This is the last issue of 2007. As always, I am grateful to all of you architecture/design/planning enthusiasts for reading, contributing, and suggesting improvements for the publication. I look forward to hearing more from you in 2008. Happy New Year, and e-O will return January 8.

– Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

West Side Rail Yards: Formidable Talent, Cautious Drafts

Event: Hudson Yards Designers Forum
Location: Cooper Union Great Hall, 12.03.07
Speakers: Rosalie Genevro (introduction) — Architectural League of New York
Representing Extell Development: Steven Holl, AIA, and Chris McVoy — Steven Holl Architects
Representing Related Companies/Goldman Sachs: Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA — Dean, Yale School of Architecture; Bernardo Fort-Brescia, FAIA — Arquitectonica; A. Eugene Kohn, FAIA, RIBA, JIA — Kohn Pedersen Fox; and Claire Weisz, AIA — weisz + yoes architecture
Representing Durst Organization/Vornado Realty: Daniel Kaplan, AIA — FXFowle Architects; Margie Ruddick, ASLA — Wallace Roberts & Todd
Representing Brookfield Properties: James Corner, ASLA — Field Operations; Gary Haney, AIA — Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Representing Tishman Speyer: Francisco González Pulido — Murphy/Jahn Architects
Moderator: Rick Bell, FAIA — AIANY Executive Director
Organizers: AIANY; American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); Architectural League of New York; Design Trust for Public Space; Fine Arts Federation; Friends of the High Line; Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art; Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance; Municipal Art Society; New York New Visions; Regional Plan Association

West Side Rail Yards

West Side Rail Yards.

Courtesy Design Trust for Public Space

The stakes are high and the pressure is considerable. So said Architectural League of New York Executive Director Rosalie Genevro put the West Side Rail Yards in context: at 26 acres, it’s bigger than Ground Zero or Rockefeller Plaza. If one of the five teams can meet the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) straightforward but difficult conditions — maximize revenue and minimize interference with train service — the rail yard will become the fulcrum of a Hudson Yards district spanning 30th to 42nd Streets west of 10th Avenue, Manhattan’s largest new neighborhood since Battery Park City.

A six-block area from 30th to 33rd Streets between 10th and 12th Avenues, the rail yard requires a massive platform above the train storage area. All five plans include park space, a cultural center, a school, some 80/20 affordable rentals, and assorted sustainability features, but only one appeared to dramatically yet economically acknowledge the scope of the structural challenge.

Steven Holl, AIA, defended a departure from the Hudson Yards Development Corporation’s guidelines: his platform will hold substantial green space (19.5 acres to the guidelines’ 12), and a cable suspension system resembling bridge technology will support the platform, obviating disruptive column construction. Holl’s towers, all positioned on terra firma outside the platform, would include a triple skyscraper connected both at ground level and at a high-level “sky lobby,” plus six “sun slice” residential buildings whose profiles maximize daylight year-round; he would also limit a major 33rd Street building to 10 stories, providing an open plain for his sculpture garden. His proposal has the advantages of clear differentiation from the others and an efficient construction plan, but two potential disadvantages: the developer Extell is the consensus dark-horse candidate, and Holl improvises furthest beyond the guidelines. Whether the MTA will view that independence as a recommendation, as other clients have done, is a wild card.

The Brookfield Properties team combines an array of talent — Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Thomas Phifer & Partners, SHoP, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SANAA, Handel Architects, and Field Operations — with different grounds for departing from the RFP. Fields Ops’ James Corner, ASLA, advocated a four-park plan that preserves the local street grid rather than creating an enclave around a central linear park. It would also overcome the platform’s formidable 26-foot height differential by setting back the SHoP residential towers to allow for a sloping southwestern park (Hudson Green) beginning at grade, connected to a promenade extending along 30th Street beneath the High Line.

