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2020 USA Fellowship

United States Artists awards MOS and Sara Zewde with $50K grants
Chicago non-profit United States Artists (USA) has announced its 2020 fellowship class, a group of 50 creatives across the country and various disciplines who will be awarded $50,000 in unrestricted grants towards supporting their lives and individual work. New York-based MOS Architects and landscape designer and urban artist Sara Zewde were selected as this year’s sole architecture honorees.  “It is a critically important time to support the livelihoods of artists and we are ecstatic to be able to honor 50 of them this year,” said USA President and CEO Deana Haggag. “The 2020 class is the largest cohort of Fellows we have awarded since we relocated to Chicago, and each and every one of them stands out as a visionary influence in their respective field.”  Born in Los Angeles in 2006, USA was established soon after the National Endowment for the Arts decided to cut ties with its personal grant awards program. Now backed by larger endowment groups like Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, among others, USA has continued to grow its annual fellowship program, often awarding two or three design teams among the honorees. Recent winners in the field include Erin and Ian Besler of Besler & Sons, Keller Easterling, and Lucia Cuba in 2019, as well as Amanda Williams and Norman Kelley in 2018.  Founded by principals Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample in 2005, MOS works out of Harlem, New York, on numerous projects ranging from schools, apartments, exhibition design, furniture, books, and more. Most recently, MOS completed a nine-acre Housing Laboratory in Mexico meant to help the National Works’ Housing Fund Institute (Infonavit) explore new low-cost housing typologies. In 2018, AN named the firm one of the top 50 interior architects in the country.  Zewde is the founding principal of Studio Zewde based in Harlem, New York. A trained landscape architect from Harvard GSAPP, Zewde also holds a master’s in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She integrates artistry and activism into her work, as seen in her graphic urban park planned for the Africatown Community Land Trust in Seattle or her masterplan for Plan Road, a historic street in East Baton Rouge that’s about to undergo major changes as the site of Louisiana’s first-ever Bus Rapid Transit system. In 2018, Zewde was named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's inaugural “40 Under 40: People Saving Places” list. Find the full list of USA's 2020 fellows here.
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10th Anniversary Memories

SCHAUM/SHIEH builds practice through agreement
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course (and now AN interview series) at the Syracuse University School of Architecture, taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller. On October 10, 2019, Kate Kini and Rachael Gaydos, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Troy Schaum and Rosalyne Shieh of SCHAUM/SHIEH. The following interview has been edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity. This year marks your 10-year anniversary. Congratulations! Can you talk about how starting a practice in 2009, the year after the recession, presented a challenge that may have limited growth? Troy Schaum: Both of us were teaching when the recession hit. Rosalyne was a Taubman Fellow at the University of Michigan and I was a Wortham Fellow at Rice. What we anticipated would be a brief foray into the academy was extended as a result of the macroeconomic situation in this country. We had to figure out how to work as architects without being hired to work as architects. So we started making our own projects—competition submissions and university-sponsored independent research projects and installations. It was only after we were invited to participate in the Venice Biennale in 2012, curated by David Chipperfield, that we started to get commissioned work. I don't know if those two things were related, but we started to pick up projects both in New York and Texas, and we very quickly had four additional employees. Our office size hasn’t grown a lot since then, but when we look at the numbers every year, it's been relatively steady, which is its own form of success. In response to the challenges of starting a practice at that time, have you used unconventional methods to promote your firm or to attract potential clients? Rosalyne Shieh: We began our practice in an academic setting with little opportunity to practice in a traditional manner. In 2009, by starting in the midst of the recession, there was little momentum to be lost and the work we made was unsolicited. I don’t mention this so much to bemoan, rather to state the conditions within which we set out and to explain why in the beginning, most of our work was speculative, invested in an alternate economy of ideas and discourse, one partially encapsulated from the macroeconomic situation that professional practice is embedded in. So we may have had a small audience tied to the academy, but we didn't have clients. We started by thinking about what it meant to make work that nobody was asking for, about what questions could be posed or offerings made through the framework of an architectural project. The parameters and conceptual territory of this early work were partly self-defined but also defined by our educations, conversations with our peers and collaborators, as well as things we were reading and looking at. This was an important incubation period for us, but it didn’t necessarily transition seamlessly into attracting clients and working on commissioned projects. Troy: What encouraged that transition for us was a desire to work at a certain scale. We were conducting design research and building temporary installations, but we were interested in engaging building[s] at a much larger scale. When we received opportunities to work on larger projects, we realized that the two of us couldn’t do it alone anymore. We had to build an ecosystem of people to support us. All of a sudden we had to develop an economy around the work in order to support the people that were supporting us. At that point, we found ourselves running a business. We didn't say “no” to a lot of requests, because you never know where certain journeys are going to take you. In 2012 or 2013, we were asked by some relatively young people in Houston if we were interested in designing a music venue. We made some sketches and renderings for a very small amount of money. We just assumed these people would go away and we’d never hear from them again. What actually happened was that they took those renderings all over town and raised significant capital to build the music venue. What also happened was that lots of people who build things in Houston saw the renderings. They didn't necessarily want to invest in a music venue but were very curious about us as architects. Developers would contact us and request a portfolio of built work. The problem was that we hadn't actually built anything! It’s a common and unfortunate catch-22, especially for a U.S.