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Mapping the Amazon

Amazon may have canceled its NYC headquarters, but its footprint is everywhere
For many of the people opposed to Amazon establishing a second headquarters (HQ2) in Queens, New York, casting the company into total exile was never the point. At its heart, opposition lay with the terms of the deal that wooed the company—its massive tax incentives, the process that had created the deal (without input or oversight from the New York City Council or local communities), and the dramatic impact such a real estate development project would have on the city's working class, especially by aggravating its gentrification and displacement crises. Facing a groundswell of local opposition, Amazon announced that it had canceled its plans for a new Queens campus on February 14, just three months after announcing its selection. While HQ2's optics and scale made it a legible enemy to rally against, Amazon's less splashy development projects have already become part of the fabric of many cities, including New York. Taking inventory of Amazon’s existing physical footprint in the city, one begins to perceive a shadow infrastructure at work which reshapes urban environments more through privatized logistics and information systems than through campus construction. In Manhattan, Amazon’s physical presence might best be recognized in retail. It was at the company’s 34th Street bookstore that protestors demonstrated on Cyber Monday following the HQ2 announcement. Indeed, like HQ2, the company’s retail stores serve as useful rallying points. But inside the same Midtown Manhattan building that hosts the bookstore sits a more explicit locus of Amazon’s presence: a 50,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center for the company’s Prime Now delivery service. It might be helpful to state here what Amazon actually is: a logistics company misrepresented as a retail company misrepresented as a tech company. Over time, the types of products the company sells have expanded beyond books and bassinets into less obviously tangible commodities like data (via Amazon Web Services), labor (via Amazon Mechanical Turk), and “content” (via Twitch and Amazon Studios productions). Ultimately the company’s appeal isn’t so much in the stuff it provides but the efficiency with which it provides stuff. Computation is obviously an important part of running a logistics operation, but Amazon’s logistical ends are frequently obscured by the hype around its technical prowess. And while Amazon is increasingly in the game of making actual things, a lot of them are commodities that, in the long run, enable the movement of other commodities: Amazon Echos aren’t just nice speakers, they’re a means of streamlining the online shopping experience into verbal commands and gathering hundreds of thousands of data points. Producing award-winning films and TV shows gives the company a patina of cultural respectability, but streaming them on Amazon Prime gets more people on Amazon and, in theory, buying things using Amazon Prime accounts. Amazon’s logistical foundation is most blatantly visible in the company's nearly 900 warehouses located around the world. Currently, the company has one fulfillment center (FC) in New York City. The 855,000-square-foot site in Staten Island opened in fall 2018 and had already earned Amazon $18 million in tax credits from the state of New York before the HQ2 deal was announced. Additionally, a month before the HQ2 announcement, Amazon had also signed a ten-year lease for a new fulfillment center in Woodside, Queens. The same day that Amazon vice president Brian Huseman testified before the New York City Council about HQ2, Staten Island warehouse employees and organizers from the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced a plan to form a union at the Staten Island FC, citing exhausting and unsafe working conditions better optimized for warehouse robots than employees. These conditions are far from unique to Staten Island—stories about the grueling pace, unhealthy environment, and precarity of contract workers at fulfillment centers have been reported regularly as far back as 2011. And yet, when the Staten Island FC was first announced in 2017, a small handful of media outlets made note of this record. Unions and community leaders weren’t galvanized against the Staten island FC the way they were by HQ2 or the way they had been when Wal-Mart attempted to come to New York in 2011. In some ways, the HQ2 debacle gave new life and momentum to an organized labor challenge previously hidden in plain sight (or at least in the outer boroughs). Of course, Amazon’s logistics spaces aren’t solely confined to far-flung corners of the New York metro area: There are two Prime Now distribution hubs in New York, one in Brooklyn and the other at the previously mentioned Midtown Manhattan location. Same-day delivery service Prime Now originated from that Midtown warehouse in 2014 and spawned Amazon Flex, an app-based platform for freelance delivery drivers to distribute Prime Now packages. (Ironically, one of the reasons Amazon has been able to become so effectively entrenched in the city is because of this kind of contingent labor force—any car in New York City can become an Amazon Flex delivery vehicle, any apartment a Mechanical Turker workplace.) The art of logistics also depends in part on the art of marketing. To support that marketing endeavor, Amazon has a 40,000-square-foot photo studio in a former glass manufacturing plant in Williamsburg that produces tens of thousands of images for Amazon Fashion, the company's online apparel venture. The company's forays into fashion, while less publicized, may also position it to become one of the largest retailers of clothing in the world. New York is also home to 260 Amazon Lockers: pickup and package return sites for select products typically located in 7-Elevens and other bodega-like environments. Like Prime Now, the Lockers streamline and automate a process that would normally involve lines at the post office. First appearing in New York in 2011, the 6-foot-tall locker units can range between 6 and 15 feet wide, with the individual lockers in each unit capable of holding packages no larger than 19 x 12 x 14 inches (roughly larger than a shoebox). While early reports indicated that store owners received a small monthly stipend for hosting the lockers, the main sell for store owners is the possibility of luring in more foot traffic. But a 2013 Bloomberg article noted that smaller businesses were frustrated by the limited returns from installing the lockers and increased power bills (lockers use a digital passcode system, requiring electricity and connectivity). There is an irony in the fact that for almost a decade before the HQ2 debacle, small businesses have been ceding physical space to Amazon only to be stuck with monolithic storage spaces serving little direct benefit. Following its acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017, Amazon installed Lockers in all of the supermarket’s locations in the city. Whole Foods was already associated with gentrification and had an anti-union CEO before the Amazon acquisition; if anything, Amazon upped the ante by attempting to bring Whole Foods more in line with Amazon’s logistics-first approach. Reports that Amazon has plans to open a new grocery chain suggest that early speculation about the Whole Foods acquisition was correct: Amazon wasn’t interested in Whole Foods in order to sell produce so much as to gain access to the grocery company’s rich trove of retail data, which Amazon could use to jump-start its own grocery operations. A data-driven approach has been at the core of Amazon’s logistics empire: The company was one of the first to use recommendation algorithms to show consumers other products they might also like, and Prime Now relies extensively on purchasing data to determine what items to stock in hub warehouses. It’s unsurprising, then, that the most profitable wing of Amazon’s empire is Amazon Web Services (AWS), its cloud computing platform. AWS’s physical footprint in New York City is relatively small, with a handful of data centers within city limits. Its most visible presence may be the AWS Loft in Soho, which opened in 2015, part of a small network of similar spots in San Francisco, Tokyo, Johannesburg, and Tel Aviv.  