With the hot, humid weather, I suggest staying cool in the city’s many air-conditioned museums and galleries around town. Buckminster Fuller is at the Whitney Museum, pre-fab housing is at MoMA, and the latest Emerging NY Architects committee competition exploring South Street Seaport is at the Center for Architecture.

– Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

CLICK ON THE CENTER: AIANY BLOG: The AIANY Chapter has launched a new blog. The Center features opinion pieces on architectural issues relevant to NY-based designers, firms, and projects, along with spotlights on debates and discussions at the Center for Architecture and AIANY, and is an informal discussion board. Be sure to check it out regularly and contribute to the dialogue.

Some of the recent debates include:

· AIANY Policy. Have you wondered how AIANY establishes its policy positions? Laura Manville, the AIANY Policy Coordinator explains all.

· O’Toole Building and St. Vincent’s Hospital. Read Frederic Schwartz, FAIA’s testimony at the NYC Landmarks Commission to develop an adaptive re-use of the O’Toole Building.

· Architecture and Morality. In response to Robin Pogrebin’s article, “I’m the Designer. My Client’s the Autocrat,” in the New York Times, The Center invites your takes on architects working in countries with questionable human rights records. Check out “To Serve God or Mammon? The Architect’s Dilemma,” by Stephen A. Kliment, FAIA.

Historic Preservation Faces Sustainability Hurdles

Event: Designs for Living: Historic Buildings — Back to the Future
Location: Center for Architecture, 07.14.08
Speakers: Samuel White, FAIA — Partner, Platt Byard Dovell White Architects; Michael Gabellini, FAIA — Partner, Gabellini Sheppard Associates; Caterina Roiatti, AIA — Principal, TRA Studio; Morris Adjmi, AIA — Founder & Principal, Morris Adjmi Architects
Moderator: Robert Tierney — Chair, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
Organizer: AIANY Historic Buildings Committee
Sponsors: Champion: Studio Daniel Libeskind; Supporters: Gensler; HumanScale; James McCullar & Associates; Friends: Benjamin Moore & Co.; Costas Kondylis & Partners; Forest City Ratner Companies; Frank Williams & Associates; Hugo S. Subotovsky Architects; Ingram Yuzek Gainen Carroll & Bertolotti; Mancini Duffy; Magnusson Architecture and Planning; Rawlings Architects; Ricci Greene Associates; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Syska & Hennessy; Trespa North America; Universal Contracting Group

(l-r): 16 West 21st Street; Poly Prep Lower School; Jil Sander Boutique and Showroom; 44 Mercer Street.

(l-r): Morris Adjmi Architects; Lester Ali, courtesy Platt Byard Dovell White Architects; ©Paul Warchol, courtesy Gabellini Sheppard Associates; TRA Studio

Historic preservation projects tend to take on one of two forms: mimicry and transformation. Architects on a recent panel agreed that successful projects are a result of the latter, and in each of their practices, they strive to reduce a building to its essence, relate it to its context, and preserve its remains yet develop practical uses for the future

For Caterina Roiatti, AIA, principal at TRA Studio, architecture does not exist without its context, yet, according to Morris Adjmi, AIA, principal of Morris Adjmi Architects, it is equally important for it to create a new interpretation of that context. At TRA Studio’s 8 Bond Street, for example, the future building is sited on the corner of quiet, residential Bond Street and highly trafficked, eclectic Lafayette Street. The Bond Street elevation is smaller in scale and the window patterns reference fire escapes prevalent in the neighborhood, while the Lafayette Street façade curves and kicks out with the site making its presence known to cars passing by. The 14-story residential 16 West 21st Street, designed by Morris Adjmi Architects, is located in the Ladies Mile historic district, an area influenced by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. In response, Adjmi wanted to make the building “whiter than white.” Its façade is comprised of frosted glass columns and with silver-colored aluminum-framed windows, yet the tri-parti proportions are similar to neighboring buildings.

