Search results for "Brownsville"

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NYCHA

Perkins Eastman designs 159-unit affordable senior housing complex in the Bronx
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is planning to build a Perkins Eastman–designed senior housing complex, "Mill Brook Terrace" in Mott Haven, South Bronx. The scheme is part of NextGen NYCHA, a long-term strategy that involves two other affordable housing projects, both in Brooklyn. Mill Brook Terrace will be built upon a car park on 570 East 137th Street and will rise to nine stories, housing 159 units. Dwellings will be for senior citizens who earn half or less than the Area Median Income ($36,250 for a family of two, as picked up by New York YIMBY). Standard apartments are set to be 760 square feet in size; 120,900 square feet will be allocated to residential units in the upper levels. As clarified by Richard Rosen, principal in charge of all senior housing projects for the architects' New York office, amenities will be located on the ground floor. Here, a 9,000-square-foot senior center will house a commercial kitchen and offer space for senior programming that includes "social service classrooms" for personal care as well as providing hair and bathing services. A neighborhood community area will also feature as will an outdoor garden and a shared second-floor terrace. The project emerged at the start of 2016 when it appeared a mixed-income development was on the cards. Fast forward to today, and despite facing almost nearly $80 million in federal budget cuts, plans have morphed into an affordable senior living scheme. As part of the housing lottery, current NYCHA residents will be afforded preference on 25 percent of the units available. Mill Brook Terrace is scheduled for completion in summer 2019. As for the other two housing projects: Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and Van Dyke Houses, in Brownsville, also Brooklyn are also in the works. Land is being leased for 60 years by the NYCHA for all three projects, which means all will be affordable during that tenure.  
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Vital Brooklyn

Governor Cuomo unveils Central Brooklyn revitalization plan that's big on ideas
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a sweeping plan to revitalize Central Brooklyn, the latest in a spate of ambitious, big-budget projects he has proposed for the state's airports, trains, bridges—and election year 2020, possibly. The $1.4 billion initiative positions itself as a "national paradigm" for addressing health, violence, and poverty in low-income communities. Called Vital Brooklyn, the proposal will target Brownsville, East New York, Flatbush, Crown Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, communities where residents face persistent barriers to health, education, and employment equity as well as the rising threat of gentrification. Targeting eight investment areas, Vital Brooklyn aims to augment the supply of affordable housing; build resilience infrastructure; invest in community-based violence prevention, job creation, and youth employment; tackle open space and healthy food availability; and improve healthcare access with an emphasis on preventative care.
“For too long investment in underserved communities has lacked the strategy necessary to end systemic social and economic disparity, but in Central Brooklyn those failed approaches stop today,” said Governor Cuomo, in a prepared statement. “We are going to employ a new holistic plan that will bring health and wellness to one of the most disadvantaged parts of the state. Every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe neighborhood with access to jobs, healthcare, affordable housing, green spaces, and healthy food but you can't address one of these without addressing them all. Today, we begin to create a brighter future for Brooklyn, and make New York a model for development of high need communities across the country.” The lion's share of the plan—$700 million in capital investments—will go towards healthcare, followed by $563 million for affordable housing. The remaining money is split between Vital Brooklyn's six other initiatives, with food access getting the smallest portion of the funding. So far, Cuomo's plan is heavy on ideas but short on specifics. The healthcare component calls for more community health care facilities to fulfill current demand and provide additional preventative and mental health care services. To achieve this, a 36-location ambulatory care network will partner with existing providers, and to complement the health focus, the state will spend $140 million to ensure that all residents live within a ten-minute walk of parks and athletic facilities, and revamp existing facilities through grants. Vital Brooklyn also calls for building five-plus acres of recreation space at state-funded housing developments. Mindful that health outcomes and housing are linked, the governor confronts Brooklyn's affordable housing shortage with plans to build, build, build. With more than half of Central Brooklyn residents spending more than half of their income on rent, Cuomo's plan calls for the construction of more than 3,000 new multifamily units at six state-owned sites, with options for supportive housing, public green space, and a home-ownership plan. On the resiliency front, the state's projects aim to meet growing demand for electricity while shoring up the low-lying area's resistance to extreme weather. Under the plan, there could be 62 multi-family and 87 single-family energy efficiency initiative, plus almost 400 solar other projects in the pipeline. The initiative also calls for equipping Kings County Hospital, SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Kingsboro Psychiatric Center with backup power through the Clarkson Avenue microgrid project. Linked to the resiliency, Vital Brooklyn features a partnership between the Billion Oyster Project and the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Justice program to expose area youth to habitat restoration practices on Jamaica Bay by adding 30 environmental education sites to the area. Through these sites, the Billion Oyster Project aims to reach 9,500 students who will learn about the benefits of oysters through the bay and SCAPE's Living Breakwaters Project on Staten Island. Not everyone is bullish on the plan, though. New York City Mayor (and Cuomo rival) Bill de Blasio, for one, is skeptical about the governor's follow-thorough. "Show us the money, show us the beef, whatever phrase you want," de Blasio said on WNYC las week. "I don't care what a politician does to get attention. What I care about is actual product." The state legislature has until April 1 to decide on the governor's budget, and negotiations may change the plan's final funding and form.
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Armchair Planning Association