Part coworking space for startups that use AWS and part training center for AWS products and services, the Loft inhabits a kind of in-between space between data services and marketing. The space is free for AWS users and is full of comfy seating and amenities like free coffee and snacks—ironic considering Amazon's reputation for being absent of the kinds of perks expected at tech companies. Belying its small spatial footprint, AWS is a major part of the city’s networked operations. The New York City Department of Transportation and the New York Public Library are both presented as model case studies of successful AWS customers, and AWS has signed contracts with multiple city agencies, including the Departments of Education and Sanitation and the City Council as far back as 2014. AWS is also a major vendor to municipal, state, and federal agencies—and, increasingly, has come under scrutiny for its multimillion-dollar contracts with data mining company Palantir Technologies, which works with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to track and deport migrants, and for peddling its face recognition technology to police departments across the country. Some of the criticism of Amazon's campus deal with NYC came from New York City Council members, apparently unaware their office was paying Amazon for hosting web support. To be fair, New York City’s AWS contracts (including the City Council’s) are a fraction of the kind of revenue Amazon is vying for in federal defense contracts. And at this point, AWS is the industry standard upon which most of the internet runs. The situation reflects the depth to which Amazon has insinuated itself as a fundamental infrastructure provider. New York may have dodged a gentrification bullet with HQ2, but as with so much of Big Tech, Amazon’s impact on cities might look more like death by a thousand paper cuts. A new campus might be more visible than the hidden machinery of a city increasingly reliant on delivery-based services, but both impact local economies, residents, and living conditions. Amazon’s long-standing logistics regime also inspires an infinitude of Amazon-inspired niche delivery startups familiar to New Yorkers as a pastel monoscape of subway ads hawking mattresses, house cleaning services, and roommates, to name just a few, along with the precarious jobs that are their defining characteristic. There have been continued efforts in New York to challenge Amazon’s frictionless logistics regime since the HQ2 withdrawal. Pending City Council legislation banning cashless retail would affect far more businesses than just Amazon’s brick-and-mortar operations (which have automatic app-based checkout), but it would certainly stymie any expansion of its physical retail footprint. State Senator Jessica Ramos has joined labor leaders in calling for a fair union vote at the future Woodside fulfillment center. These sorts of initiatives are often more drawn out and less galvanizing than those to halt a major campus development. But they’re crucial to a larger strategy for making the tech-enabled systems of inequality in cities visible. In 2019, the premise that the digital and physical worlds are mysteriously separate realms has been effectively killed by the tech industry’s measurable impact on urban life, from real estate prices to energy consumption. Comprehending the full impact of companies like Amazon on cities and seeing beyond their efforts to obscure or embellish their presence (glamour shots of data centers, anyone?) requires a full examination of these infrastructures outside of the companies' preferred terms. By demanding public accountability, New York's elected officials and community groups may have demonstrated the beginnings of just how to do that.
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Paris is Burning

Paris’s historic Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames
A large fire has engulfed Paris’s historic Notre Dame Cathedral, causing an incredible amount of damage to the 800-year-old stone and wood structure. Reports of the fire started circulating online late Monday afternoon, Paris time, as tourists and residents posted photos and videos of the blaze on social media. As of Monday evening, the majority of the blaze had been contained, though it had not been entirely put out. Initial reports indicate that the main structure has been “saved and preserved” despite substantial damage to other elements. Portions of the transept and nave roof collapsed during the blaze, as did the cathedral’s main spire. Reports indicate that the cathedral’s main western stained glass rosette window has been destroyed, as well. Other reports indicate that other stained glass windows remain but their status is not entirely known at this time. Many of the relics held at the church—including the Crown of Thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ—were promptly removed and secured, according to authorities. Because of ongoing restoration work, large bronze statues depicting the twelve apostles typically located near the spire that collapsed, including a statue of St. Thomas the Apostle bearing the likeness of architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, were recently relocated to southern France for restoration. Following the blaze, French citizens took to the streets singing prayer songs and chanting in solidarity and mourning for France’s premier cultural and religious site. The cathedral welcomes over 13 million tourists every year according to official estimates and was currently undergoing restoration work. Some of the initial images seen from inside the still smoldering nave of the church taken by journalists Monday night showed damage that appeared less dire than originally feared. In short order, France’s wealthiest citizens began pledging large donations to help pay for the restoration of the cathedral. So far, over $600 million has been promised to the project. “This cathedral will be rebuilt, I promise you," French president Emmanuel Macron said in a speech following the blaze while announcing that a national campaign will get underway on Tuesday to collect the funds necessary for the rebuilding effort. Macron added, “We will rebuild Notre Dame because that is what the French expect and it is what the French deserve.”
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The Renegades

Bruce Goff’s imaginative teaching lives on in Oklahoma
Most architecture students study design precedents or build upon knowledge gained in history courses, but one mid-century educator repeatedly told young minds instead: 
Do not try to remember.
