Fit City Addresses Global Energy Deficiency

Event: Fit-City 2: Promoting Physical Activity Through Design
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.12.07
Keynote: Dr. Craig Zimring — environmental psychologist & professor of architecture and psychology, Georgia Tech
Speakers: Deputy Commissioner Mary Bassett, MD, MPH; Assistant Commissioner Lynn Silver, MD, MPH, FAAP; and Karen Lee, MD, MHSc — NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH); David Burney, AIA — Commissioner, NYC Department of Design and Construction; Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP — AIANY President; Laurie Kerr, RA — Office of the Mayor; Joyce Lee, AIA — NYC Office of Management and Budget; Ellen Martin, RA — 1100 Architect; William Stein, AIA — Dattner Architects; Russell Unger — U.S. Green Building Council; Dan Wood, AIA — WORK ac
Organizer: AIANY; NYC DOH
Sponsor: NYC DOH; Esque provided by IZZE Beverage Company

Active Mobility

The Fit City 2 panel urges cities to encourage Active Mobility.

Kristen Richards

We have a global and personal “Energy Problem” in America, posits Laurie Kerr, RA, of the NYC Office of the Mayor and Karen Lee, MD, MHSc, of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. At a personal level, part of the problem is too much “unusable” energy in (zero-value food products or simple over-eating), and not enough energy out (exercise or even basic movement). As a result, there is an increase in national obesity, which is fast becoming a chronic disease epidemic in the U.S. Remote control air conditioning, automatic doors, and eight hours at the office sitting in front of a computer screen comprise a few examples of activities straining our energy resources while decreasing personal movement. This conference brought together architects, designers, and public health professionals to address how building design and policy decisions can increase physical activity to improve health and conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

One of the biggest culprits is television, which is threatening to replace the refrigerator as the number one energy consumer in American households. There are two ways to look at it: flat-screen TVs are using massive amounts of energy, or people are sitting inertly in front of TVs most hours of the day. Offices and homes present key opportunities for designing increased movement integrated into the daily habits of occupants. On average, Americans gain one pound per year in their overall weight. This could be eliminated if each person took 4 flights of stairs daily. However, walking is not an option for everyone, and opportunities for exercise exist for people in wheelchairs and the aging population.

A successful architectural example, given by AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, is Millennium Park in Chicago, masterplanned by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Ramping meanders through outdoor park space facilitating wheelchair and bicycle movement in the city. In review of Fit City 2 recommendations, Bell acknowledged that congestion pricing can reduce car use in the city, resulting in reduction of fossil fuel exhaust, healthier air quality, and an increase of available space to build safe bike paths.

Government entities have the power to encourage physical activity. Panelists believe LEED points should be offered for designing increased physical activity in building design. Russell Unger, of the U.S. Green Building Council, hinted that buildings could get innovation points for such design efforts. Further, the NYC Department of Design + Construction (DDC) Commissioner David Burney, AIA, shared the pioneering history of the DDC as setting NYC guidelines for Sustainable Design, Universal Design, and Design Consultants. He suggested DDC would be ready to launch a new guideline for Active Living Design beginning with the information provided at all Fit City conferences.

Following the conference, the breakout session included the panelists and public in a focused discussion on Active Mobility. Hopefully, through task force groups, some of the ideas and suggestions will be incorporated into the Mayor’s PlaNYC.

Architecture Brands the Green Standard

Event: Brandism Series: Brand as Sustainability
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.23.07
Speakers: Michael Buckley, FAIA — Director, Columbia University Program in Real Estate Development; Andres Escobar — founder & principal, Andres Escobar & Associates; Robert F. Fox Jr., AIA — partner, Cook + Fox Architects; Alberto Foyo — principal, Alberto Foyo Architect; Kenneth Lewis, AIA — associate partner, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Christopher Sharples — founding partner, SHoP Architects
Moderator: Susan Szenasy — editor-in-chief, Metropolis
Organizers: Anna Klingmann, Assoc. AIA; AIANY

Conde Nast Building

The Conde Nast Building, designed by FXFowle Architects, pioneered the green brand when it was constructed in 1999.

