Pulse, a snaking public art piece linked to the Dilworth Park fountain in Philadelphia, will soon be showing commuters what’s going on underneath their feet. The fountain sits in front of Philadelphia City Hall in Center City, and sculptor Janet Echelman will soon be realizing a light-and-mist installation that will track underground SEPTA trains in real time, thanks to a $325,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation. The project was originally commissioned in 2009 by the Center City District Foundation (CCD), and major pieces of its foundations were embedded in the surrounding plaza when the park’s fountain was built in 2014. Pulse, described as “a living X-ray of the city's circulatory system” by the artist, would create four-foot-tall walls of colored mist that track the trains passing below, specifically, the green, orange, and blue lines. Separate tracks of light embedded in the concrete would project into an atomized mist to create the kinetic effect. Echelman worked closely with the park’s architects, OLIN, to integrate Pulse’s infrastructure into the plaza redesign.' The $325,000 grant that the CCD announced last Monday will cover the construction of Pulse’s green section, which would follow SEPTA’s underground green line trolley. The installation of that phase will come to life this July, though the CCD is still seeking funding for the remaining orange and blue line tracks. The project was conceived as a tribute to Philadelphia’s first water pumping station, and Echelman was brought on board to design the piece back in 2010. However, the CCD has been trying to drum up the $4 million required to complete and maintain Pulse ever since it was announced (though a $20,000 National Endowment of the Arts grant awarded last year helped to get the ball rolling).
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DS+R’s spare design lets the Met’s fashion exhibit gleam alongside the art
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination is an exhibition that shows the Catholic Church’s influence on fashion designers in imagery and symbolism, and the sumptuous garments and artifacts that inspired them. Exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Fifth Avenue flagship in the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries for Byzantine Art, medieval galleries and sculpture hall, and the Robert Lehman Wing, and at the Met Cloisters in Washington Heights, it puts fashion in the context of the museum’s holdings—paintings, tapestries, decorative arts and architecture—a signature strategy of curator Andrew Bolton, who employed this technique in China: Through the Looking Glass in the Chinese Galleries and Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century in the Wrightsman Galleries. By contrast, The Vatican collection of clothing and jewelry, on loan from the Papacy, is displayed in the Anna Wintour Costume Center in a self-contained display (one descending, one is greeted by a priest’s cassock designed by artist Henri Matisse which resemble his cutouts, that was part of his commission for the interiors of the Chapel du Rosaire in Vence, France). Music by Samuel Barber, Gabriel Fauré, George Frideric Handel, Ennio Morricone, Michael Nyman, and Franz Schubert serenades you through the galleries. Heavenly Bodies was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with partner Liz Diller taking the lead. The 150 fashion ensembles from the early 20th century to the present, by designers who were largely raised Catholic are either ornate, or by contrast, monastic, usually dramatic, and sometimes over the top; they are set off by DS+R’s refined, solid and decidedly neutral platforms, vitrines, and pedestals in steel, concrete, and acrylic. Diller says she was channeling Carlo Scarpa (1906—1978), the Italian architect who infused contemporary aesthetics into historic building renovations, often museums; Castelvecchio Museum in a 14th-century Verona fortress, Fondazione Querini Stampalia in a 16th-century palazzo, Museo Canova in Possagno, and Pallazo Abatellis in Palermo. Diller, too, has found spareness and balance in her interventions, capitalizing on this collision of contrasts. The elegant custom display units include scored concrete pedestals that support cruciform metal tubes capped by a plinth that carries mannequins; clear acrylic boxes on dark gray-scored flooring; long horizontal metal tubes to hang multiple vestments; and a large cantilevered platform emerging from both sides of a partition to hold papal robes flat. “Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another,” said Bolton. He cited the "parallels between a traditional fashion runway presentation and the liturgical processions of the Roman Catholic Church…theatrical spectacles that rely on the tropes of performance.” This dialogue is particularly strong at the Cloisters, where the physicality of the buildings heightens the interplay; the Cloisters is a pastiche of architectural elements from European monasteries, abbeys, and chapels that were dismantled stone-by-stone and reconstructed on a cliffside site overlooking the Hudson. One example is in the Gothic Chapel, which features pointed-arched stained glass windows and seven tombs with figurative sculpture effigies. John Galliano’s armored ensemble lies recumbent between two crypts, hovered over by Gareth Pugh’s black zippered outfits perched high on pedestals, while Olivier Theyskens’s red-headed figure in a black gown, fastened with hooks-and-eyes, stands below stained-glass windows in a row with female statues. In another instance, large, dramatic haloed lighting that spills onto darkened floors is featured both at the Cloisters on a Balenciaga-clad bride in the Romanesque Fuentidueña Apse, a semicircular apse with a single-aisle nave, and on Fifth Avenue in the Medieval Sculpture Hall spotlighting Dior-, Valentino-, and McQueen-dressed mannequins. The layout of these galleries mimics the longitudinal plan of a church, with a central nave and side aisles. The pairings of fashion with appropriate environments can be satisfying. The “monastic silhouettes and minimalist sensibilities…deceptively simple, pared-down” in monochromatic palettes of black, white, and brown by Geoffrey Beene, Madame Grès, Claire McCardell, and Rick Owens are very much at home in the Cloisters’ austere Cuixa Cloister and Pontaut Chapter House. In the Glass Gallery, overlooking the Cloisters’ Cuxa, Bonnefont, and Trie Gardens, rows of trees are interspersed with fashion by Dior, Valentino and Takahashi that were inspired by the paintings Adam and Eve (1526) by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (ca. 1490–1500), and Van Gogh’s Wheat Fields paintings. Similarly, the Unicorn Tapestry is paired with Thom Browne’s white puff of a wedding dress. Perhaps the most simpatico pairing is in the Nine Heroes Tapestries Room, where the fashion seems to directly mirror the Met’s art collection: Craig Green’s ensembles, which Women’s Wear Daily called “warrior monk,” closely resemble the French tapestries that depict King Arthur, Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Hector, and Christian and Hebrew heroes in color, texture, and style. Amusingly, Philip Treacy’s hats “in their architectural magnificence” with winged cornettes (think The Flying Nun) and molded forms in a series called Madonna Rides Again were inspired by the Burg Weiler Altarpiece which hangs behind it. Bolton writes, “The influential theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote his magnum opus based on the belief that we first perceive the mystery of God through beauty, not truth.” Here is beauty in abundance in a rich and reverent setting.
