OWS POPs to Forefront of Assembly Rights

Event: Freedom of Assembly: Public Space Today
Location: Center for Architecture, 12.17.11
Speakers: Rick Bell, FAIA — AIANY Executive Director; Alexander Cooper, FAIA — Founding Partner, Cooper Robertson & Partners & architect of Zuccotti Park; Arthur Eisenberg — Legal Director, New York Civil Liberties Union; Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove — Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences & Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; Lisa Keller — Author & Associate Professor of History, School of Humanities, Purchase College & Columbia University; Elizabeth J. Kennedy, ASLA — Principal, Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architect; Brad Lander — Council Member, Progressive Caucus; Gregory Smithsimon — Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Brooklyn College; Michael Sorkin — Principal, Michael Sorkin Studios & Distinguished Professor of Architecture, City College of New York
Moderator: Michael Kimmelman — Chief Architecture Critic, The New York Times
Introductory Remarks: Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, ACSA — Distinguished Professor, Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York
Closing Remarks: Ron Shiffman, FAICP — Professor, Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment
Organizer: Center for Architecture; City College of New York School of Architecture; Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment

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The Occupy Wall Street movement in two of its formations — at its original location in Zuccotti Park, and then in Juan Pablo Duarte Square.

Rick Bell, FAIA

The First Amendment states that people have the right to assemble, said Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, ACSA, distinguished professor at City College’s Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture. Since the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement was removed from the Privately Owned Public (POP) Zuccotti Park, political rights, social health, and constitutional law surrounding assembly rights have come into question. Brown continued: “Privately Owned Public Space is the biggest game changer… and a big oxymoron.”

From an architectural perspective, for Alexander Cooper, FAIA, founding partner at Cooper Robertson & Partners, architect of Zuccotti Park, and recipient of a 2012 AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, the question begins with what physically draws a group to a park or square to assemble. Outlining commonalities among the places where Occupiers have congregated nationwide — Oakland, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Boston, in addition to NYC — Cooper pointed out that each of these locations is relatively small, ranging from .8 acres in Boston and NYC to 3.6 acres in Los Angeles. All of the sites are convenient to mass transit, close to financial districts and city halls, and are surrounded by tall buildings. They are protected, intimate, and personal. There are many reasons that this formula seems to work, but one key aspect, said Cooper, is related to the media: when a small group comes together, it looks like a large crowd on film.

While panelists agreed that it was a shame that Occupiers were kicked out of Zuccotti Park, they also agreed part of the problem is that they were gathered in a POP space. Arthur Eisenberg, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that the right to assemble (and the definition of what that means — including whether or not police searches are valid, tents/sleeping bags are permitted, perimeter barricades can be installed, etc.) should have been written into the agreement between Brookfield Properties and the city when the joint enterprise for the park was established. This is not a common practice for POP spaces, but perhaps this will change in the future. Gregory Smithsimon, assistant professor in the sociology department at Brooklyn College, pointed out that during the recent development boom, POPs were built assuming that they would be used passively and peacefully. Now that the OWS movement has shown that they could be actively used for political protest as well, he asked how will public space change.

“The threat to health is profound and urgent,” said Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, professor of clinical sociomedical sciences and clinical psychiatry at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She believes that OWS has revealed that we are living in a fractured society. Collective consciousness is important, and public space is fundamental to a city’s welfare. However, according to author Lisa Keller, “Free speech and protest is the U.S.’s NIMBY. We all believe in it, but no one wants it on their street.”

“If people can’t congregate in public, where will they go?” asked Elizabeth J. Kennedy, ASLA, of Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architect. Some have suggested using online social media outlets, although panelists agreed that space in the public realm is much more effective. AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, referenced Jane Jacobs’ fight to mandate that cities provide space for everyone. Council Member Brad Lander suggested rethinking libraries. Since space for physical books is becoming obsolete, he thinks we may soon have large spaces that are well suited for civic gathering. Michael Sorkin proclaimed a “Sidewalks of New York Act,” where individuals and communities decide along with the city how their streets and sidewalks are used, whether it’s for protest or commercial activity.

Whatever the future may bring, Smithsimon emphasized the importance of negotiation. With a constant flow of communication between the government and the public, cities will be able to successfully engage in democratic discussion, and ultimately elevate communities, and the country, beyond chaos and insanity.