Bruce Goff, a self-trained architect and long-time mentee of Frank Lloyd Wright, instilled this idea in his students at the University of Oklahoma (OU) during his tenure as chairman there from 1947 to 1955. Instead of copying the popular Beaux Arts and Bauhaus styles of the recent past, Goff wanted architects in training to express their own creativity and views of the world through designs that avoided architectural stereotypes and instead presented a radical future. This era of educational exploration and disruption became known as the American School of architecture. Historian and OU Visiting Associate Professor Dr. Luca Guido is the curator behind the exhibition, Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture at Bizzell. Now on view in OU’s Bizzell Memorial Library, it details the widespread influence of Goff’s personal teaching style and the program he built, which attracted students to the American Midwest from as far as Japan and South America. The exhibit features large-scale drawings by alumni, as well as uncovered models and writings from Goff’s students and colleagues like Herb Greene, Elizabeth Bauer Mock, Bart Prince, Mendel Glickman, and Jim Gardner, and Bob Bowlby, among others. Built from the school’s expansive American School archives, the show unveils former students' work that’s been so pristinely preserved and restored, it all looks like it was completed yesterday. Goff, who seemed to have encouraged serious attention to presentation, penmanship, and shading, left behind what Guido considers a “gold mine” of materials. Every framed assignment on view is a piece of art in and of itself—a testament to the architectural educator’s guidance. “Bruce Goff introduced a new architectural pedagogy,” Guido said, “and the School of Architecture at OU endeavored to develop the creative skills of the students as individuals rather than followers of any particular trend. The drawings represent the evidence of an extraordinary and, at the same time, little known page of the history of American contemporary architecture.” That history is one that OU is now trying more heavily to build upon. As one of just two architecture schools in Oklahoma, OU lures students from across the state, nearby Texas, and around the globe to the small town of Norman. It was considered a world-class institution during Goff’s years and still seeks to live up to that legacy today. Since becoming head of the school three years ago, Dean Hans E. Butzer has worked to re-elevate its status. “Our discussions over the past few years prove a symmetry between those defining aspects of the American School and the overarching strategic priorities of the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture,” he said. “The work of the American School of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s may be described as contextual, resourceful, and experimental. Today, we have set the goal of graduating entrepreneurial students who design resilient cities, towns, and landscapes through the lens of social equity and environmental sustainability.” This idea is evident in the success of last year’s graduating class. As of fall 2018, one hundred percent of architecture students secured a full-time position within six months of graduation, according to Butzer. Only two, the faculty jokes, didn’t get hired. They instead went on to begin master’s degrees at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. When asked why OU graduates are so attractive to firms across the country, Butzer noted the work ethic and creative problem-solving skills they learned as students. Teaching students to speak up, stand out, and work hard can be traced back to Goff’s presence at the school and his own career as an eccentric architect who always put the client first and aimed to “go the extra mile,” according to Guido. His modus operandi was to first connect deeply with the client, ensuring the end result was strictly their vision. His objective was to never design a building he personally wanted to live in. Some of Goff’s most famous structures, the Ledbetter House in Norman, the ill-fated Bavinger House that was demolished in 2016, as well as the Bachman House in Chicago, took on forms reminiscent of Wright’s residential work—low-lying residential homes with surprisingly large interiors, cantilevered carports, and large windows—but they all displayed a curious amount of flamboyancy that was signature to Goff himself. The architecture of his early years, such as the historic Tulsa Club and the Art Deco-designed Boston Avenue Methodist Church, are celebrated landmarks in Tulsa and reveal Goff’s visual personality. Goff was also a champion of sustainable and site-specific construction; he often utilized local materials for his projects. Fittingly, Goff rejected the idea of having a personal style of architecture. Some of Goff’s mid-century work and the sketches of his students from this time seem to be inspired by Atomic Age tropes. Viewing them now, they’re so futuristic they probably seemed structurally unbuildable at the time, but the geometries that came out of the American School were forward-thinking and technically-advanced. During Goff’s leadership, architectural courses fell within OU’s College of Engineering where students were taught how to complete construction drawings and to specify materials. But in Goff’s classes, it was all about creativity. “Bruce Goff didn’t believe in critiques,” said Guido. “He wanted them completely free to propose what they wanted. The assignments were structured around abstract themes that allowed the students to express themselves in the best possible way because for Goff, there would be no little Corbusier's, no little Mies's, and even no little Goff's. He didn’t want his students to become followers of someone. He wanted them to abandon all memory of what came before them.” Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture at Bizzell is on view through July 29 and will turn into a comprehensive traveling exhibition this year with a stop at Texas A&M University in the fall. The OU Libraries also has plans to secure the preservation of the archives by making them part of the school's Western History Collection and digitizing select images for online research.
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Designing For The Void

Raymond Jungles reshapes the garden at the Ford Foundation overhaul
Ever since it was finished in 1967, the most notable feature of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo’s Ford Foundation Building has been what is not there. At the center of the building is a 12-story, 160-foot-high void occupied by a multitiered interior garden, dense with trees, flowering bushes, and lacy ferns. The original design of the garden—by the late master landscape architect Dan Kiley—frankly never flourished, but it is now in full bloom. “For Dan, his garden was a big experiment,” said Raymond Jungles, the Coconut Grove, Florida–based landscape architect responsible for re-creating Kiley’s vision while also planting his own professional roots in the redesign. When the building reopened in March after a major two-year interior restructuring and updating, Jungles’s garden was ready for the building’s occupants—as well as the public—to wander. “I’m a designer, I have an ego, but this project wasn’t about what Raymond Jungles was doing for the space, but, rather, my desire to find Dan Kiley’s original spirit for this space,” added Jungles. “I want people to enjoy the amazing garden Dan had designed for everybody—those who work in the building, and those who pass by and come inside.” According to Guy Champin, Jungles’s project manager for the new garden, “The architecture of the building is all about its two transparent facades,” referring to the walls of windows on both the 42nd and 43rd Street sides. To preserve and indeed