Congresswoman Maloney Talks Transit

Event: Meet and Greet with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.22.10
Speaker: Carolyn Maloney — Congresswoman, 14th District
Sponsors: AIANY; AIA Queens


Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

Michael Toolan

For his first program, Jay Bond, AIANY’s new policy director, invited Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to address her legislative agenda as it pertains to the city’s massive infrastructure projects. “That she joined us early Monday morning after the historic vote on the health care bill,” said Bond, “is a testament to her commitment to her constituents and the city she represents.” Maloney represents the 14th District, on the East Side of Manhattan and western part of Queens. Whether or not you live in her district, you are almost certainly affected by the ambitious infrastructure projects — the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access, and the Outerboard Detour Roadway — taking place on both sides of the East River.

“We have to invest in our infrastructure and if we don’t go forward we’re going backwards,” stated Maloney. For New Yorkers, we are literally “digging our way out of the recession.” Building the Second Avenue Subway, which she called “a sad urban story,” eliciting both chuckles and sighs from the audience, has been one of her top priorities since she was first elected to Congress. Lexington Avenue subway riders commute on the most overcrowded line in the nation. The full-length subway, which will run from 125th Street to Lower Manhattan, will alleviate congestion and reach underserved East Side neighborhoods.

The East Side Access is underway and will create new tunnels and reuse existing ones to transport approximately 160,000 LIRR passengers, including 5,000 residents of western Queens, directly into Grand Central Station. A new station in Sunnyside is expected to act as a catalyst for economic development and growth in Long Island City, as well.

“We look jealously to the West Side of Manhattan,” Maloney noted. One project that could enhance the quality of life on the East Side is the Outerboard Detour Roadway (ODR). Along with a coalition of elected officials, she is urging the State Department of Environmental Conservation to extend the permits to retain the caissons in the East River, a holdover from when the FDR Drive was repaired. The development of the ODR — running roughly from the Con Ed site to the UN — will create parkland and trails for pedestrians and cyclists. She openly invited the Chapter to get involved in the planning.

Since architecture is tied to construction, one of the hardest hit sectors in today’s economy, Maloney stated she is seeing massive construction projects abroad funded by the Department of Defense. “NY sends a lot of money to the federal government,” she said, “and we need to get our share of the jobs.” NY-based architects need to become pre-qualified for these projects and Maloney invited a representative from the procurement department to come to the Center to go over the process with her.

Modernism Is Hurt by the Cuddle Factor

Event: Modernism by Choice: The Economy, Politics, and Sustainability of Preservation
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.20.10
Speakers: Grahm Balkany — Director, Gropius in Chicago Coalition; Jorge Hernandez — Architect, Co-Founder, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium; Michael Calafati, AIA — Principal, Historic Building Architects, Trenton, and Chair, AIA-NJ Historic Resources Committee; Victor Sidy, AIA — Dean, Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation; John Szabo — Director, Atlanta Public Library System
Moderators: Theodore Prudon, FAIA — President, DOCOMOMO US; Lisa Ackerman — Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, World Monuments Fund (WMF)
Repspondents: Frank Sanchis — Senior Vice-President, Municipal Art Society; Carl Stein, FAIA — Elemental Architecture, formerly of Marcel Breuer and Associates
Organizers: Center for Architecture in collaboration with WMF; DOCOMOMO US; DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State


Demolition of the Baumgarten Pavilion, 01.20.10.

©Grahm Balkany

Headlines about preservation battles don’t scream as loudly here as in England, but maybe they should. Like Sarasota’s Riverview High School and an alarming number of other Paul Rudolph buildings, as documented in the Center’s “Modernism at Risk” exhibition, an entire medical campus master-planned by Walter Gropius is slipping away. The news is better at other sites: Taliesin West is safe while enduring recurrent renovations; Hilario Candela’s Miami Marine Stadium has outlasted “demolition by neglect” and marshaled support; Eero Saarinen’s Bell Laboratories has a fighting chance of respectful re-use; and Breuer’s Central Public Library in Atlanta isn’t going anywhere, even if it doesn’t remain a library. But the experience of Grahm Balkany’s Gropius in Chicago Coalition provides a cautionary tale for anyone who values Modernism’s ideals and built legacy. The key to preservation: education, education, education.

