Search results for "lower east side"
SHoP Architects has revealed plans for a new urban farm in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8. Spearheaded by local organization DC Greens, The Well at Oxon Run will cover 50,000 square feet of land next to the Oxon Run tributary in an underserved part of the nation's capital city known as Anacostia. According to D.C. blog Urban Turf, residents in the area have a drastically lower life-expectancy rate due to diet-related chronic illnesses than people living in Northeast D.C. Poor access to quality, healthy food is a major source of strain for locals south of the Anacostia River. In an effort to combat this, The Well will grow over 150 varieties of fresh produce, herbs, and edible flowers while also housing space for events, programming, and a farmers market. DC Greens noted in a tweet that a youth classroom will also be built, and local art will be incorporated on-site. Due to its location in a highly urbanized part of D.C.’s southeastern quadrant, the project will help beautify and activate a blighted piece of landscape next to the long-polluted, seven-mile-long stream. Friends of Oxon Run, which supports activities surrounding Oxon Run and the nearby Oxon Run Park, is working with DC Greens, as well as The Green Scheme, a local nonprofit that advocates for a healthier environment on behalf of communities of color, to bolster the area’s reputation. Abby Bluestone, development director at DC Greens, told AN that The Well will be more than a community hub or food haven, it will also be an inclusive wellness space. "In this space, we will be growing crops, but mostly we'll be growing community," she wrote in an email. "We are imagining an intergenerational space for community health and healing, centered around food... A farm space that honors the full power that food has to bring people together, and make people whole." The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation is collaborating on the project too, which slated to start construction sometime in 2020. Before breaking ground, DC Greens hopes to raise up to $1 million in an online campaign to cover construction costs. Additional renderings are expected to follow in the coming months.
The biennial Build Small Live Large Summit launched in 2012 in Portland, Oregon, to help move the housing industry toward smaller, more energy-efficient homes. Originally organized under the auspices of city’s Department of Environmental Quality, past programs promoted tiny houses and accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The focus of this year’s event shifted to missing middle housing, reflecting another acute concern for many U.S. cities. “Everyone from every city is struggling to provide enough affordable housing and we all want to have a better approach to this problem,” said Rebecca Small, a planner at Metro, the regional agency that now convenes the event. The topic attracted a decidedly wonky audience of planners, but also drew builders, real estate agents, investors, developers, advocates, activists, and architects from across the country who are closely following recent legislation that lowers barriers to developing additional housing types on single-family lots. In August, Oregon passed a statewide bill that will allow the development of middle housing, defined as duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, cottage clusters, and townhouses, on single-family zoned lots by 2022. In October, California passed a suite of laws that go into effect in January 2020 that incentivize building ADUs, reduce restrictions for building them, and streamline the process. Build Small Live Large 2019 sessions covered financing and appraising ADUs, as well as strategies for passing state and local ordinances to encourage missing middle housing options. Panels mixed city planners, housing advocates, elected officials, architects, lenders, and developers who delved into the ramifications of the new code and zoning updates and explored housing models on the horizon to be reintroduced into many urban and not so urban regions. As Michelle Glass of the Rogue Action Center stressed, the perception of rural communities, such as those in Eastern Oregon, is that they’re still in the 1950s, but displacement as a result of affordability and accessibility is a very real issue there. Discussions around single room occupancy housing models, or SROs, highlighted how this once-common housing option has reemerged both as a way to help people transition from homelessness and as an affordable option for nomadic millennials as they move into and out of cities. Panelists also explored how using ADUs and cottage clusters gives the generation on the opposite end of the spectrum, baby boomers, a viable way to age in place or stay in their neighborhoods. Notably, Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law (2017), was the event’s keynote speaker. Rothstein drew parallels to the time after World War II when the homelessness crisis in the U.S. was comparable to today and noted how exclusionary zoning practices enacted then have resulted in deep economic disparity and segregation in the country. “If we abolish segregation in neighborhoods, the next day things wouldn’t look any different,” said Rothstein. Perhaps not overnight, but as new legislation takes effect along the West Coast and ripples out to cities such as Fayette, Arkansas, and Minneapolis, which are already updating their zoning regulations to encourage housing that creates more diverse, livable, walkable cities, the housing landscape may look very different by the next Build Small Live Large Summit.
