View Full Version : Alaska State Capitol - Morphosis

March 11th, 2005, 09:54 AM
Morphosis Selected to Design Alaska State Capitol
http://archrecord.construction.com/images/006699.gifMarch 9, 2005

Image courtesy Morphosis

Alaska, the fiftieth state and last frontier will soon have a new Capitol to call its own. On March 1, a jury of ten selected Santa Monica, California-based Morphosis to design the building for the capital city of Juneau. Given just a few weeks to develop a concept in Stage III of the competition, Principal Thom Mayne says his design, which features a 150-foot glass dome, is only a rough sketch. “This is literally just the beginning,” says Mayne, who spent half of his jury presentation focused on the history of the dome as a symbol of the nation.

Out of the four finalists that included Moshe Sadie & Associates, Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design, and NBBJ, the Morphosis design was the only one that included a dome. The Morphosis design locates the “heart” in the Rotunda, where etched into the Dome’s glazed interior, are words from the State’s Constitution. The interior is designed to collect natural light, simultaneously providing views of the summit of Mt. Juneau. Mindful of Alaskan’s reference for the land, the Capitol is intended to “symbolize the nature and vastness of Alaska.”

Uncomfortable with the contemporary or “futuristic” designs submitted by the finalists, residents voiced their opinion on the official “Alaska Capitol” website or in local newspapers. The Capitol should “not stand out like a sci-fi exhibit” wrote one resident in the Juneau Empire. Many have referred to the Morhphosis dome as looking like an “egg.”

Donald Statsny, FAIA, Competition Manager and Advisor, says the competition invited public input, including the submission of ideas for the capitol building. Residents were even encouraged to apply for a seat on the jury. “It was a very sophisticated and transparent process,” notes Statsny. “It’s rare that you have this much public interaction in a design competition.”

“We have only just begun the process of making our Capitol truly Alaskan,” says Mike Mense, the Alaska associate on the Mayne-led design team. Mense, a resident of the state since 1976 explains that his firm, mmense Architects, will help to educate the team on the unique and harsh weather conditions that affect building. “But I think my much more important task is to infuse our design with the spirit of Alaska,” he adds.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho would like to see the building constructed at an estimated cost of $100 million by 2009 for the state's 50th anniversary. Considering it’s taken 46 years to get this far, the mayor’s goal seems ambitious. But Mayne believes Alaskans are indeed, ready for their Capitol. “This is the last capitol to be built in the States,” he says. “They are very serious about this attempt. I see it all happening quickly.”

Allison Milionis

Architectural Record (http://http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/050309alaska.asp#)

March 11th, 2005, 09:59 AM
Capitol designers chosen; sales pitch next

Capitol boosters move forward, but Legislature, Murkowski unpersuaded



Anchorage Daily News (http://adn-proxy.nandomedia.com/news/alaska/story/6226526p-6101436c.html)

Published: March 2nd, 2005
Last Modified: March 2nd, 2005 at 02:42 PM

JUNEAU -- The California architectural firm Morphosis, whose design concept featured an egg-shaped dome, on Tuesday won the competition to create a new state Capitol in Juneau.

But a new Capitol is far from a reality. Legislators have said they don't want to pay for it, and the public, particularly in Juneau, condemned all four finalists' design visions.

All were futuristic; none resembled more traditional capitols. The Morphosis design was the only finalist with a dome. Most of the public comment was against all the designs.

"People reacted very badly to all four, but at least some of them liked the idea of a dome," said Anchorage developer Joe Henri, a member of the jury that picked the winner.

Capitol boosters need as much support as they can muster to persuade lawmakers to back the project, he said. So the public desire for a dome was among the reasons he favored Morphosis.

The city of Juneau sponsored the design competition, hoping an estimated $100 million new Capitol would end recurring efforts to move the capital to Southcentral Alaska. Supporters of a new Capitol also argue the current Capitol is cramped and outdated.

Letters to the local paper, the Juneau Empire, over the past few days slammed the designs as sci-fi and downright ugly

"I think the people have lost their freaking minds," Rick Tyner of Juneau wrote. "I would rather move the capital to Anchorage then look at one of these eyesores the rest of my life here."

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho acknowledged hearing outrage. But he emphasized the designs weren't final.

"This exercise was intended to select a design team who could work with Alaskans in coming up with whatever that unique icon of Alaska democracy would be," he said.

Some critics called the Morphosis design too modern and said its dome looked like an egg or even a nuclear reactor.

But Thom Mayne, Morphosis founder, said his design was just a beginning sketch. He told the jurors he had only a few weeks to put it together and plans to change how the dome looks.

"If you say egg, I fail," he said.

But he said in an interview that he disagreed with people, including several members of the Legislature, who wanted a design more reminiscent of the U.S. Capitol.

"We live in the 21st century and this country is about intellectual and creative capital," Mayne said. "Do we want an image of the 18th or 19th century as a symbol?"

Morphosis teamed with mmense-Architects of Anchorage. Architect Mike Mense said he would ensure the Capitol design shows what Alaska architecture can achieve.

The Santa Monica-based Morphosis won acclaim for big public projects, including federal courthouses and campus buildings. Morphosis designed a California transportation headquarters that prompted the Los Angeles Times to declare Mayne "is arguing for the elusive, poetic dimension that can raise architecture to art."

Mayne is a tall, excitable man who bears a resemblance to Alan Alda. He won the Alaska Capitol jury over this week with his mile-a-minute enthusiasm.

"If this happens, this is going to be your legacy," he told the jurors. "I can't imagine a higher calling than to be involved in a project like this."

