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Park, the Gathering

Tulsa's Gathering Place aims for reconciliation
What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes Tongva Park in Santa Monica, California, and Hunter’s Point South Park in Queens, New York. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

Gathering Place park in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the product of a dream of 77-year-old billionaire philanthropist George Kaiser and of several decades-long experiments by the landscape architecture team at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). What Kaiser originally intended to be a series of riverfront “gathering spots” to activate the city has become a singular, whimsical, and lush 66.5-acre landscape that has attracted over 2.8 million people since opening last year. AN spoke with Scott Streeb, Matt Urbanski, and Michael Voelkel at MVVA about designing the park and sourcing materials both locally and globally for “the most complex topography [they] have ever done.” Taking cues from fanciful and innovative European playgrounds, their goal was to turn several desolate plots of land into an inclusive, truly one-of-a-kind environment. By many accounts, they succeeded; this summer, TIME listed the park as one of the greatest places in the world.

Beyond its ambitious design agenda, Gathering Place has also aimed to unify the historically segregated city. Tulsa was formally settled in 1836 and by the 20th century had earned the nickname “the Oil Capital of the World.” Money from the energy business flowed into the city, bringing with it a serious construction boom during the Art Deco era. Despite growing prosperity, race relations were tense. In 1921, white crowds rioted for 16 hours in the affluent neighborhood of Greenwood, then known as Black Wall Street, killing local residents and destroying black-owned businesses and buildings. It was one of the worst attacks on African Americans in U.S. history, and Tulsa still hasn’t fully recovered.

Gathering Place is being marketed as a space where the region’s diverse communities can come together. A decade ago, in talks between MVVA and the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), key decisions were made to engage Tulsans in their vision for the future 100-acre landscape and to raise expectations of what 21st-century parks can do.

Funding

Over 80 philanthropic and corporate donors, including GKFF, funded the entirety of the $465 million park. Though built with private dollars, Gathering Place is a public park: GKFF donated it to the River Parks Authority, the city and county agency in charge of public riverfront parks, in 2014, through Title 60, a public trust law. River Parks now owns both the land and the park and oversaw the five-year construction effort.

Land

Gathering Place takes up four disparate, flat parcels of land along Riverside Drive, the adjacent four-lane commuter highway, that were purchased in 2009 by GKFF for $50 million. At the northern end was once a 35-acre estate owned by oil entrepreneur B. B. Blair. The historic Blair Mansion, built in 1952, was torn down in 2014 after a failed attempt by its previous owner to relocate the building. Two large-scale apartment complexes south of the site, totaling 494 units on 14 acres, were also demolished and its residents displaced to make way for a construction staging area. GKFF offered to pay for those affected to receive mental health services. Phase 2 of the park’s design will be built out in this location, south of the skate park (shown below) and will include a $45 million children’s museum by local firm KKT Architects, as well as a $24 million pedestrian bridge by MVVA.

Playground Equipment

MVVA and German playground manufacturer Richter Spielgeräte designed the park’s custom swings, water-play and sensory equipment, elephant slide, and four fantastical wooden castles that stand 30 feet in height. Danish design company Monstrum shaped additional wooden playscapes to look like the great blue herons (pictured here) and paddlefish found along the Arkansas River. The 160 playground structures and their installation cost about $11.5 million.

Plantings

In 2011, two years before construction began, MVVA began tagging around 600 existing trees on-site, some up to 200 years old, in an effort to monitor their health, and preserve and restore them. The firm then brought in 5,789 new trees sourced from over a dozen nurseries, two in Oklahoma and others in Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Illinois, and New York. The cohort includes over 90 species of evergreen and deciduous trees. Nearly 120 species of shrubs and over 200 species of perennials were selected as well and had to be stored in a greenhouse for up to three years before planting.

Buildings

There are three buildings on-site by Atlanta-based Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects. The ONEOK Boathouse features a roof canopy made of 130 fiberglass-reinforced plastic panels in the shape of flying sails. The rest of the three-story building, which includes a steel and concrete frame, has floor-to-ceiling glass panels that Vitro Architectural Glass created using raw material and sand from Mill Creek, Oklahoma. Williams Lodge, the 25,000-square-foot structure that serves as an entrance to the park, blends into its surrounding landscape with native sandstone from Haskell County. These massive boulders integrated into the design range from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds.

Hardscaping

There are over 20 different surface materials used at Gathering Place, including eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas sandstone in various hues. In total, the walkways used 4,500 cubic yards of fill excavated from just across the Arkansas River. The stones that flank the entrance paths are also from an in-state quarry, similar to those found in the Four Season Garden, a series of rock towers, pictured below.

Terraforming

MVVA took 450,000 cubic yards of silt from the Arkansas River to create the 40 feet of grade change in the park necessary to bridge over Riverside Drive. Ohio-based engineering company Contech fabricated a set of precast concrete arches off-site in Broken Arrowhead, Oklahoma, that support the two 300-foot-long land bridges that help the park seamlessly connect to the waterfront.

Transit

Riverside Drive was shut down in July 2015 and reopened in September 2018 after construction ended. The City of Tulsa spent $40 million to widen and reconfigure the busy highway and for other infrastructure improvements, such as stormwater drainage and replacing sanitary sewers and water lines surrounding the site.