If proposals that have already secured a major corporate tenant have a head start, the selection may boil down to which quality deserves strongest emphasis: glamour vs. sustainability vs. restraint. The Kohn Pedersen Fox/Arquitectonica/Robert A.M. Stern Architects/Elkus Manfredi/West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture/weisz + yoes architecture plan for Related and Goldman Sachs includes NewsCorp as the anchor of divergent designs well-suited to high-profile media events. Durst/Vornado’s plan by FXFowle Architects and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects goes all-out on green technologies and brings in another media tenant already associated with green construction, Condé Nast. This plan clips off the High Line’s eastern spur but adds another aerial walkway, the “Skyline,” wending through ample parkland, plus a subterranean “people-mover” (think mini AirTrain, not conveyor-belt walkways) connecting to the Penn/Moynihan Station rail hub. Tishman Speyer’s relatively classicist plan by Helmut Jahn, FAIA, (major tenant, Morgan Stanley) with PWP Landscape Architecture and master planners Cooper, Robertson & Partners emphasizes a terraced outdoor amphitheater, the “Forum,” over specific building features. Murphy/Jahn Architects’ Francisco González Pulido described the four towers’ relative formlessness: “By the time these buildings are designed, who knows what they’re going to look like?”

The MTA invited public input online and plans to make a choice in early 2008. The media is already picking favorites, estimating the volatile balance among the developers’ financial projections (top-secret), the community’s most pressing needs (particularly affordable housing, addressed here dutifully but not energetically), the political variables, and the business imperatives that one hopes will not preclude the risk-taking ideas that the overflow crowd came to see such renowned talents deliver.

AIANY Inaugural Celebrates 150 Years; Plans for Future

Event: AIANY 2008 Inaugural
Location: Center for Architecture, 12.04.07
Champion: Studio Daniel Libeskind
Supporters: Gensler; HumanScale; James McCullar & Associates
Friends: Forest City Ratner Companies; Hugo S. Subotovsky Architects; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Trespa North America; Universal Contracting
Contributors: Anchin, Block & Anchin; Cosentini Associates; FXFowle Architects; Levien & Company; Mancini Duffy; Michael Zenreich, AIA; New York Building Congress; Perkins Eastman; Plaza Construction; Robert A.M. Stern Architects; Shen Milsom & Wilke; Skanska USA Building; Strategic Development & Construction; Swanke Hayden Connell Architects; Thornton-Tomasetti; Weildlinger Associates

As she passed the presidential gavel to 2008 AIANY President James McCullar, FAIA, at the AIANY 2008 Innaugural, 2007 AIANY President Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP outlined the many accomplishments that she was “most proud of having been a part of ” with the Chapter and the Center for Architecture. These included continuing to take strong advocacy positions on many topics, such as Columbia’s expansion plans, Moynihan Station, Governors Island, and Coney Island, among others.

In keeping with Blumenfeld’s theme for the year, “Architecture Inside/Out,” she reported that a presentation to the NYC Commissioners and Project Managers about launching an Interior Design Excellence program for city projects has made headway — some antiquated standards have already been revised.

On a bright note, she pointed out that AIANY Chapter membership has grown to over 4,000 and new benefits and initiatives were added during the year. On a sad note, Blumenfeld mourned the passing of “a number of good friends” in 2007: Giorgio Cavaglieri, FAIA; Greg Clement, FAIA; Margaret Helfand, FAIA; Denis Kuhn, FAIA; David Mandl, AIA; and Martin Raab, FAIA.

The Chapter’s AIA150 Champion Mark Ginsberg, FAIA, then reported on the highly successful Sesquicentennial celebrations. He highlighted the New Housing New York Legacy Project and the Public Information Exchange (PIE) installation, and noted that the AIA New York State Convention’s first foray to NYC was a great success. “We hope that the momentum continues; particularly our commitment to improve our City and profession,” he said. With that, he urged members to support a package of Chapter-sponsored zoning changes now going through the ULURP process.

Incoming President James McCullar, FAIA, introduced his theme for 2008: “Architecture: Designs for Living.” He explained it as a “response to Mayor Bloomberg’s initiatives for PlaNYC 2030, which requires new sustainable typologies from infrastructure to housing… We are part of an emerging global community — from our PlaNYC neighborhoods to the Northeast Mega-region and urban centers around the world. Our theme supports building relationships for a sustainable global future.”

