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LOOKING AND BUILDING IN ALL THE RIGHT PLACES
Downtown Los Angeles is thriving in unexpected places. It`s not the new, multi-billion dollar projects and sweeping conversions of old bank buildings into posh lofts that are invigorating the famously sleepy city core. It`s the old, scruffy 1920`s streets and the life that fills them. Greg Goldin interprets the scene..



Olivo barbieri / courtesy yancey richardson gallery
Italian photographer Olivio Barbien`s site specific_LOS ANGELES (2005)

Downtown Los Angeles is misunderstood. To most observers, there is no there there. Like the rest of the great metropolis, downtown is amorphous, indecipherable, a suburb in reverse that is occupied by day and empty by night. Yes, we`ve got the Frank Gehryydesigned Walt Disney Concert Hallla crown jewel to rival any city`s crown jewel. (And, don`t forget, ours was designed first, before Bilbao!) But the concert hall stands in singular aloneness, surrounded by parking lots, drab government behemoths, and piles of granite and glass tombstones occupied by elite bankers and law firms. What L.A. needs now is some big-time infill.

To an extent, this is underway. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation estimated in February that there has been $12.2 billion worth of built and planned construction in the downtown area since 1999. Lofts and condos are hot. More than 26,000 new residential units have been added since 2000. Thanks to an Adaptive Reuse Ordinance that eased the city`s regulations for restoring older buildings, historic properties are being converted at an unprecedented rate. The city has a new cathedral by Rafael Moneo and a new state transit building by Thom Mayne of Morphosis, while an arts school by Wolf Prix is the works. Meanwhile, local firm Rios Clemente Hale is designing a 40,000-square-foot plaza to anchor a 3.8-million-square-foot hotel-cum-mall-cum-residential-complex, known as L.A. Live!, adjoining the Staples Center, home court of the Lakers. The arena, which follows the nationwide trend of stadiums returning to cities` downtowns, is credited with a spurt of big-box growth at the south end of downtown since its opening in 1999.

Still, the view of a neglected and empty downtown persists because the city`s civic leaders, their developer patrons, and their acolytes in the press remain committed to transforming the admittedly grim but prominent civic center, which sits relatively removed from the rest of downtown, at the top of Bunker Hill. Bunker Hill has suffered more from the misguided attention of city bigwigs and planners than perhaps any neighborhood in Los Angeles. In 1961, bulldozers began clearing hundreds of flophouses, SROs, fine Victorian homes, and small shopssthe very things that made it a genuine, lively community. More than 10,000 residents were displaced. In one way or another, the city has been trying to get them back ever since, but 50 years of urban renewal has produced an eyesore and an international embarrassment. This is the downtownn that gets all the attention, and is frequently mistaken for the city`s real, other, downtown.


olivio barbieri/coutesy yancey richardson gallery
Italian photographer Olivio Barbieri`s site specific_LOS ANGELES (2005)

Unfortunately, this predicament is perpetuated by relentless efforts to pour more capital into Bunker Hill. The latest, a $1.8 billion scheme, was given the official seal of approval in late April when, after nearly two years of anticipation, Gehry unveiled a design for what is called the Grand Avenue Project. The private-public development, headed by New Yorkkbased The Related Companies, aims to transform Grand Avenue into a destination not only for downtown but for the entire region,, in the words of one leading public official. When it`s all completed, we`re going to have Gehry in stereo,, he boasted.

Whether Gehry in stereo can convert a 9-to-5 bureaucratic stronghold into a 24/7 boomtown is anyone`s guess. Still, the mistake is one of interpretation. Downtown Los Angeles has several centers. Bunker Hill, which is cut off from the rest of downtown by geography and freeways, is a hilltop governmental-cultural ghetto. The action, as a more sober Frank Gehry used to admit, is elsewhere. (Gehry once famously said that if the choice had been his own, he would have built Disney Hall somewhere along Wilshire Boulevard. That street, which connects downtown to the beaches in Santa Monica, is, as Gehry said, our true downtown, only it`s vertical..)

Downslope from Bunker Hill is Broadway, L.A.`s oldest main street. You can`t find a stronger contrast to the arid altiplano rising several blocks to the west. Broadway is teeming. You can get your shoes shined on the street. You can pop into the Grand Central Market and stand at a counter to snack on marinated cabbage and gorditas. You can stroll the wide, bustling sidewalks, in search of a fedora or a wedding gown. You can get married on Broadway, and pick-pocketed, too. You can buy bootlegged Mexican movies and tiny packets of Chiclets chewing gum.

Broadway bustles because it has hundreds of ground-floor shops, tightly spaceddlike any good main drag. And as John Kamp, a local city planner points out, Broadway is also successful because it has so many bus stops. People come to Broadway because it is part of their everyday trajectory through the city, not a special trip to an unlikely destination.. The crowds justify high rents, which in some cases are higher per square foot than on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

A bit further south and east is another area on the rise, the Fashion District, which borders Skid Row. In the past several years, the neighborhood has sprung to life with none of the fanfare or money heaped on Grand Avenue. The district has, in fact, benefited by being overlooked. A vestigial industrial zone where building owners are not required to have front yards, rear yards, or other setbacks, it contains a large stock of urban-friendly buildings. Buildings typically have multiple entrances. One, on the 800 block of South Main Street, has 14. Others might have a dozen small storefronts in the span of 150 feet of sidewalk frontage. The pedestrian-friendly scale allowed wholesalers to open their doors to retail. While garment workers sew upstairs, fashionistas ply the streets below, hunting for cheap knock-offs and bargain trendy buys. Here, too, rents rival those on Broadway. Buildings are selling for as much as $570 a square foot.

These are but two examples of other downtowns. There are still others, such as Little Tokyo and the nearby Arts District, Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, and Boyle Heights. These parts are thriving not because someone has managed to give them a theme but because visually interesting, authentic, aurally stimulating businesses are pressed hard against the sidewalks. These are the parts of downtown Los Angeles that have never been relieved of the compression that brings urban life to the surface. Check them out, and you will see that Los Angeles has a downtown. It`s just not where you`re told to find it.
Greg Goldin is the architecture critic at Los Angeles Magazine and a regular contributor to the L.A. Weekly. He guest-edited this issue of AN.


FRANK GEHRY, KING OF THE HILL
In 1980, Frank Gehry was one of the more modest members of the "L.A. Dream Team" assembled to develop a visionary, but ultimately unrealized scheme to redevelop what remained of Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles, whose decaying Victorian mansions had been bulldozed 20 years before in the name of urban renewal. He was still regarded as an outsider seven years later when he won the competition to design Walt Disney Concert Hall in the same Grand Avenue area. Now he`s back as king of this particular hill, with schematic designs for the site he tried to reshape two decades ago.


bart bartholomew
Gehry Partners` proposal for Grand Avenue.

The popular and critical success of Disney Hall has endeared Gehry to the suits who run downtown, and their new bad boy is Thom Mayne, whose Caltrans building and iconoclastic approach to urban planning they consider dangerously radical. It`s their loss, and they`ll probably catch up, even if it takes 20 yearssjust as they did with Gehry, who has finally gained acceptance in his hometown.

The current iteration of the Grand Avenue Project attempts the same lively mix of uses and attractions as proposed by the original developer, the Maguire Partners and their Dream Team in 1980. Defying all the conventions of urban development, they wove together contributions by different architects, including a plaza by Gehry, a highrise residential tower by Barton Myer, an office tower by Cesar Pelli, a hotel-condo block by Ricardo Legorreta, fanciful pavilions by Charles Moore, a modern art museum by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, and landscaping by Lawrence Halprin. The plan included contrasting buildings surrounded by walkways, fountains, and greenery.

The proposal was widely acclaimed by the public and in the architecture press, but the Community Redevelopment Agency, a hapless band of amateurs, preferred Arthur Erickson`s sleek office towers. His scheme was a series of isolated objects with no connective tissue, and which failed to engage the street. The featured public amenity was Arata Isozaki`s Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), but this was pushed below the street so as not to block the view of a shopping center on the site beyonddan element that was never built.

Twenty-five years later, Gehry is back, and has released a preliminary design that includes two L-plan towerssone of offices, the other for a hotel and condossthat act as frames for Disney Hall and a 250,000-square-foot retail-restaurant complex. This is the first of three phases in the $1.8 billion project, which will eventually comprise eight towers and a 16-acre park, to be designed by a team including the firms Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Levin & Associates. (Mayne was part of that team but was dropped by the developer, New Yorkkbased The Related Companies, in April 2005 for artistic differences. He was later replaced by Gehry, one of the initial competitors.)

Gehry`s May presentation at Disney Hall consisted of little more than a massing diagram. As it stands, there are no expressive gestures, and he offered few hints of how the scheme would be fleshed out. Skeptics wondered how great an influence The Related Companies would have on the design, and the extent to which it would be driven by retail imperatives. The ongoing fiasco at Ground Zero has undoubtedly reinforced a widespread cynicism about the contest between architecture and profit. (Gehry famously refused to submit a proposal for the original planning competition for the World Trade Center site, a decision that now looks incredibly prescient.) There is also the issue of whether one architect, however brilliant, can achieve unity and diversity through such an ambitious development, or whether parts should be delegated to other designers as in the old Maguire scheme.

The largest question, and one that will not be answered for at least a decade, is whether the Grand Avenue Project will animate the neighborhood as most downtown improvements have failed to do. In the wake of its loss on Bunker Hill, the developer, now called Maguire-Thomas Partners, spurred a redesign of Pershing Square, which had become as blighted as New York`s Tompkins Square Park. Legorreta understood how Mexican plazas work and landscape designer Laurie Olin drew on Rittenhouse Square, a lively oasis in his native Philadelphia. The block-sized park was opened to the street, colorful structures beckon pedestrians, but few enter except to retrieve their cars from the underground garage. As Robert Venturi once observed, Americans are reluctant to sit in outdoor public places except to eat and be entertained, and the city authorities failed to provide concession stands or programming. Even the crowds of shoppers a block east on Broadway ignored this one patch of greenery in east-central L.A. What does that say for the chances of the new park included in Gehry`s scheme?

Grand Avenue links some of the city`s most cherished public buildings, including the classic Central Library, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Disney Hall, as well as the Colburn Music School and the aloof citadels of the Music Center and Rafael Moneo`s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Even Disney Hall, everyone`s favorite new civic icon, hasn`t noticeably boosted foot traffic on the street, and most concertgoers arrive by escalator from the underground parking garage. The residential population of downtown has boomed over the last decade, and there has been a flurry of loft conversions and new apartment blocks. Urban homesteaders need shopping and services, but will they find those in the new retail center? For the newly crowned Gehry, this may be the toughest challenge of his 50-year career.
Michael Webb is a Los Angeles-based architecture critic whose most recent book is Adventurous Wine Architecture (Images Publishing, 2005).


IF YOU ADAPT IT, WILL THEY COME?
For more than 20 years, downtown Los Angeles has been the exclusive playground of bohemian artist-types who perferred cheap rents to Trauslen refrigerators and anonymity to swank eateries. not anymore. Downtown L.A. is slowly evolving into a collection of distinct neighborhoods each touting new high-end condominium and apartment conversion projects complete with rooftop swimming pools and fitness centers. You can even find an occassional cup of concrete-floored, skylit loft to your glass-enclosed office tower.

Newly minted lawyers, businessmen, and accountants, raking in mega starting salaries, think downtown will be a hot real estate market for years to come. Maybe it`s a chicken-and-egg situation, but they`re signing on to long waiting lists or pre-purchasing units before construction has even started. When the historic Douglas Building Lofts, renovated by Rockefeller Partners Architects, went on the market in 20044nearly 18 months before the Spring Street property was completeddall 50 units sold within a week. At the Flower Street Lofts, one of the first residential developments in the South Park district, several of the original buyers took advantage of the appreciating market and flipped their units within a year of purchase.

Emboldened by what appears to be an insatiable appetite for urban living, developers continue to increase unit prices, even as the rest of the L.A. market begins to flatten out. According to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID), in the first quarter of 2006 the average cost per square foot was $547.80, an astonishing 18.8 percent increase from last year at the same time. The market, in other words, is booming. Since 1999 nearly 7,000 new condominiums and apartments have been created in downtown Los Angeles. If all goes as projected by the DCBID, there will be nearly 20,000 more by 2015.

But, as the residents and workers in downtown Vancouver have learned, a thriving community won`t necessarily emerge just because you`ve built and occupied thousands of new units. Although one is in the works, up to now, there hasn`t been a grocery store downtown for decadessand Citarella or Whole Foods are far from the drawing boards. And no such thing as Sarabeth`s Kitchen or Frette is even imagined. Add to this a lack of community and no green space and downtown had little more to offer than lofty spaces with skyline views. Developers have worked to remedy this by enticing cafes and small businesses to open in the ground floors of residential developments, while others are creating courtyards and rooftop recreation areas. The uncertain promise is that there`s more to comeeenough to lure buyers out of the suburbs and into the core.

Clearly, an influx of new homeowners and businesses in downtown will be an economic boon for the city, but for the thousands of poor and homeless living in the area`s shelters and low-cost residential hotels, gentrification means one thing: eviction. Already, developers have converted several of the 240 hotels (many of them functioning as SROs) into market-rate apartments and condominiums. Fearful that more of the downtown poor will be displaced, the Los Angeles City Council recently approved a one-year moratorium on the conversion or demolition of low-cost hotels citywide, with the option for an extension. In an effort to further help the transient poor, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proposed a $1 billion bond measure to pay for subsidized apartments. The funds would cover housing as well as social services. And other plans to bring improvements downtown are in the works. In March, L.A. County officials unveiled a $100 million campaign that would house the estimated 14,000 homeless concentrated on downtown`s Skid Row by expanding much needed countywide programs and providing more emergency and transitional housing, and health services. The campaign is part of a $12 billion investment plan to build 50,000 housing units countywide over a ten-year span.

Ten years ago nobody would have believed any of this was possible. And had it not been for the new public icons, Disney Concert Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Staples Center, it might not have been. And while major cultural and entertainment projects are no doubt paramount in a successful urban environment, the most important ingredient of all is the local population, be they new condo owners, low-income transients, factory workers, or artists. Finding a way for all income levels to thrive in the new downtown will be the challenge of city officials and developers.
Allison Milionis is a freelance writer living and working in Downtown Los Angeles.

mill street lofts
1820 Industrial Street
The Los Angeles office of German firm Behnisch Architects has designed one of the first ground-up, loft-style buildings in an area filled with adaptive re-use projects. We realized early on that because of the low scale of the surrounding buildings, if you built up you could offer amazing views of downtown,, said project architect Christof Jantzen. The building, developed by local firm LinearCity, stands 16 stories high and contains what Jantzen describes as eight different unit types,, ranging from 650 to 2,100 square feet and including single-, double-, and triple-story condos, some following the inverted L-shaped configurations that Le Corbusier used in his L`Unitt d`habitation in Marseilles.


Behnisch Architects

In keeping with the spirit of the industrial loft conversions that surround the project, the project has a concrete structure with exposed concrete floors, tall ceilings, and large windows. The materials and fixtures used throughout will be sheet metal, fiber cement, and pre-cast concrete panelssall sustainable materials. In addition, operable windows, indirect sun-orientation, a gray-water treatment system, and a passive-cooling ventilation system might just earn the developer the LEED-rating it seeks. Adjacent to the 16-story highrise, a smaller set of townhousess shares the same material vocabulary as the loft building, though with more privacy.

I think the developers need to be highly praised for what they`re doing,, said Jantzen. They have a vision for the area that will transform it into a great neighborhood.. In 2004, LinearCity also developed and sold lofts in an adjacent building, the ToY Factory, and is engaged in another adaptive reuse project across the street, the Biscuit Company Lofts by Aleks Istanbullu Architects.

Biscuit company lofts
673 Mateo Street
When Paul Solomon, founder of the development group LinearCity, called Los Angeles- based Aleks Istanbullu Architects to transform a pre-existing factory into residential condos, the architect knew immediately that he wanted to do something different from a standard conversion. He wanted to design loft spaces that vary in size, plan, and character throughout the boxy building, a 1925 biscuit-baking factory formerly owned by the manufacturer Nabisco.


courtesy aleks istanbullu architects

The site comprises the 110,000 square-foot, seven-story main structure and a single-story annex; Istanbullu will add an additional floor to each, increasing the total square footage to 153,000 square feet. On the main building, Istanbullu created a large penthouse with extensive outdoor space. He transformed the existing annex into a set of three-story row houses by carving out a mezzanine and adding a floor.

According to Istanbullu, the architects decided to use the contrast approachh on the additions, by which he means making clear the distinction between old and new. The penthouse and the top floor of the annex are constructed out of steel, stone, and glass, though the colors were chosen to complement the brick building below. It will remain largely intact, though Istanbullu adjusted the circulation to create irregular interior spaces. I really wanted variety, to find and create unique units,, said Istanbullu. Although the building is a box, by shaping the hallways in an odd configuration, I could get a lot of plan varieties.. New structural walls in the core of the building were installed to bring it up to building code, while some pre-existing, non-load-bearing walls were removed to keep a feeling of openness.

The interiors will be minimally outfitteddmost won`t even include a refrigeratorrdominated by the pre-existing inch-thick maple floors, brick walls, and copper details. Like luxury loft-style condominiumns in New York City, prices will likely attract a wealthy clientele.

vibinia lofts
114 East 2nd Street
In 1996, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles initiated demolition of the 17,000-square-foot St. Vibiana Cathedral, its home since 1876, sparking a heated preservation battle that ultimately left it untouched and now the cornerstone of a major $120 million, 468,000 square-foot mixed-use development project by Los Angeles developer Tom Gilmore.


Courtesy Tom Gilmore

According to Gilmore, the Los Angeles Conservancy, a local preservation organization, approached him in 1997 and asked for assistance in purchasing the property, which includes a 2.5-acre lotta full city block. With money lent (somewhat ironically) by the Archdiocese itself, Gilmore bought the property for $4.6 million, pledging to restore the cathedral and ensure an active future for it.

Gilmore came to an agreement with the California State University to convert the cathedral into a performing arts space downtown, a plan that earned $4 million from the state toward the cost of restoration and seismic retrofitting.

I am an adamant urbanist,, said Gilmore, adding, I`m not a fan of little disconnected venues; I am all for density.. By transferring air rights from the cathedral and its connected refectory, Gilmore could plan a series of small mixed-use buildings and a 41-story residential highrise spread out throughout the site. We`re staggering the buildings and utilizing setbacks in order to create a pedestrian-friendly environment,, said Gilmore. Gilmore and his partner, Richard Weintraub, hired local architecture firm Nadel Architects to design the project, who began with massing diagrams to plan the site. The bottom line is that the skin and profile are less important than massing in a project of this scale,, Gilmore pointed out.

The $8 million restoration of the cathedral was completed last year, overseen by local preservation experts Levin & Associates Architects. The rest of the project is still in designnGilmore notes that the preliminary renderings are more flashy than I`d like to see themm?as the project goes through planning and zoning. Gilmore hopes the tower, which will have 2,200 square feet of ground-level retail fronting a parking garage, will break ground in the beginning of 2007 and be completed in 2009.

Fuller Lofts
210 North San Fernando Road
One of the more notable adaptive-reuse conversions downtown is Santa Monicaabased Pugh + Scarpa Architects` restoration of the 1927 Fuller Pink Company, a former office building and a relic of L.A.`s art deco moment. Though not an official landmark, it sports stunning details, including pilasters, sculpted floral bas reliefs, and according to principal architect Gwen Pugh, a wonderfully preserved lobby..


courtesy pugh + scarpa architect

Pugh + Scarpa has restored the five-floor, 151,000-square-foot building and added two additional floors, creating a total of 102 units. The architects cored out the center of the concrete building in order to create a 40-foot-wide lightwell and room for a small interior courtyard. The rooftop addition has its own identity, clad in glass and corrugated metal. On the building`s north side, the metal cladding undulates in plan, contrasting with the cube on which it is perchedda gesture that, according to Pugh, is intended to divorce the skin from the boxx and make the original building`s undecorated north facade more interesting.. On all sides, irregularly placed balconies, resembling constructivist boxes, further disrupt the original building`s simple planarity.

The Lincoln Heights district is roughly 2 miles from downtown, in an area that`s still largely undeveloped (parking lots and empty plots far outnumber supermarkets). According to Pugh, the Fuller Lofts is the only project in the immediate vicinity that has been motivated by the city`s new Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, which the city adopted in 1999 (and greatly expanded in 2003) in order to lure businesses downtown.


CIVICS LESSON
Frank Gehry`s Walt Disney Concert Hall, Rafael Moneo`s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Thom Mayne`s Caltrans headquarters have changed the way Angelenos understand their downtown. Spectacular, freewheeling, and deeply moving, these buildings have drawn crowds and made architecture relevant, and perhaps essential. So why haven`t more of the new public buildings followed suit? In the preceding decades, John Portman`s Bonaventure Hotel epitomized L.A.`s style, which typically meant being walled off from the street, virtually impenetrable, and wrapped in a one-way mirror. Now public buildings are increasingly incorporating plazas, street-level portals, and transparent facades. Though many public buildings still embrace the bunker mentality, it might reflect bad planning and site selection as much as architectural design: The city still has the habit of plopping security-conscious buildings cheek-by-jowl to public-conscious ones. Whole street elevations are permitted to go unarticulated and turn a barren carapace to neighbors. Several new public projects reveal how far L.A. has come, and how far it has to go.

central los angeles area
High School #9

450 North Grand Avenue


armin heiss / isochrom / courtesy coop himmelb(l)au

After the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Coop Himmelb(l)au`s High School for the Visual and Performing Arts may be one of the most dramatic structures to be completed in downtown L.A. The new structure, which began construction in March and is scheduled to openin 2008, will feature a dramatic glass and steel lobby and house 1,728 music, dance, visual and performing arts students. Estimated to cost $208 million, the signature feature of the school will be a 140-foot-tall tower that will give students a clear view of the adjacent Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

los angeles united states
Courthouse

First Street and Broadway


courtesy perkins and will
In 2001, Perkins + Will won a commission from the General Services Administration to design a 1,000,000-square-foot couthouse in downtown L.A. The 16-story building features approximately 40 courtrooms with floor-to-floor heights of 19 feet, along with some administrative office space and an expansive ground-floor atrium. Sustainability was crucial for the client and designers: Photovoltaic panels comprise about 50 percent of the large curving glass facade, under-floor circulation systems minimize heating and cooling costs, and clerestory windows throughout the courtrooms bring in natural daylight. The building is in still in design and construction should begin in mid to late 2007.

Los angeles police department headquarters
First and Main Streets


courtesy dmjm

Filling most of the block across from City Hall, the L.A.P.D.`s new headquarters went through an extensive public review process while it was under design, and ultimately incorporated the lessons of over 30 community meetings. The architects, DMJM/Roth-Shepard Design, incorporated necessarily strong security requirements such as 75-foot setbacks to surround the building with public spaces. The 500,000-square-foot building`s two above-ground volumes form an L-shape around a large plaza along First Street. The budget is set for $303 million, and construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2008.
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Looking and Building in All the Right Places

Italian photographer Olivio Barbien's site specific_LOS ANGELES (2005)

Downtown Los Angeles is misunderstood. To most observers, there is no there there. Like the rest of the great metropolis, downtown is amorphous, indecipherable, a suburb in reverse that is occupied by day and empty by night. Yes, weeve got the Frank Gehryydesigned Walt Disney Concert Hallla crown jewel to rival any cityys crown jewel. (And, donnt forget, ours was designed first, before Bilbao!) But the concert hall stands in singular aloneness, surrounded by parking lots, drab government behemoths, and piles of granite and glass tombstones occupied by elite bankers and law firms. What L.A. needs now is some big-time infill.

To an extent, this is underway. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation estimated in February that there has been $12.2 billion worth of built and planned construction in the downtown area since 1999. Lofts and condos are hot. More than 26,000 new residential units have been added since 2000. Thanks to an Adaptive Reuse Ordinance that eased the cityys regulations for restoring older buildings, historic properties are being converted at an unprecedented rate. The city has a new cathedral by Rafael Moneo and a new state transit building by Thom Mayne of Morphosis, while an arts school by Wolf Prix is the works. Meanwhile, local firm Rios Clemente Hale is designing a 40,000-square-foot plaza to anchor a 3.8-million-square-foot hotel-cum-mall-cum-residential-complex, known as L.A. Live!, adjoining the Staples Center, home court of the Lakers. The arena, which follows the nationwide trend of stadiums returning to citiess downtowns, is credited with a spurt of big-box growth at the south end of downtown since its opening in 1999.