Jessica Sheridan

As NYC experiences a surge in building projects with “starchitecture” branding, it is also becoming an epicenter for green initiatives. The fifth in a six-part series, this panel targeted the possibilities of using “brandism” to promote sustainable thinking — how starchitecture can help forward sustainable building, and how environmentalism has become a brand in itself.

Environmental responsibility is on the verge of becoming a design mandate, with new software making performance-driven design even more attainable. Architects can model dynamic environments in real time and share with the client how sustainability positively impacts the bottom line over time. Already, the international housing market is experiencing a shift towards green, though dollar-driven Americans still equate green with high costs. Among renters, however, green demand is high and perhaps will cause a “trickle-up” effect.

Corporate developers are currently way ahead of their residential counterparts, who often eschew green measures in favor of speed. In order to target these developers, architects must devise a quick version of sustainable building, which can in turn be used as a marketing tool.

With innovative branding, green can be seen as a cost-effective solution. LEED has already had success branding itself as a model of eco-responsibility. By coupling the mandate for responsibility with the reality of energy savings, architects can send a message to clients that green makes sense on multiple levels.

To achieve this, the panel proposed government tax credits based on units of “greenness”; branding architects as sustainability experts; and rethinking curricula at universities. Car companies use celebrities to market hybrid cars to consumers. Likewise, architecture can use branding to market itself as a product with a message of eco-responsibility and cost-efficiency.

NYC Government Inspires Civic Virtue

Event: NYC: Design Challenge!
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.30.07
Speaker: Alexandros Washburn, AIA — Chief Urban Designer, NYC Department of City Planning
Sponsor: NYC Department of City Planning

Alexandros Washburn, AIA, with Jeffrey Shumaker

Alexandros Washburn, AIA, Chief Urban Designer with Jeffrey Shumaker, Associate Urban Designer at the NYC Department of City Planning.

Kristen Richards

“There are a million people coming to the city. How should we grow?” was the question New York City’s Chief Urban Planner, Alex Washburn, AIA, put to the small but attentive gathering in the Center for Architecture’s library. There was nothing coy or ambiguous about his vision of the city’s future — honed by his tenure as an advisor to Senator Patrick Moynihan (and the only architect on the staff of a U.S. Senator). “The quality of public design is a political fact,” Washburn said. “Buildings don’t lie. Moynihan believed buildings make a city better. I still use his lessons every day.”

“It’s always been Jane versus Bob,” he continued, “blocks versus super-blocks,” referring to the famous (or infamous) battles between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. Though he holds some admiration for Moses’s ability to “ju-jitsu” government funding for transportation and public parks and creating public/private partnerships on “unprecedented scales,” Washburn said, “My heart is with Jacobs.”

He was asked why he left a very successful private practice (W Architecture and Landscape Architecture) to go back into government. He cited three reasons: Mayor Bloomberg’s “courageous” plaNYC 2030, a “genius financier” in Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, and “someone who cares totally about design,” City Planning Director Amanda Burden, Hon. AIANY. The challenge he sees now: to do skillful planning on a Moses-like scale that entails politics, civic and market demands, and design — an ideal melding of Moses/Jacobs priorities — that will increase the fine-grain texture of the city rather than erase it. The city’s commitment to green public open spaces and “pedestrians come first” approach is, in Washburn’s opinion, causing an evolution — “a new definition and a new paradigm for civic virtue. It’s time to get away from the birds-eye view and humanize how we plan the city,” he said resolutely.

Cities to Develop New Landscapes

Event: Toward a Sustainable Urban Landscape
Location: The Morgan Library & Museum, 06.13.07
Speakers: Kenneth Frampton — Ware Professor of Architecture; Kate Orff, ASLA — Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture, Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (GSAPP)
Organizers & Sponsors: Columbia University Alumni Association

NYC from above

Frampton and Orff call for a re-conceptualization of urban landscapes.

