Architect of Capitol Makes His Mark with Visitor Center

Event: The U.S. Capitol: The Continuing Evolution of a Historic Icon
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.11.11
Speaker: Alan M. Hantman, FAIA — 10th Architect of the U.S. Capitol, 1997-2007
Introduction: Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP — 2011 AIANY President; Gregory Cranford, AIA — Co-chair, AIANY Historic Building Committee
Organizers: AIANY Historic Building Committee; Center for Architecture
Sponsor: Porcelnosa


The entry to the Visitor Center at the U.S. Capitol.

Matthew G. Bisanz

Alan M. Hantman, FAIA, was appointed to the position of Architect of the Capitol during the second term of the Clinton Administration. With duties that included overseeing 300 acres and 15 million square feet of buildings space, the largest project he took on was the arduous challenge of orchestrating the design and construction of a 580,000-square-foot Visitors Center, designed by RKTL Associates, on the east front of Jenkins Hill, tucked around the pinnacle of the Capitol campus.

Being the focal point of government, it was important not to obstruct the clear view of the Capitol Building on East Capitol Street. For that reason, the Visitor’s Center was designed below grade, under the plaza. Accommodating approximately 4,000 people at any given time, the entry to the center is via a procession of spaces extending three stories underground. Sweeping access ramps lead visitors from Independence and Constitution Avenues to a mezzanine above the Congressional Auditorium overlooking Emancipation Hall. Proceeding down the steps to Emancipation Hall, grand skylights expose daylight views of the Capitol Dome and help orient visitors. Additional spaces within the center include an I-Max theater and Exhibition Hall for multi-functional uses, as well as a dining facility. Hantman’s ability to create a seamless transition between the new construction and the existing Capitol Building was his self-described greatest accomplishment.

Originally slated for completion in January 2005, construction faced a major setback on 9/11, which happened just four days shy of awarding the bid to a contractor (ultimately Balfour Beatty). Only after the design team re-evaluated security measures could construction continue. The mechanical and electrical systems needed to be reconfigured including increased and reconfigured air intakes, and the installation of supplementary fire dampers. Additional means of egress above code requirements were incorporated into the design as a preventative measure. The grand skylights were redesigned for triple the level of security. Furthermore, while construction was on hold, it was also decided that more space was needed for the Senate and Congress. As a result, 170,000 square feet of public assembly space was added to the program.

Ultimately, the Visitor’s Center officially opened on 12.02.08, after Hantman’s term had ended and Stephen T. Ayers, AIA, LEED AP, succeeded him. With approximately 250 million visitors a year visiting the space he initiated, Hantman has left an indelible mark on our nation’s past, present, and future history.

NY-Switzerland Exchange: Making Green the Law

Event: When Green is not an Option but the Law
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.03.11
Speakers: Dr. Daniel Kurz — Head of the Division for Information and Documentation, Building Department of the City of Zurich & Curator and Educator, “Smarter Living — The 2000-Watt Society”; Laurie Kerr, AIA — Senior Policy Advisor, NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability; Mathias Heinz, SIA/BSA — Architect & Partner, pool Architekten (Zurich); Richard Dattner, FAIA — Principal, Dattner Architects (NYC)
Moderator: Stephan Tanner, AIA — Principal, Intep (Minneapolis)
Organizers: Think Swiss; Umberto Dindo, AIA; AIANY
Sponsors: Consulate General of Switzerland in New York; Cleantech Switzerland; Stadt Zurich; Center for Architecture

Forum Chriesbach, EAWAG, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. Architect: Bob Gysin + Partner BGP, Zurich (left). GSA Peter W. Rodino Building High Performance Modernization. Architect: Dattner Architects with Richard McElhiney Architects.

Photo by Roger Frei, Zurich, courtesy AIANY (left); Dattner Architects (right)

Both NYC and Switzerland have been committed to sustainability for quite some time. In 1994 groundwork was laid for Minergie, the Swiss equivalent of USGBC’s LEED system. Soon after, the 2000-Watt Society, initiated by the Swiss Institute of Technology with the goal of reducing individual energy use by one-third — or 2,000 watts — was officially integrated into the Swiss constitution.

