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Honors and Merits

ASLA-NY announces its 2017 Design Awards winners
This year the American Society of Landscape Architects, New York (ASLA-NY) has bestowed five Honor awards and ten Merit awards to New York–based firms for their landscape architecture projects located across the U.S. The winners were selected by a multidisciplinary jury featuring members from ASLA chapters in North and South Carolina, as well as Georgia. "From projects that examine a site’s historic and cultural influences to those that explore innovative design approaches, this year’s winning award submissions showcase the full range of the landscape architectural profession," the ASLA-NY said in a statement. "There is a clear theme of resiliency and sustainability with the award winners that show appreciation for the long-term value of landscapes—again embracing changing conditions of climate and urbanization in the urban projects to appreciation of seasonal characteristics of plants, light and weather in the residential projects." Below is a list of the Honor and Merit awards; the awards themselves will be given to the firms at the ASLA-NY Design Awards Ceremony and Reception (Thursday, April 6, at the Center for Architecture in New York City). These projects will also be on display at the Center through April. Honor Awards Battery Perimeter, Bikeway, Oval and Woodland, Quennell Rothschild & Partners / Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners Governors Island Phase 2: The Hills, West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture P.C. / Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Abstract Morphology, Hollander Design Landscape Architects Navy Pier South Dock and Polk Bros. Plaza, James Corner Field Operations - Hudson Highland Cottage, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Merit Awards Olana Strategic Landscape Design Plan, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Naval Cemetery, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Southwest Brooklyn, AECOM St. Patrick’s Island, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture / Civitas, Inc. Resiliency Rocks Garden, Local Office Landscape and Urban Design Croton Water Filtration Plant, Ken Smith Landscape Architect Compass Resiliency, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners Garden Rising Green Infrastructure Feasibility Study, WE Design / eDesign Dynamics Times Square Reconstruction, Snøhetta The Spiral, BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group
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Make It Happen

“Maker Park” emerges as newest idea for development of Bushwick Inlet
A new idea recently emerged for a piece of property, which has long been in dispute, along the Bushwick Inlet. The initial plan for the Bushwick Inlet was to convert the industrial “wasteland” into a 28-acre park. That was what was promised to the people of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in 2005 following the Waterfront Rezoning Agreement, introduced under the Bloomberg administration. Advocates for this proposal, including Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, have continually voiced their desire that the property be used for green space. However, Citistorage owner Norman Brodsky still possesses an 11 acre triangle of land needed for the park. It currently holds the old Bayside Oil Depot. Brodsky wants to sell the property for $250 million to the city. However, the city has far exceeded initial cost estimates for the park—$60 million to $90 million—having already spent around $224 million. Rumors are circulating that city may use eminent domain to take the land. If that were to happen, the city would have to compensate Brodsky for a certain amount, then additionally pay for the extensive environmental remediation needed to make the site usable. As of yet, the city has not make decision. More recently, however, local stakeholder Zac Waldman has floated a vision for a “Maker Park” at the site's industrial facilities. In fact, Waldman has assembled a team of supporters to translate that vision into a more definitive plan. They include the events coordinator for the Municipal Art Society (MAS); Stacey Anderson, a creative director at Kushner Companies; Karen Zabarsky; and architect Jay Valgora of New York City–based firm STUDIO V Architecture, along with other designers and developers. Valgora is known for his adaptive reuse projects, such as Empire Stores, the redevelopment of an empty and neglected brick storehouse in DUMBO, Brooklyn. While no definitive plans have been revealed for Maker Park, the development team is working to devise a strategy to convert the warehouses, garages, and cylindrical fuel containers into an artisan marketplace and industrial playground. The Maker Park website describes the vision as “a beautiful and otherworldly industrial topography.” However, Natalie Grybauskas, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, has stated that Maker Park is not a feasible use of the site due to the need for environmental remediation, according to The New York Times. Previous projects of this nature have proved successful, notably the on-going Freshkills Park project and the Croton Water Filtration Plant. Freshkills was the world’s largest landfill until 2001, when it stopped receiving trash (save the debris from post-9/11 cleanups). Over the course of two decades, each of the Staten Island landfill’s massive mounds have been capped, allowing development of 2,200 acres of parkland that offer hiking, biking, playgrounds, and a number of other amenities not typically accessible to residents and visitors of New York City. The site even harvests natural gas from the contained landfill. The Croton Water Filtration Plant, designed by New York City–based Grimshaw Architects, is situated beneath a golf driving range in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. An article in The New York Times notes that 290 million gallons of water are treated each day at the $3.2 billion plant. Additionally, the plant provides 100 million of gallons of water each day to the western edges of Manhattan and areas of the Bronx. While adaptive reuse has played a significant role in breaking up the monotony of the congested metropolitan landscape in these projects, the concept of an "industrial theme" for the Maker Park remains vague. Although the use of existing infrastructure presents advantages, there are still many considerations to take into account before this is deemed feasible and worthy of the community. The fact remains that Citistorage still owns 11 acres of the property needed to pursue any development for public use of the site, or development, period, since anyone could snatch up the property.
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Teed Up
A rendering of the new driving range on top of the Croton Water Filtration Plant in the Bronx.
Courtesy Grimshaw

