Text by Ian Volner
Yet another instance—among many—of the underpublicized public works projects completed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the U.S. Land Port of Entry at Van Buren, Maine, sits astride America’s border with the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Although less contentious than its southern counterpart, the U.S.’s northern frontier is no less logistically complex and economically vital, and the project by the team of Snow Kreilich Architects of Minneapolis and Robert Siegel Architects of New York navigated the attendant challenges with aplomb: Located on 21 acres, the building is clad in a combination of aluminum and patterned glass, and its interior is enlivened by corridors of an almost Kubrickian orange.
Security is naturally a primary concern at the facility, but the ensemble’s gently undulating landscape, rhythmically alternating façade, and subtly shifted massing lends it a quality of delicacy that softens the hard edges of its tough-minded program. Carefully crafted berms, for example, both direct stormwater to bioswales and prevent vehicles from leaving proscribed, and monitored, routes. A credit not just to President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan but to the U.S. General Services Administration’s Design Excellence Program, the project shows how far both were prepared to go to select smaller firms from all around the country—most not previously known for large public projects. The effect, in Van Buren and elsewhere, has been not only increased visibility for up-and-coming designers, but a dramatic improvement in the quality and diversity of the federal government’s building projects over the last eight years.
Project: U.S. Land Port of Entry, Van Buren, Maine
Client: U.S. General Services Administration
Design Architect (Design Team): Snow Kreilich Architects, Minneapolis . Julie Snow, FAIA (principal-in-charge/project lead designer); Matthew Kreilich, AIA (project lead designer); Tyson McElvain, AIA (project manager); Mary Springer, AIA (project architect); Pauv Thouk, AIA, Mike Heller, Assoc. AIA, Ryan O’Malley, Tamara Wibowo, Dan Winden, Kai Haller (project team)
Energy Modeling and Mechanical/Electrical Engineer (Design Team): Sebesta Blomberg
Structural Engineer (Design Team): Meyer Borgman Johnson
Civil Engineer (Design Team): Jacobs Engineering Group
Landscape Architect (Design Team): Coen + Partners
Architect of Record (Design/Build Team): Robert Siegel Architects, Katonah, N.Y. . Robert Siegel, AIA (principal-in-charge); Brad Burns, AIA (project architect); Mark Blumberg, Caren Faye, Julien Leysenne, Eduardo Ramos, Scott Schwarzwalder, Wayne Walker (project team)
Energy Modeling (Design/Build Team): Steven Winter Associates (LEED Consultant)
Structural Engineer (Design/Build Team): Anastos Engineering Associates
Civil/Mechanical/Electrical Engineering (Design/Build Team): Arup
Construction Manager (Design/Build Team): J&J Contractors
Landscape Architect (Design/Build Team): Sasaki Associates
Size: 46,000 square feet
Cost: $33 million
This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of ARCHITECT magazine.
Text by Katie Gerfen
(Published Dec. 19, 2014)
The U.S. Land Port of Entry in Van Buren, Maine, sits on a 21-acre site with an appropriately transit-related past: The former railyard now hosts the 32,741-square-foot station (not counting the nearly 14,000 square feet of canopies) that handles the bulk of the commercial traffic crossing the border between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.
Taking its cue from the surrounding St. John River valley, the team at Minneapolis-based Julie Snow Architects created an envelope that maximizes transparency for monitoring traffic, but also shields areas where security is at a premium. Aluminum panels alternate with silk-screened glazing in a pattern that recalls the tree-lined environment. The building’s Z-shaped form sits atop a field of geothermal wells in a water-conscious landscape. Bright orange interiors in the public-facing offices and checkpoints lend warmth to the structure, even during the long winter months.
Juror David Dowell found the holistic approach to site and structure compelling: “As a northern border crossing, where it is dark most of the time, I like the idea that lighting, landscape, and architecture are really working together to create a place that you might actually want to be,” he said. “I think the key word here is ambition,” juror Sheila Kennedy said. “I think that there is a striving to make something of this landscape.”
Security is paramount in this American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–funded project (which won a Progressive Architecture award for its unbuilt design in 2011), and yet what struck the jury was how cleverly the design hid that from view. “Usually these areas are heavily surveilled high security zones,” juror Cathy Lang Ho said, “but this still reads as very inviting.”