-based practice in its earliest stages. That said, some of them hired us anyway. How do you mediate between presenting your work to a broader public audience versus an audience of architecture students, colleagues, and other professionals? Troy: This is a huge issue for us, especially as we oscillate between our audiences. We're both teachers and we both have conversations with very erudite students and colleagues, and we have conversations with people who work out of the back of their trucks and know a lot about building things, but not so much about architectural discourse. The importance and role of communication and the ability to articulate ideas to many different audiences [are] primary to our understanding of architecture. You mentioned two audiences, but there are probably 20 audiences that we communicate with throughout the course of the day, from the people that are going to send us metal samples to the lawyers that are helping us draft contracts for our clients. Rosalyne: Also, communication is a very personal thing. You have to respond to who you're talking to. Depending on what it is that each person is able to receive or wants to talk about, you have to meet each other somewhere, and you both need to arrive from where you’re coming. I like to speak with my own voice across different conversations, but communicate differently given the situation or who I’m talking to. Troy: It's become very apparent to me that when we talk about audiences in school, we’re talking about collectives. And we're very interested in creating projects for collectives. There's a democratizing idea that architecture is for everyone. It is. But, one of the things that I underestimated was how powerful architecture can be for individuals­–our individual clients and the contractors who build our projects. What do you understand to be your responsibility as an architect? Troy: Wow, that's a difficult question! Our practice is both of our names for a reason. SCHAUM/SHIEH wasn't just a default. That decision makes the practice a very personal thing for us. I imagine there's certain ethics in our work. I believe we have a responsibility to use these professional tools and our ways of seeing the world to be as careful and reflective and deliberate about our decisions and our work, especially when working in cities and in public spaces. To be stewards of the resources that we’re given, to be stewards of opportunities that we’re given to shape cities–these are very important responsibilities. Rosalyne: I agree and would add that we hope our projects enrich the world and make more connections possible. That's the aspiration, at least. We hope our efforts lead to building more complexity into the world. One of the quotes that we come back to a lot is this one–it's included by Jane Jacobs at the beginning of Death and Life of Great American Cities, from Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: “Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether it is worth living is whether you have enough of it.” He's talking about the vibrant complexity of civilization and Jacobs connects this to cities as an engine of that. There's an interest in the pursuit of what we do as architects, but also as people to contribute to more life for more people. Some architects believe that there should be a separation between being a citizen and being an architect, specifically in relation to political issues and attempt to be as apolitical as possible. With your office, it seems to be the inverse. How much effort do you put into making a project political? Does it come naturally from its inception? Rosalyne: That’s a good question, and it's one that comes up again and again in architecture: What is the relationship between architecture and politics? If being political means seeing and engaging structural inequality, I can't live in a world where those two things can be separated, because it would mean willfully denying a part of reality, if not my own then someone else’s, with whom I share this world. It’s not only an issue of what we believe, but it’s also about lived realities. There could be different reasons why people feel the need to separate these roles. It could be because the very act or idea of the work—its property—requires that its limits are circumscribed. One way to work on something is to isolate or bracket it from other things. Or it might be a matter of survival: the world can be difficult; maybe you’re at capacity with what you can handle, and creative work is a kind of expression that feeds you. Some might have the choice to separate the two where others don’t. Broadly speaking, people undertake creative work for so many different reasons. I would just ask whether your position to proceed in any certain way is predicated upon an invalidation of someone else’s, and if it does, I would find it hard to support. I do not require you to not be in order for myself to be. That said, work that is explicitly political is not the only way to be political as an architect or artist. Godard said: “The problem is not to make political films but to make films politically.” That might mean simply expressing or applying yourself without explanation. There's no way to escape this question. It's not fair actually, to say that those worlds should be separate. I can't say that every project we do is political; we're not a political practice per se, but I am