After years of controversy, debate, and cost overruns, the Croton Water Filtration Plant in the Bronx is expected to be complete next year. The city’s first filtration plant was originally estimated to cost $1.3 billion but is now approaching $3 billion. The plant will be able to process 250 million gallons of water a day and is capped by a 9-acre driving range that complements the Mosholu Golf Course adjacent to it in Van Cortlandt Park. In the coming months, final aspects of the park design will be vetted at community board hearings while the Department of Design and Construction continues to oversee the construction of what will be the largest contiguous green roof in the nation.

Designed by Grimshaw with Ken Smith Landscape Architecture, the filtration plant and park needed to balance complex infrastructure and a highly public parks program; intense security was also a factor. The project is being delivered in phases, starting with below-grade infrastructure for the plant and followed by surface work including a green-roofed driving range, the security entrance, and a chemical fill station.


Diagram of the security, recreation, and irrigation elements at the new driving range.
 
 

While Grimshaw designed the above grade structures and landscape, AECOM/Hazen & Sawyer are  responsible for the design of the underground Water Treatment Facility including its interior architecture. Grimshaw worked closely with the Department of Environmental Protection for the most sensitive aspects underground. A security building with state-of-the-art 3-D X-ray machines will screen arrivals. The buildings for chemical deliveries are about the size of two 18-wheeler trucks. Four one-foot-thick security doors protect the interior. An impressive concrete pavilion processes workers and visitors going underground. A clubhouse and irrigation pond are also part of the plan.

The park design is akin to fitting a round peg atop a square hole. The plant is square, and the driving range is a grand circus that seems to screw down into the existing landscape. The driving range/rooftop includes turf conditions found on your average course, including undulating hills and sand traps. Nine to twelve inches of topsoil are layered over geoform mounding and drainage management systems; only organic fertilizer will be used. While the public will be able to hit balls onto the grass and access the clubhouse, channels of water, like moats, will keep golfers off the green. No one except highly-vetted Parks employees will have access to the roof for maintenance.

The 100-foot depth of the plant creates a regional low that requires sub pumps to keep out groundwater from nearby wetlands and water runoff from the driving range. The circular moats that surround the site for security also store excess water. The moats are complemented by huge nets that keep golf balls in and interlopers out. The captured water is then used to irrigate Mosholu’s 9-hole golf course. At Croton, the green roof is meant to send a message about responsible water management.

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Parks & Relocation: NYC’s Adrian Benepe Bows Out to Veronica White
With just a year and a half left of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure remaining, the first of his major appointees, New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, is moving on. Under Benepe, the Parks Department was transformed on a scale that approached the early tenure of Robert Moses. Since his appointment in 2002, the commissioner oversaw the largest expansion of waterfront parks like Brooklyn Bridge Park, embraced public-private partnerships as seen on the High Line, and distributed more than $250 million in Croton Water Filtration funds to small pocket parks throughout the Bronx. In his ten-and-a-half years, 730 acres of new parkland was added—significant considering Central Park is 843 acres—and 2,000 lie ahead at Fresh Kills on Staten Island. Benepe will be moving on to take on a leadership role at the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit land conservation organization based in San Francisco, in a newly created position titled Senior Vice President for Park Development. Benepe will work out of Lower Manhattan and Washington D.C., taking Bloomberg's signature program to guarantee a park within a ten-minute walk of every city citizen to a national level, under the "Parks for People" program. TPL recently highlighted walkability of parks in cities across the country with their ParkScore analysis. Veronica M. White, director of the the Center for Economic Leadership, will take the helm of Parks in September. "I couldn't be prouder that he's going to lead the Trust for Public Land's new initiative to replicate our work in cities across the country," Mayor Bloomberg said this morning at a groundbreaking ceremony at Soundview Park in the Bronx. What the new commissioner may lack in landscape design experience she will likely make up for in fund raising. The mayor noted that White has an "exemplary record of exploring innovative partnerships and attracting private funds."
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The Gatekeepers
The Public Design Commission controls most every detail of most every public art and design project in the city, including the new Grimshaw-designed bus stops.
Courtesy Cemusa

