Parking in the Green Zone

Event: Earth Day symposium: Park Design for the 21st Century
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.22.08
Speakers: Deborah Marton — Executive Director, Design Trust for Public Space; Hillary Brown, FAIA — Principal, New Civic Works; Charles McKinney, Affil. ASLA — Chief of Design, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation; Laurie Kerr — Senior Policy Advisor, Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability; Denise Hoffman-Brandt, ASLA — Professor of Landscape Architecture, City College of New York School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture; Alex Felson — Director of Ecological Design, EDAW; Joan Krevlin, AIA — Partner, BKSK Architects; Signe Nielsen, FASLA — Principal, Mathews Nielsen; Susannah Drake, ASLA, Assoc. AIA — Principal, dLandstudio; Tim White — Project Manager, eDesign Dynamics; Marcha Johnson, ASLA — Landscape Architect, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation; Margie Ruddick, ASLA — Principal, WRT Design
Moderators: Rob Crauderueff — Sustainable Alternatives Coordinator, Sustainable South Bronx; Steven Caputo — Fellow, Park Design for the 21st Century Design Trust
Sponsor: Design Trust for Public Space

Queens Botanical Garden

The Queens Botanical Garden, designed by BKSK Architects.

©Jeff Goldberg/Esto

As NYC gets ever denser, its parks and green spaces will play a crucial role in keeping the city livable, pleasant, and ecologically sound. Aptly held on Earth Day — the anniversary of the first announcement of PlaNYC — this symposium peeked at some ideas that will inform a new publication devoted to promoting sustainable landscape design in NYC, the High Performance Landscape Guidelines by the Design Trust for Public Space and NYC’s Parks Department with a peer review by NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC), due out next year.

Hillary Brown, FAIA, coauthor of the DDC and Design Trust’s High Performance Infrastructure Guidelines (2005), called for a reframing of the discourse surrounding sustainability. “A vision for the next generation of buildings, infrastructure, and, of course, parks must be one of not only just replenishing the health of natural systems but, I believe, placing them deliberately in our midst,” with roof gardens, vegetative roadways, and plentiful parks. “In this way, sustainability isn’t about austerity but, to the contrary, offers a richer living vocabulary — in the end it is the re-energizing of man’s symbiotic relationship to nature,” she said.

Like the guidelines themselves, the panels included a mix of ideas and case studies. One highlight was a talk on urban carbon sinks by Denise Hoffman-Brandt, ASLA, professor of landscape architecture at the City College of New York School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, who revealed the complexity of long-term ecological strategies. PlaNYC’s initiative to plant a million trees holds the potential to reduce carbon levels, because vegetation and soil help to absorb and store it — on the other hand, if the trees die from lack of proper maintenance, the dead wood stands to release even more carbon into the atmosphere, she explained. Alex Felson, director of ecological design at EDAW, discussed the necessity of collaborations between ecologists and designers, which require bridging very different vocabularies and methodologies.

Joan Krevlin, AIA, presented the case of the Queens Botanical Garden designed by BKSK Architects. It includes solar panels, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and other green features, and is on target to receive a LEED Platinum rating, she said. The project is designed not only to function sustainably, but also to educate the community about ecological systems. A Visitor & Administration Center’s green roof becomes an extension of the garden, and water is used as a unifying element between the architecture and the surrounding landscape. Likewise, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation landscape architect Marcha Johnson, ASLA, discussed how a playground without pavement in Pugsley Creek Park provides inspiration for a city where built and natural landscapes can coexist in a harmonious balance.

Firms Negotiate Chaos of Art

Event: Architecture: Designs for Living: Cultural Sustainability
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.14.08
Speakers: Robert M. Rogers, FAIA — Principal, Rogers Marvel Architects; Sara Caples, AIA — Principal, Caples Jefferson Architects; Mitchell Kurtz, AIA, LEED AP — Principal, Mitchell Kurtz Architect; Joseph Haberl — Project Designer, Leeser Architecture
Moderator: Kate D. Levin — Commissioner, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
Organizers: AIANY Cultural Facilities Committee
Sponsors: Champion: Studio Daniel Libeskind; Supporters: Gensler; Humanscale; James McCullar & Associates; Friends: Costas Kondylis & Partners; Forest City Ratner Companies; Frank Williams & Associates; Hugo S. Subotovsky A.I.A. Architects; Mancini Duffy; Magnusson Architecture and Planning; Rawlings Architects; RicciGreene Associates; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Syska Hennessy Group; Trespa North America; Universal Contracting Group

QTiP

Queens Theatre in the Park is one of many cultural projects working with strict constraints.

