A Memorial Challenge: Keeping People in Mind

Event: Memorial Sites: New York to Nairobi, Photographs by Julie Dermansky & Memorials and Meaning Panel Discussion
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.10.08
Speakers: Julie Dermansky (artist statement) — Artist; Frederic Schwartz, FAIA – Principal, Frederic Schwarz Architects and Architect, Westchester County 9/11 Memorial & Empty Sky Memorial at Liberty State Park; Michael Arad, AIA – Partner, Handel Architects and Architect, National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center; Louis Nelson — Designer, Mural Wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.
Moderator: Lance Jay Brown, FAIA — Competition Advisor, National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center competition
Respondent: Rick Bell, FAIA — AIANY Executive Director
Organizer; Sponsor: Center for Architecture

The South Pool of National September 11 Memorial with the latest rendering of the Memorial Museum beyond. Memorial by Michael Arad, AIA, with Peter Walker, FASLA; museum by Snøhetta.

Created by Squared Design Lab, provided by National September 11 Memorial & Museum

While many see a memorial as a single object, such as a statue or fountain, Frederic Schwartz, FAIA, Michael Arad, AIA, and Louis Nelson have tried to reach beyond this notion to create unique spaces for healing and reflection. Though each memorial has a different purpose with varying site conditions, several common themes resonate through all of them.

Each project attempts to move people — both figuratively and literally. The designs guide visitors through changing levels via prescribed paths, often culminating in a moment of contemplation. Arad’s design for the National September 11 Memorial channels people down to bedrock and then back up above grade to view the footprints of the former towers from above. The linear design of Schwartz’s Empty Sky Memorial at Liberty State Park, NJ, compresses people between two abstract slabs engraved with the names of victims, culminating in a framed view of the empty space left in the Manhattan skyline by the towers’ collapse. In Nelson’s Korean War Veterans Memorial, viewers find themselves surrounded by life-size steel sculptures of marching infantry soldiers.

The experiences of these memorials don’t always reflect the processes that created them. All of the designers recalled frustrations of having their winning entries altered through the intervention of committees, juries, and government. Often the path from design to built reality is not straight, yet the interaction between designers and grievers (friends and families of the victims) is necessary for appropriate memorial design, the designers agreed. Viewing a memorial is intensely personal, as is the process of designing one. Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, described memorials as the “interplay between abstractness and figurativeness.” Arad sees memorial design as a conflict between rationality and emotion. But ultimately, “people: that’s what a memorial is all about,” said Nelson.

In conjunction with the panel, the exhibition of photographs by Julie Dermansky titled Memorial Sites: New York to Nairobi is on view at the Center for Architecture through 10.04.08. The exhibition reflects on the meaning and history of memorials while addressing site specificity, the culture of place, injustice and genocide, and the irony of sacred sites converted to tourist destinations. The exhibition catalogue is available for purchase online.

Bucky’s 113th Birthday: Savoring the Gift of Global Awareness

Event: Buckminster Fuller Programs
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.23-09.14.08
Speakers: For a full list of events and speakers, go to the AIANY online calendar
Organizers: The Buckminster Fuller Institute; Center for Architecture
Sponsors: Underwriters: Center for Architecture Foundation; Friends of LaGuardia Place; NYC Department of Transportation’s Temporary Art Program; Lead Sponsor: Spring Scaffolding; Sponsor: Richter+Ratner; Supporters: New York University; Purchase College, State University of New York; Media Sponsor: Metropolis

Buckminster Fuller’s “Fly’s Eye Dome” is installed across the street from the Center for Architecture through July 12.

Jessica Sheridan

For Buckminster Fuller, architecture was an all-encompassing term. He believed that the architect’s role is to reshape people’s relationship with the Earth and provide design solutions for their most pressing problems. He took a multi-disciplinary approach, and because of this, Fuller is one of the grandfathers of ecology, sustainable design, new media, and global trend charting.

Fuller’s scale was humanity, his scope was planetary, and his architectural aesthetic was driven by function — what he called “doing more with less.” The prefabricated Dymaxion, or “4D,” house was suspended on mast-like structures; omni-medium transport featured duck aerodynamics; grain bins were redesigned for military barracks; postwar housing was based on production and easily deployed aircraft technology; and a world map was developed to show long- and short-term world trends. An understanding of the Earth’s ecology and explorations of “energetic geometry” influenced his seemingly disparate designs and artifacts. As both a pilot and navigator, Fuller sought to combine the newest manmade materials with designs based on mathematical tools of celestial navigation.