For nearly 35 years, Paul Broches of Mitchell/Giurgola Architects has been working to make Louis Kahn’s Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island a reality. On a recent Monday, he unrolled his drawings in a low-ceilinged City Hall annex before one of the least known but most influential deliberative bodies in New York: the Public Design Commission (PDC). On this afternoon, the engineer Guy Nordenson, one of 11 commissioners, took a typically conscientious line of questioning: “Will the park be high enough above the East River waterline,” he asked, “to endure rising sea levels due to global warming?” You bet it will, said Broches, who counted the meeting as one more modest victory for the quixotic Kahn project.

For Broches and other architects, the Public Design Commission is a customary stop on the road to public-works approvals. But ask many in the design community about the PDC, and you’re likely to draw a blank. Known until last August as the Art Commission, the PDC has maintained an air of mystery even as it exerts a strong influence over the city’s built environment. According to its mission statement, the commission is charged with approving all “permanent works of art, architecture, and landscape architecture proposed on or over city-owned property.” Yet many architects who have presented municipal projects for review are unclear how the commission works, where its jurisdiction begins and ends, and what guiding principles the commissioners hold in shaping the city’s future.


The commission oversaw the expansion of Staten Island's St. George Ferry Terminal, designed by FTL Design Engineering Studio, which includes these pavilions.
Francis Dzikowski/ESTO

The Design Commission’s low profile is all the more surprising, since its operations are effectively hidden in plain sight. “All our hearings and meetings are open to the public,” said PDC Executive Director Jackie Snyder. The commission’s online calendar includes a docket of every project currently under consideration, and recent committee meetings—informal rehearsals for city agencies in the early stages of a new project—have featured everything from the installation of signage for a library book drop in Queens to a comfort station in the Bronx. Public hearings, where official submissions are made and approval granted or withheld, have recently ranged from newsstands on Madison Avenue to the reconstruction of East Fordham Road in the Bronx.

The PDC’s bailiwick has remained largely unchanged since the Art Commission’s creation in 1898. As called for in the charter of the then newly consolidated City of New York, the commission’s first members were appointed for three-year, unpaid terms at the recommendation of the Fine Arts Federation, an independent cultural consortium. The federation nominated one architect, one painter, a sculptor, and three “lay members.” Three additional commissioners were selected by the most prominent cultural institutions of the day: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the New York Public Library. Today, the PDC’s membership breaks down in precisely the same way, chosen by the same process, with one more lay member appointed at the mayor’s discretion and a landscape architect rounding out the group.


James Carpenter designed The Inclined Light Wall for a Polshek addition to the hall of Science in 2004.
Francis Dzikowski/ESTO
 
The Commission Also oversees public institutions, such as the Hospital for Special Surgery, which expanded in 2006
Courtesy HSS
 
One Stone (2007) by cai guo-qiang was conceived in concert with the Bronx County Hall of Justice, by Rafael Viñoly Architects.
Francis Dzikowski/ESTO

 

 

 

The commission’s review powers are much as they were over a hundred years ago. In developing any public works project, every branch of the city’s vast bureaucracy must prepare a series of presentations for the commission. Usually the work of the consulting architect, these presentations follow a three-step process: conceptual, preliminary, and final.

