Search results for "zoning"

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Divine Design

Harlem church wants to rezone above Central Park for tower and cultural center
Harlem’s La Hermosa Christian Church is proposing a major building move to save its congregation. Earlier this summer, it submitted an application to the New York City Planning Commission asking to rezone part of Central Park North to make way for a 410-foot-tall residential tower and community center run by the church. This week it unveiled further plans to integrate a fin-covered music school and cultural center into the structure, all designed by FXCollaborative Located at 5 West 110th Street, the existing three-story building that houses the La Hermosa Christian community is in poor condition and the congregation, which has been in the area since 1960, hopes that building vertically on the church-owned land will allow the institution to secure its future permanence in the neighborhood. As the oldest Latino church on the East Coast, many residents see it as a mainstay resource in Central Harlem. FXCollaborative has designed a striated, 160-unit tower rising 33 stories above the corner of Central Park North that would be built on the church's current site. It would include 50 units of affordable housing and 38,000 square feet of mixed-use space. According to 6sqft, La Hermosa aims to use the money it earns from the building’s tenants to fund its new sanctuary space, a music school, and an art school. The Manhattan School of Music has already offered to partner with the church and host free classes for local children at the site.  The low-lying community center, as envisioned by FXCollaborative, features a curved facade (similar in concept to the studio's Circa Central Park) made of crystal-like glass and a narrow, horizontal cutout spanning from one corner of the building to the opposite edge. If built, it would stand in stark contrast to La Hermosa’s current church building, a red- and creme-colored cement block structure that's slated to be demolished. Though the designs have already been released, no developer has signed on for the project yet and the City Planning Commission says it won’t vote yes on a rezoning decision until that happens. Until then, the La Hermosa community must keep waiting, but the future looks fairly bright given its ample support in the neighborhood and the fact that the church is already neighbored by other high-rise buildings. Not only that, but since Central Park South and a few streets below have been building higher and higher for the past few years, the proposed project may face less criticism than similar projects, given that it's much smaller than any of the supertall skyscrapers ringing Central Park's borders.
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DTLA 2040

City of Los Angeles releases draft plan for 20 years of downtown growth
The Los Angeles Department of City Planning has announced a new plan that frames the city’s long-term priorities for development. Called DTLA 2040, the outline breaks down how the city’s core will be strengthened to accommodate the estimated 125,000 more people, 70,000 more housing units, and 55,000 more jobs expected for the downtown area in the next two decades.  Over the next few months, the agency will be asking locals for feedback on a preliminary draft of the Downtown Community Plan—its official name—which locals were able to view online as of July. The proposal is broken down into three main categories: policy, land use, and zoning, and determines how Downtown Los Angeles and its current 80,000 residents will grapple with future growth. The proposed zoning plan breaks the downtown area into 10 land use designations, from its transit core to public facilities, to open space, and production, among others. It’s a logical next step for the agency to do this, since it announced a commitment to progressive land-use and transportation reform across the entire city late last year ahead of the 2028 Olympic Games. The plan falls under re:code LA, a major update to the city’s 73-year-old zoning code. An initial draft is coming soon.  A pivotal part of the Downtown Community Plan to rezone L.A.’s Central City includes a new Community Benefits program, an incentive model in which developers could build taller and denser structures if they offer public amenities and affordable housing. This is critical, according to a city planner who spoke with Urbanize L.A., because the next 20 years of growth will occur in just one percent of the city’s total land area.   Critics of the idea worry it will exacerbate L.A.’s worsening homeless crisis. A large portion of Skid Row is expected to be developed into market-rate housing and commercial use. Curbed L.A. reported that only a section of Skid Row is slated to be rezoned for affordable housing, which is a start, but it’s not enough according to some community homeless advocates. The Downtown Community Plan isn’t just about housing, however, it’s also about advancing mobility in terms of pedestrian traffic, cycling, and driving, as well as reinforcing the neighborhood’s character. Downtown residents can provide comments on the overall proposal until it's adopted by the city council.  
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He Came in Like A Wrecking Ball

