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Just Don’t

Los Angeles is at a crossroads—don’t let it become New York
Makin’ my way downtown, I zip along on my Lime® scooter through the ersatz Japanese village of Little Tokyo, past taxis, buses, and Prii, to a bustling, small-scale warehouse district on the fringe of Los Angeles’s central core. The whirlwind of scales, land uses, languages, and people is dizzying, but I finally land at my destination: Sonoratown, a lively taco spot famous for its soft tortillas, which are made with flour driven up from Sonora, Mexico, in small batches by the owner’s mom. This delirious, quasi-urban experience is one that could only happen in the messy, diverse urban fabric of Los Angeles. You are free to grab whatever pieces of the kaleidoscopic surroundings you can, and the faster you are moving, the more there is to take. Somehow, this frantic energy and free movement seem unaffected or held back by the past. The cultural critic Sean Monahan called LA the capital of the 2010s, describing it as:
...a city whose attributes anticipate collapse: flat and amorphous, rather than vertical and defined; kitsch and pop, rather than avant-garde and tech; individualistic and mass, rather than institutional and elite. You can suggest San Francisco, HQ of disruption, or New York, backdrop for protest movements (#OWS, #BLM). But both places fail to capture the spirit of the age, because they are fighting so hard to change it. They are relics of empire, unsure of themselves after a decade in which success was indistinguishable from failure… Built on celebrity, media, and lifestyle, L.A. doesn’t presume to be building the future, merely inhabiting it. It’s a pick your poison kind of place. [Go wild] at Chateau Marmont. Spend half your paycheck on inscrutable health food at Erewhon. Commute four hours so you can live in a Riverside McMansion. Drive Uber every day, write screenplays every night. Sell out, drop out, suck up, fuck up. There is no right or wrong way to do L.A.
Monahan accurately describes why Los Angeles encapsulates the present, and why it’s the most exciting place in the US right now. However, it is also important to note where the city is moving in the 2020s. With the 2028 Olympics as a finish line, Los Angeles is at a crossroads, on a path to become a different place in the next decade. But with the city already at the forefront of global media culture (The Kardashians, Moon Juice, Goop, etc.), it doesn’t need global architecture to maintain its position as a worldwide force. How it defines itself as a physical place is still up for grabs, and it should learn lessons from other hyper-globalized cities, namely New York. Tomorrow’s Los Angeles is one of layers. Moving on from its days as a bastion of mythological American modernism centered around mobility (cars), individuality (single-family homes), and triumph over nature (lawns), it will add new collectivities on to itself. These layers will arise from the constant flux of the new: Technologies and emerging social patterns meld nicely into the loose, still-codifying culture and its corresponding urban forms. It is the flickering of new, communal, car-free, publicly subsidized lifestyles against the old, car-centric, low-density, low-regulation, “libertarian” bones of the urban landscape that make it such an interesting place for urbanism today. The oft-bandied-about claim that the city is libertarian is also not entirely accurate, as California is a sea of regulation and red tape, continually votes to raise its already high taxes, and both California and Los Angeles are leading on climate action. The city is quietly building public infrastructure at a pace that vastly outpaces New York. New York’s Second Avenue Subway took somewhere between 10 and 100 years to complete three stations, and the next phase will be three stops and will be completed by 2029 at the earliest. Meanwhile Los Angeles is (optimistically) on course to build 28 new lines by 2028. This includes an airport-connection line that will allow a direct link from LAX to the city. Meanwhile, New York’s MTA is in a worsening crisis with crumbling stations and delays only getting worse, and New Jersey’s NJ Transit recently gave up on accounting for the traffic expected to reach the American Dream Mall, instead calling on private industry to complete the line, citing none other than Los Angeles’s electric rail airport connector as an example. That’s right—L.A. is leading the way in public transit. Meanwhile, Uber, a municipal car share and micro-mobility options such as scooters have already altered how people get around (many young people don’t have cars at all) and where they live, partly due to an explosion in transit-oriented development around the new metro lines. It is unclear exactly how successful, affordable, and sustainable this will be, but change is certainly underway. New transit networks both public and private, along with lower parking requirements for new construction will profoundly impact development and housing typologies in the future. But it is no secret that Los Angeles is careening toward a New York–like affordability crisis (if it isn’t there already) that goes hand-in-hand with the urban whitewash of global capital. Homelessness is at record levels and only getting worse. In response, architects are working to develop new housing typologies, from affordable prototypes and accessory dwelling units, to larger, multi-family schemes that continue to evolve with new regulations and design challenges. The L.A. River and the L.A River Greenway in the San Fernando Valley are also emerging sites of urban experimentation and reclamation/rehabilitation of greenspace. Los Angeles has a unique architectural culture and urban fabric, but red flags are emerging. First, Bjarke Ingels Group and Herzog & de Meuron, international firms that are both very popular with the New York development community, have projects downtown. Related Group (of Hudson Yards fame) has moved in and is developing a large Frank Gehry project across from Gehry’s own Disney Concert Hall. It perfectly illustrates the lower design quality of developer-led construction and echoes Related Companies’ other project, Hudson Yards: “The project is anchored by a central plaza wrapped with shopping areas and public art.” The biggest red flag might be the shortlist for the La Brea Tar Pits project. In Miracle Mile’s Museum Row, a neighborhood that already has been marred by architectural globalists—once by KPF and twice by Renzo Piano—the shortlist for the La Brea master plan is New York establishment firms WEISS/MANFREDI and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, along with Danish firm Dorte Mandrup. It is a truly odd and troubling list. All three are talented firms, but their selection signals the wind turning toward a placeless architecture where, in California terms, “there is no there there,” reflecting classic donor-class aesthetics. Don’t even get me started on what director Michael Govan and the LACMA board are doing to push through their new building. Joseph Giovannini said it best:
In a sleight of hand that still has serious consequences for LACMA and Los Angeles, Govan introduced [Peter] Zumthor, the architect who presumably could achieve this world-class building, to his Board of Trustees. There was no competition, no public review or discussion, no transparency, just a shoo-in of the architect who had arrived in Los Angeles in Govan’s back pocket. “It won’t be the seventh Renzo Piano building in the country,” Govan explained to me in an interview. “We’ll have the only Zumthor.” …Had he even made it into a normal architect selection process, the jury might have concluded that he was mismatched and dangerously underequipped for the commission.
Some Angelenos say that local architects should get their due. L.A. has been defined in many ways by outsiders such as Neutra and Schindler, but also by local legends like Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry, as well as a younger generation like Barbara Bestor, Michael Maltzan, and a host of others who can deliver top-notch design. Los Angeles doesn't need the continental, polite, same-as-everywhere architecture that plagues institutions around the world. The architecture scene has always valued experimentation and allowed younger, more avant-garde approaches and diverse practices to gain ground, outside of the institutional weight that plagues places like the East Coast. It is not “provincial”—as some claim—to want to preserve this well-established local flavor while moving forward. In fact, what would be provincial is thinking that it is necessary to look outward for world-class architecture, or that a mythical global culture needs to be imported for the city to become a world-class place. Nothing defines the periphery like the center, and nothing makes one more provincial than defining oneself against New York. Of course, outside architects can come in and add to the culture; it just takes a bit of judgment. For instance, Spanish firm SelgasCano’s bright, breezy, kit-of-parts style seems to fit with L.A.’s pop modernist aesthetic, and Arata Isozaki’s MOCA has also become an iconic part of L.A. architecture. So let L.A. be regional and different. Don’t let it succumb to the pressures of global capital and “global architecture.” Don’t let Boyle Heights—a strong Latino neighborhood under development pressure, with several buildings already being renovated—become Hudson Yards. New York City has been ruined by capital, which was weaponized to take away the grittiness of places like Times Square, a project of Ed Koch and eventually of Rudy Guiliani. Later, technocrat billionaire Michael Bloomberg finished the sanitization of the city with sloppy rezonings of Williamsburg, West Chelsea, and Long Island City most notably, which ushered in the era of bland office towers and mega mall-like sterility. Developers like President Donald Trump and Related Companies, along with their elected enablers like Bloomberg and Guiliani have shared class interests that threaten the small-scale, local and regional urban landscapes where artists, immigrants, and the working class foment culture. How can Los Angeles be a laboratory for resisting the entropic, hegemonic cancer that is global capital, the global donor class, and the donor-class aesthetic? One tactic, and to be fair, something that the Bloomberg administration got right in places like Brooklyn and Staten Island, is downzoning to preserve the character of neighborhoods. This is also tricky and can lead to NIMBYism, which L.A. has certainly had its share of recently. In a similar vein, Thom Mayne provocatively suggested clustering development on the Wilshire corridor in order to protect other areas. The Wilshire area has seen some development, but not at the scale Mayne has suggested. Additionally, serious and innovative criticism is needed. Critics must not fall into 20th-century modes of operating; they have to get out in front of these debacles rather than react to them. There are a host of critics operating in Los Angeles, and no one is better positioned to have an impact than former L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, who is now in a unique role as the Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles, a position where he is literally helping craft RFPs (request for proposals). As long as Hawthorne is able to be heard in the government and in the public and can surround himself with good people who will help guide L.A. through this crucial time, there is a real opportunity to have more and more expert opinions in the process that will avoid the disasters that haunt New York. This, along with more equitable and compensated juried design competitions, can help the people who make financial decisions make "better" aesthetic and cultural decisions. Regionalism, when connected to local ecology, provokes more interesting and nuanced design than a totalizing, global aesthetic. In terms of what resistance might look like outside of design review, Los Angeles is already taking on challenges in a unique way. In Boyle Heights, gentrifying art galleries have been pushed out by strong neighborhood coalitions demanding affordable housing and neighborhood services. Los Angeles could also adopt anti-gentrification policies such as rent control or downzoning to prevent the displacement of both residential and retail spaces. Many cities have adopted such plans, while Berlin and other cities have enacted rent freezes and other regulations on the housing market to ensure affordability. Los Angeles in many ways is the logical conclusion of the myth of the American West. Several time zones and thousands of miles in distance from New York and other global cities, it has historically been connected to global culture through mass media, not physical space. This isolation has left it to its own devices as an urban place. This doesn’t need to change as it grows into more of a global force. New forms and ways of living can be cultivated without abandoning what makes it a special place: its resistance to the forces of the outside. In the 2020s, defining a new localism would be quite an amazing achievement.
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RIP

