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Tech+

AN recaps the inaugural Tech+ expo in New York
"If you took GPS out of people's phones now, they would die." That was the bold claim Google's Aaron Luber made at the inaugural Tech+ expo today. Hyperbole? Maybe, but Luber made the point of how dependent we are on technology to navigate the built environment. Moreover, how else does technology impact our surroundings?  Presented by The Architect's Newspaper, the inaugural Tech+ expo saw 500 architects, designers, and tech experts head to Metropolitan West to get the low-down on how technology is shaping the built environment. The day was shaped by industry professionals discussing and showcasing technology that is developing a role within the design process of numerous firms and enhancing client-architecture relationships. Luber estimated that by 2018 almost all Android-based cell phones will be running software called "Tango." This software, he explained, when used with another software package called "Trimble," allows GPS to work in-sync with programs such as AutoCAD to allow clients to view their projects live on-site. Luber called this a "visual positioning service," which, for all intents and purposes, was an augmented reality machine. As for virtual reality, however, a host of VR firms, including Iris VR, Insite, and NVIDIA was present at Tech+ with their stalls showcasing their latest products. VR has, for a while now, been used to enhance the client-architect relationship through walk-throughs and other demonstrations. Despite confessing to being trained in "analog fashion," Keynote speaker Hao Ko of Gensler said: "Maybe the days of drawing plans and sections are gone now, we don't need 2D drawings anymore." Technology, he went on, has enabled us to present more coherent representations to clients. Before architects had to make physical models to enhance the experience, and these models were made at larger and larger scales—something Eero Saarinen was very familiar with, as Ko displayed a picture of the Finnish-American architect's legs sticking out of a model of the TWA terminal. Plans and models, though, can work together too. Graphisoft demonstrated how its software amalgamates section and plan drawings into 3D models, allowing both architects and clients to read what they see at the same time. Using ArchiCAD and exporting to Graphisoft, architects can also share 3D models with those using iPhone's too. Likewise, LERA demonstrated that tuning off layers can reveal construction sequences, among other things. What to take from all this? Ko summed the event up in his keynote: "To make the most of the future, we have to live in it," he said, before going on to describe the NVIDIA California office complex designed by Gensler. "Technology does not wait, and neither should architects."
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Who's Who

See who's coming to the inaugural TECH+ expo

A wave of new technologies is transforming the architecture, engineering, and construction industries. On May 23, The Architect’s Newspaper will host the first trade expo and forum to investigate this convergence: TECH+. Taking place during NYCxDesign month, New York’s official citywide celebration of design, the conference incorporates visionary speakers, engaging panels, live demos, and product displays from leaders in emerging fields like virtual reality, smart buildings, parametrics, advanced materials, drones and robotics, AEC Software, and mobile apps.

Architects, engineers, designers, builders, real-estate professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, software developers, students, and makers will converge at Metropolitan West in New York—the center of one of America’s fastest growing tech markets—to discover innovations, come across start-ups, meet top experts, and build connections. A conference addressing new architectural technologies is both needed and timely, spurring new ideas, cross-pollination, and innovation.

Who'll be there? These are just a few of the companies.

Chaos Group Chaos Group is a worldwide leader in computer graphics, helping artists and designers create photoreal imagery and animation for design, television, and feature films. Software like V-Ray, Phoenix FD, and VRscans dominate the fields of creative storytelling and digital design. Chaos Group founder Vladimir Yoylabov received a 2017 Academy Awards plaque for V-Ray’s role in bringing CGI to feature films. At TECH+, Chaos Group will be showcasing its technologies for the AEC industry, particularly its newest VR capabilities. Graphisoft Graphisoft ignited the BIM revolution in 1984 with ARCHICAD, the industry’s first BIM software for architects. The company continues to lead the industry with innovative solutions like BIMcloud, the world’s first real-time BIM collaboration environment, and coDesigner, the world’s first fully BIM-integrated green-design solution. At TECH+, Graphisoft will showcase BIMx, the world’s leading mobile app for BIM visualization on computers, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and Google Cardboard. Part of the Nemetschek Group, Graphisoftoffers valuable learning tools like online seminars, tests, books, training videos, and in-person training. Sister companies in the Nemetschek group include Bluebeam, Vectorworks, Allplan, Nevaris, and several more.

Humanscale Humanscale is the leading designer and manufacturer of ergonomic products that improve health and comfort at work and beyond. At TECH+ it will show off OfficeIQ, its newest innovation, which integrates computer software into ergonomic design, transforming traditional offices into active, intelligent workspaces that help users make healthier decisions. More products include seating, sit-stand desks, keyboard systems, and lighting. Humanscale’s ergonomic consulting services—used for more than 2,000organizations since 2008—help organizations develop and implement comprehensive, cost-effective ergonomics programs.

