It’s About the People, Not the Awards

Event: The Ratensky Lecture by Conrad Levenson, FAIA: Restoring Buildings, Reclaiming Lives
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.05.07
Speakers: Conrad Levenson, FAIA — Director of Properties Management, Phoenix House; Introduction: Carmi Bee, FAIA — Principal, RKT&B Architects and Planners; Lynda Simmons — President Emerita, Phipps House
Organizer: AIANY Housing Committee

The Federal City Shelter

The Federal City Shelter in Washington, D.C.

Courtesy CCNV

Cycling through a number of projects he completed during his career, perhaps the most poignant example of the impact that Conrad Levenson, FAIA, director of properties management at Phoenix House and this year’s Ratensky Lecturer, has had on affordable housing is the Federal City Shelter in Washington, D.C. In the 1980s, the abandoned building was occupied by the activist group Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) and housed hundreds of homeless in the D.C. area. After years of pushback from the Reagan administration and two hunger strikes led by activist Mitch Snyder, the property was leased to CCNV and funds were provided for renovations.

When it seemed as if the government would not follow through with its promise, Levenson, along with professor Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, orchestrated a month-long student design charrette funded by a National Endowment for the Arts. The project was completed quicker than the government anticipated, and plans were filed for a three-story building with five self-contained units, sleeping cubicles, toilets, and showers. After two more years of political negligence, Levenson opened an office and the students collaborated with local firms to complete the project in less than six months, by the end of 1987. Today, the Federal City Shelter remains the largest shelter in D.C.

The government tends to segregate the afflicted, compartmentalizing troubled groups and implementing short-term programs that solve problems only temporarily, claims Levenson. This is evident in the affordable housing field where the disadvantaged are faced with poor living conditions — a lack of privacy in disease-ridden circumstances. Yet social groups celebrate the fact that individuals are given roofs over their heads and politicians brag that they are helping remove people from the street.

Levenson blames the economy in the 1970s for the housing crisis that left many doubting NYC’s future. Housing became unsafe and poorly maintained. Psychiatric hospitals expelled residents when they could not afford to keep them. Those who could, fled the city; and those who remained were the poorest of the underprivileged poor. Levenson distinguishes between architecture (safe, functional, energy efficient, durable) and social architecture (sustainable, community-oriented, program-driven, resourceful, disciplined, creative). And with over 35 years of experience designing for transitioning individuals and the homeless population, he is nostalgic for the 1960s when it was believed that housing could bring about positive social change.

For Levenson, the benefits of working in affordable housing is knowing that literally thousands of people have used his designs to achieve independence, not in the many awards he has received. Social architecture demands more than just tolerance. “Live and help let live” is his motto.

Public Housing CAN Produce Social Answers

Event: Design with a Conscience: Public Housing
Location: Parsons The New School for Design, 11.05.07
Speakers: Michael Maltzan, FAIA — Principal, Michael Maltzan Architecture; Andrew Bernheimer, AIA — Principal, Della Valle Bernheimer; Alex Schwartz, chair of policy programs, Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy & author of Housing Policy in the United States: An Introduction
Moderator: Kent Kleinman — chair, Department of Architecture, Interior Design, and Lighting, Parsons The New School for Design.
Organizer: Parsons The New School for Design

Glenmore Gardens

Glenmore Gardens in East New York, designed by Della Valle Bernheimer.

Della Valle Bernheimer, courtesy Parsons The New School for Design

Progressive public housing design is typically precluded by tight budgets. The public housing design process can be abstract, and include discussions on ethics, morality, public economic restrictions, and practical business decisions. Social responsibility is often given a bad name in the architecture profession, but some firms are embracing the challenge and working through the limitations to create unique, livable designs.