The 16th Venice Architecture Biennale curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara will feature national pavilions from several first-time exhibitors. Responding to the Biennale’s Freespace theme in manifold ways, the new participants deal with everything from humanity’s relationship to the environment to faith and religion. Saudi Arabia Commissioned by the Misk Art Institute, Saudi Arabia’s first Biennale pavilion, called Spaces in Between, will explore both the fragmentation and connection brought on by uneven urbanization and suburbanization. Turki and Abdulrahman Gazzaz, the brother founders of architectural design consultancy Brick Lab, will be realizing the project, which includes an installation of resin cylinders (the petroleum origin of which references the nation’s oil reserves that have fueled rapid urban development), sand from different regions of Saudi Arabia, and infographics. Venue: Arsenale Holy See The Vatican commissioned curator and historian Francesco Dal Co to select ten architects to contribute to Vatican Chapels, a collection of small chapels by architects from across the globe on Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore. The Holy See hopes that the chapels will not feel tied to the traditional church form, only requiring that they each have a pulpit and an altar, and have the ability to be reconstructed elsewhere. Visitors will enter Vatican Chapels through the Asplund Pavilion, which will present an exhibition of drawings by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund that is informed by his 1920 Woodland Chapel. Designed by Venice-based MAP Studio, the Asplund Pavilion will serve as both an anchor and as a point of departure for the rest of Vatican Chapels. The participating architects are Andrew Berman (United States), Carla Juaçaba (Brazil), Eduardo Souto de Moura (Portugal), Eva Prats & Ricardo Flores (Spain), Francesco Cellini (Italy), Javier Corvalán (Paraguay), Norman Foster (United Kingdom), Sean Godsell (Australia), Smiljan Radic (Chile), and Terunobu Fujimori (Japan). Venue: Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore Pakistan Curated by Karachi-based architect and scholar Sami Chohan, The Fold will be Pakistan’s first presentation at the Biennale. Exploring the dense, informal settlements of Pakistan’s most populous (and the world’s third largest) city, Karachi, The Fold considers open space in the face of constant contraction. As a city that has grown 20-fold in the past 70 years, Karachi’s constricted public space often cannot take the form of parks and other traditional open spaces. Instead, public space grows from the social interactions that limn the corridors of these narrow settlements—constructing a dense form of urban “openness.” Venue: Giardini della Marinaressa – Giardino di Levante Antigua and Barbuda Curated by landscape architect Barbara Paca, Antigua and Barbuda’s exhibition at Venice will be known as Environmental Justice as a Civil Right. The exhibition centers on three sites in Antigua and Barbuda, using them to interrogate the relationship between architecture and the environment by way of models, drawings, and other objects. Venue: Don Orione Artigianelli, Dorsoduro 919 Guatemala Stigma, curated by Stefania Pieralice, Carlo Marraffa, and Elsie Wunderlich, explores notions of virtual and utopian architecture. Responding to the crises of language, narrative, and meaning in postmodernity, the projects from Regina Dávila, Marco Manzo, Adriana Padilla Meyer, Studio Domus, UR Project, and Elsie Wunderlich imagine a “virtual city.” The pavilion will exhibit an array of models, monuments, and "large planispheres." Venue: Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello, Cannaregio 4118 Lebanon Lebanon’s first pavilion at the Biennale will gather numerous individuals, architects, artists, researchers, and institutions to reflect on unbuilt land and its use and disuse. Primarily focusing on the Beirut River and its watershed, the centerpiece of The Place that Remains, as the pavilion will be known, will be a comprehensive 3-D territorial model. The pavilion is curated by architect and Assistant Professor of Architecture at the Lebanese American University Hala Younes. Venue: Arsenale [googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d11121.408953772161!2d12.342916809924194!3d45.43572791299231!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x0%3A0x326075048d72cf38!2sDon+Orione+Artigianelli!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1526049177751&w=600&h=450]
Context is King
New York City report urges good design in affordable housing
The New York City Public Design Commission (PDC) has released new guidelines for designing affordable housing, painting quality of life as an integral part of any such development. Quality Affordable Housing in NYC, a case study of affordable housing throughout the city, was released at a roundtable presentation at the Center for Architecture last night. Innovative housing is nothing new in New York, but with Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to build or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026, a cohesive plan was needed to standardize the new buildings being designed. Quality Affordable Housing pulls together the best aspects from its seven case studies and presents eight guidelines for building more resilient, contextual low-income developments. According to the findings, infill developments that favor pedestrian circulation and an integration with the existing community fabric should be given preference over cloistered, standalone projects. The massing should visually connect the new building with its surroundings, and materials should complement the project’s neighbors. Circulation, both air and pedestrian-related, should be maximized, and the ground floor condition should be inviting to the rest of the neighborhood. All of these suggestions seem like common sense improvements, but tight budgets, strict deadlines, and site constraints often tamp down ambitious social housing projects. Thankfully, Quality Affordable Housing uses its case studies to put projects that have met these goals on display for reference. The PDC has collected projects large and small, from the 16-unit Prospect Gardens, a pilot infill prototype in Brooklyn designed by RKTB Architects in 2004, to 2015’s massive 911,000-square-foot Hunter’s Point South Commons and Crossing in Queens from Ismael Leyva and SHoP. What connects all seven projects is their integration with the surrounding community, attention to landscaping, and most importantly, that people want to live in them. As presenters at the Center kept coming back to, neighborhood residents were overjoyed to move in, and winning the housing lottery often felt like a dream come true. The full PDC guide and breakdowns of all seven case study projects can be found in full here.