InsiteVR InsiteVR is a platform for AEC companies to create and manage virtual reality presentations across their offices. InsiteVR’s tools allow users to remotely control VR presentations, collect feedback from clients, and easily share to mobile headsets like the GearVR. The company provides virtual reality experiences in seconds with models from Sketchup, Blender, Rhino, Revit, or any other 3-D modeling. At TECH+, Insite VR will showcase Analytics, a new feature in which virtual reality walkthroughs can be replayed and analyzed to learn more about user behavior in a space. Its heat map functionality provides additional data on the distribution of users’ attention while going through a virtual representation of the space.

IrisVR Iris VR offers intuitive virtual-reality software for the AEC industry that works seamlessly with existing 3-D software. Offerings like Prospect (for explorable VR) and Scope (for 360-degree panoramas) give you a true sense of depth and space before anything has been built. Architects and builders like Ennead, SHoP, HMC, and Corgan have quickly generated realistic virtual environments to aid with their design process and client communications. At TECH+, IrisVR will be showcasing its new experiences for Prospect, providing the ability to have multiple users within the same virtual-reality model, with real-time audio and visual feedback.

Iron-Horse Systems Iron-Horse Systems is a full-service certified distributor of IoT systems for lighting control. The company provides sensor layouts and network design along with the programming and maintenance services necessary to tie the specified lighting system into the end user’s IoT or BMS platform. This ensures a complete, reliable system from design through completion. At TECH+, Iron Horse will be showcasing several of its IoT solutions for smart buildings.

Microsol Resources A leader in BIM technology solutions, as well as an Autodesk platinum partner, Microsol Resources has been a reseller of engineering and architecture software—such as V-Ray, Bluebeam, and Rhino—since 1986. Microsol specializes in building and civil infrastructure software, but its suite of offerings also includes training, certification, and product support. The company helps innovative clients get the most out of their designs and technology investments through installation, activation, and continued follow-up. The firm services big offices like Bjarke Ingels Group, David Adjaye Associates, Rafael Viñoly, and KPF, as well as start-ups and sole proprietors. Microsol’s annual TechPerspectives conference, launched in 2013, focuses on the most exciting technologies driving change in the design and construction industries. The conference showcases industry leaders and innovative technologies including BIM, 3-D printing, virtual reality, digital design and fabrication, and more. The event has taken place in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. This year’s TechPerspectives will be held at TECH+.

Nvidia Nvidia designs graphics processing units (GPU) for the gaming market, as well as system-on-a-chip units for the mobile computing and automotive markets. Nvidia’s invention of the GPU in 1999 sparked the growth of the PC gaming market, redefined modern computer graphics, and revolutionized parallel computing. More recently, GPU deep learning ignited modern AI—the next era of computing—with the GPU acting as the brain of computers, robots, and self-driving cars that can perceive and understand the world. Nvidia is working with Gensler to realize their new headquarters in Santa Clara. At TECH+ Gensler principal Hao Ko will be speaking about Gensler’s close collaboration with the company to visualize the project in VR through the Nvidia’s Iray rendering engine.

Panzura Panzura, founded in 2008 by a team of engineers with experience at the country’s top IT companies, specializes in cloud-based storage and file-protection products. The company’s infrastructure leverages superfast, high-performance, secure Internet technology to create an interconnected, unified global file system—regardless of physical location. With Panzura’s patented global file locking technology, BIM and CAD users across the world can work together like they’re in the same room. This capability reduces application and file-open and -sync time for distributed users from 20 or 30 minutes to just seconds. At TECH+, Panzura will be showcasing Freedom Collaboration, which provides cloud convenience, security, and communication with LAN speed and performance.

PlanGrid PlanGrid is construction software made for the field that allows plans and mark-ups to be instantaneously shared with everyone on a project, no matter where they are. It lets contractors, architects, and building owners collaborate from their desktops or mobile devices across all of their project plans, specs, photos, RFIs, and punch lists. Today, the company stores over 50 million blueprints, making it the largest digital blueprint repository in the world—translating into over $85 million saved on paper and printing. At TECH+, PlanGrid will share how the company is leading the industry’s digitization and transformation to the cloud by arming construction workers with the best productivity tools. Over 500,000 projects have used PlanGrid to finish on time and under budget.

Voodoo Manufacturing Voodoo Manufacturing, located in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, operates the 3-D printing factory of the future, helping companies and individuals bridge the gap between their first prototype and their first high-volume production run. In addition to 3-D printing, Voodoo offers high-tech materials and advanced post-processing, helping produce objects for architecture and engineering as well as marketing, entertainment, fashion, hardware manufacturing, and consumer products. At TECH+, Voodoo cofounder Jonathan Schwartz will discuss the future of digital manufacturing and what it means for people making physical products.

