Search results for "Bronx"

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Freedom of Expression

Is Torkwase Dyson's abstract recount of racial violence a missed opportunity?
Torkwase Dyson’s 1919: Black Water, on display at Columbia GSAPP’s Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery through December 14th, is an inscrutable meditation on an incident of racial violence that took place in Chicago on a hot summer’s day in July 1919: the killing of a black 17-year-old named Eugene Williams on a Lake Michigan beachfront by a white man throwing rocks. Represented in the form of abstract paintings, geometric sculptures, and ink drawings, Williams’ story becomes a framing narrative for Dyson’s installations, which combine expressionist, minimalist, process art, and postminimalist elements in the manner of Mark Rothko, Dan Graham, Theaster Gates, or Nari Ward. Dyson describes her projects as “spatial systems that build upon the architectural typologies that people have used to liberate themselves.” But this is not social practice art or urban interventionism. There’s no evident intention to interact with or build a community, educate a group, or communicate a didactic message. As the accompanying exhibition pamphlet discusses in an engaging conversation with architectural historian Mabel O. Wilson, the works are at least partly meant to function as abstract ciphers for the re-imagination of architectural space through black experience. Deciphering that code for practical uses might require an advanced Ivy League degree. Dyson tends to fixate on sites of trauma in black history, seeking the potential for liberation within spaces that otherwise appear to lack all potential for agency: Henry “Box” Brown, who freed himself from enslavement by having himself mailed in a crate to the north, or Samuel Osborne, a janitor at Colby College who earned the school’s dedication by exemplifying an upright moral code. In the case of 1919: Black Water, the redemption emerges from an experience of pleasure-seeking and invention turned tragic: the fabrication of a boat to create a group space of joy, interrupted by racial violence. The story behind the show is compelling. In the summer of 1919, Eugene Williams and his friends had constructed a makeshift raft to carry them to a small island on the shores of Lake Michigan near 25th Street, in between the two unofficially segregated sides of the waterfront. There they were free to swim and play away from the crowds. It was a summer of heightened racial tension: The black population had more than doubled in Chicago during the preceding decade—the beginning of the Great Migration of six million African-Americans from the south. Competition for jobs had intensified at the nearby stockyards at the end of World War I and white supremacists had been increasingly fomenting hatred. The teens had apparently got caught in the middle, accidentally crossing an invisible boundary between the informally segregated areas. A group of white men began throwing rocks at them; as Williams ducked in the water and resurfaced, he was hit in the head, going under and drowning. The police neglected to arrest the rock-thrower, instead arresting a black man following a complaint by a white person. An explosion of violence ensued. In the following week, police killed seven black men; mobs and individual gunmen murdered 16 blacks and 15 whites; more than 500 others suffered from injuries; mobs burned more than 1,000 black families out of their homes. A mass of black string congealed with black acrylic hangs on a wooden bar against a blue background with a geometric abstraction above (Pilot), possibly invoking a blue sky mingling with its reflection in the water, a raft floating on top, a black body bleeding from the head, and maybe, sinking below. Thick black acrylic paint and graphite on canvases suggest a line of polluted water (Just Above and Just Below; Place, Raft, and Drift), and slices of brass bisecting canvases evoke segregated division of space, the surface of the water, and the horizon (Plantationocene; Being-Seeing-Drifting). A few geometric figures appear on canvases that resemble towers or antennae (Hot Cold; Extraction Abstracting). On the gallery floor, shiny black plexiglass tetrahedrons with voids on some sides (Black Shoreline) reference the reflection of the water, which gain energy from the presence of gallery visitors. The absence of figurative representations of Williams, the raft, or the crowds after the drowning—though historical images do appear in the catalog—recalls the protest a few years ago of Dana Schutz’s Open Casket at the Whitney Biennial. Schutz had portrayed the open casket of Emmett Till, a young black teen lynched in an incident of racial terror. His mother insisted on an open casket so everyone could see what was done to her son, producing a shocking image of brutality that spurred the civil rights movement. Did it do violence to his memory to represent his broken body? Was Schutz making common cause or exploiting Till’s suffering? In this case, the inverse question might apply: why isn’t Williams represented more powerfully rather than rendered in abstraction? Is it a missed opportunity not to deploy figurative tools to animate Williams’ story, bring it to light, propel it into the present, deploy it to inform policies, use it for more than personal expression? Or is the freedom to be a black expressionist a worthy end in itself, our desire to see his body exploitative, and art that exhorts politically tedious and doomed to failure anyway? “These systems also consider infrastructure and the environment to create a visual amalgamation that recognizes the ways that black people move through, inhabit, cleave and form space,” Dyson is cited as saying the catalog, describing her nomenclature of representation as “black compositional thought.” Often Dyson uses dancers accompanying installations to animate them with exuberant gestures, and the presence of performers might make this rhetoric seem less overblown. If these works constitute a kind of expressive freedom grounded in black narrative and experience, they operate within the exclusive prison-house of the institutional contemporary art and academic architecture world, its markets, nonprofits, grants, and formalist language games. It’s a project worthy of poststructural critique to seek liberation even within the most repressive situations. As with the collapse of the New Museum’s Ideas City program in the Bronx, it can be challenging to reconcile the sustained intellectual discourse with the urgent, viscerally felt problems of the world: lack of control over space and governance, being unable to afford a place to live or to find adequately paid work, and abstract financial forces determining the fate of your community.