Jessica Sheridan

The future of the urban landscape depends on collaboration between architects and landscape architects. “The megalopolis is new nature,” writes Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor Architecture at Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), in his essay “Toward an Urban Landscape.” To Kate Orff, ASLA, principal of SCAPE and Assistant Professor of Architecture at Columbia University, GSAPP, new urban reality is fertile ground for exploration.

The use of design strategies associated with landscape architecture may be the most promising response to the “unprecedented scale of urbanization” underway internationally, according to Frampton. Urban form must be re-conceptualized as “urban landscape” to create continuity across multiple scales. As examples, Frampton cites the Diagonals Haus L’Illa building by Rafael Moneo and Manuel de Solá-Morales in Barcelona, where architecture merges with urban form to create new hybrids of public space, and the Yokohama International Port Terminal by Foreign Office Architects, where a landscape-like spatial experience is fused with architectonic form, alluding to a new poetics of construction. Above all, Frampton hopes the integration of landscape and architecture, with an emphasis on the public realm, will renew architecture’s role as a “social, cultural, and political act.”

To Kate Orff, designers must address the meaning of “new nature” posed by Frampton. Orff adds her own call to action for designers to think of “nature as a design issue” requiring cross-disciplinary methods that unite nature and engineering. While this is not a new concept (see Olmsted’s Central Park), it is particularly appropriate in response to contemporary issues of climate change, resource scarcity, and environmental degradation. With the Urban Landscape Lab at Columbia, Orff leads Urban Ecology studios focused on complex urban/natural environments such as the Gateway National Recreation Area and Flushing Meadows/Corona Park. She and her students find design inspiration in the pragmatic demands of environmental issues such a waste management. By blurring boundaries of design and science, Orff endeavors to “fabricate” these “new natures.”

Projects of Lightness and Daring Win Design Awards

Event: AIA New York Chapter 2007 Design Awards Winners Symposium: Projects
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.13.07
Speakers: Alexander Cooper, FAIA — Cooper, Robertson & Partners; Thomas Phifer, AIA, FAAR 95 — Thomas Phifer and Partners; Eric Bunge, AIA — nARCHITECTS; Sara Caples, AIA — Caples Jefferson Architects; Robert Siegel, AIA — Robert Siegel Architects; Henry Smith-Miller & Christian Uhl — Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects; Kathryn Ogawa, AIA — Ogawa/Depardon Architects; Lea Cloud, AIA — CR Studio; Astrid Lipka — Lyn Rice Architects; James von Klemperer, FAIA — Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects; Robert Rogers, AIA — Rogers Marvel Architects; Frederic Schwartz, FAIA — Frederic Schwartz Architects
Moderator: Peter Waldman — juror, AIANY 2007 Design Awards
Organizers: AIANY Design Awards Committee

Design Awards

Courtesy AIANY

The Projects category of the 2007 Design Awards recognized 14 designs that are landscapes, still on the boards, fleeting, or otherwise ineligible for the Architecture and Interiors category. Light structures, flowing forms, and new ideas caught the jury’s eye, according to juror Peter Waldman.

The two Honor awards in the category went to projects memorable for their organic forms. Windshape, designed by nARCHITECTS, is a temporary inhabitable installation for the Savannah College of Art’s summer campus in Lacoste, France, that hosted events throughout the summer of 2006. Students helped wrap 30 miles of string around structural “tripods” made of arcing plastic pipes. As the wind increased, Windshape moved and shimmered over the natural landscape.

After gestating in the office for six years, Thomas Phifer and Partners’ design for the North Carolina Museum of Art is just now gearing up for construction. A “silky” roof of coffers and curved oculi will cover luminous gallery spaces. A series of louvers modulate sun and temperature. Landscape infiltrates the building plan, as the architects thought fitting for a museum with a well-known sculpture garden.

Thomas Phifer and Partners also won a Merit Award with the Office for Visual Interaction and Werner Sobek Ingenieure for a cast aluminum streetlight — the fifth in New York City’s “catalogue,” and the first to be added in 40 years. A taut LED strip, powered by a photovoltaic array, illuminates the entire cantilevered arm.

