Convention Focuses on Liability, Control, Public Policy

Event: 2007 AIANYS Convention: The Past As Prologue
Location: Grand Hyatt, NYC, 10.04-06.07
Speakers: Collaborative Design and Insurability: Frank Musica, Esq. & David Blue — Victor O. Schinnerer & Company; Design Professionals and Public Policy: Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP — 2007 AIANY President & Principal, Perkins + Will; Mark Strauss, FAIA, AICP — AIANY Immediate Past President & Principal, FXFowle Architects; Sherida Paulsen, FAIA — AIANY Vice President of Public Outreach & Principal, Pasanella+Klein Stolzman+Berg Architects
Organizers: AIA New York State

It seems that architects have started to lose control over their profession. Or perhaps the profession no longer belongs to just architects. Client demands and expectations have increased, building standards have risen, the field is more specialized, and new technologies make it permanent. General contractors, subcontractors, consultants, and various other specialists are completing an increasing amount of the design and management work, leaving architects more like subcontractors than leads.

What can architects do to regain the role they traditionally held? Collaborative Design and Insurability, a panel discussion led by Frank Musica, Esq., and David Blue of Victor O. Schinnerer & Company, spoke to both sides, covering architects’ increasing roles as collaborators professionally and with clients. New technology, such as B.I.M. (Building Information Modeling), may shift the practice away from traditional drawing methods, but it saves production time better spent preparing more thorough contracts. This matters because contracts need to be adjusted with the changing times — for instance, the sustainability movement.

As green design becomes less of a commodity and more of a standard, having a written statement understood by client and architect can help avoid potential lawsuits and reduce professional liability costs. Insurance companies adjust rates for firms practicing green design on a case-by-case basis, yet liability insurance costs will soon be adjusted profession-wide.

AIANY is taking steps to help architects reposition themselves legislatively. Design Professionals and Public Policy, led by Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP, 2007 AIANY president, Mark Strauss, FAIA, AICP, AIANY immediate past president, and Sherida Paulsen, FAIA, AIANY vice president of public outreach, discussed the Chapter’s policy committee. Intended for members to become more proactive in legislative issues, the committee deals with the ways architects practice and the liability involved in practicing. When it launches, the new AIANY website will also provide an interactive interface for architects to discuss policy issues, and the Public Information Exchange (PIE) will expand its capabilities to include a blog for such discussions.

As one of the attendees stated, we are “creative problem solvers” and must reach out to the public. Architects’ ideas are only relevant if they are shared.

Adding to Landmarks: When One Person’s Parasite is Another’s Fresh Layer

Event: “But Do the Venerable Landmark Building and the rash New Addition REALLY Talk to Each Other?
Location: Grand Hyatt, 10.04.07
Speakers: Shelly S. Friedman, Esq. — Partner, Friedman & Gotbaum; Roger Philip Lang — Director, Community Programs and Services, New York Landmarks Conservancy; Richard M. Olcott, FAIA — Partner, Polshek Partnership Architects, and former commissioner, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
Moderator: David Paul Helpern, FAIA, LEED AP — Founding Principal, Helpern Architects
Organizers: AIA New York State

Marcel Breuer Tower

Rendering of 1968 design by Marcel Breuer for office tower atop Grand Central Terminal.

Paul Spencer Byard. The Architecture of Additions Design and Regulations, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998. Courtesy ASLA.

The late Herbert Muschamp called them “parabuildings.” Landmarks Conservancy spokesman Roger Lang refers to them as “buildovers.” Whatever one calls them, contemporary grafts on older buildings can be functional as well as profitable, but often visually jarring. And you can count on at least a few preservationists to protest them — even the ones, like Foster + Partners’ recent expansion atop Joseph Urban’s Hearst Building, that creates an intergenerational “dialogue” and realizes the original architect’s documented aim to add a tower.

Recalling a few approved proposals and many others that were rejected or withdrawn, Richard Olcott, FAIA, partner at Polshek Partnership Architects, recalled his father’s quip that “this city is going to be great when it’s finished.” Clearly it never will be, but its evolution, Olcott observed, includes a history of “rather mixed results” when developers try to expand landmarked buildings. Although most of the proposed such projects are shot down, incentives — monetizing air rights, or letting cultural institutions expand — make it worth trying. “The beauty of the landmarks law,” Olcott said, “is that it is intentionally so open-ended.”

