Park Town Centre, Cliffside Park, N.J.

Getting Back on Track with Style

With a concentrated effort to revitalize the downtown of Cliffside Park, N.J., Park Town Centre—13 stories of rental apartments atop a two-story retail level—was eyed as a way to bring new energy into a tired business district. Find a more efficient and cost-effective structural façade system to complete a planned mixed-use development that ran into economic issues. Town officials in Cliffside Park, N.J., had big plans for revitalizing their downtown when they began assembling properties for a new, signature mixed-use development back in 2002.


Seat Walls Breathe Life into Campus

The University of Michigan’s Gerstacker Grove, located on the north side of campus, features seat walls that breathe new life into a previously underutilized area. A series of sleek, artistic seat walls at the University of Michigan—designed by Stoss to create a luxurious and lively quad that can accommodate performances, events and everyday activities— stand as an example of the endless possibilities with custom precast concrete. The stunning Gerstacker Grove, located on the university’s north campus, breathes new life into an underutilized area—where previously the most notable features were well-worn footpaths in the grass. After months of construction, the $6.9 million project has been r


Are you a Blockhead?

Precision-manufactured Comfort Block concrete masonry units fit together so tightly they can be assembled into walls using masonry adhesive, rather than mortar. When paired with matching EPS inserts, they also create a highly efficient wall system with an estimated effective R-value of up to 30 or higher.

Johnson Wax Company Headquarters, Racine, Wisc.

Indelible Drawings Carved in Concrete

Precast concrete is one of the most durable and economical building materials, can be expressed in unique and artful applications. The offices of Foster + Partners architects embraced an intriguing process innovation in a precast application in Fortaleza Hall at the newest addition to the Johnson Wax company headquarters in Racine, Wisc. The new building was built to commemorate the family’s journeys to Fortaleza, Brazil. Like a theater-in- the-round, it features a magnificent circular glass façade and roof rising two stories above a below-grade, conical reception hall with wooden mosaic floors and precast concrete walls. The precast walls feature a subtle grayscale mural of a Brazilian palm


An Argument Against Precast Preconceptions

Often specified for its more utilitarian advantages, precast concrete might not be the exterior material of choice that first comes to mind for a signature high rise or cutting-edge boutique. However, Washington, D.C., architect Barry Habib, AIA, says the material offers numerous advantages for more workaday assignments, along with opportunities for creative expression for those willing to see a beauty that’s more than skin deep. “It is tough, it lasts a long time, it doesn’t leak if it’s installed correctly—and we’re getting a very good price for it,” says this principal with D.C.-based Shalom Baranes Assocs. Plus, the speed with which precast exteriors can be assembled can be a boon for pr