Statement of the City

On 02.03.15, Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined his take on the State of New York City after his first year in office. The program started with a timeline of achievements, such as the May 2014 announcement of the goal of 200,000 affordable housing units, and the pledge of a $210.5 million effort to reduce crime citywide, including at New York City Housing Authority sites. Along with housing, the Mayor noted that his primary goal was education, saying that there were now 53,000 kids in pre-Kindergarten classes as of this past September. He also reiterated his September pledge of 80% carbon reduction by the year 2050. The overview concluded with the refrain: “Together we’ve accomplished a lot, and we’re just beginning.” Continue reading “Statement of the City”

Musings on AIA in Europe

Architects from many European countries came together in Paris during the last week of October to celebrate the 20th anniversary of AIA Continental Europe, and to take a look at the changes that have given new vitality and architectural identity to the City of Light. The conference featured discussions about recently-opened buildings such as the Fondation Louis Vuitton by Frank Gehry and STUDIOS Architecture, and at La Défense, the Carpe Diem Tower by Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), and Tour First by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF).

For many present, the highlight of the Paris convocation was a visit to the much-publicized cultural “vessel” in the Bois de Boulogne created by Gehry and team for the cultural foundation created by Bernard Arnault and LVMH. An intersection of sail-like shed roofs and prismatic icebergs, the endearing “nauffrage” is animated by an exhilarating series of interconnected exterior stairs and terraces. The latter offer panoramic views of the perimeter park and the not-too-distant city, and complement a well-lit collection of artwork, including newly-commissioned work by Ellsworth Kelly.

But it was also good to break away in the City of Vélib to see the new, intensely active installation by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, called “Musing on the Glass Box,” at Jean Nouvel’s Fondation Cartier, also celebrating its 20th anniversary. The temporary show, done in collaboration with David Lang and Jody Elff, whimsically reflects on the original architecture, and remains open until 02.22.15. You can scoot under a low, luminous ceiling on a chaise longue roulante. Continue reading “Musings on AIA in Europe”

Hawkish about LaGuardia

On Tuesday, 10.21.14, our local neighborhood association, the Friends of LaGuardia, held its annual dinner at the NoHo Star on Bleecker and Lafayette Streets. The LaGuardia Medallion was presented to Lois Rakoff, described as a “long-time friend of LaGuardia Park & the Village Community,” and to Randy Mastro and Jim Walden of the Gibson Dunn law firm, who were called “attorneys fighting for our park and open space in the Village.” A special shout-out was given to red-tailed hawks, known to be frequent visitors to LaGuardia Park. In fact guests were instructed to “wear a flash of red in honor of the red-tailed hawks.”

The president of the Friends of LaGuardia, Lawrence Goldberg, who served as master of ceremonies, brought elected officials to the lectern, including NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, NYS Assembly Member Deborah Glick, and NYS Senator Brad Hoylman.

A common refrain of the short speeches was the importance of open space, and the particular value of community participation in the creation, maintenance, and safeguarding of neighborhood parks. Friends of LaGuardia has been a co-sponsor of many Center for Architecture initiatives, including the Civic Space presentation of Christopher Janney’s Sonic Forest in September. Among other Center for Architecture stalwarts present were Mary Burke, FAIA, a vice president of the AIA New York State Board, architect Natalia Valencia, and Amy Stroud of HM White Site Architects.

The LaGuardia gala, the 19th annual iteration of the event, was called “A Soaring Success” on the invitation, and was organized by volunteer members of the Friends of LaGuardia Board of Directors, including Bertha Chase, Terri Cude, Barbara Devaney, Anne Hearn, Judy Magida, Connie Masullo, and Ellen Peterson-Lewis. Board member Peter DeLuca sang “God Bless America,” and was said to be our block’s answer to Tony Bennett. By the end of the festive evening celebrating parks and community, Peter’s strong voice was supplemented by the strains of a remarkable violinist. As is said, a good time was had by all.


