Search results for "new york city"

Placeholder Alt Text

Pittsburgh's Green Streets

Pittsburgh launches its own International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings
Last month on September 12, the United Nations Economic Council on Europe (UNECE) and the Green Building Alliance (GBA) signed an agreement launching the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings. Pittsburgh is the second city in the world to participate in the program following New York City’s Building Energy Exchange, and will join a network of sustainability experts in an effort to reduce the effects of climate change and “distill best practices in design, construction, training, and policy into scalable solutions.”   As one out of five commissions of the United Nations, UNECE works to improve access to clean energy and help reduce greenhouse emissions in order to meet Sustainable Development Goals as outlined in the Paris Agreement. Founded in 1993, GBA works to advance innovation in the built environment by “empowering people to create environmentally, economically, and socially vibrant places.”  “Of all the approaches to addressing the world’s climate challenge, improving the energy performance of buildings stands out. Beyond reducing our carbon footprint, this action will enhance quality of life, reduce energy bills, improve health, create jobs and encourage innovation,” said Scott Foster, UNECE director of Sustainable Energy, at the launch ceremony. The Center will follow the UNECE’s Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings and will be a collaboration between regional partners, including the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. In following the framework, the Center will conduct training programs for design professionals, host discussions, and advocate for local and state policy changes regarding building codes and energy regulations. Pittsburgh has been well on its way to meeting these goals already. In early September, Pittsburgh's Mayor Bill Peduto introduced legislation that would require all government buildings to be net-zero energy efficient, just weeks after the city released its first energy benchmarking report. Pittsburgh also has the world’s largest 2030 District, which strives toward 50 percent reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 2030. "The International Centers transform how we build cities, from the materials we use to building design and construction, to the policies that set new standards for the future," said GBA executive director Jenna Cramer in a statement. Both GBA and UNECE hopes the Center will unite the area’s most influential developers, business leaders, and policymakers to “dramatically advance sustainable solutions.”
Placeholder Alt Text

LGBTQ History Month

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

Upstream Publicolor

At-risk teens get critiqued by top architects during Publicolor’s Summer Design Studio
On October 1st, the nonprofit Publicolor hosted its annual Summer Design Studio critique at their Manhattan office. The middle and high school students were tasked with reinventing the hospital experience as their design problem and developed solutions (at a variety of scales) to address the needs of nurses, physicians, patients, and families. The students were joined by a distinguished jury of New York City architects, designers, and artists including Thomas Phifer, Jonathan Marvel, and Kitty Hawks. The Summer Design Studio (SDS) is a seven-week work-study program where at-risk teens focus on literacy and math through the lens of design, while also taking S.A.T. prep classes at Pratt Institute and engaging in community service activities. The goal of the program is to prepare students to return to school in the fall with a head start, as recent research shows that low-income students who don’t have access to organized activities actually lose about two months of reading achievement over the summer. This loss adds up over the course of their education. The projects exhibited ranged from an urban farm to keep patients in the geriatric ward active and healthy, to a fully coded app that free's patients from paperwork by digitally sending your encrypted information ahead of time while you drive to the hospital of your choice. Some proposals were to the scale of an individual body, such as the “the stepper upper,” a pull-out step stool that allows children to step on to reach the sinks in pediatric departments. Others were more at an urban scale, including a medical pop-up in subway stations to aid those who get sick on the train. Eighth-grader Mariana, said of her urban farm design: "We had to do research on incurable diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia and we had found out something called the mind diet, which is basically a bunch of fruits, vegetables, and nuts that have vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that could help prevent the diseases." The group’s project description explains further: the wheelchair-accessible garden allows residents to participate in caring for the garden, feeding the fish, caring for the worms, and making a difference in the lives of all the patients in the hospital. Publicolor’s founder, Ruth Lande Shuman, said of the program’s success, "This was a stellar summer for our 110 struggling students who grew enormously both socially and emotionally, learned a lot of technical and computer skills (including Rhino), and developed the self-confidence to speak with poise about their work." A full list of the critics is as follows:
Thomas Phifer, Architect; Jean Phifer, Architect; Henry Myerberg, Architect; Robert DiMauro, Lifestyle Commentator; Kitty Hawks, Interior Designer; Lily Gunn Townsend, VP Collection, Michael Kors; Michael Shuman, Architect; Tom Geismar, Graphic Designer; Jonathan Marvel, Architect; Tucker Wiemeister, Industrial Designer; Peter Ragonetti, Industrial Designer; Hannah Bruce, Artist; George Ranalli, Architect
Placeholder Alt Text