Because Gathering Place is located just five minutes south of downtown Tulsa and immediately west of the wealthier Maplewood Historic District, accessibility is an issue for nonsuburban communities. This summer, the park began providing free shuttle transportation to underserved neighborhoods in North Tulsa, scheduled to operate every other weekend.

Water

Because of the oppressive Tulsa heat, water plays a big role in the park, and its nearly-6-million-gallon central reservoir, Peggy’s Pond, serves as a source for irrigation. To create it, MVVA had to dig down to groundwater level, integrating 70 feet of grade change within the landscape. Wetland gardens at the northern end of the park work as a biofilter to clean the water that’s pumped out of the pond. Parking lot and highway runoff is also filtered through the gardens, and then through two large cisterns and below-grade, natural filtration basins. Wells throughout the site pull up clean water and redistribute it through the pond.

Maintenance

Half of the money raised went to capital investment and the other half created a $100 million endowment for the continued operations and maintenance of the landscape for the next 99 years. GGP Parks, LLC, is a subsidiary of the River Parks Authority that operates out of GKFF and coordinates the over 450 volunteers that help the park run every day. So far, both individuals and groups have completed 11,300 hours of volunteer work. There are also 200 full-time and part-time employees who specialize in horticulture, programming, community engagement, food service, and more. An underground maintenance warehouse spanning nearly 1 acre was built to house facilities management off-site.

Labor

Columbus, Kansas–based construction company Crossland took over the build-out efforts from Manhattan Construction in 2015 when initial preconstruction, utility, and dirt work was done. Since the park’s groundbreaking, any day sees upward of 150 to 500 people laboring across 27 work zones and 12 play areas. A total of $10.3 million was paid to both contractors, and 3.7 million man-hours were worked on-site.

Security

Over the last year, Gathering Place partnered with a local charity group, John 3:16, and the Mental Health Association of Tulsa to help employees and security teams better understand how to engage with the city’s homeless community. The park is open to all and does not operate fully in the late evening or early morning, but does welcome the homeless throughout the day.

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Building G

Henning Larsen designs staggered office structure for Mission Rock
Mission Rock, a new 28-acre waterfront development in San Francisco that's co-owned in a public-private partnership with the San Francisco Giants, Tishman Speyer, and the Port of San Francisco, is scheduled to break ground next year. Along with Studio Gang, WORKac, and MVRDV, the Copenhagen-based firm Henning Larsen Architects was selected to design a significant portion for the upcoming neighborhood. The design of Henning Larsen’s contribution, a 13-story office block with a “rock-like outline” tentatively named Building G, was inspired by the geologic rock formations in Eastern California and San Francisco’s steep hills and streets. According to the firm, “the building breaks down the scale of a large commercial block into a ‘neighborhood’ scale” on the ground floor, with public amenities including benches, niches, retail, and “touchable materials." Above the recreational terrace on the fifth floor that wraps around the tower (described by the firm as the “mesa”), the general massing of the 300,000-square-foot building is broken up by volumes of 20-, 40- and 60-foot widths to mirror the dimensions of typical domestic buildings around San Francisco. These volumes are distinguished by green terraces and are arranged to both mitigate dominant winds from the bay as well as produce varying appearances from the street level. “We think of this as a big fat rock instead of a tall one,” said Louis Becker, a partner at Henning Larsen in a statement. “The idea is not a glass building, but a mass that’s carved out.” Building G’s rooftop features wind-sheltered terraces sloping toward the southwest to frame views of the San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park stadium, the San Francisco skyline, and the Bay Bridge.
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Weekly Alloyances

