George Homsey, one of the founding members of San Francisco–based firm Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis (EHDD), has passed away. Widely considered a giant of California architecture, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, Homsey practiced architecture with EHDD for nearly 50 years before parting ways with the firm in 2000 to run his own practice. During Homsey’s storied career, he worked with some of the greats of late-20th-century Northern California architecture, including business partner Joseph Esherick, and collaborators Charles Moore and William Turnbull. Together with these architects, Homsey helped bring to life Sea Ranch, the iconic shingled housing development situated on the rugged California coast north of San Francisco, as well as many delightful and contemplative private residences, schools, and public buildings. Homsey was regarded as the diligent and strong-willed counterpart to Esherick at EHDD, and helped to animate Esherick’s conceptually-driven works with a sensitivity to light, composition, and pragmatic materiality that made Homsey one of the fathers of what some called the “Third Bay Tradition,” a vernacular style of architecture that channeled and updated the Bay Area’s woodsy architectural and environmental influences for a new generation. Homsey, for example, was one of the chief designers of the hedgerow homes at Sea Ranch, a series of shed-roofed and wood-clad abodes that simultaneously struck out from and blended into the site’s scrubby terrain. Born in 1926 in San Francisco’s Western Addition, Homsey grew up in a typical San Francisco duplex where the modest units were separated by a pragmatic light well. The son of an auto mechanic, Homsey trained to become a naval aviator to serve in the military, but the war ended before he could take flight. With this training in hand, Homsey set out to study architecture at the City College of San Francisco and at the University of California, Berkeley. He joined Esherick’s fledgling firm in 1952 and made partner 20 years later. Homsey would go on to create the design guidelines for Yosemite National Park as well as comprehensive designs for San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit stations. He was awarded the Maybeck Award for lifetime achievement in architectural design by the American Institute of Architects, California Council in 2006 for his work.
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For many of the people opposed to Amazon establishing a second headquarters (HQ2) in Queens, New York, casting the company into total exile was never the point. At its heart, opposition lay with the terms of the deal that wooed the company—its massive tax incentives, the process that had created the deal (without input or oversight from the New York City Council or local communities), and the dramatic impact such a real estate development project would have on the city's working class, especially by aggravating its gentrification and displacement crises. Facing a groundswell of local opposition, Amazon announced that it had canceled its plans for a new Queens campus on February 14, just three months after announcing its selection. While HQ2's optics and scale made it a legible enemy to rally against, Amazon's less splashy development projects have already become part of the fabric of many cities, including New York. Taking inventory of Amazon’s existing physical footprint in the city, one begins to perceive a shadow infrastructure at work which reshapes urban environments more through privatized logistics and information systems than through campus construction. In Manhattan, Amazon’s physical presence might best be recognized in retail. It was at the company’s 34th Street bookstore that protestors demonstrated on Cyber Monday following the HQ2 announcement. Indeed, like HQ2, the company’s retail stores serve as useful rallying points. But inside the same Midtown Manhattan building that hosts the bookstore sits a more explicit locus of Amazon’s presence: a 50,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center for the company’s Prime Now delivery service. It might be helpful to state here what Amazon actually is: a logistics company misrepresented as a retail company misrepresented as a tech company. Over time, the types of products the company sells have expanded beyond books and bassinets into less obviously tangible commodities like data (via Amazon Web Services), labor (via Amazon Mechanical Turk), and “content” (via Twitch and Amazon Studios productions). Ultimately the company’s appeal isn’t so much in the stuff it provides but the efficiency with which it provides stuff. Computation is obviously an important part of running a logistics operation, but Amazon’s logistical ends are frequently obscured by the hype around its technical prowess. And while Amazon is increasingly in the game of making actual things, a lot of them are commodities that, in the long run, enable the movement of other commodities: Amazon Echos aren’t just nice speakers, they’re a means of streamlining the online shopping experience into verbal commands and gathering hundreds of thousands of data points. Producing award-winning films and TV shows gives the company a patina of cultural respectability, but streaming them on Amazon Prime gets more people on Amazon and, in theory, buying things using Amazon Prime accounts. Amazon’s logistical foundation is most blatantly visible in the company's nearly 900 warehouses located around the world. Currently, the company has one fulfillment center (FC) in New York City. The 855,000-square-foot site in Staten Island opened in fall 2018 and had already earned Amazon $18 million in tax credits from the state of New York before the HQ2 deal was announced. Additionally, a month before the HQ2 announcement, Amazon had also signed a ten-year lease for a new fulfillment center in Woodside, Queens. The same day that Amazon vice president Brian Huseman testified before the New York City Council about HQ2, Staten Island warehouse employees and organizers from the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced a plan to form a union at the Staten Island FC, citing exhausting and unsafe working conditions better optimized for warehouse robots than employees. These conditions are far from unique to Staten Island—stories about the grueling pace, unhealthy environment, and precarity of contract workers at fulfillment centers have been reported regularly as far back as 2011. And yet, when the Staten Island FC was first announced in 2017, a small handful of media outlets made note of this record. Unions and community leaders weren’t galvanized against the Staten island FC the way they were by HQ2 or the way they had been when Wal-Mart attempted to come to New York in 2011. In some ways, the HQ2 debacle gave new life and momentum to an organized labor challenge previously hidden in plain sight (or at least in the outer boroughs). Of course, Amazon’s logistics spaces aren’t solely confined to far-flung corners of the New York metro area: There are two Prime Now distribution hubs in New York, one in Brooklyn and the other at the previously mentioned Midtown Manhattan location. Same-day delivery