Coinciding with the Whitney Museum’s retrospective exhibition, Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe (See On View: About Town), the Center for Architecture is celebrating Fuller’s ideas as well. The Center’s library has been set up as the Dymaxion Study Center through September, and one of the prototypes for Fuller’s last geodesic designs, the “Fly’s Eye Dome,” is installed in LaGuardia Park through July 12. The opening week featured events that gathered former associates and experts from numerous fields. Participants were as varied as Fuller’s exploits — engineers, artists, mathematicians, educators, architects, and students, as well as scholars who are providing the first critical assessments of Fuller’s work now that his personal archive is available for research at Stanford University Special Collections. Also, the first $100,000 Buckminster Fuller Challenge prize was conferred on ecological design pioneer, Dr. John Todd. Conversations centered on the impact of genius on society, innovation, environmental stewardship, the mathematics of nanoscale architecture, and approaches to planetary problem solving.

Bucky: Longtime Hero to a Few, at Last Comes into his Own

Events: Dialogue 1: Fuller’s architectural partners; Dialogue 2: Fuller’s associates
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.25.08
Speakers: Dialogue 1: Shoji Sadao, AIA — President, Fuller and Sadao; Thomas Zung — Author & Editor, Buckminster Fuller: Anthology for a New Millennium; Amy C. Edmondson — Author, A Fuller Explanation. Dialogue 2: Edwin Schlossberg — Principal Designer, ESI Design; Michael Ben-Eli — Founder, Sustainability Laboratory
Moderators: Dialogue 1: Branden Joseph — Associate Professor, Modern and Contemporary Art, Columbia University; Tony Schirripa, AIA — Vice President, Public Outreach, AIANY (introduction), Dialogue 2: Paola Antonelli — Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art; Jonathan Marvel, AIA — Principal, Rogers Marvel Architects (introduction)
Organizers: The Buckminster Fuller Institute; Center for Architecture
Sponsors: Underwriters: Center for Architecture Foundation; Friends of LaGuardia Place; NYC Department of Transportation’s Temporary Art Program; Lead Sponsor: Spring Scaffolding; Sponsor: Richter+Ratner; Supporters: New York University; Purchase College, State University of New York; Media Sponsor: Metropolis

U.S. Pavilion for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal, 1967.

Image courtesy the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art

Because of Buckminster Fuller’s self-taught, interdisciplinary approach, the architecture community has been slow to give him his due, said Jonathan Marvel, AIA, of Rogers Marvel Architects. But Fuller’s prescient concerns with environmental issues means that now, 25 years after his death, architects are embracing him. “He’s always been a hero to many of us, but it’s only really been when sustainability came to the forefront of our architectural discussions — for economic and environmental purposes — that Bucky has found a placehold in our framework,” Marvel said as he introduced one of two recent panels.

Speakers included prominent associates of the architect-engineer-mathematician-inventor. Edwin Schlossberg discussed his work in running the Fuller-designed World Game in the 1960s. Designed as an alternative to war games, the World Game engaged players in optimizing the distribution of the world’s resources. Long before Google Earth, it was “a paper-and-pencil version of how to do a full-scale modeling environment,” he said. In a pre-Internet era, the research involved in compiling the data was an enormous undertaking, but “one of the qualities about Bucky was this absolute convinced optimism that problems could be solved,” Schlossberg said.

Shoji Sadao, AIA, discussed his collaboration on a 250-foot-diameter geodesic dome that served as the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. Made of small identical parts, the immense structure embodied Fuller’s ideal of using minimal materials for maximum results. “I think the lasting significance of the dome is that after Expo 67, it seemed to become an iconic image for all the rest of the fair,” Sadao said, adding that in the wider cultural realm, spherical structures also became popular in images of future cities.

Fuller’s former engineer, Amy Edmondson, best captured Fuller’s charisma and enthusiasm. She recalled one day when she completed a new miniature dome model. She was incredulous when he excitedly announced plans to change his next day’s lecture to a communal building session to create a full-size, 25-foot version. But next day, as she saw the attendees come together to build it, it was “as if people had been waiting their whole lives to put down their felt-tipped pens, stand outside in the sun, their backs aching, for hours, holding things up, instructions flying back and forth,” she recalled. Twenty-four hours later, a 25-foot dome stood before them. “It was a lesson for all of us… not just in geometry and structure and design, but in motivation and teamwork and empowerment.”

