All posts in East

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Building Bridges

inFORM studio and BuroHappold's Providence Pedestrian Bridge links and transforms downtown
In many ways, the newly developed Innovation & Design District in Providence, Rhode Island, echoes the typical pattern of urban redevelopment: Sleek, angular buildings have sprung up on previously industrial land parcels, now home to hotels, shops, and academic centers. A waterfront park will provide seven new acres of green space amid the bustling new development. At the heart of the new district, a new bridge completed last year aims to physically link for the city while inviting pedestrians to cross the Providence River and explore the urban landscape. Envisioned by Detroit-based architecture firm inFORM studio and structural engineer BuroHappold, the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge is the culmination of a decade’s work. The 394-foot walkway cuts across the river from east-to-west, set atop granite piers remaining from the narrow stretch of Interstate 195 that traversed the river before its relocation in 2013. Wood cladding by SITU Fabrication provides the bridge with warmth and references the historic nature of the Providence. While the bridge's prominent location has made it a well-attended attraction since its summer completion, the bridge is expected to see an even greater surge in pedestrian activity as the Innovation & Design District continues development. Providence has long been a city defined by academia; five universities call the city home, many of which have continued to expand into disconnected nodes bisected by the river. With the opening of the pedestrian bridge, Brown University’s main campus is now linked to its medical school, the New School of Professional Studies, the Peti Laboratory, and South Street Landing, a 432,000-square-foot residential development by the university. Johnson & Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design have also been connected via the bridge. BuroHappold’s Cities Team estimated that 14 percent of the city’s population lives within a one-mile range of the bridge, and approximately 60,000 people work within that range. The accessibility of the location is a draw in its own right, but a space designated for pedestrian use in this area has its own symbolic importance: in the transition from major highway to a public walkway, what was once a quick route from one city to another has become a destination that Providence residents can enjoy on their own terms.
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WITHDRAWING FUNDS

Participating artists protest MoMA PS1's relationship with toxic philanthropy
Thirty-seven of the artists participating in the current MoMA PS1 group show Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 have collaborated on an open letter addressed to the museum calling for a reappraisal of its “dysfunctional and abusive relationship to toxic philanthropy.” The letter, in particular, asks for the museum to sever ties with two of its board members: Larry Fink, CEO of investment firm BlackRock, and Leon Black, owner of the military security group Constellis and equity firm Apollo Global Management. The two have profited from weapons manufacturing, private prisons, immigration detention centers, and other industries the artists find morally objectionable. The letter, signed by artists including Ali Eyal, the Guerrilla Girls, Mona Hatoum, Jon Kessler, and Martha Rosler, was sent to MoMA and MoMA PS1 directors Glenn Lowry and Kate Fowle, respectively, on January 9, and was copied to Ruba Katrib and Peter Eleey, the curators of the exhibition. It was partially written to address their support of fellow artist Phil Collins' withdrawal from the exhibition days before it opened to the public on November 3. “We, the undersigned participants in Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011," the letter states, "echo this call and support Collins in the hope that his action will ‘contribute to the global momentum to protest inequity, occupation, labour extraction and disenfranchisement, and to see, together, better days.’” Though the letter expresses appreciation for the exhibition's efforts to draw public attention to the wars in Iraq, the artists “wish to make visible MoMA’s connection to funds generated from companies and corporations that directly profit from these wars.” The issue was additionally raised in November when artist Michael Rakowitz asked the museum to pause a video of his that was on display in the gallery space. Following their rejection of his request, Rakowitz came to the museum on January 11 to pause it himself and place a written statement on the wall alongside it. “I’ve decided to press the pause button on my video, RETURN, so that we can discuss some recent events,” reads the statement. It then puts a spotlight on the investments BlackRock has made towards the GEO Group and Core Civic, two prison corporations that have been, according to the artist, “responsible for approximately 70 [percent] of all immigration detentions and are part of a racist, carceral system which has made the US the largest jailer in the world.” It separately addressed Apollo Global's connection to the defense contractor responsible for the deaths of 17 people at Baghdad’s Nisour Square. If Fink and Black do not divest from these companies, the letter requests that MoMa PS1 remove the two as board trustees “so that I may unpause my video and press play.” (It should be noted, as Hyperallergic also reported, the museum took down Rakowitz's statement and started the video again.) The artists' stance against the museum's board of trustees mirrors a series of events that took place at the Whitney Museum of American Art last July. Eight artists featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial withdrew their participation in a protest against Warren B. Kanders, a vice-chairman of the museum and owner of law enforcement and military supplies manufacturer Safariland. Kanders stepped down from his position later that month amid growing pressure from the artists and a number of activists that staged protests in the museum's ground floor lobby. MoMA PS1 has not yet provided a public statement regarding its stance towards the open letter.
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In And Out