who I am, who I am, who I am… whether it's an architect, an educator, a person in the world, a cis-woman, a Taiwanese person, visibly Asian, a daughter of immigrants in the United States, today. The tension of trying to hold all these things together is at the heart of my humanity. Troy: There's a certain disciplinary agenda in the work of some practices, and a legacy of a particular kind of formalism. This way of approaching architecture is very different from how we understand practice. One important role of the architect is to construct agreement. For example, when working on White Oak Music Hall, we found ourselves in scenes similar to scenes in Ghostbusters where we were summoned to the mayor's office at eight in the morning to be reproached regarding an aspect of the project that a certain constituency was not happy with. These explicitly political aspects of practice and this particular project necessitated engagement with a broad audience and a range of issues well beyond the purview of the discipline of architecture. I don't know how you practice any other way. It's beautiful that buildings have the ability to engage political issues, and that architects have the ability to engage political issues. What's been the most rewarding moment in your professional careers thus far? Troy: We recently had the opportunity to observe how powerful work can be for an individual. This positive impact is not something you can encounter until you build something. White Oak Music Hall was embedded in a lot of politics around how music is booked in this country. We created White Oak Music Hall and made a lot of sacrifices in order to complete that project. We were criticized by a portion of the local community, but also supported by many diverse groups within the community. Recently, after finding out that we designed White Oak Music Hall, a local musician said to us, “That space you've created—we didn't have a space like that. That's my temple.” There's an entire ecosystem of creative people that can now work in this space we designed. Rosalyne: I agree with that, and I'll give you pretty much the same answer, but in a more abstract sense. We’ve had that experience a few times with the projects that are out in the world, with both White Oak Music Hall and Transart. You talk to people, and you might not know them well, and they’re like, “I know that project,” and they share some story that gives you an understanding that the project somehow belongs to them. These are the moments when you realize that projects, once they are out there, belong to the world and not just to ourselves. It can come back to us through clients, contractors, or anyone really… when they share a sense of belonging to this thing that we helped create, and that’s a really special moment.
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Watching the Watchmen

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project wants to curb surveillance abuses
Without a suspicious eye or an advanced degree in software engineering, it can be nearly impossible to keep abreast of the evolving role surveillance technology has had in the law enforcement of the built environment. Biometric databanks, facial recognition cameras, cell phone trackers, and other watchful devices have been quietly installed throughout our major cities with shockingly little public disclosure and virtually no discussion with privacy advocates. New Yorkers deeply familiar with their city's streets, bridges, and subway system may still be largely unaware of the more than 9,000 surveillance cameras currently installed on top of them under the watchful eye of the New York Police Department (NYPD)—and those are only the ones either publicly disclosed or visible enough for the public to spot on their commutes. Their targets, their prejudices, and the malpractices they engender all remain shrouded in secrecy, resulting in discriminatory injustices too numerous for any member of the common public to challenge. With prior experience as a lawyer, technologist, and interfaith activist, Albert Cahn founded The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), a 501(C)(3), non-profit advocacy organization and legal services provider based in New York City in 2019 with the goal of addressing local officials’ growing use of surveillance technologies and serving the victims of surveillance abuse. Within the last year, S.T.O.P. has already stepped in to litigate against many recently uncovered abuses of surveillance technology and databanks; including the NYPD's misuse of mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA)'s use of facial recognition surveillance technology in the Times Square/Port Authority Subway Station. AN spoke with Cahn to learn about the extent to which surveillance devices have already become a common element of the urban fabric, and what organizations like S.T.O.P. can do to lessen their grasp on our personal information. Shane Reiner-Roth: How did your nonprofit begin? Why was surveillance chosen as a central issue? It came out of my prior work as a legal director for The New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a nonprofit organization that has worked for more than 25 years to defend constitutional rights.  In that role, I saw the alarming array of high-tech tools deployed by the NYPD that were disproportionately targeting that demographic. It seemed like there was an urgent need to make that our top priority. How do you determine an “impacted community?” Here in New York, the discriminatory habits embedded in surveillance systems mirror those found in more traditional forms of law enforcement. In other words, our group has observed the same patterns of policing that occur in physical spaces using analog techniques being replicated by digital techniques, including identity tracking systems and comprehensive databanks. The Gang Database, for instance, is a confidential record organized by the NYPD that lists over 42,000 New Yorkers as suspected gang members, about 99 [percent] of which are people of color. Oftentimes, the impact of these newly developed systems can engender forms of harassment just as significant as through conducted through stop-and-frisk. The people who are being constantly monitored may not know their lives are under a microscope. We’ve seen technology originally developed for the US military, including StingRay phone tracking towers and Counter-IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) equipment, deployed throughout the city without public disclosure. The public was not only uninformed of their presence, but they also didn’t learn the extent to which these technologies were potentially retaining their data, and they certainly didn’t have a say in how they were dispersed across the city. How do surveillance systems present (or conceal) themselves within NYC’s infrastructure? One of the most difficult parts of surveillance work is that much of the infrastructure is completely opaque to the New Yorkers being monitored. And even if they’re visible to the naked eye, we can’t know by looking at them if they’re running facial recognition, biometric analyses, or any other invasive methods of surveillance.  