Search results for "Mayor de Blasio"

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Off the Rails

Coronavirus capital cuts could derail de Blasio’s affordable housing plan
Even more bad news for New York City: Housing advocates are sounding the alarm over the damage the nearly $1 billion in cuts to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) capital budget will do to the city’s affordable housing prospects. The novel coronavirus pandemic has decimated the city budget, to the point that Mayor Bill de Blasio recently proposed borrowing up to $7 billion from New York State to cover the city’s operating expenses—a move explicitly banned after similar measures brought NYC to the brink of collapse in the “bad old days” of the 1970s. Without a federal bailout or a tax increase on top earners (something the mayor has balked at in the past), it looks like austerity is on the table for the next fiscal year. The cuts follow others made to municipal departments like the DDC, which was compelled to freeze all public design work (including projects that were already under construction), and the Department of Parks & Recreation, which has seen a dreadful reduction in park maintenance. In HPD's case, its budget will be hobbled by a reduction of 40 percent; the mayor has proposed cutting $583 million in 2020 and $457 million in fiscal year 2021. As with public design work, a once relatively stable source of income for architects, affordable housing design is also looking more precarious. Aside from the uncertainty this brings to firms looking to shore up their portfolios with longer-term projects, developers told Politico that the cuts could kill affordable housing buildings that have been in the works for years. For instance, HPD’s loan program for supportive housing, through which the department partly finances its projects, funds developments with at least 60 percent of the units set aside for the homeless or disabled and was expected to deliver 1,000 units this year and 1,500 in 2021 alone; now those projections are up in the air. More concerning is that HPD has stopped issuing “soft commitment letters,” which affirm that a developer is set to receive city funding. Without that written commitment, affordable housing developers are having a much more difficult time luring in outside investors. With groundbreakings pushed back, those same projects are also at risk of losing investors who were angling for low-income housing tax credits but have been spooked at the uncertainty now involved. Any delay in affordable housing construction or the preservation of existing units could endanger Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan, which in 2018 bumped up its goal of creating or preserving 300,000 housing units by 2026 from the original 2014 plan’s 200,000-unit target. It’s estimated that the combined 2020 and 2021 cuts to HPD’s budget would ultimately prevent 21,000 fewer affordable units from becoming available. More importantly, the current pandemic has greatly exacerbated housing insecurity among city renters, and slashing the availability of affordable units will be certain to cause ripple effects down the line.
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Can't Design for the Public Without a Public

New York City halts public design work over budget woes
New York City is still undergoing a novel coronavirus-related freeze on all “non-essential” construction, but the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) has extended that suspension to architects working on public design projects as well. In a letter dated March 26 (one day before the AIANY town hall where the issue was broached), the agency mandated that firms currently engaged in public design work “You are directed to immediately halt all services being provided, or to be provided, under your Contract (including any task orders, change orders, amendments) with DDC, including all services provided by subcontractors and/or subconsultants.” In other words, any and all firms working on public projects have been ordered to stop, and they won’t be paid for work conducted after March 26 until the pause order has been lifted by the city. While it might make sense to socially distance construction workers to halt the spread of COVID-19, architects have by-and-large moved to working remotely and are out of harm’s way. So why stop designers from designing in the comfort of their own homes? The city is anticipating a $7.4 billion drop in tax revenue for this fiscal year and next, and just today Mayor de Blasio introduced a new budget with $2 billion in cuts. The DDC oversees projects across approximately 20 city agencies and is responsible for designing everything from salt sheds, to parking garages, to police stations. However, because of budget concerns, the department was ordered by the city to suspend design work even though, as Architectural Record noted, these projects are typically funded through bonds and the money is set aside solely for their completion. This is also the first time the city has put public design work on hold, as they continued to pay architects during the 2008 recession to help bolster small businesses (this move will likely hit small firms the hardest, as they will have to reorient their resources if they want to get paid). This decision wasn’t made by the DDC, but rather came from the mayoral level as part of a wider budget review and other departments were affected as well. However, as Ben Prosky, executive director of AIANY, told AN, halting design work in such tumultuous times hurts not only architects, but engineers, the construction industry, and everyone else involved in such public projects. In a letter sent to Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on April 2, the American Council of Engineering Companies New York, American Institute of Architects New York, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, Building Trades Employers’ Association of New York City, New York Building Congress, and New York City Central Labor Council all argued against the freeze.
“Delays to work that can safely continue from our homes will further hinder our city’s recovery efforts and create challenges for middle-class New York families, including many union construction workers and MWBE architects, engineers, and general contractors. “We strongly recommend that you allow design and construction work to continue to the maximum extent permitted under New York State guidance. Furthermore, we ask that all design and construction that has already occurred be compensated.”
While the letter has yet to receive a response—likely due to the all-hands-on-deck tumult the city is facing—Prosky hopes that Mayor de Blasio will reconsider. According to him, “Design work now during a downtime means construction jobs in the future, and it will take that much longer for everyone involved to start moving things along again.”
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Rooms to Spare

