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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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Everyone Wins

Five winning submissions picked in Buffalo park ideas competition
A competition to revitalize a 1.5-mile-long elevated railway in Buffalo, New York, has ended with five winners, and all five proposals will be combined to shape an RFP aimed at breathing new life into the abandoned rail corridor. The Western New York Land Conservancy launched the Reimagining the DL&W Corridor: International Design Ideas Competition in November of 2018 to revive an abandoned stretch of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) railway that runs from Canalside to the Solar City plant. Much like the High Line or the proposed QueensWay in the southern half of the state, the DL&W railway will be turned into an elevated park that will unite formerly-industrial neighborhoods with a continuous rewilded landscape. “Reclaiming Hill & Del” from the New York City–based Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA) took first prize. Their ambitious proposal turns the corridor into an all-season multimodal path to the Buffalo River, using the varied topography of the ridge to add excitement to the routes. Native plants would be used to return the path to a state of nature. “The Dell, The Link & The Wanderer (DLW),” a collaboration between Marvel Architects, BuroHappold, horticulturalist and landscape architect Patrick Cullina, and graphic and placemaking studio NOWHERE Office took second place. The DLW would divide the railway into several distinct ecologies while threading through the neighborhoods. The Dell portion would bring secluded, wooded areas to the former rail line; the Link is where the new park would integrate with existing streets at grade; and visitors can Wander through meandering paths along the water’s edge. Third place was split between two proposals, “The Loop Line” and “Railn.” The Loop Line comes courtesy of the Brooklyn-based OSA, which wanted to turn the railway from a “barrier” to a “linear urban organizer” that capitalizes on investment along the Buffalo River. Unlike the other projects, The Loop Line was conceived as “seasonally inverted,” showcasing the majesty of Buffalo’s winters (even if they are buried in snow).   Railn was conceived of by a team of six graduate landscape architecture students from Beijing Forestry University. The project would overlay different axes, including transportation, quality of life, and economic improvements over the railway to create an inclusive, multimodal park. Finally, the community choice award went to Matt Renkas, a SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry grad and Buffalo resident, for his “The Del” proposal. The Del would integrate the industrial remnants along the new park into the landscape and include scrap steel sculptures of animals representing Haudenosaunee clans would dot the DL&W Corridor. The Del would also include several earthwork theaters and staging areas for performances and art shows. With the ideas competition complete, the Land Conservancy will launch a Request For Proposals for conceptual and schematic designs later this summer, integrating ideas from all of the submissions they received, not just the winners.
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Stacks On Stacks

Congress Square splits past and present with fiberglass-reinforced plastic
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Architectural preservation is often cast as a zero-sum game; historic structures are either painstakingly maintained or demolished in favor of contemporary development. Arrowstreet's Congress Square, a 530,000-square-foot project in Boston's Financial District, provides an alternative solution for this quandary with the restoration and consolidation of an entire block of historic structures that integrates a contemporary glass addition with a fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) soffit. The historic core of the project is composed of three separate Beaux-Arts banks built in the early 20th century. Over the course of their lifetime, and a number of financial mergers, the banks were haphazardly joined into a single entity. A lightwell was located between these three structures but it was filled with a web of mechanical systems over the years.
  • Facade Manufacturer Midwest Curtainwalls Kreysler Associates Island Exterior Fabricators
  • Architect Arrrowstreet
  • Facade Installer The Cheviot Corporation Consigli (General Contractor) Related Beal (Executive Construction Manager)
  • Facade Consultant Vidaris
  • Location Boston
  • Date of Completion November 2018
  • System Custom-designed unitized curtain wall
  • Products Custom glass and FRP modules
For the design team, one of the greatest challenges of the project was how to structurally support the seven-story glass addition, and its 24-foot cantilever, without visually disrupting historic elements. "A 1,700-square-foot mat foundation was constructed in the basement supported by more than 60 mini-piles that were all driven inside the existing building," said Arrowstreet President Amy Korté. "Fourteen super columns were then threaded through the perimeter of the existing buildings to support the vertical addition." Additionally, a new concrete core was inserted within the lightwell to both support the new glass canopy as well as house contemporary mechanical equipment. The new concrete core also facilitated the open-floor plan of the glass-clad office space. The structure's sharply-angled cantilever and soffit are located on the prominent southwestern corner of the project, adjacent to Post Office Square. Arrowstreet collaborated closely with the FRP and the curtainwall manufacturers, Kreysler and Associates and Midwest Curtainwalls, to develop the soffit design. The design and fabrication teams reviewed three color options in both glossy and matte finishes, constructing full-scale mockups to effectively gauge the product most complementary with the historic ornamental metalwork found throughout the buildings. Ultimately, the team settled on an iridescent gold-like finish that reflects light to the street below. "Our team refined the design of the soffit using Rhino 3D software and 3D printing to visualize the final installation," continued Korté. "Sharing these models, we could interface directly with Kreysler and Associates' sophisticated fabrication equipment, including six-axis CNC robotic routers to realize complex geometries." While the bulk of the project focused on the insertion of the seven-story glass pavilion atop three historic banks, the northern rump of the mixed-use project involved the restoration of two additional historic structures and the construction of an entirely new 12-story addition. The facade of the addition was manufactured by Island Exterior Fabricators and was fully installed in under two weeks. Amy Korté, Arrowstreet President, will be presenting a deeper dive into this project as part of the panel, "Lightness & Weight | Creating Continuity in Cityscape with Hybrid Facades" at the upcoming Facades+ conference in Boston on June 25. For more details, along with registration info, visit Facades+ Boston.
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At The Top

