Garrison Architects

For Garrison Architects, designing a building is more than just a mere job. Instead, “Architecture is a manifestation of the values and priorities of a culture,” the company says. “It forms the stage for human activity.

“Communities reflect specific characteristics based on their history, climate and geography,” Garrison Architects says. “The role of architecture is to facilitate human activities, to reinforce communal identity and to reflect a progressive attitude that looks to the greatest good of humanity.”

Principal James Garrison founded the firm in 1991, after gaining extensive experience in the industry. A native of western Pennsylvania, Garrison attended the Syracuse University School of Architecture and graduated with the Matthew Del Gaudio Award for design excellence.

After graduating, he joined Polshek and Partners in 1978. There, Garrison oversaw the conception, design and technical development of many projects. Thirteen years later, Garrison founded his own company so he could work in a personalized setting.

Since then, Garrison Architects says it has worked on many types of buildings, including master plans in Tokyo and urban playgrounds. “[Our] recent projects utilize a comprehensive approach to sustainability with the goal of eliminating the machinery and energy demands of artificial climate control,” the company says.

On the Waterfront

Garrison Architects’ recent projects include the New York City Beach Restoration, which consists of 37 steel-framed, modular structures in Rockaway Beach, Coney Island, Midland Beach, Wolfe’s Pond Park and Cedar Grove. The structures – which are lifeguard stations, comfort stations and offices – are part of a rebuilding initiative after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy. 

According to inhabitat New York City, many of the buildings have already opened. Garrison Architects designed and built them under a fast-track schedule that required them to be completed by May 27.

“Each structure will be elevated above grade to resist destruction by future storms,” Garrison Architects says. All of the buildings and their components are designed as a system of modular elements to meet the project’s schedule. 

For instance, “Both the modular chassis and the elements installed within and upon it are systematized,” the company continues. “Factory prefabrication was used to eliminate weather delays and allow for the simultaneous preparation of the sites and foundations.”

Usually, Garrison Architects explains, modules are arranged in pairs and connected by ramps and stairs. “This was done to reduce field labor and maintain as small a footprint as possible on the beach,” it says.

The buildings are built from a galvanized steel frame and designed to withstand harsh weather. 

“They are finished with high-grade stainless steel and fiber-reinforced concrete on their exterior,” it says.

The structures also are naturally lit and can be ventilated through their clerestories and skylights. “Sunlight is reflected onto the glass tile ceilings via polished stainless steel louvers,” Garrison Architects says.

Rain screen cladding systems and double ventilated roofs add to the buildings’ lives and reduce solar heat transmission. “Photovoltaic roof arrays are net metered to offset energy use,” the company adds.

Campus Construction

Garrison Architects’ New York City projects also include the Lehman College Modular Day Care Center. The building, currently under construction, will span 13,000 square feet when finished.

According to Garrison Architects, the project reflects the advantages of industrialized building for colleges that want to combine state-of-the-art design and sustainability while having minimal disruptions on campus. “The Child Care Center was prefabricated offsite as modules, and then assembled onto the building’s foundation within a single week,” it says.

The center will be located between two academic buildings and connect a public street and the campus walk. “Site circulation has been designed to connect the street to the higher level of the campus, while providing accessible routes to the adjacent buildings,” Garrison Architects says.

The building’s classrooms, Garrison Architects notes, are designed with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass panels that open onto balconies with integrated planting beds and trellises. “These create vertical gardens for cultivation by each classroom,” the company says.

At the top of a central atrium, a buoyant air system exhausts air. “Cleansed ventilation air is supplied to the building via the classrooms and building integrated green walls,” it says. “The principle facades face east and west and incorporate vertical glass louvers designed to harvest light as the sun strikes the building from oblique angles.”

Green Evolution

The Beach Restoration and Lehman College projects reflect Garrison Architects’ ongoing focus on sustainability and environmentally friendly practices. These sustainable values “must be considered as matter of continuous evolution in terms of both evolution and technique,” according to the company. “An exploration of that evolution lies at the core of our practices.”

The company strives to “move away from notions such as planned obsolescence, machinery and the control of nature,” it states. “We are evolving new architectural techniques informed by the reality that human beings and their activities are part of and determined by their relationship to nature.

“In contrast to artificially tempered environments of the international style, which ignored climatic distinctions and thus required tremendous amounts of energy, Garrison Architects makes buildings that respond to environmental contexts, employing a range of sustainability strategies, from the elimination of air conditioning to the conservation of water and natural resources,” it says.

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