Trump's Grand Hyatt New York will be demolished, replaced with offices
The Grand Hyatt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, once owned and reclad by President Trump, is headed for the wrecking ball. A new joint development by TF Cornerstone, RXR Realty, and MDS Capital has been announced in its place and will feature 2 million square feet of office and retail space, as well as a brand new identity for the Grand Hyatt. Located at 109 East 42nd Street, just southeast of Grand Central Station, the 26-floor structure wasn’t always a Trump hotel. In fact, it’s 100 years old. Built in 1919 by the Bowman-Biltmore Hotels group, the Commodore Hotel was originally a brick-clad building with over 2,000 rooms and a world-renowned lobby. In the late ’70s, the Trump Organization purchased and remodeled the entire structure for $100 million, redoing the facade with its now-signature all-reflective-glass curtain wall. It then reopened in 1980 as the Grand Hyatt New York. AN’s editor in chief Bill Menking wrote that the story behind the hotel revamp and the addition of the sign-slash-restaurant that hovers above the sidewalk on 42nd Street is a prime illustrative tale of negative development in New York.  Construction on the new building is expected to cost $3 billion. It will include 500 rooms for the luxury Grand Hyatt New York and state-of-the-art office space. Major transit upgrades could also come with the development, enhancing the pedestrian experience near Grand Central and offering better circulation and connectivity to the currently congested subway beneath it. A new entrance has also been discussed.  No architect has been chosen for the design project yet, though the development team aims to announce one soon. When complete, the new structure will join a handful of other commercial office towers in the area that have popped up since the 2017 rezoning in Midtown East. Progress on One Vanderbilt by Kohn Pedersen Fox, Tower Fifth by Gensler and Adamson Associate Architects, and JP Morgan Chase’s 270 Park Avenue by Foster + Partners is already underway. 
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Lean, Clean, and Green

World's tallest passive house tower could rise in Vancouver's West End
Canadian company Henson Developments is planning the world’s tallest passive house for downtown Vancouver. Slated for the edge of the city's West End neighborhood, 1075 Nelson would stand 60 stories tall, hovering higher than most towers in British Columbia and with three times the efficiency.  The Vancouver Courier reported that the City of Vancouver is currently reviewing Henson’s rezoning application and after that, it will go before the city council for a public hearing. Sean Pander, who serves as the city’s green building manager, believes the 555-foot-tall project will push other developers to pursue more eco-friendly projects. It’s located in a vibrant, largely residential part of town where there is rapid growth. “What makes it a really big deal is the amount of attention it will get with the public, as well as with developers, designers, manufacturers of windows,” said Pander in an interview with the Courier.   But Rick Gregory, vice-president of Henson Developments, isn’t looking to build a basic, boxy tower with an ultra-tight envelope, he said. Both of the two top tallest passive house buildings in the world are rather square: Bolueta by VArquitectors in Bilbao, Spain, and the 250-foot tall residential structure by Handel Architects at Cornell Tech. Gregory wanted 1075 Nelson to be architecturally-significant. “There is a certain look that Passive House generally yields and we’re trying to move away from that to make it much more attractive to other people to take the same approach," he told the Courier. To achieve this, Gregory enlisted the help of British architect Tom Wright of WKK Architects and Gwyn Vose, director of IBI Group. Early renderings reveal an undulating structure with large loggia spaces in the center voids spanning multiple floors. While it’s likely Henson Developments will get support for some sort of passive house construction—Vancouver released its own zero-emissions building plan in 2016—Gregory's goal of building an atypical design that’s the tallest in the world could prove more difficult if it ultimately means more money spent.
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Invasion of The Supertalls

