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Broken Nature

Paola Antonelli’s upcoming Milan Triennale urges designers to tackle climate change
Next year’s XXII Triennale di Milano couldn’t come at a better time. Curated by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s Paola Antonelli, the exhibition focuses on the one-of-a-kind ways designers are tackling one of the world’s biggest contemporary problems: climate change. Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival introduces the concept of restorative design and analyzes how humans interact with the natural environment. “A healthy concern for the future of our planet and of our species should come as no surprise," said Antonelli in a statement, "and yet the Broken Nature team feels thankful for the eager and consistent restorative design that is at the core of [this event]...It allows us to keep believing in the power of design to help citizens understand complexity, assess risks, adapt behaviors, and demand change.” Running from March 1 to September 1, 2019, the international showcase will bring together thought-provoking commissions from around the world that sit at the intersection of art, industry, and politics. Special projects will be on view by Formafantasma, Sigil Collective, as well as Neri Oxman and the MIT-based Mediated Matter Group, among others. Scientist Stefano Mancuso will present the immersive exhibition, The Nation of Plants, which will explore the role of botany in helping to solve the world’s vast ecological issues.  It was recently announced that Italian architect Stefano Boeri will lead the global event as its new president. He aims to reinstitute the traditional roots of the 85-year-old Milan Triennale as a collaborative design event that centers on modern day issues. The 2016 event, which was the first Triennale held after a 20-year hiatus, didn’t follow the former format that encouraged such widespread cross-disciplinary collaboration. The Architect’s Newspaper spoke with Antonelli about what it means now that the Triennale is back, and why next year’s thematic exhibition is particularly pertinent for cities in Italy and beyond: AN: Broken Nature is a total revamp of the 2016 Milan Triennale. Can you talk about the ways in which the 2019 event will be different? Paola Antonelli: Hopefully it will exist in the same vein of the ones that happened over 20 years ago. The 2016 event was a loose collection of design innovations while the Triennales held before the 21st century very much connected to what was happening in the world. That’s how I think about Broken Nature. We’re creating the opportunity for architects and designers to participate in a dialogue and contribute to the world’s most urgent crisis: the future of the environment. What makes it different is its attempt to connect a network of efforts. Very often you have these events where the curators know each other, but they make something new and original individually. I believe in originality, of course, but I also believe in collaboration. If we’re talking about emergency as the central focus, we might as well join forces. I would like Broken Nature to become not an umbrella, but an embrace for all these efforts, and for curators to complement each others’ efforts. With this theme of climate change and protecting the environment, we have to join forces in order to be taken seriously. What was the inspiration behind giving science as much of a platform as design? PA: I began this exploration 10 years ago with the MoMA exhibition, Design and the Elastic Mind. We put designers and scientists in conversation to discuss recent changes in tech, science, and social habits, and how people can deal with those changes through thoughtful design. The idea for Broken Nature was birthed in 2013 as a proposal for another exhibition at MoMA that didn’t work out. It never left my mind, because soon after that, new solutions and ways to address change emerged out of this growing urgency to save ourselves and the earth from major environmental threats. For the Milan Triennale, we’re not gathering curators to put together new works necessarily. The National Bureau of Expositions will handle organizing the various pavilions by other countries. I am curating part of the exhibition myself, and we’re asking designers worldwide to share projects that they’ve already been working on for some time. We’re looking for eco-visionaries who have already helped start a dialogue on restorative design and how humans can better connect with nature.
 
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What role has public engagement played in the process of putting together this event? PA: We’ve done public symposia on Broken Nature already, which has helped not only spread awareness but organize our ideas and prepare content. Some of our contributors have already written essays about their projects, which we’ll use toward a book later that sums up our learnings. The symposia have also helped us test out a few ideas to see if they will work out on the national stage. What else should we know going into next year’s 7-month-long triennale? PA: Overall, we’re hoping people will be puzzled and inspired by the exhibition, but we do have three main desired outcomes for it. First, we’re doing this not only for the architecture and design community but for the Milanese citizens because we know they’re interested in design. We’re looking to them as the agent of change to exercise pressure on institutions and change behaviors. We hope citizens will come to the show and leave with a short-term sense of what they can do in their everyday lives to be restorative. Second, we want people to leave the building knowing we live in a complex world, so our actions need to be thoughtful as we move forward in interacting with nature. Third, we want people to have a long-term vision. We tend to always think of our children and our children’s children when it comes to caring for the earth. But beyond that into the third generation of humans, it’s hard to psychologically imagine what it will be like. We hope the exhibition will help people put the far-out future into perspective. Leading the curatorial effort alongside Antonelli for XXII Triennale di Milano are Ala Tannir, Laura Maeran, and Azzurra Muzzonigro. Laura Agnesi will act as lead coordinator for the event, while Marco Sammicheli will handle international relations.
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Parks Without Borders

