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Like a Diamond

Daniel Libeskind designed a Swarovski star to top the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree
Swarovski Crystal first announced that it had chosen Daniel Libeskind to overhaul the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree star back in May, and the massive ornament was swung into place early this morning. Libeskind, no stranger to projects with jutting angles, designed a spherical crystal bonanza, radically updating the original, two-dimensional Swarovski star (which hadn’t seen a design change since its original unveiling in 2004). While the previous star was large—nine-and-a-half feet in diameter by one-and-a-half feet deep and decked out in 25,000 crystals—Libeskind's is even bigger. The new star is a radiant ball made up of 70 triangular spikes, completely covered in three million Swarovski crystals, and measures nine feet and four inches in diameter. Each spike is attached to its own light, and the electrical component forms the core of the star. When fully lit up each spike is meant to glow from within, with the light ultimately refracted by the topper’s crystal facade. All told, Libeskind’s star weighs 900 pounds, easily dwarfing the previous 550-pound version. Libeskind met with Nadja Swarovski, a member of the Swarovski executive board, in Rockefeller Plaza to watch the star-raising ceremony this morning. “The new Swarovski Star for the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is inspired by the beauty of starlight,” said Libeskind, “something that radiates meaning and mystery into the world. The Star is a symbol that represents our greatest ambitions for hope, unity, and peace. I am tremendously honored to collaborate with Swarovski on the Star, and with the entire design team, to bring cutting-edge innovation and design to crystal technology.” The Star Boutique, a 200-square-foot Swarovski popup also designed by Libeskind, will open later this month in Rockefeller Plaza. The interior and branding will all reference the crystalline form of the star itself, and a life-size replica of the Rockefeller Center Star will be on display outside for guests to examine close-up. This year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony will take place on November 28.
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Hand-Held Engineering

SHoP Architects created an iPhone app to construct the Botswana Innovation Hub

New York’s SHoP Architects has created proprietary technology that is making it easier for them to organize materials during construction. During the construction of the Barclays Center from 2008 to 2012, the firm developed a novel iPhone interface capable of scanning facade components during fabrication, assembly, transport, and installation to keep an up-to-date digital catalog of the status of construction. Now, the firm is applying this comprehensive platform to the construction of its Innovation Hub located in Gaborone, Botswana, where on-site contractors can effortlessly scan recently installed items while checking in on the overall progress of the project.

The Botswana Innovation Hub is an ambitious project. The 310,000-square-foot facility is set to be the country’s first LEED-certified building, and environmental performance is significantly impacted by the structure’s complex assembly. SHoP designed an “Energy Blanket” roofscape, which incorporates large overhangs to shade interior spaces and collect rainwater for re-use. Photovoltaic panels are placed across the roofscape to further boost environmental performance.

The project’s complexity is further heightened by the incorporation of an undulating facade that projects off and indents the structural system. SHoP’s mobile interface plays an essential role in the project’s logistics and construction. The application labels each element—i.e AA2000—and the number of identical units. Each unit type is assigned to a specific construction crew that tracks the units in a database throughout assembly.

The interface has come a long way since its inception a decade ago. Initially a stitching together of off-the-shelf software applications commonly used by architects and contractors (Autodesk, NavisWorks, Filemaker), SHoP Architects has rewritten the code in-house, which allows for more seamless and scalable linking and visualization of 3-D models to live data. Why is this significant? SHoP can now take a holistic portfolio approach to track projects from earlier phases. In the next year, SHoP Architects hopes to implement its mobile interface across all of its projects.

