The AIA selected Thom Mayne, FAIA, to receive the 2013 AIA Gold Medal, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects to receive the 2013 AIA Architecture Firm Award…

AIA National inaugurated its new president Mickey Jacob, FAIA, the managing principal at Urban Studio Architects in Tampa, Fla. As the institute’s 89th president, Jacob succeeds Jeff Potter, FAIA. Continue reading “”

2013 OCULUS Editorial Calendar Announced!
The Oculus 2013 Editorial Calendar has been set. If you are an architect by training, or see yourself as an astute observer of New York’s architectural and planning scene, Oculus wants to hear from you! Projects/topics may be anywhere, but architects must be New York-based. Please submit story ideas by the deadlines indicated in the calendar to Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA:

2013 marks the 75th Anniversary of Oculus (launched 1938!), and 10th Anniversary of the magazine’s current iteration.

Note: The Arnold W. Brunner Grant application deadline is 02.01.13. Continue reading “”

12.17.12: The Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) and the AIANY Interiors Committee celebrated the holiday season with a joint party and snowflake design challenge at Carl Hansen + Søn.

(r) Interiors Co-Chairs Dale Cohen, Assoc. AIA, Interiors Co-Chair, and Ed Siegel, AIA, LEED AP, with Carl Hansen + Søn staff.

Rick Bell, FAIA

Brynnemarie Lanciotti, Assoc. AIA, ENYA Co-Chair, and Dale Cohen, Assoc. AIA, Interiors Co-Chair, (on chair) address the group.

Rick Bell, FAIA

Eliza McClellan, AIANY Policy Assistant, shows off her snowflake design.

Rick Bell, FAIA Continue reading “”

We have some important events happening at the Center for Architecture next week! The first is the opening on 12.10.12 of the exhibition Hong Kong at 15: Redefining the Public Realm. A panel discussion between architects here in New York and via live feed in Hong Kong follows the opening reception.

The 2013 Board Inaugural is the next day on 12.11.12, which marks the “passing of the gavel” from current President Joseph J. Aliotta, AIA, LEED AP, to 2013 President Jill N. Lerner, FAIA. We will recap this year’s “Future Now” initiative and preview what’s to come in 2013 with the new presidential theme “Global City/Global Practice.”

And in a bit of Chapter news, the 2013 AIANY Nominating Committee has been elected: Ann Marie Baranowski, AIA, Jacobs Engineering; Beth Greenberg, AIA, Dattner Architects; Paul Seletsky, AIA, ArcSphere LLC; and Kim Yao, AIA, Architecture Research Office. Joseph J. Aliotta, AIA, LEED AP, Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, will chair the committee.

Hudson Yards Breaks Ground

Hudson Yards rendering, looking northeast.

Courtesy MIR

(l-r) Gene Kohn, FAIA, and Bill Pedersen, FAIA, with NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at the Hudson Yards Groundbreaking.

Rick Bell, FAIA

(l-r) Former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and Bill Pedersen, FAIA, examine the Hudson Yards model.

Rick Bell, FAIA

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined Related Companies Chairman Stephen M. Ross and architects from Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, David M. Childs, FAIA and Skidmore, Owings &  Merrill, along with Rockwell Group, to break ground on the 26-acre Hudson Yards development. Construction started yesterday on the KPF-designed South Tower, a 47-story tall, anticipated LEED Gold tower with 1.7 million square feet which will house the world headquarters of Coach Inc.

Steve Ross started the ceremonies with a short speech noting that the Hudson Yards “is the defining development of the 21st century.” He praised Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership in creating a legacy for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world, saying, “no mayor has done more than Mayor Bloomberg for the City of New York,” and “No other accomplishment will be more visible or more impactful than Hudson Yards.” Related is well-know in New York as the developer of the 2.8 million-square-foot Time Warner Center, and is an industry leader in green building.