The panel presented the Landmarks Preservation Commission revision-approval process through a gamelike approach: a hypothetical expansion of the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Bank Building at 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue (now a Chase branch), a five-story Modernist milestone by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, completed in 1954 and landmarked in 1997. Moderator David Helpern, FAIA, LEED AP, walked the audience through the steps they would take in response to three different proposed plans, from a near-cloning of SOM’s box through an explosion of oblique angles. The panelists explored the question: is it possible to put a new tower into the space above the building without degrading other important values, including aesthetics, history, the local context, and the interests of neighbors?

Attorney Shelly Friedman, Esq., drawing on experience with the tactics and “diagnostics” involved in land-use law, offered recommendations for architects and developers seeking such approval. Forming a team of knowledgeable professionals is the top priority; owners should be flexible about adapting plans. Knowing the specific reasons why a building is landmarked allows for appropriate adjustments. Project viability and financial returns are not the only criteria in these decisions, Friedman observed, and a realistic chance of success often means a willingness to cut losses.

Precedents are commonly cited in these negotiations, Lang noted, though they do not have a formal role. Each site or proposal is unique — as Foster + Partners’ experience at 980 Madison Avenue shows, an idea that works in Midtown’s business district doesn’t automatically work on the residential Upper East Side. In practice, however, both proponents and opponents frame their arguments in reference to prior examples.

The discussion distinguished between preservation as a practical activity, where particular people negotiate real-world decisions, and preservationism as an ideology. No final verdict on the three plans was forthcoming, but the debate rendered closure unnecessary.

NYC: A Soul at Stake

Event: Is New York Losing Its Soul?
Location: Donnell Library Center, 10.03.07
Speakers: Alison Tocci — President & Group Publisher, Time Out New York; Darren Walker — Vice President, Rockefeller Foundation; Tama Janowitz — novelist; Rocco Landesman — President, Jujamcyn Theaters
Moderator: Clyde Haberman — columnist, The New York Times
Organizers: The Municipal Art Society

Empire State Building

The Municipal Art Society asks if Jane Jacobs would think NYC is losing its soul.

Jessica Sheridan

NYC’s ever-increasing crop of chain stores and banks is changing more than just the landscape. The city’s “soul” surfaces in many ways: artists and independent retailers; immigration and ethnic diversity; “organic messiness” and “sexiness.” The underlying theme overall, however, is uniqueness.

With the “Disneyification” of Times Square and the Atlantic Yards project as hot-button topics, panelists wondered: What would Jane Jacobs do? Her advocacy of short, tree-lined blocks, population density, and retail variety could be the answer; or maybe her 1950s approach to urban planning is irrelevant now. Panelists emphasized the importance of maintaining vital immigrant and working-class communities, and noted that the city’s African-American and young residents are on the verge of being priced out.

The onus falls on the city government to create sufficient interventions where growing economic inequality threatens the city’s uniqueness, such as through rent control or tax-break programs. According to Darren Walker, vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, NYC has had the most aggressive subsidized housing program in the U.S. since Mayor Koch, and it is still insufficient. With significantly more demand than supply, and a million new residents projected in the next 10 years, creative solutions are needed at the leadership level.

Founded by a Dutch trading company, NYC has been shaped by money as much as it has by its penchant for evolution and reinvention. The question is how it will reinvent itself in this era of the market-based economy, when developers and “big money” seem to hold the cards. More questions than answers were raised, and there may not be a definitive solution. Jane Jacobs would turn the question to the community, and seek action at the neighborhood level.

Green Roses for a Gray Lady

Event: Keeping Up with the Times: The Architecture and Interior Design of the New Eco-smart New York Times Building
Location: Architects & Designers Building, 10.02.07
Speakers: Rocco Giannetti, AIA — Principal & Interior Project Manager, Gensler; Daniel Kaplan, AIA, LEED AP — Senior Principal, FXFowle Architects; David A. Thurm — Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer, New York Times
Moderator: Susan S. Szenasy — Editor-in-Chief, Metropolis
Organizers: Metropolis

New York Times Building

A conveyor belt in Germany inspired the glazed ceramic rods of the New York Times Building.

Jessica Sheridan

There’s a lot to celebrate about the New York Times Building — the city’s first skyscraper to be announced after 9/11, recalled Susan Szenasy, editor-in-chief of Metropolis, a welcome sign of impending recovery. As the newspaper-of-record’s headquarters and as a leading testbed for green technologies, it carries an inescapably high profile. Some grousing can be expected — this is a workplace of high-profile journalists, after all, moving from dingy digs into a building that literalizes organizational transparency — but the pluses outweigh the minuses decisively.