Note: Freedom of Assembly was streamed live at USTREAM during the event. Also, click the following link to read “AIA Ponders Public Spaces in the Age of Occupy Wall Street,” by Pete Davies, published 12.19.11 in Curbed.

Future Now

With the start of the new year, I have been thinking a lot about the 2012 AIANY President’s theme, “Future Now.” Considering that much of our present centers on economic downfalls, political turmoil, and environmental devastation, how can we as design professionals affect change? During last month’s inaugural, President Joseph J. Aliotta, AIA, LEED AP, said, “We will determine our own future by how thoughtfully we respond to those challenges.”

Recently, the Chapter has responded to many of these existing challenges. The recent Freedom of Assembly panel addressed First Amendment rights despite increasingly limited public space in the city. The Emerging NY Architects Committee (ENYA) launched the Harlem Edge competition to rethink food, infrastructure, and water along the Hudson River. The New Practices Committee is hosting its biennial competition to highlight the work of emerging practices (a feat in this economy!). The newly established Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee (DfRR) is planning events and discussions about disaster relief. To encourage healthy lifestyles and better multi-modal transportation systems citywide, an exhibition on the NYC Bike Share program will open on 01.11.12, in anticipation of the program’s launch this summer.

It appears that the architecture profession is beginning to dig its way out of the recession as construction projects are on the upswing (shovel-ready projects now have shovels in the ground), and firms seem to be hiring for the first time in a couple of years. With this forward motion, I feel a new immediacy among practitioners to get things done. Architects want to tap into new fields that have not been explored in the profession, diversifying practice. They want to help where they can, whether it’s locally at Occupy Wall Street or globally to aid in disaster relief efforts. They want to roll their sleeves up and get to work!

This being an election year, the theme “Future Now” is poignant. It is essential for the profession to take steps to sustain its relevancy in the public for the betterment of the city’s future. Hopefully, this momentum will continue throughout the year.

Happy New Year from AIANY and the Center for Architecture! This streetscape, drawn by AIANY Partnership Programs Coordinator Laura Trimble, shows 536 LaGuardia Place and the adjacent 532 LaGuardia Place. There will be a “Breakthrough” celebration on 01.17.12 when construction between the spaces will be connected.

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Laura Trimble

12.12.11: The December Oculus Book Talk starred Bjarke Ingles of BIG/Bjarke Ingles Group, who gave an animated, fast-paced presentation of his book, Yes is More!.

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Kristen Richards

12.06.11: Ibex Construction’s annual holiday fete took place at the Center for Architecture.

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(L-R): Andy Frankl, President, Ibex Construction, with Tracey Hummer and Fred Schwartz, FAIA, of Frederic Schwartz Architect.

Kristen Richards

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Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, AIANY Associate Director and editor-in-chief of e-Oculus (left), and Elizabeth Shipley, AIA, LEED AP, of Rand Engineering & Architecture.

Kristen Richards

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Andrey Bokov, Ph.D., president of the Union of Architects of Russia, visited NYC with his wife Sonia. Donning his AIANY “Architecture as Public Policy” cap (AIANY’s 2006 theme), the Bokovs visited MoMA.

Rick Bell, FAIA

12.12.11: A gathering at the Standard Beer Garden following the launch of Archive of Spatial Aesthetics and Praxis, or ASAP (l-r): Ronnette Riley, FAIA, Ronette Riley Architect; AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA; W. Scott Allen, Assoc. AIA, Perkins+Will; Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, e-Oculus; Amy Stroud, JaffeHolden Architects; and Mary Burke, AIA, IIDA, Burke Design and Architecture.

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Kristen Richards

12.06.11: The second annual Architects for Animals project, “Giving Shelter,” to aid NYC’s homeless, stray and outdoor cats was held at the Steelcase Showroom at 4 Columbus Circle. Teams included architects and designers from FXFOWLE, Gage Clemenceau, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, RMJM, and Team Anemoi.

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This eco-friendly, sensor-embedded DIY cat shelter designed by Kathryn Walton, founder of The American Street Cat, and Co-Adaptive Architecture, won the prize.