Norman Foster's original Two World Trade Center will replace BIG's tower
Bjarke Ingels’ planned design for Two World Trade Center (2 WTC) is out. As the New York Post reports, Silverstein Properties has dropped the 2015 tower proposal in favor of Foster + Partners' original vision A newer rendering of the building has yet to be released, but Larry Silverstein and Norman Foster are reportedly making numerous alterations to the 2006 design. “The old design is being significantly modified to be more reflective of contemporary needs and taste,” Silverstein told The Post. Foster had initially conceived of the 88-story building as a singular skyscraper that split into a segmented, diamond-shaped fractal topper, but was passed over after much back and forth for the boxier, more contemporary scheme.  BIG had designed a 1,340-foot-tall tower with a series of setbacks starting from the bottom of the building all the way to the top. From certain angles, it resembled six glass boxes stacked on top of one another, each getting smaller the higher the 80-story tower rose. At the time, 21st Century Fox and Rubert Murdoch’s News Corporation were anticipated to move into 2 WTC, though by early 2016 it became clear they wouldn’t, and the lack of an anchor tenant likely slowed down construction. Silverstein said that he plans to lease out “Tower Two” this year, meaning the final design should be released somewhat soon.  Two World Trade Center is the final tower left in Silverstein’s grand plan for the World Trade Center complex and is sited on the corner next Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus at Church and Vesey Streets. 
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Magic Beans(town)

Pelli Clarke Pelli’s massive South Station tower will finally begin construction
After more than a decade, developers of a 2.75-million-square-foot air rights complex are aiming to begin construction this month atop Boston’s historic South Station. Headlined by a 51-story Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed tower, the Hines-led project was first approved by the City of Boston in 2006 and given a redesign in 2016. Investor reshufflings and related negotiations for the air rights deal, which closed in late December per the Boston Business Journal, have held up the massive project and turned it into “one of the biggest what-ifs in Boston-area real estate.” Now, the start of construction seems imminent for the South Station tower, which will emerge from the ninth floor of the transit hub and rise to a height of 678 feet—a notable elevation given that the city’s tallest building hits its peak at 790 feet. Current plans call for 641,000 square feet of office space, 166 condominium units, 6,000 square feet of retail, and parking for nearly 900 cars across the glassy, stepped tower. The project also includes a 106,000-square-foot expansion of South Station’s bus terminal. Developer Hines has noted its intent to preserve the Classical Revival train station while allowing for its future expansion. The National Register of Historic Places-listed structure was designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge (now Shepley Bulfinch) and originally opened in 1899. Additional buildings are planned for the phased air rights project, too, including a 349-foot-tall hotel, and a 279-foot-tall office building, both of which will be constructed atop South Station and join Pelli Clarke Pelli's mixed-use tower. It is, however, unclear when these components will begin construction. The kickoff at South Station follows on other major air rights and transit center expansion projects in Boston, including a 1.26 million-square-foot air rights development planned for Back Bay Station, a 1.3 million-square-foot air rights complex designed by The Architectural Team (TAT) now underway at Fenway Center, and late December’s topping out of a major office tower at the Gensler-designed The Hub on Causeway above Boston’s North Station.
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Wandering Merchants

