New York Architects Craft Vital Public Projects

Event: Design for Decades: Spaces for Learning
Location: Center for Architecture, 01.19.11
Speakers: Daniel Heuberger, AIA, LEED AP — Principal, Dattner Architects; David Helpern, FAIA, LEED AP — Principal, Helpern Architects; David Holowka — Senior Project Manager, New York Public Library; Sergio Silveira, RA — Assistant Commissioner, NYC Department of Design + Construction; Bruce Barrett, RA, LEED AP — Vice President of Architecture & Engineering, NYC School Construction Authority; Stephanie Gelb, FAIA, LEED AP — Vice President of Planning and Design, Battery Park City Authority
Moderator: Ned Cramer, AIA — Editor-in-Chief, Architect
Organizer: Center for Architecture
Sponsors: NYC Department of Design + Construction; NYC School Construction Authority; New York Public Library; Battery Park City Authority; Dattner Architects; Helpern Architects; Artek; Bentley Prince Street; Knoll

Installation view of “Design for Decades” in the Margaret A. Helfand Gallery at the Center for Architecture. Pictured is the St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library.

Sam Lahoz

A supergraphic of the word “imagine” adorns the wall of the restored St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL). This text describes the lofty aspirations of the architects, clients, and communities of both the St. Agnes branch, designed by Helpern Architects, and P.S./I.S. 276, designed by Dattner Architects. These two projects, though different in their evolution, location, and function, required a similar imaginative vision to become realized.

Built in 1906 on the Upper West Side by Babb, Cook, and Willard, St. Agnes had fallen into disrepair following a series of ill-advised architectural interventions. The local community and the NYPL were dedicated to restoring the building to its initial grandeur and hired Helpern Architects to design a gut renovation. Since previous remodels had altered the original detailing and natural lighting of the library, Helpern focused on reintroducing daylight into the building. The firm uncovered fan lights on the street façade, as well as a glazed extension at the rear of the building. The community was so enthusiastic about these and other changes, according to Principal David Helpern, FAIA, LEED AP, that it supported construction progress with significant cash donations.

In contrast to St. Agnes, the local community of Battery Park City played a more political role in the construction of Dattner Architects’ P.S./I.S. 276. Pressure imposed on elected officials by neighborhood parents resulted in the city permitting an unusually rapid design and construction process. Further complicating matters, the site was spatially constrained. Dattner Architects proposed a vertical scheme in which a series of shared spaces in the middle of the building would separate elementary school students on the first floors from middle school students on the upper levels. Additionally, the firm designed the school to the Battery Park City Authority’s sustainable design guidelines as well as the SCA’s Green School Guidelines, resulting in a building that also serves to teach students about green design and construction, noted Principal Daniel Heuberger, AIA, LEED AP.

The Design for Decades initiative, which operates at a national level, highlights significant built work designed by AIA members. St. Agnes and P.S./I.S. 276 have been selected as part of the showcase. Projects are primarily exhibited online, but both projects are also on view at the Center for Architecture until 01.29.11.

Masters of the White Box Draw Inspiration from the Past

Event: The 4th Annual Arthur Rosenblatt Memorial Lecture for Excellence in Museum Design, Richard Gluckman on Content Context=Concept
Location: Center for Architecture, 01.12.11
Speaker: Richard Gluckman, FAIA — Principal, Gluckman Mayner Architects
Organizer: AIANY Cultural Facilities Committee

The Mori Arts Center in Tokyo.

Courtesy Gluckman Mayner Architects

Richard Gluckman, FAIA, principal of Gluckman Mayner Architects, has been designing spaces to showcase art for more than 30 years. He believes that it is harder to design a museum to accommodate general, rotating exhibitions than one intended to house work by a specific artist or genre. “There is the myth of flexibility,” he explained. “You can tailor the aspects of space, but the fewer options people have, the happier they are.” Though Gluckman Mayner is known as a “master of the white box,” inspiration also comes from a traditional source — the Caravaggio-lined Cerasi Chapel in Rome. Gluckman marvels at the energy and connection between viewer, art, and space, an effect he endeavors to recreate in his own designs for both gallery interiors and new museum buildings.

The work on display at the many notable galleries Gluckman Mayner has designed can be “defined by architectural terms. The art itself provides parameters in some cases, also,” Gluckman said. For example, a large operable door and column-free spans accommodated sculptures by Richard Serra in the Gagosian Gallery. For Serra’s studio in Queens, Gluckman noted that the design was a case of the “place of production mimicking the place of presentation.”

