CFAF Tours Brooklyn and the Middle East

The Foundation’s Brooklyn Heights Walking Tour for families began at the Brooklyn Historical Society and concluded at the Promenade, overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge.

Eveline Chang

Visitors learned about Modernist architecture in the Middle East on the Foundation’s guided tour of exhibits at the Center on March 14th.

Jaime Endreny

On 03.14.12, the Center for Architecture Foundation welcomed the public to its first guided exhibition tour of “City of Mirages – Baghdad, 1952-1982” and “CHANGE: Architecture and Engineering in the Middle East, 2000-Present,” led by CFAF’s Lead Design Educator, Tim Hayduk. “City of Mirages” tells the story of Iraq’s struggle to modernize in the mid-20th century with the help of some of the West’s best practitioners. The show, which traveled from Barcelona, Spain to the Center for Architecture, includes models, video footage, and drawings sourced from around the world. Tour attendees were also introduced to the “CHANGE” exhibit, which provides a survey of current work in the Middle East throughout regions of varying geography, cultures, climates, and economies.

In contrast to the expansive geographical area covered by CHANGE, the CFAF gave a local tour, just across the East River in historic Brooklyn Heights. The program began with an overview of the Center for Architecture’s 2009 exhibition, “Context/Contrast: New Architecture in Historic Districts, 1967-2009,” currently on view at the Brooklyn Historical Society. “Context/Contrast” investigates how “appropriate” new architecture in historic districts has allowed neighborhoods to evolve without endangering the essential character that contributes to their public value and makes them worth protecting. Families then explored the architecture of this architecturally diverse and historic neighborhood on an interactive walking tour with Design Educator Jane Cowan. Both children and adults learned how to look for clues in the built environment to uncover some of Brooklyn Heights’ fascinating history.

The Center for Architecture Foundation is offering an exhibitions-based FamilyDay@theCenter on 04.14.12, and an additional lunchtime exhibitions tour of “City of Mirages” and “CHANGE” on 05.04.12. For additional information about the CFAF’s various programs, please visit

Alejandro Zaera-Polo, formerly principal of Foreign Office Architects and now leading Alejandro Zaera-Polo Architects, has been named the next dean of Princeton University’s School of Architecture, effective 07.01.12…

The Navy Pier Inc. (NPI) Board announced that design firm James Corner Field Operations has been selected to help reimagine the Chicago Navy Pier’s public spaces, a redevelopment effort known as “Pierscape”…

The Whitney Museum of American Art has commissioned LOT-EK to design and build a pop-up studio for the museum’s education programs, scheduled to open in April in the Sculpture Court of the museum’s Marcel Breuer building…

A team led by WXY Architecture + Urban Design has been selected by the Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, in collaboration with the Office of New York State Assembly member Brian Kavanagh and other partners, to develop the East River Blueway Plan, a community-based waterfront planning initiative…

Selldorf Architects is designing two major galleries for David Zwirner: in London, a gut renovation of a 10,000-square-foot, five-story 18th-century Georgian townhouse in Mayfair, and, in New York, a new ground-up 30,000-square-foot, five-story building on a site of a former parking garage in Chelsea…

Spector Group has been named lead architect for the remodeling of the  31,000-square-foot New York City headquarters of amfAR on two floors at 120 Wall Street…

Stephen Alton Architect has been named interior design architect for the Toll Brothers project at 400 Park Avenue South, joining a team that includes design architect Christian de Portzamparc and executive architect Handel Architects

For the second consecutive year, Stevens Institute of Technology has been selected to compete in the U.S Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2013, which will be held  in Orange County Great Park in Irvine, CA, from 10.03.13 through 10.13.13…

2012 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, note that 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, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA:

Spring: Small Firms Doing Big Things [closed]
Summer: 2012 AIANY Design Awards [closed]

Fall: Learning Curve
Pedagogical shifts affecting architecture for education. — How architects/architecture reinforce new ways of teaching. —How architects/architecture can change the pedagogy. —How big institutional expansion plans are changing the city. —Case studies.
Submit story ideas by 06.01.12