Gallery Gabriel & Guillaume takes on New York in grand style
Untethered to a fixed brick and mortar space in one city or another, a nomadic gallery has the advantage of setting up (temporary) shop in some of the most emblematic locales. Whether their wears feature prominently at an exhaustive list of fairs, in storied buildings, or in recently completed real estate projects, this type of platform often enters into and benefits from, win-win situations. These purveyors sell better when showcasing their collections in aptly-decorated contexts while the proprietors of these sumptuous settings can promote their venues more holistically. For the arbiters of historic palaces and stately homes, this type of program represents the chance to recontextualize and, in turn, shed new light on often forgotten sites. For developers of new residential projects, this type of arrangement puts a spin on the timeworn practice of open houses and helps their real estate agents sell more units. Brightening up a dreary, albeit warm, New York January is a special exhibition mounted by Beirut and Paris-based collectible design gallery Gabriel & Guillaume. Staged in the penthouse of the SHoP Architects and Studio Sofield-restored 111 West 57th Street building in Midtown Manhattan, the L'Œi'l du Collectionneur showcase brings together an eclectic array of historical and contemporary furnishings, presented in various domestic vignettes. The atypical initiative was conceived by marketing agency frenchCALIFORNIA, in partnership with JDS Development Group, Property Markets Group, and Spruce Capital Partners. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Walled Off

Related Companies backs down on building a wall around Hudson Yards
After outcry from city officials and local New York community groups, the developers behind Hudson Yards have backed down on building a 720-foot-long wall the neighborhood's southwestern perimeter. In a tweet today, Related Companies and Oxford Property Group said the site’s upcoming second phase will instead be open and connected to the High Line instead of overshadowing it as previously reported.  “Our plan has always been to build an open space along the lines of this years-old rendering and we are working to manage the technical challenges to achieve this,” the tweet reads. “There has never been a wall along the High Line and there will never be a wall.”  Last week, The New York Times broke the news that the real estate giants planned to place a 20-foot-high concrete wall around Western Yard, its official name, and include a new parking garage below a Nelson Byrd Woltz-designed “green deck.” Civic leaders including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson expressed anger over the wall, even calling the proposal a “breach of to public trust.” Robert Hammond, a cofounder of the High Line, sent out an email blast to the park's supporters, asking them to prepare to take action.  But today, Hudson Yards issued a series of tweets rebutting the entire idea:  “Unfortunately, there currently appears to be a lot of misinformation in the public domain, which is disheartening,” the statement continued.  Initial renderings of the project revealed a large green space set below a series of new towers that edges up to the High Line towards 34th Street. This landscape, or green deck, would cover the active rail yard below and help promote ventilation from underneath the development. Crain’s New York pointed out that the original environmental impact statement released by The Related Cos. in 2009 claimed both Hudson Yards or Western Yard would be accessible and open.  Phase one of the site opened last March along with The Vessel by Heatherwick Studio. Immediately after welcoming visitors, Husdon Yards was forced to update its controversial photo policy related to the Vessel. Once the public found out that climbing the spiraling structure meant giving up rights to personal images, audio, or video without credit, the terms and conditions were changed. 
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On the potomac

