Search results for "Manhattan"

Growing Pains

Columbia University is expected to submit its official rezoning plans for a proposed expansion into Manhattanville to Manhattan Community Board 9 this month, a plan the board and local residents have vocally opposed. There is little support beyond a few student activists, but on April 1, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer lent the opposition some much needed support when he announced rezoning plans of his own intended to protect the interests and assuage the fears of Columbia’s future neighbors without impinging directly on the university’s plans.

Those plans, developed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Skidmore Owings & Merrill and released in July 2003, call for as many as 18 glass towers the on 17 acres bounded by 125th St., Broadway, 133rd St., and 12th Avenue, just north of Columbia’s main campus. Stringer’s proposal does not cross into this territory but instead surrounds it on three sides, stretching from the Hudson to Edgecombe Ave. between 125th and 145th streets. “We wanted to think beyond the footprint,” Stringer told AN. “How do you preserve the community so Columbia does not dominate West Harlem but coexists with West Harlem?”

The biggest concern for the borough president’s office is controlling gentrification and maintaining the neighborhood’s distinct character. In a study released as part of the zoning proposal, Stringer’s office found 22 percent of lots within its rezoning area to be residential “soft sites,” which are considered ripe for redevelopment because they are built below their potential floor area ratio (FAR). Furthmore, just over 50 percent could be soft sites if developed as community facilities, which allow developers to increase the FAR in exchange for public amenities. Academic uses fall into this category.

The borough president’s solution is to downzone buildings within the special district to protect their lowrise character, commonly between four and six stories. If developers wish to build above this threshold, they must include concessions for affordable housing or smallscale, locally owned businesses. The hope is these measures will protect local residents and business owners from being displaced. “Part of this is we realize there will be development, which is good for the city,” Stringer said. “But we also have to protect the city for those who have made it what it is.” To that end, the proposal also stipulates harassment and demolition safeguards to prevent unlawful evictions and encourage adaptive reuse.

The biggest concern for residents below 125th Street is that Stringer’s special district does not include them, unlike a non-binding CB9 proposal, which extends to 116th Street. “Our concerns are that the immediate area to the south of the expansion area is not protected,” said Tom DeMott, who lives on Tiemann Place, half a block south of 125th Street. DeMott, who is also a member of the Coalition to Preserve Community, said he gave Stringer the benefit of the doubt, but that he and his neighbors are still uneasy.

CB9 chairperson Jordi Reyes-Montblanc remains steadfast in his belief that the community will prevail in its fight against Columbia, with or without Stringer. “If the plan is not reflective in a complete way of the 197-a, the 197-c will not go very far,” he said, using the technical names for CB9 and Stringer’s plans. Like the borough president, Reyes- Montblanc insists locals are not opposed to Columbia, but he sees the university’s unwillingness to abandon eminent domain—Columbia controls two-thirds of the expansion zone while the MTAandVerizonownanother 20 percent—as a means of extortion that will not succeed. “We’ve had proposals for arenas, 75-story hotels, office towers, water-side condos, and all of them have been defeated,” Reyes-Montblanc said. 

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He'll Take Manhattan
CRAZY!

Seong Kwon / COURTESY Mechoshade

The soon-to-open IAC/InterActiveCorp headquarters in New York is primarily being hailed as Frank Gehryys first building in the city, but it is so much more. Sited on the Far West Side in Chelsea, the ten-story billowing glass structure, which resembles a crystalline snow globe by day and a Creamsicle by night, is a flagship building for the booming Internet company.Yet it is also a catalyst to further development in the area that will sooner rather than later transform the neighborhood it was designed to complement. Right now, that neighborhood includes truck garages and storage warehouses, a womenns prison, and, lately, a few chic galleries. But they serve the IAC building well as a gritty brick backdrop against which its milky white slopes can swell and stand out.

The setting that shows this dynamic gem off to best advantage is changing fast. Across narrow 19th Street, excavation is underway for Jean Nouvells 20- story condo that, in renderings, appears to be encrusted in giant mirrored Post-it notes. Immediately behind the Gehry building, 520 West Chelsea, an 11-story condo by Annabelle Selldorf, is rising with just enough space between the two, purportedly, to squeeze in a condo-cumgallery in the near future by Shigeru Ban. Other apartments by Robert A. M. Stern and Neil Denari are also in the works well within visual encroachment range. Such an embarrassment of riches makes one wonder if a new zoning rule stipulating only one icon per block ought to be put into effect.

Seong Kwon / COURTESY Mechoshade

The IAC headquarters has a compact, dynamic scale that more than holds its own against the behemoth Chelsea Piers that stretches for blocks just across the West Side Highway. The tall-shipsat- full-sail metaphorran incredibly romantic conceit for jaded Manhattann that inspired the buildinggs form is experienced most immediately and effectively by the cars whizzing by on the adjacent highway, making the IAC the cityys first LA building. The pedestrian experience is less welcoming: sheer featureless walls on all three street sides with a slight bulge and no signage to speak, not even an easily discernible entrance. Apparently, Barry Diller, IACCs chairman and chief executive officer, was adamant that no signs should mar the structurees monolithic It-ness. Bruce Mau, hired to handle graphics throughout, has complied with an exceedingly diffident aluminum bar protuberanceea kind of anti-marqueeeover the main entrance, on 18th Street.

Seong Kwon / COURTESY Mechoshade

In a January 11, 2006 article in The Wall Street Journal, Diller was quoted as saying he wanted a building that was a wondrous environmentt of its own. And so it comes as a surprise that the interiorssapart from a few very glitzy gesturesshave such a scattered look. The flashiest feature is the 118-footlong video wall in the lobby (one of two envisioned by Gehry and Mau and produced by McCann Systems, Trollbbck + Company, and Warren Z Productions) powered by 18 12,000-lumen projectors and streaming a collage of images of flowers, client product endorsements, and art projects. The video screen will be somewhere between advertising and art,, said Eric Levin, an associate director in the companyys real estate department, on a recent tour that included a stop behind the video wall to see a sound-andlight setup worthy of a Madonna tour.

The treatment of the glass curtain wall makes for a more contemplative but no less technologically daring display. Much has been written about how the curvature in the glass was achieved by coldbending the glass on-site. Less familiar is the fascinating fact that it was not the flexibility of the glass but the tensile strength of the silicone adhesive anchoring the fourth corner of each sheet of glass to the frame that determined a maximum torque (up to 4 inches). Oddly, the best place to see the effect is on the back side, where the building rotates up to 150 degrees as it rises unbroken from the ground up. (A zoning- mandated sixth-floor setback breaks up the volume on the front and sides.)

Up close, the glass surface has a busy, pulsating pattern. Clear across each middle section (at a point where people of average height might stand to look out), the glass then shades gradually to opaque white due to miniscule ceramic frit dots arranged in irregular waves that collect at their densest at top and bottom. This irregular wave patterning creates a striated look recalling a Xerox machine thatts running out of toner ink. The glass, like the building itself, seems intended for viewing from a distance.

Studios Architecture designed the interiors on all the floors except the sixth, where the executive offices are located. The partnership with Gehry (who was responsible for the interior of the lobby and the sixth floor) is a compatible one, marked with a predilection for bright colors, lots of patterns, and shiny surfaces. The glass partitions and doors leading to the private offices on nonexecutive floors are the color of Tropical Fruit Lifesavers. Austin Powersorange seating pods dot the floor, and supergraphics by Mau cover the elevator landing walls. Gehry installed a rug with a tiger-striped pattern in Dillerrs executive suite. It all screams Youth! Creativity! Energy!! which could become tiresome in the long run.

Courtesy DIRTT

Seong Kwon / COURTESY Mechoshade

Attempts at unifying the interior space fall flat. Each floor has a constant 8-foot wall that serves as a datum line to counteract ceiling heights that are the 91⁄2 feet on lower floors and the 101⁄2 feet on upper floors. A plenum below each floor slab is recessed from the angled facade, creating space for a constant 4-foot-deep perimeter cove light, which accounts for the buildinggs nighttime glow. A problem arises, however, at the messy juncture of cove edge, private office clerestory, and tilted facade.

At the Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT in Boston, which opened in 2004, Gehry was allowed more latitude in plugging things together with an ad-hoc haphazardness that comes across as vigorous and dynamic. Here, attempts to tame irregularities merely look slipshod and fussy. For instance, columns along the perimeter are planted parallel to the glass, meaning they tilt, some as much as 20 degrees. Meanwhile, interior columns are straight but not arranged in any particular rhythm. They align instead with the columns above and below on floor plates that are themselves rotated. Trying to impose visual order is a losing proposition here, and aesthetically counterproductive. Let creative impulses reign.

If only the approach to the interiors had been executed with the same spirit of derring-do as the building itself, the IAC would be the wondrous object Diller intended. As is, passers-byybe they on foot or in a car, without much time to pick out detailssare the ones who can best enjoy its considerable thrill.

JULIE V. IOVINE IS AN'S ARCHITECTURE CRITIC. SHE CONTRIBUTES TO THE NEW YORK TIMES, ART & CULTURE, ART REVIEW (UK), DEPARTURES, AND OTHER PUBLICATIONS.



IAC Headquarters In Detail

Courtesy Permasteelisa

CURTAIN WALL CONSULTANT AND FABRICATOR
PERMASTEELISA
Frank Gehryys designs have often challenged manufacturers and contractors to develop new systems. In the case of the IAC/ InterActiveCorp headquarterss curtain wall, Gehry Partners and building envelope engineer/manufacturer Permasteelisa collaborated using a centralized 3D computer model to accomplish everything from the design and fabrication of its panel shapes to the positioning of its anchoring system.

Unlike a rectilinear building whose curtain wall units are by and large identical, skinning IAC required a variety of panel shapes to form a tight wrapper for the designns billowing sail-like forms. The designers determined the shape of each panel on the model and then fed this data directly into an automated fabrication process that cut the aluminum and glass. Of the 1,450 curtain wall units, 1,150 are unique.

Permasteelisa manufactured the panels flat, but once on site, bent them into place, in a process called cold warping. Installers connected three corners of each unit first then manually forced the fourth into place, literally contorting the glass and metal and giving IAC itts curvy looks. This puts enormous stress on each panells perimeter seal, so to prepare the units for cold warping, Permasteelisa specially designed each silicon seal with the glass fabricator.

This created an extremely rigid cladding system that required construction tolerances much smaller than most contractors are used to working within. According to Alberto Gobbi, president of Permasteelisa, the curtain wall had only 1⁄8 inch of flub room, whereas the concrete frame could be expected to vary an inch in any direction from the idealize model. To address this issue, Permasteelisa designed a special anchoring system that could absorb tolerances between frame and curtain wall. Composed of horizontal and vertical aluminum brackets, the anchors bolt to the slab edge and can slide three dimensionally until the connection point is reached. To find the connection point, Permasteelisaas survey team used the 3D model in conjunction with a GPS system and lasers to triangulate the exact location.
AARON SEWARD



Courtesy Mechoshade

ELECTROSHADE SYSTEM
MECHOSHADE

This is Frank Gehryys first major glass building, and as it turns out, titanium and stainless steel are a lot easier to make conform to his signature curves than glass panels. Although the solar shading company MechoShade had worked with Gehry Partners before on projects like Bard College Performing Arts Center in the Hudson Valley and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, The IAC building literally presented us with a new twist,, said company vice president Glen Berman.