service Prime Now originated from that Midtown warehouse in 2014 and spawned Amazon Flex, an app-based platform for freelance delivery drivers to distribute Prime Now packages. (Ironically, one of the reasons Amazon has been able to become so effectively entrenched in the city is because of this kind of contingent labor force—any car in New York City can become an Amazon Flex delivery vehicle, any apartment a Mechanical Turker workplace.) The art of logistics also depends in part on the art of marketing. To support that marketing endeavor, Amazon has a 40,000-square-foot photo studio in a former glass manufacturing plant in Williamsburg that produces tens of thousands of images for Amazon Fashion, the company's online apparel venture. The company's forays into fashion, while less publicized, may also position it to become one of the largest retailers of clothing in the world. New York is also home to 260 Amazon Lockers: pickup and package return sites for select products typically located in 7-Elevens and other bodega-like environments. Like Prime Now, the Lockers streamline and automate a process that would normally involve lines at the post office. First appearing in New York in 2011, the 6-foot-tall locker units can range between 6 and 15 feet wide, with the individual lockers in each unit capable of holding packages no larger than 19 x 12 x 14 inches (roughly larger than a shoebox). While early reports indicated that store owners received a small monthly stipend for hosting the lockers, the main sell for store owners is the possibility of luring in more foot traffic. But a 2013 Bloomberg article noted that smaller businesses were frustrated by the limited returns from installing the lockers and increased power bills (lockers use a digital passcode system, requiring electricity and connectivity). There is an irony in the fact that for almost a decade before the HQ2 debacle, small businesses have been ceding physical space to Amazon only to be stuck with monolithic storage spaces serving little direct benefit. Following its acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017, Amazon installed Lockers in all of the supermarket’s locations in the city. Whole Foods was already associated with gentrification and had an anti-union CEO before the Amazon acquisition; if anything, Amazon upped the ante by attempting to bring Whole Foods more in line with Amazon’s logistics-first approach. Reports that Amazon has plans to open a new grocery chain suggest that early speculation about the Whole Foods acquisition was correct: Amazon wasn’t interested in Whole Foods in order to sell produce so much as to gain access to the grocery company’s rich trove of retail data, which Amazon could use to jump-start its own grocery operations. A data-driven approach has been at the core of Amazon’s logistics empire: The company was one of the first to use recommendation algorithms to show consumers other products they might also like, and Prime Now relies extensively on purchasing data to determine what items to stock in hub warehouses. It’s unsurprising, then, that the most profitable wing of Amazon’s empire is Amazon Web Services (AWS), its cloud computing platform. AWS’s physical footprint in New York City is relatively small, with a handful of data centers within city limits. Its most visible presence may be the AWS Loft in Soho, which opened in 2015, part of a small network of similar spots in San Francisco, Tokyo, Johannesburg, and Tel Aviv. Part coworking space for startups that use AWS and part training center for AWS products and services, the Loft inhabits a kind of in-between space between data services and marketing. The space is free for AWS users and is full of comfy seating and amenities like free coffee and snacks—ironic considering Amazon's reputation for being absent of the kinds of perks expected at tech companies. Belying its small spatial footprint, AWS is a major part of the city’s networked operations. The New York City Department of Transportation and the New York Public Library are both presented as model case studies of successful AWS customers, and AWS has signed contracts with multiple city agencies, including the Departments of Education and Sanitation and the City Council as far back as 2014. AWS is also a major vendor to municipal, state, and federal agencies—and, increasingly, has come under scrutiny for its multimillion-dollar contracts with data mining company Palantir Technologies, which works with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to track and deport migrants, and for peddling its face recognition technology to police departments across the country. Some of the criticism of Amazon's campus deal with NYC came from New York City Council members, apparently unaware their office was paying Amazon for hosting web support. To be fair, New York City’s AWS contracts (including the City Council’s) are a fraction of the kind of revenue Amazon is vying for in federal defense contracts. And at this point, AWS is the industry standard upon which most of the internet runs. The situation reflects the depth to which Amazon has insinuated itself as a fundamental infrastructure provider. New York may have dodged a gentrification bullet with HQ2, but as with so much of Big Tech, Amazon’s impact on cities might look more like death by a thousand paper cuts. A new campus might be more visible than the hidden machinery of a city increasingly reliant on delivery-based services, but both impact local economies, residents, and living conditions. Amazon’s long-standing logistics regime also inspires an infinitude of Amazon-inspired niche delivery startups familiar to New Yorkers as a pastel monoscape of subway ads hawking mattresses, house cleaning services, and roommates, to name just a few, along with the precarious jobs that are their defining characteristic. There have been continued efforts in New York to challenge Amazon’s frictionless logistics regime since the HQ2 withdrawal. Pending City Council legislation banning cashless retail would affect far more businesses than just Amazon’s brick-and-mortar operations (which have automatic app-based checkout), but it would certainly stymie any expansion of its physical retail footprint. State Senator Jessica Ramos has joined labor leaders in calling for a fair union vote at the future Woodside fulfillment center. These sorts of initiatives are often more drawn out and less galvanizing than those to halt a major campus development. But they’re crucial to a larger strategy for making the tech-enabled systems of inequality in cities visible. In 2019, the premise that the digital and physical worlds are mysteriously separate realms has been effectively killed by the tech industry’s measurable impact on urban life, from real estate prices to energy consumption. Comprehending the full impact of companies like Amazon on cities and seeing beyond their efforts to obscure or embellish their presence (glamour shots of data centers, anyone?) requires a full examination of these infrastructures outside of the companies' preferred terms. By demanding public accountability, New York's elected officials and community groups may have demonstrated the beginnings of just how to do that.