San Francisco to rent 7,000 hotel rooms to the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic
In an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, San Francisco Controller Ben Rosenfield announced last week that the city plans to secure 5,000 additional hotel rooms as a means of protecting and isolating unhoused individuals. This particularly vulnerable segment of the city’s population that has so far been exempt from the city’s shelter-in-place orders enacted on March 17. As reported by Bay Area public radio station KALW, San Francisco has already leased or plans to lease nearly 2,000 hotel rooms to house the homeless. The city is expending an average of $200 per night for these rooms, a rate that includes security, cleaning, and other support services. The emergency ordinance introduced last week—which was voted on and approved unanimously today—by the city’s Board of Supervisors means that a total of 7,000 total hotel rooms will be used exclusively to provide shelter to the unsheltered during the pandemic. This figure is enough to accommodate a large majority of the city’s homeless.population, believed to be over 8,000 people. With tourism and business travel all but halted for the unseen future, there were 30,000 unoccupied hotel rooms spread across San Francisco as of late March according to Business Insider.  “If we are successful with everyone in San Francisco who is housed, but not everyone who is unhoused, we will be putting everyone in danger,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Supervisor Matt Haney as saying before the ordinance was passed. The hotel room leases will last for 90 days. Based on the city's previous average cost-per-night estimates, this brings the total cost of implementing the ordinance to $105 million. The ordinance, however, also smartly requires that 750 hotel rooms be earmarked for first responders and medical workers who have been exposed to or infected by the virus and another 500 hotel rooms to be set aside as post-treatment quarantine spaces for the general population. This increases the cost, as estimated by the city's Budget and Legislative Analyst's Office, to $58.6 million per month according to the Chronicle. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and California's Office of Emergency Services will reimburse the city for a portion of the costs. The legislation requires that the hotel rooms, numbering 8,250 in total, be available by April 26, which is around the same time that the number of reported coronavirus cases is expected to surge in California wrote the San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who has been vocal about the logistical challenges presented by the task at hand while also coming under intense scrutiny from several members of the Board, has a week to either approve or veto the Board of Supervisor’s emergency ordinance. If Breed does ultimately veto it, the board can override her vote and move the ordinance forward although this would result in a delay. Breed's administration has been subject to public censure in recent days for its now-scrapped plans to move unhoused people into the Palace of Fine Arts and the Moscone Center, both of which were swiftly converted into makeshift coronavirus shelters earlier this month with room to accommodate 165 and 390 people, respectively. Housing activists and Supervisors alike raised concerns about the size and safety of the facilities, which included limited bathrooms and hand-washing stations, and, in general, seemed like “a very bad idea” as Haney put it. The uproar resulted in an abrupt about-face from the city, which then began to relocate unhoused individuals into the initial round of 2,000 available hotel rooms. To date, 780 people have moved into them. “We have the hotel rooms, we have the staffing, why wouldn’t we do this right now and save thousands of lives,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen during a press conference held last Friday. “We have been given every excuse in the book why this isn’t possible.” Shortly after the emergency hotel ordinance was first announced, one of San Francisco’s largest homeless shelters, the MSC South Shelter, experienced a major outbreak in which 91 people, including a handful of staffers, tested positive for the virus. Over 400 people were cleared from the shelter and have been placed in hotel rooms, a move that Haney says should have happened weeks, even months, ago. “We’ve been getting a new excuse every week as to why they can’t do this,” he told NBC Bay Area. The city plans to reopen the MSC South and transformed it into a recovery center for shelter guests who previously tested positive after it is fully sanitized. The outbreak at MSC South is being depicted as one that was largely preventable. Outside of San Francisco, New York is also beginning to move its homeless population into unoccupied hotel rooms. Mayor de Blasio announced during a weekend press conference that 2,5000 unhoused individuals will be relocated from shelters to hotels over the course of this week. Like in San Francisco, priority will be given to the elderly and individuals with preexisting health conditions or those who are experiencing symptoms of or have tested positive for the virus. “Some shelters have a lot of space, some do not,” said de Blasio, who has come under increasing pressure from advocacy groups and health professionals to free up the city’s massive inventory of available hotel rooms to the unsheltered. “Where it’s clear to our Department of Social Services and our Department of Homeless Services that social distancing cannot be achieved properly, a number of those clients will be moved to hotels to achieve the balance, to make sure there is the proper social distancing.”
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when the jackhammers fall silent

New York puts freeze on all nonessential construction
Following in the cautious footsteps of cities like Boston and San Francisco, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has put the kibosh on all “nonessential” construction projects—and not just in booming New York City but also across the entire state during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “We’re closing down nonessential construction sites,” said Cuomo during one of his oddly therapeutic daily press briefings held last Friday. “Some construction is essential to keep the place running, but nonessential construction is going to stop.” Similar to citywide construction pauses, New York’s temporary statewide ban includes several exemptions that allow for work to continue or commence on affordable housing projects, hospitals and healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, emergency repairs, transit, and public infrastructure including roads and bridges. Additionally, underway projects of any kind that could be considered unsafe if abandoned will also be allowed to proceed for now. Reads updated guidance issued by the state agency Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC):
At every site, if essential or emergency non-essential construction, this includes maintaining social distance, including for purposes of elevators/meals/entry and exit. Sites that cannot maintain distance and safety best practices must close and enforcement will be provided by the state in coordination with the city/local governments. This will include fines of up to $10,000 per violation.
Under his initial PAUSE shutdown directive, Cuomo had classified all types of construction sites as being “essential” along with banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, and the like. This, in turn, meant it was largely business as usual at building sites across the state although workers were instructed to follow difficult-to-enforce social distancing practices while on the job. Cuomo, however, faced considerable pushback from construction workers and their families along with city leaders, notably City Council members Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander along with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “Anything that is not directly part of the essential work of fighting coronavirus and the essential work of keeping the city running and the state running, and any construction that is not about the public good, is going to en,” New York City Mayor de Blasio clarified on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show following Cuomo’s announcement. “So, luxury condos will not be built until this is over, you know, office buildings are not going to be built so that work's going to end immediately. We need to protect people.” The day before Cuomo ordered work to be halted on all nonessential construction projects, the New York Times published an article detailing how laborers in the city were being exposed to conditions that, although likely to raise very few eyebrows during ordinary circumstances, seemed downright perilous as a deadly, highly contagious rages through New York and beyond:
“Construction sites, even during normal times, are notoriously dirty. Workers often share a single portable toilet, which rarely has soap or hand sanitizer. Running water is not common. None of the recent safety protocols recommended by public health officials are practical at a job site, workers said. They share tools, and procedures require that they closely watch over one another. There is no social distancing. Some workers wear protective masks, which are in short supply.”
Cuomo’s directive also came after work on two infrastructure projects considered essential by the ESDC, the overhauls of LaGuardia Airport and at Moynihan Station, came grinding to a temporary halt when workers at both sites tested positive for COVID-19. Although initially not wholly supportive of a Boston-style moratorium on construction due to the so-called “devastating” economic impact, Carlo Scissura, president of trade group New York Building Congress and former president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, has since thrown his support behind Cuomo’s updated directive. “The health and safety of building industry workers and every New Yorker remain the highest priority as we continue to respond to this pandemic,” said Scissura in a statement obtained by the New York Post. “Just as the governor has outlined, we must carry on with New York’s most critical projects, from infrastructure and public works to healthcare and affordable housing. These projects are essential to our region’s future and will benefit our most vulnerable populations.” Some have pointed out a not-so-tiny loophole, however, in the ESCD’s new guidelines, specifically with regard to the construction of affordable housing. The exemption that allows for work on affordable housing projects to continue doesn't just apply to project that are strictly affordable; rather, work on residential developments with at least 20 percent affordable housing can proceed. This, in turn, means that a lion’s share of residential constructions projects in New York are essentially off the hook.
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Takin' it to the streets