The Mayor shared credit with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, saying, “Breaking ground for the first commercial building at Hudson Yards is a wonderful thing,” and that the site was “one of the largest private developments undertaken.”  He noted that the $3 billion in public infrastructure investment has unlocked even greater private funding, and praised the “dynamic architects” present for creating a place for innovation for the arts and destination for community events.” Describing the program and plans, the Mayor said that “in the race for global competitiveness, New York stands alone.” He quoted a description of New York’s skyline which embodies “grace, swagger, creativity, and hard labor.”

Speaker Quinn also shared credit with the Mayor, former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, and the Chair and Members of Community Board 4. She remembered that back in 2004 and 2005 the project was “difficult and contentious” but that those involved “kept searching for the things we could agree on.” The project was realized, she continued, because “we all stayed in the room, believing there was a better use for this space than a rail yard.” Job creation is at the heart of the project, which will also create, in her words, “affordable housing, parks, and culture.” She concluded by saying, “We yelled ’til we all agreed, and we made something happen, setting a new standard.”

KPF was represented by, among others, Gene Kohn, FAIA, Bill Pedersen, FAIA, and Jill Lerner, FAIA – whose inauguration as AIA New York 2013 President takes place on Tuesday, 12.11.12. Pedersen noted: “During my entire career, I have focused on bringing urban commercial buildings into interactive relationships with their context. No building should stand in isolation, and every building should link to the fabric of the city.” He added that “I consider Hudson Yards to be the most important test in my career of this philosophical position. The relationships between buildings are facilitated and encouraged by our desire to create structures that gesture and defer to one another.”

Before the groundbreaking ceremony the West Side was overcast and shrouded in a light drizzle. With the podium speeches and photo-op whirring of site engines, the sun came out and the future of the site seemed clear indeed.

Sustainable Cities/Villes Durables

Joseph J. Aliotta, AIA, LEED AP, AIANY 2012 President.

Laura Trimble Elbogen

Jean-Baptiste Cuzin, Director, Office of International and Multilateral Affairs, French Ministry of Culture and Communication

Laura Trimble Elbogen

David Burney, FAIA, Commissioner, NYC Department of Design + Construction

Laura Trimble Elbogen

Marie-Hélène Contal, Deputy Director, French National Institute of Architecture

Laura Trimble Elbogen

Alexander Levi, AIA, and Amanda Schachter, AIA, Founders & Principals, SLO Architecture

Laura Trimble Elbogen

Nicholas Taylor, International Projects Manager, Agence Nicolas Michelin & Associés, Paris

Laura Trimble Elbogen

Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director

Laura Trimble Elbogen

Event: Sustainable Cities
Location: Center for Architecture, New York, 11.26.12 (introductory session) and 11.30.12 (luncheon)
Introductory session: Jill N. Lerner, FAIA, AIANY 2013 President.
Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director; Alan Mallach, Senior Fellow, Center for Community Progress, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution, Visiting Scholar, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; Ernest W. Hutton, Jr., Assoc. AIA, FAICP, Principal, Hutton Associates Inc./Planning Interaction
Luncheon: Joseph J. Aliotta, AIA, LEED AP, AIANY 2012 President; Charles Kolb, President, French American Foundation; Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director; David Burney, FAIA, Commissioner, NYC Department of Design + Construction; Alex Washburn, Chief Urban Designer, NYC Department of City Planning; Alexander Levi, AIA, and Amanda Schachter, AIA, Founders & Principals, SLO Architecture; David Piscuskas, FAIA, Principal, 1100 Architect; Marie-Hélène Contal, Architect, Deputy Director, French Institute of Architecture, Paris, Deputy Director for Culture, City of Lille; Jean-Baptiste Cuzin, Director, Office of International and Multilateral Affairs, French Ministry of Culture and Communication; Sophie Landrin, Environment Reporter, Le Monde; Nicholas Taylor, International Projects Manager, Agence Nicolas Michelin & Associés, Paris
Organizer: Center for Architecture and the French-American Foundation
Sponsors: Florence Gould Foundation

From 11.26.12 through 11.30.12, the French-American Foundation, in partnership with the French Ministry of Culture, hosted a high-level delegation of five French urban planning and sustainability professionals. During this week-long study tour, French delegates visited the New York City metropolitan area and discussed policies and practices in U.S. cities with their American counterparts, especially in the wake of the Superstorm Sandy. The Center for Architecture organized an introductory session and a lunch panel, where U.S. approaches to urban planning and sustainability were discussed with the French delegates.

