Earthly Reasons to Build Skyward

Event: The Sustainable Works of Foster + Partners: A Mixed Greens Lecture
Location: New York Academy of Sciences, 7 WTC, 02.22.07
Speaker: Brandon Haw – senior partner, Foster + Partners; Carol Willis – director, Skyscraper Museum (introduction)
Organizers: Skyscraper Museum; New York Academy of Sciences

Courtesy Foster + Partners

Will 200 Greenwich Street bring America to the forefront of green design?

Courtesy Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners’ designs emphasize a dialectic between the environment and technology, emphasized the firm’s senior partner, Brandon Haw. Recalling his own 1960s upbringing in an “art family” that treasured the off-the-grid principles of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, Haw was naturally drawn to the early work of Sir Norman Foster, Hon. FAIA, and Buckminster Fuller. “Bucky’s dome could have been used for the Willis Faber building,” he commented. Some features of that forward-looking Foster-designed 1975 building have become staples of sustainable design and corporate communitarianism: a green roof, open-plan workspaces, escalator-based vertical transportation, and raised floors. Then-and-now photos show how little modification this building needed as its occupants adapted to computerization and other changes over three decades.

As widely as Foster’s designs have varied, they have implemented recurrent principles: functional cladding, external positioning of cores, and attention to the details of airflow, heat exchange, and light. A point-by-point system of ecological analysis from site to materials guides all Foster projects, skyscraper-scale and otherwise. It’s become common to preface discussions of green design strategies with Al Gore-style data graphics on global temperature, carbon dioxide, demographics, and resource use. Haw’s presentation of this material was bracing without being alarmist; he recognizes the urgency of curbing greenhouse emissions has reached cultural and economic realms, and he applauds businesses that recognize common interests linking carbon footprints, quality-of-life improvements for workers, and financial performance. Foster + Partners is dedicated to building tall as much for the anti-sprawl effects of high urban density as for the customary financial motives.

The triangular Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt (1997), arguably the first green skyscraper, treats German unions’ requirement that all workers be within 7.5 meters of a window as a productive constraint. Considering its central atrium space, “gardens in the sky,” and ample natural ventilation (used 85% of the year, improving on the original target of 65%), its internal offices are in higher demand than those facing outward. A mixed-use “vertical city” currently on the boards, the Moscow City Towers, will resemble “Commerzbank blown apart, turned inside out,” incorporating negative-pressure ventilation and energy systems that employ river water. For Aldar Central Market, a tower/souk complex in Abu Dhabi, the firm studied indigenous architecture to combine traditional heat-management strategies (sloping roofs, wind-catching chimneys) with modern photovoltaics and thermal tubes.

Similar structural and solar-energy-capturing strategies in the ill-fated 980 Madison tower ran into local opposition, but Haw promises the firm will return to the Upper East Side with a new design. Europeans have outpaced their U.S. counterparts in building green; Germany’s tight regulatory environment, in particular, makes eco-technology a priority in projects like the Reichstag, New German Parliament restoration, and the Free University in Berlin (the biomorphic “Berlin Brain”). The American architectural community’s focus on stylistic debates strikes Haw as frivolous, but he notes and hails rapid change on this side of the pond. Some years ago he remarked to colleagues, “We can’t tell the Americans what to do, but when they get it, they’ll get it big-time.” The Hearst Headquarters and similar buildings have proven Haw prophetic in that regard. Since Fuller and other Americans established green-design in the first place, it’s refreshing that we’re beginning to catch up.

A New Depot to Buy Green

Event: Clodagh Inner Circle Speaker Series
Location: Clodagh Design Showroom, 02.27.07
Speaker: Paul Novack – Founder & Operational Manager, Environmental Construction Outfitters (E.C.O.)
Organizer & Sponsor: Clodagh Collection

Green Depot

Courtesy Greendepot

The web is not the best source when searching for healthy alternatives, according to Paul Novack, CEO of Environmental Construction Outfitters (E.C.O.). That is why he founded Greendepot in January 2006 – to provide environmentally friendly and sustainable building products to both the public and the design community. A one-stop shop for construction needs with stock and delivery inventory, Greendepot also offers product recommendations to bring the most LEED points possible to a project. Insulation made from recycled blue jeans, rubber flooring manufactured from old truck tires, and cleaning products required to maintain a sustainable home are some of the items available.

