Text by Edward Keegan
Two office buildings, one six stories and the other seven stories, are connected by a bridge and supplemented to the north by a lower-scaled annex and parking garage that supports an extensive photovoltaic array, providing 20 percent of the complex’s energy needs. The concrete-framed buildings are designed to LEED Platinum core-and-shell standards through material use and smart siting. “It costs you nothing to orient the building correctly,” Sexton says. The architects mitigated primary solar gain by placing fire stairs at the east and west ends of the office structures. Located behind carefully pleated glass façades, the stairs are spacious and encourage healthy use by the occupants.
Developed through the U.S. General Services Administration’s Design Excellence program, the 383,000-square-foot complex consolidates nearly 1,000 FBI employees who had previously worked in several locations throughout the Miami area. Open offices receive ample natural light deep into the core due to the slim 60-foot width of the buildings―a dimension more typical in Europe. The buildings’ undulating north and south faces contrast with the faceted curtainwalls at the east and west, and along the façades facing the courtyards between the structures. The pleated expression extends themes based on Mies van der Rohe’s seminal but unbuilt 1920s projects that have been previously explored by Krueck + Sexton in buildings like Chicago’s Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. “We’re highly intrigued with reflections,” Krueck says.
The east and west courtyards are subtly different. The main entrance is at the eastern end, where an open colonnade under the north building creates a wider ground plane that invites visitors in shaded comfort. The larger west courtyard is a protected outdoor amenity strictly for employees.
Sexton notes that one of the toughest things about entering a building in South Florida is that you’re initially cold and blind due to the difference in temperature between the sunny and steamy outdoors and the over-conditioned and comparatively dark interiors. The architects address this abrupt change by orchestrating an entry sequence that allows people to adapt in stages―moving from the parking lot that might be 90 degrees and 10,000 footcandles through a series of more sheltered spaces before entering the building proper. “It goes down 5 degrees, then 3 degrees, then 2 degrees,” Sexton says. “And the footcandles go down, too.”
Early in his career, Krueck abandoned the postmodern world of architecture and trained for five years as an artist; that background has since informed his approach to design. One such influence has been Roy Lichtenstein. Here in Miramar, subtle patterns on the building—from the fritting on the glazing to the perforations in the metal sunscreens—reflect the dotted pop art technique that the painter typically employed. The relatively clear glass skin might, at first glance, seem colorless, but “it’s almost like a chameleon,” Krueck says. “It takes on the color of the light.”
The metal sunscreens, which are laid out in a diamond pattern, were developed with Atelier Ten. While they’re predominantly deployed on the south façade (as well as the east and west façades of the bridge that separates the two courtyards), their principal use isn’t for shading, but rather to reflect light onto the interior ceilings, cutting the lighting energy load. And their layered composition adds another dimension to the otherwise two-dimensional façades. “There’s a depth to them,” Krueck says, “depending on the light.” The thinness of these elements, coupled with their perforations, keep the building’s glassy elevations uncluttered. “We liked the idea of a highly secure building being light and transparent,” Sexton says.
The building also “had to be iconic,” Sexton says. But what does that mean in 2015? The architecture has a strong presence, which is no small feat given the FBI’s complex program. Indeed, the building stands as a stunningly ethereal testament to the state of the art in contemporary office buildings. It actually transcends the goals of the Design Excellence program to improve the quality of federal architecture, and sets an example for what private developers could build, if they moved beyond simplistic pro-formas. Krueck + Sexton provide qualities of interior space―namely daylight, views, walkability, and energy efficiency―that should inspire us to expect more from every office building constructed in the United States. And that’s a lesson we should all embrace together.
Project: Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove Federal Building, Miramar, Fla.
Client: U.S. General Services Administration
Bridging Design Team
Bridging Design Architect: Krueck + Sexton Architects, Chicago
M/E/FP Engineer: WSP Flack + Kurtz
Structural Engineer/Building Envelope Consultant: Thornton Tomasetti
Civil Engineer: Miller Legg
Landscape Architect: Curtis + Rogers Design Studio
Lighting Designer: George Sexton Associates
Environment and High-Performance Design Consultant: Atelier Ten
Protective Design: Hinman Consulting Engineers
FP/Life Safety: Rolf Jensen & Associates
Security Systems: Sako & Associates
Acoustical/AV/IT: Dugger & Associates
Vertical Transportation: Jenkins & Huntington
Cost Consultant: Toscano Clements Taylor
General Contractor: Hensel Phelps, Derek Hoffine
Design/Build Architect and Interior Designer: Gensler
M/E Engineer and Lighting Designer: Syska Hennessy Group
Structural Engineer: Walter P Moore
Civil Engineer and Landscape Architect: Atkins
Geotechnical Engineer: Professional Service Industries
Construction Manager: Jacobs
Blast Analysis: Hinman Consulting Engineers
Curtainwall Assemblies: Gordon H. Smith
Size: 383,000 square feet
Cost: $194 million