AN visits Alloy, the architect-developer reshaping Brooklyn
One of the most talked-about towers in Brooklyn is being designed—and built—at the hands of Alloy Development, the 13-year-old company responsible for residential structures like 185 Plymouth Street and One John Street in DUMBO. Led by CEO and founder Jared Della Valle and president AJ Pires, the firm has its sights set next on two projects along Flatbush Avenue in Boreum Hill—one of them which would become among the tallest skyscrapers in Brooklyn. These major developments are advancing their goal of shaping the real estate conversation in New York towards a more design- and community-centric outlook. They’re literally restructuring the skyline of the city’s most populous borough one project at a time, for better or for worse.  But getting the chance to take on an 860-foot-tall building like the one Alloy is putting up at 80 Flatbush didn’t just happen overnight. When Della Valle and Pires first started Alloy in 2006, there were hardly any companies sporting the title of architect-developer. Architects stayed in one lane and developers stayed in another, but that didn’t stop Alloy from stepping into unknown territory.  When the firm completed its distinctive 459 West 18th Street on the High Line, an 11-story residential structure with contrasting black-and-white, angular facade, both the design and real estate communities started to take notice. It wasn’t easy for Alloy to secure the millions of dollars needed for that in-demand site, but its success gave the company—then under the name Della Valle + Bernheimer—the confidence to do even bigger projects. “We chose to pursue development as a way to have more agency over the process of design and to take control of the outcome,” said Della Valle. “When you can define program and priorities because you are taking on the risk and assembling all the capital, you get more design agency from every single perspective.”  In mid-2016 alongside co-developer Monadnock, Alloy completed One John Street, a glimmering, 12-story, 42-unit sustainable structure on the DUMBO waterfront just north of the Manhattan Bridge. The team considers it a major turning point for the company because of its integration into the local community. Though it’s a luxury residential property, it housed an outpost of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for the last three years, and soon a Brooklyn Public Library annex will open in its stead.  From a design standpoint, One John Street was also a major step forward for Alloy. The firm teamed up with Brooklyn-based SITU Studio to create the one-of-a-kind sculptural panels made of concrete textured after fragments of fiberglass, pellets of beeswax, and salt granules that wrap the building’s lower core. In addition, because of the building’s noisy location next to an elevated train line, Alloy scaled up the windows and floors, decreasing the sun exposure at the same time.  Challenging themselves with innovation at One John Street also gave Della Valle and Pires the authority to cement their names alongside New York’s top developers, and its completion gave them a seat at the table.  “I find it hysterical that now we are on the same panels as the very big guns of real estate in this city like Related and Extell who have existed for a long, long time,” said Della Valle. “On the architecture side, we’ve received a lot of admiration because we’ve made design a core value of our developments. We’re not interested in repeatability.” Della Valle said that he’s met with plenty of famous architects who grill him on how Alloy makes it work. As a development company full of architects, he says the quality of the architecture and its impact on the community is most important. “We have to have economic output to achieve our work, but it’s not our reason for being.” Alloy’s office is located at 20 Jay Street, a hotspot for many Brooklyn-based architecture firms because of the old building’s large floorplate. A small firm with just under 20 employees, the team has been based in the same space since 2001. On any given day, they’re only working on one or two projects at a time and don't have to answer to any clients—ever. Things will continue to stay this way, according to Pires.  “Jared and I both live 100 feet from the office,” he said. “We’ve gotten to know every single landowner in DUMBO and there’s an intimacy of knowledge here that, when you connect it back to the risk equation, is very valuable. We’ve often had a leg up on other developers in this neighborhood because we’ve been here for so long.”  Alloy’s investment in DUMBO has long been clear and will continue with their upcoming three townhouses and 46 apartments at 168 Plymouth Street. Their proposal to take two, neighboring, century-old warehouses and turn them into condominiums was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It will be one of the last loft conversations in the area once finished next year. However, the East-River adjacent community isn’t the only part of Brooklyn that Pires and Della Valle aim to influence.  80 and 100 Flatbush will be the duo’s first attempt at a true high-rise development. The mixed-use skyscraper at 80 Flatbush will feature 200 units of affordable housing while the proposed 482-foot-tall tower at 100 Flatbush will include a 700-seat elementary and high school (designed by ARO) for Khalil Gibran International Academy, the first English-Arabic public school in the United States. Two historic buildings will also be preserved on the site. Demolition began in October.  To go after such a massive property—the block is spread across 61,000-square feet—Alloy had to work with the city’s Education Construction Fund in planning all that the future site would entail. It’s an overwhelmingly complex project, but Della Valle and Pires see it as another decisive moment in Alloy’s own development. They’ve been able to reach this point, Pires said, because of that innate attraction to risk and their constant reliability.  “The exposure we’ve received on our past work gives us a lot of credibility,” he said. "We truly believe you have to be optimistic to be in development. The associated risk actually boosts our creativity and forces us to be more clever." 
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Shelf Life

[Updated] Hunters Point Library facing maintenance issues after opening
Update 10/30/2019: A representative for Steven Holl Architects says that issues with water entering the building and the sprinkler have been resolved. They claim that "the issues that have come up are wrinkles normal to the opening of any new building, especially when the building is receiving such a huge audience," adding that "reading areas and study desks are continually full." Update 10/29/2019: A spokesperson for the Queens Public Library has said that DDC determined that the water was due to a problem with fire sprinkler, which has been resolved. Water also seeped from the rooftop area through a doorway. DDC is addressing both these problems and is working with contractors to repair the cracks in the floor. The Steven Holl Architects–designed Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, Queens, is already facing troubles, according to the New York Post. Previously under fire for its accessibility issues—the adult fiction stacks could only be accessed via staircase, a feature which met ADA compliance as the library claimed that patrons with limited mobility could ask librarians for help (the books have since been moved)—the building was suspected of leaking (it has been determined to have been both a faulty sprinkler system and an insufficiently weather-proofed door) and has been showing cracks on the floor, some as long as ten feet, just a month after opening.  In addition, librarians and patrons say there are major sound issues, with floors that “screech” when chairs are moved and a quiet room that is anything but. Librarians also told the Post that they felt the 22,000-square-foot building, which New York magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson described as a five-story “Seussian obstacle course,” could have made a better attempt at maximizing its usable space for books and other resources, rather than being designed like a “museum or gallery.” Librarians have also reported inadequate visibility within the library. Curbed says that the Queens Public Library system is working with the Department of Design and Construction, who was responsible for the actual building of the library, to address these concerns. The Hunters Point Library was a much-anticipated addition to the Queens waterfront and is eminently visible from the Manhattan waterfront. Through the project was approved in 2010, construction didn’t begin until 2015 and it opened just this September. Costing approximately $41 million (over $1,800 per square foot), the library was built as part of the Bloomberg-era Design and Construction Excellence initiative, which brought a series of public buildings with serious architectural chops to the city. As Davidson has previously pointed out, they came in often at staggering prices, due perhaps more to government inefficiency and bureaucracy, as well as state rules that require taking on the lowest-bidding contractors, than because of high-flying architectural fees and forward-thinking designs. (Holl himself reportedly told would-be publicly minded architects in New York City to “get ready to lose money, and do it with a smile," according to Davidson.) Steven Holl Architects and the New York City Department of Design and Construction have been contacted for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.
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Freedom of Expression