More than three-quarters of the unitized glass panels that make up the IACCs cladding have a compound curve, so standard roller shades would never match both the window head and sill. In order to conform to the buildinggs irregular geometry, MechoShade (with the support of Studios Architecture) created more than one thousand customtwisted shades, all individually motorized. By modifying the systemms hardware, we were able to twist the shades up to 30 degrees, matching and exceeding the slight twist of IAC glass panels,, said Berman. We developed an innovative technology for these types of structures.. Berman hopes that the new system will be ready for market very shortly, because the IAC is clearly not the last building that will use twisted and torqued forms.
MASHA PANTELEYEVA



Courtesy Dirtt

STICK-BUILT WALL SYSTEM
DIRTT ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS

Designing interiors to match a building by Frank Gehry can be a daunting task. When DIRTT (Do It Right This Time) heard that much of the budget for the IAC building was devoted to the facade, and that the custom scheme by STUDIOS architecture (the firm in charge of the interiors) was prohibitively expensive, the 2-year-old Canadian company pitched its Stick-built modular wall system to the construction manager. The Stick Built walls not only conform to the irregular shapes dictated by Gehryys design and maintain STUDIOOs vibrant color scheme but they also fit the budget. It saved them a ton of money,, said Akua Lesesne. The savings stem from the modular nature of the walls, which are essentially a lattice of steel frames into which DIRTTTs or locally-sourced glass can be installed. Lesesne said that unlike custom work, the Stick-Built Walls eliminate the waste and time of cutting and disposing of glass on-site, or shipping it from the factory, both of which save time, money, and the environment.
MATT CHABAN



AUDIOVISUAL CONSULTANT
MCCANN SYSTEMS

Corporate art is so passs: These days, video screens often adorn a businesss walls instead. IAC/InterActiveCorp has even gone so far as to make video an integral part of the design of its new headquarters. Motorists on the West Side Highway will catch an eyeful of the 118-foot-long video wall displayed in the buildinggs lobby like a huge indoor billboard. At night, the bright projections will be visible through the buildinggs glass facade. Prominent design firm Trollbbck + Company has created advertising for IAC brands such as Ask.com and Match.com for the wall, but this is just the beginning. By June, the programming will include a mix of projects from video artists, students, and even community organizations.

While its sheer size and visibility make the west video wall the flashiest display in the building, itts far from the only one. On the east side of the lobby, a finely detailed image of Earth will shine on a 20-by-11-foot display surface. Using handheld touch screens, lobby visitors will be able to spin the high-res virtual globe to find the companyys offices around the world, get real-time statistics on Web traffic for IACCs many businesses, and launch live TV feeds from a company network. Warren Z and Tank Design helped to create the content for the interactive installation.

Elsewhere around the building, staffers will use video for virtual collaboration.The headquarters is designed to be a gathering point for employees from around the world, and when people cannt make it to New York, video is the next best thing. The buildinggs eight office floors feature more than 20 meeting facilities outfitted with highdefinition videoconferencing equipment and large plasma smartboards devoted to video or the Web.

Not surprisingly, the IAC had to enlist a full-time AV engineer to oversee the buildinggs videoconference equipment, video walls and other audiovisual systems, said Eric Levin, an associate director in IACCs real estate department. But the payoff is clear: For a company whose mission to promote interactive technologies, a high-tech ddcor is more than a luxury.
LISA DELGADO

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The Jersey Boys
OMA's proposed tower looms over the neighborhooring Powerhouse.
Courtesy Office for Metropolitan Architecture

The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) unveiled its first U.S. project since its New York office broke away last summer to form the firm REX, taking many of OMA’s stateside projects with it. On February 26, Rem Koolhaas unveiled a 52-story mixed-use tower that will rise in Jersey City’s fast-gentrifying Powerhouse Arts District on a site that once housed an artists’ commune. He gave a lecture-style presentation complete with slides to press, politicians, and developers assembled at the Jersey City Museum.

The 1.2 million-square-foot development for BLDG Management and the Athena Group features two slabs set at 90-degree angles to each other, which will house apartments, a hotel, and a restaurant. These cantilever over an immense cube set upon a full-block plinth. The lower levels contain additional housing, live-work spaces for artists, and gallery and retail space. 

Koolhaas explained that OMA had taken the typical towers so prevalent in Jersey City and literally turned them on their side. “In current architecture, there is an incredible adoration of the computer, of flowing forms,” he said. “We felt in the generic shapes, there is still a lot not yet explored.” He also repeatedly emphasized the integral role structural engineers WSP Cantor Seinuk played in creating the “super-structure” that keeps the Jenga-like pieces aloft. 

The building will have an unusual appearance from Manhattan, where its profile will resemble a square popsicle. According to Shohei Shigematsu, head of OMA New York, the top section will be sheathed in glass while the bottom slab and cube will be outfitted in “something precast, probably concrete or plastic, whichever is more economical.” The budget is currently set at $400 million, and BLDG expects that construction will be finished within three to four years. 

Koolhaas talked about how PATH and 9/11 made Jersey City “almost a part of Manhattan” and went on to discuss how the roofs would function as open spaces for public interaction, much like Rockefeller Center. Anticipating a wall of high-rises along the Hudson, Koolhaas pointed out that the tower would maintain its profile. “Basically, our building is trying to respond to a future situation,” he said. 

On the Waterfront

While the neighborhood around South Street Seaport is rapidly changing, the company that operates the mall there is taking its time to develop plans to connect the complex with the rest of Manhattan. The operator,General Growth Properties, hired Sharples Holden Pasquarelli (SHoP Architects) to develop a masterplan for making the Seaport more compelling to locals, citywide shoppers, and tourists. SHoP (along with the Richard Rogers Partnership) is also working for General Growthhs landlord, the city, to implement a plan that will turn the waterfront north of the Seaport into a major new park. The other major change that has made the area more attractive for development was the Fulton Fish Marketts 2005 move to Huntts Point in the Bronx.

Pasquarelli told AN that his firmms work for both clients aims to make the South Street waterfront more accessible and further open its views to the Brooklyn Bridge..We have spent three years working with the community and are trying to make sure that any [mall] proposal complements and hopefully even solves some issues with the esplanade..He added that preserving the current three-story mall remains a distinct possibility.

But some community residents worry that the private operator will try to cash in on the public improvements at South Street by creating a condo or a hotel.That was clear at General Growthhs scheduled February 27 presentation to a Seaport subcommittee of Community Board 1.While presenting the many concepts currently under study, Pasquarelli and others found themselves defending their work to the often hostile crowd of more than 100 people.

Pasquarelliis presentation stressed Pier177s current disconnect from the street grid..You get to Fulton and Water [streets], and you cannt see the historic ships,, he said. The ideas he presented included restoring the rotting piers under the three idle Fish Market buildings and moving one, the 1907 Tin Building, to line up Beekman Street with waterfront access. But meeting attendees dwelled on a single slide that showed how shrinking the mallls footprint to create a slender tower would open more of the pier.Many charged that the operator secretly plans to sell condos without providing parks and schools. General Growth representative Michael McNaughton insisted that any redesign would enhance the community..This is the beginning of a process,, he said. Pasquarelli echoed this, saying that there were at least 25 plans under discussion, and many more months of design research.

Many groups want to influence the process: Preservationists want to refurbish the South Street Seaport Museum and its historic vessels.And the Drawing Center, which was originally slated for the cultural institution lineup at Ground Zero, is one of many nonprofit organizations that have expressed interest in using the site.

And New York City, as owner of the underlying piers,will scrutinize any decision on aesthetic and contextual grounds..The city would seek improved access to the waterfront and development that enhances the unique historic waterfront and important views,, said a city planning spokesperson. This means balancing residentss views with those available to visitors.

ALEC APPELBAUM

Foul Ball

On February 14, New York City’s Franchise Review Committee gave the go-ahead to plans that would put the future of Randall’s Island ball fields in the hands of 20 private schools. The 20-year contract guarantees prep students school-day playtime from 3 to 6 p.m. on most of the city-owned fields. For this privilege, the schools will pay $52.4 million, which will go a long way toward providing the $70 million required for the renovation and new construction of the sports areas.

The island is home to a jumble of municipal buildings as well as 400 acres of greenspace. In1998, the Randall’s Island Sports Foundation developed a masterplan to make better use of the land. “Full realization of the island as a park never took place,” explained city parks commissioner Adrian Benepe. “When landlocked private schools first started to go out to the fields, they were almost all unused.” He lauded the new proposal as an enterprising public-private partnership that not only maintains, but also expands the number of baseball, softball, football, soccer, cricket,and rugby fields on the island, bringing the total from 36 to 63. Currently at peak usage times, the private schools’ athletics programs occupy two-thirds of the fields; the remainder is shared between public school kids and adult leagues; all fields are open at off-peak hours. The plan has raised hackles because some see it as a step towards the privatization of public space. Manhattan borough president Scott M. Stringer was the sole vote against the project, and city councilor Melissa Mark Viverito is also opposed.

Access to the island has long been an issue. Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., resisted the proposal last year when it came before the committee, but was swayed in favor when bus service for public schoolers (with the Department of Education) was added. Benepe believes the underwriting is an opportunity and not precedent for funding the rest of the city’s parkland. 

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LMDC's Legacy
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Courtesy WEISS / MANFREDI
Weiss/Manfrediis concept design for Park Row introduces a landscaped, terraced pedestrain connection to the elevated Police Plaza.

The mandate of the LMDC, formed by Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the aftermath of 9/11, was not only to oversee the rebuilding of the WTC site but to spearhead the comprehensive, integrated urban renewal of all of Lower Manhattan. To that end, it commissioned several major urban studies in areas below Canal Street by top-tier design firms, and encouraged them to truly think big-picture about rebuilding downtown. Weiss/ Manfredi, H3 Hardy Collaborative Architects, Robert A. M. Stern, and Smith-Miller + Hawkinson were all awarded contracts, amounting to over $2 million in fees, according to research compiled by AN at the time of these particular planss completion in 2004 (see World Trade Windfall,, AN 19_11.16.2004). When the LMDC announced last July that it would dissolve in the months to come, it maintained that its primary responsibilitiess selecting a masterplan and memorial design for the WTC site and allocating more than $2.78 billion in federal grants toward fostering business, residential, and cultural growth downtownnhad been fulfilled. Construction of the memorial and development of urban design guidelines for the site has been since delegated to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, but the fate of the urban studies the LMDC initiated has been more difficult to assess.

The LMDC was never intended to be the agency that implemented such plans. Moreover, there is never a guarantee that any commission will translate into a realized work. But the fact that so little has been publicly discussed with respect to urban design at the WTC site or its surrounding neighborhoods since 9/11 merits a closer look at these plans, and at how or whether the ideas they propose might be expressed in built form.