New Talents

AN Interior interviews five interior and furniture design practices to watch
Every year a new class of professionals storms the scene. We sifted through the perspectives and personalities to find the five up-and-coming interior practices and designers that should be on your radar. Atelier Barda Montreal For the six studio members of Atelier Barda, architecture is an intuitive art form shaped by precedents from design and other creative practices. Many of the studio’s projects are subtly suffused with allusions to the fine arts: White tiling in the SSENSE Headquarters recalls Jean-Pierre Raynaud’s gridded installations; the Résidence Villeneuve’s storefront living space evokes Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks; and the Gauthier House takes its inspiration from the minimalism of Ellsworth Kelly and Robert Mangold—two favorites of the clients. References to art history are testaments to more than just aesthetic interest. According to studio director Kevin Botchar, Atelier Barda “works through artistic and cinematographic references because they’re part of a collective unconscious.” They may also reflect the studio’s broader effort to achieve a more enduring kind of design. As Botchar put it, “We are in search of a sort of timelessness in our projects.” NILE New York City NILE’s project is modernism, which at first seems a curious choice in 2019. But according to the New York-based firm’s founder, Nile Greenberg, the original ethos and ideas of prewar modernism can be easily applied to today’s context. “Beauty, function, and politics are all the same thing,” Greenberg told AN. “I love the Smithsons’ phrase ‘loving neutrality.’ If a space is neutral, it can be anything for anyone.” Like that of Mies and early Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, NILE’s modernism takes universal qualities and tailors them to specific people or situations, hence the word loving. Neutrality, rather than minimalism, which is frequently restrictive, allows flexibility for individuality against a background free of identity. In an age when inclusivity and openness are being advanced in all arenas of culture, NILE looks to the democratic ideals of modernism to define new ways of living in the 21st century. A veteran of MOS, SO – IL, and Leong Leong, Greenberg has completed a store for clothing retailer 6397 in downtown Manhattan and a house in Denver, and this fall two books will hit the shelves: The Advanced School of Collective Feeling, by Greenberg and Matthew Kennedy, and Two Sides of the Border, which Greenberg coedited with Tatiana Bilbao. Click through to our interiors and design website at aninteriormag.com to read all five interviews.
Placeholder Alt Text

Urban Ideals

Utopian Hours festival brings international urbanism to Turin
For three full days in October, the city of Turin in northern Italy will become a think-tank for the future of urbanism. The third edition of Utopian Hours, “the first and only international city-making festival in Italy,” according to its organizers, promises an innovative lineup of exhibitions and guest speakers from around the globe. The festival will begin on Friday, October 18, with lectures on everything from smart cities to an Iwan Baan-led talk on capturing the city. Saturday will include a panel of New York-based architects discussing the intricacies and challenges of urban development in the city, moderated by AN’s own Jonathan Hilburg. Other highlights include talks by Patrik Gustavsson of the newly unveiled Copenhill, Bratislava mayor Matúš Vallo on the extensive strategic plan for his city, and a discussion of contemporary urban imagery with Monocle editor Andrew Tuck. Among the many exhibitions taking place over the weekend, the one to look forward to most might be “Paolo Soleri: From Torino to the Desert,” an homage to the Turin-born architect on the 100th anniversary of his birth, curated by Emanuele Piccardo. The exhibition traces Soleri’s roots from early drawings in Turin through his attempts to create utopian forms of urbanism. Utopian Hours will be held at Centrale della Nuvola Lavazza, Turin, from October 18-20. Suggested donations for admission begins at €5 ($5.50). More information, including a full festival lineup, can be found at https://torinostratosferica.it/utopian-hours/. AN is an official media partner of Utopian Hours.
Placeholder Alt Text