Cities open up streets to pedestrians as parks overcrowd
For those living in heavily impacted urban areas, life during the novel coronavirus pandemic has been spent largely confined indoors, housebound and isolated, disconnected from the typical physical places where city-dwellers tend to congregate en masse when not working. Bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, and on have all been closed. Outdoor public space, on the other hand, is considered “safe” but with one key caveat: the concept of social distancing has to also be closely observed on city sidewalks, parks, beaches, and the like to help curb the spread of the virus. Otherwise, heading outside for some fresh and exercise as the weather improves—a much-needed balm for corona cabin fever—is rendered moot if it’s spent in close proximity to hundreds of others. To help prevent overcrowding in popular parks, trails, and recreational areas (a major issue in places like Los Angeles and New York), some cities are embracing new approaches that enable residents to enjoy the outdoors but at more of a safe distance from the madding, potentially infected crowds. Philadelphia has prohibited vehicular access along a four-mile stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, a generally busy riverside road within West Fairmount Park that, under normal circumstances, is closed to vehicles only during limited hours on weekends. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s office said in a press release that pedestrianizing the street full-time is “in the interest of facilitating social distancing among trail users.” Kenney’s office went on to note that the city “strongly encourages residents to stay indoors as much as possible” but “recognizes that physical activity is important to well being.” In San Francisco, pedestrian advocacy groups are pressing the city to close off certain streets to vehicular traffic, already dramatically reduced in numerous on-lockdown cities, so that pedestrians can exercise and get around while at a remove from their fellow fresh air-seekers. The idea has garnered support from local officials although no plans have been formalized. As reported by the San Francisco Examiner, safe streets advocate Patrick Traughber has even crowd-sourced a number of streets—Divisadero Street, Valencia Street, John. F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, and Haight Street among them—that would particularly benefit from 24/7 traffic closures during the pandemic. “You absolutely have to walk in the street to pass people,” said Traughber. “Since the streets have car traffic, it’s a dangerous situation. It feels like we could convert some of the road capacity to walk while the car traffic is down.” Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced a four-day street closure test-run in Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. The shuttered streets, totaling 1.6 miles of over 6,000 miles of roadway in the city, include Park Avenue between East 28th and East 34th streets in Midtown Manhattan; Bushwick Avenue from Johnson Avenue to Flushing Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 34th Avenue from 73rd Street to 80th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens; and Grand Concourse between East Burnside and 184th Streets in the Fordham Heights section of the Bronx. Staten Island has been excluded from the pilot. “Everyone wants to make sure there are spaces for folks to get their exercise, to get fresh air, there must be enforcement,” said de Blasio. “It has to be places the NYPD and other agencies can enforce effectively.” While limiting vehicular traffic on New York City streets—even if just limited stretches of them—is the long-held dream of safe street advocates, de Blasio’s plan has been greeted with a mixed reception. Some have criticized the limited nature of the scheme and the fact that it will only be enforced nine hours a day from 10:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. Because the number of street sections being closed off to traffic is minuscule compared to the total amount of roadway in the city that could potentially be made off-limits to cars during the duration of the pandemic while not interfering with the movement of emergency vehicles, there are concerns that the sheer number of people congregating in the sparse car-free streets could devolve into an out-of-control health hazard. Simply put, some think de Blasio, who also has temporarily banned contact sports like basketball at city parks and threatened to shut down playgrounds, should have thought much, much bigger. Outside of streets closing off to traffic, other outdoor venues are making themselves more available to cooped-up residents who want to be outside but are wary of the overcrowding seen in parks large and small. Brooklyn’s sprawling, stunning Green-Wood Cemetery, for example, plans to extend its public hours starting in April in order to accommodate an influx of visitors. The historic 500-acre cemetery, located not too far from Prospect Park, hopes that its strict existing rules prohibiting activities like dog-walking, bicycling, and jogging will make it a more attractive destination to social distance-observing New Yorkers simply looking to enjoy long, quiet solo walks. “Green-Wood was designed to be a different kind of experience,” Lisa Alpert, Green Wood’s vice president of development and programming, told the New York Times. “It’s a more contemplative, less recreational one, intended to connect people with nature, and we are especially happy now to serve as a green space for people to get away.” As Sara Bronin, an attorney, architect, and advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote in a recent op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, now is the time for urban green spaces—specifically spacious urban green spaces that aren’t as easily prone to overcrowding—to shine. After all, many of America’s great historic city parks and rural cemeteries like Green-Wood were expressly created in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries as places for city dwellers to escape cramped residential neighborhoods and the rampant infectious diseases such as tuberculosis that spread through them. “The scale of these carefully-designed grand parks, and the ambitions of their designers, far surpass the vision behind the small-minded ‘pocket parks’ local leaders seem to favor today,” opined Bronin. “Other communities should restore the grand historic parks that are getting us through the current crisis and will serve as vibrant places of social cohesion long after COVID-19 is conquered,” continued Bronin, singling out Philadelphia and Hartford, Connecticut, as two cities dedicated to preserving its historic park infrastructure. “Special attention should be paid to equity and ensuring that investments are spread fairly across neighborhoods. Let’s do what we can to renew our commitment to those places that are giving so much right now to our bodies, hearts, and spirits.”
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Hangin' up the Hardhat

Track halted construction projects across America with this map
In numerous major North American cities, the millions upon millions of people belonging to the so-called “non-essential workforce” have either been furloughed, laid off, or are holed up working remotely from home for the unforeseeable future due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While these sent-home workers comprise a vast number of industries, the status of workers in one specific sector, construction, is a bit trickier to pin down. In some cities, including Boston, all construction projects, both commercial and residential, were put on hold indefinitely days ago with the exception of things like emergency work and repairs to essential public facilities. Elsewhere, including in Los Angeles, it would appear that many construction sites are still open as “construction projects needed for essential infrastructure, such as building housing” are exempted from Los Angeles County’s newly established stay-at-home order. “Everything so far looks good,” L.A. and Santa Monica property developer Neil Shekhter told the Real Deal in a March 18 article. “Most contractors don’t work in close proximity to each other. If you go into a construction site, you will see one guy working in one room. So I see that as a positive.” Because the status of construction projects shut down due to the spread of COVID-19 can vary wildly from state-to-state and city-to-city, Construction Dive has put together a helpful map identifying major individual construction projects that have been halted across the country along with with city- or county-wide shutdowns. Writes Construction Dive:
“While this page would otherwise feature updates on non-roadway and nonresidential mega-projects valued at around $1B or more, it's unlikely we'll see many changes to these projects that are unrelated to the pandemic for the foreseeable future. Any noteworthy projects that do take a stance on continuing work in areas where others have been shut down will also be updated, but not included on the coronavirus closure’s section of the map.”
While the map isn’t overcrowded quite yet, it’s not entirely unrealistic to think that in the coming days and weeks it will be filled with frozen construction sites in a wide range of geographic locales. Projects that do appear on the map include halted expansion and renovation projects at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida; a shutdown of work at a “multibillion-dollar cracker plant” in Beaver County, Pennsylvania; and the shutdown of all commercial construction projects across the San Francisco Bay Area. As mayors and governors scramble to shield all segments of the population from the deadly and highly infectious COVID-19 with little or no direction from the federal government, there has been some pushback from industry leaders in cities where work has fully or partially come grinding to a halt. “The safety of all workers is critical, but I think that we have to be very careful to shut down,” Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress, recently told Bisnow in response to Boston’s total shutdown. “A lot of that construction is for people who are going to need services and support in the months to come as things start reopening.” Noting that fully stopping construction in Boston could impede the city in preparing for future natural disasters, Stephen Sandherr, CEO of Associated General Contractors of America, also told Bisnow that construction workers are already largely prepared to work in the midst of a pandemic considering the protective clothing that they’re required to wear while on-site. As of this writing, construction projects are continuing full-steam ahead in New York City. However, some city leaders—among them are New York City Council members Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams—are urging Mayor de Blasio to enact a rule that would temporarily curtail all commercial and residential commercial construction projects. Like with Boston, there’d be exceptions for crucial infrastructural work, emergency repairs, and the like. “Construction is a core component of New York City’s economy, and this is a drastic and painful call,” wrote Menchaca, Lander, and Williams in a recent letter to de Blasio. “At this urgent moment, however, it is necessary as part of our social distancing policy, to slow the spread of the virus, give our health care system a chance to meet the dire need that is growing, and save lives.” Industry leaders including Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers Association, have called on both city leaders and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to categorize construction sites as an “essential” businesses that would remain open along with banks, pharmacies, medical facilities, and grocery stores during a shelter-in-place mandate.
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Awaiting the Surge

