In this issue:
• I Go To Rio
• A Winning Prescription for UB School of Medicine
• Multi-Use Community Center Serves a Multitude of Families in West Harlem
• Brooklyn Gets City Point(s)


I Go To Rio

Elevation

Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners

Courtyard

Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners

Richard Meier & Partners has unveiled designs for the international headquarters of the investment management firm Vinci Partners in Leblon, an affluent section of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a country known for its modern architecture. The design scheme for the 10-story white aluminum-and-glass building consists of close to 70,000 square feet of leasable open office space and a series of terraces, plus an internal translucent glass bridge that is illuminated at night. The entire building is recessed from the urban frontage. Facing west, the building is masked with a carefully composed set of louvers designed for both maximum sun shading and privacy; the eastern side is pulled away from surrounding buildings to create an internal courtyard that provides natural day lighting on two exposures for all offices spaces. This void also includes a vertical garden that ties back into the exposed architectural concrete core which services the building. The lobby anchors the building to a recessed open retail plaza and a three-story underground structure that provides additional leasable space as well as private parking. This is the firm’s first project in South America.


A Winning Prescription for UB School of Medicine

Courtesy HOK

Courtesy HOK

After winning a design ideas competition, HOK has been selected to design the new 520,000-square-foot, $375 million University at Buffalo, State University of New York (UB) School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building that will house 1,200 students, faculty, and staff on its emerging downtown campus. In the coming weeks HOK will begin visioning and space programming discussions with medical school leadership, faculty, staff, and students to develop a final design that addresses the full range of design challenges. This 13-month process will culminate in construction starting in fall of 2013, with completion expected in 2016. Nineteen architectural teams were pared down to four finalists including Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and Cannon Design; Rafael Viñoly Architects with Foit-Albert Associates; and Grimshaw and Davis Brody Bond.


Multi-Use Community Center Serves a Multitude of Families in West Harlem

Courtsey MDSzerbaty+Associates Architecture/NYCHA

Courtsey MDSzerbaty+Associates Architecture/NYCHA

MDSzerbaty+Associates Architecture’s (MDSA) 23,000-square-foot community center for the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) in West Harlem recently opened. Distinguished by its curved roofline and graphic green, blue, and yellow color scheme, the center serves residents of three low- and middle-income housing complexes, and offers much-needed recreational, social, and educational programs to the neighborhood. The basketball court, multi-purpose area, and performance stage occupy one side of the vaulted space; under the building’s lower roofline are classrooms for computer use, an arts and crafts studio with a kiln, a video room with a sound booth, and a commercial kitchen that serves 200. A row of skylights illuminates the main corridor, and windows near the roofline bring natural light into the classrooms and gym.


Brooklyn Gets City Point(s)

(c) Cook+Fox Architects

(c) Cook + Fox Architects

As Phase 1, a four-story, 50,000-square-foot retail complex at City Point, a 1.3 million-square–foot, mixed-use development in Downtown Brooklyn designed by Cook+Fox Architects nears completion, local retail chain Century 21 recently announced it has signed on as an anchor tenant, making it the first new department store on Fulton Street in 50 years. Phase 2, also designed by Cook+Fox, is currently in design phase and will include two residential towers above a five-story retail podium. One tower is slated to be 19 stories, the second, 30 stories – with approximately 690 units as well as at least 500,000 square feet of retail space. The commercial component of the project also includes about 30,000 square feet of office space geared toward Brooklyn’s expanding technology sector. City Point is designed to achieve LEED Silver certification. Greenberg Farrow is the architect-of-record on Phase 1. SLCE, architect-of-record for Phase 2, is also designing the interiors for this phase of the development. Project partners include Acadia Realty Trust, and project manager Washington Square Partners.

THIS JUST IN…

Perkins+Will has completed the 110,000-square-foot Center for Musculoskeletal Care (CMC) at NYU Langone Medical Center. In a departure from typical clinical environments, all services are at a single point of care. A curving stair ascends up through three floors connecting the rehab gym with the diagnostic and imaging facilities on adjoining floors.