Hickok Cole and Facades+ will spotlight D.C. architectural design and technology
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As the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., is home to a thriving architectural culture, grounded in both historic and contemporary design. The upcoming Facades+ AM conference on February 20 will provide a forum for the city's design community to dive into the intricacies of some of the region's most significant architectural projects. The conference is co-chaired by Hickok Cole, a local firm with a significant body of work within the capital and across the country. Participating firms include the Center for the Built Environment, Front Inc., Heintges, REX, Steven Holl Architects, Thomas Phifer and Partners, Tishman Speyer, and Transsolar. Prior to the conference, AN sat down with Hickok Cole associate principal and co-chair Elba Morales, and director of sustainable design Holly Lennihan, to discuss the firm's ongoing projects and the programming of the morning symposium. AN: Over the last few months, Hickok Cole has guided the curation of Facades+ Washington D.C. What aspects of the capital's design culture do you hope are captured in the three panels, and what lessons do you hope are learned?  Elba Morales: As the Nation’s capital, DC is at the center of the news cycle spotlight. We say that national news is our local news because it unfolds blocks away from where we live and work. We understand that decisions at the federal level have a huge impact on our everyday lives. Because federal buildings—traditionally in light stone and with a monumental, institutional quality—dominate how DC is perceived architecturally, there is a misconception that the city’s new architecture is either stylistically undifferentiated from the traditional or is restrained. And the reality is that there are very interesting and forward-thinking buildings being built here, right now. There is a wide range of materials, scale, and placemaking power in a good number of buildings recently completed. We have very exciting and technically daring glass facades in the pleated glass veil of The International Spy Museum and in the fluted curved glass facade of 2050 M Street for example, which we’ll discuss in our first panel “Curved and Pleated”. On our second panel “Placemaking and Monumentality” we will feature two new civic buildings defined by their sculptural quality made possible by the use of solid facades. These buildings claim their place as objects in the landscape. The REACH at The Kennedy Center does so in an urban setting, while Glenstone emerges out of its pastoral setting. Both usher in a new contemporary monumentality that makes the case for classic modern and minimal architecture. And as a result of Mayor Bowser’s mandate, with the Clean Energy Act DC, we will transition to run on 100% renewable power and reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2032. This will require efficient and sophisticated facades that respond to the orientation and positively contribute to the overall energy efficiency of the building. In our “High-Performance Facades” panel, we will discuss case studies and assemblies that will be relevant to this effort of melding climate change mitigation goals with stunning architectural design. The convergence of these challenges and potential will inspire our planners, architects, engineers, and owners to keep elevating the quality of the architecture we produce. One panel, "Curved and Pleated: Advanced Applications of Glass," will feature the International Spy Museum. Which aspect of the project are you most excited to dive into, especially in juxtaposition to the second case study of the panel, 2050 M Street? We are thrilled that our first panel will feature two of the most daring and tectonically unique glass buildings in the city, The International Spy Museum and 2050 M Street. Hickok Cole is very excited to have partnered with Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to collaborate on The International Spy Museum, because of its impactful architecture and the transformation of L’Enfant Plaza and 10th Street. The facade—designed by RSHP—draws inspiration from espionage by “hiding in plain sight” the program. The exhibit space is surrounded by an angled “black box” which is in turn, layered with an oversized pleated glass veil, supported by red fins and cantilevered over public space. The strong urban move creates a landmark at the peak of 10th Street that is visible from the National Mall. Internally, the veil houses the atrium and a grand staircase that connects the exhibits. As Architect of Record, we want to share the complexity of this feature facade, its tectonics, detailing, procurement, and construction to give the audience a sense of what it takes to follow through on a vision this bold. In parallel, we want to discuss with Tishman Speyer, REX, and Front, the stunning curved glass facade of 2050 M Street. This new office building features oversized, floor-to-floor, concave glass panels that take advantage of the structural properties of curved glass in compression to eliminate the vertical mullions typical in office building facades. The form of the glass panels—as well as the coatings— create an unusual pattern of transparency and modulated reflections that articulate the overall form. We are delighted to gain insights from the perspective of the client, the architect, and the facade consultant. The capital is no stranger to monumental design. From your perspective, what role does opacity place in the poignancy of The REACH and the Glenstone Museum? The most evident quality of opaque facades is the way in which the material itself reacts to natural light, the way it registers sunlight and shadows distinctly throughout the day and the nuances of the seasons. Opaque facades can convey weight and solidity, plasticity and sculptural qualities, scale, and monumentality, that afford them strong placemaking potential. The weathering of solid, opaque materials is distinct and specific. Natural forces continuously add architectural meaning and register the passage of time. And even though both of these buildings sit within—and relate to—the landscape differently, the openings in their facades frame views deliberately. The materiality, the sculptural qualities, and the solid to void interplay create a new kind of monumentality in the city, one that is minimalist and classically modern. We are thrilled to be able to hear from the designers at Steven Holl Architects and Thomas Phifer and Partners, as well as from Heintges, the facade consultant at Glenstone. Washington D.C.'s city council recently passed a stringent clean energy act. What techniques and methodologies is Hickok Cole practicing to meet the code, and how do you perceive Transsolar and the Center for the Built Environment's participation in the third panel, "High-Performance Facades and Materials Research" informing the processes of local firms? Holly Lennihan: There are several significant changes in Hickok Cole’s design process due to the experience of working on the American Geophysical Union headquarters renovation to Net Zero Energy. First, we now insist that the full engineering team start concurrently with the design team. This early participation is furthered by staging a conceptual design charrette that lays out the potential strategies to achieve net-zero energy. Second, we seek partners that are willing to undertake new technologies. One example is when we considered heated mullions for a glass facade. A D.C. colleague put us in touch with a New York City-based engineer and a fantastically useful conference call ensued. The facade was detailed and evaluated; ultimately the system worked better on a colder environment than in our region. Third, we connect with universities that host research around the built environment. We collaborated on a graduate-level course for the University of Oregon’s Institute for Health in the Built Environment master’s program and we participate in monthly calls to discuss their diverse research projects. We are part of the University of Washington’s Embodied Carbon Network because we know that carbon will soon play a bigger role in how we think about the materials that go in our buildings. Locally, we have partnered with George Mason University’s Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship on grant funding for cross-laminated timber research and indoor air quality studies. Transsolar conveys a certainty that design and engineering should produce elegant, effective, smart, and cost-effective solutions. We believe that their projects will provide enlightening information and show their dedication to doing work that goes beyond ‘building-as-usual’ and will energize the audience to aspire to do better work in the DMV. The Center for the Built Environment plays a key role in providing practitioners data and in-depth analysis of building components, especially facades. Their rigorous and unbiased look at high-performance case studies creates a means for architects to adopt groundbreaking facade systems knowing the benefits and challenges. This information is also useful for owners, developers, and end-users. We hope that in the future, case studies from DC will make their way to the Center for review! Further information regarding the speakers and websites is found on the conference website.
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Making History