Still, the view of a neglected and empty downtown persists because the cityys civic leaders, their developer patrons, and their acolytes in the press remain committed to transforming the admittedly grim but prominent civic center, which sits relatively removed from the rest of downtown, at the top of Bunker Hill. Bunker Hill has suffered more from the misguided attention of city bigwigs and planners than perhaps any neighborhood in Los Angeles. In 1961, bulldozers began clearing hundreds of flophouses, SROs, fine Victorian homes, and small shopssthe very things that made it a genuine, lively community. More than 10,000 residents were displaced. In one way or another, the city has been trying to get them back ever since, but 50 years of urban renewal has produced an eyesore and an international embarrassment. This is the downtownn that gets all the attention, and is frequently mistaken for the cityys real, other, downtown.


olivio barbieri/coutesy yancey richardson gallery
Italian photographer Olivio Barbieri's site specific_LOS ANGELES (2005)

Unfortunately, this predicament is perpetuated by relentless efforts to pour more capital into Bunker Hill. The latest, a $1.8 billion scheme, was given the official seal of approval in late April when, after nearly two years of anticipation, Gehry unveiled a design for what is called the Grand Avenue Project. The private-public development, headed by New Yorkkbased The Related Companies, aims to transform Grand Avenue into a destination not only for downtown but for the entire region,, in the words of one leading public official. When itts all completed, weere going to have Gehry in stereo,, he boasted.

Whether Gehry in stereo can convert a 9-to-5 bureaucratic stronghold into a 24/7 boomtown is anyonees guess. Still, the mistake is one of interpretation. Downtown Los Angeles has several centers. Bunker Hill, which is cut off from the rest of downtown by geography and freeways, is a hilltop governmental-cultural ghetto. The action, as a more sober Frank Gehry used to admit, is elsewhere. (Gehry once famously said that if the choice had been his own, he would have built Disney Hall somewhere along Wilshire Boulevard. That street, which connects downtown to the beaches in Santa Monica, is, as Gehry said, our true downtown, only itts vertical..)

Downslope from Bunker Hill is Broadway, L.A..s oldest main street. You cannt find a stronger contrast to the arid altiplano rising several blocks to the west. Broadway is teeming. You can get your shoes shined on the street. You can pop into the Grand Central Market and stand at a counter to snack on marinated cabbage and gorditas. You can stroll the wide, bustling sidewalks, in search of a fedora or a wedding gown. You can get married on Broadway, and pick-pocketed, too. You can buy bootlegged Mexican movies and tiny packets of Chiclets chewing gum.

Broadway bustles because it has hundreds of ground-floor shops, tightly spaceddlike any good main drag. And as John Kamp, a local city planner points out, Broadway is also successful because it has so many bus stops. People come to Broadway because it is part of their everyday trajectory through the city, not a special trip to an unlikely destination.. The crowds justify high rents, which in some cases are higher per square foot than on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

A bit further south and east is another area on the rise, the Fashion District, which borders Skid Row. In the past several years, the neighborhood has sprung to life with none of the fanfare or money heaped on Grand Avenue. The district has, in fact, benefited by being overlooked. A vestigial industrial zone where building owners are not required to have front yards, rear yards, or other setbacks, it contains a large stock of urban-friendly buildings. Buildings typically have multiple entrances. One, on the 800 block of South Main Street, has 14. Others might have a dozen small storefronts in the span of 150 feet of sidewalk frontage. The pedestrian-friendly scale allowed wholesalers to open their doors to retail. While garment workers sew upstairs, fashionistas ply the streets below, hunting for cheap knock-offs and bargain trendy buys. Here, too, rents rival those on Broadway. Buildings are selling for as much as $570 a square foot.

These are but two examples of other downtowns. There are still others, such as Little Tokyo and the nearby Arts District, Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, and Boyle Heights. These parts are thriving not because someone has managed to give them a theme but because visually interesting, authentic, aurally stimulating businesses are pressed hard against the sidewalks. These are the parts of downtown Los Angeles that have never been relieved of the compression that brings urban life to the surface. Check them out, and you will see that Los Angeles has a downtown. Itts just not where youure told to find it.
Greg Goldin is the architecture critic at Los Angeles Magazine and a regular contributor to the L.A. Weekly. He guest-edited this issue of AN.


FRANK GEHRY, KING OF THE HILL
In 1980, Frank Gehry was one of the more modest members of the "L.A. Dream Team" assembled to develop a visionary, but ultimately unrealized scheme to redevelop what remained of Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles, whose decaying Victorian mansions had been bulldozed 20 years before in the name of urban renewal. He was still regarded as an outsider seven years later when he won the competition to design Walt Disney Concert Hall in the same Grand Avenue area. Now he's back as king of this particular hill, with schematic designs for the site he tried to reshape two decades ago.


bart bartholomew
Gehry Partners' proposal for Grand Avenue.

The popular and critical success of Disney Hall has endeared Gehry to the suits who run downtown, and their new bad boy is Thom Mayne, whose Caltrans building and iconoclastic approach to urban planning they consider dangerously radical. Itts their loss, and theyyll probably catch up, even if it takes 20 yearssjust as they did with Gehry, who has finally gained acceptance in his hometown.

The current iteration of the Grand Avenue Project attempts the same lively mix of uses and attractions as proposed by the original developer, the Maguire Partners and their Dream Team in 1980. Defying all the conventions of urban development, they wove together contributions by different architects, including a plaza by Gehry, a highrise residential tower by Barton Myer, an office tower by Cesar Pelli, a hotel-condo block by Ricardo Legorreta, fanciful pavilions by Charles Moore, a modern art museum by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, and landscaping by Lawrence Halprin. The plan included contrasting buildings surrounded by walkways, fountains, and greenery.

The proposal was widely acclaimed by the public and in the architecture press, but the Community Redevelopment Agency, a hapless band of amateurs, preferred Arthur Ericksonns sleek office towers. His scheme was a series of isolated objects with no connective tissue, and which failed to engage the street. The featured public amenity was Arata Isozakiis Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), but this was pushed below the street so as not to block the view of a shopping center on the site beyonddan element that was never built.

Twenty-five years later, Gehry is back, and has released a preliminary design that includes two L-plan towerssone of offices, the other for a hotel and condossthat act as frames for Disney Hall and a 250,000-square-foot retail-restaurant complex. This is the first of three phases in the $1.8 billion project, which will eventually comprise eight towers and a 16-acre park, to be designed by a team including the firms Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Levin & Associates. (Mayne was part of that team but was dropped by the developer, New Yorkkbased The Related Companies, in April 2005 for artistic differences. He was later replaced by Gehry, one of the initial competitors.)

Gehryys May presentation at Disney Hall consisted of little more than a massing diagram. As it stands, there are no expressive gestures, and he offered few hints of how the scheme would be fleshed out. Skeptics wondered how great an influence The Related Companies would have on the design, and the extent to which it would be driven by retail imperatives. The ongoing fiasco at Ground Zero has undoubtedly reinforced a widespread cynicism about the contest between architecture and profit. (Gehry famously refused to submit a proposal for the original planning competition for the World Trade Center site, a decision that now looks incredibly prescient.) There is also the issue of whether one architect, however brilliant, can achieve unity and diversity through such an ambitious development, or whether parts should be delegated to other designers as in the old Maguire scheme.

The largest question, and one that will not be answered for at least a decade, is whether the Grand Avenue Project will animate the neighborhood as most downtown improvements have failed to do. In the wake of its loss on Bunker Hill, the developer, now called Maguire-Thomas Partners, spurred a redesign of Pershing Square, which had become as blighted as New Yorkks Tompkins Square Park. Legorreta understood how Mexican plazas work and landscape designer Laurie Olin drew on Rittenhouse Square, a lively oasis in his native Philadelphia. The block-sized park was opened to the street, colorful structures beckon pedestrians, but few enter except to retrieve their cars from the underground garage. As Robert Venturi once observed, Americans are reluctant to sit in outdoor public places except to eat and be entertained, and the city authorities failed to provide concession stands or programming. Even the crowds of shoppers a block east on Broadway ignored this one patch of greenery in east-central L.A. What does that say for the chances of the new park included in Gehryys scheme?

Grand Avenue links some of the cityys most cherished public buildings, including the classic Central Library, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Disney Hall, as well as the Colburn Music School and the aloof citadels of the Music Center and Rafael Moneoos Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Even Disney Hall, everyonees favorite new civic icon, hasnnt noticeably boosted foot traffic on the street, and most concertgoers arrive by escalator from the underground parking garage. The residential population of downtown has boomed over the last decade, and there has been a flurry of loft conversions and new apartment blocks. Urban homesteaders need shopping and services, but will they find those in the new retail center? For the newly crowned Gehry, this may be the toughest challenge of his 50-year career.
Michael Webb is a Los Angeles-based architecture critic whose most recent book is Adventurous Wine Architecture (Images Publishing, 2005).


IF YOU ADAPT IT, WILL THEY COME?
For more than 20 years, downtown Los Angeles has been the exclusive playground of bohemian artist-types who perferred cheap rents to Trauslen refrigerators and anonymity to swank eateries. not anymore. Downtown L.A. is slowly evolving into a collection of distinct neighborhoods each touting new high-end condominium and apartment conversion projects complete with rooftop swimming pools and fitness centers. You can even find an occassional cup of concrete-floored, skylit loft to your glass-enclosed office tower.

Newly minted lawyers, businessmen, and accountants, raking in mega starting salaries, think downtown will be a hot real estate market for years to come. Maybe itts a chicken-and-egg situation, but theyyre signing on to long waiting lists or pre-purchasing units before construction has even started. When the historic Douglas Building Lofts, renovated by Rockefeller Partners Architects, went on the market in 20044nearly 18 months before the Spring Street property was completeddall 50 units sold within a week. At the Flower Street Lofts, one of the first residential developments in the South Park district, several of the original buyers took advantage of the appreciating market and flipped their units within a year of purchase.

Emboldened by what appears to be an insatiable appetite for urban living, developers continue to increase unit prices, even as the rest of the L.A. market begins to flatten out. According to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID), in the first quarter of 2006 the average cost per square foot was $547.80, an astonishing 18.8 percent increase from last year at the same time. The market, in other words, is booming. Since 1999 nearly 7,000 new condominiums and apartments have been created in downtown Los Angeles. If all goes as projected by the DCBID, there will be nearly 20,000 more by 2015.

But, as the residents and workers in downtown Vancouver have learned, a thriving community wonnt necessarily emerge just because youuve built and occupied thousands of new units. Although one is in the works, up to now, there hasnnt been a grocery store downtown for decadessand Citarella or Whole Foods are far from the drawing boards. And no such thing as Sarabethhs Kitchen or Frette is even imagined. Add to this a lack of community and no green space and downtown had little more to offer than lofty spaces with skyline views. Developers have worked to remedy this by enticing cafes and small businesses to open in the ground floors of residential developments, while others are creating courtyards and rooftop recreation areas. The uncertain promise is that therees more to comeeenough to lure buyers out of the suburbs and into the core.

Clearly, an influx of new homeowners and businesses in downtown will be an economic boon for the city, but for the thousands of poor and homeless living in the areaas shelters and low-cost residential hotels, gentrification means one thing: eviction. Already, developers have converted several of the 240 hotels (many of them functioning as SROs) into market-rate apartments and condominiums. Fearful that more of the downtown poor will be displaced, the Los Angeles City Council recently approved a one-year moratorium on the conversion or demolition of low-cost hotels citywide, with the option for an extension. In an effort to further help the transient poor, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proposed a $1 billion bond measure to pay for subsidized apartments. The funds would cover housing as well as social services. And other plans to bring improvements downtown are in the works. In March, L.A. County officials unveiled a $100 million campaign that would house the estimated 14,000 homeless concentrated on downtownns Skid Row by expanding much needed countywide programs and providing more emergency and transitional housing, and health services. The campaign is part of a $12 billion investment plan to build 50,000 housing units countywide over a ten-year span.

Ten years ago nobody would have believed any of this was possible. And had it not been for the new public icons, Disney Concert Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Staples Center, it might not have been. And while major cultural and entertainment projects are no doubt paramount in a successful urban environment, the most important ingredient of all is the local population, be they new condo owners, low-income transients, factory workers, or artists. Finding a way for all income levels to thrive in the new downtown will be the challenge of city officials and developers.
Allison Milionis is a freelance writer living and working in Downtown Los Angeles.

mill street lofts
1820 Industrial Street
The Los Angeles office of German firm Behnisch Architects has designed one of the first ground-up, loft-style buildings in an area filled with adaptive re-use projects. We realized early on that because of the low scale of the surrounding buildings, if you built up you could offer amazing views of downtown,, said project architect Christof Jantzen. The building, developed by local firm LinearCity, stands 16 stories high and contains what Jantzen describes as eight different unit types,, ranging from 650 to 2,100 square feet and including single-, double-, and triple-story condos, some following the inverted L-shaped configurations that Le Corbusier used in his LLUnitt ddhabitation in Marseilles.


Behnisch Architects

In keeping with the spirit of the industrial loft conversions that surround the project, the project has a concrete structure with exposed concrete floors, tall ceilings, and large windows. The materials and fixtures used throughout will be sheet metal, fiber cement, and pre-cast concrete panelssall sustainable materials. In addition, operable windows, indirect sun-orientation, a gray-water treatment system, and a passive-cooling ventilation system might just earn the developer the LEED-rating it seeks. Adjacent to the 16-story highrise, a smaller set of townhousess shares the same material vocabulary as the loft building, though with more privacy.

I think the developers need to be highly praised for what theyyre doing,, said Jantzen. They have a vision for the area that will transform it into a great neighborhood.. In 2004, LinearCity also developed and sold lofts in an adjacent building, the ToY Factory, and is engaged in another adaptive reuse project across the street, the Biscuit Company Lofts by Aleks Istanbullu Architects.

Biscuit company lofts
673 Mateo Street
When Paul Solomon, founder of the development group LinearCity, called Los Angeles- based Aleks Istanbullu Architects to transform a pre-existing factory into residential condos, the architect knew immediately that he wanted to do something different from a standard conversion. He wanted to design loft spaces that vary in size, plan, and character throughout the boxy building, a 1925 biscuit-baking factory formerly owned by the manufacturer Nabisco.


courtesy aleks istanbullu architects

The site comprises the 110,000 square-foot, seven-story main structure and a single-story annex; Istanbullu will add an additional floor to each, increasing the total square footage to 153,000 square feet. On the main building, Istanbullu created a large penthouse with extensive outdoor space. He transformed the existing annex into a set of three-story row houses by carving out a mezzanine and adding a floor.

According to Istanbullu, the architects decided to use the contrast approachh on the additions, by which he means making clear the distinction between old and new. The penthouse and the top floor of the annex are constructed out of steel, stone, and glass, though the colors were chosen to complement the brick building below. It will remain largely intact, though Istanbullu adjusted the circulation to create irregular interior spaces. I really wanted variety, to find and create unique units,, said Istanbullu. Although the building is a box, by shaping the hallways in an odd configuration, I could get a lot of plan varieties.. New structural walls in the core of the building were installed to bring it up to building code, while some pre-existing, non-load-bearing walls were removed to keep a feeling of openness.

The interiors will be minimally outfitteddmost wonnt even include a refrigeratorrdominated by the pre-existing inch-thick maple floors, brick walls, and copper details. Like luxury loft-style condominiumns in New York City, prices will likely attract a wealthy clientele.

vibinia lofts
114 East 2nd Street
In 1996, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles initiated demolition of the 17,000-square-foot St. Vibiana Cathedral, its home since 1876, sparking a heated preservation battle that ultimately left it untouched and now the cornerstone of a major $120 million, 468,000 square-foot mixed-use development project by Los Angeles developer Tom Gilmore.


Courtesy Tom Gilmore

According to Gilmore, the Los Angeles Conservancy, a local preservation organization, approached him in 1997 and asked for assistance in purchasing the property, which includes a 2.5-acre lotta full city block. With money lent (somewhat ironically) by the Archdiocese itself, Gilmore bought the property for $4.6 million, pledging to restore the cathedral and ensure an active future for it.

Gilmore came to an agreement with the California State University to convert the cathedral into a performing arts space downtown, a plan that earned $4 million from the state toward the cost of restoration and seismic retrofitting.

I am an adamant urbanist,, said Gilmore, adding, IIm not a fan of little disconnected venues; I am all for density.. By transferring air rights from the cathedral and its connected refectory, Gilmore could plan a series of small mixed-use buildings and a 41-story residential highrise spread out throughout the site. Weere staggering the buildings and utilizing setbacks in order to create a pedestrian-friendly environment,, said Gilmore. Gilmore and his partner, Richard Weintraub, hired local architecture firm Nadel Architects to design the project, who began with massing diagrams to plan the site. The bottom line is that the skin and profile are less important than massing in a project of this scale,, Gilmore pointed out.

The $8 million restoration of the cathedral was completed last year, overseen by local preservation experts Levin & Associates Architects. The rest of the project is still in designnGilmore notes that the preliminary renderings are more flashy than IId like to see themm?as the project goes through planning and zoning. Gilmore hopes the tower, which will have 2,200 square feet of ground-level retail fronting a parking garage, will break ground in the beginning of 2007 and be completed in 2009.

Fuller Lofts
210 North San Fernando Road
One of the more notable adaptive-reuse conversions downtown is Santa Monicaabased Pugh + Scarpa Architectss restoration of the 1927 Fuller Pink Company, a former office building and a relic of L.A..s art deco moment. Though not an official landmark, it sports stunning details, including pilasters, sculpted floral bas reliefs, and according to principal architect Gwen Pugh, a wonderfully preserved lobby..


courtesy pugh + scarpa architect

Pugh + Scarpa has restored the five-floor, 151,000-square-foot building and added two additional floors, creating a total of 102 units. The architects cored out the center of the concrete building in order to create a 40-foot-wide lightwell and room for a small interior courtyard. The rooftop addition has its own identity, clad in glass and corrugated metal. On the buildinggs north side, the metal cladding undulates in plan, contrasting with the cube on which it is perchedda gesture that, according to Pugh, is intended to divorce the skin from the boxx and make the original buildinggs undecorated north facade more interesting.. On all sides, irregularly placed balconies, resembling constructivist boxes, further disrupt the original buildinggs simple planarity.

The Lincoln Heights district is roughly 2 miles from downtown, in an area thatts still largely undeveloped (parking lots and empty plots far outnumber supermarkets). According to Pugh, the Fuller Lofts is the only project in the immediate vicinity that has been motivated by the cityys new Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, which the city adopted in 1999 (and greatly expanded in 2003) in order to lure businesses downtown.


CIVICS LESSON
Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, Rafael Moneoos Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Thom Maynees Caltrans headquarters have changed the way Angelenos understand their downtown. Spectacular, freewheeling, and deeply moving, these buildings have drawn crowds and made architecture relevant, and perhaps essential. So why havennt more of the new public buildings followed suit? In the preceding decades, John Portmanns Bonaventure Hotel epitomized L.A..s style, which typically meant being walled off from the street, virtually impenetrable, and wrapped in a one-way mirror. Now public buildings are increasingly incorporating plazas, street-level portals, and transparent facades. Though many public buildings still embrace the bunker mentality, it might reflect bad planning and site selection as much as architectural design: The city still has the habit of plopping security-conscious buildings cheek-by-jowl to public-conscious ones. Whole street elevations are permitted to go unarticulated and turn a barren carapace to neighbors. Several new public projects reveal how far L.A. has come, and how far it has to go.

central los angeles area
High School #9

450 North Grand Avenue


armin heiss / isochrom / courtesy coop himmelb(l)au

After the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Coop Himmelb(l)auus High School for the Visual and Performing Arts may be one of the most dramatic structures to be completed in downtown L.A. The new structure, which began construction in March and is scheduled to openin 2008, will feature a dramatic glass and steel lobby and house 1,728 music, dance, visual and performing arts students. Estimated to cost $208 million, the signature feature of the school will be a 140-foot-tall tower that will give students a clear view of the adjacent Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

los angeles united states
Courthouse

First Street and Broadway


courtesy perkins and will
In 2001, Perkins + Will won a commission from the General Services Administration to design a 1,000,000-square-foot couthouse in downtown L.A. The 16-story building features approximately 40 courtrooms with floor-to-floor heights of 19 feet, along with some administrative office space and an expansive ground-floor atrium. Sustainability was crucial for the client and designers: Photovoltaic panels comprise about 50 percent of the large curving glass facade, under-floor circulation systems minimize heating and cooling costs, and clerestory windows throughout the courtrooms bring in natural daylight. The building is in still in design and construction should begin in mid to late 2007.

Los angeles police department headquarters
First and Main Streets


courtesy dmjm

Filling most of the block across from City Hall, the L.A.P.D..s new headquarters went through an extensive public review process while it was under design, and ultimately incorporated the lessons of over 30 community meetings. The architects, DMJM/Roth-Shepard Design, incorporated necessarily strong security requirements such as 75-foot setbacks to surround the building with public spaces. The 500,000-square-foot buildinggs two above-ground volumes form an L-shape around a large plaza along First Street. The budget is set for $303 million, and construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2008.

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GUIDING LIGHT

GLOW IN THE PARK

In Houston, an urban lighting scheme encourages people to look at the moon and stars

New York–based consultancy L'Observatoire International has taken an unusual approach to designing a lighting scheme for a public park in Houston, Texas: Rather than illuminate what's below, the lighting draws attention to the night sky. The design is part of a larger $15 million revitalization of the park, which is located on a 10-mile stretch of land along the Buffalo Bayou, a narrow waterway that snakes through the city's center. A local nonprofit, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, manages the funding and is overseeing restoration work, which will be completed in time for the park's opening on June 10.


During the new moon, the park is awash in soft blue light, preserving views of the stars, as the full moon approaches, blue light is replaced by white.

As part of a program to incorporate public art into the park, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership invited Massachusetts artist Steven Korns to design a lighting masterplan for the site in 2001. Korns, in turn, asked L'Observatoire principal Hervv Descottes to collaborate on the design. The team decided to pursue an urban lighting scheme that would respond to the cycle of the moon.

I really wanted to connect the low-level pathways with something celestial,, said Descottes. With lighting pollution, there is a lack of a sense of the existential. I think we all need to connect with the cosmos to get a new perspective, to know that we actually live in a much bigger space..



The entire system, which includes lighting the park's pathways and bridges, is set to the 291/2-day lunar cycle and each night the lights along the path change in a linear pattern. Beginning with the center bridge and moving outward on either side (the site contains 7 bridges), powerful blue-filtered lights below the bridges turn on, one by one, as the new moon approaches. By the time of the new moon, all of the lights will be on. The lampposts that line the pathways will also be a part of the ballet. Each will be topped with a small orb containing LEDs. As the new moon approaches, they will turn from white to blue, starting from the center bridge and spreading outward, until all the orbs and bridges are glowing blue. Conversely, as the full moon approaches, the lights turn back from blue to white as the bridge lights turn off. Simply put: The park is white for the full moon, and mostly blue for the new moon.



The idea was that with the new moon, maybe you don't need so much light because the sky is so clear, this way you have an opportunity to see the stars,, said Descottes. He added that with the blue light you get a sense of brightness but without glare. To further minimize the glare, the lights under bridges only appear blue or not at all. During the full moon, then, only the path lights and the orbs on top of them are illuminated, while the area under the bridges stays darkened. According to Descottes, this decision was in part budgetary ($600,000 was allocated for the lighting of the project), but also came about because the designers wanted to preserve the long shadows cast by the moon at its strongest.

The lights are all managed and synchronized by computer. In order to maximize the system's efficiency, the same wire that regulates the LEDs also powers them. The color of the lights was determined after testing several trial mock-ups; the blue and white combination not only minimizes interference but also refers to the changing color of light that the moon emits depending on its phase and the time of day.


Courtesy L'Observatoire International

The new lighting scheme is only one of many larger improvements throughout the park. The entire project includes public art projects, new hiking and cycling trails, streets, stairways, ramps, and landscape treatments along the water's edge including the installation of berms and flood controls. Buffalo Bayou couldn't be happier with the outcome of the lighting project. Said Anne Olsen, president of the nonprofit : Hervv and Steven demonstrated that subtle lighting can be beautiful and give a feeling of safety to an area that has been traditionally desolate at night.. Jaffer Kolb is an editor at an.