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced the winners of the 2018 National Design Awards, recognizing ten individuals and firms who have used design to shape the world for the better. This year’s winners include: Lifetime Achievement: Writer, educator, and designer Gail Anderson has taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York for the last 25 years, and is an active partner at the multidisciplinary Anderson Newton Design. Anderson has written or co-authored a total of 14 books on popular culture and design, and formerly served as the senior art director at Rolling Stone. Design Mind: Landscape architect, award-winning author, and Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at MIT Anne Whiston Spirn. Spirn was recognized for her longtime advocacy for balancing urbanism with nature, as well as her continued direction of the West Philadelphia Landscape Project. Corporate & Institutional Achievement: Design studio Design for America, which empowers communities to solve local problems through design. Architecture Design: WEISS/MANFREDI was recognized for the way their projects consistently bridge the gap between architecture, art, and the surrounding landscape. The firm’s been on a roll lately, having picked up several cultural commissions and an invite to exhibit at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. Communication Design: Digital identity and experience firm Civilization was recognized for its ability to create empathetic connections and commitment to working with companies who are advocating for the greater good. Fashion Design: The Los Angeles-based fashion designer Christina Kim was recognized for her use of traditional hand working techniques and sustainable business practices. Interaction Design: Architect and designer Neri Oxman was recognized for her experimental material usage and continual boundary-pushing forms. Oxman leads the Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab, a group whose work frequently bridges the gap between art and technology; their most recent project, Vespers, is a contemporary reinterpretation of the death mask typology that uses living microorganisms. Interior Design: The Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design was recognized for its sense-invoking interiors that are often inspired by local vernacular. The firm has realized projects all over the world from towers in Dubai to the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn, but like many of the other winners, Oppenheim balances their projects within the surrounding natural environment. Landscape Architecture: Boston-based landscape architecture firm Mikyoung Kim Design was honored for its vast body of public work, much of it focused on improving urban resiliency. The firm has tackled projects large and small around the world, from the Chicago Botanic Garden Learning Campus to the Songdo International Plaza in Incheon, South Korea. Product Design: Minneapolis-based Furniture designer and manufacturer Blu Dot was recognized for its playful and modern stylings (including some less-than-functional objects). The National Design Awards have been recognizing exemplary names in the design world since 2000. Nominees must have seven years of professional experience under their belt, while the lifetime achievement nominees must have at least 20 years of experience. Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt, will announce the winner of the Director’s Award at a later date, to be given to an outstanding patron of the design world. This year’s awards ceremony will be accompanied by National Design Week, which will run from October 13 through the 21st.
Who’s missing from this AIA Conference promo video? (Hint: It’s not men)
Usually I speed past ads on social media as quickly as possible without breaking my infinite scroll, but when I saw the video ad for the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 pop up, I was curious to see what the all-knowing algorithms had deemed worthy of my consumption. I expected a standard promotional video highlighting familiar New York City landmarks mixed in with information about conference dates, parties, keynotes–all that good stuff. Something to get me excited about what the AIA describes as the “architecture and design event of the year!” The video is only one minute long. It’s a lighthearted, fast-paced overview of exciting things to come. But it is also a visual, visceral reminder of the status quo of architecture in the United States. Here’s the video. For those of you who cannot view it, a summary of key scenes will follow, with a general description of those present in these scenes. I’ve assumed the genders of the people in the video. At 11 seconds: shot of the Expo floor, approximately 14 cisgender men. Cisgender (or simply "cis") denotes a person whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex. At 12 seconds: shot of the Expo floor, 1 cis man. At 14 seconds: shots of a panel consisting of 3 cis men and 1 cis woman. The woman’s gender expression, which refers to her appearance in this case, is masculine. At 21 seconds: scene of 5 cis women exercising in a park. At 45 seconds: 2 cis women sitting in front of the Whitney Museum. Did you catch it? A total of at least 18 cis men are shown attending the Conference, while only one cis woman makes a fleeting appearance on a panel (where she is outnumbered by three cis men). No women are shown on the Expo floor otherwise. When cis women do show up, there are only 7 of them, and they are represented as mere consumers of architectural designs by cis men. They’re leisurely exercising at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, designed by Louis Kahn, and enjoying the view out in front of the Whitney Museum designed by Renzo Piano. The numbers are telling: roughly 70 percent of people in the ad are cis men, while only 30 percent are cis women. 100 percent of the cis men are depicted as architects. 0 percent of the cis women are. Let’s face it: this advertisement mirrors architecture’s long-running and notorious gender diversity problem. According to Equity by Design, the organization formerly known as The Missing 32%, in the United States, cis women represent less than 50 percent of students graduating from accredited architecture programs, and the number of cis women who are AIA members, licensed architects, and senior leadership fluctuates between 15 to 18 percent of the total. The data gathered from their surveys in 2014 and 2016 confirm what we already know about the architecture profession: women and non-binary people (those who do not identify as male or female) are pushed out of the profession at certain points in their careers, and decision-making power is still largely in the hands of cis men. What does a one-minute video have to do with it? The AIA is aware of its gender diversity problem and, to the Institute’s credit, has been hammering away at it for several years. In 2011, the AIA Diversity Council was formed to confront issues such as the shortage of minority representation in