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Eavesdrop Issue 02_02.02.2005

It seems that Ross Lovegrove has learned that no good deed goes unpunished at least in cases where national pride is involved. We happened to find out that, when the recent tsunamis hit Phuket in Thailand, the well-known British designer and his architect wife, Miska Miller, were staying at the island's plush Amanpuri resort. Left physically unscathed, they sprang into action, helping to raise money from other guests for the relief effort. However, other attempts at providing assistance were less successful. While none of the parties directly involved could be reached for comment, we're told that Lovegrove also contacted some of the manufacturers he designs for, including Vitra, and secured pledges of furniture to help refurbish local schools. However, the Thai government refused the offers. They didn't want to be considered a third world country in the eyes of the world,, a friend of the couple reports. They said, Offer the stuff to Sri Lanka, we can take care of ourselves.'' That's odd, considering that, in the tsunami's aftermath, the Thai government has been widely accused of taking better care of tourists than its own people.

Leave it to Herzog & de Meuron to tackle the froufrou world of fragrances and come out with a conceptual meditation. The Swiss master architects have released a limited edition, unisex perfume that includes tangs of, among other things, patchouli, cinnamon, and Rhine water, dog, and shit. We want to destabilize our prejudices about smells, just like we try to do with our architecture,, Jacques Herzog told us when we met him for breakfast at some ungodly hour and were feeling a bit destabilized ourselves. Named after Rotterdam, where it's being debuted in conjunction with the firm's current retrospective at the Netherlands Architecture Institute, the fragrance is the first in a planned series that will each take after a different city, with an emphasis on the role scents play in memory and perceptions of space. We shudder to think what our beloved New York might inspire, though we sure have enough buildings that truly stink.

Tom Dixon has done it. So has Marc Newson. Now, in time for Valentine's Day, add Matali Crasset to the list of star designers who have had their hand at, um, male anatomical substitutes. We were caught off guard when we visited Crasset's Paris studio several months ago and first saw renderings of the (non-motorized) red silicone dohickey she created for the Paris retailer Point G. With blobby contours, and the expected proportions, it's meant to double as a bedside sculptural object for those who know what they want and aren't ashamed to show it.

Let us first say that we did not solicit this information, and we apologize for passing it on, so to speak. But which namesake partner of a prominent three-surname firm has been grossing out his employees with his out-of-control flatulence problem? It's as if the long hours and meager salaries weren't cruel enough. Every time we spot him coming,, one staffer reports, practically dry heaving, we try to get away as fast as we can..


Eavesdrop Issue 18_11.02_2004

Geesh, will people please stop sending us gossip about the Cooper-Hewitt? Just to recap, there was that tidbit we reported about a Dennis Kozlowskian $159,000 that the museum spent on a new admissions desk. And a proposed karaoke night that was meant to boost employee morale (yikes). Then there was that in-house PowerPoint presentation on e-mail etiquette (example: E-mail is NOT an outlet for emotionn), a copy of which happened to land in our inbox. And now we're told that, in an effort to stop further leaks, the museum temporarily shut down the e-mail accounts of at least two employees, simply because we were listed in their address books. We wonder what that did for morale. Apparently not much, because the stories keep comingglike about how the new Chief Financial Officer, Ellen Ehrenkranz, allegedly insists on being called Ms. Ehrenkranz.. Just as sassy is curatorial director Barbara Bloemink, who we've learned has a Vegas showgirl-style makeup table (with lighted mirror)) in her office, along with shelves of shoes for which museum workmen recently built concealing cabinet doors. We actually think this makes them both kind of fab. But we were disturbed by the museum's Orwellian crackdown on those e-mail accounts (and not because we got our scoops from themmwe didn't). That's just creepy.

The die-cut flowers were brought out for the October 16 wedding of Dutch-born design superstar Tord Boontje, 36, and his longtime partner and collaborator, glass artist Emma Woffenden, 42. With the help of a double-decker bus, guests at the London civil ceremony, at the Peckham registry office, were shuttled to a reception at the Royal College of Art, where the two met in 1994. That was followed by a shindig at an art gallery which, according to friend and hip London designer Ab Rogers, was full of their work, as well as a live band, lots of champagne, dancing and children. It was a very daytime affair.. He continues, I could send you very torrid photos of Tord's stag party, but he would never speak to me againn?If you've noticed an inexplicable bounce in Julie Lasky's step, it's because she also got marrieddthough secretly. That's right, on August 25, the 44-year-old I.D. Magazine editor-in-chief eloped with former Wall Street Journal reporter and freelance writer Ernest Beck, 52. The two clandestinely tied the knot, both for the first time, at City Hall. We got married to expedite the adoption process,, Lasky explains. Yep, they're also in the process of adopting a baby girl from China. But why elope? There's no amount of pomp and circumstance that beats the pleasure of a two-minute ceremony,, Lasky sayss Meanwhile, we've learned that the previously confirmed bachelor and golden-maned man-about-town Christopher Mount, 41, is finally engagedd or, rather, engaged to be engaged. The former Museum of Modern Art design curator and current Parsons director of public programs is planning to pop the question to girlfriend Stephanie Emerson, 36, who will leave her job ashead of publications at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to move to New York. I don't know,, Mount said when we asked when he would make it official. Soon. By Christmas. Yeah, by Christmas..


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Singular glories are a thing of the past, writes Andrew Yang. Architecture firmssbig and small, young and established, independent and corporateeare collaborating to create new design models, in project and in practice.

This past summer, Sir Richard Rogers arrived in New York, where his firm, Richard Rogers Partnership, had just been awarded a contract to redesign New York's East River Waterfront from Battery Park to the Lower East Sideea commission landed with SHoP Architects. We're not really about conquering,, he told The Architect's Newspaper at the time. We're more about collaboration.. Rogers, whose first major project was a collaboration with Renzo Piano to create the Centre Georges Pompidou, is echoing a level of openness that has helped his 30-year-old practice integrate its resources with the young upstart SHoP, an office that is less than ten years old and heavily influenced by new technologies.

As the competition for plum projects becomes more cut-throat, firms are increasingly taking less of a divide and conquer attitude, and opting for an approach that is more open to exchange and sharinggeverything from office space to design fees. Since the competition to design Ground Zero resulted in ber-teams like Steven Holl, Richard Meier, and Peter Eisenman; United Architects (UN Studio, Foreign Office Architects, Greg Lynn), and THINK (Frederic Schwartz, Rafael Viioly, Shigeru Ban), SHoP and Rogers is only one of many high-profile design teams that have emerged to take on large, complex public projects. When competing for large-scale urban redevelopment undertakings such as the High Line, the East River Waterfront, speculative projects for New York's Olympic bid, and others, pooling talent has become de rigueur, if not en vogue.

The idea that architecture is shaped by one all-powerful creative geniusssuch as the mighty hand of Corbbis slowly starting to dissipate as built realities become more complicated. While contributions to large projects have always necessitated a variety of different playerss structural engineers, architects of record, lighting specialists, interior designers, graphic design consultants, landscape architects, et ceteraanever before has the role of design lead been so open to interpretation by designers themselves.

Landscape designer Diana Balmori and architect Joel Sanders' collaborative design of the equestrian center for NYC2012 (top). Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Olafur Eliasson, Piet Oudolf, and Buro Happold's winning entry in the High Line competition (left).

The practice of stacking a team to include the expertise or profile required by a particular RFQ or RFP is nothing new. It's also common for firms with international work to bring on local partners to help realize projects in contexts with which they are unfamiliar. After winning the competition to design the new headquarters for The New York Times, Renzo Piano tapped Fox & Fowle Architects for its experience building skyscrapers in New York City (Fox & Fowle is behind many of the tall buildings in Times Square, including the Condd Nast Building, not far from The New York Times site). When the two firms started working together, the project really started over again,, explained Bruce Fowle. As the firm began to integrate Piano's design with the restraints of New York's Byzantine building codes, the design altered drastically. Along with other details, a dramatic cantilever in the base was eliminated in favor of a more realistic structure. Previously, many collaborative arrangements have seen one firm leading the others, and the others working in the service of the lead firm. The nature of collaborations might be shifting, however, with firms seeking collaborations not out of necessity but out of desire to enrich their own design processes and, ultimately, the final product.

Zaha Hadid Architects with Balmori Associates, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and Studio MDA's finalist design for the High Line competition (left).

When the firm Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer disbanded last summer after 37 years of practice, partner Hugh Hardy named his new venture H3 Hardy Collaboration. We're not making an exclusive practice of just working with other architects. We think of collaboration as a big idea,, said Hardy, who is working with Frank Gehry on a new theater for the Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district, as well as entering into a competition with Enrique Norten for a new theater at Ground Zero. The collaboration involved with each projectteven when it's your own firm projecttinvolves everybodyyclients, consultantsseverybody..