Dana Edelson

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Lucio Santos from the FXFOWLE team proudly presented his cat shelter designed to harmonize with the environment.

Dana Edelson

As Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rise, Architects Feel the Weight

The New York Times reported on Sunday that global carbon dioxide emissions took a turn for worse during 2010, rising 5.9% — the largest jump on record (See “Carbon Emissions Show Biggest Jump Ever Recorded,” by Justin Gillis, New York Times, 12.04.11). The article cited that, although the U.S. experienced a drop in emissions in 2009, at the height of the recession, they rose just over 4% during 2010, pumping 1.5 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere last year. To say the least, after so much success in 2009, it is disappointing that we seem to be reversing course.

It is appropriate that this article was published while the President’s Theme Exhibition, “Buildings=Energy,” is on view at the Center for Architecture. The lecture series associated with the exhibition has covered different ways that architects can affect change when it comes to carbon emissions (See “The Big Apple Builds Greener by Retrofitting,” by Carl Yost; “Buildings Perform in Multiple Senses,” by Bill Millard, and “Universities Take on Sustainability Challenge,” by Linda G. Miller, all in this issue). The last of the series, Homes = Energy: What You Can Do as a Renter, will take place 01.12.12.

Now that we are supposedly coming out of the recession, architects and designers have the distinct responsibility to be proactive about sustainable practices. It is not just about tightening purse strings and finding the most creative solutions to spend less. We cannot get lazy if the focus of projects shifts elsewhere. At the end of the day, the architecture community should feel the strong blow made by the above statistics.

12.08.11

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AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, takes the podium at the Urban Umbrella prototype unveiling press conference. From l to r: Mayor Bloomberg; Rick Bell, FAIA; Richard Anderson, President, New York Building Congress; Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri; and Elizabeth H. Berger, President, Downtown Alliance.

Samantha Modell

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Rick Bell, FAIA (l), joined (from l to r) City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden; Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri; City Council Member Margaret Chin; Mayor Bloomberg; designers Andrés Cortés, R.A., Sarrah Khan, P.E., and Young-Hwan Choi; and Richard Wagman, Managing Partner, Madison Capital, and others at the Urban Umbrella unveiling outside 100 Broadway

Courtesy NYC.gov

12.06.11: The Center for Architecture hosted the 2012 AIANY Board Inaugural. Click here to read excerpts from speeches by Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP, 2011 AIANY President, and Joseph J. Aliotta, AIA, LEED AP, 2012 AIANY President.

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Castillo passed the gavel to Aliotta.

Nicole Friedman

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Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director, gave Castillo a special gift as a token of the Chapter’s appreciation for her year of service as AIANY President.

Nicole Friedman

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Lauren Schmidt, AIA, LEED AP, was presented with the second annual ENYA Merit Award.

Nicole Friedman

12.02.11: A staged reading of the play Glass House, written by Bob Morris and directed by Hal Brooks, was presented at the Center for Architecture.

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Actors who presented the staged reading (l-r): Stage Manager Laura Trimble, AIANY Partnership Programs Coordinator (seated); Fajer Al-Kaisi as “Anthony;” Rachel Feldman as “Abby;” Kim Howard as “Jane;” Joe Pallister as “Tad.”.

Nicole Friedman

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One of the bikes to be provided by the NYC Bike Share program, set to launch next year, is on display in the Helfand Gallery in anticipation of this week’s DOT Bike Share Open House, to take place Thursday, 12.08.11. The open house was organized by the NYC Department of Transportation in cooperation with the Center for Architecture, Manhattan Community Board 2, the Village Alliance, and Councilmember Margaret Chin.

Nicole Friedman

11.17.11: ASLA-NY President’s Dinner took place at Tribeca Three Sixty

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(L-R): NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe; Eric Goshow, AIA, LEED AP, Goshow Architects; Susanna Drake, ASLA, AIA, dlandstudio; and 2011 AIANY President Margaret Castillo, AIA, LEED AP.

Kristen Richards

12.01.11: The AIANY Women in Architecture Committee hosted a holiday party at the GE Monogram Design Center.

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At the event, the committee honored all of the women who became licensed within the last year. Shown here are 12 recently licensed members.

