The Little Backstage House


12 Charles Lane (left); Penthouse on Charles Street.

Fran Leadon

The fifth edition of the AIA Guide to New York City includes hundreds of new projects built since the last edition in 2000. Among them are the large-scale projects and some big-name, obvious choices: Michael Van Valkenburgh’s Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Polshek Partnership’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, Gehry Partners’ IAC Center, Atelier Jean Nouvel’s 40 Mercer Street, and Peter Gluck & Partners’ Bronx Prep Charter School. The late Norval White, FAIA, and I compiled lengthy lists of buildings and parks. I would then visit them, take photos and notes, and we would write and edit each other’s text for the new Guide. Those lists of projects were generated mostly from studying Architectural Record, the New York Times, The Architect’s Newspaper,, and Metropolis. But some of the most interesting, new projects are the ones that didn’t get much publicity and were happened upon by chance.

Take, for instance, a tiny jewel of a project in the West Village I discovered, quite by accident, during the summer of 2008. Designed by the firm Christoff:Finio and completed just prior to my visit, the project is a mod version of the traditional carriage house, incorporating fragments of a burned-out 150-year-old masonry shed. Facing narrow, shady, often muddy, cobble-stoned Charles Lane, it is wedged among projects that have received more than their share of press: Asymptote’s 166 Perry Street, Richard Meier & Partners Architects’ triplet towers (165, 173, and 176 Perry Street), and one block north, the Hotel California-like Palazzo Chupi by artist Julian Schnabel (described in the new Guide as “an eruption of competing balconies and faux-Venetian details”). Christoff:Finio’s carriage house is a taut, icy, bluish grey cube sheathed in glass at the second floor and beautifully crafted bent steel louvers at the ground floor. It is an inconspicuous project, backstage amid its more theatrical, look-at-me neighbors.

I snapped some photos, noted the address, and moved on (I was on my way to photograph the multi-leveled wonders of Schnabel). But I was curious enough to write the project a letter, addressed simply to “12 Charles Lane.” I asked the owner for some necessary details so I could include it in the new Guide: who, what, why, and when? I didn’t hear anything in reply, and eventually my letter came back to me in the mail, marked “no such address.” No such address? Talk about inconspicuous!

Then last fall the project won an AIA award, and only then did I finally know the name of the designers: the 10-year-old partnership of Martin Finio, AIA, and Taryn Christoff. Finio, who teaches at Yale, worked for years in the office of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, and the influence is obvious in his treatment of slick materials and surfaces. The same firm, it turns out, had designed the boxy penthouse addition to a mid-19th-century neo-Greco row house fronting Charles Street; the carriage house was the backyard. I had noticed the penthouse many times before (it was finished in 2004) and didn’t think it fit very comfortably onto its masonry rooftop. But their carriage house fits beautifully into its backstage context and doesn’t brag about it. I wonder what it’s like on the inside?

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. To RSVP, click here.

ICFF Still Lives in a World of Excess

I was interested to see how the economy has affected the global furniture industry this past weekend as I attended the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF). While the whole show was scaled back — it did not take up as much space, and I noticed the absence of the ICFF tote bags — I was disappointed in how few booths indicated any consideration for new, creatively cheaper ways to develop the craft. I know the ICFF does not usually cater to the financially challenged, but among the typical limited-edition, high-end furniture, I expected more for less.

The one group that did seem to be considering an economy of means was the British European Design Group. From Qurz Inc’s recycled paper bowls to Papillon Designs’ furniture and light fixtures made from repurposed blue jeans, it is apparent the British are not immune to the recession. There were other exceptions, too, including Tim Byrne’s inventive and pragmatic tables made from re-used industrial mill machinery, and BRC Designs’ furniture, which included a chair made from used Las Vegas decks of cards and a couch made from old zippers and silk ties (although the price point for all of the furniture is much higher than most can afford these days).

Highlights for me included the booths set up by Pratt and Parsons The New School. At Pratt, students explored industrial design that featured different cultures. Fernanda Fajardo chose to transform tires with twine in a “do-it-yourself” musical instrument referencing New York’s HardCore culture. At Parsons, Chelsea Briganti’s “Mademoicell” was a kit of test tube-like devices made from medical-grade silicone that women may collect and store their own stem cells from menstrual blood.

