Search results for "zoning"

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Hope for Better Things

Utile envisions a grand, new future for Detroit’s Eastern Market
Detroit is often referred to as an example of a city in which citizen effort and innovative design in certain areas have increased the standard of living, despite the city's overall struggles. The Eastern Market district is an example of such uplift. In the five long, 19th-century "sheds" along Russell Street, cafés, local farmer-vendors, jewelers, and Coney Island–style hot dog stands now flank the corridors. Murals on brick brighten up the exterior walls. Jazz musicians and Motown singers play music for guests every Saturday when the markets are at their liveliest. Outside the sheds, there are local coffee companies, clinics, restaurants, and grocery stores. In recent years, the space, a 24-acre plot in the heart of Detroit, has been dramatically revitalized. The bustling marketplaces reflect this. However, it is clear that more effort is needed to make the most of the possibilities the district offers. Today, the Eastern Market's historic core requires both structural and environmental updates. Additionally, an increasing number of visitors means the sheds and surrounding businesses require expansions. In a group effort by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the Eastern Market Corporation, and the Nature Conservancy, Boston-based firm Utile, Inc., and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) have been commissioned to lay out a comprehensive framework for the district and the surrounding neighborhood. In doing so, the district hopes to become a larger center for food distribution. Further goals involve becoming a high-tech hub in order to present more opportunities for employment. Tim Love, principal at Utile, spoke to The Architect's Newspaper about the challenges, plans, and aspirations for the project. The Architect's Newspaper: What were the guidelines for the project and the issues present that the client wants to solve?  Tim Love: The project has two separate but related focus areas: the historic core of the market, centered on the market sheds, and an area targeted for the expansion of food industry businesses to the north and east of the existing market district. The expansion of the market is necessitated by new federal food regulations triggered by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act and the desire by the City of Detroit to retain and expand the job opportunities provided by the food industry. The plan for the market expansion area required the thoughtful integration of an industrial real estate development strategy with a centralized stormwater management plan. As a result, the Utile/MVVA team needed to test alternative food business building prototypes and the network of open spaces that threaded between the buildings. The design problem was complicated by the need to provide truck access to the food businesses while screening the truck aprons from non-industrial uses on the boundaries of the expanded food industry district. The final recommended urban design strategy, conceived at the block scale, weaves together industrial buildings, stormwater greenways, truck aprons, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly streets, and live/work building types. The net result is an urbanism that acknowledges the need for large-footprint, truck-dependent buildings, but organizes them in a way that makes for a more environmental-friendly and walkable district. The plan for the core market area meets related but slightly different goals. In this case, the preservation of the market sheds and the funky building fabric on the blocks to the east and west of the sheds were identified as a cultural as much as a historic resource. As a result, a set of design guidelines were developed that encourage developers to preserve the existing buildings while allowing for penthouse additions of three to four stories above. To reinforce the existing ad hoc character of the district, we decided to embrace the mismatched stacking of contrasting architectural expressions rather than encourage a more canonical restoration of the historic fabric. Along the Dequindre Cut and Gratiot Avenue, where less of the historic fabric survives, dense residential mixed-use development is proposed. An increase in the local residential population will enliven the public realm, especially in the evening, when Eastern Market is mostly deserted. The twist, in this case, is that fabrication and light manufacturing spaces are encouraged on the ground floor rather than retail. The goal is to encourage smaller-scale food and fabrication businesses that complement the larger-scale facilities being planning in the market expansion area. In addition, favoring fabrication spaces over retail will help steer retail businesses closer to the market sheds, where food-focused retail already benefits from the busy public market. Our team is still working with the city to determine how our plan will be implemented, both in the short- and long-term. Certainly, zoning regulations will be one tool that will be used to shape future private investment. AN: What is the current state of the Eastern Market neighborhood, and where does your team envision it being when your design has been implemented? How will your team’s designs impact Detroit on a city-wide scale? TL: Today, Eastern Market neighborhood is an island of walkable urban fabric within a larger landscape of vacant parcels and auto-centric uses. The economy of the market core is defined by symbiotic relationships between food production, distribution, and retail businesses in close proximity to one another and in connection with larger supply chains. Our goal is to extend the district to accommodate the needs of the modern food industry while introducing a mix of uses that reinforce the public realm and increase both the daytime and evening population. The expansion of the market district will also increase the number of food industry jobs, important in a city where the largest areas of job growth have been in the customer service and retail sectors. The industrial buildings that surround the historic market sheds are not suitable for modern food processing and fabrication. Their floor plates are too small, and their ceilings are too low. And even if they were adequate in size, modern food safety codes make the buildings prohibitively expensive to renovate. To answer the need for modernization, a market expansion area was identified directly to the north and east of the core market where new larger state-of-the-art industrial building can be accommodated. As existing businesses move or expand into new facilities in the expansion area, the core market buildings can be renovated to support a mix of uses, including retail, commercial-office, loft residential, and smaller-scale food startups. New multi-floor rooftop additions are allowed per the design guidelines developed as part of the plan. The additions will increase density in the district and will cross-subsidize the rehabilitation of the lower floors. The expanded market area will both keep existing businesses from leaving the area and will attract new food industry businesses to Detroit. Preserving and enhancing the economic engine of Eastern Market not only creates jobs and generates revenue for the city, but also a strategy for maintaining an authentic working market district. AN: How has the community been involved in the design process? What are some of the features of the final design that allow for and encourage community engagement? TL: We partnered with the City of Detroit and City Form Detroit, a local urban design and planning firm, to craft a comprehensive engagement strategy. The process included well-attended open houses hosted by the city that included short presentations, informal break-out sessions, and visual survey activities. As a sign of the city’s ownership of the process and emerging plan, representatives from the city and the Detroit Economic Growth Council gave the presentations and not members of our team; the first time one of our public agency clients has owned the content early in the planning process!