Deborah Marton named Van Alen Institute’s new executive director
After former executive director of the New York nonprofit Van Alen Institute, David van der Leer, announced that he was stepping down in October of last year, the hunt to find a replacement leader for the 125-year-old institution was on. Now, Deborah Marton, currently the executive director of the nonprofit New York Restoration Project (NYRP), has been tapped to lead Van Alen. Marton’s experience in advocating for open space in the built environment, whether it be as the former executive director of the Design Trust for Public Space, her five years as director of the NYRP, or her position on the board of the Landscape Architecture Foundation, seems to be in natural alignment with Van Alen’s mission. “Deborah brings extensive experience to Van Alen in successfully mobilizing professionals across various sectors—architecture, urban design, ecology, public health—to take an interdisciplinary approach that effects positive change, particularly among underserved communities. Her passionate, innovative and collaborative leadership in addressing complex issues will be invaluable in executing the single largest program in our history being launched this fall," said Van Alen board of trustees chair Jared Della Valle in a press release. “Van Alen Institute stands alone in its ability to render visible the complex systems that govern our physical environment,” wrote Marton, “effectively bridging the gap between pure knowledge and built form. I am privileged to be joining Van Alen’s outstanding team and look forward to building on the organization’s 125-year history as a leading voice in unearthing unconventional solutions to our most significant social, ecological and cultural challenges.”
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Dine with Radicals

Radical Italian Design movement comes to life in New York gallery show
New York powerhouse gallery R & Company is known for its ability to balance historical and contemporary focuses. Its expertise of the midcentury modern Brazilian period is matched by its mastery of postmodern design from the late 1960s through to the early '80s. The multi-venue gallery is also recognized for its diverse roster of contemporary talents working in various mediums, applications, styles, and approaches. Playing to its own strengths, the gallery has mounted two distinct group shows at its sprawling White Street location this spring. On view till June 19, these two exhibitions reflect a clever curatorial vision: the decision to reframe, reassess, and recontextualize key works from the gallery's boundless stores and to debut newly acquired pieces. Building on the success of a similar exhibition mounted in 2017, a seminal anthology, and full-feature-length film—developed with independent curator Maria Cristina Didero—Radical Living presents important works from various collectives and talents of the once controversial but wildly influential Radical Italian Design movement. This period of firebrand fervor saw major designers question the fundamentals of how we live, interact, and occupy space. This design zeitgeist reflected the progressive and revolutionary tones of the time's societal shifts. Read the full story on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Good Lokko!