The close circles of the architecture profession often dictate the many reciprocal relationships that now crowd the competition scene. While Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos have built their practice, UN Studio, on a model of collaborations between various specialists for years, the United Architects team is one of the most visible and memorable collaborative efforts within recent years. The relationships among its membersswhich include New Yorkkbased designers Reiser+Umemoto and Kevin Kennon and Mikon von Gastel of the motion-graphics studio Imaginary Forcesshad been in place for many years when they all decided to participate in the WTC competition together. In our case, we were teaching and became friends, and slowly began to influence each other's work,, explained van Berkel. Some members of the group had met at a conference years ago that was organized by Jeffrey Kipnis at Ohio State University. There were heavy brainstorms of the quality of each other's work,, said van Berkel. The relationships were beginning to form. Nobody knew it at that time, but we called ourselves The Ohio Group.' We were invisible at the time..

Meanwhile, SHoP's partnership with Rogers' firm resulted from a simple cold call. According to Chris Sharples, one of the five partners of SHoP, the firm had wanted to go after the East River project, but did not have enough significant civic projects under its belt. SHoP had always wanted to work with Rogers. So they called London, and the rest is becoming history.

Regardless of how collaborations are formed, many architects are finding the experience rewarding. Since winning the job earlier this year, both SHoP and Rogers have learned to integrate their operations, despite the dramatic difference in each office's size. We've gained a tremendous amount of knowledge working with their team,, said Sharples. There's a lot in their partner structure that we'd like to integrate into our office in the futuree?for example, weekly directors' meetings (at Rogers, partners are titled directors) to review each other's projects.

The Arnhem Central Station by UN Studio and engineer Cecil Balmond

However, not all collaborative relationships are as rewarding and collegial as they may seem. There have been several reports that, within both the Holl/Meier/Eisenman and United Architects teams, one architect's vision eventually came to dominate that of the others. The issue of credit, too, is (as it's always been) a potential minefield, with participantssand perhaps more problematically, the mediaaeager to point out individual contributions. There's also the threat of one party running off with the commission, or controlling it to the extent that it can dump other collaboratorsssomething that architect Michael Sorkin unfortunately experienced when he teamed up with landscape architect Margie Ruddick for the Queens Plaza project earlier this year.

Landscape architect Diana Balmori, a finalist for the High Line competition, a team consisting of Zaha Hadid, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, and Studio MDA, warned that working relationships need to be carefully considered, and that collaborations often don't work the way they seem to. Speaking from her own experiences, she said, Right now, the model is very different than it was in the past [for landscape architects]. Collaboration didn't workkand doesn't work,, she said, since most collaborations come in the wake of a scramble for RFPs that doesn't allow the time for proper exchange. Teams are built for the sole purpose of assembling an image, and that really doesn't give you the time to put the different pieces together..

The High Line project, which was eventually awarded to the formidable team of Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Olafur Eliasson, Piet Oudolf, and Buro Happold, was heavily sought after by teams that consisted of not only structural engineers and landscape architects but also graphic designers, artists, and consultants for elevators, lighting, and historic preservation. The High Line was one of those rare cases, a very satisfying experience,, said Balmori. As a team, we were able to put the pieces together and start integrating something with much greater vision. The problem is, we lost the competition before we got to that part.. In the end, she reflected, the architecture remained totally by itself and we were never able to put it in the big image..


The New York Times headquarters has been a collaborative effort by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Fox & Fowle Architects.

Image, however, might have everything to do with trend toward collaboration. Beyond the expectation of super-teams producing super-projects, a star-studded team is a marketer's (and developer's and politician's) dream. Never mind the actual results. A project could be considered a blockbuster on the basis of its cast alone (think of Ocean's Eleven).

A less skeptical reading of this trend, however, is the genuine interest that many architects express in expanding process and sharing ideas. The assembly of architects as a true union of peers is a heartening development in a field where a big ego is a survival tool and in a world that has not yet lost its taste for signature architecture. For some, eschewing the star vehicless of the past in favor of collaboration is the best expression of the balance of ideas that design should embody.

Since the High Line experience, Balmori has made a permanent commitment of sorts to working with architect Joel Sanders to pursue projects, an effort that has required reorganizing each office. Their first joint project was the design of an equestrian center for New York's Olympic bid. The alliance between a landscape architect and an architect is hardly unusual but this sustained and equal collaboration is telling of how Balmori and Sanders approach their work. They see contextthow a building fits into its surroundingssas a paramount concern and don't regard one aspect of a project as any more or less important than another.

Collaborations must be carefully considered, however. Because we're not a style-based practice, we're not trying to protect something or impose something on a project that doesn't want it,, said Sharples. If we were working with someone with a strong style, they would want to make sure that their style is in there.. They found a perfect match. According to Ivan Harbour, a director at Richard Rogers Partnership, Our approach is very fluiddit's not We want this, this, and this.''

This collaborative mode of practice may not be possible or even desirable for every projectt?I don't think you'll be putting together five architects to design an Alessi teapot,, joked van Berkel, who is working with engineer Cecil Balmond on the Arnhem Central Station. However, there is an increased demand and conscientiousness on the part of the client, according to van Berkel. Now we've noticed that clients are becoming more sophisticated. They have their own specialists, including marketing people,, said van Berkel. As long as they get a good product, he explained, they don't care about how many names they have to put on the press release..

This is really about creating ways to allow the profession to evolve,, said Sharples, who, along with his colleagues, set out as young architects to explore the feasibility of a decentralized five-way partnership. We're finding that [in larger projects], it requires a collective enterprise.. Given all the factors now at play in designntechnology, sustainability, contextualismmthe answer is rarely going to come from one place. And that's how architects have to sell themselves,, he said.  ANDREW YANG IS A CONTRIBUTOR TO AN, AND ALSO A WRITER FOR WALLPAPER, DWELL, AND THE NEW YORK TIMES

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How The Far West Side Will Be Won

What will it take to develop Far West Midtown? All sides agree on the need for more residential and commercial development, as well as improved transportation and open space. But how the pieces come together is the stuff of political brinkmanship. Laura Wolf-Powers puzzles it all together.

Here are the indispensable pieces of the Far West Side development puzzle: an expanded Jacob K. Javits Convention Center; the westward extension of the midtown business district; the new residential development the market is craving; usable open spaces that connect the city with Hudson River Park; the vitality and scalar integrity of the South Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.

Here's the piece with the uncomfortable fit: a stadium facility that anchors the city's bid for the 2012 Olympics, linked to a major transit investment, the extension of the #7 subway line. The Bloomberg administration, digging in its heels, says plans to transform the Far West Side will go nowhere without it. Its opponents argue that a stadium-free solution, one that relies on zoning changes and the Javits expansion to spur phased growth in the area, will promote better development at lower cost to taxpayers and with far less disruption to the existing city fabric.

This is the backdrop for the jigsaw of design and politics that is Far West Midtown. Three solutionssone by Cooper-Robertson Architects on behalf of the Department of City Planning, one by Meta Brunzema Architects endorsed by Manhattan Community Board 4 and a neighborhood-based coalition, the Hell's Kitchen/Hudson Yards Alliance (HKHYA), and a third by Robert Geddes, which is sponsored by the Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch Collegeewould produce different urban environments for those who live and work in the district. Because of the fiscal as well as the design ramifications of the city's proposal, which may go forward as early as this month, the debate over Hudson Yards has mushroomed into a super- issue that engages elected officials and citywide planning groups as well as local residents, developers, and property owners. A season of political brinksmanship awaits them all.

The city's Hudson Yards Plan is ambitious and monumental, full of large buildings and sweeping gestures that embody City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden's vow to get ahead of the curvee in anticipating and shaping new large-scale development. But this monumentality has also run the city's plan into trouble. Though it makes sense to place a large-footprint structure in what is already a super-block corridor from 30th to 34th streets between 7th Avenue and the river, the proposed stadium is so overwhelming as to diminish the quality of the streets and spaces that surround it, according to Rob Lane, director of design programs at the Regional Plan Association (RPA). [Though the plan does] a really good job of animating the base of the stadium,, he said, there is still a question of whether people can be comfortable in these spaces given their sheer walls.. The RPA dealt the city a blow in a report last week opposing the stadium on both design and fiscal grounds.>

The city's proposal to expand the Javits Center northward, blocking view corridors and waterfront access at 39th, 40th and 41st streets, has also drawn fire. But neighborhood groups are most upset about a rezoning of 10th and 11th avenues in the 30s, a move that would pave the way for a north-south wall of office towers that, with FARs of 24 or more, could result in buildings with as much as 2 million square feet, as high as 90 stories. The proposed rezoning is already a compromise: Under pressure, the city agreed to increase density only moderately in Hell's Kitchen east of 10th Avenue and maintain residential zoning in that part of the neighborhood.


Still, for the grassroots community group Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association (HKNA), the Cooper Robertson plan amounts to a template for uniform building mass, type, and program that would leave the community without the waterfront connection it has sought for so long, and choke out the residential and industrial uses that give the neighborhood its mixed, gutsy character.