Is Torkwase Dyson's abstract recount of racial violence a missed opportunity?
Torkwase Dyson’s 1919: Black Water, on display at Columbia GSAPP’s Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery through December 14th, is an inscrutable meditation on an incident of racial violence that took place in Chicago on a hot summer’s day in July 1919: the killing of a black 17-year-old named Eugene Williams on a Lake Michigan beachfront by a white man throwing rocks. Represented in the form of abstract paintings, geometric sculptures, and ink drawings, Williams’ story becomes a framing narrative for Dyson’s installations, which combine expressionist, minimalist, process art, and postminimalist elements in the manner of Mark Rothko, Dan Graham, Theaster Gates, or Nari Ward. Dyson describes her projects as “spatial systems that build upon the architectural typologies that people have used to liberate themselves.” But this is not social practice art or urban interventionism. There’s no evident intention to interact with or build a community, educate a group, or communicate a didactic message. As the accompanying exhibition pamphlet discusses in an engaging conversation with architectural historian Mabel O. Wilson, the works are at least partly meant to function as abstract ciphers for the re-imagination of architectural space through black experience. Deciphering that code for practical uses might require an advanced Ivy League degree. Dyson tends to fixate on sites of trauma in black history, seeking the potential for liberation within spaces that otherwise appear to lack all potential for agency: Henry “Box” Brown, who freed himself from enslavement by having himself mailed in a crate to the north, or Samuel Osborne, a janitor at Colby College who earned the school’s dedication by exemplifying an upright moral code. In the case of 1919: Black Water, the redemption emerges from an experience of pleasure-seeking and invention turned tragic: the fabrication of a boat to create a group space of joy, interrupted by racial violence. The story behind the show is compelling. In the summer of 1919, Eugene Williams and his friends had constructed a makeshift raft to carry them to a small island on the shores of Lake Michigan near 25th Street, in between the two unofficially segregated sides of the waterfront. There they were free to swim and play away from the crowds. It was a summer of heightened racial tension: The black population had more than doubled in Chicago during the preceding decade—the beginning of the Great Migration of six million African-Americans from the south. Competition for jobs had intensified at the nearby stockyards at the end of World War I and white supremacists had been increasingly fomenting hatred. The teens had apparently got caught in the middle, accidentally crossing an invisible boundary between the informally segregated areas. A group of white men began throwing rocks at them; as Williams ducked in the water and resurfaced, he was hit in the head, going under and drowning. The police neglected to arrest the rock-thrower, instead arresting a black man following a complaint by a white person. An explosion of violence ensued. In the following week, police killed seven black men; mobs and individual gunmen murdered 16 blacks and 15 whites; more than 500 others suffered from injuries; mobs burned more than 1,000 black families out of their homes. A mass of black string congealed with black acrylic hangs on a wooden bar against a blue background with a geometric abstraction above (Pilot), possibly invoking a blue sky mingling with its reflection in the water, a raft floating on top, a black body bleeding from the head, and maybe, sinking below. Thick black acrylic paint and graphite on canvases suggest a line of polluted water (Just Above and Just Below; Place, Raft, and Drift), and slices of brass bisecting canvases evoke segregated division of space, the surface of the water, and the horizon (Plantationocene; Being-Seeing-Drifting). A few geometric figures appear on canvases that resemble towers or antennae (Hot Cold; Extraction Abstracting). On the gallery floor, shiny black plexiglass tetrahedrons with voids on some sides (Black Shoreline) reference the reflection of the water, which gain energy from the presence of gallery visitors. The absence of figurative representations of Williams, the raft, or the crowds after the drowning—though historical images do appear in the catalog—recalls the protest a few years ago of Dana Schutz’s Open Casket at the Whitney Biennial. Schutz had portrayed the open casket of Emmett Till, a young black teen lynched in an incident of racial terror. His mother insisted on an open casket so everyone could see what was done to her son, producing a shocking image of brutality that spurred the civil rights movement. Did it do violence to his memory to represent his broken body? Was Schutz making common cause or exploiting Till’s suffering? In this case, the inverse question might apply: why isn’t Williams represented more powerfully rather than rendered in abstraction? Is it a missed opportunity not to deploy figurative tools to animate Williams’ story, bring it to light, propel it into the present, deploy it to inform policies, use it for more than personal expression? Or is the freedom to be a black expressionist a worthy end in itself, our desire to see his body exploitative, and art that exhorts politically tedious and doomed to failure anyway? “These systems also consider infrastructure and the environment to create a visual amalgamation that recognizes the ways that black people move through, inhabit, cleave and form space,” Dyson is cited as saying the catalog, describing her nomenclature of representation as “black compositional thought.” Often Dyson uses dancers accompanying installations to animate them with exuberant gestures, and the presence of performers might make this rhetoric seem less overblown. If these works constitute a kind of expressive freedom grounded in black narrative and experience, they operate within the exclusive prison-house of the institutional contemporary art and academic architecture world, its markets, nonprofits, grants, and formalist language games. It’s a project worthy of poststructural critique to seek liberation even within the most repressive situations. As with the collapse of the New Museum’s Ideas City program in the Bronx, it can be challenging to reconcile the sustained intellectual discourse with the urgent, viscerally felt problems of the world: lack of control over space and governance, being unable to afford a place to live or to find adequately paid work, and abstract financial forces determining the fate of your community.
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Rock On