Walter P Moore Walter P Moore is an international company of engineers and innovators who solve some of the world’s most complex structural and infrastructural challenges. Focusing on structure, diagnostics, and technology, the firm works in almost 20 market sectors, from aviation to stadiums to tall buildings. At TECH+, the company will be presenting its work in VR, which has helped it open doors to unique methods of collaboration. The company will show off its proprietary tools developed for the Unity platform, helping clients understand spaces, compare facade details, check visibility of signage, and detect model clashes. The firm’s tailored approach allows it to collaborate with clients to add new customized content to any build.

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Changing Leaves

Amid explosive change, L.A.'s Exposition Park seeks new master plan
The Office of Exposition Park Management, a state-run outfit that oversees Los Angeles's Exposition Park, has released an RFP seeking master planning services for the 160-acre expanse as a slew of forthcoming, large-scale projects foreshadow gentrification for the 108-year-old park. The RFP—accessible via California's state procurement page here—will generate the park’s first master plan since 1993, a process that launched the CO Architects- and Mia Lehrer + Associates-led renovation and expansion of the Natural History Museum and its grounds, among other projects. According to officials, the 1993 Master Plan has been mostly completed and now, as transformative projects like the MAD Architects–designed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and Gensler-designed Los Angeles Football Club stadium come closer to reality, it is time to launch a new vision for one of L.A.’s most storied parks. In a press release, Fabian Wesson, Chairwoman of the California Science Center and Exposition Park Board of Directors explained, “We are very excited about crafting a 360-degree plan for Exposition Park,” adding that park directors sought a plan that “acknowledges the dynamic fabric of [the] community” while also accommodating the slew of new uses and structures being added to the park. Exposition Park and the neighborhoods around it have seen the beginnings of large-scale change and gentrification in recent years, as Downtown Los Angeles's residential and entertainment-fueled building boom spreads south and west from the city center. Downtown’s southwest corner—home to the L.A. Live complex, Los Angeles Convention Center, and soon, over 20 new luxury hotel and condo high-rises—is currently a sea of construction cranes. The Expo Line light rail that connects the financial and entertainment districts downtown to Santa Monica runs along Exposition Park’s northern boundary and opened in 2012. Next door, the University of Southern California putting the finishing touches on its $700 million USC Village project, which is scheduled for a Fall 2017 opening. As a result of these changes, there is a fear that the mostly-working class areas around the park will be gentrified, as the influx of blockbuster building projects spreads over and around the neighborhood. There are concerns that the new marquee projects—the Lucas Museum and soccer stadium, especially—are fundamentally changing and essentially-privatizing the character of the public park. Those new uses are not effectively taking up existing open space—the Lucas Museum is poised to add 11 acres of planted areas to what is currently a collection of surface parking lots while the LAFC Stadium is taking the place of the recently-demolished, Welton Becket–designed L.A. Memorial Sports Arena. The new structures, however, will add a heavy commercial element to a park brimming with museums like the California African American Museum, the California Science Center, and other amenities like the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Shrine Auditorium. A mandatory pre-proposal conference is scheduled for Wednesday, May 24, 2017, for those seeking to respond to the RFP. The RFPs will be due on June 16, 2017.
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Model-Mania

Inside Gulliver's Gate: New York's model-making treasure trove
I put an oversized plastic key into an illuminated lock, turned it, and out popped Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace. Another lock summoned Scotland's Loch Ness Monster and another sent a helicopter flying above New York City's skyline. Where was I? Gulliver's Gate. Inside the former New York Times office building, there's some large-scale small-scale building going on. Today, Gulliver's Gate opened its doors to the public, unveiling a $40 million new tourist attraction to Times Square. On show is a 50-nation display with 300 small-scale scenes, covering more than 6,500 square foot. The first location visitors encounter after receiving their own key at the ground-floor reception is a miniature Manhattan. The model was made in Brooklyn by a team of 16 who took 358 days to craft the 950-square-foot scene. The almost year-long effort, though, was worth it. Details down to vases for bars and free standing coffee machines can be seen if you look close enough, meanwhile, New York's skyscrapers, truncated by the ceiling, are exhibited as light forms. "These are an interpretation, New York is a city of light," a spokesperson told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) at the opening ceremony. Additionally, visitors can see a myriad of dramas (almost all transport-based) played out on New York's down-sized streets: from an overturned flatbed truck to fire engines rescuing people stranded on rooftops. These scenes are static, though the overall experience is kinetic and interactive. A section of Manhattan cuts through Grand Central Station, highlighting the station's ornate interior complete with its signature ceiling. Below, the story continues as Amtrack and MTA Subway trains pass underneath, travelling surprisingly freely without interference of train traffic or other bizarre disturbances. The selling point (or rather, key to success) for Gulliver's Gate, however, is its interactivity—an unusual quality for a miniature model exhibition, where typically no touching is ever allowed. Of course, the same applies here, but to quell the thirst of your inner five-year-old yearning to play, keys handed out to each visitor allow you call all sorts of moving diorama's into action. Sadly (though probably for the best) the moving trains, cars, and boats are not controllable. New York City may be the first location visitors see, but it is certainly not the only one on display. The Middle East, mainland Europe, Britain, Niagara, Russia, South America and Asia all feature, boasting their most iconic architecture. OMA, I.M. Pei, Moshe Safdie, Daniel Libeskind, Santiago Calatrava, Bjarke Ingels, Pelli Clarke Pelli, Frank Gehry, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Gensler just to name a few, all have their buildings on display at 1:87 scale. An odd number, the scale is used in conjunction with the H0 Gauge model railroad locomotives on display—the gauge (gap between the tracks) is per the standards set by the National Model Railroad Association. The only location not to adhere to this is Britain, where the standard scale is 1:76, a scale that works with the established 00 Gauge for railroad models and thus British model railroad accessories. There are more than 1,000 trains on show, not to mention 10,000 cars and trucks and roughly 100,000 people. At the grand opening, AN spoke to Head of Model-Making, Adrian Davies. Davies, from England, was working on a scale airplane, but took the time to explain that he and his team of 20 are continuing to build despite today's opening. He also said that models were made using architects' plans as well as photography and "lots of Google Earth." Unlike other miniature model mega-exhibitions, Gulliver's Gate is proudly a work in progress. Such openness is usually only reserved for traveling railroad model exhibits, where community emerges from informality as enthusiasts flaunt their back-of-house rolling stock. Lighting and other electrics are managed by a nuclear-style control system, the operation of which is on view to the public. An airport scene, designed in collaboration with Ben Krone of Gradient Architecture, is in the works and can also be seen. Africa and Mars too, staff told AN, are being built, but are currently hidden away. Visitors can also make their own models... of themselves. A full-body scanner and 3-D printer allow you to create miniature versions of yourself which you can either take home or leave behind as a permanent “model citizen” of Gulliver’s Gate. Gulliver's Gate can be found at 216 West 44th Street and is open from 10 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. every day (last entry at 9:30 p.m.).
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May 23