A new breed of skyscraper threatens to devastate the fabric of New York
Imagine arriving at the Sheep Meadow in Central Park intending to lie on a blanket in the warm afternoon sun, as you have done many times before, only to find that there is no sunshine anymore. It has been blocked by a new tower just to the west more than twice the height of any building around it, including the 55-story Time Warner Center several blocks away. You look around and notice that more than half of the 15-acre lawn where you used to bask in sunlight is now in shadow. The greatest urban park in this country is directly threatened by those who see it only from a distance. Just as Capability Brown cleared long vistas in front of grand estates, new Excessively Tall buildings turn Central Park into a landscape framed from above. As a result of these new giants, in a few years Central Park may well be unrecognizable and barren—like much of our environment, dying off and becoming extinct. Our built environment, one that we architects designed, will have mortally damaged an Olmsted and Vaux masterpiece. The irony is that the new Excessively Talls (ETs), jacked up on stilts or interspersed with large and repetitive mechanical voids to increase their height over adjacent buildings and secure desirable park views, may ultimately lose their picturesque vistas. These multimillion-dollar investments may be responsible for the measured obliteration of New York City’s world-renowned park. Developers whose new, faster construction methods have accelerated the emergence of a building type catering to the superrich have now launched insidious advertising campaigns showing off the “new” New York: a thicket of gleaming skinny towers. None of these projects have affordable units. Their ads boast park and river views from altitudes of 600 feet and higher (not all ETs are Supertalls, defined by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat as towers measuring over 984 feet high). But the parks they showcase, Central Park first among them, will continue to exist in name only. No bucolic pasture will remain in the Sheep Meadow, the carousel will be too cold to enjoy, the ball fields unplayable (grass dies in the dark), Wollman Rink gloomy and windy, Tavern on the Green in shadow all afternoon. The New York City Marathon’s slowest runners will be greeted at the finish line not by waning sunlight but by a giant shadow, courtesy of the latest addition to the Upper West Side, a forthcoming tower designed by Snøhetta on West 66th Street, less than 600 feet from the park. The new ETs—many completed along 57th Street, now aptly nicknamed Billionaire’s Row—are also beginning to touch down wherever there is a view for sale and zoning doesn’t limit height, such as the remaining landing strip of underdeveloped properties between First and Second avenues with potential views of the East River and Long Island, and, most recently, on axis with St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Gensler has designed a tower. Has anyone considered that natural light would no longer stream through the church’s stained glass? Whatever happened to protecting our heritage and neighborhoods with sensible planning and human-scale development? ETs are catastrophic energy hogs, far worse than typical urban residential construction. Exaggerated floor-to-floor heights and full-floor apartments create a worst-case scenario for energy efficiency. Superskinny towers also have far more structural steel and concrete than is required to bear gravity loads because of the need to resist outsize wind loads. Local infrastructure (water, sewage, and power) is compromised, or service cut, because of the time needed to pump and discharge water and waste. And consider life-safety issues—how long will these buildings take to evacuate in an emergency, factoring in the time it takes to navigate multiple elevator banks, to rescue people in distress? But the impact of ETs spreads far beyond their physical footprints, especially when they appear in numbers. Sophisticated software can conduct shadow studies on the cumulative effect of more than one ET on a city block. The East Side will soon have two towers between 62nd and 63rd streets, one fronting 2nd Avenue and the other on 3rd. Surrounding apartments left in their shadows will need artificial light all of the time, increasing demand on the power grid and our dependence on fossil fuels. And then there is the wind. While data retrieved from the study of a single ET may show that it has no negative effect, the cumulative wind tunnel effect produced by multiple ETs will quite possibly create impassable and turbulent streets, with vicious downdrafts caused by the Bernoulli effect (increased turbulence, or downdraft, as the wind hits a large facade). The developers of these projects and some of our elected officials, unfortunately for us, have ignored the neighborhood residents affected. The public review process has become virtually nonexistent. Gone are community reviews, special permits, and even cursory notification to neighbors. The only way to find out how big these buildings are is by exhausting a Department of Buildings zoning challenge, then moving on to the Board of Standards and Appeals (Article 78), and finally, issuing an injunction. By then, the as-of-right ET will likely have entered construction, or worse, be built. All is not bleak, as there are new regulations limiting the use of glass on tall buildings, thanks in part to the monitoring efforts of the Audubon Society, which has reported that millions of birds fly into such buildings every year because they can’t recognize a mirrored image. That may help. Not since Central Park was practically devastated by neglect during the Beame administration in the mid-1970s has it been so direly threatened, but this time the danger is from without, not within. ETs and other out-of-scale development also place community and public gardens, pocket parks, and playgrounds at risk. It’s time for New Yorkers to rise up and insist on new restrictions to stop the indiscriminate abuse of light and air that could suffocate the city’s parks and their adjacent neighborhoods. To be sure, our skyline is rapidly changing, and there will be consequences, but the potential for irreversible damage demands a moratorium. To insist on more insightful planning is not “NIMBYism”—it is the professionals taking charge. Page Cowley is founder of the New York architecture practice that bears her name and serves as chair of Landmark West!, a New York preservation nonprofit, as well as cochair of the Manhattan Community Board 7 Land Use Committee. Peter Samton was managing and design partner of the New York architecture firm of Gruzen Samton, aka IBI/Gruzen Samton, and is a past president of the New York Chapter of the AIA. He now serves on Manhattan Community Board 7 Land Use and Preservation Committees. Daniel Samton practices architecture as Samtondesign in Harlem, has worked at KPF and Gruzen Samton, specializes in sustainability, and is a certified passive house designer.
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Mott Street Crease

