The current profession of architecture is as layered with design firms, consultants, and specialty practices as today’s buildings are complex and difficult to realize. With facade designers, BIM specialists, acousticians, architects of record, and a slew of other consultants there is a need for someone that can coordinate and manage these groups. This is where the project manager and/or owner’s representative comes into the process. The most important one in New York City is Levien & Company. Ken Levien (the only owners rep to be given an FAIA) founded the office in 1992 after working as an architect, construction loan monitor, and project monitor for 20 years. Since then, the company has completed over 350 jobs of various types for more than 100 clients.
In some ways Levien has defined what it means to be an owners representative, filtering through the mass of details and documents and information needed to construct modern buildings and allowing construction to begin and flow through to completion. The firm does not design buildings or work as a construction manager. It usually has about thirty projects at various stages of development in the office. The practice is always working on several commercial projects that require the firm to make sure that the design coming from the architect “matches the market the builder is trying to get to and to make money at the end of the day.” The advantage of these projects, said Levien, is that you can go to “one decision maker” and give them the options on any issue.
The firm’s primary focus—about 75 percent of its work—is the non-profit sector: cultural, religious, medical institutions, etc. While the analysis of building construction is similar in all projects, in the non-profit sector the programs are often more complicated and the clients are more aware of every decision in the process. Non-profit projects “generally cost more and are more difficult to program, because they are not repetitive,” said Levien. “The trick is to get [all the stakeholders] to come to a consensus as to what the right program is, what the right price is, and how to get there.”
New York City Center
New York, New York
Highlights of this $50 million Shriners auditorium project include reconfigured seating in the main auditorium with improved comfort and sight lines; enhanced front-of-the house amenities; renovated lobbies and concessions; additional restrooms; a new, sprung stage floor; and upgraded backstage facilities. Designed by Ennead Architects, the phased schedule ensured that there was no interruption of programs during construction.
653 Tenth Avenue
New York, New York
Levien & Company was brought on board by Cannon Design to provide local knowledge and to assist an offshore investment group with their first development project in New York City. This 21-unit residential building is 26,000 square feet and will have a variety of studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as first floor retail space. The project is nearing completion.
The Abraham Joshua Heschel School
New York, New York
Levien & Company was retained by Gruzen Samton to oversee a $100 million expansion and relocation project for the Abraham Joshua Heschel School on Manhattan’s West Side. The new 150,000-square-foot, nine-story building houses students from nursery school through eighth grade. The project allowed the school to realize its vision for a single campus identity and accommodate more than 1,000 students, a significant increase over their current limit. The project has been awarded a LEED Gold rating.
Military Park Revitalization Project
Newark, New Jersey
Military Park is a 6-acre, nearly triangular-shaped park located in downtown Newark. A reconstruction of the existing historic park designed by H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture with landscape architects Birdsall Services Group and Hackett Landscape Design includes a refurbished southern plaza, 1.75 acres of new gardens, a restored great lawn, improved park lighting, renovated garage entrance structures, a re-purposed reflecting pool converted into a signature floral display and other built improvements to support enhanced programming.