Call for Tributes: Norval White, FAIA

The OCULUS Committee and the AIA New York Chapter will be hosting an event celebrating the release of the newest edition of the AIA Guide to New York City on 06.02.10. In memory of author Norval White, FAIA, e-Oculus will be publishing a special tribute issue to coincide with the celebration. We are seeking personal anecdotes, images, and remembrances — any and all are welcome. Please e-mail them to by Friday, 05.14.10.

BREAKING NEWS: EVP/CEO Chris McEntee to Depart the AIA

I am writing to share the news that Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Chris McEntee will leave the Institute July 23, 2010 to become Executive Director of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), an international non-profit scientific association dedicated to furthering the sciences of geophysics through individual efforts and in cooperation with other scientific organizations. In her new capacity, Chris will lead a professional society that is a global leader of scientific knowledge within the Earth and space science communities and expand AGU’s global reach and scientific excellence for the benefit of humanity.

This is a professional challenge that will afford Chris new areas in which to learn and grow in her career of leading professional associations. Chris is embracing an opportunity of great personal and professional interest and I invite you to join me in wishing her every future success.

As you already know, Chris leads a staff of seasoned professionals who capably manage the AIA’s daily operations. As a first next-step, I will be forming a search committee that will work under the guidance of the AIA Board Executive Committee and engaging an executive search firm to help us identify the right qualified candidates. Chris will work closely with the AIA leadership and staff to ensure a smooth transition.

Chris and I agree that the AIA is strong and poised to take advantage of new opportunities. The AIA will continue to offer programs and experiences that deliver member value and expand upon new opportunities, such as those represented by the current discussions with Hanley Wood.

There will be time in the upcoming three months for appropriate farewell activities where we can learn more about this important and exciting next challenge for Chris. Her new role will find her building the framework necessary for the AGU to become the authoritative voice of scientific knowledge to policy makers, media, and the broader public, with an increasing emphasis on mitigating the effects of climate change. This is a challenge for which Chris is well-suited, after having successfully accomplished a similar result during her time at the AIA.

And, as you speak to or respond to questions from your AIA and professional colleagues, you can be confident in sharing the message that the inherent strength of the AIA lies squarely in the passion and commitment of our members, you and me. Our rich history encompasses many significant individual contributions, but collectively, it is we who shape our future. If you would like, you can reach me via e-mail:

I look forward to keeping you informed and involved as we continue working together throughout the year and, in particular, hope to be seeing you at our national convention in Miami.

2010 AIANY Design Awards Defies the Odds

Event: 2010 Design Awards Luncheon; 2010 Design Awards Exhibition Opening
Location: Cipriani Wall Street, 04.14.10; Center for Architecture, 04.15.10
Speakers: Mark Robbins — Dean of the School of Architecture, Syracuse University; Sherida Paulsen, FAIA — Immediate Past President, AIA New York Chapter (Luncheon Chair); Anthony Schirripa, FAIA, IIDA — President, AIA New York Chapter
Organizer: AIANY
Sponsors: Chair’s Circle: Foster + Partners New York; Benefactor: STUDIOS architecture; Patrons: Mancini Duffy; Peter Marino Architect; Studio Daniel Libeskind; Trespa; Lead Sponsors: A.E. Greyson+Company; Arup; Building Contractors Association; Dagher Engineering; F.J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc.; Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson; FXFOWLE Architects; Gensler; Ingram Yuzek Gainen Carroll & Bertolotti; Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; MechoShade Systems, Inc.; New York University; PERMASTEELISA NORTH AMERICA; Port Authority of New York & New Jersey; Rudin Management Company, Inc.; Structure Tone, Inc.; Syska Hennesy Group; Toshiko Mori Architect; VJ Associates; WSP Cantor Seinuk; WSP Flack + Kurtz, Inc.