Community responses to these concerns are expressed in Brunzema's scheme, a collaboration with planner Daniel Gutman. Brunzema, who lives and works in a five-story townhouse on West 35th Street, asserted, We see the neighborhood as a place with its own rhythm of scales and building programssnot a tabula rasa.. The plan adds only moderate density above 34th Street, putting most new bulk on the 34th Street east-west superblock, including the rail yards. (Both HKHYA and the city allow for about 40 million square feet of new development, though the community would prefer less).

To accomplish this, the HKHYA alternative excises the stadium from the western rail yards and expands the Javits Center southward in its stead. The plan accommodates desired development by allowing for residential and commercial towers atop the convention center extension, perched on the periphery of the building. A public park, on the rooftop amid the towers, provides a connection from the blocks to the east (also fully built-out commercially) through to the Hudson River. Critics have praised the plan's move to concentrate bulky new development on an east-west corridor that is already large in scale, and applauded its transformation of odd-shaped publicly owned sites into innovative, organic open spaces (including several abutting Lincoln Tunnel on-ramps). However, the idea of a 10-acre park on the roof of the south-expanding Javits has drawn skepticism. You would have these enormous towers meeting a vast open space without much relief in terms of massing,, said the RPA's Lane, who also points out that park users would have to ascend 32 feet from 11th Avenueeand 60 feet from Hudson River Parkkin order to access the space.

Brunzema's plan has a much simpler flaw in the eyes of the city: It rejects the stadium and the #7 extension, the official sine qua non for a new Far West Side. The city also maintains that, under the HKHYA-endorsed design, the Javits would lack needed contiguous floor space. The design is nonetheless a powerful statement of how Far West Midtown development could be more flexible and sensitive to context if City Hall's obsessionnthe stadiummwere removed from the mix.

A third alternative, a study sponsored by Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College, claims to let disputants have it all. This so-called dream scheme,, spearheaded by Robert Geddes, dean emeritus of the Princeton University School of Architecture, would demolish the existing Javits Center, reconnect the street grid to the river from 34th Street northward, and build an entirely new convention center on the superblock corridor, where it would cover both the eastern and western rail yards. According to architect Chuck Lauster, the newly appointed director of the Pergolis Gallery at the Newman Institute, both a sports stadium and up to 10 million square feet of office space could be built on the roof of the convention center. Advocates say that if city and state officials would jettison the Javitssa young building in good structural condition but an admitted eyesoreeNew York could have a waterfront greenway, high-density development potential, and a stadium all at once. Many view the Javits flipp as an outrageously expensive nonstarter, and the proposal does not prevent monolithic office development on 10th and 11th avenues. Nevertheless, stranger compromises have been struck in this town.

Far West Midtown's fate depends on the interface of design solutions with fiscal and political ones. RPA's opposition to the stadium has been damaging. Neighborhood activists now have powerful allies in West Side property owners, including Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan. But the city claims that if activists defeat the stadiummby persuading the State Assembly to block it or through litigationnthere will be no redevelopment, not even a rezoning of the area. A political observer close to the issue predicts a complete reshuffling of the deckk on the West Side if the city stops campaigning for a Manhattan stadium and sets its Olympic sights on Queens. In the aftermath of such a reshuffle, could former combatants sit across from one another and discuss the distribution of density, the role of east-west connectivity, the relationship of a city to a river? We may yet find out.  LAURA WOLF-POWERS teaches city and regional planning at Pratt.

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Invisible Memorial

After seven years of fits and starts, the United States General Services Administration's project to memorialize downtown's African Burial Ground is taking off again. But does the latest series of public forums really mean the process is back on track? Deborah Grossberg investigates.

Although the United States General Services Administration (GSA) has received high honors in recent months from the National Building Museum and the American Architectural Foundation for its design achievements, the organization stands accused by some New Yorkers of dropping the ball on a crucial project close to home: the African Burial Ground Memorial. After the high-profile discovery of the historic site nearly 15 years ago and the announcement of an RFP for a memorial design in 1997, the project has fallen off the GSA's and the public's radar. Basically, the GSA's been on vacation on this project,, said Mabel Wilson, an architect on the finalist team GroundWorks, whose design was selected along with four others in February 2003.

City councilmember Charles Barron, an active participant on the Committee of the Descendants of the African Burial Ground, voiced his dissatisfaction more forcefully: The GSA has been showing us the same kind of arrogance and disrespect as it displayed at the beginning of this project..

On a map from 1763 (left), a rectangular 6-acre strip just north of the Commons today's City Hall Parkkis labeled Negro Burial Ground..

Acknowledging that the memorial was, in the words of GSA chief of staff Karl Reichelt, long overdue,, the GSA stepped up the pace on the project last year. In September, the organization brought in the National Parks Service (NPS) as a consultant and public liaison, a role it often plays in work involving national historic landmarks. (The African Burial Ground was designated a landmark in 1993.) We're not necessarily in the business of building memorials,, said Mark Dremel, project manager for the African Burial Ground at the GSA. NPS knows monuments and memorials. They're taking the lead on this.. Dennis Montagna of NPS agreed. The GSA ran the competition much like its arts and architecture program, which primarily contracts design and construction services and commissions works of art for federal buildings,, he said. At a certain point the competition just ground to a halt.. NPS got the ball rolling in May, facilitating two small public workshops as a prelude to five larger, if under-publicized, forums held at schools, churches, and community centers in each borough in mid-June. The forums in turn set in motion a six-week revision process to be followed by final submissions and the selection of a winner, though the GSA has not set dates for those milestones. The memorial is slated for completion in December 2005, according to the GSA.

The African Burial Ground project fell into the GSA's hands in 1989 while it was conducting a cultural site survey for a federal office building at the corner of Broadway and Duane Street. The study, mandated by the 1966 Historic Preservation Act, uncovered 18th-century maps depicting a forgotten African graveyard occupying 6 acres just north of City Hall Parkkknown in colonial times as the Commonsscutting through the south side of the GSA's building site.

The find reversed centuries of hidden history for New York's African-American community. The African Burial Ground proved that Harlem is not the only black New York,, said Eustace Pilgrim, director of graphics at the Department of City Planning and one of the memorial finalists.

Preserved under 20 feet of landfill, the African Burial Ground occupies what was once a desolate ravine outside city limits. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Dutch and English settlers denied Africans permission to bury their dead in church graveyards within the city proper, forcing them to use this out-of-the-way, undesirable strip of land. Archaeologists estimate that approximately 20,000 Africans, both enslaved and free, were buried on the site from the late 1600s to 1794, when the burial ground was closed. Memories of its existence slowly faded after Dutch-Americans brought the site to grade in the early 1800s. In 1991 the GSA began archaeological site testing. The African-American community, already frustrated at its exclusion from the process, became enraged when The New York Times reported that the GSA planned to excavate the burial ground with the so-called coroner's method, a technique consisting of digging up graves with a backhoe. Waging a grassroots campaign, activists campaigned for increased oversight. In December 1991 Senator David A. Paterson established a task force to supervise the project. Soon thereafter, the GSA signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission outlining its responsibilities to the African Burial Ground, including the construction of a memorial on the site.

The African Burial Ground Memorial's five finalist designs attempt to tread lightly on a site many consider sacred.

At left & below: GroundWorks proposes greening the site, save a small clearing for a lanternlike spirit catcher,, a chamber for contemplation and mourning.

Below to bottom of page: Eustace Pilgrim and Christopher Davis have created a sloped berm with a curved wall adorned with Yoruba-inspired terracotta faces;

McKissack & McKissack's slave ship tells a literal tale of suffering;

Joseph DePace's proposal refers to African burial practices;

Rodney Leon draws from African architecture with its spiral path leading to a libation chamber.

The GSA completed construction of its $276 million building at 290 Broadway on a piece of the site deemed by archaeologists to contain no human remains in 1995. The memorial project was a mitigation of our responsibility for constructing a building on the burial ground site,, said GSA's Dremel. The MOA also required the GSA to fund a research project to study human remains removed from the site. Dr. Michael Blakey of Howard University led the research team whose findings have provided new insight into the brutal conditions of slavery in colonial New York City, which was the second-largest slave port in the U.S. in the 18th century, after Charleston, South Carolina. At the time, 10 to 20 percent of the city's population was of African descent. To date, the GSA has spent $30 million on archaeological and anthropological research. Dremel blamed the memorial competition's holdup on the lengthy research being conducted at Howard. But many wonder why the memorial project could not have gone forward at the same time as the research, as was originally planned. The initial RFP asked us to accommodate a future reinterment of human remains and artifacts,, said architect and finalist Joseph DePace. Reburial of the remains on the site took place at a ceremony last October. Now that the remains are back in the ground it's unclear whether further construction on this site poses the possibility of some kind of disrespect,, said DePace.