As to Fuller’s current significance, Edmondson said that while it’s “splendid” to have events such as the current Whitney Museum exhibition (See On View: About Town), his work truly carries on in each of us. “It’s in our own minds and our own talents to do integrative work in support of life, or ‘livingry’ — his term.”

Parking in the Green Zone

Event: Earth Day symposium: Park Design for the 21st Century
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.22.08
Speakers: Deborah Marton — Executive Director, Design Trust for Public Space; Hillary Brown, FAIA — Principal, New Civic Works; Charles McKinney, Affil. ASLA — Chief of Design, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation; Laurie Kerr — Senior Policy Advisor, Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability; Denise Hoffman-Brandt, ASLA — Professor of Landscape Architecture, City College of New York School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture; Alex Felson — Director of Ecological Design, EDAW; Joan Krevlin, AIA — Partner, BKSK Architects; Signe Nielsen, FASLA — Principal, Mathews Nielsen; Susannah Drake, ASLA, Assoc. AIA — Principal, dLandstudio; Tim White — Project Manager, eDesign Dynamics; Marcha Johnson, ASLA — Landscape Architect, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation; Margie Ruddick, ASLA — Principal, WRT Design
Moderators: Rob Crauderueff — Sustainable Alternatives Coordinator, Sustainable South Bronx; Steven Caputo — Fellow, Park Design for the 21st Century Design Trust
Sponsor: Design Trust for Public Space

Queens Botanical Garden

The Queens Botanical Garden, designed by BKSK Architects.

©Jeff Goldberg/Esto

As NYC gets ever denser, its parks and green spaces will play a crucial role in keeping the city livable, pleasant, and ecologically sound. Aptly held on Earth Day — the anniversary of the first announcement of PlaNYC — this symposium peeked at some ideas that will inform a new publication devoted to promoting sustainable landscape design in NYC, the High Performance Landscape Guidelines by the Design Trust for Public Space and NYC’s Parks Department with a peer review by NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC), due out next year.

Hillary Brown, FAIA, coauthor of the DDC and Design Trust’s High Performance Infrastructure Guidelines (2005), called for a reframing of the discourse surrounding sustainability. “A vision for the next generation of buildings, infrastructure, and, of course, parks must be one of not only just replenishing the health of natural systems but, I believe, placing them deliberately in our midst,” with roof gardens, vegetative roadways, and plentiful parks. “In this way, sustainability isn’t about austerity but, to the contrary, offers a richer living vocabulary — in the end it is the re-energizing of man’s symbiotic relationship to nature,” she said.

Like the guidelines themselves, the panels included a mix of ideas and case studies. One highlight was a talk on urban carbon sinks by Denise Hoffman-Brandt, ASLA, professor of landscape architecture at the City College of New York School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, who revealed the complexity of long-term ecological strategies. PlaNYC’s initiative to plant a million trees holds the potential to reduce carbon levels, because vegetation and soil help to absorb and store it — on the other hand, if the trees die from lack of proper maintenance, the dead wood stands to release even more carbon into the atmosphere, she explained. Alex Felson, director of ecological design at EDAW, discussed the necessity of collaborations between ecologists and designers, which require bridging very different vocabularies and methodologies.

Joan Krevlin, AIA, presented the case of the Queens Botanical Garden designed by BKSK Architects. It includes solar panels, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and other green features, and is on target to receive a LEED Platinum rating, she said. The project is designed not only to function sustainably, but also to educate the community about ecological systems. A Visitor & Administration Center’s green roof becomes an extension of the garden, and water is used as a unifying element between the architecture and the surrounding landscape. Likewise, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation landscape architect Marcha Johnson, ASLA, discussed how a playground without pavement in Pugsley Creek Park provides inspiration for a city where built and natural landscapes can coexist in a harmonious balance.

