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– Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

CLICK ON BLOG CENTRAL: AIANY BLOG: The AIANY Chapter has launched a new blog. Blog Central 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. It is an informal discussion board. Be sure to check it out regularly and contribute to the dialogue.

Some of the recent debates include:
· South Street Seaport Redevelopment. AIANY is supporting General Growth Properties with SHoP Architects to develop South Street Seaport. Click the link to read more about the testimony at the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

To become a regular contributor to Blog Central, please e-mail e-Oculus. Pen names are welcome.

Jonathan Rose Calls for National Housing Policy to Turn to Resilience

Event: Samuel Ratensky Lecture: Green Urban Solutions
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.03.08
Speakers: Jonathan F. P. Rose — Jonathan Rose Companies; Carmi Bee, FAIA — Principal, RKT&B Architects (introduction)
Organizers: AIANY Housing Committee

Dattner Architects

David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens by Dattner Architects.

One night before American voters turned a historical corner, Jonathan Rose of Jonathan Rose Companies laid out a set of principles and achievements that might serve as a blueprint for a progressive national housing policy. Since the 1980s, when his advocacy of green urbanism was ahead of its time, Rose’s firms have prospered by offering affordable urban residences close to transit, constructed to maximize people’s exposure to nature; with the Rose Companies’ four services (planning, development, owner’s representation, and a green real estate investment fund) now in demand, he chooses projects according to whether they advance certain essential principles on a broader scale.

Rose prefers “resilience,” with its clearer sense of systemic dynamics, to “sustainability.” The greening strategies that characterize his firms’ projects — dense urban infill, support for human-powered and public transportation, win/win synergies in resource-management technologies, and pervasively biophilic design (bringing humans close to nature) — are all aimed at helping communities “adapt like living systems to change,” Rose says. One of his recurrent approaches is derived from igloos: “get the skin right and the rest follows.” On the single-building scale or in a wider master plan, he is convinced that current environmental and economic conditions call for development strategies that replace mere “transactional” priorities with those that catalyze transformations.

“Much of real estate investment is about buying and selling and buying and selling,” Rose says. “We’re about buying and keeping.” Treating the fabric of communities as a value in itself, not a rapidly alienable commodity, isn’t utopian; for Rose and colleagues, it’s good business. He offered evidence that efforts to reduce climatic impact are fully compatible with healthy returns on investments: comparing the cost/benefit ratios of a range of approaches to climate change, he pointed out that apart from increased vehicular fuel efficiency, all the steps whose benefits outweigh their costs lie in the building sector. He has supported ambitious greening strategies by a range of architects nationwide, including Harry Teague Architects’ high-density complex in Aspen, CO, a mixed-use master plan with Calthorpe Associates and Claudio Vigil Architects in Albuquerque, NM, Dattner Architects’ David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens in Harlem, and the South Bronx’s award-winning Via Verde with Dattner, Grimshaw, and the Phipps Houses.

As in an individual organism, a building, or a community, Rose believes, the critical principle determining national directions is the interconnection of all variables and the inseparability of environmental conditions from economics. The current foreclosure problem, he says, is largely a sprawl problem. The well-intended National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, which led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), created a legal framework that actually encouraged developers to create more sprawl — a proliferation of small plots falls below the radar of the EPA, whereas a single multi-unit urban development would be held up for five years by impact-statement regulations. It’s no surprise which housing typology became more widespread. Around the same time, Congress rejected infrastructural planning legislation in favor of a regulatory framework that’s easier to dodge. In Rose’s view, it’s time to recognize that careful national planning can prevent such unintended consequences and drive development toward greener, denser urban forms.

The upcoming transition in Washington provides an opportunity for the national rediscovery of integrated planning, as Theodore Liebman, FAIA, suggested during the Q&A period. Rose’s response expressed a belief that our future is in our metropolitan regions, and we need a cabinet-level national planner who can coordinate the work of the housing, environmental, transportation, agricultural, and other relevant agencies.