Saratoga Sings


The election of Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP, was the opening news at the AIA New York State Design Conference, which took place 10.09–10.11.14 in Saratoga Springs, NY. Castillo, currently AIANYS Vice President for Government Advocacy and 2011 AIANY President, was running for 2015 President-elect against AIANYS Board Secretary Ric Stott, AIA, a past-president of AIA Peconic. Other members of the 2015 AIANYS Executive Committee include 2015 President Tim Boyland, AIA; Immediate Past-President Ray Beeler, AIA; VP/Public Advocacy Marcus Marino, AIA; VP/Public Advocacy Robert Stark, AIA; Secretary Jeff Smith, AIA; Treasurer John Notaro, AIA; and Regional Representatives Burton Roslyn, FAIA, Randy Collins, AIA, and Jessica Sheridan, AIA. Saratoga warmly welcomed conference-goers from around the state and region with its stately architecture, walkable streets, music-filled bars, and tradition-rich equine culture. A highlight for some was the Saturday tour of the historic Saratoga Race Course, led by Samantha Bosshart of the Saratoga Preservation Foundation and Michael Phinney, AIA, of Saratoga-based Phinney Design Group. Racing for the season ends on Labor Day, but those present saw some thoroughbreds practicing in the brisk morning air, and stood on the recently-completed Whitney Viewing Platform at what is called the “Oklahoma Track” because it is so far away.


The Saratoga Design Conference was an exploration of the dramatic changes taking place in the practice of architecture and the resulting innovative design work. The Design Conference’s primary purpose was to impart both practical and theoretical knowledge that will enable those attending to expand their areas of practice and increase their relevance. New partnerships were discussed with New York State’s schools of architecture to bring professionals academics closer together and help merge theory and practice. As AIANYS President Beeler put it, “New practice methodologies, such as research and evidence-based design, are transforming the profession and making our work more relevant to the needs of clients and the public.”


The 2014 AIA New York State Honor Awards were conferred at a gala dinner at the Saratoga Hilton on Friday, 10.10.14. The list of the service and achievement award winners included: Adrienne Bresnan, FAIA, and Joseph Bresnan, FAIA (Fellows Award); Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP, and John A. Notaro, AIA (Matthew W. Del Gaudio Awards); Dennis A. Andrejko, FAIA (Kideney Award), Gregg Pasquarelli, AIA (President’s Award); Linsey Graff, Assoc. AIA (Intern-Associate Award), Jodi Monroe, AIA, and Rebuild by Design (Community Development Awards); and Gensler, represented by Joe Brancato, AIA (Firm of the Year). Two additional awards were celebrated at Saturday’s closing “Rise and Shine” breakfast. They went to Deborah Gans, FAIA (Educator Award), and Jennifer (JD) Harper (Student Award). Continue reading “Saratoga Sings”

Roundtable Roundup

During Climate Week, the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) brought together a “City Council Environmental Roundtable” on Tuesday, 09.23.14, with a score of environmental groups and leaders of the New York City Council, which, in concert with Mayor Bill de Blasio, had passed landmark legislation mandating significant carbon emission reductions. NYLCV President Marcia Bystryn praised the “ambitious goal” and introduced the Council Members present, including Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who Bystryn commended for “sharing their sustainable priorities for the coming year.”

There were introductory remarks by the chair of the NYC City Council’s Environmental Committee, Council Member Donovan Richards, whose district includes the Rockaways, and whose home had no heat or electricity for a month after Hurricane Sandy. He noted: “We understand now we have an obligation to be good stewards on the earth,” adding that “climate change is real; it’s here whether we want to admit it or not.”

Following Richards was NYC Council Member Brad Lander of Brooklyn, who was well known as co-chair of the Council’s progressive coalition and as former chair of the Pratt Center. He spoke of the world we are leaving behind for our children and grandchildren: “It’s no exaggeration to say that we are living at a critical juncture for the future of the planet. Climate change threatens to wreak havoc on the world (and the city) that we hand off to our kids.” Lander said: “At the City Council, we’re using this moment to look closely at how NYC can become more resilient, more energy efficient, more carbon neutral, and more environmentally just. Together with Speaker Mark-Viverito and our colleagues, and with the de Blasio Administration, we are working toward legislation to push building retrofits for energy-efficiency (which also create good jobs and saves money), reduce City purchasing of fossil fuels, update our air and building codes, improve mass transit options, and more.”

