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Spirit of MoMA Past, Present, and Future

MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program curators and alumni talk about its future
Less than a month after the $450 million expansion of MoMA, hints began circulating of the potential cancellation of MoMA PS1's Young Architecture Program (YAP). Begun in 1999 as the first collaboration between the merged institutions, Philip Johnson celebrated his birthday party that summer with a DJ booth commemorating the disco era, spinning Frank Sinatra's "My Way" as the program's initial gesture. For the next 20 years, the jury asked deans, critics, and editors to nominate 30 young firms to compete, selecting a shortlist of five to develop concepts for the annual outdoor pavilion in the Queens-based PS1's courtyard. "The two most open departments to collaboration from day one of the announcement were film and architecture," said PS1 founder Alanna Heiss. "We had a gigantic space that had been used for large-scale installations of sculpture and big outdoor performance programs. We'd done a summer before of a kind of trial Warm Up, which had been more successful than, shall we say, we wanted it to be; ie., we had crowds and crowds of people that we had to devise systems to control for safety. But to merge architecture with the beginning of Warm Up was just a dream." MoMA's chief architecture curator at the time was Terence Riley, who conceived of the initial framework. "An opportunity presented itself in that a couple proposed to MoMA in a meeting with Glenn Lowry [the museum's director] and myself a prize for young architects in honor of the husband's father," said Riley. "He was focused on young architects, and he was thinking that it would be a prize. I was wary and am now about museums giving out prizes. It was really at the spur of the moment that we flipped the conversation to this Young Architects Program. Probably more than any kind of a medal, getting the opportunity for a young architect to actually build something in New York City—which is a freestanding element rather than an interior—I thought this would be super exciting for the museum and for the cadre of young architects of the period." Marcel Breuer had built a temporary house in MoMA's garden in the 1950s, and the Serpentine Pavilion in London also began in 2000 with a much larger budget. The Venice Architecture Biennale's pavilions bear some resemblance, too. During his time as MoMA's chief architecture curator, Barry Bergdoll instigated the impressive Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling in 2008, building housing models in MoMA-owned adjacent lots, which pushed the temporary building program in another productive direction. But YAP was the first temporary pavilion program of its kind in the world. "The first winner was SHoP, and it set a very high standard," Riley said. "It immediately became super competitive, and what I think is amazing, people put so much effort into it, many of the installations stand out as being a turning point in a lot of careers for some amazing architects. You can make a list of them. It's pretty incredible." YAP became an influential model around the world, with MoMA organizing partner pavilions at the National Museum of XXI Century Arts (MAXXI) in Rome, with CONSTRUCTO in Santiago, Chile, at Istanbul Modern, and at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul. "The fact that it has a use was critical in the sense that it wasn't just architects scribbling and coming up with seductive forms, although they often did, but they did often have a focus and guidelines," Riley said of YAP. "That gave it some rigor and also some humor. This was for a DJ event. It was about fun; it was about enjoyment. It had it's own character, which was really great." AN asked past YAP winners and curators to comment on its value to their careers, to young architects, and to the field, and to suggest possible future directions for the program. AN: How would you evaluate the program as a platform for you or other young architects to develop their ideas and gain recognition? Florian Idenburg, SO-IL For SO-IL, our installation, Pole Dance, was career-defining. We cannot recognize enough the importance that the program has had on a generation of architects. This potential is something MoMA should not underestimate and should try to maintain as it finds its new form. After two decades, any temporary event starts to lose its potential. I am excited to see what comes next. Eric Bunge, nARCHITECTS The program has undoubtedly been a launchpad for architecture firms, including ours, but its more important impact has been as a petri dish for ideas. Pedro Gadanho, former MoMA curator of architecture and design In a context in which debt-ridden young architects probably have to enter corporate offices just to survive, YAP provided one of the few design opportunities in the U.S. in which a smaller scale, more experimental studio could try out architectural ideas outside the market. And with MoMA’s notoriety [renown] behind it, winning it surely provided a boost in visibility at [an] international level. In this sense, after such a history has been made, scrapping it sounds profoundly unfortunate for the architectural field in the States, as well as for MoMA’s role within it. Gregg Pasquarelli, SHoP founding principal This program was an incredibly important platform for SHoP and other young firms. Dunescape [in inaugural 2000] was one of the first projects that put SHoP on the map in a meaningful way, and we are very grateful to have been a part of MoMA’s incubator. It showed us the tremendous R&D value of designing and constructing exhibitions and temporary pavilions and informs the way that we work to this day. What we learned through Dunescape has proven scalable and enabled us to conceptualize a new way of working that we are hopeful will revolutionize the entire architecture and construction industry. Jenny Sabin, Jenny