Alan Mallach, FAICP, examined the American planning system during the opening program. By underlining the legal responsibility of municipalities in the planning process, he emphasized the crucial role of Community Development Corporations. This mechanism, despite the complexity of its decision-making procedure, turns out to be particularly efficient for small-scale projects. When Ernest W. Hutton, Jr., Assoc. AIA, FAICP, described the specific planning exigencies of the New York metropolitan areas, he stressed the importance of seeing PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York as a planning framework. As the major environmental planning initiative of the Bloomberg Administration, PlaNYC addresses specific ways in which civic life can be improved.

Rick Bell, FAIA, used case studies of New York projects, including the High Line and Via Verde, to describe the process by which urban design, public health and environmental quality come together. Bike lanes, bicycle storage, pedestrian streets, Select Street dedicated bus lanes and revitalized parks are among the means to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The City of New York as a matter of public policy increasingly encourages the use of public transportation and bicycles, and New York has become, as well, a city of walkers.

After three additional days of meetings and site visits throughout New York and in Newark, the French delegate returned to the Center for Architecture for a larger lunch meeting at which additional presentations were made. Joseph Aliotta, AIA, LEED AP, AIANY President, noted in his introduction that some of the collaborations his firm, Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, had undertaken including the renovation of the Statue of Liberty. His welcome also addressed the Future Now theme of AIA New York in 2012. Next to speak was Charles Kolb, president of the French-American Foundation, who briefly described the role and purpose of FAF here in New York, thanking the AIANY and the FAF staff including Emma Archer, Chrissa Laporte, Nassim Alloy, and Patrick Lattin. He was followed by AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, who outline thoughts on the upcoming 2013 mayoral election and listed what were likely to become some of the key issues in the campaigns, including regulatory reform, affordable housing, parks & open space, transportation & infrastructure, risk & reconstruction, and globalism. His PowerPoint also hinted at the ways in which New York was a French city, with images of Lafayette Street and the Bastille Day street celebration at Le Cercle Rouge in Tribeca.

Commissioner David Burney, FAIA, outlined the process by which public works are funded, designed and built, and showed examples from his agency, the Department of Design + Construction. Alexandros Washburn, AIA, Chief Urban Designer at the New York City Department of City Planning, speaking in superb French, delineated the correlation between environmental planning and effective urban design, talking as well about the City’s Active Design Guidelines. Amanda Schacter, AIA, and Alexander Levi, AIA, of SLO Architecture – one of the AIANY New Practices winners this year – presented an animation of their Bronx River project which aims to adaptively reuse a former rail station designed by Cass Gilbert. And David Piscuskas, FAIA, of 1100 Architect, presented two of his firm’s projects, the Queens Central Library in Jamaica and the Brooklyn Detention Center, which reinvigorated street life and augmented the functionality of pre-existing structures.

The French delegates also shared their perceptions of what they had seen and heard during their four days in the US. Marie-Hélène Contal was impressed by the ability, manifest in New York, to link environmental issues with considerations of social justice. By contrast, she noted, social equity is not systematically taken into account in French practice.

Catherine Cullen said that one of the principal differences between the two countries is the role culture typically plays in the French urban planning process. She cited particular examples from her experience as Deputy Mayor for Culture in the City of Lille. And Nicholas Taylor, noted the relative dynamism of civil society in New York, as evinced through the community-based planning system.  He contrasted the role of Community Planning Boards with the more centralized top-down approach in France. Jean-Baptiste Cuzin, from the French Ministry of Culture & Communication and Sophie Landrin, from Le Monde, also shared observations.