Chicago’s Michael Reese Hospital campus included a total of 29 buildings, Balkany said, “more than half of great merit”; the Kaplan Pavilion, in particular, recalls the Dessau Bauhaus. Officially credited to several Chicago and Cambridge firms, the campus expressed the work and thought of Gropius — not just a hospital site in his eyes, but “an opportunity to create an entirely new neighborhood prototype for the U.S.” — and of his protégé Reginald Isaacs. Landscaping by Lester Collins, Hideo Sasaki, and others helped make the area a green enclave on the South Side.

Coveting the site for the 2016 Olympic Village, the city acquired the property, established demolition plans, and ignored the Coalition’s arguments that the Gropius campus, together with IIT’s Mies van der Rohe campus a few blocks away, created a uniquely valuable “Bauhaus District.” The case for preservation had multiple strengths: the hospital was functioning; the Olympics were awarded to Rio de Janeiro; and a host of commentators weighed in to support Balkany’s group, including the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council, which unanimously backed nomination of the campus to the National Register of Historic Places. Nevertheless, in October the city began demolishing buildings and clear-cutting the landscape. A plaque honoring Gropius, among other features, is now gone; all but one building are to follow.


Collection of American Design Reveals Purpose, Profit

Event: Annual Gil Oberfield Memorial Lecture — American Design in the MoMA Collection
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.25.10
Speakers: Russell Flinchum — Author, American Design
Organizers: AIANY Interiors Committee


Courtesy Museum of Modern Art

During the seventh annual Gil Oberfield lecture, Russell Flinchum — archivist, author, and curator — presented the content and thesis of his latest publication, American Design (The Museum of Modern Art/5 Continents, 2008), which he describes as an unrivaled research experience that was “a delight to have written.” An investigation into MoMA’s collection of American design, Flinchum’s book extracts the most representative pieces, albeit not always the most iconic, to determine what exactly is American about American design.

With a penchant for labor saving devices and a fascination with process, 20th-century American designers engendered functionalism and consumerism. “American design is commercial design from its inception,” Flinchum stated. Even Henry Ford’s popular Model T was outmoded when stylistic preference began to encroach upon a consumer population. As freedom of choice prevailed and multiple body styles became available, American auto enthusiasts embraced a culture of design, which spread to an entire nation.

In a post-war era, Ekco Housewares Co. began to produce kitchen tools that responded to consumer needs with innovations such as stainless steel to prevent rust, and the inclusion of a hole in the utensil handle by which to hang it from a nail. According to Flinchum, all-American designs are intrinsically compromises since they are consumer products and must yield a profit. A divergence from contemporary European design products, streamlined American designs of the 1930s left MoMA curators suspicious and reluctant to include American products into their collection. Later, enlightened by the purposeful aesthetic and prevalent usability of American design, the museum opened its door to welcome products of designers including Charles and Ray Eames, Henry Dreyfuss, Richard Kelly, and Russel Wright.

An enthusiast of American design and a champion of its merits, Flinchum has substantiated his premise that American design is inclusive of the objects that anchor our lives, such as the Trimline telephone and the Leatherman multi-tool prototype, worthy of their place in The Museum of Modern Art.

Ballon Reappraises Mayor Lindsay

Event: The New Urbanism of Mayor Lindsay: The Downtown Scene
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.31.10
Speakers: Hilary Ballon, Ph.D. — Deputy Vice Chancellor, NYU Abu Dhabi, & University Professor of Art History and Archaeology, NYU
Organizers: AIANY; NYU Grey Art Gallery; Fales Library


John Lindsay campaigning for mayor in Jamaica, Queens, 1965.