A new online planning platform lets residents shape a neighborhood from the comfort of their smartphones
In a creative digital shift, the City of New York has residents of one Brooklyn neighborhood tagging up a storm on a new urban planning platform designed to affect neighborhood change IRL. With the help of coUrbanize, a Boston-based city planning and community engagement startup, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is testing its new toolkit of neighborhood planning ideas in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Building on community input gathered in The Brownsville Hundred Days to Progress Initiative and the department's guidelines for neighborhood planning, HPD is using coUrbanize's platform to aid the Brownsville Neighborhood Planning Process, a community planning initiative that seeks to increase the neighborhood's supply of affordable housing; add retail along Livonia Avenue, a main commercial artery; and enhance public safety with vacant lot revitalization, among other measures. Instead of convening residents in a church or a rec center basement, coUrbanize brings neighborhood planning meetings online, distilling the often-complex studies and terms that planners throw around with impunity (ULURP? CEQR?) into an easy-to-understand format and tag-able map that solicits residents' ideas. Founded in 2013 by graduates of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, the site is geared towards people who want to participate in their community's planning but may not have time or schedule flexibility to attend a meeting. In Brownsville, a neighborhood where many have limited access to the internet and 37 percent of households live below the poverty line, HPD uses coUrbanize's platform to encourage residents text in feedback on areas the city has identified as sites for improvement. "We're committed to reaching voices not often heard, traditionally," said Karin Brandt, coUrbanize founder and CEO. The text messaging service also has a general line where people can voice ideas that aren't on the city's radar. In a welcome display of constructive feedback and civility—two attributes generally not reserved for online comments sections—Brownsville residents are using coUrbanize's platform to map places of interest in their neighborhood that they love, those that are just okay, and ideas for what could be better or built anew. Amid endorsements of spaces like the Osborn Street park and mural and the (Rockwell Group–designed) Imagination Playground at Betsy Head Park, many commenters called for more extracurricular activities for neighborhood youth, sit-down restaurants, and better amenities in parks. The Brownsville planning project is in the second stage of its four-stage timeline right now, with a final plan expected by February 2017. Right now, the coUrbanize toolkit is used mainly by municipalities in Massachusetts, but cities farther afield (Atlanta, San Antonio) are signing up. The City of Boston is using the platform to widen its community engagement for Imagine Boston 2030, the city's multi-pronged planning effort that comes with a stellar city nerd reading list. Check out the platform here.
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Brownsville, Brooklyn

Studio Gang's ecological firehouse and training facility breaks ground today
Ground has broke on the site of the Fire Department of New York's (FDNY) newest firehouse, designed by Chicago-based Studio Gang for the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC). Set to cost $32 million, the 21,000-square-foot building will sit on 1815 Sterling Place in Brownsville, Brooklyn and become the new home of the FDNY's Rescue Company 2.  Founded in 1925, Rescue Company 2 is one of FDNY’s five rescue companies, elite units that handle a variety of emergency situations ranging from building collapses, high-angle rescues, hazardous materials incidents, water rescues as well as fires. In their new location, Rescue Company 2 will use the building to train for all these scenarios and many more. The project is Studio Gang's first in New York and as a result they have opened up a new Manhattan office. The Architect's Newspaper attended the groundbreaking ceremony and spoke with Studio Gang design principle Weston Walker about the firm's design process and approach to the project. "We wanted the design to fit the [low-rise] scale of the street, while accommodating all the unusual training that will take place here" Walker said. Training facilities will also include specific areas for trench rescue and confined space rescue training as well as a room to simulate the smoke-filled environments in which firefighters operate, and an elevated area that allows firefighters to train to rappel from the roof of a building to perform a rescue. The project's design drivers were "apertures and openings" that paid heavy respect to both the site and typology traditions. Demonstrating this, he pointed out the numerous openings—visible in the renders above—that "ease the building's oppressiveness" in massing. A subtractive structure, the openings allow for interior landscaping as well as facilitate natural ventilation. This is also aided by the fact that the building will be the first firehouse in New York to have a drive-through concourse on the ground floor. The building aims to be as energy efficient as possible. Due to sit 500 feet below the structure is a geothermal heating system. A solar water heating system has also been included which is due to reduce the energy required to heat and cool the building by a third. In addition to this, a green roof and permeable pavement will be implemented to aid the reduction of stormwater runoff and further cut down on the firehouse's carbon footprint.  “In keeping with Mayor de Blasio’s vision for a healthier, more sustainable and resilient city, DDC is proud to partner with FDNY to provide New York’s bravest with a state-of-the-art training and housing facility that is energy efficient and can serve as a beacon of community engagement,” said DDC commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora in a press release. “The design aims to reduce carbon emissions, conserve water and contribute to a healthy urban environment through integrating environmentally responsible practices. A geothermal system, solar water heating system, permeable pavement and a green roof will contribute to this goal and strengthen the City’s commitment to building sustainable, environmentally friendly buildings.” “We are proud to break ground on a state-of-the-art new home for Brooklyn’s Rescue Company 2.  This firehouse will be a leader in energy efficiency, moving our city closer to an environmentally sustainable and resilient future. With ample space for tools and a training facility on the roof, this firehouse will be the impressive space that New York’s bravest deserve,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press release. 
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Dick & Rick

