Search results for "Public Design Commission"

Editorial: Beyond Building

Included in this issue is a pull-out pamphlet titled Into the Open: Positioning Practice. This is the official catalogue for the United States pavilion at the 2008 Venice architecture biennale. It features our curatorial statement for the exhibition, a walk-through of the exhibit, and descriptions of each of the 16 featured practices.

Into the Open begins by acknowledging a contemporary condition of “changing populations, shifting borders, and uneven economic development—exacerbated by the explosion of migration and urbanization” that we believe requires new architectural approaches that challenge this condition, and in the process, question architecture’s traditional working methods. The pavilion features smaller and more innovative practices that we believe “go beyond building,” and includes architects stretching the definitions of the profession by working as researchers, activists, and developers, as well as designers.

We also recognize that today, architectural culture encompasses a broad range of attitudes, responses, and approaches, but that due to the extreme nature of our degraded and compromised urban condition—crumbling infrastructure, environmental devastation, and a cultural fluidity that can undermine social stability—requires an immediate and drastic rethinking of old architectural solutions. With this exhibition, we made a curatorial decision to omit star architects and the modernist notion of individual authorship, and instead chose to highlight small, less visible practices that are defined by choreographies of collaboration. We believe that this intellectually entrepreneurial approach to architecture is uniquely American and one that needs to be recognized.

The exhibition opens to the public on September 14 and runs through November 23, 2008. We imagine the exhibition as a social space, prompting dialogue and debate about issues affecting the architectural community. We hope that the public will take part in this dialogue by contributing to our online blog.

William Menking
Commissioner and Curator

Aaron Levy

Andy Strum

Placeholder Alt Text

Interior Motives
The Chinese Room in the Royal Palace, Berlin (1850) by Eduard Gaertner.
Courtesy Cooper-Hewitt

The 71 watercolor drawings showcased in the exhibition House Proud: Nineteenth-century Watercolor Interiors from the Thaw Collection, on view at the Cooper-Hewitt, invite museum-goers to leave the darkly paneled galleries of Andrew Carnegie’s former mansion and enter into the salons, drawing rooms, winter gardens, libraries, studies, and bedrooms of 19th-century European royalty, nobility, and the emerging haute bourgeoisie.

Painted by both amateur and professional artists, these intimate watercolors, paired with related objects from the museum’s collection, trace the evolution of domestic interiors, ranging in style from Neoclassicism to exoticism to Gothic and Rococo revival, and document the social, cultural, and aesthetic development of domestic life. The drawings are similar in composition to the photographs that appear in the shelter magazines of today, and with their obsessive detailing of architectural elements, furnishings, and bric-a-brac, appeal to the developing consumer culture of the era.

The exhibition includes examples of drawings that were published in building guides and other books authored for those designing interiors; however, the majority of the works were commissioned by proud homeowners and collected in albums as heirlooms, presented as gifts to visiting dignitaries, or prominently displayed in the house itself.

Top: The Circular Dining Room at Carlton House, London, Charles Wild (1819). above: The Dressing Room of King Ludwig I at the Munich Residenz, Franz Xaver Nachtmann (1836).
courtesy cooper-hewitt


Jules-Frédéric Bouchet’s A Small Salon in the Montpensier Wing, Palais Royal (1830) shows King Louis-Philippe’s penchant for the French-Empire style. Renovated by Pierre Fontaine, the room reflects Empire trends in furniture arrangement, with a table placed in the center of the room and a reclining sofa located in the corner. This style became popular with members of the noble and upper class, as seen in Hilaire Thierry’s watercolor, A Salon in the Empire Taste (1820–1830), that details mythological scenes above the doorway and tea-related objects, similar to those designed by Percier and Fontaine for Napoleon and Josephine.

The watercolors document private interior spaces, as well as those that are used for public occasions. John Nash’s Chinese Gallery As It Was (1838) shows couples promenading past Chinese porcelains in the exotic gallery of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England, designed for George IV. The popular chinoiserie style is seen in Eduard Gaertner’s The Chinese Room in the Royal Palace, Berlin (1850), with its bright yellow upholstered furniture, hand-painted Chinese wallpaper, and pale blue ceiling covered with birds. Though uninhabited, the room is filled with life and personality, and the viewer can easily project himself into the scene, settling into a bamboo armchair for tea.

Anna Alma-Tadema intimately depicts the library at Townshend House, London, decorated in the “aesthetic” style by her father, the Dutch painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. The watercolor captures the comfort of the room, with its Japanese porcelain, inviting sofa covered with a fur throw, and mullioned casement windows. Adjacent to Alma-Tadema’s work are spectacular metamorphic library table-steps, as well as imported bark cloth, similar to that seen in the watercolor. Not to be missed, however, is the spectacular shellwork bouquet in the final gallery. Hermetically sealed under a glass dome, this curiosity illustrates how the meticulous attention to detail common in 19th-century objects could produce strange yet awe-inspiring examples of high design.

Placeholder Alt Text

Glass Dynamics
Scott Frances

In the Clear: Taking Advantage of Glass’ Two-Way Street

By Aaron Seward

The great pursuit in glass architecture, and thus the technology that feeds it, is and has been for energy efficiency. More specifically, it is the elusive quest to design the most transparent building possible while at the same time mitigating heat gain and glare delivered by the sun. The failure thus far to achieve a balance between fulfilling this architectural ideal and creating an environmentally responsible and comfortable built environment was aptly illustrated by the recent backlash against glass condos. The Wall Street Journal ran an article this August chronicling a spate of horror stories from residents who didn’t anticipate what it means to live in a glass house at the beginning of the new millennium. The harrowing details included faded furniture, the impossibility of watching television during the day, peeping Toms ogling daughters, Windex sizzling to an impossible-to-remove gunk, and cooling systems unable to compensate for the unfettered glory of the sun.

