The ground floor of New York's sprawling $250 million Saks Fifth Avenue flagship renovation is complete, and OMA and Rem Koolhaas have designed a splashy, technicolored centerpiece for the midtown Manhattan shop. The luxury department store has embarked on an ambitious reorganization ahead of competitors moving into New York City; as Bloomberg notes, both Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus are opening their first N.Y.C. locations in 2019. Saks Fifth Avenue’s new ground floor is all about handbags. The previous first-floor tenants, the beauty and fine jewelry departments, have been moved upstairs. OMA and Gensler collaborated on the 53,000-square-foot first floor, installing custom terrazzo flooring from Italy, “experiential” handbag displays with appropriate signage, and wide, runway-inspired aisles. The centerpiece of the new handbag department is the escalator, which changes color as shoppers ride between the lower and main floors, and up to the beauty department on the second floor. UUfie, one of the Architectural League's 2019 Emerging Voices, also used a dichroic effect for a department store escalator, in that case Paris's Printemps Haussmann Verticalé. The second and third phases of the Saks renovation—the “vault,” which will showcase high-end jewelry, and the new menswear section—are both expected to open later this year.
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Warren Gran, a New York City architect, died Sunday at age 85 in Los Angeles. Gran practiced in New York City for over 45 years and was known for his commitment to making social change through architecture. Gran specialized in public and non-profit projects with an emphasis on affordable housing, sustainability, and social responsibility, including supportive housing for the homeless and those suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems. He worked on many projects with the New York Public Schools, producing innovative spaces to help children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Prominent projects include: PS/IS 395, PS/IS 78Q Robert F. Wagner School in Long Island City, PS/IS 109 in Brooklyn, multiple projects for the Bank Street College of Education, and Brooklyn Family Court. His renovation of and addition to PS 14 won an AIA New York Design Award. Gran was also awarded the Boston Society of Architects/AIA Award for his work on the Lighthouse Charter School in the Bronx. One of his most visible projects was the conversion of a large Brooklyn courthouse on Adams Street into two high schools. A rooftop addition provided gyms and a signature look with red cylinders facing the street. On Morris Avenue in the Bronx, his 1974 housing development built with then-partner Irv Weiner, Melrose D-1 (a.k.a. the Michelangelo Apartments), has been described as an overlooked, pioneering, humane answer to housing problems that still plague the city today. “Why look at Melrose D-1 today? Because it acknowledges housing as a banal, repetitive, highly cost-driven design problem, and makes a virtue out of it,” wrote Susanne Schindler in The Avery Review in 2012. The complex is praised for its innovative floor plan, with access to three courtyards landscaped by Henry Arnold. Gran also worked in historic preservation. Among the prominent projects he worked on were the renovation of the dome at Manhattan Surrogate Court, the Manhattan Appellate Court, Queens Supreme Court, and a restoration of the Pratt Institute Library in collaboration with Giorgio Cavaglieri. Gran also worked as a residential architect designing homes in New Jersey, Connecticut, the Hamptons, and upstate New York that were often inspired by vernacular rural architecture, and balanced humanism and modernist ideals. These include the Weininger Residence in the Hudson Valley and his own weekend home in Ghent, New York, where he and his wife Suzanne vacationed. Gran’s career started while working in the office of the great Edward Larrabee Barnes. From 1985 to 2003 he was a professor of architecture and urban design at Pratt Institute, also serving as the chairperson of the graduate program in urban design, the acting dean of the school of architecture, and teaching seminars at Yale, CUNY, Cooper Union, and NYU. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture at Penn State and his Masters in Planning from Pratt. Students have always said he was incredibly tough—but that they appreciated that toughness, and what he taught them launched their careers. He was a member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Urban Design Committee of AIA’s New York chapter. Gran was an officer in the navy in the late ‘50s, on the aircraft carrier the USS Ticonderoga. During these years he kept an apartment on Fillmore Street in San Francisco that was memorialized in Herb Caen’s San Francisco Chronicle column: Apparently, Gran and his Navy buddies’ parties were so loud the nightclub downstairs had to complain. Suzanne of Kansas City, Missouri, worked at The New Yorker magazine throughout the 1960s. Suzanne died in July of 2017. They are survived by two daughters, designer Eliza Gran and novelist Sara Gran, who went to Saint Ann’s and now live in Los Angeles. Warren is also survived by three grandchildren, Violet Phillips, 19, Ruby Phillips, 17, and Charles Wolf Phillips, 14.