For Andrew Bernheimer, AIA, and his team at Della Valle Bernheimer, design with a conscience is simply part of the application. “Our work is not progressive. We are a conventional design firm,” he says. Glenmore Gardens in the East New York section of Brooklyn, however, is a new concept for public housing (and featured in the fall issue of OCULUS magazine. See “High Ideals, Low Budget,” by Bill Millard, p. 26). Della Valle Bernheimer acted as architect and master planner for five two-family homes as part of the New Foundations Program for the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Collaborating with firms Architecture Research Office (ARO), Briggs Knowles Architecture + Design, and Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis, the five buildings contain residences with distinct yet related designs incorporating affordable and sustainable building materials.

Michael Maltzan, FAIA, preferring the moniker “socially motivated” to “social responsibility,” believes design can attack social issues, such as isolation, prevalent in a community. Michael Maltzan Architecture’s Skid Row Housing Trust Apartments in downtown Los Angeles, a six-story, 43,000-square-foot building, provides single-occupancy units to formerly homeless residents. The U-shaped building provides a private central courtyard that acts as a public gathering space for occupants. Public spaces are carved out or extruded from the building’s massing as well, and elements such as color are employed to create a welcoming presence.

“You can create community and a significant presence in a city. You try to be conscious — for the city,” claims Maltzan. Although affordable housing is bound by political and economic limitations, firms like Della Valle Bernheimer and Michael Maltzan Architecture embrace architecture’s social role.

Architects Search for Public Relief

Event: OUTING THE WATER CLOSET: Sex, Gender, and the Public Toilet
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.03.07
Panel 1: The Social Construction of the Bathroom: Beatriz Colomina — Professor, History & Theory, Director of Graduate Studies, PhD Program, Princeton University; Clara Greed — Professor of Urban Planning and Architecture, University of the West of England; Dr. Ruth Barcan — Professor, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, The University of Sydney, Australia; Dr. Barbara Penner — Professor in Architectural History and Theory, Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London); Deborah Taylor, AIA, LEED AP — Chief Sustainability Officer, NYC Department of Buildings; Matthew Sapolin — Executive Director, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities; Bronwen Pardes — Sexual Health Educator, HIV Counselor, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital
Panel 2: Building Gender/Building Toilets: Joel Sanders, AIA — Principal, Joel Sanders Architect; Andrew Whalley, AA Dipl, AIA, RIBA — Partner-in-Charge, Grimshaw; David Lewis — Partner, Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis Architects; Charles McKinney — Chief of Design, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; Pauline Park — Gender Rights Activist; Lori Pavese Mazor, AIA — Associate Vice President for Planning and Design, New York University; Harvey Molotch — Acting Director of the Program in Metropolitan Studies & Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and Department of Sociology, NYU
Organizers: New York University; Center for Architecture
Sponsors: AIANY; NYU Office of Campus Planning and Design; with support from NYU academic units: Graduate School of Arts and Science, Department of Sociology, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, Gender and Sex Institute

Stalls

Architects can relieve the stress of public restrooms.

Jessica Sheridan

Public restrooms have long been a source of anxiety, ranging from cleanliness and privacy to size restrictions and accessibility. Though designers may focus more on stall dimensions or number of sinks required by code, examining public restrooms from a cultural viewpoint calls attention to the things we take for granted. The water closet should not only be thought of as a physical space that services our biological needs, but also as a space of representation, reflecting normative ideas about gender, sex, and the body.

While designers take exhaustive measures to ensure visual discretion in public restrooms, boundaries are still transgressed by our senses of sound, touch, and smell. Whether from a wet door handle or lingering odor, explains Dr. Ruth Barcan, professor of gender and cultural studies at the University of Sydney in Australia, these senses evoke an “unseen other” and fear of airborne contagion, agitating personal insecurities at our most vulnerable moment in public. For some, however, worries begin before entering the restroom. Gender specific signs can be a stopping point for those who fall outside the cultural binary of “men” and “women,” and parents with small children of the opposite gender must negotiate levels of appropriateness in choosing one door over the other. A possible solution — gender-neutral bathrooms — raises concerns about sexual violence and personal safety.