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L Train Apocalypse

NYC announces expanded Citi Bike service and new busway for L train shutdown
New York City's dreaded L train shutdown looms ever closer, set to begin in April 2019. In the past week, however, new details have emerged about the city’s plan for Citi Bike and buses, transportation alternatives that riders will flock to once the train no longer runs from Bedford Avenue to 14th Street/8th Avenue in Manhattan. In an effort to accommodate the estimated 225,000 riders that will be displaced from the train, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this week that Citi Bike will expand its service around Williamsburg and Manhattan between Canal and 59th Streets. There will be an additional 1,250 bikes and 2,500 docks. Citi Bike’s operator, Motivate, is also planning to introduce a temporary “Shuttle Service,” which will come in the form of pedal-assist electric bikes. They will only be available in four locations—two in Manhattan and two around the Williamsburg Bridge—where cyclists may require a small boost to help navigate the steep slope. Citi Bikes can only handle a limited amount of the offload of L train riders, however. Most of the brunt is expected to divert to alternative subway lines like the J/M/Z, and surface travel: buses. In a separate announcement on Monday, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) revealed plans to turn 14th Street into a “busway” for 17 hours a day as an alternative commuting plan, as first reported by NY Daily News. Car traffic will be limited from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. DOT also revised its bike path plan—there will also now be two one-way bike paths on 12th and 13th Streets to handle the anticipated increase in cyclist traffic. “We’re solving, hopefully, the local mobility and access challenge while discouraging through traffic on 14th St.,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in the Daily News. Following the dedicated busway announcement, DOT presented their proposed plans to the City Council Committee on Transportation, revealing four “short, intense routes” that are expected to carry 17 percent of L train riders, as reported in am New York. The routes include: Grand Street (Brooklyn) – First Avenue/15th Street (Manhattan); Grand Street (Brooklyn) – SoHo; Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn) – Soho; Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn) – First Avenue/15th street (Manhattan). The MTA is also adding five trains to the M line, making G and C trains longer, and offering increased E line service. The L train shutdown will be taking place for 15 months, where the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River will undergo infrastructure repairs necessitated after flooding by Hurricane Sandy.  
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Crescent Coasts

New Orleans property swap may yield largest public riverfront in the U.S.
On October 26, a historic deal was implemented in New Orleans: the Port of New Orleans (PNO) and the Public Belt Railroad (PBR) swapped riverfront properties, unlocking a key stretch of land to what may soon be the largest uninterrupted public riverfront in the U.S. In the swap, PNO took ownership of a stretch of railroad along the Mississippi River and PBR took ownership of two large wharves–Esplanade Avenue and Governor Nicholls Street Wharves. PBR is owned by the City of New Orleans, which now plans to redevelop both wharves as public space (à la Mandeville Wharf). This redevelopment will connect two existing riverfront parks, Bywater's Crescent Park and the French Quarter's Woldenburg Park. This linkage is key in the long-term vision to develop the entire New Orleans riverfront as one contiguous public parkway, as detailed by Eskew Dumez + Ripple's 2008 Reinventing the Crescent plan. In a press conference on October 27, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced several major riverfront redevelopments, including the keystone wharf redevelopments. The wharves themselves have been allocated $15 million. The other developments announced are generally focused on improving existing public amenities along the Mississippi riverfront from the French Quarter to Bywater neighborhoods. They include a $7.5 million renovation of Spanish Plaza, a $400 million renovation of the World Trade Center at the Four Seasons hotel, a new $37 million terminal for the Canal Street Ferry, a new $7.3 million pedestrian bridge over the railway to the ferry terminal, $6 million in park improvements for Woldenberg Park in the French Quarter, $3 million in green space improvements for part of the Riverwalk, and $31.2 million for expansions to Crescent Park. Many of these projects are ongoing. After a series of major floods this summer, water experts in New Orleans are paying close attention to how the city is spending on water management. "The challenge in New Orleans is that we can't rub two nickels together to wrap up our water infrastructure and drainage problems," said Ramiro Diaz, a designer at architecture firm Waggonner and Ball, in a call with The Architect's Newspaper (AN). "Overall, I think it's a positive development, though. People have been waiting for these riverfront projects for years." Waggonner and Ball were the lead designers behind the Greater New Orleans Water Plan. According to Eskew Dumez + Ripple principal Steve Dumez, his firm is now looking into implementing the western end of the Reinventing the Crescent plan. This would open up riverfront property around the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, extending the parkway even further.
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Walk This Way