Two-Way Exchange Marks China's Rising Urban Boom

Event: New York/China Dialogues
Location: The Center for Architecture, 03.20.08
Speakers: Li Chung (Sandi) Pei, AIA — Partner, Pei Partnership Architects; James von Klemperer, FAIA — Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; Frederick Bland, FAIA, AICP — Managing Partner, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners; Calvin Tsao, FAIA — Co-Founder, Tsao & McKown Architects
Moderator: Susan Chin, FAIA — Assistant Commissioner, Capital Projects, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
Organizers: Center for Architecture
Sponsors: Patron: Digital Plus; Supporters: Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners; EDAW; Jerome and Kenneth Lipper Foundation; Friends: Bartco Lighting; Häfele; Ibex Construction; Let There Be Neon; Tsao & McKown Architects


Vernacular architecture in Suzhou.

Annique Fung

Beyond the simple exportation of Western design, there is an opportunity for two-way exchange between China and New York. Because of China’s building boom, James von Klemperer, FAIA, a principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), sees parallels to “what happened in New York 100 years ago.” “For those of us who think we understand urbanism living in New York, going to China will teach you a lot,” stated Frederick Bland, FAIA, AICP, managing partner of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners (BBB).

With a long history working in China, Pei Partnership Architects melds geometric Modernism with spatial sequences and materials that “evoke what is familiar to the Chinese,” according to partner Li Chung (Sandi) Pei, AIA. In the Suzhou Museum, designed in conjunction with I.M. Pei Architect, for example, gray tiled roofs and white plastered walls echo similar techniques used throughout history. Similarly, KPF created a pedestrian network of through-block connections at the base of the Jingan Complex, drawing inspiration from the fine grain of Shanghai’s traditional urban blocks. Taking clues from the “ingredients” of the Bund, BBB’s Nanjing Road Urban Design Project for People’s Square in Shanghai incorporates water, open green space, and both historic and contemporary buildings to re-brand People’s Square as a “Spectacle Zone” that functions for Shanghai much like Time Square does for NYC.

Shifting focus from the specificities of design to the logistics of urban development, Calvin Tsao, FAIA, co-founder of Tsao & McKown Architects, has teamed with his developer brother and various NGOs to propose economic and community development strategies to improve living conditions in China. In Chengdu, for example, Tsao and his partners proposed land use regulations that focus development in urbanized centers and preserve open space, and specific neighborhood plans that integrate schools, hospitals, and other community services.

The future of east-west architectural exchange is developing. Pei sees an “emergence of a synergy between Western and Chinese architecture practices,” while Tsao more cautiously urges focus on the specificity of place and culture to avoid the “import and export of architecture as product.” While acknowledging “the enormity of problems” in China, Bland believes there is “potential to effect change,” and it is up to architects globally to promote preservation, “not just of buildings, but of a society and a way of life.”

One Laptop Combats Large Corporations to Provide for All

Event: Design Heroix Kick-off: Mary Lou Jepsen
Location: Center for Architecture, 01.30.08
Speakers: Mary Lou Jepsen, PhD — CEO/CTO, Pixel Qi & Former Chief Technology Officer, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC); Idit Harel Caperton — President & Founder, World Wide Workshop, CEO & Founder, MaMaMedia; Allan Chochinov — Partner, CORE77, Editor-in-Chief, Core77.com, & Strategist, Coroflot.com and DesignDirectory.com; Gabriella Coleman — Anthropoloigst, Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, NYU; (Introduction) Natalie Jeremijenko — Artist, Director of xDesign Environmental Health Clinic, NYU & Assistant Professor in Art, NYU
Organizer: Center for Architecture; NYU; Buckminster Fuller Institute
Sponsors: Center for Architecture; Environmental Health Clinic, NYU; Buckminster Fuller Institute

XO Laptop

The One Laptop Per Child XO laptop.

Courtesy laptopgiving.org

Giving children in developing countries an opportunity to learn is not easy, as Mary Lou Jepsen, PhD, CEO/CTO of Pixel Qi, can attest. As the former chief technology officer of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, she has persevered trying to bring the idea that every child should be able to be educated on an easily accessible, affordable laptop. Challenges included bringing the price of each laptop down to $100; designing an artifact that uses a minimum amount of energy; and developing a network that will work anywhere in the world, has a long lifetime, and can be easily distributed.