Courtesy AIANY

“Economic downturns provide opportunities for new creativity,” stated Mark Robbins, dean of the school of architecture at Syracuse University at this year’s Design Awards Luncheon. While he referenced work generated during previous downturns — such as the projective ideas of Archigram and Superstudio in the 1960s and the “paper architecture” of the 1980s — Robbins sees this particular time as a time for younger practitioners, people he calls “stealth architects,” to uncover new, innovative ways to make their work visible to broader audiences. Perhaps this is the reason that many of the 2010 AIANY Design Awards recipients are lesser known, younger firms.

“This year’s awards prove that good design does not have to be expensive design,” according to AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA. And as one peruses the exhibition, on view at the Center for Architecture through 07.03.10, work completed in NYC and by NYC-based firms is truly diverse, even if much of it was completed on a tight budget. Award winners include established firms such as Steven Holl Architects (winning Architecture Honors for both the Knut Hamsun Center and the Vanke Center/Horizontal Skyscraper) and Kohn Pedersen Fox (winning an Unbuilt Work Merit Award for the Tianjin Hang Lung Plaza), as well as emerging firms like OBRA Architects (winning two Unbuilt Work Merit Awards for the Korean Cultural Center New York and The Great Hall at Grace Farms), and Ginseng Chicken Architecture (winning an Unbuilt Work Merit Award for Open Paradox).

Some of the award-winning projects were to be expected — James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s High Line won the only Honor Award for Urban Design, which was a new category for the annual design awards program; and Morphosis Architects and Gruzen Samton won Architecture Honors for 41 Cooper Square. However, other projects that garnered awards were just as ambitious, if not as well-known, such as dlandstudio’s Urban Design Merit Award for the BQE Trench: Reconnection Strategies in Brooklyn that proposes turning the Brooklyn Queens Expressway into a lush, green landscape.

A few of the awards were given to bold designs, such as Peter Gluck and Partners’ Architecture Honor Award-winning East Harlem School that features a graphic façade of offset rectangles. While other awards were presented to subtle, quiet designs, like Butler Rogers Baskett’s Interiors Honor Award for the Trinity School’s Johnson Chapel.

When visiting the Design Awards exhibition, the large-scale photographs and images showcase the variety of projects that have been recently built or proposed. Robbins, in his keynote, urged audience members to “be creative against all odds.” And all of the award winners have done just that.

The full list of award winners can be found on the 2010 AIANY Design Awards website, and the Winners’ Symposia will take place at the Center for Architecture on 05.08.10 (Architecture and Interiors), 05.10.10 (Unbuilt) and 06.17.10 (Urban Design). Click the links to RSVP.

Jewel of the Hudson: The New Javits Center

Event: Greening a Giant: The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.12.10
Speakers: Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP — Founding Principal, FXFOWLE Architects; David Choy, PE — Senior Vice President, WSP Flack + Kurtz
Moderator: Margaret Castillo, AIA, LEED AP — President-Elect, AIA New York Chapter
Organizer: AIANY Committee on the Environment


The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.


Although the structure of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is sufficient, stated Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, founding principal of FXFOWLE Architects, there is a laundry list of issues that must be addressed as the first phase of renovations begins. Rusting rooftop units, staining on the concrete base, and an entry that is prohibitive to pedestrians are just some of the challenges facing FXFOWLE Epstein, a collaboration between FXFOWLE and A. Epstein & Sons International, not to mention the water leakage, which is costing the building $1 million in water removal annually.

FXFOWLE Epstein’s goals are simple: the firm wants to restore the 1986 building to I.M. Pei and Partners’ original vision while making necessary performance and operational enhancements to meet — and surpass — current codes and standards. The new design will enhance the pedestrian experience by relocating fire stairs to clear the approach to the building (creating a “Piazza Navona on the West Side,” as Fowle described), adding canopies to emphasize the building entrances, and improve wayfinding with new signage.

Daylighting will be improved not only with more efficient fittings and lamps with daylight dimming capabilities, but also by replacing the existing, highly reflective glass with more transparent, fritted glass that has a selective solar coating. A gantry system on the interior will provide access to the glass for the maintenance staff, as well. And the mullions will be painted a lighter color, which will also improve the light quality on the interior. Deeper in the interior, portions of the floor slab will be removed, the escalators will be stacked, and spaces that are currently windowless will be opened to the atrium complete with tree bosks.