leadership roles, unconscious bias, and sexual discrimination. In 2014, architectural organizations conducted an industry-wide study, Diversity in the Profession of Architecture, which highlighted the gross disparities in the field and the urgent need for a profession that more accurately reflects the demographics of our nation. The results led the AIA to issue a call to action by ratifying Resolution 15:1,“Equity in Architecture,” at the 2015 AIA National Convention. The resolution established the Equity in Architecture Commission. In 2017, the Commission released a report with five “keystone” areas of focus: leadership development; firm and workplace studio culture; excellence in architecture; education and career development; and, last but certainly not least, marketing, branding, public awareness, and outreach. This video, then, is part of the fifth “keystone” area of focus identified by the Equity in Architecture Commission. But the AIA seems to have lost its focus on working toward equity in this arena. Given all of the time, energy, and institutional power that has been invested in increasing gender equity in architecture, this ad betrays the AIA’s appalling lack of intention and commitment to doing the necessary work that the Equity in Architecture Commission recommends. This is disappointing for an organization that has extensive data on its own gender diversity problem and is keenly aware of its own representation to the public. The way architects are portrayed reveals a disturbing image of how the profession views itself. I understand that representation in an AIA Conference ad is not likely to affect gender diversity in architecture. Change doesn’t happen overnight, much less through algorithmically-placed adverts. But this ad does have a real effect on how women and non-binary people (like me!) feel about our inclusion within the architectural profession. Watching the video made me feel invisible, as though I’m not a real architect and I’m not invited to the conference. Barely seeing any women in represented in the ad was a shocking, surreal experience. During my second viewing, I was acutely aware of the implicit message: even if I do attend the conference, people like me don’t visit the Expo floor. I recalled attending the 2016 AIA Convention in Philadelphia and feeling wildly out of place. I could feel my hope for a better, more inclusive experience at A’18 drain away as the messaging sank in. The AIA, despite all of its efforts and good intentions, should do better. As a historically (and currently) cis male-dominated profession, the structure for supporting architects who are not cis men is severely lacking. Women and non-binary people face professional and academic settings that are hostile towards their career advancements. We receive messages in so many ways that we should not be architects. Just last year, a group of more than 50 architectural professionals wrote a letter to the Architect’s Newspaper imploring the AIA to reevaluate their keynote speakers (6 out of 7 were cis men; one was a cis woman and not an architect). We need a cultural change in architecture that also goes beyond representation.The architects who are honored by the AIA and other organizations merely reinforce dominant, patriarchal power structures. When will the five keystones for equity in architecture become a serious priority? When will architectural education become accessible enough to reflect the gender and racial diversity of the country? When will women and non-binary people finally feel represented and welcome at all stages of their architectural careers? I’m tired of having the same diversity and inclusion conversations. We have announced ourselves and have been speaking out. The future of the architectural profession lies in how well it welcomes the next generation. The next generation is here, but we don’t see ourselves reflected and seen. We need you to do better. See you on the Expo floor. A.L. Hu is an architectural designer, organizer, and activist living in New York City.
All Over the Place
Artist Mel Chin will take over Times Square with AR nautical ruins
Artist Mel Chin is bringing two new installations to Times Square’s Broadway plazas this summer. Wake and Unmoored are part of Mel Chin: All Over the Place, a multi-location exhibition produced by the Queens Museum and the public art nonprofit No Longer Empty. Other locations involved with the citywide exhibition are the Queens Museum and the Broadway–Lafayette/Bleeker Street subway station, which is hosting a May 13 rededication for Signals, Chin’s permanent installation at the station. Wake is a 24-foot-tall installation crafted by Mel Chin to resemble a shipwreck intertwined with the skeleton of a marine mammal. Adjacent to the shipwreck will be a 21-foot-tall sculpture based off of a figurehead of 19th-century opera singer, Jenny Lind. This project is being fabricated by the UNC Asheville's STEAM Studio. A celebrity during her career, Lind was also a figurehead for the USS Nightingale, a mercantile clipper involved in the trade of guns and slaves. Chin views Lind’s inclusion in the piece as means to pull back the complicated, and often controversial, factors that led to New York City’s rise. According to Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance that partnered with the producers on the project, Wake serves as bridge to Unmoored. In collaboration with Microsoft, Unmoored is a mixed reality experience revealing a speculative vision of a world where global warming goes unchecked. Unmoored’s augmented reality section will extend from 45th to 47th Street, and will be viewable through cell phones and tablets. Times Square Arts commissioned these installations, which will be on view at the Broadway plazasbetween the cross streets above at Broadway/7th Avenue beginning July 11. In a statement to the The New York Times, Chin describes Wake coming alive through digital interaction, such as the sculpture of Jenny Lind “who will sigh and raise her head to the heavens," as Times Square floods around her. All Over the Place began at the Queens Museum on April 8. The museum’s portion of the exhibition is the first survey of the artist’s work by a New York City institution. In total, the survey contains over seventy works spanning Chin’s four-decade artistic career, including paintings, sculptures and videos. Additionally, two newly commissioned projects, Flint Fit and Soundtrack, are found at the Queens location. Curators Laura Raicovich, the Queens Museum's former president and executive director, and Manon Slome, No Longer Empty's co-founder and chief curator, describe All Over the Place as a city-wide celebration of Chin’s work and his ability to deliver “provocative and profound investigations of the ways in which we live, our socio-economic contexts, our relationship to our surrounding environments, how power skews the scales, and how poetry can intervene, to a broad public.” Wake and Unmoored will stand in Times Square until September 5, 2018. More information about the exhibition can be found here.
The Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s multi-story studio is located in an old 19th-century brewery in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district. The combination artist’s studio, materials research laboratory, and fabrication workshop is outfitted with elegant Hans Wegner furniture, displays of Eliasson projects, artwork prototypes, and a glass-walled kitchen for employees’ daily lunches. Inside this calm, but busy, workshop there is now an architecture office. Directed by Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann, Studio Other Spaces is a natural outgrowth of the large-scale public sculptures and installations that Studio Olafur Eliasson has been creating since the mid-1990s. Eliasson has long had an interest in architecture, running an art school called the Institute for Spatial Experiments and working for many years with Einar Thorsteinn, an architect and geometry expert who was a follower of Buckminster Fuller. Studio Olafur Eliasson was also part of the James Corner–Diller and Scofidio + Renfro design team for New York’s High Line park. For several years the art studio has had major clients commissioning projects that were really exterior curtain walls, like the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall, designed with Copenhagen-based firm Henning Larsen (and winner of the 2013 Mies van der Rohe Award), which has a facade of quartz-like hexagonal sections. Eliasson writes that he believes the “culture sector in our society is more likely to create change than the public sector, the politicians, or the private sector.” This new architecture office is perhaps a vehicle to combine his dramatic public art with a pragmatic social program. This desire by designers and artists to also be architects has a long lineage going back to the Renaissance through the Vienna Secession, and today we see it with artists like James Wines of SITE or industrial designers like Pentagram and Thomas Heatherwick. Given all the requirements of building, it is still not common for an architect to be grounded in art, but with the capabilities of today’s digital practice and the range of large-scale public art, we may start to see more of these professional distinctions erode. Studio Other Spaces’ recent projects and its facility with spatial design shown here is not just branding, but sophisticated architecture. Head of design in Studio Olafur Eliasson, Behmann is an educated and licensed architect and has been consulting on the studio’s architectural projects since 2001, though the studio only recently began to design major monuments all over the world. The architecture office currently has eight architects on staff, all with different backgrounds. Eliasson said he admires architects because “they build buildings for people who are not interested in buildings—they just work in them, or they just sleep in them, or they just eat in them.” This a very good start for practicing architecture. Ilulissat Icefjord Park Competition The park design uses melting ice to shape space based on a unique design strategy where ice is at once the formwork of a concrete structure and the focal point of the resulting space. Icebergs were harvested directly from the nearby ice fjord to create an exhibition building, called the Ice Void, which harbors the memory of the ice that was used to shape it in its walls. Linked to the Ice Void outdoors by a 360-degree path, the Sun Cone building defines the park. The light glass structure of the Sun Cone positions the visitor center directly in the landscape and offers guests a spectacular panoramic view of the surroundings and the Arctic sun. The park helps make the overwhelming experience of visiting the ice fjord comprehensible—providing visitors with a scale for contemplating and relating to the awe-inspiring ice fjord. Fjordenhus Vejle, Denmark The new headquarters of Kirk Kapital rises directly from the harbor of the city of Vejle, Denmark. Accessible by footbridge, the 75-foot-tall building is formed by four intersecting cylinders with brick facades that have rounded negative spaces, creating complex curved forms and arched windows. The brickwork incorporates fifteen different tones of unglazed brick, making a visually rich surface; blue and green glazed bricks are integrated into the carved-out sections to produce color fades that enhance the sense of depth. The ground floor is open to the public and includes two water spaces that are visible from viewing platforms. Facades of Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre Reykjavik, Iceland Olafur Eliasson and his studio designed the show-stopping facade of the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre in collaboration with Henning Larsen Architects. Reminiscent of the crystalline basalt columns commonly found in Iceland, the facade was built from a modular, space-filling structure called the quasi-brick. The quasi-brick is a twelve-sided polyhedron consisting of rhomboidal and hexagonal faces. When stacked, the bricks leave no gaps between them, so they can be used to build walls and structural elements. The combination of regularity and irregularity in the modules lends the facade a chaotic, unpredictable quality that could not be achieved through stacking cubes. The modules incorporate panes of color-effect filter glass, which appear to be different colors according to how the light hits them; the building shimmers, reacting to the weather, time of day or year, and the position and movements of viewers. Your rainbow panorama Aarhus, Denmark In 2007 Studio Olafur Eliasson won a competition to transform the rooftop of Aarhus Art Museum in Denmark. It offers visitors sweeping views of the city, the sky, and the distant horizon. The elevated 360-degree walkway is 492 feet in diameter and glazed with rainbow-colored glass. Visible from afar, the work divides Aarhus into various color zones and acts as a beacon for people moving about the city—an effect that is heightened at night when lights running the circumference of the walkway illuminate it from within.