A punchy new guide from the Center for Urban Pedagogy shows architects how not to be Dicks
Don't be a dick. For some, it's a motto to live by. One New York City–based nonprofit would like architects to design by it, too. The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) teamed up with the Equity CollectiveChristine Gaspar, executive director of CUP; Theresa Hwang, founder and director of Department of Places; and Liz Ogbu, founder and principal of Studio O—and illustrator Ping Zhu to produce Dick & Rick: A Visual Primer for Social Impact Design, a gently didactic pictorial for architects on the dos and don'ts of community-engaged design. As their names suggest, Dick is the Goofus to Rick's Gallant. The 15-page spread walks readers through the design process in each architect's respective office: In a stroll around the neighborhood, Rick spies a flier for a community meeting about parks, and wonders if he could lend his skills to the project. Dick reads a news piece about the same initiative and, pen aloft, offers help to "them." Channeling Howard Roark, Dick does a site analysis himself and holds perfunctory public meetings where he explains his ideas to residents, with no space for feedback. Rick, in contrast, lives the principles of socially-engaged architecture by collaborating with stakeholders over a sustained period to discuss how the park should be designed and programmed. Readers familiar with social impact design are vindicated when Dick's park is nice, but devoid of visitors while Rick's park is nice and a hit with residents. The Equity Collective believes that art can spur effective citizen engagement and that, if done right, social justice is integral to great design. Take their advice and don't be a Dick.
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Playscapes

New exhibition at BSA Space explores playground design
Now on view at BSA Space is an exhibition and accompanying education program that focuses on playgrounds around the world. Dubbed Extraordinary Playscapes, it will run until September 5, 2016 and was curated by Design Museum Boston. On display are drawings, sketches, videos, scale models, and playable installations featuring 40 international playgrounds. Examples of contemporary architect-designed playgrounds in the U.S. abound: in April, the Rockwell Group–designed Imagination Playground (featured in Extraordinary Playscapes) opened in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Similarly, in December the renovated Adventure Playground in Central Park, designed by Richard Dattner, also opened. These two playgrounds provide the opportunity for “unstructured play,” a growing trend in playgrounds. Some of the designs featured in the exhibition include: Wild Walk in Tupper Lake, New York, designed by Chip Reay; PlayForm7 in Singapore, designed by Playworld Inc; Esplanade Playspace in Boston, designed by Halvorson Design Partnership; Takino Rainbow Nest in Takino, Japan, designed by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam; Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; and Ambulance Playground at Beit CURE Hospital in Malawi, Africa, designed by Super Local. You can read more about Extraordinary Playscapes here.
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Rockwell Group–designed Imagination Playground opens in Brownsville, Brooklyn
Local students and community members joined NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, City Council Member Darlene Mealy, and David Rockwell, founding principle of Rockwell Group, for the opening of the Imagination Playground at Betsy Head Park in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Although the concept derives from adventure playgrounds and similar philosophies of unstructured play, the Brownsville Imagination Playground is technically the first permanent one of its kind in Brooklyn, and the second worldwide. (The first, also designed by the Rockwell Group, opened in 2010 at the Burling Slip in Manhattan). The $5.05 million project was influenced by tree houses, a foil to the monolithic blocks of high-rise public housing for which Brownsville is best known. A curved ramp wends its way through mature trees, while blue foam blocks, cut into funky shapes, along with water and sand, are tools for children to collaborate, build, or create by themselves. Traditional play elements—slides swing sets, chess tables, and a basketball court—round out the program. A year before the Burling Slip playground opened, Rockwell Group tested the designs in Brownsville with former NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. David Rockwell elaborated on the process: "When we were asked to do a second Imagination Playground, it gave us a chance to do a couple of things from a design perspective: One, these London Plane trees were incredible, they were a landmark that was important to preserve. We were able to create a path that weaves around the trees. Like the lower Manhattan playground, it's a playground you can see from 360 degrees. It's really a community space." https://www.flickr.com/photos/136339520@N03/25924630244/in/dateposted-public/ This reporter dodged zooming children and risked limb (well, ankle—platform sandals were a bad choice for this assignment!) to give you, dear readers, a panoramic view of the park from the bridge. (Look closely at 0:55 in the video above and you can see another local landmark, the Kenneth Frampton–designed Marcus Garvey Village.)
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Disenar el muro fronterizo?
Portada de las bases del concurso.
Image via Building the Border Wall

[The Architect's Newspaper previously published a version of this article in English. Click here to read.]