NYC Parks Commissioner talks policy, parks, and breaking down barriers
Over the next three months, The Architect’s Newspaper will feature a series interviews with Susannah Drake, founding principal of DLANDstudio, and leading public space advocates about the meaning, design, and development of public space. Up first, New York City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell Silver will discuss New York's Parks Without Borders initiative to make parks and open space more accessible. Borders are a hot topic in our current politically volcanic world. Some are geographic, most are political, and many have to do with resources and strategic control. Robert Frost’s poem titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors is often misinterpreted as suggesting that defined boundaries between people or societies are positive. In practice, defined borders can lead to violence, social isolation, inefficiency, and habitat loss.  The classic phrase, “living on the other side of the tracks,” was taken to the extreme in the United States after World War II as new highway systems, elevated transportation structures, slum clearance, and dehumanized public housing towers transformed cities across the United States. Today, cities including Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis are working to break down physical and perceived boundaries to make a healthier living environment for all. In New York City, the efforts of three groups, one public and two nonprofit, demonstrate how smart urban planning and design can make the city healthier, safer, and more democratic by improving underutilized public lands. Mitchell Silver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, is the visionary behind the city’s Parks Without Borders program. As a native New Yorker who spent his formative years in the city before traveling the country and the world as a planner and thought leader, his vision as head of the public parks agency has been to expand the availability of park space by breaking down physical barriers, jurisdictional boundaries, and site lines into city parks. AN: What is the origin of the Parks without Borders program? MS: The origins came from two sources. Growing up in New York, I was always bothered by the big berm that separated Flatbush Avenue from Prospect Park. The road seemed like a raceway defined with so many fences and barriers. Through professional and personal experience, I encountered different forms of public space around the world and saw far fewer barriers. Public space was seamlessly connected to the city. Of course, fences are needed for sports and steep slopes but in many cases, they are unnecessary. When I became commissioner of the Parks Department, I remembered something that Frederick Law Olmsted said about parks: “The sidewalk adjacent to the park should be considered the outer park.” What I recognized was that the sidewalks around parks, such as Fort Greene Park and Prospect Park, were under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department but felt separate. The land from the park to the curb should feel like part of the park. The public realm should be seamless. The public doesn’t know or care who owns the land. The New York City Police Department needed to own the idea of crime prevention through community design. I submitted the idea to the Mayor as part of OneNYC and through a partnership between City Planning, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and our agency, and a $50 million pilot was launched. There were two components: $40 million was dedicated to eight showcase projects, determined through the extensive public process that received over 6,000 nominations. In addition, $10 million was dedicated to parks and playgrounds across the city already under development to enhance the park design.   The key principles are to make a seamless public realm by rethinking the edges, entrances, and adjacent spaces of parks across the city. Open space should be open. Growing dense urban centers need vital public space for all races, genders, and ages across the board. What barriers have you met in implementing the project? Resistance encountered? As with all projects of this nature, we met with all of the community boards via borough board meetings and held public meetings in each of the five boroughs to explain the program and ask the public to nominate a park for the program. We communicated our theory that good uses tend to push out bad uses. In other words, plan for what you want to see and not what you don’t want to see. Feedback was split along demographic lines. Older people perceived fences as safeguards and that reducing the height of fences and opening up parks invited crime and homelessness to take over. But we have had early success. At McDonald Playground in Staten Island where Parks Without Borders money was dedicated to a Community Parks Initiative project, the community was initially concerned about lowering fences. The park feels so open now that people ask if we added more land. And, while the plan for Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn is greatly supported by the community, there has been resistance related to the planned removal of some large, invasive, non-native trees, and the mounds constructed in the 1970s as part of the project. What is the schedule of implementation? Over 20 parks are in the pipeline. The showcase projects will be completed by 2020. They include Prospect Park, Seward Park, Jackie Robinson Park, Corona Park, Fort Greene Park, Faber Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and Hugh Grant Circle. How does the program align with other DPR/Administration initiatives? NYC Parks is advocating for Equity, Access, Placemaking, and Healthy Living. One of the programs, Walk to a Park, is intended to reduce the time it takes to get to a park. Reducing barriers and moving entrances helps increase access to parks. DPR planners conducted a thorough planning process examining the location and attributes of parks across the city and determined where residents might be underserved. Using GIS, they mapped a five-minute walk from parks, playgrounds, and trails across New York City and then used the analysis to prioritize capital expenditures. Does the DPR Parks without Borders program impact all communities across NYC regardless of demographics? Yes, with multigenerational, ADA access. At McDonald Playground, a woman hugged me suggesting that I changed her life because she can now sit with her daughter in a quieter area of the park and watch the kids play ball. She said I extended her life.  Beyond physical fences and walls, what other kinds of borders have you seen in your time as commissioner? Rules create barriers. We don’t want to engage in anti-planning which can exclude rather than include people. Including more people in more existing parks is one example. Anti-planning, or planning to prohibit a certain group is not fair. For example, some of our playgrounds have a sign that states: “Adults prohibited unless accompanied by a child.” That means a senior citizen is prohibited from using a public space or must walk to another park that doesn’t have that rule. To address this inequity, NYC Parks in 2017 evaluated all city playgrounds and installed new signs at locations that would allow adults in a park or playground, but only prohibited adults in fenced off areas where children’s play units were located, like swings, slides and climbing structures. This one change allows more adult New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy green space like sitting under a tree or using a comfort station.   As a planner what is your perspective on borders that might exist because of climate or geographic lines that are mapped but not always perceived by the public? Rockaways? In places where public safety is an issue such as around water, clearly there need to be rules and physical barriers to keep people safe. Environmental conditions can also require limited access. For instance, the habitat for piping plovers needs to be protected by limiting beach access. This reduced the walk score but was an important trade-off. In natural areas, controlling beach erosion is important. Sometimes these barriers are jurisdictional, particularly in coastal areas. New York City is doing a better job than in the past. What is your perspective on urban and transportation design decisions in the direct post-war period, in the '60s and today in relation to race, demographics, and urban living? White flight of the '60s, urban renewal with its characteristic superblocks, and highways dividing neighborhoods were not the highlight of good planning. Cities were perceived as unsafe and as a result, many parks were surrounded with high walls to create defensible space. Now Parks Without Borders is changing this situation by moving from defensible space to open and inclusive space. Prospect Park is a great example. Programming by the Alliance activated the park. They designed for what we want to see rather than what we don’t want to see. There are so many users in our parks that space needs to be very inclusive. Our parks are our outdoor living rooms and reflect those that use them. While DPR does not have purview over public housing, it would be great to get your perspective on the landscape of housing projects in New York City as well as their overall relationship to the city. The “tower in the park” model is somewhat right. The park part is not right. Residents assume that the landscape is off limits because it is fenced off. Design organizations are now engaging NYCHA Tenant Associations about opening-up the green space within the NYCHA housing campus. For example, some NYCHA Houses have converted open space to community gardens, so the trend of better using NYCHA green space is moving into the right direction. Digital access to information creates places where people collect in the city. Beyond these spheres are dead zones that might be considered another form of border. Are there any efforts by DPR to expand digital access? I’d love to see WiFi in parks. We currently have charging stations at some beaches and WiFi in some parks. Lack of funding for maintenance and operations is an ongoing issue for public space. How will Parks Without Borders impact maintenance needs of parks? Maintenance practice of 21st-century parks warrants reexamination. More funding and more staff are welcome but aren’t the answer. We need to be innovative with resources. The agency is now using a zone approach with analytics to optimize the work of maintenance crews. We are also employing new design approaches and adding horticultural staff. One example is having park cleaning seven days per week. This seems like an addition, but the change is cutting down Monday absences because those crews were not unfairly burdened with the weekend trash. This created a better team ethos. Utilization of staff is as important as getting more staff. Working smarter with specialized teams with more training that can troubleshoot issues system-wide (catch basin team, green infrastructure team) is helping. Any final words? With limited resources we are forced to think about what is important and how to be innovative, which I base of the 3 S’s of management: You must have the right organizational structure to achieve your vision and mission. You must have the right systems in place to be successful. You must have strong management and operation standards across the five boroughs to function as one agency.  
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Tell Me More