Robert Murray: Sculpture Design Books $65.00 List Price Some sculptors have to think like architects. They need to consider the actual weight of a work and whether it might wind up crashing through a floor or compromising a foundation. There are the issues of balance and whether something weighing a few tons and defined by curves and cantilevers will remain in place on its own or roll off its plinth. There are also the concerns about the best angles from which to view a finished sculpture and how it will age, especially if positioned outdoors. And once it is erected and set in place, what about the resulting shadows or reflective light? As Jonathan Lippincott, the noted book designer and independent art curator, reveals in his new book, Robert Murray: Sculpture (Design Books), the first such monograph to chronicle the artist’s oeuvre, Murray learned about weight and scale through practice. When Murray first began making some of his large-scale works in his apartment on East 22nd Street in Manhattan in the early 1960s, they were so heavy and tall that they compromised the very structure of the building. Of one such early work, Ceres, a seven-foot-high plaster sculpture, Murray said: “I had it right in the middle of the room, and I put supports out from underneath the bottom lip of it to try to distribute the weight, but it didn’t quite work. One day there was a pounding on the door and a very nice couple from downstairs demanded to see what I was up to, and I guess my floor sagged so badly that their ceiling cracked and plaster was raining down in their living room.” The comment from Murray is one of many in Lippincott’s book that reveals the artist’s sense of humor, a characteristic much welcomed in an otherwise scholarly art book. Lippincott has obviously been careful to reveal—and revel in —Murray’s playfulness. As a result, this may be among the most refreshing and entertaining books to read about any sculptor, living or not. Lippincott’s book also manages to right an aesthetic wrong. While fantastically prolific and influential, Murray doesn’t seem to have won quite the same name recognition of some his contemporaries, like David Smith, Tony Rosenthal, Louise Nevelson, and Barnett Newman. Lippincott’s book will surely reintroduce and re-establish the still-active Murray as one of the very best practitioners of contemporary sculpture. And the book’s examples of Murray’s candor and wit will only heighten the artist’s appeal. As Murray recounts about his early days as a young artist from Saskatoon suddenly immersed in the New York art world: “I always joke that it’s lucky my liver was as young as it was when I got to New York or I would have been dead a long time ago.” Although Lippincott’s monograph is visually-driven, it includes an engaging, lengthy biographical text about Murray, as well as a candid, chatty question and answer between the author and his subject. The two appear to have forged an affectionate rapport. We learn about Murray’s Canadian boyhood, his inspirations for the monumental works of art, and the process of making those sculptures (some sixty of which were made at Lippincott, Inc., the Connecticut-based fabricator of monumental works of sculpture, founded by the author’s father). But what resonates throughout the book is Murray’s collaborations with and respect for architects. There was a time not so long ago when art and architecture were more closely aligned. Lippincott describes, for instance, the Percent for Art program that flourished in the U.S. and Canada in the mid-1960s, whereby, according to the author, “one percent of the budget for any new building would be dedicated to purchasing artwork…an unprecedented amount of funding to purchase and commission artwork for government buildings and public spaces.” Murray’s large-scale abstract (some would say minimalist) sculptures were coveted by architects of the time. I.M. Pei, for instance, commissioned Murray for a massive work (Shawanaga) to occupy the plaza of Pei’s Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse. For a 1968 group show of sculptures at the then-new Boston City Hall, a Brutalist edifice designed by Kallmann, McKinnell, and Knowles, Murray was invited to include what is now one of his iconic works, Windhover. “The only bad part of it all was the new city hall, which wasn’t a very attractive backdrop,” he told Lippincott. “But it was a nice plaza, a good space, and that show got a lot of attention.” Murray’s relationship with architects and architecture began early. In 1958, at the very start of his career, he received a commission from a local Saskatoon architect to fashion murals composed of mosaic tiles for a new government building. Barnett Newman