Inventive uses of practical materials and a complimentary approach to context characterize Gluckman Mayner’s designs for new museums and additions. For the Museo Picasso in Malaga, Spain, the firm restored a 16th-century palace, inserting six modern buildings into its dense fabric. Their stark, white plaster surfaces differentiate them from the traditional, buff-colored buildings, yet their texture and mass recall the region’s 1,000-year-old masonry traditions. Gluckman’s interest in masonry, particularly affordable pre-cast units, intensified with a design for the Austin Museum of Art and the renovation and expansion of the Perelman Building at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Currently on the boards are two new museums in China — the Zhejiang University Museum of Art and Archeology in Hangzhou, and the Qibao Cultural Museum in the Minhang District of Shanghai. Both designs draw inspiration from traditional Chinese architecture while establishing frames for art as well as the landscape. Gluckman Mayner’s designs ensure that viewing art is anything but a neutral experience.

NYC Sees Art in Aged Infrastructure

Event: High Bridge/High Line: Infrastructure as Culture
Location: Center for Architecture, 01.20.11
Speakers: Patricia Cruz — Executive Director, Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall; Peter Mullan — Vice President for Planning & Design, Friends of the High Line; Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP — 2009/10 AIANY ENYA Co-chair & Job Captain, Gensler; Keith VanDerSys — Principal, PEG office of landscape + architecture; Bryan Winter, RA — Executive Director, NYC Cement League
Moderator: Adrian Benepe — Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
Organizers: AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA); AIANY Cultural Facilities Committee

The High Line and the High Bridge.

Jessica Sheridan

“Parks represent the highest aspirations for a city,” stated Peter Mullan, vice president for planning and design at the Friends of the High Line. And whether they are generators for economic development or sites designed to bring a community together, he continued, parks are non-hierarchical, democratic levelers. A recent discussion brought together a panel to talk about the value of re-conceiving aged infrastructure to generate cultural activity in the city. Projects, such as the High Line by Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Harlem Stage by Ohlhausen DuBois Architects with WASA/Studio A and Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, represent successful rehabilitation projects. The High Bridge, with $50 million from PlaNYC and the oversight of the NYC Department of Design + Construction, represents future potential for the oldest bridge in NYC.

The connection between infrastructure and culture is not new, stated Patricia Cruz, executive director of the Harlem Stage, which is housed in a former gatehouse to the Croton Aqueduct. In 1886, people traveled in horse-and-buggy to watch water being released from the gates. Now, since 2006, people gather to watch performances, attend events, and view exhibitions by artists of color — a program that answered the needs of the local community at the time of the renovation, according to Cruz.

The High Line represents the “ultimate repurposing,” according to NYC Department of Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who moderated the discussion. With rotating art exhibitions and impromptu performances (including a “renegade cabaret” performed on one local resident’s balcony), the High Line has drawn millions of visitors. With the rezoning of the meatpacking district, new economic development is flourishing.

The High Bridge was the subject of the AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee’s (ENYA) most recent biennial design ideas competition. Connected to Highbridge Parks on either side of the Harlem River, the act of linking the Bronx to Manhattan through its parks is symbolic. Keith VanDerSys, principal of Philadelphia-based PEG office of landscape + architecture and winner of the ENYA Prize for his firm’s submission, used water to create a new connection between the community and the environment. His proposal integrated rainwater collection to generate a series of pools and waterfalls over and through the bridge. The health and welfare of the river and the local climate would be reflected, stated VanDerSys, and consequently the community would have a better understanding of climate conditions. The proposal incorporates a cloverleaf-shaped art center that transitions through the steep topography of the site over railroads and streets to give access to the waterfront.

Although VanDerSys’s proposal was an idea and not an actual proposal, ENYA’s goal for the competition was to inspire the local community to imagine the unconsidered possibilities for the High Bridge. VanDerSys suggested that by rebuilding the surrounding context (the parks) the potential of the bridge itself will be triggered. The parks will draw visitors and the local community will ultimately be improved. As was exemplified in the Harlem Stage and the High Line, the High Bridge has similar potential. “It is the ‘if you build it, they will come’ effect,” stated Mullan.