enhance that visual effect, Champin and Jungles have established a tree canopy using some 35 Shady Lady black olives, Jacarandas, Ficus Amstel King, and other varieties that allow visitors to see through the space, while remaining aware of a beckoning urban forest unlike any other vista in Manhattan. Rectilinear brick pathways course across the space, half of which are wheelchair-accessible. While the hardscape remains largely untouched, given the landmark status of the building, Jungles’s firm has made conspicuous visual and aural changes. In keeping with the Ford Foundation’s new branding as a decidedly all-embracing forum for “social justice,” the firm was commissioned to establish a touch and smell garden where hearing and visually impaired visitors can experience the plantings. Elsewhere, Kiley’s extant rectangular pool has now been subtly fitted with a sound element. “Water, to me, is the heart and soul of any garden,” said Jungles, “and we’ve created the sound of moving water with pumps.” And in an effort to increase the reflective qualities of the shallow body, Jungles and Champin added black dye to the water. “Normally, dye is put in to reduce the growth of algae,” Jungles pointed out, “but here it was done to create a reflective mirror. The garden space is not just about that space, but also about the buildings across the street. One of the principals of landscape architecture is to see what you can borrow and introduce from the surrounding neighborhood.” Although the 10,000 square feet of space devoted to greenery is now abloom with plant life, the process of making the landscape introduced other, subtler elements as well. All of the trees that are now taking root in soil and in planters were grown in Florida and shipped to New York. But according to Dinu Iovan, senior project manager for Henegan Construction, the contractors for the garden installation, those trees came with other forms of life, namely, anoles, small green lizards typical of subtropical regions. “They’re everywhere in here now,” said Iovan, “which is a fun, accidental, extra element. There’s even a bat somewhere in one of these trees.” By day or night, the garden beckons passersby. Grow lights illuminate the courtyard when it is dark outside and, month by month, new colorful blossoms are set to visually animate the space. Acknowledging the difficulties of sustaining a garden in a dry interior space with limited natural sunlight, Champin likened the newly grown—and still growing—space to a beacon. “It calls to you like it’s a lighthouse in the middle of the city,” he said, “glowing with life.” Architect: Gensler General Contractor: Henegan Construction MEP: JB&B Structural: Thornton Tomasetti Lighting: FMS (Fisher Marantz Stone) Irrigation: Northern Designs Soils: James Urban Landscape: Siteworks AV/IT/Security: Cerami & Associates Preservation Consultant: Higgins Quasebarth & Partners LLC Landscape Contractor: Alpine Construction & Landscaping Corp. Plant Supplier: Signature Tree & Palms
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Show Me the Money

Making money as an architect is majorly affected by where you work
Architecture is notoriously known as one of the less lucrative professional fields in the United States, especially for young practitioners. But according to a new report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where you live and work as an architect can majorly affect your annual income now and in the future. Forbes recently reported on the agency’s updated Occupational and Employment Statistics data, which reveal where architects can earn top salaries. For fully-licensed architects working full-time in the field as of May 2017, these are the average incomes found within the top 5 states: New York: $109,520 Massachusettes: $103,920 Texas: $99,580 Arizona: $95,220 California: $95,060 Alaska, of all places, provides the sixth-highest average salary to practitioners, followed by Alabama, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Minnesota. Forbes noted that if the District of Columbia were included as a state, it would rank third. Per the Occupational and Employment Statistics data, the 2017 mean annual wage for Utah, the worst state to practice architecture in terms of earnings, was $67,520. Arkansas, Maine, Idaho, and Vermont trail behind as well, offering average salaries that, when calculated altogether, hover at $70,725. In thinking about this, it’s important to consider just how many architects work in the country. According to the report, there are an estimated 103,100 architects employed in U.S. firms. California boasts the most architects with 13,880. New York has about 12,740. From there the stats drop dramatically with Texas employing 8,730, as Illinois and Florida employing 5,140 and 4,490 respectively. While these stats offer huge insights into geographical demographics, they do not break down top earnings by ethnicity, race, gender, or age. It’s no secret that even in the highest-ranking state on this list, New York, junior architects and interns—or up-and-coming designers usually under the age of 30—receive significantly less money until they earn their licensure. Even then, in some cases, those newly-minted architects aren’t given promotions or raises. It depends on the ethics and goals of firms in which they work. For women and minority architects, the reality can be just as harsh, no matter the level. Kim Dowdell, the new president of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA), recently told AN that the wealth gap in the U.S. trickles so far down that young minority students are less and less likely to pursue the profession due to the cost of an architectural education. “Many of my colleagues have really high levels of student debt coupled with comparatively low professional salaries (consider doctors and lawyers) and limited flexibility and financial freedom,” she said. “How can we as an organization motivate or incentivize people to pursue architecture knowing that compensation is a challenge and the student loan debt is higher than ever?” Pay equity is arguably one of the biggest issues in the industry today. In February, The Architects’ Journal released its 2019 report on the U.K.'s gender pay gap, which unveils all documented salaries at firms that employ 250 or more people. Legally, these large-size practices must publicly reveal their gender pay gap in an effort to spread awareness on the issue. According to the article, Foster + Partners, which employs 1,061 people, includes 36 percent female architects who earn a median pay that’s 6.9 percent lower than their male counterparts. Zaha Hadid Architects has nearly the same amount of women on staff as Foster’s office, but the median pay gap is 21 percent. Arup, the global engineering and design firm, pays its female employees 16.9 percent less. Here in the U.S., where it's not a requirement to disclose firm-wide salaries, people are beginning to think more seriously about how gaps in gender, race, and pay equity may affect the internal culture of a firm and the subsequent projects produced its employees. Last summer, Jeanne Gang revealed she had closed the pay gap at Studio Gang, becoming the first firm in the country to do so. As Gang pointed out in her Fast Company article, the pay gap is one of architecture's greatest injustices and diversity in design isn’t just about filling a quota with different faces of different colors in a single office. It’s about recognizing the value that architects of all backgrounds bring to the table, and compensating them appropriately. Like any profession, the dollar amounts for an architect's salary will differ from state to state, but the respect for the mind and skills of a designer, no matter their race, gender, or language, should be the same across the board. That, according to Gang, will truly allow creativity to flourish.
