Sighted: Durban Edition

Sophie Troskolanski, an organizer of the Healthcare Otherwhere International Student Competition; Mila Bolt, competition winner and a student at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT); Cameron Sinclair, Founder, Architecture for Humanity, Director, Jolie-Pitt Foundation, competition juror, and UIA keynote speaker; and Madeleine Swete Kelly, a Durban-based architect, were joined by AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, and Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, at Archiball, the closing UIA party celebrating the student-run competition. Continue reading “Sighted: Durban Edition”

Behold City Hall Station

Known mostly through the images like those prominently on display at the Museum of the City of New York’s (MCNY) exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” the secret hideaway of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been glimpsed by a few curious New Yorkers looping around on the #6 train at Brooklyn Bridge Station and explored by a lucky handful of (mostly) New York Transit Museum members. On 06.05.14, presidents and members of AIA’s local New York chapters boarded an empty #6 train and toured the abandoned City Hall Station. Led by the MTA’s affable Frank Klimasz, the tour proved the aphorism “not all subway stations are created equal” correct.

When City Hall Station opened in 1904, the southern terminus of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) was the crown jewel of the nascent system. The nontraditional curved platform is bedecked in tiled green and white archways, once-sparkling chandeliers, and intricate glass skylights that dramatically light the underground space. The plaques that commemorate the construction of the underground train system honor architects Heins & LaFarge of St. John the Divine fame, but omit Rafael Guastavino, MCNY’s unsung hero and the true mastermind behind the station’s design (and, coincidentally, the cathedral’s 12-story vaults). Walking through the station, the collective feeling was one of nostalgia: “Why don’t we have spaces like this anymore?” Continue reading “Behold City Hall Station”

The Swiss Touch in Landscape Architecture

As AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, noted in his introduction for the opening of “The Swiss Touch in Landscape Architecture,” at the Center for Architecture, landscape architecture “stands at the center of urban and political discourse of our time.” Paradoxically, he said, it’s still largely “unknown to the public.” That’s why we need to bring that under-appreciated practice to light; after all, it is such an integral part of the oft-used term urban fabric, but it’s “not understood in a dogmatic way” like buildings. This exploration of landscape design as part of the social/physical aptly fits into the AIANY’s year-long theme, “Civic Spirit: Civic Vision.” Continue reading “The Swiss Touch in Landscape Architecture”

Ethics and the Road to Convention: Durban and Chicago

As we prepare for the next meeting of the International Union of Architects (UIA) in Durban, South Africa, this August, we are confronted with a proposal that demands we take an immediate position. Reporter Harriet Sherwood wrote about the proposal on 03.20.14 in London’s The Guardian. Since the matter surfaced, there have been endless articles, e-mails, and calls. While some think it may all blow over, we cannot allow it to be floated without immediate objection.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) plans to bring a proposal to the floor of the upcoming 2014 bi-annual meeting of the UIA. The RIBA has demanded the suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) from the UIA, saying it is complicit in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and other violations of international law. While former RIBA President Angela Brady told a meeting of its council how important the proposal was, other council members pointed to human rights violations in other parts of the world, such as North Korea, which is a member of the UIA, asking why they should not be held to similar standards. Notable architects and members of AIANY have spoken out or written against the RIBA proposal, including Richard Meier, FAIA, and Daniel Libeskind, AIA.

AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, and I drafted a letter denouncing the RIBA proposal. The grounds upon which our draft was based centered on inclusion and dialogue, as opposed to exclusion and highly prejudicial, selective condemnation. The letter was put before the AIANY Board at its last meeting on 04.22.14. While certain details and some personalization were criticized, the general sense of the letter was approved. All thought it inappropriate for the RIBA to exclude an entire country’s architects – both Israeli and Palestinian – because the RIBA takes issue with the politics of that country. As the mission statement of the UIA is “to unite the architects of the world without any form of discrimination,” it should be obvious that excluding one country’s architects defeats the purpose. Continue reading “Ethics and the Road to Convention: Durban and Chicago”

Henk Ovink: A Dutch Resiliency Perspective

On Earth Day, 4.22.14, AIANY and the AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee (DfRR) hosted Henk Ovink, former Acting Director-General of Spatial Planning and Water Affairs for the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and current senior advisor to U.S. Housing and Urban Design Secretary Shaun Donovan, Hon. AIANY. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Ovink emerged as a central figure in shaping the future of the entire region affected by the storm by leading the HUD Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Taskforce. As a nation, the Netherlands has formally addressed issues of flood prevention and protection for more than 900 years. Through Water Boards, a system of regional water authorities introduced in the 13th century, formerly separated communities have worked together to address regionalized environmental issues associated with water management. Today, nearly 300 Water Boards actively continue their ancestors’ work by crafting collaborative strategies for water management and extreme weather adaptation throughout the Netherlands. While “resilient” design strategies have become increasingly significant in the wake of Sandy, Ovink has leveraged his experience to introduce a new era of holistic and collaborative responses to extreme water events intensified by climate change. Continue reading “Henk Ovink: A Dutch Resiliency Perspective”

Polis: Design for Democracy

The Google map of Aix-en-Provence shows curving lines merging in concentric circles that look not all that different from regular streets. On the ground, however, the medieval streets are almost impassable: traffic moves very slowly through a tangle of pedestrians and cyclists. This brings to light the issue of how old European cities remake themselves to suit the current demands of their denizens to be greener and more habitable. Sometimes, as they move from ancient to updated, they also have to revise modern botches that have left voids, areas that divide the city, or spaces that ignore diversity or natural resources.

The Center for Architecture’s opening of “Polis: 7 Lessons from the European Prize for Public Urban Space [2000-2012]” celebrates these transformations, these applications of the democratic conception of the city. The prize has gathered 1,300 projects from cities across Europe, and the Center’s exhibition highlights 35 works from the first seven editions of the prize. The exhibition, of course, derives its name, polis, from the idealized Greek city-state, reminding us that the city is ours to take ownership over and shape to our will. As grandiose and bold as this goal is, “Polis” shows how the remaking of public space occurs in nested moments as easily as through large-scale moves. The show is organized around seven precepts that dynamically embody the AIANY President Lance Jay Brown’s, FAIA, theme for this year, “Civic Spirit: Civic Vision.” Continue reading “Polis: Design for Democracy”

Grassroots 2014

It is my pleasure to send you the following report on our recent visit to Washington, DC, for the annual Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference.

The AIA New York Chapter delegation included Lance Jay Brown, FAIA; Abby Suckle, FAIA; Illya Azaroff, AIA; Jessica Sheridan, AIA; Venesa Alicea, AIA; Rick Bell, FAIA; and Emma Pattiz. Additional AIANY members involved in legislative efforts at the conference included Susan Chin, FAIA, and Anthony P. Schirripa, FAIA. We were also joined by AIA New York State President Raymond L. Beeler, AIA, and Burton L. Roslyn, FAIA, 2012-2015 Regional Director, among others. Continue reading “Grassroots 2014”