The evening’s keynote speaker, 2008 AIA National President Marshall Purnell, FAIA, design principal at Washington, DC-based Devrouax+Purnell Architects and Planners, applauded the Chapter’s leadership role in the AIA’s 150th anniversary celebrations: “AIANY truly honored the profession’s past…. The Center for Architecture is a mirror of what the future of the profession could and should look like — a future where design professionals, elected leaders, and the public chart a better future for everyone through the power of design.” Purnell stressed building bridges both within the AIA and as part of an aggressive commitment to public outreach: “We must pursue it not simply as a moral, but a professional imperative.”

The Inaugural followed a moving celebration of the life and work of 2001 Chapter President Margaret Helfand, FAIA, at which it was announced that a generous gift in her honor by her client David Whitcomb and husband Jon Turner would lead to a re-naming of one of the galleries at the Center for Architecture. More about the memorial and memorial matching fund will follow in an upcoming issue of e-Oculus.

NYC’s Waterfront Washes Up in Debate

Event: Berlin-New York Dialogues: City of Water: A Documentary and Panel Discussion about the Future of New York’s Waterfront
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.30.07
Speakers: Majora Carter — Executive Director, Sustainable South Bronx; Carter Craft — Director of Programs and Policy, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance; Greg O’Connell — Manager, Pier 41 Associates; William Kornblum — Sociology Professor, CUNY Graduate Center
Moderator: Daniel Wiley — Community Coordinator for Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez
Organizers: AIANY; Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance; Municipal Art Society
Sponsors: Underwriters: Digital Plus; RFR Holding; Patrons: Eurohypo; IULA-International Urban Landscape Award; Lead Sponsors: Carnegie Corporation of New York; Tishman Speyer Properties; Supporter: The German Consulate General New York; Friends: Aucapina Cabinetry; bartcoLighting; Getmapping; Osram Sylvania. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

City of Water

Courtesy of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance

We are in an era where NYC’s waterfront is seemingly up for grabs. The maritime industrial trade that literally pushed and pulled the city to prominence has been relegated to back-of-the-house status and sent to New Jersey, leaving the shoreline infrastructure abandoned and prime for redevelopment. With development already underway along the Long Island City-Greenpoint-Williamsburg stretch of the East River, advocates including U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez are expressing concern that the public’s basic right of access to the water is being ignored by private developers. Many dismiss Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff’s vision of an emerald necklace as a “Disneyification” of the waterfront, where a promenade in the shadow of a 40-story building produces a sterilized environment virtually eliminating the public’s physical interaction with the water. As a counterpoint, the town dock often becomes a vibrant nexus of community interaction and does what the ever-present promenade does not — allows people to get into the water (gasp!).

These issues, among others, are captured in City of Water, a documentary produced by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. The three opening scenes of the film set the stage: first, a stoic workhorse of the harbor, a McAllister tugboat pushes a gravel barge in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge; next, Doctoroff appears promoting the current redevelopment of NYC’s waterfront at an historic rate; and finally, Velazquez counters, stressing the need for public access and use of the waterfront.

A proposal from the Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) for the Oak Point Maritime Eco-Industrial Park seeks to appease all three players in waterfront development. Majora Carter, executive director of SSBx, describes the project as an opportunity to create living-wage jobs, promote a clean-tech economy, and utilize inter-modal transportation opportunities (barge and rail). Sadly, the city currently has other plans for the Oak Point site — a 2,000-inmate jail.

The slow burn of the city’s last major redevelopment of the waterfront — Robert Moses’ asphalt necklace known as the West Side Highway and the FDR Drive — has prompted waterfront advocates to speak with a louder voice this time around. Unfortunately, the odd man out in this debate seems to be those hoping to enhance the working waterfront in the city, prompting fears that the workhorse that got us here may soon be tossed overboard.

Seven Years or Bust

Event: Pratt Institute President’s Lecture Series
Location: Higgins Hall, Pratt Institute, 11.29.07
Speaker: Edward Mazria, AIA — Founder, Mazria Inc., Architecture Planning Conservation and Founder & Executive Director, Architecture 2030
Organizer: Pratt Institute


NYC if there is a three-meter (left) or five-meter (right) rise in sea level.

Courtesy architecture2030.org

Edward Mazria, AIA, conveys a frightening reality of a world fueling global warming. He predicts the world’s population has seven years before its discharge of greenhouse gases brings it to a point that scientists consider irreversible. Seven years before the inertia of a rising concentration of carbon dioxide will be beyond our ability to stop catastrophic rises in sea level.