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Feature Focus

Three can't-miss views on architecture from the 57th New York Film Festival
The 57th New York Film Festival just ended, but luckily many of the films that feature architecture as a main character will be released in theaters or available online. Here's a breakdown of the must-see flicks where cities takes center stage: Motherless Brooklyn A fictionalized Robert Moses called Moses Randolph (played by Alec Baldwin), drives the plot of Motherless Brooklyn, a film by and starring Edward Norton, scion of the real estate Rouse family. It's set in the 1950s in what he calls “the secret history of modern New York, with…the devastation of the old city from neighborhoods right up to Penn Station, perpetrated at the hands of an autocratic, almost imperial force.” That ruthless force is Randolph, Commissioner of Parks, Buildings and an “Authority.” For reference, the Triborough Bridge can be seen through his office window. In the film, Randolph plans slum clearance in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, just as he has just done in Tremont in the Bronx, which is protested by Gabby Horowitz (played by Cherry Jones), a Jane Jacobs stand-in. Randolph is at the root of a murder, which Norton’s character, a gumshoe with Tourette’s syndrome, is investigating. The film treats us to actual locations: we drive by the Jones Beach Water Tower, hold a rally in Washington Square, and we even visit (in CGI) the original Penn Station, demolished under Moses. Free Time  Free Time, a documentary set in the same period, is a real-life counterweight to Motherless Brooklyn. It celebrates neighborhoods that could be in danger of Randolph/Moses’s slum clearance gentrification plans. The film opens with a sequence of carved stone architectural ornaments, which serve as a leitmotif throughout this black-and-white-filmed poem that was shot between 1958 to 1960 and newly edited by now 88-year old filmmaker Manfred Kirschheimer. With shots filmed in Washington Heights, Hell’s Kitchen, and West 83 Street, it shows construction workers tearing down buildings and putting up new ones, bridges, and, most of all, neighborhoods. Parasite Another kind of ruthlessness is symbolized by the architecture of contrasts in Parasite, winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, directed by Bong Joon-ho. The struggling Kim family occupies a grim basement apartment in Seoul. They attach themselves to the Parks, a wealthy family, and their high modernist house built by a prominent (fictional) Korean architect named Namgoong, who built it for himself before moving to Paris. The Parks identify themselves with the architect’s creativity and maintain the modernist aesthetic. The man levels of the house, including a hidden subterranean fallout shelter, factor into the plot, as does the plate-glass facade leading to the walled-in garden, an oasis in the midst of the capital city. The film is a tale of class conflict, deception, and home. More to see Other films that feature architecture include Pain and Glory by Pedro Almodóvar in which the main character, a filmmaker (played by Antonio Banderas), lives in an art-filled and colorful Madrid apartment with sliding glass walls after growing up in a “cave-like” apartment lit by a skylight. Martin Scorsese sets his new film, The Irishman, in mid-century Philadelphia, New York, and Detroit while Noah Baumbach uses the many apartments and theaters of New York as a contrast to the endless houses, offices, and restaurants of Los Angeles in Marriage Story. Of the short films featured in the festival's Projections category, Kansas Atlas (Peggy Ahwesh) shows split-screen aerials in the dead center of the United States, with land tracts, houses, factories, silos, and turbines, as SIGNAL 8 (Simon Liu), provides a psychedelic, fast-cut journey through the urban archeology and construction sites of Hong Kong as a storm approaches. A Topography of Memory (Burak Çevik) features CCTV footage of Istanbul and Houses (for Margaret) (Luke Fowler) is about a woman who doesn’t want to be confined by a house, but loves going into buildings.