In general, public restroom design is guided by construction codes, which, as cultural texts, reflect our deep-seated prejudices about size, accessibility, or gender. By unpacking and reworking these codes, architects can respond to anxieties, and help provide a better sense of public relief.

Berlin, NYC Cultivate the Arts

Event: Berlin-New York Dialogues: Cultural Kapital/Capital Kultur: Exhibition Symposium
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.10.07
Speakers: Illya Azaroff, Assoc. AIA — Director of Design, the design collective studio (NY); Markus Bader — Principal, raumlabor_berlin (Berlin); Susan Chin, FAIA — Assistant Commissioner of Capital Projects, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (NY); Matthew Griffin, AA Dipl. Architekt — deadline > office for architectural services (Berlin); Regula Lüscher — State Department for Urban Development (Berlin); Kristien Ring — Director, German Center for Architecture (DAZ) (Berlin); Jochen Sandig — Producer & Cultural Administrator, Radialsystem V (Berlin); Ronald Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. AIA — Professor of Urban Planning, Graduate Center for Planning and Environment, Pratt Institute (NY); Claire Weisz, AIA — weisz + yoes architecture (NY); Lynnette Widder — Department of Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design; Peter Zlonicky — architect & planner (Munich)
Organizers: AIANY in collaboration with Deutsches Haus at New York University & Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment
Sponsors: Berlin-New York Dialogues presented in partnership with Carnegie Hall as part of Berlin in Lights festival; 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, bartco Lighting, Getmapping, Osram Sylvania. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs

Berlin-New York Dialogues

At the Berlin-New York Dialogues Exhibition symposium, Consul General Dr. Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth, with Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director.

Photograph by Sam Lahoz

The Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, has said, “Berlin is a poor but sexy city.” It’s a city with a lot of space for people with little money. In fact, Berlin is as economically bankrupt as NYC was in the 1970s. This is the result of the building boom that the city experienced after reunification in 1990, as well as the unresolved issues arising from the shift of capital back to Berlin from Bonn in 1999.

NYC has recovered since the 1970s so much so that it supports 850 of the 1,400 public/private cultural institutions. Susan Chin, FAIA, assistant commissioner for capital projects at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (and former AIANY Chapter president) cited that city support has grown to $1.3 billion leveraging over $1 billion in private sector support to create arts and cultural facilities including the Bronx Museum of the Arts expansion by Arquitectonica, Metropolitan Museum of Art Leon Levy and Shelby White Court designed by Kevin Roche, FAIA, and the Queens Botanical Garden by BKSK Architects. The Department of City Planning is also rezoning 125th Street, river to river, for more cultural institutions to neighbor the Studio Museum of Harlem and Apollo Theater. In Long Island City, a cultural district is in formation with P.S. 1, the Noguchi Museum, and the Thalia Spanish Theatre.

The government in Berlin is not in a position to help private initiatives, but Berliners, with their “can-do” attitude have taken matters into their own hands. For example, a community turned the Post Bahnhof, a former postage distribution center, into a party and events space, transformed numerous abandoned storefronts into retail spaces, and courtyards into cafés and places to display art installations. Collective buildings are being developed that band together people with similar lifestyles. Inhabitants invest in and work with an architect to create a communal live/work space. Currently, there are more than 25 such projects in Berlin.

Berlin-based artists also are finding unlikely sites for temporary art. Jochen Sandig, co-founder of arts space Radialsystem V, created a place where contemporary and classical dance and music, and visual and electronic arts meet along the River Spree, taking advantage of the underutilized waterfront. During the demolition of the Palast der Republik, when the building was reduced to its core, architect Markus Bader of raumlabor_Berlin turned it into the Gasthof Bergkristall, a short-term hotel comprised of just four rooms.

