Saturday Night Deans

So what did you do on Saturday night? Perhaps not your usual weekend evening activity, on 11.16.13, a formidable group of academics, administrators, and education enthusiasts assembled at the Center for Architecture to discuss, debate, and possibly provoke the state of architectural education at this moment in time.

Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, AIANY 2014 President, set the stage by welcoming attendees to the 9th annual Deans’ Roundtable. He took the time to set a backdrop of local and world events that have transpired in the last decade. He recalled the first of these roundtables when, in 2004, architecture was “brightly illuminated by post-9/11” issues: we were preparing for the new Bloomberg Administration; developments like Via Verde in the Bronx and Hudson Yards were only distant dreams; and the full impact of climate change and its potential for our profession had not yet been exposed – as it now has, post-Sandy. Finally, at that time the world was not yet 50% urbanized, an observation which precipitated the opportunity to announce his upcoming AIANY 2014 Presidential Theme: Civic Spirit, Civic Vision. Continue reading “Saturday Night Deans”

The Park at the Center of the Whirl

A tree planting ceremony commemorating the completion of 30 acres of new parkland on Governors Island brought a crowd of architects, landscape architects, environmentalists, and city officials out to the “Island at the Center of the World” last Thursday, 11.14.13. The tree, a southern gingko (Ginkgo biloba), was the 800,000th to be planted as part of MillionTreesNYC.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was accompanied by Ronay Menschel, chair of the Trust for Governors Island; Veronica White, Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation; State Senator Daniel Squadron; and Leslie Koch, president of The Trust for Governors Island. The mayor’s remarks started by noting: “Governors Island is a spectacular one of a kind destination” that “is part of our effort to create a greater, greener, and more resilient New York.” He said that the tree represented the Bloomberg Administration being “more than 3/4 on our way to our goal of planting a million trees two years ahead of schedule.” Continue reading “The Park at the Center of the Whirl”

Competing for Second Place

Discussing competitions and new models for disseminating architectural ideas, the “(P) RE:Think | Competitive Ideas” panel discerned little about the future. When directly asked, all panelists shrugged with a resounding, “I don’t know.” They did clarify that large-scale project competitions are rarely built and visionless, while the smaller-scale tend toward experimental installations with little impact. Despite these limitations, alternatives and strategies exist for making the most of competitions.

The Architects’ Newspaper’s Founding Editor William Menking declared his broadsheet an alternative to mainstream media. Supportive of ideas competitions, the paper recently sponsored one to propose an adaptive re-use of the Houston Astrodome, and another for housing in New Rochelle, the latter fully intending to be built. The unorthodox approach in Westchester County enlisted architectural ideas before a second phase required developer partners who could realize them. Continue reading “Competing for Second Place”

The Universal Lens of Resilience

Roughly a year after New York endured Superstorm Sandy, with current headlines showing the devastation caused by a massive typhoon that wracked the Philippines, the public and the architectural profession are acutely aware of the recurrence, inescapability, and gravity of severe climatic events. The Center for Architecture’s Helfand Gallery puts the winning entry in the For a Resilient Rockaway Competition (FAR ROC) by White Arkitekter, Gensler, and Arup prominently in the public view. City government has codified outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s commitment to resilient design by creating the Director of Resiliency position within the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (an office that AIANY, in A Platform for the Future of the City, recommends strengthening by elevating its director to commissioner level). At the risk of a bad pun, there is something in the air. Continue reading “The Universal Lens of Resilience”

Insure for Risk, Part 1

On 11.13.13, the Center for Architecture’s Tafel Hall was packed with notebook-wielding architects and architecture-appreciating professionals. The word “resilient” and “resiliency” buzzed throughout the conversations in the minutes before the presentations started, then the room quieted down in anticipation of the imminent flood of information on the subject of…. Insurance. That’s right, insurance. As Joan Capelin, Hon. AIA, co-chair of the AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee (DfRR), said, “No one pays attention to this issue until there’s a tragedy,” and, more lightheartedly: “The issue of insurance is like a tea bag – you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” And right now, we’re in hot water.

To best help define issues and answers on this subject, the DfRR Committee, established by AIANY to provide a forum for greater risk awareness, assembled a group of high-level specialists from the insurance and reinsurance industries, FEMA/FIMA, the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability, and the National Institute of Building Sciences. Continue reading “Insure for Risk, Part 1”

Lights, Camera, Demolition: Penn Station Recalled on Stage and in Pictures

Then I started thinking, Im taking down what some poor guy broke his back 50 years ago to put up. Going home to his kids at night telling them their daddy was building a station that would last forever.Paul Abbot, Scene 5

On 11.06.13, The Eternal Space, a play written by Justin Rivers, reminded everyone at the Center for Architecture about the 1963 demolition of Penn Station and the lives of the New Yorkers that were changed along with it. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Station’s demise, and what better way to bring back the haunting images of that deconstruction than with a reading of River’s moving play, with Norman McGrath’s historical photographs as the scenic backdrop. Continue reading “Lights, Camera, Demolition: Penn Station Recalled on Stage and in Pictures”

Beirut Now: Gazing Into the Void of Nostalgia

As the title suggests, “BEIRUT NOW | A Panel On Urban Landscape’s Conflicting Desires” was an evening of binary oppositions. Steeped in nostalgia, it contrasted the inclusive Beirut of the past with the exclusive Beirut of the present, and pitted neo-liberal interests against the desires of those who long for a Beirut attached to its local culture and historical heritage. In fact, nostalgia is, as Nishan Kazazian, AIA, founder of Nishan Kazazian Architecture, stated, a conflicting concept itself, invoking a “paradoxical combination of hope and hopelessness, space and place.”

Setting the tone for the evening, Kazazian took the audience through a haptic journey of the Beirut of his childhood, tracking the route that he took from his home to the center of the city. The urban morphology of 1950s Beirut, he posited, created opportunities for people of different socioeconomic backgrounds to interact and intermix. This “undivided city” not only impacted the formation of his ideas, but also offered a “model of coexistence that may have been emulated at a global level.” Continue reading “Beirut Now: Gazing Into the Void of Nostalgia”

Building Connections Exhibition Opens at the Center

What do the Renaissance villas, tree houses, and mosques on display at the Center for Architecture have in common? They were all designed and built by students in the Center for Architecture Foundation’s school and vacation programs, and are gathered together in the “Building Connections” exhibition, which opened on 11.14.13. This annual exhibition showcases K – 12th-grade student design work from the CFA Foundation’s Learning By Design:NY school programs and Center-based vacation studios. The exhibition’s designers, Jill Ayers and Rachel Einsidler of Design360, created colorful graphic icons that highlight the range of topics covered in these programs, illustrated by the projects in the exhibition. An accompanying activity guide provides short explanations and drawing activities to help younger visitors engage with the exhibition themes. Continue reading “Building Connections Exhibition Opens at the Center”