Photograph by Katrina Thomas, courtesy of the photographer, via the Museum of the City of New York

Casual readers of Hilary Ballon’s title could be fooled twice: there’s nothing here about the 1960s “downtown scene” in the Warhol sense, and no references to The New Urbanism as advocated later by Andrés Duany, FAIA. But a new kind of urbanism (uncapitalized) was brewing in those heady days under Mayor John Lindsay. An approach to policy that brings architects into public service and recognizes the critical effects of design on the quality of life, these concepts are now familiar enough in city-planning circles to seem transparent. However, when Lindsay took office in 1966, in the twilight of the Robert Moses era, they were innovations. They are among the many changes that appear, through historical excavations of Hilary Ballon, Ph.D., to be valuable long after the Lindsay era was dead and buried. Ballon’s work on Moses (editing Robert Moses and the Modern City along with Kenneth Jackson) did a great deal to complicate and rescue the reputation of that pivotal figure; she is now bringing a comparably balanced perspective to a very different metropolitan icon.

Mentioning the phrase “quality of life” in the same breath with Lindsay’s name is a guaranteed provocation for those who associate him with transit and garbage strikes and rising crime rates. Lindsay’s leadership is overdue for a reappraisal; it’s about to get one not only from Ballon, but from the Museum of the City of New York, which will mount an exhibition called “The Lindsay Years” this May, along with a day-long symposium, a book edited by Sam Roberts of the Times, and a WNET documentary. Lindsay couldn’t deflect every social storm that battered NY, but some of his less-heralded accomplishments helped the city eventually become, once again, not only governable but worth inhabiting.

Lindsay took the heat for, among other things, a host of problems he’d inherited from predecessor Robert Wagner. Largely unrecognized in this picture is the paradigm shift he generated by making the design of public spaces an institutional priority. “Moses didn’t regard design as a matter of public policy,” Ballon noted. At the peak of his power, even some of the strongest legacies of “the good Moses,” such as his myriad playgrounds, took a cookie-cutter approach to design. Under Lindsay, whose campaign made urban design a prominent component of his platform, the city got Richard Dattner, FAIA’s Adventure Playground, a park-use policy under August Heckscher and Thomas Hoving, Hon. AIA, that made Central Park a “space for happenings,” and an explicit recognition of pedestrians’ right to street space. We got Battery Park City, built on downtown landfill, with new rules preserving visual corridors and pedestrian paths. Most important in the long run, we got the City Planning Commission’s Urban Design Group, an architectural and infrastructural brain trust that pioneered tools such as bonus zoning and air-rights transfer, all guided by a philosophy of using zoning, as Ballon said, “to create public benefits, not just restrict harms.”

Though Moses was largely defanged by then, it must be noted, we also nearly got his long-planned Lower Manhattan Expressway (LoMEx). Lindsay first campaigned against it, but after taking office reversed course and supported it, assigning the Urban Design Group to come up with a plan less intrusive than Moses’s massive elevated roadway. The group brought architect Shadrach Woods back to NY from housing-project work in France in 1968, “committed,” as Richard Buford’s invitation letter declared, “to the proposition that the expressway not be a scar on the body of the city.” Woods produced feasibility studies incorporating immense sociological data on SoHo residents and businesses, all aimed at mitigating neighborhood conflicts and preserving the area’s cast-iron architecture. Even in attempting to implement LoMEx, Ballon noted, Lindsay’s team thought progressively about how it might be a positive influence, a mixed-use project including replacement housing, not just another neighborhood-killing car conduit like the Cross-Bronx Expressway.

Veterans of Lindsay’s City Hall and the Urban Design Group spoke spontaneously as well, including Jordan Gruzen, FAIA; Terrance Williams; Lance Jay Brown, FAIA; and former mayoral chief of staff Jay Kriegel. All recalled the era as a formative period in their careers and an unsung heyday in the city’s development. Ballon quoted Ada Louise Huxtable, Hon. AIA, writing of Lindsay’s group in a 1971 Times piece with her customary prescience, hailing “a revolution going on in American cities: in conceptual, legal, and administrative aspects of zoning that sets such innovative patterns of land use that it will change whole parts of cities as we know them. Don’t write off the revolution because it is being made by men in business suits at City Hall.”

Sensual Sustainability Grows in Shanghai

Event: The Sensual City
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.12.10
Speakers: Jacques Ferrier — Principal, Jacques Ferrier Architectures
Organizer: Center for Architecture


France Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo.