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Choke Points

New York State approves first-in-the-nation congestion pricing plan
With the $175 billion New York State budget locked in for 2020, so too is congestion pricing on drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street. While the specifics have yet to be hammered out, the plan is the first to be imposed in the United States. Charging drivers who enter Manhattan’s central business district (CBD) is expected to have a number of effects: reducing traffic, cutting pollution, and raising money for the beleaguered subway system, managed by the state-controlled Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). That last point had previously caused tension between Governor Andrew Cuomo, who supported congestion pricing as a way to raise money for subway repairs, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who wanted to impose a “millionaire’s tax” on high earning New York City residents. The price that each driver will be charged upon entering or exiting the CBD has yet to be determined, but a six-person Traffic Mobility Board will determine the fee before the plan goes into effect. It should be noted that the board will be composed of one member selected by the mayor, and the rest being residents of areas served by the Metro-North Railroad or Long Island Railroad (LIRR), New York's major suburban train lines, also managed by the MTA. Drivers will only be tolled once per day, through a series of EZ Pass cameras—or, if the driver lacks an EZ Pass, license plate-snapping cameras—mounted in yet-to-be-determined locations. Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC Advisory Panel, which released its final report in January of last year, had suggested charging personal vehicles $11.52 to enter Manhattan, charging trucks $25.34, and $2-to-$5 for for-hire vehicles. The program hopes to raise $1 billion through congestion fees annually that the state will use to back $15 billion in bond sales to fund repairs to the ailing subway system. While the budget promises to carve out exemptions for lower-income drivers, 80 percent of the funds raised will go towards subway and bus-related capital projects in the city, and the remaining 20 percent will be set aside for the Metro-North and LIRR. Additionally, the program will be set up and administered by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) part of the MTA, in collaboration with New York City's Department of Transportation. Handing over the program to the state, and, in particular, Westchester and Long Island in the case of the Traffic Mobility Board, has riled up online transportation activists, who feel the congestion plan was a move by the state to take more control of NYC’s streets. Because the Traffic Mobility Board members are appointed by the MTA, they have the discretion to reject the mayor’s appointees. With so much of the plan still left to be filled in, the earliest that drivers can expect to begin paying is the end of 2020, if not sometime in 2021.
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Love to Build

AN Interior Top 50 designers share their favorite building materials
We surveyed the AN Interior Top 50 interior architects and designers and asked them to reveal what they love to build with. You’ll find their favorite products and materials below.
Pigmented Silver Nitrates Rafael Prieto Founder and Creative Director, Savvy Studio “As a studio we always like to experiment with materials to discover new colors and shapes. Here we work on the superposition of layers of pigmented silver nitrates and then polish them to create random effects of colors and shapes.”
Soy-Based Spray Foam Insulation Chris and Dominic Leong Partners, Leong Leong “High-performance and aesthetically uncanny, soy-based spray foam insulation is a perfect example of the type of materiality we are interested in. Commonly used for insulation, spray foam has an organic quality that is never entirely predictable. It’s a very low-fi product that has an amazing sculptural plasticity and formlessness—a kind of industrial wabi-sabi effect.”
Expanded Metal Mesh Benjamin Cadena Principal, Studio Cadena “By carefully hanging rolls of standard industrial-grade expanded mesh from the ceiling, we are able to drape it much like a fabric. By hanging the metal mesh draperies like a fabric in the space, from a distance they become more translucent and lose their harshness to great effect. By hand painting the material and using it an unexpected way, we can transform it into something else.” Tiles and Finishes by Concrete Collaborative Morris Adjmi Principal, Morris Adjmi Architects “In our interior projects, we love to use concrete for its natural character, precision, durability, economy, range of surface textures, and depth of color. It’s also environmentally friendly. Our go-to concrete provider is Concrete Collaborative for everything from terrazzo to polished tiles [Laguna] and panels, flooring [Ventura], pavers for the outdoors, and stair treads.”
Calacatta Viola Marble by ABC Stone Oliver Haslegrave Creative Director and Founder, Home Studios “Stone is a lifelong favorite material, especially honed marble. We’ve used it in nearly every element of our interiors over the years—surfaces, seating, tables, lighting, votives. Plus, we love searching for the perfect slab.” Cloudburst Concrete 4011 by Caesarstone Alda Ly Principal, Alda Ly Architecture & Design “We’re very picky about finding the right amount of movement in solid surfaces. We love when it feels natural but doesn’t go overboard. Caesarstone’s Cloudburst Concrete is a natural concrete color with a beautiful cloudy patina. The larger the slab, the more pattern is visible.” Colored Film by Solar Graphics Craig Steely Principal, Craig Steely Architecture “I’m excited about our recent experiments to create space with colored films on glass. We have been using colors and their shadows to imply architecture and create hierarchies in our spaces. I’m interested in the contrast between physical materials and colored light and shadow as space delineators.”
Roll-A-Tex (medium grain) Jaffer Kolb and Ivi Diamantopoulo Principals, New Affiliates “Roll-A-Tex is a great additive to use with paint to create a rocky surface texture. We used it in a display for Opening Ceremony as a way of setting it apart from all of its slick neighboring materials. Plus, texture helps mask surface flaws like a panacea.”
Inky Custom Glaze by Boston Valley Terra Cotta Michael Chen Principal, Michael K Chen Architecture (MKCA) “It’s the rare interior of ours that doesn’t incorporate some degree of three-dimensional or sculptural texture. We’re often looking for ways for surfaces to be more lively, and to produce a certain play of light and shadow. For that, we often look to three-dimensional ceramics. Often when the work is inside, and especially in cities, you’re confronted with spaces that are challenged in terms of natural light. It’s incredible how much dimension can be coaxed out of a fairly dark space though texture and reflectivity.”
Terrazzo by John Caretti & Co Carrie Norman and Thomas Kelley Principals, Norman Kelley “Terrazzo comes in many finishes and applications, most commonly poured and polished. This typically presents a smooth surface with a variegated appearance. For our Aesop Lincoln Park project, we wanted those attributes in reverse. Something that appeared monolithic from afar, with texture and variation up close. Instead of polishing, we opted for exposing a monochromatic palette of gray-black aggregate within a warm gray cement base. Applied with a trowel, the material seamlessly transitions the horizontal and vertical surfaces of a series of interior steps.”
