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Night School


Fishers Island Residence Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

September 15, 2010 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – The Fishers Island Residence project in New York has earned national recognition in the 2010 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2), and members of the project team will be presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) during a ceremony at the New York office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) at 1 pm on Tuesday, September 21. The project’s structural engineer, SOM is officed at 14 Wall Street in Manhattan. Conducted annually by AISC, the IDEAS2 awards recognize outstanding achievements in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects around the country.

The awards presentation will take place three days before SteelDay (September 24) – a national day of networking and learning related to the structural steel industry in the U.S. In celebration of SteelDay, AISC, with the support of Owen Steel Company and the Steel Institute of New York, is hosting an evening presentation on “Building an Award Winning Structure,” followed by a networking reception in the Samuel B. and David Rose Building at Lincoln Center Plaza. Fishers Island Residence will be among the IDEAS2 award-winning projects discussed during the presentation. Currently, attendee registration is available for the networking reception portion of the evening only. Guests may register at www.SteelDay.org/SteelDayRegistration.

Project team members include architect Thomas Phifer & Partners, New York; structural engineer and AISC member Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP, Chicago; general contractor BD Remodeling & Restoration, Fishers Island, N.Y.

The Fishers Island Residence project is a recipient of a National Award in the category of projects Less than $15 Million, making it one of only seven projects around the country to receive the National honor. Each year, the IDEAS2 awards honor National and Merit award winners in three categories, based on constructed value: projects less than $15 million; projects $15 million to $75 million; and projects greater than $75 million. Each project is judged on its use of structural steel, with an emphasis on creative solutions to project requirements; design innovation; aesthetic and visual impact of the project; innovative use of architecturally exposed structural steel; technical or architectural advances in the use of steel; the use of innovative design and construction methods; and sustainable design.

Fishers Island sits at the eastern end of Long Island, N.Y., approximately two miles off the southeastern coast of Connecticut. The island is home to approximately 300 permanent residents and a temporary population that grows to several thousand during summer weekends and holidays.

The design of the Fishers Island Residence is a response to the unique island setting and the personal interests of the client and primary resident.

“A very simple design that lends itself very well to its surroundings,” commented Brad Lange, pre-construction manager, The Weitz Company, Des Moines, Iowa, and a judge in the competition. “They did a nice job of using exposed structural steel to add an artistic flair.”

The 4,600 sq. ft house was envisioned as a permanent retreat for a client wishing to integrate day-to-day life with a passion for gardening and love of modern art, furniture, and architecture. The architects designed an unmistakably modern house, with an open floor plan, minimal aesthetics, abundant use of glass and exposed steel, and a modular discipline that is equally organic in its relation to the surrounding garden and landscape. The successful connection between nature and the man-made structure is realized through the creative and expressive use of architecturally exposed structural steel.

The house is intended to simultaneously serve as a fully functioning residence, a private museum for the owner to display a collection of art and furniture, and a permeable gateway into and through the surrounding garden.

In an effort to create this uninterrupted connection, the architect used high-performance, insulated floor-to-ceiling glazing on all four external walls of the house. To minimize visual interruption in the glazing, the structural engineer designed slender 2.75-in. square, solid steel columns supporting W10 primary beams that span 29 ft and W4, L3x3 and L5x5 secondary steel beams. The wide-flange steel roof framing supports a 1.5-in. wide, rib metal roof deck. Steel framing was essential for maintaining uninterrupted windows and allowing shallow roof spans.

The structural elements were carefully coordinated with the architectural expression, which greatly understates their relationship: the structural steel elements are the architecture. The exposed structural steel columns were engineered to be as small as structurally possible and designed to maintain a consistent, clean aesthetic throughout the house.

The aesthetic treatment of structural steel is prominently displayed by the 50 steel “trees” every 11-ft, 6-in. around the house. Each tree consists of a solid 3.25 by 3.25 in. steel cantilevered column, rigidly fixed at the base. A steel casting at the top of the column is connected with a single, concealed, high-strength bolt. The casting spreads into four diagonal cast “branch arms” at the top of each column that cantilever out approximately 8 ft from the columns.

A trellis of solid aluminum rods is supported at the tips of each branch arm. A secondary system of trellis framing spans above the aluminum rods, cantilevering an additional 3 ft beyond the edge of the branch arms. The secondary system is supported by individual, high-strength rods attached to an innovative concealed “tongue plate” connection detail. The concealed tongue plate and rod connection allows the trellis to float above the branch arms with almost no visible means of support. An adjustable and fully concealed steel puck-like connection at the base of each support rod permits adjustment of the trellis-to-branch arm connections.

The trellis, steel trees, and branch arms are visually dramatic but also are essential to making the residence habitable. The canopies and trellis shield the full-height glass walls from direct overhead sunlight, dramatically reducing glare and light levels within the house. The steel trees also play an important role in the psychological transitioning between the outdoor natural realm, and the man-made environment of the interior.

To provide the unique architecture of this residence, the architect and engineer worked closely to develop connections that were structurally robust and visually pleasing, avoiding conventional structural steel connections that would have ruined the visual experience. The use of architecturally exposed steel castings celebrates steel connections as sculptural objects, but required intense coordination among the architect, engineer and fabricator. All steel elements were designed per code to resist the harsh 120 mph coastal winds and significant ice and snow loads.

The 12 IDEAS2 winners for 2010 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received by architectural and engineering firms throughout the U.S. Each submission is reviewed and award winners are selected by a nationally recognized panel of design and construction industry professionals.

The IDEAS2 awards are the highest project-based awards bestowed by the structural steel industry, with the annual program dating back more than 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. Roger E. Ferch, P.E. president of AISC, said, “The entire Fishers Island Residence project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a building that serves its resident extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

Photos of the Fishers Island Residence project are available upon request. Please contact Tasha O’Berski at 312.670.5439 or [email protected].


For more information contact:

Tasha O'Berski
Communications Department
(312) 670-5439
[email protected]



American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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