Grace A. Tan, principal and president of the Atlanta and Shanghai–based John Portman & Associates, passed away at the age of 58 on January 27. Tan had been a stalwart fixture at Portman & Associates and had just marked her 34th year with the firm in 2019. Tan was born in the Philippines and joined Portman & Associates shortly after receiving her Master of Architecture from Ohio State University in 1985 and would later go on to earn a Master of Design Studies from Harvard University. In 1993, Tan was integral in the opening of the firm’s Shanghai office. Tan trained under John Portman, FAIA, the studio’s late founder and chairman, who died in 2017. Portman was remembered for his futuristic urban hospitality interiors that evoked space stations more than conventional hotels, and Tan readily followed in his footsteps. Her role as the firm’s president put her in a position to strategically grow the company by retaining top talent and participating in competitions. A service for Tan will be held in Atlanta at a later date.
Mecanoo's Delft city hall and train station reflects the past with ornamental glass panels
Brought to you with support fromConstructed in the center of the canal-ringed Dutch city of Delft, Mecanoo Architecten’s new City Hall and Train Station conveys an up-to-date take on the city’s overarching morphology and history with an expressive glass facade and articulated massing. Delft is located approximately 10 miles from the Port of Rotterdam, one of the world’s busiest, historically embedding the city within European and international trade flows. The city’s primary product was a style of tin-glazed ceramic dubbed Delftware, which largely consisted of blue detailing laid over white porcelain. Protected by relatively stringent architectural conservation regulations, the city still largely follows its centuries-old layout of narrow streets, plot lines, and modest building heights. The challenge for the architectural practice was to incorporate these elements into a 305,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art infrastructural hub and seat of government.
train station, with the first floor largely serving as a conduit of circulation between the streetscape above and transport embedded below. Floating above the station’s principal concourse are approximately 2,000 425-foot-long curved ribs printed with a historic map of the Delft region in 1877. The glass panels are primarily a single height of approximately 11.5 feet, with varying widths of 1.5 to 3 feet. Each panel was glazed a soft blue in homage to eponymous ceramics formerly produced in Delft. Working with curtain wall fabricator AKS Bouw, the design team utilized a custom-designed aluminum framing system, hanging each facade element from the interior with a specialized hook. For fabrication and glazing of the glass panels, Mecanoo Architecten collaborated with specialist St. Gobain. Kiln forming was used to imprint street-facing panels with their lens-like spheres, a vernacular detail commonly found within the city. According to the design team, this kiln forming process is fairly straightforward: “a regular sheet of float glass is heated and put over a mold containing holes for the heated glass to drop into, the ripple effect is formed by a nose that sits at the center of the hole." From the second story, the structure rises as an irregular glass mass measuring nearly 50,000 square feet in surface area. Mecanoo used two strategies to relate the complex’s volume to the city-at-large: deep incisions punctuate the east and west elevations of the street wall recalling the city’s network of alleyways and courtyards, while the roof gradually slopes downward towards each corner to match surrounding cornice lines.The complex rises from a vaulted and mosaic-tiled four-track
2018 Best of Design Award winner for Unbuilt – Commercial and Mixed Use: Uber Sky Tower Designer: Pickard Chilton Location: Los Angeles Pickard Chilton developed the Sky Tower prototype based on Uber’s vision for Elevate, an aerial ride-sharing network. The speculative megacapacity hub opts to dock aircraft on modular, moving platforms. A precise sequence allows crafts to land, recharge, board, and position for takeoff within five minutes. A sophisticated louver system, vegetation, and photovoltaics shield the interiors from the sun while capturing solar energy. Wind turbines and energy recovery systems supply the charging stations. The ground level transit hub offers connections to commuter trains, buses, bikes, and cabs. The autonomous flying shuttles would cruise 1,000 to 2,000 feet above city streets, reaching speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. Passengers would board at set pick-up and drop-off locations, rather than hailing the vehicles like taxis. Honorable Mention Project name: Nansha Scholar’s Tower Designers: Synthesis Design + Architecture and SCUT Architectural Design & Research Institute Location: Nansha, China
Only If and One Won
2018 Best of Design Awards winners for Urban Design
2018 Best of Design Award for Urban Design: Triboro Corridor Designers: Only If and One Architecture & Urbanism Location: New York: Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx Conceived by Only If and One Architecture & Urbanism for the Regional Plan Association, the Triboro Corridor project is a proposal for a new passenger train service connecting the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. Making use of existing freight and intercity rail lines, the transportation link would shift New York City’s centralized, hub-and-spoke transit system to one with more resilient connectivity between outer boroughs. The Triboro Corridor would also establish concrete links and new spatial relationships among diverse communities, peoples, and job opportunities. While some stations would feature simple platforms, the more complex ones would act as catalysts for the rapid transformation of local communities and bolster the economic, education, healthcare, and manufacturing sectors. Using adjacent spaces, the Triboro Corridor could also serve as a 24-mile-long linear greenway and bicycle superhighway. Honorable Mentions Project Name: Los Angeles River Gateway Designer: AECOM Location: Los Angeles Project Name: North Branch Framework Plan for the Chicago River Designer: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture Location: Chicago