A THOUSAND POINTS OF LIGHT
LEDs light a hotel in Spain and provide a colorful map of its daily solar diet
In today's digitally driven world, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are as elemental to mass communication as the pony was to the Pony Express. In the realm of sustainable architecture, the photovoltaic cell has an equally ubiquitous reputation as the basic building block for greater and more complex mechanisms.


The mesh screen will all but disappear at night, leaving multi-colored leds that seem to float. During the day, the screen will shade the building, passively conserving energy.

Increasingly, the two are united for applications in architecture, most notably in lighting systems in areas that are without electrical wiring. The two might seem at oddssLED screens suggest energy consumption on the spectacular level of Times Square, while photovoltaics retain a whiff of hay bale earnestnesssbut the two can be paired with interesting results. By devising a metal mesh studded with thousands of photovoltaically-powered LEDs, the Spanish architect Enric Ruiz-Geli has done just this for the Habitat Hotel, a project that will be completed in a suburb of Barcelona next year. Ruiz-Geli collaborated with Acconci Studio on landscaping and Brazilian architect Ruy Ohtake on the building design, while the lighting design was done entirely in house by Ruiz-Geli's firm, Cloud 9. The mesh wrapper begins to glow at night based on the amount and quality of the light the solar cells have taken in over the course of the day.



The building itself is a fairly regular and boxy 11-level volume with a few step-backs and terraces on the upper three levels. A series of metal posts jut out diagonally from the corners of the building, providing a loose skeleton upon which a largely transparent metal-link mesh drapes. The mesh screen is relatively fluid in profile, with parabolic concavities determined by the posts that give the curtain's grid a curvilinear appearance. The drape is comprised of a dense circuit of 5,000 hemispherical lighting units, each of which contains a photovoltaic receptor as well as a standard LED.



During the day, the photovoltaic receptors collect solar energyythe amount of which will vary widely depending on factors including sun angle, strength, number of daylight hours, cloud cover, and ambient pollutionnand store this energy to a standard solar battery. As soon as the sun sets, the computer notifies a microprocessor in each unit that activates the batteries to power the LEDs. In that instant, all 5,000 LEDs simultaneously turn on, displaying a rainbow of colors determined by the level of energy collected. LEDs operate by combining red, green, and blue to create different colors, red requiring the least energy and white the most. Thus, if the receptor has collected a small amount of energy, the light will shine a dim red. From that point, the LEDs respectively emit green, blue, yellow, magenta, cyan, and ultimately white as determined by increased energy levels. The drape becomes a three-dimensional diagram of its own solar diet. At sunrise, the lights turn back off, and the receptors begin collecting energy once again.

Lighting Fixture Detail
1 Green translucent plastic base
2 Curved glass
3 Photovoltaic cell
4 Cable mesh
5 Batteries
6 Structural silicon joint


This union of ecology and technology may seem like a sort of narcissistic advertising gimmick at first, but the mesh is, to its credit, more than that. The hemispherical cells are large enough and far away enough from the volume beneath to cast shadows on 20 percent of the building's total surface area, substantially reducing the buildings cooling costs. The architect likens the cells to the leaves of a tree, passively providing shade during the day to anyone below it. Beneath the drape, small trees, plants, and pools are placed on the building's various setbacks and terraces to further enhance the building's unique microclimate. Barcelona, perched just a half degree north of New York's latitude, experiences a similarly broad range of temperature variation; the building's sensitivity to climate changes demonstrates the architect's understanding of regional needs. Despite the self-sustaining efficiency of the mesh drape, the building itself will be powered by Barcelona's electrical grid.

While the building falls short of truly being able to call itself a card-carrying member of the sustainability party, the use of the hybrid photovoltaic-powered LED units is an exciting development in both technology and aesthetics. Considering that contemporary architecture must become increasingly communicative and sustainable, particularly in large urban centers, Habitat Hotel is an exceptional example of how to be passive and active at the same time.

Peter Christensen is curatorial assistant in the Department of Architecture and Design at moma. The Habitat Hotel was included in moma's recent exhibition On-Site: New Architecture in Spain.


AU NATUREL
Natural daylighting regains popularity among energy-conscious architects
Daylight has always been an integral part of architecture, but in the past ten years there has been a decided shift in natural lighting trends: Designers are putting more time and energy toward integrating effective daylighting schemes in their architecture and developers are increasingly willing to support them despite often higher costs.

This is due in part to a growing body of research that links well day-lit buildings to energy savings as well as improved human performance. One study, conducted by the Heschong Mahone Group of Sacramento, measured the performance of students taking standardized tests in day-lit and non-day-lit rooms. The scores of those in day-lit rooms rose as much as 26 percent more than those in rooms without windows. Another Heschong Mahone study showed that day-lit retail stores experience 40 percent higher sales.

Naturally ventilated and day lit, the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School designed by Mahlum Architects won the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects Award for 2006. below right: Tanteri + Associates' recent restoration of the museo de arte de ponce (puerto rico, designed in 1964 by edward durell stone) features new skylights that eliminate the need for artificial lighting.

There are also now more daylighting resources available to architects. Six years ago there were only three labs in the country that conducted daylight testing. Now there are 20.

There has been an attitude change as a result of the growing knowledge being disseminated,, said Russ Leslie, a program director at the Lighting Research Center in Troy, New York. The Lighting Research Center is a university-based center that's running a multi-year joint research program called Daylight Dividends. The $1.3 billion program, launched in 2003, has received funding from the U. S. Department of Energy, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and energy interests in California, Connecticut, Iowa, North Carolina, and the Pacific Northwest. Aimed at facilitating the implementation of daylight strategies in buildings, the program involves market research and technology development.

Leslie credits the Pacific Northwest for reviving the natural daylighting craze. Northwest architects are very proactive about promoting daylighting in buildings. They've been running outreach programs there for the past ten years..

michael tanteri / courtesy tanteri + associates


Joel Loveland, director of the Seattle Daylighting Lab, which offers consulting services to architects, likes to mention a study conducted by Pacific Gas & Electric in the late 1980s, which asked architects if they included daylighting as a strategy. Ninety percent said yes, but when investigated it turned out that less than 3 percent actually conducted any analysis.

Today people are actually being held accountable for the performance of day-lit buildings,, said Loveland. Projects that seek LEED certification are now getting points for daylighting. And California's 2006 Title 24, a bill that has had a ripple effect on legislation throughout the country, requires daylighting in a large portion of commercial buildings.

The Seattle Daylighting Lab utilizes sophisticated machinery to conduct its analysis of building models, including mirror-box, overcast sky, and heliodon sun simulators, and digital photographic and light-flux metering equipment, but Loveland is dismissive of the tendency to make his work sound high-tech. Daylighting isn't rocket science,, said Loveland. It's putting windows and skylights in the right place to evenly distribute light and it's removing or shading windows that would lead to glare or head loading..

Loveland and the Daylighting Lab recently worked on the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Kirkland, Washington, a 58,000-square-foot, two-story school designed by Mahlum Architects of Seattle. The school is broken into volumes that are clustered around courtyards; all interiors are naturally ventilated and day lit. The architects worked with the Daylighting Lab from the early design stages to help determine massing and alignment, devising strategies such as adjusting roof angles, minimizing apertures, and installing blinds and other window treatments.


Benjamin Benschneider / Courtesy Mahlum Architects


But daylighting a building in the Pacific Northwest and daylighting a building in New York City are two different challenges. Skyscrapers are huge energy consumers,, said Matthew Tanteri, a New Yorkkbased daylighting consultant who also teaches at Parsons. They are conceived with a complete disconnect between inside and outside.. Perimeter daylighting, which is all that is generally available in a skyscraper, relies on an aperture-height-to-depth ratiooone that in many tall buildings is not sufficient to adequately daylight an interior. Now, there are light-capturing and funneling devices that can bring daylight down into at least the top few floors,, he noted.

In spite of these challenges, Tanteri said that daylighting awareness is on the rise in New York City, in part due to the energy code which now requires buildings to consume less that 1 watt per square foot. Reaching this goal is complicated by the fact that buildings in New York City take longer to cool off due to its high density. Manhattan is a huge heat sink,, said Tanteri. It can be 50 degrees outside and you still have to have the air conditioning on inside..

As part of his efforts to promote the use of daylight, Tanteri is also working with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America to develop a metric for quantifying daylight. In Europe such a measurement already exists. Known as Daylighting Autonomy, it measures the percentage of time daylight will fulfill a target illumination and offers a direct understanding of how much the daylighting load will take off electric lighting. If you have an understandable and commonly used metric to quantify daylighitng then it's easier to get a building owner to understand the benefits,, said Tanteri. Aaron Seward is a frequent contributor to an.


LIGHTING THE WAY
The country's premiere lighting research center burns brighly
You hear them all the time: proclamations about all things light-relatedd?LEDs last 100,000 hourss; Xenon headlights allow you to see 300 yards further than halogenss; You need a minimum of 4 hours, 5 minutes, and 53 seconds of sunlight each day to stay healthyy?but who determines them? Who tests them and checks up on them? Much of what we know about lighting comes from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's (RPI) in Troy, New York. Founded in 1988, the center is dedicated to testing, exploring, and inventing lighting technologies.

Computer models of specific sites allow transportation lighting researchers to determine light trespassing,, the amount of light that moves between lots and into the roadways.

At the LRC, faculty and students participate in various research projects funded by private and public sources, such as Sylvania, Boeing, the states of New York and California, the Environmental Protection Agency, and many others. The facility plays an important part in the school's lighting programs; RPI offers a master's degree in lighting design and doctorate in architecture with a concentration in lighting design, the only PhD in lighting in the country. At any given time there are between 12 and 25 students and 33 staff members occupying 25,000 square feet of renovated space in the Gurley Building, previously a scientific-instrument manufacturing factory.

While the LRC (and RPI in general) is perceived as engineering-oriented, Russ Leslie, associate director at the center, countered, We aren't divorced from design, but we do approach design as something that requires extensive research and an understanding of precedent.. With its ties to industry and technology development, it's no surprise that one strong goal of the center is, in Leslie's words, to produce industry leaders who can effect change in policy, a generation that will work intimately with the government and groups to devise strategies that can really improve quality of life..


Courtesy Lighting Research Center
The NLPIP monitors thousands of light bulbs from various manufacturers to test for longevity and brightness.

The largest programs at LRC encompass research in light and health, transportation lighting, energy efficiency, solid-state lighting, lighting metrics, as well as product testing. According to Leslie, the LRC operates on a yearly budget of $4 to $6 million, with only 3 percent coming from RPI. The rest is funded through grants, which explains why a tour of the Gurley Building is like walking through a fun house of experiments, where every few feet another mock-up or project-in-development is aglow.

Dr. Maria Figueiro, a professor at the LRC and director of the light and health program, describes the center's research as mostly bound by a goal of measuring and testing. You can make any statement you want about something like circadian rhythms or light and productivity, but someone out there needs to quantify them and make recommendations based on research findings..

The light and health programs do extensive testing of, for example, how exposure to varying levels of light can prevent breast cancer and stimulate people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Most of our research has only been going on for only two or three years, so we can't make specific recommendations yet,, said Figueiro, but we're getting an idea of what we can tell people to make a difference..

The LRC created a mockup of an airport runway to determine how much solar-powered LED-emitted light is needed to safely guide pilots in areas with little or unreliable electricity.

As part of its transportation lighting program, the LRC is involved in projects ranging from testing headlights for automobile manufacturers to overhauling federal roadway guidelines for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). One ongoing research project is the study of the effects of lighttfrom houses, buildings, signs, lampposts, any possible source from every possible angleeon drivers. We try and look at the all things as part of the larger system,, said Dr. John Van Derlofske, head of the program.

A light device that is used to test how varying levels of light can regulate people's circadian rhythms.

The LRC strives to act as a regulatory force in the lighting industry. To this end, in 1990, it established the National Lighting Product Information Program (NLPIP), a product-testing division that is increasingly regarded by the industry as an objective third-party rating source. And recently, it created a division dedicated to determining and implementing a universal lighting metric system that would allow consumers and manufacturers to better relate to lighting products and systems. Soon, we might all share the conviction of LRC researchers, that light really can better the mind, body, spirit, and the world around us. JK
 

GROUND CONTROL
Turn on the lights, heat up the Jacuzzi, pull down the shadessall from a single control

Courtesy Available Light
The systems of this house, now under construction in Gladwell, Pennsylvania, will be interconnected and controllable from anywhere in the world.

Smart Houses have been on the horizon for some time nowwa promise of a techno-gadget heaven for some and of Orwellian terror for others. With computers increasingly integrated in building systems and appliances, that vision is coming closer to reality, accompanied by the emergence of systems-integration specialists.

Systems integration creates a network among a building's systems such as HVAC, lighting, audio-visual, security, even plumbing. The way that information is exchanged is becoming increasingly important,, said Abhay Wadhwa, founder of Available Light, a New Yorkkbased lighting firm that has collaborated with Philadelphia architecture firm Point B Design on a technologically integrated house in Gladwell, Pennsylvania. Systems integration must begin early in the design process, with a consultant advising both architects and technical consultants, ensuring, for example, that physical components, such as built-in audio-visual systems and lighting fixtures, are designed around pipelines and electrical wiring. Such planning can also ensure better performance, overlaying the varying functions of the house on a power grid. If a load changes from fluorescent to incandescent, your wattage could rise ten times on the circuit,, said Wadhwa. This would be hard to handle, typically, but the model will tell you exactly what effects may be produced in terms of the rest of the building's mechanics.. Practically speaking, this kind of holistic approach to planning the infrastructure of a building saves time and money by reducing redundancies. Rather than each consultant producing diagrams and plans that later have to be compiled and cross-checked, a systems integration consultant orchestrates planning from the outset.

Once the systems are installed, the smart environment is essentially a convenient method of management for the building's occupant. In the Gladwell residence, which broke ground in October and will be completed in early 2007, the entertainment system (television, projectors, sound), HVAC, and security (which includes motion and fire detectors) are all connected to a single processor which is in turn linked to an automated mechanical and plumbing processor. This processor is linked not only to the thermostats throughout the house, but also to the water pressure gauge, the pool drainage and cleaning system, and the hot tub. These systems are connected to an Ethernet-based server that also controls the house's lighting system.

All systems can be viewed and accessed on small 10-inch touch screens placed throughout the house. Because they are managed through a remote IP account, they can also be monitored and controlled from anywhere in the world. Some might ask, to what end? In the case of the Gladwell project, a 2,500-square-foot art gallery extends from the primary 8,000-square-foot residence, and requires highly flexible lighting, climate, and security systems.

Others point to the comfort and convenience systems integration can provideefrom allaying the fears of vacation-goers who worry about the proverbial coffee pot being left on to elderly or handicapped persons who can sit with their laptop and turn lights on or off throughout the home with the stroke of a computer key. There is one concern that may not be diverted, however: If you can access your home from abroad, who else can? Apparently it's not a widely held fear, as Available Light has systems integration projects in Hong Kong, New Delhi, Dubai, and New York. JK

BIRD ON A WIRE
Bill Pedersen reimagines the conference room light

Courtesy Ivalo
The systems of this house, now under construction in Gladwell, Pennsylvania, will be interconnected and controllable from anywhere in the world.

Through her six-year-old company Ivalo Lighting, Susan Hakkarainen is proving to be a discerning design patron. It is unlikely, though, that she sees herself as a Medici. In describing her working relationship with her commissioned designerssincluding Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis and Winka Dubbeldammshe said, They are the artists, and I bring the understanding of technology, fabrication, and the market..

New to her list of designers is William Pedersen of Kohn Pedersen Fox , who has designed L'ale, a pendant light which was just unveiled at New York's ICFF. Susan is an amazing scientist in her own right,, he said, and brings an incredible intensity to finding exactly the right source or fabricator or material.. For L'ale's 4-foot, 8-inch winglike span to have the crispness and ability to spread light horizontally that Pedersen wanted, Hakkarainen looked into a wide variety of fabrication methods and materials. We wanted a seamlessness for the wings, which meant we couldn't stamp them since the parts would never mate up; the same is true for injection molding,, she explained. We even looked into superplastic deformationna mixture of thermal forming and stampinggand realized that they would warp in welding.. They ultimately decided to use fiberglass and resin composite in a mold, so that there is no stress on the materials as they cure and thus no disfigurement.

Another important part of Hakkarainen's contribution to L'aleeand to all of Ivalo's hanging fixturessis a proprietary technology that allows for incredibly slender electric cables. Between the current-bearing wire and the thin stainless steel-mesh covering are two layers of Teflon. The Teflon allows the cable to glide independently of the outer sleeve, which bears the fixture's weight, and keeps the structural and current-bearing elements apart.

Before starting a new collaboration, Hakkarainen will often identify a problem or an area in which she feels lighting fixtures could be rethought. This way, she feels, the design process has a tightness it might otherwise lack. It isn't just arbitrary form-making,, she said. For Pedersen, the problem was the conference room light. The two thought about the dialogue that happens in such a room, and wanted the light to create a spatial intimacy. Pedersen decided that multiple fixtures could imply a canopy more successfully than a single, massive object, or an embracing form, like L'ale's. It is sort of like a baldacchino in a church,, he said, it creates a sheltered space within a space.. ANNE GUINEY is an editor at an.
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Destination: Morgan

Renzo Piano completes his first New York commissionn the three-year, $106 million renovation and expansion of the Pierpont Morgan Library. Julie V. Iovine observes how Piano preserves the intimacy of the original but risks losing some of its immediacy by making it a crowd-pleaser. Photography by Dan Bibb.



On April 29, a transformed Pierpont Morgan Library rejoins the Manhattan museum scene, a landscape much-altered itself, both physically and psychically, since the Morgan closed for renovation three years ago. In that time, the beloved, ebulliently gaudy house-museum has undergone a vast makeover by Italian architect Renzo Piano who, when commissioned for the job in 2000, had an avid insider following and has since become a bona fide international superstar. Meanwhile, the newly gargantuan Museum of Modern Art has shown that critical skepticism has no bearing at all on popularity. Culture in general has taken a drubbing at Ground Zero (Drawing Center evicted; Frank Gehry's performance hall aborted; Snnhetta's Freedom Center nullified), underscoring the reality that no one puts particular stock any more in the power of art to uplift. J. P. Morgan would have been mortified.

After all, the Morgan Library was the rich man's sanctum and treasure horde turned tenderly over to New Yorkers so that they might be bettered through contact. And people have been passionate and personal about the place ever since. In the early 1990s, Paul Goldberger, then architecture critic at the The New York Times, described the experience of visiting as both tranquil and intense. Who wouldn't be entranced by the McKim, Mead & White portico and rotunda, the lavish H. Siddons Mowbray murals, the brocaded walls and gilded swags? John Russell, former art critic of The New York Times, dreamed of being locked overnight inside its walls. It's no surprise considering what it contains: drawings by Rembrandt, da Vinci, DDrer, and Degas; three Gutenburg bibles; one of only two extant copies of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur; Mary Shelley's own annotated copy of Frankenstein; architectural plans by Inigo Jones; etchings by Piranesi; JRR Tolkien kvetching in letters about the Hobbit; jeweled bindings; illuminated manuscripts galore; and on and on.

Piano was charged not with enlarging but rather, as he put it, rebalancing and rethinking the institution which had grown somewhat haphazardly over the years into a three-plus-building sprawl. He called his method micro-surgery.. Adding 75,000 square feet, even with more than half of it underground and the rest in the shape of a glazed- shed-covered piazza plus pavilions jimmied around the extant buildings, is hardly micro. The medical analogy is, however, apt because like cosmetic surgery, Piano has masterfully preserved the original while partially smoothing, even immobilizing, its vital lifelines.



The grand covered piazzaa or atrium is the centerpiece of Renzo Piano's design for the expanded library



Two balconies extend into the space, and some staff offices overlook it, but are glazed for acoustic privacy.

The Morgan Library is new and improved all right; in fact, Piano (with the local collaboration of Beyer Blinder Belle) has rendered it perfectly into one of the most au courant of building types: the destination museum. Whether Piano's Morgan has the power to incite passionate allegiance, much less a desire to be locked inside overnight, is more doubtful.

It could not have been an easy job. Bartholomew Voorsanger tried in 1991 with a $40 million expansion and courtyard. And let's not forget the ill-fated invitational competition of the late 1990s with Steven Holl Architects, Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates, and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, which was abruptly cancelled. Piano had declined to participate but offered his services in case perfect solutions didn't materialize. Now, 15 years and $106 million laterrVoorsanger's and a few other minor additions razed without a traceethe library has been transformed again. Voorsanger's glass court might have been unloved, but it could not be considered a total failure; it did brisk business in party rentals, netting as much as $15,000 for evening events. Piano's renovation is not about adding square footage but, as director Charles E. Pierce, Jr., said in 2002, about providing greater public access.. The Morgan's new high-impact spaces are bound to be in great demand (and the fee for rentals sure to be higher))a goal that many institutions have come to share.

Piano's scheme is sublimely serene. He has treated the Morgan's three main buildingssan 1852 Renaissance Revival brownstone, the 1906 McKim mini-Met and its pared down twin, the annex of 19288as the corner anchors to his central focus, a glass-enclosed, light-filled piazza.

At the edges of the atrium space, he has inserted several elements, varied in scale, homogenous in material, and visible as connective tissue between old and new. The inserts are made of rolled steel panels painted off-white (press materials say they are rose-hued but on a sunny afternoon it looked powdery white to me). The largest piece encompasses the new entrance on Madison Avenue, which leads through a spacious cherry-wood clad tunnel directly to the piazza. A new gallery and reading room are located on the floors above this entrance volume. The smallest addition is a 20-foot cube, containing a gallery, tucked between the original McKim library and the annex. Though it's been cited in earlier articles as a climactic moment in Piano's design, it does not have the inscrutable impact promised by its perfect dimensions, at least not for this visitor. And curators may be hard pressed to take full advantage of its modest space in any way other than as a showcase for one singular item at a time, albeit, displayed to shine in all its glory.

Before making a beeline for an unoccupied caff table in the piazza, visitors will be tempted to descend a wide stair gaping downward at the lip of the entrance passage. Those who give into the urge will view a steel-encased treasure-holding vault sunk three stories into Manhattan's bedrock schist. Neat. Sunk below, too, is a new 280-seat performance hall. One enters at the top row of a steeply inclined auditorium baffled in slightly curled chips of cherry wood. The space is more elegant than expressionistic, a wonderfully intimate spoken-word stage.



J. P. Morgan's wood-paneled music room (below, right) will now hold the bookstore.

So what's missing then? Crowd-pleasing (event-friendly) piazza and caffécheck. Sculptural object cubeecheck. Cool performance space, naturally. A fancy restaurant and much-expanded shop are a quick detour right off the entrancee good plan. Oh, yes, the collection. Barely encountered. To actually find the prizes for which the library is so well known, one must wander a bit. A narrow vaulted passage to the right and set back from the entrance leads past an old elevator bank to two spacious galleries (and a gallery hall, once the museum entrance) in the old annex. In the far corner off the piazza, J. P.'s original library and study have been restored to full robber-baron Rococo style. And then there's the new gallery on the second floor of the entrance pavilion. For the inaugural greatest hits exhibition, some 300 objects will be on display through out the museummthat's less than 0.09 percent of the 350,000-piece-strong collection. So much for increased public access.



The vast majority of the new 75,000 square feet of space is underground, and accessible via a staircase located just past the entrance.

The new Morgan oozes the calm elegance of masstige modernism. On a smaller scale, it employs many of the same moves as Yoshio Taniguchi's MoMA, such as a vertically compressed, horizontally expansive entrance giving way to breathtaking volume. Instead of procession, the experience is more like scaling levels and discovering views of where you were a moment ago. Whereas Taniguchi used bridges, Piano has two balconies alongside a Hyatt-esque glass elevator peering over the piazza. Both capture unexpected and refreshing views of the buildings beyond (though the balcony off the reading room is accessible only to those with reading room passes).