Caples Jefferson Architects

New York City has some 1,400 nonprofit cultural organizations, noted NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin; more than half are performing-arts groups. Her department, currently the nation’s largest arts funder, hears from 1,100 of these groups annually, half with budgets under $250,000 and 74% under $1 million. Small theater and dance companies (music wasn’t a focal point here) make enormous contributions to the city’s quality of life, she said, and consequently to its long-range economic health as well.

Many such challenges fall into the “little-D design” category, Levin said (borrowing a distinction from former AIANY Chapter president Susan Chin, FAIA); not every arts group’s problems call for real-estate-based solutions. Still, the financial and spatial limits of small and medium-sized venues can generate challenges for architects. Panelists presented four projects whose constraints became opportunities: a new building for a two-client, mixed-program partnership; a futuristic downtown space for an experimental theater; and two renovation projects with missions to preserve different components of the city’s history.

The Ballet Hispanico shares a new West 90th Street mid-rise tower with the Stephen Gaynor School for children with learning disabilities. In serving contrasting programs, balancing the needs of populations who use the building at different times of day, and making the most of a tight mid-block footprint, Rogers Marvel Architects allocated the readily accessible lower floors to the children and the large, daylit upper floors to the dancers, choosing a reinforced-concrete core to address the acoustic complexities of studios above classrooms.

At Queens Theatre in the Park (see “Queens Theater Offers Night on the Town,” e-OCULUS, 04.15.08), where performances will coexist with construction until the end of the year, Caples Jefferson Architects has created both a functional theater and a viewing space that respects the site’s distinct features (the landscape of Flushing Meadows/Corona Park and the World’s Fair “ruins”), with spiral forms continuing from two approach paths into the central cylinder and inverted-dome ceiling to create a dramatic sense of arrival.

Renovating the aging Cherry Lane Theatre and juxtaposing modern and older elements, Mitchell Kurtz, AIA, LEED AP, drew on his experience in stage design to help envision the specific needs of actors, directors, and theatergoers, such as an angled center aisle to optimize sightlines and an acoustically ideal placement of mechanical elements (“as far away as possible,” he said — preferably NJ; realistically, the rooftop).

For 3-Legged Dog, the first cultural organization to re-animate a downtown venue after 9/11, Leeser Architecture transformed a ground-floor site in an MTA garage into a high-tech, high-concept theater whose bent-glass front wall integrates performance space with street life, with an opaque white “urban jetway” for a lobby.

Arts groups are sometimes superb architectural clients, Robert Rogers, FAIA, said, with their combination of entrepreneurial spirit and creativity. Kurtz noted these clients’ similarities to architects themselves, highly adaptive in the face of adversity, “very simpatico… and also very poor.” Perhaps Sara Caples, AIA, pinpointed these clients’ defining quality when she observed that “a group that presents 300 different shows a year has enormous tolerance for chaos.”

New Group Seeks Recovery of Upper Ninth Ward

Event: Architecture and Recovery: The Guardians Institute in New Orleans
Location: Museum of Arts and Design, 04.17.08
Speakers: Jens Holm — Associate, Rockwell Group; Kate Stohr — Cofounder, Architecture for Humanity; Herreast Harrison — Founder, Guardians Institute
Moderator: Martin C. Pedersen — Executive Editor, Metropolis
Organizer: Museum of Arts and Design

Guardians Institute

The proposed Guardians Institute building in the Upper Ninth Ward.

Courtesy Guardians Institute

At the fringe of recovery efforts in New Orleans are community anchor buildings. The celebrity-driven focus on replacing damaged housing has partially obscured the city’s need to bring roots of shared place and heritage back to its communities. It is a type of project that Kate Stohr, cofounder of Architecture for Humanity, calls a “beacon of hope,” and one her organization has committed to creating in post-hurricane New Orleans. Jens Holm of the Rockwell Group, working closely with Architecture for Humanity, provided his energies to designing a new home for the Upper Ninth Ward’s Guardians Institute.

Herreast Harrison, founder of the institute — and a bit of a New Orleans cultural icon herself — explained that the institute exists to make a difference in young peoples’ lives, to bring the “living heroes” of the neighborhoods into children’s lives, connecting them with their past and orienting their future. A tradition of beadwork, crafts, theater, and family responsibility handed down through Mardi Gras Indian culture is preserved in classes for the neighborhood children and through care for the elderly. Though short on dollars, the Institute hopes to include permanent space for a museum, academic institution, and neighborhood playhouse.

