Introducing Topophilia: A reimagination of The Terry Thomas

WT staff viewing the Topophilia VR experience at the all-office kick-off celebration.

Topophilia = Love of Place. Back in June we kicked off the ‘Terry Thomas Transcended’ model design competition as a way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Terry Thomas. Ultimately, it was WT Principal Nicole Winn’s model ‘Topophilia’ that won the judges hearts. Recently, we celebrated the #LoveofPlace theme by gathering to share what we love about working at the Terry Thomas and to envision how it could evolve in the next 20 years, as rendered via a Topophilia-inspired VR experience. Here’s how it all started.

The Challenge: Reimagine a ten-year-old learning laboratory

Early design sketch of Terry Thomas

Early design sketch of Terry Thomas

Since its design inception in 2005, The Terry Thomas was envisioned as a proof of concept that an urban, commercial office building could be day lit, passively cooled and profitable. Its form and program evolved based on conceptual thinking and iterative design studies.

Impactful projects are born from big ideas. In the spirit of the blue sky thinking that envisioned The Terry Thomas, Weber Thompson employees were asked to consider rethinking the way we live, work, play and sustain in the urban environment in the years to come.

Those ideas could be as simple as rethinking how we interact in the workplace or imagining how the built environment will change with ecological changes or the advent of flying cars, augmented reality, or some other unrealized technology. The goal was to present a wide range of conceptual ideas to spark a dialogue about the future of design in our city. Participants were asked to express these ideas through conceptual study models presented to firm leadership and external collaborators and subject matter experts.

Round one: Make a conceptual model

Aaron Swain working on his conceptual model

On a Friday afternoon in June 2018, individuals or small teams of Weber Thompson staff were challenged to develop conceptual models to abstractly reflect their ideas for transcending the Terry Thomas. A Pop-Up Model Shop with materials and resources was provided to kick-start concept models. At a ‘pin up’ at the end of June, concept models were presented to firm leaders and external collaborators Christopher Meek of the UW’s Integrated Design Lab, and Tom Marseille of WSP. Both were active team members who helped realize the vision of the original Terry Thomas.

Following the discussion, a final ‘winning’ model was selected: ‘In Pursuit of Topophilia’ by WT Principal, Nicole Winn.

Topophilia model by Nicole Winn

Round two: Imagine a topophilic version of The Terry Thomas

First of all, what is Topophilia?

Topophilia = Love of Place.

“Topophilia is “a general framework to discuss all the different ways that human beings love a place. People everywhere, I believe, aspire towards contentment and joy. Environment for them is not just a resource base to be used or natural forces to adapt to, but also sources of assurance and pleasure, objects of profound attachment and love.”

– Yi Fu Tuan in Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values.

How have we applied this to The Terry Thomas?

The process began with a review of the original progressive sustainability goals of the building, and an identification of the features that have most successfully encouraged topophilia. Challenges and opportunities were predicted for 20 years in the future, and were based on trajectories presented over the last ten years including a rapidly changing immediate neighborhood, the influence of technology and the challenges of environmental degradation and climate change on both a regional and global level.

Principal Cody Lodi, presents the Topophilia VR to the office.

A signature feature of the Terry Thomas is the abundance of daylight and fresh air, delivered through a highly operable skin, and designed to adapt to changing climate conditions. The central courtyard enhances this access to light and air, and through this permeability our connection to the immediate environment is amplified through sight, smell and sound. The courtyard and exterior stair provide a social space for building users to interact with each other and to the neighborhood at the ground level. All of these concepts are reinterpreted in the 2038 conceptual version of the Terry Thomas.

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