Thursday, July 21, 2011

SFA News - TechVentures is "One to Watch" for

Latest buzz around the office is about one of our clients and the national recognition their getting in the world of business, technology, and economic development.

Ben Franklin TechVentures®, owned and operated by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) and designed by SFA (yes indeed!) has been selected as one of "10 Startup Incubators You Need to Watch" by (

Among America's first business and technology incubators, BFTP/NEP opened their first facility in 1983 on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus. In 2007, BFTP/NEP relocated the incubator across the street on Lehigh’s campus, transforming a former Bethlehem Steel laboratory into Ben Franklin TechVentures. Designed by SFA, this adaptive reuse project doubled wet lab space and tripled office and dry laboratory space.

Just 18 months later, TechVentures was nearly filled. A $6 million grant funded by the Recovery Act through the US Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration and other state and federal grants, BFTP/NEP funding, and private contributions, allowed Ben Franklin to support the necessary expansion to Ben Franklin TechVentures2. SFA is excited to be this architect of this 47,000 square foot addition to the original TechVentures building, which is Designed to Earn the Energy STAR and on track to achieve LEED certification.

Congratulations to our friends at Ben Franklin Technology Partners!

photograph by Halkin Photography

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Material Process Product


I really enjoy walking through material yards and will often pull off in my travels when I see something intriguing. Unannounced and walking through, I hope of meeting the owner to see how these units are made. The sheds that house the production of these units are pretty spare and nondescript. The interiors are humid and the smell of curing concrete is in the air. The dry matrix of concrete is forced into molds and pressed out much like building a sandcastle at the beach.

Walking through these stacks of block is amazing and feels like walking through a city block-an urban canyon if you will, with aisles or streets that open to the sky. The carefully stacked individual blocks create texture and pattern as the sunlight grazes them.

I noticed this one lonely unbound stack. Although the individual blocks were strategically placed to knit the stack, the top several courses were leaning away. This precariously balanced GENGA-like moment made for an elegant composition. Could this beautiful composition double as a window opening, or building expansion joint?

What can be one with the simple module of 8”X16”. How can you take this ordinary material of modest means and elevate its status when making a building. I admire the work of Architect Albert Frey. Frey exploited the module of this humble material on his own house. I particularly appreciate the detail near the entrance where two walls make an obtuse angle and weave beautifully. The stacked running bond course is heightened by a flush and rake joint. I borrowed from Frey when designing a residence in Northeast Pennsylvania. Here the ordinary block is coupled with wood detailing to give warmth.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Living in the Browfield

BROWNFIELD? - Happy 4th of July to all, a little late here on the 5th, but we needed to share some of the images from the opening night of the Levitt Pavilion at Steelstacks and the 4th of July celebration as well.

Why the question mark, it's just nearly impossible to believe the transformation that has taken place befor our eyes at the former Bethlehem Steel site.  I'd like to offer our sincerest congratulations to the Levitt / SteelStacks design teams (WRT / Artefact / L'Observatoire) for making a great public space, the City of Bethlehem and Mayor Callahan for being patrons of great design, the Levitt Foundation for supporting great public spaces infused with music and community and finally to Artsquest for having the vision and making it all happen.  Some images of the artsquest center at steelstacks, "made by spillman", during the festivities follow below.  Make sure you get out to the Levitt Pavilion and support free live music this summer.