Clodagh prides herself as a leader in responsible design, through her own practice as well as educating the public. Attendees of her Inner Circle Speaker Series were eager to hear about living healthier lifestyles: “I can use blue jeans as insulation in my walls?” “LEED what?” “How can I live green?” For more information, go to the Greendepot website or visit the Brooklyn showroom. To learn more about Clodagh and the Inner Circle Speaker Series, click the link.

The Raw Truth About Oysters

Event: The Big Oyster; History on the Half Shell, part of the Downtown Third Thursdays lecture series.
Location: India House, Marine Room, 02.15.07
Speaker: Mark Kurlansky – author, food historian
Organizer: Downtown Alliance



“Oysters were what New York was all about,” according to historian and author Mark Kurlansky, recalling the mollusk’s once defining place in the city’s history. Traces of the oyster industry may have all but vanished, but New York was once littered with street corner oyster carts, 24-hour oyster markets, and alcohol-fueled dives known as oyster cellars. In the 1800’s, New York’s cultural identity was tied to the oyster. “You rarely find a food that satisfies all socioeconomic backgrounds at one time,” said Kurlansky.

A strange tale of environmental caution lies at the root of why the native oyster has all but disappeared from the city’s cultural and culinary memory. The Hudson River estuary enables oysters to thrive with its brackish combination of salt- and freshwater. Dutch settlers enjoyed saucer-sized oysters; the oyster trade fueled the city’s growth and filled its tables. Beginning in the 1890s however, the Hudson’s oyster beds became contaminated by raw sewage causing cholera outbreaks. By 1930, it was illegal to harvest oysters, and by 1960 the water was too polluted for them to grow at all. Thanks to improvements brought about by the Clean Water Act, oysters can be found in the Hudson River today, though PCBs and heavy lead make them dangerous to consume. Someday, with the help of sustainable planning, New Yorkers might enjoy Hudson River oysters again, but never will they be plentiful enough to fuel an entire city.

Proposed Pedicab Protocol Not So Appalling

This past week, a debate ignited regarding NYC Council’s proposed pedicab regulations, Intro. 75-A and Intro. 331-A. I may be in the minority, but after reading through the legislation, I feel that much of the regulation is reasonable and will provide a higher level of safety much-needed on busy NYC streets.

The first valid ruling is that drivers must own a license and attach a license plate to their pedicabs; licenses are to be renewed every two years. In order to obtain a license, drivers must complete a safety course, pass an exam administered by the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) with the Department of Transportation (DOT), be at least 18 years old, and pass any DCA-determined fitness requirements. Business owners must obtain a business license, renewed annually. Drivers must also have liability insurance that covers the “amount required by the vehicle and traffic law for vehicles carrying passengers.”

The local law also outlines a number of common-sense safety features to be incorporated into every pedicab vehicle. Included are: seating for up to three passengers; installation of water-resistant breaks; secondary or emergency breaks; battery-operated headlights and taillights; turn signals; seat belts; audible signaling devices; and reflectors on wheel spokes. To be integrated into pedicab designs (which must be motor-less and have maximum dimensions of 55-inches-wide by 10-feet-long) are timers that calculate ride rates, visible posting of pedicab business information, and visible rate-charge information. Pedicab operators can determine their own rates, but they must be posted. It is difficult to argue against any of the above decrees, in my opinion.

There are some debatable rulings included in the new law, however. Those who are opposed to the law target an item that gives the police the ability to restrict pedicabs from certain areas up to 14 days during “unusual heavy pedestrian or vehicular traffic.” In Midtown, from November 12 through January 7, there will be no limit to police restrictions due to the holidays. At first glance, this might seem unreasonable considering that the holidays are a time when pedicabs might profit the most, and the police may abuse this rule, but the text explains that unusual heavy traffic means during emergencies, fires, demonstrations, accidents, and parades. Of course I am against the misuse of the ruling, but the text itself does not pose a problem for me.

The one item of the legislation that I do disagree with, and is perhaps the most contentious, is the restriction of the number of pedicabs allowed in the city – 325, limiting the existing 500+. The pedicab business is new to the city. With time, it may prove to be a viable, more environmentally friendly alternative to taxicabs, car services, buses, and subways. I believe the city has a responsibility to legislate for people’s safety, and it is doing its job by instituting the new pedicab law, but it should not smother new forms of business that have the potential to thrive.

In this issue:
• Prospect Park Gains Skating Rinks
• New Y’s for Tribeca, Bed-Stuy
• Asymptote Reaches New Heights in Asia
• Selldorf Architects to Renovate The Clark
• South Beach Style Heads to Manhattan
• LHSA+DP X 5 in Caribbean
• Building Tests Stanford Law Green Guidelines

Prospect Park Gains Skating Rinks

Courtesy Prospect Park Alliance

Location of future skating rink in Prospect Park.