Winter: In Sickness and In Health / Health & Well-being
Why and how the healthcare industry (providers, pharma, etc.) is investing in architecture.—What are the trends? —Issues: generational; demographic; sustainability; technology. —Case studies
Submit story ideas by 07.27.12


03.30.12 Request for Qualifications: Center for Architecture Graphic Designer Shortlist
04.01.12 Call for Entries: FIGMENT/ENYA/SEAoNY City of Dreams Pavilion Competition
04.02.12 Call for Entries: 2012 AIA | LA Restaurant Design Awards
04.15.12 Call for Entries: Solutia World of Color Awards International Design Competition
04.16.12 Call for Entries: International Architectural Ideas Competition— National Museum of Afghanistan
04.30.12 Call for Entries: CTBUH Best Tall Building Awards 2012
05.01.12 Applications Due: Douglas Haskell Award for Student Journals
05.31.12 Call for Entries: Arquideas — Landscape, Architecture & Wine Academic Competition
06.30.12 Call for Entries: New Economy Class Layout (Boeing 787)
07.01.12 Call for Submissions: Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition
07.31.12 Call for Nominations: 2012 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize

03.16.12: The Center for Architecture welcomed theater-goers to a series of short plays by Middle Eastern playwrights, presented by the Noor Theatre.


Actors Najla Said and Michele Rafic in Build, Forget by Ismail Khalidi

Laura Trimble


The cast takes a bow: (l-r) Najla Said, Daniel Shamoun, Darrill Rosen, Leila Buck, Michele Rafic, Yusef Bulos, Piter Marek, and Eric T. Miller.

Laura Trimble

03.21.12: Dattner Architects’ Associate Adam Watson, AIA, LEED AP, (center) gave Oculus Editor Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA, and AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, a tour of Via Verde affordable housing project in the South Bronx by Phipps/Rose/Dattner/Grimshaw.


Kirsten Sibilia, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

03.23.12: The Center for Architecture hosted “Freeboard,” a design charrette organized by the New York City Department of City Planning and the AIANY Design for Risk and Recovery Committee. The charrette gathered architects, urban planners, landscape architects, and city officials to develop approaches to sea level rise in New York City.


Clockwise from top: Beth Greenberg, AIA, Dattner Architects; Skye Duncan, New York City Department of City Planning; Alison Duncan, ASLA, RLA, Alison Duncan Design; a charrette participant; Carmi Bee, FAIA, Principal, RKT&B; Reid Freeman, AIA, Principal, James Carpenter Design Associates; Eric Bunge, AIA, Partner, nArchitects.

Benedict Clouette


Winka Dubbeldam, Assoc. AIA, presents with James Slade, AIA, LEED AP, Principal of Slade Architecture.

Benedict Clouette

AIANY Honors Winners of the 2012 Design Awards

Event: AIANY Design Awards 2012 Juror Symposium
Speakers: Thomas H. Beeby, FAIA—Principal-in-Charge of Design, Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge; Rand L. Elliott, FAIA—President, Elliott + Associates Architects; Scott Erdy, AIA—Principal, Erdy McHenry Architecture; Bernardo Fort-Brescia, FAIA—Principal, Arquitectonica; Anne Fougeron, FAIA—Principal, Fougeron Architecture; Thomas Hacker, FAIA—Founding Principal, THA; Alice Y. Kimm, FAIA—Partner, John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects (JFAK); Gary L. Lee—Founder and President, Gary Lee Partners; Michael Lehrer, FAIA—Principal, Lehrer Architects; Bruce Lindsey, AIA—Dean, College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University; Donlyn Lyndon, FAIA—Eva Li Professor Emeritus of Architecture and Urban Design, University of California Berkeley; Carme Pinós, Hon. FAIA—Principal, Estudio Carme Pinós
Moderator: Alexandra Lange
Organizer: AIA New York Chapter
Sponsors: Ennead Architects, Porcelanosa (Patrons)
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.05.12

The full list of winners of the 2012 AIANY Design Awards can be found here.