Tender treatment of the site, which many community members see as sacred, was a hot topic at the June forums. But dialogue was repeatedly bogged down by questions that were more suitable for a GSA delegate than the newly appointed NPS representative and designers who were present at the meetings. Community members also expressed disappointment at the forums' poor attendance, claiming they had not been well organized. Forums drew between 20 and 80 people in auditoriums capable of seating hundreds.

At the June 14 forum in Brooklyn, attendees debated whether building on the site would be sacrilegious. Ollie McLean of the Descendants of the African Burial Ground asserted, We don't build on a sacred cemetery. We want a green, landscaped space with an eternal flame on that land.. As an alternative, McLean suggested seizing abutting properties by eminent domain, one for the memorial and the other for a museum dedicated to African-American history. In Brooklyn, we're displacing thousands for a ballpark. It's the least GSA can do..

Rodney Leon, a finalist and principal of AARRIS Architects, looked at the issue differently. There's a difference between an occupied building and a memorial. The real question is how do you create a gravestone for 20,000 anonymous people? How do you undo their anonymity?? Leon derived his design's sequence of monumental formssa spiral ramp, a circular gathering space, and a triangular tapering towerrfrom West and North African architecture. The forms create a visible contrast against the grid of the city,, said Leon.

Other forum participants supported building on the site, arguing for the use of references to African burial practices. Said one, If you're looking for the place where we put buildings on our dead, then you'll find it in Africa.. The same speaker cited Egyptian pyramids and Dogon burials within the walls of houses as examples. DePace agreed, arguing, Paradoxically, [the Descendants' proposals] are referencing European burial practices.. DePace's project uses African symbols and materials like a pyramidal perimeter fence woven from copper strips and a groundcover of crushed white oyster shells, used to decorate graves in West Africa to symbolize the spirit living on the sea. Our design is respectful of the site's sacred nature, touching lightly on the ground,, he said. Eustace Pilgrim and Christopher Davis, a team of artists, also emphasized a light touch with a design that features a curved pathway dividing a landscaped berm from a reflecting pool.

Herbert Wilson, III, of McKissack & McKissack, one of the finalists and principal of the oldest minority-owned architecture firm in the nation, defended his team's plan to put a more substantial building on the site. We need to mark the site with a symbol that stands out for years and is emblematic of lives lost.. His firm's project references the middle passage with a ribbed structure in the form of a slave ship surrounded by reflecting pools, waterfalls, and a sound installation of screams meant to recall the terror of slaves flung overboard.

Constructive public design dialogues notwithstanding, the projecttnow in its seventh yearrremains crippled by lack of managerial continuity. Consistency has been an issue,, conceded Dr. Sherrill D. Wilson, director of the Office of Public Education and Interpretation of the African Burial Ground (OPEI), an informational center funded by GSA. We're the only functioning part of the project that's been here from the beginning..

Adding to the confusion is the issue of the project's budget, which, according to the GSA, may get a boost from its initial cap of $1 million to account for inflation. But GSA has not released an estimate of the exact increase, forcing finalists to guess for themselves. As it stands, some hope for $2.5 million while others are attempting to stay within the original budget. Mabel Wilson sees the project's delays as unsurprising continuations of the site's history of invisibility. Slavery is the blind spot in America's eye,, said Wilson. The government and the general public don't see this site as visible and relevant..

Wilson intends to combat the site's invisibility by greening the memorial site as well as the landscape surrounding the buildings on the entire burial ground. The centerpiece of her team's project, a glowing, tapered glass shelter, appears in a clearing within the larger grove. Wilson said, Though the plan goes beyond the scope of the competition, it's a relatively feasible way to make visible an area of the city whose history has been systematically erased and forgotten..

With no date set for the announcement of the winning design, no jury publicly named, no clear budget, and no disclosure of what the remainder of the memorial-building process would entail, it remains to be seen whether the GSA and the NPS will give the African Burial Ground Memorial the visibility it deserves.

Deborah Grossberg is an assistant editor at AN.

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The Shipping News

As shipping containers begin to break out of Red Hook, Elizabeth, New Jersey, and the outer-borough rail yards that are their natural habitat, and show up on the Upper East Side's museum row, it is fair to ask: Why containers, and why now? The architectural zeitgeist has settled -- at least for the summer -- on the container as the building material of moment. In New York City, two projects are on display: Sean Godsell's Future Shack is currently in the garden of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and LOT-EK's Mobile Dwelling Unit will open on July 1 in the Sculpture Court at the Whitney Museum of American Art. (Another container-based project, Adam Kalkin's Quik House, was installed this spring at Deitch Projects in SoHo as a part of the gallery's exhibition, Suburban House Kit. It closed on March 27.)

LOT-EK's Mobile Dwelling Unit (MDU) is the prototype of what the firm imagines could be a moveable living space that would plug into a purpose-made vertical infrastructure dock in cities around the world. The 40-foot container is fitted out with zones for sleeping, living, bathing, cooking, and working. Once it is lifted into place and attached to the hypothetical dock, each zone could slide out, creating a useable series of rooms. When the occupants want to go elsewhere, they could undock or replace individual zone modules so that the MDU's profile is once again that of a standard container, and move on.

Godsell's Future Shack represents a more Spartan approach to refitting a container for domestic uses than the MDU, but since it was conceived as a potential solution for housing refugees around the world, its rough and ready quality makes sense. The interior is clad with plywood sheets, and skylights provide interior light. A shed roof above the container is fitted with solar panels to provide electricity. Godsell had been working on the idea for several years, but since entering the Future Shack in the nonprofit group Architecture for Humanity's competition for housing refugees in Kosovo, the project has garnered notice and credibility.

Kalkin's first container project was actually a performance piece, but since then, he has moved closer to the unglamorous concerns of cheap housing. The tongue-in-cheek order form that accompanied his Deitch installation may have been the last gasp for the performative elements of his projects, because he says he is now developing ideas about containers as housing in Afghanistan.

These contemporaries clearly have some superficial similarities, but each seems to have used the shipping container as a vessel for decidedly different ideas. While Godsell's no-nonsense approach uses an abundant and inexpensive resource for its possibilities for speedy assembly and reasonably low cost to house people in need, Kalkin coyly references everything from Duschamp's multiples to 1950s ideas of modern living. Meanwhile, LOT-EK's Ada Tolla explained part of her and partner Giuseppe Lignano's fascination with shipping containers stems from the fact that they embody a much larger global system. "It is not just an object that sits," she said. "It has connotations of Asia and Africa, and the infrastructure behind this network. We try to transport that network and its systems into architecture."

The abundance of shipping containers is a byproduct of a trade imbalance that means that many more arrive in the United States than leaves. In and around New York, shipping containers are as numerous and unwanted as pigeons, with thousands arriving every year. The costs for their shippers to have them return, empty, runs up to $9000which is not much less than the cost of buying them. From the windows of the PATH train to Newark, one can see yards with countless multi-colored containers stacked high, waiting for freight that may never arrive. This glut has made them fairly cheap to buy: Depending on condition, a basic model begins at about $2,000.

People have been using shipping containers for things other than storage for a long time now -- without the help of architects, thank you very much. The yard on the outskirts of Newark periodically doubles as an unofficial homeless shelter. An auto body shop in Williamsburg uses several containers to house everything from spare parts and offices to a pair of understandably irritable Rottweilers who guard the lot at night., the website of a container manufacturing and outfitting firm in East Riverton, New Jersey, shows pictures of containers tricked out as a shed with aluminum siding and Palladian windows, and in one truly impressive case, a mobile home for an elephant.

Circus animals, guard dogs, and monkey wrenches are no longer the only ones to enjoy such accommodations though. Beyond LOT-EK, Godsell, and Kalkin, firms including Jones, Partners: Architects, Jennifer Siegal's Office of Mobile Design, and even typically mild-mannered Fox & Fowle have developed proposalssand in Siegal's case, actually builttfor projects ranging from single-family houses to large-scale, multi-unit developments. While Jones and Siegal have both used the boxes as the basis for prefabricated houses, Fox & Fowle's award-winning entry to a Boston Society of Architects ideas competition sketches out a development of 351 live/work units on a 18.5 acre brownfield site in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The plan is still more of a conceptual exercise than anything at this point, according to lead architect Mark Strauss. Strauss says that he chose containers as the building block because of their structural qualities and the chance to address the problem of their abundance.

From a material standpoint, it is easy to see why the homely shipping container has seduced so many architects. They have a steel framework that is not compromised when several are stacked up, and steel or aluminum cladding that can be modified or stripped away fairly easily. Containers are often insulated and waterproof, and come with wooden floors. There are international size standards, with the most typical modules being 8 feet wide, 8 feet and 6 inches high, and 20 feet long.

The London-based real estate development and management firm Urban Space Management has demonstrated the practical and urbanistic potential of container-based buildings in Container City on Trinity Wharf in the Docklands. In creating artists' live/work spaces, they found the cost to construct a new building would have amounted to 120 per square foottabout three times what artists typically pay for studio space. Containers were an affordable and structurally efficient alternative. The first Container City, completed in 2000, was so successful that two others have followed.