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Little Dubai

Welcome to Little Dubai, New York City’s newest neighborhood
In a recent review titled “The Case Against Hudson Yards Diningon Eater, the inimitable food critic Ryan Sutton examined the food and beverage options at the mirage-like, instant Hudson Yards (henceforth Little Dubai), New York City’s newest neighborhood. The dining scene is not a pretty picture, and the food options are just part of the bigger picture, dovetailing with the urbanism to expose the ugliness of 21st-century development culture. As Sutton notes, Little Dubai “is a taxpayer-subsidized development that solidifies Manhattan’s slow transformation from one of the world’s most distinctive urban centers into a nondescript international mall for the wealthy.” His biggest gripe? Rather than representing the wonderful melange of cultures that thrive in New York, the food and beverage programming is a cynical commercialized selection that has no roots in the place it resides. “The only place for pizza—New York’s quintessentially affordable street food—will be a D.C.-based chain where a lunchtime Margherita starts at $11.50. The only Chinese-leaning restaurant will be an ‘East meets West’ spot run by a Dutch guy known for his competent Continental spots in airports, concert halls, and museums,” he laments. The condition Sutton describes could easily be in a number of cities around the world, where international flavors are imported wholesale and in no particular fashion or relationship to the place they now inhabit. This cultural importation is a new ideology: In an era where financial markets and soft power makes national borders less and less important, it makes sense that a new type of immigrant cultural exchange would begin to take hold—one that no longer even requires physical, transnational immigration. Cultural exchange can now take place on airplanes, waves of capital, and wires of data in an age of nearly frictionless globalization. That is how New York’s newest neighborhood, Little Dubai, got its character. As much as Little Dubai’s food selections should shock us, so should the art and architecture. The art follows a similar path as the food with superstar curators—ubercurator Hans Ulrich Obrist is a senior advisor—brought in to inject the place with some kind of pop-up world-class culture, much like what the UAE did at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, where the name and collection were rubber-clone-stamped from the old world of Europe to the open expanses of the 21st-century Gulf, where anything goes. Or consider Rain Room, the phenomenon that had lines around the block at MoMA in 2013. The Sharjah Art Foundation has not only acquired Rain Room for its permanent collection, but they built an entire new building to house it. This kind of cultural exchange—that of international consultants—relies on enormous amounts of capital to lubricate its mechanisms. No longer does it require, however, actual immigration or imperialism to carry culture from one place to the next, as was the case in the 19th and 20th centuries when neighborhoods like Little Italy’s, Chinatowns, Koreatowns, and Little Ethiopias naturally popped up around the world. Rather than streets of mom-and-pop shops, entire campus-like neighborhoods are instantly animated as breathing lungs of cultural import-export, with nothing to stop them. Which brings us to the architecture of Little Dubai. There are several similarities to Dubai at Hudson Yards. The most obvious is that the towers themselves look like those non-descript condos and offices that make up most of the building stock in Dubai. Moreover, the neighborhood was master planned by KPF, who also crank out towers in the Gulf and Asia more generally. The similarities run deeper, from the food to the development patterns to the urban experience. Like any good enclave, the mechanisms that have produced Little Dubai look a lot like those that produced the original Dubai and its urban environment. This is not to say that Little Dubai necessarily comes from Dubai itself. It is not that simple. In fact, New York and developing nations such as the UAE and China are in a constant feedback loop, where the West exports ideas about managerial production systems such as large architecture firms and the corresponding banal corporate aesthetics. As Michel Foucault once noted,
that while colonization, with its techniques and its political and juridical weapons, obviously transported European models to other continents, it also had a considerable boomerang effect on the mechanisms of power in the West, and on the apparatuses, institutions, and techniques of power. A whole series of colonial models was brought back to the West, and the result was that the West could practice something resembling colonization, or an internal colonialism, on itself.