British architect Ted Cullinan dies at 88
Edward "Ted" Cullinan, founder of London firm Cullinan Studio, has passed away aged 88. The RIBA Gold Medalist died in his sleep yesterday, Monday, November 11. The British architect was born in Islington, London, in 1931 and started eponymous practice, Edward Cullinan Architects (later Cullinan Studio) in 1965. After studying in the U.K. and U.S. at the Architectural Association and the University of California at Berkeley, he designed buildings across the U.K. in his own name after working with James Stirling on the Florey Building for the University of Oxford, and Denys Lasdun on ziggurat-shaped student housing at the University of East Anglia. For his first project, Cullinan spent a year as a student working with a local builder to restore the decommissioned 19th-century Belle Tout lighthouse in East Sussex. The project was finished in 1956 and today you can rent it out for a holiday—worth it for the views across the South Downs alone. Other early buildings also endure, like the British Olivetti headquarters in Derby, which was completed in 1971. “Stylish and expandable” and “immediately identifiable by its big yellow plastic-clad roof” Nikolaus Pevsner’s co-editor Elizabeth Williamson once remarked, before adding her fears over the building’s maintenance. Almost 50 years since it opened and after the original tenants departed, the building has been refurbished and reincarnated as the East Midlands Logistics Center, with Stirling's influence still very much present. Cullinan’s work was also a big part of my childhood. His studio’s Charles Cryer Theatre in Carshalton, South London, was—and arguably still is—the area’s most architecturally ambitious piece of modern architecture in the area. As a former member of the council’s technical office told me, Cullinan was given a graphic account of what activities can take place in public toilets by the council’s chief electrical engineer as the theater was under construction in the early '90s. “That told him!” the engineer told the rest of the office, who had all been listening in, as he put the phone down. (It was all in good spirits, I’m told). Other notable buildings from Cullinan include the Bartholomew Villas in London; the Grade II-listed (the U.K. equivalent of having landmark status) RMC headquarters in Surrey; the Downland Gridshell, West Sussex; and the Newcastle Maggie’s Center (all featured in the above image gallery). Beyond practicing as an architect, Cullinan taught at the University of Nottingham, the Bartlett, Sheffield University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Edinburgh. Cullinan was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2008. “I’ve never seen anyone hold a room quite like Ted did …when he spoke, everyone listened,” a former colleague told AN. In a statement released today, the practice said:
“The inspirational founder of our practice was a true pathfinder for all architects. Ted was designing for climate change 60 years ago with a holistic vision for the practice of architecture that he described as a social act. His legacy is in the buildings and places he transformed, in his model of architectural practice, but perhaps most powerfully in the thousands of people he taught and inspired throughout his long life. We share our deepest sympathies with his family and all his many friends.”
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Futbol Fantasy