Perhaps most comparable to new development in Berlin is the area of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Red Hook is a neighborhood with promise that could be on the road to gentrification, but still maintains a rich artistic culture. Both Berliners and New Yorkers express the need to put safeguards in place to keep rents down for the burgeoning artistic communities on both sides of the Atlantic in order to retain the cities’ vitality.

The Berlin-New York Dialogues is on view at the Center for Architecture through 01.26.07. See On View for more information.

Small Firms Take Expansive Measures

Event: SUPERMODELS: MINI: 1-20: SMALL FIRMS
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.06.07
Speakers: Oliver Freundlich & Brian Papa — Partners, MADE; Mark Tsurumaki, AIA — Principal, Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis Architects; Fernaz Mansuri, Assoc. AIA — Lead Designer, De-Spec
Moderator: Anne Guiney — New York Editor, The Architect’s Newspaper
Organizer: AIANY New Practice Committee
Sponsors: Exhibition Underwriters: Associated Fabrication, Häfele, SKYY90; Patrons: 3Form, ABC Imaging; Sponsors: Severud Associates, Thornton Tomasetti, OS Fabrication & Design, The Conran Shop, Perkins Eastman; Supporters: Arup, bartcoLighting, Fountainhead Construction, FXFowle Architects, MG & Company, Microsol Resources, Structural Enterprises; Friends: Barefoot Wines, Cosentini Associates, DEGW, Delta Faucet Company, Perkins Eastman

While principals of small architecture firms often maintain meticulous control of their projects from design through construction, many of the not-so-glamorous issues related to running small businesses weigh equally on their minds. Fernaz Mansuri, Assoc. AIA, lead designer at De-Spec, is as proud of the sophisticated accounting system she has refined over the past few years as she is of the firm’s design projects. For Oliver Freundlich and Brian Papa, partners at MADE, one of the biggest challenges has been reining in the paperwork associated with tracking a design studio, fabrication shop, and contracting team under one roof (not to mention the added caveat that design/build is illegal in NY).

Lacking the financial resources of larger firms, small firms have to be creative when it comes to revenue sources. For this reason, Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis (LTL) Architects and MADE build many of the projects they design. In the case of LTL Architects, getting into fabrication in their early restaurant work was a necessity due to the complexity of their designs, inflated cost estimates from inexperienced contractors, and tight budgets. Offering more than one service is a key survival method for small practices, since it helps insulate them from market fluctuations. Another motivation for LTL Architects and MADE is the extra level of quality control that comes with building their own work.

While De-Spec does not offer general contracting or fabrication services, it, too, thinks outside the box regarding revenue. “If we spec it, we buy it,” says Mansuri. “This way we avoid the contractor’s mark-up and we avoid attempts to substitute inferior products.” This practice provides more wiggle room in the budget, usually paying for additional design work that often goes uncompensated.

The biggest challenge for small firms is making the jump in scale from furniture design and loft renovations to larger ground-up construction projects. All three firms agreed that seizing every opportunity to promote, publish, and even pursue more public work (installations, restaurants, and retail) is essential. It is also important to be strategic about amplifying a small opportunity. For LTL Architects, Bornhuetter Hall at the College of Wooster in Ohio represented this jump in scale, but the project was not simply handed to them by the college. It was the result of a relationship built from an initial contract to study an existing residence hall. As more single-task contracts proved successful, the commission for the residence hall’s design became inevitable. Based on the scale of recent projects on LTL Architects’ website, it seems this approach has paid off.