Kenyan Black Marble by SMC Stone Alexander Gorlin Principal, Alexander Gorlin Architects “Kenyan Black Marble is one of my favorites for the graphically swirling veins that are especially expressive in a residential setting. I love to select the exact slab and lay out the location of the design on the slabs themselves.” Vinyl by 3M Primo Orpilla Principal, Studio O+A “When the challenge is getting the maximum visual impact, you really can’t beat vinyl. Our designers have developed a sophisticated approach to matching vinyl wall graphics to the spaces they are meant to transform—kinetic patterns for active areas like break rooms and town halls; quieter patterns for places where people need to concentrate. Vinyl is our Brand Studio’s go-to product—it can turn a wall into an abstract canvas or a giant photograph. It can travel down the wall and continue onto the floor. We use vinyl on glass-walled conference rooms for privacy and on bare concrete surfaces to make them playful. We use it to give staircases personality and to introduce color into offices that might otherwise default to neutral. And if you’re trying to hint at a cultural reference without getting too literal, vinyl is perfect for replicating indigenous art and textiles, from Finland to Indonesia.” Corian Wil Carson Design Director, 64North “One of our favorite materials is Corian because of its flexibility and the diversity of applications we can use, and misuse, it for—especially in terms of its ability to be machined or bent. Whether we are machining 2D patterns into its surface or creating more complex 3D relief, its ability to be shaped combined with its visual and haptic qualities gives us a quite rich, mutable palette to work with.”
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A Timeless Trailblazer

See the top 5 proposals for Brooklyn’s upcoming Shirley Chisholm statue
New York is apparently moving fast to bridge the gap in the number of public monuments dedicated to men versus women. Last November, the She Built NYC initiative announced its plans to erect its first statue of the political trailblazer Shirley Chisholm and just yesterday, the group unveiled the top five artist proposals in the running for the monument's design. Among the all-female finalists are Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous, Mickalene Thomas, Tanda Francis, La Vaughn Belle, and Firelei Báez. Slated for the Parkside and Ocean Avenue entrance of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the designs all feature grand visions of Congresswoman Chisholm’s “trailblazing” legacy. La Vaughn Belle Chisholm is well-known for the now-famous line: “If they don’t give you a seat the table, bring a folding chair.” Belle showcases Chisholm walking ahead of a sea of folding chairs, carrying one in her hand and stepping on what appears to be a symbolic presidential seal. The title of the piece, Chisholm Trail, alludes to her West Indian roots and how she empowered immigrants and people of all backgrounds by leaving a path for further equality in the United States. Mickalene Thomas Thomas described Chisholm in her proposal as someone who was “deeply in touch with the people” of Brooklyn. Her proposal shows the Congressperson sitting on a parked car, legs crossed as if in casual conversation, instead of at a podium or on a stage as a politician. Creating her figure at human-scale, the artist aimed to place her at eye-level with viewers in order to enhance engagement and encourage a communal atmosphere. “The monument is meant to highlight the fortitude of both Shirley Chisholm and the people she represents,” Thomas wrote in her submission. Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyfious Inspired by Chisholm's life as a civil servant—she was the first-ever woman and African American to seek the Democratic Party’s pick for president in 1971—Williams and Jeyfious envisioned the monument as a nod to Chisholm's legacy as someone who “left the door open” for others to pursue a place in politics and fight for equality. From one angle, the outline of the statue looks like the U.S. Capitol dome; from another, it’s Chisholm’s profile. According to the artists, this “symbolizes how she disrupted the perception of who has the right to occupy such institutions and to be an embodiment for democracy.” Tanda Francis The Chisholm Trail Memorial by Tanda Francis takes the form of a bold, bronze bust of Chisholm framed by vertical jets of water and light. A towering structure with her face looking upward in hope, the monument will feature a pathway surrounding the statue with Chisholm's inspiring quotes embedded into the sidewalk. Firelei Báez Báez’s monument centers around a series of 10- to 15-foot hand-painted metal columns. Inspired by the famous monument of Nelson Mandela in Howick, South Africa, the artist has created three portraits of Chisholm that reveal themselves when viewed from different vantage points. Each visage showcases different aspects of her public role and accomplishments. An aerial view of the sculpture reveals that the beams are arranged in the West African symbol of a bird, the Sankofa. The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program has opened the proposals up for a public commentary period through Sunday, March 31. The winning design will be chosen in early April and is estimated to be built by the end of 2020.