Plans for David Beckham's Freedom Park come to life in new renderings
New visuals have surfaced for David Beckham’s $966 million soccer campus in Miami ahead of a crucial vote next week to decide the fate of the site it would be built on. The last update on the design of Miami Freedom Park was unveiled last September by local firm Arquitectonica. While the most recent vision for the 131-acre site largely mirrors that master plan, the look of the 26,000-seat stadium, and its surrounding landscape, has been altered slightly. Details now show a new undulating cover for the crown jewel soccer stadium, complete with an exposed area featuring a rooftop bar and palm trees. The proposed 1-million-square feet of commercial and office space, as well as the numerous sports fields, hotel, and 58-acre public park, are still included in the plans, but a new video released by Inter Miami FC, Beckam’s budding MLS team, brings the entire site to life.  The crux of the problem facing Beckham’s project is figuring out whether it's ready for lease approval. The goal is to establish a 99-year contract on the site, atop the 59-year-old Melreese public golf course, with Beckham's venture-partner Jorgé Mas as the only leaseholder. Last year, 60 percent of Miami locals voted to get rid of competitive bidding for the property, effectively allowing the potential single-entity leaseholder to exist. The Miami Herald noted that without completed land appraisals, as well as a proper environmental remediation plan, it’d be difficult to determine a fair market rate rent next week. Some have said the upgraded visuals are a last-ditch attempt by Beckham and his venture partners to persuade the city that the stadium complex will be beneficial to the community. On Tuesday, the Miami City Commission will discuss the unfinished lease and whether to end negotiations for the project. One commissioner even wants to open a competitive bid instead to build a luxury golf resort on Freedom Park’s proposed location.  Despite this, Inter Miami FC is still expected to begin its first season in 2020 and will play home matches at a temporary site atop the former Miami Fusion stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Freedom Park is slated to be completed in 2022.
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Morty's Home

Tongva Park in Santa Monica is Californian through-and-through
What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Hunter's Point South Park in Queens, New York. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

Santa Monica’s Tongva Park is a true product of Southern California. It certainly has a physical connection to its context—its hills and outlooks are packed with soil from construction sites in the area; its irrigation water sourced from the local runoff recycling facility; its plants were grown in regional nurseries—but in less tangible and more sociopolitical ways, too, the park bears the mark of the Golden State.

Tongva, which opened in 2013, was funded under California’s now-defunct tax increment financing (TIF) laws. The first of their kind in the U.S., California’s TIF laws went into effect in 1952 with the passage of the Community Redevelopment Act, which set a precedent nationwide for how infrastructure might be financed. Many states have since imitated the approach to establish the funding mechanisms behind massive—and often controversial—projects, including Chicago’s Navy Pier and New York’s Hudson Yards. Tax increment financing lets municipalities borrow money for developments in areas designated as “blighted” with the assumption that the developments will generate higher property-tax revenue as land values rise. Critics have argued that TIF programs have been abused to subsidize luxury developments that do little to improve the quality of life for local residents, and in 2011, while work on Tongva was well underway, then-governor Jerry Brown dissolved California’s TIF program, making the park part of the state’s final wave of TIF-backed projects.

The park benefits from Southern California’s crazy-quilt approach to urbanism, where the wealthiest communities of the Los Angeles region have remained independent cities, enabling areas like Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica to invest tax revenue within their borders without sharing with the city of Los Angeles that surrounds them. Cities where the median home price is less than Santa Monica’s, ($1.6 million, more than twice the median home price for Los Angeles) may not be able to spend so lavishly on their parks.

California comes through most tangibly in the park’s siting and the aesthetic decisions by the park’s designer, James Corner Field Operations (JCFO). JCFO incorporated several beloved trees that were already on the site into an arroyo-inspired plan that orients visitors toward spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and a beach that stretches out casually, with an air of West Coast chill, just across the street.

Funding

The park was entirely publicly funded using TIF. The City of Santa Monica bought 11.6 acres of land from the RAND Corporation; besides the park, housing was built on the site and Olympic Drive was extended through it. The city spent $53 million on the property and another $42.7 million to design and build the 6.2-acre park, which includes a small area across Main Street in front of Santa Monica City Hall.