Last week, on a warm and spring-like day, 12 architects, educators, and designers gathered at the Center for Architecture to decide the winners of the 2012 AIA New York Chapter’s Design Awards. In the evening, following a full day of debate that narrowed the field to the 36 projects chosen for Honor and Merit Awards, the jury joined architecture critic and historian Alexandra Lange for a symposium to announce and discuss the winning designs.

Jurors considered designs in four categories, eventually choosing two Honors Awards in Architecture, three in Interiors, three in Un-Built Work, and two in Urban Design. According to the rules, the submitted projects had to be completed by architects or designers practicing in New York, or be New York City projects designed by architects or designers based elsewhere. This year, the premiated work was drawn from 391 entries, almost half of which were in the Architecture category.

Several of the jurors emphasized the generosity to the public realm, and to the users of the buildings, that the chosen projects exhibited. As juror Carme Pinós, Hon. FAIA, summarized, “We didn’t reward the most spectacular architectural gestures. Rather, in many of the projects, the form results from the users, and from a sense for how people inside might feel.” Jurors also spoke of the importance of architecture in shaping the city. Donlyn Lyndon, FAIA, in discussing Interboro Partners’ Holding Pattern at PS1, described the power of design to contribute to civic life, saying, “Urban design is a process of projecting what the public realm can become, which necessarily includes the initiatives of many people.”

Many of the winning projects retain a sense of modesty, characterized by a subtle negotiation with their contexts, even as they powerfully reshape their sites. Juror Bruce Lindsey, AIA, expressed his appreciation for the Hirshhorn Museum Seasonal Inflatable Pavilion by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and KlingStubbins, noting how it transforms the building without harming it through a simple move that is also temporary. Lange observed that many of the projects selected in the Un-built category, including the Hirshhorn, are provocative but still realizable. Considering the range of projects, she remarked, “The winners are not the most zany of the entries, and are actually very appropriate, for example, in their reuse of existing buildings, or in their approach to the context of their site.”

Nonetheless, the work selected for awards consistently demonstrates a well-resolved aesthetic and conceptual clarity. Discussing an interior by SO-IL and Formactiv, juror Alice Kimm, FAIA, noted, “The projects we chose all do something in a strong way, whether with program, space, light, or material. What interested us in interiors was that there is often more room for invention than in projects that are more purely architectural.” Many of the chosen interiors went beyond superficial treatments to address the organization and circulation of their buildings, and provide new interpretations of the spaces in which they intervened.

Indeed, a commonality in much of the chosen work is a desire to act on its context, and to enliven the city, whether by introducing new programs or by acting on ideas and perceptions. As juror Michael Lehrer, FAIA suggested, “One of the most important things that design can do is to affect how people see things.” In celebrating these projects, the 2012 AIANY Design Awards perhaps reflected a larger cultural shift, recently noted elsewhere, toward considerations of architecture’s role in civic culture.

Benedict Clouette is a writer and the editor of e-Oculus.

Critiquing the Critics

James Russell, FAIA, (left) speaking at “Architectural Criticism Today,” with panel members Cathleen McGuigan, Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA, Justin Davidson, and moderator Julie Iovine.

Courtesy the Center for Architecture

Event: Architecture and the Media Series – Architectural Criticism Today

Speakers: Julie Iovine—The Architect’s Newspaper (moderator); James Russell, FAIA—Bloomberg; Cathleen McGuigan—Architectural Record; Justin Davidson—New York Magazine; Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA—The New Yorker

Organized by: Center for Architecture and the AIANY Oculus Committee and Marketing & PR Committee; co-organized by The Architect’s Newspaper.

Location: Center for Architecture, 02.27.12

When architects want to gauge the success of new buildings or other significant projects, they turn to columns by critics such as Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA, James Russell, FAIA, and Justin Davidson, or they peruse publications like Architectural Record and The Architect’s Newspaper. These writers and editors participated in a panel discussion—the first in a four-part series—examining the state of architectural criticism today: how it reaches the general public, the effects of digital technology, and the recent shift away from a focus on “starchitects.”

Some critics write for the general public—”People who might know Frank Gehry but don’t know SHoP,” explained moderator Julie Iovine of The Architect’s Newspaper. Architecture columns vie for space with movie and pop-culture pieces. Though each critic on the panel targets a slightly different audience, they agreed that interest has shifted from the celebrity architect and “object buildings” to larger debates about the future of the city.