Lori Apfel Cardeli

10.20.11: Brick NY 2011 Awards, sponsored by the Brick Industry Association New York/New Jersey Brick Distributor Council and the Associated Brick Mason Contractors of Greater New York.

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(L-R): Rosemarie Islieb, AECOM, for A Condominiums, Jersey City, NJ (Islieb is now with Superstructures); Mark Thaler, Gensler, for St. John’s University D’Angelo Center for Student Life, Queens, NY; Awards Emcee Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA, Editor, OCULUS; Karl Smith, Ammann & Whitney, for Beach Channel High School, Rockaway Park, NY; and Leonard Rampulla, AIA, Leonard Rampulla Associates, for Staten Island Private Residence. Winners, but not pictured: Populous for Citi Field, Flushing, NY; NY City School Construction Authority In-House Design Studio for Public School 184, Flushing, NY; and Perkins Eastman for Winthrop-University Hospital, Mineola, NY. Also honored: Trump Organization (Developer/Private Sector); William C. Thompson, Jr., Chairman, Battery Park City Authority (Government/Public Sector Work); Jeremiah Sullivan, Jr., President, Bricklayers Local Union No. 1 (Dedication to the Industry); and Saverio Morelli, Former President, Morelli Masons (Lifetime Achievement Award).

Courtesy of Brick Industry Association New York/New Jersey Brick Distributor Council

The New York Observer featured an article on how AIANY has affected change in NYC. Click here to read “Big Architecture: AIA New York Has Shaped the City, But Can it Reshape City Hall?,” by Matt Chaban.

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The National Endowment for the Arts is leading a new task force of 13 federal agencies and departments to encourage more and better research on how the arts help people reach their full potential at all stages of life. Learn more at http://www.nea.gov/news/news11/Task-Force-Announcement.html.

11.23.11

11.23.11 Happy Thanksgiving! While the year may be coming to a close, the Center for Architecture is gearing up for a busy December. Save the date for the 2012 AIANY Board Inaugural on 12.06.11, from 5:00-6:00 pm, and check the calendar for the many panel discussions and events on the “Buildings=Energy” exhibition now on view through 01.21.12.

– Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

Note: The digital edition of the Fall 2011 issue of OCULUS magazine, “Interior Motives,” is online now! Click here to read.

Architecture Needs Students to Stay Relevant

At this year’s Deans Roundtable, Rice University’s Sarah Whiting, Assoc. AIA, posed the question: “How do we make architecture relevant again?” She posited that it is time to move beyond social responsibility and instead focus on making architecture more socially relevant. As the discussion shifted from Occupy Wall Street to the impact each school is making in its respective community (see “Deans Discuss Relevance of Architecture,” by Jacqueline Pezzillo, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, in this issue), I was pleased by the general consensus among the deans that community engagement is a major part of the discourse in academic circles.

However, something about social engagement struck me during the discussion. A couple of the deans talked about the Solar Decathlon, and their surprise when they arrived in Washington, D.C., to see the amount of research and knowledge the students had about sustainable design and technology. While I’m sure they meant to compliment the efforts, as they continued to praise the enthusiasm and excitement radiating from each team member, I began to question the respect given to architecture students while they are in school.

When I was in graduate school I remember all too well being made to feel by my professors that I did not have enough knowledge to truly understand the field of architecture. The pressure on architecture students to pull all-nighters and prove that they have what it takes to last in the profession is enormous, but rarely do professors give students positive reinforcement and encouragement that their perspectives are important. At least that was my experience.

I think of programs outside of architecture, programs such as those in the sciences, where graduate students are tasked to complete important research for their professors. The work that those students are doing directly contributes to the advancement of their fields… and they know it. Architecture students are taught to develop their designs and work through problems in studio, but the work they do is hardly ever then related back to society (with a few exceptions).

While architecture schools may be incorporating more community-based design studios with the intention of helping students understand the relevancy of the profession, as the Deans Roundtable suggested, the true change needed in architecture school is toward the students themselves. Professors have to enable students and give them confidence to continue in the field. Professors need to show their students how they can significantly contribute to their communities when they graduate. The only way to make architecture relevant again is to help architecture students understand that their views are important, their knowledge is valid, and, ultimately, they are the future of the built environment.