Major updates proposed for Rockefeller Plaza overhaul
  The landmarked public spaces and plaza of Rockefeller Center, designed in large part by The Associated Architects (an umbrella name for a collection of firms at the time) and built in the early 1930s, are up for a major revamp. Gabellini Sheppard Associates, along with Tishman Speyer, who owns most of the plaza, are proposing a series of changes large and small which went up in front of the Landmark Preservation Commission yesterday (the full proposal is available here). Some of the interventions, which were on the whole well-received, were intended to bring the famous Midtown location more closely in line with its original intent and increase public access and streamline circulation. Perhaps the most symbolic move towards this would be the relocation of a ten-foot-wide “credo” monument honoring John D. Rockefeller, Jr., that was added in the 1960s away from the stairwell where it currently stops the flow of foot traffic and into the gardens. The large stone parapet around the sunken plaza’s central stairwell that was added when ice skating became an annual activity, would be changed to a more delicate brass railing with planters. Both would be removable such that in the warmer months a larger staircase could be added, as was originally in place in the early 1930s. Doors within the sunken plaza that are currently of different heights and punctuated unevenly would be standardized, though the LPC seemed to push back against all-glass walls. Gabellini Sheppard intends to replace much of the stone—which is deteriorating in places—in kind, though the LPC suggested they attempt to retain as much as possible. The pools featuring block glass in the channel garden would be renovated to their former reflective luster thanks to mirror-backed structural glass that would still allow sunlight to filter to the concourse below. Other changes include the moving of statues, flag poles, and rearranging some landscaping, which the commission asked be in part reconsidered. Softer lighting would be integrated throughout, and new terrazzo and other pavements would be added. The height of the road, which is three inches lower than the sidewalks, would be brought up to that same level. The most contentious proposal was the addition of new elevators and the shifting of some stairwells. The current glass canopy elevators would be replaced with transparent volumes topped with bronze. While many on the commission commended the simplicity and transparency, the proposal to integrate screens for public art displays was opposed, including by the local community board, which supported the project otherwise. After responding to suggestions, Gabellini Sheppard Associates will go before the LPC again at a later date with a revised proposal.
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Green Light, No!