collaborated with Murray to create an imagined, or conceptual, synagogue that Newman described as being “organized like a baseball diamond, the rabbi on the pitcher’s mound, the men in the dugouts, and the women in the bleachers.” Murray designed two models for the project, one of which was exhibited at a show at the Jewish Museum in 1963 organized by Richard Meier. And in his native country, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada awarded him their Allied Arts Medal in 1977. As Lippincott emphasizes, “The award recognizes artists or designers in Canada who create work intended to be integrated with architecture, and Murray was one of the first artists to receive this award for contemporary sculpture.” Both Lippincott and Murray are adept at describing the architectural aspects of the sculptures. Of Murray’s Breaker (1965), Lippincott lovingly relates the structural issues in such a way that the piece can almost be envisioned without seeing it: “[Breaker] consists of two arcs that are almost identical; one extends beyond the other, providing a point of contact with the floor, adding stability to the work and extending its energy.” Because of this book, Murray reputation as a great sculptor will endure. That reputation rests particularly on his public artworks, many of which are positioned with notable works of architecture. But as Murray said to Lippincott, “Until the public starts making it, it’s not public art, it’s private art put out into public situations.” With Lippincott’s fine book, we now have the definitive visual and chronological map for finding Murray’s works and enjoying them in public settings. Murray can be experienced in person on April 7 at the David Richard Gallery, 211 East 121st Street, New York. The gallery will present a solo exhibition of Murray’s large sculptures and two-dimensional artworks, with an opening reception on April 7 at which both Murray and Lippincott will be present. The show runs through May 5.
Yona Friedman sculpture takes the stage at ICA Miami
Miami’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA Miami), in collaboration with Miami Design District, will unveil a towering art installation by Yona Friedman, Hungarian-born French architect, designer, sculptor, and urban planner, whose innovative works represent humans’ complex relationship with the environment. The public sculpture, titled Space-Chain Phantasy-Miami 2019, features intertwined, geometric cubes composed of metal wire. The lightweight installation reflects Friedman’s perception that architecture should be flexible and capable of adjusting to the needs of its users and inhabitants. This concept originates from his personal history as an emigrant and nomadic refugee who often depended on temporary shelters to survive. While major urban centers can be dense, harsh, and chaotic, Friedman believes that temporary, ephemeral architecture can help democratize a city and empower its inhabitants, promoting a city that evolves with its people. Friedman's work, including temporary structures similar to Space-Chain Phantasy-Miami 2019, has been featured in collections of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, among many other locations. The sculpture will be unveiled on February 22 at Paradise Plaza in the Miami Design District. ICA Miami is free and open to the public all year.
Look Ahead, Look Back
Weekend edition: Hudson Yards preview, Equal Rights upstate, and more
Missed some of this week’s architecture news, or our tweets and Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! Take a sneak peek at Hudson Yards ahead of its March opening Can't wait for the new neighborhood's March 15 opening? AN took a behind-the-scenes tour before the official ribbon cutting. nARCHITECTS’ Equal Rights Heritage Center frames the history around it The Equal Rights Heritage Center, the first new municipal building in Auburn in 40 years, puts New York's contributions to equal rights front and center. Mario Botta’s sanctuary for cosmopolitan super chickens rises in Belgium In the small city of Genk in Belgium, Mario Botta has designed a studio for Koen Vanmechelen as part of the artist's Labiomista project. AIA issues statement of support for proposed Green New Deal legislation The American Institute of Architects (AIA) released a statement supporting Green New Deal legislation proposed by congresspeople last week. Junya Ishigami chosen to design the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion Ishigami has designed a single-layer slate canopy for the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion, creating an indoor-outdoor space that references natural rock formations. Have a great weekend, and see you Monday!
