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Mortarr was started, in part, to revolutionize the commercial construction and design industry. Break down barriers, push boundaries, empower, and increase efficiencies. Right now Mortarr is bringing together some of the most influential professionals in the industry who share a similar mindset to take on the established and push for better. The Forum recently sat down with Mo Wright, Marketing Director at Gate Precast, after his workshop on innovative new developments in precast concrete facades at Facades+ NYC this past week.

Hi Mo, thanks for your time this morning! How was Facades+?


It was fantastic, any one of the individuals on our panel — Pam CampbellDiana Hun, Hale Everets — could have easily led their own session, but we were able to bring everyone together to talk about an exciting project.


You participated in a workshop on additive manufacturing, also called Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM), using Domino Site A as a case study. Can you tell us more about additive manufacturing?


Additive manufacturing, or large-scale 3D printing, is an advance in the industry that has been made over the course of the last decade, largely thanks to the Thom Mayne-led Morphosis staff of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Arne Emerson and Aleksander Tamm-Seitz (formerly of Morphosis Architects) are two of the architects from Morphosis that really pushed Gate into a new direction regarding how we view our material and the forms in which we use to shape it. We now look at the forms as modules within a larger space, instead of the forms being the larger space. Over time, our process became more advanced and now utilizes additive manufacturing to create these larger modules we have been growing toward. In the beginning, the modules were less than 3 feet, and now they are larger than 10 feet. Domino Site A was used as a case study for the workshop because that was how we are producing their façade.

Before we dive into Domino Site A, please tell us more about Gate.

Gate Precast is one of the nation’s largest producers of architectural precast concrete, pre-stressed hollow core slabs, transportation, infrastructure and marine components. We operate nine manufacturing facilities located in North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, two in Florida and three in Texas. At all of our plants, architectural and structural concrete is designed, manufactured, delivered, and installed to customers in over two-thirds of the United States.

commercial building
Domino Sugar Refinery Project

Okay, now you have to tell us more about Domino Site A and Gate’s role with the project. I get goosebumps just thinking about what you all are building.


Thanks, it is pretty incredible. We’ve done some incredible things at Gate, but this project — it’s definitely risen to the top. So, Domino Site A is part of Two Tree’s Domino Sugar Refinery redevelopment project in the Williamsburg waterfront area of Brooklyn. Site A is a mixed-use building located on the northernmost end of the site. The building rises 42 floors, it’ll have 330 apartments and, I believe, around 150,000 square feet of office space.


Pam Campbell, a partner at COOKFOX in New York, was the architect for the project, and she was given a blank form to begin the design. She had studied the surrounding industrial area and considered brick as well as a form of metal façade as a nod to the Williamsburg bridge itself, which is adjacent to the project site. Ultimately though, she ended up selecting our product in a desire to achieve a white finish matching a sugar cube, which honors the original owner of the property.


Hale Everets, an architect/development manager at Two Trees, was instrumental in ensuring our role in the Domino project. Two Trees is the owner of the development, and they enabled Pam and her team at COOKFOX to pursue this project with a new idea. They hadn’t done architectural precast before, and they definitely hadn’t done a white precast project in New York, but they stood behind Pam and the sugar cube idea. Two Trees also allowed COOKFOX to sign us on as a design assist partner to help develop the façade alongside Pam, so there was constant conversation between our two teams. Hale and his team at Two Trees had faith in us, in what we offer and found value in it.


I love that.


We did too. The site is being developed by Two Trees, based in Brooklyn, and there were certain green building practices that needed to be worked into the project. Pam was able to incorporate her design ideas and those green building practices into the overall design of the facades, which are different on each elevation. The east and west elevations have one type of faceted design or window opening, while the south elevations have a deeper horizontal projection, so they stick out further, while the North’s feature deeper verticals. Pam did a solar study over the course of a year and was able to develop these shapes based on her sun tracking. By Pam utilizing our modules for the project to create these shading opportunities, it meant that they didn’t have to give up any of the footprint of the interior of the building. We began installing the windows in our panels this month and will begin installing our units on the building in late July.

Oak Ridge National Lab

How did Pam or COOKFOX come across Gate?


It’s a great story. Pam’s husband works for David Chipperfield, who we partnered with on The Bryant condominium residences in New York City. The exterior of that building has a polished finish that looks like terrazzo, but in reality, it's architectural precast concrete with large window units. It’s gorgeous. Pam saw the building and asked her husband who had done the work. He told her to call us.


Your workshop also discussed the unique partnership at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Lab, where the first access to BAAM was made possible. Please tell us more about Gate’s role in that partnership.


Diana Hun, who works as R&D staff at Oak Ridge, was the third speaker at our workshop. She explained what the Department of Energy does at the lab, and what their focus is — which is improving the efficiency of building products. This is where we come in with our approach to modular forming. The order of speakers at our workshop, Pam, myself, Diana, and then Hale, really set the ground work or understanding of where precast manufacturing is going. This is a government program partnering with private industries to make us more competitive on the world’s stage. These types of partnerships are what makes the US economy the best in the world.


We elected to participate in the R&D process, and we elected to use the Domino Site A project as the proving ground for this new technology.


It’s exciting to think about the evolution your industry has undergone and how Gate has had a role in that.


Our whole team is excited, and there’s no doubt they are excited about the Domino project. It’s allowing us to do production methodology and finishes and forming that no one else in the county is doing, and it isolates us in a different market segment, especially when architect think about us — which is obviously our goal. We were doing really great pre-cast work before, the SunTrust Park in Atlanta, the Omni projects we’ve done in Tennessee and Kentucky, and the production quality has always been high. But it took us working with designers who were more forward thinking, thinking outside of the box, to do something different. What the Perot Museum project did for us as a company was invaluable. It was our first foray into modular forming, and it really made us rethink production. We’re breaking down barriers and empowering designers to realize their vision of iconic facades that do not blend in the background of a city.


It’s just incredible. Thank you for your time today Mo, it’s much appreciated.


You are very welcome. Thank you.

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Editor at The Forum, Mortarr

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