According to LMDC spokesperson John DeLibero, all of the above-mentioned plans have been transferred to the Department of City Planning (DCP). Rachaele Raynoff, DCP press secretary, confirmed that the DCP is in possession of them but could not specify how the plans are being prioritized. At present, the DCPPs biggest initiative in Lower Manhattan is the East River Waterfront Study by SHoP Architects and the Richard Rogers Partnership.

One piece of news that gives reason to be optimistic that the plans wonnt end up in a drawer is Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patakiis announcement in May 2005 of a comprehensive allocation plann for the LMDCCs unspent $800 million. The plan earmarked $110 million to implement certain elements of the LMDCCs urban plans, including the studies conducted by Weiss/ Manfredi, H3, and Stern. For some of the designers, the announcement was the last concrete news they received regarding their projects.

Raynoff confirmed that the DCP, together with the Department of Transportation (DOT), is currently studying one aspect of Weiss/ Manfrediis larger plan, which looked at the area surrounding the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage (see A View from the Bridge,, AN 10_6.08.2005). The plan envisions connecting Chinatown to the seaport through streetscaping, and makes specific recommendations for reinvigorating the closed-off area under the Brooklyn Bridge and replacing the concrete retaining wall behind Police Plaza on Park Row with a grassy, stepped pedestrian path to connect the elevated plaza with the street.

After the architects presented the plan to the LMDC in 2005, the LMDC and other consulting city agencies focused on their recommendations for Park Row as a feasible project. Shortly after, as part of Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patakiis allocation plan, $32 million was granted to fund components of their study and a related Chinatown study, including Park Row. As of yet, however, the DCP and DOT have not announced any concrete plans or schedule for the project.


Courtesy H3 HARDY COLLABORATION ARCHITECTURE
H33s design for Greenwich Street South proposed roofing over the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to create a park along with new residential and commerical space.

Aspects of the Greenwich Street South Study, developed by a team of seven design and consulting firms headed by H3 Hardy Collaborative Architects, also appear to have a promising future. This study proposes decking over the existing entry to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (owned by the MTA), which currently separates Battery Park City South from the financial district south of the WTC site. The plan suggests that the new surface area of the deck would create valuable buildable space in an area where opportunities for largescale development no longer exist. In that new space, it recommends the creation of a 2-acre park surrounded by residential and commercial developments, as well as a bus garage south of Morris Street that would decrease current street-level congestion and house buses that might be displaced by potential developments on the East River Waterfront and Pier 40.

At H33s last meeting with the LMDC in September, attending city officials agreed that if the engineering required to build the deck could be coordinated, the MTA would revisit the proposals. The DCP anticipates working with the Governor Eliot Spitzerrs administration to realize this plan. Though the prospects for the plan seem positive, principal designer Hugh Hardy still worried, With the fading of the LMDC, [the plan] doesnnt have a champion.. Senior associate John Fontillas added, The unfortunate thing is that [the LMDCCs former vice president of planning and development] Alex Garvin intended for all of these parts to knit together. With personnel changing, therees little institutional memory.. Though the designers have not received any updates on the status of the plan, it has been allotted $40 million under the 2005 Bloomberg-Pataki initiative.

By comparison, aspects of Sternns Fulton Street Revitalization seem to be moving forward. With $38 million (again, part of Bloomberg and Patakiis 2005 initiative) approved by the LMDC board of directors in February 2006, the parts of the plan that have been retained for implementation, according to the DCP, include: enhancing the 35,000-square-foot Titanic Memorial Park and Pearl Street Playground, both set for completion in 2008; improving retail, facades, and streetscape elements along Fulton toward the East River; and creating a new open space at corner of Fulton and Gold streets. It is difficult to know, however, how close these elements are to the original design recommendations of Stern and partner on the study, Gensler. A public presentation of the study in 2005 was cancelled at the last minute, and even then, the plan was reportedly only in draft form (see Fulton Street Plan Chugs Along,, AN 12_7.13.05). Moreover, both then and now, the designers have declined to comment, barred by the LMDC from speaking about the plan.


COURTESY SMITH-MILLER+HAWKINSON ARCHITECTS
Louise Nevelson Plaza is the result of a larger study by Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects to identify open-space possibilities in the blocks east of the WTC site. View west toward William Street.

The most tangible results from any of the studies are from Smith-Miller + Hawkinsonns comprehensive urban study Strategic Open Space: Public Realm Improvement Strategy for Lower Manhattan. The study, which won a P/A Award in 2003, canvassed 500 acres of Lower Manhattan in the area roughly bound by Fulton, Church, and Water streets to identify possibilities for creating new public spaces and bolstering existing ones. One site, Louise Nevelson Plaza, a run-down traffic island at the corner of William and Liberty, stood out as a feasible location to move forward on right away. The architects worked with the LMDC and other consulting city agencies to draft construction documents, and had successfully gone through the majority of the approval process well before the LMDC began to phase out. Since the LMDCCs dissolution, the Department of Design and Construction has taken over execution of the project, and has folded it in among its general infrastructure improvements on Liberty Street.

The design for the plaza involves a series of changes meant to create, in principal Laurie Hawkinsonns words, a 24/7 open spacee in an emerging mixed-use neighborhood. The park will feature benches of cast glass, new lighting and planting, and seven restored Nevelson sculptures that the artist herself donated to the park in the 1970s. The project will break ground this summer, and is expected to be completed in 2009.

The LMDC has never been forthcoming about its undertakings, despite the fact that these compelling urban design studies are nothing to hide. Even now, no one from the LMDCC including Kevin Rampe, chair of the LMDC boarddwill comment on the planss respective fates. The arrival of Governor Spitzer, who has been critical of the way the LMDC has been operating, may bring a change in direction. A. J. Carter, spokesperson for Empire State Development Corporation, the LMDCCs parent body, offered, We are taking a fresh look at everything and re-evaluating whatts been done and what needs to be done as we get started with the [Spitzer] Administration..

SAMANTHA TOPOL IS AN EDITOR AT AN.

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Fragmentation and Absence at WTC

To date, the most realistic view of the future streetscape and urban environment of the WTC site is a drawing that Silverstein Properties released in late September (below) for the unveiling of the designs of Towers 2, 3, and 4 by Foster and Partners, Richard Rogers Partnership, and Maki and Associates, respectively. The site plan, credited to Fosterrs office, offers a dimensionality and level of detail that previous site plans offered by the LMDC do not. The irony of this situation becomes clear when you realize that the Foster-generated coordinating plan was not made by a public authority but by a private developer who is shaping one third of the original WTC sitees 16 acres. No such excellent, professional plan has been offered to the public by the public authorities that own and administer the land, and there has been no public discussion of urban design on or around the WTC site to date.

The Silverstein plan maps various vital open spaces and streetscapes, including the vast memorial (conceived by its designers as encompassing everything to the blockks curbline); the plaza areas around the Freedom Tower and 7WTC, the enigmatic Performing Arts Center, and WTC Transportation Hub; and the multi-level, glass-fronted commercial realms along Church and Greenwich streets, defined by the Silverstein towers.

Formal urban design guidelines, which until recently were expected to be released by the LMDC, would have formed these streetscapes. (Even as late as August 2006, LMDC board president Kevin Rampe was quoted in a New York Times article as saying that the agency would release guidelines in September.) Now the Port Authority is charged with the task of considering the voids between its real estate developments, voids that contain the civic life of the city. With so many of the sitees designs now in refinement phase, even the imminent release of commercial and urban design guideliness which the Port Authority promises to release in the coming monthss seems moot.

This sad situation might be contrasted with the more open process that accompanied the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, wherein vociferous critics challenged the developer, Forest City Ratner, leading to the projectts downsizing and improvements to Frank Gehryys design. No such democratic process has been applied to the WTC site since its inception nearly 40 years ago, when David Rockefeller, then the chair of Chase Manhattan Bank, influenced his brother Nelson, then state governor, to influence the Port Authority to create the corporate WTC complex. (David had something to gain: Chase had just built an expensive tower nearby and had a vested interest in the revitalization of the area.) The resulting WTC complex was recognized as an urban disaster long before it was destroyed on 9/11 with its vast, windswept podium and unremarkable, dull design.

Now we face a design disaster of a different order, with yet another dull tower looming over yet another roof-garden plaza. The title of Aradds memorial design, Reflecting Absence, states the current problem exactly: Absence of coordination now dominates all. There is no sense of a whole among the fragments, each of which will assert itself around the memorial. Each project stands on its own block, dealing with the landds slope toward the river with its own podium, stairs, and blank sidewalls.

Everything is subservient to the Twin Towerss absenceefrom the memorial design, with its landscaped terrace divided into small secure areas by the original towerss footprints, entry buildings, ramps, steps, benches, and side walls; to the surrounding towers that rise high from their sites, matching in volume the absent towers. The result is a disjointed streetscape that is only now being addressed as an afterthought by the Port Authority. We can only imagine what would have come from the site had it not been for the appealing distraction of Daniel Libeskindds original masterplan, with its sad central void and towering (though pointless) symbols.

D. GRAHAME SHANE IS AN URBAN HISTORIAN WHO TEACHES AT THE COOPER UNION AND CITY COLLEGE. HIS MOST RECENT BOOK IS RECOMBINANT URBANISM: CONCEPTUAL MODELING IN ARCHITECTURE, URBAN DESIGN AND CITY THEORY (JOHN WILEY & SONS, 2005).




The Silverstein-issued site plan, rendered
by Foster, shows the
WTC Memorial (H) surrounded by steps along West Street, Liberty Street, and
the southern part of Greenwich Street (I), with level access only
at the junction of Fulton and Greenwich (J), opposite the PATH Station/Transportation Hub by Santiago Calatrava

 



SOMMs drawings of the Freedom Tower (A) show its Fulton Street side as level with the street. Facing West Street, however, the site slopes gently upwards, with sets of stairs and terrace landings forming a triangular plaza (B). One drawing of the plaza also indicates a 6-foot-high wind break,, extending partially toward the plaza and raising the height of a retaining wallla
dead sheer walllthat appears to continue down Vesey Street (C). The tower neighbors Frank Gehryys Performing Arts Center (D), which the city has assumed responsibility for, but whose fate remains undetermined.

 




Though the entrance of Silversteinns 7WTC (E) by David Childs is transparent, art-enriched, and faces
a friendly plaza on Greenwich Street (F),
its Vesey, Barclay, and Washington elevations are featurelesss windowless and doorless facades that convey the deadly effect of fear on urban street life. The towerrs fortified base, housing several floors of Con Ed generators, is also a monument to our failure to learn from past mistakes, i.e., creating
a single transformer center (and easy target) instead of a system
of geographically dispersed transformer stations.

 




Silverstein and mall developer Westfield are locating two thirds of
the Foster towerrs (G) retail at or above grade, and one third below.
The tower is complex
in section because it contains trading floors on lower levels, with a hotel and offices above. The design takes into consideration the slope of the site, incorporating cascading steps into a multi-level lobby. With its prime location and more urban engagement, this building could easily upstage the Freedom Tower, making Patakiis tower entirely redundant.

