Sukkah City Celebrates Emerging Talent and Judaism

“Mazel Tov!” was the phrase permeating Union Square last week at the Sukkah City launch. After all of the tension surrounding the Park51 Islamic community center downtown, it was a relief to attend an event that celebrated and welcomed religion just two miles north. But the event was not only a celebration of Judaism for me. It was a festival of emerging architectural talent, and even though the structures were in the plaza for only two days, it was refreshing to see the public embrace the designers as well as their creations. I felt a true sense of camaraderie among the designers (it was rumored that they were planning on spending the night in their sukkahs), as well as among all of the people visiting the site.

The two sukkahs that stood out to me were the People’s Choice “Fractured Bubble,” by Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan, AIA, and Jury Favorite “Shim Sukkah,” by tinder, tinker (consisting of three recent RISD graduates David Getty, Stephanie Gunawan, and Matthew Jacobs). Both designs are a testament to craft, with “Fractured Bubble” referencing basket weaving and “Shim Sukkah” made from hundreds of shims attached to dowels. I watched tinder, tinker later in the week re-assembling their sukkah at the Center for Architecture, and I could really see the personal connection between the designer and the structure as they hammered at each shim, one by one.

The big question for me about the event was why the structures were only erected for a two-day period and not for the weeklong holiday of Sukkot? With the exception of “Fractured Bubble,” which did remain for the duration, and “Shim Sukkah,” which is now constructed at the Center for Architecture, the other 10 structures were disassembled. At the same time I was excited about the event, I was sad that the sukkahs would be installed so fleetingly.

I also wondered about the afterlife of the projects. Did the teams take into account what would happen after the installation was finished? The sukkahs were supposedly auctioned off to benefit Housing Works. Are any of the teams reconstructing them elsewhere? Will any of the materials be recycled and/or re-used? For such a temporary installation, I hope that the design teams took a more holistic approach to construction. Ultimately, I believe this competition was extremely successful on many levels and I hope that this becomes an annual event.

New York State AIA Honor Awards winners include Leevi Kiil, FAIA, James W. Kideney Gold Medal; Burton Roslyn, FAIA, Matthew W. DelGaudio Award; Stanley Stark, FAIA, President’s Award; FXFOWLE Architects, Firm Award; Mark Behm, Assoc. AIA, Associates Award; Kenneth Frampton, Assoc. AIA, Educators Award; and Suzanne Mecs, Hon. AIA, Honorary Membership Award…

Architizer and Building Fashion held a design/build competition pairing six winning architects with six up-and-coming fashion designers and brands, including konyk for Supima Cotton, COLLECTIVE for Simon Spurr, Urban A&O for milliner Heather Huey, and Christian Wassmann for jewelry and lifestyle brand House of Waris…

Terreform ONE + Terrefuge were presented with the 2010 Zumtobel Group Award…

Finalists in the Sukkah City international design competition include Fractured Bubble by Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan, AIA, (People’s Choice winner); In Tension by SO-IL; P.YGROS.C by THEVERYMANY; Gathering by Dale Suttle, So Sugita, and Ginna Nguyen; Single Thread by Matter Practice; LOG by Kyle May and Scott Abrahams, AIA; and Blo Puff by Bittertang

Ginseng Chicken Architecture is the only non-London-based firm to make the shortlist in the Architecture Foundation’s competition to design a series of kiosks for London’s Meridian Square, Stratford, the gateway to the Olympic Park…

The National Building Museum will present its 12th Vincent Scully Prize to Adele Chatfield-Taylor, president of the American Academy in Rome…The ORT Community Achievement Award will be presented to David J. Burney, FAIA, Gregory A. Kelly, and Gary La Barbera

A team of students from Parsons The New School for Design, Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy, and Stevens Institute of Technology will develop a solar-powered home for local residents for the Solar Decathlon, working in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C., and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development…

The Goldman Sachs Group has committed $23 million to the Rose New Jersey Green Affordable Housing Preservation Fund sponsored by Jonathan Rose Companies’ Investment Practice… After 32 years with the Related Companies. David J. Wine has founded Oliver’s Realty Group, a development, investment and brokerage company… Art Lubetz, Yen Ha, and Michi Yanagishita have formed Front Studio Architects…

Anthony Caradonna has been named Chair of the Interior Design program at The Art Institute of New York City… Rama Chorpash has been named director of Product Design in the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons The New School for Design…

David Carpenter has become one of two partners at Meltzer/Mandl Architects… Un-Peng Chan was promoted to principal at Pei Partnership Architects…Cerami & Associates announced that Victoria Cerami is now a chief executive officer, John Longman is now a president, and Stephen Lindsey is a chief technical officer…