Note: The “High Bridge“exhibition featuring selected entries from the ENYA HB:BX competition is now on view at the Center through 03.26.11.

Design Ideas Converge on Haiti

Event: Sustainable Housing Prototype Exhibition and Fundraising Event for Haiti
Location: Center for Architecture, 01.12.11
Speakers: Noushin Ehsan, AIA — Chair, AIANY Global Dialogue Committee & Principal, 2nd Opinion Design; Norman Shaifer — Member of the Executive Committee, Haitian/American Disaster Relief Committee; Harry Fouché — Chairman, Consortium for Haitian Empowerment; Chris Christmas — Founder, Thinking Blue & Designer/Artist/Entrepreneur; Richard R. Gonzalez, LEED AP — Teaching Fellow, Columbia University; Michele Klode Garoute Michel — Artist; Theodore Liebman, FAIA — Principal, Perkins Eastman; Jim Luce — Founder and CEO, Orphans International Worldwide; Manfred St. Julien — Founder, Future Pace Design
Organizer: AIANY Global Dialogue Committee

Growing Block House; Ti Kwen Paradi; Expandable Home; The Home by Haiti.

Courtesy Haiti Housing Collaborative

The earthquake in Haiti last year provided evidence of the devastating consequences of poorly made architecture. On the one-year anniversary of the quake, a gathering was devoted to raising funds for building housing for Haitians, presenting four design prototypes that are sustainable and inexpensive to build.

Noushin Ehsan, AIA, president of 2nd Opinion Design and chair of the AIANY Global Dialogues Committee, explained how this initiative began. Shortly after the earthquake, she traveled to Port-au-Prince to see the conditions for herself and to figure out how the design committee might best be able to help. (See “Global Dialogues Travels to Haiti,” by Noushin Ehsan, AIA, e-Oculus, 05.18.10.) Since that trip, “I have not been able to let go of this incredible need that is there,” she said. Concerned about the slow pace of rebuilding, she told the committee that “we have to do something, and we have to do something different than everybody else has done.”

She led the formation of a new subcommittee, Haiti Housing Collaborative, which issued a call for temporary-to-permanent housing designs. The brief was to design rural housing that Haitians can build themselves, is inexpensive, and employs vernacular materials and styles. Unlike a conventional competition, a jury reviewed approximately 150 submissions from around the world, and chose 12 of the most promising designs. Those designers were then invited to a charrette at the Center for Architecture on 01.08.11 when the designers and jurors collaborated to determine four final designs, combining the best ideas out of the original 12.

New housing in the four designs will be built with funding from donors, and Haitians will be trained in the construction techniques. Each house will cost around $1,000 to $5,000 to construct, including the cost of the local labor, Ehsan said. Manfred St. Julien, founder of Future Pace Design and a member of the Haiti Housing Collaborative subcommittee, explained some logistics of the initiative. “Every penny we collect in this effort, 100% goes to these homes and these communities,” he said, adding that the process will be kept transparent through information posted at http://www.haitihousingcollaborative.org/.

Richard R. Gonzalez, LEED AP, one of the jurors, presented the four designs. Many feature the use of bamboo and gabions of recycled rubble for the foundations, as materials available locally. The designs offer an array of strategies for promoting a sense of community while offering privacy to individual households. In one design, for example, private spaces for individual families surround common spaces such as a semi-enclosed living room and a kitchen. This has the effect of “reinforcing the idea of the Haitian household, that it’s not just one family. It could be multiple families living within these units,” Gonzalez explained. In another design, houses (which are expandable if a family grows over time) surround a central quad with a vegetable garden.

Harry Fouché, chairman of the Consortium for Haitian Empowerment (a coalition of organizations working to better the conditions of Haitians), praised the practicality and simplicity of the designs. “They are not complicated construction,” he said. “They can be done; they can be replicated throughout the island…. What you’re doing here, it can and will help us move forward.”

Aging in Place(s) — Innovative Designs for Senior Living

Event: Aging in Place(s) — Innovative Designs for Senior Living
Location: Center for Architecture, 01.13.11
Speakers: Robyne Kassen, Assoc. AIA — Principal, Urban Movement Design; Richard Rosen, AIA — Principal, Perkins Eastman Architects
Organizer: AIANY Design for Aging Committee

“New York City is an attractive location where seniors can age in place,” said Richard Rosen, AIA, principal at Perkins Eastman Architects, at the beginning of his presentation of numerous recently-designed senior living communities in both urban and suburban locations throughout the world. All of the projects were designed by architecture firms based in the U.S. Despite the range of facilities, from high-rise to low-rise and large to small, all were designed with the same basic principles in mind — the availability of a wide range of services in close proximity to living quarters, either within the buildings or in the surrounding community. These are the same characteristics that make NYC an age-friendly city.