The first two take place during public hearings in the commission’s offices, attended by members of the agencies involved (invariably) and by concerned members of the public (infrequently). The presenter outlines the project’s objectives and design strategies, while the commissioners make suggestions and take a casual thumbs-up, thumbs-down vote. The final stage entails only a submission of project documents. The result is fair and reasonable, according to veterans of the process. “I’ve presented to the PDC many, many times,” Broches said. “Even though the character of the commission changes as the commissioners change, I’ve always found them to be smart, serious-minded, and amicable.”

Some civic construction escapes the commission’s purview: Federal and state buildings fall outside their mandate, and some city buildings are the province of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The PDC also passes judgment on a surprising volume of construction beyond the city limits, like the entire Croton Aqueduct system, with its headhouses, gatehouses, and signposts scattered throughout Westchester County.

Other projects submitted for review aren’t actually being reviewed at all. “Courtesy” reviews are commonplace, delivered by non-city agencies in an effort to garner broad political support. As it turned out, the presenters of Four Freedoms Park, which is to be built on state-owned land, were performing one such courtesy call. “The Design Commission is involved with so many projects on public land in New York, it just seemed eminently reasonable to get their opinion,” said Sally Minard, who has helped spearhead the project.

The commission strives to avoid unexpected—and expensive—design revamps as much as is practical. As Snyder explained, “We usually try to have people come in earlier, so that it’s easier and less expensive for agencies to change designs.” But clearly, the committee isn’t just applying a rubber stamp. At a recent hearing, Department of Transportation (DOT) personnel milled around the PDC’s waiting room, having just finished their “second or third preliminary” for a Bronx highway improvement. More anodyne projects—a public toilet for Prospect Park, for example—are sometimes fast-tracked, given final approval at their preliminary hearing.

So what is the PDC’s yardstick for successful design? “Our goal is not to turn people into clones of us, but to make their project the best it can be,” said Signe Nielsen, principal of environmental planners Mathews Nielsen and the commission’s current landscape architect. The “us” of the moment constitutes a fair cross-section of influential New Yorkers: Other commissioners include architect James Polshek, Paula Scher of Pentagram, and a former director of Forest City Ratner, James Stuckey. “Whether we are wealthy patrons or scruffy academics, professionals or artists,” Nordenson said in an interview, “we share the belief that we can build a discourse about what is good design or not and cut through the bureaucratic yadda yadda.”

At times, New York’s small design world can cause complications. At a recent hearing, Nielsen recused herself for one session as Anne Trumble of Mathews Nielsen gave the preliminary proposal for the firm’s DOT-sponsored redesign of West 125th Street just landward of the Hudson River. The renovation includes moving and resurfacing crosswalks to coincide with Columbia University’s planned satellite campus for the neighborhood. At the advice of the PDC, benches with rounded armrests will be scattered around the site, echoing the looped arches of the Riverside Drive viaduct above.

 


Rendering of a Department of Transportation-sponsored redesign by Mathews Nielsen of West 125th Street at Fairway Plaza; the PDC suggested bench arms to echo the shapes of the viaduct passing overhead.
Courtesy Mathews Nielson

And the commission has had its share of contention. An uproar over the Parks Department’s Washington Square renovation brought crowds to commission meetings in 2005. (To little avail: The project moved forward.) Another episode, described in former commissioner Michele Helene Bogart’s illuminating book about the commission The Politics of Urban Beauty, involved former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, whose enthusiasm for “yardarm” flagpoles and animal motifs led him to circumvent the Art Commission on a number of occasions. This prompted a lawsuit, eventually settled, from Commission President Reba White Williams.

More typically, though, the PDC expressly avoids confrontation. “If the person running the meeting senses there’s a mixed opinion, we table the project,” said Nielsen. These rare differences are ironed out at executive sessions that are closed to the public, and where, according to Bogart, members discuss projects candidly. “When the politics around a project are particularly sensitive, it’s better to have an executive session,” Bogart explained.

Politics do occasionally intrude. Former Commission President Jean Phifer of architecture firm Thomas Phifer & Partners described an attempt in the late 1990s to abolish the commission outright, spurred on by a Staten Island councilman. (Phifer is the author of the new book Public Art New York, which includes the photography of Francis Dzikowski that can be found accompanying this article.)