NYC eyes emptied dorms, Javits Center as makeshift coronavirus treatment hubs
With classes and conferences of all stripes being postponed, canceled, and migrated online as the widening coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic brings life in New York City to a grinding halt, two sizable patches of real estate are being eyed by officials as potential locations to set up additional emergency hospital beds. This move would help alleviate pressure on already overburdened medical facilities that are bracing for a deluge of infected patients in need of acute treatment. As of this writing, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City is over 2,000. As reported by Politico, a key locale being considered by city officials as a “medical surge facility” is the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Sprawling across 1.8 million square feet on Manhattan’s far West Side, the Pei Cobb Freed-designed Javits Center certainly has the raw space to spare as the twelfth-largest convention facility in the United States. And, for now, it has the availability as well considering that all operations at Javits have been put on pause until April 30. Some events beyond April 30, notably the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, have also been canceled. The Javits Center is a state-run enterprise operated by the New York Convention Center Operating Corporation, which itself is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation. Omar Bourne, a spokesperson for New York City’s emergency management department, relayed to Politico that Mayor de Blasio’s administration is still awaiting a response from the state as to whether the Javits Center could potentially be used as a temporary medical facility if need be. The Chinese city of Wuhan converted numerous convention centers and exhibition halls into pop-up hospitals during the height of the pandemic there. All of those facilities, as well as the city’s rapidly erected modular emergency facilities, have since been shuttered as the reported cases of the virus in and around Wuhan have gone from a flood to a slight trickle to nothing. Not far from the Javits Center, Madison Square Garden, a multipurpose arena clocking in at around 820,000 square feet, is also being considered as a potential emergency treatment center where COVID-19-stricken New Yorkers would be isolated and treated. The idea is one being floated by Council Speaker Corey Johnson and his colleague, Stephen Levin. In addition to converting Javits Center into a medical facility, Johnson and Levein “also argued that the city and state should transform Madison Square Garden, the home of the ailing Knicks, into a home for the ailing,” wrote Politico. Unlike the state-run Javits Center, Madison Square Garden is privately owned by sports and entertainment behemoth, the Madison Square Garden Company. In addition to gargantuan, glass-paneled convention centers and the home venue of an enfeebled NBA franchise, the soon-to-be-vacated dormitories of New York University are also being mulled as potential temporary treatment centers. As an email statement to NYU students reads: “There are significant indications that the State, as part of its contingency planning, is looking at university dormitories as settings for overflow beds from hospitals.” A small number of NYU students, including certain graduate students, law and medical students, and undergraduates who receive special exemptions are being allowed to stay put in their dorms. Otherwise, students must vacate all campus residence halls no later than March 22. As of March 15, two members of the NYU community, a student and an administrator, have tested positive for COVID-19. Noah Hopkins, a politics student at NYU, detailed the rather chaotic student housing situation in a March 18 op-ed published in The Guardian:
“Over the past few days, the roughly 12,000 students living in the NYU housing system saw the situation escalate around us and heard nothing from administrators. On Monday afternoon we received an email saying the residence halls would be closing on 22 March. We were told all students must vacate their rooms by the 22nd, or within 48 hours if possible.” “Students who already left campus and did not prepare their rooms for checkout have been strongly encouraged to return to New York, collect their belongings then return home. Regarding those unable to return to New York before the closure date, the university has said only that their items will be packed and shipped to them. We have not been given a timeframe for when this might happen, nor have the obvious privacy concerns been addressed.”
Per the Washington Square News, the city’s department of emergency management has not formally requested that NYU—or the City University of New York, for that matter—empty its dorms so that they can be used as treatment facilities. But the possibility that the dorms could, in the very near future, be repurposed into makeshift medical hubs is something that's very much on the table. As reported by Bloomberg, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing to increase, via executive order, the number of hospital beds within the state by 9,000 although thousands more beds might ultimately be needed as the spread of the coronavirus peaks in the coming weeks. Five thousand of the initial 9,000 beds would be in New York City. Already, around 1,300 additional beds have been set up or are due to be set up at a handful of municipal hospitals in the Bronx, a former nursing home in Brooklyn, and at a chronic care facility on Roosevelt Island. Hotels across the city could also be converted into isolation/treatment centers in the comings days in an effort to boost the number of available beds. On Wednesday, Cuomo announced that a 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, will be deployed to New York City. The vessel, however, is undergoing maintenance in Virginia and will likely arrive in New York Harbor in weeks, not days, as per Bloomberg.
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Reopening Unclear, Try Again