Toshiko Mori Architect greets the Lower East Side with CNC-milled granite
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Due to be completed in 2019, 277 Mott Street is a seven-story, retail infill project that offers a contemporary vision of contextual development in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Designed by the New York-based Toshiko Mori Architect—whose office is located just a few blocks away—the project features a custom-fabricated CNC-milled dark granite facade with vertical ribbons of fenestration. The Lower East Side is no stranger to development; the neighborhood continues to experience seismic alterations of its architectural makeup in the form of historic demolition and the subsequent construction of often non-contextual development. In a welcome change of pace, 277 Mott Street is not built on the bones of a predecessor but rises on a 21-foot-wide lot that had stood empty for decades.
  • Facade Manufacturer YKK Campolonghi Caliper Studio FACE Design AM Architectural Metal & Glass
  • Architect Toshiko Mori Architect
  • Owner's Representative Doug Fountain
  • Facade Installer Caliper Studio AM Architectural Metal & Glass IA Construction
  • Facade Consultant Eckersley O’Callaghan Engineers
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System YKK YCW 750 FSG
  • Products CNC-milled Black Zimbabwe granite stone Custom-fabricated aluminum fins
The Mott Street-facing elevation is set back 18 inches from the street wall and is clad in dark Black Zimbabwe granite fabricated by Campolonghi Montignoso in Italy. “We worked extremely closely with the stone fabricator due to the highly specialized fabrication process as there is a very close interface between the initial digital model and the final product,” said the design team. “There were several technical challenges with the digital model to overcome, full-scale mockup reviews, and visits to the factory in Italy—where the stone was fully assembled—before the end result arrived disassembled on-site.” The result of this intense collaboration is a bold and seemingly twisting facade that echoes the brick-and-glass rhythm of its historic Italianate neighbors. At the front elevation's summit, which is 65 feet tall, the front facade's crown reaches slightly above the adjacent cornice line while the panels themselves flatten into more formal piers with an approximately four-and-a-half-foot width. The panels are anchored to a steel substructure fastened to each concrete floor slab. "The main challenge in developing the facade was achieving the architectural intent of the twisting and undulating stone with the vertical slot glazing, whilst keeping the details appropriately simple and rational enough to meet the tight budgetary constraints," said Eckersley O'Callaghan principal Phil Khalil. "This was successfully implemented to the point where—other than for the stone—local fabricators and installers were able to handle all of the glazing, framing, and installation without issue." Since the project is exclusively for retail use, it was crucial for the design team to ensure an ample amount of daylight made it inside. For this purpose, the rear elevation of the structure is clad in a glass curtain wall backed by twisting chords of aluminum, which serve as shading devices against western solar exposure. A monumental stairwell—which also serves as a point of egress—rises and is completely visible through the rear elevation. Toshiko Mori Architect was in continual dialogue with the Department of Buildings throughout the design and construction process to gain approval within the protected Special Little Italy District zoning area.
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Noblesse Oblige

Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform employs photography and drawings to capture a movement
The United States of America of the 19th century was a civilization in rapid flux, subject to spiraling economic and demographic growth coupled with staggering socioeconomic inequality that manifested in deleterious urban poverty. Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform, on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston through September 15, 2019, effectively encapsulates the bold visions of the era's patrician reformers with the living conditions of the urban poor that influenced their sweeping plans. The exhibition is curated by Charles Waldheim, the Harvard Graduate School of Design's John E. Irving Professor of Landscape Architecture, Director of the Office for Urbanization, and the Ruettgers Curator of Landscape, and is largely made up of highly-detailed topographical and landscape maps, historical photographs, and personal mementos. According to Waldheim, "the show started with a very simple idea; could we take large urban plan drawings from the 19th century and treat them like works of art?" For Big Plans, Waldheim hones in on four protagonists; Frederick Law Olmsted, the historic doyen of landscape architecture; Isabella Stewart Gardiner, the museum's namesake and prominent member of the Boston Brahmins; Charles Eliot, Olmsted's apprentice and prominent city planner in his own right; and Lewis Wickes Hine, the sociologist and prodigious photographer of the American urban condition. Although contemporary controversies surrounding park construction largely center on budgetary or zoning constraints, the execution of such projects during the 19th century was remarkably radical in ideology and scope. Big Plans highlights the revolutionary nature of public landscape design with an initial focus on Olmsted & Vaux's design for Central Park in New York, juxtaposed with an original hand-colored map by William Bridges for New York's 1811 Commissioners' plan that would place the gridiron street layout of Manhattan. In comparing these two disparate visions of Gotham at the onset of the exhibition, the curatorial direction quickly lays out the reformers' visions of reshaping the rigid rationality of the industrial city into one that cultivated both economic and social progress. The theme of correcting the societal ills of the industrial metropolis is continued in the second room of the exhibition with five-by-seven-inch silver gelatin prints produced by street photographer and sociologist Lewis Hines. Similar to contemporaneous New York-based social reformer Jacob Riis, Hines advocated for photography as an effective tool to prod for social reform. The images are not beautiful; as is the case with much early photography, many are overexposed and out of focus. However, aesthetics were not their purpose. The photos are a searing indictment of child labor, depicting young men and women toiling in industrial mills and sifting through fetid landfills in search of scrap materials. The remainder of the exhibition is largely a collection of drawings that plot out the expansion of the public realm and park space in Boston and Chicago, ranging from the Back Bay Fens to Jackson Park. Absent from the curatorial direction of Big Plans is a perspective from the urban working class and impoverished for whom the grandiose schemes were tentatively laid out for. This top-down perspective was a conscious decision by Waldheim to highlight the uneasy paternalism, or noblesse oblige, of the era's social reformers. While not explicit, the exhibition begs the question of whether this condescension laid the groundwork for similarly grandiose urban renewal plans during the mid-20th century. Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 25 Evans Way Boston Through September 15, 2019
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Lucy on the Curb with Diamonds

Studio Gang's Solar Carve tower meets the sun with sculpted glass
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The most recent addition to an already impressive collection of architectural characters inhabiting New York City’s High Line, 40 Tenth Avenue offers a sculpted massing that will maximize its solar exposure along the public park. The project, led by Studio Gang, is situated between the Hudson River and the High Line, with a primary west-facing orientation. To minimize the afternoon shadow cast onto the park, the architects developed a uniquely inverted, stepped setback shape to the building.
  • Facade Manufacturer Focchi
  • Architect Studio Gang
  • Facade Installer Walsh Metal & Glass
  • Facade Consultant & Structural Engineer Arup
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Focchi EWT 1, EWT 2, EWT 3
  • Products Focchi Insulated Double Glaze Units Ipasol Neutral 38/23 & 70/37 coating
Clad in a high-performance curtain wall from Italian firm Focchi, the tower integrates 12 types of glass. Despite a rather complex massing, the geometry of the enclosure was refined into a canted, diamond-shaped panel, surrounded by triangulated panels set perpendicular to the slab edges. The overall effect is a faceted, three-dimensional version of the architectural corner—perhaps a recasting, or import, of the Miesian corner to one of Manhattan’s most significant public spaces. The project adds to a portfolio of high-rises designed by the Chicago-based practice (which also has offices in New York, San Francisco, and Paris) that explore “solar carving” as a formal and performative strategy. “'Solar Carving’ is one strand of a larger body of research about how we can make buildings responsive to the specific qualities if their context and climate,” said Studio Gang design principal Weston Walker. “To maximize sunlight, fresh air, and river views for the public park, we pushed the building toward the West Side Highway and carved away from its southeast and northwest corners according to the incident angles of the sun’s rays.” A growing issue for the High Line is the diminishing degree of sunlight caused by the development of Manhattan’s Far West Side. According to Walker, the city’s prevailing 1916 Zoning Resolution—legislation that mandated ziggurat-like setbacks to boost ventilation and light for city streets—did not anticipate the proliferation of midblock public spaces such as the High Line. “As-of-right zoning would have endangered rather than protected the park by allowing the tower to be built directly over the High Line.”
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Upzone City

Seattle makes affordable housing mandatory in upzoned neighborhoods

Architects and developers building across much of Seattle will soon have to meet the city’s new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements, a set of rules passed with a spate of recent comprehensive zoning changes designed to ensure that “new commercial and multifamily residential development contributes [new] affordable housing.”

The MHA regulations were approved this spring and are expected to add over 6,000 new low-income housing units to the city’s housing stock over the next decade. The changes are part of the city’s Housing Affordability and Living Agenda, a three-pronged effort undertaken by city agencies several years ago to increase housing supply in order to stem escalating rents and property values across the thriving region. The fiercely contested changes in land use will allow for a greater level of residential density in many of the city’s neighborhoods and will ask builders to either include affordable housing on-site or pay into a general fund that can be used by city agencies to create new affordable housing in other areas.