And like the Museum Tower coming down to ground undisguised in the main lobby of MoMA (as if to holler, Don't forget me!!), so too do the three old Morgan buildings reveal themselves in the new atrium space. It's a little bit like catching a glimpse, from the knee down, of a giant whose head is in the clouds. While MoMA is all about pumping visiting hordes out of the central chamber into the building's arteries and galleries, Piano, despite having been called a poet of circulation,, seems content for people to stay put in the voluminous piazza. Unquestionably, the Morgan will become a cool place to meet and hang out (although at the moment, the only seating seems to be at the caff's tables). The light filtering in through complex but not particularly high-tech skylights (another Piano trademark) will be delicious. Staff offices have been allocated generous spaces in the 1852 Italianate brownstone with some walls sheered off and glassed over in order to give some lucky employees vistas of their own; a conservation studio is tucked up and out of the way at roof-top level.

The new Morgan is purre-perfect, blemish-free. People will flock to get in. And yet on a recent sunny afternoon, the piazzaasurrounded by limestone, electronically shaded glass, powder-coated steelllooked deadly calm. The Morgan has acquired a seamless, beautiful new mask. What may be lost is the quickening, possibly even vulgar, feeling of excitement that one man wanted to impart to others by sharing his precious treasures with the world.

Julie V. Iovine writes frequently for The New York Times and other publications. She is the features director at Elle DDcor and architecture critic for AN.

Drawings Key
1 Entrance
2 Atrium
3 Exhibitions
4 Cafe
5 Retail
6 Original Library
7 Staff Offices
8 Reading Rooms
9 Performance Hall
10 Education





The Pierpont Morgan Library

Design Architect:
Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Executive Architect:
Beyer Blinder Belle Architects
Construction Manager:
F. J. Sciame Construction Co.
Structural Engineer:
Robert Silman Associates
MEP Engineer:
Cosentini Associates
Curtain Wall: Front, Inc., Gartner
Acoustics: Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, Kahle Acoustics
Landscape Consultant:
H. M. White Site Architects
Lighting Designer: Arup

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Patchwork City


All renderings courtesy respective firms
The development of the Queens waterfront is modeled after that of Battery Park City. Now on the drawing boards are (from left to right) residential highrises by V Studio/Walkergroup, Arquitectonica, Perkins Eastman, and Handel Architects.

 

 

Patchwork City

The future skyline of Queens bears a superficial resemblance to Jersey City: More than a dozen tall buildings are planned to rise along the Queens Waterfront and, as a result of Special District zoning, many others are in the works in Long Island City and Hunters Point. As D. Grahame Shane reports, the Department of City Planning's surgical approach to zoning is stimulating strategic development throughout the borough, promising a series of dynamic urban patchess as well as some awkward seams.

While New Yorkers witnessed an epic battle for the top-down control of the World Trade Center site, replete with power players channeling Robert Moses, the New York Department of City Planning (DCP) has been quietly leading an urban planning revolution with a small-scale, bottom-up approach throughout the boroughs. The unveiling last month of Richard Rogers Partnership's design of a massive mixed-use project on the Queens waterfront for Silvercup Studios portends a dense, monumental future for the low-scale, still-industrial area. But various rezonings throughout Queenssincluding Long Island City, Hunters Point, and a dozen other neighborhoodssare in fact setting the framework for more incremental development in the borough, encouraging a unique fabric of mixed uses, spaces, scales, densities, and textures.

From its colonial beginning New York was part of an archipelago, a network of small patches of European settlements connected by boats, New Amsterdam, Brooklyn, Hoboken, and Harlem. The large open spaces of Queens have always attracted those unable to find accommodation in Manhattan, from the farmers and fishermen of the colonial period to the industrialists of the 19th and 20th centuries who deposited their ports, factories, warehouses, oil refineries, cement plants, and more in the marshy headland bound by the East River and Newtown Creek. With its evolving transportation linkssbridges, tunnels, ferries, and raillheavy industry thrived in the area. The huge spaces that were carved out by industrial uses have taken on new meaning today, with Manhattan's squeezed housing market and changed attitudes about commuting. Suddenly, the rust-belt patches around Long Island City are attractive real estate.

In 2001, the Museum of Modern Art's temporary move to LIC highlighted the area's nascence as a cultural district. The same year, the Group of 35, a panel created by Senator Charles Schumer representing public and private interests, issued a report calling for the creation of a new business district in LIC, suggesting 15 million square feet of office space and citing the benefits of a planneddthough sadly now defunctt?word-class intermodal transit stationn at Sunnyside Yards. (The yard has a small LIRR stop and a ferry terminal nearby; the plan for the hub would have folded in stops for Amtrak, NJ Transit, and the MTA, whose routes all cross there.)

The intensification of development in Queens has actually been in process for some time. In 1984, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PA) took over a large portion of the Queens docklands and, together with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), created a 74-acre development patch under the auspices of the Queens West Development Corporation (QWDC). QWDC follows the Battery Park City model of development (also created by the ESDC), with phased parcels bid to separate developers. Two buildings have been completed (one by Cesar Pelli, 1998, and another by Perkins Eastman, 2001), and more than a dozen more are planned. Though far from complete, Queens West already appears to be isolated and out of scale with its surroundings, despite well-intentioned efforts to create open spaces and waterfront views.

By contrast, the DCP has adopted a more targeted approach to the rest of Queens, with timely responses to particular urban actors in particular locations. The DCP is actually building on an approach that was pioneered in the 1960s by Mayor John Lindsay's Urban Design Group (members included Jonathan Barnett, Alexander Cooper, Jaquelin Robertson, Richard Weinstein, and Richard Dattner), which abandoned masterplanning on a city-wide, regional scale and introduced Special District zoning. Based on a 1916 zoning ordinance addressing skyscrapers downtown, Special Districts under the Urban Design Group began as relatively simple mechanisms to protect small residential communities like Little Italy and Chinatown from large-scale development. Later, the concept was applied to create a Theater Special District, to protect Broadway theaters and allow the transfer of their valuable air rights to neighboring sites. This system of controlled zoning patches evolved into a complex, three-dimensional, multifunctional, incentive-based design methodology that paved the way for Cooper and Eckstut's 1978 masterplan of Battery Park City.

Under Amanda Burden, who has been planning commissioner and director of the DCP since 2002, Special Districts zoning has evolved further still, to encompass micro-patches of upzoning, downzoning, mixed-use, and historic and industrial preservation. Her LIC Mixed-Use Special District was in fact her first exercise, and presaged similar strategies in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, East Harlem, and Chelsea.

This finely calibrated approach to zoning can be seen in three of current hot patchess of development in Queens:

Queens Plaza Special Improvement District
Mayor Rudy Giuliani's Adult Entertainment Zoning of the late 1990s exiled some of Times Square's porn shops, strip clubs, and prostitution to this long-neglected industrial gateway. Few paid attention to the area, until 2000 when Michael Bailkin and Paul Travis of the Arete Group tried to buy two large sites, including a large city-owned garage, at the junction of Queens Plaza and Jackson Avenue. The same developers bought the air rights to part of Sunnyside Yards. Their moves prompted the DCP (then directed by Joseph Rose) to devise the Queens Plaza Special District (approved in 2001) that featured incentive bonuses and Urban Design Guidelines that called for broad setbacks, new parks, and ground-floor retail to enliven the street. The lots that Arete sought (which have since gone to Tishman Speyer) were upzoned to Floor Area Ratio (FAR) 12, signaling a dense future for LIC.

The city has also responded to pressure from public interest groups, like the Municipal Arts Society, the Regional Plan Association, and the Van Alen Institute. The latter organized the Queens Plaza competition in 200112002, which addressed the need to do something about the gloomy stretch of roadway beneath the noisy Queensborough Bridge. In 2002, the city selected Margie Ruddick as a lead consultant (on a team that initially included Michael Sorkin and Michael Singer) to develop a landscape design that would improve the public spaces, lighting, traffic flow, and general streetscape of Queens Plaza. Ruddick, who is now collaborating with Marpillero/Pollak, described her intention to make the left-over spaces legible as a landscape that helps you get from one place to another, making connections across the space under the bridge.. Her scheme emphasizes improved circulation; bicycle and pedestrian paths and crossings abound. Near the waterfront section, she has planned a cathedral-like space under the bridge, which will act as a seam between the planned Silvercup West project and the Queensbridge Houses, a massive housing project built by the New York City Housing Authority in 1941. The plan is currently under review by the Fine Arts Commission.

Long Island City Mixed-Use Special District (2004)
Compared to the crude zoning of Queens Plaza, the LIC Mixed-Use Special District is more finely textured and varied. The DCP divided the area into three sub-districts, which form a triangle around a gritty industrial core that will be preserved: The Long Island City Core Sub-District is a small enclave driven by developers and already contains Citigroup's skyscraper at Court Square, the borough's first tall building. This very compact, high-density patch (zoned at FAR 12) has many tax incentives and has already attracted a second Citigroup tower and United Nations Federal Credit Union building, both under construction. The 1989 Citigroup tower, with its interior cafeteria and attached car park, never sponsored street life. Under the revised Urban Design Guidelines, both the new buildings will have street level retail to foster pedestrian activity and new plantings, furniture, and parks. The neighboring Jackson Avenue Mixed-Use Sub-District (approved 2004) borders the Sunnyside Yards. Here, warehouses and factories, like the 254-unit Arris Building, are being converted to residential lofts and offices. The upzoning to FAR 7 and Urban Design Guidelines under study by the Volmer Group are aimed at remaking Jackson Avenue into a densely built commercial boulevard, containing 3 million square feet of offices stretching from Court Square to Queens Plaza's subway node. The aim is to create a vibrant street life, with cafes, restaurants, and stores,, said Burden. The plan calls for widened sidewalks, tree planting, kiosks, seating, and night lighting.

The density on Jackson Avenue decreases in the Hunters Point Mixed-Use Rezoning Sub-District (approved in 2004). Individual urban actors predominate in this area, with small-scale housing, auto-body shops, galleries, and artists' studios. Burden saw this area as containing the soull of LIC. Fearing the large scale of development on the nearby waterfront, residents have been organizing themselves into groups, like the 49th Street Block Association and the Hunters Point Community Organization. The city downzoned this patch within a general FAR 5 intended to protect the arts area around the P.S.1 cultural center.

Queens Waterfront (1980s to present)
The small-scale flexibility of LIC's new mixed-use subdistricts is nonexistent on the waterfront. As a state agency, the ESDC formulated Queens West with almost no community input, though pressure from Hunters Point residents did ensure that a continuous landscaped riverfront would be publicly accessible.

The completion of the 42-story City Lights tower by Cesar Pelli for Manhattan Overlook Associates (1998) and 32-floor tower by Perkins Eastman for Avalon Bay (2001) have skyscraper-shocked local residents into paying attention to what is happening to the rest of the waterfront. Local groups are starting to pressure the QWDC to break down Queens West's 1980s masterplan and work at a smaller scale. To deflect criticism, in 2004 the ESDC revised Phase II of the 1980s masterplan, which includes seven buildings by Rockrose, with designs by Arquitectonica and Handel Architects. Last year, State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan was quoted in the Queens Chronicle as saying, I think it is appropriate and past due time for Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg to review the plan for Queens West and begin a dialogue with the community as to the importance of affordable housing for the work soon to be scheduled on the southern portion of the site.. The southern portion, known as Queens West South (Phase III), was most recently publicized as the site of the proposed Olympic Village, with a winning masterplan by Morphosis. Though New York lost its Olympic bid, the exercise offered a vision of the area as a new vibrant neighborhood.

Burden is currently negotiating with Frances Huppert, the design director of the ESDC, to get the corporation to break down the scale of their development into more manageable patches, including mixed-income housing, which could link to the surrounding Hunters Point Special District. Burden also hopes that a pedestrian bridge across Newtown Creek can someday connect the Queens West esplanade to the waterfront planned for Greenpoint-Williamsburg.

North of Queens West lie two of the hottest patches in Long Island City. The first project is River East, a scenographic, set-piece street of mixed-use townhouses and lofts with two glass-skinned 30-story towers at the riverside, designed by Jay Valgora and developed by Vernon Realty. The buildings bracket a street that frames a view of the United Nations. Beyond River East lies an empty Con Edison site, and next to that is Silvercup West, the expansion of Stuart and Alan Suna's film and production studios. The Sunas took advantage of an extension of the upzoning of the Queensborough Bridge Plaza Special District to create a 2-million-square-foot, hyper-dense, mixed-use matrix of film studios, roof gardens, office and residential towers spread over 6 acres, unveiled by the Richard Rogers Partnership last month after the plan received its Uniform Land Use and Regional Planning Review (ULURP) letter of certification. The scheme offers a 40-foot-wide riverfront esplanade designed by the Laurie Olin Partnership that will link to Margie Ruddick's Queens Plaza landscape scheme (see sidebar).

Queens waterfront demonstrates the limits of the patchwork approach, where heterogeneous patches are connected by a weak link, the waterfront.

The advantage of a patch-by-patch approach is its specificity and its ability to capture the dynamic of relationships between various actors in various patches. The complex narratives of LIC actors and their efforts to shape their sites shows that there are multiple ways to develop a patch, ranging from top-down utopian masterplan that is fixed and inflexible to the bottom-up approach where every actor has a distinctive voice in the polyphonic dialogue. Long Island City shows this range, and it is to the DCP's credit that it has tried to deal with each situation individually. Eventually, an emergent system of urban design will be able to provide the means of balancing and managing the flows between the fragments. Until then we will have to rely on our intuition to sense the flows between the patches in the emergent ecology of the urban archipelagos that constitute our cities.

D. Grahame Shane is an adjunct professor of architecture at Columbia University GSAPP. He is the author of Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design, and City Theory (john Wiley, 2005).

Development Descends on Queens


Courtesty Department of City Planning

RESIDENTIAL

1 Silvercup West
Owned by Alan and Stuart Match Suna and designed by Richard Rogers Partnership, Silvercup West is a $1 billion mixed-use project spread over 6 acres, and includes residential, commercial, cultural, and civic spaces, in addition to 1 million square feet of film-production studios.

2 River East
44402 Vernon Blvd.
Developed by Vernon Realty and sited on 6 acres just south of Silvercup West, River East will contain 1.2 million square feet of residential and commercial space. Rows of townhouses will lead to two 30-story towers on the river and a newly landscaped esplanade. The WalkerGroup of New York and its in-house V Studio, led by architect Jay Valgora, are masterplanning the site and designing the buildings.

3 Queens West
The Queens West Development Corporation (QWDC), a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation, has divided their large waterfront site into four development phases.

Phase II, contracted to Rockrose Development Corporation will contain seven buildings with 3,000 residential units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space. The first two buildings have been designed by Arquitectonica; one will be completed in May, and the other broke ground this month. Handel Architects have designed a third building, with construction to begin late 2006. Arquitectonica will design at least one more building, and the other two are as-yet uncommissioned.

Avalon Bay Communities is developing phase I, just south of Rockrose's. Its first residential tower was completed in 2001 and the second broke ground early this year, and will be completed by May of 2007. Both were designed by Perkins Eastman. A third lot on Avalon Bay's site will likely serve as either a public park or a branch of Queens' Public Library.

Phases III and IV, located partially on the Olympic Village site, have no developers attached, but will likely see the type of mixed-use projects as the first two phases. The QWDC is considering keeping parts of the Olympic site plans.

4 Power House
50009 Second St.
Cheskel Schwimmer and CGS developers will add 100,000 square feet to the former Pennsylvania Railroad Power House's existing 150,000, converting the structure into a residential complex. The new building, designed by Karl Fischer Architect, will contain 190 condominiums.

5, 6 The Gantry
5515 49th Ave. and 48821 5th St.
The Milestone Group, based in New York City, will develop an existing warehouse into 64 condos, designed by local firm Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel Architects. The Gantry will be ready for occupancy early this summer.

7 50th Ave. and 5th St.

Developers Joseph Escarfullery and Joseph Palumbo are planning an 11-unit, high-end co-op on the site of a current parking lot.

8 5549 Borden Ave.
535 Borden LLC has been working with New York architect Juan Alayo to develop a 12-story, 132-unit residential building. The project's backers are presently closing on the sale of the lot to another developer. The sale includes the architectural plans, which, as of now, will remain unchanged.

9 East View Condos
10040 46th Rd.
The East View Condos are in development by owner Henry Khanali and the New York architecture firm Bricolage Designs. The ground-up construction will be five stories, with an as-yet undetermined number of units, and should be completed by the summer of 2007.

10 41143 47th Ave.
No information available.

11 Vantage Jackson
10050 Jackson Ave.
This 13-story building is being developed by the Lions Group with Emmy Homes, and will contain 35 to 40 units.

12 10063 Jackson Ave.
MKF Realty is planning a 40-unit building just west of the Polaski Bridge. Completion expected in early 2007.

13 Badge Building
10055 47th Ave.
Bricolage Designs is designing an eight-story ground-up building that will be attached to an exisiting and soon-to-be-refurbished four-story factory, which once manufactured medallions and badges. The building complex will contain 44 condos; interiors will be designed by Front Studio. Badge Building Development LLC is a group of independent investors led by the building's current owner, who has been sitting on the property for the last ten years.

14 12201 Jackson Ave.
Hentze-Dor Real Estate is developing a 35-unit rental on an irregularly shaped lot on Jackson Avenue.

15 Echaelon Condominiums

13311 Jackson Ave.
Ron Hershco of Jackson Realty LLC is planning a 52-unit condominium designed by Newman Design Group of Cold Spring Hill, New York. Occupancy is scheduled for late spring of 2006.

16 Venus Site
Queens Plaza North and 24th St.
Developer Moshe Feller is reportedly working on a condo building that will house 320 units.

17 24415 Queens Plaza North
Karl Fischer Architect is planning alterations to an existing 50,000-square-foot office building for an unnamed developer.

18 42237 Crescent St.
Owner Ruben Elberg of Royal One Real Estate and Karl Fischer Architect are planning a 16-unit condominium building with two ground-floor commercial spaces. Completion is expected mid-2007.

19 42259 Crescent St.
Adjacent to 42237 Crescent Street, the same developer-architect team will build another residential project with retail space. 42259 Crescent will be slightly bigger, at 24 units, and completed by early 2007.

20 45556 Pearson St.
Rosma Development of New York is set to build a 20-story project on a 30,000 square-foot site, creating 120 condos that should be ready by 2007.

21 Arris Condominiums
27728 Thompson Ave.
The Andalex Group is planning an $80 million conversion of a 1920s warehouse into a mix of 237 lofts and 17 studios. Costas Kondylis and Partners is completing the design, which will involve a total overhaul of the interiors as well as exterior restoration.

22 Vantage Purves
44427 Purves St.
Another development in the area by the Lions Group and Emma Homes Partnership, the Vantage Purves will have 57 units.

23 42251 Hunter St.

A small group of investors under the name 42251 Hunter Street LLC is developing a seven-story condo building with Manhattan firm Israel Peles Architects.

24 41123 Crescent Street
No information available.

25 The Queens Plaza
41126 27th St.
The Developers Group of New York is planning a 10-story, 66-unit condo building just north of the Queens Plaza Improvement Project.

26 27714 41st Ave.
41st Avenue Property LLC, with Queens-based architect Surja Widjaja of Maison Design, is planning a 24-unit, 8-story residential building.

27 Gaseteria Site
Northern Blvd. and Queens Blvd.
Oil company Gaseteria has partnered with Lowe Enterprises Real Estate to develop a site bordering Long Island City's Sunnyside Yards into a mixed-use complex with a projected 400 housing units, in addition to office and retail space.

COMMERCIAL

1 Silvercup West
(See above.)

2 United Nations Federal

Credit Union
24th St. and 45th Dr.
With a tentative completion date of this September, the $65 million United Nations Federal Credit Union building, designed by HLW international, will be the second all-commercial highrise in Long Island City, after the 1.4-million-square-foot Skidmore, Owings and Merrilll designed Citigroup tower, completed in 1989.

3 Citigroup, Phase II

Citigroup is several months into the construction of its second office buidling in the neighborhood, next door to its 48-floor tower, the tallest building in the boroughs. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, the second building will be significantly smaller, at 475,000 square feet and 14 floors. An estimated 1,800 Citibank employees will be housed in the new building, which will be completed in 2007.

4 Queens Plaza Municipal Garage
Tishman Speyer recently signed a 99-year lease for the city-owned parking lot, and plans to raze the lot to build an office building with underground parking. Recently upzoned to 12 FAR, the site could accept 1.5 million square feet of development.

5 QP Site
Tishman Speyer is razing several low-scale commercial buildings and a parking lot, the former site of the QP flea market, and likely building office space in addition to that across the street at the Queens Plaza Municipal Garage. The lot is owned by businessman Bill Modell.

6 Gaseteria Site
(See above.)

OPEN SPACE

Queens Plaza Improvement Project
In 2001 the Department of City Planning began implementing a plan to improve Queens Plaza, the boulevard that runs from Sunnyside Yards to the Queensborough Bridge. The plan includes extensive infrastructural improvements, including new roadways and subway station renovations, as well as an extensive landscape scheme by Philadelphia-based Margie Ruddick, which would extend a lush, pedestrian-friendly esplanade to the East River waterfront.

produced by Jaffer kolb, with research by jesse finkelstein, teresa herrmann, and stephen martin.Silvercup City


Courtesy Richard Rogers Partnership

Silvercup West by Richard Rogers Partnership. The north tower (closer to the bridge) will house offices while the two south towers will contain 1,000 residential units. On the north corner, Rogers plans a public, outside escalator. The towers' x-bracing echoes the structure of the Queensborough bridge. Sound stages fill the base of the complex, which will also have ground-level retail and restaurants.

The history of Silvercup Studios shows why the city is right to encourage small entrepreneurs and big businesses alike. It wasn't long agoojust over 25 yearsswhen Silvercup founders Stuart and Alan Suna, with their late father, Henry, bought Silver Cup Bakery for Henry's sheet metal business. The brothers, who both trained as architects, later stumbled on the idea of renting the former factory's vast spaces as sound studios, because such spaces were scarce in New York.

With Silvercup West, their new development down the street, the Sunas are building more than just sound stages; they're building a mini-city, a massive mixed-use complex designed by Richard Rogers Partnership. Stuart Suna explained that they chose Rogers because they felt his high-tech design aesthetic matched their program: high-tech production studios in an industrial context. He added, We read and admired his books on the ecology of cities, like Cities for a Small Planet.. As an infill, high-density, mixed-use project near a transit hub, Silvercup is already sustainable in a sense.

The complex is comprised of four big boxes, with double-stacked sound stages totaling 1 million square feet. Three towers rise from the studio volumessone commercial and two residentialland the studios will be topped with roof gardens. All told, Silvercup will bring 1 million square feet of studio space, 665,000 square feet of retail and office space, 100,000 square feet of cultural space, and nearly 300,000 square feet of residential space to the area. The project also includes the preservation of a historic terra cotta factory, which produced the cladding for the Woolworth Building.

The scheme offers several civic gestures, such as a publicly accessible waterfront esplanade designed by landscape architect Laurie Olin that will link to Margie Ruddick's Queens Plaza park underneath the bridge. Stuart Suna boasted of riverfront cafes and ground-floor retail that would animate the esplanade, as well as an outside escalator to a rooftop terrace or caff, echoing Rogers' original intention for the escalator at the Georges Pompidou Center.

Despite its tasteful and civic moves, the complex is not without design problems: the towers encroach on the bridge; the base volumes are essentially superblocks; there is an extreme scale shift between Rogers' blocks and the terra cotta factory; and the largest rooftop garden will be will be closed to the public. But the Sunas and Rogers seem to be responsive to criticism. Already, they acceded to Amanda Burden's request for the corners of the towers to meet the street rather than float above blank boxes, giving more identity to the street. A good sign.
DGS

 

 

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The Restoration Era

Modernism's focus on individual artistic expression has led to extraordinary buildings like Louis I. Kahn's Yale art gallery, Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Peter Eisenman's Wexner Center for the Visual Arts. Each represents an attempt by its architect to try what had never been done before,testing the limitsof architectural form and building technology. Their progressiveness, however, made them more susceptible to depredation. And unlike most preceding architectural styles, with their familiar materials and construction techniques, modernist buildings require unique analysis and solutions as novel as those that brought them into being. The recently completed renovations of the Yale Art Gallery and Wexner Center and the Guggenheim's current facelift bring them into the 21st century while providing an opportunity to revisit landmark moments in architectural history.