09.29.10 Call for Submissions: Deconstructing China: Dialogues on Design Process & Sustainability

09.30.10 Call for Student Work: Association for Computer Aided Design in New York

10.15.10 Call for Entries: International Museum of Volcanoes Lanzarote Academic Competition

10.15.10 Call for Contributions: Candide. Journal for Architectural Knowledge

10.18.10 Call for Entries: Kay e Sante nan Ayiti (Creole for Housing and Health in Haiti)

10.25.10 Call for Entries: Light Up ECO Showcase Series

10.29.10 Call for Entries: Carry Me! Lucite Handbag Competition 2010

10.29.10 Call for Nominations: NY Construction Top 20 Under 40

10.31.10 Call for Entries: WAN Awards 2010: Commercial

11.01.10 Call for Entries: Berkeley Prize Essay Competition

11.01.10 Call for Applications: Stewardson Keefe LeBrun Travel Grant

11.12.10 Call for Proposals: 12th International Garden Festival

11.15.10 Call for Entries: Vienna House of Music Architecture Competition for Students

09.14.10: Engineers and architects gathered at the Center for Architecture to discuss Urban Cool: Sustainable Communities in the Age of Global Warming.

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Speakers (L-R): Dan Nall, PE, LEED AP, director of sustainability, WSP Flack + Kurtz; Mark Strauss, FAIA, senior partner, FXFOWLE Architects; Earl Jackson, AIA, associate director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Peter Sharratt, global director of sustainability & energy, WSP Energy and Environment, London; and Ernest Hutton, Assoc. AIA, FAICP, founder and principal, Hutton Associates Inc.

Courtesy of WSP F+K

09.20.10: Mayor Bloomberg announced that the People’s Choice winner in the Sukkah City international design competition is Fractured Bubble by Babak Bryan, AIA, and Henry Grosman. It will remain on display in Union Square through 10.02.10.

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Babak Bryan, AIA, (left) and Henry Grosman with Mayor Bloomberg.

Noushin Ehsan, AIA

09.22.10: Jury favorite, “Shim Sukkah,” by tinder, tinker, was reconfigured in the Helfand Gallery at the Center for Architecture.

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The tinder, tinker design team seated inside their sukkah. (L-R): David Getty, Stephanie Gunawan, and Matthew Jacobs.

Rick Bell

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Sukkah City Jury member Michael Arad, AIA, and competition organizer Joshua Foer at the exhibition opening on 09.22.2010.

Emily Nemens

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Designers Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan, AIA, in front of the board for “Fractured Bubble.”

Emily Nemens

09.21.10: A fete in Artur Walther’s penthouse to welcome Eva Franch as the new Director of the Storefront for Art and Architecture.

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Storefront Vice President Charles Renfro, AIA, introduced Eva Franch to an enthusiastic crowd of Board members, supporters, and fans.

Kristen Richards

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Monty Freeman, FAIA, Belmont Freeman Architects, with Eva Franch.

Rick Bell

ARCHIPELAGOS: Living the Non-American Dream

Event: New Practices New York 2010 Winner Presentation: ARCHIPELAGOS
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.02.10
Speaker: Jonus Ademovic — Director, ARCHIPELAGOS
Sponsors: Lead Sponsors:Dornbracht, MG & Company; Valiant Technology; Sponsors: Espasso; Hafele; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Media Sponsor: The Architect’s Newspaper

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Academy of Performing Arts, Sarajevo, Bosnia.

ARCHIPELAGOS, courtesy AIANY

While studying architecture in his native Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jonus Ademovic’s independent spirit prompted a professor to suggest he work in America. He balked at the idea, but was soon forced to flee his country during the Bosnian war and become a refugee in NYC. Though he considers it home now, Ademovic views the city like a “foster parent” because acceptance hasn’t come easy. His immigration caseworker laughed at his desire to practice architecture, but after tending bar and working odd jobs, he was admitted to the master’s program at The Cooper Union, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture.

In 2006, Ademovic achieved his dream — and perhaps the ultimate American dream — of starting his own practice, which is one of this year’s New Practices New York award recipients. The name ARCHIPELAGOS hints at the collaborative nature of the small firm, which was bolstered by connections within the local community of Astoria, Queens. Most work came by word-of-mouth in the neighborhood, including renovations of many restaurant, bars, and gyms.