Called the XO laptop, this computer is the greenest laptop available. It uses a fraction of the energy consumed by a mainstream laptop because the motherboard is set up to sense when it is not in use. If someone is watching something and not using the keyboard, then only the power for the screen remains on. The XO can also last longer than five years and is made from biodegradable materials. According to Jensen, the XO is 15 times more sustainable than EnergyStar standards.

Computer screens are the most expensive, power-hungry component, and the most liable to break. Together with Quanta, the world’s largest laptop manufacturer, OLPC reduced the energy needs of the LCD screen so the computer runs on a mere two watts of power. To run the computer, communities can obtain a five-watt solar panel, use hand cranks, windmills, or even animals.

To make the XO easily accessible for novice computer users, the MaMaMedia Creative Center developed a system designed to enable students and teachers to immediately understand how to interact with the laptop through tutorials and an intuitive interface. The Internet runs via a mesh network system — one computer obtains access with far-ranging wireless technology, and then the connection is transferred among other laptops in short range. Also, portals are built into the mesh allowing students to communicate and do research together internationally.

Although the XO laptop has not been introduced to all developing countries, OLCP has received positive feedback from the communities that are participating in the testing program. Jepsen has lofty goals for the XO laptop as well, as she has started to develop a similar computer for high-end users to help fund the OLPC program. If her plans pan out, the $100 cost could be reduced to $75 or even $50.

For Once, a View from the Ground Up

Event: The World Trade Center Site: Designing the Public Realm
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.18.07
Speakers: Panel A: Program and Schedule: Steven Plate — Director, World Trade Center Construction, The Port Authority of NY and NJ; Joan Gerner, Assoc. AIA — Executive Vice President of Design Construction & Capital Planning, National September 11 Memorial & Museum; Janno Lieber — WTC Project Director, Silverstein Properties; Panel B: Planning and Design of the Public Realm: Joe Brown, FASLA — President/CEO, EDAW; Peter Walker, FASLA — Partner-in-Charge, Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architects; Anne Lewison, AIA — Architect, Snøhetta; Respondents: Allen Swerdlowe, AIA — Chair, New York New Visions (NYNV) Site Committee; Ned McGuire — Chair, Civic Alliance, NYNV Memorial Committee
Moderators: Panel A: Rick Bell, FAIA — Executive Director, AIANY; Panel B: Ernest Hutton, Assoc. AIA, AICP — Co-Chair, NYNV
Organizer: New York New Visions

WTC Progress

Work is being done at Ground Zero.

Courtesy Joe Woolhead, www.panynj.gov

As designs crystallize at the World Trade Center site, people are wondering what Lower Manhattan will look like from the ground — not just from the bird’s-eye perspective seen in many published renderings. Speakers from city agencies and key designers recently provided a status report focusing on at-ground activity and the public realm.

Grade-level planning begins at the programming and scheduling stages. For example, to enhance a visitor’s experience of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, pedestrian planning is being considered while the design is at its preliminary phases, according to Joan Gerner, Assoc. AIA, executive vice president of design construction and capital planning. Using computer software, the team created a visualization of the Memorial’s pedestrian traffic patterns of visitors, residents, and workers. On a larger scale, the new towers will relate to each other and the surrounding neighborhoods because of the collaboration among site architects throughout the design process, not just after the designs have been solidified, explained Janno Lieber, WTC project director at Silverstein Properties.

A key factor when designing a building or memorial is how it will relate to the public realm; and every firm designing for the WTC site is approaching this challenge differently. When planning the overall site, urban designers from EDAW are looking to “totally reform the public realm of Lower Manhattan,” stated president/CEO Joe Brown, FASLA. From details (the design of street lights) to overarching principles (promoting civic activity and interaction), EDAW is carefully considering the shaping of the sites’ public spaces. Peter Walker, FASLA, partner-in-charge of Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architects, designing the landscape of the World Trade Center Memorial, is attempting to re-imagine the relationship between secular and sacred spaces by integrating active and contemplative elements. Planted trees are intended to arch like cathedrals over busy paths, for example. A memorial pavilion, designed by Snøhetta, will glow at all hours and act as a beacon on the site.

The public desires Ground Zero to be wonderful, and built soon.

How Many Scientists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb? Read On

Event: Light and Health: Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water!
Location: Center for Architecture, 08.16.07
Speaker: Joan E. Roberts, Ph.D. — Professor of Chemistry & Chair, Fordham University Natural Science Department
Organizer: Illuminating Engineering Society of New York

Light and Health

Nothing beats real sunlight.