Sabin Studio Winning the 2017 MoMA and MoMA PS1 YAP competition marked a major transition point in my professional creative career. My built work up until that point had been largely experimental, indoors, and at the pavilion scale. The platform enabled me to push design research to an entirely different scale, to engage active environmental conditions, diverse publics, and to respond to and integrate unique public programs for Warm Up. I can't underscore enough the positive role and impact YAP plays in our field and practice. It was the most rewarding and meaningful project that I have completed to date. It was an incredible honor and the international exposure was mind-boggling. YAP elevated my practice to an entirely new level with new and ongoing projects all over the world. Tobias Armborst, Interboro Partners For Interboro the program was important, changing the trajectory of our work. The particular response we found to the question of temporary architecture really brought forward our interest in rethinking community engagement and developing architecture not only as a product but as an open process that can involve many actors. Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee, OBRA The YAP program was of course not perfect, the budget was too modest and so were the design fees—in our case our aim to adequately respond to the programmatic requirement of shade ended up being achievable only after being supplemented by a huge other fundraising effort on our part. In later years YAP had also become a franchise for MoMA, sprouting sideshows all over the world. Museums in Santiago, Istanbul, Rome, and Seoul had their own versions of YAP. Sometimes the work produced for these colonial outposts was interesting, but one can't help but wonder if it would not have been better to focus more concentratedly in advancing the conceptual intentions of the effort instead of multiplying it without any kind of contextual adjustment all over the globe. By 2006 when, thanks to YAP, OBRA got its chance to build Beatfuse! in the courtyards of the museum, one could already sense in the place a feeling of being under the intervention of some kind of colonial financial overlord. We were lucky enough to still enjoy the residual presence of the original "guerrilla" attitude which was alive and well in the people that ran and worked in the place: Alanna herself, a great champion of the daring and inspired; Brett Littman, the deputy director who saved our skin several times as we were trying to build Obra's overly-ambitious proposal; Tony Guerrero, the chief installer who—as I remember—used to keep a huge cage full of birds inside his office; and Sixto Figueroa, the congenial head of the Boricua-dominated PS1 shop, the place which, that spring, all of the sudden became our second home. How would you evaluate its success or limits as a model? Pedro Gadanho Its success depended entirely on the architect’s propositions, and how [over] time these could provide yet another design insight into a constricted site, namely by advancing more conceptual alternatives into low-budget construction systems, environmental inventions, and sometimes fascinating functional add-ons. Its limits were the usual ones for this type of initiative: that budgets were never as elastic as architects would love them to be. Terence Riley, former MoMA architecture and design curator, founding partner K/R Architects I definitely think it's a really good thing. Architecture is so abstract now: BIM modeling and so on—I just remember someone asking me, is that a photograph or a rendering? There's this lack of certainty, at least in the world of reproduction. The young architects who got involved in these projects, I am certain it's the first time they were on a job site in such an extended manner and felt the building up close in terms of materials and how things went together. In the beginning, it also addressed the local issue: the lack of younger people to build a building in New York City. It was amazing how much it expanded because of this hyper-competitiveness that seized that whole generation. Where should it go in the future, if it continues, or has the temporary pavilion framework been exhausted, as some critics have suggested? Or what should they do instead? Florian Idenburg Yes, a rethink is very timely. The wide range of issues that at this moment is leading to rage and despair on the streets of the world are real signals that there is an urgent need for real action and real change. The institutions that we brought into the world to “educate” the people—the museums, libraries, and universities—will have to decide. Either remain on the sidelines and continue to offer repose and shelter from the pressures of this much-needed realignment or become active participants. One can imagine the MoMA partnering with city agencies or nonprofits and developing a program in which they sponsor design fees for young architects to work on actual projects that have lasting benefits for people. One can imagine projects that take multiple years and are developed collectively, possibly using PS1 as a space for debate, work, and communication. Eric Bunge It should definitely continue, not only to maintain MoMA’s crucial role in catalyzing architectural ideas, but to continue engaging wider publics. The framework that is important to maintain is the constant renewal of the courtyard, not necessarily one that produces a pavilion. That’s just a problem definition. I think MoMA should find a way to bring back some of the simplicity of the early years, and address the increasingly [difficult] challenges faced by young architects:
  • Cover or reduce the insurance requirements. There were none when we built Canopy; we therefore made it as safe as possible.
  • Start the process much sooner, to allow for more time to design and build.
  • Encourage the architects to design ephemeral environments with the thousands of users in mind, as opposed to (only) creating objects.