“We set a challenge for ourselves,” said Times spokesperson David Thurm: “On time [and] on budget wasn’t good enough… we really had to stretch; this building had to fundamentally change the way we do our business.” Times officials were extremely hands-on clients, according to Thurm.

Prototyping and testing phases included the construction of a mockup building at the paper’s printing plant in College Point, Queens, to study lighting and thermal variables and test various systems. The choice of material for the screen of glazed ceramic rods resulted from observations of a heat-tolerant conveyor belt in Leipzig. Innovations like these, Thurm says, occurred in part because “as autodidacts, we didn’t know better.” The pervasive brightness, vast floor plates, prominent perimeter staircases, individually-controlled underfloor ventilation, and 40% energy cogeneration fosters workers’ comfort and collaboration while conserving institutional and planetary resources.

Discussing relevant precedents in floorplate design, Daniel Kaplan, AIA, LEED AP, senior principal at FXFowle Architects, pointed out that large-plate, center-core American offices favor organizational goals at the expense of human priorities, while the European approach exemplified by Foster + Partners’ Deutsche Bank building favors personal comfort over departmental communications. The optimal marriage of the two traditions, FXFowle Architects and Renzo Piano Building Workshop found, was the local NYC loft, and the Times building strives for loftlike openness within the high-rise shell. Rocco Giannetti, AIA, principal and interior project manager at Gensler, described how the interior architecture “dematerializes,” bringing light deep into the workspaces and creating vertical and horizontal grading effects.

Some editors have objected to the building, claiming that the glass-walled offices reduce privacy. The emphasis on transparency, Thurm allowed, overrules such considerations. Other complaints have more to do with general journalistic-office evolution: to old-school writers who find typewriter clatter a soothing bed of white noise, a digitized environment will never seem like home. The most serious challenge was about how thoroughly the Times embraces sustainable practices. As valuable as the individual features are, the question of integration elicited only partial answers.

Experimenting with Digital Fabrication

Event: Inter Operate: Experiments in Digital Fabrication
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.09.07
Speakers: Bradley Samuels & Basar Girit — Situ Studio
Organizers: AIANY Technology Committee
Sponsors: ABC Imaging

CitySol -- Situ Studio

This year’s pavilion for 2007 CitySol. Benches and counter surfaces are made with bamboo plywood that adapt to the same structural system, and eco-friendly cornstarch plastic panels provide shade.

Keith Sirchio, courtesy Situ Studio

Founded in 2005 while the partners were studying architecture at The Cooper Union, Situ Studio has established a reputation for its expertise in the field of digital fabrication and has explored these technologies across a range of disciplines in collaboration with geologists, artists, biologists, engineers, and architects.

Partners Bradley Samuels and Basar Girit discussed the role that CNC (computer numerical control) and rapid prototyping technologies play throughout their projects — from models and prototypes to full-scale building components and installations. Situ Studio works between architects and fabricators (clients include Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Eisenman Architects, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro), and Samuels explained that their training in architecture helps in this role. Using Rhino as a tool for basic modeling and more complex scientific software for precise calculations, Situ Studio is able to create intricate, organic forms.

One example of how design, research, and fabrication results in a built project is this summer’s pavilion for the CitySol 2007 green arts and energy festival at Stuyvesant Cove Park, the second consecutive summer Situ Studio has contributed an installation. The pavilion structure was built of lightweight CNC cut plywood pieces and was designed to be collapsible in segments and easily deployed again in any shape and size. A flexible connection system allows any two pieces of plywood to be notched together at any point, held in place with a flexible tie-strap connection. Plastic cornstarch sheeting was donated by Alco (developed by Cereplast), and Situ Studio incorporated the material by attaching scale-like squares of it to portions of the interior structure, providing shelter for occupants.

Photo Essay: Scenes from openhousenewyork


163 Charles St; Buy Us Voting Machine at Lyn Rice Studio; Parsons the New School for Design student model at Lyn Rice Studio.

Bill Millard


Highlights from the AIANY Emerging NY Architects (ENYA) Competitions tour of South Street Seaport, in conjunction with the launch of the third biennial competition, Re-envisioning the Urban Edge.

Jessica Sheridan


Paul Rudolph Foundation/Modulightor Building.

Bill Millard


Around Roosevelt Island: Roosevelt Island Historical Society Kiosk; Renwick Smallpox Hospital Ruin at Southpoint (tour by ENYA Competitions); Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility (tour by architectural historian William Menking).