Aside from these issues of individual comfort and livability, it seems clear that, when looking at how we might reduce our overall carbon footprint, glass (our most ubiquitous contemporary building material) is a good place to start. A study issued by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, estimates that windows are responsible for 2.15 quadrillion BTUs of heating energy consumption and 1.48 quadrillion BTUs of cooling energy consumption within the United States annually, or 30 percent of building electrical loads nationwide. The same study estimates that an overnight replacement of the nation’s window stock with existing high-insulating glass technologies, such as low-emittance coatings and multi-pane units, would result in energy savings of approximately 1.2 quadrillion BTUs, while a similar upgrade to future technologies, currently under research and development at LBNL, could save a potential 3.9 quadrillion BTUs.

Oddly enough, these future technologies seek to improve energy ratings by taking advantage of the very quality that seems to be glass’ greatest weakness: its transmissiveness. “Glass is one of the few building materials out there that allows energy to flow both ways at the same time,” said Chris Barry, technical director at glass manufacturer Pilkington. “In the summer that can be beneficial by allowing heat to escape the interior, while in the winter it lets in the sun’s warmth.”

Ever since the oil embargo of the 1970s, when energy costs went through the roof, the industry has been trying to make glass walls behave more like brick walls in terms of insulation values. This has been successful to the point that today people who have installed low-e solutions in their homes are complaining that when they sit in their breakfast nook in the morning they feel cold. The alternative to this approach is what is commonly known as “smart glass” or “switchable glazing,” in other words, a glass unit whose opacity or reflectiveness can be altered to deflect or transmit more or less of the sun’s energy, thus creating a dynamic barrier that can be optimally tailored to environmental conditions as they change throughout the day or the year.



Trumpf Gatehouse
Ditzingen, Germany
Barkow Leibinger Architects with Werner Sobek

 Trumpf, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of machine and laser tools, won’t open its 90,000-square-foot expansion in Ditzingen, Germany until mid-2009, but one can get a sense of what’s to come from the spectacular Gatehouse, which was designed by Barkow Leibinger Architects of Berlin and opened on the Trumpf campus in late 2007.

A honeycombed membrane of stainless steel cantilevers 60 feet over and floats above a 400-square-foot rectangular glass box that houses a reception and waiting area. The roof is a pattern of triangles that compress based on the changing structural forces over its surface. The roof, which was fabricated in-house at Trumpf, is an interesting formal experiment and a celebration of Trumpf’s advanced laser technology, but it is the Miesian glass box beneath that endows the sizeable overhang with its dramatic effect.

With engineering consultant Werner Sobek and manufacturer Glaszentrum Schweikert, Barkow Leibinger developed a 12-inch double non-bearing facade of two layers of low-emission float glass that gives the impression that the planar roof hovers in thin air. However, as Frank Barkow explains, the dynamic roof sits on a core of four columns inside the box while connected to the glass facade by an accordion-shaped rubber gasket that was developed by the team of engineers and architects specifically for this pavilion. Between the two glass surfaces of the facade, the architects stacked Plexiglas tubes of varying diameter, which provide subtle shading to the interiors. The team developed a custom detail of dark Plexiglas structural posts that run vertically between the glass sandwich panels, which are stronger than glass and make the whole facade read as a transparent plane. The interior glass panel is operable to allow for the occasional cleaning of the tubes, which are glued together for easy access. Together, the double facade, the tubes, and the screens lower the cooling costs of the pavilion. It is at night, when the honeycomb roof is lit by LED lights and when the Plexiglas tubes trap the light from the interiors between the layers of glass in an eerie-looking blurry effect, that the Gatehouse appears ready to drift off in a world of its own.

David van der Leer is a frequent contributor to AN.



Xicui Entertainment Complex
Beijing, China
Simone Giostra & Partners with Arup

The buildings designed for the Beijing Olympics hardly lacked in spectacle, but New York architect Simone Giostra created one that is aimed more toward the gallery crowd than gym-goers. The 24,000-square-foot media wall called Greenpix, which covers the entire facade of the six-story Xicui Entertainment Complex, is an all-glass facade that collects solar energy during the day and gives off tantalizing patterns of vibrant colors at night. Unlike many similar (though smaller) media walls, typically used for display advertising, this one was created to showcase video works. For its opening, Greenpix’s lead curator Luis Gui worked with Shanghai-based curator Defne Ayas, who commissioned pieces by artists Aaaijao and Shi Chieh Huang of China, and Varara Shavrova of Russia.

However inspiring it may be from an aesthetic perspective, it is the system’s sustainability that is of most interest to Giostra, who developed the wall in collaboration with Arup. Together with two German glass manufacturers, Schueco and Sunways, they created a technology to laminate polycrystalline solar cells into glass panels. “It is the most radical example of photovoltaic technology applied to an entire building envelope,” said Giostra. The solar panels have been embedded in the glass panels, some of which are set at an angle, in a pattern of varying density that depends on the nature of the spaces inside and their requirements for daylight. These solar cells provide energy to the roughly 2,300 LED light points, which are intentionally distributed at a lower resolution than generally used for media walls, contributing to the wall’s special abstract quality.

The standard media wall is designed to have an even light intensity throughout the course of a day, but the brightness of Greenpix’s diodes depends on the weather. After a gray day the facade glows subtly at night, whereas a sunny day results in a feast of color. Arup tested over 200 different full-scale prototypes on site in Beijing for more than a year to see what combinations of interlayer, treatments, thickness, solar cells, and textures provided the highest possible performance. The combination they finally installed is projected to maintain 80 percent of its nominal efficiency for the next two decades, during which the wall is expected to become a platform for site specific works made by future generations of video artists.  DVDL




1099 New York Avenue
Washington, D.C.
Thomas Phifer and Partners

With its strict height limits and bevy of bureaucratic institutions, the District of Columbia has long favored architectural harmony and conformity over innovative design. How refreshing, then, to see a commonplace glass-box office building raise the bar for design in the Capital without disrupting the city’s intended uniformity.

Designed by New York-based Thomas Phifer and Partners, 1099 New York Avenue is an eleven-story, 173,000-square-foot office building, developed by Tishman Speyer, with a crystalline facade that expresses its materiality and, thanks to meticulous detailing, offers what Phifer calls a subtle “sense of surprise.” “Jerry Speyer wanted a special building with a unique skin,” said Phifer, “and he wanted to do it in D.C.” On first glance 1099 might look like a particularly well wrought version of the ultra-glassy office building— at times perfectly transparent, at others so reflective as to nearly disappear—such as SOM’s World Trade Center Seven. As you get closer, however, you see that rather than striving for a pure planar surface, Phifer has created something, literally, more multifaceted.