According to both Ada Tolla and Mark Strauss, the short answer to the question of shipping container's sudden appearance in the spotlight is a straightforward one: Because they are there, and there are so many of them. Their long answers are more complex (and very different) but also suggest that shipping containers, because of the variety of ways architects (and people) approach them, may not always be relegated to their rusty piles along the waterfront.

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Towards A New Modern

As the Museum of Modern Art's eagerly anticipated new home nears completion, Aric Chen revisits the project and offers a preview.

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.

One might not think Philip L. Goodwin was an obvious choice to design the first permanent home for the Museum of Modern Art when, in 1934, the five-year-old institution decided it had outgrown its cramped 53rd Street townhouse. In fact, its legendary (and soon-to-be furious) founding director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., had already set his mind on Europe and the likes of Mies when he learned that the museum's board of trustees had all but awarded the commission to Goodwin, a onetime Beaux Arts designer who also happened to be a fellow trustee. Barr then did his best to arrange a collaboration with Mies but Godwin refused to work with a foreign architect and chose instead to partner with a 29-year-old who had worked on Radio City Music Hall named Edward Durrell Stone.

Fortunately, nepotism, nationalism, and backstabbing don't seem to have played a noticeable role in MoMA's also-unexpected selection of Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi for its latest, and most ambitious, expansion. With the bulk of construction expected to be completed in July anddafter installation and other final touchessits opening day scheduled for November 20th, the $858 million project will nearly double the midtown museum's total size to 630,000 square feet while increasing its gallery space by 50 percent, to 125,000 square feet.

With the building almost finished, it's become apparent that what Taniguchi's first models and drawings may have lacked in showmanship when they were unveiled in 1997 will likely be compensated for by the finished building's impressive proportions, architectonic poise and excruciatingly deft detailing. To be sure, this is not an architecture of bells and whistles but rather one that reflects the museum's self-enforced ethos of august sobriety. When I first saw Taniguchi's work in Japan, it made quite an impression on me because, while it's rooted in this very modern language, it's also quite singular,, said MoMA architecture and design chief curator Terence Riley (who is also a member of this publication's advisory board). I hope there weren't too many people holding their breath,, he added, thinking we were going to throw out 75 years of what we've been doing to go in a completely different direction..

Indeed, one thing that Taniguchi does share with Goodwin and Stoneewhose 1939 International Style design remains, of course, beloved to manyyis his selection over more looming figures. Comparatively unknown in this country Taniguchi emerged from a field of such overshadowing names as Rem Koolhaas, Bernard Tschumi, and Jacques Herzog and Pierre De Meuron in an invited competition first announced over seven years ago. While other museums, hoping for some kind of Bilbao redux, were (and are still) clamoring for donor and press-baiting buildings by flashier architects, MoMA had the luxury of particularly deep-pocketed and generous trustees (and $65 million in city funds), as well as an institutional confidence that often lends it an above-the-fray disposition. If you're not dependent on publicity or fundraising mechanisms, you can focus more closely on deciding what's best for this institution,, Riley continued. And trendy architecture was not, MoMA determined, in its best interests.

When it returns to midtown after a two-year hiatus, the museum, which closes its temporary MoMA QNS facility to the public on September 27th, will be both familiar and virtually unrecognizable. Its Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden and Goodwin and Stone faaade will be restored to their original designs, with Philip Johnson's 1965 street faaade preserved as well. Beyond thattand with the exception of other elements like its Bauhaus Stair, and certainly Cesar Pelli's 1984 Museum Towerrvery little will look the same.

The lumbering, 20-year-old Museum Tower, a 52-story condominium that resulted from the museum's earlier sale of air rights, actually proved to be one of the redesign's main obstacles. Embedded within the fabric of the complex, it was something to be literally worked around, though in the end, it was embraced by necessity. Rather than simply fight it, Taniguchi more visibly anchored it to the ground by peeling back the glass structure that once obscured it from the garden, and cladding its now-exposed base in black granite and black glass. We wanted to take the Museum Tower and use it as a central element,, museum director Glenn Lowry said on a recent hardhat tour, since we really couldn't hide it..

At the same time, new wings for galleries and educational facilities now flank the garden on its west and east sides. A new lobby, connecting 53rd and 54th streets, leads up to a soaring 12,400-square-foot, 110-foot-high central atrium. Sprawling contemporary art galleries on the second floor, and more intimately scaled spaces for historical collections above, invert the former hierarchy to allow the museum to place renewed emphasis on its original vanguard mission while still showcasing, in more flexible quarters, the masterworks that established it. The new architecture and design galleries will reside on the third floor. And all have been sheathed by an impossibly precise exterior of black granite, aluminum panels and crystalline, diaphanous glass.

There have been challenges, to be sure, including the neighbors. Empowered by city planning requirements, St. Thomas Episcopal Church insisted that new construction not obstruct pedestrians' views, from 54th Street, of the stained glass clerestory windows of its Bertram Goodhue building, a demand that was resolved by cutting a notch into Taniguchi's design. In addition, loading docks and storage had to be moved for residents of the Museum Tower, who were also enticed by views of a still-pending garden by Ken Smith that, in one suggested iteration, might cover much of the museum's roof with an over-scaled camouflage pattern in gravel, crushed glass, and plantings.

There have also been pleasant surprises, like an eighth-floor mechanical area that proved so structurally robust that engineers realized it could act as a truss from which lower floors could be suspended, thus allowing column-free spans of as much as 180 feet in the 20,000 square-foot contemporary galleries.

Most of all, however, there is the detailing. As a volumetric puzzle of rectilinear compositions, floating planes and interlocking spaces, everything ends up being resolved in details and expressed in details,, said Stephen Rustow, a senior associate principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox, the project's executive architect. What can already be seen is a clarity and precision, as with the curtain walls, where all the panel joints have been reduced to the absolute practical minimum..

Indeed, not only are these joints a mere three-eighths to a quarter of an inch, but the curtain walls themselvessas well as exterior canopies and even many of the interior wallssare hung by redundant structural systems that allow any imprecision in the building's skeleton to be corrected on its surface. Meanwhile, custom extrusions were created that fit regular drywall while providing a consistent and exacting reveal around the walls at the floors and ceilings. The overall result, one might be led to believe, is a building so plumb and level as to feel almost unreal. In this day and age when you're not supposed to be able to move people with straight lines, there's not a curve in this building,, Riley said. But everyone I bring through it now tells me it's so perfect and so right, as if it was so inevitable..  ARIC CHEN LIVES IN NEW YORK AND WRITES FOR ID, METROPOLIS, GQ, ART & AUCTION, AND OTHER PUBLICATIONS.

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Fresh Thrills

Once the world's largest landfill, Fresh Kills is on its way to becoming the city's newest playground. Aric Chen reports on how a concept becomes a master plan.

In late 2002, the landscape architecture and urban design firm Field Operations publicly unveiled its schematic entry, alongside those of five other finalists, in a competition to transform Staten Island's Fresh Kills landfill into New York City'ssindeed, the country'sslargest urban park. Back then, the office (which moved to New York from Philadelphia last year) was criticized for describing its plan in obscure language, for example, explaining it as not a loose metaphor or representation [but] a functioning reality, an autopoietic agent.. However, last month, at a city-sponsored community meeting to review Field Operation's winning submission, called Lifescape, the enigmatic lines (threads),, surfaces (mats),, and clusters (islands)) gave way to more proletarian propositions as attendees suggested everything from dog runs and boathouses to windmill farms and, oddly, a working cattle ranch for the master plan now being cobbled together for the sprawling, 2,200-acre site.

Held at Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in the Bulls Head section of Staten Island, the March 24th gathering, also attended by city officials and Field Operations principal James Corner, brought together more than 300 members of citizens groups and enthusiasts of apparently every conceivable inclination. Representatives of local bicycling, tennis, and other amateur sporting interests, nature buffs, and family members of World Trade Center victims chimed in on the activities, amenities, and (yes, another) 9/11 memorial that will eventually occupy the site. Their proposals ranged from the odds-on tennis courts, ball fields, and bike paths to a less-promising horticulture school and a landfill museum that would enshrine the earthmovers that have sculpted Fresh Kills' topography for the past half century. The key to the success of Fresh Kills' transformation is the engagement of the community,, said city planning commissioner Amanda Burden, whose agency is overseeing the master planning process. A lot of people showed up to the meeting and I was delighted with the range of suggestions..

Indeed, Corner's original planna collaboration with Princeton architecture dean Stan Allen, whose involvement is now subsidiaryyhas already taken on a more accessible vocabulary, broken down to the neatly understood categories of habitat, circulation and, especially, activity. With housing specifically precluded, the finished park will be some combination of wildlife preserves, roads and trails, and recreational and cultural facilities. And while it's easy to imagine that many of the ideas put forth at the recent forumma cemetery for New York state servicemen, for example, or the inexplicable cattle ranchhwon't be realized, it's likely that many others will. There is, after all, plenty of space.

