A Great Time to Be a “Tween”
The parent company of Limited Too, Tween Brands Inc., challenged Chute Gerdeman Retail to create a prototype to position Limited Too as the premium fast fashion tween brand. In creating a new envelope for an already successful brand, the design needed to be modern and more sophisticated than the last—one that reflects the aspirations of both the brand and its customers. It also needed to further differentiate Limited Too from more value-based brands like Justice.

ALL PHOTOS: Mark Steele Photography, Columbus, Ohio

The store environment needed to be girly and fun with flexible elements for easy merchandising – all while keeping in mind that it needed mom’s seal of approval. The design team got to work by putting on the shoes of this target customer, a tween girl between the ages of 8 and 12. To help form the design for this flagship brand prototype, brand attributes were defined as: sophisticated, luscious, and witty.

Dramatic translucence and taffy-pull curves lure in passersby. The windows are open and glowing and feature quick-change, flavor-of-the-week flexibility. The identity was modified to better align with the concept.

Because Limited Too owns the daisy as a brand signature, the design team transformed it into an iconic shape. By abstracting the form and making the shape more sophisticated and symbolic, the flower becomes elegant and powerful as it’s incorporated into the architecture of the space.

The application of indirect lighting under and around ceiling soffits creates a glowing halo of light that inspires a modern, optimistic feel. Giving visual relief, the fitting rooms break up the long product walls and create a pause point to feature merchandise stories. The once crowded cashwrap has proven to be a successful point-of-purchase area. The design team created a strong, streamlined wrap with organized areas for impulse merchandise. To make it easier for customers to shop and easier to merchandise for staff, cutouts and bins allow key impulse items to be featured and prioritized.

Positioning the second set of fitting rooms behind the cashwrap creates a boutique feel and allows for more intimate style shows for mom and daughter. Flexible and modular merchandising elements were created to be moved around the store and re-configured. The flexible new shapes and forms accommodate everything from a tank top mass-out to the introduction of Webkinz to full walls of jeans for back to school. Fixtures and tables sparkle as if sugar coated. Translucent white tables glisten with submerged prismlike jewels.

White walls and ceilings offer a clean shell for the patterns and product collections to come forward as the hero. Bright candy-colored panels alternate with white to create a sense of whimsy and fun. In keeping with the clean, modern identity, the addition of subtle but pervasive light and strong pops of color add to Limited Too’s energy and playfulness. The glowing light makes a dramatic “welcome mat” that invites her inside.

Bringing energy and lifestyle to the space, Limited Too music videos, fashion shoots, and new product offerings are projected on in-store video displays. Using thoughtful restraint, Limited Too’s signature daisy can be found throughout—from the overscale ceiling elements to the fitting room door knobs. No detail was left untouched.

Girls love it! And why not? The store is just like them: fresh, sassy, and smart.

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Finding France in Little Havana
Mc Gowan Builders served Alliance Française de Miami as general contractor for construction of its new facility in Miami, known as the Alliance Française Village. The project encompassed renovation and conversion of two pre-existing buildings – a 5,000-square-foot, one-story warehouse and a 6,000-square-foot, two-story industrial building, ground-up construction of a 5,000-square-foot addition, related site work, and utility connections.

ALL PHOTOS: Wilk Marketing Communications/www.wilkmarketing.com

The facility is the new home for a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote the French language and culture through the operation of a language school and other educational activities, encouragement of international travel, and cultural exchanges.

This renovation and revitalization project transformed a former printing facility and an adjacent property into a cultural and educational center that houses 14 classrooms, a reception area/lobby atrium, a library, a bookstore, a large multi-purpose and event space, offices, two meeting/break rooms, a catering kitchen, and a retail component with six tenants, including a French café and a travel agency.

The facility features new and reinforced structural support systems, a custom storefront, new MEPS systems, a hydraulic elevator, zinc casework, kitchen equipment, and an energy recovery HVAC system.

Mc Gowan Builders, along with the HOK design team, engineers, and the client, performed a value engineering analysis aimed at meeting the available construction budget. Through scope changes and system and material revisions and substitutions, the team reduced the initial construction cost by approximately $1 million or 25 percent.