Design Down Under
Architecture at the end of the world: How OZ Architecture planned an Antarctic base
Extreme architecture, much like science, is a collaborative and evolving effort—imagine coordinating contractors in an environment that can swing between 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to 40 below in the winter. Enter Colorado’s OZ Architecture, which has master planned and partially designed a research base for the U.S.’s National Science Foundation (NSF) on the southernmost land in the world. The challenge of building in Antarctica, one of the driest, coldest places on Earth, is compounded by sea ice and unstable runway conditions that render the continent inaccessible most of the year. The wind can howl up to 115 miles per hour, and the air is so dry that the original timber hut erected by Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott in 1909 still stands at the edge of the station. Science stations from 37 countries dot the snowy, volcanic landscape, which according to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, can only be used for research; extraction is wholly forbidden, even for geothermal energy. The hum of diesel generators is ever-present. OZ was tapped by the NSF and contractor Lockheed Martin in 2012 to revamp the aging McMurdo Station, a sprawling former navy base on the New Zealand–claimed McMurdo Sound. McMurdo is the largest outpost in Antarctica, with 105 different inhabitable buildings, 22 warehouses, and a population that fluctuates between 250 in the winter and up to 1,250 in the summer, according to OZ Architecture principle Rick Petersen. McMurdo Station was, according to Petersen, “The only time in my career I got hired for my lack of experience.” The NSF was looking for a fresh set of eyes for the station’s overhaul, and though OZ had never designed in the Antarctic before, there are dozens of other bases on the continent for them to draw from. The extant McMurdo Station is incredibly inefficient: food is stored in a separate building from where it’s prepared, the circulation paths for pedestrians and vehicles often overlap, single-pane glass is used throughout most of the campus, and the insulation value of most buildings tops out at R5 (worse than what’s found in the walls an average home). In the summer, when the sun never sets below the horizon, scientists are often forced to tack up sheets or mattresses in front of their windows at “night.” The entire station is serviced once a year by a container ship that delivers food and supplies, and a five-million-gallon diesel tanker. The first thing that OZ corrected in their master plan was to cut the number of buildings down from 105 to 17. The new 300,000-square-foot campus will condense the dining area, gym, laboratories, living quarters, offices, post office, gym, auditorium, and food prep areas into a collection of six core buildings. In their attempt to improve the buildings’ insulation values, OZ brought the overall ratio of window-to-facade across the campus to 11 percent, but strategically placed each window to maximize views of the wild landscape outside. OZ arranged the programmatic elements according to temperature. Much like the human body, the coldest buildings—the warehouses—will be kept at the edge of the station at a chilly 40 degrees. Moving inwards (toward what Petersen compared to organs), the circulation spaces will be kept at 55 degrees, the dining area at 65, and the kitchen at 75. Condensing the entire campus and expanding the station’s use of wind and solar power will likely cut the station’s energy use by half and save tens of millions of dollars. Petersen expects that the diesel tanker will only need stop by every other year after the renovation, and that up to 400 support jobs will be cut as fewer truck drivers and maintenance people will be needed. Because this is a design-build project, OZ has designed 35 percent of each building, providing the contractors, Leidos, who took the project over from Lockheed Martin after a 2016 merger, a template to build off of. The roof of each building has been designed to resist accretion, as snow builds up on structures at a rate of 18 inches a year and several older stations have already been buried in the Antarctic. One casualty was the Buckminster Fuller–designed dome at the South Pole, which opened in 1973 and became so overloaded with ice that it was disassembled in 2010. Instead of drilling down and pouring a foundation, each building in the new McMurdo Station will be lifted off the ground and rest on top of the Antarctic ice sheet. This way, the heat from the underside of each building won’t melt the permafrost below, and wind-driven snow won’t accumulate at their bases. Reaching the site comes with its own set of challenges, and each building was designed to be constructed modularly using prefabricated components shipped from Los Angeles. Even the dimensions of an average shipping container were taken into consideration when designing for the site’s constraints. Still, the overall design is liable to change, according to Ben Roth, facilities engineering projects manager at the NSF. “In the design-build process, the designer takes it to a certain point and a design-builder continues or adjusts the design and moves forward. To their credit, OZ took it to design development and conveyed to everyone the importance of the science being done in Antarctica. “In this case, the design-builder [Leidos] is taking those documents and continuing or refining that design.” What will happen to the rest of the base? The project has just undergone its external final design review at the NSF and assuming the funds for fiscal year 2019 are dispersed and work can continue on schedule, the renovation is expected to last eight-to-ten years. Research at the station will be continuing at full speed during the construction, which is expected to slow the process. Every attempt will be made to repurpose parts of the existing campus into the new buildings in part as cultural artifacts. Given how much effort it would be to ship off the refuse, most of it will remain preserved in place forever alongside Shackleton’s cabin.