Courtesy Prospect Park Alliance

The Prospect Park Alliance has selected Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects for the new Lakeside Center, a 38,000-square-foot recreation building and two ice skating rinks totaling an additional 35,000 square feet. The center will be open year-round and offer a café, gift shop, lockers, rental facilities, programming areas, and pedal boat rental in summer. The new building, which is aiming for LEED Silver certification, is slated to begin construction next year. After it opens, the outdated Kate Wollman Center and Rink and its 15,000-square-foot building will be demolished. Landscape architect Christian Zimmerman will oversee the restoration of the present rink’s site to reflect the original landscape designs of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.

New Y’s for Tribeca, Bed-Stuy

Donald Blair & Partners Architects

Bedford-Stuyvesant YMCA Fitness & Community Center.

Donald Blair & Partners Architects

Kostow Greenwood Architects

The new Tribeca location for the YMCA’s Makor and Daytime programs.

Kostow Greenwood Architects

The 92nd Street YMCA’s Makor and Daytime@ programs are moving to Tribeca, Kostow Greenwood Architects has designed its new 15,800-square-foot storefront space at 200 Hudson Street. Opening this fall, the facility contains a music-performance space with a bar, café/performance space, screening room large enough for readings and other non-film programs, an expandable lecture space, several classrooms, art galleries, and offices.

The YMCA of Greater New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant Fitness and Community Center, designed by Donald Blair & Partners Architects, has also been completed. The 20,000-square-foot center is connected to two other buildings owned by the YMCA – the newly renovated Bedford Academy High School, and the existing YMCA Activity building currently undergoing renovation. The brick and glass façade creates transparency and opens the building to the community. A two-story atrium houses the membership lounge and permits light and visibility to penetrate the lower floor. A 100-foot-long ceramic tile mosaic overlooking the lounge memorializes the former Bedford-Stuyvesant YMCA branch colorfully illustrating a football scene depicted in a photograph found in the branch’s archives.

Asymptote Reaches New Heights in Asia


Millennium Tower World Business Center in Busan, Korea.


Asymptote has won an international competition to design the Millennium Tower World Business Center in Busan, Korea. The competition was organized by the Busan International Architectural Culture Festival (BIACF) and sponsored by the Municipality of Busan City and the Solomon Group, a private Korean developer, who has committed to move forward with the design. Asymptote’s winning design has three separate slender towers rising out of a robust and powerful base tapering upwards around a central garden. Upon completion, the 560-meter-tall building will be the tallest in Asia.

Selldorf Architects to Renovate The Clark

Selldorf Architects

Selldorf Architects will renovate The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

Selldorf Architects

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute has selected Selldorf Architects for the renovation of its original museum situated on 140 acres in the Berkshires, and a short walk from Williams College. Designed in the neo-classical style by architect Daniel Perry, AIA, the museum, which opened in 1955, has remained largely untouched. Selldorf will join Reed | Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture of Watertown, MA, the architect-of-record Gensler, and Tadao Ando, Hon. FAIA, who is designing The Clark’s Stone Hill Center. Selldorf will oversee the renovation of the galleries that house the museum’s permanent collection renowned for its 19th-century European and American painting, especially French Impressionism. An addition of over 5,000 square feet of new gallery space dedicated to American painting and decorative arts will also transform existing support spaces. A new off-campus entry, connected to the new Exhibition, Visitor, and Conference Center also designed by Ando, is part of a master plan to orient the buildings away from the street.

South Beach Style Heads to Manhattan

Denniston International Architects & Planners

Level 2 library in The Setai.

Denniston International Architects & Planners

The Setai Group and New York developer Zamir Equities have collaborated on a 30-story luxury and very exclusive condominium. The Setai New York, billed as “a mantra of serenity and calm,” is located in the Financial District. Jean-Michel Gathy, of Kuala Lumpur-based Denniston International Architects & Planners, who designed The Setai, South Beach, is design architect, and New York’s Avinash K. Malhotra, AIA, (AKM Architects) is project architect. The building will contain 167 studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom residences priced from around $650,000 to $6.75 million, in addition to a members only club and spa and furnished rooftop lounge. The public spaces are Asian-inspired with Thai silk panels lining the walls of the lobby, bronze panels, and teak lattices lining the lobby walls.