Left: Lionel Feininger / courtesy Yale Unversity Art Gallery Archive. Center: Ezra Stoller Esto. Right: Jeff Goldberg Esto

 

 

Yale Art Gallery
1953, Louis I. Kahn


Left: Patty Carr Studios / both images courtesy Yale university Art Gallery archives

Left: View of the Yale Art Gallery staircase, 1952.
Right: View of the building from the north or garden side, ca. 1953354.

BY JOSEPH GIOVANNINI
Something about modernist buildings keeps them from aging with grace. They do not look better patinated by time, nor more picturesque when barnacled with accretions. Their purity does not accept the accidental event that might add character on a traditional building. Their abstraction is a demanding, high-maintenance mistress who would prefer to stay forever unblemished.

The Yale Art Gallery by Louis Kahn, finished in 1953, will be receiving its AARP card in a couple of years. The half-century has not been kind to this landmark of modernism, even though Yale is well-practiced at maintaining its rich architectural patrimony. The university's benign neglect has, over the decades, taken its toll on the gallery, which was not only a seminal work by an American master, but one that kicked off Kahn's career and Yale's historic turn to modernism. It was the flagship building that set the precedent for other Modernist buildings at Yale,, said Jock Reynolds, director of the Yale University Art Gallery. We also think of it as a great artwork.. Kahn's gallery is a masterpiece of understatement.

On Chapel Street, its undecorated brick facade meets the Italianate Gothic Swartwout building, a part of the museum complex, and defers to its elegant arches. Kahn's brick, austere in its planarity but gentle in its coloring, is a foil to the decorative complexity of the adjacent wall, and a datum of simplicity for the new gallery itself: A stairway up to an entrance between two planes of the bronze-colored brick cleanses the visual palette, and prepares the visitor for the nearly devotional space within.

Kahn was a master of environmental tone, which he modulated through his choice of materials and his handling of light. Just beyond the entrance, the architect achieved a nearly religious aura in the cylindrical concrete stairwell, where a triangulated staircase rises up to light that suffuses the interior of the drum. The cylinder and a nearby prism of smooth-faced concrete block, which contain a service core of bathrooms and an elevator, were the only forms articulating the gallery's otherwise-open loft space. He conceived the ceiling as a tetrahedral space frame made in concrete, which floats out, freespan, to the glass-and-steel perimeter walls.

Over the decades, two forces eroded the integrity of the design. Pressed for room, the museum started cannibalizing the interiors, adding offices and storage areas within the galleries; the sunken sculpture garden was roofed over in the same desperation for additional square footage. The encroachments reduced the purity of the galleries and obscured the geometric clarity of the concrete cylinder and the block prism. The divisions of space started to impede the way you saw the building,, said Reynolds. Administrators also plastered sheet rock over the concrete block service core and the entire south wall, diminishing the sense of material gravity in a space whose tone was defined by the sobriety and light-absorptive qualities of concrete.

The spatial distress inside was matched by the cumulative failure of the glass facade. By today's standards, the original wall system was elementallsupported simply on a solid steel frame that conducted cold in and heat out. At dew point, condensation formed, and anticipating the water, the architects actually detailed a gutter pan at the floor that would catch condensate running down the steel. In theory, the radiators next to the pan would evaporate the water. Over the years, however, the water corroded the steel. Furthermore, each bay of the window wall did not have enough tolerance for expansion so the glass wall deformed the edges of the concrete slab, which in turn resisted the pressure, sending bending forces back into the wall. Numerous panes of glass failed.

Yale hired the New York firm Polshek Partnership to restore the building in the first phase of a larger program to create a master plan for the arts district on the campus. Though Kahn's gallery was the youngest of the three buildings that make up the Yale Art Gallery, it was the neediest. The environmental systems, toooHVAC, lighting, communications lines, securityyalso needed to be updated.

In what must be the most gratifying aspect of the restoration, Duncan Hazard, partner in charge, and project manager Steven Peppas removed the structures squatting in the galleries to reveal the loft-like spaces. At the same time, they peeled the sheet rock off the smooth-faced block, reestablishing the materiality of the wall and its tonal impact. The architects also removed the roof over the original sculpture garden, which when restored, will be occupied by a site-specific piece by Richard Serra.

The window wall was the most tortuous problem in a difficult project,, attested Hazard. The troublesome steel frames are being recreated in aluminum, with the same profile, but with a thermal break. We built in more allowance for expansion in the connections,, said Hazard.

Another difficult task was updating the building systems. Kahn laid the electrical conduits, HVAC ducts and lighting tracks over the tetrahedral ceiling before pouring the concrete floor slab above, and the architects found it difficult and labor intensive to replace or rework the ducts and conduits within the closed cavity. They managed to snake in new sections of light track by using short sections. Cables for security systems and communications that had been surface-mounted over the years were also laid up into the cavity. The dimensions in the cavity between the ceiling and floor above offered little forgiveness.

What director Reynolds called the absolute simplicity and minimalist sensibilityy of the building was the root of the problems in its restoration, which is scheduled to be complete next year.

It's amazing how difficult the project has been,, noted Hazard. Buildings from the 1950s and 60s are tremendously difficult to work with because there's no place to hide anythinggthere's no pochh, as in traditional buildings. In modernist structures, everything is simple and exposed, making it very difficult to bring in new services. Maintaining that purity is very tough when trying to bring it up to 21st century standards..

The architectural archaeology in this extensive $44 million restoration yielded insights into Kahn's design. You could retrace his design process and see how he figured things out,, said Hazard. He was working out certain details for the first time, like corner conditions, where he turned the interior back to accommodate a window..

There are brilliant solutions, like placing a heating pipe at the bottom of a cavity in the wall at the front of the building, so that the heat would rise and lift the moisture out of the wall,, added Peppas. That wall looks as good today as it did when it was built..

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the restoration is the controversy latent in the confrontation between the imperatives of restoration and today's curatorial expectations that the white box is the best viewing environment. Properly restored, Kahn's galleries are not white boxes. Kahn's spaces have an almost preternatural serenity about them that are unusually conducive for seeing art, but in their materiality and character, they are not neutral. In Yale's desire to restore the building to Kahn's intentions, the university is assuming a radical position that critiques the white box in the same way that Kahn himself posited his original critique. In general, museums like white hanging walls made of sheet rock,, said Hazard. We're not going to have that..

The museum, instead, is going the full nine yards, recreating Kahn's pogoo wall, a moveable wall-panel system with adjustable poles, spring-loaded at top and bottom, that hold the panels in place by compression. The architects are also uncovering the long south wall (opposite the north window faaade) to reveal the original smooth-faced block. They will add a discreet hanging rail so that pictures will hang on wires. We're interested in expressing Kahn's original materiality,, said Peppas.

The effort at restoring a national architectural treasure also masks the controversial fact that fully half the perimeter is glazed. Windows, of course, are usually discouraged or at least minimized in contemporary galleries. The architects have, however, invented a solution that satisfies curatorial demands for protecting art: They simply conceived the interior as a light bank that receives a safe, calibrated amount of light over the year. Motorized black-out shades will drop after closing hours, eliminating a source of deleterious light. Light-permeable scrims over most windows further reduce the total amount of light banked. Scrims over windows in spaces where collections, such as sculpture, can tolerate light, will be left open.

Far from being simply a feel-good restoration of a known and celebrated architectural quantity, the restoration of Kahn's art gallery resituates the building in the polemic about what constitutes a desirable or optimal viewing environment. The gallery exemplifies a persuasive argument that there are valid alternatives to the supposed neutrality and objectivity of the white cube. Fifty years later, Kahn weighs in again with his brilliant argument about designing for subjectivity in space.
joseph giovannini is a writer and architect who divides his time between New York City and los angeles.



The Yale Art Gallery while under
renovation last year.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1959, Frank Lloyd Wright


Kathryn Carr SRGF, New York

BY DAVID D'ARCY
It took seventeen years to get the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum built on Fifth Avenue. For the five decades that the museum has been standing, exterior maintenance has consisted mostly of painting. Now the spiral is covered with scaffolding, and the exterior is finally being studied for eventual repairs that are projected to finish in late 2007. The extent of the work is yet to be determined, but the price has been set at about $27 million, ten times what it cost to build the inverted spiral that opened in 1959.

The project is still in its study phase, said the architects from Wank Adams Slavin Associates LLP (WASA), who will do the preservation work. In March 2005, sensors were placed on the building's exterior to measure contraction and expansion. In December, the paint was stripped off to reveal the concrete walls underneath: vast Twombly-esque abstract surfaces with scratched patterns and cracks that look like beginnings of Clyfford Still crevices. Architects are now studying these mostly vertical cracks, and trying to determine their causes before any repairs begin.

It was a challenge when it was built almost 50 years ago. If we had to build it today, it would still be a challenge, because of the geometry of the building, the construction techniques, and the use of concrete to the extent that it was done here,, said project architect Angel Ayon of WASA.

Part of the building's uniqueness stems from Wright's goal to make its form a continuouss uninterrupted pattern of circles, spheres, and a ramp that spiraled upward. Those continuous elliptical walls that we all know about are walls that he didn't want to put expansion joints in. As a result, there is a lot of cracking,, Ayon noted.

The 6-inch walls are made of Gunnite, a sprayed concrete mixture. Our goal is obviously to keep as much original material as we can and then to do a minimal intervention, first to understand exactly what's wrong, the extent of the damage, and then how to repair it in the least obtrusive way,, said Ayon. A lot of the work we do is based on having done similar buildings. You develop a tool chest of problems and repairs. This building is so unique that we have to approach it from scratch..

Cracking had been a problem since the concrete was poured, Ayon said, noting that Wright had used a vinyl-based paint called the cocoonn in the hope that the coating would breach the cracks. Yet cracks were always visible, as were abrasions, bubbles, and craters in the concrete under the paint, even 12 coats later, in 2005. In the 1990s, studies based on limited samplings examined the cracking. What's different now is that the team can remove the paint and study the extent of the cracking,, Ayon said.

Structural engineer Robert Silman, also part of the team, doubts that the cracks pose a structural risk: The risk is only that, as a crack opens, water gets into it and the water can cause corrosion of reinforcing steel. Over a long period of time, it's a maintenance headache. Will it cause a collapse? Not likely.. Silman said that a laser survey, underway as this article goes to press, will indicate where the building could be under stress.

Exterior cracking is the most visible problem. The terrazzo floors on the interior ramp are also cracked, the rotunda suffers from condensation (an annoying dilemma for anyone operating a climate-controlled space), and the front of the building, on the upper levels of the spiral near the skylight, is moving forward for reasons not yet known. The sidewalk, which Wright embedded with stainless steel circles (which, like the building, are landmarked), is also set for renovation. It was repaired in 1992 as part of the renovation that included the museum's expansion below ground.

The momentum for repairing the exterior seems to have come from one individual, Peter B. Lewis, the former chairman of the Progressive Corporation, who has now contributed $15 million to the project. Lewis was chairman of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation from 1998 to 2005, and he donated a total of some $90 million before resigning his chairmanship in a dispute with Guggenheim director Thomas Krens. Lewis thought that Kren's expansion policies were draining the foundation's resources. It is the building, after all, that is the museum's most valuable work of art,, said Lewis.

Lewis was always an admirer of the Frank Lloyd Wright structure but he was also, he noted, always conscious of how badly the toilets worked.. Lewis offered $15 million towards the renovation, and the board subsequently came up with an additional $5 million. But it still isn't clear whether that will be enough. Lewis said last spring. The building needs a lot of work, and whether $20 million is enough remains to be seen..

The insurance mogul was right. An additional $7 million came from New York Cityyabout $5 million by early 2005 and an additional $2 million around the time of last November's mayoral election. The project is overseen by the Paratus Group, the firm that Lewis designated as owner's representative which reports to Lewis and Guggenheim vice president Mark Steglitz.

When the project was initially conceived, a strong and comprehensive maintenance program wasn't in place,, said Jon Maass, an architect with the Paratus Group. The repair policy up to this point was, If it's dirty, if it's faded, if there are cracks, add more paint to it.' What will be part of this project is not only fixing what's underneath the paint, but designing a more comprehensive maintenance program for the museum. The public may see more maintenance on the building on a regular basis as opposed to just putting more paint on..

The official story from the Guggenheim is that the broader renovation proceeded in stages, beginning with the construction of the current tower on the northeastern corner of the site and the renovation of the Frank Lloyd Wright interior, opened in 1992, which was followed by the renovation of the below-ground theater, now named the Peter B. Lewis Theater in recognition of his $15 million gift for that project. The exterior was always next, say Guggenheim officials.

There was never a sense that this was urgent, in the way that the interior restoration was. It looked fine,, said Anthony Calnek, a Guggenheim spokesman. Every time you scraped away the old flaking paint and repainted it, it looked pretty good. It was sort of the last thing that needed to be done. You go from the most urgent thing to the least urgent thing.. Yet the architects working on the building say the exterior was disfigured, with cracks widening just above the entrance, and hardly looked fine..

Once the work is done, sometime in 2007, the Guggenheim will open an exhibition devoted to Frank Lloyd Wright and the building, organized by junior architecture curator Monica Ramirez-Montagut.

Yet the experts stress that it's still uncertain what they'll be celebrating. The exterior finish now is pretty rough and ready. You could see a lot of blemishes through the paint,, said Robert Silman. When the sun struck the building at a very flat angle, all of these blemishes showed. To me it's not very handsome. I don't think there's a paint that would cover them. It doesn't look at all like the interior spiral, which is beautifully smooth, like sour cream. The ramp wall is just gorgeous..

I can't imagine that Mr. Wright wouldn't want the outside to look like that as well, but it never did,, Silman said. Will our repairs be invasive enough that it's going to require us to do some kind of patching of the outside? What will that patching look like under the paint? We don't know what we have to do yet, if anything..
david d'arcy is a regular contributor to the art newspaper.

David M. Heald SRGF, New York

The Guggenheim Museum's scaffolding follows the curve of the spiral.

Wexner Center for the Visual Arts
1989, Eisenman Robertson Architects


Jeff Goldberg Esto

BY JAYNE MERKEL
When Peter Eisenman's Wexner Center for the Visual Arts at Ohio State University opened in 1989, admirers lined up to get the architect's autograph, a series of famous artists performed, and the Ohio State Marching Band paraded from the new art center to the football stadium.

When the Wexner Center reopened last fall after Arup's three-year, $15.8 million renovation, the architect was nowhere to be found. A series of performances took place, and supporters of the institution came from miles around, but there was no parade. Architecture, it turns out, is a complicated business. Having a famous, challenging building had been deemed worth the inconvenience and expense, but having this particular famous, challenging building was also, obviously, a mixed blessing.

How could a 13-year-old, $43 million building possibly require a three-year, $15.8 million renovation, largely financed with state funds ($14.8 milion from Ohio Sate University, $1.3 million from the Wexner Center Foundation) at a time of rising tuitions and cuts in student loans?

A university press release cautiously explained why: The new curtain wall system results in significant improvements over the original, both in terms of light levels in the galleries and in temperature and humidity controll[It provides] a threefold improvement in air filtration over the original, which was built to the best 1980s standards. The new system also specifies thermal and condensation resistance tests that were not widely available in the 1980s. The skylight was entirely redesigned, including its unusual dual-directional slope, to better manage rainwater and protect the exterior seals and glazing gaskets. The new curtain wall framing systemmsignificantly improves the thermal performance of the curtain wall. The curtain wall and skylight glass have been upgraded from the best material available in the 1980s (1-inch dual-pane glass) to contemporary high-performance material (1 5/8-inch heat-strengthened, low-iron triple-pane glass, with inert argon-filled air spaces, reflective coatings, and other features). The new glass reduces visible light to curatorial standards via transmission and diffusion filters and removes ultraviolet light via PVB interlayers. It also benefits the temperature and humidity control in the galleries..

We are not talking about an ancient hut sheathed with animal skins here. Surely building technology has not leaped forward so dramatically in a decade and a half that such drastic measures should be necessary? What the press release did not say was that all this was necessary because the roof leaked badly, the original curtain wall subjected works of art to ultraviolet glare, and the inside temperature could shift as much as 40 degrees.

And while innovative buildings do often encounter technical difficulties, not all innovative buildings do. Eero Saarinen's, for example, have survived astoundingly well for over half a century even though almost every one used new materials, structural systems, or technologies. On the other hand, university officials are rarely wild men. If they decided to make an investment of this kind, they must have decided that the building was worth its weight in gold.

The Center for the Visual Arts (as the project was initially called before Leslie H. Wexner pledged $25 million) was not a building created to house an existing institution. It was conceived to create energy on and draw artistic activity to a campus known more for its football team than anything else. Ohio, unlike other midwestern states, does not have one major dominant university, like as in states like Michigan. Instead, there are half a dozen state schools with various strengths and appeals. Ohio State is the biggest research university and has many solid departments, but its flat, spread out campus is not very lively, and the school was not known for academic excellence or artistic daring. Also, Columbus did not have major art museums like Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. The Wexner Center has helped change all that.

Peter Eisenman (who was practicing with Jacquelin Robertson at the time) won the commission to design the center (with capable Columbus architects Trott & Bean) in a highly publicized national competition in 1983, edging out finalists Arthur Erickson, Michael Graves, Cesar Pelli, and Kallman McKinnell & Wood. It was Eisenman's first major building. And since his scheme and that of his old friend Michael Graves were easily the two most successful, it amounted to a contest between modernist and postmodern approaches and a duel between friendly rivals.

Working as a critic in Ohio at the time, I was initially attracted to Graves' entry, which was eminently sensible, occupying an ugly underused site, elegant, and dignifiedda proper museum on a proper site. But Ohio State didn't need a museum. It didn't have an art collection and was not likely to get one. It needed an energizer, something to get people excited about the arts and about life on campus, and the Eisenman Robertson scheme did just that.

It slashed between two existing buildings (2,500-seat Mershon Auditorium and Weigel Hall, which has a 770-seat theater) at a 12 1/2-degree angle, aligning itself with the city grid beyond the campus confines instead of the campus grid, which is slightly ajarrtherefore, symbolically at least, tying together town and gown. It resurrected the crenellated towers from a medieval-style armory that had once occupied the site, but the scheme housed most of the facilities in a glass-walled cruciform grid where sloping corridors overlap with exhibition spaces.

The building definitely stands out on the campus, in an interesting and inviting way. And its wider impact was enormous. When it opened, schemes with shifted grids appeared on student drawing boards throughout the nation.

Although it was not suitable for the exhibition of many works of art, Syracuse University architecture dean Mark Robbins, who served as the Wexner's first curator of architecture and also showed his own work there, said, I liked the active quality of the space. As an artist, I liked being able to play off the errant structural system. The building was flexible when we mounted exhibitions that had been organized for more traditional spaces..

The only thing that rankled him was that there was not enough space for the staff. It had been cut from the budgettnot surprisingly. The original budget for the center was $16 million. By the time it was completed six years later, it had cost almost three times that.

Some of the practical problems at the Wexner are attributable to the fact that when it was built, it had no strong client voice, as represented by a museum director or curators to insist on appropriate light levels and other criteria.

Eisenman has often suggested that once he has finished a project, he is finished with it. New York Times reporter Robin Pogrebin seemed scandalized at his apparent lack of remorse for the many leaks and faults in the Wexner; an article dated September 18, 2005, quoted him as saying of his buildings, Once they're up, they lose any magic for me..

The energetic current director, Sherri Geldin, also finds it mysterious that the architects did not consider these things. But she said, Still, I love this building. It has made so many things possible.. It seemed essential to correct its deficiencies. And correct they have: some of the most important elements of the new Wexner are indistinguishable from the old. According to principal Nigel Nicholls of Arup, his firm went to great pains to make sure that the curtain wall, which is so central to Eisenman's design, looks no different from its predecessor, though it functions in a much more efficient fashion. They maintained the notational system Eisenman developed for the glass panels, in which the panes darken or lighten depending on what is behind them, but reduced the overall light levels inside. Nicholls explained, There was too much light inside from day one, so we kept the relationship of one shade to another while shifting them all down the scale..

The Wexner Center story dramatically raises the question: What does a building need in order to be considered great, important, or significant? Is it enough to be interesting, or does it also have to be, as Mies believed, goodd? Architecture, especially greatt architecture, really needs to be both.
Jayne Merkel was architecture critic of The Cincinnati Enquirer in the 1980s and reported on the Wexner Center competition for Inland Architect.

Courtesy Wexner Center for the Visual Arts

During its three-year renovation, the Wexner Center for the visual Arts' curtain wall (below) had to be redesigned to reduce light levels in the galleries and to stop water damage. Arup was charged with making it look as similar as possible to its 1989 appearance.

 

Current Criticism

Fewer than 45 of the approximately 140 newspapers in the United States, with a daily circulation over 75,000 have architecture critics, according to a 2001 survey by the National Arts Journalism Program (NAJP) at Columbia University and only a third of them pursue architecture criticism full-time. Amazingly, cities like Houston, Detroit, and Las Vegassplaces that have undergone huge building booms in recent yearsslack a regular architecture voice. Of the papers that do have critics, half feature fewer than two dozen stories a year; that's less than one every two weeks. And while architecture implicates not just aesthetics and culture but so much elseepolitical economy, ecology, social welfareethese stories are normally relegated to Arts, Style, or Home sections. Thus, as the NAJP study concludes, major buildings and developments routinely go up with no public discourse on their practical or aesthetic meritssthe most public of art forms receives the least amount of arts coverage.. (The study was overseen by Andrrs Szzntt, director of the now defunct NAJP.)

If this state of affairs is lamentable, it's necessary to acknowledge that architecture journalism for the mass public has long been a rarity in this country, with notable exceptions like Montgomery Schuyler at the New York World in the late 19th century and Lewis Mumford at The New Yorker during the middle decades of the twentieth. It was Ada Louise Huxtable, beginning her tenure at The New York Times in 1963 amid that decade's urban upheavals and preservation battles, who coalesced a wide audience for engaged and outspoken architectural criticism. Today, while the issues affecting the built environment are no less contentious or ripe for debate, architecture criticism in its various local venues inevitably finds itself inflected, and distracted, by a far more advanced and globalized culture industry.

The following brief survey of four contemporary critics at high-profile American newspapers is based largely on a reading of articles published over the last year:

Robert Campbell has been architecture critic at the Boston Globe since 1974. Trained as an architectthe received his MArch from Harvard's GSD in 19677Campbell, now 68, garnered the third architecture Pulitzer (after Huxtable and Paul Goldberger) in 1996 for his knowledgeable writing on architecture.. His short-ish articles are conversational, descriptive, and well-mannered. He complains about conservative Bostonn while at the same time betraying a constitutional mistrust of avant-garde pizzazzz; his taste runs to plain old-fashioned modernism.. This doesn't prevent him from acknowledging that Steven Holl's new Simmons dormitory at MIT, if perhaps too inventive,, is daring and beautiful; he likewise reserves final judgment on Gehry's Stata Center, which, despite appearances of being a big, arbitrary sculpture,, reflects serious thinking about how people live and work.. He frequently covers significant events outside Boston, but writes most often and generously about lesser-known architects at home. His interest in architecture as a register of urban and social history is reflected in a regular city sceness feature for the Sunday magazine section on which he collaborates with photographer Peter Vanderwarker.

Blair Kamin is strongly civic-minded and devoted to nurturing architecture culture in his home city. A self-proclaimed activist critic,, he uses the platform he has held at the Chicago Tribune since 1992 not as a bully pulpit so much as a lectern from which to educate the public and to prod architects and municipal officials in socially constructive directions. A graduate of Yale's Master's of Environmental Design program and, like Campbell, a Pulitzer Prize winner (in 1999), the 48-year-old critic has collected his articles of the last decade in a book, Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2001), that reflects his broad-based but Chicago-centric concerns. Didactic, thoughtful, and judicious, he is given to relative judgments and careful distinctions. Less concerned with architectural form-making as such than its impact on people, he dwells on how skyscrapers meet the ground, the livability of tall buildings, the urban vibrancy produced by the clash of styles in Chicago's downtown. At the same time, in a city dominated during the 1990s by its mayor's retro tastes in civic improvement, he often finds himself arguing for contemporary aesthetics. But the shoddy detailing at IIT's Campus Center irks him, notwithstanding the brilliance of Rem Koolhaas' conception.

