ARCHITECTURE 101: Summer Architectural Design Studio


Students work on models of their designs (left); a high school student presents his final project.

Maggie Yolen

The Center for Architecture Foundation recently completed its first two-week Architectural Design Summer Studio program for high school students. The course was designed to give young people a taste of what architecture school might be like, to help them learn about what the practice of architecture entails, and to help them decide if they might enjoy the profession. According to one student, architecture is “more complicated than I imagined.”

The class was structured like a typical architecture school program with the major focus on the design studio, supplemented by scale drawing, model building and digital design, architectural history, and an introduction to professional practice. Thirteen students from as far away as Rockland County and Long Island participated, culminating in a final presentation at the Center on 07.09.10. Along the way, students visited the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union, toured offices of Thomas Phifer and Partners and Frederic Schwartz Architects and the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Photos from the program can be viewed on Facebook.

Course instructor Eric Ratkowski had students begin by designing a household object that then became the focal element for their studio projects — a 400-square-foot gallery and artist residence. Students were challenged to think about the interaction of private and public spaces, and develop a design concept that could tie together their object, their understanding of the site, and their ideas about architecture. Then, they worked together to build a site model of the project site on West 3rd Street and 6th Avenue. In reflecting on the program, one student summed it up: “I have a better understanding of what architecture is all about and even if I don’t end up studying it, I can appreciate it more.”

If you know a young person who is interested in learning more about architecture, there are a few spaces left in the Summer Studio programs Waterfront Parks for middle school students (07.26-30.10) and Playground Design for elementary students (08.09-13.10). For more information, visit the Center for Architecture Foundation’s website: To join the mailing list for updates on future programs, e-mail

New Practices Shows Collectives Lead to Built Work

At the New Practices New York 2010: Jury’s Symposium, juror Joe MacDonald, Assoc. AIA, commented that he was surprised to see so much built work among entries (see “New Practices New York Gauges Seven Emerging Firms,” by Murrye Bernard, LEED AP, e-Oculus, 05.18.10). After viewing the exhibition, now on view at the Center for Architecture until 10.23.10, it is reassuring to me that new practices are not turning their back to architecture. Rather, they are finding ways to practice — and actually build things — albeit at a smaller scale.

Perhaps the reason firms are able to complete projects is because they are becoming collectives rather than hierarchical entities. Gone are the days of the individual mastermind heading a firm when it comes to new practices. With names like Tacklebox, Manifold, SOFTlab, and Archipelagos, one does not associate the firm’s work with one principal. Even EASTON + COMBS and Leong Leong, firms synonymous with the owners, imply an equal collaboration between two individuals.

At a time when firms are struggling to find work, the New Practices New York exhibition seems to prove that collaborations will bring about built work. When a group of professionals come together to work on a project, they bring their range of experiences, strengths, abilities… and contacts. The power of the collective is surpassing that of the individual, which speaks volumes about how practice is changing, I think, for the better. I am looking forward to hearing from the winning firms themselves on 07.29.10 at the Winners’ Panel Discussion.

The AIA selected 10 recipients of the 2010 Small Project Awards including Puptent by Slade Architecture, in the category of Small Project Objects; and East Village Studio by Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture, in the category of Small Project Structures…

Steven Holl Architects has received the 2010 North Norwegian Architecture Prize for the Knut Hamsun Center in Hamarøy, Norway…

The National Building Museum has awarded Engineers Without Borders-USA the 2010 Henry C. Turner Prize for Innovation in Construction Technology…

The Transitway, a city effort to speed up buses along 34th Street, won an $18 million federal grant…

AECOM has purchased Tishman Construction in a cash and stock deal valued at $245 million…

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: (CLOSED).

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

08.01.10 Call for Entries: FlyNY 2010 Kite Design Competition

08.08.10 Call for Applications: 72 Hour Urban Action

08.15.10 Call for Entries: Architecture & Design Film Festival

08.18.10 Call for Entries: AIANY MADE IN NEW YORK Exhibition

09.15.10 Call for Nominations: Richard L. Blinder Award

09.30.10 Call for Entries: United States Fallen Heroes Memorial Open Design Competition

10.18.10 Call for Submissions: Schools of Tomorrow: Student Design Competition

11.12.10 Call for Entries: Kay e Sante nan Ayiti: An International Design Competition

11.15.10 Call for Entries: Brickstainable Design Competition

07.15.10: The New Practices New York exhibition opened with a party for 450.


Two visitors checking out the “Drawing Wall” of the NPNY exhibition.

Alex Welsh


Jeremy Barbour, AIA, Principal of New Practice Tacklebox, and Marc Clemenceau Bailly, AIA, New Practices Committee Co-chair.

Alex Welsh


05.24.10: The AIANY Banking and Finance Committee organized a lecture and tour of the new ING Direct Cafe on 58th Street and Third Avenue designed by Gensler.