Digital technology has, no doubt, influenced the way the public consumes criticism—they have become critics themselves. “Twitter and the Internet add a whole new level of immediacy to ‘undercooked’ ideas,” Russell said. Even critics find themselves writing about buildings before they are complete, using only renderings as their guide. Goldberger noted that there is an expectation of decisiveness when critics review a finished building, but when it comes to the un-built, he feels a responsibility to be equivocal.

But what about critics’ responsibility towards the architects about whose work they write? According to Goldberger, “Good criticism has to pay attention to the social, economic and political context—architects’ good intentions don’t always have a place.” Cathleen McGuigan, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record, concurred: “Criticism is not just giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.” She strives to include images that illustrate projects within their urban context and also interviews end users. Ultimately, the panelists tried to keep things in perspective. As Goldberger concluded: “Nobody tears down a building if we don’t like it.”

Read The Architect’s Newspaper’s transcription of the event here

Murrye Bernard is a freelance architecture writer and a contributing editor to Contract Magazine and e-Oculus.

The next event in the “Architecture and the Media” series is “Design Reportage: The Business Press and General Interest Media,” on Thursday, 05.03.12, 6:00 – 8:00 PM. The panel will focus on media channels outside the design and building industry.

Something New Under the Sun

Yas Marina Hotel in Abu Dhabi, UAE, by Asymptote with Dewan Architects and Engineers, and engineering by Arup.

Bjorn Moerman Photography

Event: Culture and Climate: Contemporary Architectural Responses in the Middle East
Speakers: Hana Kassem, AIA LEED AP—Director, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC; Gordon Carrie, CEng, LEED AP —Associate, Arup; Anthony Fieldman, AIA, LEED AP—Design Principal, Perkins+Will; Paul Stoller, LEED AP BD+C—Director, Atelier Ten; Louise Harpman, Assoc. AIA—Clinical Associate Professor of Architecture, Urban Design, and Sustainability, New York University (moderator)
Organizer: Center for Architecture
Sponsors: A. Estéban & Co. (benefactor), Buro Happold (lead sponsor); Eytan Kaufman Design and Development, FXFOWLE (sponsors); Arup; Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; Dewan Architects & Engineers; GAD; HDR; Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; NAGA Architects; Ramla Benaissa Architects; RBSD Architects; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; World Monuments Fund; Zardman (supporters)
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.01.2012

The more active global architecture firms become in the Middle East, the more complex and fruitful the exchanges of ideas are between regional traditions and the technologies, strategies, and assumptions of external cultures. The speakers at this panel, associated with the Change and City of Mirages exhibitions currently on display at the Center, emphasized the bidirectionality of these dialogues while taking account of the distinctive features that make the 16 Middle Eastern nations natural sites for certain types of projects, but sites of resistance to others. In projects for governmental, educational, and corporate clients around Western Asia—an alternative name, moderator Louise Harpman pointed out, for parts of the world that were first dubbed “the Middle East” by American and English naval and military strategists in the early 20th century—these firms have found productive ways of engaging with cultures that remain proudly resistant to being defined by outsiders.

Arup’s Gordon Carrie, CEng, LEED AP, explained some of the essentials of estidama, the sustainability principles that function under Abu Dhabi’s 2030 plan as the local equivalent of LEED standards. Since this region is one of the brightest places on Earth, Carrie noted, solar energy is a natural here; photovoltaics can be exceptionally efficient, particularly when integrated into holistically designed systems (and protected from sandstorms). The religious practice of ritual purification makes these nations relatively heavy users of water, and the scarcity of water resources means that gray-to-green infrastructural forms (rain gardens, sand filters, bioswales) have great potential, though cultural taboos make wastewater-reuse systems hard to implement—a phenomenon also found in New York, Atelier Ten’s Paul Stoller, LEED AP, noted.