Material ConneXion’s booth stood out (as it usually does at ICFF) as a testing board for innovative, sustainable, and new affordable materials. This year, the company teamed with Puma and designer Yves Béhar to create more sustainable packaging that supposedly will save more than 60% of paper and water annually compared to typical packaging. Cleverly, the bags on display stated “I’m half the bag I used to be.” Material ConneXion was also introducing ActiveMATTER, a box with 15 selected materials with technical information that they ship to subscribers quarterly.

Overall, ICFF seems to have changed very little from last year. Perhaps the furniture industry is in a rut; perhaps the more innovative designs are currently on hold until the economy recovers. No doubt, though, ICFF could use a refresh. Maybe next year…

In this issue:
· The New School Expands on Fifth Avenue
· One Isn’t the Loneliest Number
· MAP Continues to Make Its Mark in Melrose
· Two by TEN
· Fresh Fish, Sticky Rice, and CNC Fabrication
· Jewish Museum Berlin is Expanding Across the Strasse

The New School Expands on Fifth Avenue


The University Center.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

The New School has plans to create a major new 16-story, 365,000-square-foot campus hub, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, on Fifth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets. Named The University Center, it replaces a structure designed as a department store in 1951. The first seven floors will contain specialized design studios, interdisciplinary classrooms, university resource centers, faculty offices, and laboratories in addition to an auditorium, library, dining facilities, and student gathering spaces; the first floor and below-grade floors will house retail space. The top nine floors will house a 608-bed dormitory that will have a separate entrance. The school’s partners on the project include The Durst Organization, Tishman Construction, and SLCE Architects, who designed the dormitory interiors. Construction is scheduled to begin this August and the building is expected to open for the Fall 2013 semester.

One Isn’t the Loneliest Number


Theater for One.

Times Square Alliance

Theater for One (T41), conceived by set designer Christine Jones and developed into its architectural form by LOT/EK, is an intimate space created for experiencing theater. Located in Duffy Square, this four-by-nine-foot portable, fully operational theater is created for one audience member and one performer. With separate entrances, the audience half references the iconography of Baroque theaters and opera houses and is lined with red padded velvet, while the performer’s side is intentionally raw so it can be transformed as needed for magic, poetry, dance, puppetry, and theater pieces created for the venue. T41 uses “road box” technology to configure a system where connected and detachable units for the black box theater allow for the different sets. Presented by the Times Square Public Art Program, T41 will be open to the public until 05.23.10.

MAP Continues to Make Its Mark in Melrose


El Jardin de Selene.

Magnusson Architecture and Planning

El Jardin de Selene, a mixed-use affordable housing project, designed by Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP), recently opened in the Melrose section of the Bronx. Mindful of the rich architectural heritage of the Bronx, Art Deco elements were incorporated into the design. The 12-story building contains studio, one-, and two-bedroom rental units, and residents have access to over 2,000 square feet of community space, including green roofs at the second floor courtyard and ninth floor setback. The building also features 6,000 square feet of commercial space and more than 12,000 square feet of structured parking. In addition to receiving a LEED Gold rating, the building is NYSERDA Energy Star certified and Enterprise Green Communities compliant. Sustainable strategies include daylight and occupancy sensors in common areas, bamboo flooring, and solar panels on the roof. The project is a joint venture of Nos Quedamos, MJM Construction Services, and Melrose Associates, under the financial guidance of Forsyth Street Advisors.

Two by TEN


Rutgers Business School (left) and the National Laboratory of Genomics.

Photo by Luis Gordoa

The new facility for the Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick on the Livingston Campus in Piscataway, NJ, has be given the green light for construction to begin in late spring 2011. Designed by Enrique Norten/TEN Arquitectos, the 156,000-square-foot project will feature classrooms, lecture halls, instructional labs, meeting spaces, student lounges, faculty offices, a business library, and a trading floor, and is expected to be completed by the fall semester of 2013.

The firm has also completed the first construction phase for the National Laboratory of Genomics, which is part of an extension to the Institute of Agricultural Studies in Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico. Nestled within a built-up artificial topography, the institution happens to be sited on a fault line that divides the program in half, with laboratories on one side and an auditorium and administrative spaces on the other, and a paved courtyard in between.

Fresh Fish, Sticky Rice, and CNC Fabrication


Moc Moc.

Fabian Birgfeld, PHOTOtectonics

MoC MoC is a new, 2,400-square-foot restaurant in a building being renovated in downtown Princeton. The project, designed by NYC-based GRO Architects, features a ceiling and wall system that that functions as both infrastructure and an architectural effect. A curvilinear system of mahogany wood slats is used to organize the main dining area into a series of alcoves formed as the ceiling slats curve down to create screen partitions. This system is also essential to the operations of the restaurant as it houses retractable privacy screens, conceals glowing linear LED lights, organizes speakers and sprinkler heads, and functions as a fresh air diffuser. The restaurant also includes a sushi bar at the rear of the first floor, and a chef’s table in the private dining room adjacent to the kitchen on the lower level. The project was developed parametrically to allow for variations in the geometry and a seamless output to CNC fabrication.