Shedding the Shed
the_shed_is_a_shack pokes fun at Hudson Yards and corporate malfeasance
On June 21, a couple of months after the opening of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group-designed Shed, the anonymous group behind the_shed_is_a_shack Instagram account began trolling the billionaire-real-estate-developer-funded arts center. Its organizers, who include an artist and an executive director of an arts institution, followed their friends' Instagram accounts to attract followers and began lampooning the Shed. They published a photo of a cracked electrical outlet cover and an electrical box with wires sticking out, poked fun at design and programming decisions, and savaged the financing behind the project. Increasingly they focused on its embodiment of extreme economic stratification, poor labor practices, and the "artwashing" of real estate the project embodies. We asked The Shack—as they call themselves—about the account, their trolling of the Shed and Hudson Yards, and their view of what should have happened there instead. They responded with a remarkably cogent argument for an alternative decision-making process for development on public property. AN: Can you tell us about your backgrounds or professional affiliations? Are you connected to any activist groups or have you been in the past? the_shed_is_a_shack: We are arts professionals with many years of experience with cultural institutions and in different aspects of the art world. The Shack includes an executive-level arts leader and an artist who is also active in a number of other social justice/advocacy issues. We are also people who care about our communities, our fellow citizens, and the importance of civic engagement.
Are you creating some of the memes or are you mostly sharing other things you see? We create all of the content ourselves, except in a very few select cases where we have reposted and clearly credited the original poster. Our audience also sometimes sends ideas or news articles to us, and occasionally that’s a prompt for us to create a particular meme or post around that idea.View this post on Instagram
How do you see this action: As advocacy or activism, or are you mostly just having fun trolling the developers? The account is light-hearted about a dark-hearted thing, and so we’re poking fun while also highlighting some very serious issues. There are a lot of problems with how money and power are distributed and abused in the art world, and also in the world at large, and what has happened (and is happening) at Hudson Yards and with the Shed is representative of some of the most egregious examples. There’s also such a huge gap between how Hudson Yards and the Shed were sold and marketed to the public, and what they have actually become. So much marketing hype was built into the selling of it, and so it feels right that the response should be similarly structured in terms of tone, as memes, faux ads, and hype-speak. Also, we’re in the art world, so we like our visuals. There’s a long history of art world projects that critique the structure and internal systems that underpin cultural institutions. We’d like to see that critique contribute to change, so there’s an advocacy element to our trolling.View this post on Instagram
Is it connected to a particular set of positions? No matter how much we might have a laugh at some of the more outrageous details of Hudson Yards and the Shed, the development is actually a slap in the face to the people of New York and thus in need of more serious examination. A select group of wealthy individuals and corporations are benefitting from Hudson Yards, along with government officials who actively championed and pushed through the development to advance their own political or business interests (including Bloomberg, De Blasio, Dan Doctoroff, and others). But what did everyone else get? Our tax dollars went to build a private luxury neighborhood billed as “Little Dubai,” while many New Yorkers don’t have access to affordable housing, reliable subway lines, or adequate healthcare. The developers tried to cut out unions and limit worker safety standards, and people lost wages and got hurt. And with the Shed, our tax dollars helped pay for a building and organization that is not serving the cultural community or the public as promised, and instead has created a tax-deductible structure and plaything for the developer and his pals to utilize and benefit from. So, our position is about advocating for the public interest and for the cultural community.View this post on Instagram
What motivated you in particular to start it, and is Instagram an effective tool so far to forward a message? The account started really just as a cathartic response and half-joke. We visited The Shed soon after it opened and were stunned by the experience. The building itself was in disarray. Hardware was falling off the walls or not properly installed, there were cracks in the glass and electrical socket plates, puddles of leaking lubricant from the escalator, peeling and chipped paint on multiple walls, exit signs with wires sticking out, obvious building code violations, and more.View this post on Instagram
For a brand-new, wildly expensive building supported by taxpayer money and on city-owned land—and touted by the developers and the city as representing the future of cultural institutions and civic public-private engagement—it was a massive failure. So many cultural institutions around the city are struggling to pay the bills, and money got poured into this development. It’s unconscionable that it turned out this way and that there has not yet been a reckoning for abusing the public trust. So what started as a joke among friends expanded as we realized how serious and ongoing the problems there were. Instagram is the art world’s preferred social media for the most part, at least for the moment, and so it seemed like a natural choice.View this post on Instagram