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Rikers Revolution

As the Rikers Island replacement plan moves forward, activists and architects look for alternatives
On September 3rd, to the dismay of many community members and prison reform activists, New York City’s Planning Commission (CPC) approved Mayor de Blasio’s “Smaller, Safer, Fairer” plan to shut down Rikers Island's jail facilities and replace them with four smaller borough-based centers by 2026. With CPC’s 9-to-3 approval, the plan now moves forward to City Council before heading to the Mayor for approval as the last step in the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The council was given 50 days to consider the details before making the make-or-break vote scheduled for October 17.  The Mayor’s plan would introduce a 1,150-bed jail tower to a site in close proximity to each borough’s courthouse—down from what was originally proposed—as a way of improving transportation to court dates as well as bringing inmates closer to their families and communities. (Bronx residents are already suing the city for not living up to this promise with the jail proposed in Mott Haven.)  Bronx Community Board 1 wasn’t the only board to unanimously vote against new jails. Each community board in an area sited for a new jail tower voted down the plan for a number of reasons, which have been echoed by local residents and prison reform activists—including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who recently endorsed the most prominent advocacy group, No New Jails. For Ocasio-Cortez, the Rikers Island complex should absolutely be closed but no jails should be built in its place. She hopes that at the “bare minimum” the vote is delayed until further information on what will be done with Rikers Island after its decommissioning has been gathered.  She also points to the lack of clarity in what the plan will actually do. This lack of concrete vision was also a concern for Orlando Marín, one of the three CPC commissioners who voted against the project. “At this point, we are being asked to vote on an application but have few details,” Marín said during the September meeting, according to Curbed. “The programming thoughts are clearly not finalized by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and contradictions that exist in the thinking and planning of physical structures.”  “For me one of the red flags is the fact that the largest infrastructure investments that we’re going to make as a city ($11 billion) won’t be towards homelessness, fixing our subways, or repairing NYCHA...it’s going towards incarcerating people,” Ocasio-Cortez explained to a reporter on C-SPAN. America currently incarcerates more people than any place in the world, and Ocasio-Cortez added, “We need to de-carcerate our country.” While de Blasio’s plan claims that it will shrink the city’s jail population from 7,400 to 4,000 by 2026 through a combination of sentencing and bail reform, jail abolitionists are questioning whether building new towers is the right way to accomplish this. The question remains: How does architecture enforce systemic injustice, and how can architects develop ethical guidelines to address the right way to navigate the country’s jail crisis? One group of New York City architects, engineers, and designers have organized to develop an alternative to the borough-based towers in favor of a college-campus-like plan (seen above) that they believe would create more humane conditions for inmates, save money for taxpayers, and not impose new development on any neighborhoods.  The 45-page plan was delivered to City Council last Friday. It includes razing the existing Rikers Island Facilities and creating a new campus that includes a hospital, mental health facilities, open farming space, and work-training centers. To cut back on the travel time issue, a ferry system would be implemented. A last-minute attempt to be sure, and according to the New York Post, one de Blasio spokeswoman, Avery Cohen, declined to address questions about the plan.  Cohen wrote in a statement: “We consider this a historic opportunity to build on the city’s decarceration efforts that have fundamentally reshaped our criminal justice system, and will continue working with the Council as we move forward to finalize our plan.”
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AN selects seven more upcoming exhibitions you shouldn’t miss
It’s that time again! AN has rounded up another list of the top architecture, design, and art exhibitions open or opening over the next couple of months. The exhibitions below dive into the lives of lesser-known figures in architecture, uncover hidden histories and explore the importance of identity and place. Check them out below: Revealing Presence: Women in Architecture at the University of Illinois, 1874-2019 Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 500 East Peabody Drive Champaign, IL 61820 September 26 through October 12, 2019 Mary Louisa Page was the first woman to earn an architecture degree in the United States in 1878 from the University of Illinois—the school offered its first architecture course ten years prior. Revealing Presence showcases the breadth of work that women have contributed to the built environment through a chronological presentation of historical data and images. Spanning the course of 145 years, the show reveals the growing representation of women in the architectural profession over time through the inclusion of a timeline illustrating the increasing number of female faculty and students at the University. Women currently comprise over 40 percent of architecture graduates.  Marc Yankus: New York Unseen ClampArt 247 West 29th Street Ground Floor New York, NY 10001 October 3 through November 16, 2019 Marc Yankus is a New York-based photographer with over 40 years of experience capturing historic buildings, streetscapes, and abstract compositions found when one looks closely at the built environment. In his sixth solo show at ClampArt, Yankus exhibits a series of photographs that continue his investigation into the buildings of New York City. Through his expert use of Photoshop, the artist removes all of the distractions that come with urban life—traffic, pedestrians, and noise—providing a glimpse into a New York “unseen.” The result is a collection of prominent city buildings seemingly frozen in time.  Housing Density: From Tenements to Towers  The Skyscraper Museum 39 Battery Place New York, NY 10280 On view through December 2019 This new exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum takes a look at the history of residential development in New York City throughout the twentieth century. By examining the approaches to private, public, or publicly-assisted housing, the guest curators Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthias Altwicker aim to sort out the different meanings of density over time and how they have shaped the ways residents live in the city today.  Given contemporary debates on infilling NYCHA projects and up-zoning neighborhoods, the exhibition hopes to inform some of these discussions by offering a clear illustration of urban density through historical projects. Some of the projects examined include models of communities such as Tudor City and London Terrace, early NYCHA projects such as the Queensbridge Houses, and large-scale postwar projects such as Stuyvesant Town. Resident Alien: Austrian Architects in America Austrian Cultural Forum New York 11 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022 September 25 through February 17, 2020 Curated by Stephen Phillips and Axel Schmitzberger, Resident Alien, explores the cultural contributions of Austrian-American architects on modern, postmodern, and digital design culture over the past century. The exhibition is organized into five form-driven categories—Cloud Structures, Aggregate Self-assemblies, Media Atmospheres, Primitive Domains, and Urban Terrestrials—as a way to investigate how bicultural heritage has informed formal, technological, and psychoanalytic architectural discourses. Architects and designers that will be featured include Rudolph Schindler, Victor Gruen, Hans Hollein, Coop Himmelb(l)au, and Frederick Kiesler, among 27 others.  Lucy Sparrow’s Delicatessen on 6th Rockefeller Center 45 Rockefeller Plaza New York, NY 10111 October 1-20, 2019 Presented in partnership with Art Production Fund as part of the “Art in Focus” Public Art Program, Lucy Sparrow’s interactive installation is opening at Rockefeller Center this week. The British artist has become well known for her felt art pieces and this exhibition marks the sixth installation in her felt shop series. The installation is set to resemble a New York City “upscale deli” with every item—from chocolate to fruit, cheese and fish—all handmade out of felt. All of the items in the fine food shop will also be available for purchase.  Off the Wall: Harold Mendez The Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University 61 Main Street Houston, TX 77005 September 21 through August 24, 2020 Rice University’s Public Art series “Off The Wall” has commissioned a series of site-specific installations by recent graduates of the Core Residency Program at the Glassell School of Art. Each installation is scheduled to be on view for a year on the south wall of the Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion, a modern structure designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners. The inaugural artist in the series is Harold Mendez, an artist whose work integrates photography and sculpture as a way to explore identity, place, and geography.  Mendez received his MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has since been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA, and the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, among others. Entre Deux Actes (Ménage à Quatres) 1014 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10028 November 6-8 at 7:00 PM November 9-10 at 5:00 PM Co-commissioned by Performa and 1013 and co-produced with The Kitchen, this collaboration between artist Nairy Baghramian and choreographer Maria Hassabi will be inhabiting a Fifth Avenue townhouse for five nights this November. The building, originally built in 1906, will serve as the stage for an intimate performance that takes cues from the qualities of the domestic environment. The work aims to "probe the interplay of architecture and gender while teasing out fantasies," according to The Kitchen.