NYC Parks Department required to rethink controversial redesign of Fort Greene Park
Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park will live to see another day in its current state.  After over three years of controversy, the New York Supreme Court has decided that the 30-acre landscape would not be subject to a redesign or the removal of 83 mature trees until a proper environmental impact review is conducted. The lawsuit was brought against the N.Y.C. Parks Department last April, in which the Sierra Club, the City Club of New York, and Friends of Fort Greene Park (FFGP) demanded the court pause the $10.5 million renovation of the park’s northside entrance, which would have effectively destroyed a 1970’s brutalist plaza by landscape architect A. E. Bye, Jr.  Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1868, Fort Greene Park has been renovated three times in its history. The plan put forth by the Parks Department would revamp the northwestern corner on Myrtle Avenue, an area heavily utilized by local residents in a nearby housing development, and knock out Bye’s pathway—a series of mounds reminiscent of graves as AN previously noted—that leads visitors already inside the park to the 150-foot-tall Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument. The leveling of this iconic intervention, according to stakeholders, and the addition of the proposed concrete plaza would replace an existing 13,000-square-feet of green space.  The decision to update the park is part of the Park Department’s Parks Without Borders program, an initiative started in 2015 to upgrade eight city parks with enhanced accessibility and better connectivity to the neighborhoods that surround them, free of fencing. The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the redesign in late 2017.  Based on the recent hearing, the Parks Department is now required to conduct a full environmental review before moving forward with the project. A previously released assessment was denounced by Friends of Fort Greene Park, which found out via a Freedom of Information Act request that the initial statement was heavily redacted and excluded comments from a city-hired landscape architect who recommended all trees be kept on-site, except those that were weak or weren’t in keeping with the park’s historic nature.  “The Parks Department fell short in its responsibilities to be transparent and accountable throughout its Parks Without Borders design process,” said Ling Hsu, president of FFGP, who agrees the northside of the park needs enhancements, but specifically, maintenance repairs and accessibility updates.  “This park isn’t broken,” she said, “so ‘fixing’ it only means giving it some long-delayed maintenance attention, not the significant redesign the Parks Department has planned.”  Nick Paolucci, a spokesperson for the city's law department, told AN in an email that it will continue to work together with Parks to pursue the proposal in full: “The court has delayed important park enhancements such as improved accessibility and other benefits that were supported by the community," wrote Paolucci. "We disagree with this ruling—the city followed the law and the approvals needed for this type of project. An environmental review was not required. We are reviewing the city’s legal options to continue this important initiative.”
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Bringing up Beanie

Anish Kapoor's New York bean is finally rising at 56 Leonard
Long live the new bean: The long-delayed New York version of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Chicago (colloquially known as The Bean) is finally rising at the foot of the Jenga-like Herzog & de Meuron’s (and executive architect Hill West Architects) 56 Leonard in Tribeca. Prep work for the mirrored sculpture began last summer, as the sculpture’s outline was marked out on the concrete plaza below the tower. Installation proper began in October, and the piece, a bean similar to Cloud Gate but squished below 56 Leonard’s mass, has steadily been arriving in pieces since then. Although the building above was completed in 2016, the bean, which was always intended as part of 56 Leonard (featuring into renderings as far back as 2008) has been repeatedly delayed. As Tribeca Citizen explains in an excerpt from fabricators Performance Structures, Inc. to the building’s developer in 2018:
The Leonard Street sculpture requires equivalent accuracy and precision, but with an added component. Cloud Gate was assembled in Chicago from the finished plate sections and support framework, built at our facility, and then all the joining seams were welded together on site. After the seams were welded, they all needed to be ground down, and the seam zones sanded and polished to match the rest of the plate surfaces. This on-site seam welding was very laborious and extremely costly. […] [...] In order to make the Leonard Street sculpture installation more expeditious, and to save costs, it was decided to build the precision components such that they could be tightly fit together, with the seams thereby becoming nearly invisible hair line cracks. This concept was successfully tested in a sample piece produced by us, and presented to the Artist for his approval prior to beginning the project.
In addition to needing to mill and test extremely precise, interlocking metal plates, each segment will need to be bolted to the concrete plaza, then a system of tension cables for each section will need to be installed and properly calibrated. This will allow the bean to sway with the wind and expand and contract safely with fluctuations in temperature. Although at the time of writing the sculpture is sitting approximately half-finished with the exposed opening covered in plywood, it looks like 56 Leonard will finally be finished.
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Moving Forward