 



The landscaped terrace of the WTC Memorial (H) is split into small secure areas by
the towerss old footprints/reflecting pools, entry building, ramps, steps, benches, and side walls that address the sitees slope. Itts plausible, too, that the memorial will have perimeter barriers for public safetyy (or to prevent spontaneous demonstrations). Animations on Silverstein Propertiess site (viewed in December 2006) pan across West Street to the base of the Freedom Tower and appear to show 10-foot-high security mesh fences in the park across from the base of the tower. It is difficult to read from Fosterrs site plan (at right), but lines appear to show fences parallel to West and Liberty as well, creating a penned-in area within the park. Meanwhile, the severely downsized Memorial entry pavilion and visitor center by Snnhetta (L) will no doubt be dwarfed by the surrounding towers and serves merely as a light cover and security gate to the underground realm of the memorial.

 



Grimshawws Fulton Street Transit Hub at Fulton and Broadway (not shown on the map) won a recent victory when the MTA agreed
to go ahead with the construction of a passage beneath
Dey Street, linking
to the Calatrava Transportation Hub (J), just one block west.

 


Calatravaas Transportation Hub (K) is a monument to
the power of the Port Authority, costing $2 billion to accommodate 33,000 commuters daily. Its vast scale is out
of proportion to its passenger flow (compare with the 500,000 commuters
who pass through Grand Central daily). The station also contains a part of the underground Westfield shopping mall, which will link to the adjacent Foster (G) and Rogers (M) towers, and an underground tourist bus parking garage. Tourists will pass through the underground mall to reach street level and then cross Greenwich Street to enter the memorial plaza.

 



Of the three tower designs Silverstein unveiled in late September, Richard Rogerss tower (M) was the least detailed. (All three teams are working to meet a March 1 deadline for schematic designs.) Rogerss crude, giant exterior trussessa signature that also appears in his design of the Silver Cup Studios in Long Island Cityywill loom above Calatravaas delicate and costly wings..

 



Makiis tower (N) has an enormous entry on its east side, facing Cooper Robertsonns Zuccotti Park (V).
The majority of the commuters who arrive at Calatravaas station and work in Wall Street will pass through the underground mall (which continues through the Rogers tower) and exit through Makiis portal. Inside, the retail space climbs 85 feet up on
the Church Street side
from the underground concourse and then crosses through the building to Greenwich Street, terminating in a restaurant overlooking the memorial.



Cooper Robertson, designers of Zuccotti Park (V), acknowledged the sitees natural downward slope and allowed the park to
drop diagonally from its Church Street corner toward Wall Street. If
the same idea had been applied to the memorial site, we might look forward to an incredible new civic space, wherein the natural slope creates a kind of open theater, allowing for performances or other free expressions.

 


The Department of Transportation (DOT) website shows that the PA will build a plenum under the recently reconstructed West Street to serve the PATH tunnels below, disrupting the street for the next three years. When completed, vent stacks will protrude from the sidewalk in front of the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center (O) and the traffic median (P). The DOT drawings also show a Proposed Pedestrian Concoursee connecting the underground shopping mall under Fulton Street via a bank of escalators (Q) that ascend to the Winter Garden.
 



Though the block below Liberty Street, between West and Greenwich, was originally designated to be Liberty Park, the park has been relegated to the northwest corner of the site (R). The rest of site is destined to be occupied by a sloping entry/exit ramp (S) leading to the belowground Port Authority Vehicular Security Center, which will house service areas for the memorial and route trucks and buses beneath the Greenwich Street towers to a parking lot beneath the Calatrava station. The site will be punctuated by 40-foot-high vents (T) for the underground security center. The site will also house Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church (U), which was on the southwestern portion of the WTC site but was destroyed on 9/11. The new church (whose design has not yet been approved by the Port Authority) will be wrapped in diesel exhaust as it is placed between the ramp and another 40-foot-tall exhaust vent at Liberty and Greenwich.



The DOT Environmental Impact Study (EIS) by Eng-Wong, Taub & Associates (posted on the Port Authorityys website) reveals that, in 2015, 100 percent of the tourist buses heading toward the Vehicular Security Center on Liberty Street (entrance ramp, S) will go down Greenwich Street, past the memorial. The study also reveals that 100 percent of the buses exiting the center will go up Church Street and 90 percent will turn left at Fulton Street, spewing their exhaust and noise beside the memorial on their way to West Street.

 

 

Mayor Presents Affordability Plan

 On October 11, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that he would endorse recommendations to take a 35-year-old tax incentive program aimed at spurring residential development of all types and refocus it on encouraging affordable housing. The recommendations came after months of research on the part of a special task force convened in February. However, some of its members who supported modernizing the program, which is known as 421-a, now question whether the changes may actually hinder affordable housing construction. 

“It wasn’t like we didn’t agree there needed to be changes,” Real Estate Board of New York president Steven Spinola said, but he, along with many of the developers and some other task force members, worry that the pendulum has swung too far: “You need the full package to make housing work in New York,” he said. If part of that package is emptied, “some people won’t build.”

421-a is an incentive program designed to encourage large-scale residential development by offering tax abatements for up to 20 years. As the program spurred development in Manhattan’s Midtown and Uptown and more recently Williamsburg/Greenpoint, those areas became exclusion zones wherein developers could not receive tax abatements unless they provided affordable housing on-site, or outside the zone through a certificate program. 

Affordable housing advocates have seized upon this part of the program, seeking to expand the exclusion zone, increase eligibility from a three- to six-unit minimum, and cap abatements at units costing more than $1 million. These are measure that both for-and non-profit developers agree upon. “One of the insanities of the current policy is the more expensive [the housing] you build, the more subsidy you get,” explained Ingrid Allen, a task force member and professor at the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University.

The point of contention is the certificate program within 421-a. It offers tax breaks if developers fund one dollar of affordable housing outside the zone for every five they spend within it, allowing them to fulfill their obligation without incorporating the affordable units in new developments. Under the current recommendations, the certificates are being abolished in favor of a program that requires developers build 80 percent market-rate, 20 percent affordable on-site. The extra tax revenue generated by this move will be placed in an isolated fund for affordable housing. Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) spokesman Neill Coleman explained that this plan ensures units of relative value that encourage healthy social mixing because the ratio deals with units, not dollars, which scale more evenly. The biggest fear for developers is that the city is “legislating from the top of the market,” as Allen put it. Everyone involved agrees the market was stronger a year ago, but now Community Preservation Corporation vice president John McCarthy, whose company provides loans to affordable housing developers, believes the recommendations may not be nimble enough to deal with a dip or turn in the market.

What really has both developers and affordable housing advocates concerned is that without certificates, there is one less way to subsidize housing outside the exclusion zone. Presumably, the newly created HPD affordable housing fund will support more affordable housing than the certificate program. But some, like Carol Lamberg of the housing advocacy group Settlement Housing Fund, believe the certificates, while inefficient, would be better than money that cannot be guaranteed as “substantial and secure.” And then there’s politics as usual. “Mayor Bloomberg’s been great on housing,” Spinola said, “but what about the next administration?” 

Mayor Presents Affordability Plan

On October 11, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that he would endorse recommendations to take a 35-year-old tax incentive program aimed at spurring residential development of all types and refocus it on encouraging affordable housing. The recommendations came after months of research on the part of a special task force convened in February. However, some of its members who supported modernizing the program, which is known as 421-a, now question whether the changes may actually hinder affordable housing construction.

It wasn`t like we didn`t agree there needed to be changes,, Real Estate Board of New York president Steven Spinola said, but he, along with many of the developers and some other task force members, worry that the pendulum has swung too far: You need the full package to make housing work in New York,, he said. If part of that package is emptied, some people won`t build..

421-a is an incentive program designed to encourage large-scale residential development by offering tax abatements for up to 20 years. As the program spurred development in Manhattan`s Midtown and Uptown and more recently Williamsburg/Greenpoint, those areas became exclusion zones wherein developers could not receive tax abatements unless they provided affordable housing on-site, or outside the zone through a certificate program.

Affordable housing advocates have seized upon this part of the program, seeking to expand the exclusion zone, increase eligibility from a three- to six-unit minimum, and cap abatements at units costing more than $1 million. These are measure that both for-and non-profit developers agree upon. One of the insanities of the current policy is the more expensive [the housing] you build, the more subsidy you get,, explained Ingrid Allen, a task force member and professor at the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University.

The point of contention is the certificate program within 421-a. It offers tax breaks if developers fund one dollar of affordable housing outside the zone for every five they spend within it, allowing them to fulfill their obligation without incorporating the affordable units in new developments. Under the current recommendations, the certificates are being abolished in favor of a program that requires developers build 80 percent market-rate, 20 percent affordable on-site. The extra tax revenue generated by this move will be placed in an isolated fund for affordable housing. Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) spokesman Neill Coleman explained that this plan ensures units of relative value that encourage healthy social mixing because the ratio deals with units, not dollars, which scale more evenly. The biggest fear for developers is that the city is legislating from the top of the market,, as Allen put it. Everyone involved agrees the market was stronger a year ago, but now Community Preservation Corporation vice president John McCarthy, whose company provides loans to affordable housing developers, believes the recommendations may not be nimble enough to deal with a dip or turn in the market.

What really has both developers and affordable housing advocates concerned is that without certificates, there is one less way to subsidize housing outside the exclusion zone. Presumably, the newly created HPD affordable housing fund will support more affordable housing than the certificate program. But some, like Carol Lamberg of the housing advocacy group Settlement Housing Fund, believe the certificates, while inefficient, would be better than money that cannot be guaranteed as substantial and secure.. And then there`s politics as usual. Mayor Bloomberg`s been great on housing,, Spinola said, but what about the next administration??

Matt Chaban

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Nine Million Stories in the Naked City?
Red Hook, 2005

Demographers say that New York will grow by a million residents within the next 25 years, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg wants to plan for them. An as-yet unreleased report commissioned by Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff makes some interesting recommendations—like decking over the Sunnyside yards and parts of the Brooklyn-Queens expressway—but doesn't get into the nitty gritty of who might actually pay for them. Is the report, Visions for New York City, really that, or is it a map for the next generation of developers? By William Menking and Anne Guiney. Photography by M. E. Smith.

In his 2006 State of the City address, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg promised to deliver a strategic land-use plan that would encompass housing, transportation, and infrastructure for all five boroughs, and would be closely tied to redevelopment initiatives already underway. For a city whose planning process has historically been decentralized, it was welcome news. Word of the report began circulating several months later, and this August, a copy appeared on the website Streetsblog.com. Visions for New York City: Housing in the Public Realm (which has not been officially released yet, and is therefore presumably still in draft form) covers much of what the mayor suggested it would, but comes from a different quarter than many expected: It was commissioned by Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and prepared by Alex Garvin & Associates for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC). (The two worked very closely together on NYC2012, the bid to bring the Olympics to New York.) As it makes explicitly clear, Visions for New York City is not official policy, but when it is ultimately released, will nonetheless likely provide the framework for coming discussions about what New York will look like in 25 years, and how the city will get there.