The new regulations span five categories of development density, from low-rise detached and row house neighborhoods to taller mixed-use districts where buildings will be allowed to rise to a height of 95 feet or more. The efforts will upzone roughly 6 percent of the city’s single-family zones. Single-family zones ultimately make up over 80 percent of the city’s residential areas.

MHA regulations, according to planning documents provided by the City of Seattle, will be pegged to the degree of upzoning that takes place: Under the plan, areas that have been upzoned most significantly will be required to add a relatively higher proportion of new affordable housing. The required fees administered in lieu of on-site affordable housing construction will start at $5.58 per square foot for projects located in low-rise areas outside downtown Seattle and will go as high as $35.75 per square foot for larger mixed-use developments, according to city agencies.

The requirements will necessarily affect the work of architects designing buildings in these areas, but it is so far unclear exactly how.  The MHA requirements are set to go into effect immediately, as the city’s rezoning initiatives are approved on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

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Time for Tech

TECH+ Expo returns to New York to talk the business of building
According to Dr. Andrea Chegut, there is a constant tension between securing capital investment and being inventive in the built environment. It’s something that architects have to grapple with as they make design decisions that will please the client and investors, but also adhere to their creative vision. “This tension is happening in your desktops every day,” she told attendees of AN’s third annual TECH+ conference in New York on June 13. Chegut is the cofounder and director of the Real Estate Innovation Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As the keynote speaker for the tech-focused forum, held in partnership between AN and Microsol Resources, she reminded the architects present that they are inventors and that it’s imperative to stand up for their work because smart design helps make money. Chegut’s role as a financial econometrician is to research technologies that can improve the relationship between investors and designers, advance communication, and turn design features into metrics that investors can feel good about. “Global research and development expenditures are at an all-time high,” she said, “and real estate is shifting towards R&D and scalable business models, too.” Chegut pointed out that last year, global venture investment in technology for the built environment exceeded $20 billion. That’s a major look into the future of the industry, she said. Not only that, but climate change is making the business of building and maintaining buildings even more costly. From 2000 to 2017, the United States spent $2.5 trillion on resiliency planning and recovery efforts, and $117 billion to manage chronic floods. To get ahead of these issues, Chegut believes technology can help architects and real estate stakeholders make smarter decisions about their projects. Think automation, which could transform valuations processes, accounting, and more, or robotics, such as the Mediated Matter group’s FIBERBOTS, a digital fabrication tool that can create sophisticated material architectures. Even as augmented reality advances through the integration of added sensory modalities, it can immerse and nearly alter one’s perception of the built environment. These could make working in the field substantially smoother. It’s not just tech tools still in the research stages that could change the future; there are products that exist now on the commercial market like transparent wood, view glass, as well as digital software such as Humanyze, the WillowTwin, and Skyline AI that are transforming the way architects work. Companies like Envelope City and Katerra are already leading the way in zoning analysis and material manufacturing optimization. Chegut noted that her team, in particular, has been working on a property technology that could benchmark value drivers of design for investors to get behind. Through an experiment they call Wide Data, the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab created a database with information on all buildings in New York City that was used to determine common themes across award-winning structures, specifically commercial office buildings. They found that access to daylight can lead to a direct 6.6 to 7 percent increase on the cost per square foot of a building in Manhattan if it meets the green standards set up by LEED. In essence, Chegut backed up through economic data that the value of daylight adds to the monetary value of not only a building but a company, too. “Give humans daylight and we’ll make money,” she said. It’s dedicated research to tools like this that make technology so important for the work of an architect. Everything from advances in BIM, Revit, AR, and VR to prefabrication and efficient construction techniques means that the business of building is getting better because of technology. The rest of the day’s events at TECH+ zeroed in on these innovations and how certain companies and architecture firms such as Kaiser Permanente, SOM, GeoSlam, SHoP, and Payette, among others, are doing big things with new tech. Other conversations included the unique integration of gaming technology to help tell stories through design, and the use of specific tools that helped create New York’s newest architectural landmarks: The Shed and Vessel at Hudson Yards.
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50/50 Chance