Tom Kieran

Pools on Park Avenue


Courtesy Macro-Sea and Vamos Architects

Dumpster diving has gotten a whole lot cooler. As part of the city’s Summer Streets Initiative, three dumpster pools will be installed on Park Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets for the first three Saturdays in August, open 7am-1pm. City dwellers who brave the summer heat will be rewarded with views of the MetLife Building and Grand Central Terminal. Macro-Sea along with Vamos Architects designed the temporary, above-ground pools (which are cleaner and larger than the average dumpster) encircled with metal decks. Changing rooms as well as portable showers and toilets will also be provided. Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan describes the project as a “Park Avenue boardwalk.”

Through 08.18.10
Tapestry: Weaving In & Out

A collaboration between No Longer Empty and El Museo del Barrio, the exhibition explores the interactions between the building space, a new environmentally-conscious rental building, and its surrounding physical and cultural contexts. Artists grapple with the current state of urban environmentalism, and allow for multiple, subjective experiences to coexist.

245 East 124th Street, NYC

Through 09.25.10
Summer Group Show


Steve DiBenedetto, Leviathan, 2009. colored pencil and acrylic on paper.

Courtesy David Nolan Gallery

Drawings and sculpture made by artists from several generations, each with their own unique approaches to abstraction, are on view. Artists include Richard Artschwager, whose sculptures look like functional objects such as tables and chairs; Steve DiBenedetto, who is inspired by the glass architecture of skyscrapers; Mel Kendrick, who experiments with interior and exterior spaces, presence and voids; and Barry Le Va, who works with commonplace objects such as wood, felt, ball bearings, shards of glass, and chalk dust.

David Nolan Gallery
527 West 29th Street, NYC

Through 12.31.10
Stephen Vitello’s A Bell for Every Minute


Photo caption goes here.

Photo credit goes here

This multi-channel sound installation is a site-specific work commissioned for the High Line. It fills the 14th Street Passage with sound recordings of bells taken from around NYC and beyond. Sounds range from the New York Stock Exchange bell, the historic Dreamland bell days after it was discovered in the water off Coney Island, the United Nation’s Peace Bell, along with everyday and personal sounds.

Creative Time
Exhibit located in the High Line’s 14th Street Passage between W.13th and W.14th Streets


Editor’s Note: Thank you to all who participated in the Oculus survey. The AIANY Oculus Committee is combing through all of your responses to come up with better ways to provide what is important to you.

– Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

Note: Be sure to follow Tweets from e-Oculus and the Center for Architecture.

And check out the latest Podcasts produced by AIANY. This week, two interviews about the state of the design press.

Reshaping Cities to Make Cars Obsolete

Event: Our Cities, Ourselves: The Future of Transportation in Urban Life (Media Roundtable)
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.24.10
Speakers: Michael Sorkin — Distinguished Professor of Architecture & Director, Graduate Program in Urban Design, City College of New York & Principal, Michael Sorkin Studio; Elizabeth H. Berger — President, Alliance for Downtown New York; Walter Hook — Executive Director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP); Norman Garrick — Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Connecticut & Co-chair, Transportation Task Force, Congress for the New Urbanism & Trustee, Tri-state Transportation Campaign
Moderator: David Owen — Staff Writer, The New Yorker & Author, Green Metropolis (Riverhead, 2009)
Organizers: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in collaboration with AIANY


2030 vision of urban transport in Ahmedabad, India by Bimal Patel and HCP Design and Project Management.

Bimal Patel and HCP Design and Project Management, courtesy AIANY

In the context of the BP oil spill and the nation’s seemingly ineradicable dependence on the same toxic substance, the possibility of reconfiguring urban space in ways that help restore environmental balance begins to look less like utopia and more like an imperative. Owen and others have been making the green-urbanist case for years, offering the combination of urban density and sustainable design as a logical, desirable response to global warming and all the other ill effects of a petroleum-dependent economy. The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and AIANY are now joining forces to bring this case to the public in concrete, accessible forms.

For “Our Cities, Ourselves,” an exhibition currently on view at the Center for Architecture, the ITDP has engaged architects in 10 cities to translate green-urbanist principles into buildable forms, with an eye on realization by 2030 and an emphasis on transportation systems. ITDP Executive Director Walter Hook laid out the history of these efforts along with the increasing dangers ahead if large developing nations recreate 20th-century America’s transportation monoculture on a vaster scale. The plausible future, he said, will either be an ecological nightmare scenario (some 390 million cars in China by 2030 and a temperature increase beyond that which scientists claim the planet can tolerate), or a series of site-specific transformations that draw on local talent and traditions to correct developmental damage and promote low-impact forms of transportation.

Organized along a set of “Ten Principles for Sustainable Transport,” the designs in the exhibition build on ideas already known to produce results in revitalizing damaged urban areas. The exhibition’s title evokes the Boston Women’s Health Collective’s medical/sexual manual Our Bodies, Ourselves, broadly influential since the 1970s in clarifying connections between personal matters and their political aspects. It combines this progressive tone with common-sense appeals reminding viewers that the automotive era is a brief segment of urban history — destructive, but by no means irreversible.