Elderly Populations Influence Planning

Event: Home Design in an Aging World
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.17.08
Speakers: Jeffrey P. Rosenfeld, Ph.D. — Director, Gerontology Program & Gerontology Center, Hofstra University; Wid Chapman — Senior Faculty, Parsons The New School for Design
Organizer: Sarelle T. Weisberg, FAIA — Chair, Sub-Committee of the AIANY Housing Committee, New Directions for Design for Seniors
Sponsors: AIANY Housing Committee

Courtesy Jeffrey Rosenfeld, Ph.D.

Senior housing is changing in India, from dormitory-style living (left) to private, hotel-style residences (right).

In studying senior care in Asian countries such as India, China, and Japan, Jeffrey Rosenfeld, Ph.D., director of the Gerontology Program and Gerontology Center at Hofstra University, has found trends that demonstrate both a changing attitude toward the elderly and the influence of Western culture on the East. Internationally, senior centers are transitioning from “old age homes” where widows and widowers are housed when they become a burden on their families, to retreats for elderly couples called “retirement communities.”

The architecture of senior centers demonstrates an existing dual system. In India, for example, seniors are traditionally marginalized if they are unable to live at home. They are grouped with the mentally ill and drug addicts in inexpensive dormitory-style rooms with little privacy. The buildings are designed using typical vernacular construction. The newer centers, however, draw on Western models to influence the design. Rooms are private, with private toilets, and are made with materials that are used in similar centers internationally. Residents are supposed to feel as if they are staying in a hotel or spa. They can interact with the local community and engage with all generations; they are not kept out of sight, out of mind.

In China, the one-child family is transforming aged care. Rosenfeld explained that the mindset of Chinese families is such that daughters are expected to care for their husbands’ aging parents. As a result, half the population is left without care. Also, many young adults move to cities for work leaving their aging families behind. Since people are living longer, there is a demand for more senior housing, and without an existing architectural vocabulary to draw on they are looking to the West for a model. This is a similar issue in Japan. Coupled with a labor shortage, Japan is also experimenting with technology — robotic exoskeletons and care toys — to compensate for inadequate staffing.

Rosenfeld admitted that not much change has been made in architectural models themselves, with a few exceptions. The Architectural Body Research Foundation, founded by Arakawa and Madeline Gins, tries to challenge residents cognitively and sensorally. For example, the Reversible Destiny Lofts are deliberately disorienting. Materials change levels throughout and objects are placed in the middle of circulation spaces. Residents have to actively think to maneuver through the space. Whether or not this model is successful has yet to be seen, said Rosenfeld, but at least it’s innovative.

In the U.S., senior housing is changing in similar ways to Asia. Wid Chapman, senior faculty at Parsons The New School for Design, discussed how the aging population has a desire to interact with local communities, with people of all ages. People want to maintain a continuity with their past, even if they can no longer live on their own. If they are able to live at home, many are choosing to retrofit for accessibility, while others are hiring designers to create universal designs.

This September, the NY Academy of Medicine, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and the NYC Department of Health and Human Services released Age-Friendly NYC, a report on initiatives to improve the city from an aging population’s perspective. NYC is among the best cities for the elderly to live, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), stated Chapman. With accessible outdoor space, proximity to mass transportation, and contact with civic and community events, urban centers like NYC are proving to be high on seniors’ lists of preferred residences. As more studies are released, Chapman believes that urban centers are the next wave of the future for senior care.

How Do People Live? Ask an Architect who Does Interiors

Event: Designs For Living: New Directions in Design of the Home
Location: Trespa Showroom, 10.21.08
Speakers: Lee Mindel, FAIA — Principal, Shelton/Mindel Architects; Annabelle Selldorf, AIA — Principal, Selldorf Architects; Alan Wanzenberg, AIA — Principal, Alan Wanzenberg Architect
Moderator: Abby Suckle, FAIA, LEED AP — AIANY Interiors Committee & AIANY Secretary
Sponsors: Trespa; WB Wood NY

Neue Galerie.

