Search results for "Andrew Jackson Downing"

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Clearing Backlog 95

See a map of New York City landmarks the LPC designated today
Today the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to designate eight items as New York City landmarks. The designees—churches, residences, and one lighthouse—were part of Backlog 95, the LPC's initiative to consider 95 items that have been up for designation for years, sometimes decades. The map below shows the location of the city's newest landmarks: The LPC granted landmark status to three Staten Island houses: The George William and Anna Curtis House, St. John's Protestant Episcopal Church Rectory, and the 92 Harrison Street House. The George William and Anna Curtis House was nominated in 1966 and prioritized for backlog clearance in November of last year. The 1859 Italianate-inspired home belonged to a couple active in the abolitionist movement. The Curtis's built their home from Andrew Jackson Downing's pattern books, and George William, one commissioner noted, was in contact with the illustrious Frederick Law Olmsted. The half-timbered Queen Anne–style St. John's Protestant Episcopal Church Rectory from the 1880s, with an almost original historic facade and interiors (although these are not considered for landmarking) was designated. An 1853 Greek Revival home, the 92 Harrison Street House, received the commission's blessings despite the owner's ambivalence and borough president James Oddo's concern about the designation. LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan was enthusiastic about the new landmarked homes. "Staten Island is home to many 18th and 19th century homes. We are pleased to bring three of these houses forward. Not only are they architecturally interesting, but the social and cultural history of the occupants adds additional distinction." On the South Shore, the commission designated the Prince's Bay Lighthouse Complexa suite of vernacular 1860s buildings that includes a lighthouse (whose luminous feature was replaced by a statue of the virgin Mary in the 1920s), a keeper's and carriage house. The complex represents the maritime industry that once thrived on Staten Island, commissioners noted. Across the harbor in Manhattan, the LPC voted on two Tribeca properties: 315 Broadway, and Italianate-style "commercial palace" from the 1860s, and 160 Chambers Street, the (Former) Firehouse Engine Company 29. 315 Broadway reflects the neighborhood's history as a dry goods storage mecca, with its handsome marble facade and (partially concealed) cast-iron storefront. 160 Chambers, a Second Empire–style row house that was converted to a firehouse in 1868. Architect Nathaniel D. Bush added two stories and a mansard roof to the three-story row house, which has since been returned to its original residential use. In Harlem, the commission designated two churches, St. Joseph of the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church and St. Paul Roman Catholic Church. The former, an 1860 structure, was praised for the "simplicity and elegance" of its Rundbogenstil (round arch–style) design. The Romanesque Revival St. Paul's church and school, constructed almost 50 years later, sports medieval and classical features on the facades of both buildings.
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In latest push to clear backlog, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designates nine new landmarks
Tasked with clearing its 95-item backlog, New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is moving swiftly to shape the future of historic structures in the Big Apple by clearing its docket. On Tuesday, the LPC voted to designate nine items—eight individual structures and one historic district—as New York City Landmarks.
Perhaps the most recognizable item on the list was the Pepsi Cola Sign, which has graced the shores of Long Island City, Queens, since 1936. The sign is not a typical landmark. It's an ad for a beverage conglomerate, albeit a charming, retro ad. A debate arose around the nuances of the designation at a meeting in February to present evidence in favor of preservation. Supporters' eyes ping-ponged anxiously as LPC members brought up possible obstacles objections: Would designation cover the metal scaffolding that the bottle and logo are attached to, or would designation encompass just the signs' iconic appendages, leaving a loophole to alter the sign's arrangement?
The LPC decided to landmark the Pepsi sign, noting in its recommendation that the sign was preserved once before, as the factory it flanked was sold in 1999. The LPC's decision recognizes the city's manufacturing heritage, and preserves the spirit of place that's otherwise the face of bland waterfront luxury condo development. The grassroots Historic Districts Council (HDC) recommends that the LPC "investigate additional preservation protections, such as an easement or some other form of legal contract to help ensure this landmark’s continued presence."
In all, there were ten items recommended for designation, including two whose eclecticism and allure rival the Pepsi sign (the commission delayed a vote on Immaculate Conception Church in the South Bronx.). One residence is a Gravesend landmark: The Lady Moody-Van Sicklen House, a stone, 18th-century Dutch-American-style farmhouse, is a rare survivor from Brooklyn's agrarian past. Local lore holds that the house belonged to Lady Deborah Moody, one of the area's first European women landowners.
New Yorkers thrilled by the Neoclassical flourishes of the Fifth Avenue facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be delighted by the LPC's recognition of the Vanderbilt Mausoleum, a diminutive-by-comparison and little-known work by the same architect. École des Beaux Arts–trained Richard Morris Hunt designed the Romanesque Revival final resting place for the titans of industry, located in Staten Island's Frederick Law Olmsted–designed Moravian Cemetery. The Vanderbilts were so impressed by the meeting of minds that they hired Hunt and Olmstead to collaborate on the clan's low-key country house in North Carolina.
With that memento mori, the LPC voted to designate a few 19th-century structures within Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. Although the entire cemetery, a National Historic Landmark, was up for local designation, even ardent preservationists advocated against the designation, noting that landmark status could place onerous restrictions on the 478-acre cemetery's operations: The plots, headstones, and mausoleums are owned by individuals, with 1,200 new "permanent residents" added annually, potentially complicating the regulation process.
The largest rural cemetery in the U.S., Green-Wood was designed by David Bates Douglass under the guiding landscape principles of Andrew Jackson Downing. The Gothic Revival entrance on Fifth Avenue, designed by Richard Upjohn and home to a vigorous parakeet colony, was declared an Individual Landmark in 1966. A chapel in the same style by Warren & Wetmore (the same firm behind Grand Central Terminal) received designation this time around, as did the Gatehouse and Gatehouse Cottage at the Fort Hamilton Parkway entrance.
For more information and updates on the extension of a Park Slope historic district, St. Augustine’s Church and Rectory, New England on City Island, and other newly-landmarked items, check out the LPC's website.
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Mathews Nielsen
Courtesy Mathews Nielsen, Heatherwick Studio