Jewish Museum Berlin is Expanding Across the Strasse


Jewish Museum Berlin Library Cube.

P Rendering by bromsky, © Jewish Museum Berlin

Plans for the Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum Berlin Academy to house the museum’s archives, library, and education center were recently revealed. Located across from the existing museum complex, the academy will be built on the site of the 19th-century Berlin Flower Market and an existing hall. The design features a tilted cube that penetrates the outer wall of the hall creating a counterpart to the museum’s main Baroque entrance. Visitors will enter the academy through an opening in the entrance cube, which leads to the hall where two more cubes tilt towards each other containing a lecture hall, library, and packing crates filled with documents and artifacts sent to the museum from around the world. Clad in rough timber board, the cubes are meant to recall Noah’s Ark. The exterior walls are clad with titan zinc-plate panels and skylights form an alef and a bet, the first letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The project expected to be completed by fall of 2011.

In this issue:
· AIANY, MoMA Tour New York Harbor
· AIA Formally Announces Switch to Architect
· Ayers Appointed Architect of the Capitol
· Candidates for AIA National Offices Answer Questions

AIANY, MoMA Tour New York Harbor
Guy Nordensen’s “On the Water” project keeps coming back to the AIA. First, it won the Latrobe Prize in 2007, giving Nordenson, Catherine Seavitt Studio, and Architecture Research Office $100,000 to research their ideas about how to mitigate sea level rise in NYC. Their final project “On the Water: Palisade Bay” won a 2010 AIANY Design Award in the Unbuilt category. Meanwhile, their research spawned another major initiative with the Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1: Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront. Last winter, five design teams were tasked to further investigate the effects of rising sea levels on New York Harbor, and offer potential solutions.

While being selected for the P.S.1 residency was a competitive process, once the teams were selected, each worked on a project in one of five zones. Zone 0, Lower Manhattan, was led by Architecture Research Office and dlandstudio. Zone 1, around Liberty State Park in New Jersey, was led by Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis Architects. Zone 2 looked at Kill Van Kull and Bayonne, and was led by Matthew Baird Architects. nARCHITECTS explored Zone 3, which ran from Sunset Park through Bay Ridge to Staten Island. Finally, Zone 4, looking at Gowanus Canal and Buttermilk Channel, was led by Kate Orff, ASLA, of SCAPE.

This Friday, 05.21.10, the teams will set sail on a boat chartered by the Center for Architecture and MoMA. While the group cruises from zone to zone, team leaders will talk about their projects in the context of the water itself. Tickets for this one-night-only event are available online through 05. 20.10. Visit AIANY’s calendar for more information.

The results of their residency are on view at the Museum of Modern Art through 10.11.10.

AIA Formally Announces Switch to Architect
On 05.11.10, the American Institute of Architects formally announced its new partnership with Hanley Wood. The five-year agreement will make Hanley Wood’s Architect magazine the official magazine of AIA National, replacing Architectural Record. In the contract, effective 01.01.11, Hanley Wood will be responsible for not only a magazine, but for leveraging print, online, the AIA convention, and digital platforms to better serve AIA membership. In addition to a print version of Architect, AIA members will receive online versions of residential architect, EcoHome, and Eco-Structure. Read more about the agreement here.

Ayers Appointed Architect of the Capitol
After serving as interim architect of the capitol for three years, on 05.12.10, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Stephen Ayers, AIA, to be Architect of the Capitol. Since 1876, the Architect of the Capitol has been responsible for maintaining and improving the U.S. Capitol and its grounds, including Congressional office buildings, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress. In his tenure, Ayers opened the new Capitol Visitor Center, and doubled the output of its recycling program. Read more about the appointment here, and see Ayers speak about his job at the AIA National Convention in Miami. He will be the keynote speaker on the pre-conference evening event, the 06.09.10 Citizen Architect Exchange.

Candidates for AIA National Offices Answer Questions
In preparation for AIA’s National Convention in Miami, 06.10-06.12.2010, where the AIA will hold its 2010 elections, AIA National Office candidates recently answered questions from emerging architects. What do they do to support young people entering the field? What advice can they give to interns starting down the road to licensure? The candidates also answered more general questions about their contributions to the organization and their opinions on the Institute’s Strategic Plan. Read their responses here.