“Preservation is burnishing history and channeling modernity,” stated Michael Gabellini, FAIA, principal of Gabellini Sheppard Associates. He attempts to create “harmonic tension” between old and new and interior and exterior, using minimal means. The Jil Sander Boutique and Showroom in Paris is located in a 19th-century French Beaux-Arts home in which the exterior masonry was preserved but the interior had been destroyed. Gabellini used this to juxtapose old and new through elements that are weighty and weightless, respectively. The vacant interior became a large atrium, and walls made with stark white Bath limestone relate to the exterior bearing walls in a reductive way. The existing walls are massive, but floating stone benches create a sense of weightlessness.

Platt Byard Dovell White Architects has been working with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission since 1978, and partner Samuel White, FAIA, compares the relationship to that of “an old married couple.” He has found that the process of collaborating with clients, communities, and Landmarks improves the product… with a few exceptions (such as the infamous Wood Allen building on 91st Street and Madison Avenue, where public outcry led to a shrunken, stumpy, mediocre building, says White). When the firm was awarded Poly Prep Lower School in Park Slope, the project had already faced public rejection. Platt Byard Dovell White learned from criticism faced by the previous firm and designed an addition to the 1892 Hulbert Mansion that incorporates characteristics of the existing building as well as the local low-rise neighborhood in scale and material.

While Poly Prep is also the first NYC school to be awarded LEED Silver certification (See “NYC School Passes the LEED Test,” In the News, e-Oculus, 06.24.08), LEED for historic preservation projects are still rare. Panelists agreed it will become more common in the future, but going green is still too expensive and clients are slow to be convinced of its merits. However, Adjmi responded that sustainable materials are more available, increasing the possibility to go green. At Poly Prep, White was surprised that sustainability did not change the project’s design at all. What changed was the reduction in construction waste, and that alone is the best excuse to consider going green.

The Gang's All There: Attention to Materials Pushes Limits of Design

Event: Experimental Architecture Series: Jeanne Gang
Location: Center for Architecture, 07.16.2008
Speaker: Jeanne Gang, AIA — Principal & Founder, Studio/Gang (Chicago)
Moderator: Saf Fahim, AIA — Design Principal, Archronica Architects, & Chair, Architecture Dialogue Committee
Organizers: The AIA New York Chapter and the AIANY Architectural Dialogue Committee

The Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theater (left) and Marble Curtain (right).


Along with her own designs, Jeanne Gang, AIA, juxtaposed a seashell’s patterns with a computer-generated graph showing how the growing shell emits its pigments. This mathematically regular “relation to material and time,” she explained, was inexplicable until today’s technology allowed for precise analysis. Such close attention to the properties of natural materials and the power of ideas yields Studio/Gang’s approach to architectural processes that moderator Saf Fahim, AIA, identified as “the triad of materials, ideas, and process.”

Like Rem Koolhaas and other provocateurs at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, where she worked before forming Studio/Gang in 1997, Gang devotes intense attention to analyzing program requirements in the early phases of a project, and she delights in proposing solutions that others may consider impossible. Her firm’s first independent project, the Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theater at Rock Valley College in Rockford, IL, is an outdoor theater sporting an operable roof with six triangular panels that open like an origami flower, allowing open-air performances while remaining weatherproof. Backlit porthole windows help maximize the building’s profile on a small-college budget. For some viewers, the 12-minute sequential opening of its six overlapping “petals,” repeated at the beginning and intermission of each event, often upstages the performances.

Gang was one of four architects selected for the National Building Museum’s Masonry Variations Exhibition in 2003, and curator Stanley Tigerman, FAIA, assigned her the charge of working in stone. A floor with limited weight support complicated the structural requirements. Gang’s solution was to hang from the vaulted ceiling a network of catenary-curved chains of translucent, 3/8-inch-thick marble, cut by water jets into 660 different puzzle pieces designed to distribute stresses. Along with dissolving the conceptual border between rigidity and fluidity, the Marble Curtain tested how stone behaves in tension rather than compression, an area where data had been scarce.