Holm packs an amazing amount of program and flexibility into the proposed 2,500-square-foot Guardians Institute building. It offers multi-use space providing exhibition, performance, education, and administration functions. With roots in the design of the traditional shotgun style home, the new building will expand on and open this archetype based on free circulation. Broad façades that open for performances are visible from the street.

The institute is also designed for hurricane and flood survivability, according to Holm. Its first floor is built four feet above grade to withstand minor area flooding. The second floor is placed high enough to stay dry through floodwaters of the type encountered during Hurricane Katrina, which left a nine-foot-high watermark in the neighborhood.

Though the meeting of Harrison and the Rockwell Group was paid for in part by Architecture for Humanity, there is a continuing need for funding to advance this project. With an estimated cost of roughly $300,000, the Guardians Institute has a substantial challenge ahead of it before groundbreaking. Federal funds have not been forthcoming and other levels of government have declined to help, preferring that development come from the private sector.

A condemned home on an adjoining corner lot waits for a possible phase two design and expansion — an expansion that may not come if New Orleans’ business-first administration puts developers’ needs ahead of those of the community.

"World Park" to Grace New York Harbor

Event: Governors Island: A Park for All New York
Location: Museum of the City of New York, 04.15.08
Speakers: Betty Chen, AIA — Vice President, Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC); Robert Pirani — Regional Plan Executive Director, Governors Island Alliance; Jonathan Marvel, AIA, Robert Rogers, FAIA — Principals, Rogers Marvel Architects
Moderator: Robin Pogrebin — New York Times
Organizer: Museum of the City of New York

Governors Island

Proposed hills made from demolition rubble on Governors Island will provide 360-degree views of New York Harbor.

West 8

When the Federal government sold Governors Island to NYC in 2002, the $1.00 price tag came with a number of conditions including development of a waterfront esplanade and a minimum of a 40-acre public park. Now, after a well-publicized international competition in which the team West 8/Rogers Marvel Architects/Diller, Scofidio + Renfro/Quennell Rothschild/SMWM was selected, research and development has begun. Groundbreaking for the phased plan is expected in 2009.

The new “World Park,” as the team titled its competition entry, acknowledges the island’s central location in New York Harbor among world-renowned icons such as the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge. The park itself will be located on the southern half of the island, where an abandoned military airfield and surrounding buildings will be demolished leaving a blank slate for development. The park will be sandwiched between buildings along the waterfront leading to the southern tip.

A visitor’s experience of World Park begins on the ferry ride to the island, stated Robert Rogers, FAIA, principal of Rogers Marvel Architects (which is also redeveloping Manhattan’s Battery Maritime Building to deliver ferries to Governors Island in the future). The waterfront promenade features “signature” pavement patterns and encourages different speeds of movement — by foot or bike or electric vehicle. After entering through the archway of McKim, Mead, and White’s Liggett Hall, the park’s paths are organized in a pattern based on the scales of butterfly wings. There will be a wide variety of park types encouraging different kinds of play, including a seasonal botanic forest, recreational fields and meadows, and an amphitheater for concerts. The culmination of the park is at the southern tip, or “Prow,” where a salt marsh will allow visitors to observe and learn about fish and local marine life — they will be able to bend down and touch the water while experiencing an uninterrupted view of the harbor.

One of the main highlights, or “the signature piece” according to Jonathan Marvel, AIA, will be the “Hills.” Produced from the site’s demolition rubble folded into a geotech fabric, visitors will climb 30- to 40-degree slopes to 100-foot-high summits. Once above the tree line, they will have a 360-degree view of the harbor, Statue of Liberty, Lower Manhattan, and Brooklyn.

Since 2005, Governors Island is open to the public throughout the summer. Part of the phased master plan is to increase the number of events and amenities each year throughout construction. This year, the island will be open May 31-October 5. Among the many installations and productions, the New York Philharmonic will perform July 5, and one of Olafur Eliasson’s NYC Waterfalls will feature a 120-foot-tall waterfall off the island’s north shore. Also, in addition to the Governors Island ferry, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ferries will also make stops at the island.