“Firms like KPF and Foster take on these projects overseas where they can grow and practice working as larger firms,” said Todd Reisz, assistant professor at Yale, “Once they get big and good enough, they can bring these ideas about—how to make a city from the ground up—back home.” This is how New York’s Little Dubai came to be. The original Dubai was opened up to private land ownership in 2002 in an attempt to become a stable place post-9/11 for foreigners—especially Middle Easterners, Africans, and South Asians—to park their money. Special economic zones were established that allowed business and development to operate without the strict controls of Shariah that governed the rest of the UAE. In these economic zones, international trade was encouraged by specially crafted civil legal code geared specifically toward port businesses (foreign investment.) For example, a team of international consultants from mega-firm McKinsey advised the Dubai government in 2002 to draft a set of UK-style regulations for the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) free zone, a “state within a state” that would operate with a different official currency—the U.S. dollar— and a different official language—English—than the rest of the UAE. It was designed by none other than architectural behemoth Gensler. This international managerial complex was the logical conclusion of some 300 years of colonial urbanization of developing nations around the world, perfected by the UAE government. Companies like Emaar and Dubai Holdings buy and develop enormous plots of land that serve as self-sustaining neighborhoods that don’t need to have much connection to their surroundings. Because of their sheer size, and the scale of the projects they oversee, these massive companies also obscure the relationship between public and private. In New York’s Little Dubai, a similar situation exists. The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) acts a bit like the real estate state of the UAE, doing large rezonings and tax incentives to foster these big developments. Nearly 1 billion dollars in tax abatements were given to Related Cos., Little Dubai’s developer, in addition to nearly 4.6 million in infrastructure improvements and other incentives. And often, because of the private nature, DCP has little authority to begin with. Because the development is on state-owned land, there was no oversight from community boards. The parcel became part of a larger economic development strategy that usurps local regulation, leaving the citizens of New York City more-or-less out of the conversation. Little Dubai is regulated by a network of rules and capital that transcends physical territory, just like the “Old World” Dubai in UAE (this model is also being pursued by ultimate cloud-based dark-power-mongers Google in Toronto). This has led to a sort of Free Economic Zone, where Stephen M. Ross, Related’s chairman, is a sort of urban autocrat, pushing through what he wants when he wants. For example, in Little Dubai, Thomas Heatherwick’s 154-staircase monument Vessel was simply ordered for $200 million, shipped from Italy, and fastened together in about 18 months, with little in the way of design review or public process. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but it raises important questions. At 28 acres (0.042 sq miles, or 11 hectares), Little Dubai has the characteristics of an entire neighborhood, with its own circulation paths, central public space, and complete set of programmatic functions from retail, residential, commercial, “cultural,” and leisure/hospitality spaces carefully orchestrated in both plan and section. Dubai is a place where these large private developments have happened so fast that they do not relate to one another on the street-level. The piecemeal nature leaves hotels and malls and gated communities difficult to access because nothing was planned to connect at the street. While Dubai’s infrastructure haphazardly connects these megadevelopments with curls of spaghetti-like roads and onramps, Hudson Yards has similarly managed to bend New York’s infrastructure to its will—the 7 subway line was extended to the northern entrance to Little Dubai’s main plaza. Vessel and its counterpart, The Shed, occupy an important niche in the rich culture of Little Dubai: they serve as the attractors to get tourists to come and play, and thus spend money at retail options. Like the spectacular Dubai Aquarium, Dubai Frame, and man-made islands such as Palm Jumeirah, Vessel acts to bring attention to the place. The High Line is already doing this, but these new spectacles will bring in tourists en masse, possibly so much that this area will be like a cleaner and even less exciting Times Square. This centralization of power—via a marriage of government and private interests—gives power to consultants to plan whole districts, as well as ties together Little Dubai and its namesake (and the other countless cities like it). It should not come as a surprise that this is taking place in New York. In fact, it is a very New York phenomenon, as much of this type of culture was shipped from New York’s office towers (literally and metaphorically.) The process of globalization and the complete control of technocratic consultants has crystallized in spectacular fashion before our eyes in New York’s newest neighborhood, Little Dubai. What remains to be seen is how the local context will absorb this pseudo-neighborhood. What is scary for New Yorkers is that it seems like it is going to fit right into its place at the apex of the Highline.
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Slashing Ceiling Heights

New York lawmaker fights for more aggressive ceiling height restrictions
As New York City's skyline continues to soar, New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal is fighting for more aggressive ceiling height restrictions to chop supertall, luxury towers. Curbed reported on Rosenthal’s plan outdoes that of the de Blasio administration and enacts stricter policies over mechanical voids—the hollow, uninhabited spaces in apartment buildings that increase the height of buildings. Current zoning regulations exempt mechanical voids from a building’s floor area ratio (FAR), or allowable square footage. Since there are no height limits on those spaces, luxury developers can currently build excessively tall ceilings to house mechanical equipment as a means of elevating their buildings without officially surpassing their permitted size. By piling apartments above extremely tall floors, developers can mark the units with a higher price tag. To curb the development of these soaring and seemingly unrestricted towers, Rosenthal recently introduced a bill that will penalize developers that build unnecessarily high ceilings—which have in some cases exceeded 150 feet—to hold mechanical equipment. Her legislation comes just one month after the de Blasio administration’s zoning amendments that require mechanical voids over 25-feet-high to be counted toward a residential building’s FAR. Rosenthal’s bill takes the amendment a step further, not only regulating the height of mechanical spaces but also penalizing developers that build any floor with ceilings higher than 12 feet. Her bill has predictably spawned outrage from the real estate development industry, which is desperately fighting to preserve the mechanical void loophole. If approved, Rosenthal’s bill would affect the entire city, unlike de Blasio’s amendment, which only applies to specific, high-density districts. Since the bill was introduced last February, the city has started to take strong action against the misuse of mechanical voids, as well as the construction of one particular tower proposed for the Upper West side, where one floor exhibits massive, 160-foot ceilings. In a race against the tower’s developer, Extell Development, the Department of City Planning has sped up its approval process for the regulations. With a Democrat-controlled Senate and Assembly, Rosenthal’s proposal, which could drastically alter the future of luxury apartment construction in New York City, has a chance of ratification.