Five years after Detroit’s bankruptcy, design fuels recovery
Could Detroit be pioneering a new type of gentrification? It is possible. The recovery—with its innovative experiments in revitalization—is set to become a laboratory of ideas that will redefine gentrification, learning from the urban renaissance of the last 20 years in other cities. The Detroit of the late aughts was a desolate place: The municipal government had all but crumbled in the wake of a depopulation that saw the city go from over 2 million residents to around 700,000. With the loss of people and jobs came the loss of density and infrastructure, which left Detroit the poster child for apocalyptic Rust Belt landscapes. During this period of the late 2000s to the early 2010s, steep real estate discounts allowed artists and entrepreneurs to buy houses and commercial buildings extremely cheap. This legendary scenario led The New York Times to publish an article titled "Last Stop on the L Train: Detroit,” in 2015. And it certainly feels that way, with vibrant music, arts, food, and design scenes in the city that seem to be linked together by a small community of like-minded people working on a host of cultural projects together. However, much of the buzz about Detroit in the national media has died down. How is Detroit doing five years after becoming the largest city ever to go through a structured bankruptcy, and how is design helping to speculate on new future urbanisms? Today’s Detroit is a different place than five years ago. The days of $500 houses bought at auction and dark, empty landscapes are becoming a thing of the past. Developers and speculators have bought up much of the land around the city center, with Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Ventures owning almost 95 percent of the downtown area. This area could now pass for a street in downtown Chicago, with high-end boutiques and chains like Warby Parker and lululemon. In other neighborhoods, such as the more industrial Milwaukee Junction, near the Russell Industrial Center—an icon of gritty urban reuse—land and property have been claimed by those waiting to sell or develop it. Other neighborhoods like Corktown and Midtown have seen a resurgence in development, an increase in market-rate housing, and more traditional forms of urban revitalization. Infamously abandoned sites have been bought for eventual redevelopment or reuse. Most strikingly, a Ford-branded security Ford Escape is parked outside the Ford-emblazoned fence at Detroit Central Train Station, a ruin-porn poster child now slated for redevelopment as the auto giant’s “innovation” hub, focusing on autonomous vehicles. Now the challenge will be to deliver on some of the potential that has been so evident over the last decade. Detroit’s municipal government has long been seen as incapable of addressing the city’s problems, such as abandoned buildings, vacant lots, lack of infrastructure, and general disinvestment. Since declaring bankruptcy in 2013, the city has implemented a series of initiatives that have in many ways stabilized it. These include basic things like improving emergency services and transportation. Perhaps most important, new LED streetlights were installed, ending the days when residents carried flashlights in their cars. Perhaps the most dramatic change in Detroit’s governance has been in the city planning department. Architect and former Charlottesville mayor Maurice Cox has been tasked with overseeing the recovery. His first step? Hiring a diverse, interdisciplinary team of 36 planners, architects, urban designers, and landscape designers to rethink how a city can incentivize investment, rebuild infrastructure, redensify targeted neighborhoods, and provide services to new residents while preventing displacement of existing residents and cultures that have endured the city’s darker times. Cox calls it “inclusive recovery.” This comprises measures that harness one of the unique things about Detroit—a high level of community engagement. As a majority African-American city, it is an especially promising place to pioneer these ideas. At a recent event at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), the artist Tyree Guyton sat down for a talk at the closing for a show about his Heidelberg Project, a self-started community art project he has developed since 1986. Rather than a typical artist’s talk, the event was more like a community town hall, where residents of the nearby neighborhood spoke in detail about how they see the neighborhood changing, and how the evolution could be better. This kind of community-led development will be key to making sure that Detroit can innovate without displacing people or local cultures. The most important priority of the plan is to recover while preserving both local neighborhood culture and affordable housing. Cox’s initiatives include framework plans for targeted neighborhoods that have strong residential numbers and some active housing stock. The planning department identified weak spots surrounded by higher-density areas that could be tied together with coordinated investment, resulting in—thus far—six quarter-mile-by-quarter-mile areas where recovery could be easiest. The proposed Joe Louis Greenway will be a 31.5-mile bike-pedestrian loop that passes mostly through neighborhoods with a median income under $27,500 a year and a 30 percent rate of access to a car. The greenway will incorporate existing routes, such as the Dequindre Cut, a below-grade rail-line-turned-pedestrian-promenade that is being used as a gentrification vehicle to spur development of a mix of affordable housing embedded in market-rate developments. Development group The Platform will be developing a housing complex at the north end of the cut. This could lead to displacement, but because the city owns so much land along the path, it will experiment with ways to provide affordable housing and transportation without driving people out. Local housing research includes a joint venture between the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the