Architecture 2030 — a non-profit organization aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by changing the way buildings and developments are planned, designed, and constructed, according to their mission statement — recently released a study showing the incremental rates that sea levels are changing throughout coastal American cities. Cities like Boston, New Orleans, and Miami would be devastated from just one meter of rising waters. Mazria, who is the founder and executive director of the organization, exclaimed, “It astonished us that our government did not do this study before.”

There are two methods to solve the greenhouse gas emission problem in the U.S., according to Mazria. Since burning coal is the single greatest source of carbon dioxide emissions today, a moratorium on coal is necessary to reverse its affect. Also, the nation must begin implementing the “2030 Challenge,” calling for all new buildings to use a maximum of 50% of the energy required by today’s standard by the year 2030.

Mazria is confident that the challenge can be met, but the time to act is now. Santa Barbara, CA, is the first municipality to carve the standard into its building code. Hopefully, more will follow soon.

SUPERMODELS: Exfoliation and Re-Generation

Event: SUPERMODELS: Exfoliation Re-Generation
Location: Center for Architecture, 12.06.07
Speakers: Chris Beardsley & Dennis Vermeulen, Assoc. AIA — Flank Architecture; Charlie Kaplan — Peter L. Gluck & Partners, Architects; Adam Meshberg — Meshberg Group
Moderator: Anne Guiney — New York Editor, The Architect’s Newspaper
Organizer: AIANY New Practices Committee
Sponsors: Exhibition Underwriters: Associated Fabrication; Hafele; SKYY90; Patrons: 3Form; ABC Imaging; Sponsors: Severud Associates; Thornton-Tomasetti; OS Fabrication & Design; The Conran Shop; Supporters: Arup; bartcoLighting; Fountainhead Construction; FXFowle Architects; MG & Company; Microsol Resources; Structural Enterprises; Friends: Barefoot Wines; Cosentini Associates; DEGW; Delta Faucet Company; Perkins Eastman; Media Partner: The Architect’s Newspaper

Meshberg Group

Firms that see a project through from design to construction claim to have a greater sense of satisfaction from a job.

Courtesy Meshberg Group

A holistic approach to building will save us from the threats of a tumbling economy, some firms believe. Flank Architecture, Peter L. Gluck & Partners, Architects, and the Meshberg Group have all set up business models incorporating a range of specialties including design, construction, management, development, and even real estate brokerage. For these firms, seeing a building through from sketch to construction is rewarding artistically as well as monetarily.

By doing construction, engineering, and design, Adam Meshberg of the Meshberg Group is satisfied knowing a building belongs fully to his firm. Charlie Kaplan, of Peter L. Gluck & Partners, Architects, agrees and is proud that this allows a team to “get their hands dirty.” Once a team finishes design work, it goes on-site to complete construction. Flank Architecture builds three-dimensional models simultaneous to financial frameworks so there is a mutual understanding of both realism and aspiration for a building, according to Chris Beardsley. As a result, the firm’s success has led to larger projects, he believes.

Another result of developing design and finances concurrently is that clients understand their costs. Meshberg enjoys clients’ reactions when presenting a project. His firm not only exhibits seductive designs, but it also provides real estimates, which is reassuring to many of his clients. Kaplan sees this as an added business benefit; the skepticism architects often face is replaced by optimism when numbers are revealed to a client.

One might think liability would go up for these firms that straddle so many fields; however, that is not the case. Kaplan posits that by being in control of a project from start to finish there is less of a chance for something to go wrong. If a problem arises, adds Dennis Vermeulen, Assoc. AIA, of Flank Architecture, the client knows whom to call, instead of hiring a lawyer to figure out which entity is responsible for the error.

With the future of the economy in question, every firm is trying to prepare for a potential downfall. The answer for Beardsley is maintaining a diverse practice. Construction management has a longer lifespan than design, adds Meshberg as an example. By being involved with so many aspects of building, the ebbs and flows of work are staggered. Ultimately, success hinges on good design and skillful construction. Says Kaplan, “If you provide a good product, you’ll always have work.”