Lesley Lokko, architect and author, named dean of Spitzer School of Architecture
Lesley Lokko has written 12 bestselling novels, organized the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, and holds a doctorate in architecture from the University of London. And these are just three of her notable accomplishments. Her most recent? She has been named the dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York. Her appointment comes as the Spitzer School prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary. “The Spitzer School’s distinctive perspective on urbanism, combining as it does classic approaches to architecture with a deep concern for the lived experience of the whole people, makes it the perfect home for someone with Dean Lokko’s abiding civic commitments,” said CCNY President Vince Boudreau in a statement. The renowned CUNY outpost in upper Manhattan has educated students from the city with affordability and social conscience in mind, and civic duty and politics like these have definitively shaped the space in which Lokko has worked over her 25-year career. The Scotland-born-Ghanaian-raised Lokko spends her time hopping between the U.K. and Ghana for life and work. After going back to school at age 26 to train as an architect, she soon after discovered her love for literature, and successfully leaped into becoming a full-time novelist. Her work often deals with race relations and identity, both globally and Africa-specific—and her next novel, slated for publication this spring, unfolds against the backdrop of the Arab Spring. Her writing also crosses into nonfictional and journalistic spheres: she is the editor of White Papers, Black Marks: Race, Culture, Architecture and is the current editor-in-chief of FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture. In the words of interim dean Gordon Gebert, “She is exactly the leader we need to bring renewed energy and define an exciting new vision for the Spitzer School as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school’s founding."
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The Spoils of Babylon

Arquitectonica’s second finished building is being torn down
Arquitectonica’s second completed project, the multifamily Babylon apartment block in Miami, is set to be demolished before July. Fears over the now-abandoned building’s demolition have swirled for years, but last January, the ziggurat-inspired complex had its historic designation overturned by Miami city commissioners. The building’s owner, former spaghetti western star Francisco Martínez Celeiro (known professionally as George Martin), wants to replace the 37-year-old postmodern Babylon at 240 SE 14th Street with a 24-story condo tower, a far cry from the existing five-story structure. The Babylon, with its distinctive stepped, fire-truck-red facade, made an immediate splash when it was completed in 1982 and helped propel Arquitectonica on towards larger projects. While the stepped profile, which is extruded through the long, narrow site it sits on, stood out when it was first erected, the building is now overshadowed by the surrounding condo towers in the Brickell neighborhood. While Celeiro originally sought to build a narrow tower on the site that could have stood anywhere from 48 to 80 stories, the 15,000-square-foot lot is only zoned for a 12-story building. Now, Celeiro is seeking to upzone the lot for a 24-story tower, but according to the Biscayne Times, that request is driving a wedge between the city and Brickell residents and urban planners, who fear the precedent will open the floodgates for other developers to request variances. The primary motivation for revoking the Babylon’s protected status seems to have stemmed from an engineering survey commissioned by Celeiro, who argued that the building was too far gone to repair, and the inexorable link the complex has to the gritty 1980’s—a drug trafficking-filled era that many are keen to forget. “This is the real history of the Babylon,” said Commissioner Joe Carollo in 2018, during the 4-1 vote to strip the building of its historic designation, according to the Miami Herald. “This is a place built on the cheap by a guy who was so high he didn’t know if he was coming or going most of the time. I’m amazed that we’re talking about this 35 years later. I’m amazed we have spent too much time glorifying one of the worst buildings in an era many of us would like to forget.” AN will follow up on this story once further details on the Babylon’s replacement come to light.
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A Quiet Place

Tadao Ando's first New York building creates high-end tranquility
Tadao Ando’s first building in New York is quiet. At least, that’s the way the Pritzer Prize–winning architect wants it to be perceived. Located in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, the newly-completed 152 Elizabeth is Ando’s latest luxury residential project, and though it only has seven home inside it, is slated to subtly stand out amongst its neighbors. While the idea of being quiet and sophisticated is reflected in its simple yet elegant design scheme, the 32,000-square-foot building quite literally is engineered to be noise-proof; it’s a “sanctuary” for its inhabitants, according to Ando.  Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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School's In?