New York City has the largest investment in anti-terrorism surveillance technology in the country, yet nearly all of it goes unreported. Yet following the initial investment in the physical infrastructure of the city, there's a relatively low cost to add additional layers of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and surveillance technology on top of it. A common example is the ALPR, a device embedded into many of the city's bridges to reads license plate numbers and store them in a database that allows the MTA to charge drivers for crossing. How is the surveillance situation different in various parts of the world? We see cities all around the world grappling with this issue. The issue in China has become well known, in which its citizens can be automatically penalized for behavior its government doesn't find agreeable in the form of automatic reductions through their WeChat accounts. Suddenly, the wheels of a justice system are not only driven forward by AI, but they make it almost impossible to disagree or contend with what the algorithms decide. On the flip side, you have countries like Sweden that intentionally limit the data stored in their license plate reading systems. Their authorities have made it clear that they did not install their system for privacy breeching, even though they could use it to make personal information available to the police, they self-imposed limits as a matter of law through automatic image cropping.  Do you feel there could be a version of surveillance that is morally just? Like any form of law enforcement, advanced forensic systems can, of course, have potentially equitable outcomes—we have seen extreme cases such as with DNA matching to exonerate innocent people, for instance. The problem comes in when it's embedded in our infrastructure without the proper safeguards—when they collect data that is simply inappropriate to collect in a free society. How can ordinary citizens protect themselves against unwarranted surveillance when navigating the city? It's often the case that the people who have the time and money to invest in protecting themselves against surveillance are those who are also least vulnerable to its effects. The clients of mine who may be struggling financially or are undocumented are usually not able to invest the same level of resources. While individuals can always increase their odds of maintaining privacy by improving the security of their digital identities, none of us will be able to protect our privacy until we reform the laws and enforce better police practices. We need systemic reform to be truly secure in our privacy and reverse racial injustices perpetuated by unregulated surveillance infrastructure. Do you hope to broaden your work beyond New York state? There are already so many amazing activists operating throughout the world fighting the same battles we do in New York City. While S.T.O.P. will always be based here, we have offered advice on potential litigations strategies beyond our city and will continue this service in the future.
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Across The Street

Frick expansion critics propose buying Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion
Plot twist: Several New York preservation groups want the Frick Collection to stop part of its controversial expansion plan and instead, buy Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion across the street to use as gallery space. New York Daily News reported that two groups, Save the Frick and Stop Irresponsible Frick Development, propose that the late financier’s home, located at 9 East 71 Street, along with other buildings on the block, be alternatively used for the institution's growing needs. For years, the museum has attempted to upgrade its physical presence in the Upper East Side community but has been unsuccessful until recently in 2018, when a scheme by Selldorf Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle passed through the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The current plan includes repurposing 60,000 square feet of existing space and adding 27,000 square feet of new construction while enhancing accessibility, and most notably, moving and reinstalling the Russell Page-designed garden above its current location to make way for an auditorium underneath. Despite both pushback and support from various area residents, art world leadership, and preservation organizations, the design team negotiated several rounds of revisions on the plan, including the path to demolishing the Frick’s beloved Music Room and Reception Hall. Recently, Save the Frick launched a new petition calling for the LPC to reconsider a rejected proposal to designate the spaces as interior landmarks.   On-site work is set to begin later this year, and according to Joe Shatoff, COO of the Frick Collection, that the Epstein ploy doesn’t carry much weight given the amount of work it's taken to get the plan off the ground. He released a statement to the Daily News rebutting the proposal: 
“Our renovation and revitalization plan has been guided carefully by two key tenets—first and foremost, to preserve the unique, intimate experience of the Frick, and secondly, to ensure the long-term future of the museum and library. A separate building across the street does not answer these needs and would not provide the critical adjacencies required to make it a functional solution.”