The bulk of the exterior will be clad with stainless steel panels, and added insulation throughout the envelope will improve thermal performance. Fowle sees the roof as “the fifth façade,” as so many surrounding buildings look down on it. A seven-acre green roof will be planted to both improve its aesthetics and energy consumption — David Choy, PE, senior vice president at WSP Flack + Kurtz claims that the U-Value of the roof will almost double that of the existing one. Although security and structural concerns prevent the roof from being inhabited by visitors, the sedum will significantly reduce water run-off, as well.

While the team is confident the new Javits Center will meet LEED Silver requirements, Choy and Fowle believe LEED Gold is achievable, mainly because of the many planned energy improvements. Carbon dioxide sensors, motion detectors and occupancy sensors, thermally improved walls, and demand controlled ventilation all contribute. In concert with an energy model by Ellana, an in-depth study of LEED requirements, ASHRAE standards, the NYS Energy Code, Executive Order 111, and Local Law 86, the team believes the building will save an additional 26.3% of its current annual energy consumption. During the discussion, Fowle frequently referred to the Javits Center as a glass pavilion. Calling it a “jewel in a high-density context,” hopefully the renovations will reveal its true crystalline nature.

The Future of Architecture; Economy, Innovation, Collaboration

Location: Mohawk, 04.08.10
Speakers: Dan Kaplan, AIA, LEED AP — Senior Partner, FXFOWLE Architects; Mustafa K. Abadan, FAIA — Design Partner, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Marianne Kwok — Director, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; Todd Schliemann, FAIA — Design Partner, Polshek Partnership Architects; Scott Johnson, AIA — Associate Partner & Acting COO, Richard Meier & Partners
Moderator: James S. Russell, FAIA — Architecture Critic, Bloomberg
Organizer: IDNY; Designer Pages
Sponsors: OCULUS/e-Oculus

Understandably for a panel entitled #FUTURTECTURE, there were questions concerning the future of architecture in light of the economy, the recovery, or lack of recovery; but other concerns involved computer programs vs. drawing by hand, innovation, collaboration, and why errors happen even to the best of architects.

Discussing the economy, Dan Kaplan, AIA, LEED AP, senior partner at FXFOWLE Architects, noted that he actually benefited from the recession of the early 1990s because many of his coworkers left traditional forms of practice and became clients. “If we can get beyond the short term,” he said, “there will be a need for architects who can deal with complex situations in the long term.” One way Europeans are dealing with the lack of work in the short term, he explained, is that architectural graduates are assuming leadership positions in business and government, which ends up helping the built environment in the long term.

Innovation, and the potential for making errors due to experimenting with new technology, is always a hot topic when discussing the future of the profession. Since buildings are imprecise, mistakes are inevitable. Also, the construction trades are using the same paradigm as they have for years without adjusting to new technology. “Unlike a car, where there are tests and mock-ups before construction, you can’t do that with architecture. The building is the beta-test,” Kaplan explained. When asked about modular construction as an economic solution that uses innovative processes, Scott Johnson, AIA, associate partner and acting COO at Richard Meier & Partners, didn’t think the quality was there yet, and cautioned: “What if the fabricator went out of business?”

About collaboration, the panelists agreed that crossovers can be very productive, and it is natural for architects to work in an interdisciplinary way. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was founded on collaboration, as its namesakes included two architects and one engineer. Because of this, according to Design Partner Mustafa K. Abadan, FAIA, “we don’t have to wait for the next collaboration to happen.”

Todd Schliemann, FAIA, a design partner at Polshek Partnership Architects, praised architects’ ability weather down markets by exploring different disciplines. Being trained as an architect teaches one to be an organizer, a choreographer, and to be articulate, he believes. “We build models, we’re good at computers, we can be hired guns, and there are options.”

Marianne Kwok, a director at Kohn Pedersen Fox, was optimistic about the future, and said her firm has been fortunate during the downturn. They have diversified their work and have sought out work on a more global scale, especially in China. “Architecture graduates have a lot to look forward to,” she stated optimistically.