Construction is set to begin on a TPG-designed Hudson Square office for the international communications firm Havas. The 260,000-square–foot, seven-floor office will house more than 1,100 staffers, and feature an in-house production facility, innovation laboratory, theater, and café.

Netherlands-based DyeCoo Textile Systems received the third annual Material ConneXion MEDIUM Award for Material of the Year for the development of a revolutionary commercial dyeing machine technology that has the potential to significantly lower the environmental impact of dyeing and improve the quality of the dyed fabric.

In a continuing series of showcasing visual artists, FXFOWLE presents “Glass and Paintings” by John Brekke in the firm’s office gallery. Brekke’s work focuses on the visual line in abstract as well as figurative contexts. The exhibit is on view 06.07–08.31.12, and is free to the public.

In this issue:
From the Desk of President Joseph Aliotta, AIA: Advocacy Update
Contract Documents Upgrades
e-Calendar


From the Desk of President Joseph Aliotta, AIA: Advocacy Update

05.01.12: AIANY sent representatives to AIA New York State’s (AIANYS) Architects in Albany Lobby Day. (l-r) AIANYS Acting President Eric Goshow, AIA, LEED AP, New York State Assembly Member Deborah Glick, and Joseph Aliotta, AIA.

Rick Bell

Earlier this month, a group of Chapter leaders and NYC-based practitioners went to Albany to meet with state legislators as part of AIA New York State’s Lobby Day. Our delegation met with the staff of Senators Thomas Duane, Liz Krueger, Adriano Espaillat, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Member Keith Wright. Assembly Member Deborah Glick, Chair of the Higher Education Committee, which oversees issues of vital importance to architects, made time to meet with our delegation. We received positive feedback on many of our issues, which is encouragement enough to redouble our efforts to move forward on these items.

We were pleased to have the chance to discuss our strong support for two bills that focus on the liability architects take on as part of their licensure and responsibility to public safety. The bills are:

The Good Samaritan Act (A.3884/Englebright/S.4508/Hannon), which would provide professional engineers, architects, landscape architects and land surveyors immunity from liability for providing volunteer services during times of crisis and catastrophe including natural (Hurricane Irene) and manmade (attacks of September 11th).

Design Liability Reform (A.2475/Canestrari/S.4782/Griffo), would strengthen the existing statute by enacting a 10-year Statute of Repose, plus a one-year limit for any suit brought against a licensed design professional. This legislation recognizes that the design professional has no control over the maintenance and operation of the structure long after construction is complete.

We made it clear that the passage of these bills is of tremendous importance to our members.

These bills are in various states of progress in the Senate and the Assembly, and it’s uncertain how far they will get before the session ends in June. We are moving to work more closely with colleagues from around the state to get traction on these priorities. If you have the opportunity to see your State Assembly Members or Senators, take a moment to let them know that their support for these bills is important to you.

For more details on the other bills AIANY supports and opposes, click here. If there are particular pieces of legislation either before the state legislature or the New York City Council that were not mentioned here, please feel free to bring them to the Chapter’s attention.

If you have questions or comments on our efforts in Albany or to find out how you can be involved, please be in touch with Jay Bond, Policy Director, jbond@aiany.org, at the AIA New York Chapter.

Contract Documents Upgrades
The AIA has made some important upgrades to its venerable contract documents. The three initiatives, announced at the AIA 2012 Convention, include a new training and education resources portal, six new documents added to the popular Documents-on-Demand™ service, and the introduction of new sustainable project construction documents.

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

AIANY Design Awards 2012

On view 04.19–06.30.2012

V’SOSKE Rugs by Architects: Architecture in Transition, 1979-1993

Last chance! Closes 05.28.2012

Michael Graves, Rug #2, 1980

2012 Eleanor Allwork and Center for Architecture Design Scholarship Recipients

From portfolios of Anthony Carrion, Paul Scrugham, and Roberto Jenkins.

