building whose architectural language would negotiate the vast scalar differences between the large civic expanse of the Malls and the surrounding smaller scaled streets and neighboring buildings. In addition, we wanted to develop an envelope system that both reinforced the building’s sense of permanence, but also revealed increasing levels of textural detail at various proximities.
Our interest in digital design and fabrication immediately led us to embracing the use of precast concrete. Precast concrete is a cost-effective way of enclosing a building, and it complements the building’s historic context with its monolithic, permanent quality.
Most of all, we were inspired by its endless formal capabilities, and eager to develop a unique, sculptural facade system that would easily adapt to multiple contextual and programmatic requirements.
With the use of tools like Grasshopper, Rhino, 3DS Max, Revit, 3D printing and many others, we were able to achieve our ambitious design goals in a very short period of time while keeping the project on budget. In the coming weeks we’ll be publishing a series of posts chronicling the development of this precast facade system, and what we learned along the way.