MVRDV reveals a geologically-inspired tower for the San Francisco waterfront
Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has released the first look at the design for its contribution to the new master-planned Mission Rock neighborhood in San Francisco. Called The Canyon, the craggy tower was created in collaboration with the local Perry Architects and inspired by the natural rock formations found throughout California. The 23-story, 380,000-square-foot tower references both San Francisco’s urban grid and its hilly natural landscape, bringing down craggy forms to the flat waterfront, and will feature a variety of offices, residences, and an abundance of open terraces. The Canyon is part of a four-building development being jointly planned by MVRDV along with Studio Gang, WORKac, and Henning Larsen. Each firm was brought on early in the so far 12-year planning and design process to collaboratively devise an overall scheme for the 28-acre site (previously being used for parking), as well as individual buildings that are intended to fit together yet remain each studio's own. SCAPE is also creating a five-acre park for Mission Rock. The neighborhood is being developed by Tishman Speyer in collaboration with the San Francisco Giants, whose ballpark will be set in dialogue with the new towers akin to the approach taken by the Rams and the Colorado Rockies elsewhere. The Canyon is designed to be an entry point to Mission Rock and the “fracture” in its design makes it so that the northeast block acts as a separate building with its own entrance while remaining connected to the other amenities in the tower. The intent, according to MVRDV co-founder Nathalie de Vries was to create a “dynamic design with a great vibe.” Mission Rock is scheduled to break ground in 2020. MVRDV principal Fokke Moerel will be leading the morning keynote, "The Skin is the Message," at Facades+ LA on November 14.
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Basin-Based

Plans for ex-Amazon site in Queens aim to move forward with the community in mind
Shortly after Amazon backed out of building a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, (LIC) on February 14, developers and city officials began revisiting earlier plans for a mixed-use development on the 28-acre waterfront site. Due to the controversy of the failed Amazon proposal, all plans for the site will now have to face New York City’s public review process, meaning the community board, borough president, and city council would all have a say in the plans moving forward.  According to the Licpost, a coalition of community organizations have been calling on the developers since April to produce one comprehensive plan for the area as opposed to rezoning separate sites with different goals. Back in 2017, Plaxall’s residential redevelopment proposal was centered around rezoning the former industrial shipping port, Anable Basin, through the creation of the “Anable Basin Special District” which would include eight mixed-use buildings, light manufacturing, and retail space.  Out of the group of property owners who recently spoke with the de Blasio administration and City Council, one landowner was noticeably absent: Plaxall, who had proposed the original conversion on the site before Amazon moved to claim it and commissioned WXY to create a master plan. However, Plaxall’s managing director, Paula Kirby, told POLITICO earlier this week that they “remain committed to pursuing a vision that builds on LIC’s history as a center of innovation and creativity, and to working with our neighbors and the city on a plan to make Anable Basin an integral part of the future LIC waterfront." While their scheme would require rezoning, the general idea seems to be guiding the future of the site.  Throughout the Amazon debacle, it seems all participants have learned that the swath of land has a great untapped potential for bringing in jobs, but that community needs must be addressed first. Rather than building more condos, developers are now welcoming the idea of multifamily buildings that would have some income-restricted units, per city mandate. Other priorities discussed with the community organizations include several new schools, an arts center, a contiguous bike lane, and open parks.  According to one consultant, the number of new jobs doesn't have to be sacrificed to achieve those things. “Just based on the scale, the scope and breadth of the district, including the Plaxall site…in its full build-out, it approximately comes out to about 50,000 jobs,” MaryAnne Gilmartin of L&L MAG told POLITICO Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association told the Licpost that, “Instead of developers telling us their plans for our neighborhood, the community should express their vision and needs and the developers work within that vision so that the neighborhood develops properly.” He has helped organize meetings with TF Cornerstone and L&L MAG which are expected to take place in October at a currently undecided date.
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Build it Buffalo