Archdaily.com anunció recientemente, en nombre de la Fundacion ThirdMind.com, un concurso llamado “Construyendo el muro fronterizo”. Quizá como respuesta a la emergencia de la crítica sobre las implicaciones éticas de dicha convocatoria, el sitio web agregó más tarde un signo de interrogación al título, cambiándolo a: "¿Construyendo el muro fronterizo?" A partir del anunciamiento del concurso, se han realizado una serie de ediciones al sitio web del mismo, como lo nota archdaily.com, creando controversia sobre la claridad de su agenda política, la posición de los organizadores y sobre todo, las inherentes implicaciones morales. Lo que genera más dudas es la insistencia de los organizadores en definirse “políticamente neutrales” sobre el asunto, y su deseo de permanecer anónimos.

El muro separando MÉxico y EE.UU. sobre de la carretera 2, visto desde el lado Mexicano.
Wonderlane via BTBW


La principal pregunta que el concurso genera: ¿es buena idea participar en un concurso para el diseño del muro que recorre la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos? La competencia repite las proclamaciones del candidato a la presidencia de E.U.A. Donald Trump, o tal vez haya sido provocado por las mismas, el cual afirma que de ser electo comenzará la construcción de un muro a lo largo de la frontera. Mientras la declaración parece emocionar a su público como si “finalmente” alguien fuese a construir un muro, su afirmación ejemplifica la ignorancia de las realidades que se viven en la frontera donde aproximadamente 700 millas de muros sencillos, dobles y triples muros, ya han sido construidos. Aproximadamente un tercio de las 1954 millas que constituyen la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos ya han sido amuralladas.

Históricamente, han existido distintas aproximaciones al significado de la colaboración de arquitectos en la construcción de muros. En su mayoría, diseñadores y arquitectos se han mantenido fuera de este asunto. En 2006, el New York Times hizo un llamado a 13 reconocidos arquitectos para diseñar el muro fronterizo. El arquitecto Ricardo Scofidio comentó: “Es tonto diseñar un acertijo. Sería mejor dejarlo para encargados de seguridad o ingenieros.” Diller Scofidio + Renfro y muchos otros arquitectos declinaron la propuesta puesto que les pareció un asunto meramente político, situación evitada por muchos arquitectos.

Izquierda: Un niÑo escala el muro fronterizo cerca de Brownsville, Texas. Derecha: Dos Hombres escalan el muro fronterizo cerca de Douglas, Arizona.
(Wikimedia Commons; Matthew Tyson via BTBW)


Aunque numerosas propuestas resultaron superficiales y algunas veces ofensivas (Antoine Predock sugirió una plataforma caliente de 300 pies de ancho, enterrada sobre el suelo desértico para disuadir el cruce y un enorme muro de tierra comprimida que sería construido por mexicanos jornaleros trabajando bajo el sol) algunas propuestas sí se acercaron a la reconocimiento de las oportunidades que el muro existente podría generar para el diseño. En su estado actual, el muro disecciona espacios ricos en cultura y naturaleza. Es por eso que quizá el diseño ofrezca el potencial para que el muro sea transformado en una variedad de interpretaciones y aplicaciones, idealmente en aquellas que beneficien a los residentes de espacios fronterizos.

La realidad es que el muro que divide México y los E.U.A, en su manifestación actual, ha creado un territorio de paradoja, horror y transformación en una escala enorme. El muro divide ríos, granjas, hogares, tierras nativas americanas, espacios públicos, sitios culturales, reservas naturales, rutas migratorias y un campus universitario. Los costos de construcción y mantenimiento que se propusieron en 2006 dentro del US. Secure Fence Act, se estiman sobre los $49 billones de dólares durante los próximos 25 años. Y a pesar de que estadísticas recientes muestran una disminución del 50 por ciento en el número de personas encontradas entrando ilegalmente en los Estados Unidos desde México en los últimos años, organizaciones de derechos humanos resaltan que el número de muertes está en su punto más alto desde 2006, y que desde 1994 alrededor de 6000 personas han muerto tratando de cruzar la frontera.

Derecha: Tijuana; Izquierda: San Diego
Gordon Hyde via BTBW
 

Noam Chomsky manifesto: “la frontera entre los Estados Unidos de América y México, como todas las fronteras, fue establecida por la violencia-- su arquitectura es la arquitectura de la violencia.” Ha sido sugerido por muchos miembros de la disciplina que los arquitectos deberían hacer énfasis en su negativa a participar en una arquitectura promotora de la violencia. En 2013 por ejemplo, Michael Sorkin escribió un ensayo para The Nation convocando a los arquitectos a renunciar a la participación en el diseño de las prisiones por distintas razones:

Disgusto con el entusiasmo corrupto y la extravagancia de nuestro creciente complejo industrial carcelario”, objeciones ante nuestras exageradas cifras de encarcelamientos, nuestras crueles y draconianas prácticas sentenciadoras y el salvajemente desproporcionado aprisionamiento de minorías. El diseño de espacios de confinamiento y disciplina es contrario a lo que muchos arquitectos imaginan como su vocación: la creación de ambientes confortables, humanos e incluso liberadores.