Tech+ expo: The future of the built environment is here

NYCxDESIGN kicks off this week, and our first ever Tech+ Expo will be part of it. Check us out on May 23rd from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 639 West 46th St. For more information visit techplusexpo.com.

A wave of new technologies is transforming the architecture, engineering, and construction industries. On May 23, The Architect’s Newspaper will host the first trade expo and forum to investigate this convergence: TECH+. Taking place during NYCxDesign month, New York’s official citywide celebration of design, the conference incorporates visionary speakers, engaging panels, live demos, and product displays from leaders in emerging fields like virtual reality, smart buildings, parametrics, advanced materials, drones and robotics, AEC Software, and mobile apps.

Architects, engineers, designers, builders, real-estate professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, software developers, students, and makers will converge at Metropolitan West in New York—the center of one of America’s fastest growing tech markets—to discover innovations, come across start-ups, meet top experts, and build connections. A conference addressing new architectural technologies is both needed and timely, spurring new ideas, cross-pollination, and innovation.

“We see TECH+ as the place where technology companies and the AEC industry converge,” said The Architect’s Newspaper publisher Diana Darling. “We want to share what’s happening and start pulling people together. These fields are developing quickly, and people are eager to build a community.”

Over the past six years, AN has hosted 26 events for Facades+, a series of conferences taking place in cities around the country focusing on the future of building envelopes. TECH+ will build on that series’ success by teaming up with Microsol Resources TechPerspectives conference to host a full day of inspired presentations on the Innovation Stage.

Presenters at TECH+ will include keynote speaker Hao Ko, a Gensler principal who helped mastermind the Nvidia headquarters building in Santa Clara, California, and the Mercedes-Benz headquarters building in Atlanta; Kerenza Harris, leader of Morphosis Architects’ advanced technology team; and leaders of innovative companies like Graphisoft, Humanscale, Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), FXFowle, Thornton Tomasetti, and more.

Panels will discuss, among other topics, start-up technology investment, workplace design, digital printing and fabrication, virtual-reality environments, and on-site drone footage. More than a dozen exhibitors hail from around the AEC industry, in fields like BIM (building information modeling) software, virtual reality (VR), 3-D printing, engineering, and computer graphics. The conference will also showcase know-how from some of the city’s top tech incubators and research from cutting-edge technology programs at design schools like Columbia GSAPP, Parsons, MIT DesignX, and Pratt.

TECH+ is a new type of conference,” said Darling. “We’re focusing on completely new ideas and techniques, and gauging where the future of the AEC will be and how we get there.”