The introduction to Visions for New York City cites a projection from the Department of City Planning (DCP) that by 2030, New York City's existing population of over 8 million will exceed 9 million, if not sooner. It makes the reasonable argument that while the city's current economy is strong and has a well-planned infrastructure and a high quality of life, this cannot be ensured if growth happens in an unplanned fashion. The report thus makes a series of recommendations on where the city might house this population and how to improve its infrastructure.

Visions for New York City is divided into two sections: Increasing the Housing Supply and Improving the Public Realm. The first, and more comprehensive, section essentially looks at what developers call soft sitess in all five boroughs, i.e., areas that are now either underutilized, such as neighborhoods zoned for industrial uses where little industry still occurs, or rail yards or highways which could be decked over and turned into blank development sites. Some of the many sites Garvin & Associates studied are the Sunnyside Yards in Queens, portions of the Bronx and Harlem Rivers in the Bronx, Staten Island's north shore, and the sunken section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Cobble Hill. The report further suggests that increasing mass transit into underserved areas will stimulate development. It also acknowledges the unlikelihood of securing major public investments to extend existing subway lines, and concedes that the creation of light rail or bus rapid transit systems is far more feasible.

Sunnyside Yards, 2001

Red Hook, 2003

These potential building sites would allow for the creation of between 160,000 
to 325,000 new residential units with virtually no residential displacement,, depending on how densely each site is zoned. Such a significant amount of new housing without any displacement is politically appealing, but of course there is a catch: The largest and most promising site is the Sunnyside Rail Yards in Queens, which would need to be decked over before it could be developed as housing. It is close to Manhattan, and if developed, would reconnect Astoria to Sunnyside Gardens, which, from an urban planning standpoint, would be an additional benefit. But at 166 acres, the very aspect that makes it so appealing —its size—is likely to make it politically and economically difficult to pull off. The site has been coveted for development since the Regional Plan Association's 1929 Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs proposed it as a place for an intermodal train station to relieve overcrowding in Manhattan. And while the Metropolitan Transit Authority owns the majority of the site, this summer, real estate attorney Michael Bailkin purchased a development option on part of it, which raises the financial stakes for anything that happens on the site. Without massive city subsidies, the cost of building such a large deck—the relatively diminutive 13-acre deck planned for Manhattan's Hudson Yards is estimated to cost $350 million—is likely to discourage anything but extremely high-density or luxury housing. According to Vishaan Chakrabarti, a senior vice president at The Related Companies who served for two years as the Manhattan director for the DCP, making some of that new housing affordable will be difficult. "The implication of the report is that all of the housing will be market-rate, but when you are talking about building housing on platforms, there are economic drivers that make [building any of it as affordable] difficult," Chakrabarti said. "We have not yet perfected the mechanism to harness market forces to build affordable housing, though it is not for a lack of trying." He added, "I was hoping to see something about this in the report."

The Sunnyside Yards are not the only familiar item on the list of suggestions: as D. Grahame Shane, a professor of urban design at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (and a contributor to AN) said, "The list of development opportunities reads like a record of every university urban design studio for the last 15 years." That said, the report does represent an effort on the part of Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Doctoroff to think spatially about the future of the city. This is something architects and planners have long hoped would be true of city politicians. But Ronald Shiffman, a former City Planning Commissioner himself under Mayor David Dinkins and director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, nonetheless had reservations about Visions. "These same politicians are afraid to engage the public in a discussion to flesh out its finer points," said Shiffman. "They have come up with a proposal but don't discuss the social infrastructure: They don't say how this million new people will make a living. I'm glad that they are looking at it, but they also need to engage the broader community on other levels. This whole new population won't work in offices."

 Sunset Park, 2005

 Sunset Park, 2005

This oversight on the part of the report has serious drawbacks, according to other observers. Laura Wolf-Powers, chair of Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at the Pratt Institute, believes that Visions uses a narrow and shallow definition of the public realm, since it only discusses housing and to a lesser account some transportation issues. "There are many important quality of life issues that are not acknowledged in this report, like sanitation and waste water remediation facilities. Not only that," she added, "these uses are often located in the very manufacturing zones like those along the Bronx and Harlem Rivers that the report would give over entirely to housing." While these sites might be better used as housing, these functions must go somewhere. It's not news that manufacturers and industrial businesses that want to remain in the city are having trouble finding affordable space. The East Williamsburg Industrial Park, for example, which is home to over 2,500 small businesses, is facing residential encroachment from gentrifying sections of Williamsburg and Bushwick. One of the areas cited in the report as worthy of future study is the Sunset Park waterfront, which is mostly industrial today and has been recently designated as an area that the city has committed to keeping that way. While Visions acknowledges the value of the area's current character and only recommends converting 90 acres of surface parking (operated by the Department of Small Businesses) into sites for development, it still proposes 27,400 new units of housing, which would undoubtedly put pressure on the area's industrial functions.

Infrastructural capacity is a looming issue, said Chakrabarti, and one that cannot be ignored. Nor should it preclude the kinds of conversation that Visions will surely raise: "Energy capacity and wastewater treatment are real problems. We have capacity now, but not for another million people. Still, I don't think you can say, 'We don't have the infrastructure, so we can't fulfill the demand for housing.' It just means that housing will get more expensive."

The very fact that the report was commissioned from a private planning firm 
and did not come out of DCP is telling about the nature of its recommendations. There is an underlying assumption that public investment will allow for private sector development; the ultimate feasibility of finding these public monies is skated over. In the past, the city's planning reports have come out of the DCP, or people engaged with the Planning Commission—like Robert Wagner, Jr.'s 1984 New York Ascendant under Mayor Ed Koch—but Visions rarely mentions the DCP and any role it might play in planning for the future. (Doctoroff's office and the DCP both declined to comment for this article.) In fact, the report details a list of government agencies that must coordinate to make such far-reaching new policies work, like the EDC, the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD), the Department of Transportation, but goes on to suggest, "The Mayor's Office must delegate management for these projects, as doing so is integral to their execution and ultimate success." While some might see this as a cession of public authority, Chakrabarti points out that sometimes, outsiders can say things that City Hall cannot. "There are often conflicting goals in terms of what is good for the city as a whole and what an individual neighborhood may want, especially in regards to density," he said. "An outside consultant can make important suggestions that are politically difficult."

One wonders if the secretive nature of the process, and its stress on the primacy of the private sector, is a product of Doctoroff's recent trouble with getting the West Side Stadium built, which was the sine qua non for bringing the Olympics to New York City. Several of the larger sites mentioned in Visions for New York City are on land that is at least partially owned by the state, not the city, which means that they are exempt from the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and thus due much less public review. But the controversy and public acrimony surrounding Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal—which also involves decking over infrastructure, public subsidy, and no ULURP—the now-defunct West Side Stadium project, and the World Trade Center site should suggest that proposals with only a nominal amount of involvement are no less immune to trouble than those which involve public input. When Visions is released, no doubt in a modified form, we hope that it is treated not as an identification of development sites across the city, but the starting point for a comprehensive and very public conversation about New York City's long-term needs. 

William Menking and Anne Guiney are editors at AN.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS: When photographer M. E. Smith noticed one day about 10 years ago that the subway station at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn had been torn down, he decided to start documenting the changes in the city around him. As the pace of development picks up and once-desolate areas fill with commerce and people, his photographs have inevitably taken on a documentary quality. A show of his work in and around New York was recently on view at Cooke Contemporary in Jersey City (see Functional Shift, AN 16_10.06.2006).

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Grand Plans

The Biennale featured, in the Arsenale and various national pavilions, the works of many photographers known for their urban documentation, including Armin Linke, Gabriele Basilico, Edward Burtynksky, Antoni Muntadas, Bas Princen, and Sze-Tsung Leong. Italian photographer Olivo Barbieri's site specific_SHANGHAI 04 (2004), above, and Spanish photographer Dionisio Gonzalez Heliolopolis (2006), below, both appear in the mini-exhibition C on Cities, curated by the magazine C International Photo Magazine.


Courtesy Galerra Max Estrella
 



Cities Without Architecture
Richard Ingersoll
Architecture critic and author; professor at Syracuse University in Florence

Behind this year's Venice Architecture Biennale lurks a daunting moral imperative: Something must be done before the planet is overrun by urbanization. But whether architecture is the problem or the solution remains a serious doubt. The title of the show, Cities, Architecture, and Society, is peculiarly inaccurate in that the content of the major exhibition in the stadium-length Corderie of the Venice Arsenal is devoted to 16 urban regions of a size and complexity that can no longer be called cities. Any of them—London, Tokyo, New York, Mexico City, Mumbai, Shanghai—are made of a fusion of several cities around a historic core city, each comprising a sprawling megalopolis of millions of inhabitants in areas that are usually more than 50 kilometers in diameter. Aside from this linguistic anomaly, the main exhibition suffers from a more egregious absence: There is no architecture: that is, there are no memorable projects presented meaningfully through drawings, models, or photographs. The buildings and projects that are visible in an impressive series of films and photographs used in the show are furtive—always incidental to some greater reality. At first this lack of architecture strikes one as a pleasant surprise in an exhibition known for its incestuous relationships to star architects and its tendentious promotion of formal trends. But after 300 meters of being hounded by statistics and zenith views of cities, one starts to miss the company of celebrity authors and their trademark works, or at least some sense of a project for architecture.

This year's director, Richard Burdett, professor at the London School of Economics and architectural advisor to the Mayor of London, aside from delegating the Golden Lion career award to his close friend Richard Rogers, has studiously avoided giving any notion of a criterion for architecture. Good intentions, however, are blazoned on the walls—sustainability and social justice—but they are not given any particular aesthetic agenda. Nor do the few specific examples, such as the transport system in Bogota, offer any notion of what can be done. An exemplary project for urban regeneration, for instance, Barcelona's 22@, a 200-hectare new town, is thrown in with hundreds of images and completely lost. Burdett's vision of the megalopolis, as he states, is of promising challenges, providing the opportunity to re-design the meanings, the functions, the aptitudes and the positive features of the various urban structures and strategies. But the display remains primarily analytical.

The alarm over uncontrollable urban growth has been sounded frequently since the end of the 19th century, when Ebenezer Howard, reacting to the inhumane densities of London, the world's first boundless megalopolis, proposed the Garden City as a means of restoring the balance between city and nature. Two generations later Jose Lluis Sert published the modernist notions of decentralized urbanism in his 1942 tract Can Our Cities Survive? And more than 50 years back the most influential urban historian, Lewis Mumford, was constantly engaged in battles against sprawl and urban growth. The Dutch Pavilion directed by Aaron Betsky recuperates some of the bird's-eye-views of how Dutch architects confronted the question of urban crowding, using archival materials, such as H. P. Berlage's 1910 plan of South Amsterdam and the 1960s beehive scheme of Bijlmemeer. The Austrian Pavilion, curated by Wolf Prix, also recuperated historic exhibitions of urban utopias, including a recreation of Fredrick Kiesler's 1925 City in Space and Hans Hollein's 1964 malaprop collages of aircraft carriers in wheat fields. These historic works were in fact the closest thing to an architectural agenda in the Biennale. The only other truly inspiring exhibit from a formal point of view was Metro-polis, curated by Benedetto Gravagnuolo and Alessandro Mendini, devoted to the new subway system in Naples, a series of art-stations designed by well-known international architects and artists as varied as Dominique Perrault and Anish Kapoor.