Speaking of recent graduates, most on the panel expressed concern that students today view architecture in a different way. Panelists bemoaned students’ lack of drawing skills, and worried that some don’t even have plans in their portfolios. So what can future architects take away from this discussion? Have a broad education and love what you’re doing, said Johnson. Vary your skill set and learn to be articulate, commented Abadan. Perhaps Schliemann summed it up best: “Nothing beats talent.”

To view the program in its entirety, visit

Airport Design Faces the Pressures of a Changing Industry

Event: Airports of the Future: Emerging Issues in Airport Planning, Design & Construction
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.09.10
Speakers: William A. Fife, PE — Principal, The Fife Group
Organizers: AIANY Transportation and Infrastructure Committee


Saarinen’s TWA Terminal has suffered the pressures of a changing airline industry.

Jessica Sheridan

Attendees expecting tips on how to design airport terminals at the “Airports of the Future” presentation by airport planning expert William Fife, PE, may have been surprised to learn instead about the larger trends shaping the aviation industry. Fife made it clear, in fact, that to build an effective airport, architects and engineers must first understand the industry and all its complexities.

Thanks to 9/11, said Fife, “there is a new normal, and that new normal is always changing.” The terrorist attacks affected passenger volume, airlines’ finances, and airport security requirements — but that’s only for starters.

He stated the number of passengers is expected to double by 2025, from 750 million to 1.5 billion (despite the delays and other hassles of air travel). And the new planes built to accommodate these people will force changes in airport planning. For instance, when Boeing’s next-generation Dreamliner becomes available, it will carry half as many passengers as today’s long-range aircraft, necessitating twice as many terminal gates for the same number of passengers.

Also increasing in importance are environmental factors: planning for alternative-fuel support vehicles; constructing energy-efficient facilities to save on operating costs; building enough lead time in construction schedules to secure environmental permits (“It takes twice as long as you’d expect,” Fife cautioned); and accommodating the concerns of nearby residents who worry about noise issues.

But security needs are paramount, and the devices and screening procedures are always changing. Fife recalled the lessons learned from a peer review conducted with the Charles de Gaulle airport authority in Paris: “What we’re having in the future is a large ‘baggage box’ with security stuff in it, surrounded by retail. On the outside you have some places for planes to park, and on the other side places for cars to park. So you have to make it big, and flexible…. Baggage handling and security and safety have become the determinant sizing factors in terminal design.”

Patti Harris Shining the Apple

First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris welcomed mayors from several U.S. cities to New York last Wednesday, April 13th, by offering to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge, a municipal asset whose value, she said, has been increased by adjacent design enhancements such as the Brooklyn Bridge Park. After brief introductions, including eloquent remarks by Ron Bogle, Hon. AIA, president and CEO of the American Architectural Foundation and Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, the First Deputy Mayor told those assembled for the meeting of the Mayor’s Institute on City Design (MICD) that “the choice of where to live has never been more critical.”

The MICD is a partnership of the NEA, the American Architectural Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. At each of its meetings, mayors present to each other the major design challenges confronting their cities. Architects and designers join in to identify possible solutions and ways of proceeding, heightening the design consciousness of the elected officials in so doing. To this audience, Harris spoke of the success of the Bloomberg Administration in creating public spaces and physical amenities that are not just cosmetic improvements. Participants in the New York City session included Mayor Carl Brewer of Wichita, KS; Mayor George K. Heartwell of Grand Rapids, MI; Mayor Lori C. Moseley of Miramar, FL; Mayor Joseph C. O’Brien of Worcester, MA; Mayor Dayne Walling of Flint, MI; Mayor A C Wharton, Jr of Memphis, TN; and Mayor Jay Williams of Youngstown, OH.

Structural changes in New York, according to its First Deputy Mayor, include the reinvigoration and empowerment of the Art Commission as the Public Design Commission, and the creation of the Design and Construction Excellence Program led by the NYC Department of Design + Construction. Such initiatives show that New York City has “embraced good design, going beyond just new construction.” Governors Island, in particular, was singled out as the “jewel of the harbor” in the same week that Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patterson announced the City’s new leadership in determining and managing its future.