Jessica Sheridan


Art installation, The Encampment, by Thom Sokoloski; tent dedicated to Mae West at The Encampment; Renwick Smallpox Hospital at night.

Photo credit goes here.

More Tours, Fewer Closed Doors!

I have volunteered at openhousenewyork (OHNY) since it began five years ago, and what continues to amaze me is the number of architectural enthusiasts who come out of the woodwork to participate. Many are not in the field; many fly in for the weekend from Europe; many are just curious New Yorkers who always wanted to know what goes on inside buildings that are not normally open to the public. This year I organized one of the tours as a member of the AIANY Emerging NY Architects (ENYA) Committee. After a full day of tours, I wonder why AIANY doesn’t offer similar architectural walking tours throughout the year.

Even though those of us who gave the tour (Carolyn Sponza, AIA, Darris James, Assoc. AIA, and myself) are not architectural historians, I felt that we were very qualified to discuss the past, present, and future of Southpoint Park having helped put together the 2006 Southpoint: from Ruin to Rejuvenation competition, which involved more than a year of research and interaction with Roosevelt Island residents, specifically the Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association, Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility, and Roosevelt Island Historical Society.

We spoke of the architectural and planning history of the island and the Renwick Smallpox Hospital. We introduced our competition, which sought to bring ideas to local residents about what they could do with one of the few remaining undeveloped sites in NYC. And we discussed the reception we received on the island from the residents when we exhibited jury-selected entries. Most importantly, we talked about how our competition was able to have (even a small amount of) an impact on the park’s future because one of the entrants went on to work with the weisz + yoes architecture team currently planning the site with Wallace Roberts & Todd landscape architects. The team let us display their most recent material showing their plans for the park’s future (Thank you!).

We gave tours every hour on the hour throughout Sunday, 10.07, and crowds ranged from 10 people to over 45 at a time. Many Roosevelt Island and Long Island City residents were interested in learning more about “their back yard.” We met Columbia University students researching the site for a studio project. A local electrician had stories about sneaking behind the gate to explore the Renwick Smallpox Hospital Ruins. A nurse shared stories about a shipwreck that occurred off the island where those swimming to shore refused help from the smallpox patients.

The enthusiasm on both sides was invigorating, even though the fervor almost became overwhelming when we were unable to take a group on the last tour of the day (luckily, we were still able to give our presentation with the visual material we had). OHNY oddly feels like a release to pent-up frustration people have as more buildings close their doors “for security reasons” and costs for tourist attractions skyrocket. I think OHNY volunteers do a great job organizing an event with such broad and diverse locations (literally and metaphorically) — and I think they should stick to making that one weekend the best it can be. However, AIANY members have the expertise to create similar events on a more regular basis. When the city closes doors on the public, architects and planners should be opening them. I believe everyone would benefit from it.

In this issue:
·Art Deco Decadence Returns to New Yorker
·NYU Makes Statement on Color
·From Brownfield to Town Square
·Green(e) Roof Preserves Views
·Seneca Nation Gambles on Buffalo

Art Deco Decadence Returns to New Yorker

New Yorker Hotel

New Yorker Hotel.

Stonehill & Taylor

Stonehill & Taylor is in the process of revitalizing the art deco New Yorker Hotel. The 43-story hotel opened in 1930 and for many years it was NYC’s largest hotel featuring 2,500 guestrooms, 10 private dining “salons,” five restaurants, and a barbershop. The redesign for 910 guestrooms aims to recall the elegance of 1930s NY and Hollywood with a high contrast color scheme of chocolate brown, gold, and silver; zebra wood furniture; skyscraper-style desks; monumental headboards outfitted with button tufted iridescent upholstered headboards; brown mohair chairs (scaled-down interpretations of a 1910 Josef Hoffmann original); shimmering curtains; and geometric carpeting. The original marble lobby floor will be restored, adding lounge seating, reconfigured crystal chandeliers, a gold-coffered ceiling, new registration and concierge desks, and re-imagined signage throughout.

NYU Makes Statement on Color

NYU Department of Philosophy

The prismatic effects in the stairwell at 3-5 Washington Place, NYU Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts & Science.

Image ©Andy Ryan, courtesy Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl Architects has completed the interior renovation of a circa 1890 building at 3-5 Washington Place for the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts & Science at New York University. The facility includes faculty and graduate student offices, seminar rooms, a periodicals library and lounge, and a ground-floor 120-seat cork auditorium. A new porous stair, changing its direction at each floor, vertically connects the six-level building through shifting light and shadow and is designed to encourage social interaction. Light is activated by the presence of people and by a prismatic film. The upper level floors, containing the faculty offices and seminar rooms, have been designed in different shades and textures of black and white, inspired by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s book Remarks on Color. In addition, the firm designed furniture, coat hooks, light fixtures, and door handles.