The history of landscape architecture in America goes back to the writings and activism of Andrew Jackson Downing and, of course, Frederick Law Olmsted. While there has always been a segment of the profession that focuses on estate gardening and horticulture, there are other firms who have a more socially engaged and expansive view of the profession. One thinks, for example, of Thomas Church, Dan Kiley, Lawrence Halprin, and Garret Eckbo, who all brought new ways of thinking and transforming the built landscape but primarily focused on the public nature of their practice and commissions.

Perhaps the most famous of these figures was Ian McHarg, a Scotsman who founded the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, but who more importantly brought a renewed emphasis on urban planning and what he called “natural systems” (with his 1969 book Design with Nature) into the profession. Today, landscape architecture combines McHarg-influenced environmental awareness, city planning, storm water management, and aesthetic concerns of the in-between spaces we inhabit in the city. This public nature of the profession is the focus of many firms today—no more than at the New York office of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, who work almost exclusively on public, state, and institutional projects. More than nearly any other firm, they have transformed the postindustrial landscape of New York. It is very important, Signe Nielsen said, “that our work is publicly accessible and as a result we don’t generally do private residential projects or we don’t do green field sites, i.e. commissions to transform farmland into housing or forests to shopping centers.” Improving the life of everyone in the city is important, and if there is a social justice component, then all the better.

The 30-member firm (approximately 60 percent are licensed landscape architects) believes that “designers are public intellectuals” and as such they teach, are engaged in professional societies, and lecture around the country on their profession—one that Kim Mathews writes, “embodies hope and requires a longer, larger vision.”

Signe Nielsen has also served as president of the New York Public Design Commission for four years and claims that “we don’t just work in challenged neighborhoods, but our work has to be publicly accessible and leave the city better than before we were engaged.”


Food Center Drive
South Bronx, NY

This transformation of Food Center Drive takes one of the least pedestrian-friendly and polluted boulevards in the South Bronx and makes it a public amenity. This mile-long route serves as an entry into the city’s Food Distribution Center for its 16,000 employees and those who live around the center. The design evolved out of Mathews Nielsen’s earlier South Bronx Greenway Master Plan and creates a shared pedestrian vehicle path by reconfiguring the traffic pattern to a one-way loop, thereby reducing the road from six to five lanes. But even more it incorporates innovative storm-water capture and biofiltration strategies to contribute a significant new biomass. Within the median and new greenway buffer, there are over 700 trees in addition to understory grasses and shrubs. The project is scheduled for completion in October.


Industry City Courtyard
Brooklyn, NY

The redesign of Brooklyn’s long-derelict Industry City courtyard is a model of how to take an impressive, but slightly oppressive interior open area and make it desirable. The space divides two 600-foot-long buildings (and a shorter third side connecting structure) with 33,000-square-feet of courtyard space open toward Gowanus Bay, the sunset, and a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. To complement the large mass and immensity of the overall space, they used a plant palette of ferns and various monotone greens laid out in large directional swaths. Further, the form of the columnar maple trees plays off of the repetition of the building columns as well as the industrial smoke stacks and ventilation pipe remnants. Trees were chosen for the beautiful red fall color that will inevitably complement the weathering steel forms in the courtyard. The schedule of the project from concept to construction was condensed into just ten months.


Pier 55
New York City

In 1993, the firm began designing what would become the most complete (and badly maintained) contemporary park and infrastructure in Manhattan—Hudson River Park. Now, they have been chosen to add to the park with the creation of a new freestanding Pier 55 that sits off the shoreline just north of the new Whitney Museum. The Pier, which they are designing with the English Heatherwick Studio, is meant to be a 2.4-acre public park and performance space on the Hudson River. The form is conceived as a “leaf floating in the water,” and contains “an unexpected topography” of four lifted corners, each manifesting a landscape typology derived from their solar aspect, slope, and relationship to paths and performance venues. A variety of paths and stairs create circuits throughout the pier to maximize engagement and convenience for event-goers. The project is largely funded through a private donation of the Diller–von Furstenberg Foundation and is scheduled to begin construction in May 2016.


Randall’s Island Connector
South Bronx, NY

Mathews Nielsen seems to be single-handedly transforming the South Bronx into a borough of green boulevards, parks, and pathways. Taking off from their South Bronx Greenway Master Plan, they have created a brilliant connecter from the area to the recreational facilities on Randall’s Island. It not only creates access to badly needed recreational facilities, but also increases the area’s green infrastructure by treating all storm water on site and using native, drought-tolerant plants to avoid irrigation.

The quarter-mile connector runs from 132nd Street in the Bronx, underneath the Hell Gate Bridge viaduct piers, through a historic railway facility still in use, and over the Bronx Kill waterway to Randall’s Island. It includes a sustainable landscape, an at-grade rail crossing, pedestrian-bicycle improvements, and a pedestrian-bicycle bridge. Pedestrians and cyclists have a powerful landscape experience as they pass through the massive Hell Gate Bridge viaduct piers. The project will be open to the public fall 2015.