Los paralelos entre las prisiones y el ‘complejo fronterizo industrial” son fáciles de imaginar, pero ¿puede el diseño de un muro crear ambientes humanos o liberadores? El arquitecto Lebbeus Woods ofreció una aproximación distinta con este objetivo. En su proyecto “El juego del muro”, Woods concluye que la única manera de abordar una arquitectura de la violencia, y en este caso la barrera israelí, es diseñar una forma de desmantelarla mediante un complejo sistema de reglas que promueven que arquitectos y constructores en ambos lados intenten generar una serie de construcciones sobre el muro, que eventualmente forzarían un desequilibrio y teóricamente el derrumbamiento del muro.

Por lo tanto, ¿qué deberían hacer los arquitectos sobre la problemática del muro fronterizo? ¿Deberían ignorar el asunto de manera conjunta o protestar activamente en su rechazo a participar? ¿Deberían crear estrategias que permitan diseñar maneras de desmantelar el muro existente o repensar el potencial del muro existente para corregir problemas con el mismo?

¿Deberían tomar el reto de diseñar muros nuevos?

Quizás ignorar totalmente el asunto y diseñar nuevos muros son las estrategias más polemicas. El diseño y construcción de muros continuará sin lugar a dudas, pero ¿debería continuar sin arquitectos? ¿Es que el rechazo a la participación en el diseño del muro hace a los arquitectos igualmente cómplices que los participantes en sus consecuencias horríficas? Ahora que somos conscientes de los costos en impuestos y en vidas humanas es urgente profundizar en estas preguntas. Repensar los muros existentes, y los muros por venir, como una arquitectura distinta a aquella que exacerba la violencia que institucionalizó su presencia y transformar el muro en una infraestructura que pueda funcionar de otras formas, es más necesario hoy que nunca. En sus formas actuales, refleja la inflexibilidad de la vieja concepción del muro como medida de seguridad. En su lugar, podría ser reimaginado como una infraestructura productive que contribuya positivamente a un ecosistema fronterizo, rompiendo el ciclo de violencia en el que se originó. Unir el muro con una infraestructura viable destinada a energías renovables, agua, e infraestructura social es un buen ejemplo: podría ser otro camino hacia la seguridad y bienestar de las comunidades fronterizas y de las naciones tras ellas.

La frontera MÉxico EE. UU. serca de El Paso, Texas.
The Office of Representative Phil Gingrey via BTBW

De acuerdo con la Comisión de Salud Fronteriza México Estados Unidos? tres de los diez condados más pobres en los Estados Unidos están localizados en el área fronteriza, y dos de las diez áreas con mayor rapidez en su crecimiento, Laredo y McAllen, están situadas en la frontera entre Texas y México. Debido a la rapida industrialización, comunidades en el lado mexicano de la frontera tienen menor acceso que el resto de la nación a servicios básicos sanitarios y agua.

Un compromiso a realizar mejoras sociales y multifuncionales: agua, energía solar y medio ambiente, con el muro como vehículo de dichos servicios, justificaría una porción de la vasta inversión que los pagadores de impuestos realizan en dólares. En lugar de un futuro scenario en el que los muros son desmantelados en el nombre de la libertad y la democracia, los muros diseñados en respuesta a la tan necesitada inversión en las áreas de mayor pobreza y crecimiento de los Estados Unidos podrían ser los medios en los cuales posibilidades postmuro podrían ser insertadas.

Es tiempo de advocar por una reconsideración del muro, a pesar de que Trump sea electo o no. Y en lugar de un embargo a México, el cual f orzaría a México a construir el muro según la creencia de Trump, debemos detener el embargo al diseño multifuncional en la frontera. Advocar por la reconsideración del muro fronterizo no significa aprobar la construcción de más muros, ni es una mejor razón para los constructores de los mismos. Si el diseño, si la arquitectura, puede colarse en la creación y reimaginación del borde fronterizo ahora, colocará condiciones importantes en el futuro de paisajes, culturas y bioe cologías q ue ahora son divididas.

Otra estrategia para ser considerada por arquitectos que se comprometan con el asunto: si les resulta atractivo el derrumbe de este muro, como otros lo han demandado, lo que tome su lugar en el futuro debe ser diseñado ahora mismo.