Rather than using a curtain wall system, Phifer opted for a custom window wall over the building’s thin concrete frame (Washington’s height limits make ultra thin floor plates a must). Each pane of glass is tilted six inches in both plan and section, giving the building a sense of depth and shimmer. “We wanted it to be a detail, rather than a gesture,” Pfifer said. “If it had been a big gesture, that would give away the sense of surprise.” A cast stainless steel clip, visible from below, supports the pane. “The clip expresses the weight of the panes.” The five-inch deep by eight-inch long clips also add to the texture of the facades.

The large twelve-and-a-half-feet long by five-and-a-half-feet wide low-emission Viracon panes function like shingles, allowing water to run down and drip off the facades during storms. At ground level, an installation by artist Matthew Ritchie helps enliven the streetscape. The building, which follows the contour of the lot where the Washington grid is bisected by a diagonal avenue, responds to its site, respecting its context while showing that even a small speculative office building, with the right attention to detailing, can reflect higher ambitions.

Alan G. Brake is an associate editor at AN.





Chapelle des Diaconesses
Versailles, France
Rolinet & Associés

In Versailles, in a park dotted with trees, sits the Chapelle des Diaconesses, a cocoon of superimposed pine wood strips inside a triangular glass structure. The small chapel, which opened to the public in 2007, replaced a large cloth tent that the Protestant Community of the Deaconesses used over a period of 20 years for its largest ceremonies. French architect Marc Rolinet’s modern interpretation of religious architecture subtly refers to this former place of worship. The sisters of the parish requested a chapel that would be firmly rooted in the 21st century, and that “offers modern people an interior that combines beauty, intimacy, and celebration, and that invites them to reflect and find peace.”

Rolinet set out to design a lightweight glass structure that follows the hilly topography of the site and provides an arcade between the wood and glass that is now used for quiet reflection. The envelope, made out of laminated safety glass with a structural interlayer by DuPont and manufactured by Saint-Gobain, protects the wooden chapel from the weather and forms an optimal acoustic barrier to the railroad station close by. Stronger than conventional laminating materials, the interlayers help create safety glass that protects against bigger storms, larger impacts, and more powerful blasts. The layers become an engineered component within the glass, holding more weight, so the glass can serve as a more active structural element in the building envelope. And they do all this while increasing framing system design freedom and improving long-term weather resistance. Marc Rolinet stated, “The structural calculations performed by DuPont and Saint-Gobain Glass enabled us to reduce the glass thickness, increase the pitch, and lighten the supporting structure.” Without the structural interlayer, the glass would have been thicker—and therefore more expensive. It also allowed for a direct integration of the fixing devices into the laminated inner glass layers. The structure spans a large distance, and allows for a minimal number of steel girders. But in the end it was the mirror-like effect that convinced Rolinet to use this material instead of conventional laminated glass—an effect that now at certain points of the day allows for a spectacular reflection of the charming park surrounding the chapel.   DVDL




LOFTS @ 655 6th
San Diego

Lofts @ 655 6th, a seven-story, mixed-use project that opened last December on the edge of San Diego’s East Village and Gaslamp districts, uses an innovative glass system to distinguish what is a fairly simple structure from the city’s many other new residential buildings.

The project is one of the few new rental properties in a city awash in high-end condos. In order to save money, maximize space, and create a more authentic loft-like ambience than the traditional configurations that are dressed up to look like lofts, and which are so common today in San Diego, local firm Public built a huge concrete box at the core of the 106-unit building. The 100,000-square-foot structure then steps down to the east to address the neighborhood.

The infill glazing system cladding the core is made up of a varied pattern of small and large glazed squares. All are very transparent, but highly energy-efficient, with a U-value of .41. To further animate the facade, Public hung an irregularly spaced clear tempered glass screen system over the project’s west-facing balconies. The screen is fitted with a perforated vinyl film—similar to the films used to create many billboards—that displays a sepia-toned photo-abstraction of live oak trees, created by photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann. Not only does the screen add complexity to the building, but its shading helped the building pass its state-mandated requirements for solar gain.

When the film needs to be replaced in about five years, the firm hopes the developer will hold a call for entries to find a new artist, thus ensuring a new look for the building. “Our only agreement with the city is that the new image not be distasteful or commercial,” said firm principal James Gates. The building has been a hit, and is fully leased, despite being completed just prior to the recent economic doldrums. “We’re very proud of what we were able to get for the money,” said Gates.

Sam Lubell is AN’s California editor.

Crunch Time

The Numbers

It’s that time again.

With the economy on a sustained downturn West Coast architects are once again scrambling to stay afloat, and attention is shifting from design challenges to financial ones. The next six to twelve months—point out many— could prove to be the tipping point between pain and disaster.

According to the monthly AIA’s Work On The Boards survey, architects’ billings over the last six months, while stabilizing slightly in the last couple, have measured the lowest since the organization began tracking them 13 years ago. And the worst region of all right now is the west, due in large part to its dependence on the now-burst housing bubble.

From an informal survey of architects across California we learned that everyone has been hurt in some way by the economic slide. While the residential market has been hardest hit, few sectors appear safe. Every firm we talked to had at least one project that had been stalled or cancelled because of the economy. Most are having trouble finding new work, instead depending on contracts that were secured before the downturn.  

Smaller firms seem to have been hit the hardest, particularly those with projects bunched in the same building type or without big-money clients. Larger firms have fared better, especially because most have a wide diversity of work, and have been able to focus on more dependable (for now) international and institutional markets.

But everyone is mobilizing to find solutions. For now only a few firms have had to take drastic measures like laying off staff. Notable layoffs include a widely reported large round by Gehry Partners earlier this summer, which has yet to be confirmed by the company, a ten percent staff cut by LA-based CO Architects, and a layoff of six staffers by Johnson Fain (the last was reported by LA Curbed).