Nicolai Ouroussoff is younger than Kamin, at 43. Educated at Columbia's architecture school, he was anointed Herbert Muschamp's successor at The New York Times in the summer of 2004. Muschamp's departure was accompanied by demands for a less star-obsessed, more ecumenical replacement. Ouroussoff was quickly presumed to be in the same mold as his predecessor, however, albeit not as self-involved or flamboyant. Indeed, one of Ouroussoff's debut articles, entitled The New New York Skyline,, applauding a trio of luxury towers by Richard Meier, Santiago Calatrava, and Frank Gehry, picked up seamlessly, jumping on Muschamp's favorite hobbyhorse: Manhattan's skyline was once a monument to the relentless forces of modernity, but for decades now the city's reputation as a center of architectural experimentation has been losing ground to London, Barcelona, Beijing, and Shanghaii? Similarly Muschampian was a shrill attack on MoMA's architectural leadership and, in a tribute to Philip Johnson, a description of the Four Seasons as one of the sexiest rooms in the city, with beaded steel curtains that conjure up a woman's slipp?an embarrassing echo of Herbert's evocation of the Guggenheim Bilbao in terms of Marilyn Monroe's skirts. If Koolhaas for years dominated Muschamp's fevered imagination, Ouroussoff's admiration for Gehry and Thom Mayne has likewise already occasioned a lot of New York newsprint. Nor have international celebrities like Herzog & de Meuron and Coop Himmelb(l)au escaped his appreciative attention as, befitting a paper that sees its beat as the whole world, Ouroussoff has begun to file from offshore datelines. At the same time, a string of recent pieces reflecting a firsthand look at New Orleans, and more generally on preservation and urban revitalization issues from Cairo to Columbus Circle and Ground Zero, are evidence of his willingness to take on challenging issues beyond aesthetics.

Christopher Hawthorne, the youngest of the four critics at 35, was appointed to his post at the Los Angeles Times after Ouroussoff's elevation to New York. A graduate of Yale architecture school, he was previously architecture critic a Slate.com. Hawthorne writes lucidly and forcefully, appreciates the complexities of urban planning and the pragmatics of building construction, and doesn't hesitate to tackle intractable issues like the politics of sprawl. He is interested in the back story, and not afraid to state his opinion, even if it's unlikely to win friends. He reserves a certain irony with respect to high-wattagee architecture, as he calls ittnot that he's hostile to it, just streetwise enough not to swallow it whole. Hawthorne effortlessly combines smart visual commentary with informed historical contextualization. It's hard to say whether his greater-depth approach is sufficiently accessible to the general readership. I'm impressed, though, and look forward to following his writing more closely.

It is hardly surprising that in each case the critic reflects the newspaper and city in which he writes. It is also the case that, while all four write professionally, fluently, and at times with passion and verve, none approaches the commanding intellect and culture of, say, a Mumford, or the witty acuity of a Reyner Banham. Huxtable, in her classic Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard?? period, used her podium to galvanize a broad base of support for urban improvement, as Jane Jacobs did during the same epoch with her blockbuster Death and Life of Great American Cities. More recently, Muschamp, for all his excesses, was able to grab the public imagination with a maverick style that interspersed flashes of genuine insight and originality. In a more political vein, sharp critics like Mike Davis and Michael Sorkin, contributing to publications like The Nation and the old Village Voice, have attracted loyal adherents, although it's difficult to imagine either of them writing for a mainstream newspaper.

The architecture critic at the general-interest publication has the obligation to write for both a specialist and nonspecialist audience, walk a fine line between advocacy and partisanship, and do more than register new trends. Writing without benefit of historical retrospectionnmost of the time before the project has ceased to be a construction site or computer renderingghe or she has the job of exposing the conditions in which architecture is produced and consumed; to paraphrase Manfredo Tafuri, it's a matter of going backstage rather than continuing to observe the spectacle from a seat in the audience. Beyond this, it helps to love architecture and cities, and to write with a deep knowledge of history, a strong commitment to the public and environmental good, a precise understanding of how buildings are constructed, and (not least) a discerning eye.
Joan Ockman, an architectural historian, teaches at Columbia University and is the director of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture.

 

Marisa Bartolucci reads the trades and special-interest magazines,
and sympathizes with architects who say they don't.

This era of kaleidoscopic change shouts out for sagacious critics. We need them to parse the shifting scene and discern imaginative and ethical arcrhitectural esponses. Yet the critical offerings in general interest magazines and the architectural trades are scant. Why some choose to feature criticism, and others don't is bafflinggand depressing. With so much development going on in the city, how can New York magazine be without a critic?

Of what's available, according to this writer's informal poll, little of it is read by architects. Why? Insipid and irrelevant is a common claim. Maybe that's why not long ago a readers' survey at Architecture magazine revealed that its most widely read sections were the editorial and protest pagessthe only places serving up opinion on topical matters.

After perusing an admittedly haphazard sampling of criticism in trade and other special-interest media (i.e., literary, shelter, or weekly publications), I contend there is work out there that's penetrating in analysis, even pertinent to private practice, although little is exhilarating in vision.

Alas, there's no Lewis Mumford on the horizon. (And that may be the fault of magazine editorssgood critics need nurturing.) The Skyline column in The New Yorker long served as the podium for that great thinker. From its heights, he championed Frank Lloyd Wright when others declared him dated; warned against technology dominating human purpose; and railed against the mediocrity of the design for the United Nations Headquarters. (How little things change.)

Today a critic dubbed the great equivocatorr occupies that podium. Although he wields great power, Paul Goldberger seldom strays from consensus views. On occasion, when he does advocate, people listen. A recent article urging that the present plan for Ground Zero be dumped in favor of incorporating cutting-edge residential architecture may have helped galvanize Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to make noises about wresting control of the project.

But if we are not to find challenging architectural criticism in The New Yorker, where else can we look? To the online opinionmaker Slate.com? There, the professorial Witold Rybczynski regularly teaches Beltway readers how to evaluate buildings and understand the forces that shape them. His brief essays range from book reviews to project critiques. An article on why architect-designed emergency housing seldom works was right on the money. But his taste is stale: He applauded David Child's latest version of the Freedom Tower as the best yet.

Until recently, Martin Filler held forth at The New Republic. Why he has absented that post is a mystery and a loss. He is a terrific critic. Flinty principle sparks his writing, which is subtle, but mordant. He insists that great architecture encompasses more than aesthetics. He doesn't shirk from attacking big names.

If the decision makers at Ground Zero had read his review of Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum they might not have mistaken schmaltz for architecture. In a prescient line about the museum, Filler summed up all that would be wrong with Libeskind's Freedom Tower plan: There is such a thing as architecture being too artful for its avowed function, and the Jewish Museum in Berlin is a fine illustration of that conundrum..

While at The New Republic, Filler tackled the usual celebrity suspectssprobably the only ones his Washington-focused editors considered worthy. Every so often, for The New York Review of Books, he contributes long, probing essays on subjects like the rebuilding of Berlin or the rebuilding of Ground Zero. These pieces allow him to show off his ample erudition and his fine eye. Architects, take a subscription.

Meanwhile, in his bimonthly column for shelter magazine House & Garden, his choice of subjects has been eclectic, ranging from a celebration of the planned community of Radburn, New Jersey, to a trenchant critique of Yoshio Taniguichi's Museum of Modern Art. The big new MoMA amounts to little, architecturally,, he writes. It is no small irony that the museum that codified the International Style and thus exerted a profound influence on 20th-century architecture again finds itself in a building markedly less distinguished than the unequaled modern treasures it contains..

Filler's unflinching assessment is noteworthy in light of the vacillating judgments of his peers. In Architectural Record, Suzanne Stephens intrepidly enumerated the $450 million building's numerous flaws, but in the end, still heaped on the praise: It's what the Modern always wanted to be.. Is it any wonder why practitioners don't read these journals? Reportedly, even Taniguchi is disappointed.

At this architecture tabloid, Julie Iovine brings bracing realism to her new Crit column. Last July, she took a detached look at the sudden wave of wildly ambitious urban development schemes being proposed for the city and their suspiciously enthusiastic civic and critical embrace. If such clear-thinking, straight-talking works are what's ahead, this column may become a must-read.

But few publications provide the gritty evaluations of what works and what doesn'ttthe information architects crave because it relates to their practices. This should be a service of the trades, as important as their reporting on the latest developments in materials and building science. Instead, they focus only on presenting glossy images of flashy, big-name projects. These are carefully described, but only superficially assessed. Rushing to publish as soon as the last nail is hammered, as if buildings were the latest Paris fashions, leaves little time to gather reports on how a building functions. Without such information how can true judgments be made of an architect's achievements, both aesthetic and technical?

Architectural Record's regular Critique column features alternating essays by Robert Campbell and Michael Sorkin, which ruminate more than provoke. But sometimes sparks do fly. Last April, Campbell carped about the notion of architecture as symbol. Two issues later, Sorkin ambushed him. It wasn't sporting, but in a series of dazzlingly erudite thrusts and parries, he shredded Campbell's argument.

Face-offs like these energize everyone's critical thinking. Last June, The Prospect, a British monthly, published a series of letters between Deyan Sudjic and Charles Jencks debating, coincidentally, the merits of iconic architecture. Following the divergence and convergence of their views on subjects ranging from aesthetics to professional ethics was fascinating.

The most brilliant critic on our shores may be Sorkin. His essays can take you on a thrill ride through learned discourse, lefty idealism, pop culture, and occasionally, Jewish shtick. Why he never won a Pulitzer when he was at the Village Voice is a scandal. (Huxtable, Temko, Goldberger, Campbell, and Kamin all have them.) Sorkin may be a smarty pants, but he is fearless. He skewered Philip Johnson when he was architecture's minence grise. (Most critics waited until after his death to bury him.) A year ago, Sorkin called Frank Gehry on the moral incongruity of designing a satellite to the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalemma city with little tolerance for its own Palestinian citizens and neighbors. Eminence has its responsibility,, he observed, which extends beyond the realm of professional practice.. An intrepid thinker, a joker, a scholar, a moral iconoclast, Sorkin represents what every young architecture critic should aspire to be.

Certainly, he is a model for Philip Nobel, who has enlivened the pages of Metropolis for the past few years. Nobel sure writes well. Like adolescent love letters, Nobel's columns can ache with emotion. And that's not a bad thing. He makes you believe great buildings matter. But the trouble with adolescents, who like Nobel swing between idealism and cynicism, is they're self-absorbed. No matter what Nobel writes about, it always comes back to him. At times he verges on slipping into Muschampian territory, which can lead, as we all know, to critical oblivion.

Architecture needs smart, brave voices. Nobel's got one. If he can concentrate on substance, he might make more architects into readers. And just maybe improve the profession.
Marisa Bartolucci lives in New York and writes about design.

 

Vittorio Gregotti ruminates on criticism in Italy, the epicenter of
architectural publishing, and asserts its inextricable link to history.

The state of architectural criticism in Italyyand probably in much of Europeeis rooted in a theoretical attitude that belongs to the tradition of architectural history. The members of this tradition include the critics and historians of my generation, whose most important representative was Manfredo Tafuri, who was a follower of Giulio Carlo Argan, a Marxist and one-time mayor of Rome, and the most important critic and historian of modern architecture between 1930 and 1960. Two other important critics of the 20th century, albeit ones coming from a different and opposing point of view, are Leonardo Benevolo and Bruno Zevi, who despite their scholarship, were inclined to write occasionally for non-specialized public- ations, such as daily newspapers and weekly magazines. A special position within this generation was occupied, too, by Ernesto Nathan Rogers, known for his accomplishments as an architect, editor of Domus, and Casabella, and cultural polemicist.

In Italy, architecture critics, in the strict sense of the term (thus excluding historians and university professors of history), operate in a relatively narrow field because the mass media are not interested in the specific problems of architecture as a practice and culture. Only two daily newspapers in Italy express an ongoing critical interest in architecture: the economics newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and the general interest La Repubblica. Fulvio Irace writes for the former, while I myself have been contributing to the latter for about 10 years. Of the general-interest weekly magazines, only L'Espresso publishes a regular column dedicated to architecture, which was written for many years written by Bruno Zevi and has been written by architect Massimiliano Fuksas since 2000. Printed articles in other daily newspapers and weekly magazines are both rare and infrequent. Italian television offers few opportunities to speak about architecture; when it does, it is usually in relationship to exceptional exhibitions or events, and done in a very general and superficial manner. When mainstream media does look at architecture, it is to gawk at technical marvels, scandalous episodes of building speculation, and sometimes sociological issues, for example, concerning housing. In recent years, the aesthetic novelties proposed by architects have also generated interest, with special focus on bizarre elements, justified by a generic idea of creativity. Such coverage tends to make architecture resemble objects of mass consumption and entertainment.

Italy naturally boasts a vast range of specialized architectural magazines: Area, the newest and most luxurious publication, is solidly focused on architectural construction; Architettura, cronaca e storia, founded by Bruno Zevi, is now decisively on the wane; Parametro and Abitare, suspended somewhere between interior design and architecture; and Rassegna, which has recently returned with a more aesthetic and technological focus. Op. Cit is a small magazine full of critical reflections that is published in Naples. Lotus occupies a special position because of its thematic format and its attitude towards confronting various issues on a more theoretical level. Giornale dell'Architettura, directed by Carlo Olmo and published every 15 days, appears to be more innovative and aimed at uniting the criticism, discipline, and politics of architecture.

Italy can boast no relevant publications by any architecture school, despite the exorbitant number of studentssroughly 60,0000which is far out of proportion to the actual demand for architects in the country. There are more fashion, furniture, and design magazines that cover the middle ground shared by architects' activities and the problems of architecture.

The saddest story affects the country's two most important architectural magazines, which were once so influential. On the one hand, Casabella (which I myself edited from 1982 to 1996) has lost its traditional critical influence and position in the debate about architecture. On the other, Domus has assumed a conventional and modish take on architecture as fashion. Domus has opened itself to the strong influences of the visual arts or those who wish to substitute buildings with events,, influenced by Koolhaasian sociology of spontaneity.

If we exclude the publications that deal strictly with the history of architecture, even the history of modernist architecture, the architectural essays typically produced in Italy can be divided into two major types: monographs on currently practicing architects (Italian and non) and specifically critical essays. While the specimens in former group are over-abundant, even in the rhetoric of their editorial presentation, examples of the latter are quite rare and tend to receive much less attention. A third type of publication is the architecture exhibition catalogue. In this category, particular importance is helddin my opinion, entirely negativeeby the architectural exhibitions of the Venice Biennale, the Triennale di Milano, or other elaborate, event-like productions, such the 2004 Arte e Architettura exhibition organized in Genoa by Germano Celant, who contributed to confusing architecture and the visual arts, attempting to reduce the first to the second.

Naturally, plenty of writers are producing treatises about fashionable topics, such as computer-generated design, the politics of urban planning, ecology, or general aesthetic trends. These theoretical philosophies are, in general, hurried deductions and poorly interpreted.

The debate between ancient and modern is particularly relevant in the Italian historical-geographical context. It is contested on the one hand by the globalist and anti-contextual ideology that tends to make any work of architecture an enlarged design object, and on the other by institutions that tend to concentrate debate on single, monumental examples rather than dealing with the design of the urban environment or the landscape as an essential part of the actual construction of architecture. In this arena, Salvatore Settis is undoubtedly one of the most seriously involved figures operating at the critical level. The professor at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and former director of the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art writes for diverse publications, including Il Sole 24 Ore.

Practicing architects write very little, unless it is for reasons of self-justification. If I had to name two writers who are dealing intelligently with theoretically-based issues, I would limit myself to mentioning Bernardo Secchi, who teaches urban planning at the University Institute of Architecture of Venice, for his investigations into urban and territorial issues related to the city and the landscape; and architect Franco Purini for issues dealing with the logic ofarchitectural morphology.

In any case, Italian architecture currently lives a general crisis of uncertainty. It is totally dependent on the ideologies of the global market, marginally concerned with technique and science, and hiding behind the neo-avant-gardism of the diffused aesthetic of consumerism. As a result, critical voices who understand architecture as capable of serving as the foundation for a civil society have become increasingly rare.
Architect, city planner, and author, Vittorio Gregotti is the principal of Gregotti Associati. He contributes the regular architecture criticism column to La Repubblica.

Because the entitlements of loss and grief are the third rail of the [WTC] rebuilding effort, no one has challenged the subversion of the aims and intent of the plan. The parts that speak of hope and the future have not been able to survive the pressure for a single-minded commitment to the tragic past ... No one has had the courage, or conviction, to demand that the arts be restored to their proper place as one of the city's greatest strengths and a source of its spiritual continuity. We have lost what we hoped to gainna creative rebirth downtown. At Ground Zero, what should be first is last. An affirmation of life is being reduced to a culture of death.
Ada Louise Huxtable, Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2005

 

 

 

 

Rem Koolhaassnow the most overexposed architect since Frank Gehry, is likely to be the token avant-garde contestant. He has already declared his interestt?I seem to be one of the few architects who liked enormously the World Trade Centerr? Self-serving though that tribute to Minoru Yamaski's behemoths may sound, Koolhaas has indeed always indulged a perverse weakness for Nelson Rockefeller's most bombastic architectural boondoggles, particularly those designed by his court architect Wallace K. Harrison, to whose chilly 1950s-style urbanism he paid homage in his retrograde master plan for the French city of Lille.
Martin Filler, The New Republic, September 6, 2002

 

 

 

How skyscrapers meet the ground is as important as how they scrape the sky. It is not encouraging that Calatrava's tower will emerge from a tiered, four-story podium like a stripper popping out of a cake. That is a crude way to bring a skyscraper to the street. It makes this tower resemble a piece of sculpture on a pedestal, fit for an on-the-make, look-at-me Persian Gulf boomtown like Dubai. But this is Chicago, where we don't need to put ourselves on the map. We need great architectureeand the thoughtful civic debate that is essential to creating it.
Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, July 27, 2005

 

 

 

We have high expectations of our best artists because their work and words carry special weight. It is not possible to build this project [Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem] without an opinion on larger issuessreal issues of toleranceein the region. What is Gehry's? This is not a question of the use of titanium versus Jerusalem stone. It is one of justice.
Michael Sorkin, Architectural Record, June 2004

 

 

 

What twins [Marilyn Monroe] and the [Guggenheim Bilbao] in my memory is that both of them stand for an American style of freedom. That style is voluptuous, emotional, intuitive, and exhibitionist. It is mobile, fluid, material, mercurial, fearless, radiant and as fragile as a newborn child. It can't resist doing a dance with all the voices that say ''No.'' It wants to take up a lot of space. And when the impulse strikes, it likes to let its dress fly up in the air.
Herbert Muschamp, The New York Times, September 7, 1997

 

 

 

If the very idea that has, arguably more than any other, helped define Southern California for a century has been rendered obsolete, what does that mean for the region's vision of itself? Will density spell the end of the unique relationship between Angelenos and their houses? Will residential architecture simply fade as a factor in defining the city in the coming century? The great challenge for the city's residential architects over the next couple decades will be making the old model of affordable charisma fresh and relevant again for a post-sprawl (or even a post-post-sprawl) Los Angeles.
Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times,
July 7, 2005

 

 

 

Even at this early stage, the [planned East River] esplanade is one of the few current projects to give voice to a young generation of architects intent on redefining our vision of the contemporary metropolis. Along with the High Lineewhich transforms a section of gritty elevated tracks in downtown into a public gardennit represents a clear and much-needed break from the quaint Jane Jacobssinspired vision of New York that is threatening to transform Manhattan into a theme park version of itself, a place virtually devoid of urban tension. It proves that there are still some in the city who are culturally daring, even if their numbers at times seem to be dwindling.
Nicolai Ouroussoff, The New York Times,
June 28, 2005

 

 

 

Lincoln Center has sometimes seemed less the vibrant source of the neighborhood's energy than the empty hole in the middle of the doughnut. Often there is more buzz on the sidewalk in front of the multiplex theater a couple of blocks north, or amid the parade of mall-like retail stores that now line Broadway, than there is at Lincoln CenterrLincoln Center needs, desperately, a shot of adrenalinee
Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker, July 7, 2003

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House In Town

With New York City's real estate boom, few parcels of land have been overlooked. Even the city's tiny infill lots have become hot propertyyand the perfect sites for reinvigorating the town house type. According to architect and town house expert Alexander Gorlin, these narrow and long residences are the building blocks of the city.

The dense residential urban fabric of Manhattan and Brooklyn was historically defined as much by the blocks of town houses as by the voids between themmthe unbuilt lots that until very recently were a prominent part of the streetscape. Their constricted sites have long made town houses an absurd economic proposition. Multifamily residences have obvious economies of scale and higher returns. Moreover, building a town house has its unique problems in New York: With no staging area for contractors and the need for expensive underpinning of the neighbor's foundations, prices can range from $500 to $1,500 per square foot. But the phenomenal rise of real estate prices and ability to flip even small properties (this, the town of million-dollar studios), it has become economically feasible to build on these empty parcels. With the city's small infill lots being snapped up at unparalleled pace, the experience of walking in the city has been forever changed in a relatively short period of time.

The town house as a building type in fact reaches back to Crete and Pompeii, a city built almost entirely of these narrow-fronted single-family structures. Le Corbusier describes them in great detail in his 1923 Towards a New Architecture. He admired them for the great variety of space and light they allowed within a standardized plan, which fit in with his theories about the potential industrialization of housing, and the relationship of the part to the whole in the house and the city. Leon Battista Alberti and Andrea Palladio also wrote at length about town houses, and in his 1516 socialist tract Utopia, Renaissance scholar Sir Thomas Moore described his ideal city Amaurote as composed of town houses: The houses be of fair and gorgeous building, and on the street side they stand joined together in a long row through the whole street without any partition or separation..

As a former Dutch colony, New York City inherited the town house type originally from Amsterdam, though the local variations derive equally from London precedents. The stoop is of Dutch origin, while the common half-level dropped floor is drawn from the London type. These references persisteddperhaps too persistently. From the massive construction of brownstones and classical townhouses in New York in the late 19th and early 20th century, one can count one hand the number of modernist takes on the town house. There's the glass block front of the Lescaze House of 1937 on the Upper East Side; the lacy stone faaade of Edward Durrell Stone's own uptown house; George Nelson's streamlined Fairchild House of 1941 at 17 East 65th Street; Philip Johnson's Miesian Rockefeller Guest House of 1950, in Midtown; and Morris Lapidus' home and office at 256 East 29th Street, of 1950. The great breakthrough in modern town houses in New York are the ones by Paul Rudolph, primarily his own mirrored extravaganza, designed in 1972, overlooking the East River.

All these houses owe a great debt not only to the modern movement but to a number of houses that areebut almost never referred to asstown houses. Sir John Soane's own London town houseeactually three linked houses, built from 1792 to 18122is one of the best examples. On the exterior it is stately and reticent; inside the house is an archeology of the architect's mind, exploring the house as the site of life and death with a sarcophagus and dome of heaven above. His architectural innovations have inspired Philip Johnson and others for their insight into the town house typology. Le Corbusier's series of town houses of the 1920ssthe Ozenfant House and Studio (Paris, 1922), Maisons Guiette (Anvers, 1926), Maison M. Cook (Boulogne-sur-Seine, 1926), and Maison Plainex (Paris, 1927))are also very important. Despite his loathing for the street and urban life in general, Le Corbusier designed these town houses as respectful neighbors of the urban street wall. On the interiors, however, all hell breaks loose, following the French tradition of the asymmetrical planning of the hotel particulier. The masterpiece of the modern town house is without a doubt the Maison de Verre, designed by Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet in 1931 for the French gynecologist Dr. Dalsace. It is an obsessive exploration of the relationship between technology and the sensual domestic interior. Its striking translucent glass block facade provides privacy and recalls Adolf Loos' dictum that a cultivated man does not look out the window... It is only there to let light in, not let the gaze pass through.. On the interior, industrial details of structural steel bolted columns are surrounded by articulated wood cabinets framed by wrought iron and steel on a rubber tile floor. Its unlikely juxtapositions of materials has provided a model for the town house interior for over 75 years.

Loos himself designed numerous town houses that explored his Viennese contemporary Sigmund Freud's idea about the psyche, that the dream has a faaade like a house.. The Tristan Tzara House in Paris of 1926 contrasts a symmetrical faaade with a labyrinthine interior of stairs, different levels, volumes and materials. Even the Schroeder House by Gerrit Reitveld in Utrecht of 1923, one of the seminal houses of the 20th century, is really a town house. At the end of a block of traditional Dutch houses, it takes the same rhythmic dimensions and explodes into a series of planes, De Stijl primary colors, and interior sliding panelsscontaining lessons that have been rediscovered time and again by contemporary architects.