An underlying theme of the discussion on both days was the impact of Superstorm Sandy on land use decision-making, codes and zoning, and methods of construction throughout New York City. The discussion of sustainable urbanism and green planning was tempered by the magnitude of the problems to be faced as a result of sea level change and storm surge. The inventiveness and resourcefulness of New Yorkers was contrasted with the maps that showed the topographic vulnerabilities.

Architecture isn’t Fungible

Cheryl Davis answers an audience member’s question: (l-r) Cheryl L. Davis, Partner, Menaker & Herrmann LLP; Elena Brescia, Managing Partner, SCAPE; Ronnette Riley, FAIA, LEED AP, Ronnette Riley Architect; Ariel Fausto, AIA, LEED AP, Partner, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture; Lynn Fritzlen, AIA, LEED AP, Ronnette Riley Architect (moderator), Co-Chair, AIANY Professional Practice Committee.

Daniel Fox

Event: Intellectual Property and the Design Professional – Panel Discussion
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.28.12
Speakers: Elena Brescia, Managing Partner, SCAPE; Cheryl L. Davis, Partner, Menaker & Herrmann LLP; Ariel Fausto, AIA, LEED AP, Partner, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture; Lynn Fritzlen, AIA, LEED AP, Ronnette Riley Architect (moderator), Co-Chair, AIANY Professional Practice Committee; Ronnette Riley, FAIA, LEED AP, Ronnette Riley Architect
Organizers: AIANY Professional Practice Committee and the NYASLA

What’s your property, really? Dirt, iPads, science, and the “useful arts,” to name a few. Your designs, too, are your property, according to attorney Cheryl Davis of Menaker & Herrmann. Thank the U.S. Constitution, which empowers the U.S. Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Never again ask: “What’s Congress done for me lately?”

It is indeed your right, as an architect, to copyright your designs. Retaining intellectual property can, for instance, give leverage in negotiations. And why not own what you’ve created? Writers copyright books, pop stars copyright recordings – architecture on paper is “useful art” that can bring you additional revenue.

Intellectual property laws protect the expression of ideas, however, not ideas themselves. In other words, put your designs on paper. You can’t copyright a standard window detail. But unique elements and concrete expressions (pardon the pun), flourishes, and important design modifications are more likely to be protected. You can’t protect the ur-chair (four legs, a seat, and a back), but you can protect your unique design that acts like a chair.

What about collaborative work? People can be joint owners of work, or employers can fashion a novel agreement. If you’re intent on owning all the work done under your supervision, even by freelancers, make sure your contracts include “work for hire” right at the top, according to Ronnette Riley, FAIA, LEED AP, who seems to be the authority on getting clients to pay their bills and honor agreements.

“Architects often give away work,” said moderator Lynn Fritzlen, AIA, LEED AP, a common refrain among architects and designers. Many competition agreements state that a client can use entries as they see fit, according to Elena Brescia and Ariel Fausto, AIA, LEED AP. While one might not be in a position to alter something like a competition agreement, Riley has an easy answer for clients when they ask to own the copyright to designs: “I’m not Bed Bath & Beyond. You’re not buying sheets.”

In other words, making architecture isn’t the production of a commodity, per se – it’s an iterative process that results in original designs (most of the time). Riley suggested that architects let clients know that if they are insistent about owning a design, you can suggest that a client can “own a design and release me from liability – once I’m 100% paid.” She also urged architects to license their work, when possible, to create additional revenue streams. She files for copyright right away, and since her firm executes a lot of retail work, she builds in licensing fees for certain designs.

Panelists also discussed ownership of BIM models, to which there are many contributing authors. There is an AIA Standard Form of Agreement that can help with this (E-202), and according to Fausto, every party can own its own part of the model. If you do give away the model, be sure to indemnify yourself.