The façade of Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects’ 82-unit condominium 405 W. 53rd Street ripples like a boardwalk, permitting the best possible views of the Hudson River. Not yet constructed, this Merit Award winner will offer maisonettes in the tradition of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseille.

Rogers Marvel Architects won Merit Awards for two projects. For the Battery Park City Streetscapes, they designed a security system that incorporates street surfaces designed to collapse under the weight of a laden truck. A new park at 55 Water Street Plaza — a.k.a. An Elevated Acre — includes performance and play areas, artificial hillocks, and a steel-and-glass beacon whose colored evening glow is meant to enliven the southeastern tip of Manhattan.

A Merit Award also went to Robert Siegel Architects for the United States Land Port of Entry in Calais, Maine. Still in planning stages, this competition-winning project aims to deliver a welcoming gateway to the U.S., remain sensitive to the glacial geology of the site, and provide security by creating two fixed access bridges.

The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School for Design will be a soup-to-nuts rethinking of the ground floor of a campus building. Windows with occupiable ledges will be punched through the now-opaque façade, so that work displayed within will form the identity of the Center.

On the boards at Kohn Pederson Fox Architects is a pair of residential high-rises, 71 and 32 stories, for Pershing Square, Los Angeles. Going beyond the typical extrusion, Park Fifth creates “stacked neighborhoods” with a variety of scales and typologies. A low hotel/spa complex creates a monumental gateway.

Frederic Schwartz, FAIA, presented the NOLA shotgunLOFT Affordable Housing, an “affordable, sustainable, quality” housing project that received a Certificate of Excellence in the Global Green USA Housing Competition (sponsored by Brad Pitt). This prefab reinterpretation of the shotgun house includes a double-height space to enable natural ventilation, photovoltaic arrays, and some geothermal temperature regulation. While there is said to be a net 93% energy savings, Schwartz noted that some of the sustainable features were only possible thanks to the Hollywood budget available.

The Merit Award-winning 33,000-square-foot Zuccotti Park just southeast of Ground Zero, designed by Cooper, Robertson & Partners, has been in the works for 10 years. A reorientation effected with planters and an array of light strips in the paving will improve this open space won for the public through transfer zoning.

The Merit Award-winning Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, designed by Caples Jefferson Architects, celebrates a group of 19th century tenement buildings. The “heritage destination,” according to Sara Caples, AIA, acts as a gateway to the past with embedded artifacts and patterns derived from African art.

The Projects category of the AIANY Design Awards is, by nature, the most diverse. The 14 winning projects range in scale and type, are unbuilt or under construction, and are both temporary and permanent. The array of new ideas in the profession is reflected in this category, which was one of the jury’s main goals. More detailed reflections of jury members Peter Waldman, Frank Harmon, FAIA, and Jeanne Gang, AIA, are captured in a DVD now available for free from the AIANY.

Past Ideas Resurface at Governors Island

Event: Designing Governors Island: In Conversation and Open House
Location: Van Alen Institute, 06.13.07
Speakers: Raymond Gastil — Director, Manhattan Office, NYC Planning Department; Linda Pollak, AIA, ASLA Associate — partner, Marpillero Pollak Architects; Tracy Metz — author & journalist; Damon Rich — founder and creative director, Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)
Moderator: Chee Pearlman, ISDA — director, Chee Company
Organizer & Sponsor: Van Alen Institute

“Public Property”

How can an ideas competition from over 10 years ago influence current design trends? The “Public Property” competition for Governors Island is one case study.

Courtesy Van Alen Institute

In 1996, the Van Alen Institute hosted “Public Property,” a competition for Governors Island that called for ideas about how the island could be used if it were to become public property. Now that the land is public, and five teams are competing to design the island’s future, panelists convened town-meeting style to discuss the relevance of open ideas competitions in general, and speculate about how the original competition may have influenced current proposals.