One Megalopolis, with High-Speed Rail for All

Event: Thinking Bigger: New York and Transportation in the Northeast Megaregion
Location: NYU Kimmel Center, 11.13.07
Speakers: Allison C. de Cerreño, PhD — Director, NYU Wagner Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management; Jerome Lewis, PhD — Director, Institute of Public Administration, University of Delaware; Robert D. Yaro — President, Regional Plan Association; Joel P. Ettinger — Executive Director, NY Metropolitan Transportation Council; Karen Ray — Deputy Commissioner, NY State Department of Transportation; Kris Kolluri — Commissioner, NJ Department of Transportation and Chairman, NJ Transit; Barry Seymour — Executive Director, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission; Rae Rosen — Senior Economist and Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of NY; George Schoener — Director, I-95 Coalition; Anne Stubbs — Executive Director, Coalition of Northeast Governors; Petra Todorovich — Director, America 2050, Regional Plan Association; Mark S. Schweiker — President and CEO, Greater Philadelphia Area Chamber of Commerce; Paul Bea — Government Relations Advisor, PHB Public Affairs; John Bennett — Chief, Business Strategy, Amtrak; Jean-Paul Rodrigue, PhD — Associate Professor, Hofstra University; Mark Strauss, AICP, FAIA — Principal, FXFowle Architects; Lou Venech — Senior Manager of Transportation Policy and Development, Port Authority of NY and NJ
Organizers: NYU Wagner Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management; NY Metropolitan Transportation Council; Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Port Authority of NY and NJ; University Transportation Research Center, Region 2; AIANY; Regional Plan Association; University of Delaware Institute of Public Administration; Wagner Transportation Association

Amtrak Regional Line

Amtrak’s Regional Line outperforms all others nationwide.

Courtesy amtrak.com

Our transportation system features complexity and interdependence but little coherent planning. The nation — especially in the densest Northeast region — allows intolerable road congestion, subsidizes motor vehicles so that large parts of the nation are essentially uni-modal, and leaves its infrastructure to decay (often fatally, as in the Minneapolis I-35W bridge collapse). For a useful insight into U.S. transportation policy, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Area Chamber of Commerce Mark Schweiker borrowed a line from Yogi Berra: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”

It’s been 46 years since geographer Jean Gottmann identified the region between Boston and Washington as a single “megalopolis,” noted Allison de Cerreño, PhD, director of NYU Wagner Rudin Center for Transportaion Policy and Mangement. The area has kept growing, but the infrastructure gap pales in comparison to its European and Asian equivalents. High-speed rail systems overseas are on their second or third generation, while the U.S. flagship system Acela has a maximum speed far below its foreign competitors’. Still, the Northeast region outperforms the rest of the U.S.; many of the transport specialists at the conference connected the area’s density to its economic vigor. NJ Department of Transportation commissioner Kris Kolluri calculated that the Northeast generates 10 times the gross domestic product per square mile than any other region.

Regional Plan Association representatives Robert Yaro and Petra Todorovich documented both the potential advantages of a Northeast-style system with a prominent rail component and a growth management skewed to sprawl zones. The Northeast has 49 million people (17% of the U.S. population on 2% of its land) and a $2.4 trillion economy that, as Yaro pointed out, would be the world’s fifth or sixth largest if analyzed independently.

Puzzlingly, though, the rest of the country isn’t following the Northeast’s lead. Multi-modal transportation (rail, air, bus rapid transit, and aquatic, as well as automotive and trucking) has economic and environmental advantages that planners find indispensable, but an upgraded rail system is so far off Washington’s radar that the White House has tried to zero out Amtrak and break off the Northeast Corridor. With little help from the federal government, several panelists emphasized, Northeastern states would do well to defend common interests: high environmental standards, smart growth, infrastructural repair, and balance among modes as well as adequate Amtrak funding.

Increasing regional integration means that benefits to one location often result from spending in another. Region-wide organizations like the I-95 Corridor and the new Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility are recognizing that critical policy priorities outweigh local struggles over size. A rough consensus appears to view high-speed intercity rail (in Yaro’s succinct description, “an Acela that works”) as the transformative technology of choice.