The best interviews from 15 years of The Architect’s Newspaper
To celebrate our 15th anniversary, we looked back through the archives for our favorite moments since we started. We found stories that aged well (and some that didn’t), as well as a wide range of interviews, editorials, and other articles that we feel contributed to the broader conversation. We also took a closer look at the most memorable tributes to those we lost, and heard from editors past and present about their time here. Check out this history of architecture in the 21st century through the best interviews of The Architect’s Newspaper: 2004 Architects and musicians (Philip Glass, DJ Spooky, Greg Lynn, Thom Mayne, Moby, etc.) Philip Glass: Music is built out of our bodies…On the other hand, music [can be] very difficult to recreate. Though music can be reduced to notation, it still remains as impermanent form. Once you stop playing, it’s gone. Architecture is what you stumble over in the dark…You don’t stumble across music in the dark. Thom Mayne: I used to say I want to make architecture that hurts. 2006 Rem Koolhaas + Hani Rashid Cecil Balmond "Technology moves new materials, and architecture feeds on new materials." Renzo Piano + Kenneth Frampton 2008 Richard Barnes + Julius Shulman 2009 David Adjaye "Schools are woefully unconnected to the idea of the profession being entrepreneurial. We were all graduating and trying to get into employment right away. This generation is very different, because they’re paying off their debts. In my day in London, it was still very much in the grant system. Your education wasn’t a noose around your neck in terms of repayment. It was almost like free, and you were very ready to take on the world and come into the world. There was more risk-taking." 2010 John Portman 2011 Rem Koolhaas "There are no big ideas anymore. You have to have an ecology where the two sides [the creative and the bureaucratic] are equally important and strong. If you look at the first responses to 9/11 on the architect scene, it was all about being symbolic and there was basically no ability to be critical or even concrete. It was all just metaphors." 2012 Kengo Kuma au Naturel 2013 Peter Eisenman 2017 Mabel O. Wilson on race, memory, and architecture "To build is to have power. That’s not something given up easily, which women have found out in architecture. It’s not an easy ceiling to break because of the ways that buildings are tied to power structures and power relations and wealth." “Architecture saved my life”: Pablo Escobar’s son is a good architect now "It’s a shame that people judge me because of my father’s past and not what I do or what I’m capable of. That’s one of the main barriers that I find every day as an architect. I don’t want to be a coke dealer. I know how to be a coke dealer, but I don’t want to." For more stories, check out our 15th anniversary article.
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Recalibrating Discourse

AN speaks with ACADIA organizers on eve of annual conference
ACADIA, or the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, is set to meet in Mexico City at the Universidad Iberoamericana from October 18–20. Each year ACADIA brings together leading scholars, researchers, and practitioners who push the boundaries of architecture through design and computation. AN spoke with conference organizers Brian Slocum and Pablo Kobayashi, along with Technical Chair Phillip Anzalone, about the excitement of bringing the conference to Mexico for the first time. AN: Why is this year’s conference so special? This is the first time in ACADIA’s nearly 38 year history hosting the gathering in Mexico. The type of work that will be presented is something that hasn’t been seen locally and is not yet part of the culture of the institutions. Mexico, of course, has a rich tradition of craft, artisanal labor, and analog computation within architectural practices. We hope that by bringing ACADIA to Universidad Iberoamerica and UNAM that we can start a conversation for moving architecture forward. The theme of this year’s conference is Recalibration: On Imprecision and Infidelity. What do you mean by recalibration? The digital tools we use are very precise and by their very precision, there comes an obsessive need to control the output. In a certain sense, as a field we are facing a surplus of precision. We want to ask: Can error and imprecision (so-called glitches & failures) be seen as the creative act and be part of the dialogue? We have seen a shift in proposals and projects from those that place an emphasis on the tools of architectural design (robots, 3-D printers, BIM), which embody the precision and fidelity that the conference theme reacts to, toward those related disciplines and trajectories that break free from computational preconceptions and begin to encourage a redefinition of the traditional tools and processes that are at the heart of experimentation and production. Through technologies such as mixed reality and artificial intelligence, processes such as reuse and repurposing of materials, integration of computer and human interaction, and other trends, the current researchers inhabit a fluid zone where total control and the dichotomy of virtual and real is blurred, allowing for innovation and discovery to flourish. Also in terms of recalibrating the discourse, how do we deal with bigger, more social problems and evaluate the social impact of computation? How do you evaluate the results of an investigation that stems from a worldview rather than starting just from the data? How can we negotiate these social recalibrations without being too polemical? We started by speaking of truth and fidelity in computation output and arrived at this broader idea about recalibration. Our only hope ultimately is to shake things up a bit, shake up the discourse. AN: Can you speak more to how global (re)calibration works and how you define disciplines in increasingly co-located and overlapping fields of research? How does knowledge transfer work in an already connected world of research? The 2018 ACADIA conference is precisely (or perhaps I should say imprecisely) the forum needed for the pursuit of knowledge in a globalized environment. Simple digital connections via social media, publication, and direct communication are significantly enhanced through physical interactions, such as those that develop at a conference. The choice of a site and a theme that not only define boundaries and create parameters for discussion, but also engage a culture, an environment, and a sense of physicality, is critical to the work of combining the rigor of experimentation with the passion of discovery. The location and theme for this year’s conference is proposing not only a new way to look at research and practice in architecture but also exploring new places and ideas that have the potential to remake our environment. With an eye toward those locations, techniques, and ways of thinking that have been evolving and flourishing outside of the walls of digital environments, and embracing the difference between the visualized and the experienced, architectural design is discovering a new world of interaction that points toward to future of the built environment. AN: What are you most excited about this year's speaker lineup? I think we’ve hopefully found a good balance of speakers who challenge our own thinking on architecture and computation and continue to produce innovations in the field. Our keynotes range from global speakers such as Philippe Block, Patrik Schumacher, Francesca Hughes, to Mexico City-based practitioners Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Diego Ricalde Equally, ACADIA’s award winners this year continue to push architectural research and education in new and interesting directions. ACADIA is proud to honor the work of Mónica Ponce de León, Jenny Wu and Dwayne Oyler Madeline Gannon, Sigrid Brell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann, Areti Markopoulou, and all our paper session presenters. ACADIA kicks off next week with workshops held at UNAM from October 15–17. The conference sessions and keynotes run October 18–20 at Universidad Iberoamericana. Visit 2018.acadia.org for more information.
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Diversifying Design Reporting