Praising the value of ideas competitions, author and journalist Tracy Metz believes the “viral buzz of the Internet” can generate diverse ideas from a broad spectrum of designers and the public. Competitions make sites visible and create dialogue about the site, stated Linda Pollack, AIA, ASLA Associate, partner of Marpillero Pollak Architects. However, it is unfortunate that winning submissions are not always realized, and competition sponsors do not always make this clear to entrants. Competitions for public projects can influence a community creating a forum for the public to communicate how they would like to see their neighborhood developed, according to Damon Rich, founder and creative director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy. Raymond Gastil, Director of the Manhattan Office of the NYC Planning Department, sees competitions as a way to merge the boundaries between the public and designers, allowing design to enhance public space.

After Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg declared Governors Island public property in 2006, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) summoned “visionary ideas to redevelop and preserve” the island. This July, one of the five finalist teams will be selected. As proof of the influence of “Public Property,” it will be interesting to see if ideas presented in 1996 will reappear in the final design.

To see the five finalist proposals, the Center for Architecture and Governors Island are hosting an exhibition, “The Park at the Center of the World: Five Visions for Governors Island” See On View: At the Center for Architecture for more information.

Set Surrenders to Dance

Event: SURRENDER — Wendy Osserman Dance Company
Location: The Duke on 42nd Street, 06.06-09.07
Choreography: Wendy Osserman in collaboration with the dancers
Dancers: Charis Haines; Cori Kresge; Victoria Lundell; Wendy Osserman; Emily Quant; Aya Shibahara; Justin Ternullo
Composer: Rosi Hertlein
Musicians: Rosi Hertlein; Warren Smith
Lighting Design: Kathy Kaufmnan
Set Design: Illya Azaroff, Assoc. AIA — the design collective studio
Costumes: Cori Kresge; Aya Shibahara


The set for SURRENDER evokes Klimt and Ernst.

Illya Azaroff

Both architecture and dance can explore the relation between performer and environment. “Dance is a testing ground for architectural ideas,” says Illya Azaroff, Assoc. AIA, Director of Design of the design collective studio and set designer for SURRENDER, recently performed by the Wendy Osserman Dance Company. The performance was inspired by the work of Gustav Klimt and Max Ernst, and in response to the paintings and the dancers’ movement, Azaroff created a set that both highlights and camouflages the performers. Along with the integrated lighting, costumes, and music, the boundaries among different media rhythmically shift throughout.

The minimal set is a collage comprised of three elements: a suspended ladder-like component stage right; a white, slashing sculpture stage left; and a swooping curtain moving from the ceiling stage right to the floor stage left. Each element shifts in meaning and use throughout the performance. For example, in “The Fall” the set seems to take cue from the dancer’s actions — when she flows, her movement blends with the curtain; when she agitatedly gestures, the sculpture seems to argue with her. In “Seasnakes” the colors of the costumes blend in with patterns projected onto the curtain. Dancers alternate fading in with and separating from the background as they carry cumbersome objects on their backs. When they strip from their burdens, the sculpture acts as a shelter protecting them as they expose their inner selves. And in the final piece, “Owning It,” the ladder is the central object. The scattered, rectangular lighting on the floor appears as if rungs had fallen from above.

In conversation with Azaroff, he discussed the collaborative process with Osserman, focusing on how the discourse about Klimt and Ernst paintings enhanced the design process. While Osserman concentrated on composition, Azaroff was captivated by space. As they both began to incorporate human scale into the performance, the set and dances were developed separately but equally. Ultimately, the music, costumes, and light created the overlap needed to fuse all of the elements together.

The many layers recall Surrealism and Symbolism in general, but it is the performer/environment relationship that highlights the direct connection to Klimt and Ernst. Sometimes blending and other times acting in opposition to each other, the set and dancers inhabit the stage defining and redefining their relation to each other. The design collective’s website states that the driving force behind the firm’s work is to assemble collaborative teams to create “landscapes of the imagination.” SURRENDER exemplifies this in every way.