The takeaway: respect your work enough to truly own it. While a client might be used to architects and landscape architects that readily sign away all rights to their designs, panelists and their successful practices illustrate that it takes standing up to a client to ensure your rights are honored. That – and a good lawyer.

Raise a Glass to New York

Davidson and Renfro discuss architecture in New York while a full house looks on.

Greta Hansen

Event: Cocktails & Conversations
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.16.12
Speakers: Charles Renfro, AIA, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Justin Davidson, New York Magazine
Cocktails by: Toby Cecchini, Bartender & Author
Organizer: cultureNOW and the AIANY Architectural Dialogues Committee
Sponsors: MechoSystems and Porcelanosa

Cocktails & Conversations, a new series at the Center for Architecture, encourages especially-pointed architectural discussion by pairing architects with journalists. The lubricant? A custom-concocted cocktail at each Friday evening event.

For the inaugural discussion, Charles Renfro, AIA, a partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), joined Justin Davidson, classical music and architecture critic for New York Magazine, for a discussion over a mystery whiskey drink. After an introduction to the yet-to-be-named cocktail of the evening by bartender and author Toby Cecchini, Renfro presented a few well-known and some unseen projects by his firm.

When Davidson asked whether or not it is true that architects don’t often do their best work in the city, Renfro agreed – in the case of non-New York architects. But, he said, “New York has benefited from a really enlightened city government” – the best design here is made by locals (such as DS+R, of course, a decidedly New York firm).

In a discussion about New York architecture, the word “contextualism” definitely found its place. Agreeing that the city seems to call out for “provocative juxtaposition,” Davidson and Renfro added that thoughtful risk-taking should take place even within the order of New York’s contextual fabric. But what about a designing in a contextual void, as in DS+R’s upcoming projects for the last phase of the High Line, which will wrap around the new Hudson Yards development and their “Culture Shed,” a new museum, exhibition, and performance space within the development? “We have to anticipate how our buildings will interact. And not just with brick contexts: 80 new condominium projects are going up around the High Line.”

Davidson continued by naming a contextual epidemic of city rebuilding: glass. “It’s a given that every time you demolish a building you’re going to get a glass building instead.” Renfro admitted that glass is often “a cheap shot,” but mused over the possibilities of a more profound take on the material: “Hopefully we can look forward to an enlightened view of glass. You can see through it, you can make it opaque, you can turn its opacity off and on, you can still break it… and you can drink from it.” Cheers!

But what, exactly, was the name of the cocktail we were sipping? Audience suggestions included: “The Skin Job,” “The Reverse Mullet,” and “The Architect’s Demise,” all contextually relevant to the conversation. “High Line Grass,” however, was my favorite – a nod to the local ingredient of the cocktail taken directly from the park’s gardens.

Oculus Book Review: Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City”

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time
By Jeff Speck

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, November 2012

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time is not a treatise on why not to drive or a bash of the suburbs. Rather it focuses on the positive – why and how a more pedestrian-friendly American city is critical to the soul of its livability. Written in a delightful story-telling style; Jeff Speck intermingles theories of design and planning with substantiated documentation, references to pop culture, and our views of city living. Watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show when he was growing up provided him with a different view of urbanity. “Millennials,” Speck says, “have an even broader vision of what city life means thanks in part to Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex and the City – a ’walkable‘ city with neighborhood coffee shops and active street life.” (Listen to Speck’s Oculus Quick Take interview with Miguel Baltierra on book deals, new urbanism, and more on Mary Tyler Moore’s vision of the city.)

As Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007, Speck oversaw the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, where every two months he would gather eight mayors and eight designers over a two-day period to study and attempt to resolve their cities’ most pressing planning issues; among the many things discussed was the theory of walkability. In the course of this and other projects, Speck developed the General Theory of Walkability, which, he says, “explains how, to be favored, a walk has to satisfy four main conditions: it must be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting. Each of these is essential and none alone is sufficient.” These four conditions are further organized in Walkable City as Ten Steps of Walkability, “critical elements to economics, public welfare, and environmental sustainability” in our cities.