New Architecture Writers program raises underrepresented voices
New Architecture Writers (NAW), a London-based program for emerging journalists and curators, was established last year to produce new critical voices within the industry. Dedicated to enhancing the skills of black and minority ethnic (BAME) writers and diversifying the field of design journalism, it’s helped educate its inaugural members through a year-long series of free evening workshops, talks, assignments, and one-on-one mentoring. As NAW reaches the end of its first year in October, The Architect’s Newspaper spoke with founder Phineas Harper on the lessons the members have learned so far, what’s next for the program, and why there’s a newfound sense of urgency to build a more equitable profession within architecture writing. The Architect's Newspaper: Can you reflect on a few key learnings NAW members have been exposed to?  Phineas Harper: The program has packed a lot into a fairly small time. It’s been a crash course in various forms of architectural writing from straight-up journalism to interview technique and writing opinion columns. There is no single way to write, but through testing out some basic principles and practice we’re hoping to build up the skills of all the NAW members. What have you personally learned from creating this program? A key lesson that I’ve learned through the project is that the industry of architectural writing is far from a meritocracy. It’s a cliche but it’s true—in this world, who you know counts for more than what you know. When we’re talking about widening access to architecture or design journalism, we need to frankly acknowledge the reality that personal networks count for a lot, and work within that reality rather than pretending we are capable of being truly meritocratic. NAW, therefore, is not just about expanding the skills of our members but expanding their constellation of connections. How are you approaching the second year now that the first year is nearly complete? NAW is currently possible because of the generosity of some key partners and the incredible contribution of all our workshop leaders, lecturers, and tutors. The course is free to attend but obviously requires a great deal of time, energy, and space to run. I’m actively seeking ways to make the course self-sustaining such as grants, sponsorship, and patrons. We hope there will be future years that will build on the successes of year one and take the program to another level in year two, but to make that dream a reality we need architects and editors to step-up and help us. Why do you think it’s important to help educate minority writers in design and architecture? Design writing in the U.K. has made some awesome strides in recent decades. It is highly diverse in its mix of straight and LGBT writers and until recently almost all the editors of the major architecture magazines were women. Yet, like many professions, design writing in the U.K. remains largely white with very few critics, graphic designers, editors, publishers, or journalists from BAME backgrounds. Systemic racism in the distribution of wealth, education, and opportunities inhibits new voices from a wider variety of backgrounds breaking through and depletes architectural publishing in the process with a knock-on impact on the culture of architecture itself. Addressing this situation is not a question of just ticking boxes to hit quotas. The question of diversity is a means, rather than an end. Currently, we are cutting out a huge proportion of the population from contributing to architectural discourse and in doing so locking out critical perspectives. It is not simply about who has access to platforms, but how those platforms will fundamentally change once they are no longer controlled by a self-selecting elite. To learn more about the New Architecture Writers program, apply, volunteer as an editor or teacher, email Phineas Harper at admin@newarchitecturewriters.org.  
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White Glove Sale

Rafael de Cárdenas curates a decorative arts installation for Christie’s
Rafael de Cárdenas of Architecture at Large ventured into his first curatorial endeavor with Christie’s for a special installation that premieres the sale of The Collector: English & European Furniture, Fine Art, Ceramics & Silver. From a gilt centaur with an amethyst base to a cameo acid-etched vase to a Louis XVI mahogany desk, de Cárdenas studied individual works in the upcoming sale to design a display of highlights from the auction. Showcased atop bronze-hued plinths, de Cárdenas’ favorite lots are interspersed in a landscape of flowers and palm leaves delicately arranged by Meta Flora. With over 300 lots, the auction encompasses 17th to 19th-century European furniture, sculpture, works of art, silver, ceramics, carpets and more, with starting prices ranging from the thousands to the hundred thousands. AN asked Rafael de Cárdenas about his installation design, his personal knowledge of decorative arts, and what he found fascinating about the sale. The Architect’s Newspaper: How long have you been collecting decorative arts and why did you start? Rafael de Cárdenas: Barring a few purchases at antique shops in France, I wouldn’t say I’m a collector of decorative arts. I collect quite a bit of design pieces but mostly 20th century. Working with Christie’s on this exciting collaboration may change that however. I will be bidding on pieces in the auction! Can you tell us about the installation and what your inspiration was? I don’t think these items need a lot of razzle dazzle; they are quite dazzling on their own. We are simply curating a particularly mannerist selection together on semi-rounded tiered plinths. The plinths isolate each piece, giving them more attention than they might normally have in a traditional living environment. We are working with Meta Flora to weave a monochromatic but lush landscape as an element interacting with the pieces. In your studies of the lots, what did you find most intriguing or surprising? Lot 237, a George Woodall for Thomas Webb glass cameo work, is particularly compelling in its general moodiness. I’ve been drawn to the glass works most, I’d say. Lot 271, a Louis Solon for Mintons glass vessel, is another favorite. Many of the smaller fragile works are so atmospheric almost to the point of no other function. What are your favorite works/artists from the 17th to the 19th century? I would have been unable to answer that a few months ago, but I particularly like the pieces by George Woodall for Thomas Webb Glass in the auction.   The installation is on view in Rockefeller Plaza at Christie’s from April 6-9. Afterward, the auction will follow on the day after, on April 10.  
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Cribs: Kitchen Edition

What’s in chef Wylie Dufresne’s kitchen?
Formerly of wd~50 and Alder, Chef Wylie Dufresne, once cooked with scientists and served Lou Reed. These days he is making doughnuts in unexpected flavors at his newest culinary outpost, Du's Donuts & Coffee, and admiring the recently remodeled kitchen of his boyhood Manhattan apartment. AN spoke to Dufresne about how he created his ideal home kitchen. The Architect’s Newspaper: As a chef, how did you want to remodel your home kitchen? Chef Wylie Dufresne: As a professional chef and as a father, I had a lot of decisions to make when planning the renovation of my childhood apartment in NYC for my own family’s needs. You’re well-accustomed to appliances, surfaces, and cook areas; what was most important for you to include in the renovation? I decided to feature stainless-steel countertops, rich wood accents, and True Residential appliances. Since so much about functionality of a kitchen is tied to movement within it, I decided to utilize my island not just as a worktop, but also as a home for my True Dual Zone Wine Cabinet (which my wife and I love). The main event of the kitchen is, of course, the True 42-inch side-by-side refrigerator, which offers hygienic and attractive stainless-steel interiors, incredibly sturdy drawers, and the true commercial strength that I rely on at work and now in my home! Here are six of Dufresne’s picks from his personal and professional kitchen: Flint Gold 30 Inch Bar Stool CB2 Not your typical science room stools! Featuring a gold powder coated satin finish, this factory-inspired alternative is handcrafted from steel. Artisan Series 5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer KitchenAid With 10 speeds, this Googie-looking mixer whips, mixes, and kneads with brawn and beauty. There are 10 tool attachments, including a grinder and pasta maker. As a nod to the era it spawned from, it is available in countless Populuxe colorways. Full Size 42-Inch Refrigerator True Swathed in silvery stainless steel, this refrigerator chills and stores a chef-sized assortment of provisions. It can accommodate any cook with adaptable shelves, drawers, and baskets illuminated by ramp-up lighting. Meurice Rectangle Chandelier Johnathan Adler Inspired by bamboo, the Maurice Chandelier is outfitted with 42 candelabra bulbs attached to both ends of each reed. It is offered in nickel, bronze, and brass. Round Dutch Oven Le Creuset This cast-iron Dutch oven is enameled with the same technique developed by Le Creuset at the turn of the 20th century. The colorful exterior is notoriously chip and crack resistant. Meanwhile, the dome-shaped lid creates continuous heat and moisture circulation. Dual Zone Wine Cabinet True It’s wine-o-clock somewhere! This dual-zone wine storage system features independent climate zones that separate temperature ranges from 40 to 65 degrees between glide-out, vibration dampening racks.
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Nothing To Sniff At