Met, MoMA, and more go dark over coronavirus concerns
As New York City and other major cultural hubs around the world slowly shut down to head off the spread of COVID-19, museums and other art and design institutions are also closing their doors. Besides Broadway, which went dark last night, here’s what not to visit if you’re working from home, as they won’t be open. And if you’re thinking of catching a movie, be aware that Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have imposed 50 percent operating capacity at venues with under 500 seats. Venues with over 500 seats? Those have been closed as a result of a state of emergency. The Brooklyn Museum The Brooklyn Museum will close later today and reopen at an as-of-yet undetermined later date while the museum undergoes cleaning. Programs and classes through April 29 have also been called off, as has their spring gallery program. The Cooper Hewitt Beginning March 14, all Smithsonian institutions, including the National Zoo and Cooper Hewitt, will be closed for an indeterminate amount of time. The Guggenheim Bad news for Rem Koolhaas fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Countryside; the Guggenheim is closed until further notice, and all events have been canceled until after April 30. Thankfully for those cooped up inside, Taschen has produced a booklet containing all of the exhibition’s accompanying research. The High Line Although a park, the High Line’s narrow stairways, elevators, and bottlenecking in certain areas makes social distancing difficult. In order to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s warning against gatherings of 50 or more, the linear elevated outdoor space has shut down for the time being. No potential reopening date has been given. The Metropolitan Museum of Art All three branches of the Met (including the Breuer and the Cloisters) will be closed as of today, March 13. All three locations will undergo a deep clean, and it’s uncertain when they’ll reopen. This is an unfortunate blow for the Breuer outpost, as the museum is scheduled to move their collection back to the Fifth Avenue location later this year as the Frick tentatively takes over the Marcel Breuer-designed building. In a double whammy, the museum was also gearing up to celebrate its 150th anniversary. The Museum of Modern Art The MoMA and MoMA PS1 have shut down until March 30. The museum’s associated design stores are also closed, and the institution will evaluate the situation after the 30th before deciding to reopen. The Shed Hudson Yards’ semi-mobile art museum is also closed until March 30, according to a press release sent to AN. Unfortunately, that also means the early closure of the Agnes Denes retrospective Absolutes and Intermediates—the blockbuster show was supposed to conclude March 22 but is now finished. Performances through March 30 have also been canceled and refunds are available for those who purchased tickets in advance. The Whitney Museum of American Art The Whitney, come 5:00 p.m. tonight, will also shut down for an undetermined amount of time, and all of their associated events have been canceled for the foreseeable future.
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You’ve Got Jail

Fifteen architects and designers will advise design of Rikers Replacement jails
In October 2019, the City Council approved a controversial Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application for the $8.7 billion plan to construct four new smaller jails to replace the Rikers Island complex. Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx would each get a community jail building that the reformists and their supporters in the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice (MCOJ) called “smaller, safer, and fairer.” “This is part of a once-in-many-generations opportunity to build a smaller and more humane justice system that includes four facilities that reflect the City’s commitment to dignity and respect,” the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) said at the time. “The new facilities will offer better connections to and space for those detained and their families, attorneys, courts, medical and mental health care, education, therapeutic programming and service providers.” In addition to the Borough-Based Jail Program (BBJP)’s larger urban ambitions of moving the detention facilities off of Rikers and closer to the communities where inmates come from, on February 4, the DDC issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a pool of design-build teams that will propose schemes to dismantle and build new facilities across the four selected boroughs. AECOM and Hill Engineering have already been tapped to help envision and implement a design-forward approach to the new sites. When The Rikers Island Jail Complex Replacement Act was passed in 2018, it was made clear that design, quality, past performance, and qualifications would be the priority rather than simple budget concerns. The DDC and the MOCJ, in conjunction with the NYC Department of Correction (DOC), announced an independent peer review committee of architects and designers yesterday that will assist in the selection and design that will help select the teams from the RFQ, provide guidelines for the RFP, and participate in architectural review that will “ensure high-quality design submissions that balance aesthetics, functionality, cost, constructability and durability.” Several of the reviewers have been involved in the BBJP process already, having served on the Justice Implementation Task Force’s Working Group on Design. Below are the Peer Review Panelists:
Dominick DeAngelis, RA, AIA, Vice President of Architecture and Engineering, NYC School Construction Authority Mr. DeAngelis is responsible for the design of $18 billion of construction over the next five years that will create 57,000 seats in 87 new schools or additions, and upgrade 1,840 additional NYC public schools. Wendy Feuer, Assistant Commissioner for Urban Design + Art + Wayfinding, NYC Department of Transportation Ms. Feuer’s DOT office makes streets attractive and welcoming for all users, and publishes a street design manual for City agencies, consultants and community groups. She has been a public art peer for the federal General Services Administration’s Design Excellence program for over 15 years.  Erik Fokkema, Architect, Partner, EGM Architecten Mr. Fokkema has expansive experience in the Netherlands in institutional facilities, as well as private residential and public buildings. He is an expert in building operations, making the complex simple, and designing humane and user-friendly buildings.  Mark Gardner, AIA, NOMA, Principal, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects New York-based architect Mark Gardner’s experience scales from buildings to interiors to product design, and he works to understand the role of design as a social practice. He is an expert and strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in architecture and design.  Rosalie Genevro, Executive Director, The Architectural League of New York An architectural historian and urbanist, Ms. Genevro has led initiatives at The Architectural League addressing housing, schools, libraries and topics such as climate change. She is a frequent contributor on the City’s building environment. Samantha Josaphat, RA, Founding Principal, Studio 397 Architecture Ms. Josaphat’s portfolio includes architecture and interior design of higher education projects, as well as large- and small-scale residential projects, to which she brings impressive knowledge of the City’s building regulations. She is President of the New York Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects. Purnima Kapur, Urbanism Advisors, former Executive Director, NYC Department of City Planning Ms. Kapur was a key architect of the City’s groundbreaking Mandatory Inclusionary Housing regulation, which has led to five Integrated Neighborhood plans, and has been integral to the redevelopment of Brooklyn over the past two decades via projects including the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront, Downtown Brooklyn and Coney Island. Bruce Kuwabara, OC, OAA, FRAIC, AIA, RIBA, Partner, KPMB Architects One of Canada’s leading architects, Mr. Kuwabara’s diverse portfolio encompasses cultural, civic, educational, healthcare and performing arts projects in North America and Europe. Luis Medina-Carreto, Project Manager, Press Builders Mr. Medina is an expert in New York City construction management and methods, with a reputation of bringing projects to completion on schedule and on budget in the City’s complicated building environment. Gudrun Molden, Architect, Founding Partner, HLM Architects Gudrun Molden comes to the City from Norway with extensive experience in detention facility architecture in an urban context, including Oslo city center and Åna prison in Norway. Nancy Prince, RLA, ASLA, Chief of Landscape Architecture, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation Ms. Prince establishes the design aesthetic and vision for the Parks Department’s large and varied portfolio of projects. Prior to entering public service, Ms. Prince spent years designing New York City’s parks and playgrounds. Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President, The Fortune Society With decades of experience in the criminal justice field, Stanley leads Fortune’s management, direct service programs, fundraising and advocacy work to promote alternatives to incarceration and support successful reentry from prison. Annabelle Selldorf, AIA, Principal, Selldorf Architects Ms. Selldorf founded her practice in New York City over 30 years ago. Her firm’s broad expertise has been applied in cultural, educational, industrial and residential projects throughout the United States. Lisa Switkin, FAAR, ASLA, Senior Principal, James Corner Field Operations Ms. Switkin has helped to reshape New York City’s public spaces for 20 years, including the design and delivery of the High Line, Brooklyn’s Domino Park and the public spaces at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17. Andrew Winters, AIA, Head of Development Services, Sidewalk Labs While serving as Director of the Office of Capital Project Development under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mr. Winters oversaw the development of public assets such as the High Line, East River Waterfront and Brooklyn Bridge Park. More recently he has overseen the planning, design and construction of the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.
“Superior design is an essential element for creating the City’s more humane and more equitable justice system,” said DDC commissioner Lorraine Grillo in the panel’s announcement press release. “These buildings will be important civic structures, reflecting the ambition of the City’s justice reforms, ensuring the dignity and well-being of those who are incarcerated, work and visit them, and integrating into the city centers where they are located,” the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice director Elizabeth Glazer added. Workshops and community feedback have informed the process, including an emphasis on using community space, and the public meetings will give citizens the opportunity to give input on the ground floor sections. However, some feel that the city has not done enough to listen and reach out. A series of lawsuits are pending against three of the four facilities. Activist and neighborhood groups in Manhattan claim that the city did not reach out to the community, namely senior citizens living at the nearby Chung Pak center, and that the city knew about Native American human remains in the area that could be affected. The suit was filed by Neighbors United Below Canal and the American Indian Community House. A lawsuit in the Bronx claims the de Blasio administration failed to consider alternative sites, ignored environmental impact reports, and went around the required public review processes. In Queens, Queens Residents United and the Community Preservation Coalition make similar claims about top-down planning and lack of engagement with residents of the neighborhood. The DDC is proceeding with the projects, a spokesperson for the department told AN, while Nick Paolucci at the NYC Department of Law told AN that, “This litigation is ongoing. We stand by the city and its approvals for this important initiative.” “Our borough-based jails plan is the culmination of years of collaboration between the city, local elected officials, and the communities they represent,” City spokesman Avery Cohen told Court House News. “We will vigorously defend our work in court as we move forward with our commitment to close Rikers Island and create a justice system is that is smaller, safer, and fairer.” The fight is far from over. The RFP guidelines will be reviewed by the City Planning Commission, NYC Department of City Planning Design, an Advisory Group appointed by the City Council and affected Borough Presidents, and the Public Design Commission, who will also review the final proposals as the massive project moves through ULURP.
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Infrastructure Weak