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SAVE THE EGG

Historic Oklahoma City “Egg Church” is in danger of being demolished
The Egg Church. The Church of Tomorrow. An “honest architecture” that’s forever contemporary. Since its opening around Christmas in 1956, these are a few phrases that have been used to describe First Christian Church, a historic, organic modernist building in Oklahoma City. Designed by the then-young local firm, Conner & Pojezny, the 32-acre project quickly became a state treasure and was lauded as a major engineering feat by Life Magazine, Newsweek, and Architectural Record. The dramatic, concrete domed church—which has a mid-century Jetsons look—is newly in danger as its current owners aim to sell it to a buyer with plans to demolish the community icon. Oklahoma’s News 4 reported that dozens of demonstrators crowded outside First Christian Church last week in protest. Those in attendance included the executive director of Preservation Oklahoma and members of Okie Mod Squad, a group led by one of the church's architect's granddaughters, Lynne Rostochil. Representatives told News 4 they’re worried the building might be knocked down once it's successfully sold; the property went on the market in 2016 and only recently snagged attention from buyers when the asking price was drastically lowered from $8.2 million to $5.65 million. The broker behind the sale hopes it'll become a mixed-use development.  Many mid-century structures around Oklahoma City have come under threat in recent years. One of those was Founders National Bank, a Bob Bowlby–designed structure that boasted two, 50-foot exterior arches, It was leveled last October. Like R. Duane Conner and Fred Pojezny, who designed First Christian Church, Bowlby came out of an era in which architectural education in Oklahoma was transforming the industry. Bowlby studied at the University of Oklahoma under the direction of famous American architect Bruce Goff who was internationally known for his expressive, organic designs and for creating an innovative program with the school’s architecture department. Because of Goff's widespread influence, as well as the work coming out of Oklahoma A&M where Conner and Pojezny graduated, the city benefited from a slew of forward-thinking pieces of architecture, many of which have just surpassed or are nearing historic-designation age, meaning they’re potentially endangered if not in use. In order to protect First Christian Church, a Change.org petition started by Okie Mod Squad has been circulating that urges city council members to officially landmark the building, a designation that would require future development on the site to go through a public approvals process. Rostochil noted in a February post that thought the building was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, this “in no way protects it from being demolished.” The move only now qualifies it for tax credits to repurpose or restore the structure.   The efforts of the “Save the Egg” protestors have resulted in a city council meeting happening on Tuesday, according to News 4, where local lawmakers will discuss whether or not the church can potentially be declared a landmark. If identified as such by the Historic Preservation Commission, then the new buyer would not be able to make significant changes to its original design without prior approval from the city's Historic Preservation Commission. The protections would include the entirety of the Edgemere Park property, not just the iconic, egg-shaped main sanctuary. Conner and Pojezny designed three additional structures on the church’s campus, including a four-story education building and a small fine arts complex known as the Jewel Box Theatre, the city’s oldest, continuously-operating community playhouse. It took the architects three separate tries over several years to come up with the current design for the $2.1 million development, which the church’s renowned minister, Bill Alexander, wanted to be a “Church for Tomorrow.” In an old newspaper clipping cited on Okcmod.com, the design team said they aimed to take a “decided departure from conventional church construction” by building an “honest architecture” that would make it forever contemporary.  For residents in Oklahoma City, not only does First Christian Church reflect the history and character of the region’s modern architectural landscape, but it also serves as a place of spiritual solace and refuge in tough times. In October of 1995, families gathered there after a terrorist struck a downtown federal building, killing 168 people and injuring over 600 others. The bombing remains one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history and to many locals, First Christian Church stands as a memorial to community healing.
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Bioscleave Beat

Arakawa and Gins’s Bioscleave House is still on the market and in danger of demolition
It's coming right down to the wire for the group hoping to save Arakawa and Madeline Gins's extraordinary Bioscleave House in East Hampton, New York. According to the deceased designers, the one-of-a-kind residence promises to "reverse the effects of aging and transform the personal well-being and longevity of its inhabitants." Who wouldn't want that from a home? Well, the answer so far seems to be no one. The house's current owners, who can no longer afford to maintain the residence, have had it on the market for seven months. If purchased by a developer, the Bioscleave House, or "Lifespan Extending Villa," could be demolished and replaced by a standard $3 million spec house. The eye-catching structure, which is a work of art in itself, is the only house designed by Arakawa and Gins outside of Japan. The asking price has reduced to a cheap $1,395,000, which is a fair price given its location in the Hamptons, and given the fact that the property and its historically significant structure would be saved from demolition. The Bioscleave House's property is only 50 percent built out as far as its zoning will allow, so more additions can be made on the one-acre site.
JB D'Santos from Brown Harris Stevens of the Hamptons has the listing and is working to locate a buyer who appreciates the groundbreaking work of the late designers, and who is willing to preserve the site's architectural integrity. “There's a lot of activity and one buyer who is extremely excited about the property," said D'Santos.