Most of the communities discussed provided all services and amenities within the complexes, but the urban examples also reached out into the neighborhood. Intergenerational mingling could happen in public, ground level facilities, including cafés, physical fitness centers, health clubs, libraries, retail shops, and common spaces. Some of the buildings seemed to feel more like a hotel than a facility catering to seniors.

Internally, the living units mostly consisted of small “neighborhoods” organized around local communal spaces to encourage residents to participate in an active community while minimizing travel distances. Many of the facilities included areas that encompass a total range of care, from independent and assisted living to skilled nursing requirements. Units were designed compactly, but with consideration for aging in place and the easy maneuvering of wheelchairs. Interestingly, all were designed in a Modern style, which seems to be the preference of an aging Baby Boom Generation. A concern for sustainability was also very evident and an integral element in each design.

A major theme underlying the operation of all these communities is to encourage healthful, active living. A variety of indoor and outdoor spaces are required to accommodate many activities. Landscaping, from small terraces and therapy gardens to large lawns, was often integrated into designs, with many rooms having direct access to outdoor spaces. Groupings of living units function like a miniature city, sometimes with a “main street” of common activities, allowing seniors to continue their lives in a minimally intrusive yet supportive and dignified manner.

In this issue:
· Carnegie Hall Adds Music to its Upper Floors
· Hold Your Heart High in Times Square
· Fordham’s Manhattan Campus to Double Law School Space
· Museum of the Moving Image Moves into the 21 Century
· A 24-Story TOD Rises in New Brunswick
· The Broad Unveils Contemporary Art


Carnegie Hall Adds Music to its Upper Floors

Carnegie Hall Studio Towers.

Iu + Bibliowicz Architects

Carnegie Hall released plans for the Studio Towers Renovation Project that will create new spaces for music education on the building’s upper floors and fully refurbish the venue’s backstage areas. The renovation, designed by Iu + Bibliowicz Architects, features a new 61,000-square-foot education wing that will include 24 new ensemble/workshop rooms, practice rooms, and teaching studios, as well as a new archive room. Adjacent to the wing is a new outdoor roof terrace — a feature first envisioned in 1892 by the building’s original architect William Burnet Tuthill, now re-imagined as a gathering place for performers and concertgoers, teachers, students, and staff. The backstage areas, which are located largely within the south tower, will undergo an upgrading of artist support spaces, including three new orchestra rooms, and double the number of floors supporting hall’s performance activities.

Plans also include updates to the 120-year-old building’s systems, conforming to contemporary building codes, restoration of key historic exterior and interior elements, and a consolidation of administrative offices. As part of the renovations, work on the exterior will restore and improve the landmarked building, including the removal of non-historic changes at the street level and roofline, largely dating from 1986 or later.


Hold Your Heart High in Times Square

Light Hearted.

Freecell

“Light Hearted,” designed by Brooklyn-based Freecell, has won the Times Square Arts 2011 Valentine competition, a project of the Times Square Alliance Public Art Program. The 10-foot diameter lightweight construction has an open weave fabric that allows wind to pass through and capture and reflect light. The main structure is constructed of five pairs of aluminum elliptical loops radially arranged with rotating connections and covered with a red fabric skin. Teams of six volunteers will hold up the heart for display for 15 minutes at a time in Duffy Square in Times Square from 02.10-20.11. The heart lies flat on the ground until volunteers lift the structure and unfold it into a heart. Visit http://www.lighthearted.us/ to volunteer.


Fordham’s Manhattan Campus to Double Law School Space

Fordham University School of Law.

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Construction is underway on the site of what will be Fordham University’s new School of Law. Clad in a curtain wall of cast stone, metal, and glass, the building is located south of Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park. Designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, the law school will occupy the lower nine floors of the 22-story building, while the upper floor will house 430 undergraduate students. The 468,000-square-foot building will more than double the law school’s current program, event, and office space, and will feature a two-story atrium, a moot and trial court facility, and a 562,000-volume law library. The $250 million project is the centerpiece of the first phase of Fordham’s $1.6 billion development plan. The building is expected to be completed in 2014 and earn a LEED Silver certification.