Pedro Gadanho The inventiveness with which every participant’s solution showed new possibilities for that site showed that the model was the opposite of exhausted... Gregg Pasquarelli We’re big fans of the temporary nature of the pavilion framework. There’s something exciting and liberating about a project that exists only for a moment in time. The best pavilions have come from the freedom and invention of this approach. Jenny Sabin In taking this hiatus to reevaluate YAP, MoMA is in a unique position to reframe the value of architecture to the broader public and within our niche architecture communities. I don't think the temporary pavilion framework will ever be exhausted. That's like saying architecture has been exhausted. I think the platform needs to be evaluated, and refreshed with eyes on the pressing issues of our time. Important areas that should be examined and discussed include labor, budget, waste and sustainable materials, liability, context, and program—all of which are integral architectural constraints and parameters. Tobias Armborst I went to a discussion of former YAP winners at MoMA recently, and some of those questions were raised there: Is the pavilion still relevant given that there are so many competitions for temporary pavilions now? Is this still the right site? I came away from it thinking that in spite of the changing context, YAP still kind of works as a stage for young architects to present ideas. It’s great to see all these different responses to the site and the temporary nature of the project. However, one aspect in which the program could use an update is perhaps less a change in venue, program, or duration, but in rethinking the compensation. It seems like the program is still based on an outdated idea of self-exploitation on the part of architects, and the expectation of a lot of free labor on the part of students, volunteers, etc. Thinking about new ways of providing fair compensation for design labor (at least the labor of “volunteers”) I think would be [a] very timely update. I don’t mean to just ask for more money, but I think there could be a greater acknowledgment of how architecture is actually made, and by whom, in a rethinking of the compensation model. Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee Seeing the YAP program suspended is indeed not only sad but also a little bit ominous. In a way, we fear YAP's demise corresponds all too well with the less-than-absolutely-thrilling zeitgeist under which we all live these days in New York City. It makes it only too obvious that time has run out for art (and architecture) as a form of insidious and idealistic cultural guerrilla-warfare. We fancy that was the spirit under which PS1 was originally created by Alanna Heiss in 1971. Should they commission a more durable conversion of the courtyard? Eric Bunge A durable conversion would be a huge missed opportunity. Better a series of interesting potential small mistakes than a permanent potential big one. The emptiness and randomness of that courtyard is the cool counterpoint to MoMA’s sculpture garden. If only every other cultural institution had such a powerful void and the bravery to periodically fill it and empty it. So much of its value is its perpetual renewal. Pedro Gadanho I don’t think a "more durable conversion" substitutes the curatorial trajectory that YAP represented. That would be just another commission, which any museum does regularly to update spaces [to fill] to their needs. Gregg Pasquarelli I’m not sure it’s our place to comment on what form the program should take, but we look forward to seeing what they come up with next! Terence Riley A lot of programs in museums are dependent on one donor who is willing to subsidize it in perpetuity. People wanted to be involved with this because it was frankly a success, and having SHoP lead with such a strong project definitely set a fairly high bar. When I say it's still useful, that doesn't mean in an abstract sense—where that happens isn't really relevant. Could it have gotten stale in Long Island City at PS1? Certainly at this point I would find it hard to think that there was a huge amount of excitement, at least the kind of excitement that there was in the first decade, shall we say. It wasn't just among the young architects, it was also in the media it was covered nationally and internationally; and so on one hand, it's still relevant, on the other hand, a pause doesn't sound like a terrible thing. Things could be done in different ways. I did start the program, but I don't feel that the museum's doing something unethical or whatever. Maybe it's time for a pause. Jenny Sabin I think this requires discussion with previous YAP winners, nominators, students, the architecture community, and Warm Up partygoers, and that's exactly what MoMA is doing. I'm excited to see what happens next. Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee The successive curators of architecture at MoMA, Terence Riley, Barry Bergdoll, Andres Lepik, Pedro Gadagno, and Martino Stierli all seemed to have done their best to steer YAP toward a position of meaningful significance every year by proposing enlightened programmatic propositions: The project aims to explore and improve upon the quality of public space by implementing the elements of shade, water, seating, bars, and sustainability at this site... The commission is to design and realize a project for summer relaxation and interaction—offering the sort of space often denied to urbanites... After over a decade of successful YAP projects, we now focus the competition to encourage designs based on themes of sustainability, recycling, and reuse... This year, we are keen to consider new materials and materiality as a component of the portfolio (and, ultimately, the final design schemes)... We seek designs that are environmentally sensitive, provide elements of shade, water, and seating while also having [the] potential for fun! All these goals were of course very worthy and desirable, but also hardly in keeping with the revolutionary disruptive objectives with which MoMA first came into prominence in the early 20th century. To be fair, by the turn of the century perhaps the boat had also already sailed on that. Nonetheless, we daydreamed that YAP could have evolved at some point to become the vehicle for putting forward a more considered project for the future of architecture and the city using its public platform to publicize and disseminate a more progressive vision of the future of the built environment. Perhaps something other than urbanism via real estate speculation and architecture via marketing spectacle? Who knows? Notwithstanding these shortcomings, YAP was a valuable program that allowed a rare channel of expression for architects making their first foray into the discipline. As one of the beneficiaries of such initiative, we regret its discontinuation and hope for its return.
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WeTV

WeWork is getting a TV show as it lays off 900 employees in NYC
The dramatic rise and fall of WeWork will soon be transformed into a TV series, and Nicholas Braun (aka Cousin Greg) of HBO’s hit show Succession will be playing the company’s cofounder, Adam Neumann.  Chernin Entertainment and Endeavor Content have acquired the TV rights to the saga detailed in a forthcoming book from Wall Street Journal reporters Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell which will be published by Penguin Random House imprint Crown. Having extensively reported on the nearly $50 billion startup for years, Chernin and Endeavor are also working on a WeWork documentary, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The writer of the limited series and the network it will air on have not yet been announced, however, Braun will executive produce the project. While the TV series is the latest in WeWork projects, others also have plans in the works. Blumhouse Productions will produce a feature film based on an upcoming book by Fast Company’s Katrina Brooker, and Campfire announced it would be producing a documentary with Business Insider Meanwhile, today the actual WeWork is in the process of laying off over 900 New York City employees after announcing last month that they would lay off about 2,400 employees across the company. The filing, required because of the high number of positions to be cut, listed that 911 New York employees would be affected, mostly in Manhattan. Additionally, the company is also trying to spin-off (or shut down) the various office management and co-working startups it had acquired during its rise. According to the filing, of the 911 employees, 262 (largely maintenance workers) will be offered transitional positions to one or more third-party vendors. The locations with the most affected are 85 Broad Street with 250 employees, 1619 Broadway with 71 employees, and 12 49th Street with 23 employees.