LHSA+DP Impacts X 5 in Caribbean

Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership

Shoal Bay, one of five concurrent projects in Anguilla.

Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership

The Caribbean island of Anguilla will be the site of five new luxury projects by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership (LHSA+DP). The projects will feature the ultimate in indoor/outdoor living, green and sustainable design. It will emphasize an authentic Anguillan experience, focusing on natural elements such as water, sky, sand, and wind. The developments are designed to reflect the history of the island’s culture and architecture in tandem with a distinctly modern aesthetic sensibility.

Building Tests Stanford Law Green Guidelines

Polshek Partnership Architects has been selected by Stanford Law School to design a new 80,000-square-foot academic building intended to promote overall campus integration and strengthen the Law School’s community while providing the faculty with a collaborative working, learning, and teaching environment. The project is located between the commons facility of the Munger Graduate Residence, currently under construction, and the academic buildings of the Crown Quadrangle, designed by Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill in 1972. The new building will be developed in accordance with the Stanford University Guidelines for Sustainable Buildings.

Open Architecture Network

Open Architecture Network

The Open Architecture Network.

Courtesy Architecture for Humanity

After receiving last year’s TED Prize, Architecture for Humanity is launching a beta version of the Open Architecture Network (OAN) on 03.08.07. The website will allow designers, community groups, and NGOs to browse, post projects, discuss relevant topics, contribute to shared resources, collaborate with each other, and access project management tools. The goal is to develop a site that will support innovative, sustainable, and collaborative design solutions for improving standards of living, according to the mission statement. To learn more, check out the website. An interview with Cameron Sinclair, Executive Director and co-founder of Architecture for Humanity, is also available on TreeHugger Radio.

The AIA New York Chapter released its list of 2007 Design Award recipients; 31 winners were selected from over 400 submissions. To see the full list of winners, click the link. Honor Awards were announced in the previous issue of e-OCULUS. Architecture Merit Award winners include: Peter L. Gluck and Partners (Affordable Housing); Steven Holl Architects (School of Art and Art History, University of Iowa); noroof architects (Slot House); and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (U.S. Census Bureau Headquarters).

Interior Architecture Merit Award Winners include: STUDIOS Architecture (Bloomberg LP Expansion Floors 17-20); Christoff:Finio Architecture (The Heckscher Foundation for Children); and Asymptote: Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture (Alessi Flagship Store New York).

Project Merit Award Winners include: Cooper Robertson & Partners (Zuccotti Park); Thomas Phifer and Partners, Office for Visual Interaction, Werner Sobek Ingenieure (City Lights); Caples Jefferson Architects (Weeksville Heritage Center); Robert Siegel Architects (United States Land Port of Entry, Calais, Maine); Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects (405 West 53rd Street); Ogawa/ Depardon Architects (Red Hook Workspace); CR Studio (Pier 62 Carousel Shed); Lyn Rice Architects (Sheila C. Johnson Design Center); Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (Park Fifth); Rogers Marvel Architects (55 Water Street Plaza, The Elevated Acre, and Battery Park City Streetscapes); and Frederic Schwartz Architects (New Orleans Shotgun LOFT Affordable Housing)…

The 2007 AIA Jury of Fellows elevated 76 members to the AIA College of Fellows, including New York based architects: Mustafa Kemal Abadan, FAIA; Roger Duffy, FAIA; Frank J. Greene, FAIA; Paul Katz, FAIA; Blake Middleton, FAIA; Margaret Rietveld, FAIA; Henry Stolzman, FAIA; Calvin Tsao, FAIA; and Adam Yarinsky, FAIA…

Winners of the 2006-2007 BOMA/NY Pinnacle Awards include: The Lincoln Building (Historical Building); Ted Weiss Federal Office Building (Government Building and Earth Award); and Hearst Headquarters (New Construction)…

Ted Moudis Associates received the IFMA award for Excellence in Design/Construction of a New Facility for their office space at 79 Madison Avenue… School of Visual Arts appointed Jane Smith, AIA, founder and managing principal of Spacesmith, as the chair of the BFA Interior Design Department… Gensler recently announced the promotion of 21 new Principals of the firm, four of whom are New York-based: Lance Boge, Rocco Giannetti, AIA, Thomas Lanzelotti, AIA, and Keith Rosen, AIA, IIDA…

Courtesy James Fischer

The Swiss Delegation visits the Center for Architecture. (l-r): Cathy Daskalakis – co-chair of the AIANY Education Committee; Gabriela Eigensatz – Cultural Attaché, The Consulate General of Switzerland in New York; Charles Kleiber – Swiss State Secretary for Education and Research; Gérard Escher – Assistant Director, Head of Analyses and Forecasts Division; James Fischer – chair of the AIANY International Committee.