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Hope for Better Things

Utile envisions a grand, new future for Detroit’s Eastern Market
Detroit is often referred to as an example of a city in which citizen effort and innovative design in certain areas have increased the standard of living, despite the city's overall struggles. The Eastern Market district is an example of such uplift. In the five long, 19th-century "sheds" along Russell Street, cafés, local farmer-vendors, jewelers, and Coney Island–style hot dog stands now flank the corridors. Murals on brick brighten up the exterior walls. Jazz musicians and Motown singers play music for guests every Saturday when the markets are at their liveliest. Outside the sheds, there are local coffee companies, clinics, restaurants, and grocery stores. In recent years, the space, a 24-acre plot in the heart of Detroit, has been dramatically revitalized. The bustling marketplaces reflect this. However, it is clear that more effort is needed to make the most of the possibilities the district offers. Today, the Eastern Market's historic core requires both structural and environmental updates. Additionally, an increasing number of visitors means the sheds and surrounding businesses require expansions. In a group effort by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the Eastern Market Corporation, and the Nature Conservancy, Boston-based firm Utile, Inc., and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) have been commissioned to lay out a comprehensive framework for the district and the surrounding neighborhood. In doing so, the district hopes to become a larger center for food distribution. Further goals involve becoming a high-tech hub in order to present more opportunities for employment. Tim Love, principal at Utile, spoke to The Architect's Newspaper about the challenges, plans, and aspirations for the project. The Architect's Newspaper: What were the guidelines for the project and the issues present that the client wants to solve?  Tim Love: The project has two separate but related focus areas: the historic core of the market, centered on the market sheds, and an area targeted for the expansion of food industry businesses to the north and east of the existing market district. The expansion of the market is necessitated by new federal food regulations triggered by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act and the desire by the City of Detroit to retain and expand the job opportunities provided by the food industry. The plan for the market expansion area required the thoughtful integration of an industrial real estate development strategy with a centralized stormwater management plan. As a result, the Utile/MVVA team needed to test alternative food business building prototypes and the network of open spaces that threaded between the buildings. The design problem was complicated by the need to provide truck access to the food businesses while screening the truck aprons from non-industrial uses on the boundaries of the expanded food industry district. The final recommended urban design strategy, conceived at the block scale, weaves together industrial buildings, stormwater greenways, truck aprons, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly streets, and live/work building types. The net result is an urbanism that acknowledges the need for large-footprint, truck-dependent buildings, but organizes them in a way that makes for a more environmental-friendly and walkable district. The plan for the core market area meets related but slightly different goals. In this case, the preservation of the market sheds and the funky building fabric on the blocks to the east and west of the sheds were identified as a cultural as much as a historic resource. As a result, a set of design guidelines were developed that encourage developers to preserve the existing buildings while allowing for penthouse additions of three to four stories above. To reinforce the existing ad hoc character of the district, we decided to embrace the mismatched stacking of contrasting architectural expressions rather than encourage a more canonical restoration of the historic fabric. Along the Dequindre Cut and Gratiot Avenue, where less of the historic fabric survives, dense residential mixed-use development is proposed. An increase in the local residential population will enliven the public realm, especially in the evening, when Eastern Market is mostly deserted. The twist, in this case, is that fabrication and light manufacturing spaces are encouraged on the ground floor rather than retail. The goal is to encourage smaller-scale food and fabrication businesses that complement the larger-scale facilities being planning in the market expansion area. In addition, favoring fabrication spaces over retail will help steer retail businesses closer to the market sheds, where food-focused retail already benefits from the busy public market. Our team is still working with the city to determine how our plan will be implemented, both in the short- and long-term. Certainly, zoning regulations will be one tool that will be used to shape future private investment. AN: What is the current state of the Eastern Market neighborhood, and where does your team envision it being when your design has been implemented? How will your team’s designs impact Detroit on a city-wide scale? TL: Today, Eastern Market neighborhood is an island of walkable urban fabric within a larger landscape of vacant parcels and auto-centric uses. The economy of the market core is defined by symbiotic relationships between food production, distribution, and retail businesses in close proximity to one another and in connection with larger supply chains. Our goal is to extend the district to accommodate the needs of the modern food industry while introducing a mix of uses that reinforce the public realm and increase both the daytime and evening population. The expansion of the market district will also increase the number of food industry jobs, important in a city where the largest areas of job growth have been in the customer service and retail sectors. The industrial buildings that surround the historic market sheds are not suitable for modern food processing and fabrication. Their floor plates are too small, and their ceilings are too low. And even if they were adequate in size, modern food safety codes make the buildings prohibitively expensive to renovate. To answer the need for modernization, a market expansion area was identified directly to the north and east of the core market where new larger state-of-the-art industrial building can be accommodated. As existing businesses move or expand into new facilities in the expansion area, the core market buildings can be renovated to support a mix of uses, including retail, commercial-office, loft residential, and smaller-scale food startups. New multi-floor rooftop additions are allowed per the design guidelines developed as part of the plan. The additions will increase density in the district and will cross-subsidize the rehabilitation of the lower floors. The expanded market area will both keep existing businesses from leaving the area and will attract new food industry businesses to Detroit. Preserving and enhancing the economic engine of Eastern Market not only creates jobs and generates revenue for the city, but also a strategy for maintaining an authentic working market district. AN: How has the community been involved in the design process? What are some of the features of the final design that allow for and encourage community engagement? TL: We partnered with the City of Detroit and City Form Detroit, a local urban design and planning firm, to craft a comprehensive engagement strategy. The process included well-attended open houses hosted by the city that included short presentations, informal break-out sessions, and visual survey activities. As a sign of the city’s ownership of the process and emerging plan, representatives from the city and the Detroit Economic Growth Council gave the presentations and not members of our team; the first time one of our public agency clients has owned the content early in the planning process!
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Empty Vessel

Hudson Yards and its Vessel open to the public
As throngs of tourists and New York City residents descend on Manhattan’s far west side for the opening of Hudson Yards’ first phase, AN joined the first tour of the Thomas Heatherwick–designed Vessel (interested visitors can reserve free tickets). Bill Pedersen, founding partner of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), Thomas Woltz of landscape architecture studio Nelson Byrd Woltz, representatives from Heatherwick Studio, and Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross, who paid to construct the Vessel out of his own pocket, were also on hand to dive into the design behind the development. With the first phase of Hudson Yards opening to the public today, plenty of ink has already been spilled over the new neighborhood’s “fortress-like” nature, the accusations that it intentionally and discordantly stands apart from the street grid and city as a whole, and that the development is a playground for the one-percent financed through $6 billion in tax breaks (though some might passionately dispute that characterization). Those points have been argued elsewhere. What is definitely true is that the 11-million-square-foot, $16-billion first phase of Hudson Yards is now mainly open, or will open shortly, and it’s likely to draw shoppers, tourists, and High Line hikers to what was formerly an open-air staging area for the Long Island Railroad. The second phase of the megaproject over the still-uncovered western railyard will hold five more residential towers and a commercial project from architectural heavy hitters like Herzog & de Meuron, Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, and Robert A.M. Stern. Related expects that infrastructure work on the second phase will begin next year before the site is decked over. Vessel, Heatherwick’s $150 million not-quite-a-sculpture, not-quite-a-building sits at the center of Hudson Yards’ Public Square and Gardens. The climbable installation is made up of 154 flights of stairs connected to 80 landings, and it balloons up to 150-feet-wide at its 150-foot-tall summit. As project architect Stuart Wood explained, Vessel (explicitly not “the Vessel”—although Related will rename the structure later, anyway) was designed to be open in its programming while not “jamming up” the plaza. “The project was built entirely from staircases and landings. They're public, publicly accessible, free to use spaces. It's non-prescriptive. That was absolutely our intent from the outset. This should be a project that is open to interpretation. It's open to different natures of use.” The underside of the piece is clad in warm, reflective metal paneling that distorts the glass towers around it and brings a sense of liveliness to the “sculpture” as more visitors gather at its base. As visitors scale Vessel, climbers see themselves reflected overhead as the panels act as mirrored ceilings; that interactivity is intentional. On the topside, Heatherwick has used wood railings, darkened steel, and stone for the steps and landings in reference to the site's industrial heritage. With a form so often compared to a beehive or garbage can by outside observers, actually entering Vessel produces an unusual effect. Standing in the sculpture’s base feels akin to entering a towering atrium, with the glass handrails resembling windows. Climbing the structure’s numerous staircases, at least when devoid of the crowds that will surely descend on it after the official opening, felt slightly dangerous. The view of Hudson Yards, the Shed, shops and dining areas, and across the Hudson River, open up towards the top, and might induce the same sense of vertigo found on construction sites. For mobility impaired visitors, Heatherwick Studio has added a glass elevator that travels along a curving track along Vessel’s inside rim, though it only stops at one landing per story. The plaza in which Vessel sits is elliptical and gently spirals out to each of the buildings on the site, a decision that Nelson Byrd Woltz came to in tandem with Heatherwick Studio. As such, it serves as the epicenter of Hudson Yards’ public space, and its central location in the neighborhood’s main plaza visually cements that status. Vessel, for better or for worse, is intrinsically at home in Hudson Yards and wouldn’t fit anywhere else in the world. And even if it wasn’t, as Wood explained, Related has copyrighted the design.