City of Detroit. In studios led by Lars Gräbner and Christina Hansen, students generate ideas about what housing might look like in Detroit, some of which are displayed in exhibitions such as 2017’s A City For All: Future Housing Models for the City of Detroit. These studios also helped produce a series of design guidelines. For example, one line reads: “Impress the value of design on all projects and all audiences—emphasizing equity, design excellence, and inclusion.” As design thinking ramps up, so too will design excellence. Detroit has a long legacy of designers and architects who have called Michigan home, such as Eliel and Eero Saarinen and Albert Kahn. But in recent years, there have been fewer high-quality projects. This is changing, however, with firms such as Lorcan O’Herlihy, SCAPE, Walter Hood, Adjaye Associates, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and others signing up to design housing, parks, and urban farms. O’Herlihy, for instance, is working on a housing study for Brush Park, the first of Cox’s targeted neighborhoods just outside downtown, designing a 24-building, 410-unit densification plan. And design is baked into the new planning department goals and regulations. What could be design’s biggest impact is the preservation of existing cultures, which includes the existing building culture, one of the goals for “inclusive recovery.” To prevent the loss of the visual character of the neighborhoods, incentives such as a double density allowance are offered for projects that preserve the existing shell of a building. Layering history in this way will inevitably lead to interesting new adaptive reuses. These building refills are a good metaphor for the new type of gentrification being pioneered here: They redensify the abandoned fabric with useful infill, but do not take away the texture that makes Detroit unique. As part of VolumeOne, Gräbner and Hansen’s private practice, the pair is working on a redevelopment of the historic Stone Soap Building, an historic 1907 factory. The structural concrete frame and brick infill will be preserved, and a minimal, floating addition will be clad in a galvanized metal panel system. The strong visual contrast between old and new will articulate a strategy of respect for the existing structure while implying continuity through the use of industrial materials. Imagining new uses for vacant land will also play a big part in making the future of Detroit, and nature is integral to the next image of the city. There are about 24 square miles of vacant land that are very costly to maintain. In collaboration with developers and designers, the city is programming many experiments in urban agriculture and self-reliant landscapes. The ad-hoc, community-initiated urban farming pioneered by projects such as Oakland Avenue Urban Farm has become a staple of Detroit urbanism and is becoming part of larger, city-led projects as well. Walter Hood Studio’s Rosa Parks Neighborhood Master Plan does not propose any new buildings but rather infills vacant lots with tree nursery gardens that will provide jobs and act as productive landscapes. In the Fitzgerald neighborhood, local developers Century Partners have set out to rehab 20 acres of 100 vacant houses and 200 vacant lots. The strategy included some 28 community meetings and 50 neighborhood meetings that resulted in creating a park—a connective tissue—for the neighborhood, as well as flowering meadows in vacant lots. Cox sees it as a success in testing the idea of using design to create a place and restore beauty and community. Detroit is not without its issues, of course, but the future looks bright for the city. Its unique problems, such as the over-the-top reliance on the car built into the city’s planning, and its sprawling, vacant lots, could become assets when coupled with its strengths: relatively cheap land, strong communities, diverse leadership, and many cultural artifacts that have survived the dark times. Five years after bankruptcy, it is an exciting time in Detroit, and there is reason to believe it will provoke a new kind of urban revitalization: one in harmony with nature and existing cultures, informed by the urban progress made over the last few decades.
Amazon announced today that it will not be building a new headquarters in New York City after all. The company blames political opposition for the decision, in a statement contrasting the enthusiasm of Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio with the attitudes of "state and local politicians" who have vocally opposed the terms of the project. Many of the opposing politicians argued that the company received benefits from the state and city that the company did not need and the government could not afford. In public hearings, politicians objected to the use of a state process that allowed the company to circumvent the typical land-use review process and the secrecy and lack of public involvement in the deal that brought Amazon's new headquarters to the city. Amazon ran a spectacular public competition for the new headquarters that saw U.S. cities volunteering data and offering special deals to attract the company. This latest step displays the sort of public relations brinkmanship that won the company a favorable deal in New York City last year. Mayor de Blasio responded to the news with a statement:
You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity. We have the best talent in the world and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone. If Amazon can’t recognize what that’s worth, its competitors will.Amazon's full, original announcement is as follows:
After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City. We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion—we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture—and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams. We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult. We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada. Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.