University of Miami School of Architecture completes its new concrete studio
The University of Miami School of Architecture has added a concrete home for design research and collaboration to the institution’s Coral Gables campus. Designed by Arquitectonica, the 20,000-square-foot Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio features a new digital fabrication lab and ample collaborative space. It’s the first construction completed on the site in the past decade. The project broke ground in October 2015 and opened to students this fall semester. Located on the edge of the campus, the stark structure stands out among a swath of palm trees and nearby boxy buildings. Though it may look dramatic, its design centers on a simple geometry, according to Arquitectonica principal Raymond Fort. It’s a single, oversized shed featuring two main materials and a southern sloping edge that blocks harsh sunlight while aligning the building with Southern Florida’s modernist architectural style. “Even though the forms appear to be expressive, we wanted to keep it as simple as we could with the components of the architecture visible,” he said. “The 25-foot cantilever curves at the bottom to address the portico of the nearby Perez Architecture Center, designed by Leon Krier, which is the center of the architecture campus.” From the exterior, Arquitectonica’s dynamic design studio looks sleek and shaded. But inside, loads of daylight seep into the structure through glass window walls, and an exposed ceiling showcasing the building’s mechanical elements gives away its structure. The open plan studio is designed around a 25-foot square module that allows up to 120 students to rearrange workstations as they see fit. For private meetings, juried critiques, and seminars, students can utilize scattered cubes with glass walls or curtains running through the center of the nave-like space. Showing off the structure’s core through a transparent layout was a deliberate design decision—one that was lauded by both the students and the university administration. Previously, students were confined to cramped studio space within the old, Marion Manly–designed buildings, which were originally built to house returning veterans from World War II. Arquitectonica envisioned a modern and industrial open plan for the Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio to directly fix the spatial constraints architecture students faced within the old facilities. While each of the school’s buildings features one-of-a-kind designs, none brought together studio space under a single roof. “It complements the school’s constellation of buildings that constitute a campus-within-the-campus,” said Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury in a statement. “The vast studio space designed to enhance co-creation and the digital fabrication lab, among several other features, are welcome additions to our beloved historic and award-winning facilities.” Not only was the structure designed to elevate the students’ daily experience, it was built to serve as a teaching tool by showcasing the basics of modern design, construction, and sustainability. It can operate during the day without any artificial light thanks to the 18-foot-high hurricane resistant glass panels and remain cool at night due to the large envelope of thin concrete covering the interior. These materials ensure the project will remain durable for years to come. An official dedication ceremony for the Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio, named after the late father of Coastal Construction CEO and President Tom Murphy, Jr., will be held on November 29.
Laying Down the Law
D.C.'s newest museum goes underground to explore the American police system
The new National Law Enforcement Museum isn’t easy to find, and that’s a good thing. Tucked beneath Washington, D.C.’s Judiciary Square, the 57,000-square-foot facility, which opened in mid-October, is only visible via two glass pavilions that mark its presence on the street. Driving, walking, or pedaling by, you’d never know that under the asphalt lies a structure that dives deep into the history of the policing profession in the United States. In a recent article, The Washington Post noted that the museum, designed by Davis Buckley Architects and Planners (DBA), “exhibits history with a light touch of controversy.” The architecture goes out of its way to minimize that controversy. An attention-grabbing, large-scale structure would have been a mistake given contemporary anger between local communities and law enforcement agencies. The museum goes underground in an apparent sign of humility, but also largely because of the federal building requirements already in place for that specific site. It’s located under a plaza in front of the historic District of Columbia Courthouse, a striking neoclassical building. The museum's pavilions rise 25-feet above the courthouse square, allowing the landmarked structure to retain clear sight lines of the adjacent National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which DBA completed in 1991. In an effort to respect this context and comply with public law, the museum was constructed below-grade, rendering it nearly invisible to the public. Despite this, the space is more rooted in light than shadow. The semi-submerged three-story building boasts ample natural light thanks to the aforementioned above-ground transparent boxes that serve as the entrance and exit. As the sole points of access to the outside world, these portals