Although the region includes eight climates as defined by the Köppen classification, intense sunlight is an unavoidable fact of life here. As the joint presentation by Stoller and Perkins+Will’s Anthony Fieldman, AIA, LEED AP, set out a series of important physical, cultural, and architectural qualities they have observed in the region, aridity—2-4 inches of rainfall per year—is an important principle connecting many of the others, such as protectiveness and modesty (expressed in the form of streets narrow enough to be self-shading, as well as home structures preserving social and gender separation), texture and intricacy (as in the elaborate geometries of mashrabiya screens), and a sense of discovery (embodied in contrasting compressed and open spaces). “The world’s hottest climate,” Fieldman noted, is “not something to be feared; it’s more something to rise to the occasion to.”

Structures that modulate gradual transitions in temperature through optimized apertures, reflective internal rather than external glazing, traditional tent-like forms, and other relatively low-tech approaches are generally successful here. Civic space as it’s understood in the West, KPF’s Hana Kassem, AIA, LEED AP, observed, has barely existed in Abu Dhabi, and malls, for better or worse, are one of the fast-developing forms of it. Her firm has looked to an older local tradition, the souk or open-air commercial quarter, as a model for the “media souk” in a new media production zone, twofour54 (named for the emirate’s latitude and longitude), where individual building components weave together to join at a central bazaar-like area, making the relatively novel “live/work/connect” mixed-use concept more culturally comprehensible.

The oil-rich nations of the region have been modernizing rapidly, in some cases too rapidly to take much heed of resource conservation as they have brought Western cooling technologies to their large-scale projects. Their leaders are avidly curious about some, though not all, design principles developed elsewhere, Fieldman reported. It is unrealistic for Westerners who have only recently “woken up from our energy binge,” in his phrase, to expect former nomadic cultures—in places whose primary economic activity a few decades ago was pearl diving, as Kassem noted about the United Arab Emirates—to adopt building technologies that strive to shield 100% of solar gain, or to eschew air conditioning, but the sense of environmental stewardship is increasing. The earlier-industrializing nations have much to offer, but also much to learn from Western Asia’s centuries-long experience managing the controllable and uncontrollable challenges of their world.

Bill Millard is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in OCULUS, Icon, Content, The Architect’s Newspaper, and other publications.

Enrique Norten: This Will Kill That

Rendering of TEN Arquitectos’ Acapulco City Hall

Courtesy TEN Arquitectos

Event: Enrique Norten: This Will Kill That
Speaker: Enrique Norten, Hon. FAIA—Principal, TEN Arquitectos
Organizer: AIANY Cultural Facilities Committee
Reception sponsor: TEN Arquitectos
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.07.2012

Enrique Norten’s recent talk, provocatively titled “This Will Kill That,” could be best considered in two parts. In the course of his lecture, Norten moved between a fresh mix of recent work by his firm TEN Arquitectos and a historical analysis of the relationship between architecture and media technologies.

Norten began the night comparing physical urban space and digital cyberspace
through the lens of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1901 The Art and Craft of the Machine. Norten’s lecture took its title from a chapter in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is also a touchstone for Wright in Art and Craft. Norten’s point was well taken: while cities might have once served as the true “machines for living” (Corbusier), the machine in which we increasingly live is cyberspace’s cloud. Nevertheless, while remarking on last year’s Arab Spring and flipping through slides of occupied squares across the world, Norten asserted that one actually “has to be present to change the world.” Cyberspace, it seems, cannot supplant physical space, at least when it comes to political change.

Although the phrase “This Will Kill That” can be interpreted as a reference to erosion of the Church’s monopoly on truth, following the advent of the printing press (from Hugo: “All civilization begins in theocracy and ends in democracy”), Norten aptly put his finger on the other meaning: “Printing will kill architecture.” Or as Norten suggested, “Thought has become liberated from architecture.” Indeed, Norten, via Hugo and Wright, identifies a larger issue of contemporary architecture: its relative impermanence and resultant decline as humanity’s principle repository of memory.

While this author might address the issue from slightly different position—after all, what building isn’t a reflection of its time and a wellspring of information about an era?—it is probably true that contemporary architecture rarely rises to the level of “the great handwriting of the human race” (Hugo again).

