NY Firms Design Urban Thresholds

Event: New York Designs
Location: The Urban Center, 06.05.08
Speakers: Lyn Rice, AIA — Principal, Astrid Lipka, AIA — Associate Principal, Lyn Rice Architects; Eric Bunge, AIA, Mimi Hoang — Partners, nARCHITECTS; Robert Rogers, FAIA, Jonathan Marvel, AIA — Partners, Rogers Marvel Architects; Henry Smith-Miller, Laurie Hawkinson — Partners, & Luben Dimcheff — Project Architect, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects; Douglas Korves, AIA — Partner, Douglas Korves Architect
Organizers: The Architectural League of New York

(L-R): Sheila C. Johnson Design Center by Lyn Rice Architects; Switch Building by nARCHITECTS; Luminaire Celebrates Public Space by Rogers Marvel Architects; 322 Hicks Street by Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects.

(L-R): Michael Moran; Frank Ouderman; Paul Warchol; Michael Moran, courtesy The Architectural League of New York

“Threshold,” said Henry Smith-Miller, “is the point that must be reached for a psychological or physiological effect to begin or be noticeable.” That definition of the word seems to be open to interpretation, as evidenced at second in the Architectural League of New York’s 2008 New York Designs juried lecture series. The 2008 New York Designs committee, comprised of Sunil Bald, Markus Dochantschi, Lynn Gaffney, AIA, Victoria Meyers, AIA, and Adam Yarinsky, FAIA, asked entrants to consider what limits, opportunities, and compromises shape thresholds in the city. A threshold, as outlined in the call for entries, might be literally a transitional space or overlap among materials, disciplines, cultures, and more.

Lyn Rice, AIA, and Astrid Lipka, AIA, of Lyn Rice Architects presented their Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School for Design. The firm reinterpreted the campus to create an urban quad in the Village. Using architecture as interface, they united existing street-level lobbies of four adjacent buildings with found spaces such as a trash alley to create a new 20,000-square-foot common space. The new center contains a critique space, auditorium, design store, and an expanded gallery/exhibition area that is visually open to the street, allowing interactions between the students and public.

Eric Bunge, AIA, and Mimi Hoang of nARCHITECTS presented their Switch Building on the Lower East Side. The design interprets constraints imposed by the developer’s needs and zoning laws to create the completed seven-story building with four floor-through apartments, a duplex penthouse, and a double-height art gallery. The building’s bay windows are angled and switch back and forth, providing deep window seats on the inside. At the rear of each apartment, the living space extends out to balconies, blurring the boundary between indoors and out. The Switch Gallery has a black, hot-rolled steel-and-glass storefront and canopy that opens completely allowing art openings to extend onto the sidewalk.

Robert Rogers, FAIA, and Jonathan Marvel, AIA, surveyed their firm’s history of designing public spaces such as 55 Water Street, Streetscapes in Battery Park and on Wall Street, and the redesign, with West 8, of Governors Island. The lobby and passageway in the 78-story, black-glass Metropolitan Tower on West 57th Street is a privately owned public space. For the Luminaire Celebrates Public Space project, an illuminated feature forms the lobby desk. Its color-changing light and sculptural form animate and engage the building’s entrance; the glowing five-foot-high desk broadcasts to the street, connecting the boundary between interior and exterior.

Henry Smith-Miller’s residential project at 322 Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights mediates the threshold between historical context and new building. Situated in a historic residential neighborhood of diverse brick building types, the angled and inflected brick façade breaks its mass to remain constant with the neighborhood’s scale. The building stretches from lot line to lot line, and Oriel windows — “innies and outies” — punctuate the façade recalling brownstone bay windows. The rear of the building opens up in a more traditionally Modern glass-and-steel façade.