Courtesy Center for Architecture Foundation

The Center for Architecture Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2012 scholarship program. This year, the Scholarship Committee awarded Anthony Carrion of The City College of New York and Paul Scrugham of Pratt Institute with the Women’s Auxiliary Eleanor Allwork Scholarship. Roberto Jenkins of Pratt Institute received the Center for Architecture Design Scholarship.

The Eleanor Allwork Scholarship is for students seeking their first degree in architecture from a NAAB-accredited school within New York State. Each nominated student must demonstrate a high level of academic performance and evidence of financial need.

The Center for Architecture Design Scholarship is for students seeking their degree in architecture or a related design discipline from an accredited school in New York State. Similar to the Eleanor Allwork Scholarship, each nominated student must demonstrate a high level of academic performance and financial need.

The Center for Architecture would like to thank AIA National for providing a partial matching grant to help support the 2012 Women’s Auxiliary Eleanor Allwork Scholarship. The next Center for Architecture scholarship deadline for the Stewardson Keefe LeBrun Travel Grant is 11.01.12. The grant was established to further the personal and professional development of an architect in early or mid-career through travel. For application details as well as information regarding the other scholarships and grants offered by the Center for Architecture, please visit the Center for Architecture Foundation’s website www.cfafoundation.org.

Rafael Viñoly Architects, to support the firm’s growth and help shape its succession plan, has promoted five directors within the firm to partner: Charles Blomberg, AIA, NCARB; Jim Herr, AIA, NCARB; Andrea Lamberti, AIA, NCARB; Chan-Li Lin, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP; and David Rolland, AIA, JIA.

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s Building Brooklyn Awards 2012 winners are: BLDG 92 by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners with workshop/apd (Civic/Institutional); Red Hook Initiative by SUPER-INTERESTING! (Community Development); Medgar Evers College Academic Building I by Ennead Architects (Education); Dumont Green by MHG Architects (National Grid Award for Energy Efficiency); Jane’s Carousel by Ateliers Jean Nouvel with Associate Architect Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners and Tim Dumbleton Architect (Recreational Facility); Restoration Plaza by Garrison Architects (Open Space); Dekalb Market by ORE Design and Technology (Retail); Atrium House by Mesh Architectures (Residential – Single Family); Liberty Apartments by SLCE Architects (Residential – Affordable); 97 Crooke Avenue by Dattner Architects (Residential – Supportive Housing); Third + Bond by Rogers Marvel Architects (Residential – Low Rise); and 220 Water Street by Perkins Eastman (Residential – Multi)…

The Preservation League of New York State has selected two projects in New York City to receive the Excellence in Historic Preservation Award: the TWA Flight Center at JFK International Airport by Eero Saarinen with renovations by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners and PANYNJ; and Hamilton Grange National Memorial by John McComb with preservation and restoration by John G. Waite Associates Architects with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

The Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE) will honor I.M. Pei, FAIA, with the fourth annual Leonore and Walter Annenberg Award for Diplomacy through the Arts…The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum announced the winners of the 2012 National Design Awards, including Richard Saul Wurman, FAIA, for Lifetime Achievement…Pratt Institute was one of 10 colleges and universities nationally to be recognized with a Climate Leadership Award by Second Nature and the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) for its leadership role in creating the Partnership for Academic Leadership in Sustainability (PALS)…

Socrates Sculpture Park and the Architectural League of New York have selected Jerome Haferd and K. Brandt Knapp as the inaugural recipients of a new grant and residency for emerging architects and designers to produce and exhibit a full-scale project at the park…

Save A Sample! 2012 Winners are Nicole Moudis of Ted Moudis Associates; Eileen Ragsdale of TPG Architecture; Kim Farrah of Perkins+Will; Nickie Anderson (on behalf of Stephanie Ebeyer); Ruth Mellergaard of Grid/3 International; Amanda Langweil, AIA, of Goshow Architects, and Heidi Kippenhan (on behalf of Paulette Pascarella)…

Cerami & Associates has established Cerami Technology LLC, a technology strategy & consulting group, headed by Victoria J. Cerami, Chief Executive Officer, with Principals Peter A. Babigian, PE, RCDD, LEED AP, and Frank R. Schuck

Carl Galioto, FAIA, managing principal of HOK’s New York office, has been elected to the architectural firm’s global Executive Committee…Guy Maxwell and Thomas Wong, AIA, have been named partners at Ennead Architects…Spector Group announced that Ginger Dolden has joined the firm as director of marketing in the New York City office…

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: kristen@ArchNewsNow.com.