Mc Gowan Builders installed all new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and sprinkler systems, and coordinated installation of security, telecommunications, and audiovisual systems in both the pre-existing structures and the addition. During the pre-construction phase, the team performed a value engineering analysis of the MEP systems that resulted in 10 percent reduction in cost of this component of the project.

The center is equipped with an energy recovery wheel air conditioning rooftop unit that re-circulates a portion of the cold inside air by mixing it with the intake warm outside air. This unit was custom-built by Trane, according to the MEP engineer’s specifications.

The Alliance Française center features an extensive AV system that aids its educational and cultural activities. Technosystems Inc. served as the AV and telecommunications consultant and designer, and as the low voltage subcontractor. The AV system encompasses amplification, sound, video, lighting and control components in the classrooms, and a multifunctional system in the event room.

According to Thierry Sparfel, president of Technosystems, “The audiovisual system developed for the event room is based on our firm’s designs for the hospitality market, particularly the cruise ship facilities that require suitability for a wide variety of uses and configurations.” The AV system was built around a computerized Crestron control panel. Through a simple touchscreen interface, the event room can easily be configured by a layperson for a variety of functions. Possible AV configurations may include surround-sound audio for movie screenings, one-directional audio for speaker events, computerized projector presentations, as well as different sound, lighting, and visual arrangements for banquets, weddings, and other social or business gatherings. “We devoted a significant amount of time to understanding the needs and functions required for this project. A thorough understanding of the client’s functional needs is key to the successful integration of all systems in a user-friendly manner,” adds Sparfel.

Technosystems worked in close partnership with Bose to specify speakers that would provide accurate acoustics and complement the interior design. All classrooms have audio playback capabilities. Five classrooms feature 37-inch LCD flat screens.

Amir Stamper, Technosystems’ director of marketing, describes his firm’s procedure for AV equipment and wiring assembly that was utilized on the Alliance Française project: “Once the system was designed, our technicians built and fully pre-assembled the equipment racks at our firm’s facility. The systems were then extensively tested. Upon completion of testing, the most sensitive equipment was removed from the racks and packed. Both the pre-wired racks and the equipment were then shipped to the project site and re-assembled. This procedure expedited the final installation at the client's facility and greatly minimized the possibility of technical problems.”

The AV system features the following main components: BOSE speakers, QSC amplifiers, Crestron automation system, Sanyo projectors, LG plasma displays, Middle Atlantic equipment racks, SGM lighting control board, and Elation stage lights. The television distribution system includes Dish Network equipment that was programmed to receive TV5’s French-language programming. Wireless Internet access is provided throughout the entire campus. The Internet Café features a separate, independent audiovisual system. The outdoor and indoor surveillance system includes cameras and IP-based DVR (digital video recorder) accessible through the Internet. The reception area showcases digital signage consisting of a 42-inch plasma screen and a video server that broadcasts advertising, TV programming, or live feeds of events.

Technosystems also installed the center’s telecom and data wiring, Panasonic PABX equipment that connects to BellSouth’s outside lines, and Panasonic telephones. The school’s data network features Cat 5 cables, cable racks, and a patch bay.

The project is located on Calle Ocho (8th Street) in Miami’s “Little Havana” district. The street is currently undergoing accelerated growth and revitalization, as it links Little Havana to the adjacent developments near Brickell Avenue.

 Tim Blair, vice president of architecture, and Yann Weymouth, director of design for HOK Florida, worked together to devise a design approach for this project. Blair describes the architectural team’s approach: “The design challenge was to economically rehabilitate two old industrial structures in order to accommodate new uses, including classrooms, a library, a bookstore, a meeting hall, administrative offices, and a French café – all while creating an exciting, fresh image for the center. This has been accomplished by housing the entry between two bold towers, red and blue, transected by the strong diagonal slope of the new white metal roof. The entrance, reception, and sidewalk café are situated in the new addition. This design approach was employed to avoid the equipment, infrastructure, elevator, and stairs intersecting the floors of pre-existing structures. The new elevator and restrooms are housed in the towers. The iconic power of the towers and new roof echo the blue, white, and red of the flags flying in front of the entry ramp. The new café, serving the visitors and students, spills out onto the front porch – an inviting image reminiscent of a European streetscape.”