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One Month of Design

AN rounds up all the must-see events happening this Archtober
Archtober is just days away and AN is here to get you ready by rounding up all the must-see events beginning October 1. Organized by the Center for Architecture, the month-long design celebration is now in its ninth year and there’s so much to see and do.  Ample new building projects have popped up throughout New York since last October, which means this is your chance to tour some of the most talked-about spaces in town. Not only that, but there will be plenty of after-work lectures, panels, workshops, films, conferences, and special events you can attend every day. Sales go fast, so purchase tickets to Archtober events today. Here’s our breakdown of 2019's can't-miss activities:  Buildings of the Day tours One Vanderbilt Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox October 3 Building 77 Contemporary Renovations by Marvel Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle October 8  Solar Carve Architect: Studio Gang October 10  Hunters Point Library Architect: Steven Holl Architects October 11  Moxy East Village Architects: Rockwell Group and Stonehill Taylor October 16 Statue of Liberty Museum Architect: FXCollaborative October 23  Bronx Music Hall Architect: WXY Architecture + Urban Design October 24  MoMA Renovation and Expansion Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler October 25 121 East 22nd Street Architect: OMA New York October 29   Lectures + Panels: Building Better Cities with Crowdfunding Organized by: Syracuse Architecture October 1 Cocktails & Conversation: Marlon Blackwell & Billie Tsien Organized by: AIA New York October 4 Shohei Shigematsu & Atelier Bow-Wow on the Past & Future of Tokyo Architecture Organized by: Japan Society October 11  Daniel Libeskind: Edge of Order Organized by: Pratt Institute October 15 NOMA '19 Conference Organized by: nycobaNOMA October 16-20 Breaking Ground: Architecture by Women Organized by: The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, The Cooper Union; Beverly Willis Architectural Foundation; Phaidon October 18  A History of New York in 27 Buildings with Sam Roberts & Alexandra Lange Organized by: Museum of the City of New York October 21 Extra Tours: Architecture and the Lights of Gotham: Nighttime Boat Tour Organized by: AIA New York; Classic Harbor Line Multiple Dates  Behind-the-Scenes Hard Hat Tour of the Abandoned Ellis Island Hospital Organized by: Untapped New York October 19  VIP Tour of the Woolworth Building Organized by: Untapped New York October 5  Special Events: Opening of Fringe Cities: Legacies of Renewal in the Small American City Organized by: Center for Architecture October 2 Architecture of Nature / Nature of Architecture Organized by: The Architectural League of New York October 3 World Cities Day Organized by: UN-Habitat October 31
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Concrete Ideas

Protestors shut down the New Museum’s IdeasCity Bronx
IdeasCity Bronx, a festival organized by the New Museum and scheduled for this past Saturday, was canceled shortly after the programming began. Held at Concrete Plant Park on the Bronx River, the festival was supposed to feature discussions, performances, and workshops by artists, architects, and local community organizations as a way to address “the physical, social, and economic forces that define the Bronx and other cities.” Themed “New Ecologies 3755,” many of the discussions were to be centered around the effects of global climate change but also how they relate to Bronx communities, but plans were derailed after protesters intervened. During the event’s opening talk by V. Mitch McEwen, the festival’s curator, a group of activists to the side of the stage interrupted the proceedings with a speech of their own, leading to about 30 minutes of heated back-and-forth between the protesters and the scheduled speakers, ultimately ending with the day’s events being canceled. Prior to the festival’s commencement, a few Bronx grassroots organizations scheduled to participate, including DreamYard, Take Back the Bronx, and No New Jails, had already withdrawn. Other groups, such as Bronx-based arts organization Hydro Punk, had declined the offer to participate from the beginning. During her opening remarks, McEwen passed the microphone to Tiara Torres, one of the protesters from Hydro Punk, who stated, “New Museum has never invested anything into the Bronx. This is a one-day event. They are not contributing any long term financial backing or support into any of the ideas that come from today.” According to Hyperallergic, the activist went on to say that they had declined to participate after finding out that the events were being promoted by the real-estate company South Bronx Luxury. McEwen told AN that the organization had received no financial support from real estate developers. Highlights from the event were supposed to include a keynote discussion by Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman, but after attempting to speak during the protesters’ interruptions, Cruz and Forman did not continue with their presentation. But the site was the biggest point of tension, to be sure. Concrete Plant Park is located in the Southern Boulevard part of the Bronx, a neighborhood that activists say is actively being threatened by “gentrification-driven rezoning.” McEwen explained to AN that the location wasn’t the first choice to begin with. Since its opening in 2011, IdeasCity New York was staged across from the New Museum in Manhattan along the Bowery, but with ongoing conversations surrounding new ideas in ecology, the Bronx seemed like a better fit. McEwen said, “we started to map out sites on the Bronx River and other waterways believing that this borough defined by waterways is more complex and robust than Manhattan.” They had anticipated the site to be located near the Soundview Ferry Terminal, but according to McEwen, they were “strongly encouraged to move” by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. “We should not have been in [Concrete Plant Park],” she said, while also agreeing that many of the protester’s points were “brilliant and spot-on” and were even “aligned with the framework of how we organized IdeasCity” to begin with. 
