In the News

(Slideshow Above)

In this issue:
The Palazzo of Pierrepont Street
Wishing Upon a Star and Designing a Planetarium
Private Island in Bahrain Bay
– Acknowledge the Tragedy, Consider the Legacy, Lest We Forget
A Cure for Fair Fatigue
Just Google It

The Palazzo of Pierrepont Street
Designed to resemble the Palazzo della Gran Guardia in Verona, Italy, renowned bank architects York and Sawyer completed the Brooklyn Bank Trust Company in 1916. The New York City designated landmark at 138 Pierrepont Street (at the corner of Clinton Street) in Brooklyn Heights still cuts an impressive figure today. Its banking hall, a designated interior landmark, is now a branch of Chase Bank, but its three upper floors that were used as bank offices and storage space have been completely gutted and being converted into townhouse-sized condo units by Barry Rice Architects. The transformed space is suspended from roof trusses over the banking hall. Suspending these floors with steel “ties” was how the original architects achieved a column-free banking hall. The project, which is nearing completion, contains eight simplex units ranging from approximately 2,300 to 2,700 square feet and four duplex apartments from 2,500 to 3,000 square feet, many of which have different layouts. An annex, built just a few years after the main building, is the new entrance for residents, and has six levels, compared to four of the original building. Thus, two floors of the annex do not connect to the main floors; these “mezzanines” two stand-alone apartments. Amenities include a lounge for adults and children’s play areas, a common rooftop terrace. The vault at the back of the residential lobby, with 18-foot-tall, two feet thick reinforced concrete walls, will be used for bike and stroller storage, as well as a dog spa.

Wishing Upon a Star and Designing a Planetarium
Ennead Architects has won an international competition to design the new 409,000-square-foot Shanghai Planetarium, a branch of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum (SSTM). The design celebrates the continuum of time and space, and mirrors both the rich history of Chinese astronomy and the future ambitions of the country’s space exploration program. Drawing inspiration from astronomical principles, the design strategy is based on the experience of orbital motion. Three “celestial bodies” act as an astronomical instrument, tracking the sun, moon, and stars. An oculus suspended in the cantilevered form of the museum’s galleries above is a central feature at the entry, ; it illustrates the passage of time by tracking a circle of sunlight on the ground across the entry plaza and a reflecting pool. The inverted dome marks the culmination of the permanent exhibition sequence, where visitors emerge from the interior to a sublime spatial experience focusing on the uninterrupted sky dome. The sphere contains the planetarium theater, and acts a reference point for visitors within the museum. Its ever-present form is integral to the museum’s identity. The program includes permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, a 21-meter-diameter digital sky theater, a close to 60-foot-diameter optical planetarium, an IMAX theater, education and research center, solar telescope, youth observation camp, and observatory. The planetarium, scheduled to be completed in 2018, is expected to define a new identity for Shanghai’s Lingang District, which is southeast of the city’s central business district.

Private Island in Bahrain Bay
Bahrain Bay, a Four Seasons Hotel designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
(SOM), has officially opened its doors. Located in Manama, a private, 12-acre island in the capital of Bahrain, the 68-story building rises above the bay and above the mixed-use development master-planned by SOM. Guests arrive on the island by a bridge connected to the mainland or via boats pulling in from harbor. At ground level, limestone pavilions with bronze mashrabiya screens are clustered within a lush resort landscape. The main entrance is defined by an almost 40-foot-tall bronze porte-cochere whose ceiling extends inside to form the hotel lobby. The 600,000-square-foot building is composed of two textured concrete piers that support a stack of 273 hotel rooms on 17 floors at lower elevations, and two restaurant and conference floors at the building’s summit. All of the suspended floors feature extensive, floor-to-ceiling glazing on the north and south façades, providing views of the Arabian Gulf and the Manama skyline. The shimmering glass expanses transform as the quality of light changes throughout the day. The hotel includes event and meeting spaces, a business center, spa and gym facilities, five pools, and three Wolfgang Puck restaurants. In addition to the hotel, SOM’s scheme for the waterfront neighborhood calls for a series of parks, residential and office towers, and cultural venues, all arranged in strong radial organization.

Acknowledge the Tragedy, Consider the Legacy, Lest We Forget

“The Ark of Return,” a memorial designed by Rodney Leon Architect to honor the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, will have its official unveiling on 03.25.15 on the grounds of the United Nations. The 21-foot-longby-19-foot-wide-by-15-foot-high  white and grey marble exterior resembles the ships that transported African slaves to different parts of the world. The memorial is conceptually organized in three parts; visitors pass through the interior to experience the three primary elements: a three-dimensional map that highlights the African continent at its center and graphically depicts the global scale, complexity, and impact of the slave trade; a full-scale black granite human figure lying horizontally in front of a wall inscribed with images of the interior of a slave ship; and a triangular reflecting pool that introduces water in a meditative, ritualistic, and spiritual manner to mark this historic human tragedy. The UN recognized the need for a memorial and sponsored a design competition in 2011,  out of which seven firms were short-listed.