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Ground ball

Jackie Robinson Museum finally starts construction after a decade-long wait
Work has finally begun on a New York City museum that will honor Brooklyn Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson. Originally, the museum was slated open in 2009, but the Great Recession stalled fundraising for ten years. Now the museum, designed by Gensler’s New York office with exhibition design by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, is set to open in 2019. The 18,500-square-foot museum is being built into the ground floor of One Hudson Square, in Manhattan’s Soho district. A permanent exhibit will inform visitors of Robinson’s part in the civil rights movement, showcasing Jackie Robinson’s achievements against the backdrop of U.S. history from 1919 to the present. Beyond learning, these panels are functional, retracting to form the walls of an arena setting, or sliding out of sight to create more space for larger events. In these cases, temporary seating can also be installed. More hands-on exhibits, meanwhile will inform visitors on subjects including baseball, segregation, citizenship, personal integrity, and social change. A 75 seat theater will round out the program. "The Jackie Robinson Museum is an opportunity to bring an important cultural landmark to NYC—one that challenges visitors to think about the history of social and cultural change and tolerance," wrote said Joseph Plumeri, chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation National Legacy Campaign, in an information document about the museum. "The lessons learned from Jackie’s personal journey will touch people of all ages, educational levels, and cultural backgrounds." In terms of funding, the Associated Press reported that about $23.5 million has been raised to build the museum. The Jackie Robinson Foundation has its eyes set on a total of $42 million to pay for the museum's operating costs (42 was the baseball player's number).
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Stairway to Heaven

New renderings released for Gensler's "EPIC" creative office tower in Hollywood
Architects Gensler and developer Hudson Pacific Properties have revealed a new set of renderings for a 300,000-square-foot creative office tower complex in Hollywood, California. The project, dubbed EPIC, will replace an existing parking lot and be 230 feet tall. The EPIC tower rises highest and most prominently along Sunset Boulevard and contains ground floor retail wrapping its base. The structure steps up from a wide parking podium section until roughly the midway point of the tower’s height. These stepped sections contain a series of elaborate, multi-level planted terraces that overlook the surrounding neighborhood. Higher up, the tower presents a more formal silhouette and is studded with floor-to-ceiling, square-shaped expanses of glass. These sections are offset slightly from one another and contain divided light window assemblies Interior creative office spaces feature spare interiors, with unfinished concrete floors and a spare grid of square-shaped concrete columns spanning the structure’s broad floorplates. The new batch of renderings includes several views of multi-level interior office spaces and of the outdoor terraces, as well. The terrace areas contain a variety of seating configurations, are landscaped with modestly-sized trees, and divided up by variable planted partitions. The tower is being developed as a sister project to the developer’s $150 million expansion of the Sunset Bronson Studios complex directly across the street. That project consists of a 14-story tower containing 400,000-square feet of office spaces, including five-stories of movie, sound, and film production facilities. Both projects join an increasing number of high-rise, mixed-use tower complexes slated for the area, including the recently-completed RCH Studios–designed Columbia Square development and the beleaguered Natoma Architects–designed Hollywood Palladium towers. EPIC is currently in the beginning stages of construction; a final construction schedule has not been completed.
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AN Investigates

