All posts in East

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At The Top

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artist Josh Kline brings climate change home in a new Manhattan show
In case you’ve missed it, the world is ending. There’s war, displacement, drought, famine, rising seas, sinking cities, faster winds, and a frightening U.N. report suggests irrevocable, possibly humanity-ending results if we can’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent of 2010 levels by 2050. Artist Josh Kline wants to give us a vision of this un-future. In Climate Change: Part One, Kline has transformed Chinatown gallery 47 Canal in Manhattan into a dystopian funhouse, one that reflects and refracts our world—and its possible undoing—back at us for unnerving effect. Through the first door, which features the stars of a mangled American flag peaking through plastered-on sand, you’ll encounter an irregularly shaped green table mounted with a lit vitrine. Against the nearest wall are a series of large, whirring industrial freezers. The tarp floors make a slight, sticky sound underfoot. This table is one of three bearing names that read like euphemisms for the current state of catastrophe capitalism: Transnational Finance, Technological Innovation. In this one, Representative Government, models of various seats of power—the White House, the Reichstag, rendered in Potomac River mud and placed against a satellite photo of Washington, D.C.—slowly drown under the water of melting miniature icebergs. The freezers sustain the chunks of ice just enough that the submergence is painfully slow, taking place over the month-and-a-half of the show's run.  As we know, cooling a small space puts out a great deal of heat elsewhere, rendering the gallery quite warm. Other vitrines hold different building typologies, like skyscrapers rising together from an imaginary Manhattan made from all the world's tallest buildings. The Burj Khalifa and the Chrysler Building aren’t in the same city, and there's no iceberg floating and melting in New York's Upper Bay, but you get the idea. The real-life ice may be far away, but water, and the planet, is a continuity. An ice shelf north of Greenland crashing into the sea has implications that reach far further than the Arctic Circle.  Through the doors there are other, unenclosed tables, with pink soy wax in the shape of insurance buildings and suburban homes melting down tubes that collect and direct the colored sludge into buckets below. Waste is not hidden, as everything is a system. The doors, each named after a degrees Celsius, with a second parenthetical appellation, are themselves artworks, but also serve their usual purpose. Some rooms, arranged together like a cartoon hallway from a Scooby Doo villain's mansion, can only be entered through a singular door, some an array of doors. They present a false sense of choice, and all lead to the same room, each degree of difference still resulting in the same ruins. The checklist is very clear about origins, at least for some of the more “natural” materials: beach sand from New York City, Shenzhen, and California; desert sand from Texas and the Sahara; steel powder from China. The flags, too, have origin stories, however misleading they might be. We might imagine that the nylon flags desecrated and pasted onto the doors with paint and sand and kelp may represent Germany, the U.S., China, and so on, but they are likely to all be from somewhere else, maybe the same factory, possibly located in none of these countries. To the tentacles of global commerce, borders are long gone. For the refugees of climate disaster and resource wars, the same can’t yet be said.  The doors, with their disfigured flags, are meant to represent the dissolution of borders and nations that Kline predicts climate change and its cascading ramifications will bring about. They also represent our willful participation in the house of horrors-style drowning disasters shown in each of the different rooms as we open and close them. Even when faced with three doors, the sense of choice is false: each opens to the same room. Whether our actions raise global average atmospheric temperatures by 2º C (Dutch, Belgian, French, and German flags, all compressed with Sahara Desert sand—a Colonial Chain Reaction) or 3º C (a mashup of the Union Jack and Japanese flags along with kelp and chlorella) or 5º C (American and Russian flags, Potomac River mud), we’ll still find ourselves in too deep, so to speak. Particularly resonant are the banal and domestic scenes. Situated in hermetically sealed versions of the fume hoods from your college chemistry class painted in subdued, aesthetically-pleasing shades of urethane paints with lighting to match, are scenes with dollhouse miniatures, submerged underwater (or really, cyanoacrylate glue and epoxy). They depict sorrily-stocked grocery stores, bland offices, and suburban home interiors, but their titles are not so bland: Erosion, Inundation, and Submersion.  Disintegration isn't loss, it’s transformation. Even as rising water washes away the mud of the miniature buildings, that same dirt just is transported elsewhere, but formless. Matter is conserved, even if our environment is not. What once was just becomes something else, and with us gone, who will be there to name it or know the difference anyway? Things happen on scales too large for us to know, or to know to even ask questions about. Kline shows us this, plainly, perhaps even at first propagandistically. In this show alone, the interlocking problems of political power, globalization, financialization, housing, architecture, technology, and climate change are all put on display. But there’s no real call to arms here, just a documentation of the future present. But it does make one have to ask: If this is Climate Change: Part One, what happens in part two? Climate Change: Part One 47 Canal 291 Grand Street, 2nd Floor, New York Through June 9, 2019
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The New Front Yahd