Is Trump holding up NYC congestion pricing and Second Avenue Subway funding?
Congestion pricing is at the traffic-alleviating heart of a $51.5 billion funding strategy developed by New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to raise funds for upgrades and repairs that will help resuscitate the agency’s flailing, failing New York City Subway system. But the plan, which would provide the MTA with $15 billion in bond sales for much-needed funding for signal improvements and enhanced station accessibility, has appeared to have hit a bureaucratic snag. With the congestion pricing scheme slated to kick off in 2021 (although that date now seems a stretch), New York would be the first city in the United States to implement congestion pricing as a means of raising funds for public transportation modernization efforts. Although many particulars are still being ironed out by the state, toll-based congestion pricing would apply to vehicles entering Manhattan from points south of 60th Street during peak traffic hours. An additional fee would also be added for for-hire vehicle rides, which should ideally reduce the number of Uber and Lyfts on the road. As previously reported, Los Angeles County is also mulling a similar congestion pricing plan that would reduce traffic while underwriting mass transit projects. As announced last week in a press conference by Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, New York’s congestion pricing scheme is apparently being “held hostage” by the Trump administration, which must grant the plan approval—via the Federal Highway Administration—before the environmental reviews can begin. While not all of the roadways that would be impacted by the congestion plan are federally funded, many are, thus the need for a federally-mandated environmental review process. For example, as Streetsblog NYC points out, Canal Street is technically part of Interstate 78. To date, the federal government has offered the state no guidance with regard to environmental review processes, essentially putting the brakes on any forward movement for the time being. Cuomo has framed the delay as an act of retaliation for the state’s refusal to hand over data culled from the Department of Motor Vehicles to the Department of Homeland Security that would be used for immigration enforcement. “Will they hold congestion pricing hostage? Yes,” the New York Post quoted Cuomo as saying at the press conference. “It doesn’t happen without the federal government’s approval and right now, they’re not approving it.” Cuomo revealed in another press conference held this past Monday that $3 billion in federal grant funding for Manhattan’s Second Avenue Subway expansion has also been derailed by President Trump. Encompassing three new stations and two miles of tunnels, the first phase of the East Side’s forever-awaited Second Avenue Subway line opened in January 2017. The $6 billion second phase, which would stretch the line from East 96th street to East 125th Street with three new stations, is anticipated to be operational by 2027-2029. The project is currently in the preliminary design phases. Trump had previously expressed decidedly non-antagonistic feelings toward the Second Avenue Subway and its progress. The Trump administration has also delayed funding to rehabilitate a rapidly deteriorating Hudson River rail tunnel that took on significant damage during Superstorm Sandy. The tunnel project is part of Amtrak’s Gateway infrastructure initiative geared to improve rail travel along the Northeast Corridor. It was downgraded to “medium-low priority” status by the Federal Transit Administration earlier this month, “The federal government has been slow, obstinate and I think purposefully difficult whenever they can,” Cuomo told reporters last week in reference to the federal foot-dragging that's slowing crucial New York infrastructure undertakings. “It’s political extortion … and, I think, you see this across the board, and I’m not holding my breath for them to approve congestion pricing.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed similarly waning confidence that congestion pricing will be implemented at the start of next year. He went as far as to suggest that the funding needed to fix his city’s ailing subways system will only come through if a Democrat takes the White House this November. “I am hoping that the professional folks and reason will prevail,” de Blasio recently explained on the most recent episode of WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. “It doesn’t always happen in Washington, and if that doesn’t happen, then I am hoping for an election result that will change things in November.”
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When They Go High, We Go Low