High Hole-Y Days

Hou de Sousa is the winner of this year's Flatiron Plaza Holiday Design Competition
The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute have just announced the winners and finalists of the 6th Annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition. New York-based architecture, art, and design studio, Hou de Sousa, was chosen by a jury of ten designers, planners, and strategists for their project titled Ziggy, which will be installed in front of the iconic Manhattan skyscraper in time for the holiday season.  The installation will be composed of painted rebar and 27,000 feet of iridescent cord shaped into a brightly-colored winding form, resulting in a lightweight structure that frames views of the Flatiron District’s landmarks while doubling as seating for visitors.  “Hou de Sousa’s spectacular installation invites us to rethink how we interact with public space, and with one another,” said Deborah Marton, executive director of Van Alen Institute in a recent press release. “Through the clever use of transparent materials and open gateways, their design creates delightful and unexpected ways to connect with others.” Partners Nancy Hou and Josh de Sousa have won numerous competitions over the past few years (hosted by Google, Friends of the High Line, Socrates Sculpture Park, and the Architectural League of New York, to name a few) for environmentally responsible work that “fosters public engagement and creativity,” in the words of Van Alen. The team partnered with Schlaich Bergermann Partner for structural engineering, and A05 Studio for steel fabrication.  The competition’s runner-up this year was Besler & Sons project Mini City Souvenir Plaza, which would have transformed the Flatiron Public Plaza into a “party scape of iconic buildings and experiences, populating the space with large-scale facades of nearby architecture.” The idea was that the facades surrounding the park would have been fabricated from post-consumer recycled plastics and reproduced in high detail.  Other projects that made it to the final round included Holiday Exchange by New Affiliates, Flatiron Portal by Only If, and Collective by Worrell Yeung Ziggy will be installed on the Flatiron North Public Plaza at the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street as a part of the Partnership’s “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” programming. Weather permitting, it will be open to the public daily from November 18, 2019, through January 1, 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Landscapes of the Mind

AN rounds up the best landscape architecture lectures nationwide
America's top architecture and design schools are filling out their lecture series line-ups with leading thought leaders in landscape architecture and design. Coast-to-coast, AN has selected six of these can't-miss lectures that delve into issues such as climate change, urban beautification, the ecology of memory, and more. Check out the events below: PRODUCTIVE RESURGENCES: the Garden of the XXI Century Speaker: Teresa Galí-Izard Harvard GSD, Gund Hall 112 October 28, 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. Teresa Galí-Izard is an associate professor at Harvard GSD as well as a landscape architect. Previously, she was the chair of the landscape architecture department at the University of Virginia and is currently the principal of the firm Arquitectura Agronomia. Her work explores the “hidden potential of places” and she seeks to “find a contemporary answer that includes non-humans and their life forms through exploring climate, geology, natural processes, dynamics, and management.”  LAEP Lecture Series and Film Screening with Lynden B. Miller Speaker: Lynden B. Miller 112 Wurster Hall, University of California Berkeley October 30, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. In 1982, Lynden B. Miller rescued and restored The Conservatory Garden in Central Park. A public garden designer in New York City, she has contributed work to over 45 public projects in all five boroughs, such as Bryant Park, The New York Botanical Garden, and Madison Square Park. Her 2009 book, Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape won the Horticultural Society 2010 National Book Award. This lecture will feature a screening of the new documentary Beatrix Farrand’s American Landscapes, which follows Lynden B. Miller as she explores the life of Beatrix Farrand, America’s first female landscape architect. 