Courtesy http://neuegalerie.org

Most architects in NYC do a lot of single-family residential work. Virtually all architects undertake interior design from the beginning of their practices, and for many it punctuates their careers. A panel composed of architects with expertise in all scales of residential design, from furniture to multi-family residences, were enthusiastic about designing interiors — warts and all — from the client who says he/she doesn’t know much about architecture but knows what he/she likes, to the interior designer who wants to “play architect,” to the decorator who wants to cover over the architecture.

All of the panelists expressed enjoyment in working with and getting to know their clients and their particular lifestyles — even when they themselves were the client. Alan Wanzenberg, AIA, of Alan Wanzenberg Architect, whose reputation is in designing for celebrities, has three homes on which to “experiment.” His primary residence for the past 30 years, an apartment in the city, “is not an easy space, and I’m always changing it and moving things around.” He uses his beach house on Long Island to play with furniture and his cabin upstate to work with light and color in a modest space.

Lee Mindel, FAIA, principal of Shelton/Mindel Architects, has designed a variety of interior types — an ocean liner, a Gulfstream airplane, Ralph Lauren’s headquarters with rooms that appear to be dipped in chocolate, vanilla, and caramel, as well as lighting and plumbing fixtures, textiles, and furniture. The North Sea Pool House on Long Island, which won an AIANY 2008 Design Award for Interiors, was formerly a garage/mechanical building. The two-story space is integrated with a pool, sculpture garden, and a creek. Sculptures that look like “pool toys” blur the lines between sculpture and furniture.

A 2006 AIANY Design Award project, a residence in one of Richard Meier Architect’s Perry Street towers, is an exercise in playful geometries — the street grid and the flow of the Hudson River are intended to give a feeling that the building’s core extends into space. The terrazzo floor was inspired by the Hudson when frozen.

For Annabelle Selldorf, AIA, of Selldorf Architects, working on interiors allows her to learn about the client and how they live. She usually agrees not to foist something on a client, and vice versa. “Taste,” she says, “is nothing to argue about. Either you have it, or you don’t; but there is room for discussion.” Selldorf also designs furniture, and feels that understanding its making helps her understand its usage. Selldorf completely renovated the interior of a Carrère and Hastings-designed Neue Galerie to exhibit early 20th-century German and Austrian artworks. Recently, she designed the interiors for Philip Johnson’s final residential project — the 12-story glass-and-steel Urban Glass House. What defines designing for a single client/resident, according to Selldorf, is to conjecture who might the residents be and what is it that people do nowadays.

Design Excellence in Newark Overshadows NYC

Event: Designs for Living: Public Architecture and Design Excellence
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.10.08
Speakers: David J. Burney, FAIA — Commissioner, NYC Department of Design and Construction; Charles McKinney, ASLA — Chief of Design, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; Toni L. Griffin — Director of Planning, Newark, NJ
Moderator: Matthew Schuerman — Reporter, WNYC
Organizers: AIANY; New York New Visions
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

Newark, NJ.

Courtesy Google Earth

It turns out NYC might just have reason to envy Newark, NJ. “They’ve just got so much open space to work with,” gushed NYC Department of Parks and Recreation’s Charles McKinney, reflecting on the sweeping plans for new housing and recreational projects presented by Newark Director of Planning Toni Griffin. With a much-depleted urban core and a newly energized city government under Mayor Cory Booker, Griffin is looking to draw on Newark’s present advantages — a thriving seaport and proximity to NYC — in remaking the face of the city. And she already has ambitious proposals coming from the likes of Richard Meier, FAIA, to help her do it.