At more than two and a half times the size of Central Park, the proposed park will nearly double the size of Staten Island's existing and adjacent greenbelt. At the same time, it will recast the world's largest landfilllfamously visible from spaceeas the world's largest landfill reclamation project. While Corner, who also chairs the landscape architecture and regional planning department at the University of Pennsylvania, cites several precedents for such a conversionnformer landfills around San Francisco, in Seoul, Korea, and Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queenssnone quite match the scale and scope of this one. It's a big site,, he said, undaunted, and there are many challenges, both ecologically, politically, and in terms of implementation..

Fresh Kills, which takes its name not from its contents but the Dutch word for the creeks that meander through it, is, beyond its stigma, an ecosystem of woodlands and tidal marshes carved out by an Ice Age glacier. It was opened in 1948, intended as a temporary, three-year dumping ground. Despite over 50 years of accepting the bulk of New York's household garbageea tenure that ended in March 2001 in a gesture by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani to solidify the island's conservative voting baseeit remains home to a diversity of wildlife and vegetation. Six sizable landfill mounds, ranging in height from 90 to 225 feet, comprise 995 acres, or around 45 percent, of the total site. All are, or will be, capped with an impermeable plastic liner and topsoil, as well as drainage and other systems to collect methane released from the decaying waste, which will be sold as heating gas. Public use of these mounds, however, will have to wait until such gases and other byproducts have dissipated and the decomposing heaps have settled. For the larger mounds, this could mean a reduction in height of up to 100 feet over as many as 30 years.

In the meantime, dry lowlands make up 35 percent of the site and much of it is available for more immediate use. In addition to the types of recreational functions already mentioned, these areas are being considered as potential homes for equestrian and other facilities in the city's bid to host the 2012 Olympics. Concurrently, a central drive is in the works that will loop around the main fork in the Fresh Kills estuary. This artery, which will connect Richmond Avenue to the West Shore Expressway, will relieve existing traffic congestion while drawing people into the heart of the park just as a network of walkways, paths and ancillary roads disperses them throughout. In the original scheme, we had more centralized activity areas,, Corner says, and now they're more widely distributed, which makes the plan easier to phase in, and in smaller pieces..

The veterans' cemetery proposal notwithstanding, Fresh Kills in fact became a cemetery of sorts when it was temporarily reopened after September 11th to accommodate remnants from Ground Zero. A memorial is being planned as well. Corner has designed two earthworks, 40 feet high and in roughly the dimensions of both World Trade Center towers, next to the 48-acre area where the debris, and the victims' remains within, are buried. The simple, poetic design has already been well received, though it's still subject to debate and at least one group, the World Trade Center Families for Proper Burial, may see it as altogether unnecessary. Its members are arguing that the debris should instead be resifteddat what would likely be enormous expenseeand the separated remains reburied at a more appropriate site.

Though the feasibility of this request is questionable, it nevertheless points to the exorbitant complexity of the task at hand. Politicallyy and now emotionallyycharged, the site faces formidable obstacles in its own evolution from being a colossal, fetid eyesore to becoming a thriving, even idyllic, example of land reclamation. Further public meetings are being held this and next month (details are posted on the city's Fresh Kills website,, with a final master plan scheduled for July 2005. Small portions of the new park may open as early as 2007. However, even if the plan sails through the often-thorny processes of community and regulatory involvement, the park will take decades to phase in. There are the technical, environmental and even psychological challenges in turning a former garbage heap with poor soil into a verdant haven for picnickers, not to mention the fact that cost, funding, and final jurisdiction have yet to be determined. Indeed, Fresh Kills' redevelopment will require a will matched only by an ambition that is as expansive as the site itself. ARIC CHEN LIVES IN NEW YORK AND WRITES FOR ID, METROPOLIS, GQ, ART & AUCTION, AND OTHER PUBLICATIONS.


Warning: sensitive readers should stop reading here. The new Hotel Gansevoort is set to open next month. But those not amused by the way this Hummer-like metal box has parked itself in the Meatpacking District may be happy to know that revenge has already been exacted—and it comes courtesy of the very workers who’ve built the structure. Indeed, our visit last month to the still-under-construction site left us holding our noses and thinking fresh thoughts after we landed on one unfinished floor—where rooms will go for between $325 and $425 a night—that reeked like a litter box. With feral cats nowhere to be found, there was only one plausible conclusion. “I think the workers have just been ‘going’ wherever they feel like it,” a source close to the project admits. In fact, we’ve also learned that a Condé Nast Traveler editor had earlier visited the hotel’s penthouse on a scouting mission, only to walk in on a construction worker (apparently one of the more conscientious ones) fulfilling his natural duties with the help of a bottle.

She won't be coming to New York to head Columbia's architecture school, but Zaha Hadid may finally have her first significant project in her hometown of London. We're told that the architect is currently in talks with New York art dealer Kenny Schachter--who two years ago opened his Vito Acconci-designed conTEMPorary gallery in the West Village--to design a 15,000-square-foot gallery, bar, and apartment complex on east London's artsy Hoxton Square. In the meantime, Acconci will be getting some action of his own. He's working on furniture, possibly for eventual production, for an interim Hoxton Square gallery space that Schachter is hoping to open some time this year.

All those retro resins, funky foams, and other materials-of-the-moment that make up the Material Connexion library are definitely up for sale. But it sounds like rumors that the buyer could be McGraw-Hill--the publishing giant that puts out Sweets, Architectural Record, Engineering News Record, and other building-related titles--aren't true. "I know it's a good match and the most exciting opportunity," says George Beylerian the hoping-to-retire founder of the Flatiron district materials resource that designers have been flocking to since 1997. "I did make an attempt to contact someone there, but since it didn't work, I'm pursuing [a possible sale] with other people."

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Hearing Voices

Now in its 23rd year, the Architectural League of New York's Emerging Voices program names eight talents with something to say.

The Architectural League of New York's Emerging Voices program has come to be regarded as an important benchmark in the profession. Launched in 1982 by Emilio Ambasz and Marita O'Hare, the League's then president and executive director, respectively, the idea was to create a public forum for young architects to share their work and ideas--an especially valuable opportunity in a late-peaking profession such as architecture. Said Craig Konyk, an Emerging Voice in 1996 and juror for the 2004 cycle, "Emerging Voices was quite instrumental in my career, a kind of 'coming out' where you become accepted among the 'arrived' architects."

For most of the program's history, the process of selection has begun with the League staff compiling names, culled from magazine articles, editors, past winners, and other advisors. "Usually we start out looking at around 40 firms and then narrow the field to about 15 to 20, from whom we request portfolios," said Anne Rieselbach, program director. "A committee, usually made up of past Emerging Voices, League board members, and maybe a critic or journalist, then selects the best work that reflects a distinctive 'voice.'"

"The crucial point is that the candidate has developed a voice that's driven not by styles or trends but by authentic commitment," said Michael Manfredi of Weiss/ Manfredi (Emerging Voices, Class of '97), who also served on this year's jury. "A 'voice' signifies a level of authenticity rather than maturity or finality. We looked for firms that are still experimenting, even making mistakes. Winning the award gave Marion [Weiss] and me a rare opportunity to say, yes, this is our voice."

Some of this year's choices might not seem as "emerging" or risk-taking as has come to be expected of the program. But, observed Konyk, "What has probably changed since I was selected is the amount of completed projects that architects have to achieve in order to be considered 'emerging.'" Still, a look at past winners shows that the Emerging Voices selection committees have been prescient more often than not. It might be a matter of a self-fulfillment: "After winning we felt we had to sustain a high level of quality," said Manfredi. "It was the best kind of burden.">

Preston Scott Cohen (Cambridge)

Harvard GSD professor Preston Scott Cohen hardly seems emerging, given that hismonograph, Contested Symmetries and Other Predicaments in Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press) came out in 2001 and he was named an emerging talent at the 1996 Venice Biennale. But it's true that he is just now putting the finishing touches on the long-publicized Goodman House (top), a rewrapped 19th-century

Dutch barn structure inspired by a torus or donut shape. Another major recent development in Cohen's career is his winning the competition to design a $45 million addition to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (above). The design, which includes a geometrically complex atrium that draws light three stories below grade, is slated to break ground this summer.

John Friedman and Alice Kimm Architects
(Los Angeles)

John Friedman and Alice Kimm Architects, founded in 1993, has quickly developed into a flourishing practice in Southern California. In its recently completed Los Angeles Design Center (above) and Cisco Brothers Showroom renovation, partners Friedman and Kimm transformed an unused courtyard into a vibrant urban space with a deftness and subtly that will surely give the car-dominated city a taste of vibrant pedestrian urbanity. The partners are currently designing a golf club and commercial building in Korea and a 47-unit SRO for senior citizens in central Los Angeles.