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Scrapping the Skyscraper

JPMorgan Chase plans tallest controlled building demolition in history
JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank and financial services company in the United States, filed permits last month to demolish its massive headquarters on Park Avenue to build an even bigger, 70-story tower on the same site for its ever-growing number of employees, according to CityRealty. The destruction of the 52-floor, 1.5-million-square-foot tower will mark the tallest planned demolition in history, surpassing that of New York City’s Singer and Deutsche Bank Buildings. The 2.5-million-square-foot replacement will be the first skyscraper to rise up after the 2017 rezoning of Midtown East, which made a 73-block area surrounding Grand Central Terminal available to taller skyscrapers. JPMorgan Chase has long been dissatisfied with its outdated headquarters at 270 Park Avenue, with over 6,000 of its employees jam-packed into a building meant for only 3,500 people. While the modernist tower was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s esteemed Natalie Griffin de Blois, a female pioneer in the architectural field, it is not protected by landmark status from demolition. Its soaring replacement will be more open and flexible with 20 additional floors where employees will have an extra one million square feet of office space. JPMorgan Chase has slated the demolition work for early 2019, and a construction elevator can already be seen alongside the building. Once the new structure is completed in 2024, it will be one of the tallest buildings in New York City and one of the largest office buildings in the northern hemisphere. The design team, led by Foster + Partners, will seek LEED certification, and the project anticipates to introduce over 8,000 construction jobs to the city. In the meantime, JPMorgan Chase has negotiated leases at nearby buildings—including 237, 245, and 277 Park Avenue—for the workers who will soon be displaced due to the impending wreckage.
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anodize analyzed

SHoP Architects lands in the Lower East Side with a folded aluminum facade
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In October 2018 SHoP Architects completed the first tower of the Essex Crossing mega-development. Located in Manhattan's Lower East Side, the 14-story mixed-use property is clad with anodized aluminum curtainwall modules. Essex Crossing is a sprawling 6-acre mixed-used development project master planned by SHoP. The site has largely lain dormant since the 1967 demolition of the working-class tenements located at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge. In total, the project will deliver approximately two million square feet of development. The podium of 242 Broome is primarily reserved for retail use, with large curtain wall modules and window widths to facilitate greater daylighting. To increase sidewalk width in front of the tower, the modules of the first five stories taper toward the building's base, each floor overhanging the one beneath by nearly one and a half feet. In a bid to blend with the preexisting massing of the neighborhood, the summit of the podium roughly meets the cornice line of surrounding classically-designed tenements.
  • Facade Manufacturer AZA INT KFK Metal Dizayn
  • Architects SHoP Architects SLCE Architects
  • Facade Installer Walsh Glass and Metal
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion October 2018
  • System Unitized aluminum frame system mounted to slab edges
  • Products Custom anodized aluminum curtainwall
In accordance with zoning stipulations, the remainder of the tower steps back, forming a vertical rectangular volume rising from the center of the podium. Each successive floor is angled slightly to the west and set back again by nearly one and a half feet. Interior residential use is marked by tighter mullions, with window sizes reduced significantly until the uppermost floors. Just over 500 aluminum-and-glass curtainwall modules are distributed across the building's elevations. Behind the aluminum rainscreen modules, SHoP was able to insert a continuous waterproofing barrier. The facade was installed at a rate of one floor per week, with the entire enclosure system installed in approximately three months. "Anchors for the curtain wall are embedded in the concrete slabs, and serrated aluminum L-shapes attach to the anchors allowing for adjustability," said the design team. "Hooks are attached to the back of the curtainwall mullions which rest on the L-brackets." According to SHoP Architects, the design team relied on parametric design and digital workflows to develop the continually changing curtain wall panels and interior layouts. The color of the folded panels was achieved by bathing the aluminum panels in a coloration bath. Along Ludlow Street, the western elevation of the project, SHoP Architects is also designing the International Center of Photography's new home. The 40,000-square-foot space will be clad in perforated aluminum, cut, folded, and hung on a series of vertical rails.
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Quayside on the B-side

Sidewalk Labs reveals Snøhetta and Heatherwick designs for its Toronto development
Toronto’s interconnected “smart neighborhood” is inching ever closer to reality. Sidewalk Labs has released a batch of new renderings from Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio, as well as documents detailing how the company plans to pay for the ground-up development. Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside waterfront Toronto neighborhood is being touted as a smart, interconnected, “100 percent timber” development. In a February 14 Medium post, the company released a progress report detailing its progress before the finalization of its draft Master Innovation and Development Plan. One proposal that’s drawing flak is an arrangement where Sidewalk Labs would build infrastructure such as light rail on the site in exchange for a share of the revenue generated by increased property values—diverting tax revenue from public coffers. Sidewalk Labs claims the arrangement would allow the neighborhood to rise “years, if not decades, sooner than it would otherwise. This would unlock the potential of the Eastern Waterfront, and the jobs, housing, and economic growth that will come with it.” The company also clarified how many units of housing it would be building in the neighborhood, which would contain 12 mass timber towers. The project will adhere to the site’s existing zoning and will be 90 percent residential. That means 2,500 units total, 1,000 of which would be rented at below-market rates, and 50 percent of which would be “purpose-built rental apartments.” Half of the below-market housing would be affordable (and a quarter of that marked as “deeply affordable”) and the other half would be designated for middle-income earners. To meet the high demand for timber that the 12-acre project requires, Sidewalk Labs has announced that they would build a tall-timber factory in Ontario, which would supply up to 4,000 new jobs. Google’s 600,000-to-one-million-square-foot Canadian headquarters could also be in the making on the western side of Villiers Island along the planned light rail loop. Retail, an educational component, and amenities are likely headed to the campus as well. The neighborhood will also become a testbed for innovative urban technologies. Other than the weather-responsive “skirts” deployed at the open-air bases of each building, the entire project will be networked with high-speed Wi-Fi. A civic data trust would be responsible for removing identifying markers from any information gathered and aggregating it. On the design side, Michael Green Architecture has developed a mass timber kit-of-parts, and Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio have designed building concepts for the campus, innovation zone, common areas, and other spaces. Of note are the “scalloped” balconies found throughout the residential developments and post-and-beam styled open-air “stoas” at the base of each tower. The design will continue to change as Sidewalk Labs solicits feedback from stakeholders, the Canadian and provincial government, and Alphabet, Sidewalk Labs' parent company. The entire presentation can be viewed here.