What would be an ideal outcome? The desired outcome is to expand the conversation around the Shed and Hudson Yards. It’s also important to us to emphasize how the final shape of the development is not an accident; it’s what happens when a development that is privately owned and controlled does not include the appropriate level of input, regulation, and safeguarding by community groups and the public. The Shed is an extension of that core problem, with a board controlled by the developers and their buddies, and even the building itself is literally infected by and physically trapped inside the development Alien-style (The Shed ended up being constructed with much of its operational guts shared with and located inside of the skyscraper next door). So now we have a major NYC neighborhood and cultural institution that is being controlled by a small group of private investors, continuing to benefit from tax incentives and public money, in order to advance personal interests that are largely counter to the public’s.View this post on Instagram
Although Hudson Yards is mostly owned by private developers, the Shed sits on public land owned by the city and is a nonprofit entity that is required to benefit the public good. So we—the public—need to hold the Shed accountable and see that necessary changes are made to the way it operates. There are many different options that might be proposed as an alternative; for example, a consortium of existing cultural institutions and community organizations could come together to re-envision how the space should operate and who should run it. The building could serve as an outpost/off-site programming space for other arts and culture organizations on a rotating basis, among other possibilities. It could also be converted into free or subsidized office/studio space for cultural nonprofits, artists, and community organizations that can’t afford rent because of developments like Hudson Yards, or for events like pop-up free healthcare clinics or other services for those in need. Further, there should be a public conversation to include government officials that rethinks how the next phase of Hudson Yards is allowed to proceed, with an eye toward much more community oversight, regulation, and built-in systems for clawing back public money/tax incentives if and when promises aren’t kept.View this post on Instagram
What should Hudson Yards have been? Hudson Yards should have been a true public-private partnership, which means careful input, oversight, and regulation by the community at every stage and ongoing for the life of the development. That’s a hard and challenging process, but it’s necessary and fair if developers want to get decades of tax incentives, city- and state-paid infrastructure, and other public money. Hudson Yards could have and should have been an actual mixed-use community, with truly integrated housing for low-income, middle, and yes even some luxury, as well as a range of nonprofit, business, and retail spaces that genuinely serve the neighborhood needs more broadly. It should have true public space (not privately owned space that the developer controls on whim) and cultural venues that more fully reflect the needs and interests of the community. Cultural and creative programming and public artwork should be informed by and ultimately decided by those with expertise in the field alongside community members, not by one rich guy who wants a big Heatherwick bauble because he thinks it’s what other rich guys like. If he wants a Heatherwick (or anything else), he’s welcome to buy it and build it—but not with the support and help of public money and infrastructure.View this post on Instagram
Because the developers of Hudson Yards are claiming private control of the entire space (even though this isn’t actually correct, with the Shed on city-owned land and the Hudson Yards subway part of the MTA), they are asserting that visitors don’t have the same rights they would normally have in a public space. That’s deeply problematic on many levels (impacting everything from the right to protest, to who gets to sit on benches or be otherwise harassed under what conditions, as well as in their use of facial recognition technology in the kiosks and other surveillance measures by the developers). So there should be requirements that dictate how any development that benefits from public support can control that space.View this post on Instagram
Also if you have anything to add about the processes by which public property is developed . . . Similar to what we noted should have happened with Hudson Yards, the process for [the] development of public space and property (and public-private developments) needs to be more carefully safeguarded and regulated, and there needs to be oversight by independent community experts and individuals who are not in any way affiliated with the developers. And this oversight should continue for the lifetime of the property and with teeth to match (heavy fines and claw-backs for developers who renege on promises, for example). We all know how arduous these kinds of processes can be, but it’s necessary if we want to ensure projects truly benefit the public. That doesn’t mean there needs to be total consensus on every aspect of a project (which is impossible to obtain in any case and often leads to art-horse-by-committee outcomes), but it means the decision-making needs to be led by a sense of true commitment to the public good and strict, proactive measures to ensure there are not conflicts of interest. There also needs to be a more nuanced understanding and recognition of how we assign expertise and decision-making power within this oversight and community process; for example, there’s a tendency to assume “expert” in the arts only applies to a well-known museum president, a wealthy collector, or a big name artist, when in fact it should include arts workers and others who have active, on-the-job experience within cultural organizations, or an avid arts goer who is not financially able to be a donor/collector but loves art with the same zeal as an Aggie [Agnes] Gund, among other examples. There are many of these people throughout the city, and their voices should be given a place. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because our public spaces will be made better by their input.View this post on Instagram