A Cure for Fair Fatigue
For the fourth consecutive year, Bade Stageberg Cox (BSC) designed The Armory Show, the four-day ginormous art fair that just took place on Piers 92 and 94 on Manhattan’s Westside. Encompassing 220,000 square feett, the fair is a temporary world designed to be a stark contrast to the grittiness of the piers. The fair was organized as a grid of blocks, punctuated by open spaces that encouraged social exchange. Arranged with simple single-loop circulation, generous lounge and dining spaces were integrated into the gallery plan. Lounges served as landmarks and points of orientation. Many BSC-designed features from past Armory shows were reprised, including the “Centrifugal Drums,” the light shades suspended above Pier 64’s Hotel Americano VIP Café that send fractured light across the walls of the café and give a warm glow to the seating below. New mirrored backdrops in several champagne bars, inspired by the installation “Circle of Confusion” by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, were located in the entry atrium of Pier 94. In addition, a series of special locally-produced furniture projects reinforced the experience of each lounge. “L x W x D” was a composition of six identical forms, each a geometric translation in space. In addition, “Street Seats,” the popular chair installation the firm first developed for the 2012 Armory Show returned in Pier 94’s Mile End Deli. Chairs found abandoned on NYC streets were repaired and given a new life with a coat of taxi cab yellow paint. Like residents of the city, the furniture was an eclectic mix that migrated throughout the fair’s five-day run that ended 03.08.15.

Just Google It
Google has submitted plans to redevelop four sites in Mountain View, CA, where it has been headquartered for the past 15 years. Instead of constructing immovable concrete buildings, BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group and London-based Heatherwick Studio propose to design lightweight, block-like structures which can be easily reconfigured as needed as the company moves into new product areas with different spatial needs. Large translucent canopies cover each site and control the climate while letting in light and air. Weaving through these structures are bike paths, cafés, and landscapes designed to blur the lines between buildings and nature. The Internet giant intends the project to be more than just creating new office space to do more for the environment, from enhancing burrowing owl habitats to widening creek beds and offsetting energy consumption.

This Just In

This year, FIGMENT’s City of Dreams Competition (organized with the AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) and the Structural Engineers Society of New York) selected two ambitious projects. BanG Studio’s Billion Oyster Pavilion is a temporary pavilion that will make a permanent contribution to New York. Materials used in its construction will be re-used by the Harbor School to re-build oyster habitats in New York’s waterways, and the Pavilion will make the important work being done by the Harbor School visible and tangible for hundreds of thousands of visitors. Visit the Kickstarter campaign here to contribute. To volunteer, contact

The first building at the SHoP Architects’ Domino Sugar site recently broke ground. The 16-story building will house about 550 rental units; approximately 105 will be affordable.

Hoboken joined the UN’s “Making Cities Resilient” campaign in 2013. It’s now one of 45 cities worldwide considered by the UN to be a role model, and only the second in the U.S. – the other is San Francisco.

The J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City (JMBC) at the City College of New York School of Architecture is recently launched the Legacy City Design Network website.  The network connects professionals working in legacy cities, shares successfully designed and implemented projects, hosts gatherings, advocates for innovative design, and develops new solutions through research and pilot project collaborations.

The Urban Justice Center, one of the city’s oldest legal services organizations, recently unveiled its new headquarters in Lower Manhattan. Designed by A+I Architects, the new 32,000-square-foot space can accommodate more than 100 staff members and 47 interns. Breakout rooms for legal training and private client sessions will be named after prominent civil rights leaders.

Download the Pratt Center for Community Development’s report that analyzes the impact hotel proliferation is having on New York City.

TED recently posted HWKN and Architizer’s Marc Kushner talk about the last 30 years of architectural history, a lively introduction to The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings, just published by Simon & Schuster/TED Books.

Held in the context of the International Year of Light (IYL 2015), a campaign led by the United Nations that aims to raise awareness of the achievements of light science and its importance to humankind, The New School’s Parsons School of Design, in association with Concepteurs Lumière Sans Frontières (CLSF, aka Lighting Designers Without Borders) and Social Light Movement (SLM), is hosting From the Right to Light to the Right Lights, on 03.13.15. Participants will present projects and initiatives that serve a range of low-income communities, from the residents of public housing or informal settlements to the homeless.

Orange County Legislators have failed to save Paul Rudolph’s Government Center, despite a proposal from Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects to purchase it and turn it into an arts hub.