Let's Meet Face to Face

Bonan Towers' transformation goes from Class "C" to Class "A".

Bonan Towers' transformation goes from Class "C" to Class "A".

Emmanuel Levinas, the philosopher of the "face."

Emmanuel Levinas, the philosopher of the "face."

Who would know more about face-to-face encounters than Emmanuel Levinas? The late French philosopher wrote more deeply and movingly about the power of one's face than any other philosopher before or after him. For Levinas, the encounter with another's "face" precedes morality and even ontology. It is our first encounter with the Other. In his book, "Totality and Infinity," Levinas writes: "the face speaks to me and thereby invites me to a relation...".

At JEMA lately, we have been fascinated with "faces," more specifically building "faces" and the relationship we form with them. How does a building facade affect us? Is there an implicit invitation to come closer? How does the building interact with you? What is your first impression?

We are currently doing 'facelifts' on two buildings from the 1970s. Each project is an opportunity to recover an old face...and transform something old and familiar into something new and novel.

JEMA's design for the revitalization of Bonan Towers is slated for completion by year's end. The design creates a new "face" for the building. The new entry is a glass-clad two-story atrium that connects both original buildings. Two new smaller towers at the entry interact with the elevator and stair towers of the existing building. The entire building is painted three tones of grey that reflect the main elements of the existing building: stair and elevator towers are painted dark grey, shear walls are light grey, and the main facade is medium grey. Each tone of grey works together to create a cluster of forms that sits prominently at the intersection of two major highways in St. Louis, MO.

Two new towers interact and connect with the existing towers.

Two new towers interact and connect with the existing towers.

The new face: a two-story glass-clad entry volume that connects both existing towers on either side.

The new face: a two-story glass-clad entry volume that connects both existing towers on either side.