Cuomo’s Buffalo Skyway Corridor competition announces top prizes
Last Tuesday, a panel of New York state and local officials announced the winning design of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Aim for the Sky” competition to reimagine the Buffalo Skyway Corridor. Out of over 100 entries, nine finalists were asked to pitch their ideas to a live audience and panel of judges. The $100,000 top prize was awarded shortly after the presentations to Rochester-based firm SWBR Architects for their submission titled “City of Lights: Re-View our Waterfront”, a collaboration with Fisher Associates and MRB Group.  The competition’s aim was to define “a clear vision for the City of Buffalo’s waterfront, helping inform the direction for investment in placemaking and economic development opportunities.” The Skyway, a four-mile-long, four-lane expressway that follows the Lake Erie waterfront was completed in 1955 and originally designed to connect truck traffic to and from factory complexes along the Port of Buffalo. Since the closure of the area’s steel plants in the 1980s, the corridor has transformed largely into a commuter highway system carrying up to 400,000 trips per day.  SWRB’s $300 million dollar proposal involves a portion of the Skyway north of the Buffalo River to be torn down. “This is going to let people view the skyline of Buffalo in a way that they have never been able to see it before... and we were able to break down the barriers that separate the waterfront from the community and the individual neighborhoods around it,” said Bill Price, a landscape architect with SWRB, according to local Buffalo news network WGRZ. The remaining portion of the skyway would be turned into a High Line-Esque elevated park for both pedestrians and bicyclists. The proposal aspires to strengthen connections between downtown and the Outer Harbor.  In fact, all of the proposals promoted connectivity to Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, which currently has no direct bike or pedestrian route to downtown. The second and third place finalists included the “Skyway River Loop” by Marvel Architects and “Queen City Harbor: Bringing Buffalo to the Water’s Edge” by Christian Calleri, Jeannine Muller, Min Soo Kang, and Andrea De Carlo, and the teams were awarded $50,000 and $25,000 respectively. “Queen City Harbor” also calls for portions of the Skyway's removal but focuses on how to open up that land for mixed-use infill development. Marvel’s proposal emphasizes the opposite form of action—keeping the skyway completely—but adding a street-level greenway and local bridge connections. Whether or not the grand winning scheme could be a reality is yet to be determined especially considering that New York State just spent close to $30 million to repair the Skyway and the estimated cost for its removal could be up to $600 million. But Cuomo is hopeful that this is the right move for this rust belt city. “The Buffalo waterfront has always been one of our state’s great assets, and by removing the existing Skyway we will lay the foundation for further transformation and growth in this community,” he said during the announcement. If all goes as planned, by utilizing an expedited Environmental Impact Statement, project construction could possibly be completed in five years.
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Beautiful Brut

DIGSAU brings prefabricated concrete formwork to the Philadelphia Navy Yard
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The Philadelphia Navy Yard, similar to other waterfront areas across the country, is undergoing a two-decades-long transformation from a declining industrial district to a burgeoning office park. A significant number of businesses have located to the adaptively reused warehouses, while others are opting for entirely new construction. 351 Rouse Street, which is the U.S Headquarters of medical research laboratory Adaptimmune, is a recent addition to the area designed by architectural firm DIGSAU and clad in prefabricated concrete panels. DIGSAU, who are located a few miles north of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, are not unfamiliar with the site, having completed a similarly prefabricated concrete office building just down Rouse Street in 2015.
  • Facade Manufacturer Universal Concrete Centria YKK JE Berkowitz
  • Architect DIGSAU
  • Facade Installer Turner Construction EDA Hutts Glass Co.
  • Facade Consultant RDWI
  • Structural Engineer ENV
  • Location Philadelphia, PA
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Custom assembly
  • Products YKK YCW 750XT & 750SSG Guardian SunGuard AG 50 on clear, fabricated by JE Berkowitz Centria Silversmith Aluminum
Irregular sites require thoughtful and straightforward design and structural solutions; the project is located adjacent to an electrical substation, underground utility lines, and a nearby lot slated for future development. In response to this setting, DIGSAU developed a low-slung and, at certain moments, cantilevered massing for the nearly 50,000-square-foot structure. The overall character of the massing is extenuated by the horizontal impressions of the wood formwork. The light-gray surface is semi-reminiscent of a striated archeological section; the extruded and recessed finish alternates between rough and smooth grain and is broken up by ribbons of fenestration. The economy of the facade impression was significantly influenced by the budgetary and timeline constraints of the project, and the total tab for the project was an impressively tight $10 million. "The precast spandrel panels and ribbon windows are market-driven development approaches that have proven to be highly effective for controlling costs and speeding up construction timelines," said DIGSAU principal Mark Sanderson. "We were intrigued about how we might both embrace and deny these techniques simultaneously: the repetitive precast patterning is interrupted with vertical joints that increase in density where the ribbon windows are agitated." Installation of the panels had to be fairly straightforward to meet the tight timetable of the project. To this end, weld plates were cast into each facade unit which were then subsequently hoisted into place and welded to the steel frame. Once in place, the panels simultaneously function as both external cladding as well as support for the high climate-controlled YKK framing of the ribbon window. DIGSAU Associate Elizabeth Kahley will be joining the panel “Medium-sized and Mixed-use Projects: Opportunities for Creative Mix of Materials and Scale" at The Architect's Newspaper's upcoming Facades+ Philadelphia conference on October 18.
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REACH for the Stars