Former I.M. Pei–designed IBM campus in Westchester could become boarding school
The suburban corporate campus Pei Cobb Freed & Partners designed for computing giant IBM could become a private school focused on science, math, and the arts. The town of Somers, a small municipality in northern Westchester County, recently heard a proposal from a developer who wants to convert about half of the 750-acre campus and all its five buildings into a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) high school for day and boarding students. For-profit developers Evergreen Ridge told the town board that the campus's 1.2 million square feet would be converted into the school in three phases. Ultimately, the school plans to accommodate around 1,530 boarding and 270 day pupils, for a total of 1,800, lohud.com reported. Operations would kick off in 2021 with a summer program and the campus would reach full capacity three years later. Sports fields, a field house, and an arts building would be erected during the second phase of construction. The Pei Cobb Freed–designed campus, known for its pyramidal, zig-zagging buildings, was erected between 1984 and 1989. At peak occupancy, it hosted about 3,000 workers on the nine-to-five (they even had a song!). In 2016, however, IBM vacated the property and sold it to Sebastian Capital for almost $32 million. This isn't the only Pei news to emerge recently: Unless you're an architecture aficionado who's elected to live under a rock, you probably know that the Pritzker Prize–winning architect died last month at the age of 102.
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Pratt to the Future

Harriet Harriss named new Dean of Architecture at Pratt
The search to replace Thomas Hanrahan, the long-serving outgoing dean of the Pratt Institute School of Architecture, is now over, as Pratt has selected Dr. Harriet Harriss to take over come August 20, 2019. Dr. Harriss will bring an international spin to the position, as well as one of inclusion and pedagogy, topics that Harriss has written about, lectured on, and researched extensively. Harriss currently leads the Post-Graduate Research Program in Architecture and Interior Design at the Royal College of Art in London, and before that, led the Masters in Applied Design in Architecture program at Oxford Brookes University. Harriss has also taught at the New School and Parsons in the past and has run international collaborations with the New York Institute of Technology and Columbia University, among others. Additionally, Harriss cofounded Design Heroine Architecture (DHA) in 2004 and has worked on projects in both the public and private spheres. “Buildings aren’t just products, they’re philosophies with the potential to lead the zeitgeist. Tomorrow’s most successful architectural designers will be those whose education has enabled their intellectual agility and fostered connectivity to their communities,” Dr. Harriss said in a statement. “These qualities are what make Pratt Institute so unique. I am incredibly excited to get started.” Harriss will replace Hanrahan after his 22-year tenure. In his “exit interview,” Hanrahan expressed his desire to stand aside and let the next generation take the reins, but he’ll stick around at Pratt in a more hands-on teaching role.
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African American Design Nexus

Harvard's GSD launches platform to feature work of black designers
Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD) has launched a new platform to counteract the pervasive and enduring impact of racism that disproportionately affects black designers. The African American Design Nexus brings together the work of black architects and landscape architects from the past and present on the same website to explore their practices and provoke change within design institutions. That change is sorely needed. Only 2 percent of the nearly 110,000 licensed architects are black, while in landscape architecture, just 0.3 percent of licensed practitioners are black. For context, 2017 U.S. Census data estimates that people who identify as black or African American compose 13.4 percent of the country's population. Among the Design Nexus profiles is Hood Design Studio founder (and GSD alumnus) Walter Hood; Studio And founder and Columbia GSAPP professor Mabel O. Wilson; FAD Studio founder, professor, and textile engineer Felecia Davis; and Paul Revere Williams, the midcentury L.A. architect whose stylistically diverse work gained posthumous recognition. The Design Nexus grew from the leadership of Dana McKinney, president of the GSD’s African American Student Union and one of the principal organizers of the school's first Black in Design conference. McKinney and her peers generated a list of 2,000 African and African American designers, and from this list, an initial 50 designer profiles were created for the Design Nexus website by the student union and by the Frances Loeb Library. While there are fewer than 50 pages up now, more will be added over the summer. The project follows in the footsteps of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation's directory of women in architecture, which seeks to boost the visibility of women designers.
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Heart of Grass

bld.us designs paean to sustainable materials in the seat of American democracy
Like the famous Philip Johnson project that its name riffs on, the Grass House is all about transparency—but not the superficial, paranoid kind that relies on open floor plans and full-height glass windows. “This building is really about being as transparent with the construction process, with the material selection process, with the design process, as possible,” said Andrew Linn, cofounder of bld.us, the Washington, D.C.–based practice behind the house, “even if that leads to darker, rougher spaces than typical.” The house doesn’t present a frictionless, techno-utopian vision of sustainable design, but instead celebrates the texture and tactile richness of its organic constituent materials. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.