Oh oh oh oh, it's Essex
Mourning the old Essex Street Market
How do we say farewell to buildings? Through what strategies or mechanisms might we experience parts of the city marked by disuse or disaster? Aside from traditional adaptive rehabilitation or cosmetic upgrades, simply refraining from intervening is one possibility. Providing equitable, safe access to an otherwise untouched site can be a radical act of civic elegy. For example, earlier this year, Seattle gave its residents the opportunity to inhabit the elevated freeway on its waterfront before scheduled demolition. Indeed, numerous cultural practices celebrate the death (and/or rebirth) of structures, ritualistic events in contrast to morbid photographs documenting implosions or ruins. Such performative acts of remembrance might approach what artist-architect Jorge Otero-Pailos called "experimental preservation," whose proponents “choose objects that might be considered ugly or unsavory, or unworthy of preservation, objects that might have been ignored or excluded by official narratives, perhaps because they embody the material, social, and environmental costs of development which governments and corporations seldom account for.” The old Essex Street Market in New York’s Lower East Side, slated to be torn down, is presently a time capsule, largely unchanged since May when vendors left or relocated to the new market digs in the recently opened mixed-use Essex Crossing complex across Delancey. The historic market’s past dates to the late-19th century, when pushcart peddlers congregated on Hester and Ludlow Streets, later formalized in 1940 by Mayor La Guardia, who opened indoor public market buildings to not only alleviate unsanitary conditions and congestion but also to limit and control street vendors. In the mid-1990s the city consolidated the remaining tenants. Throughout its lifespan, the area’s changing demographics—predominantly Eastern European Jewish, Italian, and Puerto Rican immigrants—shaped the space, transforming it into a vital working-class community hub. New Yorkers had one last chance to visit before it is razed and enters the next phase. Organized by Artists Alliance Inc., Italian artist Andrea Nacciarriti’s site-specific 00 00 00 00 00 [Essex Street Retail Market] intervened into the brick building with the sparest of means, yet achieved a dramatic and visceral effect. His project blacked out the large skylights, “installing darkness,” according to curator Alessandro Facente. After signing a waiver, visitors equipped with flashlights had the chance to explore the pitch-black environment practically alone. The low visibility was pierced by a bright white cube: the former Cuchifritos gallery, now housed in the location across the street. Its door and partitions were ripped away in a pile nearby, echoing other architectural instances of institutional critique removing gallery facades or opening up such hermetic spaces. The only foreign object introduced to the building was a representation of time in the form of a mysterious, red digital clock, reminiscent of the giant one in Union Square, counting down presumably to the end of the show’s run and thus civilian access. Markets are a vibrant typology defined and energized by temporal human activity. Without people buying, selling, and surveying goods, the physical infrastructure comprises a modest stage set sans actors. Wandering amongst the abandoned stalls and empty shelves induced an exhilarating, unsettling vibe. The building’s materiality and remaining appliances/furniture all registered traces of past lives and usage; each object is information. Residual evidence dotted the abandoned aisles and walls, ranging from dry onion skins to drawings by local school children. Barren deli counters and their ilk hinted at missing wares or services. The graphic design on leftover cheese labels and flattened cardboard boxes narrated geographic origins. Prices advertised phantom radishes, leeks, baby bok choy, tomatillo, and okra. The darkness and silence attuned one’s senses moving through space, sharpening visual attention and heightening aural or tactile stimulation. Throughout the defamiliarized setting, your flashlight illuminated entropic fragments along the way. Overall, the project indexes, and invited guests to bear witness to, the types of old school New York institutions disappearing due to development, gentrification, or negligence. In this way, the ephemeral installation offered a spatio-historical experience similar to the nearby Tenement Museum. Nacciarriti framed the project in terms of a Greek play’s choral intermission, a pause and commentary in between scenes. The intention is not to freeze bits of urban fabric forever, but to acknowledge and celebrate buildings and social relations amidst brute state changes. As the city continually evolves at breakneck speeds, nuanced moments like these, of reflection and silence, become all the more valuable to help process our surroundings. 00 00 00 00 00 [Essex Street Retail Market] ran from September 13 through November 17, 2019, at 120 Essex St, New York, NY.