Both the exterior and interior color palettes are influenced by the colors of the French flag ­– blue, white, and red. The red- and blue-clad towers read through from the exterior to the interior, as a contrast to the sloping white roof and predominately white walls. The interior finishes are simple and were chosen for durability, ease of maintenance, and budgetary considerations. The pre-existing and new concrete floors feature a sealed, medium-grey stained concrete topping. The classrooms, offices, and library have Interface carpet tile flooring in a blue/grey pattern, which was selected due to its sound absorption and durability.

Many of the rooms feature exposed ceilings, painted white, to accentuate their height and to retain the industrial feel of the original buildings. The corridors leading to the classrooms have a custom ceiling composed of corrugated, perforated aluminum panels suspended by a metal framing grid. The main lobby and some offices feature acoustical tile ceilings to increase sound absorption. The zinc countertop of the café counter is a reference to use of zinc as a traditional French bar-top material. The reception desk is custom designed to accommodate up to three staff persons. The semi-circular reception desk is clad in zinc and a bamboo veneer, which is a sustainable material.

 According to HOK Associate Marie Mihalik, “Maximizing the use of natural light was very important in the design concept. The existing clerestory windows in the classrooms were replaced with impact windows of the same configuration. The glass doors to the classrooms allow borrowed light to spill out into the corridor. The interior glass walls and doors of the classrooms and offices allow views and light from the corridors. When budget constraints required that some exterior storefront windows be omitted from the lobby space, individual 8-inch by 8-inch glass blocks were installed instead. The north-facing, two-story storefront of the entrance lobby also allows much natural light into the café and reception areas, with minimal glare and heat gain. An interior circular window in the office of the organization’s director overlooks the lobby.“

McConville describes the interior construction part of the construction process: “The project interiors feature not only Alliance Française facilities, but also retail outlets for commercial tenants. Construction of these spaces required coordination of an increased number of vendors and accommodating varying functional needs of individual tenants, while maintaining the overall project budget.”

The addition houses a striking lobby atrium, a café, a two-stop hydraulic elevator manufactured by Otis, and public restrooms. Classrooms, offices, the event space, retail outlets, and other spaces occupy the pre-existing buildings.

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Now That’s a Green Building!
GLENCOE, IL—The Chicago Botanic Garden broke ground June 3 on the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, a facility designed to serve as an international center for plant conservation research and home to the nation’s only doctoral program in plant biology and conservation.

When completed in fall of 2009, the 36,000-square-foot Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center will provide state-of-the-art laboratories and teaching facilities for over 200 PhD scientists, land managers, students, and research staff, and will include teaching facilities required for a unique doctoral program in plant biology and conservation that the Chicago Botanic Garden will conduct with Northwestern University.

While the Chicago Botanic Garden has conducted a plant conservation research program for more than 10 years, the Rice Center will enable the Garden to expand research capabilities into the study of native plants for medicinal and economic benefits, reproductive biology, seed biology and population genetics, and soil research that could lead to better understanding of the manner in which native plant habitats can absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

The building will feature a viewing gallery designed to provide the Garden’s 760,000 visitors with an opportunity to see Garden plant scientists at work. It will also feature a 10,000-square-foot living green roof, open to the public to demonstrate the best plants for green roofs in the Midwest.

Designed by Booth Hansen, the Rice Center will use materials and systems to earn a “gold” rating for sustainable design from the U. S. Green Building Council.

The groundbreaking ceremony was preceded with an afternoon “Seeds for the Future” ceremony involving students from three Chicago Public Schools. Together with Garden scientists, the students will contribute items to a “Seeds for the Future” time capsule, which will be placed in the Rice Center to be opened in 50 years.

Why Save Plants?
According to the World Conservation Union, 30 percent of the world’s plants are threatened with extinction by 2050. Since plants provide all the necessities of life, food, shelter, clothing, medicine and oxygen, the continued loss of plant life poses enormous threats to the health and well being of humans.

The new Rice Center will provide the facilities to enable the Garden to conduct research that will impact the work of those trying to save plants around the world.

For example, the Chicago Botanic Garden is on a mission to collect 20,000 seeds from each of the 1,500 native plant species of the tall grass prairie, one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems, now reduced to less than 0.01 percent of its former range. The Rice Center will provide the seed banking equipment and facilities to bank seed more effectively, seeds that one day may cure disease, provide food for millions or become viable parts of healthy ecosystems.