Architecture Inhabits Art at Venice Biennale

Event: La Biennale di Venezia — Art Section: Think with the Senses — Feel with the Mind. Art in the Present Tense.
Location: Venice, Italy, 06.10-11.21.07
Curator: Robert Storr — Biennale Art Director

Monika Sosnowska

Monika Sosnowska’s installation in the Polish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Johannes Knoops

While the terms “art” and “architecture” are by no means synonymous, and while each camp benefits from tracking the other, I become itchy over such slurs as “Frank Gehry… the sculptor,” and “Frank Stella… the architect.” But I can point to several architectural strategies evident in this year’s 52nd International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, Think with the Senses — Feel with the Mind. Art in the Present Tense.

Monika Sosnowska tests the volumetric limits of the container with a structure that appears to be crunched and crammed to fit within the Polish Pavilion. The jagged linear result fills the space with visions of structural failure.

In the fantasy world of Canadian artist David Altmejd, his psychological pathos incorporates the contextual botanical reality beyond the gallery’s windows. By visually uniting the trees of the Giardini Biennale (the grounds on which many of the national pavilions are sited) with his constructed dream world of man-eagles and lurking squirrels in strategically placed mirrors, the walls of the gallery infuse his world with ours.

Surfaces altering between transparency and reflection test your sense of safe passage through the Belgian Pavilion. Despite the conscious “nerdiness” of artist Eric Duyckaerts’ pseudo lectures that confront you along your journey, the craft and refinement of the physical labyrinth lend the installation a Miesian visual elegance.

Black boxes that are sliced in two are posited about the Hungarian Pavilion in Andreas Fogarasi’s tectonic installation. Spread apart, the two pieces of each black box form a theater: one end shades a video screen from the sun-drenched gallery, while the other forms a seat for viewing that video. Depending on their positions in the space, each pair is kept either at an intimate distance or spread apart to permit passage by others while maintaining their axial relationship.

Yves Netzhammer and Christine Streuli diagonally slice the Swiss Pavilion with a single plane that reorders both its exterior and interior spaces in section. From the path outside, an elaborately painted plane calls out to the passing public like a Soviet Constructivist marquee graphically wearing its message. Upon entering the pavilion one is sheltered below this same plane while videos weave and co-exist with the contents of its painting. Matched in inclination, two stairs elevate you to a new internal space within the existing pavilion. This theater employs an existing wall as its screen while viewers recline on the plane’s slope.

Many moments exist beyond the architecture at this year’s Art Biennale, but these five installations operate in a realm of current architectural discourse, questioning boundary, plane, and perception.

Shorris Launches New Port

Speaking at the New York Building Congress breakfast at the Mandarin Oriental on June 19, The Port Authority of NY & NJ Executive Director Anthony E. Shorris led off his remarks by quoting Mies van der Rohe: “Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space.” True enough, but the remarkable thing is that we now have a Harvard and Princeton-educated Port chief executive who not only knows that Mies is more, but knows how to use him to talk with construction industry and labor leaders about a new spirit of openness at the Port Authority. The remarks, paralleled by pronouncements by Governors Spitzer and Corzine, is indicative of changes in Port Authority Board rules and procedures that will allow for greater public participation (see also “Port Authority Tentatively Approves Changes Aimed at Increasing Public Scrutiny,” by Ken Belson, The NY Times, N.Y./Region, 06.22.07).

Shorris previously served as Deputy Chancellor for Operations and Policy at the New York City Board of Education, and was a faculty member at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. For the June 19 audience of building execs he spoke of the Port Authority’s goals in the following words: “The Port Authority should be marked by the audacity of the past without the arrogance. The Port Authority is fundamentally a BUILDING agency. Quality of design, excellence of design, is one of the criteria by which we judge projects. We will see what can be applicable from the Federal GSA model. Buildings like the transit hub by Calatrava are more than functional, they are grand.”

He noted that, “We are making the agency operate more transparently, doing things that other governmental agencies have been doing for a long time. The Port Authority should meet or exceed the standards of both states and institutionalize those changes so that these improvements survive the tenure of any Director. Ultimately, the agency should not do anything that it is afraid to talk to everyone about. The Port has been moving in this direction for months. We are proud of what we do, and showing people what we do. Openness and transparency do not conflict with the excellence of our staff and our ability to deliver projects.” After the attack on the World Trade Center, where many Port Authority employees perished, there was a renewed sense of purpose and a glimmering of openness in an agency previously known for its secretive behavior. With Board meetings now to be open to the public and press, more information about project planning and design consultant procurement will be accessible.