The New York City Council voted to approve the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project yesterday, with little opposition from officials. Local councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents the affected area, fell in favor of the $1.45 billion project, which will raise East River Park to 8- to-10 feet above sea level with landfill from Montgomery Street to 25th street to protect against future floods. Forty-six members voted in favor, with only one against and one abstention, and the plan now only has to cross Mayor de Blasio's desk, and he's indicated that he'll sign it. The project has experienced strong ongoing opposition from organized community groups, civic associations, and neighborhood parks advocates, who voiced opposition to the extended loss of play areas, removal of trees, and lack of consultation during the design process. A coalition of community groups had drafted an alternative People's Plan, which the final project considered as a part of its community engagement, along with the EDC's Waterfront Esplanade plan and WXY Studio's East River Blueway Plan. The city responded with a plan to phase work over a longer period to ensure the availability of parks during the construction. Others, like architect William Rockwell, who lives in an Amalgamated Dwellings Cooperative building and experienced severe flooding and loss of power during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, voiced support. Among the notable benefits of the design, apart from potentially live-saving flood protection, will be vastly improved pedestrian connections to the East River across on grade bridges spanning FDR Drive. The areas protected from flooding, according to the Scope of Work in the Environmental Impact Statement, fall within the 100-year flood zone and extend upland to meet the 90th percentile projection of sea-level rise to the 2050s. That includes large parts of the Lower East Side and East Village, Stuy Town, Peter Cooper Village, and Stuyvesant Cove Park, which was built on top of low-lying marshes. Originated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as part of the BIG U Rebuild by Design project—with Bjarke Ingels Group as the lead urban designer in collaboration with One Architecture, Starr Whitehouse, James Lima Planning + Development, Green Shield Ecology, AEA Consulting, Level Agency for Infrastructure, ARCADIS, and Buro Happold—the ESCR became the northern half of two separate projects, with the other part section, the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project, extending below the Manhattan bridge. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development originally committed $511 million to the project during the Rebuild by Design phase, with New York promising an additional $305 million. The environmental impact statement (EIS), however, only cites the $1.45 billion cost and $335 million committed by HUD from a federal Community Development Block Grant. An October 2019 independent review of the ESCR by the U.S. arm of Dutch water research institute Deltares noted the lack of publicly available information on aspects of the project, making it impossible to review in its totality. The report argues that "transparency of the decision-making process by city agencies will help rebuild trust and gain [the] support of the community," and recommended establishing a community advisory group and keeping community representatives involved in the later, more detailed stages of project design. It also recommended adding two more feet of fill, coordinating with the green infrastructure program, and studying groundwater patterns in the East Village to evaluate the impact of rainfall on the neighborhood and basement flooding. The implementation is being led by the New York City Department of Design and Construction with AKRF/KSE Engineering as the lead consultant.
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.
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."
Brought to you with support fromNew York-based architectural practice CetraRuddy is no stranger to designing residential skyscrapers in Manhattan, with a body of work differing from typical contemporary glass stalagmites thanks to the inclusion of significant swathes of stone and metal. ARO, a slender 62-story tower located in Midtown West that wrapped up this year, continues this trend with a facade of undulating and shifting floorplates clad in a skin of aluminum composite panels and enclosed with tinted float glass. The 540,000-square-foot tower rises from the center of the site to further the distance from the adjacent properties to the east and west, a measure taken to maximize the building's allotted zoning height and overall daylight penetration. DeSimone Consulting Engineers handled the tectonics of the project's structural system. "To adequately support the slender building," said the structural team, "the tower's structural system is comprised of steel columns at the foundational level, reinforced concrete shear walls with flat plate concrete floor slabs, and reinforced concrete columns. Overall, construction utilized 34,000 cubic yards of concrete."