Stalled California housing bill could give architects chance to redesign the state’s cities
California needs 3.5 million housing units. That’s more housing units than currently exist in most states. This shortage—California ranks 49th in housing units per capita, ahead of only Utah—developed slowly but has metastasized into a true crisis, with housing costs rising to untenable levels for all but the most well-off Californians. In considering how and where to add a volume equivalent to all of Virginia, a key question is, what state—or, rather, what city—will those new units look like? Will they look like the tract homes of Phoenix? The row houses of Philadelphia? The high-rise apartments of New York City? The triple-deckers of Boston? The genteel mansions of Richmond? Or, perhaps worst of all, the mid-rises of Hollywood? The answers depend in large part on where new housing gets built. A recent bill in the California legislature almost provided the answer—almost. Senate Bill 50, sponsored by San Francisco–based State Senator Scott Wiener, would have mandated increased housing densities around major public transit lines and “jobs rich” areas throughout the state by requiring cities to permit multifamily buildings of up to five stories by right. Wiener contended that California needs more housing and that the best locations are those that enable residents to minimize commuting by personal automobiles. A relatively late amendment would have eliminated single-family zoning, permitting homeowners to build up to four units on any single-family lot, and limited the high-density provisions to counties of over 600,000 residents. California has always maintained a tense relationship with density, often failing to plan for it while suffering its ill effects all the same. SB 50 could be the catalyst to help the state abandon its suburban fetishes once and for all. An updated version of a bill that Wiener sponsored last year, SB 50 nearly made it out of the State Senate until Appropriations Committee Chair Anthony Portantino scuttled it with a procedural tactic, refusing to bring it to a vote in committee. The move put an abrupt end to what had arguably been the most heated debates over land-use legislation in state history. SB 50, like many other recent controversies related to development and housing in California, did not inspire neat loyalties. While its core support came from the increasingly influential YIMBY movements and core opposition came from homeowners, the politics were messy at best. Conservatives could love its relaxation of regulations but hate its emphasis on dense urbanism. Liberals were more intensely fractured. SB 50 appealed to values of inclusion and of progressivism, be they socioeconomic or aesthetic. For some, the bill served the cause of equity simply by potentially creating more housing. Other liberals saw it differently. Advocates of social justice feared SB 50 would empower capitalist developers while displacing and disenfranchising vulnerable populations through eviction and demolition. Older liberal activists, especially in suburban areas, put their economic interests first, recoiling from the prospect that increased housing supply might depress their property values. Many of them protested SB 50’s potential to interfere with “neighborhood character.” (Wiener’s antagonist Portantino represents La Cañada Flintridge, a comfortable suburb north of downtown Los Angeles.) Institutionally, the League of California Cities and many city councils statewide condemned SB 50 for trampling on “local control,” asserting that land use decisions have always belonged to municipalities and municipalities alone. Many mayors, however, including those of Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, praised SB 50 for giving cities a new opportunity to ease their housing crisis—and to do so equitably statewide, forcing housing-phobic cities to approve their fair share of housing rather than ignore demand and dodge their obligations in the name of municipal sovereignty. By some accounts, a full 97 percent of California cities failed to meet their state-mandated housing goals in 2018. The California chapter of the American Planning Association controversially opposed SB 50, citing concerns about technical aspects of the bill’s language, even though many of its more progressive members favored it. Chapters of the American Institute of Architects did not take a position on it. Design rarely factored into these discussions explicitly, but its influence cannot be overlooked. Fears about changes to “neighborhood character” often accompany prejudices about “undesirable” racial or socioeconomic groups. They also refer to lousy design. Many homeowners recoiled against SB 50 out of fear that modest cottages might be overshadowed by a new triplex next door or crowded by the addition of an accessory dwelling unit. Urban activists took aim at even bigger targets. Opponents of growth in Los Angeles in particular have long railed against what they consider oversized, ugly, and excessively capitalistic apartment buildings. Such enormities often occupy full city blocks and rise five or six stories, with wood framing above one-story concrete bases. They have been the mainstay of Hollywood’s decade-long growth spurt and have arisen in many other moderately dense neighborhoods around the state. Revulsion is, often, completely justified. Large but underwhelming, and expensive but unrefined, such developments have poor detailing, clunky dimensions, and, often, antagonistic relationships with the street. They have neither humor nor grace nor character, and they succeed at one thing and one thing only: housing many people. Typically, those people are well off—or at least are pretending to be. While California’s housing crisis has many causes, it’s not unreasonable to say that lousy design is one of them, and it’s not unreasonable for opponents of SB 50 to make apocalyptic predictions about aesthetics. This is the backdrop against which architects should contemplate the revival of SB 50. Wiener has pledged to bring it back next year, and the appetite for major housing legislation remains fierce—before long, some version of SB 50 will pass, and the opportunities for architects and architecture will be profound. The quality of design that follows the passage of the next version of SB 50 will, without exaggeration, determine the look, feel, and function of California cities for at least the next generation. Many opponents of SB 50 criticize it as a "giveaway" to capitalist developers. If architects are to support the next version of SB 50, they should want to be seen as stewards, not opportunists. Upzoning around transit stops will create entirely new transit-oriented neighborhoods. Places that currently consist of park-and-ride lots and single-family homes will rise to five and six stories, with less parking than most zoning codes currently mandate. That’s like taking a cookie cutter to San Francisco’s Mission District or Los Angeles’s Koreatown and depositing the result in bedroom communities and office parks. Of course, California has hundreds of major transit stops and jobs centers (over 200 light- and heavy-rail stations alone), and the whole point of SB 50 is to distribute development statewide so that neighborhoods grow gradually. Even so, some places will be transformed sooner rather than later. In a state where many residents are mortally afraid of density, the choices that architects make will determine whether the new urban California is a dream or a nightmare—they can stumble into the latest versions of capitalist postmodern, or they can reflect on everything we have learned about the benefits of density. Designs have to be thoughtful, attractive, and socially conscious. They have to celebrate density, enhance the public realm, and give California cities a sense of style and character that they have lacked for decades. (Likewise, cities’ design guidelines and review boards will have to get savvier.) If SB 50’s single-family home provision survives (which seems unlikely), it will create a bonanza for residential architects. They will get to re-learn the art of the duplex, triplex, and quadplex—typologies that used to be common in California but have been all but extinct since the Truman administration. But new homes must not realize neighbors’ worst nightmares. They must not loom over their predecessors. They must not be large for largeness’s sake. In short, they must treat neighbors as clients. Whatever lawmakers intend for SB 50, the public will render its final judgment according to how architects seize the moment. Whether they like it or not, architects bear the final responsibility to fulfill the public trust. Of course, the real beauty of SB 50—if it comes to pass and if it works as intended—will be invisible. That will be the opportunity to craft affordable and humane housing for hundreds of thousands Californians.
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House of AOC