Speaker Mark-Viverito started her remarks by saying, “I wanted to share a little bit about what our agenda looks like – public policy that will have a positive impact. It includes the quality of life for communities that have been historically overburdened. We look forward to moving very quickly in partnership with the mayor.” She shared specifics: “We can set ambitious goals because we are building upon a strong foundation, including the 2007 PlaNYC goals on carbon emissions. We are now two-thirds of the way to meeting those 30% reduction goals. We must do more: 80% by 2050. The Council will continue to place New York on the leading edge of combating global climate change. It is not enough to set ambitious goals. The Council will aggressively reduce our own emissions by mandating zero emissions for municipal buildings. Building on our 2009 Greater Greener Buildings Plan, we will require training for building operators and help finance retrofits. Many more of the Green Codes Task Force recommendations will be implemented.” Consistent with the social equity mandate of the de Blasio Administration, she siad, “It is very important to me that all New Yorkers share in the benefits that will result, including NYC Housing Authority residents, through new jobs generated by these initiatives.” She concluded by saying that “the PlaNYC update due in April 2015 must also talk to jobs and widely shared benefits.” Continue reading “Roundtable Roundup”

Regatta Revolution

With worldwide attention focused anew on Lower Manhattan, the annual New York Architects Regatta Challenge took place last week, with boats departing from the North Cove of Brookfield Place (formerly the World Financial Center). The race is a charity fund-raiser that brings out both competitive and altruistic spirits, not to mention copious amounts of Mount Gay rum on the dock afterward. Architectural firms in New York City put crews on boats belonging to the Manhattan Sailing Club, and contribute $1,500, and sometimes more, to good causes.

The AIA New York Chapter has, for the last six years, put together a “pick-up” boat to allow sailors from firms not organizing their own team to get out on the water. The Chapter’s “Flying Eagles” this year included skipper Wids DeLaCour, AIA (DeLaCour & Ferrara), Guy Geier, FAIA, FIIDA, LEED AP (FXFOWLE), Blake Middleton, FAIA, LEED AP (Handel Architects), and Xenia Vytuleva (CGSAPP). AIA New York Chapter President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, wished the team well, and well it did, finishing a respectable 10th out of 21 boats sailing. Continue reading “Regatta Revolution”

Sapolin Awards

Signed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has fostered independence, empowerment, and inclusion for millions of Americans. On 08.19.14, Anthony Marx, the president of the New York Public Library, welcomed Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) Commissioner Victor Calise , a few hundred friends and well-wishers, and the winners of the 2014 ADA Sapolin Awards. The awards, presented each year by the mayor and MOPD, recognize individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to increasing accessibility for people with disabilities, and an Advocacy Award to an individual or entity that has advocated on behalf of people with disabilities. The ADA Sapolin Awards are named for the late MOPD Commissioner Matthew Sapolin, who passed away in 2011, and the Advocacy Award is named in honor of the late Frieda Zames, a disability activist and mathematics professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

Marx started the evening by reminiscing about his mother’s role in working with people with challenging medical conditions. He stated: “New York is the capital of the diversity of experience of the world,” and added, “I could not be more proud to host this event here at this library, bringing this diversity of experience and insight – making sure that everyone has the opportunities they deserve.”

Mayor de Blasio noted that the library “is a place of inclusion, a place where inequality is addressed and equality fostered. I am so proud to join everyone tonight celebrating the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s a victory we should respect and celebrate over and over again.” He kicked off the festivities by thanking Commissioner Calise, saying, “Victor has done extraordinary things for this city.” He also noted, “Somehow he finds time for his athletic life as well,” and complemented the commissioner on his prowess as “an Olympic athlete who competed in 1998 at the Nagano Olympics on the Paralympics Sled Hockey Team.” Continue reading “Sapolin Awards”

No Empty Smile

Ten days before it closed in Sugar Hill on August 10th, I was able to visit the “If You Build It” temporary art exhibition, organized by No Longer Empty (NLE) and presented in collaboration with the Broadway Housing Communities. The work of 22 contemporary artists was situated throughout the extraordinary building designed for Broadway Housing Communities by David Adjaye, Hon. AIA. The artwork, on view since June 25th, occupied third-floor apartments and the ninth-floor sales office, along with roof terraces and the entrance forecourt. The exhibition anticipates how the new housing will form links between its architecture and the art, and activism and community spirit of the Sugar Hill neighborhood, described as the historic epicenter of the Harlem Renaissance.