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

05.26.12 Call for Applications: 72 Hour Urban Action Stuttgart 2012

05.31.12 Call for Entries: Arquideas — Landscape, Architecture & Wine Academic Competition

05.31.12 Call for Applications: 2012 Ron Garikes Student Scholarship – SMPS Foundation

06.01.12 Call for Entries: Elizabeth and Robert Jeffe Preservation Fund for New York City

06.01.12 Call for Entries: Fast Company Innovation By Design Awards

06.01.12 Call for Entries: Sukkahville 2012 – Re-imagining the Sukkah

06.04.12 Call for Entries: New York CityVision

06.08.12 Call for Registration: SUPERFRONT – Public Summer: Library of Immediacy on Governors Island

06.15.12 Call for Entries: Generative Space Award

06.15.12 Call for Submissions: ONE Prize 2012 – Blight to Might

06.20.12 Call for Submissions: Building Malaria Prevention: A Global Design Competition – ARCHIVE

06.22.12 Call for Entries: Slant Awards Spring 2012

06.25.12 Call for Submissions: IDP Design Competition

06.30.12 Call for Entries: New Economy Class Layout (Boeing 787)

06.30.12 Call for Entries/Call for Papers: A National Conversation on the Future of Our Cities – Smart Growth Network

06.30.12 Open Call for Designers: MoMA Design Store

07.01.12 Call for Submissions: Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition

07.01.12 Call for Entries: George Matsumoto Prize

07.31.12 Call for Nominations: 2012 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize

05.17.12 – 05.19.12: The 2012 AIA National Convention was held in Washington, DC.

Susan Chin, FAIA, Anne Lewison, AIA, and Abby Suckle, FAIA, LEED AP, accepting the Institute Honors for Collaborative Achievement for cultureNOW from 2012 AIA President Jeffery Potter, FAIA (left), and AIA EVP/CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA.

Kristen Richards

Institute Honor Award winners from AIANY (l-r): Anne Lewison, AIA; Abby Suckle, FAIA, LEED AP; Jonathan Marvel, FAIA; Rob Rogers, FAIA; and Andre Kikoski, AIA.

Kristen Richards

Architects of Healing medal recipients convened on stage at the event’s conclusion.

Daniel Fox

Daniel Libeskind, AIA, and David Childs, FAIA, shake hands after the Architects of Healing ceremony.

Daniel Fox

After the Architects of Healing ceremony: (l-r) Rick Bell, FAIA; Daniel Libeskind, AIA; David Childs, FAIA; and Joseph Aliotta, AIA.

Daniel Fox

Todd Schliemann, FAIA, Design Partner, Ennead Architects (2nd from right) accepting the Institute Honors Award for Architecture for The Standard, New York, with Jeffery Potter, FAIA, Architecture Jury Chair Rod Kruse, FAIA, and Robert Ivy, FAIA.

Kristen Richards

Aaron Young and Rob Rogers, FAIA, of Rogers Marvel Architects (center), accepting the Institute Honors Award for Regional and Urban Design for the SandRidge Energy Commons.

Kristen Richards

Felix Ade of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (2nd from right) accepting the Institute Honors Award for Interior Architecture for David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, with Jeffery Potter, FAIA, Interior Architecture Jury Chair Elizabeth Corbin Murphy, FAIA, and Robert Ivy, FAIA.

Kristen Richards

Andre Kikoski, AIA, LEED AP, Andre Kikoski Architect (2nd from right) accepting the Institute Honors Award for Interior Architecture for The Wright at the Guggenheim Museum.