Landmarks cites nonexistent permits for iconic Citicorp Center plaza
Last month the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) sidestepped a crucial discussion of a developer's plans to overhaul a plaza at the Citicorp Center (now 601 Lexington Avenue), citing permits that were, in fact, never issued (Update 5/8/17: see note at bottom). The opaque and irregular approvals process for these renovations—detailed below—deprived the public of the opportunity to weigh in on highly visible changes to the landmarked Citicorp Center, one New York’s most essential late modern buildings. Those changes especially impact a plaza and fountain by Sasaki Associates, one of the firm’s only surviving works in New York. In March The Architect's Newspaper reported on the planned changes to the building, one of the city's newest landmarks. The 59-story tower, designed by Hugh A. Stubbins & Associates in 1977, commands a busy corner in East Midtown, Manhattan. The landmark designation includes three interrelated structures—a 59-story, 915-foot-tall office tower on the western portion of the site, a six-story mixed-use structure nestled into the main tower, and St. Peter's Lutheran Church of Manhattan—all connected by a series of indoor and outdoor spaces that are privately owned but open to the public. At the Midtown East building, though, proposed changes to those spaces—known to city planners as POPS—have attracted attention.  The LPC put the Citicorp Center on its calendar for landmark consideration in May 2016, and, after one hearing on September 13, the commission declared 601 Lexington Avenue—three buildings and the POPS—a New York City landmark in December 2016. Typically, calendaring puts all renovations on hold—but not this time. In July of that year, just two months after calendering, the owner, Boston Properties, filed plans with the DOB for a $46.8 million renovation that included changes to the POPS and the six-story office-retail building at the base of the main tower. Fast forward to a March 21, 2017 hearing to discuss a proposed renovation, designed by Gensler, that included work on the building's facade. At this hearing, LPC commissioners twice stated that they couldn't comment on the plaza renovations because they were "already permitted" (5:38:01 and 5:41:40), while LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said the owner "already got the permits" for the plaza reconstruction. But where are those permits? The permits the LPC referenced could only been approved by one agency: the Department of Buildings (DOB). For this project, the DOB approves development plans, while the Department of City Planning's (DCP) City Planning Commission oversees and approves changes to privately owned public spaces. Neither agency can approve major changes to a landmark or potential landmark without LPC approval. Today, a DOB spokesperson confirmed to AN that the agency rejected Boston Properties’ plans (just this week, in fact) but stated that the owner may file new plans at a later date. With no permits on file, was the LPC referencing approvals from City Planning? At the March 2017 hearing, the commission stated that, because the DCP oversees privately owned public spaces, any changes to the POPS had to be—and were already—approved by that department. That’s true: At DCP, public review of the project commenced September 14, 2016—a day after the LPC’s September designation hearing—and garnered departmental approval on November 2, 2016, months after the May calendaring and a little over a month before designation. This bizarre dialogue between Landmarks and City Planning left no opportunity for the public to comment on major changes to a landmarked public space. The LPC was unable to confirm what permits the commission was referring to at the March 2017 hearing, despite repeated requests. The designation report (PDF) confirms that the DCP has oversight over the POPS, but it incorrectly says Boston Properties received DOB approval to modify the sunken plaza. (The designation report contains an additional error: The Citicorp Center's calendaring is listed as August 9, 2016 but an LPC press release pegs its calendaring to May 10.) The DOB confirmed that it had not issued a permit for the renovation of the POPS at the site. With regard to the plaza changes, "I'm not sure what the Landmarks Commission thinks it is doing," said Michael Hiller, Esq. Hiller is the founding principal of Hiller, PC, a New York City firm that litigates zoning, preservation, and land-use issues. At press time, the LPC issued the following statement:
The application before the Commission on March 21st was limited to the building’s façade. The applicant represented to the Commission that they had valid DOB permits for the work on the plaza that pre-dated designation and, as a result, that portion of the work was not before the Commission. During the process, the Commissioner’s reference was based on the representation by the applicant. If there were no valid DOB permits for the work on the plaza issued prior to designation, the applicant would be required to obtain an LPC permit prior to the issuance of a DOB permit.
A site visit this week revealed that there is construction fencing surrounding the perimeter of the plaza, though the stair to the subway through the sunken plaza remains unimpeded. Signs show a Gensler rendering of the revamped plaza and office building, above, but the only permits posted are for work on the 29th floor: Boston Properties could not be reached for comment on the current status of the renovations or the approvals process. The changes that DCP approved in Boston Properties’ land use application would add benches and would not reduce the total area of the POPS's sunken plaza. (Technically, to the DCP, the plaza is an "open air concourse," an exposed area that sits more than 12 feet below-grade and provides access to the subway. Here, at its lowest, the tiered public space sits 13 feet below grade.) Its 6,000 square feet of tables, chairs, and concrete gave the Citicorp Center a FAR bonus of almost 59,000 square feet. In exchange, the public received six trees, 19 tables, 76 chairs, and a designer fountain, plus retail at the western edge of the concourse. The DCP-approved changes would add two tables, eight chairs, and 153 feet of benches to the count, and a new fountain would replace the Sasaki fountain in "approximately the same location." Among other changes, the plans call for a stairway from the concourse to the sidewalk would be widened, and repositioned to improved pedestrian circulation from the subway to the street. The land use review application says the changes would "improve public access, provide better circulation and connectivity, and create a more visible and vibrant Public Spaces [sic]." This fountain-for-fountain, space-for-space tradeoff is acceptable per City Planning but for preservationists, the thought of losing Sasaki fountain is devastating. “The Citicorp Center is about public space—that’s what makes it architecturally interesting and designation-worthy,” said preservation activist Theodore Gruenwald. “We are seeing all of these changes done very much behind the scenes, without public oversight.” Designed by Sasaki Associates principal emeritus Stuart Dawson, the Citicorp Center's plaza and fountain is just one of the city’s 333 POPS, the essential New York City micro-spaces that make public places out of office building plazas, atria, and concourses. Introduced as a development incentive in the 1960s, POPS let developers build taller than zoning allowed in exchange for open space. Recently, though, the public-ness of these public spaces has come under threat. The election propelled Trump Tower's inaccessible POPS into the limelight, and the loss of the Water Street arcades last year has further highlighted the vulnerability of POPS, especially those that are more marginal. Though not a POPS, the owners of SOM's landmarked One Chase Manhattan Plaza tried—and failed—to build three glass pavilions on the building's plaza, a move that would have segmented the public space and blocked views of a massive Dubuffet sculpture. Rule-breaking POPS have caught the attention of the law, too. This month the office of the New York City comptroller released the results of a POPS audit (PDF), which found that more than half of the city's privately owned public spaces did not provide mandated access or amenities (though the POPS at Citicorp Center was in-compliance—at least by this measure). UPDATE 5/8/17: The DOB initially represented to AN that there were no permits issued for the work on the sunken plaza and Sasaki fountain. On May 5, 2017, the agency informed AN that an ALT–2 permit to remake the plaza was filed on November 18, 2016 and issued on December 2, 2016. The LPC signed off on the permits that same day, four days before Citicorp's landmarking on December 6 and well after the conclusion of the public comment period. AN plans to update readers on this developing story.
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975 Feet Tall