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A Not-So-Simple Site
RIVERSIDE, CA - June 19, 2008--Sukut Construction Inc. has broken ground on a $7.5 million project to develop the site for a new Inland Empire high school, adding to the company's impressive portfolio of complex and competitively bid school and university projects.

The campus for the future Hillcrest High School, located near State Route 91 in Riverside, is recognized by veteran school construction managers as the most challenging school building site tackled in Southern California in decades. The job includes construction of a 3,000-foot-long, 20-foot-high retaining wall to be carved out of an adjacent mountain.

Joe Philbin, president of Sukut's Inland Empire division, said Sukut bid the project because of the company's expertise in managing difficult steep and rocky landscapes.

"This is not the typical school site grading contract," Philbin said. "It is a very challenging site."

Work began in late April and is expected to be complete in early 2010, Philbin said. The new public high school on a 50-acre site will help accommodate new growth in the Inland Empire.

In all, Sukut will excavate and remove 350,000 cubic yards of dirt, and create a 65,000-square-foot soil nail wall. The wall system will be supported by 100-foot-long soil anchors drilled horizontally into the sheered mountainside, then covered by layers of concrete including a final layer sculpted into a boulder-scape façade.

Sukut also will perform mass grading for the entire campus, including school building pads, the football field and storm drains.

The Hillcrest contract comes on the heels of several other school projects, reflecting Sukut's fast growing market share of Southern California's public and private school campus development.

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Briefly Noted

Santa Monica Building Wins Architectural Award
LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Business Council (LABC) recently recognized the new Theatre Arts Building at Santa Monica College with a Los Angeles Architectural Award during a ceremony held at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA. The project, which was designed by the Los Angeles office of international architecture, planning, engineering, interior design, and project management firm LEO A DALY, was honored with The New Civic Building Award as part of LABC's 38th Annual Los Angeles Architecture Awards program.

“We are pleased to recognize LEO A DALY for their contribution to enhancing the world-class level of contemporary architecture in Los Angeles. It is the talent and creativity of their entire project team that makes development of this high quality and aesthetic appeal possible,” stated Mary Leslie, President of the Los Angeles Business Council.

The bold, contemporary design of the 20,000 square-foot, $17 million building, which opened its doors in September 2006, is the new home of the college’s award-winning performing arts program.

Greg Brown, Director of Facilities and Planning with Santa Monica College noted that, “We are very excited to see this building recognized for its architectural excellence. Having facilities such as the new Theatre Arts Building that combine high-level design with an enriching learning environment is a key component of our college’s long-term vision.”

The project has also been recognized by the Southern California Development Forum with a 2007 Community Enrichment Award, and a “Best of California 2007” award from California Construction magazine in the Southern California Performing Arts category. Replacing an overcrowded and aging 50-year-old facility, the teaching facility has greatly expanded the teaching capabilities of the theatre arts department and reinforced the program’s presence on campus. The building is one of the most recent additions to Santa Monica College’s main campus, which has undergone an architectural renaissance in recent years.

Hosted by the Los Angeles Business Council, the 38th annual awards ceremony brought together world renowned architects, developers and contractors to acknowledge and celebrate the most laudable new projects in Los Angeles County.
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Historic Farms Inspire YMCA Facility
CAMBRIDGE, MA, and KEENE, NH  - ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge, a nationally recognized architectural, planning and interior design firm specializing in educational, science, sports, and corporate facilities, announced today that is has been awarded a design project by the YMCA to design a 60,000-square-foot community recreation center to replace the existing center at 38 Roxbury Street in Keene, NH.

The design of the new Keene Family YMCA is inspired by the historic farms that populate this area of New Hampshire. The building's massing and materials carefully articulate the region's barn vernacular. Incorporated in the design are gabled roofs, rich red corrugated siding reminiscent of vertical wood boarding, a heavy timber canopy, crisp white trim that consistently frames the windows and openings, and a grey metal roof.

“Within this building, the Keene community will find the full range of amenities expected from a modern recreational facility,” said Philip L. Laird, AIA, LEED AP, principal-in-charge and president at ARC. The program will include a swimming pool, a therapy pool, a basketball court, an indoor track, gymnastics facilities, a climbing wall, adult and youth fitness areas, a child care center, and community meeting and gathering spaces.

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