It remains unclear what will happen to Epstein’s estate. His Upper East Side home—one of many—is reportedly valued at $77 million and where police uncovered hundreds of photos of underage girls. 
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Phantom Threads

James Carpenter Design Associates lets the light into Nordstrom with gargantuan double-curved glass panels
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Over the last four decades, James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA) has been a pioneer in advanced glass installations and facade design, with projects ranging from the Museum at the St. Louis’ Gateway Arch to the Fulton Center Sky Reflector Net. The new Nordstrom flagship store in New York is located at the podium of the Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture-designed Central Park Tower, the world’s tallest residential structure. The storefront is yet another demonstration of JCDA’s proficiency in lightness and transparency, evident in the undulating curtain wall of double-curved and supersized glass panels. The JCDA-designed curtain wall is the public face for the retailer along the store's south and north elevations—the store also includes several buildings located on adjacent Broadway. Reaching a height of seven stories, the translucent exterior presents a striking streetwall that, in certain respects, resembles the articulated stone-and-brick massing of abutting historic structures, and, according to JCDA, its wavelike form is an homage to the East and Hudson Rivers bounding Manhattan.
  • Facade Manufacturer Cricursa Tvitec
  • Architect James Carpenter Design Associates
  • Facade Installer Permasteelisa
  • Facade Consultant Surface Design Group
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Custom curtwainwall system
  • Products XXL Cricursa Curved Glass
Spanish glass manufacturer Cricursa—one of the few with the technical capacity to produce extra-large curved glass panels—was pulled into the project at an early stage. According to JCDA, “The design started with the glass itself and worked out to the surrounding frame system, so ensuring the bent profiles were achievable both in terms of structure, manufacturing, handling, and shipping was important in the early design stages, most critically in the visual mockup and the performance mockup stages.” In total, there are five typical profiles and four unique corner profiles, and their dimensions range in height from 17'-6" to approximately 19'-6", and in width from 3'-10" to 6'-2". The result is a striking succession of convexities and concavities following an A-A-B-B rhythm, with occupiable spaces similar to that of bay windows. It is difficult to overstate the complexity of the curtain wall system, and New York-based facade consultant Surface Design Group played an essential role in balancing aesthetic concerns, thermal performance, structural behavior, and code compliance. “The final glass composition was developed as a slump formed, complex curved, insulated glass unit, comprised of various layers of laminated, low-iron glass and a subtle, custom ceramic dot frit pattern,” said Surface Design Group partner Benson Gillespie. “Aluminum mullions were stretch-formed to an exacting tolerance that matched the glass.” The curtainwall is backed by a diaphanous steel mesh veil, that, similar to the now-defunct pool room of the Mies van der Rohe’s Four Seasons, filters daylight and adds a layer of depth, with shadows and iridescence, to the facade.  
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Desert Drama

Desert X AlUla announces artist lineup
The fourteen artists participating in Saudi Arabia's controversial first Desert X AlUla, a “site-responsive exhibition,” have been announced. The lineup includes artists living and working in Saudi Arabia, including Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim and Rashed Al Shashai, as well as other artists based throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North America, including previous Desert X participants such as Superflex and Lita Albuquerque. The first international exhibition of the Coachella Valley biennial has been organized along with the Royal Commission of Al-Ula and co-curated by Desert X artistic director Neville Wakefield, along with curators Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza. It will take place in the Al-Ula area in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a region at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s push to invite in more tourism. The large-scale installations are meant to “inspire new dialogue about the desert and reflect on themes that range from the passage of goods and ideas along the ancient incense route, the cultural memory that passage has left, and the natural resources that have shaped the region, both past and present,” according to a release from Desert X. Artists will create installations responding to the particulars of the geology, geography, history, and present of the region, with projects such as an “oasis” of date containers from Zahrah Al Ghamdi, a series of steel rings by Rayyane Tabet meant to engage with the oil pipelines in the region, and a sculpture by Nasser Al Salem that “embraces the idea of time as a continuum that connects all cultures and civilizations.” Desert X has also promised to increase public outreach programming through schools and universities. Desert X AlUla emphasizes the history of Al-Ula as a site of