New rendering released for L.A.'s third-tallest tower
To take a walk down Downtown Los Angeles's Figueroa Corridor these days is to behold a sea of construction cranes. The entire area is currently being transformed by rising crop of transit-accessible high-rise luxury towers. One of the biggest changes coming to the area will be the recently-proposed Figueroa Centre tower project by architects Callison RTKL. The designers recently revealed a second rendering for their new 66-story tower which, if completed according to plan, will become not only the third-tallest structure in Los Angeles, but also the tallest residential building in the region. The project is slated for 200 condominium units, 220 hotel rooms, and 94,000 square feet of retail spaces. The new tower—it will be located at 925 S. Figueroa Street and rise 975 feet—is part of the large-scale effort to make Los Angeles a better draw for large-scale trade and professional conventions by boosting the overall supply of rental housing and hotel rooms in the areas surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center and L.A. Live complexes. The city is currently planning to add 8,000 new hotel rooms to those areas, a boom that over the next few years will add a new wing to Downtown Los Angeles’s fledgling skyline. For the most part, the new towers are being built above existing surface parking lots. Up until recently, the city’s downtown skyline was made up mostly of high-rise office towers built in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Over the next ten or so years, however, roughly 20 new towers are due to sprout along Figueroa Street alone, from the foot of L.A.’s newest, tallest tower—the 1,018-foot-tall, A.C. Martin-designed Wilshire Grand Hotel—to the southernmost flank of Interstate-10. Several of those projects are already well under construction, including the Callison RTKL-designed Oceanwide Plaza complex, a $1 billion project consisting of a trio of towers rising between 40- and 49-stories in height. The podium levels of that project are quickly rising out of the ground. Ultimately, the project will contain 150,000 square feet of shopping areas, 504 condominium units, and a 184-key hotel. The twin, 36-story tall Circa towers by Harley Ellis Devereaux are nearly topped-out, according to a time-lapse camera perched over the site. Crews at the Circa site have been snapping curtain wall elements into place over the last few weeks, while crews at the Metropolis project have finished one of that project’s four towers are and are making quick work of the remaining three. A timeline for the Figueroa Centre project has not been announced.
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Right Side of the Tracks

Gensler designs affordable housing TOD for Chicago's South Side
While transit-oriented developments (TOD) have become ever more popular on the near Northwest side of Chicago, the latest such project is on the complete other side of town, and it offers something the others don’t. The Woodlawn Station development will be located at the 63rd and South Cottage Grove station of the CTA L Green Line, and will include 70 units of mixed-income housing, in three buildings. The main building of the development will have 55 market-rate and affordable housing units. The four-story building was designed by Gensler with Chicago-based Nia Architects as the architect of record. The base will include 15,000-square-feet of retail and commercial space, and other amenities include a rooftop deck, a play garden, and community room. As a transit-oriented development, it will have limited car parking, and extra bike storage space. A digital transit info screen will let residents know when trains are approaching, as they will only have a few steps to take to get to the station. The importance of the Woodlawn Station project is in the role it will play in the quickly revitalizing neighborhood. Earlier this year it was reported that, for the first time in 50 years, Woodlawn had seen an increase in population while simultaneously a decrease in crime. A great deal of emphasis is being put on the neighborhood by the city, as it will also soon be home to the Tod Williams Billy Tsien-Designed Obama Presidential Center. In recent years, other projects, from the Woodlawn Resource Center to University of Chicago student housing, have all added to the improvement of the neighborhood. The developers of the project, Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH), specifically focus on developing affordable housing. Along with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); City of Chicago; Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC); JP Morgan Chase; BMO Harris Bank; and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) the project is an example of how multi-layered public/private financing is often used to build affordable housing in Chicago. Yet local officials are quick to point out that federal funding may soon be a smaller part of the equation. "The developers of this project were able to leverage more than $400 million in additional investments from the private sector after receiving $30 million in federal funding from the Choice Neighborhood Grant Fund—a HUD program that would be eliminated in President Trump’s budget blueprint," ‎said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) at the project's groundbreaking. "Programs designed to help revitalize struggling communities are smart investments that yield great benefits for the neighborhood and nation alike. They should receive more federal investment, not less.”
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All Aboard