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Modern Rhymes

Jacques Tati's Villa Arpel takes the cake at Design Miami
Perhaps the most seminal of seminal French filmmaker Jacque Tati's epochal projects, Mon Oncle (1958) tells the story of Monsieur Hulot. The film follows him as he comes to terms with modern life; postwar France's infatuation with mechanical efficiency and mass consumption. In true Tati fashion, set design, lighting, sound, and visual effect played a vital role in this movie, more so than actual dialogue. Some might argue that Tati's true skill was in architecture and design. At the center of Monsieur Hulot's noble and comedic struggle is the Villa Arpel, a domestic mise-en-scene, and protagonist that emulates if not exaggerates these period-sensitive conditions. Set behind a garden of geometrically-puzzled grass patches and colored stone walkways, a boxy home takes on a life of its own. Its frontal, circular windows become watchful eyes while a whole host of dysfunctional gadgets and appliances puts Monsieur Hulot through a series of running gags. This particular home, set in a fictitious suburban development outside of Paris, is indicative of a society or new generation that favors style over substance. Paying homage to this absurdist and satirical masterpiece, New York gallery Les Atelier Courbet teamed up with architecture practice Thirwall Design to conceive the Please Be Seated installation during last week's Design Miami. Coinciding with the release of Taschen's comprehensive monograph Jacques Tati: The Complete Work, the fair booth showcase was mounted for the US launch of three limited-edition furniture designs, the French studio Domeau & Pérès extracted from the film and reproduced. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Form & Process

ATRA instills its cofounders' Swedish-Mexican heritage in it's first New York show
After opening two galleries this year in Mexico City and San Francisco, multi-disciplinary studio ATRA makes its East Coast debut with their first solo show in New York City. Titled Form & Process, the exhibition showcases the works of Swedish-Mexican cofounders Alexander and Andreas Diaz Andersson, alongside upcoming designers Bogus Studio, Jose Balmaceda, Ann Edholm, and Jose Vera Matos. The showcase is on view at Tuleste Factory through January 2020, by appointment only. Pairing silk-screened and embroidered canvases by Andreas with furnishings by Alexander, the brothers create a dialogue between art and design. Here, an experimental study of material and form ensues a dichotomous blend of their Swedish and Mexican lineages: warm woods and sleek lines, characteristic of Scandinavian design, combine with dark stains and leather distinctive of furniture produced in Mexico during the mid-20th-century. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Aggregate Duo

COOKFOX skirts the East River with 3D-molded precast concrete panels
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The waterfront surrounding Brooklyn's former Domino Sugar Refinery continues to rise at a dizzying pace and, similar to DUMBO to the south, this spate of growth is led by Two Trees Development—ongoing projects include PAU's reinvention of the Domino Sugar Refinery and the recently announced BIG-designed towers. Unlike other sections of the Williamsburg waterfront which are dominated by swaths glass high-rises, the Domino Sugar site is a largescale demonstration of opacity. Ten Grand and One South First, a project designed by architectural practice COOKFOX, continues the trend with custom-blended aggregate precast concrete panels. Programatically, the development is split between two distinct masses—respectively housing residential and office functions—and rests atop a three-story podium acting as a full-block streetwall. Ten Grand, the residential tower, rises to a height 42-stories and careens over the 22-story One South First; both are connected by a glass-clad sky bridge located at the summit of One South First.
  • Facade Manufacturer Gate Precast Schüco Skyline Windows
  • Architect COOKFOX
  • Facade Installer Gate Precast AM Architectural Metal & Glass
  • Structural Engineer Rosenwasser Grossman Consulting Engineers
  • Location Brooklyn, New York
  • Date of Completion 2020
  • System Skyline Windows 1200 Series Dual Action with crank handle (“Tilt / Turn”) Skyline Windows 1200 Series Fixed & Fixed 90° corners
  • Products Custom Gate Precast panels
For the facade, COOKFOX opted for precast concrete panels for both stylistic and performative decisions. "We fine-tuned the shape for each solar exposure to create a self-shading performative facade that decreases solar heat gain during the summer months," said COOKFOX senior associate Arno Adkins. "We were also very inspired by the history of the sugar refinery and the physical characteristics of sugar; shape, color, shadow, and reflectivity. We designed the precast around these characteristics to create a site-specific design that connects to the history of the place." The result is a collection of deep-set modules with chamfered mullions and spandrels that slightly variate according to elevation and function as an intended shading device. The architectural studio collaborated closely with manufacturer Gate Precast to develop the dimensions and molds for the concrete panels. Both teams shared an individual BIM model in Revit, facilitating constant dialogue and the advanced customization of the panels. "Without the ability to make realtime modifications in the architect's office and then share those changes with the fabrication team instantly, the process of design and detailing would have taken several more months to complete thus delaying production and delivery on-site," said Gate Precast. "Coordination with the architecture team on this project was the only way any of this was possible." The bulk of residential precast modules are 9'-9" tall by 5'-9", while those found at the podium and commercial tower are, for the most part, 12'-5" by 10'-0". Manufacturing of the panels occurred at Gate Precast's facilities in Kentucky and North Carolina, where the use of 3D-printed molds allowed nearly 200 castings per piece—typically a standard mold can only be used up to three or four times. After an acid wash and polish, the panels were outfitted with their window systems and glazing. Then came the journey hundreds of miles north to Williamsburg, where the panels were craned into position and fastened to the floor slab with a series of steel anchors connected to six steel embeds cast into the concrete panels.  