Not to say that NYC isn’t making great strides of its own. David Burney, FAIA, of the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) pointed to recent and upcoming projects that demonstrate the benefits already accruing from the city’s Design and Construction Excellence Initiative, established by Mayor Bloomberg in 2004. Queens’ Glen Oaks Library designed by Marble Fairbanks, Caples Jefferson Architects’ Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, and Bronx Rescue Company 3’s new headquarters by Polshek Partnership are just a few of the city’s new civic buildings adhering to higher design and environmental standards (all buildings approved by the DDC must now be LEED-Silver certified). Nevertheless, Burney was frank about the difficulties of balancing cost, quality, and schedule.

McKinney reviewed a number of already well-publicized schemes for the expansion and enhancement of city parks, including the Parks Department’s goal of planting one million trees citywide and the resurfacing of asphalt play areas with softer, more foot-friendly synthetics. He also described at length the crown jewels of the Parks Department’s current capital improvement plan: eight vast regional parks, at least one per borough, undergoing extensive rehabilitation. Two projects in the earliest phases of research and planning are the 160-acre Fort Washington Park in Upper Manhattan, and Soundview Park in the Bronx.

But Newark stole the show. With so much on the boards — a projected waterfront park on the Passaic River and new residential infill that breaks the boxy, car-centered mold of recent area housing — many in the audience wanted to know how architects could get involved. Griffin demurred, referring inquiries to the office of Newark’s Chief Architect, while insisting that her proposals were still in the early planning stages.

Women Speed-Mentor to Leadership

I strongly believe in the power of mentorship in the profession, but it is often difficult to find someone who has the perfect combination of availability and willingness to share experiences and a kindred professional trajectory. The AIANY Women in Architecture (WIA) Committee has found a solution to this issue with its annual “Speed Mentoring” program.

Similar to speed dating, the rules are simple. Four women of different experience levels sit around a table, fill out a short questionnaire, exchange contact information, and talk for 20 minutes. Once time is up, everyone switches places in the room to find three new women of different experience levels to talk with for 20 more minutes. And so on.

Throughout the evening at the Miele showroom, many universal themes for practicing architects were addressed — how to start your own business, how to deal with the bad economy, how to adjust to changing technology, and how to balance work with life. Women discussed overcoming insecurities and finding a voice in the workplace; which computer programs work best for different design phases; what it was like to work as a woman in the field in the 1960s versus today; and how to maintain an interest in the field. They also talked about how raising a family had led them to either leave the profession for one with a better pay-scale and shorter hours (such as development), or start their own firm where they could be in control of their schedule.

What made the November 20 event this year so successful was the wide variety of women who gathered. From firm principals, to emerging designers fresh out of school, to women who chose related but alternate career paths, to those who left the profession altogether (even the founder of the original Women in Architecture Committee was there!), the program highlighted the most important aspect of mentorship: everyone can learn from everyone else’s experiences. Thank you WIA for providing the venue.

In this issue:
· Something Old, New, Reclaimed for New Condo
· South Park Slope Breaks Ground for Supportive Housing
· Goethe-Institut Opens Two New Downtown Spaces
· Contemporary Library Blends New and Old
· Digital Medium is Message at Public Communications School

Something Old, New, Reclaimed for New Condo

Steelworks House.


A 130,000-square-foot building, originally home to the Lewis Steel Products factory in the 1930s, is being converted to high-end loft condominiums containing 88 studio- to three-bedroom lofts. NY-based AvroKO was signed on by Fifth Square Partners to complete the concept and the creative marketing and branding. The design team decided to repurpose original site materials. Reclaimed lumber from the building was used to create shelving, interior details, and a rough-hewn wood reception desk for the lobby. The steel sash industrial window frames will be preserved and new energy-efficient windows installed. Each of the residences will feature custom-designed, handmade elements by local craftspeople, including Synchro, a contracting and architectural fabrication company.

New elements, such as steel mesh wall-coverings and polished concrete floors, aim to complement the reclaimed materials. Greener By Design will landscape the building’s 8,500-square-foot roof deck using organic fertilizers and non-chemical weed control, and incorporate low-voltage lighting and water-conserving irrigation systems. Other rooftop features include a skyline cinema, open air bungalows, communal kitchen, private rooftop cabanas, and stone fire pits. Gene Kaufman, Architect, is serving as project architect.