Mark Strauss, AICP, FAIA, principal at FXFowle Architects, emphasized the importance of reaching the general public with a critical message: that “density is not a four-letter word.” Transit-oriented development isn’t a new or foreign concept, he stressed; it’s how cities like New York and Philadelphia historically took shape and built economic strength. And it’s helping reanimate towns like Beacon, NY, where a recent transit-centered RFP attracted interest from 80 developers in five days. Transport geographer Jean-Paul Rodrigue, in contrast, offered an analysis based on long-brewing financial crises, commenting that “nobody has it right.” Whether the future resembles Strauss’s vision of revitalized rail-corridor cities or Rodrigue’s warning of a generally free-falling economy, with foreign investors scooping up undervalued American assets, may have a lot to do with how convincingly the progressive transportation community can make its case to the public and the pols.

Sustaining NYC with 20/30 Vision?

Event: NEW YORK 2030: New York’s Green Future: A Public Discussion among the Authors of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC and a Panel of Urban Design Experts
Location: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, 11.17.07
Speakers: Olympia Kazi — Executive Director, Institute for Urban Design; Fredric Bell, FAIA — Executive Director, AIANY; Rohit T. Aggarwala, PhD — Director, Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability
Panel 1: Adrian Benepe — Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (introduction); Sandy Hornick — Deputy Executive Director for Strategic Planning, NYC Department of City Planning; Thomas Maguire — Director of Congestion Pricing, NYC Department of Transportation; Charles McKinney — Chief of Design, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; James J. Roberts — Deputy Commissioner, NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Panel 2: Adolfo Carrión, Jr. — Bronx Borough President (introduction); Tom Angotti — Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning, Hunter College; Miquela Craytor — Deputy Director, Sustainable South Bronx; Ernest Hutton, Assoc. AIA, AICP — Co-chair, New York New Visions; Richard Sennett — Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science & Bemis Adjunct Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies, MIT School of Architecture + Planning; Ronald Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. AIA — Director Emeritus, Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development; Paul Steely White — Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives; Elizabeth Yeampierre — Executive Director, United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park
Moderators: Alexandros Washburn, AIA — Chief Urban Designer, NYC Department of City Planning (panel 1); Michael Sorkin — Director, Graduate Urban Design Program at the City College of New York (panel 2)
Organizers: The Institute for Urban Design; support from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, City College of New York, AIANY, New York New Visions.

plaNYC

Courtesy nyc.gov

NYC has operated without a coordinated plan for long-range growth since the late 1960s. Though the afternoon respondents at this symposium provided a sharp analysis of PlaNYC — Mayor Bloomberg’s long-range sustainable growth plan for the city — all of the panelists agreed that, with the Bloomberg administration’s clock running down, successful implementation of PlaNYC will lie largely in the hands of the city’s future leaders.

Tom Angotti, professor of urban affairs and planning at Hunter College, reminded the audience that the 1969 plan was never formally approved, just like PlaNYC, whose creation was sponsored and launched as an independent initiative by the mayor. Angotti said that soliciting more buy-in from community groups is the first step needed to make the plan binding. Other panelists agreed, saying that community-based 197-a plans should be addressed in the document, and that economic factors like job creation should be considered as well.

It is accepted that in 20 years NYC will be more populous and diverse. While change is good, the standard of living in NYC could decline if natural resources and existing infrastructure are not properly managed. The director of the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability and PlaNYC author Rohit T. Aggarwala, PhD, noted that while PlaNYC’s goals have the potential to transform the city into a more livable, sustainable place, it will only happen if the plan’s core ideas are adopted and promoted by other administrations. Said Aggarwala, PlaNYC can be the first step in “shifting the idea of how the citizenry thinks about NYC’s responsibility for promoting sustainability.”

Order of Merit Conferred Upon Daniel Libeskind, AIA

Libeskind

(l-r): Consul General Dr. Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth, Daniel Libeskind, AIA, Nina Libeskind, and Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit.