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That Big Forest in the Sky

North America’s tallest timber tower wins city support in Milwaukee
The tall timber arms race is heating up. On January 22, the Milwaukee City Council's City Plan Commission unanimously recommended that a requested rezoning at 700 East Kilbourn Avenue move ahead, clearing the first hurdle for the Korb & Associates Architects–designed, 21-story mass timber tower. The mixed-use Ascent’s first five stories would rise on cast-in-place concrete, with up to 8,100 square feet of ground-floor retail and four stories of enclosed parking above that. The remaining 15 stories would contain 205 rental units and be built from mass timber fastened with steel connectors. Korb & Associates plan on leaving the wooden elements exposed as an interior finish wherever possible. The 238-foot-tall tower is being developed by New Land Enterprises, which has partnered with Korb & Associates on a number of projects across Milwaukee previously. According to Urban Milwaukee, the developer hopes to break ground on the Ascent this year, assuming the rest of the approvals process continues apace. The rezoning for the site still needs approval from the city’s Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. If Ascent’s design remains unchanged, it will slightly edge out Shigeru Ban’s 232-foot-tall hybrid timber Terrace House in Vancouver for the title of North America’s tallest timber building. According to partner and project architect Jason Korb, Ascent’s prefabricated timber components means that the top 16 floors can be installed in only four months. In a fire, the mass timber used for the structural elements will only char, not burn through, and Korb told Urban Milwaukee that, “The entire wood structure, and this would never happen, could burn down and the cores would be left standing.” Mass timber construction has been making slow progress in the United States compared to the rest of the world, but that may be about to change. The International Code Council, from which many state and local municipalities derive their building codes, recently embraced tall timber after two years of testing. With the new code adjustments in place, tall timber in the U.S. will only continue to rise.
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Rethinking Redevelopment

What we’re getting wrong about gentrification and cultural heritage
We tend to think of cultural heritage in terms of iconic historical artifacts, and we tend to think of saving cultural heritage in terms of heroic acts to preserve historically important things. We tend to think of gentrification as an inevitable economic phenomenon that, like so many other components of our capitalist lives, produces winners and losers—benefitting some and injuring others. But the way we tend to think of both gentrification and cultural heritage is bound up in ideological forces that devalue the lived experiences of those most threatened by the onslaught of transformative economic change. We are all familiar with how gentrification works. A historically working-class community sits adjacent to an upper-middle-class community where previous residents have been priced out. During the next real estate cycle, incremental pressure results in more upper-middle-class residents purchasing homes in the working-class area and eventually, the working-class residents get priced out and seek housing further outside of their community, resulting in longer commutes and a net loss in wealth. In a recent Washington Post article, “How record-setting art auctions are ruining the old neighborhood,” Philip Kennicott wrote: “Gentrification is about displacement, about the market coming in, taking things that felt like accessible common property and making them so uncommonly expensive that they are no longer what they once were…Something that was once habitual, a part of a beloved place—buying a cup of coffee or getting a haircut—becomes a locus of exclusion.” Kennicott’s premise is that gentrification takes affordable assets and makes them economically unattainable. But exclusion is about constraining options, not displacing options. If people can choose to purchase coffee either from a Starbucks or from an historic coffee shop next door, then diverse classes have an expanded set of options in the same proximate space. If we apply this example to residential units and other commercial sites, we could potentially develop communities without the blunt force of gentrification, i.e. without a simplistic acceptance that capitalism inevitably will produce ever-expanding zones of exclusion absent human intervention. Regardless, Kennicott and others err by focusing on exclusion at the expense of focusing on the processes of devaluation. Devaluation, in the context of urban gentrification, describes the processes by which systemic and institutional actions suppress the value of physical assets in underserved and low-income communities. Devaluation occurs through public policy—residential redlining, environmental racism and classism, deficits of public parks and civic amenities, etc. Revaluing is catalyzed when a devalued community is targeted for reinvestment. What are constantly undervalued are the untranslatable vestiges of the interior lives of displaced residents, the staged presence of culture within the homes and apartments that these residents once occupied. The architectural uncanny, according to Anthony Vidler, treats modernity as a catalyst for unleashing psychoanalytic forces deep in subjective will to produce simulated anxieties uniquely connected to the project of modernity—“feeling-effects” like alienation or estrangement, or the feeling of being a stranger in one’s own home. Revaluing these physical assets—seen as hollow shells or neutral sites for architectural reinvention and transformation by the wealth class— is heralded as the city remaking itself and becoming contemporary, as the supposedly inevitable transformation of physical structures no longer adhering to uses they have outgrown and responding to society’s new demands. For some communities and polities, the interiority of cultural experience is one of the few available modes of resistance. The exterior image of the typical single-family home is largely regulated by zoning codes and often bland aesthetic norms. Likewise, low-income