Speck describes walkability as part of what shapes the public realm; where pedestrian life can embrace the city as a outdoor living room. For some cities an investment in redeveloping the downtown with an ease of pedestrian movement has been the cornerstone of their revival, or as Speck defines it, an act of “urban triage.” Denver’s Lower Downtown, or LoDo, is but one example cited in the book. Investing in these few blocks, writes Speck, sparked a decade-long renaissance with a population that has grown 28% since 1990. It can, as in his discussion of Baton Rouge, become a political hot potato and a tough position to defend as a city planner. “Why are you working on downtown, when it’s in such better shape than where we live? Why aren’t you doing a plan for our community instead?” If one accepts the downtown as the heart of the urban organism, one that is both walkable, liveable, and organized around transit (not merely automobiles), then its development can fuel economic development that can ultimately be shared jointly by its citizenry.

In Step 4 of “The Ten Steps of Walkability: Let Transit Work,” he reminds us that “compact, diverse, walkable neighborhoods were the basic building blocks of cities from the first non-nomadic settlements over 10,000 years ago until the height of the auto age,” and that today, “public transportation cannot thrive in the absence of a neighborhood structure, since it is the nodal and pedestrian-friendly nature of neighborhoods that allows riders to walk to the transit stop.” Designing to enhance the human experience is at the core of Speck’s book. At a time when economics and sustainability are critical to maintain the health and vibrancy of our cities, these ideas could not be timelier.

An earlier version of this article included an erroneous quote. The quote should read, “Each of these is essential and none alone is sufficient,” not, “…and one alone is sufficient.”

CFAF Kicks Off Building Connections 2012 with Education Open House

Young designers featured in the this year’s “Building Connections” exhibition excitedly point out their models to families and friends.

Eveline Chang

CFAF Board Member Judith Hunt takes a look at the exhibition.

Eveline Chang

CFAF Executive Director Jaime Endreny recognizes the Foundation’s many students, educators, staff, and supporters.

Eveline Chang

Jill Ayers and Rachel Einsidler from Design360 Inc, exhibition designers and lead sponsor for “Building Connections 2012.”

Eveline Chang

The Center for Architecture Foundation (CFAF) kicked off the launch of its 16th annual exhibition of K-12 student design work, “Building Connections 2012,” on 11.30.12 with an Architecture Education Open House. The exhibition, which runs through 01.19.13, highlights the achievements of students and classrooms who participated in CFAF’s built environment education programs during the 2011-12 school year. Featured among the 12 projects are model bridges from CFAF’s in-school residencies, digital design animations from after-school studios, and sketchbooks from CFAF’s Summer@theCenter Architectural Drawing program.

The Open House was held to coincide with the first day of the exhibition and to introduce teachers, parents, and architecture enthusiasts to the Foundation’s school and family programs. Guests were able to learn more about CFAF’s teaching methodology developed over more than 20 years of built environment education experience. The Foundation works with thousands of young people each year, using the interdisciplinary study of architecture to enrich student learning across the K-12 curricula to strengthen problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

The Foundation also took the opportunity to publicly recognize its generous sponsors, AIANY and its exhibitions staff, and Design360 Inc., the exhibition designer. CFAF also thanked its dedicated Board of Directors, talented Design Educators, and the numerous volunteers and interns who help to make all of its education programs possible.

On 01.07.13, CFAF will offer two exhibition-related programs as part of the Foundation’s expanded 2013 programs for the general adult public.  From 12:00 – 1:00 pm, CFAF Design Educators will lead a Guided Exhibition Tour of “The Edgeless School: Design for Learning and Building Connections 2012. From 6:00 – 8:00 pm, the Foundation will host a panel discussion entitled Making a School: Principals and Architects in Conversation. For more information and to register, please visit