Specialization, Generally Speaking

Event: Conversations: Specialization in Architecture — 2008 Richter+Ratner Roundtable
Location: Cornell Club, 04.16.08.
Organizer: Richter+Ratner
Sponsor: AIANY OCULUS Committee

Are you a generalist or a specialist? A seemingly simple question, but many design professionals hesitate to brand themselves with limiting labels. Participants of the annual Richter+Ratner Roundtable sought to answer this question, exploring subsets of specialization such as economics, sustainability, trend spotting, and the consequences of globalization.

Most of the participants were architects and designers, from a variety of firm sizes, project specialties, and career levels. When asked to define specialization, debate centered on the effects of technology and client expectations. Economically speaking, specialization can attract clients based on experience with a particular project type. However, specialization can place firms at the mercy of the economy. For example, residential work is suffering in the current real estate climate. Also, designers risk falling into a “cookie cutter” mentality, churning out repetitive and unimaginative projects. A common viewpoint states architects must be generalists to manage all aspects of a project, from schematic design through construction, coordinating among consultants, clients, and contractors.

“Globalization” evokes both positive and negative connotations. While the world may offer architects flexibility and the excitement of designing in exotic locales, designers must be careful not to produce generic architecture that disrespects the cultural or physical context. Similarly, sustainability has become such a catch phrase that some fear it may become more of an image than a practice. Designers are responsible for translating green concepts into meaningful architecture, for the clients and locales.

Modern Architecture Goes Global, Local

Event: Architecture in the Age of Globalization: A Conversation with Kenneth Frampton
Speaker: Kenneth Frampton — Ware Professor of Architecture, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation & author, Modern Architecture: A Critical History
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.10. 08
Organizer: AIANY International Committee

Modern Architecture

Courtesy thamesandhudson.com

The practice of architecture is both global and local, Kenneth Frampton states in the latest section of Modern Architecture: A Critical History (Thames & Hudson, 4th ed., 2007): “Architecture in the age of Globalization: topography, morphology, sustainability, materiality, habitat and civic form 1975-2007.” The six subsections focuses on the globalization of architectural practice due to the “ever-escalating rate of telematic communication and the constant increase of transcontinental air travel.”

Whether discussing topography or morphology, Frampton argues that true architecture responds to contextual and programmatic realities by creating a tectonic form. For example, landscaping based on topographic and forestation patterns determined the master plan of IBM Solana (1992) near Dallas/Fort Worth, designed by Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architects, in collaboration with Barton Myers Associates, Mitchell/Giurgola Architects, and Legorreta + Legorreta Architects. In another instance, Foreign Office Architect’s Yokohama International Terminal (2002) derived the building’s form from horizontal circulation patterns.

Frampton acknowledges architecture’s great impact on the environment in this new section, as well. It is only in recent years that architects have begun to incorporate sustainable approaches to housing and urbanism. Addressing the exponential population increase, designers are reintegrating the individual dwelling into a collective development. The challenge, Frampton argues, is in creating a sense of “home” and individualization in high-density urban areas. As a result of densification, especially in underdeveloped countries, architecture must address its public appearance or civic form.

May the Spirit of Space Be With You

Event: The Spirit of Space: A Conversation with Noushin Ehsan
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.07.08
Speaker: Noushin Ehsan, AIA — President, 2nd Opinion Design
Moderator: Wids DeLaCour, AIA — Co-chair, AIANY Housing Committee
Organizer: AIA Housing Committee

Baha’i House of Worship

Baha’i House of Worship by Fariborz Sahba embodies Noushin Ehsan, AIA’s idea of the spirit of space.

Norman McGrath

New York-based, Iran-born architect Noushin Ehsan, AIA, has become fascinated with the spiritual aura that certain architecture holds, dubbing it “the spirit of space.”

She was “converted” when profoundly moved upon visiting former schoolmate Fariborz Sahba’s Baha’i House of Worship, a lotus-shaped temple in Delhi. Le Corbusier’s chapel in Ronchamp, too, has spirit of space, as do many secular designs, such as NYC’s revamped Columbus Circle, according to Ehsan. So what leads to a place having spirit of space? To Ehsan, flashy, attention-grabbing design is irrelevant, as are costly materials and adherence to a style.

While there’s no exact formula, she outlined qualities conducive to spirit of space: an airy, joyful, orderly, holistic design; an apt use of symbolism; and skillful landscaping and integration with nature. Beware of copying, for “a replica can’t radiate the same power,” Ehsan said, citing the imitation Parthenon in Nashville, TN.

