The Ion is a newly envisioned innovation space located in downtown Houston – constructed by re-envisioning a 1939 Sears department store which would include the additional of several stories while restoring key original elements of the original art deco exterior. A centerpiece of the interior space is a six-story atrium with light flooding from its skylight. Wrapping the interior volume of the atrium is a metal panel system conceived by facade designer James Carpenter Design Associates and Design Architect SHoP Architects. Artform was selected as the fabrication and installation partner.
This signature design feature required that every panel be unique in its flat and formed geometry which posed a challenge for an aggressive project schedule. Artform aided the design team in final system design details, engineering and manufacturing suggestions that would allow for non-sequential installation to provide installation flexibility.
The design of the panel system included multiple custom features such as an alternating emboss and perforation pattern as well as a 3-dimensional facet that carries across the entire assembly. The custom emboss texture of the stainless steel panels allows light to reflect off the ever changing surface while an array of perforations sheds light to adjacent surfaces. The result is a stunning visual: 6-stories of light shimmering across panels – ever changing with the time of day and conditions of the sky.
Artform’s Digital Fabrication Workflow is on full display as the final assembly utilized both stainless steel and aluminum components and nearly a dozen digital fabrication processes. Over half of all components were unit specific requiring digital and physical part cataloging throughout the design, fabrication and installation process. Artform’s Applied Engineering Staff utilized a combination of Rhino, Solidworks, Revit and Autocad to design and program the several thousand unique components.
Dubbed a “nucleus of innovation”, The Ion (www.ionhouston.com) is the anchor for academic, corporate and community collaboration in downtown Houston. The project of Rice University was overseen by Hines and designed by SHoP Architects. The Houston office of Gensler served as the architect of record for the project with Gilbane as the General Contractor. James Carpenter Design Associates designed the facade and related elements.
Design Architect: SHoP Architects
Architect of Record: Gensler
Facade Designer: James Carpenter Design Associates
Owner: Rice University
General Contractor: Gilbane