Plants

Tongva hosts more than 30,000 plants of more than 170 species, and more than 300 trees from 21 species, most grown in seven nurseries across the state; the farthest is in Watsonville, less than 300 miles up the coast. Some trees traveled even less distance: Morty, a Moreton Bay fig tree, and the Three Amigos, a group of ficus trees, pictured below, along with several palms, were preserved and rearranged on the site to fit into the new landscape. The park mixes native and non-native drought-tolerant species in zones modeled on three California ecological communities (coastal scrub, chaparral, and riparian), creating a landscape that feels familiar but avoids cliché.

Buildings

The steel cocoon-esque pavilions, pictured below, and play structures were fabricated by Paragon Steel in Los Angeles.

Furniture

Custom furniture was designed using Forest Stewardship Council–certified jarrah wood, a variety of eucalyptus usually grown in Western Australia. Off-the-shelf benches from Landscape Forms were also used.

Art

Weather Field No. 1, by Chicago-based artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, comprises a field of 49 stainless steel poles with weather vanes and anemometers attached.

Hardscaping

Aggregates in the hardscaping came from pits in the nearby San Gabriel Valley. Walls have California Gold rocks.

Water

Plants are irrigated by water from the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility. Stormwater from the park is also collected in bioswales, and water features recirculate potable water in closed systems.

Transit

Tongva integrates into regional transit in some of the usual West Coast ways—there are bikeshare stations and scooter access—but it’s also just a block away from one of the Los Angeles area’s biggest transit initiatives: the LA Metro Expo Line expansion. The nearby Santa Monica Station opened three years after the park and was a part of a broader regional plan, whereas Tongva was part of a separate Santa Monica–specific urban plan.

The region’s ubiquitous car culture is also present. Tongva sits at the southern tip of the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, which extends up the shore to Big Sur, San Francisco, and beyond, and Olympic Drive, a local three-lane street, was extended along the park’s southeastern edge.

Land

The site was previously home to the RAND Corporation headquarters, which have since relocated to a neighboring block. Housing developed by the Related Companies was built on the opposite side of the Olympic Drive extension.

Infill/Terraforming

Before being cleared for Tongva, the site was dominated by the RAND Corporation’s parking lot. To create the park’s lookouts, which rise in points to 18 feet and provide views to the Pacific Ocean, infill soil was taken from construction sites around the city, tested to ensure safety, and sculpted to create accessible slopes for the site.

Project Delivery

JCFO was selected through an international competition in which 24 teams participated. After JCFO won, there were five community workshops over six months, and the scheme was presented to six review boards and commissions before site work began in 2011. Although the scheme began as a design-bid-build project, the city turned it into a design-build project midway through the process to try to speed delivery after California revoked its TIF laws.

Maintenance

The City of Santa Monica spends just under $100,000 annually on basic maintenance, plus about $20,000 annually on tree work and $10,000 annually on custodial work.

Security

Although there is no operational security technology in the park, Santa Monica has used some unorthodox activity-based surveillance strategies. After squatters set up informal camps on the park’s western corner, city agencies arranged for a food truck to occupy that area, which has since discouraged people from living there. And on top of regular maintenance costs, the City of Santa Monica spends about $330,000 annually on “ambassadors” who staff the park, answering questions from visitors and keeping an eye on activity.

As is standard in many U.S. parks, Tongva closes at night; its hours are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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Weekly Alloyances