Pirelli Believe It
Breuer’s Pirelli Tire Building will be reborn as a hotel
One of Marcel Breuer's two New Haven, Connecticut buildings will be preserved and converted into a hotel. When it was finished in 1969, researchers and administrators at Armstrong Rubber worked out of the company's Pirelli Tire Building, a Brutalist structure whose office tower core is bisected by beguiling angled windows. The building—vacant since the 1990s—is now owned by IKEA and sits aside a store parking lot. IKEA is in talks with a developer to convert the I-95-adjacent concrete building into a hotel, the New Haven Independent reported. AN IKEA spokesperson told the paper that the company hasn't gone public with its plans for the structure yet. The conversion scheme were revealed at a meeting of the city's development commission. Breuer's work is enjoying a strong revival, thanks in part to renewed popular interest in Brutalism. In Atlanta, city officials are looking to revamp the Breuer-designed main library, while back in 2016, the Metropolitan Museum of Art restored the Whitney's former home and re-christened it the Met Breuer. (H/T NHVmod and Docomomo US)
After less than four years, Meenakshi Srinivasan announced yesterday that she is leaving her post as chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), the city agency that stewards New York City’s historic built environment. During her time at the agency, the LPC designated 3,800 buildings, a total that includes 67 individual landmarks, nine historic districts, and three interior landmarks. On June 1, Srinivasan is trading government work for a job in the private sector after an almost three decade career in public service. Before she joined the LPC in 2014, Srinivasan chaired the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for ten years, and prior to that, she worked in the Department of City Planning (DCP). The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) sat down with the outgoing chair to talk about her tenure, her next steps, and the (sometimes controversial) decisions she presided over. AN: Why are you leaving the LPC? Meenakshi Srinivasan: I’ve been very fortunate to have been at three land use agencies and also very fortunate to have chaired two commissions, the Board of Standards and Appeals as well as Landmarks. It’s been incredible, but it’s been 28 years. It really seems like the right time to move to the private sector and use my skills elsewhere. I feel emotional about the fact that I’m leaving government, but I think we’ve achieved a lot in the last four years. What have you accomplished as Chair? There are three areas I’m very proud of. I’m very, very proud of our designation agenda. I’m proud of our transparency initiatives, and I’m proud of our ability to reorganize the agency to be much more efficient and [move] the agency forward through the lens of equity and diversity, transparency and efficiency. Within that agenda, our strategic plan has been faithful. It has been to be more efficient within the designation process, [particularly with regards] to the backlog.* The second thing is just for me as a planner, personally, is to really allow preservation to be a critical part of the planning process. And the third is, we want to continue to look at areas that are not represented by designations, but there are stories to tell that really speak to histories of all New Yorkers. The agency has this wealth of knowledge and scholarship that people should have access to, and we have all this information about our regulatory process and that should be transparent and accessible, too. The first thing we did is we put all the information that comes before the commission on our website. In the last four years, we have put all our designation reports on our website so people can access them. We’ve created this interactive map, which includes all our designations and has the ability to connect and links to designation reports. Most recently, we’ve created a very, very robust database which provides data on each individual building that has been designated. We created a database that allows people to access information on staff level approvals as well, so you can find out the status of your project. This kind of information is very important to community groups who want to know what’s happening, what these buildings are about, but also to homeowners and property owners, so they can understand the basis for designations. Where are you landing next? I’m doing some work with New York Law School in their Center for New York City Law and working with the dean and founder of the center to develop curricula, and I’ll continue from there. Do you know who’s going to replace you at Landmarks? The vice chair position is vacant. I don’t, but I’ve been working with this administration and internally on the transition. I’m here for another five weeks. How would you assess the state of historic preservation in the city right now versus four years ago when you became Chair? You know, historic preservation is very critical for New York. I think it’s what makes the city diverse, dynamic, so I think that will continue. I think there’s always an issue of balance. The city should grow as well and we continue to survey areas that should be designated and should be protected. I think the other thing is that when we think about landmarking, it doesn’t really mean that nothing can change. I think the Commission, historically, has allowed for change within historic districts, and our role is really to ensure that those changes are consistent and compatible with the prevailing historic character. I think that will continue. One of your initiatives you alluded to earlier was a push for historic districts outside of Manhattan. How is that going? How will that initiative be continued under the next Chair? We have done some pretty significant historic districts outside of Manhattan, but I just would say that it’s not only outside Manhattan, it’s also areas that may not be as well-represented in Manhattan. We did a really interesting one in Ridgewood, Queens and a portion of Brooklyn, which is really a working class neighborhood that actually has a very strong architectural character to it and very uniform. We did Crown Heights North, I think it’s the third extension as well as the Bedford Historic District, which [overlaps with] one of the largest African American community in the nation. More recently, we did Mount Morris Park Historic District [Extension] in Harlem, and currently we are looking at Central Harlem Historic District, which is between 130th and 132nd Street—a microcosm of the Harlem Renaissance in the early part of the 20th century, that also includes the civil rights activities there. Even without me, I think we’ve got various things in the works that will be continued. The Commission often hears from passionate stakeholders on all sides. In March, Human-scale NYC, a coalition of preservation and neighborhood groups, wrote a letter that called for your replacement and claimed that you “serve the interests of big real estate.” How would you respond to those who believe the LPC placed real estate interests ahead of historic preservation during your tenure as Chair? I think there’s no truth in it at all. People have opinions—they may not like everything that I do, but I stand by all the decisions we’ve made. I think my agency has been very thorough and so has the Commission; I don’t see any radical shifts in the way we have regulated our historic districts. The Commission has always been open to modern buildings and contemporary buildings in historic districts. That hasn’t changed. If you actually go back and look at the projects that we’ve done, you’ll see that the scale of these buildings are very much consistent with the surrounding context and there’s a lot of rigor in how we evaluate these decisions. I would say that a group may come up and identify a whole series of reasons why I’m unpopular, but I think if you go beyond that and see for yourself, there’s nothing really there. Many people were upset, for example, at the way the changes to the Sasaki plaza at Citicorp were regulated, and about the approval of the demolition permits for the AT&T Building lobby, and the designation of the Ambassador Grill and Lounge