In NYC, parallel efforts are underway. About four years ago, according to Laurie Kerr, AIA, senior policy advisor in the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, NYC put into place three progressive strategies to achieve greenhouse gas reduction in the building sector by 2030. These initiatives have snowballed into a number of green codes and regulations. The Green Codes Tasks Force is aimed at the private sector to reduce energy consumption, toxicity, water consumption, and waste. The goal for the Green Greater Buildings Plan is to reduce citywide CO2 usage by 5% by retrofitting all buildings more than 50,000 square feet — which amounts to half of the existing building square footage in NYC. Now in effect, small renovations are required to meet current NYC energy codes. Local Law 87 requires an audit and retro commissioning plan for large buildings every 10 years. In addition, current benchmarking of large existing buildings is required to disclose energy usage to the public. To set an example, the city is enforcing city-owned buildings, hospitals, and universities to reduce energy consumption by 30% in 10 years, which includes approximately 4,000 buildings. Kerr believes that NYC” will become the nucleus of a radical exchange of information about our buildings.”

In conjunction with the opening of “Smarter Living — The 2000-Watt Society,” on view at the Center for Architecture through 10.31.11, curator Dr. Daniel Kurz, head of the Division for Information and Documentation at Zurich’s Building Department, presented a few public projects in Zurich that strive for CO2 reduction. The Friesenberg Cooperative Building Society, for example, is a district heating and storage scheme for a mixed-use public housing project. Via a seven-mile deep underground storage facility, warm air from solar collectors is stored and then distributed in winter months by way of heat pumps.

Richard Dattner, FAIA, founder of NYC-based Dattner Architects, has been practicing sustainable design since the 1970s with clients such as the Estée Lauder Group. They now have a number of sustainable buildings both completed and in the works. For example, with the help of President Obama’s fiscal stimulus dollars, the GSA’s 1960-era Peter W. Rodino Building in Newark, NJ, is currently undergoing a high-performance modernization. Designed by Dattner with Richard McElhiney Architects, the renovation includes wrapping the aging façade with a new, mechanically-ventilated suspended glass curtain wall, which will insulate and protect the federal building. It is clear that both the U.S. and Switzerland are committed to a carbon free future. As Dattner put it: “The Swiss and the Americans have much to learn from each other. We run parallels in thought, yet have very different ways of approaching sustainability.”

AIANY Women in Architecture Offer Advice to Transitioning Designers

Event: Transition 101
Location: Bilotta Showroom, A&D Building, 08.03.11
Organizers: AIANY Women in Architecture Committee
Sponsor: Bilotta

This mentorship event, hosted by the AIANY Women in Architecture Committee (WIA), provided an opportunity for students, recent graduates, and current professionals to learn from practicing architects how to take active steps to better their career opportunities. Following the speed-mentoring model that WIA has come to perfect, attendees circulated throughout tutorial pods for 20-minute sessions with mentors, who reviewed resumés, work experience, and portfolios. Following are tips provided by the mentors throughout the event:

· Resumés should present facts and figures about work and experience. It was agreed that one-line objectives should be included.

· Cover letters give applicants a chance to express their personalities. It’s important to state the position for which you are applying and what you can offer the firm.

· Fonts and styles should always be consistent. Black-and-white reads best.

· Mentors recommended that you have a non-architecture professional review your resumé for feedback.

· If you have experience in fields outside of architecture, mentors agreed that any work experience will attest to dedication and work ethic, and may form a narrative that relates to architecture or design.

· On becoming licensed, mentors said that it is best to start logging IDP hours as soon as you can begin the process (see the NCARB website for more information), now that the Six-Month Rule is in effect.

NYC Maps Tomorrow's Risks Today

Event: Mapping Risks
Location: Center for Architecture, 07.21.11
Panelists: Dave LaShell — Senior Account Executive, Environmental Systems Research Institute; Dorothy Nash — Senior Associate, Geospatial Technologies, Office of Emergency Management; Alan Leidner — Northeast Regional Information Exchange Broker, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Moderator: Illya Azaroff, AIA, LEED AP — Assistant Professor, New York City College of Technology & Co-chair, AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee
Organizers: Center for Architecture; cultureNOW; AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee
Sponsors: ABC-Imaging; Partners: Betaville-Brooklyn Experimental Media Center; Center for Urban Research — City University of New York; Google; New York Public Library; Spatial Information Design Lab — Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation at Columbia University; Wildlife Conservation Society; Tauranac Maps; The Environmental Simulation Center; Special Thanks: Dattner Architects; The Mohawk Group; Karastan

The Office of Emergency Management tracks all forms of potential disaster.