South Park Slope Breaks Ground for Supportive Housing

575 Fifth Avenue.

Amie Gross Architects

Amie Gross Architects recently broke ground on a new 30,000-square-foot, five-story supportive housing project in South Park Slope, Brooklyn. The mixed-use development will provide studio apartments and social services for 48 individuals in need, including the elderly, formerly homeless, and young adults coming out of foster care, as well as street level retail, and office and community space for supportive services. The building has been designed to achieve a LEED Gold rating and will be one of the first LEED-rated publicly-funded buildings in Brooklyn. The Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), a not-for-profit that creates affordable housing in South Brooklyn, is developing the project.

Goethe-Institut Opens Two New Downtown Spaces

Goethe-Institut New York.

Courtesy Goethe-Institut

The Goethe-Institut New York, which organizes and hosts German cultural events and promotes international cultural exchange, has opened a second satellite space called the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building in the Bowery Arts District. The space will formally open in March 2009 after a renovation by Berlin-based architects ifau (Institut für angewandte Urbanistik/Institute for Applied Urbanism) + Jesko Fezer, a firm focused on interrelated, interdisciplinary projects — including architectural and urban design, research, installations, and events in the urban context. The Institut recently opened another downtown satellite space, Ludlow 38, designed by artists Ethan Breckenridge and Liam Gillick. The space, programmed by Kunstverein München, will exhibit contemporary art.

Contemporary Library Blends New and Old

Mamaroneck Library.

BKSK Architects.

Ground was recently broken on the 13,000-square-foot addition to the Mamaroneck Public Library in Westchester County. BKSK Architects designed the addition to the existing 21,000-square-foot library, a portion of which dates back to 1927. Façade materials, column design, and box patterns are meant to blend old with new. The library’s original 1927 reading room was also restored, and a new children’s wing, dedicated teen area, expanded public computer space, enlarged community meeting facilities, a coffee bar, and outdoor terrace will meet current and anticipated future needs of library patrons. The new facility incorporates energy-efficient building systems, a green roof, sustainable materials, and natural light — elements that will enable the library to qualify for LEED Silver. Completion is slated for spring 2010.

Digital Medium is Message at Public Communications School

Newhouse III.


Poulin + Morris, a multidisciplinary design consultancy, has completed work on Newhouse III, the latest addition to the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Completed in 2008, the glass-wrapped building, designed by Polshek Partnership, supports the integration of students and specialties by housing community spaces including dining facilities, student lounges, an auditorium, a conference center, classrooms, offices, editing suites, media labs, and research centers (see OCULUS, Winter 2007/08). Poulin + Morris was responsible for the design of a comprehensive donor recognition and environmental graphics program. The solutions rely on visual metaphor and technology to communicate the foundation and future mission the journalism school. A donor wall in the entrance lobby uses more than 100 staggered, horizontal LED digital panels. In addition, two typographic wall murals are located in the atrium; one identifies school programs spanning three stories, and another celebrates the First Amendment.

In this issue:
· Robin Hood Foundation Reaches Thousands
· AIA-NJ 2008 Design Conference Highlights Emerging Trends
· Green Index Reports Increase in Green Building
· AIANY Launches e-Oculus Survey

Robin Hood Foundation Reaches Thousands

On October 24, architects Henry Myerberg, AIA, and Richard Lewis, AIA, gave an update of the Library Initiative in NYC public schools supported by The Robin Hood Foundation, this year’s recipient of the Center for Architecture Foundation Award. To date, 61 school libraries have been completely renovated or are currently in design phases. Under the theory that libraries take up, on average, 5% of the area of a school, but are used by 100% of the students, the new libraries have reached tens of thousands of NYC students, showcasing the potentially transformative power of high quality design. Both individual testimonials and more quantitative survey information support the educational benefits of the program. As important, it has given designers an opportunity to harness creative solutions for a positive social end. Scott Lauer, project director for The Robin Hood Foundation, introduced the program.