Jessica Sheridan

Want to see the lighting community light up? Just mention the pending legislation to “ban the bulb.” An acknowledged energy hog, 5% of the electricity a light bulb uses goes to light the bulb while 95% is heat. If we follow in the footsteps of countries like Australia, which plans to phase out incandescent bulb use in favor of energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) by 2010, the warm, reflected light we’ve become accustomed to since Thomas Edison might be a thing of the past here as well. But the concern of some scientists and lighting designers has more to do with health than just aesthetics. Researchers like Fordham University’s Joan E. Roberts, Ph.D., Chair of the Natural Science Department, and her colleagues have produced fresh data proving that new “green” energy efficient sources such as CFLs and LEDs do not give humans their required “dosage” of spectral requirements — particularly the spectrum provided by incandescent lights.

Roberts has studied the positive and negative effects of light on the human eye. Humans evolved being exposed to different spectrums of daylight in the morning and afternoon, and darkness in the evening, so it is important that artificial lighting mimics the natural spectrum. Ocular light serves two functions: vision, and control of circadian rhythm. The incorrect spectrum at the wrong time of day will affect sleep/wake cycles, blood pressure, stress, metabolism, and the immune system (think of jet lag or the afternoon headache you get from working under fluorescent lighting). If you happen to be reading this article in late afternoon or evening, Roberts suggests you get a screen for your computer to block out blue light. If that doesn’t help your headache, turn off your florescent light and bask in the red spectrum light your body needs from your trusty incandescent bulb.

“It’s not just about designing well-lit spaces,” says lighting designer Randy Sabedra, past president of the Illuminating Engineering Society of New York (IESNY) and the event’s moderator. “It’s about designing healthy spaces. And it’s not about banning one source of light for the sake of saving energy; it’s about insuring that the performance of all sources is improved for our health.”

Out of 300 Projects 10 Win Place at Center Show; Friedlander Wins Special Place

Event: 25th Annual Art Commission Awards for Excellence in Design; and Art Commission Awards for Excellence in Design Exhibition Opening
Location: Rose Center for Earth and Space, American Museum of Natural History, 07.17.07 (award ceremony); Center for Architecture, 07.23.07 (exhibition opening)
Speakers: (award ceremony) James P. Stuckey — Art Commission President; Patricia E. Harris — First Deputy Mayor; Jackie Snyder — Art Commission Executive Director; Commissioners Nicholas Scoppetta (Fire), John Doherty (Sanitation), Janette Sadik-Khan (Transportation), Adrian Benepe (Parks), Kate Levin (Cultural Affairs), David Burney, AIA (Design + Construction), Robert Hess (Homeless Services), Jonathan Mintz (Consumer Affairs).
Organizers: (award ceremony) Office of the Mayor; Art Commission of the City of New York; (exhibition) AIANY; Art Commission of the City of New York
Exhibition Designer: Pentagram
Sponsors: (exhibition) Exhibition Patron: F.J. Sciame Construction; support provided in part by the George Lewis Fund

Bus Stand

Duncan Jackson, Grimshaw Architects

Prototypical Street Furniture for Installation Citywide — Newsstand, designed by Grimshaw Architects/Cemusa for the NYC Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Consumer Affairs (DCA).

Garretted away on the third floor of City Hall the Art Commission of the City of New York is NYC’s design review agency, an organization that has widespread influence over the five boroughs despite being hidden from view. The agency’s directive is to review permanent works of art, architecture, and landscape architecture proposed for city-owned property. Its scope includes construction, renovation or restoration of buildings, such as museums and libraries, creation or rehabilitation of parks and playgrounds, installation of lighting and other streetscape elements, and design, installation, and conservation of artwork.

The Art Commission was established in 1898 and for the past 25 years it has presented awards of excellence. Out of approximately 300 projects in review, this year the Commission selected 10, which are currently showcased at Art Commission Awards for Excellence in Design now on view at the Center for Architecture.

The Commission also honored Michael Friedlander, a 25-year veteran of the Department of Sanitation and its director of special projects, with a Special Recognition Award for the quality of design he brings to the department’s capital projects. As part of this award he is cited for the two Manhattan projects that he submitted to the commission last year — construction of a salt shed at West 55th Street and 12th Avenue, and a garage at 543 East 73rd Street.