Fly Me to the Moon
New York’s TWA Hotel features Amish millwork and midcentury touches
Anticipation is high for the TWA Hotel. Opening on May 15, the new hotel has transformed Eero Saarinen’s 1962 TWA Flight Center into a new lodging option for travelers passing through New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport. While there are a few unconventional airport hotels already out there, such as Stockholm’s 747-housed Jumbo Stay hostel, few are as all-encompassing as the TWA Hotel. Fully connected to the transportation hub's facilities, the project will feature a slew of quirky details and period-sensitive design elements. The former terminal’s neo-futuristic architecture will be accentuated by key space-age and midcentury modern furnishings. Ahead of its opening this May, the multifaceted project has been in the news a lot. While it was revealed late last year that one of the historic airline’s decommissioned Lockheed Constellation jetliners would become a cocktail lounge, it was recently announced that early reservations for the hotel’s 512 rooms would open tomorrow, February 14. Another overlooked but equally-important news item is the project’s use of custom-built millwork. Despite lower bids from international vendors, MCR/MORSE Development—the hotel's major owner and operator—opted for locally sourced and milled walnut for the guest room martini-bars, tambour wallcoverings, and other finishings. The developer turned to Highland Wood Products and Hilltop Woodworking, two Ohio-based Amish companies, for their expertise. Using twenty 18-wheelers’ worth of locally sourced walnut, 200 craftspeople produced over 40,000 square-feet of tambour wood. The skilled workforce employed age-old, analog techniques like steaming, suspending, sanding, staining, and sealing to ensure the material’s longevity. Channeling the same attention they often give to highly-intricate furniture, the craftspeople fitted out compartmentalized martini bars. Combined with brushed brass trim, mirrored glass, and backlighting, these pieces achieve a glamorous yet restrained look in perfect keeping with the project's overall interior scheme.
East Village Rising
Davies Toews uses a DIY mind-set to punch above its weight
Every year the Architectural League of New York recognizes eight dynamic young firms as Emerging Voices that have the potential to become leaders in the field. Historic winners like Morphosis (1983) and Toshiko Mori (1992) have become today's lions, and practices like Johnston Marklee (2007) and Tatiana Bilbao (2010) have jumped to new heights after recent wins. This year's crop was selected in a two-stage portfolio competition where a jury of architects selected the winners. The deciding jury included several previous winners like Dominic Leong (2017), Fernanda Canales (2018), and Marlon Blackwell (1998), giving the process a familial feel. Laureates for 2019 come from across North America and almost all are partnerships or collaboratives—capital letters feature prominently, too. Davies Toews will lecture at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York, at 7:00 p.m. on March 7, as part of the Emerging Voices lecture series. The storefront office of Davies Toews Architecture is tucked behind a corner of 13th Street in Manhattan’s East Village, and like so many of the firm’s projects is defined by constraints. Common elements like outdoor tile and plywood create a homey atmosphere, and models and materials are tightly arranged throughout the space, inviting passersby to peer in on the studio’s creative process. Partners Trattie Davies and Jonathan Toews are no strangers to working around tight spatial and financial limitations. Whether it’s a linear park that rises between a descending set of switchback staircases in Hudson, New York; a perspective-defying, split-level park and art gallery in Memphis, Tennessee; or a three-story townhouse in Brooklyn, their projects are united by the common thread of extreme site-specificity. “Our strategy has been: Do first, analyze second,” said Davies. “It’s really important for us to build work, to learn about how things get done—what works and what doesn’t work, so we could get good at it. Most of what we do is built. We do very few competitions.” Fittingly, materiality plays a large role in these completed projects. For the 72,000-square-foot University of Chicago Charter School: Woodlawn Campus, a school for grades 6 through 12 with a 100 percent college acceptance rate, the studio had to balance a modest budget with lofty design ambitions. Using only locally produced Chicago brick, the studio designed a variegated, kinetic facade by patterning the building with darker, extruded brick. The school’s ﬂared parapets and step-gap massing reference missing buildings in the surrounding neighborhood, breaks in a uniform street wall. “We realized that, project after project, the design came from the constraint,” said Toews. “Lately we’ve been thinking a lot about how to design with Sheetrock.” Even Sheetrock, a ubiquitous and uniform material, can provide inspiration; Davies compared the alternating bands of color in stacked, wrapped Sheetrock to a tapestry. “Every project gets modeled,” said Toews. “There’s the idea of the model sitting there; you can’t avoid it. We just try to keep making stuff around the project until it gets better and better.”