NYC launches new website outlining timeline and process for the BQX streetcar
After much uncertainty and relative quiet, an updated timeline has been announced for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX streetcar) that would connect 11 miles of Brooklyn and Queens. The City’s Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Transportation have launched a new website detailing the proposed streetcar, along with previously released and new reports, which would run from Red Hook to Astoria and connect 13 subway lines and 30 bus routes. The BQX team proposes having at least five community board presentations and a minimum of five workshops this winter, and intend to collect public opinion on the $2.7 billion project via the new website and engage in on-the-ground outreach. There will be public hearings and the collection of comments in May and June, followed by a draft environmental impact statement in the spring of next year, with the final version to be released in fall of 2021 following public comment. Alternative options to the light rail line will reportedly be considered (the website gives the example of a dedicated bus lane). Currently, the city aims to open the line in 2029. If all goes according to plan, the city will then seek federal funding (as much as $1 billion according to previous reports) and undertake a land-use review, get the necessary approvals, and select designers, contractors, and companies to run the BQX. Funding has been a major hurdle for the streetcar. The federal government has certainly not been generous with infrastructure projects as of late, especially in areas the current administration sees as opposed to it. While it was suggested that Amazon (which was going to receive nearly $3 billion in subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives) might have footed part of the bill when they had planned to build their HQ2 in Long Island City, that option is obviously off the table. Many City Council members have questioned the price tag relative to the streetcar's projected ridership and the desperate need for upgrades to transit options elsewhere. Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to advocate for the project, however.
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Exclusive First Look

New Museum and Onassis USA will launch a mixed reality lab in Leong Leong–designed space
The New Museum’s NEW INC and Onassis USA, the American outpost of the Greek arts organization, have announced a new joint venture focused on mixed reality projects. Called ONX Studio (for Onassis, NEW INC eXtended Reality Studio), the project will begin as a two-year pilot program and will function as an accelerator, workspace, and gallery located in a 4,000-square-foot space in Midtown’s Olympic Tower, in a space being redesigned by Leong Leong ONX Studio has in part grown out of projects by NEW INC members and the challenges they’ve posed. “One of the thrilling things around NEW INC is that mixed reality has organically become a huge area of focus for the members,” explained Karen Wong, deputy director of the New Museum and cofounder of NEW INC, noting that many past residents, working with AR and VR, have found success at forums such as Sundance, South by Southwest, and the Tribeca Film Festival. However, mixed reality is new, and festivals, museums, and galleries are still exploring how to best incorporate it into their programming “Mixed reality is an area that’s growing by leaps and bounds but there’s no bespoke spaces in New York for this artist working with it,” said Wong. The new Leong Leong–designed space is being built specifically for year-long residents to experiment and create in, as well as to provide a platform to exhibit and share their work. Christopher Leong described ONX Studio as a “hybrid space,” one that blends its roles as both workspace and exhibition space. It will be focused around a large room that acts as an “immersive toolbox.” Secondary spaces, such as an acoustically-isolated exhibition space, as well as basics like kitchens and conference space will flank the center room, which is lined by an acoustic curtain. Furniture will be flexible, creating a kind of "cast of characters," that can be relocated throughout the studio. A theatrical grid of outlets, tracks, lighting, and other technological infrastructure will be built-in into the space, allowing for a flexible use of the studio, which could also be further subdivided or opened up. “The hope is that it’s open-ended in the way that it can be used,” explained Leong, “whether it’s for recording bodies in space with volumetric capture, as an artist's studio, or as a place to exhibit projections or sound pieces or mixed reality live performances. Our goal was to create an infrastructure that could support artists in many ways. We wanted to create a sense that the space could be transformational.”  Wong noted that she saw the partnership with Onassis as especially compelling given the international organization’s penchant for commissioning radical theatrical works, and for their underway development of a program in Greece that shares sympathies with NEW INC, the Onassis Lab. ONX Studio plans to announce its initial dozen residents and open this spring. The artists—including previous NEW INC alumni—will spend a year developing mixed reality projects to be exhibited during a month-long showcase next winter. The program is being overseen by Wong along with NEW INC director Stephanie Pereira, Onassis USA artistic and executive director Vallejo Gantner, and the Onassis Foundation’s head of digital and innovation Prodromos Tsiavos.