“The 10 winning projects exemplify the ideas of high-quality and innovative public design, and their sponsoring agencies and architects should be very proud of their accomplishments,” Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed in a statement issued by the Office of the Mayor. This is evident in the exhibition at the Center, where you can view all of the award winning projects while sitting on a real bus stop bench — a component of the new bus stop shelters, newsstands, and automatic self-cleaning toilets designed by Grimshaw Architects/Cemusa for the NYC Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Consumer Affairs (DCA).

Projects of the Department of Design + Construction (DDC), in collaboration with architecture firms, garnered five awards: Department of Homeless Services with Polshek Partnership Architects (DHS Family Center, Bronx); the Fire Department of NY (FDNY) with Polshek Partnership Architects (Rescue Company 3 Firehouse, Bronx); the FDNY with Dean/Wolf Architects (EMS Station 50, Queens Hospital Center); the Queens Library with Marble Fairbanks (Glen Oaks Library, Queens); and the DOT and the DCA’s Percent for Art Program with artist Nobuho Nagasawa and Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architecture (Columbia Waterfront District, Brooklyn). The Department of Parks and Recreation with Toshiko Mori Architect’s Poe Park Visitor Center, and the DOT, Port Authority of NY and NJ, and Department of Parks and Recreation with artist Elyn Zimmerman’s CaVaLa Park are also on view. All of these projects except CaVaLa Park and the Columbia Waterfront District are part of the DDC’s Design + Construction Excellence program.

Infernal Affairs Bind Architecture, Cinema

Event: 3×3 A Perspective On China, Monthly Lecture Series: Part Eight — Conversation With Yung Ho Chang
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.19.07
Speaker: Yung Ho Chang — Principal Architect, Atelier Feichang Jianzhu (FCJZ) & Professor and Head, Department of Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Organizer: People’s Architecture
Sponsor: Center for Architecture

Atelier FCJZ

An installation of habitable cameras exemplifies Atelier FCJZ’s interest in creating framed and frameless perceptions of space and landscape.

Atelier FCJZ

Yung Ho Chang has hurdled conventional boundaries of place, culture, and professional specialization. Founder and principal partner of Beijing-based Atelier Feichang Jianzhu (FCJZ), he has also directed MIT’s architecture program since 2005. His trans-Pacific design career exemplifies an interdisciplinary ambition to complement history with modernity, landscape with buildings, and most recently, architectural rumination with popular film noir.

Chang presented a series of cinematic stills of his firm’s work superimposed with scenes from the Hong Kong film trilogy, Wu Jian Zao (Infernal Affairs, 2002-03), which inspired Martin Scorcese’s The Departed. FCJZ implanted stills from the original film with new objects and characters, such as a bicycle, a Van Gogh painting, or a mysterious hand and body. Simultaneously provocative and absurd, the vignettes mingle fiction with reality. Chang said he chose Infernal Affairs over the visually lush In the Mood for Love (dir. Wong Kar Wai, 2000) because he could tell the story with only a handful of images. He also cited the French New Wave movement and Alfred Hitchcock as cinematic inspirations.

This experiment represents Chang’s latest attempt to study and catalyze the act of perception. Long interested in Chinese scroll landscape painting as well as early Renaissance painting, photography, and film, he has designed exhibitions and buildings that challenge viewers to see their environs anew. For example, a landmark series of projects emerged from an enquiry into peepshow mechanics and Alfred Hitchcock’s classic take on urban voyeurism, Rear Window. In 2003, FCJZ worked with two video artists to create a series of giant, inhabitable sculptures modeled on Leica, Nikon, Polaroid, and Seagull rangefinder cameras.

This “Camera” exhibition helped fuel the design of the dramatic Villa Shizilin, a 45,000-square-foot home located in a rolling persimmon orchard outside Beijing. Chang conceived the house as an interlocking assembly of tapered, wedge-like volumes that function as focused lenses to frame views of the landscape. Drawing the viewer’s eyes horizontally along the landscape, the villa’s distinctly long, low window stripes recall the continuous, kinetic quality of scroll landscape paintings.

The work of Yung Ho Chang and FCJZ is the subject of the current exhibition “DEVELOP” on display at the MIT Wolk Gallery in Cambridge, MA, through 04.13.07.