The New York town houses depicted here show the latest exploration of the ancient building type that is at once inflexible in its constricted frame, generous with opportunities in section, street expression, and circulation, and rich with challenges in lighting, budget, and construction.
Alexander Gorlin, FAIA, is the principal of Alexander Gorlin Architects. He is the author of Creating the New American Town House (Rizzoli, 2005).

 

Town House
Upper East Side, Manhattan
Alexander Gorlin Architects

 

Peter aaron esto / courtesy alexander gorlin

Unlike other urban infill projects that build to the lot line, this jewel-box of a house, which occupies a 25-by-100-foot lot on the Upper East Side, is set back 25 feet from the street. It actually occupies the footprint of a previous structure, a 1958 two-story modernist town house to which architect Alexander Gorlin wanted to pay respect. He also preserved the glazing and mullion rhythm of the original ground-floor faaade, extending them upward, to the renovated second floor and a newly added third floor. In the original house""sandwiched by two big apartment buildingss?it got darker as you went up,, said Gorlin. He made the quite natural decision to glaze both front and rear elevations, and also funneled light through the home via a skylight-topped open staircase. Further, he floored the hallway of the top level with glass blocks, which allow light to penetrate below.

 

 

Gorlin converted the basement into a children's playroom, reserving the entrance level for spaces for entertaininggkitchen, dining, and living room. Private bedrooms fill the second floor and the top floor contains a guest room, office, and an acoustically isolated media room that opens to a terrace. The husband is in the music business so the media room is the ultimate space in the house,, explained Gorlin.

 

 

Cathy Lang Ho

 

Feifer-Chun Residence
Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
Tina Manis

1  bedroom
2  bathroom
3  kitchen
4  terrace
5  office
6  hall
7  patio
8  living
9  entry
10  garbage

 

The clients of this ground-up infill house wanted a suburban house in an urban setting,, said New York architect Tina Manis. They wanted a garage and a big backyard. But they also wanted a rental unit and separate entrances. The challenge for Manis, formerly a project manager at OMA who broke off on her own five years ago, was to design a structure that allowed all the home's future inhabitants to have open views and space as well as privacy. The first two floors are the owners' unit, with a second-floor terrace that overlooks their backyard. The rental unit has its own street entrance, leading to the top floor and a terrace facing the street. Basically, they want the rental to be invisible,, said Manis.

 

 

 

courtesy tina manis

In suburban style, the faaade is wood-sided, though in this case, the elegant cedar-birch panels are arranged in alternating widths and patterns, forming a moirr pattern. The different textures create a screen (left, top) that cleverly hides the owner's entrance, the garage door, and the tenant's entrance. The project features an all-glass back faaade (left, below) that opens to their backyard.
Andrew Yang

 

Town House
Far West Village, Manhattan
Matthew Baird Architects

 

 

 

courtesy matthew baird architects

In addition to being architect Matthew Baird's first ground-up building, this 5,000-square-feet West Village town house also has the distinction of being the first single-family home built in the district in the last 14 years. A former architect at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Associates, Baird used a single, prefabricated 40-foot-tall steel plate to create a sense of privacy within the buildingga feature not unlike the massive metal-alloy faaade employed at Williams and Tsien's Museum of American Folk Art. Inside, the house, which sits on a 20-by-60-foot lot, features such striking spaces as terrace and kitchen that are completely open to each other, a double-height media room, and plenty of skylights. The project is both forcefully modern and context-appropriate, in scale and even material (Baird argues that the house's industrial feel relates to the surrounding Meatpacking District), despite neighbors' initial disapproval of the project.
ANDREW YANG

 

1144116 Hudson Street
Manhattan
BKSK Architects

 

courtesy bksk architects

1  master bedroom
2  second floor terrace
3  kitchen
4  dining
5  entry hall
6  bedroom
7  living room

 

This 19,000-square-foot residential conversion includes an existing five-story 19th- century commercial loft building and an adjacent narrow, vacant 1,615-square-foot lot. We wanted to acknowledge the recent history of the site in our design,, noted George Scheiferdecker, a principal of BKSK Architects. Having something transparent is a reminder of that long-standing gap in the city fabric.. The infill structure has a glass and aluminum faaade. Due to current zoning laws, it is only 45 feet deeppmuch shallower than the adjacent building to which has been attached. With the street appearance of two separate buildings, in fact, the new structure is united, with individual apartments occupying full floors. The new, glazed half is open in plan, housing the kitchen, dining, and living room spaces. Bathrooms, bedrooms, and storage spaces are housed in the more closed existing structure. The new, enlarged ground-floor is now available for lease to one or two commercial tenants while a two-story penthouse was added to the twin structures.
Aaron Seward

 

courtesy bksk architects

 

Donovan Residence and Studio
South 3rd Street, Williamsburg
Standard Architects

 

courtesy standard architects

This three-story apartment and studio for the artist Tara Donovan is a two-level addition to a one-story garage on Williamsburg's south side. For all intents and purposes, it is a new building. Standard Architects developed a scheme in which three very distinct spacessa ground-floor working studio and garage, and second-floor private studio, and a third floor apartmenttare linked by dramatic, skylight-lit stair that runs up diagonally along the side of the three spaces. We had to sacrifice a little bit of floor space, but Tara was really enthusiastic about the idea of the single stair,, explained principal John Conaty.

 

 

The new building is in scale with its neighborhood, but unlike the tenements nearby, is oriented almost entirely toward the rear of its 18-by-100-foot lot, which overlooks a park with mature trees. The street faaade is divided into three distinct elements: Corten steel clads the ground level, while two tilting planes of concrete shield the upper two floors from view. A glazed strip demarcates the division between the floors. In contrast, the rear of the building is almost entirely glazed, and a top-level roof deck is visually connected to the park below by a second-story terrace.
Anne Guiney

 

 

 

270 21st Street, Brooklyn
Coggan + Crawford

 

 

What began for New Yorkkbased Coggan + Crawford as a renovation/addition to an aluminum-sided three-story walk-up turned into a total overhaul. The mid-century building needed so much structural reinforcement that, at a certain point, the architects found themselves faced with gutted and stripped remains. We started with the concept of marrying old and new and we and we wanted to stay with that,, said principal Caleb Crawford, even though the whole new building is basically new..

 

courtesy coggan + crawford

The buildinggnow home to three full-floor apartmentssis clad in stucco in front, presenting a simple face to the street, while halfway back the skin changes to corrugated metal. Front windows are smaller and irregular, while those on the south-facing rear are expansive, to allow for added light throughout the building. The architects sited a skylight-lit stairwell, which leads to the front door of each flat, at the center of the building, to divide the long, narrow spaces.

 

 

The rear elevation features an attached fire escape, which links to each floor as well as a roof garden. Crawford had planned for a green roof and solar panels, both of which were dropped for budgetary reasons. With energy-conserving materials and controlled sun exposure, Crawford still hopes the home will be Energy Star rated.
Jaffer Kolb

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Architects Turned Developers

With a booming real estate market and an ever-increasing general appreciation for good design, more and more architects are betting their own hard-earned cash that their skills will pay off in the development business. Deborah Grossberg asks New York architects how and why they made the leap to the other side.

For much of the AIA's 150-year history, the organization prohibited architects from engaging in development work. Intent on distinguishing architecture as a noble professionn on the level of fine art, distinct from baser building trades like carpentry and masonryythe AIA also felt the need to protect its members from the economic ruin met by early architect-developers, like Robert Adam in London and Charles Bulfinch in Boston. It was not until 1964 (by then, the profession was well established and the success of architect-developers like John Portman of Atlanta celebrated) that the AIA relaxed its ban on working in property development. It even issued a document in 1971 encouraging architects to pursue it.

But the practice still carries some stigma, harkening to the AIA founders' fears that the crassness of the business would compromise the conduct of the gentleman-architect. Architects have always done development, but high design firms haven't,, said Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects, a firm that's been involved on the development side of its projects since building the Porter House at 366 West 15th Street in Manhattan's Meatpacking District in 2003. But all that's changing now..

The simplest reason why better firms are getting involved in development is the skyrocketing real estate market. Peter Moore, an architect who's been developing his own projects with his firm Peter Moore Associates since the 1980s, said, Because real estate has become so lucrative in the last dozen years, it's attracting more and more people, including good architects.. Another factor is the public's increased sensitivity to design since 9/11. There's more of a recognition now that architecture can create value,, said Jared Della Valle, principal of Brooklyn-based firm Della Valle + Bernheimer, which has been involved with an affordable housing development project in Brooklyn for the past three years. In other words, developers are beginning to see architects on more equal footing, as valuable creative partners who can help them conceptualize a projecttand make it more profitableefrom the outset.

Pasquarelli, who is trained as an architect and holds an undergraduate business degree, agrees that the perception of what designers can bring to the table has improved. We're not just selling a building wrapper, but solving real design problems,, he said. There's been a big shift in the value and vision that architects bring to a project, and we're finally being remunerated in equity, partnership, and property..

For a ground-up construction at 258 East 7th Street between Avenues C and D, Derek Sanders designed a building partly on spec and partly for a clientta couple willing to front the money for the 10,000-square-foot triplex penthouse. The couple's investment helped offset the cost of the rest of the project, which includes seven additional units, mostly two-bedrooms. It is slated for completion in late summer 2006.

It may be a prime time to dive in, but getting started in the development game still has a fair share of challenges. For one thing, the financial interests of developers and architects are often at odds, so doing both can at times feel schizophrenic. Working as both developer and architect, in a way you're negotiating against yourself on fees,, said Della Valle. Since architects' fees are paid at the beginning of a project, you're paying interest on any dollar you get for fees as part of your loan. Architects' fees are one of the things that developers are always trying to reduce.. Besides pouring their own man hours into their project, Della Valle and co-principal Andrew Bernheimer also asked three other firmssArchitecture Research Office, BriggsKnowles, and Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewissto collaborate on designs in an effort to give each unit in their affordable housing development a unique identity.

Aside from conflicting interests, the hardest part for most architects is scraping together the cash for that first down payment on property and construction loans. Small practices often have trouble convincing banks that they're right for a mortgage, and many don't want to risk their entire livelihood even if financing is attainable. The most common solution is to partner with a developer or investors, but on a more equal basis than in a standard for-fee project.

Many architects who develop their own projects swear by starting small. Pasquarelli worked with developer Jeffrey M. Brown on the Porter House project, investing a small fraction of the total cost but a much larger percentage of his firm's net worth. It was really, really frightening,, he said. The risk paid offfone bedroom flats sold for more than $700,000 and the four-bedroom duplex penthouse went to fashion mogul Carlos Miele for over $4 million. Now Pasquarelli is using the profits from the project to finance four collaborative development projects in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Derek Sanders, a 44-year-old architect and principal of CAN Resources who recently began investing in his own projects with the help of a young developer, Seth Tapper, said, With our first project, we started out with a much smaller percentage of the equity. We waived our fees entirely and contributed a little capital. The first project made money, which we rolled into the second one.. According to Sanders, the approach has paid off. Architects don't usually get paid very well anyway,, he reasoned. As long as you have low overhead, you can make multiples of your regular fees [by trading them for shares]..

AvroKO invested about 50 percent of the capital for the development of twin one-bedroom co-op apartments at 23 Waverly Street in Greenwich Village. The firm outfitted each unit with everything you could get excited about,, according to principal Kristina O'Neal, such as bacteria-killing lights, a Murphy bed with an astronaut foam mattress, and energy-efficient appliances.

Architect Galia Solomonoff went even further with the bartering idea for a six-story residential building she's working on in the East Village: She and the couple who owns the lot (they bought it for peanuts in the 1980s) took no loans at all, and convinced all the contractors involvedd Solomonoff includeddto waive part of their fees in exchange for equity. The traditional wisdom of business people is to borrow as much as you can, put your building up as quickly as possible, and flip it before you pay too much interest,, said Solomonoff. The wisdom of artists is don't borrow and don't rush..

Sanders has made his equation work partly by picking a co-developer who's relatively new to the game. Not having done a lot of development already, Seth is open to new ideas,, he said. He's also used some creative methods to offset up-front costs. With the help of real estate broker Larry Carty, Sanders and Tapper managed to find a Japanese couple to pre-purchase the penthouse apartment in a ground-up construction they're working on at 258 East 7th Street. Sanders is designing the top three floors according to the couple's specifications, but the rest of the building is up to him. Because residential work relies so much on the sanity of your clients, I'm of the opinion that the more you can be your own client, the better,, said Sanders.

The young design firm AvroKO also got into development to shed the burden of designing for clients. For us, the core reason to do self-propelled projects is to be able to do something you can't do with conservative clientssto go with the ideas you want,, said Kristina O'Neal, one of AvroKO's four principals. The group owns and operates the restaurant Public, which opened in Nolita in 2004. This year, they designed two fully-outfitted one-bedroom apartments in Greenwich Village under the moniker smart.space. They are marketing the units themselves, and at press time there was a bid on the less expensive, smaller of the two units (the asking price for the 590-square-foot unit is $649,000, and $753,250 for the 655-square-foot space). Investors fronted part of the cash for both projects, though AvroKO owns significant stakes in both. But according to O'Neal, they're not in it for the money. It's been somewhat profitable,, she allowed, but we're mainly supporting ourselves through fee- based work.. The firm is currently planning more smart.space units, to be completed in 2006, as well as another internally-developed project to be released in the fall. We learned a lot from these projects,, said O'Neal. The next ones will be easier and more affordable..

Peter Moore, an architect who began developing affordable housing projects in the 1980s in Brooklyn, is currently involved with five development projects in Manhattan. For a project at 520 West 27th Street in Chelsea, Moore partnered with Flank Architects to develop a new 11-story, 50,000-square-foot mixed-use condominium building currently under construction on the site of an old four-story warehouse and showroom for American Hanger and Fixture.

Developing projects offers as many constraints as freedoms, but many architects have found the new limits compelling. It was fantastic because we only had to answer to ourselves,, said Pasquarelli. We had to ask, Do we really think that extra stainless steel detail is worth it?' And if the answer was yes, then we had to pay for it!! Bernheimer agreed, You have to make decisions informed by economics but there's always the opposite challenge to do something unexpected within the constraints..

The first development project is always the hardest for architects unaccustomed to working in real estate. From an architect's standpoint, the most daunting part of our development project has been the time commitment,, said Bernheimer. The learning curve has been so steep that, of the three years we've spent on the project, a good year was spent learning the ins and outs of the real estate market.. The educational experience can be a plus, though. Solomonoff said, I really enjoy that the team of experts you work with becomes larger. In a project where you have a developer interest there's a real estate person with a different outlook on the architecture and design market, as well as lawyers who have a more conservative point of view about the value of design. It enriches your role as an architect..

Bernheimer and Della Valle brought in partners with more development experience to help them sort out the rigmarole of purchasing land from the city for affordable housing. The firm felt that city RFP requirements, which demand finished designs before a bid is won, tended to force affordable housing developers into cheaping out on architecture services. Developers usually just submit something that's already been done to avoid spending money on architects' fees,, said Della Valle. But for most of the people [for whom affordable housing is created], it will be their first home purchase. That requires more thought about design rather than less..

Moore is working on another 11-story condo project, at 302 Spring Street in the West Village, with Zakrzewski & Hyde Architects. Principals Stas Zakrzewski and Marianne Hyde (who are married with two children) earned a three-bedroom stake in the new project in exchange for waiving design fees. Their design incorporates a small communal courtyard as well as a stainless-steel shutter system which allows residents to control the flow of light and air without losing privacy.

Moore agreed that the city could do more to encourage good architecture along with development. City Planning and the Landmarks Preservation Commission make feeble attempts, but they're not doing enough,, he said. They should encourage a more fully integrated approach to harness the boom.. Since the city hasn't managed to keep developers in check, Moore thinks the biggest strength architects can bring to development is a sense of responsibility for the built environment. It's encouraging to have architects develop because they bring integrity to the process. If you're looking to maximize your value, it's not necessarily a strength to be an architect, but building buildings isn't an abstract thing like selling bonds,, said Moore.

Most architects involved with development are continuing with their regular practice as well. Said Sanders, You have to balance how much risk you want to take on.. Perhaps the most compelling reason for architects to get a taste for what it's like to be a developer is to encourage better understanding across the divide. I'm interested in having the most participatory role possible as an architect,, said Solomonoff. There's both more freedom and more responsibility..
DEBORAH GROSSBERG IS AN ASSOCIATE EDITOR AT AN.

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The Adventures of Robin Hood

The cutting-edge nonprofit Robin Hood Foundation has recruited a band of architects to give to the poor by designing libraries in some of New York City's neediest public schools. With its second phaseeand 31 librariessnow complete, the Library Initiative is an example of pro bono design at its best. Cathy Lang Ho reports.

Marpillero Pollak created a simple dropped perforated metal ceiling, with cut-out holes filled with colored Plexiglas and Jasper Morrison Glo-Ball Flos lights that echo the round foam seats by M2L below. With Milder & Co., they devised a set of tables (background) that can be pushed apart or linked together.
> peter mauss / esto

In 20011three years before Mayor Michael Bloomberg won approval for his $13 billion school construction and improvements campaign, which is just now beginning to be implementeddLonni Tanner, then director of special projects at the Robin Hood Foundation, decided that New York City's public schools needed serious attention. Robin Hood, a poverty-fighting, grant-giving nonprofit, had just funded the renovation of a library in a charter school in Brooklyn, undertaken by Karen Davidov and Henry Myerberg of the since-dissolved partnership Helfand Myerberg Guggenheimer. I was curious if other schools needed a similar resource,, said Tanner, so she canvassed 250 of the city's 650 public elementary schools. I was shocked at what I saw,, she said. I saw a few dusty books on some shelves, old Wang computerssnothing that could be close to being called a library.. At the time, 60 percent of New York public school students in grades three through eight were reading below grade level. Believing that education is the key to fighting poverty, Robin Hood, in a groundbreaking partnership with the city's Board of Education, launched the Library Initiative.

Today, the program boasts 31 alternatives to the bleak public school norm, created by 16 architects who worked mostly pro bono over the course of two phases (see sidebar for complete list). The highly publicized results of the pilot phase, completed in 2002, prove that there are myriad ways to skin a cat: Charged with creating distinct spaces for instruction, presentation, and private reading, accommodating 10,000 books (donated by Scholastic) and several computer workstations (donated by Apple), and ensuring clear sightlines throughout the space, among other requirements, ten firms produced wide-ranging prototypes of lively, child-friendly spaces that are rigorously programmed for learning as well as cost-efficient, durable, and easy to maintain. Because the libraries departed so dramatically from their standard-issue, institutional contexts, they quickly became magnets within their schools and larger communities, captivating students who regard them havens, retreatssplaces where they want to be.

Gluckman Mayner Architects used the library as a chance to explore sustainable materials, such as non-off-gassing Woodstalk for millwork, non-VOC adhesives, bamboo flooring, and recycled-content Interface carpet tiles. To counter the divisions of the floor area, the architects wanted a unified ceiling treatment. They gave it a sky motif, with wallpaper designed by 2x4 and customized light fixtures that are simple fluorescent bulbs with bent metal forms to evoke birds or flying books.

Custom responses were integral to conveying to students, many of them economically underprivileged, that they are important and deserve special attention. (Robin Hood selected schools where over 75 percent of students qualify for a free lunch.) But replicability is equally important to the Library Initiative. The idea from the outset was to develop a standard, since the aim is to get architects to all the schools eventually,, said Myerberg, who was instrumental in helping define the Library Initiative and worked with Tanner to recruit first-phase architects. But we didn't want a cookie-cutter approach, like Starbucks, either..

This inquiry into how to allow the libraries to be unique expressions of their contexts and their architects while capturing economies of scale has intensified in the second round of libraries, completed the last month.

In phase two, 9 firms produced 21 libraries. Four of the firmssTsao & McKown, Tod Williams Billie Tsien, Richard H. Lewis, and the Rockwell Group, where Henry Myerberg now worksswere architects returning from the first round, and who were asked to design multiple libraries, nudging the potential of serialization further. We love the idea of the libraries having distinct identities, but the cost pressure is continually growing so the impulse to standardize grows stronger,, said Robin Hood's chief of external affairs Joe Daniels, who oversaw the build-out of phase-two libraries. The libraries were budgeted at about $1 million each, encompassing the cost of construction as well as training and staffing librarians, which Robin Hood considers essential to the program's success. To date, Robin Hood has contributed $7.5 million to the initiative, which the Board of Education matched funding three-to-one, putting in $22 million. The libraries average about 2,000 square feet; the construction cost of each was roughly $400,000, or $200 per square foot.

Second-round architects, like many in the first, found vibrant colors, playful furniture, irregularly shaped spaces, and bold lighting and graphics to be effective accomplices in creating high-impact, low-cost gestures. Many new architects had the urge, like Weiss/Manfredi did with its award-winning first-round project, to extend the presence and magic of the library into the rest of the school. Rogers Marvel offered tantalizing views into their library at P.S. 105 in Far Rockaway by filling two unused doorways that face the adjacent corridor with alternately clear and frosted glass blocks, where they also sited benches so that silhouettes of readers inside would be visible to passers-by. Meanwhile, Marpillero Pollak Architects' library at P.S. 5 in Sunset Park beckons students with an entrance fronted by a window and an oversized bench, emblazoned with the Library Initiative logo created by Pentagram's Michael Bierut, who worked with all the architects to incorporate graphics into their spaces.

 

 

 

PHASE 1 completed Fall 2002

Della Valle + Bernheimer Design (PS 18)
Tsao & McKown Architects (P.S. 19)
Weiss/Manfredi Architects (P.S. 42)
Deborah Berke Architect (P.S. 46)
Helfand Myerberg Guggenheimer Architects (P.S. 50)
Alexander Gorlin Architect (P.S. 92)
Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates (P.S. 101)
Ronette Riley Architect (P.S. 149)
Paul Bennett Architect (P.S. 165)
Richard H. Lewis, Architect (P.S. 184)

PHASE 2 completed Winter 2005

Tsao & McKown Architects (P.S. 46, 86, 94, and 246)
Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates (P.S. 1, 28, and 32)
Richard H. Lewis, Architect (P.S. 10, 36, 93, 287)
The Rockwell Group (P.S. 5, 17, 106, 137, 145)
1100 Architect (P.S. 16)
Rogers Marvel Associates (P.S. 105)
Dean Wolf Architects (P.S. 151)
Marpillero Pollak Architects (P.S. 1)
Gluckman Mayner Architects (P.S. 192)

1100 Architects took its cue from the school's small reptile zoo, creating a long bookshelf that snakes through the space and creates distinct separate areas for private reading and group activities.

The learning curve was higher for new architects,, said Myerberg, but we all learned what worked and didn't work from the first round.. For example, for P.S. 50, he had designed a system of Lego-like bookcases arranged in a staggered pattern, but they confounded librarians' ability to uphold the Dewey decimal system. In his second set of libraries, the bookcases follow a more linear pattern.

The treatment of bookcases varied widely from architect to architect. Billie Tsien said that her firm learned early on to discern what was important and treatable versus what they could do little about, such as a wall of unattractive windows. To them, bookcases were key. We learned that your best friend is your cabinetmaker,, said Tsien. They can deliver the room for you in a beautiful way because they're making a container for people and books at the same time.

It's the cabinetwork, too, that's essentially replicable.. Many other library architects also emphasized the importance of custom casegoods to ensure maximum book capacity and a snug fit. And many insisted on wooden bookshelves, despite the expense, as if to reinforce the traditional idea of libraries and avoid the typical approach to children's or institutional spaces, to go plastic, hard, and cool. Richard Lewis' firm decided that all the furniture that was fixed would have a traditional look while all the movable furniture would be modern, so their bookcases are old-fashioned molded wood while chairs are by Arne Jacobsen and cabinets are by USM. Tsao & McKown designed shelving (made from medium-density fiberboard) that's almost constructivist in detail,, said Zack McKown, so that kids can reverse-engineer how they were built..

Rogers Marvel Architects used cheap VCT (vinyl composition tile), arranging two different shades of yellow in a random pattern, giving the floor interesting visual texture.

Interestingly, Richard Gluckman of Gluckman Mayner Architects had the opposite point of view about bookcases, using off-the-shelf metal frames. We didn't think it was the place to spend money,, he said. Why reinvent the wheel? Whenever possible, we wanted to use straightforward, utilitarian products to support the architecture..