Courtesy James Fischer


The talking heads of AIANY: Cynthia Kracauer, AIA, LEED AP, AIANY Managing Director, with Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director at the Resonating Frequencies event at the Center for Architecture.

Steve Friedman

Swig Equities celebrated its latest project, The Exchange at 25 Broad Street. Kent Swig, President, is pictured above with wife, Liz.

Steve Friedman

Steve Friedman

(l-r): Real Estate Agent Frank Arfmann of Brown Harris Stevens, Kent Swig, and MacRae Parker, Jr., Senior Vice President and Managing Director at Brown Harris Stevens at the Swig Equities event.

Steve Friedman

Oculus 2007 Editorial Calendar
if you have ideas, projects, opinions – or perhaps a burning desire to write about a topic below – we’d like to hear from you! Deadlines for submitting suggestions are indicated; projects/topics may be anywhere, but architects must be New York-based. Send suggestions to Kristen Richards.
06.01.07 Fall 2007: Collaboration
09.07.07 Winter 2007-08: Power & Patronage

03.21.07 Submission: Teetonic’s Six Cities Design Festival T-shirt Design Competition
Six cities in Scotland – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, and Stirling – will host the country’s first nationwide international design festival 05.17-06.03.07 to promote and celebrate Scottish design. Designers Wayne Hemingway, Stefan Sagmeister, Timorous Beasties, Zandra Rhodes, and D8 are designing t-shirts for the festival. The competition, hosted by Teetonic, seeks a sixth design encompassing the festival’s theme: Design is Everywhere. The public will vote for its favorite and the winner will receive a “goodie bag” containing, among other prizes, two tickets for the opening of the Scottish Show in May 2007 at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s national center for architecture and design.

03.30.07 Call for Presentations: 2007 AIA NYS Convention
Inspired by the 150th Anniversary of the AIA, the theme of the 2007 AIA New York State Convention (10.04.07 – 10.06.07) will be The Past as Prologue. Proposals are being accepted for seminar topics that address this theme – or better yet, take it to the next level – to educate design professionals.

04.01.07 and 04.15.07 Submission: The Frederick P. Rose Architectural Fellowship
Administered by Enterprise Community Partners, a national affordable housing non-profit, and directed by former Rose Fellow Katie Swenson, the Rose Fellowship seeks to increase the quality and quantity of affordable housing and improve the quality of life within communities. Fellows live where they work forging community ties, developing leadership skills, and expanding the capacity of their local host organization helping local leaders plan, finance, design, and manage major construction projects. The 2007 Rose Fellowships will take place in Bronx, NY; New Orleans, LA; Woodburn, OR; and Southwestern Minnesota.

Power Broker Revisited

Event: Robert Caro: Reflections on Robert Moses
Location: The Museum of the City of New York, 02.11.07
Speaker: Robert Caro – author, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
Organizers: The Museum of the City of New York

“Rome was power, Greece was glory, New York is home.”
– Robert Caro

Published in 1974, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York took seven years for Robert Caro to write. It grew from a straightforward biography into an investigation of urban political power and its function in cities. Though Robert Moses was arguably the most powerful figure in mid-century New York, he was essentially impervious to politics. Holding a litany of appointed titles during his career, he set the city’s priorities from 1945 forward, skewing spending away from social welfare programs and towards public works. He continually diverted funds from Mayor LaGuardia’s pet project – pre-natal care for poor families – towards development.

In a democracy, it is generally believed that power comes from being elected. Moses, one of New York’s most influential and controversial figures in the 20th Century, never held an elected office; but, in many ways he exercised more power over a 40-year span than the six governors and five mayors he served while working for New York. Caro became fascinated by this while writing his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Moses, Power Broker.

At least 500,000 people lost their homes to his projects, and 21 communities were affected – the famous dark side to Moses’s genius, discussed by Caro. After interviewing inhabitants displaced by the Cross-Bronx Expressway, Caro revealed the widespread blight of which Moses’s heavy-handed public works projects were capable. Ultimately, Caro left the audience with this query: How do we achieve a vision for the city’s future without disturbing the integrity of its past?

Robert Moses and the Modern City is a three-part exhibition currently on view at the Museum of the City of New York, Queens Museum of Art, and Columbia University Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery.

Kate Soto is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor.