Sustaining NYC with 20/30 Vision?

Event: NEW YORK 2030: New York’s Green Future: A Public Discussion among the Authors of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC and a Panel of Urban Design Experts
Location: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, 11.17.07
Speakers: Olympia Kazi — Executive Director, Institute for Urban Design; Fredric Bell, FAIA — Executive Director, AIANY; Rohit T. Aggarwala, PhD — Director, Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability
Panel 1: Adrian Benepe — Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (introduction); Sandy Hornick — Deputy Executive Director for Strategic Planning, NYC Department of City Planning; Thomas Maguire — Director of Congestion Pricing, NYC Department of Transportation; Charles McKinney — Chief of Design, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; James J. Roberts — Deputy Commissioner, NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Panel 2: Adolfo Carrión, Jr. — Bronx Borough President (introduction); Tom Angotti — Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning, Hunter College; Miquela Craytor — Deputy Director, Sustainable South Bronx; Ernest Hutton, Assoc. AIA, AICP — Co-chair, New York New Visions; Richard Sennett — Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science & Bemis Adjunct Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies, MIT School of Architecture + Planning; Ronald Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. AIA — Director Emeritus, Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development; Paul Steely White — Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives; Elizabeth Yeampierre — Executive Director, United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park
Moderators: Alexandros Washburn, AIA — Chief Urban Designer, NYC Department of City Planning (panel 1); Michael Sorkin — Director, Graduate Urban Design Program at the City College of New York (panel 2)
Organizers: The Institute for Urban Design; support from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, City College of New York, AIANY, New York New Visions.



NYC has operated without a coordinated plan for long-range growth since the late 1960s. Though the afternoon respondents at this symposium provided a sharp analysis of PlaNYC — Mayor Bloomberg’s long-range sustainable growth plan for the city — all of the panelists agreed that, with the Bloomberg administration’s clock running down, successful implementation of PlaNYC will lie largely in the hands of the city’s future leaders.

Tom Angotti, professor of urban affairs and planning at Hunter College, reminded the audience that the 1969 plan was never formally approved, just like PlaNYC, whose creation was sponsored and launched as an independent initiative by the mayor. Angotti said that soliciting more buy-in from community groups is the first step needed to make the plan binding. Other panelists agreed, saying that community-based 197-a plans should be addressed in the document, and that economic factors like job creation should be considered as well.

It is accepted that in 20 years NYC will be more populous and diverse. While change is good, the standard of living in NYC could decline if natural resources and existing infrastructure are not properly managed. The director of the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability and PlaNYC author Rohit T. Aggarwala, PhD, noted that while PlaNYC’s goals have the potential to transform the city into a more livable, sustainable place, it will only happen if the plan’s core ideas are adopted and promoted by other administrations. Said Aggarwala, PlaNYC can be the first step in “shifting the idea of how the citizenry thinks about NYC’s responsibility for promoting sustainability.”

NYC Melts a New Pot of Diversity

Event: The Future Face of New York
Location: The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, 10.18.07
Speakers: Laurie Beckelman — Founder & Principal, Beckelman+Capalino; Majora Carter — Executive Director, Sustainable South Bronx; Shaun Donovan — Commissioner, New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD); Yesenia Graham — Vice President, Sutphin Avenue Development, One Stop Home Services; Daniel Libeskind, AIA — Principal, Studio Daniel Libeskind; Bill McKibben — Author, Educator, Environmentalist; Michael Sorkin — Michael Sorkin Studio & City College of New York; Mike Wallace — Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author
Moderator: Martin Filler — Architecture Columnist, House & Garden
Organizers: House & Garden, as part of House & Garden‘s Design Happening program series, organized in partnership with the Center for Architecture and the Architectural League

As New Yorkers face the challenges outlined in the city’s PlaNYC report, strong communities have the potential to bind and bolster the city during periods of change and turmoil. NYC’s future depends on fostering strong, livable communities within the city’s existing urban fabric.

What will the city’s strong communities look like in 20 years? According to author Mike Wallace, neighborhoods will likely be more diverse than they are today. Since 2000, the city has been growing past its record-high population, in part fueled by immigration. Today, more than 40% of New Yorkers were born in other countries. In recent years, a series of tectonic population shifts amongst the city’s many ethic groups have resulted in an explosion of communities comprised of diverse ethnic groups living together, instead of in autonomous groupings. To a large extent, it is believed that these spontaneously diverse communities are more socially sustainable than their heterogeneous neighbors.

The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan claims that NYC struggles to actively plan diversity into the city’s population. Specifically, the housing market should include designing for a diversity of people with different backgrounds and ages, and with a variety of incomes. “We have an ethical responsibility to grow this city,” said Donovan.

Though much of the tone of the discussion was dire — with talk of how population growth, global warming, and a potential housing shortage could cripple the city — Daniel Libeskind, AIA, spoke of his family’s immigration to NYC decades ago as a positive example of its longevity. “At the risk of sounding demented, I do want to say something optimistic about the city.” While New York’s communities could be drastically recast in the future, the city has an idealistic endurance that many others do not. “NYC has the sustainability of an idea.”

Design Education Turns Social

Event: Deans Roundtable and Reception, arch schools: r(each)ing out
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.24.07
Speakers: George Ranalli, AIA — Dean of Architecture, The City College of New York; Mark Wigley — Dean, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University; Anthony Vidler — Dean of Architecture, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art; Moshen Mostafavi — Dean of Architecture, Cornell University; Urs P. Gauchat — Dean of Architecture, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Judith DiMaio, AIA — Dean of Architecture & Design, New York Institute of Technology; Scott Ageloff, AIA, ASID, IDEC, NYSID — Vice President of Academic Affairs & Dean, New York School of Interior Design; Kent Kleinman — Chair of Architecture, Parsons the New School for Design; Tom Hanrahan, AIA — Dean of Architecture, & Anita Cooney — Chair of Interior Design, Pratt Institute; Stan Allen, AIA — Dean of Architecture, Princeton University; Alan Balfour, Assoc. AIA — Dean of Architecture, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Jane Smith, AIA — Chair of Interior Design, School of Visual Arts; Mark Robbins — Dean of Architecture, Syracuse University; University at Buffalo (SUNY); Gary Hack — Dean, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania; Keith Krumwiede — Assistant Dean & Professor of Architecture, Yale University
Moderator: Marvin Malecha, FAIA — ACSA Distinguished Professor, TOPAZ Laureate, Dean, College of Design, North Carolina State University & 2008 AIA First Vice President/President-Elect
Organizers: AIANY; Center for Architecture Foundation
Sponsors: RMJM Hillier; Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Supporter: Pei Cobb Freed & Partners; Friends: Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners; Butler Rogers Baskett; Francois de Menil Architects; Gabellini Sheppard Associates; Mancini Duffy; Robert A.M. Stern Architects; Terrence O’Neal Architect; beverages provided by Izze

Arch schools: r(each)ing out

Courtesy AIANY

Based on images and themes captured from the recent popular press, roundtable moderator Marvin Malecha, FAIA, dean of the NC State University College of Design, drilled 16 local deans on questions relating to design and social responsibility. Malecha peppered the panel with questions like “Why should the public trust architects?” and “Do architects really care about the ‘other’ 90% of society?”

Most of the deans conceded that social initiatives should be used to engage students, such as providing social housing and designing to avert sprawl. At the same time, some deans questioned the logic of migrating to a curriculum with an entirely social agenda. Stan Allen, AIA, dean of architecture at Princeton University, said that while high-level design and social agendas could work together, students should not be mandated to focus on social problems. “The world is changing; we cannot teach on a snapshot of the moment.”

Malecha, who will serve as 2009 AIA president, asked the deans how far they see architecture practice and the AIA actually affecting architecture education. According to a number of deans, rigorous business and professional practice classes can add to the architecture curricula, but should not supplant the importance of design teaching in a studio structure. Formal education is just the beginning of a long process, said Anthony Vidler, dean of Cooper Union. “We are nowhere near the end of it when a student graduates.”

Biennial Competition Docks at South Street

Event: ENYA Launch Party for 2008 South Street Seaport, Re-envisioning the Urban Edge competition
Location: The Seamen’s Church Institute, 09.27.07
Organizers: AIANY Emerging NY Architects (ENYA) committee
Sponsors: ENYA; The Seamen’s Church Institute

ENYA Launch Party

(l-r): ENYA competition organizers Joel Melton, Sean Rasmussen, Heather Mangrum, and Anne Leondhardt, Assoc. AIA; Vasso Kampiti, Assoc. AIA, Associate Director AIANYS with Anne Leondhardt, Assoc. AIA; Omar Mitchell, Assoc. AIA, and Megan Chusid, Assoc. AIA, co-chair of ENYA.

Carolyn Sponza

Continuing a theme of hosting projects focused on NYC’s changing waterfront, the AIANY Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) committee launched its third Biennial Ideas Competition at the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) at South Street Seaport. SCI is acting as a hypothetical client for this international competition, South Street Seaport: Re-envisioning the Urban Edge, whose program includes a community center/gallery space for the institute as well as sanctuary space and a public meditation garden. Unlike previous competitions that have asked entrants to consider building on terra firma, this competition requires the design of a new pier over the water south of the Brooklyn Bridge. Competitors are also encouraged to make connections with the South Street Seaport neighborhood and Lower Manhattan.

Surrounded by models of tall ships on display at SCI, attendees of the competition launch were reminded of the over 200-year history of the area as a port. This is a particularly apt time for architects and planners to focus on this area; since 2005, the departure of the Fulton Fish Market has marked a rapid shift to more intense residential and retail uses in the neighborhood. Also impacting the area is the imminent implementation of the city’s East River Waterfront plan.

For more information about the competition, or to register, click the link. And be sure to check out the area on Saturday, October 6, as ENYA hosts the site for openhousenewyork.

New Rules Shape IDP, ARE

Event: IDP Inside Out
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.14.07
Speakers: Thomas Penn, AIA — NY State IDP Coordinator; Shanntina Moore, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP — AIA National Associates Committee, Regional Associate Director New York Region, representing Cannon Design 2006 IDP Firm of the Year; Tony P. Vanky, Assoc. AIA — Vice President, American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS)
Moderator: Mark Behm, LEED AP, Assoc. AIA
Organizers: Emerging New York Architects (ENYA); AIANY Professional Practice Committee; AIAS; in conjunction with the arch schools: r(each)ing out exhibition

The path to licensure is not always direct. Quality of work experience is just as important as immediately fulfilling all of the Intern Development Program’s (IDP) training unit requirements, according to panelists demystifying the IDP process. Tony Vanky, Assoc. AIA, vice president of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), discussed how interns should engage their employers to gain exposure to different tasks. It is important to evaluate the diversity of experiences offered by firms during job interviews. “A job is a lot like a nice pair of shoes,” said Vanky, “once you’ve put them on, you can’t return them.”

IDP candidates should be aware that several changes in the program are underway. Soon, a rolling clock system may disallow candidates from reporting earned training units that are more than six months old. Some states are now allowing students to take some sections of the Architecture Registration Examination (ARE) after graduation, prior to fulfilling their IDP requirements. In addition, the ARE is changing from its current nine-exam form into a condensed, seven exam series that integrates graphics and multiple-choice questions into each section beginning May 2008.

According to the panelists, students should open a record with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) as soon as they are eligible, in order to capture any qualifying internships they may have completed while in school. (Note: NY State requires that an applicant for licensure must have three years of experience after graduation, in addition to having fulfilled the requirements of IDP). And now that NCARB recently launched online applications, there is no excuse to procrastinate!

Forget Branding

Event: The Future of Design
Location: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, 09.05.07
Speakers: Etienne Fang — Strategic Director, Cultural Insights Studio, Cheskin; Rie Norregaard — Creative Director, Frog Design; Elizabeth Pastor — Co-founder, NextDesign Leadership Institute & Co-founder, Humantific; Leslie Wellott — The Insight Group, Imagination
Moderator: Chee Pearlman — Director, Chee Company
Organizer: Media Bistro

Architecture is often product-driven, and architects do not always think about enriching their designs by engaging employees and clients. As design becomes more complex, collaboration and communication are increasing important within and outside of the workplace. A panel focusing on trends in graphic and information design pointed out changes silently happening within architecture offices as well.

Articulating the thought process behind design is what will solve problems, stated Ettiene Fang, strategic director of the Cultural Insights Studio at Cheskin. Architects have long realized the lure of a thick marker sketch in a client meeting — but what about the idea of letting the client behind the veil? “Design has shifted from being a craft to design-oriented thinking” focused on providing problem-solving skills and a perspective on design, according to panelist Leslie Wellott of The Insight Group. When it comes to finding solutions, cross-collaboration with other disciplines is critical.

Though moderator Chee Pearlman, director of Chee Company, stated, “design is no longer a field about authorship,” architects are somewhat late to the game as dozens of name-brand buildings are popping up all over town. When it comes to communication and marketing, architects may want to look toward other allied professions for ways to effectively leverage design collaboration.

Up From Anonymity: the Rise of New York’s Infrastructure

Event: Tour of New York Rises: Photographs by Eugene de Salignac
Location: Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), 08.15.07
Organizers: AIANY Member Services Committee; AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA); Museum of the City of New York

Queensboro Bridge

Queensboro Bridge, exposures made for experiment, February 9, 1910.

Photo by Eugene de Salignac, courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York and the New York City Municipal Archives

The current exhibition on view at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) helps celebrate an anonymous NYC by providing a glimpse into how the urban fabric and infrastructure we depend upon today was created. New York Rises: Photographs by Eugene de Salignac does portray known structures, but the workers and other folks gazing into the camera frequently steal the frame.

Eugene de Salignac, a civil servant who remained largely anonymous himself until a decade ago, is the eye behind the photographs in the exhibition. Beginning in 1903, de Salignac worked for the NYC Department of Bridges/Plant Structures for three decades, capturing thousands of ordinary and extraordinary views of the city. While his photos are overarching (construction shots of the Municipal Building construction in 1912 are archived alongside views of a Depression-era shelter), they are also detailed and poignant. Exhibition curator Tom Mellins stressed that the photographs were organized to impress de Salignac’s unique skills upon visitors, while the accompanying book (also New York Rises) pushes NYC’s massive infrastructure improvements to the forefront.

Mellins’ guided tour and special viewing of the exhibition marked the MCNY’s new reciprocal membership program for AIA members. Available through December, AIA members will receive a 30% discount when they join the MCNY.
AIANY Secretary Abby Suckle, FAIA, LEED AP, said that this event was the second in a “series of partnerships with museums and other cultural organizations that is a combination of joint programming and membership swaps.”

NYC Looks to Pop a Wheelie

Event: Lecture, part of the New York Bike Share Project symposium and charrette
Location: Storefront for Art and Architecture, 07.09.07
Speaker: Richard Grasso — Clear Channel Adshel
Organizers: Storefront for Art and Architecture; Forum for Urban Design

Bike Wheel

Courtesy Storefront for Art and Architecture

While the majority of attendees at a conference on bike sharing endorsed the concept for NYC, the most hotly debated element of the initiative was the idea of using advertising on the bikes and their docking stations to help underwrite the program. Clear Channel Adshel became a supporter of similar shares in Barcelona, Stockholm, and Oslo as an extension of their advertising program, which uses street furniture as a medium. David Haskell, executive director of Forum for Urban Design, said the symposium was planned to educate the public about the potential benefits of bike share, not to determine “what the ratio of advertising to public financing might be.”

For those familiar with the idea of point-to-point, subscription-driven car rental operations (like Zipcar), bike share is its two-wheeled equivalent. But unlike the Zipcar concept — a convenience service for daytrips and errands — bike share is focused on providing everyday transportation options. Commuters sign up online to participate and swipe a membership card to sign out each bike, which may be used for as low as $.50 per trip. The bicycles, which will be available at strategically located docking stations, are not high performance cycles. Each bike is constructed for stability. “It’s not a Porsche; it’s been tested for ease of use,” said Clear Channel Adshel executive Richard Grasso.

Implementing a transportation system that would improve public health at the same time seems like a natural fit for this city. And discussions about bike share’s feasibility in NYC are especially timely, given recent debate about congestion pricing and potential subway overcrowding. But residents, like myself, who have tried the bike share systems available in European cities, may be left wondering how the concept will translate to New York. In particular, where will bike share docking stations be located, given existing scarcity of excess sidewalk and parking space? Will riders face problems in a city already troubled by unruly drivers and a lack of dedicated bike lanes? Though the reality of bike sharing in NYC may be in the far future, Washington, D.C. should be able to provide answers and inspiration — they will be the first Big 10 U.S. city to implement the system, effective within the next few months.

More information on the bike sharing program can be found at The New York Bike-Share Project website. David Haskell contributed an opinion piece on July 18 to the New York Times about the program. Click “The Path of Least Congestion” to read the full article.

Cass Gilbert: A Copycat for All Seasons

Event: Downtown Third Thursday Lecture: Cass Gilbert and History: The Past as Present
Location: New York County Lawyers’ Association, 05.17.07
Speaker: Barbara S. Christen — author, historian, Cass Gilbert scholar
Organizer: Downtown Alliance

Woolworth Building

The neo-gothic style of the Woolworth Building is just one of many of Cass Gilbert’s appropriated modes.

Jessica Sheridan

Architect Cass Gilbert was a style chameleon, varying his design aesthetic based on location and client. According to author and historian Barbara Christen, Gilbert’s ideas were mined from both his European travels and from his extensive library. “On one level he wasn’t that imaginative,” said Christen, showing a photo of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus next to the similar crown of the U.S. Courthouse at Foley Square, one of many Gilbert appropriations.

New Yorkers might associate Gilbert’s style with the Foley Courthouse, or with the sugary, neo-gothic ornamentation he employed on the Woolworth Building and 90 West Street. But residents of Waterbury, CT, would have a completely different impression of Gilbert’s work, as evidenced by the colonial-inspired brick-and-stone civic and commercial buildings he designed for the town. Oberlin College students might have yet another view of the architect’s work, with several Florentine-influenced building springing from Gilbert’s master plan for the campus. Perhaps it is in the buildings that belong to Gilbert’s partially realized master plans (like those for Waterbury and Oberlin) that his mass style realignments become most evident.

In addition to these wholesale shifts in his design approach, Gilbert managed to interpose seemingly unrelated architectural elements, like a Scandinavian dormer he transposed almost directly from his travel notebooks onto a shingle-style sanatorium building in Connecticut. “He comfortably grafted styles,” said Christen. Proving that perhaps Gilbert’s true talent was for graceful assimilation, a lesson architects today can certainly appreciate.

Hidden Splendor South of Chambers Street

Event: Downtown Third Thursdays Lecture: Forgotten Splendor: Restoring Downtown’s Historic Architecture
Location: Federal Hall, 04.19.07
Speaker: Mary Dierickx — preservationist & Principal, Mary B. Dierickx
Organizer: Downtown Alliance

Claremont Prep

Claremont Prep is one example of the recent wave of downtown buildings that have transformed their uses after renovation.

Carolyn Sponza

While new towers and planned transit hubs for downtown Manhattan have dominated the media over the past few years, a number of daring downtown restoration projects have been slipping quietly under the radar. According to preservationist Mary Dierickx, that may be intentional. At the Historic Front Street residential lofts, located at South Street Seaport, architects Cook+Fox purposely retained the distressed look of street elevations of 11 historic buildings, while inserting three new structures. In reference to the restoration of the retained façades, Dierickx said, “This is not an incredible ‘after’ project. The whole point was to keep [the buildings] looking old.”

Historic Front Street was subsidized in part by a combination of Liberty Bonds and historic preservation tax credits. Utilizing resources such as these, and post-9/11 support like the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund, “helped kick off the preservation movement downtown,” said Dierickx. While Historic Front Street retained and updated its original use (with retail on street level and residential above), many current downtown restoration projects are undertaking wholesale use changes, such as the conversion of a former bank building on Broad Street into Claremont Prep private academy. The banking hall (with its murals) was restored to serve as a multi-purpose room for the K-8 school, while the original vaults were converted into annex space for the cafeteria. Expect to see more creative downtown conversions like this one under construction in the next few years, proving that while banking may become virtual, living cannot.