The architects have chosen different strategies and scales for Ahmedabad, Buenos Aires, Budapest, Dar es Salaam, Guangzhou, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Mexico City, NYC, and Rio de Janeiro. Projects range from HCP Design and Project Management’s construction of a public square in Ahmedabad — a site where any significant new civic space amounts to a cultural innovation — to the transformation of Lower Manhattan into an auto-free “ecozone” by Michael Sorkin Studio.

Sorkin emphasized that no single technology solves the problems of cities. Lower Manhattan is blessed not only with a high percentage of transit use, but with a resilient “medieval” street plan. Removing the FDR Drive below the Manhattan Bridge, along with its associated infrastructure, would open up surprising amounts of space for civic functions. Elizabeth Berger of the Downtown Alliance expressed agreement in principle on reinventing the business district as a greener, transit-intensive district with an increasing residential component; this development philosophy is good for local business, she said. Her group’s new plan for Water Street as a rescaled, pedestrian-friendly boulevard meshes with the Sorkin vision, but she pulled up short of a complete ban on cars, claiming it would isolate the neighborhood.

New Urbanist engineer Norman Garrick placed the range of changes in a global context, offering Zurich’s integrated approach to transit as an alternative to large-scale motorization that he has seen in China and Jamaica. Owen also emphasized the astonishing changes occurring in China, where “the Manhattan” is a unit of scale and 10 new Manhattan-sized urban formations are on the way. Development on such a scale and pace, he noted, makes good design an urgent challenge: build a high-performing city, a New York or a Bogotá, and it will be emulated. The key question may be whether such places can be emulated widely enough and fast enough.

Save the World AND Have a Nice Life

Event: Our Cities Ourselves: Architects, Developers, and Transport Planners on the Future of the City
Location: Center for Architecture, June 26, 2010
Speakers: David Sim — Gehl Architects; Enrique Peñalosa — President, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP); Saskia Sassen — Colombia University
Panelists: Michael King — Nelson Nygaard; Michael Sorkin — Distinguished Professor of Architecture & Director, Graduate Program in Urban Design, City College of New York & Principal, Michael Sorkin Studio; Wagner Colombini Martins — Logit Consultoria; Walter Hook — Executive Director, ITDP; Luc Nadal — Technical Director, ITDP; Emiliano Espasandin — PALO Arquitectura Urbana
Moderator: Paul Steely White — Transportation Alternatives
Organizers: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in collaboration with AIANY

20100504-perspective 3 Final copy

2030 vision of urban transport in Guangzhou by Urbanus Architecture & Design.

Urbanus Architecture & Design, courtesy AIANY

Like the exhibition, the “Our Cities Ourselves” symposium largely advocated common-sense solutions that would promote equality across the public realm and bring city residents closer to a more egalitarian version of “the good life.”

There were four overarching themes throughout all of the dialogues. First, walking and pedestrian design should be given higher priority alongside motorized forms of transport. Design for “powered by people” transport (primarily bicycles) should consider future deployment on both individual and mass commerce levels. Current roadways must be realigned to favor pedestrians and cyclists, including: the redesign of slower, shared streets with mixed traffic; a wholesale decommissioning of highways; congestion pricing for cars; and development of eco-zones that would control the type and density of truck penetration into neighborhoods. Lastly, the implementation of Bus Rapid Transit systems (BRT) was highly praised for both the ease of adaptation and low cost.

In addition to costing much less than subway systems to develop, new BRTs differ from traditional express bus service in a variety of ways: users prepay before entering “stations” allowing for faster boarding; and buses can travel in dedicated lanes adjacent to vehicular traffic. A recent example is the new BRT in Guangzhou, China, which utilizes a trunk feeder system connected to the subway to move more than 800,000 people per day. Panelist Wagner Colombini Martins of Brazil-based Logit Consultoria noted that like Guangzhou, higher density Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) will be planned around BRTs in the future, affecting the shape of a city along these corridors.

Though panelists alluded to the fact that future interventions need to be tailored to fit existing and new cities differently, concepts were largely discussed as one-size-fits-all solutions. Enrique Peñalosa noted that certain things like establishing cycle- and pedestrian-only thoroughfares were “easier to do in cities that don’t exist.” They are hardly impossible, however, given his success with creating such corridors in Bogotá. Some impediments that existing cities face are a pre-existing historic fabric; already established patterns for vehicular use and parking; limited existing transportation right-of-ways; and even personal predispositions against intermingling social classes on the street or in public transport.

Clearly, better transport systems can be engineered, but individual choices play a large role. Individuals’ concerns about sustainability are low on the list. In bicycle-saturated Copenhagen, only 1% of women commute on bicycle because of the environment, but 61% bike because it is convenient and easy, said David Sim of Gehl Architects. Transportation decisions in the future should not be based on either “‘save the world’ or ‘have a nice life,'” he continued. “We can offer both.”