apartment buildings and the like are already depicted as places of low cultural life and places where drug usage and violence coalesce. Therefore, any exterior treatment that further marginalizes the physical asset and the inhabitants further degrades and marginalizes the inhabitants’ existence. From the dramatic description of Harriet Jacobs’s garret as described in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to the expressive imaging of Black American life in Kerry James Marshall’s Mastry series, the interior space of Black American life has been where culture is materialized. Undoubtedly, the interior space is still the place where the most marginalized populations find their unique counter-cultural voice expressed through the aesthetic construction of their spaces and lives. Working at the intersection of architecture, theory, and urbanism, USC Architecture is attempting to think anew about “pre-gentrification zones”—places that, because of land ownership and the scale of under-development in comparison to adjacent real estate markets, are ripe for large-scale rethinking in advance of unregulated market-driven development that would force out current residents, landowners, and renters. Working with municipalities, community groups, and designers, we will utilize design as a form of policy to influence future development in these and other areas. In Los Angeles, Fresno, and the San Diego/U.S.-Mexico border region, we will examine and analyze the conditions and presuppositions that support the processes of devaluation and revaluation, as well as speculate as to how interventions can be made by market and non-market actors in achieving more egalitarian results to urban redevelopment imaginings. Cultural heritage is no longer separate from urban redevelopment, just as gentrification is no longer an issue that exclusively affects the poor. As we are witnessing, a lack of affordable housing creates ripple effects in all housing markets and sub-markets and thus affects the pricing of both rental and owner-occupied housing across virtually all sectors of the market. We must use design, architecture, and aesthetics as primary drivers of new policy interventions that will result in the development of cities in which all are able to afford the civic and public infrastructure that we all pay for. Milton S. F. Curry is Dean and Professor at the USC School of Architecture and holds the Della & Harry MacDonald Dean’s Chair in Architecture. Dean Curry obtained his Master in Architecture post-professional degree from Harvard Graduate School of Design and his Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University. He was associate dean for academic affairs and strategic initiatives at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture & Planning from 2010 to 2017. Dean Curry has held teaching positions at Harvard University, Arizona State University, and Cornell University. Throughout his career in academia, he has coordinated graduate and undergraduate design studios at all levels and has taught theory-related seminars on architecture and cultural theory, urbanism, and housing. He is recognized as a leading voice in integrating cultural theory, race, and class into the ongoing interrogation of modernism and modernity. He has founded two academic journals: Appendx in 1993 and CriticalProductive in 2008.
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Go Big or Go Home

The western hemisphere’s second tallest tower may soon rise in New York
Move over 432 Park Avenue. In conversation with the New York Times, prolific developer Harry Macklowe revealed that he had filed a preliminary application with the NYC Department of City Planning for a supertall skyscraper in East Midtown that would reach 1,551 feet. That would make it the second-tallest in the city and the hemisphere after One World Trade, which reaches 1,776 feet. Tower Fifth, set to rise directly across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue between East 51st and 52nd Streets, is, as the Times notes, likely to be Macklowe’s last great building. He has plenty of projects under his belt. The 82-year-old developer was behind the rise of 432 Park Avenue—the city’s current second tallest building at 1,396-feet-tall—the glassy Apple Store cube on 5th Avenue, and the renovation of the General Motors Building directly behind it, but Tower Fifth will require a slew of special permits, zoning permissions, and permission from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The tower, if built as proposed, would be 66 percent larger than the zoning for the neighborhood would permit. The 96-story office tower, a joint effort between Gensler and local firm Adamson Associates Architects, is facing complicated siting conditions and is currently planned to cantilever over two separate landmarked buildings. According to the Times, Tower Fifth would hang 100 feet above the modernist Look Building at the corner of Madison Avenue, and 300 feet above the John Pierce House. An 85-foot-tall, marble-clad glass lobby would frame views of St. Patrick’s, while the tower proper would step back from the base and only begin to rise 400 feet above the ground. The Times notes that the tower will rise on two shafts or stilts. The massing of the tower seems similar to that of the rectangular 432 Park Ave., until reaching the top, where Tower Fifth will displace and cantilever its floor slabs, a move similar to Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard downtown. Macklowe also revealed a slew of amenities and promised that the tower's perforated facade would be extremely energy efficient. The city’s tallest observation deck (Tower Fifth’s roof would rise above that of the 1,776-foot-tall Freedom Tower), a 60-foot-long corkscrew slide, multi-floor running track, and a glass-faced public auditorium that would sit above the lobby and look out over St. Patrick’s Cathedral have all been proposed. If Macklowe is serious about assembling the development rights necessary for Tower Fifth to reach 1,551 feet, the Times notes that he still needs to buy 580,000 square feet of air rights. While St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been looking to sell its unused development rights to fundraise for its maintenance, it remains to be seen if the owners of the Look Building and John Pierce House will be amenable.