Colorful crosswalk installation lights up paths to the Broad Museum
Venezuelan-born artist Carlos Cruz-Diez has completed work on a new art installation at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles that utilizes blocks of pastel-colored paint to activate the crosswalks connected to the museum. The installation was developed by the Broad with the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation and the artist himself as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (PST), an ambitious multi-venue exploration of Latin American and Latino art currently taking place across the Los Angeles region. The installation, titled Couleur Additive, was installed along the four crosswalks located at the intersection of Grand Avenue and 2nd Street in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the crosswalks connects the Broad to the Disney Concert Hall located on a block north of the museum. Cruz-Diez is a highly-regarded figure in the Kinetic-Optical art genre, an experimental color theory-based form of artistic exploration initially developed in the 1950s. Cruz-Diez, who recently turned 94 years old, developed his approach based on the assumption that the perception of color in the human eye constitutes an autonomous reality that changes based on position, time, and perspective. His works, according to Ed Schad, assistant curator at The Broad, create art “through and around” the side-by-side collision of the installation’s green, orange, yellow, and blue hues. Schad’s team undertook great pains to comply with the City of Los Angeles’s permitting process for the installation, which required that the paint be applied in such a way as to retain the original sidewalk striping in its entirety. As a result, the paint swatches exist independently from the typical white crosswalk striping. The paint itself was applied by student-artists from the nearby Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, a complex designed by architects Coop Himmelb(l)au. Joanne Heyler, founding director of The Broad said in a press release, “Carlos Cruz-Diez’s practice challenges the traditional relationship between art and the viewer, and between the viewer and the urban environment,”adding, “His new work Couleur Additive activates the public space around The Broad, embracing Grand Avenue and bringing the museum out into the daily life of pedestrians and our visitors, highlighting the ideas of an important Latin American artist whose career has spanned seven decades.” The public art installation will be featured alongside explanatory materials displayed inside the museum and in conjunction with educational workshops put on by Learning Lab, an arm of the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation. The installation is on view through the year and into 2018.
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Go Down Moses

More details emerge for plan to raze Robert Moses–era expressway

In March of this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would set aside $1.8 billion for a Bronx infrastructure project to transform the Robert Moses–era Sheridan Expressway into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard, among other improvements. For decades, nearby residents have worried about the deleterious effects of pollution from the traffic and feared for the safety of pedestrians due to the many large trucks that travel through the residential streets en route to the Hunts Point Cooperative Market.

The 1.3-mile expressway was built in 1962, severing residents from the Bronx River and immediately causing traffic and air-quality issues, a pernicious by-product of Moses’s legacy. Community activists have long fought for the alteration or razing of the expressway; most notably, the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance took up the cause in the late 1990s. News of the plan, then, comes as a long-awaited win for the community, which will have unimpeded access to waterfront.

Its implementation, however, must strike a delicate balance between residents’ health and safety and the economic vitality of the Hunts Point Market, which employs around 3,500 workers, many of whom live nearby. Cuomo promises that this will be achievable, stating in a press release that “The project will create an interconnected South Bronx with access to the waterfront, recreation, and less traffic on local streets while simultaneously better supporting those who use the Hunts Point Market—a vital economic engine for the borough.”

The expressway project was announced almost a year after the state dedicated $15 million to the development of the Greenmarket Regional Food Hub, in Hunts Point, and will purportedly create 4,250 new jobs over its duration. The Sheridan is set to be decommissioned next year as part of phase one, and the completion of the $700 million tree-lined boulevard is anticipated for 2019.

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Crystals Everywhere

Take a look at Swarovski Designers of the Future installation for Design Miami/Basel
  Swarovski has completed work on its 2017 Swarovski Designers of the Future Award installation featuring design contributions from designers Jimenez Lai, Marjan van Aubel, and TAKT PROJECT for this year’s Design Miami / Basel expositions. Each of the award winner’s contribution to the group installation utilizes Swarovski’s namesake crystals as a way of generating innovative applications of new technologies. van Aubel’s installation, a “future cyanometer,” uses Swarovski crystals and sunlight to power a blue light. TAKT PROJECT utilizes 3D-printed crystals to make tabletop objects while Lai’s installation repurposes rejected Swarovski crystals as slag for a series of geometric terrazzo volumes. In a press release announcing the installation, Lai said, “design for me is all about telling stories. Being able to truly understand the rich history of Swarovski through my visit to Wattens was crucial to creating an installation that reaches both back in time, but also into our future. Second quality crystals are an entirely new material for us to work with, and we’re delighted to have been able to create an innovative surface that sparkles and shines to bring the outside in.” The recipients were commissioned to create these installations as a part of the 2017 Design Miami / Basel expositions and are being displayed collectively. The installation debuted in Basel, Switzerland earlier this week and will be on view through June 18th, 2017.
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Right of Way