Rand Elliott
Elliott + Associates Architects
(Oklahoma City)

Oklahoma architect Rand Elliott has been scattering striking modern buildings across the midwestern landscape for 27 years. His designs of residences, offices, and industrial buildings are plainspoken yet elegant, such as his makeover projects for ImageNet, a scanning and imaging company, and his Will Rogers World Airport Snow Barn (below), an economical structure built to house the airport's snow removal equipment. The Snow Barn features a winglike overhang that is apt in its airport setting, and provides extra shelter in a harsh climate.


Tom Kundig
Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

In most architecture award programs today, the winners always include a predominance of firms doing intelligent, admirable modernist work--and then there's often the one architect with an idiosyncratic edge. The 2004 Emerging Voices awards are no different and this year's funky architect is Tom Kundig of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen. His Chicken Point Cabin in northern Idaho, is a refreshing example of contemporary thinking that makes a nod to Northwestern vernacular (left and below). It has a spectacular 20x30-foot glazed wall that opens to the adjacent lake by a giant, hand-turned metal wheel apparatus. The house can sleep ten, and must be fun when they stoke up the huge bong fireplace for guests.

Pierre Thibault
Pierre Thibault Architecte

Since establishing his practice in 1988, Pierre Thibault has striven to balance building with installation. At all scales, his projects contain strong archaeological references--tapping into geographic or material histories while remaining deeply sympathetic toward the temporal nature of constructions. The Museum of the Abenakis (above), a 2,000-square-meter addition to a former convent, is currently under construction near Nicolet on the St. Francis River in his hometown, Montréal. The building's steel frame construction and glass envelope are tempered by an opaque slat system, which harkens to sun shades found on vernacular buildings.

Lorcan O'Herlih
Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects
(Culver City)

Lorcan O'Herlihy's notoriety last year jumped when neighbors protested his construction of a condominium next door to the Schindler House, which houses the MAK Center. Ultimately, however, his project was accepted as an admirable descendent of the tradition of Southern California modernism. Like Schindler and Neutra, O'Herliihy respects rigorous geometry, a minimal material palette, and rich details. The recently completed 4,400-square-foot Jai House (left) overlooking the Santa Monica Mountains exemplifies his approach. The multi-use U2 Landmark Tower competition entry (above) was conceived for the Dublin Docklands regeneration plan.

Larry Scarpa
Pugh + Scarpa
(Los Angeles and Charlotte, North Carolina)

Recently, Pugh + Scarpa has been spreading its innovations with sustainable building beyond its base in Southern California and North Carolina. Following up on its 2001 Colorado Court in Santa Monica--one of the first 100 percent energy-independent single resident occupancy housing projects in the country--the firm has partnered with Office dA to design a sustainable housing project in Cambridge (left). And now it's constructing Solar Umbrella (below), a private residence in Venice, California, (slated for completion this spring) that uses, almost entirely, recycled building and landscaping materials, and will be completely independent from the power grid.

Ken Smith
Ken Smith Landscape Architect
(New York)

This year's only New York Voice, Ken Smith made his mark on the city by turning Queens Plaza dumpsters into planters in 2001, reinterpreting the unbuilt Isamu Noguchi design for the Lever House terrace last year, and splashing color into the schoolyard of New York's largest elementary school, P.S.19 in Queens, in 2003. He is currently collaborating with the Boston-based Kennedy Violich Architects on self-irrigating "container landscapes" for seven new commuter ferry piers along the East River (above). The $10.5 million project for the city will be completed in 2005.

Whetting the Olympic Dream

New York City's Olympic bid committee, NYC 2012, has made some great design decisions including the choosing of finalists for its Olympic Village. However, as the very powerful private organization prepares to make its final push, Andrew Yang asks, How much does the city really need the Olympics?

While the International Olympic Committee won't be announcing the host city for the 2012 Olympics until July 2005, NYC 2012, the non-profit private organization funded by large corporations and private donors that is initiating New York's bid, is commissioning enough work to build a small city. In fact, a small city is what NYC 2012 has most recently announced.

After an initial round of RFQs, NYC 2012 selected five architects to submit designs for an Olympic village in Queens West, near Long Island City: Henning Larsens Tegnestue, Zaha Hadid, Morphosis, MVRDV, and a mostly hometown team consisting of Smith-Miller + Hawkinson, Ralph Lerner, Shigeru Ban, Julie Bargmann and others.

The plans, which will be presented publicly this March, will be both a building and an urban plan. The architects will be concerned with fulfilling the Olympic program, but also creating market-rate (read: non- dormmstyle) housing on a site near Long Island City. While the village will house 16,000 athletes and coaches during the Olympics, it could house nearly 18,000 residents after the Olympics are over. They appropriately put a very high premium on design,, said Ralph Lerner. The Olympic (and post-Olympic) Village would be the first residential complexes for many of the designers. Because New York City is competing to host the Olympics, the architects are not guaranteed a commissionn yet. However, the quality of proposals and designs will be contributed into New York's candidature file, from which the ultimate decision will be made.

From the start, NYC 2012, founded by Daniel Doctoroff, now the deputy mayor for economic development, has been courting good design. It has already commissioned biggies like Hardy, Holzman and Pfieffer, Deborah Berke, and Rafael Viioly for speculative designs into the all-important candidature file. I'd like to think that the tide is turning [for good design in New York],, said Laurie Hawkinson.

Beyond the Olympic Village, there are much heralded infrastructure improvements including the Olympic XX plan, which extends east-west from Queens to Midtown to the Meadowlands, and north-south along the East river. The main elements of the Olympic proposal consist of fortifying existing sporting sites in all five boroughs, building new venues in key places like the Queens and Brooklyn waterfronts, and developing the west side of midtown Manhattan.

The linchpin of the plan is, and has been from the beginning, the development of a stadium for the New York Jets to be used as the official Olympic stadium, along with an anticipated extension of the number 7 subway line from 8th Avenue to 12th Avenue along 42nd Street. NYC 2012's estimate is a cost of $3 billion, not including West Side development, a city priority. In all, the Olympics may cost $6 billion.

Such a staggering sum and a complicated and nuanced vision has required cooperated planning between the private NYC 2012 and many city departmentssa difficult feat, or so one would think. While NYC 2012, the mayor's office, and the Department of City Planning are discreet entitites, the players involveddDoctoroff and Alexander Garvin, NYC's director of planning and a city planning commissionerr give every impression that the Olympics and the city's priorities are in tandem.

Doctoroff currently maintains no official association with NYC 2012, and Garvin has voluntarily submitted his positions for review to the city's very active and very pedantic Conflicts of Interest Board, which has very publicly given its permission. In fact, while there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that Garvin or Doctoroff's public and private roles are in conflict, The priorities between NYC 2012 and the city are completely aligned,, says Marcos Diaz Gonzalez, director of events for NYC 2012. (Incidentally, one of the private companies sponsoring NYC 2012 is Bloomberg, LLP.) However, the very massive and private efforts of NYC 2012, and the very public and civic-minded roles occupied by these two officials necessarily make the private and public boundary a delicate one.

Currently, several of the city's planning efforts, including Doctoroff's exploration into financing options for the West Side, are not being pursued solely for the sake of economic development, but are tailored to be especially accommodating should the Olympics happen. The Mayor's office recently opposed a power-plant proposal in Williamsburg, on the grounds that it was improperly situated in a residential area, anddmany speculatee that it interfered with the administration's plan to use the site as an Olympic sporting venue.

The Olympic Village site, Queens West, currently a four-phase development initiated by the Empire State Development Corporation, and involving such players as the Rockrose group, Kohn Pedersen and Fox, and Arquitectonica, would be significantly altered if NYC 2012 has their way. Even after borough president Helen Marshall told the Gotham Gazette last year that she thought the Olympics might delay Queens West development, which could potentially be completed before 2012, her office is now maintaining a careful stance. We have no problem with the [Olympic] village as long as it's done right,, said spokesman Dan Andrews.

Even if the convergence of city priorities and Olympic-planning priorities weren't an issue, what, exactly, would the Olympics bring that would be of long-term value to New Yorkers? NYC 2012 is heavy on talk of Olympic legacyy?the long- term effects of frenzied, multi-year preparation for a two-week eventt and what it will contribute to the city of New York. Since the West Side and Queens West are under-utilized areas that are transportation-rich and in attractive locations, their development would be beneficial for the city, and many of these projects have been on track and would be happening anyway, sans Olympics. The best and most original part of the proposal would be the acres of parks that it would add to the city (including the greening of Staten Island's Brookfield landfill). However, the importance of a state-of-the-art equestrian center is questionable for a city that prides itself on industries like finance, media, nightlife, and entertainment.