Kristen Richards

(l-r) Carmi Bee, FAIA, Todd Schliemann, FAIA, and David Burney, FAIA, at the AIA|DC host chapter party held in the Ennead-designed Newseum.

Daniel Fox

Joseph Aliotta, AIA, Clair Wholean, AIA, NCARB, LEED GA, Adelina Salinas, Intl. Assoc. AIA, Jeffery Potter, FAIA, and Rick Bell, FAIA, at the International Committee Reception.

Daniel Fox

Jill Lerner, FAIA, Christine Bruckner, FAIA, LEED AP, President, AIA Hong Kong, and Joyce Lee, FAIA, at the International Committee Reception.

Daniel Fox

(l-r): Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP; Joseph Aliotta, AIA, LEED AP; Margaret Castillo, AIA, LEED AP; Megan Chusid, Assoc. AIA; and Venesa Alicea, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

Kristen Richards

Andy Frankl, AIANY board member, with Rocío Carvajo Lucena.

Kristen Richards

Architectural Record and the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) hosted a fete at the Long View Gallery. Newly-elected 2013-2014 AIA Vice President Susan Chin, FAIA, Executive Director, Design Trust for Public Space, and former AIANY President, with RK Stewart, FAIA, of Perkins+Will, and former AIA National President.

Kristen Richards

Megan Boomer, AIANY Development Coordinator, Mary Burke, FAIA, and Daniel Fox on a tour of the Capitol’s dome. Rick Bell, FAIA, and Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, also attended.

Rick Bell

Anne Lewison, AIA, Abby Suckle, FAIA, LEED AP, and Carol Bentel, FAIA, after cultureNOW’s presentation at the Collaborative Achievement Workshop.

Daniel Fox

Brynnemarie Lanciotti, Assoc. AIA, and Megan Chusid, AIA, meet at the opening of the Convention.

Daniel Fox

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At the Emerging Professionals Reception: Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, AIANY Assoc. Director; Carolyn Sponza, AIA; Joseph Aliotta, AIA, AIANY President; Alex Alaimo, AIAS; Venesa Alicea, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Regional Associate Director, NY Region, AIA National Associates Committee.

Courtesy Venesa Alicea

Brynnemarie Lanciotti, Assoc. AIA; Nicolette Feldser, Assoc. AIA, AIANYS Assoc. Director; Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, AIANY Assoc. Director; Julie Engh, Assoc. AIA; Venesa Alicea, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Regional Associate Director, NY Region, AIA National Associates Committee

Courtesy Venesa Alicea

AIANY folks meet up at the District Architecture Center.

Courtesy Venesa Alicea

05.11.12: “Buildings=Energy” travels to the Creative Exchange Lab

“Buildings=Energy,” an exhibit originated last year at the Center for Architecture, opened at the Creative Exchange Lab (CEL) in St. Louis, MO; Rick Bell, FAIA, was a guest speaker at the opening. The exhibit “incorporates photography, video, architectural drawings, and panel displays in an effort to rethink the modern building, both illuminating and deepening our ongoing conversation about energy consumption in the built environment,” and is on view from 05.11-08.11.12.

Rick Bell

05.20.12: WantedDesign

(l-r) WantedDesign Co-Founder Odile Hainaut with Jamie Carpenter (James Carpenter Design Associates) after he spoke on a panel entitled “Material Glass: from Craft to Industry, from Product to Architecture) at the WantedDesign Fair on 05.20 at the VIP Lounge at Grimshaw Architects.

Linda G. Miller

(l-r) Adam Rolston, AIA, LEED AP, INC Architecture and Design, Granger Moorhead, AIA, Moorhead & Moorhead Architecture/Industrial Design, with Laetitia Wolff, executive director of desigNYC at Recharging Communities, a presentation of the organization’s 2012 collaborative projects including Rolston’s project with PlayHarvest and Moorhead’s with SNAP Fort Greene, at WantedDesign at the VIP Lounge at Grimshaw Architects on 05.20.

Linda G. Miller

The Mosque that Might Have Been

(l-r) Frederic Schwartz, FAIA, Denise Scott Brown, RIBA, Int’l. FRIBA, and Renata Holod.