New York Botanical Garden’s 21st Annual Landscape Design Portfolios Lecture Series

Speakers: Kim Wilkie, Daniel Vasini, and Andrea Cochran Scandinavia House 58 Park Avenue, New York, NY October 7 and 21, November 4, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. While the first lecture in this series has already passed, the second and third are coming up. On October 21st, Daniel Vasini will give a talk titled Landscape Transformations, highlighting innovative projects such as Governor’s Island, for which his firm West 8 won an international design competition to complete the 87-acre master plan. On November 4, Andrea Cochran will take the stage with a talk titled Immersive Landscapes, in which she will discuss how she blurs the lines between the built and natural environment in her work.  Kate Orff: Unmaking the Landscape Speaker: Kate Orff Scholastic’s Big Red Auditorium 120 Mercer Street, New York, NY October 22, 7:00 p.m. Kate Orff is the founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture and urban design practice based in New York City and now New Orleans. She is also the director of the MSAUD program at Columbia’s GSAPP. In this series of lectures, The Architectural League of New York invites leading practitioners and educators to outline new ways of thinking and acting in the professions of architecture and landscape architecture in the wake of the climate emergency.  Lewis J. Clarke Landscape Architecture Lecture: Sara Zewde Speaker: Sara Zewde Burns Auditorium, North Carolina State University Boney Dr, Raleigh, NC October 16, 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Sara Zewde is the founding principal of Studio Zewde, a design studio operating at the intersection of landscape, urbanism, and public art. Zewde holds a master’s of landscape architecture from Harvard GSD and a master’s of city planning from MIT. She will discuss how narratives embedded in the ecologies of memory offer opportunities for landscape architecture in today’s context of changing climate and political tensions.  Green Infrastructure & Livable Cities Speaker: Jack Leonard Rutgers University Room 112, 93 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ October 16, 4:00 p.m. Jack Leonard is an assistant professor of landscape architecture and director of the Sustainable Urban Communities Program at Morgan State University’s School of Architecture + Planning. He is also a principal of JGL Design Associates. This lecture will raise questions such as how we define “livability” in urban communities, as well as how we can focus on green infrastructure as playing a role in the social, cultural, and economic revitalization of urban communities.
Placeholder Alt Text

Rikers Revolution

As the Rikers Island replacement plan moves forward, activists and architects look for alternatives
On September 3rd, to the dismay of many community members and prison reform activists, New York City’s Planning Commission (CPC) approved Mayor de Blasio’s “Smaller, Safer, Fairer” plan to shut down Rikers Island's jail facilities and replace them with four smaller borough-based centers by 2026. With CPC’s 9-to-3 approval, the plan now moves forward to City Council before heading to the Mayor for approval as the last step in the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The council was given 50 days to consider the details before making the make-or-break vote scheduled for October 17.  The Mayor’s plan would introduce a 1,150-bed jail tower to a site in close proximity to each borough’s courthouse—down from what was originally proposed—as a way of improving transportation to court dates as well as bringing inmates closer to their families and communities. (Bronx residents are already suing the city for not living up to this promise with the jail proposed in Mott Haven.)  Bronx Community Board 1 wasn’t the only board to unanimously vote against new jails. Each community board in an area sited for a new jail tower voted down the plan for a number of reasons, which have been echoed by local residents and prison reform activists—including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who recently endorsed the most prominent advocacy group, No New Jails. For Ocasio-Cortez, the Rikers Island complex should absolutely be closed but no jails should be built in its place. She hopes that at the “bare minimum” the vote is delayed until further information on what will be done with Rikers Island after its decommissioning has been gathered.  She also points to the lack of clarity in what the plan will actually do. This lack of concrete vision was also a concern for Orlando Marín, one of the three CPC commissioners who voted against the project. “At this point, we are being asked to vote on an application but have few details,” Marín said during the September meeting, according to Curbed. “The programming thoughts are clearly not finalized by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and contradictions that exist in the thinking and planning of physical structures.”  “For me one of the red flags is the fact that the largest infrastructure investments that we’re going to make as a city ($11 billion) won’t be towards homelessness, fixing our subways, or repairing NYCHA...it’s going towards incarcerating people,” Ocasio-Cortez explained to a reporter on C-SPAN. America currently incarcerates more people than any place in the world, and Ocasio-Cortez added, “We need to de-carcerate our country.” While de Blasio’s plan claims that it will shrink the city’s jail population from 7,400 to 4,000 by 2026 through a combination of sentencing and bail reform, jail abolitionists are questioning whether building new towers is the right way to accomplish this. The question remains: How does architecture enforce systemic injustice, and how can architects develop ethical guidelines to address the right way to navigate the country’s jail crisis? One group of New York City architects, engineers, and designers have organized to develop an alternative to the borough-based towers in favor of a college-campus-like plan (seen above) that they believe would create more humane conditions for inmates, save money for taxpayers, and not impose new development on any neighborhoods.  The 45-page plan was delivered to City Council last Friday. It includes razing the existing Rikers Island Facilities and creating a new campus that includes a hospital, mental health facilities, open farming space, and work-training centers. To cut back on the travel time issue, a ferry system would be implemented. A last-minute attempt to be sure, and according to the New York Post, one de Blasio spokeswoman, Avery Cohen, declined to address questions about the plan.  Cohen wrote in a statement: “We consider this a historic opportunity to build on the city’s decarceration efforts that have fundamentally reshaped our criminal justice system, and will continue working with the Council as we move forward to finalize our plan.”
Placeholder Alt Text