Courtesy www.germany.info

At a ceremony on November 16, Daniel Libeskind, AIA, was presented with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, one of that country’s highest civilian honors. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth, the Consul General of Germany, spoke of the work of Libeskind, describing the role of the Jewish Museum of Berlin which “honors the past, celebrates the present, and looks to the future,” and of the Felix Nussbaum Museum in Osnabrück, where the artist who died at Auschwitz is celebrated by a building that “is a monument to his life and death, but which transcends his biography.” An historian and political scientist, Heimsoeth, in conferring the Order of Merit, praised Libeskind, saying that his work in Germany “greatly benefits the country, which has a collective longing to understand the past and to move into the future.”

The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, co-officiated at the ceremony, stating that “We, the people of Berlin, are proud to be able to call the global citizen and architect Daniel Libeskind one of our city’s master builders, and we are happy that Jewish life is blossoming again in today’s Berlin.” He said, “The Jewish Museum has become ours, an essential part of Berlin. The people of Berlin have taken it to their hearts and have found new access to Jewish history.” The mayor hoped that Libeskind “will have the opportunity to create many new projects in New York, in Berlin, and throughout the world.” Mayor Wowereit subsequently visited the Berlin-New York Dialogues exhibition, on view through January at the Center for Architecture. The exhibition will travel to Berlin, re-opening at the German Architecture Center (DAZ) in early March 2008.

Heimsoeth commended Libeskind, who, he said, has “the ability to reconcile Germany’s difficult and exacerbating history with its future by means of architecture,” adding that “it is reasonable to say that Mr. Libeskind’s experiences in Berlin served him well in New York. He also knows New York’s politics very well now, and it is to his great credit that he remains a guiding voice of optimism regarding the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site.” He concluded by noting “the common themes in this work on both sides of the Atlantic are urbanism and memorial, expressed through profound positive challenges to our understanding of architecture and its potential to change our lives.”

Nature in the City

Until a few months ago, I commuted every day from the Upper West Side to Midtown East — taking the 2/3 subway to Times Square and transferring to the Shuttle to Grand Central. It took me approximately 45 minutes to get to work. This past August, however, I traded in my morning commute and decided to walk the three miles instead. Now, even though my commute is an hour long, I walk through Central Park surrounded by chirping birds, dogs, joggers, bikers, and fresh air in place of the pale faces of the stale subway.

The best part about my walk to work is that I feel a connection to nature — albeit manmade — as I haven’t felt in years. Even if one takes trips outside of the city, there is a disconnect between the city and country, and it is easy to block out the natural aspects of urban environments. Every day the light is slightly different, the weather changes, and the wildlife and foliage shift with the seasons. In a city as dense and built-up as NYC, it is easy to ignore natural elements and this can be a detriment to design, especially sustainable design. My suggestion to all city-dwelling architects: try walking to work for a week and see how it affects your perspective.

In this issue:
·A Tour de Verre for Midtown
·New Alliance Invests in Brooklyn Playgrounds
·National Arts Club Gets a Face Lift
·Shaker Past Gets New Urbanist Makeover
·Beijing Building Acts as 3-D Billboard
·New Wing and Exhibition Space Conducts Musical Collection


A Tour de Verre for Midtown

Tour de Verre

Tour de Verre.

©Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Just west of the Museum of Modern Art, a 75-story Ateliers Jean Nouvel-designed building will soon be on the rise on a 17,000-square-foot parcel of land between West 53rd and 54th Streets. The glass and steel façade, with a diagrid structural design, will taper into a spire. A mix of uses is contemplated for the building, including: a 50,000-square-foot expansion of MoMA’s galleries, a 100-room, seven-star hotel, and 120 highest-end residential condominiums on the upper floors. Hines, the international real estate firm, collaborated with Ateliers Jean Nouvel on 40 Mercer Street in SoHo as well.