Expanding into larger-scale projects, Studio/Gang has used baseball as a heuristic tool: investigations of Chicago’s stadiums, Wrigley Field, and U.S. Cellular Field (New Comiskey Park), led to both a study of urban density for the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004-05, and a new stadium plan for the U.S. Pavilion at the 2004 Venice Biennale. The design suggests informal rooftop viewing structures just beyond Wrigley’s outfield (a feature now sanctioned by Chicago’s building codes). The sporting facility would fragment its seating into separate angled-tier components distributed through an urban neighborhood.

Gang’s breakthrough project may be the hotel/residential tower Aqua, whose 82 individually sculpted floor plates will give occupants various views of Chicago while offering a topologically varied profile suggesting the Great Lakes region’s limestone outcroppings and its pools and eddies. Scheduled to open in 2009, Aqua aims to remind observers that “water and time are processes that act on the building,” as Gang noted, and that good design begins with close, thoughtful readings of the Earth.

Rubber Hits Road with Bike Share Project

Event: Reception Program for 2008 Bike Share Demonstration Project
Location: The City Bakery, 07.14.08
Keynote: Janette Sadik-Kahn — Commissioner, NYC Department of Transportation
Organizers: Forum for Urban Design; Storefront for Art and Architecture; The City Bakery

Four bike share stations attempted to connect existing transportation networks during this year’s NY Bike Share Demonstration Project.

Courtesy nybikeshare.org

While the scope of the New York Bike Share Demonstration Project may seem small in relation to programs established in some European cities — Paris currently has over 20,000 cycles in rotation — this short test run was intended to be one step in convincing NYC to invest in a more comprehensive program on a citywide scale. This year’s four-day program expanded its pilot effort conducted last summer, offering more cycles and more stations in Lower Manhattan to exchange cycles.

The concept of bike sharing provides short-term bicycle rentals, offered either free or at minimal cost, and is intended to complement existing transportation networks. Designed to bridge gaps in subway and bus lines with point-to-point rentals, renters are not required to return cycles to the same stations. This year’s demonstration proved that commonly perceived shortcomings, like the need for significant labor to redistribute cycles at the end of each day, could be overcome by strategically locating stations. Forum for Urban Design Deputy Director Loreal Monroe reported that the group “never experienced a redistribution problem” this year.

At the program’s wrap-up reception, NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan spoke alongside the demonstration project organizers about the importance of bringing increased cycle access to the roads. “Biking can be a transformative element in NYC’s transportation design,” said Sadik-Kahn. A week earlier, the DOT released a Request for Expressions of Interests for experienced groups interested in implementing a program for the city. A more comprehensive bike-sharing program may be in NYC’s future.

Fun at the Farm

“P.F. 1” at P.S. 1.

Jessica Sheridan

Every summer I attend the Young Architects Program installation in the courtyard of P.S. 1. While I have had mixed reviews in the past, some years the projects really impressed me. This year, WORKac’s “P.F. 1 (Public Farm 1)” is one of those years. Instead of resorting to the annual beach theme, the firm produced a work that is both fun and practical.

Cardboard cylinders fill the space with containers of vegetables. A ladder allows visitors to climb inside of the cylinders to get a close-up view of the growing process, and a periscope allows viewers to observe other visitors throughout the installation. Part of the installation produces farm noises when a visitor puts his or her ears against it. Live roosters and chickens roam the courtyard, and visitors can hold and pet baby chicks in a coop. There are layers of discovery throughout, where unexpected sounds or sights appear upon closer inspection. All five senses are engaged — something that is rare in architecture.

My biggest criticism with the program each year is that firms fail to fully incorporate the courtyard’s perimeter walls into their designs. Granted, it is difficult to fill the large space on such a small budget, but the tall concrete walls always seem sparse and stand out as an afterthought. This year is no exception. Although the installation touches the walls in a couple of places, they are left largely untouched, and therefore one’s attention is called to them. Ultimately, P.F. 1 is a fun day on the farm, provides sustenance, and an escape from urbanity… and that is what a summer installation in the city should be.