Other remedies include looking more aggressively for work, pumping up marketing efforts, and accepting projects that just a year ago most firms would never dream of taking.

 “You don’t avoid anything anymore,” said James Gates, a principal at San Diego firm Public. His eight person firm recently saw two major residential commissions in the city get scrapped; projects that the firm was depending on to get them through the next two years.  “You do some of the nasty remodels. You make sure it’s done on time without mistakes. You have to show you’re committed.”

Firms are also trying to get into more stable sectors, fighting for institutional projects. But with the larger firms getting into the same boat, it’s not easy.

Mark Cavagnero, principal at San Francisco firm Mark Cavagnero Associates, points to a recent competition for a small theater addition in Aspen, Colorado. Other firms included Polshek Partnership and Barton Meyers.

“Two years ago these firms would never be chasing a $15 million project,” he said.  

Other firms have focused efforts on non-building realms like research and development. But no matter what they come up with almost everyone says that they may have to take more drastic measures if the downturn continues for a while longer.

“We can lumber along through the end of the year, but if things don’t change 2009 could be hard,” said Cavagnero, whose office has 30 people.

Cavagnero, among others, hopes things will pick up with a new administration at the end of the year (he’s rooting for Obama, who he says will inject a needed dose of energy and responsibility into the environment). But the anxiety is palpable, and everyone seems on edge.

“For a long time no one felt obliged to ask how others were doing,” said Bill Leddy, a principal at San Francisco-based Leddy Maytum Stacey. “Now when I see my peers they wonder ‘how’s it going for you?’”

Placeholder Alt Text

Paul Byard, 1939-2008


Paul Spencer Byard leaves a remarkable legacy as both designer and defender of public-spirited architecture. As a young lawyer for the New York State Urban Development Corporation, from 1969 to 1974, he helped develop 30,000 units of low- and moderate-income housing. Later, as an architect, he artfully shaped some of the city’s newest landmarks and revived its old ones—first at James Stewart Polshek & Partners, and then as partner at Platt Byard Dovell White. And as director of Columbia University’s graduate preservation program, he showed a new generation how to learn from the past. Three colleagues spoke to AN about this eloquent and spirited advocate for architecture, who died at his Brooklyn home, at age 68, on July 15.

Charles A. Platt, partner
Platt Byard Dovell White Architects
My first partnership, Smotrich & Platt, designed the offices of Edward Logue and the Urban Development Corporation. There was on the staff a bright, cheerful young lawyer, with a handkerchief flopping out of his breast pocket, who took me aside and asked if I would design a special window in his office wall. Which I did, sneaking it by the very watchful Ed Logue and his entire architectural staff, and we got it built. So not only was I Paul’s partner, but I was also his architect.

Paul had left the firm Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts to work for the UDC, which was an amazingly hopeful organization. I can’t tell you how hopeful we were for the architectural and social expectations of the UDC. And that was one of the ideals in Paul’s later life: that the profession would return to those optimistic days and purposes. He was very ambitious for architecture.

I was on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission beginning in 1979. Jim Polshek practiced before the commission, and was often importantly represented by Paul. I remember one project in the Village, which was a little postmodern and forward-thinking for its time. Paul was the partner responsible for the project, which was not approved instantaneously. He came to me for advice—something architects before the commission apparently aren’t allowed to do any more—and that was when we began to talk architecture to each other again.

Preservation with a capital P didn’t exist in those early days. I think Paul felt very strongly, even as a lawyer at UDC, that the preservation of buildings of value was terribly important. Like many of us who had lived through the age of urban renewal, Paul learned from the mistakes of the past. He felt preservation played an exemplary role in our lives, that it profoundly affected our understanding of our society.

Gregg Pasquarelli, principal
SHoP Architects
Paul Byard was my first studio professor at Columbia’s GSAPP, in the fall of 1990. I had decided to pursue a joint degree in preservation and architecture, and Paul assigned three projects in the South Street Seaport. As anyone who has gone to architecture school knows, the first semester of studio is both exhilarating and terrifying, and as a student who had recently left a job on Wall Street to venture into the world of design, it was more the latter for me. Paul patiently guided me through everything from installing a Mayline to complex ideas about context, zoning, and aesthetics. 

A week or two before our final review, I was very much doubting myself. Paul said to me, “Gregg, if I could change my life and leave law at 37, you can change your life and leave banking at 26. And in fact, I think you should consider leaving preservation to focus on architecture,” he added. “Your job will be to try to make buildings that people will want to preserve someday in the future.” Those words, and his encouragement, have never left me.

Rosalie Genevro, executive director
Architectural League of New York
Paul Byard loved the art of architecture, the creativity and complexity inherent in the act of making. “The reason we have our art is like the reason we have hands, to take hold of pieces of our world and make them meet our needs,” he wrote in an introduction to the Architectural League’s catalogue for its exhibition on the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

For many, Paul’s public persona was so tied to his exquisite facility with language that his affinity for the making of architecture could be surprising. But it was an essential part of his view of the world; it manifested itself not only in his professional work but playfully in projects like his shading devices made of sails, and a table made of extruded aluminum, built for his house in Maine.

Paul’s insistence on understanding the art of architecture in all its fullness and significance—as the most characteristic and meaningful activity of homo faber—will reverberate in the League’s programs and with all those he came in contact with for a long time to come.

Placeholder Alt Text

Erie Basin Park
All Images: Colin Cooke
The park's recurring motif of crisscrossing lines (top and above) was inspired by shadows cast from the rigging of ships that once filled the harbor.

Erie Basin Park
Designer: Lee Weintraub Landscape Architecture
Red Hook, Brooklyn

When the Swedish furniture company Ikea took over the 22-acre Todd Shipyard property along Brooklyn’s Erie Basin, it inherited piles of ropes, winches, a forgotten shipyard log, and a hefty chunk of Red Hook history: a Civil War–era dry dock renowned as one of the harbor’s most important maritime sites.

The precise value of that history—its social meaning, its salutary grit—became a kind of currency in the tug-of-war over this freshly post-industrial swath of land. Zoned for heavy manufacturing, the site could not accommodate a retail use without planning commission approval, which allowed Ikea’s blue-and-yellow building only if the retailer returned to the public the very history it was about to displace.