If the question of rampant urbanization is by now rather old, what's new about Burdett's analysis? Nothing, really, except the consideration of the ever-increasing dimensions of scale and the influence of digital technologies, which have resulted in the concept of flows. He promises that 75 percent of the world will live in urban situations by 2050, but since most of Europe and developed nations have already surpassed this measure, this fact does not seem so controversial. Uncontrollable urban growth is a vexing problem in terms of its environmental consequences, but this has not really yielded a show that provides convincing solutions; rather, it is a bit like walking through a geography textbook. There have been other recent exhibitions, such as MVRDV's traveling installation Metacity/Datatown (1999) and Rem Koolhaas and Stefano Boeri's Mutations: Harvard Project on the City at the Arc en Reve in Bordeaux (2000) that were more successful in creating a graphic method for appreciating the quantitative difference of the contemporary megalopolis.

A surprising number of the national pavilions were devoted to what can be called everyday urbanism. The Australian Pavilion in fact uses the term specifically, the Belgian is devoted to the beauty of the ordinary, and those of the U.K., Hungary, Korea, and many others worked on the pervasiveness of vernacular and commercial landscapes, which in general excludes the work of architects. The Japanese eccentric Terunobu Fujimori was featured in his country's pavilion, offering a movement called ROJO (Roadway Observation Society). One had to remove their shoes to walk through the charred wooden walls into a room paved in tatami mats to look at the weird collection of things found on the roadside and the architect's arcane additions to these landscapes.

The U.S. Pavilion was typically out of step. While the choice of the theme of Hurricane Katrina was a good one considering that most large urban agglomerations contend with a considerable degree of risk from disaster—a subject that has been beautifully investigated by Paul Virilio—the curatorial team of Architectural Record and Tulane University completely avoided the international scandal of the disaster in New Orleans, and the continuing scandal of governmental indifference. They simply offer some student project–like solutions on stilts that will never be built.

The Spanish Pavilion was one of the most formally satisfying, and while it includes many fine urban projects, the focus is exclusively on the presence of women. It presents three dozen white boxes, each with a vertical video screen showing a woman from the waist up, speaking about urban questions. The curator, Manuel Blanco, somewhat like the filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, has produced an exclusively feminine version of a world dominated by men, presenting women who work as planners, politicians, artists, developers, taxi drivers, street vendors, and, of course, architects. Architect Carme Pinos commented, "Everyone says how great I look in the video, but no one seems to have noticed my tower," referring to her recently finished the 20-floor Torre Cube in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her comment captures the spirit of this year's Biennale, which downplays the role of architecture.

The French Pavilion is by far the most exuberant and popular, and perhaps best captures the overall atmosphere of this year's Biennale as cities without architecture.. Directed by architect Patrick Bouchain, it sprawls outside and over the top of its neoclassical porch, with deck chairs and card tables scattered about. Inside one finds scaffolds that shelter a bar, kitchen, and a workshop for artisans to make tee-shirts and other take-home items. The structure also supports a stair for ascending to a roof terrace where visitors can enjoy a sauna, sundecks, and hammocks. A frolicking, hedonistic, and purposely messy affair, much in the spirit of Lucien Kroll, who was involved in its planning, this invasion of the existing structure makes a serious case for participatory design by adaptation rather than settling for the imposed formal order of architects.
 




Digital Globe / Telespazio


QuickBird satellite views of (from left to right) Milan, Barcelona, and Bogota. Similar views of all the cities under examination appear in the Corderie of the Arsenale.
 



The Big Reconciliation
Liane Lefaivre
Chair of architectural history and theory at the Applied Arts Academy; research fellow in the urbanism department of the Technical University of Delft

For over five hundred years, since Leon Battista Alberti, architects and urbanists formed a whole, working together in the making of cities. That is until the early 1970s, when architecture and planning went through The Big Divorce in American architecture schools. Among the reasons for the break-up was the drying up of publicly-funded support for urban revitalization programs. Urban issues were, largely, thrown out of architecture schools. Key figures left for schools of government and policy, geography departments, and such. As a result, for the past 30 years, architects and urban professionals stopped speaking to one another almost entirely.

Now, Richard Burdett, director of the Cities Program at the London School of Economics and head of the itinerant Urban Age conference series, has, at the request of the Venice Architecture Biennale organizers, kick-started a dialogue between the two disciplines. In order to do so, he presented some of the grubbiest, grittiest, and dynamic cities in the world, including among others Istanbul, Shanghai, Caracas, Johannesburg, Mumbai, New York, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo.

The concept behind the exhibition is exciting, with greater implications for the health of the planet and humanity than the latest architectural trends. No one has attempted a comparative study of the world's megacities on this scale before. The exhibition itself won't likely wow the general public, however. Panels of text, images, and charts filled with unprocessed information about the lower depths of urban reality is not the stuff of blockbusters. Among the show's shortcomings is the fact that issues like density and society are raised but are left hanging in the air. In the age of Google Earth, one might also wonder why more interactive media was not used. But what the show lacks in depth of coverage will presumably be supplemented by other activities throughout the next two months while the Biennale acts as a forum for debate and an incubator for policy brainstorming with a planned series of high-level workshops. Here, one supposes that issues like democratic rights, sustainable growth, local government versus World Bank–dictated rules of governance, and Hernando de Soto's brand of neoliberalism will be addressed.

The theme of cities had a galvanizing, almost psychoanalytic effect on many national pavilions. At the U.S. Pavilion, Robert Ivy's team at Architectural Record along with Reed Kroloff of Tulane University grappled with the profound dysfunctionality of post-Katrina New Orleans and wound up with a statement of the inability of architecture alone, in spite of endless good will, to overcome certain political and social realities. The French Pavilion, perhaps as a form of expiation for the race riots that marked the nation's suburbs last year, was turned into one big pop-anarchist Rabelaisian bistro, celebrating togetherness in the midst of delicious food smells and plentiful wine. Austria fell back on two of its bluest chips, venerable masterpieces by once rebellious artists, one by Friedrich Kiesler of 1925 and one of 1964 by Hans Hollein. By contrast, the Hungarian Pavilion took a chance on an independently minded, youthful approach—examining the reach of Chinese-made goods in the world—and came up with a relevant contemporary statement on a specific urban reality. At the Russian Pavilion, the work of Alexander Brodsky, with his hilariously Gogolian black humor, offered a commentary on urban life in Russia today. The Spanish Pavilion was devoted to 52 of the most important women involved with architecture and urbanism in Spain. The overwhelmingly encouraged feminine presence goes a long way in explaining why this country has such great architecture and cities.

Of all the countries, Great Britain was the most active in organizing real discussions. Paul Finch, the editor of Architectural Review, together with Odile Decq, Peter Cook, and Robert White of White Partners should be commended for presenting a series of public debates called The Dark Side Club, which took place every night during the vernissage from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., after all the other parties had ended. And the British Council assembled a panel called My Kind of Town: Architecture and Urban Identity, featuring Rem Koolhaas, David Chipperfield, author Alain de Botton, Nick Johnson of visionary development firm Urban Splash, critic Alice Rawsthorn, and Sudhev Sandhu, author of London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City. Judging by the international attendance, these lively events might set a trend in future Biennales.

Richard Rogers used the high-profile moment of winning this year's Biennale Golden Lion Award for Life Achievement to stress the need for strict government regulations, citing Portland, Oregon, as the most popular city in the U.S. because it is the best at regulating and containing sprawl and encouraging inner-city densification. Of all the speakers I heard, he was the one who got the most enthusiastic response. In the same vein, this Biennale brought the work of a generation of designers in their 40s to the fore, including James Corner of Field Operations in New York, Rahul Mehrotra of Mumbai, Yung Ho Chang of MIT and Beijing, and Jeremy Till from Sheffield, England, to whom architectural issues are not antithetical to urban, political, social, or ecological concerns.
 



Austria


Markus Pillhoffer


Italy


Giorgio Zucciatti / Courtesy Venice Biennale


Japan


Courtesy Institute for Japanese Culture

Top: The Austrian Pavilion, directed by Wolf D. Prix, features Hans Hollein's 1964 Flugzeugtrrger (aircraft carrier). The piece suggested how to install a complex urban structure in a rural setting, and also served as ironic commentary on the relationship between the city and nature. Middle: With the opening of the Italian Pavilion in the Tese delle Vergini (near the Arsenale), the old Italian Pavilion in the Giardini was given over to dozens of smaller exhibitions organized by various schools, countries, and research groups. The facade of the pavilion is wrapped in Olivo Barbieri's photograph of the Gonehexin Road overpass in Shanghai. Bottom: The Japanese Pavilion is devoted to the work of Terunobu Fujimori, whose naturalist architecture features the use of charred wood, planted roofs, and rough stone and earth. Within this woven hut, installed in the pavilion, visitors could watch a slideshow of images taken by ROJO, the Roadway Observation Society, founded in 1986 by a group of artists, including Fujimori, dedicated to documenting extraordinary roadside phenomena.



Architecture Between the Cracks
Toshiko Mori
Principal, Toshiko Mori Architect

The Biennale is basically a provocation from director Ricky Burdett to architects and planners. Why do architects not have a role in the forming of cities, why are we not involved more, or voicing opinions more? Why do we have such a lame role in civic discourse? Planners always seem to have good ideas, but they do not follow through. If they did we would not witness the degree of dystopia displayed at this Biennale. Planners do not have power, they are disengaged with physical reality; instead they seem to be buried in paper statistics. With the war in Iraq, the threat of terrorism, poverty, starvation, and genocide erupting around us, how do we answer the questions posed by the exhibition's organizers: Can planning promote social cohesion? Can good governance improve things? Do we all answer "yes" and go and have a Bellini? This is when the 1970s come to mind: Back then, we went into action more directly and architecture's sense of purpose ran deeper.

How did architecture become perceived to be surface-deep? It's an apt question to ask in a city like Venice, where the tourist-pleasing Serenissima facade comprises less than one-third of the city. Going around on the vaporetto (ferry) #82, one sees the blue-collar industrial and working gut of Venice. Author Alain de Botton asked me if I liked the decoration on the building facades. I recommended the vaporetto commute so he could see beyond the place's surface happiness. Architect Patrick Bouchain, organizer of the French Pavilion Metacity/Metaville, where two dozen architects, graphic designers, and media artists set up house and every day go about domestic chores like cooking and sweeping, told me that in Paris, street sweepers are called technicians du surface. The traditional French respect for the worker stands in contrast to the country's recent crisis over the lack of assimilation of immigrants. Intolerance and antagonism are causing riots and lawlessness because people are unable to share discourse and civic values. The message is simply to go back to what we all have in common, and try to establish direct communication among lives in the cities. (The irony is that the pavilion encourages both a sense of community and anarchy, breaking the decorum of exhibition halls by making it an inhabited space, a fragment of a city, with all the transgressions they encompass.)