Laura Trimble

Dr. Ghada Musa Rzouki Al-Slik updates the panel and audience on the Mosque competition.

Benjamin Kracauer

Event: The National Mosque of Baghdad Competition: A Conversation between Denise Scott Brown, Renata Holod, and Frederic Schwartz
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.04.2012
Speakers: Denise Scott Brown, RIBA, Int’l. FRIBA, Principal, Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates; Renata Holod, Ph.D., Professor, Islamic Art and Architecture, University of Pennsylvania; Frederic Schwartz, FAIA, Principal, Frederic Schwartz Architects
Introduction/Moderator: Cynthia Kracauer, AIA, LEED AP, Managing Director, Center for Architecture
Organizers: Center for Architecture; a program of the exhibitions “Change: Architecture and Engineering in the Middle East, 2000-Present” and “City of Mirages: Baghdad, 1952-1982″
Sponsors: A. Estéban and 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)

Architects worldwide have long debated the risks, potential value, and ethics of accepting work from objectionable governments. Allowing for a range of opinion on which compromises make a commission acceptable or unacceptable, two points in favor of such projects arose in this discussion about a difficult decision and a complex, fascinating project, the National Mosque of Baghdad, unbuilt but influential. One important consideration is that architecture can outlast governments (especially dictatorships); in the long run, one designs and builds for communities, nations, and cultures, not regimes. The other is the “first three rules of architecture” promulgated by Henry Hobson Richardson (though the line is sometimes attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright): “get the job, get the job, get the job.”

During the 1982 invited competition to design the National Mosque of Baghdad while Saddam Hussein was in power, Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown (now Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, VSBA) consulted with the State Department about the advisability of the project, reported Denise Scott Brown, RIBA, Int’l. FRIBA. Skeptical about working with the Iraqi state but drawn to the adventure, she was surprised to learn of a temporary policy tilt toward Saddam during the Reagan administration and the Iran-Iraq war, clearing the way for VSBA to accept its selection. Difficulties included her own inability to visit the site (being Jewish, she faced risks in Baghdad that did not affect other firm members), and an acute awareness of how badly the regime had treated Iraqi architects – even the diplomatic and globally-minded Rifat Chidirji, whom it had imprisoned, then released into a position of tightly circumscribed professional authority with orders to beautify Baghdad for a conference of nonaligned nations. The project yielded unique insights into what design can and cannot accomplish in a repressive society. “When you work in architecture, you can remove the barriers, but you can’t make people do things,” Scott Brown commented. “I’m not about to do regime change through a building – that’s delusions of grandeur.”

Had Saddam’s mosque been built, it would have been the largest in the Middle East. The program called for a scale that could hold more than 30,000 worshipers (both in stationary prayer and in mass processions), a non-hierarchical layout, and references to monuments in the Arab world reaching from Cordoba to Samarra, while avoiding features derived from Ottoman culture, since Iraq had chafed under Ottoman rule, or from Shi’a Islam (the Iraqi rulers were Sunni). VSBA’s design, displayed as a model in the Center for Architecture’s “City of Mirages” exhibition, modernizes the traditional Arab hypostyle form, aided by contemporary engineering in the form of trusses over 70 meters long, and includes a front-and-center decorative structure known as a muqarnas, a series of rotating niches mathematically tiled and ending in a small upper dome (it is not set back as a central dome, a feature associated with Ottoman design). Color and signage, with Kufic calligraphic characters the height of a human being arrayed in a distinct blue external band, establish linkages between precedents like the Cordoba mosque and the legible exteriors familiar from other VSBA projects. This design is a decorated shed on a vast scale, commented ex-VSBA staffer Frederic Schwartz, FAIA, who is now a principal of his own firm, Frederic Schwartz Architects.