MTA considering a car-free busway on 14th Street ahead of L train shutdown
In anticipation of the upcoming L train shutdown in 2019, the Department of Transit (DOT) and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) are examining the possibilities for a car-free busway for a portion of, or the entirety of, 14th Street in Manhattan. According to a Streetsblog NYC article, the agencies presented four potential options to a Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee last night. These options are meant to alleviate traffic that will inevitably result from the L train offload, which amounts up to 275,000 people daily. Here’s what was presented: A “standard” Select Bus Service (dedicated lanes with no physical separation), an “enhanced” Select Bus Service (additional turn and curb restrictions), a car-free busway in the middle blocks of 14th Street, and a completely closed-off, river-to-river street dedicated only to buses. The presentation also included three alternative bus route plans between Brooklyn and Manhattan; one would run from the Grand Street L stop and over the Williamsburg Bridge, heading up First Avenue to 14th Street, and the other two routes would link to the Broadway-Lafayette station. The MTA has already ordered an additional 200 buses for the duration of the 15-month-shutdown. They have anticipated that between 75 to 85 percent of the daily riders will use other subway lines, while only 5 to 15 percent of riders will turn to bus services—which could easily turn the J/M/Z and G subway lines into a nightmare. These new, “attractive” bus options could help increase bus ridership, officials said at the meeting. “The difference for the average user is really dramatic,” said Transportation Alternatives organizer Tom DeVito to Streetsblog. “They made the point loud and clear that they want those 200 buses to be moving people as efficiently as possible.”  
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QueensWay All Day

Renderings revealed for QueensWay, a High Line park in Queens
  Today two nonprofits released schematic designs for the first phase of a High Line–like trail that its creators hope will connect a string of neighborhoods in Queens. The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay commissioned DLANDstudio to design the first half-mile of the QueensWay, a linear park on an abandoned rail line. The preliminary renderings depict lush trails, stepped outdoor classrooms and learning gardens for 2,000 nearby students, as well as wide verdant entrances to facilitate existing bike and pedestrian connections. The park has been in the works since 2011, racking up support from electeds, a New York Times endorsement, and some far-out preliminary design visions. "Today’s announcement is a tremendous step forward for the QueensWay, which would not have been possible without our partners in government and the community," said Andy Stone, the New York City director of the Trust for Public Land, in a prepared statement. "[They] enthusiastically provided ideas for safe routes for biking and walking, outdoor classroom space, and enhancements to baseball fields. The completion of a compelling design for the first phase will bring us that much closer to making the QueensWay a reality for hundreds of thousands of people who live within a 10-minute walk." So far, the QueensWay team has raised more than $2 million in private funds and state grants to sustain the project, which runs along the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch line. Its first phase runs through Forest Hills and Glendale, two middle-class neighborhoods in the northern part of the borough. Phase I, which the groups are calling the "Metropolitan Hub," will run south from Metropolitan Avenue to Union Turnpike, expanding access to Forest Park. In all, the QueensWay could run for three-and-a-half miles, from Ozone Park north to Queens Boulevard near Forest Hills and Rego Park. DLANDstudio is preparing construction documents over the next year to move the project forward.
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Crystal Clear

Jimenez Lai, Marjan van Aubel, and TAKT PROJECT given 2017 Swarovski Designers of the Future Award
Swarovski and Design Miami/ have named designers Jimenez Lai, Marjan van Aubel and TAKT PROJECT as the winners of the 2017 Swarovski Designers of the Future Award. The award, according to a press release, will help the designers advance innovative projects within their individual fields with the aim of developing a “new prototype or design statement that is inspired or informed by crystal.” The recipients have been commissioned to create new work for exhibition at the 2017 Design Miami / Basel art showcase occurring later this year in Switzerland. Though each of the winners will work on a separate project, the works of all three designers will be exhibited in a singular installation generally focused around the uses of new technologies. Los Angeles-based Lai—founder of design firm Bureau Spectacular—will focus on exploring design through storytelling in order to create a surface-based installation. Lai will also strive to create an overall architectural character for the installation. In the press release, Lai said, “I’m excited to bring an architectural perspective to this year’s installation. Working with crystal is a stimulating new challenge as it creates a visual quality that is unlike most other materials designers normally use.” Lai referred his project as a "terrazzo palazzo" at an awards lunch, saying, "I mapped out how much time I spent on various activities throughout the day—eating, sleeping, sitting, etc.—and translated that amount of time into proportions for the design. So, for example, since the vast majority of my time is spent sitting, the majority of the structure can be used for sitting." Lai added that he would re-use the imperfect Swarovski crystals sorted out of production during quality control inspections for his palazzo, saying, "If we think about 'reduce, reuse, recycle,' it actually costs more energy to recycle than reuse. With that in mind, I wanted to take the crystals that were not selected and make a terrazzo. It's a very malleable architectural product." Tokyo-based TAKT PROJECT will partner with glass 3D-printing company MICRON3DP to produce tabletop objects made of 3D-printed Swarovski crystals. When describing the project, Satoshi Yoshiizuofmi of TAKT PROJECT focused on the innovative aspects of the work, saying, "It's a completely new technology, so the process is very exciting and very experimental." And London-based Marjan van Aubel will develop so-called “living light objects” in collaboration with Swarovski’s in-house solar technology experts. At the same awards lunch, van Aubel said, "We are going to take the light from the sky and bring it inside using solar crystals. As a designer, I am really interested in using solar technology and making it more aesthetically pleasing and more integrated." For more information on 2017 Design Miami / Basel, see the showcase website.
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$1.8 billion