Theoretical reference points were notably absent in this lecture. Risking the obvious, Ehsan also asserted that our built environment profoundly affects people’s emotions and behavior, a point no one would dispute. But her extensively researched, slide-filled lecture came alive through her enthusiasm and detailed examples, ranging from Tadao Ando, Hon. FAIA’s renowned Church of the Light in Osaka to the quirky Albert Moore-designed Igloo House in Cornwall, CT, a vacation house owned by Ehsan herself. At first glance, the artificial, lumpy look of the foam-built house repelled her, but inside, the geodesic-dome-shaped structure is remarkably soothing, womblike, and rejuvenating, she said. In fact, her sojourns there have been her “salvation,” she declared — high praise from this architectural evangelist.

Open-Minded Emerging Firms Don't Discriminate When it Comes to Work

Event: Architectural League Emerging Voices Series
Location: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 03.28.08
Speakers: Hagy Belzberg, AIA — Principal, Belzberg Architects (Santa Monica, CA); Michael Meredith, Hillary Sample — Principals, MOS (New Haven, CT, and Boston, MA)
Organizer: The Architectural League of New York

Ahmanson Founders Room

Belzberg Architects’ Ahmanson Founders Room.

Benny Chan, Fotoworks, courtesy Belzberg Architects

Whether through its work, a focus on a certain building type, or a philosophy about finding design solutions, every firm aims to make its name emerge amidst contemporaries. Regardless of intention, an architect’s client base also plays a role in crafting that image. Projects are “an example of how client influence affects a firm,” according to Hagy Belzberg, AIA, principal of Belzberg Architects. Both Belzberg Architects and MOS Architects carry a portfolio of work that they attribute to a wide variety of clients.

With patrons ranging from Target Corporation to Belzberg himself, Belzberg Architects’ projects don’t fit into just one category. At the Conga Club, a Latin-themed restaurant and dance club in Los Angeles, an array of faceted panels and LED lights were introduced inspired by the patterns found in the establishment’s artwork. The ceiling defines the space that expands or contracts in scale responding to the density of occupants in a variety of overlapping programs. For the Los Angeles Music Center, the Ahmanson Founders Room for the center’s V.I.P.’s is located in a parking garage. Using scripting and CNC modeling techniques, walls of backlit, perforated metal panels transformed a windowless room with spatial dividers and furniture milled into wave patterns inspired by theatrical curtains.

For professors Michael Meredith and Hillary Sample, partners of MOS, every design opportunity should be tested. “We built a practice out of marginal projects,” Meredith said. For a temporary puppet show theater located beneath Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center in Boston, white triangular plastic panels create a reflective surface in the interior for miniature performances, while the hollows of the structure on the exterior incorporates planted moss. Total chance — a client dialed a wrong number when calling another firm — was a catalyst for the recently completed Floating House on Lake Huron. The two-story guesthouse plays on vernacular lake residences with cedar plank siding that dissolves into screens to filter daylight into the interior. The structure floats on a metal truss framework and hollow tubes, so the building rises and falls with the tides.

City to Loosen Grip on Buildings Commissioner Position?

Due to the unusually high number of construction casualties this year, the NYC Department of Buildings this week launched Construction Safety Week. From scaffold worker training, to harness tutorials, the city appears to be taking a much-needed closer look at the industry’s regulations and training procedures. Amidst the reviews and crackdowns, and in light of the resignation of Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster, FAIA, rumor has it that Mayor Bloomberg is looking to change some of the requirements of the Commissioner position itself — for the worse. The New York Times, among other publications, reported that, “the administration is talking with the City Council to remove the requirement that the commissioner be an architect or engineer” (“City’s Buildings Chief Resigns as Outcry on Accidents Grow,” by Diane Cardwell and Charles V. Bagli, 04.23.08).

As Buildings is creating new regulations to improve safety on construction sites, it seems inconsistent then to loosen the requirements on the commissioner. It is the commissioner’s role — as it is an architect’s or an engineer’s — to mediate different professions on a job. Whether the new commissioner is an architect or an engineer, or both, it is important to make sure he or she has the professional experience to manage the huge volume of construction being erected throughout the city. It is the commissioner’s role to handle permitting and code enforcement, and the department’s responsibility to review building plans and permit applications. Buildings also oversees the 400-plus building inspectors. Without a qualified individual running the department, tested and licensed by the NY State Education Department, more incidents will surely follow.