The result, six years later, is Erie Basin Park, a nearly mile-long stretch of newly accessible public waterfront. Built and paid for by Ikea, the park is both a tribute and a tombstone to the industrial past—and a surprisingly optimistic statement about Brooklyn’s future.

The rezoning called for an esplanade keyed to the shipyard’s maritime flavor. “Whatever we could save, we tried to save,” said Lee Weintraub, principal of Lee Weintraub Landscape Architecture, the park’s designer. Most spectacular are four monumental gantry cranes, stationed around the site (two others collapsed into the basin, and were deemed too difficult to preserve). Also incorporated were sundry artifacts—cleats and bollards, heaps of rope—while concrete blocks, once used to stabilize ships, are inscribed with the names of vessels repaired there. A motif of crisscrossing lines recurs throughout, inspired by shadows cast from masts of ships.

All this texture is in some sense mitigation for the loss of other historic elements, notably the more than 700-foot-long dry dock, known as Graving Dock No. 1, filled in by Ikea for a parking lot. Amid the asphalt, the dock has been outlined in Belgian-block paving stones, while a small segment has been preserved near the water’s edge.

In its complicated role as the private owner of a public park, Ikea found an apt partner in Weintraub, who had worked on an early design for nearby Valentino Pier, and helped design Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City. For his part, Weintraub credits the support of planning commission chair Amanda Burden, as well as his team, including Anderson deMoraes, who together specified 558 trees, plus wildflowers and grasses—all of which Ikea must maintain. The store’s safety team also patrols the park, which is open from dawn to dusk.

Essential to the scheme was the separation of the 346,000-square-foot store from the park. “We were very insistent that we wanted this to be a public esplanade,” said Ikea spokesman Joseph Roth. Even the crane lighting, designed by Fisher Marantz Stone, avoids turning the industrial past into a blue-and-yellow Ikea logo. Meanwhile, Parks Department–style benches at the esplanade’s approaches signal the open-space fabric of the city. (The site also links with the route of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.)

Opened in June, the park is still being discovered by New Yorkers with their own opinions about public-private trade-offs. “You have to make a judgment,” as Weintraub said, “whether Brooklyn has gotten equal value for the zoning change that yielded the blue box.” With its views of Erie Basin’s barges and wharves—enhanced by a new dock for free water-taxi service—Brooklyn’s maritime heritage, while it lasts, is in many ways more public than ever.

The landscape architects designed rugged site furniture (top), to complement the industrial vernacular of the preserved gantry cranes (above).
Placeholder Alt Text

Soho Says Trash Plan Stinks
The proposed facility as seen from West Street. The louvered curtain wall system would track sunlight and adjust accordingly to conserve energy.
Courtesy Weisz + Yoes

As New Yorkers colonize the last of the city’s former industrial areas, they’ve found themselves on the front lines of battle against their neighborhoods’ unsavory remnant uses—wastewater treatment plants, marine transfer stations, salt sheds, and sanitation depots.

Now that battle has erupted in Hudson Square, a district west of Soho that until a few years ago did not even have a name. With such luxury brands as the Urban Glass House and the soon-to-be-completed Trump Soho rising in its midst, the community has come out in sharp opposition to a Department of Sanitation plan to site a new garbage truck garage and salt station atop an existing UPS facility at the corner of Spring and West streets.

At a hearing before the City Planning Commission yesterday, local residents, business owners, and public officials voiced their concerns about noise, traffic congestion, and pollution, claiming the area is already plagued by all three. That is thanks largely to the nearby Holland Tunnel, which has been deemed one of the worst asthma zones in the city. “The dangers of such a location should be self-evident,” Katharine Wolpe, president of the Village Independent Democrats, told the commission.

The Sanitation Department has little choice about moving. When the Hudson River Park Act became law a decade ago, the city agreed to relocate its sanitation garage on Pier 52 at the end of Gansevoort Street to make way for additional parkland. After much deliberation and an eventual lawsuit, the city now pays $1.8 million per year to lease the site, and if it does not vacate by 2012, it must pay an additional $1 million per year.

To make the $400 million, 347,000-square-foot facility more palatable, the department and its architects, Dattner Architects and Weisz + Yoes, are pursuing a number of sustainable features with the goal of achieving LEED certification.

The most obvious component is the operative louvered curtain wall, the signature element of the building envelope being designed by Weisz + Yoes. One of the largest of its kind in the country, the system will track sunlight and adjust louvers throughout the day to regulate heat exposure, thereby cutting energy costs. The form of the curtain wall, which would extend down to the UPS portion of the building, is also meant to telegraph the structure’s interior.

Dattner was in charge of the massive green roof for the structure, possibly the largest in the city at nearly the size of a football field. (The building’s large footprint, coupled with a requested variance to forego the required 85-foot setback in favor of a sheer 120-foot street wall, has greatly angered the community.) The garage will also draw on Con Edison’s steam network for heating and cooling, further reducing energy consumption.

Still, the community is not entirely satisfied. On July 19, when Community Board 2 conditionally disapproved the proposal by a unanimous vote of 40-0, they demanded LEED Gold standards, including public access to the green roof and a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions, asthma being one of the greatest concerns. “My eldest son Paul and my wife have asthma,” John McPeake, a resident of 330 Spring Street, told the commission. “Essentially, I will be forced to leave if this garage is built.” (The specific LEED rating goal has yet to be determined.)

Beyond the facility’s design, many residents feel the plan would burden the area with more than its share of waste operations. The Gansevoort Station currently serves Sanitation Districts 2 and 5, but the new station would combine those two garages with District 1—a solution critics say brings too much traffic into the area. Were the District 5 garage relocated elsewhere, the station’s bulky profile could also be reduced to 95 feet, closer to the neighborhood scale and required setback.

Christine Quinn, the local representative on the City Council as well as the speaker, has yet to take a position on the matter, leaving the facility’s fate an open question.