New York State to raze Robert Moses’ Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx
Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released the details of a $1.8 billion infrastructure project which—among other goals—will erase the Moses-era Sheridan Expressway and replace it with a pedestrian-friendly boulevard. The 1.3-mile expressway, which was built in 1962, cut off residents’ access to the Bronx River and created both traffic congestion and air pollution in the area. Community advocates have long fought against the Expressway; the Governor's plan would alleviate these ills and streamline vehicular access to and from the Bruckner Expressway. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mds5BhJuyro] In a press release, Governor Cuomo stated:
While plans have been proposed and languished for decades, we're taking action to finally right the wrongs of the past by reconnecting South Bronx communities that have dealt with unnecessary barriers to revitalization and growth. The project will create an interconnected South Bronx with access to the Waterfront, recreation, and less traffic on local streets while simultaneously better supporting those who use the Hunts Point Market—a vital economic engine for the borough.
This announcement comes several months after Governor Cuomo dedicated $15 million to the development of the Greenmarket Regional Food Hub in Hunts Point. This extensive infrastructure proposal will be executed in phases, the first to be funded up to $700 million, and will purportedly create 4,250 new jobs over the duration of the project. It also comes on the heels of the Governor's $1.8 billion plan to revitalize Central Brooklyn.
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Musical Stalls

Portland Building swaps around some single-gender and all-gender bathrooms
When the City of Portland converted its 600 municipally-owned single-stall restrooms into all-gender facilities back in 2016, the change included converting two multi-stall, single-gendered restrooms on the second floor of Michael Graves’s iconic Portland Building to all-gender facilities, as well. The multi-stall, all-gender restroom change is part of a city pilot program the city developed in conjunction with the $195 million renovation to Graves’s postmodern masterpiece led by architects DLR Group. The city is pursuing various alternatives to single-gendered bathroom facilities as a result of the passage of a recent bill aimed at “removing barriers to a safe and inclusive workplace for employees…  creating spaces which are welcoming to all visitors, and…  treating all people with respect and dignity,” according to the resolution instituting the changes. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, originally one of the proponents behind the move toward all-gender bathrooms, was not happy with the result in the multi-stall facilities, however, Willamette Week reports. The Portland City Commission has been meeting in the Portland Building while their usual meeting facilities undergo repairs and, after an inspection, the commissioner became critical of the new arrangement, saying via email to other commissioners, “Being alone in the facility, I was able to stand on the commode in one stall and peer over the top of the divider into the next. It is also easy to peer under the dividers.” Fritz even threatened to refuse to attend the meetings unless something was done about the situation. As a result of the tussle, City authorities moved in March to convert one of the two multi-stall restrooms on the second floor of the Portland Building back to a single-gendered, women’s room. In exchange, one of the multi-stall women’s rooms on the ground floor was converted to an all-gender facility. The change left some, like City Commissioner Nick Fish—an early supporter of all-gender restrooms who originally brought the resolution to Council last year—happier than they were before. Fish told Willamette Week that having all-gender facilities on two floors was better than having them only on one. But still, as Fritz pointed out, the design of the all-gender facilities leaves much to be desired in terms of privacy. The controversy will likely serve as a valuable lesson as the city’s pilot program—and not to mention the renovations to the Portland Building—move forward. The move comes as President Trump has moved in recent weeks to strip students the right to use bathrooms that coordinate with their preferred gender identity and amid a wider cultural rift regarding the use of bathrooms resulting from the passage of North Carolina’s controversial and discriminatory HB 2—the Public Facilities Privacy and —which sought to make it illegal for cities to expand anti-discrimination protections in public places and workplaces in the state.