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US-Mexico

Designing the Border Wall?
Recently, Archdaily announced, on behalf of the Third Mind Foundation, a competition called “Building the Border Wall.” Perhaps in response to emerging criticism about the ethical implications of such a call to architects, the competition website later added a question mark to the title, changing it to “Building the Border Wall?” Since the competition was announced, as noted by Archdaily, several other edits have been made to the competition website, creating some controversy about the clarity of the competition’s agenda, the position of the organizers, and moreover, the moral implications of the competition itself. What further raises questions about this competition is the organizers’ insistence that they are “politically neutral” to the issue of building a wall along the border and that wish to remain anonymous. The primary question that this competition raises is: Is participating in a design competition for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border a good idea? The competition echoes, and perhaps has been prompted by, presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proclamations that he will, if elected, begin “building a wall” along the border. While his declaration seems to excite his audiences as if, finally, someone will build a wall, his call to construct a barrier exemplifies the ignorance of the realities along the border where approximately 700 miles of single, double, and triple walls are already built. This is not one single stretch of wall, but still, approximately one third of the 1,954-mile-long border between the U.S. and Mexico has already been walled off. Historically, there have been several approaches to architects engaging in the building of walls. For the most part, architects and designers have steered clear of this issue. In 2006, The New York Times called on 13 well-known architects to redesign the border wall. Architect Ricardo Scofidio commented, “It’s a silly thing to design, a conundrum. You might as well leave it to security and engineers.” Diller Scofidio + Renfro and several other architects declined the challenge altogether because they felt it was a purely political issue, something from which many architects shy away. However perfunctory—and sometimes offensive—many of the proposals were (Antoine Predock suggested a 300-foot-wide hot plate buried under the desert floor to discourage crossings and a massive rammed-earth wall to be constructed in the hot sun by “Mexican day laborers”), some proposals did scratch the surface in recognizing the inherent opportunities of the existing wall as a possible armature for design. In its current state, the wall ignorantly bisects many culturally and environmentally rich places. Therefore, perhaps design offers the potential for the wall to be transformed into a variety of interpretations and applications, ideally ones of benefit to borderland residents. The reality is that the U.S.-Mexico wall in its current manifestation has created a territory of paradox, horror, and transformation on an enormous scale. The wall divides rivers, farms, homes, Native American lands, public lands, cultural sites, wildlife preserves, migration routes, and a university campus. The construction and maintenance costs of wall construction that is called for by The U.S. Secure Fence Act of 2006 have been estimated to exceed $49 billion over the next 25 years. And while recent statistics show a 50 percent drop in the number of people caught illegally entering the United States from Mexico over the past few years, human rights groups put the number of deaths during attempted crossings at its highest since 2006, and nearly 6,000 people have died attempting to cross the border since 1994. Noam Chomsky has said that “the U.S.-Mexican border, like most borders, was established by violence—and its architecture is the architecture of violence.”  It has been suggested by many in the discipline, that architects should emphatically refuse to participate in the design of architecture that promotes violence. For example, in 2013, Michael Sorkin wrote an essay for The Nation calling on architects to refuse to participate in the design of prisons for several reasons: Disgust with the corrupt enthusiasm and extravagance of our burgeoning ‘prison industrial complex;’ objections to our insane rates of incarceration, our cruel, draconian sentencing practices and the wildly disproportionate imprisonment of minorities. Designing spaces of confinement and discipline is also contrary to what most architects imagine as their vocation: the creation of comfortable, humane, even liberating environments. The parallels between prisons and the “border industrial complex” are easy to imagine, but can the design of a wall create humane, or even, liberating environments? Architect Lebbeus Woods offered a different approach toward that end. In his project The Wall Game, Woods concluded that the only way to address an architecture of violence, and in this case he is addressing the Israeli Separation Barrier, was to design a means to dismantle it through a complex set of rules that direct architects and builders on both sides to attempt to create a series of constructions on the wall that eventually force it into an imbalance that theoretically topples the wall. So what are architects to do about the conundrum of the border wall? Do they ignore the issue all together or actively protest in refusal to participate? Do they strategize how design might dismantle the existing wall, or re-think the potential of the existing wall as an armature for correcting problems with it? Should they take on the challenge of designing new walls? Ignoring the issue entirely and designing new walls, are perhaps the most contentious strategies. Wall design and construction will, without question, continue, but should it continue without the input of architects? Does not participating in the design of the wall make architects as complicit in its horrific consequences as does participating in its design? Now that we are aware of the costs to taxpayers as well as the cost in human lives, it is urgent that we take on these questions. Re-envisioning the existing walls as well as walls-yet-to-come as something other than an architecture that exacerbates the violence that institutionalized its presence and transforming the wall into an infrastructure that can be put to work in other ways, is more necessary now than ever before. In its current form, it reflects the inflexibility of an ancient strategy of a wall as a singular means of security. Instead, it could be reimagined not only as a security measure, but also as a productive infrastructure that contributes positively to a