Placeholder Alt Text

Rod and Reel
Jeff Byles

This summer, Hudson River Park’s landscaping expanded beyond its popular jogging and biking path to make it a more immersive place. While most of the park’s improvements in the past few years have converted its rotting piers to playgrounds and lawns, the newest section—a 4.6-acre swath starting just above Chambers Street and continuing to the contested Pier 40 parking garage and playing fields at Houston Street—includes three sculptures by Williamsburg artist Mark Gibian that endow the segment with a fittingly nautical mood.

The three pieces, which Gibian sculpted in Plattekill, New York, twist galvanized pipe into shapes that bend like fanciful boats or enormous fish. The first, a short, 1,000-pound bench, was installed on June 16 and helps anchor the new section of the waterfront promenade, which includes a boardwalk just upland of the main walkway. The other two pieces, 12 and 16 feet tall, underscore the park’s celebration of local ecology.

COURTESY Mark Gibian
Gibian with his cantilevered, galvanized steel sculpture, which will be colonized by a varying palette of plants. 

“The idea was to have pieces relate to each other over space and time as you walk,” said Gibian, who designed similar work for the Northside Piers condo on Williamsburg’s waterfront. “We will eventually have plants growing on the units so they will change with seasons and have life,” he added.

Here, Gibian’s pieces serve an effort by the Hudson River Park Trust to lure visitors onto the piers that make the site unique (and uniquely expensive to build). “While the park attracts 17 million visitors a year, I think most people experience it as a strip of greenery adjacent to the West Side Highway,” said Trust chairperson Diana Taylor at a recent press event. So the new phases, including nearby Piers 25 and 26, still under construction, abound with activities, which Taylor listed: “a playground, practice field, mini-golf and snack bar, beach volleyball, historic ships, skate park, basketball, boathouse and café, estuary research center, dog run, tennis, and public art.”

The public art affirms the maritime roots of the park’s new, $16.3 million segment, which was designed by landscape architects Sasaki Associates and Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. “They wanted to emphasize an estuarine environment,” Gibian told AN. “You don't have to do much to these forms I was already making, to make them evocative of fish forms.” 

While Gibian runs and bikes on the park’s path, he said his new work is oriented toward the water. “Those piers are a tremendous opportunity to reflect the needs of adjacent neighborhoods,” he said. The Trust plans to solicit development proposals this year for the 300,000-square-foot Pier 57, and settle on a mixed-use strategy for the 15-acre Pier 40. With millions to raise and a softening economy, it had better hope Gibian’s work strikes a chord.

Placeholder Alt Text

Getting Dense

In last year’s developers issue, we focused on California’s highrises: the most obvious indication that the state is finally embracing infill density over sprawl. Yet in fact, most of California’s density is forming at a much lower altitude, in mixed-use projects within commercial corridors.

Mixed-use projects may not be universally embraced (fears of congestion and disruption of the local character are common), but their diversity and size often significantly bolster neighborhood vibrancy and efficiency while keeping development from spreading further away. Scales and solutions vary widely, of course, but you’ll notice in our roundup of projects across the state that many involve top-tier architecture firms and sensitive urban solutions like public plazas, street-level retail, sustainable design, live/work units, underground parking, and terraced and divided massing—an indicator that development doesn’t have to mean destruction of a neighborhood. Many people point out that locating new buildings on commercial boulevards rather than in the midst of residential areas is the best way to absorb the state’s staggering growth without intensely affecting people’s living environments. Locating them near mass transit is another tool, although that option is still slow to come in many parts of California.

And of all the mixed-use projects we’ve seen, many of the best come from the same place: West Hollywood. Thanks to a design-savvy and discerning planning commission and planning department, recent infrastructure improvements, a clear master plan, a population knowledgeable about aesthetics, and a proactive urban designer, John Chase, the area has attracted top design talent and is home to an enviable roster of mixed-use projects. Most are going up in its commercial districts along Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards. This is not to say that things have been easy: Just uttering the word “development” in many WEHO circles invites violent protest, and last summer, the city passed interim ordinances limiting the scale of development until further analysis is completed. But this just makes the scope of work here all the more impressive. Let’s face it, growth is inevitable, so we might as well grow the right way.

Produced by Sam Lubell with contributions from Danielle Rago and Helen Te.



West Hollywood

Location: 8120 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects
Developer: Pacific Development Partners, LLC/Walgreen Co. Joint Venture
Size: 120,000 sq. ft.
Completion Date: Spring 2009

Not your usual Walgreens, this project includes ground-level retail and 28 units with private gardens above. The project will be covered with a skin composed of stabilized aluminum foam.  

Location: 9040 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Eric Owen Moss Architects
Developer: Weintraub Financial Services
Size: 187,710 sq. ft.
Completion: 2011

Featuring Moss’ off-kilter floorplates and hard-edged forms, this retail, hotel, and residential project is built around an 11-story hotel with a glazed curtain wall. The smaller residential block will enclose small public and private courtyards. 

Location: 8430 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Kanner Architects
Developer: Combined Properties
Size: 225,000 sq. ft.
Completion: In design

The project includes a hotel, condominiums, a cafe, retail spaces, and an entertainment venue. The five-, six-, and seven-story hotel features maze-like, projecting floorplates. The residential portions of the project are much lower-scale and inconspicuous, terracing downhill from the site.

Location: 9040-9098 Santa Monica Blvd., 603-633 Almont Dr., and 9001-9021 Melrose Ave.
Architect: Studio One Eleven and Perkowitz+Ruth Architects
Developer: The Charles Company
Size: 250,000 sq. ft.
Completion: In design

This mini-city is marked by large roof overhangs, inset windows, and large bays. The project includes several floors of shopping—much of it outdoors—a parking garage, and apartments.

Location: 1342 Hayworth Ave.
Architect: Pugh + Scarpa
Developer: Grovewood Properties
Size: 28,000 sq. ft.
Completion: Spring 2009

With 16 units of luxury condominiums over a 36-car garage, these stacked townhouses are oriented to create two landscaped courtyards: One faces the street, while the other creates a communal front entry space for residents. A perforated copper skin wraps the facades.

Location: 8801 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Gensler
Developer: Centrum Sunset
Size: 53,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2011/2012

Built on the site of the legendary Tower Records building, this development includes office and retail space, as well as a David Barton spa and gym. The project wraps around the corner of Sunset Boulevard with a repetitive pattern of large concrete facade columns, due to be lined with large billboards.