There can be a case made for the transit system, which has been engineered to link sporting venues. Those hubs will ostensibly link neighborhoods in the boroughs, despite the fact that neighborhoods aren't traditionally anchored by sporting venues. Organizations such as the Regional Plan Association are not studying the impact of the Olympics because, according to a spokesman, the Olympic proposal really isn't adding any kind of infrastructure, except for the extension of the number 7 [subway] line..

Additionally, the economic benefits of the Olympic Games have never been quite clear. The 1976 games left Montreal in long-term debt, while Barcelona thrived after the 1992 games. Athens is using the 2004 games to build a much-needed transit system, while Beijing is giving itself a total overhaullcomplete with a city master plan and a new skyline for 2008. Many of those cities will no doubt benefit from being in the purview of the rest of the world. However, does New Yorkkcurrently competing with London, Paris, Moscow, Madrid, Istanbul, and Rio de Janeirooreally need to be in the world spotlight more than it already is?

Beyond economics and value, then, the Olympics may just be a clever way of getting all of New York's improvements under one plan, and getting it done by a certain date. [The Olympic bid] is deadline-driven,, says Diaz Gonzalez. Financing, designing, and construction will have to follow a definite scheduleewhich would be an achievement. And that's difficult to achieve, especially in New York.. It's reasonable to assume that without a deadline of 2012, many of these capital improvements might take longer than necessary.While many organizations may be willing to help make the big push for the Olympics, there is one non-New York resident who makes a strong case against pouring the time and energy into such a massive undertaking. Last spring as a visiting professor in Geneva, Smith College economics professor and sports journalist Andrew Zimbalist spent some time talking to the IOC in Lausanne. Good bid cities, he said, are places that could benefit the most from improved public infrastructure, and are located in countries and continents that have not hosted it recently before. (North America will have been host five times since 1980, which is a huge strike.) Considering those factors, compounded by the global hostility towards the U.S. over the war in Iraq, his odds: 1 to 50.
Andrew Yang is an editor at PRINT and writes about art and architecture.

Moving Pictures

With clients' (and the public's) expectations rising after 9/11, Fred Bernstein finds that architectural animations are a tool designers can no longer pass up. Options range from New Yorkkbased video artists to low-cost foreign firms.

In the field of architectural animation, as in so many other things, one date separates then and now: September 11, 2001. The direct effects of 9/11 on companies that make architectural videos are vast..Michael is out in California with Peter Walker,, said Matthew Bannister, principal of New Yorkkbased dbox, referring to the Ground Zero memorial designer Michael Arad. When he comes back, we'll have five days to do the animation. It'll mean working some extra-weird hours..

Bannister's company had already done four other Ground Zeroorelated projects before it was asked to animate the winning design in the memorial competition. The LMDC, Bannister said, wanted it to be very realistic for the public presentation.. At least half a dozen other firms that specialize in three-dimensional renderings have been involved in redeveloping the World Trade Center site. There have been animations of the proposed master plans, the designs for Freedom Tower and other structures, and most recently, the memorial finalists (who were given a list of renderers by the LMDC, which picked up the tab for the animations).

But the indirect affects of 9/11 are greater. Technologies have a way of making themselves indispensable, especially after a splashy public showing. It's akin to what happened in the wake of the O.J. Simpson trial: Prosecutors say that jurors now expect DNA evidence in every case. Since 9/11-related architectural videos began appearing on the television news, consumers of architectureedevelopers, tenants, city planning commissions, and not least the publiccexpect projects to be presented with walk-throughs or fly-throughs, usually with background music, trees blowing in the wind, and people walking up and down virtual stairways.

Luckily for architects, the range of options for creating animations is multiplying. For firms doing the work inhouse, a website,, offers advice on the latest products and techniques. At the same time, the ease of transferring data over the Internet has made it possible for some large firms (including Manhattanbase Kohn Pederson Fox) to save money by having animations produced overseas. As a result, architects say, the days when a video was a luxuryyand one completed only after the design was finishedd are over. Videos are prepared at every stage of the process, and can serve as design tools.

Bannister said that in one case, his firm was asked to make animations of spaces that hadn't even been rendered in two dimensions. After the client approved the video, the architect would do the drawings,, he said. Ed Manning, another New Yorkkbased architectural animator, said one of his clients was planning a renovation that, in Manning's mind, would produce awkward spaces. On his own time, he produced an animation that convinced the owner to rethink the design. He could see exactly why the spaces wouldn't work,,Manning recalled. He added that traditional two-dimensional renderings, given their capacity to hide or highlight whatever a designer wants, can be misleading in a way that 3-D renderings are not.

Bernard Tschumi, who recently stepped down as dean of Columbia's architecture school in order to focus on his increasingly busy practice, said that he, too, is using animations more and more as an in-house design tool. An animation confirms things about a space, or opens avenues you didn't think about.. Manning freelances for Imaginary Forces, a company that until now has been known for movie and TV animation. Two years ago, the firm opened a New York office dedicated to serving the architectural market.What's happened, he said, is that rising standards of visual literacy, along with advances in technology and lower costs in applying it, make it possible for architects to think about creating images that are as detailed and realistic as the images that have been used for entertainment and advertising..

Said Bannister of dbox, We're a relatively new business model in the United States, where, until recently, hightech renderings were mostly done in bedroom shops.'' By contrast, he said, this has been an established business type for many years in Europe,, where concern for historic city centers meant that photorealistic renderings of proposed new buildings were de rigueur. But in New York, he said, after 9/11 there was a sudden expectation for computer visualizations, which led to a rise in businesses like ours..

Another entrant is Screampoint, a California firm represented in New York by Wendy Cohn, an urban planner. For years, Cohn worked for the Manhattan borough president on such mega-projects as the redevelopment of Times Square.When Hsiao-Lai Mei, a West Coast entrepreneur, showed Cohn his photorealistic animations, she realized that developers could use them to present their plans to New York's community boards and Planning Commission. (The commission itself has since become a Screampoint client.)

On a laptop at the firm's office in Rockefeller Center, Cohn offers the proof: In one caseea video of a proposed mall in Honoluluuit's impossible to believe the animation isn't a movie. According to Cohn, the client liked the animation so much, he took it to Italy to pick out marble paving that matched the effect created by Screampoint's artists. But Screampoint's selling point isn't just verisimilitude. Founder Mei developed a system that links 3-D images to a multitude of data: Click on a wall in an animation, and you may find out when it was painted, and what color. Click on a floor of an apartment building, and you may find out how much rent the tenant has been paying. According to Mei, his system makes 3-D imaging a tool that can be utilized throughout the life of a project. Our typical clients are large owners and developers, though we work alongside architects and engineers,, he said. The interaction with the designers is very tight..

Though Cohn occupies a Rockefeller Center office, most of Screampoint's work is done outside the country. It's 24-7. Someone is always working in China or in Egypt or in Yugoslavia or Mexico,, she said. Indeed, the value of sending work overseas, apparent in so many other fields, is quickly becoming recognized in the world of architectural animation. Kohn Pederson Fox (KPF) has all but its simplest animations made in Beijing. Architect Richard Nemeth discovered the high qualityyand low costtof Chinese renderings when he was working with a client in China several years ago. He tracked down the Chinese renderers and began giving them work. People in the firm would say, These renderings are really nice, where do you get them done?'' Nemeth recalled.

Until then, KPF had used New York animators. Now the firm posts its data on a password- protected website, where it is downloaded by Chinese workers. We call every evening and talk to them about what changes need to be made. The next morning, we have a draft,, said Nemeth.

He said the typical animation, such as a fly-through of Songdo, a new city in Korea that KPF is master-planning, takes seven or eight drafts. But that's because the people doing the work in China have a very good sensibility,, he said. If they didn't, you could do 15 drafts and still not be happy with the results..

Not every firm is ready to outsource its animation. Tschumi, for his part, has three fulltime people doing videos in his loft office on 17th Street (out of a total staff of 30). Lately, he has been winning one high-profile competition after another and the videos produced under his roof, he acknowledged, are one of the reasons. Increasingly, the animations are part of the competition entry,, he explained.

Other architecture firms give animation work to companies like dbox, which employs 13 artists in its studio on West 14th Street. The firm was founded, according to Bannister, in the computer lab at Cornell's architecture school in the 1990s, where he and his founding partners studied. He is proud to note that their influences include pre-computer-age works of architectural representation, such as the mid-20th-century photographs of Julius Shulman and, going further back, the 18th-century view-paintings of Venetian Giovanni Canaletto. The Canaletto book is always out somewhere, always open,, he said. These elaborate animation services don't come cheap. ((If I sense that we're bidding against someone, they're probably not coming to us for the right reasons,, said Bannister.) Dbox, according to Bannister, has not yet felt the impact of its overseas competitors. We're always booked up at least a month in advance.. The firm also produces art videos that have been shown in a number of museums.

With computer animation software becoming more widely available, most firms have at least one person on staff who knows how to use it. But,, said Bannister, buying a Les Paul guitar doesn't make you Eric Clapton..