that excluded a sunken lounge and connecting hallway. I know preservationists have made their concerns about these and other issues known to the LPC loud and clear. How would you respond to those who say there needs to be more transparency around changes to major buildings? Right, well I think that it’s interesting. There is transparency. The reality is that we do receive requests to designate buildings. Our research team evaluates them. We then bring them to the Commission. The basis of why we think they should be designated or what areas we’re considering is explained. We have standards and we want to apply them consistently. In the end, the reality is we did do Ambassador Grill. For AT&T, we calendared the building, so the issue over there was really about the lobby. That was discussed and there were reasons why the lobby was not considered meritorious. I just want to go back to one thing because you raised this issue about this letter. People can try and dovetail these things together, but I’ll just be very upfront with you. I’ve been thinking about [leaving] for some time, probably the end of December, early January. As a public figure, people will say things and [they] may disagree with you. I’ve been a public figure for 14 years. I don’t know if those things necessarily would make me back down, just in case you’re thinking that there could be something like that, but I’ve been doing this for 28 years and I think we’ve done great things here, but there are other things to do. In a different letter, leading preservation groups that the LPC consulted with on its proposed rules changes recently wrote a letter to you asking for those changes to be withdrawn. How will preservationists’ concerns be addressed as discussion around the proposed changes continues? We allowed the comment period to go on until May 8, but the outreach process that we’ve done many times before involves us summarizing these comments and bringing [them] before the Commission. The staff does that. Since the [March] hearing, we’ve continued to do outreach and explain to people why we believe the rules are beneficial and why they’re beneficial for preservation. What are you most proud of in your work here? One of the things that I’m very proud of is that we’ve put more emphasis on cultural landmarks. That’s been very important to me, because it has given us the ability to talk about more abstract things that are not necessarily related just to buildings, but are really important to the history of New York. The Stonewall Inn, for example, is a very modest building, but it propelled the LGBT movement. The Stonewall Inn is indicative of New York’s progressive values of tolerance and inclusivity. That means a lot to me. When we think about cultural history, we did two buildings on Broadway which are cast iron buildings. You see these in Noho and you see them in Soho, but what made them unique is that it had this amazing [tie to] the abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning. And more recently, the historic district that we’re bringing forward in May in Central Harlem speaks to the Harlem Renaissance, but also about civil rights and social justice. And finally, Coney Island, which has changed over time, but it [remains] one of the most recognizable places in New York. I mean, everybody goes there. Cultural landmarks have always been a complicated issue, but I think we’ve been very—I wouldn’t say aggressive, but—I think we really wanted to advance that as a part of how we think about preservation in New York. Do you plan to stay involved in preservation in any way? My thoughts are really to go back to planning and zoning. That’s what my background is, but when you think about cities in general, preservation is just part of it. I think I’ve just been lucky to have this preservation experience as well, because I think it rounds off something for me. At City Planning and at the BSA, we were dealing with preservation issues all the time. It’s just part and parcel of New York. Any advice you’d give to the next Chair? It’s a great place to be. Enjoy the experience. We have an incredible staff that you can rely on. Just be prepared because it’s definitely a field which, as you’ve pointed out, stakeholders are very passionate about. So, have your eyes and ears open to listen to all that, as well. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. *The LPC prioritized 26 properties out of 95 for designation that had languished on a list of potential landmarks for years, sometimes decades. This was completed over an 18-month period between 2015 and 2016.
Switching stations, a necessary part of our electrified lives, are normally ugly as hell. From afar, the assemblage can look like sculpture, all painted metal and catenaries, but up close, the infrastructure in harder to appreciate, and even harder to accept in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Out in Newark, electricity provider PSE&G heard neighbors when they demanded the company's new switching station be a) beautiful and b) a real community asset. It took four years of planning to get there, but on a recent Wednesday, a stylish crowd of Newark residents gathered to celebrate the opening of an Adjaye Associates–designed switching station in the city's Fairmount Heights neighborhood. The 177,000-square-foot Fairmont Heights Switching Station commands a good chunk of a full city block, but it harmonizes easily with its more modest, three-story neighbors. To strike a coolheaded balance between the industrial structure and the existing residential fabric, Adjaye Associates' New York office worked with local firm WSM Associates to encase the switching station's unsightly components behind an art wall, a 1,790-foot-long concrete and aluminum edifice embedded with permanent works by 14 artists. While two of the works anchor the concrete portion of the facade, most of the pieces are mounted up high, near the top of the 30-foot walls, in niches that interrupt tastefully gold and subtly curved perforated aluminum screens. The most remarkable feature, however, is a concrete-columned agora at the front of the building whose two rows of 34-foot-high red columns support geometric canopies that cast complicated shadows on the sidewalk below. The arrangement can hold other artworks in suspension, but it also defines an otherwise throwaway cutout in the perimeter that can now be used for a market or other community events. In his remarks, Mayor Ras Baraka joked about Newark's seemingly forever-ongoing revitalization. Alluding to the process that created the building he stood in front of, Baraka called art and collaboration—between public and private, between community and architect—the "secret sauce" of successful neighborhood revitalization. Like other new, high-design public amenities in the tristate area, this project was brought on by Hurricane Sandy. In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 storm, local utilities took a beating, leaving around nine in ten of Newark's residents without power. In response, PSE&G began upgrading its infrastructure to anticipate overloads, and it planned a switching station in Fairmount Heights to improve its resilience in the face of extreme weather events. Adjaye Associates worked with the company, arts groups, and elected officials to deliver a design that exceeded expectations. "What I've learned in architecture and design is that, when the opportunity seems complicated, that's when your creativity has to rise to that opportunity," firm principal David Adjaye told the crowd. "One gets opportunities to work in amazing places, but it's actually much more rewarding to work in places people think design will not come to. [Here] we wanted to create something that would make a place." Outside Newark, Adjaye's firm has a number of projects in process or recently completed. The architect just revealed updated designs for a new public library in Winter Park, Florida, and earlier this month, The Architect's Newspaper (AN) spotted crews working on 130 William, Adjaye Associate's first New York skyscraper. Although the firm is best known for its work on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, its latest commission, a Manhattan espionage museum, opened to the public in Feburary.