Other achievements described included the creation of 693 acres of new parkland and the designation of more historic districts than in any prior administration. More than 100 rezoning actions have helped preserve neighborhoods and the 44 million square feet of commercial space in New York. The work of individual city agencies was spelled out in her remarks, intended largely for those coming from out of town who might not have noticed the DOT-created public spaces for pedestrians at Times Square and Herald Square. She spoke of the importance of culture to New York, saying that “cultural organizations contribute mightily to the quality of life in every neighborhood and are also large employers throughout the city.” Speaking more generally, she said that “our commitment is to go beyond business as usual and bring quality and commitment to the work of every city agency.”

Deputy Mayor Harris said that attention to design detail is important, that “sweating the small stuff matters not only in urban design, but even in the detailing of the full-length mirrors in the new Marriage Bureau.” Recalling her own marriage in the former facility in the Municipal Building, she said, “The Marriage Bureau used to be an experience brought to you by Franz Kafka, but now there are full-length mirrors.” She concluded by saying that there has been much discussion about the question: “What is the fate of commitment to good design during an economic downturn?” Responding to her own query she said: “The only answer it can be is that good design doesn’t have to be more expensive, it just has to be more good. In New York we’re investing for the long haul. The city will shine.”

Warning to All Legitimate Designers: New Show Will Infuriate You, Too

This week, Bravo TV launched the new reality show, “9 By Design.” Featuring two wealthy self-taught designers who flip homes and their seven children, I knew this would be a show I would love to hate. After cringing while watching the entire preview special and first episode, I’m sure I had the reaction Bravo was expecting from viewers.

The show follows the Novogratz family through the process of selling their current apartment and renovating a new home. It is obvious the couple tries very hard to follow trends, whether through their clothing or design. Bob’s assortment of woolen hats and Cortney’s graphic wrap dresses achieve the “Brooklyn Chic” they are currently going for in their designs. The home they are renovating, which is just north of Atelier Jean Nouvel’s new 100 11th Avenue and Gehry Partners’ IAC Headquarters, will feature a painted façade by British artist Richard Woods on the exterior with an IKEA kitchen on the interior. There are eight episodes this season, and throughout viewers will watch them build four projects, including a boutique hotel and a beach house. If only struggling architecture firms could be so lucky in this economic climate.

I don’t know what’s more infuriating about the show — watching Cortney tear through a home pointing frantically at random walls exclaiming they all need to be demolished, or listening to Bob’s quips and words of wisdom about design (“You can bring charm to any four walls,” and “Life’s not perfect. That’s our philosophy in life and design”). As a design professional who takes architecture very seriously, to watch the two of them proclaim how they simply have a knack for design and how easy it is if you put your mind to it, devalues the field in so many ways it is depressing. I found myself wanting something to go wrong to prove to them, and other viewers who may be inspired to haphazardly gut-renovate their apartments, that the field of architecture is much more complicated than reading up on the subject in magazines and getting rich friends to buy into the idea that you are idiot savants in the field.

I don’t know if I’ll last the whole season, but I know I’ll keep watching for the first disaster…

In this issue:
· Trump SoHo Goes SoHi
· Passaic River Inspires Conceptual Design for Visitor’s Center
· DC Opens First in a Series of New Libraries
· North Carolina Museum Vaults Open
· Canceled Building Gets New Life in Istanbul
· Five Rivers to Join at Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge

Trump SoHo Goes SoHi


Trump SoHo.

Handel Architects

The 46-story, 386,000-square-foot Trump SoHo New York, designed by Handel Architects, recently opened. Clad in a silver-and-glass curtain wall with skybox windows projecting from the façade, the hotel contains 391 guestrooms and suites and has more meeting and event space (including SoHi, an event space on the 46th floor) than any hotel in SoHo. Handel Architects also designed an adjacent landscaped urban plaza featuring a continuous green wall offset by a series of garden rooms. Other designers contributed to the interior spaces: Studio A designed Quattro Gastronomia Italiana; DIGuiseppe Architect designed The Spa at Trump and Bar d’Eau, a seasonal indoor-outdoor bar along the pool on the seventh-floor roof deck; Kastel designed an exclusive cocktail lounge; and the Rockwell Group designed the guestrooms, lobby, and library.