©Jacques Ferrier architectures/image Ferrier Production

French architect Jacques Ferrier doesn’t believe in the term “sustainable architecture,” instead embracing the idea of “architecture for a sustainable society,” he explained. It may seem like a fine distinction, but it’s key to understanding his approach. Consider, for example, his eponymous firm’s design of the France Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo, which opens next month.

The pavilion was designed as a reaction against the architecture of some of Shanghai’s satellite cities, which focus more on energy-efficiency than beauty, Ferrier noted, as he showed a photo of one with boxy buildings and a bland, empty park. “Even if these buildings are really efficient in terms of energy, these are cities without quality,” he remarked.

By contrast, the France Pavilion will offer a vision of the “Sensual City,” both through its exhibitions on the topic and through the architecture itself, which is surrounded by a pool of water and features a lush vertical garden that acts as a brise-soleil. A steel frame grid is clad with glass-reinforced concrete elements that look like a light white mesh on the exterior, which provides structural support and allows natural light to penetrate. The design sprang from the “idea of a new urbanism where there is no clear difference, no clear limit between architecture and landscape,” according to Ferrier. As visitors enter a courtyard waiting area, breezes from the pool and shadows will offer a rejuvenating sense of coolness during a warm time of year, while music and the views and smells of the vertical garden will engage the senses. Once visitors make their way into the building and through the exhibitions, they will emerge onto a verdant rooftop, a reinterpretation of the traditional French garden.

The pavilion also features solar panels, like many other of the firm’s projects, such as a sailing museum in Lorient, France, and an office building in Grenoble. Beyond the panels’ obvious benefits for energy generation, their aesthetic possibilities intrigue Ferrier, too. His firm received a grant to research new types of solar panels, whose wide range of colors offer appealing design choices, he remarked. It’s an emphasis that embodies well his firm’s focus on architecture that’s sustainable in a way that’s highly aesthetic, not ascetic.

Five Proposals for NYC’s Shoreline Blur Land & Sea

Event: Preview of “Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront”
Location: Museum of Modern Art, 03.23.10
Speaker: Barry Bergdoll — The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art
Organizer: Museum of Modern Art


Architecture Research Office and dlandstudio’s New Urban Ground transforms Lower Manhattan with an infrastructural ecology.

Courtesy Architecture Research Office and dlandstudio

If calculations are correct, the sea-level around NYC will rise two feet within the next 50 years, and up to four or six feet within the century. Many parts of the city and surrounding areas could be swallowed. Whether or not one believes in climate change, natural disasters, such as hurricanes, could easily overwhelm the city’s current infrastructure. MoMA and P.S.1 teamed up to find solutions for New York Harbor by hosting an “architects-in-resident” program at P.S.1 (11.16.09-01.08.10).

On View through 10.11.10 at MoMA, “Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront” features the resulting five proposals, in the form of elaborate drawings and articulate models, for five different zones around the harbor. Organizer Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, said that the multi-disciplinary teams “came to us not with projects, but philosophies.” They were instructed to design without the constraints of property lines or governing administrations. The five proposals shouldn’t be viewed as a master plan, Bergdoll explained, since they aren’t meant to be executed altogether.

Zone 0: A New Urban Ground, includes Lower Manhattan and the northern edge of the Upper Bay. Architecture Research Office/ARO and dlandstudio imagined a combination of “hard” and “soft” solutions, reclaiming nature by creating wetlands and parks and paving streets with a cast-concrete mesh and plants that act as a sponge to absorb tidewater. Rather than employ a traditional barrier such as a seawall, Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis/LTL Architects embraced the ambiguity of the shoreline in Zone 1: Water Proving Ground, which includes the Northwest Palisade Bay/Hudson River area in NJ (Liberty State Park/Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty). By sculpting an existing landfill, the team created four protective “raised fingers” that foster areas for parks, aquaculture, recreation, and research.