enliven what would have otherwise been a claustrophobic sunken space. The architects chose to make light a central feature of the design, which is helpful considering the sometimes somber nature of the museum’s content. DBA, a local firm, has plenty of experience with the difficult nature of designing commemorative architecture. Principals Davis Buckley and Tom Striegel have created award-winning designs all over D.C., most notably the National Japanese American Memorial. Their work is thorough and thoughtful, two major reasons why the non-profit organization in charge of the memorial plaza and garden, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, chose them again to build out the major exhibition space. The museum is the result of a near 20-year effort. In 2000, Congress passed a bill supporting the project that President Clinton signed it into law later that year. Though constructed on federal land and supported by the government, the $103 million museum was entirely funded through private donations raised by the Memorial Fund. Nearly a quarter of the money was raised through an annual police bike-riding fundraiser. This allowed the vision for the museum to be dictated solely by its supporters. Based on this timeline, the museum's creation was not intended to be a response to this current political moment, but it's hard to detach from the fact that it came online this year at the height of 21st-century racial tension and police brutality in the U.S. The exhibits, as well as, the building's design, don't explicitly confront these issues. Since the museum opened, it’s maintained a relatively low-profile for smart-but-obvious reasons. According to Rebecca Looney, lead director of exhibits and programs, it isn’t here to address current national politics but to give civilians a “walk in their shoes” experience of what it’s like to be in law enforcement. For all intents and purposes, the museum does just that. With an extensive collection of over 20,000 artifacts from historic moments in our nation’s history, such as the handcuffs used by police to arrest Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin to the bulletproof vest that Al Capone wore, anyone who is remotely interested in crime will be gripped. The curation even caters to pop culture enthusiasts with RoboCop’s full costume and clips of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. When a visitor steps into the facility, they get a sweeping view of almost the entire exhibition space simply from traversing the curved, second-floor walkway. With a sneak peek of what’s to come, people of all ages can zero in on the interactive exhibition they’d like to view first, whether it’s hearing about how cops train search-and-sniff dogs or taking a faux emergency call at a police dispatcher’s console. Many of these exhibits are laid out within a single, spacious room that makes other over-crowded local museums seem even more stifling. Several of the museum’s exhibits look at law enforcement through the lens of heroism, but none more respectfully than the small room known as the “Hall of Remembrance.” Photos of officers who have died this year in the line of duty are displayed in row after row on the room's back wall. It’s a startling view, given the wall is nearly full with well over 300 people. The headshots will rotate each year, according to Looney, and will play a special role in National Police Week every May when officers and their families visit for the first time. Other media exhibits show how law enforcement responded to and worked with communities after September 11, 2001, and the Emanuel 9 massacre, among other recent tragedies. One of the museum’s main offerings is a 20-minute introductory video that details the history of law enforcement and current issues officers face every day in police work. It’s set inside a striking, 111-seat theater with dramatic acoustics. According to Looney, weighty topics like police brutality and corruption within the profession won’t be explored in the museum’s main exhibits but will be part of educational programming and temporary shows when possible. Critics are already calling this a major flaw and a missed opportunity. The National Law Enforcement Museum's completion comes on the heels of the David Adjaye–designed Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), which opened in September of 2016. The two museums are starkly different. While the NMAAHC gives much more space to the Black Lives Matter movement and the relationship between the African American community and the police, the law enforcement museum only dips briefly into those issues, touching on the 2014 shooting and subsequent riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Maybe this will change, maybe it won't. Regardless, the NMAAHC rightfully stands tall in all the glory that its 100-plus years of planning should produce. The Davis Buckley–designed museum for law enforcement—while hidden—is full of light, exuding a subtle poise, and perhaps providing a much-needed point of connection for the American people who are having trouble relating to or caring for law enforcement today. Only time will tell if it makes an impact on our cultural divide. At the very least, the museum will be a place of solace for friends and family who have lost loved ones in this profession, and for those who serve today. The National Law Enforcement Museum is located at 444 E St. NW in Washington, D.C. It’s open Sunday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Buy tickets here.