Location: 627 North La Peer
Architect: Moule & Polyzoides Architects
Developer: A.J. Khair
Size: 63,000 sq. ft., 8 condominium units, 69 hotel rooms
Completion: 2010

The project shows how traditional design can be done in a stylish way, with both Spanish and Art Deco motifs and a variety of scales and massing, all aligned with the street grid in a very urban manner. 

Location: 7350 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Tighe Architecture
Developer: West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation
Size: 5 floors, 42 units
Completion: 2008

The project includes 42 affordable, one-bedroom units and retail on the ground floor. An outdoor courtyard provides a garden for residents, and each apartment will have its own private outdoor space.

Location: 8350-8364 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Developer: Combined Properties
Size: 20 units with commercial space at grade
Completion: Entitlements completed spring 2008

The project reflects adjacent residential zoning by stepping down and breaking up the rear facade with private courtyards. The ground level combines retail and on-grade parking. 

Location: 901 Hancock Ave./8759 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Developer: CIM Group
Size: 133,476 sq. ft.
Completion: Late 2008

The 77,500 sq. ft. project features 11,000 sq. ft. of ground floor commercial retail and restaurant, with 40 housing units (33 condos and 7 affordable). Live-work housing units are proposed at ground level.

Location: Santa Monica Blvd. and West Knoll Drive
Architect: Aleks Istanbullu Architects
Developer: Seven Sandmore
Size: 8,700 sq. ft. of ground floor retail, 52,000 sq. ft. of residential space
Completion: 2010

This four-story building contains residential blocks sitting above a continous story of sidewalk retail. Nineteen condominiums are located above, separated by 15-foot-wide courtyards.

Location: 7302 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Van Tilburg, Banvard + Soderbergh
Developer: Casden Movietown
Size: 526,800 sq. ft.
Completion: 2012

This sustainable project contains 20,000 sq. ft. of retail (including a new Trader Joe’s), 304 condominiums, and 76 senior rental units. A public plaza and streetside retail are planned to create a walking-friendly environment.




Best of the Rest

Location: San Jose
Architect: Brand + Allen Architects
Developer: Wilson Meany Sullivan
Size: 561,472 sq. ft.
Completion: 2013

Part of the master plan to revitalize downtown San Jose, the project, which includes residential and retail elements, encloses and activates a public plaza fronted by the San Jose Repertory Theater.

Location: 1 Kearny, San Francisco
Architect: Charles F. Bloszies
Developer/Owner: 1 Kearny
Size: 10-floor addition to 12-floor building, 120,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2009

Including office and ground floor retail, this renovation of a 1902 building uses the surrounding structures as seismic “bookends” for the original building. The new addition is clad in a glass-and-aluminum curtain wall.

Location: 55 Laguna St., San Francisco
Architect: Van Meter Williams Pollack
Developer: AF Evans Development
Size: 450 residential units, 10,000 sq. ft. of community facility space, 5,000 sq. ft. retail
Completion: 2012

This redevelopment of the former UC Berkeley Extension Campus will include new construction and the preservation of historically significant buildings.

Location: 55 Harrison St., Oakland
Architect: RMW in Association with Steve Worthington
Developer: Ellis Partners
Size: 1 million sq. ft.
Completion Phase I: 2009

The square is undergoing a $300 million redevelopment that includes restaurants, entertainment, new parking facilities, and Class A office space.

Location: Broadway and North Harbor Dr., San Diego
Architect: Tucker Sadler
Developer: Manchester Financial
Size: 3.95 million sq. ft.
Completion: Proposed

Located on the North Embarcadero of the San Diego Bay, the project—if approved—will include almost 4 million sq. ft. of hospitality, office, and retail space.

Location: Roscoe Blvd. and Tobias Ave., Panorama City
Architects: Nadel Architects
Developer: Maefield
Size: 1 million sq. ft.
Completion: Fall 2009

This development will feature a three-level vertical lifestyle center with over 415,000 sq. ft. of retail and five levels of parking. It will also include big-box retail and smaller street-front shops.

Location: Anaheim
Architect: RTKL, Kanner Architects, 30th St. Architects, RTK, and MBH
Developer: CIM Group
Size: 129 condominium units, 276 apartment units, 56,803 sq. ft. of street-level retail, and 32,056 sq. ft. of office space
Completion: In design

This project includes 500 housing units, plus retail and restaurant space surrounding downtown Anaheim’s main street.

Location: 9900 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
Architect: Richard Meier & Partners Architects
Developer: Project Lotus
Size: 203 units, 895,000 sq. ft. (residential), 16,000 sq. ft. (retail)
Completion: 2011

Designed to be sensitive to the neighboring hotel and golf course, the project is located on an 8-acre site between Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, and constitutes the western entrance to Beverly Hills.

Location: 2901 E. Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights, Los Angeles
Architect: Torti Gallas
Developer: Fifteen Group
Size: 6.1 million sq. ft.
Completion: 2020

The $2 billion plan calls for redeveloping the 1930s apartment complex to include 4,400 residential units, 300,000 sq. ft. of retail and commercial space, as well as 9 acres of publicly accessible open space.

Location: 6121 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: Johnson Fain
Developer: Apollo Real Estate Advisors
Size: 380,000 sq. ft. of offices, 20,000 sq. ft. of retail, 330 units, 125-room hotel
Completion: In design

Located at the historic CBS/Columbia Square Studio site, a 35-story residential tower and 16-story office tower rise from a ground floor mix of hotel, retail, and open space.

Location: 6200 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: VTBS
Developer: Clarett Group
Size: 1.12 million sq. ft.
Completion: 2011

Spanning both sides of Hollywood Boulevard on a 7-acre parcel are nine buildings of rental housing, with affordable units, public open space, live/work lofts, and retail. The project, which is seeking LEED certification, is next to the legendary Art Deco Pantages Theater.