Since then, ARCHIPELAGOS has moved to Manhattan and won larger commissions both throughout the city and internationally. The firm recently won a competition to design the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where the film industry is booming. Lower-level glazing and a meandering ramp system draw passersby into the building, which features stages and TV studios along with requisite classrooms.

Ademovic’s connections to his native region still run strong. In addition to competitions, he is working on a book about projects in post-war Slovenia. Despite the initial roadblocks encountered, he seemed hesitant when asked if he’ll ever leave NYC.

Aviation Goes to the Mall

Event: Transportation Retail: Planning, Design and Construction
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.10.10
Speakers: Kate Coburn — Principal, AECOM; Carrol Bennett — General Manager, Real Estate Development, Port Authority of NY & NJ; Stephen L. Dwoskin, AIA — Design Principal, Callison Architecture; Ellery Plowman — Vice President, Business Development & Leasing, Westfield Concession Management; Steve Dumas — Senior Vice President, Retail Design & Tenant Coordination, Westfield Concession Management; Andy Frankl — President, IBEX Construction
Introduction: Robert Eisenstat, AIA, LEED AP — Assistant Chief Architect, Design Division, Engineering Department, Port Authority of NY & NJ
Moderator: Bill Fife — Principal, The Fife Group & Aviation Council Chair, Transportation & Development Institute, ASCE
Organizers: AIANY Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

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JFK’s JetBlue terminal, designed by Gensler.

Photo by Prakash Patel

Air travel has changed drastically over recent decades, and not generally for the better. Rather than glamour, excitement, and optimism, flying today means delays and difficulties. Retailers and developers are adjusting to these conditions by turning airport concourses and similar spaces into multifunction malls where the traveler can find diversion and information as well as all manner of merchandise.

Rising fuel costs and other economic trends have driven airlines to cut back on once-routine amenities. “Aviation retail is just a small piece of it,” said moderator Bill Fife, an aviation consultant. But “it’s what’s keeping many airports alive.” This field has evolved beyond the days of “high-priced hot dogs [and] rip-off retail,” Fife noted. The sector is now huge — $4.8 billion in 2009 at airports alone, according to AECOM’s Kate Coburn — and involves global brands, diverse food options, and specialty services. Development, design, and operations need to take these scales and trends into account, along with post-9/11 security concerns. Since Transportation Security Administration procedures have changed passengers’ behavior, contemporary airport design places more retail on the air side of the security checkpoint; since no one lingers in the pre-security zone any more, and increasing flight delays mean passengers have more time on their hands once they’re between the scanners and the gate.

To fill that time and stimulate commerce, airports are including short-lease popup stores, sponsored entertainment, and locally specific attractions (fresh cheese and an airport library in Amsterdam; chic restaurants at JFK’s JetBlue terminal, where, as IBEX’s Andy Frankl said, “The idea was to change the need to go to the airport to [a] want to go to the airport.”). Cities and transit authorities increasingly rely on public-private partnership models to focus expertise. Facilities must balance commercial imperatives with practical concerns: wayfinding, neighborhood demographics, travel patterns. Some floor plans “create a meander” to maximize revenue, as Westfield’s Steve Dumas described in reference to O’Hare’s revamped Terminal 5. Callison’s Steve Dwoskin described “transportation-oriented food [as] a better mousetrap to be invented;” as inflight dining for most passengers is becoming extinct, London restaurateur Gordon Ramsay’s “plane food” in sturdy reusable carry-on pouches represents a match of opportunity and invention.

Perhaps the best news for the New York region is the Port Authority’s plan to upgrade both the midtown and George Washington Bridge bus terminals. For the former, said General Manager of Real Estate Development Carrol Bennett, the authority is close to signing a lease with Vornado Realty Trust for a north-wing expansion. For the latter, an interior renovation is now in the design stage, bringing much-needed improvements in lighting, signage, bus-traffic efficiency, and local employment. She expects this project to reach completion around 2013.

Iran’s Architecture: Beyond Mystiques, Monuments, and Mullahs

Event: Iran Old and New — Architecture from Cyrus the Great to the Present
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.01.10
Speakers: James McCullar, FAIA — Principal, James McCullar & Associates Architects; Ali Akbar Saremi — Architect & Professor, Tehran University; Mahvash Mehr Afshar — Head of Board of Directors, Tavon Consulting Engineering, Tehran; Noushin Ehsan, AIA — Chair, AIANY Global Dialogues Committee;
Introduction: Theodore Liebman, FAIA — Principal, Perkins Eastman
Organizers: AIANY Global Dialogues Committee

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Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran.