The Guggenheim Gang
Studio Gang's new Guggenheim Foundation HQ artfully makes space
Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the Guggenheim Museum’s open, spiral atrium is fitting for an institution that’s wrapped up in democratizing art for the world. The space exudes an air of transparency and collaboration that’s translated across the museum's various exhibitions, big and small. What’s not on display are the behind-the-scenes spaces where the Guggenheim Foundation employees dream up the exhibitions seen on the white walls of the iconic mid-century building. For decades, the 200 people employed by the Foundation have sat confined to compact working quarters in a downtown Manhattan office building that inconveniently forced employees to waste time traveling to the Upper East Side museum by train. Now, thanks to an interior by Studio Gang, the Foundation’s new offices match the architectural efficiency of the museum and provide better accessibility all around. Located high up within the former US Steel Building, known today as One Liberty Plaza, the 30,000-square-foot headquarters features a bright, open office-plan that brings together the Foundation’s 18 departments and hundreds of staff members for the first time in the institution’s existence. To create as much room as possible, Studio Gang gut-renovated an entire floor plate in the column-free tower. The design team then integrated various types of workspaces into the design, including single-use cubicles, conference rooms, lounge areas, a reading room, and a canteen, to encourage new modes of formal and casual collaboration. They also outfitted the interior with a muted color palette and chose sustainable materials to regulate noise and heat, creating an overall atmosphere of calm and focus. “One of the biggest problems the Foundation previously faced was that the departments couldn’t interact easily; they physically couldn’t see each other,” said Margaret Cavenagh, principal of interior architecture at Studio Gang. “So we decided to think about the new design as a series of city blocks with anchoring spaces.” Studio Gang placed individual workstations up against the windows or walls, giving employees ample opportunity for daylight, while collaborative spaces and private offices backed up against the core. A main circulation route, going east to west, was placed to serve as a laneway between the two ends and features the Foundation’s massive library and archival collection along its walls. “Once we had this urban-scale street running through the space, corners became plazas, and the open areas and collaborative spaces became easier to get to as well,” she said. Office design is an often overlooked form of architecture, but Studio Gang gave careful planning to each and every detail and kept some of the building's original elements. The original polished concrete gave the floors a clear and clean appearance, which helped maintain the modernist, industrial aesthetic of the structure. The exposed ceiling was amplified in style by integrating ceiling fins made of recycled water bottles from Turf Design. This helped create a unified look above and improve the acoustics. Upon entering the Foundation, Studio Gang displayed a massive model room, Cavenagh’s favorite spot. It features splayed-out models of the Guggenheim Museum itself, where curators and designers create mini mock-ups and layouts for exhibits. This sets the tone for an active, but manageable mood within the spacious environment. In the old office, employees used to be stepping over each other and there wasn’t room for quiet work or loud collaboration; the new office gives employees the best of both worlds. “We’re always doing interiors work thinking holistically about the space as an extension of architecture,” said Cavenagh. “We’re passionate about how we build for the future. The Guggenheim is stepping into a new chapter of growth and we hope this office will help them work smarter and feel better about their daily environment.”
Parks Without Borders
NYC Parks Commissioner talks policy, parks, and breaking down barriers
Over the next three months, The Architect’s Newspaper will feature a series interviews with Susannah Drake, founding principal of DLANDstudio, and leading public space advocates about the meaning, design, and development of public space. Up first, New York City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell Silver will discuss New York's Parks Without Borders initiative to make parks and open space more accessible. Borders are a hot topic in our current politically volcanic world. Some are geographic, most are political, and many have to do with resources and strategic control. Robert Frost’s poem titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors is often misinterpreted as suggesting that defined boundaries between people or societies are positive. In practice, defined borders can lead to violence, social isolation, inefficiency, and habitat loss. The classic phrase, “living on the other side of the tracks,” was taken to the extreme in the United States after World War II as new highway systems, elevated transportation structures, slum clearance, and dehumanized public housing towers transformed cities across the United States. Today, cities including Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis are working to break down physical and perceived boundaries to make a healthier living environment for all. In New York City, the efforts of three groups, one public and two nonprofit, demonstrate how smart urban planning and design can make the city healthier, safer, and more democratic by improving underutilized public lands. Mitchell Silver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, is the visionary behind the city’s Parks Without Borders program. As a native New Yorker who spent his formative years in the city before traveling the country and the world as a planner and thought leader, his vision as head of the public parks agency has been to expand the availability of park space by breaking down physical barriers, jurisdictional boundaries, and site lines into city parks. AN: What is the origin of the Parks without Borders program? MS: The origins came from two sources. Growing up in New York, I was always bothered by the big berm that separated Flatbush Avenue from Prospect Park. The road seemed like a raceway defined with so many fences and barriers. Through professional and personal experience, I encountered different forms of public space around the world and saw far fewer barriers. Public space was seamlessly connected to the city. Of course, fences are needed for sports and steep slopes but in many cases, they are unnecessary. When I became commissioner of the Parks Department, I remembered something that Frederick Law Olmsted said about parks: “The sidewalk adjacent to the park should be considered the outer park.” What I recognized was that the sidewalks around parks, such as Fort Greene Park and Prospect Park, were under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department but felt separate. The land from the park to the curb should feel like part of the park. The public realm should be seamless. The public doesn’t know or care who owns the land. The New York City Police Department needed to own the idea of crime prevention through community design. I submitted the idea to the Mayor as part of OneNYC and through a partnership between City Planning, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and our agency, and a $50 million pilot was launched. There were two components: $40 million was dedicated to eight showcase projects, determined through the extensive public process that received over 6,000 nominations. In addition, $10 million was dedicated to parks and