Preservation: Protecting Modern Buildings Can be a Hard Sell

Event: Changing Perspectives on Preservation: A Panel Discussion
Location: The Municipal Art Society, 11.29.07
Speakers: Hilary Ballon, Ph.D. — Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University & Associate Vice Chancellor, NYU Abu Dhabi; Thomas Mellins — Curator of Special Projects, Museum of the City of New York; Anthony Wood — Executive Director, Ittleson Foundation, Professor of Historic Preservation, Columbia University, and Founder/Chair, New York Preservation Archive Project
Moderator: Frank E. Sanchis — Senior Vice President, Municipal Art Society
Organizer: Municipal Art Society

Grand Central

Grand Central Station is one of the Municipal Art Society’s successful campaigns.

Courtesy Municipal Art Society

“I can’t think of any building we’re sorry we’ve saved, but I can say that about the ones we didn’t,” said Anthony Wood, founder and chair of the New York Preservation Archive Project. This is an apt statement to make in the gallery of the Urban Center, housed in McKim, Mead & White’s 1884 Henry Villard House, saved by the fledgling Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in the early 1970s. In a discussion exploring the theme of changing perspectives on preservation, new challenges and arguments are arising with contemporary times, especially when it comes to preserving Modern icons.

The Municipal Art Society (MAS), which has offices in the Henry Villard House, champions the preservation of the earliest city buildings through the Modernist era. In general, it urges the LPC to protect buildings prior to major rezoning and redevelopment projects, and advocates for the City Council to increase the LPC’s budget to allow an increase in the landmark designation rate and efficiency with which permits are processed.

Protecting Modern buildings can be a “hard sell,” even for preservationists. “We’re destroying Paul Rudolph’s across the country,” said Hilary Ballon, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, underscoring the concern for protecting Modern buildings. The fate of Edward Durell Stone’s 2 Columbus Circle, for example, remains a sore point for many preservationists because the issue never went through a public hearing. Some buildings are fraught with outdated technical problems. Sustainability issues emerge, as some preservationists believe “the best green building is one that already exists,” according to Frank Sanchis, MAS’s senior vice president.

Traditional preservationists carry baggage against Modern buildings, according to Thomas Mellins, curator of special projects at the Museum of the City of New York, and it will be up to the next generation to provide the impetus to save them. “The price of preservation is constant vigilance,” said Mellins.

Mumbai Makes Room

Event: This Will Kill That? Maximum City: A reading forum with Suketu Metha
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.15.07
Speaker: Suketu Metha — Fiction Writer, Journalist, Author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found
Organizer: AIANY Emerging NY Architects Committee

Suketu Metha

Suketu Metha reads from his book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.

Katerina Kampiti

“Bombay is the future of urban civilization on the planet. God help us,” writes Suketu Metha in Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found. With the decreasing viability of agriculture in India, and economic opportunities expanding in urban centers, cities such as Mumbai (formerly Bombay) are experiencing mass immigration. Facing rapid growth and economic disparities, Mumbai is a testing ground for the compatibility of largely unplanned urbanization with both modern democracy and an ancient culture.

In addition to providing utilities, housing, transportation, and open space, Mumbai faces the paradoxical challenge, as relayed to Metha by Indian architect Rahul Mehrotra: “If we make the city nice, with good roads, trains, and accommodation — if we make the city a nicer place to live — it attracts more people from the outside.” To plan for the future, Metha suggests that architects need to understand the complex and informal social networks of the city. Currently, there is “almost no dialogue” between architects and the local citizenry; most architects “simply tell the people how to live,” rather than “asking them how they want to live.”

Within the hyper-density of Mumbai, “the greatest luxury is solitude,” says Metha. Every economic, ethnic, and religious class is forced to interface. Scarcity of space in Mumbai precludes the development of gated communities, and results in rich and poor living in adjacent, if unequal, accommodations. He evokes a metaphorical cross section of Mumbai society when describing a typical high-rise tower. Wealthy residents live atop a parking garage that also houses the residents’ drivers and their families. Differing economic classes may “not like each other, but they need each other to survive.”

Metha is optimistic for Mumbai’s future, however. Indians “make space where none exists,” he states when describing crowded trains. “Come on-board, they say. We’ll adjust.”