In this issue:
· Lincoln Center Programs POPS
· Green Building Eases New Mothers into Parenthood
· Fort Ticonderoga: Silver on Parade
· A Lesson Plan for Designing New York City Schools
· Condo Caters to Adult and Children’s Entertainment
· New Jersey Takes Advantage of Skyline Views

Lincoln Center Programs POPS

The former Harmony Atrium will become a new visitor center for Lincoln Center.

Courtesy Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

A privately owned public space (POPS) was unveiled at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in a design by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects for a new visitor center. Formerly known as the Harmony Atrium, it’s between Broadway and Columbus Avenue at 62nd and 63rd Streets. Plans call for transforming the space into a “theatrical garden” for performances and civic events. The redesigned 7,000-square-foot public space will feature a centralized box office, information desk, dynamic media wall, Rosa Mexicano restaurant, and public restrooms. Pentagram design consultancy and Show & Tell Productions, a creative technology company specializing in environmental communications, are also involved in the project. In addition, plans for a new micro-park designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners will include an urban grove at 62nd Street across from the visitor center. The park aims to create a more inviting entrance at the southeast portion of the campus and provide a shaded, quiet place to congregate.

Green Building Eases New Mothers into Parenthood

New Space for Women’s Health.

Lilker Associates Consulting Engineers

Perkins + Will and Lilker Associates Consulting Engineers are designing a new 8,000-square-foot sustainable facility for the New Space for Women’s Health, an independent, stand-alone birthing center to open in 2010. The new center, which is being retrofitted from an existing Midtown parking facility, will provide an environment where midwives, mental health professionals, family educators, among other professionals to offer women and families prenatal and postpartum care, childbirth education, gynecological services, social work, and psychological care. The three-floor building has LEED certification in mind, including high-efficiency heat pumps, sustainable heat recovery systems, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and energy-saving lighting equipped with sensors that reduce interior lighting relative to available natural light.

Fort Ticonderoga: Silver on Parade

Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center.

Tonetti Associates Architects

Sited on Fort Ticonderoga’s central parade ground in the Adirondacks, the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center is a 16,000-square-foot structure with French-style masonry recreating a secure warehouse built during the French and Indian War and blown up by retreating French troops in 1759. Designed by NYC-based Tonetti Associates Architects, the project is slated to earn LEED Silver certification for a number of green features, including use of locally quarried stone, and a geothermal heating and cooling system that serves the entire building using heat pumps from three deep wells. The education center contains classrooms, galleries, production spaces for mixed-media interviews, museum store, central hall, and what the museum calls “essential mingling spaces.” Research for the project spanned three countries and two continents including Canadian sources at Fortress Louisbourg in Cape Breton, Vieux-Montréal, Québec, and French sources at the coastal fortifications of Normandy and Brittany, as well as sources from the New York Public Library, the New York Historical Society library, and New York State Library in Albany.

A Lesson Plan for Designing New York City Schools

PS/IS 295.

Swanke Hayden Connell Architects

PS/IS 295, a new 88,000-square-foot Pre-K through 8th grade school in Queens Village, has been completed. Designed by Swanke Hayden Connell Architects (SHCA), on behalf of the NYC School Construction Authority, the plan strives to foster a connection between the school and the neighborhood by making major assembly spaces available for community use. Consisting of standardized rectilinear spaces on a highly irregular site, the design aims to reflect both the busy commercial strip of Jamaica Avenue and the adjoining quiet residential neighborhood. The program is organized into a long, four-story volume on Jamaica Avenue. The auditorium and gymnasium slide out from under it to relate to a smaller scale and the south-facing playground. A pre-cast concrete “frieze” of playing children animates the building’s through-lobby, accessible from Jamaica Avenue and the playground. This frieze wraps into the building’s interior and frames the auditorium entrance, where a public art mural resides.