Steven Holl expands the Kennedy Center with semi-submerged pavilions
Steven Holl Architects (SHA) has designed and completed the first-ever expansion of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Located southeast of the National Mall along the Potomac River, the three pavilions that make up The REACH opened this weekend to the public, marking the Washington, D.C.-based institution’s largest design upgrade in its 48-year-history. The $250-million addition spans four-acres of sweeping, waterfront landscape next to the main Edward Durell Stone-designed building that’s held all of the Kennedy Center’s programming for decades. Arranged in a series of angular, cast-in-place concrete structures that are semi-submerged underground, The REACH is strategically woven into the surrounding, sloping green space and features a contemporary vision that lightly references its parent building next door According to a press release, the new structures “break down the traditional barriers separating art and audience.” The Welcome Pavilion, Skylight Pavilion, and River Pavilion all emerge from the green lawns with shapely white facades and opaque glass windows. Together, they make up a porous and fluid, 72,000-square-foot facility that, though largely underground, includes ample access to daylight and features soaring, open interiors.  While the site doesn’t look very active from an aerial perspective, what you see above ground isn’t all that you get. Inside and below the pavilions is a large network of flexible rehearsal studios and classrooms, as well as performance and public spaces that are, by design, more welcoming to visitors—something the Kennedy Center previously lacked. AN wrote previously about the crinkled concrete walls that were integrated into the studio spaces to stop sound from echoing throughout the below-grade rooms. Performance-enhancing technology such as this was used at every level of the building project. For example, SHA worked with ARUP to make The REACH more sustainable than its predecessor; it’s now on track to achieve LEED Gold status. The site features a closed-loop, ground source heat rejection system, advanced temperature controls, an under-floor concrete trench system, and radiant floor heating made by ARUP’s in-house software suite, Oasys Building Environmental Analysis (BEANS). Much like other projects by Steven Holl, the integration of unique light cutouts on the sides or tops of the buildings and curvaceous walls made the structures difficult to heat or cool efficiently. Arup’s interventions will help the facility maintain proper temperatures year-round.  In addition to improving the Kennedy Center campus, The REACH was intended to bolster the memory of JFK. Some of the spaces within the pavilions were named after the 35th president, and a plaza with 35 gingko trees honors his life and accomplishments. Over time, the 130,000-square-foot landscape is expected to grow into a fuller, more vibrant addition to the riverfront and help activate a formerly-inaccessible area. SHA also designed a pedestrian bridge to cross the highway separating the Center from the water’s edge. 
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This Year's Best

TWA Hotel, Snøhetta projects, The Shed top TIME's World's 100 Greatest Places
TIME Magazine’s second annual list of the World’s 100 Greatest Places is here and several major, recently-opened cultural marvels secured top spots—two of which were just completed by Norweigan-firm Snøhetta. Put together by the editors and correspondents at TIME, as well as a handful of industry experts, the following parks, hotels, restaurant, and museums were voted highest because they exhibited four key factors: quality, originality, sustainability, innovation, and influence.  It’s interesting to note that only two principals of big-name firms that designed the projects below have made the TIME 100: The Most Influential People list in recent years: Liz Diller (2018) and David Adjaye (2017). The only architect to make the list this year, Jeanne Gang, didn’t have a new piece of architecture up for consideration among the World’s Greatest Places 2019. Not a single Bjarke Ingels Group project made the cut either.  Though it’s not clear why they weren’t chosen, it is possible to guestimate which soon-to-be-finished works across the globe might catch an editor’s eye in 2020 based on this year's finalists. See the TIME’s full list here and AN’s shorter, what-you-must-know version below to learn more:  The Shed New York City By Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group New York’s newest 200,000-square-foot art center only opened in April but it’s been one of the most talked-about building in Hudson Yards. Situated on West 30th Street and surrounded by new glass towers, the kinetic structure features a 120-foot-tall retractable outer shell covered in ETFE panels. It boasts eight different levels for rehearsals, large-scale exhibitions, and events, as well as live music, dance, and theater performances. According to DS+R, The Shed embodies the architecture of infrastructure.  All Square Minneapolis, Minnesota By Architecture Office Austin-based firm Architecture Office created a stand-out space in Minneapolis for the nonprofit/restaurant All Square. Unveiled in September 2018, the 900-square-foot, neon-lit eatery provides the formerly incarcerated with a place of employment and continuing education. The civil rights social enterprise was started by lawyer Emily Turner and has bragging rights to the best craft grilled cheese sandwiches in town. The Gathering Place Tulsa, Oklahoma By Michael Van Valkenburg Associates  Imagined by billionaire philanthropist George B. Kaiser, The Gathering Place is a 66.5-acre riverside park situated two miles from downtown Tulsa. It opened to the public last September and has since welcomed over 2 million people. New York-based landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and his team transformed a slate of land next to the Arkansas River into a veritable green theme park of activities for adults and children. It’s the largest public “gift park” in U.S. history; 80 philanthropic donors funded the construction of the park and created an endowment to secure its future.  Ruby City San Antonio, Texas By David Adjaye Associates Officially set to open this October, the 14,000-square-foot Ruby City holds the 800-piece art collection of the late Linda Pace, artist, philanthropist, and heiress to the Pace Foods salsa fortune. Constructed with a sparkling, rose-tinted concrete exterior made in Mexico, the museum complex includes a series of open galleries with sculptural skylights that bring the sun into the interior spaces. The project was created in collaboration with local firm Alamo Architects.  TWA Hotel Queens, New York By Lubrano Ciavarra Architects Flanking the backside of Eero Saarinen’s historic midcentury modern TWA Flight Center, the new TWA Hotel is a glass-clad, dual-structure composed of 512 sound-proof rooms, a rooftop infinity pool, and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck that looks out over incoming international flights. Guests started arriving at the Jet-Blue adjacent site in May to enjoy the recently-renovated terminal, completed by Beyer Blinder Belle, and its newly-opened dining options. The ultra-energy-efficient hotel also houses 50,000 square feet of underground events space.  Central Library Calgary, Canada By Snøhetta and DIALOG Snøhetta’s Central Library takes up 240,000 square feet of space in downtown Calgary and stands six stories tall. One of the many design elements that make the public building so attractive is its gleaming facade made of white aluminum and fritted glass, as well as the way it straddles an active rail line. On the inside, a massive oculus and sinuous wooden stair system give the 85-foot-tall atrium a light and airy, yet dramatic feel. The public project opened last November The National Museum of Qatar Doha, Qatar By Ateliers Jean Nouvel Qatar’s highly-anticipated National Museum came online in March and is part of a recent construction boom in the country as it prepares for the 2022 World Cup. Designed to mimic Qatar’s desert rose sand formations, the 430,000-square-foot institution stretches in a series of interlocking discs across a portside site in downtown Doha. The galleries inside tell both the story of the desert's natural history as well as the country’s evolution, cultural heritage, and future. Xiqu Centre Hong Kong, China By Revery Architecture  Hong Kong’s new opera house is covered in 13,000 curved aluminum fins arranged in a wave-like fashion—a design move inspired by the delicacy of theater curtains. Though the architecture itself is shaped like a box, the cladding gives it a texturized appearance that’s almost psychedelic to see up close. The cultural space, which opened in April, includes a 1,073-seat theater that floats above an interior plaza used for exhibitions and performances.  V&A Dundee Dundee, Scotland By Kengo Kuma As the second outpost of London’s Victoria and Albert Design Museum, the staggered, concrete facade of the V&A Dundee is a stark contrast to its historic sister site and makes it stand out amongst the industrial waterfront near downtown Dundee. Kengo Kuma inverted two pyramids for the outline of the structure, some of which juts out into the River Tay, to both evoke Scotland’s craggy, cliff-edged coastline and the shape of a ship on the sea. It opened its doors last September with a set of permanent exhibitions on Scottish design.  Statue of Unity Gujarat, India By Michael Graves Architecture & Design and sculptor Ram V. Sutar Standing 597 feet tall on an island in the Narmada River, this bronze statue is a larger-than-life replica of India’s first deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. It was completed last November and since then, visitors have flocked to the western India state to climb the statue for unparalleled views of the nearby mountain range. Soon, its base is slated to become a resort.  Under Lindesnes, Norway By Snøhetta Finished in March, Under doubles as a partially-underwater marine biology research station and an ultra-exclusive restaurant. Snøhetta’s sunken “periscope” design dives 16 feet below the North Sea and features a 36-foot-long, 11-foot-tall window wall in the dining room. The exterior is clad in concrete, but the interior boasts other materials such as oak and terrazzo. 
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Prepping for Sandy 2.0