Guardian Glass with a remarkably lower heat coefficient than typical coated clear glass, was custom assembled by systems producer BVG Glazing Systems. John Cetra, Founding Principal of CetraRuddy, is co-chairing The Architect's Newspaper's Facades+ NYC conference on April 2 & 3 and will present the ARO in the afternoon panel "Optimizing the Form."The structure is just one of the visibly outward elements of the overall design and the floorplates protrude as a series of undulating ribs from the narrow vertical form. Across the four elevations, the structure is key to the articulation of the six different curtain wall modules with differing ledge depths corresponding to the placement of the glass modules. Eighteen-inch-deep, white Reynobond aluminum composite "fenders" cap the floorplates, soffits, break up the floors as thin rectangular columns, and act as integrated solar devices. "The sun is a friend of this building; the sky is reflected in its glass and the metal fender protects from undesirable solar gain and glare," said CetraRuddy. "The projecting undulation captures the sunlight, giving the facade pleasing depth and visual interest." As a result of the tower's shifting floor plates and undulations, the glass modules shift in their alignment from being stacked directly atop one another to a quasi-stepped appearance. Each panel is approximately four feet wide and 11 feet tall, and are fastened to the floor plate with steel embeds. The glass, a tinted float glass produced by
Last week on October 17 the New York City Council voted to approve a controversial plan to build four borough-based local jails to replace Rikers Island by 2026. The decision came after the city announced it would reduce the maximum height for the new facilities from 450 feet to 295 feet. The $8.7 billion proposal passed 36-13 and was backed by all four council members who represent the neighborhoods where the new high-rise jails will be located. Council member Margaret Chin of District 1 in Manhattan publically defended her choice to bring the tallest of the jails to Chinatown, saying the 155-foot height drop on the White Street tower “will [now] not be out of scale with the neighborhood.” Likely to now stand 29 stories tall, the facility will be significantly shorter than some of the recently-built and planned skyscrapers around the Lower East Side, but locals, prison-reform activists, and some architects still oppose it. Each community board overseeing the proposed sites actively disapproved of the plan when it came before them, and just two weeks ago, over 1,000 people marched through Chinatown in an effort to change Chin’s mind. The Neighbors United Below Canal (N.U.B.C.) has already announced it will sue the city for its decision, citing an unlawful approval process as its main defense. According to the Tribeca Tribune, the group’s founders believe the public should have been allowed to review the changes to the Manhattan location and that the environmental impact report, finalized in August, lacked significant details. So far, no one knows what these jails will look like, which is one piece of critical information opponents say should have been included in the too-vague proposal. N.U.B.C. also asked where all the much-needed services will go now that so many floors have been cut off from the high-rise towers. “How within months could you take away hundreds of feet?” said organizer Jan Lee in an interview with Curbed New York. “So does anyone really know what we’re designing here? I don’t think so.” Until AECOM, the lead design-build firm on the project, reveals initial visuals of each structure, it’s unclear just how these buildings will accommodate the incarcerated. For now, all that’s known are the heights of each facility: in Brooklyn, the 275 Atlantic Avenue site will be 295 feet; in Queens, the 126-02 82nd Street will be 195 feet; and in the Bronx, located at 320 Concord Avenue, the jail tower will be 195 feet. City officials explained that the new heights are based on the new estimated number of detainees in New York by 2026. The de Blasio administration expects the city's population will be halved by the time the jails open, to 3,300 people. Based on this, each facility will hold less than 1,000 people. Mayor De Blasio has said that he will sign off on the proposal when it arrives at his desk.
Ten domestic plywood producers have jointly filed a lawsuit against several U.S. certification agencies for falsely labeling ineffective imported panels from South America. The group, known as the U.S. Structural Plywood Integrity Coalition, claims that structural panels produced in Brazil are being fraudulently certified and stamped upon entry to the U.S. even though they don’t meet the country’s minimum requirements for stiffness and deflection (the amount it sags when under horizontal load). This isn’t a new issue: In June 2018, the nonprofit trade group APA - The Engineered Wood Association sent an advisory to all domestic manufacturers detailing the results of its own nearly year-long experiment testing the strength and structural integrity of imported panels from seven different Brazilian producers. Though all of their products were marked with the official stamp for Structural Plywood, known as U.S. Product Standard PS 1-09, they all failed to comply with federal regulations by large margins. Tyler Freres, vice president of sales at Freres Lumber Co. in Lyons, Oregon, said he’s seen the stamp on countless poor-quality panels with his own eyes, many of which were tested independently at Clemson University under the coalition’s purview. He told AN that even though the APA advisory went out to all U.S.