Occupied by an oil-tank farm and military pier, Zone 2: Working Waterline, includes the Southwest Palisade Bay/Kill van Kull area (Bayonne, NJ, Bayonne Piers, and northern Staten Island). Matthew Baird Architects’ proposal acknowledges that changing shipping routes due to shifts in the Arctic could “reshape the economy of New York Harbor as much as higher sea levels will reshape the contours of the land.” They employ a land berm for protection, an elevated “solar path” for vehicles and pedestrians, and a new glass recycling facility to produce large “jacks” that can be stacked underwater to create a reef. nARCHITECTS tackled Zone 3: New Aqueous City: A Zoning Ordinance for a Regional Metropolis, which includes the South Palisade Bay/Verrazano Narrows area (eastern Staten Island, Bay Ridge, and Sunset Park). In this proposal, the city and water co-exist through habitable piers and a connecting network of ferries. A manmade archipelago and inflatable storm barriers allow the shore to build natural resilience to storm surges.

SCAPE/LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE proposes revitalizing an old oyster reef in Zone 4: Oyster-Tecture, which includes the controversial Northeast Palisade Bay/Buttermilk Channel and Gowanus Canal area (Governors Island and Red Hook). A field of piles and a web of “fuzzy rope” provide seeding ground for oysters, which naturally create reefs and clean the harbor water. Someday, residents might even be able to enjoy an oyster dinner by the shore.

A recurring theme in this exhibition is “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Working against nature by physically blocking the water will not breed success; instead, infrastructure and architecture should embrace the sea and establish harmony. These projects are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg; but Bergoll hopes that they will foster an ongoing dialogue: the exhibition’s website describes the projects in detail and is open for public comment.

Ravitch List


NY Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravich.

Rick Bell, FAIA

On Friday, 03.26.10, New York State Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch addressed a well-attended breakfast meeting of the New York Building Congress (NYBC) at the Hilton on Sixth Avenue. After introductions by NYBC President Richard Anderson and Chairman Peter A. Marchetto, Ravitch started by saying that he “once thought that the politics of getting something built in NY was difficult, but now I know that it’s a piece of cake” compared with getting the state budget approved. He explained that “for many years NY has balanced its budget with one-shots — that’s to say with asset sales or bonds.” Ravitch, a former builder (at HRH) and MTA chair, continued: “We’re running out of assets to sell. This is not a sustainable course of action.” He explained that Medicaid costs are going up in double digits and revenues are down despite the recovery of Wall Street: “We’re still way off from where we were in 2007.”

Stimulus funding was described as “two years of one-shots.” Ravitch pointed out that the state surcharge on income tax expires next year. The metaphor used by the lieutenant governor was that of a looming precipice: “We’ve built the cliff higher and higher off of which we will fall when there are no more one-shots.” He warned that the growth of our revenues is significantly behind the growth of our expenditures, and that gap is growing every year. “It is a dilemma for those elected to public office who are used to optimism and growth. Reality is beginning to sink in — it ain’t gonna happen,” he said, “and therefore we have to rethink what goes into a state budget and impose discipline on the Governor and the Legislature.”

Ravitch went into detail describing the Executive Budget, which includes revenues from taxes on income, cigarettes, and the sale of wine in grocery stores. But, he noted, the state Legislature is not disposed to adding any taxes, which will mean that more cuts are needed. Therefore, Ravitch proposed several new ideas as part of a five-year financial plan, including the creation of a Financial Review Board, with the goal of getting to a real balanced budget and going to a modified gap accounting system. With verbal flair disguising hard-nosed fiscal acumen he explained the difference between budgeting on an accrual rather than a cash basis of accounting, declaring a need to avoid moving money from one year to another without any budgetary constraints.

The idea of borrowing money, one of the proposals from the Lieutenant Governor, was not without controversy. He stated, “the imagination of the financial services industry is limitless. It’s all about taking from the future to pay for today’s problems.” Ravitch recalled the days when he didn’t pay a lot of attention to Albany, explaining that “there is an opaqueness about what happens in Albany,” and that “it is hard to get the information out” despite that fact the “what the state does and doesn’t do will have a very dramatic impact on our lives…. The preservation of public infrastructure is at stake, and that education is similarly state-supported, with the state paying the lion’s share of a viable public education program.” He added, “Health is the same, with funds for public health clinics coming through the Health and Hospitals Corporation.” He also noted that this is the second year in a row that the state has had to eliminate its road and bridge program.