From Brownfield to Town Square



Kostow Greenwood Architects

NYC-based Kostow Greenwood Architects has been selected to design SteelStax, billed as Bethlehem, PA’s “21st century town square where culture, history, and the arts intersect with technology, education, and celebration.” The project, situated on the west side of a 126-acre brownfield site adjacent to the old Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces, is the result of three years of planning, research, cultural development, and visioning by the not-for-profit cultural organizations partnering in the development. The cultural complex will contain a new 46,000-square-foot structure, which will house the new broadcast center for a PBS affiliate; a 90,000-square-foot performing arts center, which will incorporate iconic elements from the existing Electric Furnace Building; and the renovation and adaptation of the existing 22,000-square-foot Turn & Grind Shop, which will serve as the events center.

Named one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the country by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this brownfield redevelopment may serve as a model for similar broad-based community-wide restoration and adaptive-re-use efforts elsewhere. The project is scheduled to break ground January 2009.

Green(e) Roof Preserves Views

Green(e) Roof

Green(e) Roof.


Designing a roof garden with private and public decks for a circa 1895 four-story, 16-unit co-op in a landmarked district in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, proved more difficult than anticipated for Brooklyn-based super-interesting. Located on Greene Avenue, Green(e) Roof recreational deck and planted roof is made of FSC-certified wood with mill-finished aluminum grating for non-combustible areas, set off by a modular green roof with various native sedums. The plan originally called for a solar panel canopy and pergola-like structure, but since they would be visible from the street, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) rendered it in violation of the law. The architects are now working to design a grid-tied photovoltaic shade structure that they hope will be approved. Other planned “greene” features will include a renovated glazed stair bulkhead with operable vents to enable “stack effect” passive cooling through the building.

Seneca Nation Gambles on Buffalo

Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino

Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.

SOSH Architects

The Seneca Nation announced plans for a $333 million, nine-acre destination resort in downtown Buffalo, designed by NYC-based SOSH Architects. The complex will consist of a 22-story hotel containing 208 suites, a 90,000-square-foot casino, four restaurants, retail stores, spa, and outdoor/indoor garden. The design of the complex called for luxury setting that also showed a reverence for nature. The casino, which is adjacent to the hotel, is sheathed in zinc, glass, and stone, and has a marquis façade that sparkles with moving lights at night. The main interior space of the casino is a two-story atrium, at the core of which hangs a large, mobile sculpture decorated with designs inspired by Native American history. Retail stores, restaurants, 2,000 slot machines, and 45 table games ring the periphery of the atrium. The complex is slated to open in 2010.

In this issue:
·AIA Issues RFQ for HQ Renovation
·Passing: Herbert Muschamp

AIA Issues RFQ for HQ Renovation
AIA headquarters is in need of renovation. Opened in 1973 and designed by The Architect’s Collaborative (founded by Walter Gropius), the 180,000-square-foot building should become a demonstration project, illustrating for architects and the general public how to:

› Renovate an occupied building while maintaining the productivity of its occupants
› Utilize a geo-thermal system
› Utilize photovoltaic panels
› Use water heated by the sun to reduce fossil fuel usage
› Improve the thermal performance of the building’s envelope
› Harvest 100% of the rainwater
› Maximize flexibility and adaptability in space planning and space allocation
› Incorporate workplace technology to facilitate mobility, increase interaction, and expand accessibility
› Provide all work spaces with natural daylight and views
› Respect the defining characteristics of the existing structure, thereby ensuring its eligibility for future Landmark status.

For more information, go to the AIA website. To request the RFQ, e-mail aiafq. For specific questions, e-mail aiahqrenewal by 10.19 (answers will be posted 10.25). The deadline is 11.06.07.

Passing: Herbert Muschamp
Architecture critic Herbert Muschamp passed away October 2. To honor his life as a critic, here are some of the many links to articles celebrating his life:

Herbert Muschamp, 59, Architecture Critic, Dies, by Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times.

Herbert Muschamp, 1947-2007, by Julie Iovine, The Architect’s Newspaper.

Critic Muschamp mixed reason desire, by Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times.

Herbert Muschamp: 1947-2007, by Richard Lacayo, Time.