 
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The DreamYard Project will no longer be participating in IdeasCity Bronx—based on the lack of clarity, collaboration and communication in the planning of IdeasCity Bronx, as well as the compromised integrity of DreamYard’s community-centered values. . Three months ago, we were approached by IdeasCity for the opportunity to uplift our young people and community’s work around Arts and Activism. We were asked to collaborate in organizing a panel discussion, a student performance and community-based organization /activism booths; since then, a small team of DreamYard staff members have worked diligently to organize these parts of the event, and ensure fair compensation for our young people and representing CBOs that we have asked to get involved in this event. DreamYard staff members initially created a panel discussion on the relationship between politics and grassroots movement, “Who’s Got the Power?” which centered a young DreamYard participant, and a DreamYard alumna and current staff member. Since then, IdeasCity renamed the panel discussion we were organizing, shifted the original intention of the discussion (shaped by intentional labor of Black Indigenous Queer Femmes), and was essentially handed over to another party who was not involved in the concept, the process, nor the work we do and are seeking to uplift. We do not feel safe having our young people participate, nor having DreamYard’s name further implicated in what has turned out not to be a collaboration, but something in which DreamYard’s name has seemingly been used as merely a means to an end. . We entered this collaboration in good faith, and since then have been made aware of the missteps inherent in the planning of IdeasCity. Based on the feedback from the community as well as the challenges in planning this event, we have decided not to participate in IdeasCity Bronx. . <Continued in comments>

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In a public statement McEwen made on Twitter, she ends with a series of questions aimed to open dialogue and to keep the conversation going. “NYC Parks Department—I have no words,” she asks, “what would a functional democratic process around public space look like for New York City?” She urges for a “radical imagining” of the spaces in which we exchange knowledge outside of the academic institution, and of a place where the pain expressed by the protestors can “coexist in dialogue with the technical, creative, and spatial work involved in change.” In a statement shared via email, the New Museum told AN:
We wholeheartedly support V. Mitch McEwen’s curatorial vision for IdeasCity over the past year, and the ciphers and convenings that have advanced thinking in significant directions. We believe it is more important than ever to continue to provide platforms for productive dialogue, debate, and healing in a challenging and divided world. Knowing this can only happen through deeper engagement, proximity, authentic and time-tested connectivity, and sustained commitment, IdeasCity will continue to organize events in the hope that, going forward, groups of every type can come together, voicing differences, but collaborating on possible futures.
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Op-Ed

Letter to the editor: Now is the time to close the Rikers jails
The United States incarcerates more people, at a much higher rate, than any other country on the planet. Five times as many people are locked up in America today, per capita, than 50 years ago, with devastating consequences for families and communities. In New York City, the eight sprawling jails on Rikers Island are symbols of this half-century of mass incarceration. They are notorious for violence and inhumane treatment. They are emblematic of racial disparities in our society: almost 90 percent of the people on Rikers are black or Latinx. Like mass incarceration itself, Rikers is largely hidden from whiter and wealthier communities. There is a once-in-a-generation chance to end this injustice. After a hard-fought campaign led by formerly incarcerated people and the findings of a commission led by the state’s former chief judge, New York City has embarked on a far-reaching effort to close the Rikers jails. The City aims to halve the number of people in jail and move those who remain incarcerated to a smaller system of facilities located closer to the borough courthouses. The plan would reduce the number of jails from eleven (the eight jails on Rikers plus three in the boroughs) to four and reduce the number of people in jail from 7,300 today to 4,000 or fewer. When the City committed to closing Rikers in 2017, it already had the lowest incarceration rate of any major American city (though much higher than any comparable international city). Since then, the number of people in jail on any given day has already dropped by more than 2,000, thanks to hard work from community organizations, pressure from advocates, and changes to the ways that police, prosecutors, and courts are doing their jobs. There is much farther to go, but the goal is within reach. With the progress achieved so far, New York City remains as safe as it’s ever been, proving that there are better ways to fight crime than mass incarceration. The question that remains is whether a smaller, redesigned borough system can put an end to the problems of Rikers. There are good reasons to believe it will. First, location matters. Three of the proposed facilities are on the sites of operating or decommissioned jails next to courthouses in civic centers in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. The fourth is on an NYPD tow pound in the Bronx that is not adjacent to the local court, but which is closer than Rikers or the current City jail in the Bronx, a barge that would be closed along with Rikers. Proximity to courts would help ensure that people arrive to court on time, avoiding case delays that unfairly lengthen incarceration. Better access to public transportation would enable family members to visit more frequently, fostering connections that are demonstrated to improve behavior within jails and improve chances for success on the outside. Nonprofit service providers would be able to see their clients much more frequently, bolstering people’s chances of successful community