Flooring was also an important realm for experimentation. Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Tsao & McKown, which both used cork in their first library, resurrected the soft, resilient, acoustically and environmentally friendly material in their second-round libraries. Richard Lewis, Marpillero Pollak, and Dean/Wolf followed their lead, specifying the material in different colors. The Rockwell Group used mostly Interface carpet, as did Gluckman Mayner, which paired the soft floor covering with bamboo, to denote the different areas of the room. Meanwhile, Rogers Marvel used perhaps the cheapest flooring material of all, vinyl composition tile (VCT), but picked a nice yellow in two shades and arranged them randomly, giving the floor some visual texture. These varied solutions raise the potential of developing standards or uniform elements for future libraries. We are looking for elements that can be applied across different projects, without restricting architects' designs,, said Daniels. For example, in the future, we could offer a choice of three or four flooring options or shelving solutions, and make a deal up front with a vendor or fabricator..

Marpillero Pollak Architects extended the presence of the library into the school, with an entrance bench/gathering area. The Library Initiative's logo was designed by Michael Bierut of Pentagram, who worked with the library architects to create site-specific graphics.

To counter the uniformity that might come with recurring elements, Robin Hood has been encouraging architects to emphasize site-specific graphic installations involving students. Marpillero Pollak created a window frieze using chidren's drawings of fictional characters. Meanwhile, Richard Lewis worked with Pentagram, as well as artists Dorothy Kresz, Peter Arkle, Raghava Kalyanaraman, and Lynn Pauley to create murals to fill the space between the tops of bookcases (which could be no higher than five shelves) and ceilings.

As the Library Initiative enters its third roundda list of 25 schools and architects will be determined this summerrcost savings will be even more crucial, as the Board of Education reduces its matching funds from three-to-one to two-to-one. But the Library Initiative has already developed a certain cachet in the architectural community, with many clamoring to be involved. The same goes for vendors, many of which have donated or discounted their materials and services. Luckily, there are plenty of libraries to go around. 31 down,, said Tanner, who left Robin Hood last month. 619 to go.. cathy lang ho is an editor at an.

Rogers Marvel Architects used cheap VCT (vinyl composition tile), arranging two different shades of yellow in a random pattern, giving the floor interesting visual texture.

 

CREDITS

1100 Architect
Dean Wolf Architects
Gluckman Mayner Architects
Marpillero Pollak Architects
Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates
Tsao & McKown Architects
Richard H. Lewis Architect
The Rockwell Group
Rogers Marvel Architects

Client: New York City Board of Education
General contractor: F. J. Sciame Construction Co.
Funding partner: Robin Hood Foundation
In-kind donations: Scholastic Books, Harper Collins, Apple, Maharam
Graphic design: Michael Bierut, Pentagram
Photography: Peter Mauss / ESTO

* It's worth noting that many of the companies involved with the Robin Hood libraries supplied their products or services pro bono or at discounted rates.

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Bright Lights, Big City

Though ethereal, light is one of architecture's most important materials. Whether natural or artificial, light can accentuate architectural genius, mask mistakes, grab attention, make a place feel sacred or safe. New lighting technology and educational programs are keys to keeping architecture's spark alive.

Technology
LEDs, the Latest Frontier on Architectural Lighting

LEDs are everywhere, and not just in traffic lights and digital alarm clocks where they started several decades ago. LEDs, short for light emitting diodes, have been steadily making their way into architectural applications around the world. Until recently, LEDs were considered impractical for widespread use in large environments but the technology has improved dramaticallyythey're smaller and brighter, use less power, can be computer controlled, and cycle through all the colors of the rainbowwenticing more and more architects and designers to integrate them in their work.

Many manufacturers (even those that only recently incorporated the technology into their lines) have now made LEDs, if not a core component of their product offerings, part of their R&D. We consider implementing LED technology for every new product under development,, said Ted Chappell, president of New Jerseyybased Erco Lighting, which did not bring LED-based products into its line until its 2002/ 2003 catalog.

Left and below: UN Studio and Arup Lighting, both based in Amsterdam, teamed up to give Seoul's Galleria West fashion mall a dazzling, Paco Rabannesque makeover. Concealing a nondescript 1970s concrete building is a layer of 4,330 frosted glass discs, shielding an equal number of LED luminaires. Each disc acts as a giant pixel; the building becomes a vast display screen. With Dutch company Xilver, Rogier van der Heide of Arup developed an RGB LED fixture that improves the color tone of the LEDs.
Courtesy arup lighting

The most common application of LEDssmany would argue to a faulttis in color-changing scenarios and as decorative details in a larger environment. If I need a saturated color, I look to LEDs,, said lighting designer Jim Benya, principal of Benya Lighting Design in Tigard, Oregon, who is currently creating a midnight sky scene for a hospital MRI room with blue LEDs. Another lighting designer, Ken Douglas, principal of Illumination Arts in New Jersey, is embedding the light source into the faaade of dark red brick building that lost its presence at night. In our designs, we are using it mostly as a secondary aesthetic element, to add a little flavor or as a highlighting element,, he said.

Courtesy arup lighting

Color-changing capabilities exist with other lamps like metal halide, which was used by Horton Lees Brogden to light the Met Life building in New York City with stunning results. But Douglas noted, With those lamps, there has to be a physical component moving around, or glass moving back and forth, or a color wheel, and every time you have a part that moves, you have a part that fails..

RGB fluorescent has traditionally been the source behind color-changing effects, and is still being used very successfully on certain projects, such as on the faaade of the 41-story Deutsche Post tower in Bonn, Germany, designed in 2003 by Helmut Jahn. However, more designers like Darren Nolan, an architect with Peter Marino + Associates, which recently completed an eight-story building for Chanel in Tokyo, turned to LEDs to illuminate its faaade. We made comparisons between fluorescent and LEDs, but issues of maintenance, heat generation, and consistency of color temperature convinced us to go with the latter,, he said. The architects were also charmed with the ability of the LEDs, imbedded on the modernist glass and metal faaade, to change light patterns each night, simulating for example Chanel's signature tweed. While the upfront costs of LEDs were higher, said Nolan, in the long run the architects felt LEDs would be more cost effective.

Chanel's new Tokyo headquarters, designed by Peter Marino, has a triple-glazed facade featuring view-controlled glass and LEDs that enable the building to be completely transparent by day and lanternlike at night. The building has art director who programs different patterns for the facade.

Courtesy peter marino + associates

The extremely long life of LEDs makes them a particularly sound solution in situations where fixtures are hard to maintain. Paul Gregory, principal of Focus Lighting in New York City, specified LEDs for the new Semiramis Hotel in Athens, Greece, for example, for areas where limited space would have made it hard to replace other lamp types. Gregory, who collaborated with Karim Rashid on the project, felt confident in the choice, having used LEDs on the Morimoto restaurant in Philadelphia four years before, which he says has been extremely low maintenance and still looks good. The questions is always, Can you do something complex and still have it look great in four years,, he said. Not with Par cans [theater lighting]; not with MR16s..

While the overall lumen output from available LED sources remains low, there are extremely bright LED products for small-area applications, such as display cases or enclosed spaces. The technology is also ideal for low-light-level outdoor applications, like step lights and pavers, because the technology operates under a wide range of temperatures, unlike fluorescents which do not respond well to cold, and HID lamps, which do not start or extinguish immediately. Also, since they use few watts, LEDs can be solar or battery powered, which makes them appropriate to situations where uninterruptible power is important. Erco Lighting began its foray into LED-based fixtures with products dedicated to this application. We marketed them as orientation' luminaires,, said Chappell. They serve as excellent marker lights for pathways as well as safety lights for entrances and step applications..

Paul Gregory of Focus Lighting worked with David Rockwell on FAO Schwarz's renovation, which features a ceiling with 80,000 LEDs that can be programmed into different patterns

J. P. Lira / courtesy focus lighting

Since they do not radiate heat, LEDs work well in environments where heat may damage the object being illuminateddart or chocolate, for example. For this reason, task lamps are incorporating the technology, since users are generally in close proximity to the light source and can therefore be burned by it. The Arketto lamp, which Luxo released in 2004, produces virtually no apparent heat and has a 50,000-hour life, according to the company. That LEDs do not produce any heat is a myth, however, according to Benya. An LED does not radiate heat, which actually means it cannot cool itself in this way, but still has to conduct the heat away from the source. The higher the wattage, the bigger the heat problem.. If an LED source is not cooled, he notes, it negatively affects light output and longevity. He believes this problem is the Holy Grail for the industry; if it can be resolved, then LEDs will enter more standard architectural applications like downlightsand spots.

This and other shortcomingsslow overall light output, cool white range (lacking the warmth of incandescents), high priceehave kept LEDs out of mainstream architectural applications, but have also been the focus of manufacturers' research. For example, Color Kinetics recently introduced IntelliWhite, which offers an expanded range of temperatures. And, according to Dave Shepard, national sales manager with lighting manufacturer Luxo, which recently released an LED task light, the price of LED components seems to come down every six months or so. He notes that the industry is currently in the middle of a pronounced decrease.

Gregory also worked with Karim Rashid on the Semiramis Hotel in Athens, where LEDs work with colored glass for decorative effect.

Jennifer alexander / courtesy focus lighting

>I've never seen a technology in our field evolve so much over so short a period of time,, said Benya. Every time you stop and take a snapshot, remember that what you specify today is going to become obsolete faster than the computer you just bought.. This is in direct conflict with what Benya considers the purpose of architectural lightinggto design something permanent and durable. We call them light fixtures for a reason,, he said. He maintains a healthy skepticism toward LEDs, pointing out that when the source does fail, it often means the entire system must be replaced, not just a bulb.. The diodes need to be soldered or otherwise connected to a complex electrical system; when one goes, the entire lighting system may have to go. It's a monumental paradigm shift,, he said. A luminaire is now a throwaway wrapper around an expensive light-bulb, as opposed to the other way around..

Perhaps indicative of how far LEDs have come is that primary complaint about the technology from designers is not about their performance, but about their architectural applications. My criticism is about how the technology has been used in the last few years,, said Douglas. In the early 1990s, everything had to be MR16s; it didn't matter whether they were the right fixture or not. LEDs are like that. People are making things flash and dance even if it isn't a building that should be doing that..
Emilie W. Sommerhoff is the editor-in-chief of Architectural Lighting.

 

Urbanism
A Lighter, Brighter Jets Stadium

As the battle over the development rights of the Hudson rail yards enters its next phase (March 21 was the MTA's deadline for competing bids), the most prominent contender and mayoral favorite, the New York Jets, unveiled a revised design for its proposed New York Sports and Convention Center (NYSCC) that brightens and softens Kohn Pedersen Fox's (KPF) original scheme.

KPF's first try was a clunky, closed box plunked down between 31st and 33rd streets, split by a central axis that ran down 11th Avenue. The Municipal Art Society (MAS) put its carefully considered two cents in, and the architects listened. In the revised design, the structure's height is reduced by 120 feet. The wind turbines that were supposed to line the rooftop were also eliminated. Shrinking the structure improved it, but it was still a big awkward box.

courtesy l'observatoire international

>One of the initial driving forces in the new design was the Municipal Art Society's desire to create a strong axis on 32nd Street,, Bill Pederson said. They felt that the plan would be strengthened by a strong east-west orientation.. The architects responded by creating an asymmetrical faaade and reorienting the complex toward a new pedestrian-friendly entrance plaza on 11th Avenue, a planned retail corridor.

The most dramatic revision by far, however, involves the skin of the building. The designers have wrapped the core volume in a translucent glass veil, giving the structure the appearance of floating.

Toronto-based graphic designer Bruce Mau, originally brought in to develop wayfinding and graphic imagery, got into the collaborative design spirit and contributed by conceptualizing the entire 60,000-foot exterior surface as a single image, with each 6-by-12-foot pane of glass dotted alternately with translucent and transparent film. If you think about a pane of glass as a pixel, you can make an image that reads on an urban scale,, Mau said. From far away, it's very soft, light, and diaphanous; on an intimate scale it's very pop and graphic..

The Jets' desire to make the project less monolithic and more appropriately scaled to the neighborhood is furthered by the contribution of lighting designer Hervv Descottes, founder of New Yorkkbased L'Observatoire International. We wanted to work with different degrees of transparency,, said Descottes, discussing the wrap-around LED screen to be installed at the structure's ground level. The lighting designer envisions seven distinct lighting schemes that can be deployed, changing the building's profile from day to night and event to event. At times, the stadium would reflect the Hudson River, while at others it would shoot two beams of lighttone straight into the sky and one right into New Jerseyyto communicate game-day excitement. It's subtle but strong signage,, he noted.

Will the NYSCC's inventive use of media and light be enough to win over its objectors? Time will tell. Eva Hagberg is a New Yorkkbased writer.

 

Education
Parson's MFA in Lighting, the Nation's First to Incorporate Design

When Peter Wheelwright took over as chair of the architecture department at Parsons in 1999, he also inherited an ailing Masters of Arts program in lighting design. Shortly thereafter, the proverbial light bulb went off: Why not take advantage of the inherent synergy between the three fields in the departmenttarchitecture, lighting, and interior designnand at the same time extend the depth and breadth of the study of lighting design, which historically has lagged behind as an academic discipline?

Parsons has been a leader in lighting design since 1975, when Jim Nuckolls, a pioneer in both the practice and education of the discipline, launched the first incarnation of its MFA. Originally, the program was an appendage of the continuing education department. In the early 1990s, it joined the architecture program, yet after a decline in student enrollment, the school decided to turn it into a vocational one-year Master of Arts degree in 1998.

Lighting study by Azusa Yabe

courtesy parsons school of design

Wheelwright began the revamp by hiring the program's first full-time director, Joanne Lindsley, who had been the president of the International Association of Lighting Designers, and then resolved to transform the degree back into a two-year MFA with a fresh slant. The resulting program, which kicked off its first semester last fall at full capacity with 24 matriculated students, puts lighting design and architecture students in the same studio space. They share faculty as well as history and theory courses, and even work in tandem on the same design projects. It's radical for an architecture program to have such a strong relation to lighting design,, said Wheelwright. Although they think they do, few architects today really know how to design with light..

Key players in launching the new MFA are David Lewis, director of Parsons' graduate architecture program and a principal of Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis, and lighting designer Linnaea Tillett. The program's advisory board includes lighting designer Paul Marantz of Fisher Marantz Stone. Since Lindsley left the program in 2004, Wheelwright has served as acting director, while talks of a search for a new head are in development. Said Wheelwright, The new MFA needs an academic to run it, someone who understands the relationship of design to social practice..

Lighting study by Jung Eun Park

courtesy parsons school of design

Extending his theory that cooperation yields greater benefits for related disciplines, Wheelwright has widened his students' access to educators and facilities by networking with Parsons' main competitor in the field, the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). RPI is doing something very different,, he said, explaining that their Master of Science is focused more on scientific research and development. They're inventing light bulbs; we're designing. So we've begun to strategize linkages.. Students from Parsons have already visited Rensselaer, and RPI faculty members have given lectures as Parsons.

Most other lighting design programs in the U.S., such as those at Illinois State, Florida State, and Carnegie Mellon, are concentrations within their schools' theater design departments. Wheelwright believes that Parsons is embarking on a program that is unique. I hope [this year's class] will be the first batch of students trained in the history and theory of lighting design, who will look at light from a phenomenological point of view, as well as learning its mechanics and techniques. If we do that,, he claimed, We'll be doing what no one else does.. Anna Holtzman is a New Yorkkbased writer.

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Found in Translation

One big ideaaand thousands of small decisionssare behind any architectural project. For the Museum of Modern Art, reopening this week, Kohn Pedersen Fox was responsible for translating Yoshio Taniguchi's minimalist concept into a buildable construction. Here's a sampling of technical solutions that are integral to the museum's new image and experience.

The new MoMA orients visitors' views of the garden courtyard along its length. The interior is a volumetric puzzle of rectilinear compositions, floating planes, and interlocking spaces.

When Yoshio Taniguchi won the commission to expand and renovate the Museum of Modern Art, he had every intention of moving his operation from Tokyo to New York for the duration of the project. Aware of the difficulty of navigating the straits of New York City construction, the museum proposed he partner with a firm with experience building locally. His response? If you insist on a collaboration, I want to work with a design firm, not just a firm that stamps drawings,, paraphrased architect Stephen Rustow of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), which the MoMA ultimately hired as executive architect of the $425 million project.

The architect-of-record arrangement was also a new experience for KPF. But the prestige of the project was hard to resist,, said Rustow who, with Tom Holzman, led the project. Also, it gave us a chance to engage seriously with a cultural institution.. The firm had wanted to break from its stereotype as a tall building specialist. Rustow, who had worked at I. M. Pei's office and supervised the construction of the Louvre expansion, was hired by KPF expressly to manage the MoMA job.

For five years, an architect from Taniguchi's atelier worked in KPF's New York office while eight of KPF's employees relocated to Japan. The collaboration proved to be a necessity because of the continual shifts and refinements of the building's programming, which required the design to undergo constant fine-tuning. There were strong preliminary notions about where the primary collections would be located, but things were changing up until two months ago,, said Rustow. (KPF was also called upon to oversee the renovation of the original 1939 building by Phillip Goodwin and Edward Durrel Stone and the Philip Johnson addition of 1964. The job entailed the complete replacement of the 53rd Street facade and the renovation of several interior spaces.) The more important issue, however, was how to translate Taniguchi's design intent within American engineering and construction standards. While plenty of articles will no doubt assess the architects' overall accomplishment, we felt the nitty-gritty problem-solving was worth highlighting, too.
 cathy lang ho and anne guiney

Wall, uninterrupted

With the walls in the museum's atrium space four stories high at certain points, the question of its surface material became a major issue. At one point, Taniguchi considered metal panels, but this raised the problem of a pattern across its surface that would be distracting as a backdrop for freestanding or hanging art. Plaster made obvious sense because, in theory, it is limitless. However, industry standards in the U.S. require an expansion joint every 30 feet to prevent cracking. The resulting grid would be just as bad, not to mention contrary to Taniguchi's general minimalist aesthetic. So KPF used curtain wall construction to make the wall structurally independent of the intermediate floor slabs, and tied only to the existing columns, which are 26 feet apart on center.

While the way the curtain wall ties into the existing structure varies slightly from point to point as specific conditions require, here's the basic pattern: The wall is comprised of 14-gauge steel with lateral cross-bracing. Six-by-six-inch steel angles tie the frame to the museum's concrete slabs for lateral support. (One benefit of 14-gauge steel studs is they can be put up by plaster workers; heavier gauge studs require steel workers, which would have complicated an already tight schedule.) Over this steel framework is a layer of 3/44 plywood, which acts as a membrane and makes it easier to hang art since screws have something to bite into. One or two layers of sheetrock (depending on fire-rating) is attached to the plywood, then finished with a plaster skim coat.

>Missingg Columns

The second-floor gallery in the additionnthe David and Peggy Rockefeller Building, which extends MoMA through the block, from 53rd to 54th Streettis the largest and tallest display space in the expanded institution. The 15,000-square- foot and 21-foot-high space is programmed to tell the continually unfolding story of modern art, and thus required the utmost flexibility. Unfortunately, the grand space was interrupted by two chunky columnssbeefed up in order to support the new office tower sited above the gallery. (One of the mandates of the redesign was to bring all of the MoMA's staff, which had been scattered in five locations, under one roof.)

To improve the efficiency of distributing electricity and water within the buildinggthe first five floors of galleries and seven floors of offices aboveethe designers had already decided to split the mechanical system. Half of the system was put in the basement, servicing the lower floors of the building, while the other half is on the eighth floor, servicing the floors immediately above and below it. The tower had to be rigidified to support the upper-floor mechanical system. While walking through the construction site one day, consultant structural engineer Guy Nordenson remarked to Rustow, With all the steel in the trusses on the eighth floor, we could probably suspend all the floors below it.. At this point, the steel columns on the 2nd floor were already in place.

When the architects brought the idea to museum director Glenn Lowry, he asked, Are you serious? What would it entail?? Just a little bit more steel on the eighth floor for added strength. Once in place, the construction crew torched away the steel columns they had put there months before, clearing the way, to the curators' delight, for an impressively expansive, uninterrupted gallery.

Sharp Reveals

All of the new gallery walls have a 1-inch reveal where the wall meets the floor, but on close inspection, the line is a particularly sharp one. Rather than use the typical J-bead along the bottom of the gypsum board, KPF designed a custom Z-profile channel made out of extruded aluminum.

The Z-channel is a good example of a solution born from the conflict between Japanese and American construction materials and standards. It is fairly common in Japan for contractors to create a reveal by cutting the edge of a piece of wallboard (different from our drywall) at 90 degrees, then edging it with a thin metal sheet. Taniguchi wanted to refine the standard reveal by slicing the edge at 45 degrees, creating a sharp point. To accomplish this, KPF designed an extruded aluminum channel that could hold two layers of 3/44 materiallhere, wallboard and plywood. Resembling the letter Z, the channel has a tiny round hole inside its point. The hole accepts a small alignment pin to ensure that each piece of channel is correctly in place. After calculating that they would need a staggering amount of channellseveral milessit began to seem pretty reasonable to specify a custom piece and absorb the cost of making the die. Pittcon Architectural Metals, the company that manufactured the channel, was so pleased with the results that it is now carrying the item as a product in its catalogue.

Ceilings received a similar reveal treatmenttand solution. To float the ceilings, another extrusion was made, allowing ceilings to float away from walls. The floor and ceiling reveals are more than just aesthetic, however. They are an integral part of the museum's ventilation system. The internal gallery walls are a bit thicker than normal, and that is because they have a plenum inside. Air is drawn up into the system through the reveal at the base of the floor, conditioned, and ultimately released through a series of thin slits at the ceiling.

Thin Is Beautiful

While leading a group of journalists through a hard-hat tour of the MoMA a year ago, chief curator of the Department of Architecture and Design Terence Riley was keen to point out the little details that made such big difference in the realization of the project. One example was the way the HVAC ducts and other systems were threaded through holes cut through horizontal eyebeams in the glazed west wing that reorients the museum's entrance toward the sculpture garden. It was a way to keep the floor slabs thin,, Riley explained, appreciative of how the gesture improves the view of the building from the garden. It was also a practical way to align the floors of the new building with those of the old. Ceiling heights were lower in old buildings,, said Rustow. Keeping the floor plates thin in the addition allowed us to maximize the ceiling heights.. The tip of the canopy is tapered, continuing efforts to keep the elevation's appearance minimal.

The third floor slab stops just short of the edge of the building, with a thin steel rod that reaches out to offer added stability to the curtain wall. As for the curtain wall, KPF continued Taniguchi's overriding formal aestheticcminimum joints, minimum support, maximum spans of materials and distancesswith a structure of extremely thin mullions (see detail, above right) made of milled steel. The result is a slender and stiff steel lattice that is both structure and support for the glazing, which architects were able to specify as large as they could get it (14 feet tall, 7 feet wide). The depth of the horizontal mullions was determined in order to give added strength to the wall, enabling it to bear maximum wind load.

Horizontal section of curtain wall detail

Gross square footage: 630,000 sf (total renovated and new) Total construction cost: $315,000,000

Architect: Taniguchi AssociatessYoshio Taniguchi, principal; Brian Aamoth, project architect; Peter Hahn, project manager; Keiji Ogawa, Taichi Tomuro, Junko Imamura, team. Executive architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox & AssociatessGregory Clement, managing principal; Thomas Holzmann, senior associate principal, project direction; Stephen Rustow, senior associate principal, project direction; George Hauner, associate principal, job captain; Brian Girard, associate principal, public spaces; Greg Weithman, associate principal, galleries, garden; Robert Hartwig, senior associate principal, office interiors; Claudia Cusumano, Betty Fisher, Erin Flynn, Stephen Frankel, Ethan Kushner, Scott Loikits, Hui-Min Low, Daniel Treinen, team.

Associate architects: Cooper, Robertson and Partners, programming; Alspector Anderson Architects, conservation laboratories.

Engineers: Sevrud Associates, structure; Guy Nordenson and Associates, structure; Altieri Sebor Wieber, mechanical.

Consultants: Zion Breen and Richardson and Associates, landscape; George Sexton Associates, lighting; R. H. Heintges Architects, facades.

General contractor: AMEC