What does this have to do with TEN Arquitectos’ work? Well, perhaps it’s the fact that the four projects presented—Acapulco City Hall, Rutgers University’s Livingston Campus, the Chapo Museum in Mexico City, and the Amparo Museum in Puebla, Mexico—each starts with a consideration of public space and the social dimensions of the building’s program.

Acapulco City Hall, located at an important intersection, separates the sections of the program (different bureaucratic offices) into boxes, and stacks each under a roof that spans two-and-a-half football fields; the roof is green, of course, and is covered with solar panels and troughs for rainwater. The interstitial spaces created between the stacked bureaus serve as circulation and public space, enabling the building to be open 24/7 and serve as a public square at the end of a typical government workday.

Work for the Rutgers University Livingston Campus, which includes a master plan and a business school, attempts to “create an edge” to what is an extension of the main New Brunswick campus. Carved out of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve, the plan rings the site with buildings, leaving central quads open for circulation. The Business School is the literal campus gateway.

For the Chapo Museum, instead of demolishing a crystal palace-style structure on the site, Norten opted to slip the museum under the existing roof, as if it were a “ship in a bottle.” The existing shell protects the building and, like the Acapulco project, the interstitial space between roof and building is available for assembly and circulation.

The final project, the Amparo Museum, also works with an existing building. This time, new space is found on the building complex’s roof. By inserting a new structure into the middle of the collection of colonial buildings and expanding up, the public realm is again rediscovered in an interstitial space.

In an attempt to weave the two halves together, perhaps we can end with a quote by David Remnick from the March 12th issue of The New Yorker: “Democracy is never fully achieved. At best, it’s an ambition, a state of becoming.” Are we destined, then, to occupy an interstitial space along Hugo’s procession of civilization (theocracy to democracy)? If so, then perhaps there is still hope for architecture to embody ideas despite its materiality. By opening up public space, Norten’s architecture attempts to unlock architecture’s power to influence people and effect change.

Daniel B.F. Fox is AIA New York’s office manager and liaison to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Oculus Book Talk: Guy Gugliotta, Freedom's Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War

Location: Center for Architecture, 03.12.12
Speakers: Guy Gugliotta — journalist and author
Introduced by: Rick Bell, FAIA — Executive Director, AIANY
Respondent: Alan M. Hantman, FAIA — 10th Architect of the Capitol
Organizers: AIANY Oculus Committee; AIANY Historic Buildings Committee

At a time when citizens are increasingly frustrated by Congress’ inability to leverage a spirit of bipartisanship into action on their behalf, Freedom’s Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War, a recent book by former Washington Post reporter Guy Gugliotta, is an important reflection on the history and the meaning of a building that symbolizes our democracy. It is also a testament to how a powerful architectural vision can be retained even when the core beliefs and values of its users are being torn apart.

In his recent lecture at the Center for Architecture, part of the Oculus Book Talks series, Gugliotta described the expansion of the U.S. Capitol during one of America’s most bloody and tumultuous periods in history – the Civil War. The Capitol, like other great buildings, had its share of drama and intrigue throughout its design and construction. The original Capitol building of 1800 was burned to the ground during the War of 1812 and was reconstructed soon after, but by 1850, Gugliotta said, it was rotting from water infiltration. The architect charged with the expansion, Thomas Ustick Walter, wrote in a letter to his wife, Amanda, that “The building is like one grand water closet – every hole and corner defiled.”

Gugliotta described the bitter feud between Walter and Army engineer Montgomery C. Meigs, who supervised the construction of the Capitol dome. Walter, as Gugliotta noted, believed Meigs was stealing his legacy as he fought for greater control of the design. He wrote of their quarrel in early 1858, “We have got completely at war.” In Gugliotta’s book, the relationship between these two brilliant men unfolds amidst the backdrop of a country that was also in conflict, fighting for its very soul. The unlikely champion of the Capitol’s expansion was Jefferson Davis, the junior senator from Mississippi who during the 11 years before he left the Senate to become the President of the Confederacy, was the building’s greatest advocate. Gugliotta noted that the rifts created by the Civil War became deeply personal among the three men—Davis, Walter, and Meigs—who oversaw work on the Capitol. While the architectural expansion of the Capitol and its iconic design was a symbol of a united America, the history of its construction is inseparable from the Civil War. The statue “Freedom” was placed atop the Capitol’s new dome in 1863, shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg.