Sasaki to remake Boston City Hall Plaza into a place people might actually want to be
The City of Boston is finally heeding 50 years of recommendations from countless undergrad architecture theses: fix the bricked-up prairie that surrounds Boston City Hall. Today Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the city would throw $70 million to hometown firm Sasaki over the coming years to spruce up the outdoor space, whose size and scope was dictated by I.M. Pei & Associates' master plan for Government Center. Its red-brick surface is a nod to the comely rowhouses of Beacon Hill and a complement to Kallmann, McKinnell and Knowles's brutalist City Hall. Both the building and plaza opened to the public in 1969. Sasaki aims to create a "front yard" for public gatherings that scales down the 305,000-square-foot terraces into seven softer, more manageable mini-landscapes that can be used for events or leisure. Notably, the renovations will make the site's 22-foot change in elevation more manageable for those who use mobility aids like wheelchairs. According to presentation documents, the project is on the cusp of design development, with final delivery expected as soon as 2021. The area's master planning kicked off in 2015, and since then, the city has tried to enliven the site via temporary light shows, beer gardens, and art. Phase One will more clearly connect Congress and Cambridge streets via a promenade equipped with shaded seating and play areas.  By the time all renovations are complete, there will be 3,000 seats, 100 new trees, and associated programming, as well as a new public building on Congress. To facilitate access to City Hall, the long-closed second floor of City Hall Plaza will re-open to the public, as well.
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Curatorial Platform

Architect creates app to change how exhibitions are designed
For all the advances in technology over the past decade, the experience of curating and viewing museum shows has remained relatively unchanged. Even though digital archive systems exist and have certainly helped bring old institutions into the present, they have relatively little influence over the ways museum shows are designed and shared. The normal practice is more or less “old school” and even borderline “dysfunctional,” said Bika Rebek, principal of the New York and Vienna–based firm Some Place Studio. In fact, a survey she conducted early on found that many of the different software suites that museum professionals were using were major time sinks for their jobs. Fifty percent said they felt they were “wasting time” trying to fill in data or prepare presentations for design teams. To Rebek, this is very much an architectural problem, or at least a problem architects can solve. She has been working over the past two years, supported by NEW INC and the Knight Foundation, to develop Tools for Show, an interactive web-based application for designing and exploring exhibitions at various scales—from the level of a vitrine to a multi-floor museum. Leveraging her experiences as an architect, 3D graphics expert, and exhibition designer (she’s worked on major shows for the Met and Met Breuer, including the OMA-led design for the 2016 Costume Institute exhibition Manus x Machina), Rebek began developing a web-based application to enable exhibition designers and curators to collaborate, and to empower new ways of engaging with cultural material for users anywhere. Currently, institutions use many different gallery tools, she explained, which don’t necessarily interact and don’t usually let curators think spatially in a straightforward way. Tools for Show allows users to import all sorts of information and metadata from existing collection management software (or enter it anew), which is attached to artworks stored in a library that can then be dragged and dropped into a 3D environment at scale. Paintings and simple 3D shapes are automatically generated, though, for more complex forms where the image projected onto a form of a similar footprint isn’t enough, users could create their own models.  For example, to produce the New Museum’s 2017 show Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, Rebek rendered the space and included many of the basic furnishings unique to the museum. For other projects, like a test case with the Louvre's sculptures, she found free-to-use models and 3D scans online. Users can drag these objects across the 3D environments and access in-depth information about them with just a click. With quick visual results and Google Docs-style automatic updates for collaboration, Tools for Show could help not just replace more cumbersome content management systems, but endless emails too. Rebek sees Tools for Show as having many potential uses. It can be used to produce shows, allowing curators to collaboratively and easily design and re-design their exhibitions, and, after the show comes down it can serve as an archive. It can also be its own presentation system—not only allowing “visitors” from across the globe to see shows they might otherwise be unable to see, but also creating new interactive exhibitions or even just vitrines, something she’s been testing out with Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. More than just making work easier for curators and designers, Tools for Show could possibly give a degree of curatorial power and play over to a broader audience. “[Tools for Show] could give all people the ability to curate their own show without any technical knowledge,” she explained. And, after all, you can't move around archival materials IRL, so why not on an iPad? While some of the curator-focused features of Tools for Show are in the testing phase, institutions can already request the new display tools like those shown at Vizcaya. Rebek, as a faculty member at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, has also worked with students to use Tools for Show in conjunction with photogrammetry techniques in an effort to develop new display methods for otherwise inaccessible parts of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, a history and naval and aerospace museum located in a decommissioned aircraft carrier floating in the Hudson River. At a recent critique, museum curators were invited to see the students’ new proposals and explore the spatial visualizations of the museum through interactive 3D models, AR, VR, as well as in-browser and mobile tools that included all sorts of additional media and information.