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Moving Downton

Van Alen Institute will move to Gowanus in Spring 2020
On Tuesday, the Van Alen Institute announced that they would be moving their home in Manhattan’s Flatiron District to a new, street-level space in Gowanus, Brooklyn, in Spring 2020. The ground lease of 303 Bond Street, a 3,500-square-foot space not only reflects the evolution of the design institute but also aligns with their broader mission as an organization. The announcement comes a year after the nonprofit sold its current storefront home at 30 West 22nd Street. “For Van Alen, maintaining a street-level space is not just symbolic; it is absolutely critical to our work,” explained Deborah Marton, executive director of the institute, in a recent press release. “We must use design thinking to answer questions we hear most often from outside the profession--questions about displacement, responsible city growth, and impacts of climate change,” she added. The Bond Street location will house the organization’s ongoing public programming as well as new workshops. With street-level access, the location reflects the commitment to foster conversations between communities by staying engaged with its surroundings and providing space for discussion on cities, design, and public health.  Marton elaborated that, “As we’ve learned in our Flatiron District space, street access gives us the single most important tool in answering these questions: a direct connection with the public. Our doors will be open to our Gowanus neighbors and we look forward to listening to them.”  “Van Alen’s new Gowanus space is an important mission-driven investment, and provides a sustainable home for our next 125 years,” said Jared Della Valle, Van Alen board chair and CEO of Alloy Development. “As we expand our work nationally, we look forward to learning from the ongoing conversations about climate change and equity in this neighborhood.”  With the success of a recent Miami project focused on the use of design and climate change, Van Alen hopes to continue expanding this work on local and national levels.
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BIG Cove Coming

BIG and James Corner Field Operations reveal Williamsburg’s newest blockbuster towers
Continuing the work done slightly south at Domino Park, today developer Two Trees revealed their newest addition to the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, waterfront. River Street will bring a pair of sloping towers designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and a circular esplanade, cove, beach, boat launch and more, courtesy of James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) to the East River end of Metropolitan Avenue. Two Trees described the project as not replicating the same park-on-a-pier typology as Domino Park but instead will slope to meet the water. Thanks to the existing concrete caissons already adjacent to the site at 87 and 105 River Street, BIG and JCFO have been able to propose building into the East River to create a total of six acres of public space. The BIG-designed towers, from the renderings, will loom over the surrounding neighborhood and dwarf the towers at the Domino Sugar Factory complex next door. Totaling 1.2 million square feet across both buildings, the towers will contain 750 market-rate apartment units, 250 affordable units, 47,000 square feet carved out for a new YMCA (with pool), 30,000 square feet for local retail, and 57,000 square feet of office space. An additional 5,000 square feet will be set aside at ground level for a series of community kiosks, which will likely contain amenities for parkgoers and kayakers. Although the towers will be tall—one will top out at 600 feet, and the other at 650 feet—BIG has attempted to soften their impact by “pinching,” pulling, and spreading out the massing at the base. The towers’ stature will have the added effect of framing the Manhattan skyline for those looking down Metropolitan, and Bjarke Ingels claimed that their triangular footprint was designed as a “funnel” for those looking to reach the shore. River Street’s most striking feature, at least when viewed from above, will be the circular esplanade and on-river landscaping mentioned earlier. Instead of lifting the shoreline bulkhead to protect from storm surges as is typical for a coastal development, JCFO wants to implement a series of berms and soft edges to both protect River Street from flooding and increase access to the river. That will include a new public beach (JCFO senior principle Lisa Switkin noted that New York’s waterways are the cleanest they’ve been in a century), nature trails, plenty of tidal basins, both saltwater and freshwater marshlands, an amphitheater, outdoor classroom, and more. As is fitting for the designers selected by Two Trees, the team claims that River Street borrows from the Netherlands model of “embracing the river” rather than trying to block it out. Accordingly, Ingels claimed that the River Street towers would be able to weather a 500-year-storm surge, thanks to the way the landscape would be able to break up the energy of incoming waves and the placement of the towers’ mechanicals on higher levels. When asked about a timeline, Two Trees was confident that they would be able to have River Street approved in the next two years under the current City Council administration, although the project will still need to undergo the mandatory seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). After the ULURP concludes, it should take another five years for River Street to be fully built out. The park and a single tower will be built in the first phase, and the second tower would come afterward. However, according to Switkin, because the project will build on to the East River, they will also need a joint permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Though, Switkin also noted, with the passage of the Living Shorelines Act (H.R.3115) in the House of Representatives earlier this week, federal momentum is building to enable exactly these types of projects. River Street will be entirely privately funded and maintained by Two Trees, similar to Domino Sugar Factory.