The Spanish Pavilion, curated, designed, and organized by the perfectionist super-phenom Manuel Blanco, is the individuated and collective voice of women in Spain from all walks of life: female vox populi. It is a very clear, powerful, and credible message. Women are animated, beautiful, sympathetic, and most of all humane. Manuel says his approach was obvious since Spain has a feminine prefix, yet female voices have been suppressed by strong male dominance in politics and culture.

The Irish have the most to show in terms of their efforts to balance Ireland's fast economic growth, ecology, large planning efforts, and sustainability. It is unfortunate that their room, in the old Italian Pavilion, is painted black, since their projects are realistic and send a positive message about the robust engagement of politicians, planners, and architects to make the semblance of utopian future possible.

The relationship and balance between the obvious and visible architectural quotient of a city versus the support fabric of its infrastructure is the point of this Biennale. I was not so worried that there was not enough architecture. A lack of buildings does not mean architecture is absent. There is a territory where architects can take over creatively, as is demonstrated by the Irish group show, which is filled with strong case studies.

There was a lot of dialogue and discussion going on during the vernissage, but one looming question was: Where were the Americans? The U.S. Pavilion sent a strong impression of the effects of Hurricane Katrina. The intricate moving model of cubes suspended by fragile strings is a metaphor for New Orleans housing as a puppet of mechanized bureaucracy. Once these strings are cut, the cubes float aimlessly without life support (full disclosure: this is the work of GSD students). And yet Americans had a weak (if any) presence in the public discussions organized by the Biennale. It made me realize that not only is the U.S. isolating itself in foreign policy, but we may be in danger of isolating ourselves in the area of urbanism too. What can we learn from others, what can we share? Are we engaged in this global discourse? If so, we should certainly be able to have several alternatives and viable models other than New Urbanism.
 



France




Cyrille Weiner ( top); Stefan Jonot (bottom)

The French Pavilion has become temporary home to two dozen artists and designers, who have outfitted the neoclassical building with bunk beds, a kitchen, bar, DJ stand, rooftop sauna, and sundeck.



China






Stefan Jonot (top and middle); Danish Architecture Center (bottom)

Top: The Austrian Pavilion, directed by Wolf D. Prix, features Hans Hollein's 1964 Flugzeugtrager (aircraft carrier). The piece suggested how to install a complex urban structure in a rural setting, and also served as ironic commentary on the relationship between the city and nature. Middle: Their Tiles Garden is made over 60,000 tiles recycled from demolished structures in Hangzhou. Bottom: The Hungarian Pavilion made use of cheap, Chinese-made plastic goods to create animated canopies, wall-hangings, and other installations. The Danish Pavilion proposed various projects for sustainable development in China, including Magic Mountains, a green business district.



The End of the Line for the Biennale?
Hugh Pearman
Architecture critic, London Sunday Times; editor, RIBA Journal

Despite the importance of the subject matter and the high seri- ousness with which it has been approached, this Biennale, for me, does not work as an exhibition. The long, long gloomy columnar promenade of the Corderie in the Arsenal complex—in recent years the heart of the show, crammed with goodies—has never been sparser. You feel you are attending a stern lecture. Only the lecturer is absent, and has sent along his notes instead.

The rest of the show, over in the pocket garden suburb of national pavilions and scattered here and there throughout the city, is as patchy as ever though one finds intermittent flashes of joy. But it is difficult to imagine where this exhibition can go from here. The last good one with a strong theme was curated six years ago by Massimiliano Fuksas, Less Aesthetics, More Ethics. That allowed plenty of provocative architecture, but it also required an analysis of the social dimension.

And now? The architecture biennales are always rather touch-and-go. The go button is always pushed late: It is always a scrabble to get it together in time. This one feels like the end of an era. If the series is to continue, it must be comprehensively re-thought. It must have a reason to exist.
 



The Laser-Print Biennale
Aaron Betsky
Director, Netherlands Architecture Institute; Incoming Director, Cincinnati Art Museum

As far as I am concerned, the best room was the central space at the Italian Pavilion, where the imaginative power proper to art and architecture were used to confront, criticize, and speculate on the city as a reality, rather than reduce it to facts and figures. For sheer scale, the AMO layout, an aerial panorama of the whole Gulf coast, from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia, could not be matched. And of course in our historical exhibition [at the Dutch pavilion] we tried to bring up the issue of the city as a real place for which we have to take responsibility as architects, not just as concerned citizens. For the same reason I appreciated the attempts by the Russians, the French, and the Hungarians to make this point in an imaginative way. And that would lead to my major gripe: Just as architects should not pretend to be graphic designers or landscape architects, nor should they claim to be sociologists or politicians. Positioning your work within a social and political field is one thing; claiming to be Al Gore is another. The imagination was buried too deep beneath the pavement of Venice this year to be unearthed by any statistical tools.
 



Highs and Lows
Paola Antonelli
Acting Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art

The Venice Biennale is, as always, worth it, even though the overall lack of normall architectural scale—meaning models, drawings, reference to neighborhoods—made this year for a rollercoaster between the elegantly cold and the sometimes overdone touchy-feely. The show at the Arsenale belongs in the former category. Director Richard Burdett's momentous analysis of 16 great cities was impeccably presented in an installation designed by Aldo Cibic and his partners. The installation had some beautiful moments, some planned—the room comparing densities, for instance, filled with self-explanatory beautiful styrofoam stalagmites, or the views of the cities flowing under your feet in small connecting bridges—and some serendipitous: in the Caracas corner, an oil stain in the floor that ghostly mimicked the shape of the city hung on the wall just above. The deeper you went into the Arsenale, the more you could get lost in data, comparative studies, and gorgeous satellite pictures, but somehow you longed for people and buildings.

The pavilions were very uneven. One wonders why some nations don't just stay home, or rent out their pavilions to the other countries that might really have something to say. Among the interesting ones: the Spanish, curated by Manuel Blanco, my favorite, with women of all walks of life talking about their cities, with architecture a part of their soundtrack. The British, taking the city of Sheffield as a case study and exploring it at different scales, from sheep to satellite view. The Japanese were a bit out of theme, but soothing and beautiful. The Slovenian: at last some innovative architecture. The French overshared—do we really need to see guys cooking in a pareo?—but were a hit because they were very hospitable, to the point where otherwise respectable architects were hopping the fence to join their late-night parties and the police were called nightly to kill the fun.

Personally, I learned to blog. Together with London's Architecture Foundation, MoMA launched a wild beast of a blog that became quite the recipient of everybody's rants and raves (www.venicesuperblog.net).
 



Disquietingly Quiet
Odile Decq
Principal, Odile Decq Benoit Cornette

When we try to describe a city, we often start by quantifying its inhabitants, expressing through its size what typology of city we are speaking about: small, middle, large, or extra-large. The presentations of the 16 megalopolises in the Arsenale strive to analyze the phenomena of how they came to be. But never could a collection of quantified facts express what a city is.

Architects are dedicated to thinking about and organizing people and life; architecture exhibitions are dedicated to vicarious representations that are free of the noise and smell of flesh-and-blood cities. This Biennial takes a non-risky position, avoiding experiments on concrete strategies. It is a pity for the general public and the thousand of young future architects, desperate for inspiration for visions of tomorrow.
 



Planning Potential
Ron Shiffman
Director, Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development

Richard Burdett's exhibition begins with a description of cities in a changing world and ends with an invitation to cities to change the world. At critical junctures, displays focus on issues such as income disparity, density, mobility, and information flows. Implied throughout are the issues of class and race, which underlie many of the disparities the exhibition highlights.

The individual city presentations varied in quality. New York's presentation (coordinated by Pamela Puchalski of the Center for Architecture) successfully captured several of the city's innovative planning and development initiatives such as the High Line park and the effort to build more housing along the city's waterfront. Given the city's penchant to diminish its mandated participatory planning processes by surrendering its decision-making role to the state, as they have in the case of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, I was surprised to read in the exhibition text that New York has decided to accommodate growth by capitalizing on its edges along the water, investing heavily in new housing projects in the outer boroughs, and involving its citizens in the debate on the future of the city. One wishes it were really so. Too little investment and far too little debate. Perhaps New York City should borrow from the Norwegian city of Tromss, which decided to call a time-out on large-scale development and engage its citizens in what is truly a public debate.
 



Painting by Numbers
Hani Rashid
Principal, Asymptote

After the painful, but visually enticing, onslaught of Burdettian data, statistics, and images of cities on the verge, perhaps the upcoming Venice Art Biennale will follow suit by filling the Corderie and Giardini Pavilions with the financial statements of artists, galleries, and museums (leaving out the art). Now that could actually be interesting!
 



Comparative Views
Barry Bergdoll
Chair, Department of Art History, Columbia University; Incoming Philip C. Johnson Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art

In 1933 CIAM studied 34 world cities in aerial overviews and statistical analyses aboard the S.S. Patris while cruising between Marseille and Athens. The result, the Athens Charter, published in 1943, was the lingua franca of postwar modernism's bid to take charge of the city through functionalist and universalist criteria. It was hard not to think how far we are from this venture of over 70 years ago, arriving by air in one of Europe's prime museum cities, Venice, to take in Richard Burdett's ambitious marshalling of aerial views and statistics comparing 16 cities on five continents. If the pious list of five recommendations at the show's conclusion had more to do with issues of city governance—even in a display largely devoid of analysis of the vastly different historical and political forces at play—the results displayed could not have been further from CIAM's taking hold of the reins through design. The Biennale was filled with small-scale interventions in the impoverished quarters of the Third World and landscape re-workings of the detritus of the industrial past in the cities of the First World. The shrinking city of Berlin, where capitalism and democratic political process has eclipsed Europe's communist past, were lumped together with Shanghai and with Mumbai, the latter earmarked soon to overtake Tokyo as the largest city in the history of civilization. Caracas, presented neutrally as yet another booming metropolis, with little acknowledgment of the distinct political and economic situation of the petroleum capital with its populist anti-imperialist leader (a not so subtle protest is registered in the Venezuela Pavilion where the sole exhibition objects are a grainy aerial photograph and a broadsheet declaring a complete lack of interest in any Westernn-imposed urban solutions). As the exhibition embraces the notion of a globalized crisis—with many of the virtues and problems of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth—the particularity of each city begs for attention. Projects were modest and isolated, except for large-scale planning sponsored by developers, who increasingly have turned to star architects.