“Like the Health Department, it is necessary to employ a certified professional when life and death is involved,” stated AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA. All five AIA chapters in NYC are joining forces with local engineering and architectural organizations to release The Established Legal Requirements for the Individual Filling the Position of Commissioner of the New York City Department of Buildings to be distributed to City Council members:

It is strongly recommended by the undersigned representatives of all of the Architectural and Engineering Professional Associations that the current reading of the charter of the City of New York with regards to the requirements that the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings of the City of New York being a licensed and registered architect or licensed Engineer in the State of New York, NOT be altered in any way so as to continue and guarantee the protection of safeguarding the life, health, property and public welfare of the over eight (8) million residents and over one (1) million visitors to the great City of New York.

To read the full document, click the link.

In this issue:
· Brooklyn Youth Center is Dynamite
· Church Converts, Adds Affordable Housing
· Seoul’s “Soul Flora” Buds
· Mixed-Use Takes Over Concrete Plant
· Public School Grows Wing


Brooklyn Youth Center is Dynamite

Dynamite Youth Center

Dynamite Youth Center.

© Jennifer Calais Smith

The Dynamite Youth Center (DYC) in Broolyn recently completed construction of its new community residence — a renovation/addition by Rafael Viñoly Architects. The center, now open 24/7, aids adolescents who face substance and alcohol abuse problems. Aided by a New York State grant, DYC is adding on to the building’s third floor and constructing a new fourth floor. A truss system was added to the second-floor auditorium to support the additions above. Supplementing the facilities, the new residential center includes four bedrooms to house 16 residents, along with a kitchen, pantry, laundry facility, and common area. Lit by skylights and a fully glazed wall, the space is adjacent to a terrace that affords neighborhood views. The building’s façade also underwent extensive restoration, including the installation of translucent street-level windows that ensure privacy yet allow natural light to enter.


Church Converts, Adds Affordable Housing

Rocky Mount Baptist Church

Rocky Mount Baptist Church.

North Manhattan Construction Corp.

This fall, the existing building housing the Rocky Mount Baptist Church in Manhattan’s Washington Heights will be razed to make way for a new 15,000-square-foot church, a 16-story apartment complex, and an 11,000-square-foot community space. Of the 75 rental units, 20% will be reserved for affordable housing. Newark-based Johnson Jones Architects Planners is designing the church, and New Rochelle-based Mario A. Canteros Architect will design the residential portion. North Manhattan Construction purchased the 20,000-square-foot site, and is developing the project.


Seoul’s “Soul Flora” Buds

Soul Flora

Soul Flora.

H Associates

NYC-based H Associates (founded by Seoul-based Haeahn Architecture) has been named winner of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s competition for its Han River Renaissance project. The submission, “Soul Flora,” is a series of three floating islands depicting the lifecycle of a flower — from seed, to bud, to blossom. The islands, joined together by pedestrian bridges, are designed to create the appearance of flowers during the day, and lamps when illuminated at night. The “seed” island has a grass beach, marina, clubhouse, and floating pods of flora created to look like flickering candles at night. The “bud” island houses an urban entertainment center with cafés, theaters, interactive games, and exhibition space. “Blossom” will have restaurants and performance venues. The islands are scheduled to open in the fall of 2009.


Mixed-Use Takes Over Concrete Plant

173 Kent Avenue

173 Kent Avenue.

Meltzer/Mandl Architects

Construction on 173 Kent Avenue, designed by Meltzer/Mandl Architects is slated to begin this month. The seven-story, 118,000-square-foot, mixed-use glass-and-masonry building in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is to include 113 condominiums, 5,000 square feet of ground-level retail space with an additional 18,000 square feet of retail space in the cellar, and parking for 140 vehicles. The design establishes a new street wall in the site of a former concrete plant. Parking for both residential and retail tenants will be behind the building. The top-floor residences will sport roof terraces providing Manhattan views. Sustainable design elements include an exterior panelized wall system with rain screen technology and low-emission glass.


Public School Grows Wing

Quaker Ridge Elementary School

Quaker Ridge Elementary School.

Peter Gisolfi Associates

Scarsdale’s Quaker Ridge Elementary School completed construction on a new 27,000-square-foot, two-story wing that replaced a deteriorating one-story wing built in 1947. The project, designed by Peter Gisolfi Associates, houses new administration offices, teachers’ workroom, multipurpose activities room, renovated gymnasium, and 10 new classrooms. The new wing, library, and classrooms face a central courtyard.