The speech was a literal call for “public involvement and public awareness, needed at a level that we’ve never had before.” He pleaded for more involvement in Albany, saying, “There is a human cost to cutting services, particularly in health and education.” He concluded by saying that during the next few weeks the Executive Branch of the state government will be working very intensely: “I can candidly say that the state runs out of cash on June 1st, so there must be a budget by then.”

During the subsequent question and answer period, Anderson replied that everybody “can do something on this subject, starting with talking with public officials. We cannot let this subject go un-discussed.” For more detail on Anderson’s response, see the NYBC website, Luckily, the AIA New York State Lobby Day takes place on Tuesday, 04.20.10, and the budgetary priorities of necessary spending for educational facilities, infrastructure, and public transit are very much on the table. Our delegation will be lead by AIANY President Tony Schirripa, FAIA, IIDA, and President-elect Margaret Castillo, AIA, LEED AP. For more information about local advocacy on State policy issues, contact AIANY Policy Director Jay Bond at “It’s important that, as a profession, we follow developments the state budget–and that, as architects, we let our concerns be known to the lawmakers of New York,” reminded Tony Schirripa, FAIA. “Architects don’t practice in a bubble. We work in New York.”

What About the Bronx?


Bathgate Educational Campus (left); Bronx Prep Charter School.

Andrea Barley (left); Cinthia Cedeno

I gave a lecture a few weeks ago at the annual conference of the Historic Districts Council, at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. I showed about 100 photos, a small fraction of the 40,000 we’ve snapped during the last two years of preparing the upcoming new edition of the AIA Guide to New York City. I included old and new projects from southern Tottenville to Tribeca, Battery Park to Bayside, but neglected to include images of the Bronx; there simply wasn’t time. During the question-and-answer session, one fellow rightly asked, “What about the Bronx?”

The truth is, much significant new work has been built in the Bronx since the Guide’s last edition in 2000, and that section of the book has been radically altered to include dozens of these new projects. Of course, there have always been architectural delights in the Bronx. Among my favorites are the bucolic assemblage of mansions in Riverdale known as “Wave Hill”(now a garden and cultural center), the ranks of majestic Art-Deco apartment blocks up and down the Grand Concourse, Stanford White’s and Marcel Breuer’s classical and Modernist masterpieces at Bronx Community College in University Heights, and the industrial behemoths of the South Bronx, especially McKim, Mead & White’s Bronx Grit Chamber and Kirby, Petit & Green’s American Bank Note Company. The South Bronx, of course, has been notoriously crumbling for generations, long emblematic of a failed experiment in post-war public housing and urban renewal in the wake of post-war suburban migration. So we were pleased to find a largely re-energized South Bronx, fun to explore and fun (for a change) to write about. Leading the rebirth is a group of innovative schools designed by local architects.

The Bathgate Educational Campus, by John Ciardullo Associates, on Bathgate Avenue, just west of Crotona Park, is neo-Constructivist, with walls in startling colors sharply dividing three separate high schools within. Right around the corner on 3rd Avenue is Peter Gluck and Partners’ Bronx Prep Charter School. Gluck, designer of the equally impressive East Harlem School, uses primary colors and everyday materials (sheet metal siding, for instance) to vividly express the various functions within. Heading south (three non-scenic miles by car along the Cross Bronx and Bruckner Expressways, or two miles on foot, using the southern edge of Crotona Park as a shortcut) is WXY Architecture’s Bronx Charter School for the Arts, on a rather unlikely site along an industrial swath of Longfellow Avenue. We were so happy to find this project that we described it this way in the new Guide: “Hooray! Another great new school! This one uses natural light and colored brick to transform an existing factory building.” After so many years of architectural misery in the South Bronx, when design was often implicated in the destruction of communities, who among us would not rejoice at the arrival of this zesty group: scholarly architecture for budding scholars. Hooray, indeed!

Note: The AIA Guide to New York City, Fifth Edition, will be released on 06.07.10 by Oxford University Press, and can be pre-ordered at There will also be a launch party at the Center for Architecture 06.02.10 to celebrate the publication.