Manhattan’s subterranean Lowline park flatlines
Manhattan’s Lowline, a planned underground park project that stretched the concept of adaptive reuse to exciting and seemingly impossible new extremes, is no more. As first reported by Crain’s, funding for the estimated $83 million subterranean green space that would have been tucked deep beneath the Lower East Side within the long-abandoned Williamsburg Trolley Terminal has essentially dried up. This has forced the project to go “into dormancy” as Signe Nielsen, a landscape architect and member of the Lowline’s board of directors, explained to Crain’s. “We were unable to meet all of the benchmarks that were required, one of the most significant of which was to raise a substantial amount of money.” The Underground Development Foundation, the park’s nonprofit fundraising arm, launched two successful Kickstarter campaigns during the park’s early years, raising $150,000 in 2015 and $223,506 in 2015. As Crain’s notes, $3.7 million had been secured by the nonprofit after the project’s attention-grabbing launch in 2011—the same year that the second section of the High Line, a project that also famously harnesses New York City’s dormant transport infrastructure, opened to enormous fanfare on Manhattan’s far West Side. But public filings show that by the end of 2017, the nonprofit possessed little under $10,000 in funding. In 2016, the year that the Lowline received the formal green light from the city to proceed with the ambitious project, the foundation had $815,287 on hand. Obviously, such a visionary undertaking—one that involved reimagining a derelict subterranean space and employing emerging solar technology to reactivate it as a lush, community-centric park—came with a steep price tag. Regardless of fundraising struggles, the Lowline, which would have been New York City’s first underground park, was still slated for a 2021 opening as of last year. In a prescient 2016 interview with Fast Company, former Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen noted there was a chance that the Lowline would never be fully realized, going on to say that such a risk was ultimately positive. “This is all upside,” she said at the time. “There’s a chance to take the unbelievable advances in technology and the creative spirit of New York and harness it to create a public space that no one could have imagined.” Speaking with AN, Lowline co-founder Dan Barasch mirrored Glen's earlier sentiments on the benefits of risk-taking while also suggesting that the Lowline is, in fact, “not over” despite the current absence of a fundraising-driven pulse first reported by Crain's. “It's going to get done,” Barasch said, going on to explain that the team is open to exploring other hidden spaces in New York and beyond that are ripe for rediscovery and reactivation. And the Lowline's current home on the Lower East Side certainly isn't out of the question for future work. Barasch expressed his frustration with the de Blasio administration and the “fundamental lack of public funding” for bold, risk-taking projects like the Lowline. Barasch mentioned a greenery-filled underground park in Seoul that's quite similar to the Lowline but benefited from greater public support from the city's government. “This was a project that always needed the city to be behind it,” he said. “We're going to wait for an administration that has the imagination and capital that a project like this requires.” While the Lowline may never see the light of day under the current mayoral administration, this isn’t to say that it failed to provide the curious public with a taste of what was (supposed to) come. From October 2015 through February 2017, the Lowline team operated the Lowline Lab, a non-subterranean space described as a “long-term open laboratory and technical exhibit designed to test and showcase how the Lowline will grow and sustain plants underground.” Free and open to the public during the weekends, the Lowline Lab welcomed 100,000 visitors over the course of its existence. The lab was housed in what was once part of Essex Street Market, and is now the Essex Crossing mega-development. The idea for a public space that made use of the old Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal was first conceived as the Delancy Underground by Barasch and James Ramsey in 2009. When the Lowline launched two years later, the duo envisioned it as an obvious inverse of the wildly popular—but controversial—elevated High Line. It would, however, ultimately been an entirely different, more futuristic creature. At 1.5 acres compared to the High Line’s 6.7 acres, the Lowline would have placed a greater emphasis on innovation and technology as well as on fostering community engagement.
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Drumroll, Please

AN presents the Architectural League’s 2020 Emerging Voices winners

The Architectural League of New York’s annual Emerging Voices program once again delivers eight up-and-coming practices making an impact on building and discourse. This year’s jury was composed of Stella Betts, Mario Gooden, Mimi Hoang, Lisa Iwamoto, Dominic Leong, Paul Lewis, Matt Shaw, and Lisa Switkin. Approximately 50 firms were evaluated throughout the invited competition. As in past years, the winners were varied and represented practices from across North America, although many of the 2020 winners can be found on the East Coast. All of the winners will be honored next month and will participate in a lecture series at 130 Mercer Street in Manhattan:

Olalekan Jeyifous and PORT on March 5 at 7:00 p.m. Mork Ulnes Architects and Young Projects on March 12 at 7:00 p.m. Escobedo Soliz and Dake Wells Architecture on March 19 at 7:00 p.m. Blouin Orzes architectes and Peterson Rich Office on March 26 at 7:00 p.m.

Escobedo Soliz

Only four years after founding their firm, Pavel Escobedo and Andres Soliz have built a trusted brand in Mexico City’s saturated design market. Escobedo Soliz formed soon after the pair graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and together won the 2016 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program (YAP) summer installation competition.

Their YAP project, Weaving the Courtyard, brought acclaim in the U.S. but not at home, Soliz said. “That award is amazing for people in New York and holds a lot of prestige among those people, but here in Mexico, sadly, developers don’t care as much. What we took from that experience was a foundation of concepts and rules that we have used to build our practice, like the value of using simple or prefabricated materials and constructing by hand.”

After struggling to get commissions back in Mexico, the duo moved to Bolivia for a year to begin work on an ongoing design-build structure: a 17,200-square-foot funeral chapel made of artisanal brick on a shoestring budget. This project helped define the studio’s emerging focus on social service. When the pair returned to Mexico, their first major project was the José Maria Morelos Primary Rural School in Santa Isabel Cholula, part of the recovery from the deadly 2017 Puebla earthquake, which damaged over 200 public school buildings in the state. The design team conceptualized and built the school in just nine months.

“In Mexico, the country’s laws are very strict and the architect frequently has to be the builder,” said Soliz. “That’s why we go after custom projects in different contexts and with low budgets, whether it's for someone’s home or a special typology like the funerary chapel. We like to focus on the quality of materials and controlling the details. As young architects in Mexico, this keeps us competitive.” - Sydney Franklin

Young Projects

Bryan Young, principal and founder of Brooklyn-based Young Projects, aims for ambiguity. His buildings lend themselves to spatial and material misreadings that disrupt conventional hierarchies, inviting occupants to recalibrate their relationships with their surroundings.

“A tension exists between a normative reading and a misreading, but the misreading is just subtly off,” Young said. “It’s always something that is just a little bit off that draws you into the work.”

Young founded his firm in 2010 after working for Allied Works, Architecture Research Office (ARO), and Peter Pfau, all previous Emerging Voices winners that explore and exploit material properties. Since then, Young has designed polished residential projects that reinterpret familiar materials or layouts. Several walls of the Pulled Plaster Loft in Tribeca ripple with a custom pulled-plaster treatment that adapts techniques used to make traditional crown molding; the plan of the forthcoming 6 Square House in Bridgehampton, New York, is simultaneously a cluster of squares, a crossing of bars, and a fragment of an extendable pattern; and the Glitch House in the Dominican Republic is clad in encaustic cement tiles arranged to confuse light and shadow.

Smaller, in-house experiments (Young refers to them as “young projects”) incubate ideas and processes that could be applied to larger work, or just inspire new ways of creating. Currently sitting in his office is a tensile structure encrusted with salt crystals that might—or might not—point toward what Young Projects has in store. - Jack Balderrama Morley

Mork Ulnes

Dividing his time between Oslo, Norway, and San Francisco, Casper Mork-Ulnes has learned to synthesize design principles from the two regions as the basis for Mork Ulnes, the firm he founded in 2005. “Simply put,” he explained, his eight-person team is “influenced by Scandinavian practicality and California’s spirit of innovation.”