During the Q&A period, Shorris elaborated upon the Port Authority’s role in several major upcoming projects or plans, starting with the long-planned transformation of the Farley Post Office Building into a major rail hub. He noted, “At Moynahan Station the Port Authority’s role is predominantly in collaboration with New Jersey Transit on Access to the Region’s Core. We are also looking at a new baggage-checking facility. That grand transit hub needs to be fully integrated, linking as well to the PATH system at 34th Street.”

In response to a question about Representative Jerrold Nadler’s quest for a rail freight tunnel, he said: “Freight capacity needs to be expanded and we need to get some trucks off the road to reduce air pollution. The movement of freight in the region is something that the Port is best able to manage. It is a central question environmentally…. The Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel general plan is to be a joint effort with New Jersey Transit — we need to do this together, and we’re committed to a robust partnership to make sure that we get this implemented since it is so important to the two states.”

His conclusion about collaboration was optimistic: “The identification of enormous infrastructure projects in the region is an important thing — it has to be something that over the long term generates more revenue. Both governors are interested in moving big infrastructure projects. But the Feds are not great partners on this, so we have to find some locally generated revenue. We are fortunate now to have two governors and a mayor who are desirous of getting things built. They are so much of a mind that it is great to watch them work together. The public has not seen its government look to execute great public works the way we have the possibility to achieve now. The public needs to see that this can happen. People see a connection between resources and the quality of their lives. If we can show people that investments in infrastructure can lead to better quality of life, there will be support.”

We look forward to ongoing opportunities to see the palpable results of these process changes and project planning overtures.

Zooming in on the Center of the World

Recently, there has been much discussion about the future of Governors Island. As the date approaches for one of the five finalist teams to be selected to develop the island, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) has been soliciting opinions from the public. After visiting the island, viewing the current exhibition at the Center for Architecture (See On View At the Center for Architecture), attending a panel discussion at the Center with various governing officials involved in the decision process (See the AIANY online calendar), and interviewing Leslie Koch, President of GIPEC (See Conversation published 05.30.07), I have decided which of the five entries I prefer.

What I like about the West 8/Rogers Marvel Architects/Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Quennell Rothschild and Partners/SMWM entry is that it explores a range of ideas to satisfy visitors of all ages without relying on historic precedent. The proposal provides 3,000 free bicycles and lounge chairs to be used throughout the island. The north end of the island will retain its existing historic identity, largely untouched, and the south end will develop naturally as a marsh. Demolition debris will be used to create a “vertical landscape.” Eventually, the south and north ends of the island will be separated by a 40-foot-wide channel along the original boundary of the island (the southern end was created from subway construction infill).

Sustainability is taken into account in a variety of ways, from wind turbines to hydroelectric and solar energy generators. Time passage is incorporated into the tree layout; in principle, the essence of the scheme will be preserved even if 40% of the trees remain after 20 years. The vertical landscape is organized to reflect veins in an insect wing strategically placed to frame views of the water and Statue of Liberty.

One of the most successful aspects of the proposal, in my opinion, is that it respects Governors Island as it is and does not try to over-develop too quickly. The first phase hardly changes the island’s existing conditions, only adding a few amenities to entice visitors. Phase 2 integrates the simpler design aspects of the proposal, and the third phase is reserved only if enthusiasm and funds are available. With this strategy, the population can ease into the more radical ideas put forth, and GIPEC can gauge whether or not it is reasonable to develop further.

Although “a team not a scheme” will be selected, and the design and development will change as reality sets in, I think this scheme reflects an intelligent, feasible strategy worth exploring further. To view all five teams’ submissions, read firm bios, scroll through public feedback, and give your own opinions, check out The Park at the Center of the World website.