Nicolas Hadjisavvas

Since the 1979 Iranian revolution replaced the secular Pahlavi dynasty with a Shi’ite regime, Iran’s government has been frequently in the news, but the nation’s culture, history, and architecture have been largely invisible to Westerners. Contrary to some expectations, creative design is alive and well in Iran; the national heritage inspires a loyalty that runs much deeper than politics.

Iran and AIANY have strong ties; James McCullar, FAIA, past president of AIANY, has traveled there extensively. McCullar’s slides from Persepolis and Isfahan provided a historical background through the Islamic conquest and the rule of Safavid emperor Shah Abbas, who moved the capital to Isfahan in 1598 and began an extensive building program. Noted for its four-gated Naghsh-e Jahan Square, several mosques (particularly the Shah Mosque and the Friday Mosque, probably a 14th-century building), the Grand Bazaar, a well-preserved synagogue, and other features built during and after the city’s ascendancy under Shah Abbas, Isfahan offers timeless lessons in urban planning and sustainable construction appropriate to a demanding arid environment.

Ali Akbar Saremi, architect and professor at Tehran University, continued the chronology through the 19th century, when Iranians traveled to France and England to study military engineering during a war with Russia, expanding intercultural exchanges and bringing eclectic effects into Iranian architecture that would last into the next century. European and Persian influences mingled, Saremi noted, affecting Iranian ornamentation, housing, and furniture.

Tehran arose under Reza Shah Pahlavi to become a world-class city by the 1940s, with modern railroad and government buildings and a new university. Saremi came to appreciate abstraction and the International Style, going on to doctoral work with Louis Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania. Pointing out features of contemporary Iranian buildings, he expressed the view that there is no such thing as Islamic architecture, despite contentions with authorities over whether a certain building or façade is “Islamic enough.” Islam is a religious and ideological system, Saremi said, not a structural vocabulary. The regime may change, but Iranian design practice cannot be reduced to essentialism.

Mahvash Mehr Afshar, the head of the board of directors at Tavon Consulting Engineering, speaking largely in Farsi (translated by Noushin Ehsan, AIA), devoted attention to the condition of women in Iran and distinguished their social challenges from the professional climate. Gender prejudice may keep her from being a judge or singing in public, she observed, but it has not prevented her from heading a major architecture firm. “Persian women don’t go with the flow,” she said; “they create the flow.” She and other Iranians are involved in a long fight for freedom; as Saremi observed, architects anywhere must deal with demands imposed by the powerful. Yet one suspects, or trusts, that the living legacy of a culture that has sustained itself since the days of Zoroaster will ultimately persevere.

Ward’s Words

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Christopher O. Ward.

Rick Bell

Christopher O. Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, spoke about New York, Lower Manhattan, and the World Trade Center site at a breakfast of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) on 09.08.10. After an introduction by ABNY Chairman Bill Rudin, who noted that, “Lower Manhattan’s commercial base has been expanding outside of its traditional financial service focus,” Ward complimented ABNY saying that “a better New York is a clarion call, simple and elegant.”

With the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the minds of the more than 500 people attending at Cipriani Wall Street, Ward spoke of the importance of infrastructure, prior politicization of the design process, and current progress at the site. Anecdotes about stumbling blocks and the “fantastic” collaboration between the Port Authority and Silverstein Properties enlivened Ward’s presentation. He described the memorial by Michael Arad, AIA, (“a memorial of incredible emotional and engineering complexity”) to be open by the 10th anniversary next year, and equally detailed the Memorial Pavilion by Snøhetta, the Memorial Museum by Davis Brody Bond Aedas, the transit hub by Santiago Calatrava, FAIA, and the rising office towers by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Fumihiko Maki, Hon. FAIA. “We have turned those renderings into a construction site,” Ward declared, “defined by 2,000 workers, memorial waterfalls clad in black granite, the first of the trees being planted, by underground infrastructure, and the arches of the transit hub.”

BIM modeling allowed for both the integration of concurrent project components and anticipated potential coordination problems. “At the end of the day,” Ward stated, “this is a construction project, and has to be thought of this way.” The effort to depoliticize the discourse was aided by changing the name of the site’s tallest building from Freedom Tower to One World Trade Center, attempting to lose “the monumentalism and rancor that marked the early days after 9/11 — New Yorkers needed a new downtown, not a political message.”

Concluding his remarks, Ward stated, “Our work is far from over. But our vision for downtown is finally about something else, about renewing our conversation with downtown. It will be what we make of it, not a political agenda about a new structure a few blocks away. It will be quite simply about all of us being New Yorkers — that will be downtown.”