Boob bounce castles and liquor clouds? Bompas & Parr’s sensual architecture
What does Bompas & Parr do? If you have the foggiest, perhaps the name should hint at the bizarre ideas its two founders, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, are notorious for brewing up. If you hadn't somehow guessed, the South London pair make architectural jellies, clouds of gin, and breast bouncy castles, among other things, and have been mixing architecture with our often architecturally shunned senses—especially in the form of desserts—for almost a decade (their ten-year anniversary is next month). Parr and Bompas met at the tender age of 13 while playing in the same orchestra at Eton. Since then, they have become experts in multi-sensory experiences. Parr, an architect by training, spoke at Brooklyn's A/D/O recently about how we taste and smell, part of the ongoing Common Sense program. In one experiment, he proved how, through genetics, we all have genuinely different tastes. In another, he played different sounds as the audience ate two chocolates. Which one tasted sweeter? Of course, the chocolates were both the same, but the nostalgic sound of children kicked our brain—and sweet tooth into gear. After being subjected to these experiments, The Architect's Newspaper (AN) caught up with Parr to talk more about his firm and his fascination with the senses. AN: So why jelly? Parr: Initially attracted by the nostalgia and visual appeal of jelly we tried to get a jelly stall at London’s Borough Market. Although that failed, we did start to discover that jelly has an intriguing history and it is a powerful, albeit unusual design tool. Over the centuries jelly molds have changed, [with] material and design keeping up with the latest technologies and trends. Henry the VIII had jellies made in sycamore molds, whilst the Victorians preferred electroformed copper. Glass, ceramics, aluminum, and plastic have also been used. The realization that I could make my own molds using 3D printing allowed us to create an infinite variety of shapes which we could then combine with an infinite variety of colors and flavors. This creates a fascinating vehicle for discovering how people interact with food—especially in looking at flavor perception. At A/D/O you did a couple of experiments. What got you into exploring how external associations and preconceptions affect our senses? Whilst working on our first commissioned project, the 12-course Victorian Breakfast, I realized that the environment was directly impacting on how people perceive their food. In this case, an ornate state dining room combined with polished silverware, Victorian fairground tunes (which happened to be coming from a funfair outside), and waiters in Victorian garb somehow combined together to make people have a great experience. We were surprised when one of our guests asked for a recipe for the scones which we had bought a few hours earlier from Tesco! How did you go from making fabulous jelly to where you are now? We rapidly started exploring how the work that we had done with jelly could be applied to different sorts of food and how we could create unusual food-centered experiences. The result of this was that we started designing, funding, and promoting our own events. The first major event was Alcoholic Architecture. Alcoholic Architecture—whose idea was that? How did you manage to pull it off? We were inspired by Anthony Gormley's exhibit Blind Light which was on at the Hayward Gallery. We felt it would be far better if the cloud was made from alcohol than water vapor, so we set about developing the technology and working with a scientist to see how we could do this safely. Have you ever had people react badly or in an unexpected way to your sensual concoctions? We’ve had a few people fall into the water by getting stuck under a waterfall in our Beyond the Waterfall adventure. We are very interested in the risk and reward mechanism, so we often encourage people to go beyond their comfort zones and usually it’s very rewarding for them. In 2015 Bompas & Parr created Funland for the Museum of Sex in New York. How did you come up with ideas for that?  The project grew out of a commission by the museum for Jump Joy (a breast bouncy castle).  As part of out research, we started working with Professor Vanessa Toulmin of the National Fairground Archive. This uncovered a deep historical link between carnivals and sex. The result was a selection of carnival inspired attractions for audiences to enjoy and experience while they contemplate the sexual subtext of the rides. We are now working on new version of Funland for the museum. What's next for Bompas & Parr? In June we celebrate our tenth anniversary, and as part of this the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art is hosting a retrospective, entitled Tongue Town which will run for three months. It will feature some of our early work, including a stomach bouncy castle, a fruit cloud, and display exploring the working practices of the studio.
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Housing Crisis Continues