New Alliance Invests in Brooklyn Playgrounds
Barclays, Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), and the Nets basketball team have created the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance, a new organization committed to the physical and educational development of youth in Brooklyn and surrounding communities. The Alliance will invest $1 million annually in local non-profits to improve the lives of young people in the borough through sports and other activities, including education and health care. Out2Play, a non-profit dedicated to building and refurbishing playgrounds throughout the NYC public school system will receive the first grant: $150,000 for the rehabilitation and rebuilding of playgrounds in Brooklyn. The alliance has been in the works since the announcement that the Gehry Partners-designed arena at Atlantic Yards would be called the Barclays Center.


National Arts Club Gets a Face Lift
The National Arts Club has selected FZAD Architecture + Design to renovate its 1906 home in the Tilden Mansion at 15 Gramercy Park South. Built in 1884, it is a designated NYC Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Originally, the house had a flat-front, iron-grilled appearance that matched its neighbors, but in the 1870s, Samuel Tilden hired Calvert Vaux to “Victorianize” the faççhe process of restoring the stoops and the steps to the pediment of the building, including the restoration of the Michelangelo bust in the pediment of the western stoop.


Shaker Past Gets New Urbanist Makeover

Village of New Loudon

The Village of New Loudon.

Cooper Carry

After competing against four other firms, the NY office of Cooper Carry has been awarded the design contract for The Village of New Loudon, a 45-acre proposed mixed-use development located in Colonie, NY, one of the oldest suburban communities in the Albany region. The firm will provide master planning and architectural design services for the project. Plans call for integrating a mix of retail space and residential units, a hotel and spa, and offices sited around public space. Honoring previous community opposition to big-box retailers, the retail component will be a mix of boutique national chains and local retailers, entertainment, dining, and amenity spaces. Residential design will provide multi-family units in varied building types. The design vision draws on a combination of the area’s Shaker history and regional character, and key components of the New Urbanist movement, such as regional planning for open space and appropriate architecture and planning.


Beijing Building Acts as 3-D Billboard

SanLiTun

SanLiTun.

LOT-EK

SanLiTun, a 105,000-square-foot commercial/retail building designed by LOT-EK in the Embassy District of central Beijing has been completed. The building is part of master plan, designed by Tokyo-based Kengo Kuma and Associates (KKAA), for a large commercial development with pedestrian piazza surrounded by four large buildings — SHoP Architects, Beijing Matsubara & Architect, and KKAA designed the other buildings. Abiding by the district’s four-story height restriction, the building is conceived as a three-dimensional billboard to be filled with the graphics and logos of the future retail tenants. The articulation of the façade relates to the trajectories of pedestrian movement and views through the landscape of the piazza and its surrounding buildings.

Referencing a building under construction, a layer of blue metal mesh, supported by a cantilevered scaffold-like structure, wraps the building. Offset three meters from the building, the mesh acts as a second skin buffering the city noise level and filtering direct sunlight for energy efficiency. Protruding out of the building mass are large stainless steel extrusions with glazed fronts piercing the mesh layer and bending in varying angles. At night, the extrusions become light boxes with white LED frames floating over the glowing blue mesh.


New Wing and Exhibition Space Conducts Musical Collection

Mechanical Musical Instruments

Musical Machines & Living Dolls: Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata from the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection.

Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership

More than 150 artifacts comprise the permanent installation of the exhibition Musical Machines & Living Dolls: Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata from the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of historic musical instruments and mechanical figures, with over 5,000 examples of programmed media at the Morris Museum, one of NJ’s largest cultural institutions. The exhibition, designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, begins with an abstracted Victorian drawing room, and guides visitors through rooms highlighting scientific and technological aspects, cultural and social historical context, and craftsmanship and movement.

The collection is housed in a 4,300-square-foot gallery in the new Guinness Wing, designed by RMJM Hillier. A new Grand Entrance Pavilion, with a slatted redwood screen wall outside and modern glass panels and steel accents inside, welcomes visitors to the museum while also serving as an open event space and museum shop.