Campus News

UK Professor's Credits Include US Architectural Masterpiece

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 14, 2016) The design work of Martin Summers, an assistant professor of architecture at University of Kentucky College of Design, and his former colleagues at Morphosis executed at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science recently received national recognition.

The building, located in Dallas, Texas, was included in the list of "10 overlooked architectural masterpieces in the U.S." published on The Real Deal, a popular New York real estate website. The article from The Real Deal complimented the Perot Museum's "sharp angles and futuristic look" for making it "one of the most cutting-edge buildings in America."

Morphosis designed the museum to stimulate a wide audience of visitors in hopes of ultimately broadening individuals’ and society’s understanding of nature and science. The award-winning design's immersive experience of nature within the city begins with a visitor’s approach to Perot Museum, through two native Texas ecologies: a forest of large native canopy trees and a terrace of native desert xeriscaping, which gently slopes up to connect with the museum’s stone roof. The overall building is conceived as a large cube floating over the site’s landscaped base. The acre of undulating roofscape is comprised of rock and native drought-resistant grasses to reflect the city’s indigenous geology and demonstrate a living system that will evolve.

This intersection of the two ecologies defines the main plaza, a gathering and event area for visitors and an outdoor public space for Dallas. From the plaza, the landscaped roof lifts up to draw visitors through a compressed space into the more expansive lobby. The topography of the lobby’s undulating ceiling reflects the dynamism of the exterior landscape surface, blurring the distinction between inside and outside, and connecting the natural with the manmade. Moving from the entry, a visitor's gaze is drawn upward through the sky-lit atrium. Upon arrival to the top floor, the fully glazed façade opening provides visitors a bird’s eye view of downtown, the landscaped roof and entry plaza below.

"I have several favorite moments in the project," said Summers, who was a senior designer on the project. "The first is the moment where you enter the building. You know the atrium is there as you can see parts of it from the exterior, but it is not until you walk past the overhead glazing that you see the full extent and complexity of the circulation above you."

Another favorite moment for Summers can be found when riding the escalators to the top floor. "On the first escalator you move through the lobby ceiling and the building once again opens to your view, both to the interior and exterior though neither is at that moment accessible. You again emerge at the top of the second escalator to views of the city, the site below and the interior of the atrium where you sense you are floating in the space."

From the top floor, visitors proceed downward in a clockwise spiral. The descending path weaves in and out of the building’s galleries and main atrium, alternately connecting the visitor with the internal world of the museum and with the external life of the city beyond. The visitor becomes part of the architecture, as the eastern facing corner of the building opens up toward downtown Dallas to reveal the activity within.

Summers was deeply involved with the design of the Perot Museum during his time at Morphosis. He was responsible for the design and development of the museum's atrium and the circulation associated with the public sequence through that space. Summers also was responsible for the early building envelope development and led the façades team on the project by integrating the multiple systems and their detailing.

“It is exciting to have someone consider a project you worked on a 'masterpiece,' and to draw attention to it so that it can be experienced by a broader audience. I feel fortunate to have been able to lend my talents as part of an exceptional team and firm. A lot of my recent professional work, research and teaching have been influenced by my experience on the Perot Museum.”

Summers has two decades of experience across a variety of project types and scales. After founding PLUS-SUM Studio in 2012, his first project was recognized as part of the 2013 AIA Emerging Professionals Exhibition in Washington, D.C. At the eighth IDA (International Design Awards) three of his projects received five total awards, including the top prize “Architectural Design of the Year 2014.”

At UK, Summers leads advanced studios focused on iterative digital processes and teaches electives in high performance building envelopes. Before coming to UK, he worked 10 years at Morphosis in Santa Monica, California. He holds a bachelor's degree in architecture from UK and a master's degree in architecture from University of California, Los Angeles.

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