SFHAC says, “Every neighborhood, every city should provide its fair share of housing.”
California—and the San Francisco Bay Area, in particular—is currently suffering from a prolonged and devastating housing affordability crisis. Housing construction over the last decade has been anemic, relative to previous decades, at a time when the state’s population and economy are both booming.   The San Francisco Housing Alliance Coalition (SFHAC) formed back in 1999 during the first dot-com boom to advocate for inclusive housing policies for the city of San Francisco and has played a significant role as an advocacy group across the region in the decades since. In advance of the organization’s Spring Symposium, The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) spoke with Rob Poole, Development and Communications Manager at SFHAC, to discuss the organization’s recent initiatives, goals and the group’s efforts to help address the housing crisis. For more information on the Spring Symposium, see the SFHAC website. AN: Can you explain a bit about SFHAC’s short-term housing goals for the region? What are a few of the projects or initiatives you are working on getting approved over the next few months or years? Rob Poole: I’ll break this up into short-term versus long-term goals, and local versus regional. At the present moment in San Francisco, we’re in the final stages of passing a program called HOME-SF, the city’s first major tool targeted at creating homes for San Francisco’s middle-class, which has been underserved by the city’s housing policies. Under HOME-SF, developers who build in certain parts of the city (primarily outside of area plans and RH-1 neighborhoods), would have the option to build denser buildings and add two extra stories in exchange for providing a higher percentage of subsidized housing targeted at moderate-and middle-income residents. This program has been in the works for about three years and should finally get passed this month. In addition, the city is about to adopt a new inclusionary ordinance, once again. The most recent requirement was decided upon by the voters and was—frankly—an arbitrary number, 25%. We’re pushing for a data-drive policy, which I’ll touch on later. Both of these measures have taken up a lot of our time. For the more long-term, we consistently search for ways to improve the process for creating housing in San Francisco. The city is known for having an enormously complex and lengthy approval process. We’d like to see more certainty and remove some of the risk for building in a place with a chronic housing shortage. Accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also know as “in-law” homes, are another priority. A couple of state bills were passed last year—AB 2299 and SB 1069—that remove some of the costs for building or home owners to add these. We want to ensure San Francisco is in compliance with the new laws. Stepping outside of our sandbox, SFHAC staff has regularly attended and organized residents to speak at Brisbane City Council hearings in regards to a project called Brisbane Baylands, which borders the southern part of San Francisco. The developer has plans to build a mixed-use project with over 4,400 homes, but the City has pushed for a plan with zero housing because that’s what the most vocal residents down there want. That’s frankly unacceptable and emblematic of the struggles the region faces around local governance. The site is essentially 680 acres of dirt and is adjacent to a Caltrain station. What happens there impacts the entire region as much as it does Brisbane, yet the City Council only has to listen to their voters in a town of about 4,200 people. We’re trying to influence the outcome by showing the City Council their decisions have impacts that extend far beyond their town’s borders. Finally, the conversation around has housing has picked up a lot in Sacramento, which influenced the theme of our Spring Symposium on May 23rd. There are over 130 bills pending in the legislature that address how homes are funded, planned for and approved. SFHAC has taken positions on several of these measures, including SB 35, AB 71, AB 73, AB 915 and SB 167 and AB 678. We give our members the opportunity to weigh in on these bills and stay informed as they work their way through the approval process. We should know what happens with all these by the fall. This is new territory for SFHAC, but it’s likely to only grow in relevance. We cannot expect to solve this problem by allowing cities and suburbs to make land-use decisions independently of one another. Are there target neighborhoods or corridors your organization is seeking to specifically add housing to? Housing should be located where those residents are more likely to walk, bike and take transit to get around. Our land-use decisions must reduce vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) via private automobile use. Otherwise, we will not achieve our environmental goals at the local, regional or state levels. That mindset drives our advocacy. This also falls into an issue we like to call “density equity.” In San Francisco, about 80 percent of the development happens on 20 percent of the land. Most new housing gets built along the eastern and southeastern half of the city while the west side hardly adds any homes. There are a couple reasons for that. Over the past 20 years, the city has spent a lot of effort rezoning neighborhoods, via the Better Neighborhoods Plan, where the land historically had industrial use or been underutilized. As the economy changed, many of the uses became less relevant and it made sense to rezone them for housing. This has primarily been done along the eastern side of the city. The west side is a different story. These neighborhoods are primarily zoned for single-family homes, except along some the transit and commercial corridors. Historically, there’s been a lot of opposition to any kind of change towards the built environment, which makes it difficult to build housing there. SFHAC believes these neighborhoods need to step up and provide their fair share of homes. We acknowledge it doesn’t make sense to build towers out there because the transit isn’t as sufficient, but it’s not fair nor good planning to allow one side of the city to stay frozen in time while the other half takes on all the new housing. HOME-SF will help move the needle. At the regional level, there are so many municipalities that simply don’t contribute. Brisbane is just one example. But there are numerous cases where organized opposition will use every tool at their disposal, be it California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appeals, lawsuits or just turning out people to public hearings, to influence outcomes. As a result, housing is built further away from jobs where there are less people to oppose it. The recent report from the California Department of Finance reaffirms this trend. There aren’t any incentives or penalties for cities that don’t do their part. Some of the state bills, such as SB 35, would change this. There’s been lots of talk lately regarding inclusionary zoning requirements—current requirements are too high, don’t go far enough; inclusionary zoning actually dampens market-rate housing production—what is SFHAC’s position on inclusionary zoning? Inclusionary housing is a smart tool to provide homes for low-income residents, especially in expensive markets. SFHAC was at the table in 2002 with then-Supervisor Mark Leno when we crafted San Francisco’s first mandatory inclusionary ordinance. Since then, the program has resulted in over 4,600 below-market-rate homes (BMR), for both rental and ownership. Those are homes for people who otherwise may have been priced out of the city. On the flip side, that doesn’t come remotely close to meeting the need. For example, there was a recent project along Market Street that had 144 applicants for every one BMR. Some think the solution is to make the requirement higher, based on the idea that developers make so much money and market-rate homes will never be affordable to anyone besides the rich. We reject that notion. Inclusionary zoning policies should be data-driven so they do not restrict supply of market-rate housing, because that is tomorrow’s middle-class housing. Last June, San Francisco voters passed a measure that more than doubled the inclusionary requirements, from 12 to 25-percent on-site. There was no study to support whether this was financially feasible. Since then, applications for new projects have dropped significantly. So what will probably happen in the long run is we’ll see less homes get built than may have had we not changed the requirement, which will drive up the price of market-rate homes. That’s scary to imagine considering how expensive it is already. Keep in mind, the subsidy that makes BMRs affordable comes from the rents of the market-rate units. That means if the requirement is set too high, only the most luxurious projects are likely to get built, because those are the ones that pencil out. It’s the smaller projects and the developers with less money that get cut out from the process. As a result, we remove any possibility of building naturally affordable housing (a concept known as “filtering”). To put an end to my long-winded answer…I want to reiterate that SFHAC supports inclusionary zoning. It is one tool in the toolbox. But cities should not rely on it as the end-all, be-all solution for housing. It does not scale to the severity of the problem. And unless Congress decides to quintuple the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget, we will not be able to subsidize our way of the problem. Planners, politicians, developers and architects will have to accept that they’ll need to get much more creative with how they approach housing in the open market. I know that’s not the most popular idea politically, but I don’t see how else we can change course given the lack of support from the federal and state government. Do you have anything else to add? Yes. I think we’re at the beginning stages of a new era in regards to how the general public perceives this issue, at least in the more urban parts of California. People are starting to understand that the status quo does not work. Now, instead of the loud Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) voice that local elected officials are used to hearing, they’re listening to the Yes-In-My-Backyard (YIMBY) voices. This is a political movement. We’re starting from a tough place, however. The policies we’ve adopted over the past several decades promote sprawl, aren’t friendly to newcomers and still result in economic and racial exclusion. This will not change unless there are organized, thoughtful and influential groups working to shift the tide. At SFHAC, we bring all the parties together—the private sector, city staff, politicians, YIMBYs and even those who don’t agree with us (at least if we’re able to)—to form pro-housing solutions that result in choices for people of all income levels. It took many years to get us into this hole we’re in today and it will take a long time to climb our way out. But given some of the recent decisions that have been made here in San Francisco and even at the ballot in Los Angeles, as well as the political energy in Sacramento, I think we’re on our way there.  
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Pacific Standard Time

Getty Research Institute’s Maristella Casciato on digitization, cross-cultural pollination, and the rising importance of postmodernism

West editor Antonio Pacheco sat down with Maristella Casciato, the new senior curator of architectural collections at the Getty Research Institute, to discuss her recent appointment. The position—left vacant for nearly three years after Wim De Witt’s departure for Stanford University’s Cantor Center for Visual Arts—puts Casciato at the helm of one of the most important research archives in the world.

Casciato, formerly the associate director of research at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, as well as a licensed architect and expert on 20th century European architecture, shared some of her goals for the GRI, including the pressing need to increase digitization efforts, the rising importance of postmodernism, and the value of cross-cultural pollination to the field of architecture.

The Architect’s Newspaper: What do you see as your role as senior curator of architectural collections at the Getty Research Institute?