AN visits Alloy, the architect-developer reshaping Brooklyn
One of the most talked-about towers in Brooklyn is being designed—and built—at the hands of Alloy Development, the 13-year-old company responsible for residential structures like 185 Plymouth Street and One John Street in DUMBO. Led by CEO and founder Jared Della Valle and president AJ Pires, the firm has its sights set next on two projects along Flatbush Avenue in Boreum Hill—one of them which would become among the tallest skyscrapers in Brooklyn. These major developments are advancing their goal of shaping the real estate conversation in New York towards a more design- and community-centric outlook. They’re literally restructuring the skyline of the city’s most populous borough one project at a time, for better or for worse.  But getting the chance to take on an 860-foot-tall building like the one Alloy is putting up at 80 Flatbush didn’t just happen overnight. When Della Valle and Pires first started Alloy in 2006, there were hardly any companies sporting the title of architect-developer. Architects stayed in one lane and developers stayed in another, but that didn’t stop Alloy from stepping into unknown territory.  When the firm completed its distinctive 459 West 18th Street on the High Line, an 11-story residential structure with contrasting black-and-white, angular facade, both the design and real estate communities started to take notice. It wasn’t easy for Alloy to secure the millions of dollars needed for that in-demand site, but its success gave the company—then under the name Della Valle + Bernheimer—the confidence to do even bigger projects. “We chose to pursue development as a way to have more agency over the process of design and to take control of the outcome,” said Della Valle. “When you can define program and priorities because you are taking on the risk and assembling all the capital, you get more design agency from every single perspective.”  In mid-2016 alongside co-developer Monadnock, Alloy completed One John Street, a glimmering, 12-story, 42-unit sustainable structure on the DUMBO waterfront just north of the Manhattan Bridge. The team considers it a major turning point for the company because of its integration into the local community. Though it’s a luxury residential property, it housed an outpost of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for the last three years, and soon a Brooklyn Public Library annex will open in its stead.  From a design standpoint, One John Street was also a major step forward for Alloy. The firm teamed up with Brooklyn-based SITU Studio to create the one-of-a-kind sculptural panels made of concrete textured after fragments of fiberglass, pellets of beeswax, and salt granules that wrap the building’s lower core. In addition, because of the building’s noisy location next to an elevated train line, Alloy scaled up the windows and floors, decreasing the sun exposure at the same time.  Challenging themselves with innovation at One John Street also gave Della Valle and Pires the authority to cement their names alongside New York’s top developers, and its completion gave them a seat at the table.  “I find it hysterical that now we are on the same panels as the very big guns of real estate in this city like Related and Extell who have existed for a long, long time,” said Della Valle. “On the architecture side, we’ve received a lot of admiration because we’ve made design a core value of our developments. We’re not interested in repeatability.” Della Valle said that he’s met with plenty of famous architects who grill him on how Alloy makes it work. As a development company full of architects, he says the quality of the architecture and its impact on the community is most important. “We have to have economic output to achieve our work, but it’s not our reason for being.” Alloy’s office is located at 20 Jay Street, a hotspot for many Brooklyn-based architecture firms because of the old building’s large floorplate. A small firm with just under 20 employees, the team has been based in the same space since 2001. On any given day, they’re only working on one or two projects at a time and don't have to answer to any clients—ever. Things will continue to stay this way, according to Pires.  “Jared and I both live 100 feet from the office,” he said. “We’ve gotten to know every single landowner in DUMBO and there’s an intimacy of knowledge here that, when you connect it back to the risk equation, is very valuable. We’ve often had a leg up on other developers in this neighborhood because we’ve been here for so long.”  Alloy’s investment in DUMBO has long been clear and will continue with their upcoming three townhouses and 46 apartments at 168 Plymouth Street. Their proposal to take two, neighboring, century-old warehouses and turn them into condominiums was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It will be one of the last loft conversations in the area once finished next year. However, the East-River adjacent community isn’t the only part of Brooklyn that Pires and Della Valle aim to influence.  80 and 100 Flatbush will be the duo’s first attempt at a true high-rise development. The mixed-use skyscraper at 80 Flatbush will feature 200 units of affordable housing while the proposed 482-foot-tall tower at 100 Flatbush will include a 700-seat elementary and high school (designed by ARO) for Khalil Gibran International Academy, the first English-Arabic public school in the United States. Two historic buildings will also be preserved on the site. Demolition began in October.  To go after such a massive property—the block is spread across 61,000-square feet—Alloy had to work with the city’s Education Construction Fund in planning all that the future site would entail. It’s an overwhelmingly complex project, but Della Valle and Pires see it as another decisive moment in Alloy’s own development. They’ve been able to reach this point, Pires said, because of that innate attraction to risk and their constant reliability.  “The exposure we’ve received on our past work gives us a lot of credibility,” he said. "We truly believe you have to be optimistic to be in development. The associated risk actually boosts our creativity and forces us to be more clever." 
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Bye Bye Brutalism

Massachusetts puts the Paul Rudolph-designed Hurley Building on the market
A piece of Boston’s brutalist Government Center has reached the end of the road. The Charles F. Hurley Building, designed between 1962 and 1966 by Paul Rudolph, has been placed on the market by the State of Massachusetts. Citing the building’s challenging layout—the top floor lacks windows on three sides, for starters, according to the Boston Globe’s report—as well as an outdated surrounding urban landscape, Governor Charlie Baker’s office plans to offer up the site for total redevelopment rather than adaptive reuse. The Hurley Building occupies a 3.25-acre site in downtown Boston, near North Station and the MBTA transit lines, and the move to open the site for development is expected to rake in tens of millions of dollars for the state. In pursuing a public-private partnership, the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance plans to solicit an official redevelopment partner by mid-2020. The complex will accommodate new uses while retaining office space for some of the several state agencies currently housed in the building. Approximately 675 government employees work in the Hurley Building at the time of writing. News of the redevelopment quickly sparked a movement to save the building, which some consider among Boston’s brutalist treasures. The nearby Boston City Hall, built in 1968, has long been an icon of brutalism, even if it achieved that status through sheer controversy. Many architecture aficionados and critics have praised the Hurley Building's unabashed modernism, while a number of locals consider it nothing more than an eyesore. The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation published a blog post titled “S.O.S: - Save Rudolph’s Boston Government Center,” describing the Hurley Building as “one of Rudolph’s most interesting commissions, and a serious work of urban design.” In a call to action, the blog post encourages readers to leave comments on the Boston Globe article voicing their concerns with the project. Construction on the site is expected to begin within the next few years once the property finds a buyer. For now, the state is formulating plans to relocate its agencies to alternative sites.
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Breaking the Bronze Ceiling

Women's suffrage statue finally approved for Centennial unveiling
The final design has been approved for Central Park’s first statue honoring real women. A six-year effort spearheaded by the non-profit Monumental Women has resulted in a composition depicting women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton gathered around a table drafting a document. The statue will be unveiled on August 26, 2020, celebrating the centennial of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. “With this statue, we are finally breaking the bronze ceiling,” said Pam Elam, president of Monumental Women in a press release. “It’s fitting that the first statue of real women in Central Park depicts three New York women who dedicated their lives to fighting for women’s rights.”  The 166-year-old park is a tourist mecca in the center of Manhattan, attracting 42 million visitors each year. But amidst the foreign war heroes, presidents, and animals erected in marble and bronze around the park, not one has ever been a named female. Only the fictional Alice in Wonderland boasts her own statue. Monumental Women began its work on securing a site and design for the women's suffrage statue back in 2014, identifying Central Park’s Literary Walk as an ideal and fitting location for a statement on women’s contributions to New York City and the United States at large. The non-profit has collected over $1.5 million in funds for the statue and has support from local community boards, other non-profit arts commissions, and gender equality activists. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has also been an instrumental figure since the beginning, declaring this week when the final design was revealed a "monumental moment."  Renowned sculptor Meredith Bergmann, who will tackle the historic project, has been working with Monumental Women to edit the design over the last few months. The process of approvals has been difficult and the initial versions of the statue have drawn immense criticism. But the project has also generated discourse on the historic trends and precedents for public sculpture. Historically, only men have been granted permission to exist in the public realm, to be seen and heard. Women were relegated to the domestic sphere and left out of politics—notabley voting—which is strongly connected to the NYC Public Design Commission’s decision to unveil the statue on the centennial of this event. Throughout the entire United States, there are fewer than 400 statues of real women, excluding representations of metaphor, myth or ‘type’ models. It’s about time that women get their spot on a pedestal to celebrate real, tangible achievements that changed the course of the country’s history. The Bergmann statue is one step closer to bridging the gap and gives the millions of girls who visit Central Park a figure to physically and figuratively look up to.
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Art-chitecture