More than 40 states have a dome on their Capitols, Mayne said: "A dome is the singular way that one reads Capitol."

He said many of the domes were built as a unification symbol after the Civil War. Alaska's dome would similarly stand for unity, connecting far-away Alaska to the rest of the United States.

His plan is for a translucent glass dome. Words from the Alaska Constitution would be engraved on the inside. He said people could climb in it, about 90 feet from the ground, and read the words of the Alaska Constitution. They could also look down upon the activity of the Capitol.

"This should be the money shot," he said. "This is what it's about."

There would be a cafe perched inside the dome where legislators or visitors could relax and take in the symbols of democracy.

The dome would light up at night with an ephemeral glow, Mayne said, a beacon of "the hopes and aspirations of Alaska's people."

He said that below the dome an existing service tunnel could become a walkway through the Capitol rotunda. He suggested it be filled with light panels describing the history of Alaska.

The House and Senate chambers would be at the base of the dome. Citizens would watch from a gallery facing the legislators. In the current Capitol the viewing public looks at lawmakers' backs.

Two ribboned structures of stone and glass would encircle the dome like arms. The one next to the street would house the offices of the governor. Legislative offices would occupy the higher level on the hill.

Jurors said they liked how the Morphosis design related to other buildings in Juneau's downtown. It calls for a "Mall of Alaska" surrounded by the new Capitol, the downtown courthouse and the State Office Building. A terrace on the mall could be used for outdoor concerts.

"The opportunity of this terrace and its view that looks over the harbor is absolutely spectacular," said juror Edward Feiner, chief architect of the U.S. General Services Administration.

The design competition is over, but Juneau's political battle is just starting. Botelho said his next step is to try to get Gov. Frank Murkowski behind the project.

Murkowski has been noncommittal.

Juneau's plan is to build the Capitol on downtown Telephone Hill. The state would lease the building. Botelho said he needs the Legislature to agree to the lease this session to meet his goal of having the new Capitol by the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood in 2009.

House Majority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, said Tuesday he doubts that would happen.

He said he thinks the Morphosis design is too grandiose for Alaskans, even if they wanted to spend the money.

Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, was more blunt. He said the Capitol ought to go to Southcentral Alaska.

"The answer is move the Capitol and get new designs," he said.

alex ballard
March 11th, 2005, 06:30 PM
So how much of NYers tax dollars are paying for this?...

March 12th, 2005, 01:58 AM
That age-old question "How much is it going to cost me?".

According to The Capitol Planning Commission (http://www.juneau.org/committees/capitol_planning_committee/index.php), the projected cost is about $100 million. The City of Juneau would pay for the construction of the building by issuing some type of bonds, and the state would lease the building for the term of the bond issue. Ownership could be transferred from the City of Juneau to the State of Alaska after the bonds are payed out.

From the information available at this point, I don't think it's possible to tell where the state will get the lease money. But I'm far from being an expert on financial matters. I just thought it was an interested bit of architecture news. I had no idea Alaska was capitol building-less before I read this.

March 12th, 2005, 09:31 AM
With the billions in pork-barrelling across the country, I don't think I'm going to worry about how much (if any) of it is coming out of my pocket.

March 12th, 2005, 11:27 AM
I agree. Plus, I think Alaska deserves a capitol building.

March 31st, 2005, 11:00 AM
I thought Alaska was the 49th state.

April 1st, 2005, 01:43 PM
It is, Hawaii is the 50th......

April 29th, 2005, 05:58 AM
Judging from the skyline, it seems the people of Alaska will tolerate every form of modernist atrocity so long as someone else is paying for it.

It would really be quaint if there was a populist aesthetic rebellion and the people brought in new urbanist and traditionalist thinkers like Nikos Salingeros and architects like Leon Krier--hurl a yellow snowball at the ivy league-but that would take research, effort and organization skills.

It would be terrific if an authetic, local Alaskan could give voice to his/her state. However, the history of development seems to be that Ugly Inc. was always brought in to design the rest of the city. If you don't support or cultivate talent, then it's hardly a suprise that there is no one to turn to who is up to the task.

Its not good enough to proclaim what your against ("I don't know much about art but I know what I don't like") You must have an appreciation, support, and cultivation of what you're FOR. You can't just snap your fingers and expect a "traditional capitol" to design itself. And what does a "traditional" capitol mean in the context of a place like Alaska? I saw an interview with an Alaskan college student who had the idea for a Russian onion dome, incorporating Alaska's Russian history. Interesting enough, however, she couldn't be bothered to make even a sketch or get a proposal in on time.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a brilliant synthesizer of native American forms. Unfortunately, the conditions (apprenticeship and patronage) that produced American mavericks like Frank Lloyd Wright simply doesn't exist today. If Alaskans wanted to make the effort to find a non-modernist architect, they would probably have to find a foreigner like Krier, who receives the patronage of people like Prince Charles (and governments) to be a practicing architect.

The history of neoclassical architecture is also the history of patronage and individuals, institutions and governments ponying up the money to build. The capitol in Washington D.C. required numerous taxation acts. This aspect of neoclassicism seems to be lost on Alaskans.

I suspect the real reason for the discontent is the tightwad Republican Alaskans don't want one penny from their oil subsidy checks deducted to pay for it. Perhaps they are under the delusion that Pulte homes makes a cheap cookie cutter classical capitol kit.

Actually, this dome already looks like the best thing Morphosis has done. It's more on the Bucky Fuller/Norman Foster spectrum of modernism.