borderland ecosystem, breaking the cycle of violence from where it comes. For example, coupling the wall with a viable infrastructure that focuses on water, renewable energy, and urban social infrastructure, could be another pathway to security and safety, both in the border communities and the nations beyond them. According to the United States-Mexico Health Commission, three of the ten poorest counties in the United States are located in the border area, and two of the ten fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States—Laredo and McAllen—are located on the Texas-Mexico border. Due to rapid industrialization, communities on the Mexican side of the border have less access to basic water and sanitation services than the rest of the nation. A commitment to multifunctional water, solar, environmental, and social improvements on the border, with the wall itself as the vehicle of delivery, would require that a portion of the vast investment of taxpayer dollars in capital expenditures be maintained. Instead of a future scenario in which walls are dismantled solely in the name of freedom and democracy, the walls designed in response to a much-needed investment in some of the most impoverished and fastest-growing regions in the U.S. might remain, as would our investment in them, to become the armatures upon which the possibilities of a post-border wall world can be grafted. Whether Trump is elected or not, it is time to advocate for a reconsideration of the wall. And rather than an embargo on Mexico, which, as Trump believes, will force Mexico to build it, we must end the embargo on multifunctional design at the border. Advocating for a reconsideration of the wall at the border is not an endorsement for the construction of more walls, nor should it give wall builders a greater reason for building them. Rather, if design—if architecture—can be smuggled into the creation and re-imagining of the border wall now, it will put into place several very important conditions that will affect the future of the landscapes, cultures, and bio-ecologies that it now divides. There is one more strategy that architects should consider if they take on the challenge—if an appeal is being made to tear down this wall, as others have demanded it, then what replaces it in the future must absolutely be designed now.
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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.
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Studio Gang chosen to design U.S. embassy in Brazil
The State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has announced that Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects has been chosen to design a U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil. This project will be part of the OBO’s ongoing Capital Security Construction Program, which has constructed 129 diplomatic facilities in the last 17 years. The Program also has 55 projects that are either in the design phase or under construction. The Studio Gang Embassy will be located in will be a multi-building campus on the existing 12-acre Chancery complex within the city’s “Diplomatic Sector.” The project will include the Marine Security Guard Residence, a chancery, support facilities, perimeter security, and other facilities for the Embassy community. Studio Gang was selected from a short list of six other offices. The State Department noted in its press release, “Studio Gang presented a strong and cohesive team approach with more than 20 years of collaborative experience executing projects with complex constraints at challenging sites.” This stage of the process was just a selection of the participating office. The design for the project will start in the coming months.
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State of the City
The fabric of New York—from shoreline to skyline—is getting a thread-count upgrade, much of it due to the success of ongoing projects like Vision Zero, coastal resiliency efforts, and a spate of new public ventures coming down the pike. In his annual State of the City address in early February, Mayor Bill de Blasio championed accomplishments from 2015 and shed light on what’s to come: New Yorkers will see projects and policies that could facilitate new commutes, provide civic and green spaces in the outer boroughs, and reshape neighborhood density via rezoning. Streets and Shores
Two large-scale, controversial rezoning proposals, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning For Quality and Affordability (ZQA), reached the City Council early February. Councilmembers heard public testimony for and against the measures, which are intended to increase the amount of affordable housing and create more interesting streetscapes in exchange for increased density in special districts. The full Council will vote on the proposals—the most sweeping zoning changes since 1961—in March.
Rezoning may change the look of the streets, and it’s almost guaranteed more pedestrians would be around to see it. Since the launch of Vision Zero three years ago, traffic fatalities have fallen annually, with a drop of almost nine percent between last year and 2014. (Although City Hall may not want readers to know that traffic-related injuries spiked by more than 2,000 incidents in the same period.)
The initiative is New York City’s version of an international campaign to end traffic-related deaths through better street design and harsher penalties for traffic offenders, and it has a record-setting $115 million budget for 2016. More than a quarter of that money (plus $8.8 million from the NYC Department of Transportation’s capital budget) will go to road improvements in Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens, especially at busy nodes along main thoroughfares Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue.
The low-lying neighborhoods are some of many flood-prone areas that will benefit from the $20 billion in climate-change-resiliency measures that launched following Hurricane Sandy. Included in that figure is a massive project coming out of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design competition to protect Manhattan from rising seas. The City has selected AECOM to lead the design and build of these coastal resiliency measures, formerly known as the Dryline (and before that, BIG U). The project team includes Dewberry, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and ONE Architecture. BIG and ONE provided the original vision for the 10-mile-long project, and are now working on Phase One, the $335 million East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. That phase, which should go into constriction next year, deploys a series of berms and floodwalls from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street on the island’s Lower East Side. Phase Two extends the project from Montgomery Street around the tip of Manhattan up to Harrison Street in Tribeca. Although those ten miles of coastline could be safer, the other 510 would still have a lot to fear from global warming. Fortunately, the Department of Design and Construction’s Build It Back RFP is having an immediate impact on those who lost homes to Sandy. By last October, the program, which rebuilds homes ravaged in the 2012 hurricane, broke ground on around 1,900 projects and finished construction on 1,200 others.