PassivHaus Perfection

Super energy-efficient social housing claims the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize
The 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize has gone to a collection of 100 houses in Norwich, U.K. The low-energy homes on Goldsmith Street were designed by London-based studio Mikhail Riches and British architect Cathy Hawley for Norwich Council. It seems housing crises are everywhere at the moment and Britain is no exception, and the problems are compounded when you add in a "climate emergency," which the U.K.'s leading practices have formally acknowledged. The 100 homes commissioned by the Norwich Council were designed to PassivHaus standards—the gold standard when it comes to energy efficiency—in an attempt combat both problems. That means a 70 percent reduction in energy bills for residents. Better still, these are genuine council homes and not "affordable housing," able to be rented from the council directly, thus boasting fixed rents and providing tenants with extra security. Beyond this, the homes have been beautifully designed, too. Goldsmith Street takes cues from the nearby Victorian streets of the Golden Triangle district. The architects, though, do not succumb to producing another Poundbury, despite maintaining the same Victorian street widths and heavy use of brick, which has been wonderfully detailed to create a series of balconies. Garbage stores have been neatly tucked away behind bronze screens, and homes, despite being priced at social rent, aren't tight on space and provide lobby room for prams and bikes. Rooftops angle to ensure sunlight is able to enter houses in the row behind each other, and every home has its own front door and separate letterbox. Two-story houses are aligned in rows, with three-story flats situated either side. In addition to this, central terraces share a landscaped, communal walkway, meanwhile, parking facilities have been pushed to the site's periphery. Together, the homes form seven terraced blocks and compose a calm, pedestrian-friendly, low-rise estate. Mikhail Riches and Hawley were awarded the project after winning a competition back in 2008. The original plan was to sell the site to a local housing provider; however the financial crisis stalled the project and forced municipal authorities to press ahead on the development themselves. Unlike last year, when Foster + Partner's hulking Bloomberg HQ won, this year's winner is likely to be welcome, perhaps unexpected news to those in the profession. Goldsmith Street is a far cry from a glitzy office for a multinational corporation in central London, and its claim for being the best new work of architecture in Britain will hopefully spur on other councils to emulate Norwich's accomplishments. In winning the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize, Goldsmith Street fended off competition from five other projects: Cork House: in Berkshire by Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton; London Bridge Station by Grimshaw; Nevill Holt Opera in Leicestershire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects; The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience in Moray, Scotland, by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, and The Weston in Yorkshire Sculpture Park by Feilden Fowles Architects. In a press release, The 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize judges, chaired by Julia Barfield, said: “Goldsmith Street is a modest masterpiece. It is high-quality architecture in its purest most environmentally and socially-conscious form. Behind restrained creamy facades are impeccably-detailed, highly sustainable homes – an incredible achievement for a development of this scale. This is proper social housing, over ten years in the making, delivered by an ambitious and thoughtful council. These desirable, spacious, low-energy properties should be the norm for all council housing." David Mikhail of Mikhail Riches added: “Goldsmith Street’s success is a testimony to the vision and leadership of Norwich City Council. We thank them for their commitment and support. They believe that council housing tenants deserve great design. It is not often we are appointed to work on a project so closely aligned with what we believe matters; buildings people love which are low impact. We hope other Local Authorities will be inspired to deliver beautiful homes for people who need them the most, and at an affordable price. To all the residents – thank you for sharing your enthusiasm, and your homes, with everyone who has visited.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Gathering MOS