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Slashing Ceiling Heights

New York lawmaker fights for more aggressive ceiling height restrictions
As New York City's skyline continues to soar, New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal is fighting for more aggressive ceiling height restrictions to chop supertall, luxury towers. Curbed reported on Rosenthal’s plan outdoes that of the de Blasio administration and enacts stricter policies over mechanical voids—the hollow, uninhabited spaces in apartment buildings that increase the height of buildings. Current zoning regulations exempt mechanical voids from a building’s floor area ratio (FAR), or allowable square footage. Since there are no height limits on those spaces, luxury developers can currently build excessively tall ceilings to house mechanical equipment as a means of elevating their buildings without officially surpassing their permitted size. By piling apartments above extremely tall floors, developers can mark the units with a higher price tag. To curb the development of these soaring and seemingly unrestricted towers, Rosenthal recently introduced a bill that will penalize developers that build unnecessarily high ceilings—which have in some cases exceeded 150 feet—to hold mechanical equipment. Her legislation comes just one month after the de Blasio administration’s zoning amendments that require mechanical voids over 25-feet-high to be counted toward a residential building’s FAR. Rosenthal’s bill takes the amendment a step further, not only regulating the height of mechanical spaces but also penalizing developers that build any floor with ceilings higher than 12 feet. Her bill has predictably spawned outrage from the real estate development industry, which is desperately fighting to preserve the mechanical void loophole. If approved, Rosenthal’s bill would affect the entire city, unlike de Blasio’s amendment, which only applies to specific, high-density districts. Since the bill was introduced last February, the city has started to take strong action against the misuse of mechanical voids, as well as the construction of one particular tower proposed for the Upper West side, where one floor exhibits massive, 160-foot ceilings. In a race against the tower’s developer, Extell Development, the Department of City Planning has sped up its approval process for the regulations. With a Democrat-controlled Senate and Assembly, Rosenthal’s proposal, which could drastically alter the future of luxury apartment construction in New York City, has a chance of ratification.
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Fancy Footwork

Designers imagine a metal bridge connecting Hudson Yards to Midtown New York
Last month, Metals in Construction magazine and the Steel Institute of New York gathered at TheTimesCenter in New York City to announce the winner and five finalists for their 2019 Design Challenge, titled “Create A New Urban Pathway.” The competition asked architects, planners, and engineers to design a pedestrian bridge that connects the forthcoming Moynihan Train Hall, situated across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station, with Chelsea’s Hudson Yards, the city’s largest private real estate development, the first phase of which opens this week. The pathway between the Moynihan Train Hall and Hudson Yards would serve as an anchor for the rising development of Manhattan’s Far West Side, which is expected to receive roughly 100,000 pedestrians traveling between the two destinations each day. With midtown’s upcoming surge of foot traffic, the design challenge sought to think of ways to make pedestrian travel more safe, efficient, and appealing to city dwellers, particularly through the construction of floating promenades—elevated, landscaped walkways that not only reduce inner-city congestion, but also prove beneficial to the health and overall well-being of citizens. Judges and participants of the competition looked for inspiration from the immensely popular High Line—the now iconic urban pathway that, in 2014, dramatically transformed from an abandoned railway into a picturesque walkway. Metals in Construction magazine awarded a $15,000 grand prize to the winning team from New York–based DXA Studio. The team’s proposal, titled “The Midtown Viaduct,” was chosen from a group of 45 qualifying entries and was praised by the panel of four judges for its structural practicality and streamlined design, which would offer city dwellers a new and exciting urban experience. The Midtown Viaduct is composed of interlaced steel plate work, drawing from the industrial components of the High Line and the steel of the original Penn Station, to create a winding and dynamic walkway that would connect the two destinations and give pedestrians a recreational space to stride. “[The Midtown Viaduct] employs forward-thinking approaches to form, fabrication, assembly, and urban solutions that mitigate/synthesize the complex forces of contemporary cities,” wrote the team from DXA Studio. While DXA studio's pedestrian bridge will probably never materialize in real life, the proposal serves as an innovative approach to topics concerning the livability and walkability of cities. Metals in Construction magazine will be holding another design competition next year, themed “Create A New Urban Identity,” which will challenge participants to reimagine the skin of an existing building in New York City. More details about the competition will be announced in September 2019.