The exhibition marks NLE’s fifth anniversary, which has presented site-specific artwork at locations as diverse as Tapestry on East 124th Street in East Harlem (Weaving In & Out, 2010), to the Andrew Freedman House on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx (This Side of Paradise, 2012). The stated goal of NLE is “to broaden the audience for contemporary art, to promote socially conscious artists, and to build resilience in communities through art.” This is achieved, citywide, with flair and flamboyance, by presenting professionally-curated, site-responsive art exhibitions where a community of artists, educators, scholars, and the public come together to create and experience art, free of market imperatives and institutional constraints. Continue reading “No Empty Smile”

Rhetorically Speaking: Regional Resilience

EB White, who was born on the 07.11.1899, said: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” On o7.11.14, the Regional Recovery Working Group Workshop gathered at the Florham campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University to discuss the related trans-sectorial issues of infrastructure, transportation, and critical facilities. The enjoyment of this very special place made it even more interesting to hear speakers who, individually and collaboratively, are doing much to deal with the changes to the built environment necessitated by climate change and sea level rise. The workshop was put together by an engaged organizing committee led by Justin Mihalik, AIA, past president of AIA Newark & Suburban and principal of his own firm in Essex Falls, NJ, and Illya Azaroff, AIA, AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee co-chair and founder of +LAB architects in Brooklyn.

The venue for the conference was the bucolic 178-acre campus, the remnant of an 800-acre New Jersey estate dating back to the marriage in 1877 of Florence Adele Vanderbilt and Hamilton McKown Twombly. The name of their country place, Florham, was formed from the first letters of their names. Its landscape architecture was by Frederick Law Olmsted; the buildings were by McKim Mead & White.

But the conference was not about the history or context of the place, but designed to cut new ground in our understanding of the regional implications of infrastructure preparedness. As 2014 AIA New York Chapter President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, said in opening the conference, issues of sea level change and storm surge are not limited to one municipality or one state – they are regional in nature and must be addressed and confronted together: “nature does not respect political boundaries.”

The conference welcome also included the two AIA State component leaders, Kurt Kalafsky, AIA, President, AIA New Jersey, and Ray Beeler, AIA, President, AIA New York State. Kalafsky noted that “sustainability has been the mainstay of our practices, and I equate resiliency to that effort.” Beeler said that “coastal communities are on the front lines, but inland areas are just as susceptible to damage.” He added: “Working together as a region we can be more effective than any of us can be individually.”

The conference overview was given by Azaroff, who noted that the purpose of the convocation which drew approximately 120 people, was “to galvanize architects and design professionals across the region to discuss the rules and circumstances that will define our future.” To set the framework he pointed out that “over 2.5 million people have lost their lives and some $4 trillion dollars of property has been lost in the last 30 years to natural disasters.” He thanked BASF for hosting the conference.

The conference conclusion ended with a quote from sportswriter Roger Angell, the stepson of Elwyn Brooks “Andy” White, who said at the funeral of the famously shy essayist: “If EB White could be here today, he wouldn’t be here.” Those who were not at the Regional Recovery Working Group Workshop missed something useful and important.

What follows below are abbreviated remarks of the conference speakers. Continue reading “Rhetorically Speaking: Regional Resilience”

Washington Squared

On Tuesday, 06.10.14, newly-appointed NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, FAICP, and Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Design + Construction (DDC), were joined by Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, City Council Members Margaret Chin and Corey Johnson, Community Board 2 Chair David Gruber, Washington Square Park Conservancy Executive Director Sarah Neilson, and a score of children from P.S. 41 to open and dedicate the third phase and completion of Washington Square Park’s $30.6 million renovation. The design of the park, by landscape architect George Vellonikos, a longtime Greenwich Village resident, has been complemented by the new north-end public restroom and meeting facility by BKSK Architects, adjacent to the revised and renovated dog run. AIANY testified in favor of the project at the hearing of the Public Design Commission a few years ago, and the Center for Architecture hosted a public hearing on the design, including the dog run. That may have been the only time the canine coalition was out in numbers to voice their support for design change.

But at the ceremony, with kids present, the former controversies were forgotten as the beauty of the design became evident through description and observation. Park Commissioner Silver noted that the park looks better than ever, adding that the de Blasio Administration looks forward to “working with the community to ensure that Washington Square Park remains an inviting oasis to New York City’s residents and visitors for present and future generations.”

DDC Commissioner Peña-Mora noted that “environmentally-friendly amenities for park-goers” would augment the park’s use. He added that Washington Square Park showed the Administration’s commitment to sustainability and worked to “bring our neighborhoods closer together.” Continue reading “Washington Squared”