New Twist on History
nARCHITECTS’ Equal Rights Heritage Center frames the history around it
The first new civic building in Auburn, New York, in 40 years lets visitors explore the city’s place in the history of civil rights movements. The nARCHITECTS-designed Equal Rights Heritage Center, now open to the public, frames views of surrounding landmarks to expand the reach of the center to the building's historic context. What began as a request for proposal from the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation and the City of Auburn for a Finger Lakes–region welcome center in 2017 quickly snowballed in importance, according to nARCHITECTS principal Eric Bunge. In light of the rapidly changing national political climate, the governor’s office reoriented the project to focus on New York’s progressive history as a leader in promoting equal rights. The center specifically focuses on women's rights, the abolition of slavery, civil rights, and the more recent efforts for LGBTQ rights. The 7,500-square-foot, $10 million Heritage Center opened to the public on November 13, 2018, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, local officials, and Pauline Copes Johnson, the great-great-grandniece of Harriet Tubman. A statue of the historic abolitionist and activist stands to the south of the new building. The single-story Heritage Center sits smack-dab between several historic landmarks; the building is directly across the street from the Memorial City Hall, is next to the William H. Seward House Museum, and is in the city’s South Street National Register District. A corbelled, pink brick facade was used to better blend the building into the mainly federal-style neighborhood. Inside, the building’s structure was left exposed. Board-formed concrete walls and glulam beams (which appear to continue past the confines of the center thanks to clever mirror placement) were left exposed to open up the interior as much as possible. Radiant geothermal heating emanates up through the terrazzo flooring, eliminating the need for a bulky overhead HVAC system. Double, sometimes triple, height windows frame views of the surrounding city, and the building’s three main interconnected volumes were each rotated to maximize the range of views. Graphic design studio MTWTF worked with nARCHITECTS to co-design the exhibition and wayfinding across the building’s figure-8 circulation path, and the nARCHITECTS-led team pulled double duty as the Heritage Center’s curator. Zones are organized by medium rather than topic, and the center uses posters, videos, recordings, games, a large interactive map, portraits, and other materials to chart the history of equal rights in New York State. But the center will hopefully become the first stop in a broader historical tour of the region for visitors, said Bunge, including the local landmarks visible from the building, and that the “context is content.” Siting the Heritage Center was also an issue for the design team, as the building rose on what was formerly a municipal parking lot. Although there’s a parking garage directly across the street, the community raised concerns over the potential loss of parking at the site. Ultimately, nARCHITECTS chose to exclude any on-site parking to encourage a pedestrian-friendly scheme and included a new public plaza to the center’s east. Construction took only nine months and the project team was able to come in 20 percent under budget. Interested in visiting? Admission is free, and the center is open from 10:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. daily.