Mexico's Housing Laboratory shows off 32 low-cost prototypes
At the heart of social housing in Mexico is a contradiction: Flimsy houses built far from city centers sit empty, while millions of Mexicans are still waiting to use publicly financed housing credits. Developers continue to replicate the much-maligned cutter-cut model to keep costs down. But how can new construction not just meet the bottom line but satisfy the needs of low- and middle-income families? That is the question Carlos Zedillo and Julia Gómez Candela set out to answer at the Research Center for Sustainable Development of the National Workers’ Housing Fund Institute (Infonavit). After several years of research and design, they inaugurated the nine-acre Housing Laboratory in Apan, Hidalgo, in November 2018. The laboratory is made up of 32 prototype homes that explore new typologies for social housing to meet the needs of Mexico’s diverse cultures and climates. Infonavit partnered with Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of New York–based architecture firm MOS to execute the ambitious project. “For a long time, developers have built the exact same housing in the north of the country as the south, without thinking about climate or materials,” said architect Gómez Candela in an interview by phone. That’s why the same boxy, concrete block homes dot the outskirts of almost all Mexican cities. Homes as small as 325 square feet stay within the budget, but are hardly adequate for families. Mexican workers gradually build up credit with Infonavit to finance their first home purchase. Infonavit used to build housing, but since the 1990s it plays the role of financer—workers use their Infonavit loans to pay for houses built by private developers. Along the way, architects’ role in the process diminished. Gómez Candela says that as director of the research center, the Yale-educated Zedillo set out, “To get architects to redirect their attention back to social housing in Mexico.” The research center began with an exhaustive study of the state of social housing in Mexico, identifying where the supply of homes was failing to meet demand. Then they selected 84 counties with high rates of Infonavit credit holders who had not yet bought homes. The target counties represented the nine climate zones of Mexico. The research center then worked with MOS to solicit proposals from around the world, settling on 32 prototype homes for the Housing Laboratory. Architects including Enrique Norten, Tatiana Bilbao, and Fernanda Canales designed houses for the project. The laboratory was conceived in Apan, a small town two hours to the east of Mexico City. Built on land owned by Infonavit, the site’s proximity to the capital allowed frequent visits. Towns and cities like Apan, in the outer limits of the Mexico City metro area, are usually known for drab, uniform housing. The small village of prototype homes is a welcome variation. The houses include vernacular architectural styles from around Mexico, including adobe, thatched roofing, and Mexican timber, designed with the country’s different climates in mind; from the humid, tropical south to the arid, hot north. Each architect described their inspirations and reference points, from local architectural styles like the wooden cabins known as trojes in the state of Michoacan to self-constructed housing. Collaborating with MOS allowed the research center to learn from their extensive experience designing housing. The Apan Housing Laboratory shows how developers could build high-quality housing within the tight budgets of Infonavit credits. It is only natural that Gómez Candela says cost was the greatest difficulty in the international collaboration. “In Mexico, we are used to building with very little money,” she says. “With our colleagues from the United States and other countries, we kept having to say, ‘Make it cheaper!’” The extra effort was necessary to convince developers that the models are feasible. Even so, developers have been slow to adopt the ideas proposed in the laboratory. “They [developers] still think it will be more expensive to build this way, even if we showed them otherwise” says Gómez Candela. “The numbers do add up.” Most visitors to the Housing Laboratory are students, urban planners and developers. Gómez Candela and Zedillo both left Infonavit when the new federal administration entered in December 2018. But the laboratory remains open and the floor plans are available online under open access. The laboratory is the start of a long process to refocus social housing in Mexico on the experience of the residents, not just efficacy for the builder. The research center’s work is seeing results, as Mexican architects focus more energy on designing housing. Gómez Candela is optimistic, saying, “The architects we worked with have continued to champion the cause of housing in Mexico.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Access Success