Passaic River Inspires Conceptual Design for Visitor’s Center


Newark Visitor’s Center.

di Dominico + Partners

The conceptual design competition for a new Visitor’s Center in Newark, NJ, was won by a team led by Long Island City-based di Dominico + Partners. The structure consists of an undulating green roof that is a metaphor for the Passaic River. The competition, sponsored by AIA Newark and Suburban Architects in conjunction with its Emerging Professionals and Young Architects Forum, called for a multi-use 13,435-square-foot building that would fit into the surrounding community and reflect the city’s diversity. Uses include an information center, auditorium, interactive display area, gallery space, conference room, café, and a gift shop. Second prize went to a team led by NY-based PLT Design, and fourth was won by a team led by super-interesting! of Brooklyn. Newark-born Richard Meier, FAIA, FRIBA, was honorary jury chairman.

DC Opens First in a Series of New Libraries


Benning Library.

Paúl Rivera — archphoto

The Benning Library, the first in a series of new flexible and open libraries in Washington, DC, recently opened. Designed by Davis Brody Bond Aedas, the building is terraced into the sloping terrain, allowing access from both Benning Road at the upper level and a commercial shopping area at the lower level. The two floors of the 22,000-square-foot, $12 million facility are connected by an interior public stair, which creates a space that encourages pedestrian circulation through the library to connect one elevation to another. The facility features community spaces on the lower level, including a 100-person, multi-purpose room, two 12-person conference rooms, and a public gathering and exhibition space. The upper level houses the library’s collection of books, DVDs, CDs, and other library materials. The upper level also features separate reading areas for adults, teens, and children, complete with a children’s program area. The firm was commissioned in 2007 by DC Public Library to design both the Benning Library and the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library, the latter of which is scheduled to open this summer.

North Carolina Museum Vaults Open


View of the Entry Canopy and Contemporary Galleries, North Carolina Museum of Art.

Photograph © Scott Frances; Courtesy the North Carolina Museum of Art

After a three-year expansion, the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA), designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners, will open to the public this week. Located on a 164-acre park in Raleigh, the single-story, 127,000-square-foot structure has a roofline defined by a rhythmic series of curves expressive of a system of vaults and coffers designed to bring daylight into the building. In addition to creating a significantly larger home for the collection, the new building, known as the West Building, also has multiple entries, a new restaurant, retail store, and other visitor amenities. The expansion project enables the NCMA’s 1983 East Building, designed by Edward Durell Stone, to become a center dedicated to temporary exhibitions, education, and public programs.

Canceled Building Gets New Life in Istanbul


Vakko Fashion Center and the Power Media Center.

REX Architecture took an abandoned skeleton of an unfinished hotel project in Istanbul and turned it into the now completed corporate headquarters for two sister companies — the Vakko Fashion Center and the Power Media Center. Construction began just four days after the firm received the commission because they were able to modify plans for the California Institute of Technology’s Annenberg Center, which had the same plan dimension, floor-to-floor height, and servicing concept, which had also recently been canceled. The project was divided into two structurally independent components — a U-shaped concrete structure, and the Ring, which contains a new, six-floor steel tower called the Showcase. The Ring houses flexible office space, and the Showcase includes an auditorium, showrooms, meeting rooms, and executive offices.

Five Rivers to Join at Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge


Xinjin Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge.

WXY Architecture

WXY Architecture and Weidlinger Associates have won the international design competition for the Xinjin Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge. Located in China’s Sichuan Province, the idea for the design reflects the location of the bridge at the confluence of five rivers. The 600-foot-long bridge, based on a double helix configuration, will have new bridge landings and plazas and an interactive lighting design. Rotterdam-based MVRDV, Glasgow-based OLA Architects, and Ty Lin Shanghai were short-listed in the competition.