Location: 5661 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: Gruen Associates
Developer: Continental Development
Size: 375 units, 377,000 sq. ft. (retail), 1680 parking spaces
Completion: 2010

Located on a 5.5-acre city block, this project incorporates a historic department store. Much of the retail is street-facing, and the buildings include high-rise, stoop housing, and town houses to create an urban ambience.

Location: Chandler Blvd. and Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
Architect: AC Martin
Developer: Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group
Size: 1.75 million sq. ft.
Completion: Proposed

Planned around a multi-modal transit station, the proposal includes a central plaza and an arcade linking the proposed grid of the project blocks, which respond in scale and configuration to the existing urban fabric.

6230 YUCCA
Location: Hollywood
Architect: Ehrlich Architects
Developer: Second Street Ventures
Size: 115,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2010/2011

One block from the historic Hollywood and Vine intersection, this 16-story tower won entitlement after a battle with nearby Capitol Records. It includes eight live-work townhomes, 85 residential units in the tower, and 13,500 sq. ft. of creative commercial space.

Location: 6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: HKS Hill Glazier Studio
Developer: Gatehouse Capital Corp. and Legacy Partners
Size: 330,000 sq. ft. condo, 300,000 sq. ft. hotel, 50,000 sq. ft. retail
Completion: 2009

This project includes a 305-room W hotel, 143 luxury W for sale residences, 375 luxury apartments, and street-level retail.


Placeholder Alt Text

Making Radio Waves
The initial KCRW concept model includes an ivy-screened facade.
courtesy Clive Wilkinson Architects

Clive Wilkinson Architects has won a commission to design a new building for Santa Monica-based public radio station KCRW.

The station, which is the largest public radio affiliate in Southern California, is located on the campus of Santa Monica College (SMC). Its growth over the years has forced it to scatter its facilities throughout SMC’s main campus. The new building, located on one of SMC’s satellite campuses, about a mile north of the main campus, will help the station modernize and consolidate.

The 35,000-square-foot structure, located on the site of a large parking lot off of Stewart Street, just north of the 10 Freeway, will include office and recording studio spaces. Plans are still very preliminary, but an initial concept model reveals a simple three-story building covered in a green screen of ivy.

Construction funding is subject to a bond measure due in November, and the proposed cost of the project has not been disclosed.

As part of the commission the firm will also be carrying out modifications to the SMC satellite facilities located just adjacent to the planned KCRW building, including new landscaping and a renovation of the Academy of Entertainment and Technology building.  

Other firms short listed for the commission included Gensler, HLW, Morphosis, and CO Architects.

While Clive Wilkinson Architects is known for its interiors projects, the firm, said Wilkinson, is aggressively pursuing ground-up work. Besides the KCRW building, the firm just won commissions to design a mixed- use building for handbag maker Harvey’s in Santa Ana, and to renovate the 450,000-square-foot headquarters for Finnish communications giant Nokia in Helsinki.

Placeholder Alt Text

Unveiled: Utah Museum of Natural History
The museum's copper-clad facade echoes the geology of the Wasatch Range.
Red Square, inc. for Polshek and GSBS

To be located on a stunning site between Salt Lake City and the Wasatch foothills, the new, 160,000-square-foot Utah Museum of Natural History will house nearly double the exhibition and education space of the existing facility. Clad in rugged copper panels, the museum, which aims for a LEED Gold rating, will include partially planted roofs and the eventual use of photovoltaic arrays (the museum is currently seeking a sponsor for the solar panels), as well as water-saving and water-retention features, which are important in Utah’s dry climate. “Utah is all about the land and how the culture engages the land,” said Todd Schliemann, design partner at Polshek Partnership, the firm designing the museum along with GSBS Architects. “The building is at the edge of where the city ends and the landscape begins.”

Inside, visitors will enter a large atrium, which the architects call “the canyon,” then ascend to the top and wind downward through the exhibitions. The canyon will also double as a public gathering place and venue for private events.

To gain the commission, Polshek answered a two-stage interview and request-for-proposals process, prevailing over Moshe Safdie and Associates and Antoine Predock Architect, among others.

Architect: Polshek Partnership with GSBS Architects
Client: University of Utah
Location: Salt Lake City
Completion: 2010-2011

Placeholder Alt Text

So Long, Ray
Courtesy DCP

Today is Ray Gastil’s last day at work. On August 25th, Gastil, director of the New York City Department of City Planning’s Manhattan office, will travel across the country to take a job as Seattle’s Planning Director, marking a return to his hometown. The department has yet to name a replacement for the position.

During his tenure, which began in 2005 when he succeeded Vishaan Chakrabarti, Gastil shepherded through the land use process some of the largest projects in the city’s history. He presided over the rezoning of the Upper West Side, which provided contextual protections against out of character development and provided incentives for new and affordable housing along Broadway. He also worked on rezoning to preserve the character of the Far West Village that was done in concert with historic district designation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, as well as a major contextual overhaul of the Lower East Side, still in process.

But not all of his projects were targeted at preserving a neighborhood’s character. Gastil oversaw the controversial 125th Street rezoning, adopted in April, which, while it fosters economic and cultural development along the corridor, many in the community feared would only increase displacement and gentrification in greater Harlem.

Though the notoriously press-shy Gastil would not comment on his work at the department or his decision to accept the job in Seattle, his boss, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden, had some nice things to say.

"Ray’s wit, intellect and proficiency will be greatly missed, as will his dedication to urban planning, to New York City, and to engaging a generation of young planners,” Burden said in a statement. “Ray brought to city planning a vast expertise of what makes great urban places and ensured that projects large and small contributed to and enhanced the urban fabric and public realm. I personally have benefited from his wisdom, his encyclopedic knowledge of world cities and their heritage, and by his friendship.”

Before working for the city, Gastil was the founding director of the Van Alen Institute: Projects in Public Architecture. He participated on the Memorial Center Advisory Committee for the World Trade Center site, and served as juror and adviser to a number of major urban projects. He also directed the regional and transit-oriented design programs for the Regional Plan Association, and taught urban design seminars and studios at Pratt Institute and University of Pennsylvania.

Gastil received his master of architecture degree from Princeton University, and is the author of Beyond the Edge: New York's New Waterfront (Princeton Architectural Press 2002).