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The biggest and baddest

Facades+ returns to New York April 2-3
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Innovations in facade technology and, subsequently, New York's architectural landscape occur at a quick clip. On April 2+3, Facades+ is returning to New York in a robust two-day dialogue focused on the materials and techniques driving the next generation of enclosure design and engineering. This year, CetraRuddy founding principal John Cetra collaborated with The Architect's Newspaper to develop a robust program featuring architects, contractors, engineers, and fabricators. The first day of the program features two hour-long keynotes, delivered by UNSense founder Ben van Berkel and WXY principal-in-charge Claire Weisz. Additionally, Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto of Reiser Umemoto will dive into recent case studies, including a spate of projects coming online in Taiwan. Both keynotes will be followed with a moderated discussion where audience members will be provided the opportunity to directly ask the keynote speakers questions. The remainder of the day will be split between four panels: "Materiality & Fabrication: Bespoke Facade Solutions," with REX founding principal Joshua Prince-Ramus and OMA director Shohei Shigematsu; "Scaling up Passive House | For the Greater Good," featuring Handel Architects managing partner Gary Handel, Steven Winter Associates director Lois Arena, and Dattner principal John Woelfling; "Optimizing the Form," with Studio Gang design principal Weston Walker, Arup principal Markus Schulte, and Hatfield Group technical director Manan Raval; and "Adaptive Reuse Challenges in NYC Historic Icons," with ODA founder & executive director Eran Chen, Surface Design Group partner Russ Newbold, BKSK partner Todd Poisson, and BuroHappold Engineering associate principal John Ivanoff. The bulk of the panels are case study-based and will be split between two presentations led by the architect and facade consultant of each individual project, including the ongoing expansion of Tammany Hall and the recently completed ARO. For attendees looking for a further dive into facade technology and design, the second day of the conference will feature 14 separate intensive workshops. Participants choose one morning and one afternoon session, during which attendees will have an opportunity to learn from and interact with industry leaders in tutorial- and discussion-based seminars. Firms leading workshops include BKSK, BuroHappold Engineering, Büro Ehring, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Green Facades, HKS LINE, International Masonry Institute, Local 1 Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, MG Mcgrath, Morphosis, Oza Sabbeth, Roschmann, Sasaki, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, SOM, Surface Design Group, Studio NYL, and Walter P Moore. Further information regarding Facades+ NYC can be found here.
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Flying High?

Will this airport engineer be the next Architect of the Capitol?
On Monday, President Trump announced J. Brett Blanton as his nomination for the Architect of the Capitol (AOC).  Blanton is currently the deputy vice president for engineering at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority where he leads the planning, design, construction, and code enforcement for all properties controlled by the Airports Authority. While in the United States Navy he also oversaw “some of the largest infrastructure projects undertaken by the Department of the Navy,” according to the Whitehouse’s website All that said, Blanton is a licensed engineer (in the state of Georgia) but is not a licensed or practicing architect. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the United States Naval Academy, followed by a Master of Science in Ocean Engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.  If confirmed by the United States Senate, Blanton will serve a 10-year term and will be put in charge of maintaining the 18.4 million square foot Capitol complex, which includes Washington, D.C., landmarks such as the Library of Congress, U.S. Supreme Court building and Senate and House office buildings.  The previous AOC, Stephen T. Ayers, served from 2010 through November 2018 and oversaw the restoration of the U.S. Capitol Dome and the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial. He also launched the renewal of the Cannon House Office Building, a monumental, five-phase project that Blanton would take over during his term. Ayers completed his Bachelor of Science in Architecture at the University of Maryland and received his Master of Science in Systems Management from the University of Southern California, as well as an honorary Doctor of Public Design from the Boston Architectural College in recognition of his work in historic preservation.  According to Engineering News-Record, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee will have a scheduled confirmation hearing for Blanton on December 12.
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Beyond MoMA

Curatorial collective augments MoMA with an AR exhibition
"There’s so much modern and contemporary art that isn’t shown," the mononymous artist Damjanski said as we walked around the fifth-floor galleries of MoMA, iPhones in hand. "What if we could bring even more in?" Along with Monique Baltzer and David Lobser, Damjanski has come up with a solution to these limitations with MoMAR, an "unauthorized gallery" that lives inside the recently-reopened museum from which it derives its name. The gallery takes the form of an iPhone app that uses augmented reality (AR) to introduce new art into MoMA by latching onto physical artwork as triggers. Initial exhibitions earlier this year featured new works layered on top of the existing paintings, offering a sort of secret secondary exhibition.