Power to the People

Event: Modernism and the Public Realm with Nathan Glazer
Location: The Museum of the City of New York, 11.28.07
Speakers: Kent Barwick — President, Municipal Art Society; Nathan Glazer — Sociologist, Critic, Author of From a Cause to a Style: Modernist Architecture’s Encounter with the American City; Fred Siegel — Senior Fellow, Progressive Policy Institute and Columnist, New York Post; Susan Henshaw Jones (introduction) — President/Director, The Museum of the City of New York
Moderator: Hilary Ballon, Ph.D. — Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, Associate Vice Chancellor, NYU Abu Dhabi, and Curator, Robert Moses and the Modern City
Organizer: The Museum of the City of New York


As more large buildings are built in the city, the more its vitality is lost.

Jessica Sheridan

“The difficulties in producing an attractive urbanism constitute perhaps the greatest problem for Modernism,” argues sociologist and critic Nathan Glazer in From a Cause to a Style: Modernist Architecture’s Encounter with the American City. He takes planners and architects to task for their apathy toward social consciousness. The impact of iconic and gigantic buildings has led to a lack in diversity and livability in cities. “There should be a diversity of functions (uses), and there should be an interest in neighborhoods,” continues Glazer. Successful streets depend on planners, architects, developers, politicians, and the public. The political culture and economic forces need to be examined to restore life to the streets.

Coupled with the current exhibition, Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York at the Municipal Art Society, and Glazer’s book on Modernism’s failure to cities, a recent panel debated how to salvage the city’s vitality and fabric. “Big cities are the natural economic homes of immense numbers and ranges of small enterprises.” (The Life and Death of Great American Cities). However, the contemporary urban fabric does not permit the diversity so sought by Jacobs.

To accommodate increased density, larger buildings are being constructed, and NYC is moving farther away from Jacobs’s ideal, claimed Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society. Larger buildings create empty streets. Lexington Avenue is a case study showing that certain neighborhoods are dense and full of vitality, while others consist of Modernist buildings and vacant sidewalks, an audience member pointed out.

The number of iconic buildings is now what defines modern cities. For example, the Atlantic Yards development will change a large section of Brooklyn, adding a number of new high rise buildings designed by Gehry Partners, yet it was not planned or discussed with its residents, stated New York Post columnist and senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute Fred Siegel. Atlantic Yards will not benefit Brooklyn residents, he argued. It will only mark the skyline — something that will feed into politicians’ egos, and not much else.

Questions remain about what should be done to preserve the city’s vitality while maintaining economic growth. The real estate industry is one source for jobs and is essential for economic growth. But we do not fully take advantage of other resources NYC can offer, contends Siegel. Civic culture is an instrument that can impact the city as well. Every voice needs to be heard when making major urban decisions, not just a powerful few.

Which Rules: Cities of Culture or the Culture of Cities?

If you visit the Sydney Opera House, you will find an international cultural repertoire such the Paris Ballet or the Mozart Festival. You will also find contemporary artists and art in the Australian bush, or in the avant-guarde Darling Harbor in Sydney. The issue of current versus established culture is a modern phenomenon worldwide, and subject of recent debate between Magdy Youssef, director and the senior planner of the Maroochy Shire Council, and this author.

Culture can stagnate within traditional institutions, and contemporary art is often found in fragments hidden within cities. Of course, prominent art institutions play a role within the contemporary city fabric — the Museum of Modern Art demonstrated a commitment to new art when it acquired PS 1 in Queens, for example — but architects and urban designers can take the lead in creating small, more modest places for new, experimental art. Renzo Piano Building Workshop designed Aurora Place, a mixed-use office and residential tower overlooking the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor. The building’s plaza opens to a neglected alleyway with shops and warehouses, instead of the nearby botanical garden with access to the opera house. As a result, space is provided for contemporary art that will not be overshadowed or polarized by the institutions.

In Europe, such phenomena can also be observed. Current art can be found in Percy, the old wine port of Paris — more so than the institutionalized French outlets dedicated to the same purpose. The Berlin-NewYork Dialogues exhibition at the Center for Architecture sheds some additional light on this phenomenon.

The current dynamics of cultural generation and renewal is critical to the process of urban design and architecture. Our Australian colleagues are demonstrating meticulous efforts to observe the process of renewal by integrating art, architecture, and planning under one umbrella, and their cities are benefiting as a result.