global connection and exchange, but it's become increasingly contentious to participate in programming in the repressive monarchy. Saudi Arabia has been accused of “sportswashing” for inviting major international boxing and golf events to the country, and pop stars like the group BTS have similarly come under fire for performing there. When asked about the pushback to the Al-Ula exhibition, artistic director Neville Wakefield told The Art Newspaper: “We live in binary times, when people are either isolationist or believe in the power of cultural dialogue. Art changes hearts and minds. Denying an entire population this opportunity is to be part of the problem not the solution.” However the choice to work with Saudi Arabia has caused issues even within Desert X. This past fall, the Los Angeles Times reported that three board members—the artist Ed Ruscha, the curator Yael Lipschutz, and the philanthropist Tristan Milanovich—resigned from the organization's board over the choice. Lipschutz told the L.A. Times that he thought the project in Saudia Arabia was “completely unethical,” noting that Desert X wasn’t just starting a “dialogue,” but receiving money from the Saudi royal family. Issues of philanthropic funding have been causing increasing friction in the world of art and architecture, whether it’s BP sponsoring the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Sackler family donating to museums like the Met and V&A, arms profiteers serving on the boards of the Whitney and MoMA The full list of artists is: Lita Albuquerque, Manal Al Dowayan, Zahrah Al Ghamdi, Nasser AlSalem, Rashed Al Shashai, Gisela Colon, Sherin Guirguis, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Nadim Karam, eL Seed, Wael Shawky, Muhannad Shono, Superflex, and Rayyane Tabet. Desert X AlUla opens January 31st.
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Moving Forward

NYC launches new website outlining timeline and process for the BQX streetcar
After much uncertainty and relative quiet, an updated timeline has been announced for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX streetcar) that would connect 11 miles of Brooklyn and Queens. The City’s Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Transportation have launched a new website detailing the proposed streetcar, along with previously released and new reports, which would run from Red Hook to Astoria and connect 13 subway lines and 30 bus routes. The BQX team proposes having at least five community board presentations and a minimum of five workshops this winter, and intend to collect public opinion on the $2.7 billion project via the new website and engage in on-the-ground outreach. There will be public hearings and the collection of comments in May and June, followed by a draft environmental impact statement in the spring of next year, with the final version to be released in fall of 2021 following public comment. Alternative options to the light rail line will reportedly be considered (the website gives the example of a dedicated bus lane). Currently, the city aims to open the line in 2029. If all goes according to plan, the city will then seek federal funding (as much as $1 billion according to previous reports) and undertake a land-use review, get the necessary approvals, and select designers, contractors, and companies to run the BQX. Funding has been a major hurdle for the streetcar. The federal government has certainly not been generous with infrastructure projects as of late, especially in areas the current administration sees as opposed to it. While it was suggested that Amazon (which was going to receive nearly $3 billion in subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives) might have footed part of the bill when they had planned to build their HQ2 in Long Island City, that option is obviously off the table. Many City Council members have questioned the price tag relative to the streetcar's projected ridership and the desperate need for upgrades to transit options elsewhere. Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to advocate for the project, however.
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Scrutonizing His Record

Controversial conservative architectural commentator Sir Roger Scruton dies
Sir Roger Scruton has passed away at the age of 75. Scruton, former chair of the Building Better, Building Beautiful housing commission in the U.K., died of cancer on Sunday, January 12 after a six-month battle with the disease. Scruton was born in February 1944 and studied at Cambridge. According to an interview with the Guardian, his conservative political leanings emerged when in Paris during the 1968 student protests, which he viewed as an “unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans” professing “ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook.” His career traced many ups and downs and was not without controversy. In 2016 he was knighted for his services to philosophy, teaching, and public education; two years later he became a housing adviser only to be fired one year into the job amid alleged racist comments said while speaking to the New Statesman. Scruton was reappointed, however, after it was realized his comments were taken out of context and misrepresented. As Chair of the commission, Scruton was accused of re-igniting architectural style wars, fueled by his loathing of modernism and penchant to classicism. In April 2018, as AN's reported, Scruton suggested that one of the 9/11 