Renderings emerge for proposed LAX transit hub
New renderings have come to light depicting the new Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro) $600 million multi-modal 96th Street Transit Station serving Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).   The link would connect mass transit riders on the Green and forthcoming Crenshaw/LAX light rail lines with the airport’s forthcoming automated peoplemover system. The renderings, first published by Urbanize.la, detail the forthcoming structure at the corner of Aviation Boulevard and Arbor Vista Street in South Los Angeles. The station would span a 9.5-acre site approximately one mile east of the airport and would mark the first light rail connection to LAX in the airport’s history. The airport is currently served by a shuttle service linking the Aviation / LAX station on the Green Line with the facility. The regional Flyaway commuter buses and several traditional bus lines also connect to the airport, in addition to automobile traffic, taxi, and rideshare services. The transit station will include space for automobile drop offs, a bus bus terminal, and a bicycle hub. The new station comes as LAX undergoes a series of expansions and upgrades, including the addition of a new $1.6 billion  international terminal and concourse by Gensler and Corgan meant to accommodate next generation Airbus A380 superjumbo and Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental jets. That expansion—dubbed the Midfield Satellite Concourse—would link to the existing Tom Bradley International Terminal via a pair of underground tunnels and would contain 50,000 square feet of gateway spaces, including a 44,000-square-foot food court and 60,000 square feet of lounges and other waiting area facilities, among other components. LAX was ranked seventh busiest airport worldwide in 2015, according to one survey, with over 70 million passengers that year. The region’s lack of direct light or heavy rail access to LAX have been a long-vexing problem for city and regional planners—not to mention airport travelers—for decades and were described by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 as "a historic mistake of our past." The new station is expected to open sometime between 2021 and 2023.
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Macro-Chip

VR was essential to Gensler’s design of NVIDIA's new headquarters
Hao Ko, principal and design director at Gensler, will be delivering the keynote presentation at the 2017 Tech+ Expo (May 23, New York City). Like a test rendering of a 3-D model, Gensler’s new headquarters for microchip maker NVIDIA in Santa Clara, California comes haltingly into view across the landscape, a glitchy image slowly gaining resolution. The 550,000-square-foot structure has been in the works since before the Great Recession and after nearly a decade in development, work is quickly progressing on final construction. The structure is on track to open for business in September of 2017—construction photos provided to The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) by Hao Ko, principal and design director at Gensler, indicate that work on the building envelope is almost complete, with the installation of final interior finishes and the landscape underway. Devcon Construction is building the project and Louie International is acting as the structural design engineer. Along the exterior, practically every edge of the wide, triangular structure is canted subtly. A roof profile that appears curved is actually made up of broad, segmented lines. Along two sides, the building bulges at the middle, creating fat, cyclopean bay windows. From above, the building is revealed across the landscape as a microchip-inspired paper airplane—a thin roof structure pierced with triangular skylights heaving over the earth. The building is actually capped by a steel truss roof supported by steel beam walls and columns. The deeply-overhanging and undulating roof creates a cavernous interior volume below. Whenever the roof’s folded planes meet at a peak or a valley, they turn downward as large steel section columns that resolve themselves dutifully and unceremoniously by plunging straight into the concrete slab. [interstitia] The construction images showcase a cavernous, two-level interior volume intersected by a series of opaque, faceted cores that interlock with one another and contain communal functions and meeting rooms. The peripheries of each floor plate are lined with work areas. Here, the formal rows of desks and more open-ended breakout spaces will exist in a broad, sky-lit space, framed by triangular roofing members above. The project is notable for the collaborative effort between client and architect that allowed the design team to embed virtual reality-based (VR) visualization into the design process. NVIDIA worked to develop new uses for the graphics chip manufacturer’s Iray rendering engine: the project's iterative daylight simulations involved modeling up to 5,000 light sources per image. Using the technology and cluster computing to pool GPU-power, designers were able to generate renderings in as little as ten minutes’ time, converting the technology into a rapidly-deployable design tool. The technology was also designed to include physically scanned materials in such a way as to capture light intensity and character—rather than to generate only various intensities of color, as is more common in rendering applications. The resulting “simulations” guided the design of the workspaces, where NVIDIA wanted to maximize quality of light. The scheme, as a result, ended up with fewer skylights than originally intended. Simulations showed that not as many skylights were needed to achieve the correct lighting effect designers were looking for. Ko explained over telephone that virtual reality workflow integration allows for a project to take on more life, saying “previously we only had artists’ renditions of what a space could feel like.” Ko added that with VR, the architects at Gensler wanted to figure out how could get “more reality” into the design experience. Scott DeWoody, Gensler’s creative media manager, said that the use of virtual reality was integral to the NVIDIA project and that the firm had “found a use for it at every spot in the design process.” VR is something that is not only easy to adopt into the traditional office workflow, DeWoody explained, but once rendering times are reduced, the tool can result in better overall design quality, as designers “render everything around them, instead of just (rendering) an open scene.” Ko agreed that the advanced simulation techniques add more to the design process than traditional renders, saying, “I’m old school—I came in the profession back in the day when we were building big physical models, to understand size, scale, and experience. Prior to having VR, it was always a challenge to reconcile how you do that.” Technology is driving rapid changes in architecture and construction industries and the building industry, in turn, is a driver of the U.S. economy. Tech+ Expo brings together, for the first time in NYC, industry and technology leaders that are shaping the future of the built environment.