-based companies, pressure hadn’t mounted enough in the last year to force the industry’s top certification firms, PFS TECO of Wisconsin, Timber Products Inspection of Georgia, and the International Accreditation Service of California, to stop the fraudulent labeling. “No one cared,” he said. Freres and the nine other plywood companies that make up the coalition are hoping to halt further shipments from Brazil and to educate U.S. contractors and homebuyers about the issue, which started in 2016 when both the U.S. dollar and housing market became stronger. At the same time, Brazil’s government began encouraging producers to ramp up their timber harvesting. “As consumers, we all need to be aware of where our products come from,” said Freres. “Wood materials should be produced in the most environmentally [sustainable] places possible and it’s no secret that South America is having huge problems with deforestation and illegal harvesting.” Freres is specifically talking about native North American wood species like loblolly pine, slash pine, and others that, for the last four years, have been planted and unnaturally grown in large-scale plantations on top of former rainforests. “The species grows so fast in Brazil,” he said, “that the density [of the wood fiber] isn’t sufficient for structural purposes.” Over the last two years, the amount of imported structural panels has grown to a total of 25 percent of the U.S. market, resulting in an oversaturated supply. Naturally, producers in the Pacific Northwest all the way down to the South have had to lower the number of panels they make, as well as the price, to compete with international imports. One member of the coalition, Gray Skipper from the Alabama-based Scotch Plywood Company, said many manufacturers have felt Brazil’s push to get its products into the hands of U.S. consumers. “We used to do a fair amount of business to Central and South Florida,” said Skipper. “It was about 20 percent of our product sales a decade ago. Now it’s something like one percent. Because of this, we’ve been focusing toward the Midwest and Northeastern markets but we’d like to be back in Southern Florida as soon as possible.” According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, much of the imported Brazilian plywood that’s been coming into the U.S. has landed in Florida. The material is used as roof and wall sheathing on residential and commercial buildings, and it’s extremely dangerous to build with in locations that are subject to extreme weather. The allegations laid out in the coalition’s lawsuit, a Lanham Act claim, suggest that a hurricane, high winds, or an earthquake could easily damage a home or cause deaths where these off-grade panels were used. Skipper said that he’s heard stories from builders who’ve have had to turn down the pressure of their nail guns when using the Brazilian panels because they are so much thinner than the U.S. product. Despite this, these falsely labeled panels are still being bought, which is why the coalition is looking for upwards of $300 million in its lawsuit against the three certification agencies. Freres said the group will continue to complete additional deflection testing, as well as full-scale wind testing, through Clemson and Oregon State University up until December in order to further build out its case. So far, two of the three firms have denied the allegations. In a September statement from Timber Products Inspection, the company's president said it has "extreme confidence in our processes" and that "clients in Brazil and elsewhere who do not consistently meet the applicable industry standard do no remain as TP clients."
Plus Pool floats a light sculpture to raise awareness of NYC's water pollution problem
Nine years ago, New Yorkers were promised a floating, self-filtering pool on the East River, but all they've gotten so far is a floating light sculpture. Plus Pool Light has been installed, temporarily, in place of Plus Pool—a floating outline one quarter the size of the original proposal, consisting of LED lights that change color depending on water quality. “It’s about having people look at something beautiful and coming here if they want to learn more,” said Archie Lee Coates IV, a partner at New York-based Playlab and a cocreator of the public pool proposal. But, as he also told The New York Times “It’s been incredibly difficult, painful and exhausting,” navigating the red tape and blockades associated with publicly funded projects in NYC. Plus Pool (or +Pool) was conceived in a brainstorming session amongst Coates and his design friends Jeff Franklin, Dong-Ping Wong and Oana Stanescu back in 2010. The concept began with the frustration that New York City residents are constantly within walking distance of water, but live largely cut-off from it. The Hudson and East Rivers remain too polluted for safe swimming, and public beaches often take over an hour to get to. While waterways in several other major metropolises have been cleaned up in the interest of the public as well as tourists, like the Seine in Paris, New York’s rivers have been unswimmable for over 70 years. Plus Pool would use a state-of-the-art filtration system to help people reclaim their rivers for recreational use, and even strengthen campaigns to keep the waters clean. In response to the passing of the Clean Water Act, many liquid assets in NYC were adopted as Superfund sites by the government, but sites like the Gowanus Canal remain in deplorable condition, as the city has yet to adequately update their storm surge systems—a system so inadequate that a 2018 NYT article titled “Please Don’t Flush the Toilet, It’s Raining,” drew viral reactions. All of that intake affects the ecosystem of the East River, and therefore the light show of the Plus Pool Light. When the quality is at an acceptable level, the LEDs shine turquoise-blue, but as sewage and bacteria levels increase, the lights shift to pink. This real-time quality indication comes from data collected by on-site sensors as well as an algorithm developed by researchers at Columbia University and the tech firm Reaktor. While Plus Pool has been compared to other “Instagrammable” public projects like The High Line, this environmentally sensitive project may be more about addressing the physical effects of human degradation of the environment than reclaiming leisure space. The Light installation has already turned public attention towards the water by offering an unflinching visual representation of urban pollution, and in the era of Instagram and visual storytelling, potentially generating more attention for realizing the Plus Pool project. Plus Pool Light will be on view off of Lower Manhattan’s Seaport District until January 3, 2020.
