Editor’s Note

Archtober is coming!

Join us this Friday, August 1 at 12:00 PM to kick off Archtober 2014 at The Public Theater. The historic building, recently renovated by Ennead Architects, will be the site of the first Building of the Day tour on Archtober 1st! The first 100 Tweeters to tweet @Archtober get a free Coolhaus ice cream treat during the launch.

The kick-off will also serve as the unveiling of the first 2014 Building of the Day. We will announce subsequent Buildings of the Day through our social media channels through the rest of the month of August.

In addition, don’t miss AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, and AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, preaching public space on today’s Commercial Observer.

Three-Part Harmony

On 07.22.14, AIANY President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, and Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, testified before the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) about One Vanderbilt Avenue. The proposed project, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and developed by SL Green, would sit just west of Grand Central Terminal. It necessitated review by LPC because of its retrieval of air rights from The Bowery Savings Bank building down the street and its close proximity to the 100-year-old landmark terminal. Although the design does not demonstrate what LPC customarily considers “harmonious” to its neighboring building, the group was largely in favor of the project and its relationship to Grand Central Terminal.

The conversation and testimonies at the hearing focused mostly on the glass-enclosed base of the building – a void-like contrast to the solid Grand Central Terminal. The dynamic façade also brought up discussion about whether tall buildings are meant to be in the background or the foreground of the city as it grows. One goal of the proposed building is to reveal new views of the southwest corner of Grand Central, currently hidden by the existing building. The new design steps back from the street while also gesturing towards the terminal. Continue reading “Three-Part Harmony”

The Next Big Storm as Hegelian Tragedy: Resilience vs. Affordability

As New York’s built environment evolves, resilience against climate-related challenges is a critical priority. Affordable housing is another. With much of the city’s housing stock standing in need of costly retrofitting against climatic threats, these values could be headed for a collision. If one important definition of tragedy (G.W.F. Hegel’s) is a clash between two legitimate and urgent but incompatible values, older multifamily buildings (particularly those located in the city’s 100-year floodplains) could be the site of an impending tragedy assuming several foreseeable forms, including loss of affordable units, inadequate stormproofing – and perhaps, for some of the city’s most vulnerable populations, accelerated displacement or worse.

NYU’s Furman Center, an urban-policy think tank jointly operated by the university’s law school and Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, has published The Price of Resilience: Can Multifamily Housing Afford to Adapt? – a report that examines the regulatory, financial, and social aspects of these converging challenges. On the eve of releasing the report, as an initiative of the 2014 AIANY Presidential Theme “Civic Spirit: Civic Vision” and coordinated with the “Affording Resilience” exhibition on view at the Center for Architecture until 08.07.14, representatives of the Furman Center discussed the report’s findings with two architects and two planners. There is no simple answer to the question its subtitle poses, beyond an unsettling “possibly not,” The current regulatory framework is unprepared for the problem, and private owners are caught between disincentives to upgrade their buildings and the likelihood of soaring flood-insurance costs if they do not. Recognizing the impending problem is a necessary first step toward heading it off, even if financially and politically feasible solutions are not in sight. Continue reading “The Next Big Storm as Hegelian Tragedy: Resilience vs. Affordability”

The Viral Spread of Social Media

What is a global conversation, and how does technology and social media impact it? That question, asked of panelists at the “Viral Voices III: Globalization” program, launched author and Fast Company journalist Greg Lindsay into his observations during his travels from the Venice Biennale to NeoCon. Lindsay sees architecture and urbanism being rethought during a time when there isn’t a lot of building going on. Developers of a 500-hectare site in Manila refused architectural candidates, demanding instead a master planner – a program rather than a rendering. At the other end of the spectrum, office designers are examining the role of furniture, especially hot-desking, but nobody is asking how we work and what unassigned workspaces mean. He predicts that “in the future everything will be a coffee shop.” These types of spaces have comfort, the cloud, and interesting activity.