Rising Currents Raises the Bar


Gallery view of “Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront” at MoMA, on view 03.24-10.11.10.

Photograph by Jason Mandella. ©The Museum of Modern Art

I have been following the Palisades Bay project since it won the 2007 Latrobe Prize. In studying New York Harbor, the team — Guy Nordenson, Stan Allen, AIA, Catherine Seavitt, James Smith, Michael Tantala, Adam Yarinsky, FAIA, and Stephen Cassell, AIA — researched the effects of rising sea levels using technological analysis and modeling. Then, they issued a series of proposals that incorporated sustainable strategies (from algae farms to artificial archipelagos) to mitigate harmful effects of the elevated water levels. Now, MoMA and P.S.1 have expanded the proposal by asking five teams to further develop different sites around the harbor. The result is on view at MoMA in the “Rising Currents” exhibition (See “Five Proposals for NYC’s Shoreline Blur Land & Sea,” by Murrye Bernard, in this issue of e-Oculus). [INSERT LINK]

Both the 2-D and 3-D representations of the proposals in the exhibition are exciting to see as they give strong visuals to some of the ideas introduced by Palisades Bay. However, I left the exhibition not fully convinced that all of the proposals would work in practice (although that was not entirely the point). The Palisades Bay project provided a firm grounding for the explorations, but I wish the exhibition presented more of the thought processes behind the individual proposals. Through an architects-in-residence program at P.S.1 from November 2009-January 2010, Architecture Research Office/ARO with dlandstudio; Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis/LTL Architects; Matthew Baird Architects; nARCHITECTS; and SCAPE/LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE only had three months to develop their ideas. I would like to see what the teams could come up with given more time.

According to the Rising Currents website, MoMA and P.S.1 created the program to capitalize on “available talent” to explore ideas during this economic recession. This seems a little exploitative to me, and I wonder why that was part of the impetus for this exhibition. Why would it take a recession for MoMA to ask for sustainable ideas?

Nevertheless, the point of the exhibition — the inaugural of a series called “Issues in Contemporary Architecture” at MoMA — is to bring awareness of current urban issues to the public, and for that “Rising Currents” can spark the imagination of any visitor. From SCAPE’s oyster beds in the Gowanus Canal (which left me wondering if anyone would ever really be able to eat an oyster fresh out of the polluted water) to nARCHITECT’s upside-down residential blocks (stepping away from the water instead of traditional setbacks on top of buildings), some of the ideas are pretty radical. Large-scale models include ARO and dlandstudio’s east/west slice of Lower Manhattan showing the streets flooded like Venice canals up to the 9/11 Memorial Pools. LTL’s model shows conditions of the soft edge and serrated shoreline in NJ as it goes from low and high tides to a severe storm surge.

The success of this exhibition may be measured by the affect it will have on instigating change in sustainable practices in the harbor. Ultimately, I hope to see some of the ideas put to practice.

In this issue:

· A New Jewel in NY’s Green Necklace Opens in Brooklyn
· The Public Theater Speaks the Speech
· Brooklyn School Gets an “A” for Banning Beige
· A Salon Designed With Colorists in Mind
· Institute Hall Completes Science Quad at RIT
· NJ’s Gold Coast Gets Richer

A New Jewel in NY’s Green Necklace Opens in Brooklyn


Pier 1 at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

Six acres of open space recently opened at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park, designed by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, includes 1,300 feet of promenade along the East River and 2.5 acres of lawn. Sustainable features include 300 pieces of reused granite from the Roosevelt Island Bridge to create the Granite Prospect, a tiered viewing deck. Stones from the Willis Avenue Bridge that was replaced in 2007 were placed along the western edge of Pier 1 to prevent sediment on the river bottom from washing away with currents and also provide support to the existing bulkhead. Clean bulk fill salvaged from Long Island Railroad drilling operations for the East Side Access project lies beneath the soil. Reclaimed lumber from demolished structures on the site was used for dam construction and park benches. Storm-water retention tanks for park irrigation, green roofs, the restoration of a wildlife habitat for local birds, and a manmade salt marsh to provide a naturalistic shoreline while creating a biologically productive tidal ecosystem are also included.