Office of Emergency Management

The numbers are striking. Approximated by the United Nations and Doctors Without Borders, in 2010 alone, 50 million people worldwide have been displaced due to natural disasters, and 42 million have been displaced as a result of manmade disasters. By 2020, the total estimate comes to more than 200 million. It is with the aid of new mapping tools that we can track potential risks and preventative measures beyond past cartographic methods. Architects, urban planners, designers, engineers, sociologists, and archeologists can all contribute to mapping the potential risk of an area as they have the ability to pull together information from hundreds of databases and on-site research.

One of the city’s main hubs of information is the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), a “small agency, big mission”, said Dorothy Nash, a senior associate of geospatial technologies at the OEM. The organization is responsible for a 24/7 “watch alert” system to respond and report any abnormal circumstances in the city. Whether it is high heat effects or a public event requiring a representative to be on site, the OEM uses GIS maps to monitor everything, including the number of 311 calls, tracking sewage paths and public waterways, and to alert public management agencies about notable events. It is unlikely there is an area above or below ground that OEM does not cover or reference on its maps.

As U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Alan Leidner put it as “GIS is the DNA of government.” It is a system that takes national, city, town, and street information and relates them to each other. Hundreds of pieces of information are organized and mapped. Perhaps the best example of the effectiveness of GIS is 9/11. A week prior to the disaster, the base map of NYC’s infrastructure was tracked by just one part-time employee. After 9/11, the effort multiplied tenfold. Reports were pouring in by the hundreds, and only with the efforts of volunteers from public and private sectors was it possible to pull together the means of specialized maps for specific emergency needs within hours of the request. GIS is carving the path in which we communicate as a community, and it is becoming a necessity for assessing preventative measures — the halo of risk management.

International Students Envision Future of NYC

Event: Archiprix International — The Capital of Your World
Location: Center for Architecture 06.10.11
Panelists: Abby Suckle, FAIA, LEED AP — VP for Public Outreach, AIANY & President, cultureNOW; Andy Wiley-Schwartz — Assistant Commissioner, Division of Planning & Sustainability/Public Space, NYC Department of Transportation; Robert Yaro — President, Regional Plan Association; Roland Lewis — President, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance
Moderator: Olimpia Kazi — Executive Director, Van Alen Institute
Introduction & Overview: Alexander D’Hooghe — Director, Archiprix & Associate Professor in Architectural Urbanism, MIT
Curators of Selected Workshops: Daniel Adams & Marie Adams, AIA — Empire Port; Neeraj Bhatia — In Grid We Trust; Brandon Clifford — Malleable Manhattan; Talia Dorsey — New New Amsterdam
Organizers: ARCAM; in collaboration with the Center for Architecture, Urban Progress, and Archiprix International
Sponsors: Underwriters: Stimuleringsfonds voor Architectuur, the Architecture Fund, Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Sponsors: Priva; Proper Stok

Archiprix 2011

This year’s Archiprix 2011 brought NYC into the limelight, assembling international architecture students to challenge the current urban blanket and create a new New York. As an iconic hub of cultural diversity and a canvas for new thought, it suited the theme of unconventional — the “punk” of architecture, as Archiprix Director Alexander D’Hooghe put it. Three elemental truths predominated: the waterfront; building typologies; and transportation and access, primarily via the automobile. Within six days of preparation, students expanded parameters of this vertical city. Many solutions were radical. One, called “New New Amsterdam,” flooded the entire city to void its grandiosity by creating pods of compartmentalized neighborhoods. In “Malleable Manhattan,” energy was harvested in oversized floating bubbles, dividing the city in two. Many of the proposals attempted to form completely new structures, rather than work within the city’s existing infrastructure.

Panelists commended the schemes, yet stressed the importance of real and possible solutions. Although graphically the student work looked more advanced than ever, panelists felt that it distracted from practicality and well-thought-out strategies. Ultimately, panelists agreed that schools must emphasize the role of architects as master builders, designing pragmatically for societal change.