Renata Holod, a cultural advisor to VSBA for the project, observed that state mosques are a recent typology, associated with postcolonial conditions in which “all these states around the Gulf became history-minded.” While study of historical contexts was essential, in many respects the firm was inventing procedures and working without a net. VSBA assembled a diverse team of consultants, translators, and scholars for the project; it was the professional opportunity of a lifetime, all speakers recalled, to solve the challenges of accommodating communal prayer on such a scale, from gender separation to bus access, while negotiating the pressures and risks presented by the Ba’athist state. Stephen Izenour in particular, Scott Brown recalled, “was fearless,” even at one meeting reportedly attended by Saddam: “At one point Steve said something and a member of the ruling party stood and said, ‘I do not want to hear any of the Iraqi architects repeating that.’ And Steve looked around, and saw all the Iraqi architects had turned white.”

A dramatic moment occurred at the end of the audience questioning period, after discussions of problems presented by a worldwide range of clients and customs. Ghada Musa Rzouki Al-Slik, Ph.D., an Iraqi architect and professor at the University of Baghdad, who was present at the original presentation in 1982, contributed a firsthand update to give the story a degree of closure. After officials scuttled plans to build the VSBA mosque, the competition was repeated in 1989 for a new site, limited this time to Iraqi and Arab firms, with cancelation and reactivation alternating during successive conflicts. War with the U.S. from 2003 to the end of his regime meant that from the chosen design, only a few columns were ever built.

Saddam did build a different garish mosque on one-fifth the scale of the Great Mosque, named Umm al-Ma’arik, “Mother of Battles” (now Umm al-Qura, “Mother of Cities”). At the original site, an international competition is currently considering designs for Iraq’s future parliament building, using the columns intended for the Great Mosque – a step toward repurposing ruins of a structure once meant to glorify a dictator, now to shelter a fragile democratic institution.

Birds of a Feather: Reporters, Architects Share Passion for the Profession

Matt Chaban of The New York Observer answers an audience member’s question. (l-r) Robin Pogrebin, Rob Lippincott, Steve Cuozzo, Matt Chaban, and moderator Julie Iovine.

Daniel Fox

Event: Architecture and the Media Series #2: Design Reportage: The Business Press and General Interest Media
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.03.2012
Speakers: Matt Chaban, Real Estate Editor, the New York Observer; Steve Cuozzo, Reporter, The New York Post; Robert M. Lippincott, Senior Vice President of Education, PBS; Robin Pogrebin, Reporter, The New York Times
Moderator: Julie V. Iovine, Executive Editor, The Architect’s Newspaper
Organizer: Center for Architecture; AIANY Oculus Committee; AIANY Marketing & PR Committee; The Architect’s Newspaper

When it comes to reporting on architecture, real estate in publications is at a premium. Journalists struggle to justify to their editors that a project is “worthy enough” for print. And, with so many current projects either stalled or on hold, it is even more difficult to find projects to write about without being repetitive. For Robert Lippincott, senior vice president of education at PBS, what determines whether or not a project gets covered depends on the reason why it is important. Generally, projects that represent a trend, controversy, or window into architecture from an outsiders’ perspective make the cut.

Panelists agreed that the starchitecture “movement” helped bring attention to the subject of architecture that wasn’t on the public’s radar. However, The New York Observer‘s Matt Chaban also thinks it gave the public the perception that architecture is a commodity, rather than a necessity. Robin Pogrebin, reporter for the New York Times, would like to check in with developers who chose to work with starchitects to see if they felt the result was ultimately worth the investment. Steve Cuozzo of The New York Post compared starchitects to modern ballet in the 1970s, when Baryshnikov brought a new audience to the art form.

In general, the panelists prefer to report on completed projects. Renderings are a fantasy, said Pogrebin, and without first-hand experience of a building, it is difficult to evaluate its merits. Also, while she enjoys hearing about architects’ intentions, what they say does not always translate into the final built structure. Chaban is skeptical when architects claim they will transform the world with their designs, and Lippincott is leery of potential ulterior motives behind architects’ presentations. Perhaps they are trying to influence a community board, or change their standing with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, for example.