Condo Caters to Adult and Children’s Entertainment



Georgica, named after East Hampton Village’s Georgica Pond, is a 20-story, 58-unit, 134,000-square-foot residential tower at East 85th Street and Second Avenue. The Cetra/Ruddy-designed project incorporates a playroom and fitness center. Interior design details will include custom bamboo and glass walls, limestone fireplaces, and a limestone and marble lobby. A landscaped roof deck, by HM White Site Architects, is to accommodate adult and children’s activities with a playground, flowering trees, ornamental grasses, and a natural lawn. Construction is set to be complete in 2009.

New Jersey Takes Advantage of Skyline Views

Vela Townhouses.


The Vela Townhouses, a luxury waterfront community in Edgewater, NJ, near the George Washington Bridge, is a 140,000-square-foot development designed by Arquitectonica to take advantage of Manhattan skyline views. Five separate buildings contain 29 townhouses, and eight units comprised of three floors, a cellar, private roof decks, and glass-enclosed solariums. By blending traditional elements, textures, and materials with a contemporary motif, the firm attempted to create a sleek aesthetic. The community also features designs by landscape architect Thomas Balsley Associates, including a waterfront infinity-edge pool. Rosen Global Partners developed the project.

In this issue:
· AIA Walks With Greensteps
· Shape of America Project Extends Architecture Dialogue

AIA Walks With Greensteps
The AIA recently launched 12 short video episodes for architects to share with clients who want to plan a new building or renovate an existing one using green building principles. Clients can “get in step with AIA Greenstep,” and explore how to conserve water, use renewable energy, optimize eco-friendly daylighting, and holistically plan a building. Greenstep is the new aspect of the AIA’s “Walk the Walk” marketing campaign to help clients and the public learn more about sustainable design, and demonstrate how architects are providing energy-efficient solutions to help lower carbon footprints. New videos will appear bi-weekly on the Walk the Walk website.

Shape of America Project Extends Architecture Dialogue
The AIA launched its Shape of America project– a series of web-based short films showcasing a selection of the 150 structures chosen by the public as America’s Favorite Architecture. In each short film, AIA architects share insights and anecdotes about the architectural masterworks, in turn encouraging public discussion about the buildings. The website is designed to expand the public dialogue about architecture using interactive features. The site also offers a link to architectural blogs, a film-rating system, and an RSS feed alerting viewers when the site is updated with new material.

Commemorative Bench Gets a Make-Over

Volunteers help restore the “Rolling Bench.”

Photo taken on July 10 by Pedro Silva, courtesy cityarts.org

CITYarts, an organization that empowers youth by bringing them together with professional artists to create public art, is working with artist Pedro Silva and son Anthony Silva to restore the Gaudi-like “Rolling Bench” at Grant’s Tomb, originally created by Silva with CITYarts in 1974 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Grant’s death. Through September, teams are chipping away at broken tiles and fitting in new ones to restore the 36-year-old project. Progress photographs are posted regularly on the website.

The National Building Museum has named Robert A. M. Stern, FAIA, the 10th Laureate of the Vincent Scully Prize to be presented at a gala celebration on 11.12.08…

Iowa-based Gordon E. Mills, FAIA, was recently elected 2008-2009 president of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) at its 89th Annual Meeting and Conference in Pittsburgh, PA…Henry L. Green, Hon. AIA, will take the reins from David Harris, FAIA, as the next president and CEO of the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS)…

NYC-based David Cooper, P.E., LEED AP, was promoted to president and chief executive officer of Flack + Kurtz, replacing Randy Meyers, P.E., LEED AP, who returns to his previous role as senior vice president in the San Francisco office…Nicholas Watkins and Henry Chao, AIA, have joined HOK’s health care practice in the New York office…Christopher Mount, Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at Parsons The New School for Design, is the new Executive Director of the Pasadena Museum of California Art…

Grand Central Terminal is a finalist in America’s Best Restroom Contest; the public is invited to vote online through 07.31.08…