Emerging Voices 2019
FreelandBuck draws on representation for spatial effects
Every year the Architectural League of New York recognizes eight dynamic young firms as Emerging Voices that have the potential to become leaders in the field. Historic winners like Morphosis (1983) and Toshiko Mori (1992) have become today’s lions, and practices like Johnston Marklee (2007) and Tatiana Bilbao (2010) have jumped to new heights after recent wins. This year’s crop was selected in a two-stage portfolio competition where a jury of architects selected the winners. The deciding jury included several previous winners like Dominic Leong (2017), Fernanda Canales (2018), and Marlon Blackwell (1998), giving the process a familial feel. Laureates for 2019 come from across North America and almost all are partnerships or collaboratives—capital letters feature prominently, too. FreelandBuck will lecture at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York, at 7:00 p.m. on March 14, as part of the Emerging Voices lecture series. FreelandBuck builds drawings. Not in the traditional sense of constructing what’s represented by a drawing set, but in the sense that its architecture directly evokes carefully constructed perspectives and painstakingly hand-drawn renderings. “We think about drawing at the scale of architectural space,” says partner Brennan Buck, “as an end product, not a means to build.” Buck, based in New York City, and David Freeland, who is based in Los Angeles, met in grad school at UCLA and started working together in 2009. Of their bicoastal practice, Freeland says, “There are more opportunities than challenges. It exposes us to different groups of potential clients, but also to different environments. I think the practice is richer for that.” Working at a variety of scales also makes the practice richer, giving the firm the chance to explore its ideas in different ways. Parallax Gap, a colorful canopy of layered screens installed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., feels like a drawing come to life. The intricate trompe-l’oeil representations of historic American ceilings are like perspective drawings—each constructed with a unique vanishing point—that reveal themselves as visitors walk through the space. FreelandBuck borrowed rendering techniques to enliven the riff on office cubicles the firm designed for a film production company in L.A. To accommodate the company’s variable spatial needs and match its lighthearted style, the architects defined flexible work areas with a series of “tumbling” cubes whose milled surfaces, evoking a poché or hatch, suggest another set of cubes overlaid onto the first. Furniture that looks torn from a Roy Lichtenstein canvas adds to the effect of stepping into a drawing. Although there are nods to linework in the exterior finishes used on two of the firm's residential projects, Stack House and Second House, these connections to representation are more complex. In both buildings, distinctive exterior volumes articulate dedicated programs, and in both buildings, this distinction is broken down by unexpected interior elements. Stack House’s curved walls blend its spaces together, while Second House achieves a sense of continuity through materials, transparency, and interior courtyards. The perspectival shifts of Parallax Gap appear here in more subtle ways, concealing and revealing spaces, views, and experiences; it’s not about adding lines, it’s about erasing them. FreelandBuck may draw on the techniques of representation but, unlike a conventional drawing, its work can’t be understood through a single image. Like the best architecture, the spaces, places, and objects the firm creates are challenging and engaging and must be experienced to be fully appreciated.
Just City, Only Design
New York’s Center for Architecture explores what makes a city just
From January 10 to March 30, visitors to New York's Center for Architecture can check out an exhibition that explores how urban communities can be empowered to create more resilient and sustainable futures. Design and the Just City raises awareness about urban inequality by exploring generations of flawed policy and systematic injustices, and the psychological effects of undesirable architecture and weak urban design. The exhibition was curated by the Just City Lab of the Harvard Graduate School of Design under the leadership of its director, Professor Toni L. Griffin. The first encounter visitors have with the exhibition is a labeled map of New York City. To the right of the map are rolls of stickers with words like "Aspiration," "Fairness," "Power," "Identity," and "Resilience." The piece asks visitors to take a single sticker that references the most significant attribute of their neighborhood and put it on the map. From a step back, the conglomeration of multi-colored stickers could be interpreted as a pointillism piece, but the experience is meant to reveal what residents actually value about their environs. The exhibition focuses on five videos that each look at one of the many challenges combatted by the Just City Lab. The first focuses on the uncomfortable spaces made by transportation infrastructure, particularly subway overpasses common to neighborhoods in Harlem, the Bronx, and Queens. The video shows the many ways in which landscape architecture, lighting design, and low-cost public structures can encourage these once-unsafe areas to become places where people meet or engage with wildlife. Another project also discusses transportation, but as a remedy instead of a malady. To combat the severe racial and class-based segregation among Brooklyn's 15 intermediate-level schools, the video proposes free family and student transportation, community workshops to encourage a stronger integration between parents and students, easier access to information and technology, and equitable admissions. The final product is a well-produced piece describing the difficulties and challenges faced by constituents and designers, and the subsequent final designs and approaches. Griffin founded the Just City Lab in 2011 and has established herself as one of the most influential explorers of the relationships between spatial and racial justice in urban environments. Throughout her two decades in the urban design field, she has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Department of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, and the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City University of New York.