re-entry. Lawyers would be able to visit clients to prepare their defense, which very rarely occurs at Rikers. Community locations would also increase accountability. No longer would people be hidden on an isolated island, invisible to the public and virtually impervious to oversight. Gone would be the sprawling jail system that exponentially increases the Department of Correction’s management challenges, providing the best chance to break the dysfunctional status quo and change correctional practices. Second, design matters. Unlike today’s jails, these facilities can and should be designed to be places of rehabilitation, not of punishment. Hospitable visiting areas would encourage connections to family and support networks. Sufficient spaces for programming, education, health care, and recreation would mean people could access important services. Improved sightlines and other security features would enhance safety for all. Decent breakrooms and facilities for officers can boost well-being and morale, rippling out to improve conditions for everyone inside. These design principles are incorporated in the City’s initial plans. It is these improved designs that drive the size and height of the proposed facilities, which is one of the main concerns of their opponents. Thanks to recent bail reform legislation, the City has lowered the planned capacity by 1,000 people. This should significantly reduce the buildings’ bulk without compromising much-needed space and services. The City should also move people with serious mental illness to hospital-based treatment facilities, which would further reduce the scale of the borough jails. Building vastly improved facilities will not come cheap. But without them, there is no closing Rikers. And to put the construction costs in context, today’s Rikers-based system of eleven jails costs more than $2.6 billion each year to operate—a stunning $300,000 per incarcerated person per year. A smaller proposed system in the boroughs would slash that operating spending by more than half, savings billions over time and far eclipsing the money spent on construction. Much of the freed-up money should be invested in the communities most impacted by mass incarceration. Reformers have to enter this process with their eyes open. We have to ensure that the initial design principles are not compromised in the final outcome. And as long as anyone is locked up, advocacy and oversight will always be needed so that post-Rikers facilities are operated in a way that keeps people safe and gives them a fair shot at success when they return home. Controversies over land use are inevitable in our crowded city. Concerns about whether the promise of a new system can truly break with the past have to be taken seriously. But those who call for this plan to be defeated should know that the result would be continuing the unacceptable status quo of the Rikers penal colony. This is not the first attempt to shutter that awful island. Prior closure efforts as far back as the late 1970s were defeated for many of the same reasons opponents raise today, perpetuating this decades-long crisis in the jails. We cannot allow history to repeat itself. As the land use review process moves forward this fall, New York City has a momentous choice: approve a much smaller system of borough facilities as we work to end mass incarceration, or endure the traumas of Rikers for generations to come. Tyler U. Nims is the executive director of the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform Dan Gallagher is an architect practicing in New York City. In collaboration with the Van Alen Institute, he lead Justice in Design, focusing on design innovation in spaces of detention in New York City. He is currently a member of the Design Working Group for the Mayors Office of Criminal Justice, establishing the Guiding Principles for Design in the borough-based jail proposals.
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Yikers Rikers

We need to rethink the Rikers Island replacement jails
Technology is abstracting so much of our lives that it is easy for change to come out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Many physical objects have been reduced to algorithms hidden in cloud servers and embedded in code on handheld devices. Remember CDs, day planners, watches, and cameras? Architecture, on the other hand, is more difficult to eliminate and maintains its relevance by making visible the invisible within our society. For example, a proposed Manhattan jail tower towering 45 stories over Chinatown and Tribeca makes visible the fact that we can’t just abstract and sweep away our country’s mass incarceration problem. This proposal confronts us—including some very wealthy residents of those neighborhoods—with the harshness and scale of the problem. New York City has chosen four sites—one each in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens—for relocating the jail facilities currently located on Rikers Island. Activists say that moving the incarcerated closer to their homes is a more humane way to keep them connected with their families and communities, citing the difficulty of visiting the island as well as transportation costs for court dates. However, the realities of moving 5,000 inmates brings a spatial challenge: Where do you put them? So far, each proposed site seems tone-deaf about how they would affect the surrounding streets and neighborhoods. Lynn Ellsworth of Human-scale NYC and Tribeca Trust has done a great service by publishing her paper, “How Did Reform of the Criminal Justice System Turn Into a Real Estate Project?” that highlights how the city will sell Rikers Island to real estate developers for $22 billion and then spend another $11 billion dollars on the new jails. In addition, she has also done a deep urban design analysis on the 45-story Manhattan jail on the edge of Chinatown and Tribeca and produced a series of ghost building images that show how the Manhattan jail will negatively affect its surroundings. However, her proposal calling for the city to keep and renovate Rikers Island highlights the contradictions in what can be considered progress on this issue. Perhaps the real question needed now is, “How can we rethink the entire jail debate?” The official renderings from the city’s Department of Correction show only exterior images. A