Targeted Reinvestment The recovery impetus extends beyond the property line and out into neighborhoods. In his speech, the mayor singled out three outer-borough neighborhoods—Ocean Hill–Brownsville, the South Bronx, and Far Rockaway—for targeted reinvestment. Civic architecture often heralds or spurs financial interest, and these neighborhoods happen to be the sites of three public projects by well-known architects in plan or under construction. Studio Gang is designing a 20,000-square-foot Fire Department of New York station and training facility in Ocean Hill–Brownsville in Brooklyn, while BIG is designing a new NYPD station house in Melrose in the Bronx. In Queens, far-out Far Rockaway, battered by Sandy and isolated from the rest of the city by a long ride on the A train, is anticipating both a $90.3 million, Snøhetta-designed public library and $91 million in capital funds for improvements in its downtown on main commercial roads like Beach 20th Street. On and Beyond the Waterfront In New York, a trip to the “city” is a trip to Manhattan. This idea, however, doesn’t reflect how New Yorkers traverse the city today: Older, Manhattan-centric commuting patterns at the hub are becoming outmoded as development intensifies in the outer boroughs. It’s estimated that this year bike-sharing service Citi Bike will have 10 million rides. The system is adding 2,500 bikes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens to accommodate the increased ridership. The East River ferry service will begin this year, knitting the Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan waterfronts together in patterns not seen since the 1800s. Along the same waterway, the project that’s raised the most wonder (and ire) is the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a streetcar line that would link 12 waterfront neighborhoods from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens. The project proposal comes from a new nonprofit, Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (FBQX), which first surfaced in January of this year. Its founders include the heads of transportation advocacy and policy groups Regional Plan Association and Transportation Alternatives; directors of neighborhood development groups; and real estate professionals like venture capitalist Fred Wilson and Helena Durst of the Durst Organization. The full plan, commissioned by FBQX and put together by consultants at New York–based engineering and transportation firm Sam Schwartz, is not available to the public, although the company’s eponymous president and CEO shed some light on the plan with AN. “Within an area that has so many [transit] connections, what we are addressing is transit that goes north–south,” explained Schwartz. His firm’s plan calls for a 17-mile route that roughly parallels the coastline, dipping inland to link up to hubs like Atlantic Terminal and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. At a projected cost of $1.7 billion, why not choose the bus, or bus rapid transit (BRT)? The team considered five other options before deciding on the streetcar, Schwartz explained. “The projected ridership is over 50,000 [passengers] per day, while ridership for the bus and BRT maxes out at 35,000 to 40,000 per day.” Streetcars, Schwartz elaborated, can make fine turns on narrow streets, reducing the risk for accidents. They will travel at 12 miles per hour in lanes separate from other traffic, and, to minimize aesthetic offense and flood-damage risk, overhead catenaries will not be used.
Although sources tell AN that the city has a copy of the plan, City Hall spokesperson Wiley Norvell denied any relationship between de Blasio’s streetcar proposal and the plan commissioned by FBQX. (Although it’s not unusual for the city to consider the recommendations put forth by outside groups: In 2014, the city adopted many of the Vision Zero recommendations created by Transportation Alternatives.)
Norvell stated that the city’s plan calls for a $2.5 billion, 16-mile corridor that will be financed outside of the auspices of the (state-funded and perpetually cash-strapped) Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) using a value-capture model. The streetcar line’s success, essentially, is predicated on its ability to raise surrounding property values. The increased tax revenues, he explained, could be plowed back into a local development corporation, which would then use the funds to capitalize the project. Critics wonder why the streetcar is being privileged over other initiatives, such as the Triboro RX proposal, a Utica Avenue subway extension, and the not-completely-funded Second Avenue subway, that would serve more straphangers. Though a fare-sharing system could be brokered with the MTA to enhance multimodal connectivity, critics point out that the streetcar line’s proposed stops are up to a half mile from subway stations, bypassing vital connections between the J/M/Z and L. The Hills on Governors Island Are Alive and Ahead of Schedule With a growing population and growing need for more parks, the city is looking to develop underutilized green space within its borders. The Hills, a landscape on Governors Island designed by West 8 and Mathews Nielsen, is set to finish nearly one year ahead of schedule. The news coincided with the mayor’s announcement that the island, a former military base and U.S. Coast Guard station, will now be open to the public year-round. The city has invested $307 million in capital improvements to ready 150 acres of the island for its full public debut. Forty-eight new acres of parkland (including the Hills) will open this year. The Innovation Cluster, a 33-acre business incubator and educational facility that builds on the example of Cornell University’s campus extension on Roosevelt Island, will bring several million new square feet of educational, commercial, cultural, research, and retail space to the island’s south side. The Trust for Governors Island, a nonprofit dedicated to stewarding and capitalizing on the island’s assets, will release an RFP to develop the vacant land and historic district by the end of this year, and construction could begin as early as 2019.