AIA-NJ 2008 Design Conference Highlights Emerging Trends
Attendees of the NJ Chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA-NJ) annual 2008 Design Conference concluded that the last 10 years was a great period for architecture due to innovations in building components and systems and the digital revolution.

More than 400 architects attended, featuring Enrique Norten, Hon FAIA, Hugh Newell Jacobsen, FAIA, Rafael Pelli, AIA, and Robert Ivy, FAIA. The daylong event led off with an address by Ivy, whose topic, “Where in the World is Architecture: Observation of Design Trends,” dealt with global trends in architecture. He called upon architects to adapt regional and vernacular forms to contemporary needs; to rethink the functions of traditional structures, such as department stores and libraries; and to adapt traditional typologies to other uses. Such new approaches have the potential to reinvigorate our urban areas, and change the way people live, he said.

Green Index Reports Increase in Green Building
Autodesk, Inc. and the AIA have announced the results of the 2008 Autodesk/AIA Green Index, an annual survey that measures how AIA members are practicing sustainable design, as well as their opinions about the green building movement. This year’s index shows an increase in the implementation of sustainable design practices from architects and building owners. In addition, it shows that architects’ clients have experienced a doubling in the market-demand for green buildings over the past year and positive shifts in architects’ attitudes toward their ability to impact climate change.

A major finding of the 2008 Green Index was that 42% of architects report clients asking for green building services, and 47% of clients are implementing green building elements in their projects — a 15% increase from 2007. Client demand remains the leading driver for green building, with 66% of surveyed architects citing such demand as the primary influence on their green practice. Architects believe that the primary reasons their clients are asking for green buildings are reduced operating costs (60%), marketing (52%), and market demand (21%). The full report is available online.

AIANY Launches e-Oculus Survey
Please take the AIANY seven-question online survey to share your opinions about e-Oculus. As readers of this publication, your input is highly appreciated and will be greatly considered.

Travel Among Brooklyn Cultural Centers… via Free Shuttle

The Heart of Brooklyn (HOB) Connection is a new free shuttle connecting central Brooklyn’s cultural institutions: Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park, and Prospect Park Zoo.

There are three programs, which are hop-on/hop-off rides featuring tour guides, coupon books for local restaurants and shops, and maps and brochures from Brooklyn cultural attractions. Museum Mile to Brooklyn Style picks up passengers outside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sundays; Saturday Scene runs continuous loops from Bay Ridge, Red Hook, and Williamsburg, depending on the Saturday, to all the cultural institutions; and Target First Saturdays Shuttle carries riders between the Brooklyn Museum and places to eat, drink, and shop in surrounding neighborhoods,

For more information, visit The HOB Connection website or call 718.638.7700 x22.

AIA-NJ announced its 2008 Design Award Winners including the following NY-based firms: in the Built Category, ARO (Honor Award, The School of Architecture addition at Princeton University), and Ricci Greene Associates (Merit Award, Union County Juvenile Detention Center); in the Un-Built Category, David Yum Architects (Merit Award, Evening Land Winery)…

Crain’s New York Business‘ 2008 list of “Best Places to Work in New York City” includes architecture firms RAND Engineering & Architecture (#26), Ted Moudis Associates (#30), Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners (#40), HOK (#44), and Studio Daniel Libeskind (#45)… Special Olympics New York honored Ted Moudis, AIA, at its Ninth Annual Real Estate & Construction Gala…

Parsons The New School for Design and director of interior design, Lois Weinthal, announced a new Master of Fine Arts degree in Interior Design…

WSP Flack + Kurtz announces the addition of David Choy, PE, senior vice president, and the return of Daniel Nall, FAIA, PE, LEED AP, senior vice president as the firm-wide director of sustainability… Callison announces the promotion of Susan Soehnlen to the role of director…