recent New Yorker story, “Inside the Mayor’s Plan to Close Rikers,” quotes architect Frank Greene, who is working on the new jail plans. “I could see these buildings we’re doing for New York City someday becoming community colleges with dormitories inside them,” he told the magazine, a statement which represents the sort of design thinking we endorse. But this thinking needs to be put into signed and approved architectural plans. As the plan currently stands, the fact that the city would build a massive skyscraper jail that would replace half of the historic “Tombs” detention facility on Centre Street with no concrete plan for what will be inside of the building, how incarcerated people will actually live in the building, and what facilities are planned for visitors is truly insane. This is a moment for New York City, its corrections department, its local politicians, and the public to discuss what our incarceration policy should look like on an institutional and facilities level. All we have now are promises and nothing about how these monster facilities will actually operate. Finally, one noted criminal justice reform advocate, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, makes a serious case for closing all prisons. In New York Times Magazine, she asks, “Why don’t we think about why we solve problems by repeating the kind of behavior that brought us the problem in the first place?” The Times article points out that for Gilmore, prison abolition is “both a long-term goal and a practical policy program, calling for government investment in jobs, education, housing, health care—all elements that are required for a productive and violence-free life.”  This is the question to ask as President Trump has just signed his First Step Act, which will begin the release of thousands of prisoners from federal prisons; and as prisons in California, by court order, have begun to empty out their overcrowded facilities by releasing low-level offenders. Rather than build more jails or prisons, we should ask if we really need carceral structures in the way we have thought about them since the 19th century, as places of punitive architecture and inhumane residence. But we also need to ask if we even need more jails or prisons, or whether there might be better ways to rehabilitate people in the future.
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Zoo-tiful

Ross Barney Architects debuts Lincoln Park Zoo's new visitor center
Gadzooks: Ross Barney Architects has unleashed a new pavilion with a visitor center at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. In plan, the structure resembles two 'Js' knit together by a steel canopy of cantilevered frames that hang together to provide structural support and shade the ground with a leafy pattern. Officially, the 9,500-square-foot building is known as the Searle Visitor Center and it opened to the public on November 15, 2018. Between the Js, zoo-goers may enjoy a bouldered courtyard designed by hometown landscape architects Jacobs/Ryan Associates. Offices encircle the space; elsewhere, the program includes a membership lounge and an information center. The info center's patterned walls retract to open the zoo up to the crowds in the visitor center. At the entrance, the gate's patterning was designed specifically to keep out rogue humans who might try to enter the zoo when the animals throw parties at night it's closed. Besides the architecture, the best part about the Searle Visitor Center (and the rest of the zoo) is that it's free to visit. Zoos and cool buildings aren't necessarily a natural association, but they should be. In Detroit, Albert Kahn Associates in 2016 completed a penguin house that's shaped like a glacier, while at the Bronx Zoo, Morris Ketchum, Jr. & Associates' modernist World of Darkness (built 1969, but now shuttered) offered a windowless circular cast concrete enclosure to observe nocturnal creatures. In London, the ramped up Penguin Pool is a modern icon but a less than ideal environment for its inhabitants, and may be torn down sooner rather than later.
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Jail Simulator 2019

AECOM chosen to oversee design-build of Rikers replacement towers
A joint team of AECOM and the Philadelphia-based construction consulting firm Hill International has been tapped by the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to oversee the design and construction of the four borough-based jail towers that will replace Rikers Island. The pair was awarded a $107.4 million contract to administer the four teams that will build the new jails, one team for each location. Once complete, the four new jail towers will each be expected to hold approximately 1,500 beds, as well as rehabilitative and reentry programs, counseling, educational, and health components, as well as community space, at a total cost of $8.7 billion. If the new jails in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan move ahead, they would be the city’s first design-build projects. The DDC issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Program Management Consultant team in October of 2018 for the borough-based jails project. AECOM touts that the company is no stranger to building correctional facilities, and the company’s broad architecture and engineering experience makes it a good fit for design-build, where the architects and builders work in tandem to realize the project. The AECOM-Hill team will work off of a framework first devised by Perkins Eastman, which, along with 17 subcontractors, laid out the potential sites and space requirements for the replacement jails. Their final determination was that the city should refurbish existing buildings or build new jails close to the central courthouses in each borough so that inmates could easily make their court appearances. Of course, the plan hasn’t been without its detractors. All four jails are being moved through the Uniform Land Use Review Process at once in an effort to close Rikers as fast as possible, but residents have been pushing back against erecting new jails in their neighborhoods, and clashing with carceral activists. At the time of writing, four community boards have voted against the plan (Community Board 1 rejected building a 45-story jail tower at 125 White Street on Tuesday), although their votes are nonbinding.
