Search results for "Mayor de Blasio"
Can't Design for the Public Without a Public
New York City halts public design work over budget woes
“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.”
Rooms to Spare
San Francisco to rent 7,000 hotel rooms to the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic
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.”
Dear Mayor @LondonBreed,Today, the Board of Supervisors spoke for our city and unanimously passed an emergency hotel ordinance. We urge you to sign it now and save thousands of homeless San Franciscans from being infected by COVID19. Sincerely, San Francisco — Coalition on Homelessness (@TheCoalitionSF) April 15, 2020
when the jackhammers fall silent
New York puts freeze on all nonessential construction
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:
It is essential right now to build new hospital capacity.It is NOT essential right now to build new condos. @cmenchaca is right in calling for a moratorium on (non-crisis-response-related) construction work. https://t.co/66f8Pg1oxB — Brad Lander (@bradlander) March 16, 2020
“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.
Takin' it to the streets
Cities open up streets to pedestrians as parks overcrowd
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.
We hope you’re finding some solace and beauty in Philly parks at this time. Here’s a photo of beautiful magnolia trees 🌸 in bloom along MLK Drive yesterday. It’s closed to vehicles 24 hours/day to allow for more social distancing. 📸 Share your photos by tagging #myphillypark! pic.twitter.com/YC6GpWIbGo— Fairmount Park Conservancy (@myphillypark) March 22, 2020
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.”
I'm not a city planner, but if you want to do this, you have to close a LOT of streets over long distances, in a bunch of neighborhoods. And if you need to do a pilot to figure out logistics, do it quickly and quietly—not four days of closures for nine hours a day over a weekend.— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) March 26, 2020
Hangin' up the Hardhat
Track halted construction projects across America with this map
“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.
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:
Reminder: In the midst of this unprecedented crisis, we’re not hosting any events for the sake of our employees, customers, and neighbors. In the meantime, we continue to work with event producers to reschedule their events. #COVID19 #ConventionCenter pic.twitter.com/f5r4UpD7ca— Javits Center (@javitscenter) March 17, 2020
“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.
Reopening Unclear, Try Again
Met, MoMA, and more go dark over coronavirus concerns
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.
Is Trump holding up NYC congestion pricing and Second Avenue Subway funding?
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.
NYC needs congestion pricing for so many reasons, including critical funding for our subways and buses. We must keep fighting to ensure congestion pricing is implemented effectively and without delay.https://t.co/ZhqizbJSuV— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) February 21, 2020
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.”
.@NYGovCuomo says in addition to not approving congestion pricing to raise money for City subways, @realDonaldTrump Admin has also blocked funds to extend Second Avenue Subway, which amounts to roughly $3 Billion of @MTA $51 Billion capital plan pic.twitter.com/jBKhhjVOvT— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) February 24, 2020
When They Go High, We Go Low
Manhattan’s subterranean Lowline park flatlines
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.
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
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
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
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-RothSculptural 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
“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
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
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