Youngsters Strengthen Bronx Pride with ENYA Challenge


Drawings of neighborhood landmarks (left); fifth-grader Tammy with nail salon model.

Glenda Reed

Fifth-graders in a Learning By Design:NY after school program are studying their own Highbridge neighborhood in preparation for tackling the AIANY Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) Committee’s 2010 design challenge — re-envisioning an arts center on the historic High Bridge, based on the HB:BX Building Cultural Infrastructure competition. Through walking tours, site visits, and research around P.S. 73 in the Bronx, students have identified official landmarks in their community, such as Yankee Stadium, as well as personal, “unofficial” landmarks, such as Nelson Park. According to student Najae, neighbors gather together at Nelson Park for local basketball tournaments where crowds “oooh” and “ahhh.” After the games are over there is a big celebration and “no one gets mad at whoever loses.” The Bronx Museum of Art, the Andrew Freedman Home, Jason’s Bodega, and graffiti memorials are among the selected sites. Using historical facts, architectural information, and personal narrative, students are writing, recording, and publishing a cell phone audio tour to these neighborhood landmarks.

Having informed themselves about their community, students practiced their design skills by re-imagining an empty lot a few blocks from their school. How should this lot be used? What does the community need? Tammy has chosen to design a nail salon. Ki-ara and Tracy are designing a Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts headquarters. This exercise will be used as a reference point for the ENYA challenge.

These in-depth neighborhood studies will culminate in the students designing an arts center for the High Bridge. Following the basic guidelines professionals adhered to in the official ENYA ideas competition, P.S. 73 fifth-graders will re-envision the use of the historic High Bridge structure as cultural resource for the local community. Drawings and models created in the P.S. 73 after school program will be on display at the Bronx Museum of the Arts 06.03-06.10, alongside ideas from the High School for Art and Design and the High School of Math, Science and Engineering at the City College of New York. The student-created walking tour will also be available at the Bronx Museum, as well as at the ENYA competition exhibition at the Center for Architecture this fall.

More than a new lens to their community and a channel for civically minded creativity, the P.S. 73 after school program has shown students new possibilities for their lives. Najae now wants to be an architect. Among the many dreams she has for her future, she would like to “work at the Bronx Museum and share my knowledge so that kids can one day be an architect like me.”

The P.S. 73 after school program has been greatly enriched by the Foundation’s collaboration with ENYA. Special thanks to committee member Brandon Cook for volunteering his time and expertise.

Also, special thanks to the Bronx Museum of the Arts for helping enable the program to grow, as well as providing space in the museum to hang the show, featuring work by the High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, and the High School for Art and Design, in addition to P.S. 73. The program was supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Finally, special thanks to Councilmember Helen Foster for her generosity.

For more information about having a Learning By Design:NY program in your school, visit or contact Tim Hayduk at

Arts Clusters: DUMBO and El Barrio

The NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), in cooperation with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), announced that Hope Community, Inc., and the Dumbo Improvement District have been selected as lead organizations for Promoting Arts Clusters, a marketing campaign and tourism incentive program designed to attract visitors and increase the revenues of arts and cultural attractions throughout the city. NYCEDC will provide a grant of $25,000 to each organization. Hope Community, Inc. will partner with El Museo del Barrio and Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone on “El Barrio Today Arts Cluster,” and the Dumbo Improvement District will work with local groups to form “Discover DUMBO :: See the Other Side.” The two organizations were selected out of 14 proposals submitted from neighborhoods across all five boroughs.

The New Practices New York 2010 competition winners are EASTON+COMBS (highest honor); Archipelagos; Leong Leong; Manifold; SOFTlab; SO-IL; and Tacklebox

The 2010 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers (theme: ReSource) are Emily Abruzzo, AIA, and Gerald Bodziak, AIA, of ABRUZZO BODZIAK ARCHITECTS; James Austin and Aleksandr Mergold, AIA, of Austin+Mergold; Mark Frohn and Mario Rojas Teledo of FAR frohn&rojas; Michael Loverich and Antonio Torres of Bittertang; Eric Schuldenfrei, Assoc. AIA, and Marisa Yiu, AIA, of ESKYIU; and Keith VanDerSys of PEG office of landscape + architecture

The Preservation League of New York State has selected two projects in NYC to receive its Excellence in Historic Preservation Award: The American Museum of Natural History and the Empire State Building Lobby Restoration

