Interview with Francisco Gonzales-Pulido

LGN talks to Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido President and Partner at Jahn about the past, present and future of architectural design. He elaborates on the evolution of the architectural discipline, especially in line with the development of ever more advanced contemporary materials, rapidly changing market trends and more environmentally aware customers.

Photos: JAHN

In 2012, you took on a shared design leadership role with Helmut Jahn. How have you and Mr. Jahn collaborated over the years since you joined the firm in 1999?

This is actually a long story – there are so many elements. I joined in 1999 after being on my own for eight years. It was an interesting time, with the industry going through a transition – seeing a fusion between the architectural and engineering aspects of buildings and trying to develop a synergetic approach to design. What we were seeing was the evolution of an energy-conscious integrated design approach.
Very soon after I joined, I worked both with and for Helmut. In 2009, after a s eries of very successful projects together we decided that it was time for a partnership, so we became partners. It has since developed into a strong professional relationship, we are great friends and I really think that I found in him an architectural soul mate.
I have a different background and contribute differently, but complementary. Right away we approach projects from different directions. Our creative process is different, our goals the same, but through the years there have been buildings we have done together and buildings he wants to do – he is great at solving urban problems as well as the smallest details; he goes to every single corner and approaches all problems very quickly. We work to our strengths and quickly realise which projects fit each of our visions.

Do you remember your first experience with laminated glass, what was it and how did the glass help you in your design?

In terms of design there have been so many buildings. One that was signifi cant, as I was fully incharge, was Leatop Plaza. The building is ‘humble’, the client wanted simplicity, beauty and a very special curtain wall.
I have been going to China for a long time and have seen the industry there evolving. The vertical fi n design was subject to so many suggestions on how to build it. This was also before the codes became so stringent (now we can’t do certain size and weight combinations). Using today’s standards, Leatop would weigh some 20% more, as things have to be over designed to build in a higher safety factor.
In China glass is limited to 4.5sqm, so laminated glass is changing that. In order to have a big piece of glass in Shanghai you would have to double laminate the glass (inside and outside). Leatop was different at the time, there was a much more open attitude to what the Western world was doing. Although the façade is not particularly advanced, Leatop is much more modern and the shingle became a device for passive shading.
We undertook analysis for the weather and discovered we could reduce the cooling load. The shingle had to be laminated due to cantilever design and was critical to eliminate too many structural supports. With the right thickness and lamination achieved the clean lines that we had envisaged. With this building in particular there were concerns about how the inner layer would wear over time. We looked at traditional interlayers, but these were not satisfactory. SentryGlas® on the other hand does not delaminate and does not affect the coloration of the glass (…)

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