In his response to the presentation, former Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman, FAIA, drew parallels between the complex politics surrounding the Capitol of the 1850s and those today. He noted that when he was appointed in 1997, he assumed that his greatest hurdle would be gridlock between the Republicans and Democrats, but that in fact it was conflicts between the Senate and House that posed the most serious challenges. Rick Bell, FAIA, pointed to similarities between our contemporary moment, characterized by economic uncertainty and polarizing rhetoric in national debates, and the Panic of 1857, which, as Gugliotta notes, was set off by the Dred Scott Decision on the rights of slaves. Bell observed that 1857 was also the year of the AIA’s founding, and that moments of crisis, whether economic or moral, sometimes drive the creation of new institutions, or, as in the expansion of the Capitol, strengthen the resolve of existing ones.

Maxinne Rhea Leighton, Assoc. AIA, is a member of the AIANY Oculus Committee. She is in charge of managing the Northeast Region Business Development and Marketing at Parsons Brinkerhoff.

Note about Oculus Book Talks: Each month, the AIANY Oculus Committee hosts a Book Talk at the Center for Architecture. Each talk highlights a recent publication on architecture, design, or the built environment — presented by the author. The Book Talks are a forum for dialogue and discussion, and copies of the publications are available for purchase and signing. The next talk will take place on 04.04.12, featuring Alexandra Lange, author of Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. Click here to RSVP.

In this issue:
· Frieze Decorates Randall’s Island
· A Final Gwathmey-Designed Building is Added to the Skyline
· Fumihiko Maki Re-Makes Astor Place
· First Look at Designs for the Final Section of the High Line
· Armory Show Redux
· Reinventing the Suburban Office Building

Frieze Decorates Randall’s Island

Rendering of the pavilion.


Frieze New York has released renderings of SO-IL’s design for a temporary structure that will snake along the East River on Randall’s Island. The London-based international contemporary art fair’s first foray in New York will take place in a “mutated pie-shaped tent section” using “wedges” that will be inserted into the structure at five locations. From the outside, the wedges allow for an otherwise straight tent to appear supple and meander. Frieze will feature commissioned works of art, the majority of which will be situated outdoors throughout the island. The fair will include works from more than 170 leading galleries and takes place May 4 – 7, 2012.

A Final Gwathmey-Designed Building is Added to the Skyline

Rendering of 323 Park Avenue South

Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman & Associates Architects

One of the last projects designed by the late Charles Gwathmey, FAIA, is now rising. Known as 323 Park Avenue South, the project is being realized by Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman & Associates Architects for Tessler Developments. The 33,200-square-foot, 10-story luxury residential condominium features sixteen 1,350-square-foot two-bedroom residences, and one 3,100-square-foot, full-floor penthouse, as well as ground-floor space for retail. Amenities include 10-foot-high ceilings, bathrooms with heated floors, and optional SmartHome technology.

Fumihiko Maki Re-Makes Astor Place

Rendering of 51 Astor Place

Maki and Associates

Construction is underway and new images have been released for 51 Astor Place, a 400,000-square-foot, 12-story office building designed by Maki and Associates, which replaces Cooper Union’s old engineering building and a Starbucks. The structural steel and concrete slab building incorporates a low-e glazed and aluminum curtain wall. Features include a private green roof on the fifth floor, a tenant-accessible green roof on the 13th, a James Carpenter-designed cast glass art installation, and an urban plaza designed by Thomas Balsley Associates with its own Alexander Calder sculpture and a bicycle storage room with showers. The project, developed by Edward J. Minskoff Equities, is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification. Adamson Associates International serves as associate architect on the project.

First Look at Designs for the Final Section of the High Line

Rendering the 11th Avenue access point for the High Line.

Image by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro; courtesy City of New York and Friends of the High Line.