David Adjaye’s Ruby City is an imposing monument to art in southern Texas
Ruby City is an oddity. Sited in a formerly industrial zone south of Downtown San Antonio dotted with islands of gas stations and fast food signs, and abutting a neighborhood known for its artist community, the 14,000-square-foot contemporary art center designed by Adjaye Associates is, by nature of its history, location, and design, a study in contradictions. In 2007, the late Linda Pace, daughter of salsa and hot sauce magnate David Pace, reached out to David Adjaye with a sketch of Ruby City, which she envisioned as a center to present her then 500-piece-strong art collection to the public. An artist herself, Pace would draw her dreams after waking up and have these sketches fabricated into sculptures (the institution's inaugural exhibition includes a work by Pace that renders the word STAY in fake blue flowers). Pace’s idea for Ruby City came during one of these nocturnal fantasias, when she envisaged a complex of towers and minarets in blazing red. Pace met Adjaye shortly before her death from breast cancer to discuss the project, and 12 years later, the building is finally opening. The result is far from a collection of windowless spires but is still, as Adjaye told Texas Monthly, “very shy.” On approach, my initial impression was of a thick-shelled aardvark or beetle, the building’s heavy stone massing and brilliant red color standing in stark contrast to the sea of parking lots nearby. The red, terrazzo-like concrete used to form the facade has been rightly celebrated by critics ahead of the building’s opening; the material was fabricated by Pretecsa, a company based outside of Mexico City, and is also strategically deployed in custom curbside bollards and benches in the sculpture garden. In person, its rich color is true to the photos. Despite the fortress-like street presence, Adjaye has tried to make Ruby City feel inviting. The way the entrance canopy gently lifts from the building and cantilevers over the plaza like the opening of a cave lends some much-needed lightness to the massing, a touch that’s mirrored on the reverse side, over the parking lot. Part of the inward-facing design is practical, as anything built in southern Texas must defer to the elements. To combat the harsh sun, two layers of curtains, one blackout and one shade, have been installed across the windows in all three of the building’s central gallery spaces; the building will be open only four days a week, with the blackout curtains otherwise drawn to protect the collection. Ruby-tinted steel grates, resembling crenelated brick from the ground, have been installed across every skylight to protect against monster hail. Once inside, it becomes clear that Adjaye Associates and executive architects Alamo Architects took great strides to enliven what could have become just another set of white-walled galleries. Flourishes abound. Pulls and fixtures were all designed in-house at Adjaye’s office, as were the molcajete- and metate-inspired benches and reception desk textured in rough, crinkled concrete. Faceted skylights brighten the steep, lengthy staircases, which are specifically designed to block the view of the second floor until visitors nearly reach the landings above. What at first seems to be a straightforward path through two extra-tall exhibition spaces (the third is currently ensconced in blue felt for an installation of Isaac Julien’s Stones Against Diamonds video, which will run for two years) actually meanders and reveals plenty of side passages and nooks with alternate views of the route just traveled. Similarly thoughtful, unexpected details are everywhere: an “eyelid” panel juts away from the building over a window on the second floor to direct views downward to the sculpture park; a conference room centered on a pair of doors taken from Pace’s bedroom is clad in timber; the adobe-colored concrete plaza extends inside to the reception area and into the elevator; a triangular cutout hidden in the overhang above the entrance looks to the sky but is only visible from directly below, Adjaye's James Turrell moment; a central gallery tall enough to comfortably, surprisingly, fit 16-foot-tall sculptures typically reserved for outdoor installation. These moves all spice up an interior that can still feel, at times, a bit too staid. There are now 900 drawings, paintings, videos, and mixed-media pieces in Ruby City’s collection, as the Linda Pace Foundation has combined its holdings with Pace’s personal acquisitions. Exhibitions will draw only from the permanent collection, and will likely rotate every two years, with the kickoff show, Waking Dream, presenting a twisted take on domesticity from international and local artists from the building's opening on October 13 through 2022. Combined with strategic views of Chris Park, a one-acre landscape of palm trees and bamboo groves down the street that is dedicated to Pace’s late son, from the double-height side corridor before entering the galleries proper, there’s enough discovery in both the art and the building to keep visitors coming back. In the end, the gestures add up, turning what could be a simple experience into something more multifaceted.