hijackers, who had studied architecture in Hamburg, was “taking revenge on an architectural practice which had been introduced into the Middle East by Le Corbusier.” In 1982, Scruton launched the Salisbury Review, a journal promoting and celebrating conservatism for which he was the founding editor. Later, he visited dissidents in communist Czechoslovakia as part of a series of excursions where he smuggled across books, supported banned artists, and provided courses in subjects suppressed by authorities. He was eventually caught, however, being detained in Brno in 1985 before being kicked out and banned from the country. Never one to stay out of trouble, Scruton was sued by the Pet Shop Boys after he wrongly said in his book, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Pop Culture, that the band's songs should be credited to sound engineers rather than them. In another book, On Hunting, he also discussed his passion for fox hunting. In a 2001 article for New York’s conservative City Journal magazine, Scruton claimed that being gay was just as bad as smoking and knocked 10 years off of the lives of LGBTQ individuals. Scruton had also taken fire for his close association with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and over comments many interpreted as antisemitic and Islamaphobic. “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Sir Roger Scruton, FBA, FRSL. Beloved husband of Sophie, adored father to Sam and Lucy and treasured brother of Elizabeth and Andrea, he died peacefully on Sunday 12th January,” read a statement on his own website, posted on Sunday. “His family are hugely proud of him and of all his achievements.” Tributes have also come in from U.K. architects and the political sphere. “Deeply sorry to learn of the death of Sir Roger Scruton. His work on building more beautifully, submitted recently to my department, will proceed and stand part of his unusually rich legacy,” tweeted Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government Robert Jenrick. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said: “RIP Sir Roger Scruton. We have lost the greatest modern conservative thinker—who not only had the guts to say what he thought but said it beautifully.” Robert Adam, director of ADAM Architecture, a firm which specializes in classical and traditional architecture and urban design, told the Architects' Journal, “[Scruton] was always prepared to argue a point in a balanced and sensible manner but was often met with prejudice and hysteria. As a philosopher, he understood that people would have different views and that this was not a matter for opprobrium but for debate. He was a great thinker and a great author and his work will have a lasting legacy but, for me, it is the principle of reasoned and courteous debate, without personal acrimony, with those with whom you disagree, that will live on.”
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No More Walls!

Will Related Companies build a giant wall around Hudson Yards?
New Yorkers may have told themselves over the last year since Hudson Yards opened to the public that there could never be and will never be anything worse than the luxury mega-development—what some view as an architectural ode to capitalism. But today, news broke that things could possibly get worse. Michael Kimmelman revealed for the New York Times that the real estate giant Related Companies may build a 720-foot-long, 20-foot-high concrete wall around the western and southern borders of Hudson Yards, effectively creating a shadow over the northernmost portion of the High Line. This could potentially be part of the development's highly-anticipated second, the phase aptly named Western Yard, which will include a slew of new towers by Herzog & de Meuron, Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, and Robert A.M. Stern, as well a new public school and 12-acre park designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz The landscape, or green deck as it's referred to in renderings, was initially conceived as a covering to the platform that will bridge over the existing Amtrack rail yard on-site. Renderings of the project showed the park spilling over and onto 12th Avenue at West 30th Street. But according to the NYT, recently Related has been discussing the idea of adding a parking garage under the deck instead and elevating its edge from east to west with a curved wall. Not only would a wall separate the development's veritable "front yard" from the public, but it would cast a dark shadow and potentially dangerous presence onto the High Line. Kimmelman said it best:
"Among other things, the wall would visually and perhaps otherwise obscure public access from the High Line and from the street into the yard, turning Related’s development into a man-made promontory, its occupants gazing down on the High Line’s visitors. It would also make the High Line seem the equivalent of an old city fire escape: a piece of aged infrastructure stuck to a wall."
A spokesperson for Related told NYT the idea has only been part of preliminary discussions with neighborhood representatives and that “connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods and the High Line will be critically important" moving forward.  The final decision has yet to be determined, but whatever Related does settle on will have to pass approval from both Community Board 4 and the City Planning Commission.
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Pier Not!