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She Built NYC

Four more statues of pioneering New York women are coming to town
Four more legendary New York women are set to be honored with permanent statues around the city: Billie Holiday, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías, and Katherine Walker. Their likenesses will be erected as part of She Built NYC, a near-year-old campaign started by New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray and former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen to address the lack of monuments dedicated to the historic accomplishments of women in New York. Selected through an open call that drew over 2,000 nominations, these four new statues, along with the previously-announced piece honoring Shirley Chisholm, will bring a She Built NYC monument to every borough. Billie Holiday Queens Borough Hall, Queens American jazz legend Billie Holiday rose to fame in the 1930s with a powerful, soulful voice. Though she was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Baltimore, Holiday’s legacy also lives in New York where she moved in 1929 as a young girl. A theater dedicated to the prominent singer was built in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, in 1972 and recently renovated by MBB Architects in 2017. Elizabeth Jennings Graham Vanderbilt Avenue Corridor near Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan At just 27 years old, schoolteacher Elizabeth Jennings Graham stood up against racial segregation in the mid-19th century when she boarded a streetcar for whites only. She later wrote an account of the incident and filed a lawsuit against the Third Avenue Railroad Company and won. Because of her bravery, transit segregation was dismantled in New York and by 1860, all streetcar lines were open to African-Americans. Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías St. Mary’s Park, Bronx Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías was a lifelong public servant and pediatrician dedicated to advancing reproductive rights, and HIV/AIDS care and prevention, as well as serving communities of color. Her many leadership positions, from serving as the medical director of the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute to being the first Latinx director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), allowed her to make a significant change to not only the medical landscape in New York City but across the country. In 2001, President Bill Clinton presented Rodríguez Trías with the Presidential Citizens Medal. Katherine Walker Staten Island Ferry Landing, Staten Island As the keeper of the Robbins Reef Lighthouse in New York Harbor for over three decades, Katherine Walker helped rescue about 50 sailors from shipwrecks during her tenure. She was appointed to the position in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison after her husband died. Born in Germany, she immigrated to the United States just eight years before taking on the monumental task of overseeing all maritime movements in the Kill Van Kull, a shipping channel between Staten Island and Bayonne, New Jersey. According to She Built NYC, the new monuments will be commissioned through the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art process, which means community input will be at the core of the artist selection and design processes. The search for the individual artists is expected to begin at the end of this year with the fully-built statues coming online between 2021 and 2022.
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RIP

New York architect Warren Gran dies at age 85
Warren Gran, a New York City architect, died Sunday at age 85 in Los Angeles. Gran practiced in New York City for over 45 years and was known for his commitment to making social change through architecture. Gran specialized in public and non-profit projects with an emphasis on affordable housing, sustainability, and social responsibility, including supportive housing for the homeless and those suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems. He worked on many projects with the New York Public Schools, producing innovative spaces to help children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Prominent projects include: PS/IS 395, PS/IS 78Q Robert F. Wagner School in Long Island City, PS/IS 109 in Brooklyn, multiple projects for the Bank Street College of Education, and Brooklyn Family Court. His renovation of and addition to PS 14 won an AIA New York Design Award. Gran was also awarded the Boston Society of Architects/AIA Award for his work on the Lighthouse Charter School in the Bronx. One of his most visible projects was the conversion of a large Brooklyn courthouse on Adams Street into two high schools. A rooftop addition provided gyms and a signature look with red cylinders facing the street. On Morris Avenue in the Bronx, his 1974 housing development built with then-partner Irv Weiner, Melrose D-1 (a.k.a. the Michelangelo Apartments), has been described as an overlooked, pioneering, humane answer to housing problems that still plague the city today. “Why look at Melrose D-1 today? Because it acknowledges housing as a banal, repetitive, highly cost-driven design problem, and makes a virtue out of it,” wrote Susanne Schindler in The Avery Review in 2012. The complex is praised for its innovative floor plan, with access to three courtyards landscaped by Henry Arnold. Gran also worked in historic preservation. Among the prominent projects he worked on were the renovation of the dome at Manhattan Surrogate Court, the Manhattan Appellate Court, Queens Supreme Court, and a restoration of the Pratt Institute Library in collaboration with Giorgio Cavaglieri. Gran also worked as a residential architect designing homes in New Jersey, Connecticut, the Hamptons, and upstate New York that were often inspired by vernacular rural architecture, and balanced humanism and modernist ideals. These include the Weininger Residence in the Hudson Valley and his own weekend home in Ghent, New York, where he and his wife Suzanne vacationed. Gran’s career started while working in the office of the great Edward Larrabee Barnes. From 1967 to 2003 he taught architecture and urban design at Pratt Institute, also serving as the chairperson of the graduate program in urban design, the acting dean of the school of architecture, and teaching seminars at Yale, CUNY, Cooper Union, and NYU. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture at Penn State and his Masters in Planning from Pratt. Students have always said he was incredibly tough—but that they appreciated that toughness, and what he taught them launched their careers. He was a member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Urban Design Committee of AIA’s New York chapter. Gran was an officer in the navy in the late ‘50s, on the aircraft carrier the USS Ticonderoga. During these years he kept an apartment on Fillmore Street in San Francisco that was memorialized in Herb Caen’s San Francisco Chronicle column: Apparently, Gran and his Navy buddies’ parties were so loud the nightclub downstairs had to complain. Suzanne of Kansas City, Missouri, worked at The New Yorker magazine throughout the 1960s. Suzanne died in July of 2017. They are survived by two daughters, designer Eliza Gran and novelist Sara Gran, who went to Saint Ann’s and now live in Los Angeles. Warren is also survived by three grandchildren, Violet Phillips, 19, Ruby Phillips, 17, and Charles Wolf Phillips, 14.