Artists take on space and sound at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri, is having a cultural moment. Architecture-related arts projects abound, meaning artists are taking serious note of how structure and spaces might inspire their work. In the Pulitzer Arts Foundation’s Tadao Ando-designed building, Turner Prize-winning Scottish artist Susan Philipsz has responded to the building itself. Commissioned for the Foundation's water court, Too Much I Once Lamented, 2019 features five speakers playing the artist’s sung rendition of a 1622 ballad by composter Thomas Tomkins. It's a response to the acoustics found in the space's hard and liquid surfaces. Philipsz, who specializes in sound installations that transform space into “immersive environments of architecture and song,” utilized reflection and projection for this site-specific work. Also on display at the Foundation is Zarina: Atlas of Her World, created by the Indian-American artist Zarina who wanted to be an architect but instead studied mathematics and printmaking. Now 82-years old, she draws inspiration from her childhood during and after Partition, the 1947 division of British India into the independent states of India and Pakistan. The idea of displacement and the notion of home, together with her interest in modernism, abstraction, and geometry, can be seen in Home Is a Foreign Place (1999). In this piece, Zarina features 36 woodcuts that each evoke architectural spaces (Threshold, Door, and Courtyard). A grid of arches in Zarina's Shadow House I, 2008 recalls domestic spaces and jalis, the ubiquitous Indian architectural stone screens. Pool II, 1980, a paper sculpture, “hints at the architecture of her homeland, including courtyards, arches, and stepwells.” Delhi, 2000 is a three-part work showing the city in plan and section. Across the street from the Ando building on an empty lot, the Foundation has commissioned Park-Like by landscaper designer Chris Carl of Studio Land Arts. Coming next spring, the lot will turn into a sustainable rain garden, plant installation, and public space—a piece of infrastructure for biodiversity. The site was bulldozed to create two hills and during excavation, building fragments were unearthed and incorporated into the design. When it opens, thick black mulch necklaces will snake across the paths as native and non-native plants and flowers carpet spaces for walking, seating, and playing. Studio Land Arts, a Granite City, Illinois-based firm, sits just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. It's a steel-manufacturing town founded in 1896 that's had a mini-revival in the last decade, though it still suffers from poverty. Newfound enthusiasm in the area has made Granite City a ripe location for creative placemaking. Groups like Granite City Art and Design District (G-CADD), founded by a trained urban planner who helps microfinance creative spaces, are doing big things. G-CADD's current New American Gardening project turns vacant lots and post-industrial land into art pieces like Slot Lot, a sculptural reassembly of a parking lot with excavated rectangles reassembled in asphalt stacks. Similar to Park-Like, Slot Lot's success is predicated upon the transformation of mundane, everyday spaces that, when paid attention to, become community cornerstones.
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Major Mettle

Shortlist announced for the National Medal of Honor Museum
The Medal of Honor is the highest military honor a U.S. citizen can receive, and the organization that supports it, the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, sent out a call for submissions last year for the creation of a museum that would highlight the award's values. The foundation outlined a vision for a museum to put the achievements of the medal's 3,500 recipients and history and values as they’ve stood since the Civil War in the foreground. Arlington, Texas, was selected in August as a fitting setting for the new National Medal of Honor Museum, and on October 16, the foundation announced a shortlist of four high-profile teams comprised of both architects and landscape architects with distinct visions for the project. The list includes: Davis Brody Bond, LLP and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (Landscape Architect) Ennead Architects, LLP and Hargreaves Jones (Landscape Architect) Fentress Architects, Ltd. and Civitas, Inc. (Landscape Architect) Rafael Viñoly Architects and MPFP (Landscape Architect) The master plan calls for not just a new building to be placed on the site but extensive landscaping as well, with the intent creating a unique surrounding context for the space. The museum will be a part of a larger Entertainment District plan for the city of Arlington, which will include other urban attractions like retail and sport stadiums, so the museum grounds will need to be tailored specifically to the history of the award: Situated to serve the needs of urban visitors, while also creating a unique sense of place.  All of the shortlisted teams have extensive experience designing large-scale public works as well as museum commissions, from the Denver International Airport to the September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York.  "Working with the City of Arlington and these world-class architects," said Joe Daniels, the foundation’s president and CEO, "we are confident that we are on our way to creating a truly iconic museum that reflects well upon the recipients of the Medal of Honor and all those who have given of themselves for our nation." The winning design team is expected to be announced in January 2020. 
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Creating beautiful, enduring and successful places