 
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Install view of MoMAR v3 *Open to the Public* with @hikohikounko @manuelrossner @erinkostudios @exonemo

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For its third iteration, titled Open to the Public, the MoMAR curators wanted to push the boundaries of the museum further, digitally intervening into the museum's architecture more directly. Manuel Rossner’s contribution, Reef, reconfigures the room it "sits" in. The German artist, who primarily works in virtual reality, has created a colorful cavern that expands beyond the gallery’s wall. Rather than simply replacing a painting, it cannibalizes it, and in turn considers what environments—physical or digital—might be made within the white-walled constraints of the museum. This vibrant, biomorphic intervention, which is algorithmically generated, adds a dash of play to the relatively rigid structure of the institution. One can imagine the artificial depth causing problems for the less attentive, and MoMA does officially restrict panning phones through rooms if you’re filming. Other artworks cheekily deconstruct our relationships to how we consume (and make) images in the museum. Akihiko Taniguchi has introduced an "augmented selfie" into the gallery, where a 3D avatar of the artist floats in the iPhone’s view. The digital Taniguchi’s arm is outstretched, phone in hand. If you press your screen it will save a picture to your phone and the animated avatar will take a photo too, his virtual self capturing his face in front of a wall of Morris Hirshfield paintings. Strokes, by the Japanese duo exonemo, is an act of artistic intervention (or vandalism). Just what it sounds like, when an iPhone is pointed at its tag (Joseph Pickett's painting Manchester Valley) random Pollock-esque strokes of "paint" will appear on the screen, disrupting and damaging the otherwise pristinely kept MoMA and its carefully kept goods. New York-based Erin Ko’s La Barrera diffuses glitchy fractured signs throughout the gallery—shattered emojis, 3D pyramids and bottles, all what Ko calls "floating garbage." Black brushstrokes cover a canvas that digitally displays quickly changing insipid networked truisms: "You don’t know stress until you own a charger that only works if your phone is at a certain angle." Is that stress? By disrupting the art on display and its vaulted home with her own internet throw up, Ko seems to point out the banality of the glut of content online and off, the constant distractions that the privileged find on their phones and in museums, in buildings and on networks developed by so much labor and producing so much waste, all of which so often is ignored. Where some smaller works hang on the wall a hole opens up, a portal beyond the museum, to nowhere real. An outside we can never reach, the hole reveals the museum as a trap. Despite the ways these works might prod at the museum that made and continues to makes the modern canon, flouting its celebrated art and its architectural integrity, Damjanski noted that he is not anti-museum in the least. He loves coming to the MoMA, but he sees many new opportunities in and beyond traditional institutions. "Museums are so often a one-way conversation," he pointed out. "We want to see if it could be a three- or four-way conversation instead." By involving the user and new artists in the museum, disconnected from its official institutional and curatorial structures, a more democratic, flexible, and updatable MoMA—an augmented one—can be imagined. MoMAR also provides and proposes new ways of exhibiting net art and other creative practices that engage with emerging technology that museums, excluding certain projects such as Rhizome, have been relatively slow to keep up with—though there are some net works like JODI’s video My%Desktop in MoMA’s rehang. Of course, to visit Open to the Public you still have to get to MoMA and pay admission or attend on a free night, which is also when MoMAR hosts its openings. To further the democratizing potential of AR exhibitions, MoMAR’s team offers up its Unity-based platform as an open-source tool so that people around the world can create their own installations and exhibitions well beyond MoMA’s rarefied walls. Open to the Public Viewable with the MoMAR app at MoMA, gallery 521, fifth floor Through January 25, 2020
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Flower Power

David Hartt brings the tropics to Frank Lloyd Wright's Beth Sholom Synagogue
Orchids sprout their spindly stems skywards in search of water on rainy days. Leaves bunch in boxes, fighting one another for space in the light, vibrant pink. Not so distantly, a piano can be heard. This is the scene at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. It is a scene reminiscent of the lush floral paintings of Martin Johnson Heade, a citation noted by David Hartt, the artist behind this installation, The Histories (Le Mancenillier), on view at the synagogue through December 19. (Other references include the classical historian Herodotus, the Creole-Jewish composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and the Canadian experimental filmmaker Michael Snow). Heade was born not 25 miles from where the synagogue stands today, however, he traveled widely, visiting Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia, and other locales to create sensitive paintings of misty miniature worlds, all orchids and bugs and hummingbirds—a migratory creature with symbolic “affinity to abolitionist movement,” according to Hartt. Heade was himself a prominent abolitionist. Hartt too traveled for this work, filming scenes of waving foliage in Haiti and Louisiana for videos on display on two 98-inch monitors. The orchids, however, were filmed in his Philadelphia studio; a seed can travel far, after all. Movement, displacement, diaspora, and homebuilding figure and reconfigure themselves in The Histories. Hartt was inspired by discovering that the Beth Sholom congregation’s original home in Philadelphia’s Logan neighborhood now serves as the home of a Black evangelical congregation. During the mass suburbanization that took hold of America after the Second World War, which coincided with the so-called “Synagogue Boom,” the congregation moved, enlisting Wright to build their new home, which would be completed just after his death in 1959. With its shocking pyramid form, designed to be in Wright’s words “luminous Mount Sinai,” it’s the only synagogue Wright ever built. Curated by the Glass House’s Cole Akers, The Histories (Le Mancenillier), overtakes the Wright’s bold structure without overwhelming it. Entering through the back, as most people do, you’ll encounter a large flat screen on black scaffolding, about human height, though much larger than any human being. On it, plants move and flow, including orchids and fronds. An occasional white X flashes across the screen, a reference to Snow, whose structuralist films considered the presence of the camera and materiality of that more analog medium. Video is not as tangible a thing as celluloid film, and so here the X seems to index the physicality of the screens (another monitor be found, oriented vertically, across the synagogue). These TVs are more sculptures than frames. While at times the view in the videos is fixed, trained watchfully on fronds swaying in brackish water, other times they float and flutter with videos taken by choreographed drones and flipped upside-down. In planters where artificial plants once sat, Hartt has inserted live tropical flora lit with pink grow lights to keep them alive in the subterranean settings. In the main sanctuary, a jaw-dropping theatrical space with a glass roof soaring 110 feet above, orchids have been placed throughout: on the floor, over chairs, and on large tables straddling whole swaths of seats. The roof, impressive as it might be, leaks. When Hartt first encountered the synagogue, there were buckets and kiddie pools placed throughout to collect rainwater and snowmelt. The orchids serve as a more expressive and a no less functional replacement.  