Residential design makes up the majority of the firm’s completed work, including the dramatic renovation of several Victorian-era homes throughout San Francisco. When updating antiquated interiors, Mork Ulnes “strives to make [homes] more efficient, more light-filled, and less compartmentalized,” according to the architect, “to perhaps hark back to a California way of living in which buildings were once more extroverted.”

When given the opportunity to design from the ground up, the firm favors locally sourced woods and distinctly minimal forms. For example, the exterior of Mylla Hytte, a 940-square-foot cabin set within a Norwegian forest, is clad in untreated heart-pine planks that will weather over time, in contrast to the plywood of its interior walls and built-in furniture. - Shane Reiner-Roth

PORT

The members of Chicago and Philadelphia–based firm PORT have made it their mission to elevate urban navigation from a chore to a pleasure. The firm believes that a city’s highways, byways, and interstitial spaces reflect a collective attitude toward equity, democracy, and civil rights, and that those values can be bolstered by creative design intervention.

Christopher Marcinkoski and Andrew Moddrell both trained as architects and formally established PORT in 2013 after setting their sights on the spaces in between buildings. They demonstrated their passion for the interstitial with their Lakeview Low-Line project, a collection of bright yellow urban furniture installed beneath the elevated train tracks of Chicago’s Brown Line. “Lakeview takes a site that no one pays attention to,” said Marcinkoski, “and demonstrates the possibility of transforming that space into something that is generous and welcoming.”

PORT has also taken to increasing public engagement at sites that have long been the center of civic attention, as in its OVAL+ series of temporary pavilions for Eakins Oval, the 8-acre park in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. - Shane Reiner-Roth

Peterson Rich Office

Sculptural gallery interiors, high-end retail, and housing and maintenance strategies for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)—three areas that might seem incongruous, but at the eight-year-old Peterson Rich Office (PRO), designing airy, light-filled spaces is part and parcel of considerate urban planning.

Founders Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich trace their approach to experiences working at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Steven Holl Architects—two firms known for their bright institutional projects—as well as SHoP, which Rich says taught him to break down the profession’s “traditional barriers and open [himself] up to different types of work.” Because of often tight budget constraints, PRO’s projects focus on form, gesture, and filling spaces with natural light instead of expensive materials.

The studio is working with New York’s Regional Plan Association to come up with suggestions for how NYCHA can simultaneously make up its $31.8 billion maintenance deficit while capitalizing on the agency’s 68.5 million square feet of undeveloped floor area. This isn’t the firm’s first dance with NYCHA; in 2014, PRO’s 9x18 project provided a blueprint for turning the housing agency’s 20 million square feet of parking into infill housing, and those strategies made their way into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan.

“We always start with a certain amount of research, and try to draw from that research a series of goals for the project,” Rich said. “We try to introduce what we call ‘five points’; these are values and goals built with the client, guiding principles, and those things emerge from context, institution, and need. It’s narrative, and we try to stay true to those things.” - Jonathan Hilburg

Dake Wells

“People are often surprised by how our projects end up looking like they do in these really rural areas,” said Andrew Wells, cofounder of Springfield- and Kansas City-based firm Dake Wells Architecture. “The common question we get is, How did you do that? For us, it boils down to solving peoples’ problems. There is an aesthetic component to that, yes, but it’s just a response.”

On numerous occasions, Wells and Brandon Dake, who together started the studio in 2004, have presented several design options to a client who ended up choosing the most challenging proposal on the table. Take Reeds Spring Middle School in rural southwestern Missouri. Set on 150 acres of undeveloped land beneath the Ozark Mountains, this 2017 project is tucked into a sloping ravine. “Finding the right spot to put the school was hard, so one of our ideas was to allow the building to negotiate the steep topography of the site,” said Wells, “but we didn’t think they'd go for it.” In the end, the semisubterranean design allowed Dake Wells to add a storm shelter to protect students, teachers, and staff during tornado season, one of the client’s biggest goals, and resulted in a striking exterior.

According to the design team, using few materials and a muted color palette also helps them concentrate on forming shapes that will stand out. Both Dake and Wells are from small towns in Missouri and feel most rooted in their work when they return to similar spots throughout the region on commission, often collaborating with low-income school districts with tight budgets. “We don’t subscribe to the notion that good design is for elite clients with money to spend,” Dake said. “We take on low-budget projects and push them as far as we can.” - Sydney Franklin

Blouin Orzes

Few have mastered the nuanced art of designing for the extreme climate of Canada’s Circumpolar North in the face of global warming. But Marc Blouin and Catherine Orzes of Montreal-based Blouin Orzes architectes have made that challenge the heart of their practice. Dedicated to what they describe as a “tireless journey” through the villages of Nunavik, the vast northern third of Quebec, Blouin and Orzes create buildings that empathetically address the pressing needs of Inuit communities.

For Blouin Orzes, the work doesn’t stop at the building itself—the architects also play an active role in public consultation processes, sourcing funding and filing grants on behalf of their clients. “It’s a constant search for a balance between tradition and modernity in the contemporary realities of northern communities,” the architects explained. “We have discovered the importance of patiently learning from a culture distinct from our own and have come to love the landscapes and respect nature’s harsh conditions.”

The Katittavik Cultural Centre in Kuujjuarapik, a village on the coast of Hudson Bay, is representative of the firm’s work providing much-needed social spaces for people in remote locations. Upward of 10,000 people use the center, located in one of Nunavit’s 14 communities north of the 55th parallel. The area’s harsh conditions create construction challenges, like high costs, a limited labor force, protracted schedules, and concerns about sustainability. Yet building here takes not only resources and time, but also considerable trust—which the designers work continually and respectfully to earn. - Leilah Stone

Olalekan Jeyifous

For Olalekan Jeyifous, the physical world doesn’t take precedence over the space of imagination. By embracing the tension between reality and invented narratives, his work produces a panoply of architectural inquiries in various media, including hyperreal photomontages, public sculpture, whimsical installations, and immersive VR experiences. Rather than prescribing function, his projects encourage their audiences to reconsider architecture’s relationship to the communities it affects.

Jeyifous describes his work as a result of the “process of connection as opposed to reaction, evoking a notion of ‘place’ rooted in immanence and possibility.” His built public work embraces multiplicity and interpretation, and engages each community’s historic and contemporary challenges, including histories of mobility and displacement, issues of equity in urban housing markets, and the importance of public spaces as sites of protest.

His unbuilt work is equally rooted in social justice. Born in Nigeria, Jeyifous has developed various projects that envision the future of the country’s sprawling megacity, Lagos, in a way that questions ideas of what progress looks like. In Shanty Mega-structures, he produced a series of renderings depicting the city’s informal settlements at the scale of large commercial developments, asking viewers to reconsider who visionary architecture should be for and what practices should inspire it. -  Leilah Stone