Cuomo rejects plan to build offices atop Hudson River Park's Pier 40
In a rare victory for public parks over commercial development, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have allowed increased office space on Hudson River Park’s Pier 40. The bill would have allowed developers to build up to 700,000 square feet of new buildings reaching as high as 88 feet tall on the pier, which currently serves a popular play spot with sports fields, a commercial parking lot, and administrative offices for the entire park. As the largest pier in Hudson River Park and one of its largest sources of revenue, Pier 40 has long been a contentious topic among community members and city officials. Currently generating 30 percent of the park’s budget, Pier 40 is caught in the awkward position of being a neighborhood gem of public space and the park’s cash cow. Revenue from the ill-fated office buildings would have gone to funding the park’s operations. However, other commercial piers, such as Pier 57, remain and will soon house office space for Google and City Winery. Both are set to also contribute to park costs. "We crafted a measure to try to balance their needs for what they claim is their need for development and our strong belief that we had to protect the playing fields at Pier 40," said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who sponsored the bill but supported Cuomo’s veto, in an interview with Gothamist. "This wasn’t something where anybody was particularly happy about the compromises we were making,"  This isn't the first time Pier 40 has been at the center of the tug-of-war between developers and community advocates. In 2016, the city council approved a massive air-rights transfer from Pier 40 to the St. John’s Terminal redevelopment across the street for $100 million. The local Community Board 2 had rejected the recent proposal to bring office buildings to the pier. Often depicted as deteriorating and cash-strapped, Pier 40 has sparked numerous proposals and impassioned pleas for its future. For now, at least, it seems it will remain as park space.  “Money is always the rationale to develop sites in Manhattan, hence the lack of open space, green areas, parks or recreation space. We have so few remaining parcels available for community use,” Cuomo wrote in the veto memo. “The one thing we are not making any more of in Manhattan is open space, and this must be protected.”
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No More Limits

MTA announces $51.5 billion capital plan with commitment to accessibility
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is set to begin exercising its $51.5 billion capital plan this year—the largest budget approved in agency history. In a press release this week, the MTA announced it's now looking for qualified design-build firms to work on accessibility projects across 23 subway stations in the city. "Accessibility is a top priority fo the MTA," said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye in the statement, "and we are committed to completing these accessibility projects as quickly as possible." Equitable travel—via public transit in particular—has long been a big issue throughout the five boroughs. According to a February analysis by The New York Times, there are over half a million residents who have limited mobility, two-thirds of which don't live near an accessible subway station. What's more, only 25 percent of New York's 472 stations have elevators. The accessibility push is part of the MTA's historic 2020-2024 Capital Plan in which it will invest billions of dollars into New York City public transit, as well as regional subways, buses, commuter rail systems, bridges, and tunnels. Up to $40 billion will be set aside strictly for improving New York's subway and bus systems with $5.2 billion of that allocated for accessibility projects. A total of 70 subway stations have been identified for work overall in the MTA's capital plan. The MTA promises to install two-to-three new elevators at each of the 23 stations listed in the RFQ and make other improvements aligned with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, it will reconstruct platform edges or ADA boarding areas in the hopes of making passengers feel safer. Utility, station communication, and lighting upgrades may occur as well depending on existing conditions at the station. The news comes less than a year later after the MTA announced Foye, longtime head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as its new leader. This past December, the agency moved 430 employees to its new Construction and Development department in an effort to consolidate all construction personnel. The change, along with other organizational moves, was mandated by the New York State government earlier last year in order to increase efficiency within the agency and speed up project delivery timelines.
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Meet Me on the East Side

Oza Sabbeth opens the East End House on its rear for privacy
Located on the edge of Long Island in Sag Harbor, New York, the East End House by Oza Sabbeth Architects takes cues from the surrounding landscape. Sag Harbor developed as a working port on Gardiner’s Bay and was designated as the first port of entry to the United States. Today, the village is home to a range of vernacular structures associated with whaling. Inspired by this context and the densely vegetated pond on-site, the East End House reinterprets both regional forms and materials. The project is bookended by the pond and a busy turnpike. To create a tranquil sense of place, the home’s form turns away from the sights and sounds of street traffic and toward the pond and forest. The building features a sequence of moments that showcase its layout and materials. The entry is composed of a dense bulwark of concrete and wood, as well as an intimate forecourt. From there, an entrance foyer opens up to the landscape and pond. The organization in plan generated a private front and an accessible backyard with multiseasonal outdoor spaces on the lowest level. Oza Sabbeth experimented with using substrates as finish materials for the home. The roof and walls are designed as a rain screen assembly of exposed rubber (EPDM) and mahogany decking material. “The substrate, EPDM in this case, is revealed in instances and slips behind the mahogany shell where needed,” said Oza Sabbeth principal Nilay Oza. The flooring is a poured self-leveling concrete, typically used as a substrate for tile. For the millwork and wall panels, the team used a Baltic birch platform as a base upon which more expensive finish veneers were applied. Architect: Oza Sabbeth Architects Location:   Sag Harbor, New York Engineer: CRAFT | Engineering Studio Contractor: Modern Green Home Facade: Mahagony decking over Pro Clima weather-resistant membrane; EPDM over plywood sheathing Roof: Mahagony decking over EPDM Aluminum doors: Arcadia Aluminum windows: Gerkin Windows and Doors