playgrounds across the city already under development to enhance the park design. The key principles are to make a seamless public realm by rethinking the edges, entrances, and adjacent spaces of parks across the city. Open space should be open. Growing dense urban centers need vital public space for all races, genders, and ages across the board. What barriers have you met in implementing the project? Resistance encountered? As with all projects of this nature, we met with all of the community boards via borough board meetings and held public meetings in each of the five boroughs to explain the program and ask the public to nominate a park for the program. We communicated our theory that good uses tend to push out bad uses. In other words, plan for what you want to see and not what you don’t want to see. Feedback was split along demographic lines. Older people perceived fences as safeguards and that reducing the height of fences and opening up parks invited crime and homelessness to take over. But we have had early success. At McDonald Playground in Staten Island where Parks Without Borders money was dedicated to a Community Parks Initiative project, the community was initially concerned about lowering fences. The park feels so open now that people ask if we added more land. And, while the plan for Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn is greatly supported by the community, there has been resistance related to the planned removal of some large, invasive, non-native trees, and the mounds constructed in the 1970s as part of the project. What is the schedule of implementation? Over 20 parks are in the pipeline. The showcase projects will be completed by 2020. They include Prospect Park, Seward Park, Jackie Robinson Park, Corona Park, Fort Greene Park, Faber Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and Hugh Grant Circle. How does the program align with other DPR/Administration initiatives? NYC Parks is advocating for Equity, Access, Placemaking, and Healthy Living. One of the programs, Walk to a Park, is intended to reduce the time it takes to get to a park. Reducing barriers and moving entrances helps increase access to parks. DPR planners conducted a thorough planning process examining the location and attributes of parks across the city and determined where residents might be underserved. Using GIS, they mapped a five-minute walk from parks, playgrounds, and trails across New York City and then used the analysis to prioritize capital expenditures. Does the DPR Parks without Borders program impact all communities across NYC regardless of demographics? Yes, with multigenerational, ADA access. At McDonald Playground, a woman hugged me suggesting that I changed her life because she can now sit with her daughter in a quieter area of the park and watch the kids play ball. She said I extended her life. Beyond physical fences and walls, what other kinds of borders have you seen in your time as commissioner? Rules create barriers. We don’t want to engage in anti-planning which can exclude rather than include people. Including more people in more existing parks is one example. Anti-planning, or planning to prohibit a certain group is not fair. For example, some of our playgrounds have a sign that states: “Adults prohibited unless accompanied by a child.” That means a senior citizen is prohibited from using a public space or must walk to another park that doesn’t have that rule. To address this inequity, NYC Parks in 2017 evaluated all city playgrounds and installed new signs at locations that would allow adults in a park or playground, but only prohibited adults in fenced off areas where children’s play units were located, like swings, slides and climbing structures. This one change allows more adult New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy green space like sitting under a tree or using a comfort station. As a planner what is your perspective on borders that might exist because of climate or geographic lines that are mapped but not always perceived by the public? Rockaways? In places where public safety is an issue such as around water, clearly there need to be rules and physical barriers to keep people safe. Environmental conditions can also require limited access. For instance, the habitat for piping plovers needs to be protected by limiting beach access. This reduced the walk score but was an important trade-off. In natural areas, controlling beach erosion is important. Sometimes these barriers are jurisdictional, particularly in coastal areas. New York City is doing a better job than in the past. What is your perspective on urban and transportation design decisions in the direct post-war period, in the '60s and today in relation to race, demographics, and urban living? White flight of the '60s, urban renewal with its characteristic superblocks, and highways dividing neighborhoods were not the highlight of good planning. Cities were perceived as unsafe and as a result, many parks were surrounded with high walls to create defensible space. Now Parks Without Borders is changing this situation by moving from defensible space to open and inclusive space. Prospect Park is a great example. Programming by the Alliance activated the park. They designed for what we want to see rather than what we don’t want to see. There are so many users in our parks that space needs to be very inclusive. Our parks are our outdoor living rooms and reflect those that use them. While DPR does not have purview over public housing, it would be great to get your perspective on the landscape of housing projects in New York City as well as their overall relationship to the city. The “tower in the park” model is somewhat right. The park part is not right. Residents assume that the landscape is off limits because it is fenced off. Design organizations are now engaging NYCHA Tenant Associations about opening-up the green space within the NYCHA housing campus. For example, some NYCHA Houses have converted open space to community gardens, so the trend of better using NYCHA green space is moving into the right direction. Digital access to information creates places where people collect in the city. Beyond these spheres are dead zones that might be considered another form of border. Are there any efforts by DPR to expand digital access? I’d love to see WiFi in parks. We currently have charging stations at some beaches and WiFi in some parks. Lack of funding for maintenance and operations is an ongoing issue for public space. How will Parks Without Borders impact maintenance needs of parks? Maintenance practice of 21st-century parks warrants reexamination. More funding and more staff are welcome but aren’t the answer. We need to be innovative with resources. The agency is now using a zone approach with analytics to optimize the work of maintenance crews. We are also employing new design approaches and adding horticultural staff. One example is having park cleaning seven days per week. This seems like an addition, but the change is cutting down Monday absences because those crews were not unfairly burdened with the weekend trash. This created a better team ethos. Utilization of staff is as important as getting more staff. Working smarter with specialized teams with more training that can troubleshoot issues system-wide (catch basin team, green infrastructure team) is helping. Any final words? With limited resources we are forced to think about what is important and how to be innovative, which I base of the 3 S’s of management: You must have the right organizational structure to achieve your vision and mission. You must have the right systems in place to be successful. You must have strong management and operation standards across the five boroughs to function as one agency.