Museum of the Moving Image Moves into the 21 Century

Museum of the Moving Image.

© Peter Aaron/Esto. Courtesy Museum of the Moving Image

The expanded and redesigned Museum of the Moving Image, located in Astoria, Queens, recently opened. Designed by Leeser Architecture, a three-story addition was added to the former Astoria Studio complex built in 1920 for Paramount Pictures. The 97,700 square feet nearly doubles its original size. The original building façade retains its industrial masonry-and-glass structure and incorporates a new mirrored and transparent glass entrance. The lobby contains an 83-degree slanted wall that serves as a seamless screen for video projections, with a gathering space beneath the sloping ceiling. A pair of ramps enclosed in glowing blue tunnels leads up from the lobby to a new 267-seat theater with a wraparound ceiling and walls made from triangular, fitted fabric panels. A secondary screening room has a hot pink entrance and features exposed loudspeakers and a gray, perforated acoustical wall and ceiling surface. The building also includes a 1,700-square-foot video screening amphitheater, and a 68-seat screening room. A new education center occupies the west side of the ground floor. The museum’s 10,000-square-foot courtyard will open this spring, and from this space, visitors can see the contrast between the old and the new, light blue façade made out of 1,067 thin aluminum panels.


A 24-Story TOD Rises in New Brunswick

New Brunswick Gateway Transit Village.

Meltzer/Mandl Architects

Meltzer/Mandl Architects has completed the design of the New Brunswick Gateway Transit Village, a 24-story transit oriented development (TOD) project sited across the street from Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey, and adjacent to the New Brunswick train station. TOD’s cluster mass transit with living, working, and shopping spaces; this 632,000-square-foot project includes more than 120,000 square feet of commercial space, a 657-vehicle parking garage, and 58,000 square feet of retail. Forty-two of the 192 residential units are market-rate condominiums, 150 are rental apartments, and 20% are designated as affordable housing. The 14-story residential tower will sit atop a 10-story parking structure, which will be wrapped by offices, as well as a series of street-level commercial spaces. The building will comprise a series of discrete structural systems, including pre-cast concrete for the parking structure and a steel frame for the residential tower and commercial spaces. A highlight of the project is a pedestrian bridge linking the larger community and the campus directly to the train platform. The $150 million project, expected to be completed in June 2012, is a partnership with the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO), other city agencies, Rutgers University, and Pennrose Properties.


The Broad Unveils Contemporary Art

The Broad.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Plans for “The Broad,” a Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles, were recently unveiled. The three-story museum features a porous, honeycomb “veil” that wraps the building visible from a penthouse sky-lit gallery designed for the Broad Collection of contemporary art. The veil lifts at the corners, welcoming visitors into a lobby with a bookstore and espresso bar. An escalator “tunnels” up through the archive, arriving at a 24-foot-high, 40,000-square-foot column-free, flexible exhibition space that can be shaped according to curatorial needs. Visitors descend down a winding stair through the vault that offers behind-the-scenes glimpses through viewing windows into the vast holdings of the collections and lending library. The museum is expected to be completed in two years.

In this issue:
· Passing, Edgar Tafel, FAIA
· Code Committee Applications Now Being Accepted
· eCalendar


Passing, Edgar Tafel, FAIA
Edgar Tafel, FAIA, a luminary of the New York architectural community and the namesake of the Center for Architecture’s Tafel Hall, passed away on 01.18.11. He was 98. A remembrance is planned for 02.17.11, 4:00 pm, at the Center for Architecture. Read Tafel’s obituary in the New York Times. Said Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director, “Edgar was a friend, colleague, and mentor to many architects and designers in New York and almost everywhere else. He lived just across Washington Square Park from the Center for Architecture and would frequently walk over for exercise and conversation, regaling students, staff, and visitors with stories of Mr. Wright and his own buildings. The Lecture Hall of the Center is named in his honor, and, now, in his memory.”

Bell and Edgar Tafel, FAIA, in the Center for Architecture’s Tafel Hall in August 2010.