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No Towers, No Comprise

Architecture collective joins activists to protest luxury towers on New York’s Lower East Side
One Manhattan Square, an 800-foot-tall glass tower in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is at the center of a grassroots battle against displacement. Designed by Adamson Associates, the Extell Developmentbacked skyscraper threatens to push out throngs of immigrants and longtime local residents who call the area home. It’s a common story found in the ever-evolving city, but this particular narrative possesses one distinct difference: It’s location. Since much of New York’s luxury residential building boom has focused on expanding Hudson Yards, buffing up Billionaires’ Row, and readying Long Island City for Amazon’s HQ2, the Lower East Side has been somewhat unaffected by such large-scale development. Until now. A series of sky-high apartment buildings, starting with the nearly-complete One Manhattan Square (also called Extell Tower), is slated to dot the Lower East Side waterfront enclave known as Two Bridges. Four planned towers are in the works, although One Manhattan square is the only one currently under construction. The surrounding community is predominantly composed of Chinese immigrants and working-class people, a major reason why the city designated the neighborhood a Large-Scale Residential Development (LSRD) area in 1972, which protects and promotes affordable and mixed-income housing for residents. According to Zishun Ning, leader of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, the proposed high-end projects violate the LSRD, which requires that all new developments secure approval from the City Planning Commission or receive special permits through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process. Ning argued the city's decision to move forward with the Two Bridges development is therefore illegal, and indicative of discrimination from the mayoral administration. Not only is it politically fraught, according to Ning, it's socially irresponsible. The towers are situated within a three-block radius of each other and will sit near NYCHA housing. One will cantilever over an existing senior center and another, One Manhattan Square, will feature a “poor door,” as the coalition calls it, for the building’s affordable housing residents.   Yesterday a slew of protestors gathered at the 80-story tower and marched to City Hall in opposition to the plan. Ning said the day’s event, officially titled the March to Reclaim the City, was the coalition’s latest attempt to get Mayor de Blasio’s attention. “We’re not against development,” Ning said, “we just want some regulation and future development that fits our community.” Last fall the group submitted an alternative proposal to the commission in which the neighborhood could be rezoned for more appropriate use. They integrated height restrictions on new construction and called for 100 percent affordable housing on public land. Ning said their efforts were ignored, and in early December, the commission approved a special building permit submitted by the developers. The commission said the projects only presented a “minor modification” to Two Bridges’ zoning law and that a full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process would not be required. “It’s evident that racism plays into the city’s zoning policies,” said Ning. “They rezone communities of colors for the interests of developers. We call out the city’s illegal approval, along with Mayor de Blasio’s collusion with developers to approve these towers and deny our plan that came out of a democratic process. We want to reclaim our democracy and control as a community.” History has seen many local working groups stand up against giant developers and influential politicians, but, according to Ning, there needs to be more support from area architects to help such groups envision a bigger, more inclusive picture for their neighborhoods. A new collective of aspiring architects and non-architects interested in the field, citygroup, wants to do just that. The organization aims to become a young social and political voice for the architecture industry. Members gather periodically for informal debates on serious topics like the need for affordable housing in New York, the nature of architectural expertise, and architects’ tricky relationship with real estate developers. The group's inaugural exhibition, set up inside its new space on the Lower East Side, details various visions of One Manhattan Square that imagine a more useful development for the local community. “We wanted to rethink the Extell Tower as something that isn’t as foreign to this neighborhood as it is now,” said Michael Robinson Cohen of citygroup. “It’s built on a plinth and houses mostly luxury apartments. We asked ourselves, How could we recreate the tower for different uses or for a diverse group of inhabitants?”   The exhibition centers on a series of 21 drawings done by different citygroup members. These individual visions, expressed within the confines of the building’s plan, feature different ways to reuse the tower’s 1.2 million square feet of space. Some pictured it as pure parkland, others cut it up into a grid of 3-meter-by-3-meter apartments. One strips away the idea that a housing complex must cater to the traditional single-family home by creating personally-designed apartments outfitted for everyone from single moms to yoga teachers, a Russian oligarch, a cat lady, and even a family of five. Thinking critically about megaprojects like One Manhattan Square, according to Robinson Cohen, allows architects to investigate the best ways for new developments to improve a community, instead of displacing residents and stripping away the character of a neighborhood. “Much like the coalition, we’re for challenging the tower, but are not against development in general,” he said. “Obviously, as architects, we want to build and it’s clear the city needs more housing, but to us it’s important to think about the people these developments serve.” To Ning, the architect’s mission isn’t far from that of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side. He says the two parties can work together to imagine developments that engage with local residents rather than taking away access to light and air. “We actually encourage architects to put their creativity into building things that benefit the community,” Ning said. “But in order for that to happen, we first need to fight the city.” A new lawsuit against the City was just brought on by the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors in opposition to the development. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is slated to support with future litigation efforts. Until then, the City is still contending with another lawsuit calling for the towers to go through the ULURP process, initiated by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson last month. “These towers are just one piece of a bigger picture,” noted Ning. “If 3,000 units are added to the neighborhood, the demographics will change and the land value will rise. Harassment and eviction will escalate. This is happening all over New York City. It’s segregation, and it’s very visual.” Walk-throughs of citygroup’s exhibition are available upon request through early February at 104b Forsyth Street. Email group@citygroup.nyc for hours.