Driving While Robot
What role do architects have in a driverless future?
The rise of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is inevitable and—depending on who you ask—they’ll either eliminate car crashes and save the environment, or muscle out pedestrians from the street, steal our personal data, and create biblical levels of gridlock in our cities. But despite the divide over how the technology should be implemented, the common thread that runs between apostles and bashers alike is the belief that cities, planners, and architects are woefully unprepared for the changes self-driving cars will bring. In November 2017, the AIA held an event centered on the topic, "Anticipating the Driverless City,” and the furor seems justified following the death of a pedestrian at the grille of an autonomous Uber car. “Planners think in 30-year increments, and autonomous vehicles are already hitting the streets today,” Nico Larco, co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon, said. “Urban planners should be terrified.” Larco’s not wrong. Only a few states even have regulations for driverless cars, let alone ideas for designing a future without parking. With Ford launching self-delivering pizzas in Miami, Google’s Waymo rolling out an autonomous ridesharing service in Arizona, and driverless taxis making inroads in cities all over the world, architects and planners will either need to look ahead or be stuck in triage mode. Sam Schwartz, former New York City Traffic Commissioner from 1982 to 1986 and founder of his eponymous traffic and transportation planning and engineering firm, has categorized the potential futures as “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” The “good” A utopic self-driving car scenario would have driverless cars constantly circulating and on the prowl for riders, while providing “first mile, last mile” access to and from souped-up mass-transit corridors. If AVs truly take off and replace a sizable portion of manned cars on the street, then parking lots, garages, and driveways—not to mention thousands of square feet of on-street parking per block—would sit vacant. Walking, cycling, and autonomous (electric) buses would feature heavily in a multi-modal transit mix, and streets would narrow as bioswales and strips of public parks replaced parking spots. There has been movement on designing for that future; FXCollaborative, HOK, Arup, KPF, and other prominent firms have all put forward scalable designs for reclaiming the urban fabric. Speculation has already forced public officials in Pittsburgh to put together plans for integrating self-driving cars into the city’s fabric by 2030, and developers in New York are building flexible parking garages that can easily be converted for other uses. However, the key to actually enacting any of these schemes lies in large-scale government intervention. Without a concerted top-down reclamation and conversion of unused streets, AV-centric zoning policies, or renewed investment in mass-transportation options, cities will never be able to integrate AVs into their infrastructure. The largest hurdle to achieving the “good” future isn’t technological, it’s political; even self-driving evangelists have conceded that a laissez-faire approach might result in increased traffic on the road. The “bad” Uber, Lyft, Google, and a raft of competitors are already jostling to bring self-driving taxis to market so that these companies won’t have to pay human drivers. Under the guise of preventing traffic fatalities—there were nearly 40,000 lives lost in the U.S. alone in 2017—the big players are lobbying all levels of government to allow their AVs on the street. If vehicle miles traveled per person in AVs were allowed to increase without intervention, society could slide into an ugly scenario. This dystopic outcome would see mass transit hollowed out by a lack of funding and pedestrians shunted out of the streets in the name of safety. Studies have already shown that existing ridesharing services increase congestion and cause bus services to deteriorate, and if commuters get fed up with slow commutes and turn to ridesharing services, mass transit options could be sent into death spirals due to decreased revenue. Driverless cars are often touted as being spatially efficient, especially as they can join each other to form road trains—tightly packed groups of vehicles moving along optimized routes. But considering how much space on the road 40 bicycles or 40 commuters in a bus would take up, the flaw in that thinking becomes self-evident. Even if artificial intelligence can route traffic more effectively than a human, putting more cars on the road offsets the gains in speed by decreasing the amount of space available. Although computers might be great at coordinating with each other, the external human element will remain a wild card no matter what. Well-planned cities that prioritize walkability and ground-level experience would place pedestrians over passengers, but a worst-case scenario could see cyclists and walkers forced to wear locator beacons so that AVs could “see” them better, while hemmed in behind fencing. The “ugly” The worst driverless car scenarios take Le Corbusier’s famous claim that “the city built for speed is the city built for success” to heart. The high-speed arterial thoroughfares Corbusier envisioned in The Radiant City were realized in the destructive city planning policies of the 1950s and '60s, but municipalities have spent heavily to correct their mistakes 50 years later. Much in the same way that widening roads actually worsens traffic, if planners and architects ignore or give deference to driverless cars and continue to prioritize car culture in their decisions, congestion, gridlock, and withered public transit systems are sure to follow. The adoption of self-driving technology will likely birth new building typologies with unique needs, from centralized hubs where the cars park themselves to AV repair shops. As futurist Jeff Tumlin, principal and director of strategy at Nelson/Nygaard, points out, self-driving cars aren’t a new concept. Their lineage can be directly traced to ideas introduced by GE at the 1939 World’s Fair, but this is the first time that the technology has caught up with the vision. Planners and politicians have had 80 years to grapple with solutions; they can’t afford to take any longer.