Emily Nemens


Code Committee Applications Now Being Accepted
The NYC Department of Buildings is requesting applications from members of the architectural community to serve on technical committees that will help develop and review amendments to the NYC Construction Codes as part of the mandated three-year revision cycle. Applications will now be accepted through 02.11.11 (extended from 02.04.11). Download the Request for Committee Participant (pdf) for more information.


eCALENDAR
eCalendar includes an interactive listing of architectural events around NYC. Click the link to go to to eCalendar on the Web.

Center for Architecture Gallery Hours and Location
Monday-Friday: 9:00am-8:00pm, Saturday: 11:00am-5:00pm, Sunday: CLOSED
536 LaGuardia Place, Between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets in Greenwich Village, NYC, 212-683-0023

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

Design for Decades

On view December 8, 2010 – January 29, 2011

Building Connections 2010

Print

On view November 4, 2010 – March 12, 2011

High Bridge: Bronx, Building Cultural Infrastructure (HB:BX)

LogoOnColor

On View November 11, 2010 – March 26, 2011

Foundation Explores Architecture from the Ground Up

Jennifer Golan

Last week, 15 self-selected 11th- and 12th-grade students from the Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction, Brooklyn Technical High School, and New Design High School participated in a “Build A Wall” workshop at the Center for Architecture. The workshop introduced students to the field of construction, offering them an opportunity to explore the trade through hands-on building. Prestige Custom Building and Construction donated their time and materials to demonstrate how to build a basic metal framework wall with a combination of door, window, and wall intersections. Tony Schirippa, FAIA, IIDA, AIANY immediate past-president, who first introduced the idea of the “Build A Wall” workshop, gave students a tour of the Center’s current exhibition “Innovate: Integrate.”

During the program, students shared their interests and prior exposure to architecture and construction while discussing future goals. Prestige employees gave a presentation of the various tools and safety procedures. Then students gathered around the 12-foot long “construction site” to take measurements of the loose door, window, and framing materials to diagram and craft a construction drawing of the wall. Throughout the event students got their hands dirty, drilling, measuring, and leveling the various components until a perfectly constructed wall frame with one door and window was completed.

Through this interactive workshop students observed how a simple architectural sketch is transformed into a tangible structure. Students discovered how to create a support structure, the importance of proper placement of building materials, and the magic 16-inch construction number — used to frame everything from houses to the tallest skyscrapers. Having little exposure to the construction world, Robert, a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School, learned “the importance of each little minor detail. How the importance of one bolt will be significant because everything in the beginning affects the end result.” With the help of Prestige these architecture-savvy students learned new skills and experienced the satisfaction of developing a design into a built reality.

Special thanks to Lior Golan, Bryan Pierre, and crew for donating their time and materials to the Center for Architecture Foundation, and to Laura Trimble, partnership programs coordinator of the Center for Architecture, for coordinating this event. For more information about the Foundation and ways to get involved, visit www.cfafoundation.org or contact Tim Hayduk at thayduk@cfafoundation.org.

U.S. Department of Energy Sends Crushing Message to Architecture Students

Since 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon has challenged 20 teams of international college students biennially to design solar-powered houses. These houses have been exhibited on the National Mall, bringing public awareness to sustainability and the challenges facing future thought leaders in green design. A couple of weeks ago, just eight months before the launch of the showcase, the Solar Decathlon website posted an announcement that this year the venue will be changed and relocated to a yet-to-be-determined site. The post states that the reason for the site change is because of the historic effort to protect, improve, and restore the National Mall. This is creating quite a stir, especially among the teams of students who have been planning their designs for the Mall for almost two years now. Perhaps it is a harsh wake-up call to idealistic students that projects will not always turn out as expected, but it also sends a message to them that the government does not see the value in hosting the event on one of the most visible — and visited — center stages in the nation.

There is a petition posted by a student in protest to the relocation that, as of this publication date, 5,193 people have signed. It states, “In your inaugural address, President Obama, you stressed the importance of a national movement towards more sustainable practices…. You affirmed that our colleges and universities possess the ability to influence future generations to adopt more sustainable practices — this truth resonates with the mission of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.” I agree that, in a time when sustainability has gained momentum, and with the supposed support of the national government, relocating the event is making an antithetical point. Instead, the program requirements should be adjusted to either include a clause about minimally affecting the grounds or incorporate grounds rehabilitation. If plans for relocation prevail, however, I hope the new site will be just as accessible to the public as the Mall.