What is the medium of a building, of architectural experience? In conversations with Hartt, he said that he had been thinking about Wright’s notion of “total design”—of not just creating the architecture of a building, but the architecture of living, down to the smallest details. The exhibition's two tapestries perhaps evince the clearest example of this. Classic design objects and textiles make physical the most immaterial of things. Light hitting a camera sensor, the semiconductors revealing the facts of themselves as pixels, become most obvious in the fabric forest and lens flare hanging in one room. The Histories is not just objects. Music is central to the exhibition, with renditions of Gottschalk’s music, as recorded by Ethiopian pianist Girma Yifrashewa, playing in the main sanctuary, not only creating a new sonic texture, but building on the exhibition’s story of hybridization, travel, and transmission. Gottschalk had a mixed-race and mixed-faith background and synthesized European and African-American musical traditions, spending much of his life outside the United States. As Gottschalk serves as a “cipher” for Hartt, music serves as an anchor for the exhibition. Hartt invited Yifrashewa, who trained in Bulgaria, to score the exhibition with Gottschalk’s music. In addition, performers were invited in throughout the exhibition’s run and a piano and mixer on display serve as a sort of sculptural intervention that constantly hint at latent performative possibilities. Hartt describes his artistic process as “peripatetic,” both intellectually and formally, but also spatially. At home in transit, Hartt traces shifting vectors of time and space that despite their motion, become the stabilizing forces that create communities. But these flights are fraught. Drone footage and landscape travel paintings can show new sights and celebrate the richness of life, but they can also serve to surveil or as colonial capture. The conditions that create diaspora are often stories of painful displacement, which might serve in some ways as unifying forces for this primarily white Jewish congregation and the Black church that replaced their former home, but the synagogue also stands as an index to the white flight suburbanization that took place in the 20th century. History, this exhibition's subject, is a story of entanglements and estrangements that echo into the hybrid present. The installation’s parenthetical title, Le Mancenillier, wryly acknowledges this messiness. It refers to both a song by Gottschalk, and to the Caribbean manchineel tree, which produces a fruit that the Christopher Columbus referred to as the death apple: it is enticingly sweet, and deadly. David Hartt: The Histories (Le Mancenillier) Through December 19 Beth Sholom Synagogue Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
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No food or drink allowed

Someone ate Maurizio Cattelan's $120,000 banana
In case you missed it, a banana duct-taped to a blank wall, that fruit whose peel has been the basis of so much slapstick comedy, sold for no less than $120,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach, the sun-soaked winter outpost of the Swiss art fair. Called Comedian, the sculpture—three editions available—was the creation of the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who recently had another brush with mainstream press when his full-functioning 18 karat gold toilet, America, was stolen from Blenheim Palace in England less than two months ago. The banana attracted a great deal of attention at the fair, with people lining up to take selfies with the fruit mounted to the wall of the global mega gallery Perrotin. It also attracted, depending on your perspective, vandalism or critical intervention: The performance artist David Datuna ate the banana on Saturday. Comedian was taken down for the last day of the fair because of the disruption it was causing, after which someone used the opportunity to scrawl “EPSTIEN [SIC] DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF” in blood-red paint on the now-bare wall. It was promptly covered up. https://twitter.com/GiancarloSopo/status/1203875430803087367 While Datuna’s performance may appeal to some as a means of pointing out the relative valuelessness of the work, they would be missing the point. Of course Comedian is just a fruit and some household tape. Nobody is meant to believe that the materials are in-themselves valuable beyond their grocery store price points. What is sold to collectors is not duct tape and a banana, but rather a certificate, which presumably includes maintenance instructions. The inherent ephemerality of the fruit is part of the work: owners can change the banana whenever they see fit. Obviously anybody could make this work at home, that's not in dispute. What’s sold, supposedly, is an idea (and the right to resell it). That is to say, that it is not about the objects. Like much art of the past 100 years, which has included urinals, apples, and canned feces as high-value objects, the intention of art like Comedian is to question how value is produced in the context of art. The controversy, mainstream and art world press, and social media presence is presumably as much as part of the work as the banana mounted in almost painterly gesture by a diagonal strip of duct tape somewhere it doesn’t belong. Even if we were to take Comedian at face value, putting decay on display through constantly-rotting produce isn't a new idea, either. Comedian also references the history of Cattelan’s own practice. The 1999 A Perfect Day, a mainstay of art history classes, used a whole lot more tape to attach Cattelan’s gallerist Massimo De Carlo to the wall for an entire day. Now, 20 years later, with a title that suggests a person—maybe himself, maybe his gallerist—perhaps we can see this banana as a stand-in for the body. Or, depending on one's leanings, it might just be rendering all the art system’s actors (this writer included) as charlatans and jesters. Whoever the joke may be on, Comedian is at the very least an ironic critique of the art market. As Jason Farago points out in his "grudging defense" in the New York Times: “[Cattelan’s] entire career has been a testament to an impossible desire to create art sincerely, stunted here by money, there by his own doubts.” By asking so much money for an idea (successfully, at least one edition has sold) that unifies two cheap, common objects, and creating so much controversy along with it, Cattelan attempts to expose the ways value is generated in art, as well as issues of authorship. Of course, at a time of rising inequality and rising seas that threaten Miami Beach, one might not find it so funny and fairly see it as a further indictment of an art system awash in cash, a playground for the one percent. That's what Comedian has to tell us: it’s all a charade, fresh fruit and painted canvas and plain-old dollar bills alike. Regardless, Cattelan will surely be happy to take his 50 percent cut.