When asked about what they are interested in writing about currently, answers ranged broadly. Cuozzo prefers to write about projects that aren’t new and high-profile, such as the buildings in Battery Park. Chaban sees merit in writing frequently about some of the large-scale developments, including the World Trade Center and NYU, to help build momentum for the projects. Pogrebin searches for stories about unknown firms and up-and-comers, like the winners of the annual MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program. And Lippencott features programs that expose the history or culture of a place through architecture.

Ultimately, the reasons that reporters write about architecture is similar to why architects practice in the field. They share a love of the city, want to bring appreciation and discourse about policy to the forefront of public awareness, and they want to make a difference in the built environment.

Emerald Necklace, The Bronx

(l-r) Kate Van Tassel, AICP; Margaret Newman, AIA; Signe Nielsen, FASLA; Paul Lipson; and moderator Erik Engquist.

Daniel Fox

Event: The South Bronx Greenway: Revitalization of an Urban Waterfront
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.30.2012
Panelists: Signe Nielsen, FASLA, Principal, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects; Paul Lipson, former Chief of Staff for Congressman Jose E. Serrano (NY-16), President of Barretto Bay Strategies; Margaret Newman, AIA, LEED AP, Chief of Staff, NYC Department of Transportation (DOT); Kate Van Tassel, AICP, Assistant Vice President, Development, NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC)
Moderator: Erik Engquist, Assistant Managing Editor, Crain’s NY Business
Organizer: AIANY Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; AIANY Planning and Urban Design Committee

After this event, the Center for Architecture was tweeted at by an attendee who questioned the composition of this program’s panel (“nxt time u talk about any hood invite residents! Let at least 1 informed resident present. They r talking bout our hood!”). A call-out reminiscent of my more politically-correct classes in college, the Tweeter nevertheless raised a curious question. The Center organizes about 1,000 programs a year, many about places far beyond the Bronx. Could or should we invite/include/”reach-out” to every possible constituent on speaker panels? If residents are included, should non-residents who work in a neighborhood also be included?

Perhaps the real issue here is that the South Bronx is a place more contentious than most, scarred by Robert Moses and, subsequently, suspicious of any outside attention. To be sure, all of the expected community consultations were made when planning the South Bronx Greenway. This is, after all, a community-initiated project at least 10 years in the making that began with a $1.25 million Fed DOT planning grant. But the ongoing city-subsidized relocation of Fresh Direct’s operations to this area has muddied the goodwill pool, making even this seemingly feel-good project a little prickly. Signe Nielsen, FASLA, a principal of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, which master planned the Greenway, put it best when she said: “It all seemed so easy on my rendering.”

In light of all this, the South Bronx – its “Fort Apache, The Bronx” days receding – does indeed have the beginning of a complete greenway. According to the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), “construction is substantially complete on three of the five phase one projects: the new Produce Market Fence, Lafayette Avenue, and Hunts Point Avenue Street Improvements were all completed in Fall 2011.” The design, outlined in the three-phase, 20-project South Bronx Greenway Master Plan, was managed by the NYCEDC and two local community-based partners; Mathews Nielsen has led the design of six of the master plan’s open space projects.

The plan is clearly inspired by Frederick Law Olmsted’s “beads on a necklace” design for Boston’s Emerald Necklace parks, roads, and waterways. More than just a historical reference, the plan makes sense when one realizes that between each node in the system are the area’s predominant industrial sites, making a network of green spaces connected by refurbished and greened streets – rather than one large park, for instance – a necessity. Access to the post-industrial waterfront is also a boon.

Moderator Erik Engquist, of Crain’s, managed to lob some challenging questions at the panel, which ranged from economic (EE: Will this gentrify the South Bronx? Paul Lipson: There are no residential areas along the Greenway…) to professional (EE: What about this project keeps you up at night? Signe Nielsen: That no one will make it to the waterfront…). Between the lines of the obviously guarded answers was, nevertheless, a clear message: green, well-designed, and useable open space has been this mayoral administration’s priority, and we should be pleased that NYCEDC, DOT, and the other City agencies concerned with developing public space have been getting shovels in the ground “before time runs out.”