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helps launch green affordable housing complex in Queens
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on hand at the opening of a new 67-unit senior housing complex in Corona, Queens—the first affordable housing to be built in the neighborhood in 30 years. In close alignment with the representative's leadership on climate change initiatives like the Green New Deal, the $36 million affordable development is also one of the largest low-income senior housing projects in the country to meet Passive House standards for energy consumption, according to a statement by New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The 8-story senior housing project at 54-17 101st Street was designed by New York–based THINK! Architecture and Design and developed in a partnership between HANAC—the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee—a community organization, and affordable housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. All 67 units, a mix of 1-bedrooms and studios, are set aside for low-income seniors, with 21 units expressly dedicated to formerly homeless seniors. In addition, the project is a mixed-use development, with a preschool in the building that will serve 60 children and will be administered by the New York City School Construction Authority. Constructing the building 8 stories tall was needed to make the project financially feasible, and required rezoning. But because it is located in a largely low-rise neighborhood of two- to three-story buildings, the architects used a number of strategies to make the project seem less imposing. THINK! broke up the facade into "townhouse-like scales," using different planes and layering materials, window patterns, and colors to vary the surface, according to Jack Esterson, principal at THINK! and the lead architect of the project. The building was also designed so that an upper layer of floors is set back above the first four stories, with a transparent band of windows separating the two layers and making the upper level appear to float above the lower level. This level of windows also fronts an outdoor terrace for residents that connects to the lounge and laundry room. The Corona Senior Residence, as the complex is called, is one of the concrete outcomes of the Willets Point Community Benefits Agreement, a part of the negotiations over the controversial Willets Point Development Plan led by developers Related Companies and Sterling Equities. Funding for the project came from the city, including HPD, the City Council, city subsidies, the Queens borough president's office, Chase, and the low-income housing tax credit, among other sources. "Affordable housing is critical for our most vulnerable New Yorkers, especially our seniors. I am proud to support an organization that strives to provide community-centered, innovative, energy efficient housing," Representative Ocasio-Cortez said at the opening. "With a pre-K on the ground floor and additional programs and services, this is precisely the kind of development our borough needs. I am thrilled to join HANAC on this important occasion as we fight to keep Queens affordable for all." As the representative added on Twitter, "Today was a great example of what can be accomplished w/ a !"