BRANDT : HAFERD wins Zero Threshold grand prize with an ultra-accessible home
The new Zero Threshold Design Competition has proclaimed that it “refuses to surrender form to function”—an apt rallying cry for a challenge sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation aimed at soliciting bold proposals from around the world that address real-world accessibility concerns. Winners are given the chance to win $10,000 and the opportunity to realize their project in the competition’s hometown of Cleveland The 2019 award went to the New York City-based BRANDT : HAFERD for their project SIDE by SIDE, which incorporated the firm’s playful claymation model aesthetic with three major design principles to create a truly accessible house of the future: An Urban Approach, A New Take on the Multi Family / Communal House, and Accessibility at Many Scales.  The 'Urban Approach' concept is inherent in the site of the competition, a “fringe” location between the city’s residential quarter and its industrial sector. These edges are an existing social condition in many contemporary cities and are crucial points to study how to connect people in both urban contexts. Throughout the design and proposed execution, partners Brandt Knapp and Jerome Haferd thought about the community holistically, including how to integrate not just of the disabled members of the neighborhood but of residents at all levels of capability. The proposed design is far from static or sterile, with surprising elements like a double-height lift taking center stage as the core of the theoretical home, replacing the traditional staircase. Enjoyment of the neighborhood outside of the built structure is also taken into consideration, from a rethinking of the local bus system to add more stops, complete streets, and communal gardens both behind the lot and on the top floor.  SIDE by SIDE is not just about serving those with physical disabilities, but about truly serving a community as a whole—celebrating accessibility not just as an end-goal but as a catalyst for design at all scales. The competition took in over 100 submissions from teams from India to Sweden, illustrating how issues of access are truly global in scale, yet necessarily local in their execution. The aim of Zero Threshold hopes that maybe, through collaboration with winning firms and designers, Cleveland can become an access-success story, inspiring design initiatives like Zero Threshold in cities around the world. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Dewey Dontecimal

Hunters Point Library called out over accessibility issues
Three sections of Steven Holl’s recently opened Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, Queens, have raised concerns due to only being accessible by stairs and are now being reorganized. While the library was previously applauded for the staircase’s design, and there's an elevator, it doesn't provide access to the three, tiered levels of stacks above the lobby. The Queens Public Library has announced that it is taking steps to fix the issue, but given the project's lengthy development timeline, how could such an obvious flaw make it past the design phase?  “With all the money they spent and all the years of delay, it struck me as strange," library patron Joe Bachner, told Gothamist. With the building costing upwards of $41 million, it does seem to be a big mistake that such popular sections of a library (fiction and periodicals) would exclude individuals with wheelchairs or other mobility challenges, as well as parents with strollers, and the elderly.  The library does technically meet the American Disabilities Act's (ADA) requirements due to a promise that librarians would retrieve books for patrons unable to make it up the stairs—but patrons don’t always know what they are looking for when they enter a library. The search and the discovery are a part of a library’s experience—a crucial part of obtaining knowledge. This statement was met with backlash by community members on Twitter (and in the comments on our previous article about the building's opening): “A 41 million budget and accessibility wasn’t considered in a beautiful inclusive way...” posted Sinéad Burke As Justin Davidson wrote in New York Magazine, "Staircases can be wonderful, providing drama, seating, exercise, and hangout spaces all at once—but they must never be the only option. Holl’s design, as sensitive as it is in many ways, fails to take that mandate seriously." In a statement to Gothamist, Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said, “Our goal is to be inclusive and provide access and opportunity to all.” The library plans to move the fiction stacks to another location in the library and provide the community with updates as they come.