The commission oversees work of all sizes and uses, including Barretto Point Park in the Bronx, designed by landscape architect Ricardo Hinkle with designer Rachel Kramer.
Malcolm Pinckney/Courtesy NYC Parks & Recreation

Mayor Giuliani interceded on the commission’s behalf, but Giuliani was otherwise less supportive of the commission than Mayor Bloomberg has been. “The difference between now and then is that the commission under Giuliani had no clout,” Bogart said. Mayor Bloomberg’s support of the PDC and of urban design generally has helped bolster the commission’s efforts, as evidenced by his creation, with the PDC’s input, of the Design and Construction Excellence program. One more change under Mayor Bloomberg has been the reassertion of PDC review power in the case of private leases on public land, a move that has helped extend the commission’s reach.

The best evidence of the commission’s scope and vision is in the city’s public works over the past decade. Hudson River Park, the Fulton Street Transit Center, the
Van Cortlandt Park filtration plant—if these can be taken together as signal projects, what sort of design preferences emerge? A clarity of visual language; a clean, muscular sense of materiality; an emphasis on environmental sensitivity. Struggling to sum it up, Nielsen simply said, “I could say it in fancy archi-speak, but it boils down to this: Will I still want to look at it in 20 years?”

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Fore!
Courtesy Grimshaw

Mosholu Golf Course in the Bronx is one of a dozen run by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Its compact layout is typical of New York’s urban courses—nine holes, tree-lined fairways, the odd sand bunker—save for one highly unusual obstacle: the $2.1 billion drinking water treatment facility under construction on what used to be the driving range.

When this heavily secured compound is completed in 2012, it’s due to be topped by far more than just new turf. Grimshaw and landscape architect Ken Smith have designed one of the largest and most intensive green roofs to date, which is also a fully functioning driving range. And an irrigation system for the golf course. And an integrated security program for the facility below. Think Pebble Beach meets the Biosphere meets Rikers.

“The distinction here is it’s not just a green roof, but a performative green roof that needs to provide all these functions,” Smith said in an interview. “I think we’re pushing both the design of the green roof and the design of the golf course in new directions. We’re working to see how far we can push the diversity of the ecology and still adhere to the constraints of the golf course.”

This quietly radical project is the result of more than a decade of debate over whether or not water from the Croton Reservoir, the smallest of the city’s three, needed treatment after more than a century of going without. That was followed by battles with Bronx residents over which and even whether the borough’s parks would be torn up to make way for the new plant. The city finally broke ground on the facility in 2004, and the driving range has moved to a temporary site while the complex roofscape takes shape.


The clubhouse and range will seamlessly extend Van Cortlandt Park.
Images Courtesy Grimshaw

The engineering challenges are formidable. At nine acres, the $95 million driving range is the largest contiguous green roof in the country. So when it rains at the range, it pours, which creates a paradoxical hazard for the plant below. “It’s of paramount importance to the City of New York that this building stay dry, despite being full of water,” said David Burke, the project architect at Grimshaw. So to handle the millions of gallons that can accumulate on the green roof during a storm, the design team has devised a natural filtration system to collect, process, and store the runoff.

The range’s unique topography not only provides green-like targets for golfers, who tee off from the perimeter of the circular structure, but helps channel rainwater into the collection basins, where it meets groundwater pumped in from the plant’s four sump pumps. The water then travels through a series of ten cells that ring the range, each one modeled on a different native ecosystem to serve different filtration purposes. It takes up to eight days for water to travel through the cells, at which point it’s collected and used to irrigate the golf course.

“We’re not just dumping it in the sewer,” said Mark Laska, president of Great Ecology & Environments, one of two ecological designers on the project. “It’s a true display of sustainable green design in an urban environment.”

The design team wanted to convey such sustainable lessons to the public, especially the kids enrolled in the First Tee outreach program at Mosholu, and so the cells were left in plain view. Furthermore, because they are sunk ten feet below grade, they serve as a moat of sorts that helps protect the city’s water supply, which is seen as a potential target for terrorists.

To that end, Grimshaw has also designed the guardhouse and screening buildings that security constraints required, in addition to the new clubhouse and tee boxes on the range. (Grimshaw is not designing the plant, however, which is the work of a specialized engineering firm.)

It's an unlikely commission, to be sure, but one the architects embraced. “It’s very fitting for Grimshaw,” as Burke put it. “We tend to gravitate toward these oddball projects.” 

 
The clubhouse, sporting a green roof of its own, is sited along the perimeter of the range.