Army Corps of Engineers will erect miles of seawalls along Staten Island

The United States Army Corps of Engineers is slated to begin construction on a $616 million seawall in the New York City borough of Staten Island, one of the areas hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The storm, which wreaked havoc on much of the mid-Atlantic coast between New Jersey and New York, exposed and exacerbated Staten Island’s vulnerability to storm surges and flash flooding. In light of predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other climate-monitoring agencies that the frequency of Atlantic hurricanes will increase as global warming progresses through the 21st century, local and federal officials hope that the seawall will prevent higher levels of physical damage in the future.

When Sandy struck the New York metropolitan region in October 2012, floodwater depth in certain parts of Staten Island hit 12.5 feet above sea level. Within the area protected by the proposed seawall, depths exceeded previous records by four feet and damaged 80 percent of all structures, including critical infrastructure like schools. The storm killed 43 people in the city, including 24 in Staten Island alone.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the seawall system will include several components, known collectively as the Staten Island Multi-Use Elevated Promenade. About 4.5 miles of buried seawall, which will be topped by a walkable promenade, will protect the area against up to 21.4 feet of seawater rise. In addition to the 0.6-mile gate in the levee, there will also be 0.35 miles of floodwalls, 300 acres of natural water storage to manage surge, and over 226 acres of tidal wetlands and ponding areas. The latter two components will have the capacity to absorb an immense amount of floodwater, forming a robust natural barrier against major storms. One priority of the project is to protect vital infrastructure on the island, including senior centers, schools, hospitals, a wastewater plant, and police and fire stations.

While Sandy served as a catalyst to mobilize resources and agencies to officially begin the project, research that led to the ultimate seawall system proposal actually began after a pair of severe storms in 1992 and 1993. Hurricanes, Nor-easters, and superstorms present a major threat to the borough, but the low-lying parts of Staten Island also face flooding damage in the face of regular rainfall. In addition to protecting the coastline from such stress, state officials have promised that the seawall system will enhance waterfront access for members of the public. The boardwalk will be open to cyclists, pedestrians, and other hobbyists, allowing users to experience both the shoreline and the coastal wetlands. Governor Cuomo’s office also suggested that the seawall might one day serve as a tourist attraction, bringing in visitors from across the region and country.

Signing on to a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA), New York State and the Army Corps have committed to reducing the costs of flood damage in the area by about $30 million per year. The PPA opens the project up to $400 million in federal contributions, which will be added to the existing budget of $216 million—$65 million from the city and $151 million from the state. Construction is set to begin in 2020 and will hopefully be completed before the next major weather event.