The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s 20th Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards winners include Robert Silman, PE, Hon. AIA, Preservation Leadership Award; Kenneth Cobb, Public Leadership Award; project award recipients include the High Line, Beacon Theatre, American Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building Lobby, 36 Grace Court, Convent of the Sacred Heart School, Flushing Friends Meeting House, MacIntyre Building, Park Lane at Sea View, Roosevelt House, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

Architect magazine’s second annual Architect 50 Firms include NY-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (1); Perkins+Will (2); Gensler (10); Cannon Design (24); FXFOWLE Architects (29); Cook+Fox Architects (34); Spector Group (45); Robert A.M. Stern Architects (54); Beatty·Harvey·Coco Architects (62); Perkins Eastman (84); Diller Scofidio + Renfro (91)…

OBRA Architects’
Quartieri Parco Ca D’Oro won 3rd Prize in the competition for social housing in Venice, Italy, in collaboration with AZ Studio + CZ Studio….

The Thornton Tomasetti Foundation has awarded a $9,000 grant to the Cal Poly chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) for the construction of a healthcare clinic in Camilo Ortega, Nicaragua…

Spanish-born architect Eva Franch has been named director of The Storefront for Art and Architecture, replacing Joseph Grima, now with Milan-based Domus magazine…

After working as partners at BBG-BBGM, Jeffrey Williams, AIA, Yann Leroy, AIA, Kate Greenwood, Paul Greenwood, joined by Patrick Lo, have launched studioaria, an architecture and interior design firm with studios in NYC, Sydney, and Shanghai… Swanke Hayden Connell Architects has opened its ninth office, in Shanghai…

Michael Winstanley, AIA, AICP, principal of Mancini·Duffy and Managing Principal of Mancini·Duffy Winstanley, has been named CEO of the firm… the NY office of Grimshaw announced that William Horgan has become a Partner, and David Burke, AIA, and George Hauner became Associate Principals…

05.16.10: The Center for Architecture organized a special event in conjunction with the exhibition Sunny Memories, on view 05.13-06.05.10 at the Center for Architecture. The exhibition, hosted to coincide with ICFF, featured solar industrial design solutions by students at four leading design schools in the US and Europe.


Ambassador Chirstoph Bubb, Consul General, Consulate General of Switzerland in New York; Joachim Scharf; Regula Bubb; Catherine Scharf, Consul, Head of the Cultural Department, Consulate General of Switzerland in New York; Rick Bell, FAIA, Executive Director of AIANY

Emily Nemens


The Future of Solar Design panelists: Anna Dyson, director of the MATERIALAB at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Paul Thompson, rector of the Royal College of Art, Nicolas Henchoz of EPFL_ECAL Lab, and Yves Béhar of fuseproject. The panel was moderated by Laetitia Wolff of Future Flair.

2010 Oculus Editorial Calendar
If you are an architect by training or see yourself as an astute observer of New York’s architectural and planning scene, OCULUS editors want to hear from you! Projects/topics may be anywhere, but architects must be New York-based. Please submit story ideas by the deadlines indicated below to Kristen Richards:

Spring: Architect as Leader: (CLOSED).

Summer: AIANY Design Awards 2010: (CLOSED).

Fall: Thinking Back / Thinking Forward and Understanding the Shift: The recession has given us the opportunity to reflect on the last decades of design and building — and what might be ahead. We will investigate trends in design, building, and marketing that are coming into play. What are the next steps in social media, BIM, sustainability, technology, competitions, stalled projects, adaptive re-use, design for flexibility, mergers and firm acquisitions?
Submit story ideas by 05.21.10

Winter: Practice without Borders: The world is growing smaller. New York is an international city, and it is easier than ever for overseas firms to work here and for New York City firms to work abroad. We will look into reciprocity, licensure, removal of boundaries to practice, and international competitions as ways to build renown.
Submit story ideas by 08.13.10

06.03.10 Request for Proposals: Redevelop The Historic Dupont Trolley Station
Dupont Circle, Washington DC

06.14.10 Call for Presentations: SMPS THE Marketing Event 2010

06.15.10 Call for Proposals: Urban Green Expo 2010: Pushing the Envelope

07.01.10 Call for Entries: Sukkah City

07.30.10 Call for Entries: 2010 Western Red Cedar Architectural Design Awards

07.31.10 Call for Entries: Urban SOS Transformations Open Student Ideas Competition

08.09.10 Call for Entries: FUNERIA’s 5th Biennial International Ashes to Art Competition