What could have underscored how omnipresent a very different urban condition in 2006 is than the looming mass of the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship, whose towering 15 decks threw the national pavilions at the Giardini in shadow during much of the preview. None of the tourists disgorged was clamoring for entry to the Biennale, even if the morning Gazettino di Venezia featured both the influx of international architects and a photo reportage on the visible erosion everywhere of Venice's fragile brick and stone fabric caused by the ever-increasing traffic of super tourist liners in the lagoon.
 



The No-Stop City
Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi
Architecture Critic

The Italian Pavilion curated by Franco Purini presents the design of Vema, a theoretical city for 30,000 residents located between Verona and Mantua. Contained within an area measuring 3,720 by 2,300 meters, the city is divided into sectors designed by 20 groups of architects under 40, chosen from among the most promising young practices in Italy. The immense model of Vema, which dominates the exhibition space, can be appreciated on two levels. For the general public, Purini's project will seem to go against the grain: The creation of a newly founded city in a Western country, so similar to the Renaissance examples of Sabbioneta and Palmanova, is in clear opposition to the dominant urban model of sprawling metropolis or the Koolhaasian Generic City. What makes Vema contemporary are the projects designed by young architects. The result is thus a strange hybrid in which the ideal cities of Filarete and Vignola coexist with deconstructivist, super-modern, and neo-organic projects.

For insiders, Purini's project is an attempt, as brilliant as it is unconvincing, to reduce the tension between young, experimental architects and the old guard, of which Purini himself is a leading exponent. The video that accompanies the exhibition thus presents a picture of Italian architecture as a continuum, where the old and new coexist without conflict, and wherein we are able to overcome the violent clashes that have historically occurred, for example, between figures such as Manfredo Tafuri and Bruno Zevi, and gain inspiration from models as diverse as the baroque Paolo Portoghesi and the radical Archizoom.
 



Women on the Verge
Below is an excerpt of architectural theorist Beatriz Colomina's video observation included in the exhibition Espana [f.] nosotros, las ciudades (Spain [f.] we, the cities) at the Spanish pavilion, curated by Manuel Blanco. Hers was one of 52 recordings of Spanish women—clients, architects, citizens—speaking about their experiences of particular buildings or of urban life in general.

What interests me most about cities is how they are so radically transformed with each new technology, from gas lamps to trains to electricity to video cameras. Lately I have become interested in cell phones. No technology has transformed the city more than cell phones in a long time. They have completely revolutionized the relationship between public and private. To be in a city you no longer have to be in the street—you can join a friend in a cafe simply by calling—and if you are in the streets you may not be in the city, as when you are so immersed in a conversation that you are somewhere else and the streets you are walking become a kind of mirage. In fact, in almost any city today there are more people on the phone than in the streets. Every aspect of our experience has changed.

This became evident on September 11 when any traditional sense of public and private space became obsolete. In the heart of the spectacular nightmare, covered continuously by every single television channel, the most intimate exchanges were taking place. For the first time in the history of a catastrophe, the families and loved ones of many of the victims were among the first to know when they received cell-phone calls made from hijacked airplanes and from inside the World Trade Center towers. These calls carved out a whole new sense of space, a last vestige of domesticity.

In the aftermath of the events, the desperate attempts on the part of cell-phone companies to deliver the last messages that had not gone through attested to the importance of this form of communication. In a situation in which there were very few human remains recovered, those messages were all that was left, the very thing that is always missing in tragic accidents. No longer simply a fragile substitute for real people, the digital record became the most solid reality.

There was a new sense of space constructed by the unrelenting bombardment of repetitive images through TV and the Internet and the simultaneous exchange of the most intimate and unique, one-on-one communications via cell phones.

If 9/11 in New York revealed the cell-phone as the last vestige of domesticity, 3/11 in Madrid revealed the cell-phone as a weapon, triggering the train bombs. Personal defense became public attack.



Spain


Cemel Emden



Painting By Numbers
Wolf Prix
Principal, Coop Himmelb(l)au

The theme of the 10th International Architecture Biennale is key for the architecture of the next decades. Thus I find that though the main exhibition at the Arsenale displays a striking collection of different factors and important data, it fails in developing a theory or visions out of this information. On the other hand, the shows at the national pavilions in the Giardini present, with a few exceptions, the helplessness of architects in association with strategic city models.



I Heart New York
Alexander Gorlin
Principal, Alexander Gorlin Architects

Maybe Richard Burdett, the curator of the Architecture Biennale's Cities theme, should have first listened to Madonna's latest song, I Love New York, before putting together a mind-numbing, statistic-fest that completely fails to understand the essential experiential differences among cities around the world: 

I don't like cities, but I like New York / Other places make me feel like a dork / Los Angeles is for people who sleep / Paris and London, baby you can keep

Other cities always make me mad / Other places always make me sad / No other city ever made me glad / Except New York,  I love New York


Walking through the Arsenale, one would hardly know there was a difference between Bogota and New York. In fact it seems that Cairo is denser than New York, therefore...exactly—so what? The quality of the characteristics that make a difference between cities is leveled in this show by categories that have nothing to do with living in each place, such as stock market capitalization or the ranking of their commodity exchanges. Most of the cities appear to have been selected for politically correct purposes: one from continent A, one from continent B, and who knows why so many from South America? The show also suffers from extreme Google Earth–mania, an obsessive fascination with those satellite maps that are now available to everyone. But who experiences a city at 250 miles up in outer space?

In the end, the whole show should have been about New York—Manhattan, to be precise—in an attempt to understand why it is clearly the most exciting city on earth and the present-day capital of the world—I love New York!

If you don't like my attitude than you can F-off / Just go to Texas, isn't that where they golf / New York is not for little pussies who scream / If you can't stand the heat, then get off my street



The China Syndrome
Cathy Lang Ho
Editor, The Architect's Newspaper

China crops up often in the Biennale, which perhaps should not be surprising given its dizzying rate of urbanization and the extent to which its rapid development has affected global architectural and construction practices, not to mention the world's ecological balance. The Danish Pavilion followed curator Henrik Valeur's prompt: How can we improve people's living conditions without exhausting the very resources needed to sustain a better life? The display presents the sort of dramatic statistics that Rem Koolhaas first introduced with his Pearl River research almost a decade ago, alongside theoretical projects by teams of Danish architects and Chinese architecture schools. Their fantastical gestures—business centers that resemble picturesque mountains, a peaking infrastructure-laden mega-wall circling a city—betray the sense that the country is still perceived, by too many in the world (including the Chinese themselves) as a tabula rasa.

Hungary had a quirkier approach to the topic of China as both a consequence and protagonist of globalization: Its pavilion was filled with artful installations made of cheap China-made toys: a canopy of chirping plastic penguins, a wall of plastic resin with repulsive furry toys imbedded within. The installation was part of a larger project, documented in a fine catalogue, investigating the impact of Chinese immigrants on the world's cities and of Chinese-made goods on life everywhere. It was one of the few projects that conveyed what I wish the Biennale accomplished more: how globalization and urbanization has affected people's lives. This was poignantly communicated in Hu Yang's Shanghai Living (2005), a photographic series displayed in the Italian Pavilion, showing a factory worker, shop-girl, office manager, and dozens of other Shanghai residents in their homes. Each is presented with a statement from the subject, personalizing the effects of the phenomena measured elsewhere in the Biennale.



Hu Yang's images are on display in C on Cities, a special photography exhibition in the Italian Pavilion, curated by the London-based publication C International Photo Magazine. Issue 3 is dedicated to its Biennale presentation, and is available through www.ivorypress.com.


Shanghai Living
 (2005) by Hu Yang 
Tang Zhen'an
(Shanghainese general manager)
Up to now I am satisfied with my life, and I like photographing and collecting western art works during my leisure time. I have pressures, mainly from competition within the circle and requirement from inside. I want to do everything I can to promote Shanghai's photographing industry.



Shanghai Living (2005) by Hu Yang
Wei Yufang
(Shandongnese vendor)
We are leading a hard life and eat battercakes, pickles and a glass of water for all three meals. When our kids want meat dishes, we cook them an egg. We work more than 15 hours a day if it doesn't rain. We want our kids to be educated and not to live like us. I will risk anything for our kids to go to university. My eldest son is excellent and wins prizes every semester. I suffer being teased by local ruffians.

Eavesdrop: Philip Nobel

It’s not the most prominent cultural institution in town, and it certainly has the smallest footprint on the Manhattan ground, but for intrigue-per-square-foot, no one can beat the Storefront for Art and Architecture.

In March, director Sarah Herda was tapped to replace the late Richard Solomon at the Graham Foundation, trading her spot at the perennially impoverished Kenmare Street organization for a position heading the well-endowed (okay: totally loaded) Chicago powerhouse responsible for underwriting a shockingly high percentage of all American architectural research. Since then, Storefront’s board of directors (which includes AN founderWilliam Menking, who has isolated himself from the reporting and editing of this story) has been engaged in a wide-ranging and sometimes contentious search for a replacement.

As many as “sixteen to eighteen worth-looking-at candidates” applied, according to Storefront president Belmont Freeman, who confirmed that, after a board meeting on August 7 (during which assistant curator Yasmeen Siddiqui was officially named acting director), the search committee has winnowed the hopefuls down to “a short list of three.” Other sources said the list was already down to only two: architect and writer (for this publication, among others)Olympia Kazi and 28-year-old Berlin-based curator Anselm Franke. Others said to have applied in the still-secret process include New York writer and gallerist Henry Urbach (before he took the design curator’s job at SFMOMA), Van Alen Institute senior curator Zoe Ryan, and Temple Hoyne Buell Center program coordinator Salomon Frausto,

“We’re very encouraged, because we know we’ll end up with someone good,” Freeman said, while also trying to quell rampant rumors about intramural tension over the search. “I wouldn’t call it ‘tension’,” he said. “But it has been the occasion for a lot of soul-searching.”

The cause of the purportedly untense soul-searching—we’ve heard otherwise—is Storefront’s size; small in budget as well as space (the whole gallery, designed by Steven Holl and Vito Acconci, only occupies 950 square feet), directorial and curatorial duties have been shared by a single person since it was founded by Kyong Park in 1982. “Because it’s such a tiny organization, the person has to combine curatorial vision with directorial strength and a good dash of fundraising charisma,” Freeman said.

In the current search, a faction of the board that favors a more fiscally responsible future has been militating to select a director with a proven record of management, while another group has favored a more “visionary” curator. Franke, identified by many as the leading candidate, is seen as member of the latter camp—a thinker first and an administrator second—the search committee’s interest in him sparked several tense moments over the summer. Meanwhile Franke, who could not be reached for comment, is said to be balking at the potential salary offered. Several sources familiar with the proceedings allege that a deal has been discussed in which Franke might be lured to New York only by the promise of a package deal—the director job at Storefront plus a contract to teach at Columbia University—a twofer possibly brokered in-house by pillow-talking power couple Beatriz Colomina (a Storefront trustee) andMark Wigley (dean of the Columbia’s GSAPP, my alma mater).

Freeman said the new director will be announced after the September board meeting—“we’re close to making a decision”—but other sources said it could be “months.” So stay tuned for future installments of The Annals of Narrowly Avoiding Conflict of Interest….