Casciato: For me, this is a research position, meaning that anything I’m engaging with here at GRI is part of a larger research process, including acquisitions.

It’s important to consider what the GRI had in mind as an institution for the position when they hired me. They have been looking for someone who is fully embedded in the architecture world as a licensed architect, who understands architecture, and who can look at buildings as part of a particular discipline. They were also looking for an architectural historian, someone who can look at the possible relationship between architecture and history. Not someone who simply considers history as a tool for architecture, but who uses history as a way to expose architecture to many layers of understanding across time.

Tell us about your acquisition goals for the Getty’s collection.

My idea is that we have to look at more than one beautiful drawing, because one beautiful drawing doesn’t help us build a solid research center. One drawing, you can hang that on the wall for an exhibition, but who comes here for a single drawing? Scholars come if there is enough documentation to write a paper. So, my idea is to always look at the acquisition with relation to collecting complete records for a project—the papers, working drawings, the final drawings—because if you hold on to some of these aspects of history, whoever is writing the history in the future will have it easier. You have to provide enough meat and bones to complete your narrative. That’s our philosophy.

For example, one possible acquisition is a set of drawings by Eric Mendelsohn of a power station in Berkeley, California. We currently have a collection of Mendelsohn’s papers in the special collection. [The GRI’s existing collection] are not architectural projects, though, they are documents we received from his daughter—lectures, notes, and so on.

So, the requirement going forward for a new acquisition is first, that the documents relate to an architectural project and second, that project be one in the U.S. that will give us another perspective into Mendelsohn’s work. Mendelsohn is someone who has worked in Europe, of course, then he went to Israel, and he came to the U.S. He’s someone who has lived his life as an immigrant architect. [The Berkeley power station project] is a project that happened toward the end of his life with a very interesting brief: It’s a nuclear lab in Berkeley. It’s part of a very important plan in the U.S. that happened in the middle of the Cold War, where the nuclear research was still extremely relevant and several architects were involved in a program.

In another case, I was recently discussing a portfolio of 12 photographs taken as part of a survey by Princeton University students of the National Arts School in Havana, Cuba, with a colleague who questioned why these documents were a priority for our acquisition. My response was that these photographs are an important form of documentation of this incredible architecture. This is a place where architecture needs to be documented. It’s not an issue of aesthetics here, it’s an issue of recognizing the value of certain buildings in Cuba that represent an immense effort in terms of technique, such as the vaulting, the brickwork, and the forms. Those buildings have represented such an effort in making architecture valuable in Havana that we have to document that phenomenon, period. These buildings might be restored, they might disappear; we need to have this documentation.

Is the exhibition, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA starting up again?

Yes, we are also working on a research project for PST on photographs of 19th century Latin America at the end of the colonization era, as many of those countries were becoming republics. We have photographs from Argentina, Cuba, and Brazil; it’s incredible documentation that shows how some Latin American cities became metropolises as they entered the 20th century. It will be an exhibition specifically on late 19th century and early 20th century urban planning that looks at how the new cities developed with leisure becoming a new component of urbanism: the new infrastructure, the new parks, the developments of certain port cities, and so on. São Paulo, for example, was a small city until the coffee boom of the 19th century when it became the modern place we know today. Looking at those transformations will cover a gap between the very incredible Spanish colonial period and the 20th century depicted in the [2015] MoMA show (Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955–1980), which covered the modernist city. What happened in between?

So is the broader absorption and appropriation of modernism something that interests you?

Yes, but cultural transfer goes both ways. My earlier research relates to when Europeans were exploring what was considered the “known” Western world and what I’ve seen is that they received culture too. It’s a concept that has been used in other disciplines like sociology, but it is not fully understood within architecture. For younger PhD students, this idea of cultural transfer is a way to enter a multidisciplinary and a multicultural approach. So, for the Latin American exhibition, we are looking at this transfer in both directions because locals interpret it in one way and the foreigners in another, but there are examples where the two transfers come back together and that’s one of the things that makes Latin America so interesting.

Also, being in Los Angeles, we are in the best position to look toward the Pacific. Australia, as part of the British Empire, looks to the west, but from here in L.A., we can look east to Australia and Japan, but also the Philippines and Indonesia. If we understand this as an encounter between the west and the Pacific, it could be an interesting way of reconsidering this idea of cultural transfer. And Los Angeles could be the center of this new process.

Modernism is an important part Los Angeles’s history, but increasingly, postmodernism is being re-evaluated in terms of its architectural-historical significance. How do you think that is going to play into what you do here?

Los Angeles, for postmodernists, was the most fruitful ground. The issue is that postmodernism here is not one pediment or column; it’s a very ludic architecture and it’s very valuable. I’ve noticed that PhD students are more and more interested in postmodernism and I think we would be very interested in increasing our postmodern collections. I visited the offices of Jon Jerde, who designed Horton Plaza in San Diego, and thought, “This might be very interesting as an acquisition.” Victor Gruen was so important in establishing the idea of the mall, but postmodern architects made this mall not a closed box, but an open, civic space. And this is an important shift that we need to think about, so I would really value having some of these experiments in our collection.

LACMA was recently gifted John Lautner’s Sheats Goldstein Residence. How does the GRI view having an actual building as a part of its collection, as opposed to collecting only building documentation?

I think there is a big difference in approach between a museum that collects items and a research institute. Here, for example, the Getty Conservation Institute works very closely with the Eames House, but that’s because there is an Eames Foundation who is overseeing the restoration. I don’t think for GRI it’s so important to own these kinds of artifacts, to make sure that, for instance, the Eames House is preserved, conserved, and properly restored—there’s an Eames Foundation, they can deal with that. For us, it’s more important to understand that the documentation is well preserved (which allows the Eames Foundation to do its job). I’m glad LACMA is taking the house, but for me, it’s more important to keep archives, like we do for the Lautner Foundation, and allow scholars to come and work.

Documents conservation is a big issue with architecture; digitalization, to make architecture available everywhere else, is a big issue. Our digitization project is one of my major priorities. We need to digitize as much as possible so that people, if they cannot come here, can have access to these archives. Foundations can’t really do this because they need devices, climate control, and the skill of the conservators who can make sure the drawings can be properly kept, etc. I think this is our major mission.