The U.K. launches a National Design Guide—but why?
The U.K. has released a National Design Guide to help “create beautiful, enduring and successful places.” The guide was published at the start of the month and unveiled by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, however, for all the “good design" the guide preaches, it is at odds with Jenrick’s actual policies. To architects and designers, the principles outlined in the document will seem run-of-the-mill, even perhaps a little patronizing. But the guide is not for them; rather, it intends to ensure that all those involved in a project are on the same page. The focus of this design guide is on good design in the planning system, so it is primarily for:
  • Local authority planning officers, who prepare local planning policy and guidance and assess the quality of planning applications;
  • Councilors who make planning decisions;
  • Applicants and their design teams, who prepare applications for planning permission; and
  • People in local communities and their representatives.
A cursory scroll through the guide reveals a lot of images—almost all houses, with pitched roofs and brick facades along with a surprising amount of churches. A design guide issued by a Conservative politician seemingly calling for Victorian and Georgian villages a does incur a momentary feeling of dread (Poundbury is featured) but thankfully the guide is much more nuanced and ultimately offers some good advice. Ten “characteristics” for design are introduced in the guide, paying special attention to character, community and the climate:
Context – Enhances the surroundings. Identity – Attractive and distinctive. Built form – A coherent pattern of development. Movement – Accessible and easy to move around. Nature – Enhanced and optimised. Public spaces – Safe, social and inclusive. Uses – Mixed and integrated. Homes and buildings – Functional, healthy and sustainable. Resources – Efficient and resilient. Lifespan – Made to last.
The guide also takes into account the contemporary context we find ourselves in and looks to the future: “We expect continuing change as a consequence of climate change, changing homeownership models and technological changes. It is likely to emerge and embed in society rapidly.” Furthermore, there is an added focus on inclusion and community cohesion, defined respectfully as: “Making sure that all individuals have equal access, opportunity and dignity in the use of the built environment;” and “A sense of belonging for all communities, with connections and trust between them. Diversity is valued and people of different backgrounds have the opportunity to develop positive relationships with one another.” However, for all this positive rhetoric—which will hopefully make some impact—the guide is undermined by Jenrick’s latest policy to allow homeowners to add up to two stories to their house without having to get planning permission. This is part of the Conservative party’s push to "build up not out," and essentially allows homeowners to do what they want irrespective of their neighbors' objections, provided the building meets council guidelines and building regulations. Subsequently, it seems bizarre for the guide to talk about scale, height, relation to surroundings, and design quality, the latter of which will be most lacking as a result of such a policy. The guide also appears to feature mostly low-rise schemes and genuine examples of suburban sprawl with a straight face, the antithesis of building "up." “Publishing new design guidance alongside plans to extend permitted development rules, which allow projects to sidestep vital quality and environmental standards, just doesn’t make sense,” remarked RIBA President Alan Jones. “Although increasing permitted development rights is a step in the right direction, they will still be subject to heritage and conservation areas and viewing corridor type constraints,” Vaughn Horsman, design director at the British practice Farrells told AN. “And whilst it supports wider densification, by the time the tangle of other constraints get overlaid, there is still very little available land and air space available for growth in London. Meaning more still needs to be done.” Moreover, the design guide also seems to focus solely on housing. It has admittedly come from the Housing Secretary, but alternative typologies could at least be acknowledged, particularly as the industry moves towards adaptive re-use. Despite this, the guide has been for the most part warmly received by the profession. Teresa Borsuk, a senior adviser at the London-based Pollard Thomas Edwards, told the Architects’ Journal:
[The guide] is a sound piece of work aimed at planning officers, councillors, applicants and local communities. And a lot of it is not new. But what a difficult time for its launch – with everything else going on just now; climate change, affordability, targets, undersupply, Brexit…
Speaking in the same article, Richard Dudzicki, director of Richard Dudzicki Associates, meanwhile called for an “anarchic version of the National Design Guide”:
I started reading the National Design Guide thinking to myself this is not a bad idea, but I quickly thought of the successful places I love; Farringdon in the 90s or Peckham now. They do not fit in the government’s ‘10 simple rules to good design’. The truth is very little good design or successful placemaking will fit in this dull, grey, pragmatic framework. It is about interventions. Predefining spaces will lead to failure; failure of design, failure of place and failure to create a society. Architecture as a profession should be calling out for more. In this profession, we read the brief, rip it up and throw it out of the window and try to come up with a new idea. Let’s have an anarchic version of the National Design Guide.
Finally, the guide concludes by saying that it could be altered after the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission publishes its final report in December this year. This could likely cause groans in the profession: the Commission’s re-appointed cochair, Roger Scruton, has previously voiced his distaste of modernism, and in particular, architects Norman Foster and Mies van der Rohe. "The words 'beautiful' and 'ugly' are dangerous when referring to architecture — they expose personal bias, when our industry is more restricted than ever, by budgets, political and technical constraints," Horsman added. "Urban homes at the scale we need today will struggle to fit everyone’s view of ‘pretty’ –having our work, almost degraded, to such terms is frustrating. "How would ministers feel about a public vote on whether they’re too ugly for the job?” The report can be found in full online, here.
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LGBTQ History Month