Technology has been redefining our conception of space. It has made meetings asynchronous and erased the need for constant face-to-face time. Transportation routes are mapping urban space where no formal system exists, as in Nairobi’s bus lines. And, portable apps create social space. Lindsay noted that Tinder finds a date, Uber gets a ride, and Airbnb locates a room: “We no longer build; we simply carve out space.” Mark Collins of Cloud Lab reinforced this relation to portable technology as a “new experience based on location – biofeedback.” Continue reading “The Viral Spread of Social Media”

Through the Green Door

The central exhibition of the Oslo Architecture Triennale, “Behind the Green Door,” is now accompanied by a book that catalogues the ideas in the show – and then some.Focusing on architecture, the thesis of the Triennale asks: “What does sustainability mean in urban transformation?” Subtitled “A Critical Look at Sustainable Architecture through 600 Objects,” the curators, from Rotor, a Brussels-based architecture and design collective, collected objects dating from the late 1960s through the current decade. Objects from 120 sources were specifically identified by their authors as ‘sustainable. AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, visited the exhibition as a guest of the Royal Norwegian Consulate in New York, and called it “mind boggling, like walking through a history of psychology.”

The resulting publication takes the exhibition another step forward with 100 experts, including Bell, commenting on the items on display. Rather than pay lip service to the architects, Rotor “wanted to open the door to the backstage” to create a dialogue, according to Maarten Gielen, a partner in the collective. The comments range from supportive to scathing. Continue reading “Through the Green Door”

Pedaling the Last Mile

It’s no fluke that bike shares and bike lanes are popping up everywhere. They provide easy transportation, require no fossil fuels, have no emissions, occupy little space, and are basic mechanical machines. Power to the Pedals, a 30-minute documentary, shows that bicycles provide opportunity for economics, the environment, and urbanism.

Focusing on the plight of one woman, Power to the Pedals follows Wenzday Jane in establishing a cycle-based business to deliver goods and haul recycling, all at a livable pace and scale. Jane found that learning cycle mechanics and associated skills also fosters self-reliance. From building her own bikes and trailers, Jane built a fleet and a business in Cambridge, MA – a worthy model for other cities. Continue reading “Pedaling the Last Mile”

Center for Architecture Foundation Dreams Big in the Bronx with Hillary Clinton and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

The Center for Architecture Foundation joined forces with an impressive list of dignitaries to support the Bronx Children’s Museum’s 5th Annual Dream Big Day at Lehman College on 07.25.14. The event was the culmination of the museum’s summer arts enrichment program for low-income Bronx youth. The nearby High Bridge, New York City’s oldest standing bridge, was the theme of this year’s Dream Big event, which encourages kids to “dream, work hard, follow their passions, and become caretakers of their world.” CFAF Director Catherine Teegarden led a bridge-building workshop at the event where 1stthrough 3rdgrade students learned about the structure of the High Bridge and built a 15-foot model, which they presented to event honorees Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, actor and author Sonia Manzano (“Maria” from Sesame Street, whose children’s book on the High Bridge will be published in the fall), and NYC Department of Design + Construction Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. Commissioner Peña-Mora, a structural engineer, was delighted to discuss structural concepts of tension and compression with the workshop participants, and fielded questions prompted by the children’s model about how the larger steel arch can span a greater distance than the stone arches, rendered in the model with Chinese take-out containers. The renovation of the High Bridge is due to be completed later this year, and will provide pedestrians and bicyclists with a new quarter-mile of parkland, reconnecting the Highbridge neighborhoods of the Bronx and Manhattan. Continue reading “Center for Architecture Foundation Dreams Big in the Bronx with Hillary Clinton and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor”

Names in the News

The National Academy elected Peter Bohlin, FAIA, Principal, Bohlin Cywinski, Jackson; Preston Scott Cohen; Michael Manfredi, FAIA, and Marion Weiss, FAIA, Principle Partners, WEISS/MANFREDI; Eric Owen Moss; Antoine Predock, FAIA, Principal, Antoine Predock Architect; and Charles Renfro, AIA, Partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, as National Academicians…Architect’s 2014 R+D Awards honored New York City-based architects FXFOWLE (NYC Loop); Thomas Phifer and Partners, Office for Visual Interaction, and Werner Sobek (New York City Streetlight); and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (Timber Tower Research Project)…The recipients of the AIA Annual Jason Pettigrew Memorial ARE Scholarship include David Flecha, Assoc. AIA, and Daniel Horn, Assoc. AIA, both from the New York Institute of Technology…The Olana Partnership’s 2014 Frederic E. Church Award Gala honored Peter Pennoyer, FAIA,[new Fellow this year] Founder of Peter Pennoyer ArchitectsTod Williams, FAIA, and Billie Tsien, AIA, of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects were presented with the National Endowment for the Arts’ 2013 National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama on 07.28.14… Continue reading “Names in the News”