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Q&A with the curator of Usagi NY, a Sou Fujimoto-designed gallery for architects and creatives
Usagi NY makes wonderful matcha lattes. That may not be the first thing you'd think given this gallery/library/music venue/cafe was designed by Sou Fujimoto. Located in DUMBO, Brooklyn, Usagi NY is a self-described creative hub for artists, architects, thinkers, engineers, writers, designers, and writers. Following its launch last July, the venue's first exhibition was inspired by White, a theoretical and aesthetic exploration of the "essence of 'white'" by Japanese designer Kenya Hara. It subsequently screened Mel Stuart's Golden-Globe nominated documentary Wattstax and recently hosted legendary drummer and experimental composer Ikue Mori. The Architect's Newspaper spoke with Usagi's curator, Tomomi Mangino, to get inside look into Usagi NY, some of its previous projects and collaborations, and its upcoming events. (Update 4/11/2016: At the time of this interview, Mangino was the curator at Usagi NY. Both Mangino and a representative of the gallery informed AN that, as of mid-March 2016, Mangino is no longer the curator there.)
The Architect's Newspaper (AN): Usagi NY's been open for close to eight months. How's the reception been so far? Tomomi Mangino (TM): It’s going great. We are getting customers from our neighborhood, DUMBO, which is home for many technology and creative companies today. In our cafe, innovators and entrepreneurs of the next generation are gathering for networking. We promote encounters between professionals in diverse fields also through our cultural events and the new creative community is growing here. AN: You enlisted Sou Fujimoto to design the gallery. How did that collaboration come about? TM: It was by chance. When our Tokyo-based owner was looking for an architect who is capable to bring the essence of today’s Japanese creativity for his new location in New York, he had an opportunity to meet with him there.
AN: What vision did you and Fujimoto have when creating the space for Usagi NY? TM: The space creates an atmosphere of wandering through the art. The multilayer space can endlessly change its appearance for each project or exhibition using simple, floating, moveable panels, which gives more freedom to artists and creators to express themselves. The unlimited boundaries can even redefine the concept of inside and outside. We wish our space would be open like an inside public space. AN: Usagi NY has emphasized its dedication to showcasing and nurturing the talent of a range of artists. How do you manage to give an equal voice to all of the artists, engineers, writers, musicians, and architects you promote? TM: Since our opening in last summer, we had artists, typographers, programmers, architects, writers, and musicians as exhibitors, but for us what always matters is how their works can enrich our daily life in this city. So the profession is a secondary matter.
AN: Talk to us about Marvel Architects’ Everyday People Making the City series that you hosted recently. What was that like?TM: At the exhibition, Brooklyn in Process | works by Marvel Architects, we showcased smart and beautiful architecture in our area, including St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO, PierHouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and McCarren Pool in Williamsburg. With models, sketches, photos, and aerial videos on the finished works by Marvel Vision, we wanted to show different stages of the work. In conjunction with the gallery show, we hosted a public conversation series, CITIZEN/ DESIGNER: Everyday People Making the City. The gallery temporarily turned into a public salon, where participants openly exchanged ideas with practitioners, urban planners, community leaders, artists and activists.
AN: Finally, you hosted a book launch for "Between Land and Sea," which is Ken Tadashi Oshima's book honoring the work of the late Kiyonori Kikutake. Barry Bergdoll was also on the panel. How important is it for Usagi NY to acknowledge architectural works when architects aren't always given due credit as artists?
TM: We are actually not simply an art gallery but more of a cultural hub. We showcase different types of creativity and the process. So here even an author and a curator are important personalities in our space.
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Q+A> Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora, New York City Department of Design & Construction
On March 9, New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and Chief Architect Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo unveiled guiding principles for the revamped capital construction program, Design and Construction Excellence 2.0, at the Center for Architecture. AN spoke with Commissioner Peña-Mora about Build it Back, revitalizing neighborhoods through civic projects, great architecture within budgets, and how small firms can partner with the DDC. The Architect's Newspaper: In his State of the City address, Mayor de Blasio cited three neighborhoods—Brownsville/Ocean Hill, the South Bronx, and Far Rockaway—for targeted revitalizations. Through the Design Excellence Program, the DDC has major civic projects in design or under construction in all of those neighborhoods. What is the DDC's role in facilitating neighborhood transformation? Commissioner Peña-Mora: In the Chief Architect's office, we have this inter-client conversation where we look at how the different projects in a neighborhood can support each other. For example, in Brownsville, we have quite a few: [There's] Rescue 2, by Jeanne Gang, but we also have some library projects, we have some plazas. We wanted to really talk about how each one of these projects can support what is happening in the others and help the whole neighborhood. We're looking at a neighborhood approach, those are some of the conversations that we're having. The issue is that each agency (City Planning, NYC DOT) looks for funding for their own projects, but since we're actually doing the same neighborhood for all those agencies, we can see the whole map of all the projects and how to integrate them. Many of the projects commissioned under the Design and Construction Excellence program are inventive, beautiful buildings from high-profile architects. Critics have noted, though, that these projects often run far over budget and behind schedule. What is the ideal balance between cost-effectiveness and beauty in civic architecture and public spaces? I do not subscribe to the thought that because a building is beautiful [it is] more expensive. I think there are a lot of factors that play into the cost of a project. Sometimes the scope changes, or the duration of the market; some of those projects, when the scope changes, they have to be stopped while we get more funding. Sometimes, those project have gone through the fiscal recession, and when you restart those projects, [Agencies] have to say, "Okay. At that time I was thinking I wanted to do this, and now I'm thinking that I want to do that." Each project is unique, and each cost overrun and late project has its own story, and I wouldn't say that's because these are beautiful projects, or that they're done by a [famous] architect. I would say that they're not necessarily correlated, but again, I haven't done all the research for it. Let's talk about Build it Back. So far, over 1,200 rebuilds have been completed. What's next for the program? Right now, part of our portfolio are three different segments: HPD is doing one group, we are doing one, and "choose your own contractor" is another group. We have around 1,700 homes that we have to elevate, reconstruct, or rebuild. Mayor de Blasio has asked us to finish the program by the end of this year. Right now, 95 to 99 percent of our homes are in design, and we hope that we are going to start the construction phase in the summer to be completed at the end of the fall. What is so important about the Build it Back program, you know, is a lot of people talk about the houses, but I like to refer to the homes. Each one of them has a very personal, different family story. We just finished one in 120 days. The family was expecting a baby, and we wanted to finish the project before she was born. Although Baby Nora came early, it was so rewarding to see that family in that elevated home, that resilient home, that has been restored. This is a story that will repeat 1,000 times, for each family that we are helping. Normally, we work through agencies, and this is the first time we're working directly with New Yorkers. So, it's quite different for us, but very rewarding. What's one piece of advice you'd give to smaller architecture firms who are looking to work with the DDC for the first time? We just went though a competition, and we did this new category called the micro, in which we allowed [firms of] less than five people to propose [projects]. Small firms should never be discouraged if they didn't make the competition that just finished. They should be preparing for the next one that coming in two to three years, and also be looking for other opportunities with the DDC. We also have a stand-alone competition, but the stand-alone usually requires larger firms, so smaller firms should be looking to collaborate with other small firms to create consultant [groups] to be able to work on our projects.