Six LGBT historic sites declared NYC landmarks
Just in time for LGBT History Month, the New York City Council announced at the end of September that six sites have been designated Individual Landmarks for their significance to LGBTQ+ history. While the six sites were selected during Pride Month this past June, they were required to go through a few more rounds of confirmations by the full 51-person City Council, the City Council’s subcommittee on Landmarks, and the Land Use Committee. While there are always naysayers in Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) public hearings, these significant landmarks have officially made it.  This is great news for both the LGBTQ community and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, an educational resource that began in 2015 with the goal of broadening people’s knowledge of LGBT history and geography “beyond Stonewall.” Sites are added to the project’s interactive map, which can be navigated through filters including “Cultural Significance,” “Neighborhood,” or “Era,” all of which aim to make “an invisible history visible.”  "I am very proud of these designations, which recognize that despite the obstacles they faced, the LGBT community has thrived in New York City," said Landmarks Preservation Commission chair Sarah Carroll in an earlier press release.  Below are the six newly-landmarked buildings:  Audre Lorde Residence (1898) Location: 207 St. Paul’s Avenue, Staten Island Architect: Otto Loeffler Audre Lorde (1934-1992), an American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist lived in this Staten Island home with her two children and partner Frances Clayton from 1972 to 1987. Born in Harlem, Lorde noted in an interview with Louise Chawla that this home was a perfect balance between nature and her commitment to raising her children in the city. While living there, Lorde was the Thomas Hunter Chair of Literature at Hunter College and spoke at the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.  Caffe Cino (1877) Location: 21 Cornelia Street, Manhattan Architect: Benjamin Warner Caffe Cino was designated for its significance as New York City’s first gay theater, as well as the birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway. The Greenwich Village Italianate-style building was occupied by Caffe Cino from 1958 to 1968 (closing a year before the Stonewall uprising) and currently houses a bar called The Drunken Monkey. The four-story tenement and store was constructed by Benjamin Warner in 1877 and features Philadelphia brick walls with iron and wood elements.   LGBT Community Center (1845) Location: 208 West 13th Street, Manhattan Architect: Amnon Macvey The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center has been an indispensable resource to hundreds of thousands of queer city dwellers since its opening in 1984. Colloquially known as “The Center,” the Italianate-style hub serves the community through health and wellness programs, political action, and social events. In 2001, the center brought on Françoise Bollack Architects to restore the facade and transform the former high school into its present-day program. James Baldwin Residence (Remodeled 1961) Location: 137 West 71st Street, Manhattan Architect: H. Russell Kenyon This building is “the most significant surviving building in the United States associated with the celebrated novelist, essayist, poet, and civil rights advocate James Baldwin,” claims the LPC designation report. Born in Harlem, Baldwin made this his Upper West Side residence from 1965 until his death in 1987. H. Russell Kenyon expanded an existing row house from 1890 into a modern five-story apartment house in 1961. While here, Baldwin participated in events including a meeting at Carnegie Hall with Dr. Martin Luther King shortly before his death, and where he wrote Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), and No Name in the Street (1972). Women’s Liberation Center (1866) Location: 243 West 20th Street, Manhattan Architect: Charles E. Hartshorn From 1972 to 1987, this former Chelsea firehouse was known as the Women’s Liberation Center and was the home to many lesbian and feminist organizations, which broke away from the male-dominated LGBTQ organizations of the time. The space was run by volunteers and organized as a collective, serving as the primary meeting area for women fighting for LGBT rights through social service groups and political committees. Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse (1881) Location: 99 Wooster Street, Manhattan Architect: Napoleon LeBrun Another firehouse, this one in SoHo, was also designated. The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) used the building as headquarters from 1971 to 1974, making it one of the most important LGBT political and cultural centers during these years prior to the opening of the LGBT Center (number three on this list). The GAA lobbied for local civil rights laws, worked against police harassment, and aimed for the creation of fair housing legislation and employment. Located in the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District, the building features neo-Grecian and Queen Anne-style ornamentation including terra-cotta reliefs and stained-glass windows.
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Making the Morgan

AN gets up close with McKim, Mead & White at the Morgan Library restoration
Manhattan's Morgan Library & Museum is almost ready to show off its newly renovated McKim, Mead & White facade, the 2019 renovation being the first comprehensive overhaul of the landmarked building since its completion in 1906. But before the scaffolding comes down, principal conservator Glenn Boornazian invited AN to climb the ladders, and see the ceiling and detail work adorning the neoclassical institution up close.  The wing under renovation is the historic library itself, originally the mansion of J.P Morgan, which houses the famous Renaissance-inspired loggia, Morgan’s red silk-walled office, and the heart of the museum—the three-tiered reading room that holds rare manuscripts from the original handwritten A Christmas Carol to one of Bob Dylan’s personal notebooks.  The museum itself has been evolving rapidly since the 2006 Renzo Piano addition, a glass-box intervention that bridged the annex, library, and brownstone of the Morgan family compound framed by Madison Avenue and 36th and 37th Streets. The addition also created a new entrance for the museum with state-of-the-art amenities for visitors—however, the swap from the original 36th street entrance to the grander ‘museum-grade’ avenue welcome area directed visitors and general street traffic away from the original library's monumental facade. This renovation and cleaning of the Tennessee pink marble exterior is poised to refresh the building’s curb appeal. Up on the scaffolding, it’s impossible to overlook the extraordinary attention to detail in the intricate carving of each stone. One ceiling relief depicts a sailboat, with billowing sails projecting over an inch from its stone base, so prominent that Boornazian was able to wrap his hand around it like a door handle. This craftsmanship was only fully appreciable from where we stood, suspended on a platform two stories high, but granted the same treatment as an eye-level detail.  “If there was one crack, the stone was rejected,” said Boornazian, “The contractor almost went bankrupt trying to satisfy the standards of the project.” The joinery was a primary concern of the conservator, as time and settlement had begun to pry some of the expertly set stones in the ceiling program apart. “Today, this amount would have been unacceptable,” he added, pointing to a seam just slightly thicker than a strand of hair.  Physical alterations also extend from the facade to the overly-oxidized metal fencing, the prominent lioness sculptures framing the library entrance, the cast-bronze doors, and the lesser-known bluestone public sidewalk pavers. Yet, the marble exterior is only one facet of the regeneration project. When the scaffolding comes down, predicted to occur as early as this week, installation will begin on the landscape and lighting improvements, set to debut in spring 2020.  A new garden program by British designer and GSD faculty member Todd Longstaffe-Gowan will enliven the front entrance of the restored structure, and offer a rare strip of green space in the Midtown streetscape. Coming off of commissions like the grounds of Kensington Palace, the scale is relatively modest, but the sensitivity to history is shared. The low-lying planted selections will allow for full viewing of the building from the garden and street, and Renaissance Revival pebble slabs and McKim, Mead & White-inspired parterres will abound throughout the grounds.   “This project will reintegrate the monumental facade into the museum’s program,” said Morgan deputy director Jessica Ludwig, “and bring more people closer to the building’s details than ever before.”