The Public Theater Speaks the Speech


The Public Theater.

Polshek Partnership Architects

The Public Theater recently held a ceremonial groundbreaking for renovations that have been in the works for more than 10 years. Polshek Partnership Architects is transforming the 19th-century building to include an expanded and refurbished lobby; an exterior entrance staircase with two ADA-accessible ramps and a glass covered canopy; a complete restoration of the historic brownstone façade; HVAC systems upgrade; an expanded and centrally located box office; a new mezzanine level including a community room/lounge with a capacity for 150 people; improved and expanded concessions service; and improved street visibility with six new poster boxes and exterior lighting. In conjunction with NYC’s Percent for Art program, the theater will incorporate media artist Ben Rubin’s “Shakespeare Machine,” a display screen installation that will cycle continuously through the text of Shakespeare’s plays and will be organized as a series of compositions, with no composition ever repeating twice.

Brooklyn School Gets an “A” for Banning Beige


The Achievement First Endeavor Charter School.

©Peter Mauss/Esto

The 71,000-square-foot former factory building that houses the Achievement First Endeavor Charter School in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, is a result of the re-use and renovation of existing structures designed by Rogers Marvel Architects (RMA). Pentagram, in collaboration with RMA, recently designed a series of environmental graphics for the building that was completed in January 2010. Based on a series of motivational slogans used by the school’s teachers, the graphics appear as a series of equations (“Education = Choice,” “Education = Freedom”) in the halls, around the perimeter of the gymnasium, and up a pre-cast concrete stair; they are also visible from the street. In rooms like the cafeteria, bands of color are used to define and enhance the architecture, creating an illusion of depth that expands the space. The project also features a skylit cafeteria and a rooftop play space. The school is supported by the Robin Hood Foundation.

A Salon Designed With Colorists in Mind


Vasken Salon.

Photo by Stan Wan

MSK Design Group has created the first boutique salon for hairstylist Vasken, in the Trump Building in White Plains. The 1,8000-square-foot salon specializes in color — color classes, training, and techniques — and was specifically designed to assure the accuracy of hair color design. A clean, white sheet of paper was a primary influence for the design of the salon; dashes of red and glossy geometric shapes punctuate the interior and showcase the salon’s floating ceiling, composed of white cylinders that allow for a glowing diffusion of soft, ambient light.

Institute Hall Completes Science Quad at RIT


Institute Hall at RIT.

Francis Cauffman

Francis Cauffman and Rochester-based Bergmann Associates have been selected by Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to design Institute Hall, a $26-million research building that will complete the school’s science quadrangle. The four-story, 78,000-square-foot structure will house RIT’s departments of chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, and chemistry, and contain wet research labs, classrooms, a small vivarium, and RIT-Rochester General Health System Alliance facilities. Most of the buildings on RIT’s Modernist campus — with buildings designed by Hugh Stubbins & Associates, Roche Dinkeloo and Associates, Edward Larabee Barnes, and Harry Weese and Associates, among others — are solid red brick masses with dark glass. Institute Hall has a transparent, glazed core that is wrapped in a red brick shell. As part of the school’s campus-wide commitment to sustainability in its curricula, research, and physical environment, the project anticipates receiving at least a LEED Silver rating.

NJ’s Gold Coast Gets Richer


Garden Street Lofts.

Photo by Seong Kwon

Hoboken’s Garden Street Lofts, designed by SHoP Architects has received LEED Gold certification, becoming NJ’s only LEED Gold certified high-rise residential building. Completed in the fall of 2009, the seven-story project containing 30 residences consists of the renovation and conversion of a five-story, 35,400-square-foot former coconut warehouse originally constructed in 1911, and a five-story, 31,600-square-foot addition on an adjacent site with two new additional floors bridging the old and new structures. Numerous sustainable features include a sedum-covered green roof planted with native and non-native species, which allows for the absorption of water and reduces the building’s reflectivity. The façade’s custom fabricated zinc panel system is a pre-weathered metal requiring no treatment such as painting or other coatings, and it absorbs and reflects light.