Friends of the High Line (FHL) and the City of New York recently unveiled initial designs for the third and final stretch of elevated freight rail line that wraps around Hudson Yards. In keeping with FHL’s practice of seeking public input, the High Line design team James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro presented schemes at a community meeting. Comments from the meeting will be compiled in a summary document to be posted on the FHL website and shared with the design team. The estimated total cost of capital construction of the High Line at the rail yards is $90 million. FHL is actively working to raise private funding, and the City has launched the public review process for a zoning text amendment that would set a framework for critical funding from the Related Companies for the portion of the High Line on the Eastern Rail Yards. The funding would cover approximately 30% of the estimated total cost of building the final section, and would pave the way for construction to begin later this year.

Armory Show Redux

BSC’s design features yellow-painted “Street Seats” and landmark towers.

Andy Ryan

The Armory Show, a leading international contemporary and modern art fair and one of the most important annual art events in the city, recently took place on Piers 92 and 94 on the Hudson River. Organizers engaged Bade Stageberg Cox (BSC) to redesign and reinvigorate the show. The firm countered the common complaint of “fair fatigue” by making the space more comfortable and easier to navigate by employing a single-loop circulation. BSC’s layout balanced gallery areas with lounges that serve as both a visual respite from the art and places where impromptu performances and chance meetings could occur. Lounges, analogous to parks or town squares, serve as social spaces around which galleries were organized; landmark towers oriented the visitors and identified the lounges. BSC also created “Street Seats,” an installation for the coffee bar at Pier 94. An eclectic mix of chairs found abandoned on city streets were repaired, painted taxi cab yellow, and ended up traveling and reappearing at different points throughout the fair during its five-day run.

Reinventing the Suburban Office Building

Rendering of the renovated building.


KPF has broken ground on the renovation of an existing 225,000-square-foot building in Madison, NJ. What was once an outdated windowless Verizon call center will be repositioned and transformed into a Class A suburban office building for Realogy, the parent company of several leading real estate franchise brands. The renovation is designed to pull nature directly into the office environment, which is achieved by cutting out the central third of the original building to create a series of open-air courtyards. The central courtyard divides the building into two parallel office wings, and moves outward in layers into the parking area, which is re-envisioned as a part of the landscape. Landscape swales and plantings help to reestablish natural aquifers. The lobby, which serves as a central connector, is conceived as an architectural promenade leading to the third floor by way of an ornamental stairway. Once employees are inside the building they surround a captured forest while they themselves are surrounded by environmentally responsible landscape designed in collaboration with Nelson Byrd Waltz Landscape Architects. The project is expected to achieve LEED Silver certification.


After a 12-month renovation, fashion retailer Joe Fresh will open later this month at 510 Fifth Avenue. The 14,000-square-foot, two-story store is located in the former Manufacturers Hanover Trust building, a designated landmark building designed by SOM’s Gordon Bunshaft, FAIA. The Toronto-based interior design firm Burdifilek created a clean backdrop to highlight the collection’s bold color aesthetic and created custom fixtures and finishes in matte white, blackened steel, and clear sandblasted acrylic. A big win for preservationists is property owner Vornado Realty’s  recent agreement to return sculptor Harry Bertoia’s  ”Golden Arbor,” a  70-foot-long copper, nickel, and brass gilded screen has which has been reinstalled on the second floor of the store. Other concessions have been made to improve the connection to the important design elements of the original architect’s vision, but the signature scissor escalators won’t be replaced in their original configuration.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates has been selected by the George Kaiser Foundation to transform more than 55 acres of land along the Arkansas River into a recreational, civic, and cultural destination in Tulsa, OK. The firm is already holding sessions to elicit ideas from the public.

The New York City Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD), the DESIS Lab (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) at Parsons The New School for Design, and the Public Policy Lab have formed a partnership to explore ways to facilitate community engagement in the development of housing-related services. The team, composed of Public Policy Lab fellows and Parsons faculty and students, will target specific neighborhoods where HPD programs and initiatives are most active, starting with the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area in the Melrose section of The Bronx. This initiative is part of Public & Collaborative, a global effort of the DESIS Network in which more than a dozen academic design labs around the world will explore how to enhance the connections between citizens and public services. Parsons will host a series of four lectures in March and April that will bring together leading European and New York City designers with policymakers to explore the intersection of social innovation and public service. For more information visit