Search results for "Richard Meier"

Eavesdrop Issue 06_04.06.2005

FOSTER AND MEIER PAY TO PLAY
Norman Foster and Richard Meier are filthy, stinking rich. At least that was our conclusion when our spy told us they were listed among the founding members of The Core Club, an ultra-exclusive social club that's being built on East 55th Street. Making Soho House look like a community center, The Core Club, scheduled to open in June, will charge fees amounting to $12,000 a year, plus a $45,000 initiation charge. But even that's apparently small potatoes. According to the club's publicist, founding members are subject to coughing uppget thiss$100,000 each. (We can't confirm all of them will actually pay that, and neither the club nor Foster's office would confirm his membership). In any case, all that buys the privilege of trolling the club's halls for potential clients, taking dips in its mineral baths and consulting its, ahem, life coaches. Maybe they'd coach members into giving their employees a raiseeSpeaking of which, we'd like to congratulate Richard Rogers, who just landed the #1 ranking in Building Design's list of UK firms with the best perks (Foster wasn't included). In addition to getting an increasing share of profits as they stay on, Rogers staffers receive such benefits as 26 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, four weeks leave for new fathers, as well as lunches prepared by an in-house chef for a palatable $5.

NPR KOWTOWS TO MOMA
NPR has axed its 21-year relationship with arts reporter David D'Arcy, and MoMA had something to do with it. As reported in The Los Angeles Times, D'Arcy, who also contributes to this paper, got into hot water because of a December 27 story that unflatteringly portrayed MoMA's opposition to efforts by the descendants of a Jewish art dealer who want to reclaim a painting, Egon Schiele's 1912 Portrait of Wally, that was taken from her by the Nazis in 1939. (MoMA doesn't own the work, but was exhibiting it on loan from Austria's publicly supported Leopold Foundation in 1997. It was eventually seized by the U.S. government, which still has custody pending litigation over its ownership.) While all the facts of D'Arcy's piece are widely known, his journalistic sins, according to NPR, reportedly include not giving MoMA a chance to respond (even though his request to speak with its lawyer was denied), not making it clear that MoMA doesn't have possession of the painting (though, having read the transcript, it seems pretty clear to us), and interviewing MoMA chairman Ronald Lauder in one context but using his response in another. (D'Arcy had asked Lauder about his position on the restitution of Nazi-looted artworks. Wait. Isn't that the same context?) Predictably, MoMA wasn't happy. But it's NPR's strange overreaction that makes us wonder what more there is to this story.

CALATRAVA GETS THE MET
Not many living architects get a show at the Metropolitan Museum. In fact, we can't think of a single one. But now we hear Santiago Calatrava will be the subject of an exhibition there from October 17 through January 22, 2006. As its name implies, Santiago Calatrava: Sculpture into Architecture will draw connections between Calatrava's art and architecture through about 50 sculptural works, architectural models, and drawings.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

Eavesdrop Issue 01_01.19.2005

THE RESULTS ARE INN
It turns out we're not the only ones who think Charles Gwathmey's new condo tower on Astor Place looks like it belongs in a Shenzhen office park. Granted, the building's not done yet, but our thoroughly unscientific poll has revealed that 100 percent of a select handful of acquaintances think it's somewhere between uglyy and the B-word (that would be banall). It's shiny. I'll give it that,, one respondent offered. In fairness, we should mention that some peopleeactually, just Gwathmeyyhave admiringly compared the curvy glass tower to an obelisk (come to think of it, our fire escape evokes Louis Sullivan, too). And it's definitely a stellar example of the Floor Area Ratio school of architecture. However, call us chumps, but many of us had higher hopes for a site as storied as Astor Place. Mind you, we fully support the Cooper Union, which owns the land on which Gwathmey's building sitssand on whose board Gwathmey once sattin making a pretty penny. (It leased the site to the Related Companies, which was the developer). But you'd think they'd make sure we got something better, even if it still meant luxury condos for rich people,, says one observer, reminding us of the school's social mission and High Architecture posturing. They definitely took the ivory out of the ivory tower with this one..

THE BEST OF GROUND ZERO
The day after 9/11, Rem Koolhaas, who was in Chicago, did what any traumatized glamitect would: He headed to the nearest Prada. That, at least, is according to Philip Nobel's hotly anticipated new book, Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero (Metropolitan), which is now landing in stores. The book rehashes a number of unflattering incidents: how aspiring Ground Zero designer Rafael Viioly's onetime association with the Argentine junta somehow turned into a convenient yet unverifiable story about his own political persecution; Frank Gehry's controversial I-won't-work-for-just-$40,000 stance; and let's not even start with Daniel and Nina Libeskind. Added to this are new revelations, like about how the Library of Congress paid gallerist Max Protetch a whopping $408,140 to acquire the 58 architect schemes that Protetch pulled together in 2002 for his blockbuster show of Ground Zero proposals. And then there's the one about Protetch discussing the site's future with LMDC chairman Roland Betts while prancing about in his underwear (they were at the gym). Has Nobel turned into architecture's Kitty Kelly? No, his book has all the hard-hitting insights and analyses you'd want. But perhaps it's one of his other juicy tidbits that best characterizes the behavior of many architects in the Ground Zero fiasco: in a missive to Gehry, who'd earlier declined to join his so-called THINK team, Charles Gwathmey wrote: Peter [Eisenman], Richard [Meier], and I think you are a total prick..

OLD MAN SACHS GETS HIP
EavesDrop has learned that the proposed $1.8 billion Goldman Sachs headquarters in Battery Park City, designed by Harry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed, will feature the work of some young'uns, too. After a closed competition that we hear included the likes of Architecture Research Office, Allied Works, and others, Preston Scott Cohen was tapped to create an outdoor arcade, while SHoP will design a conference center. We're told landscape architect Ken Smith has also been thrown into the mix.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

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LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH (BUYERS) AND FAMOUS (ARCHIT

With the real estate market up and public appreciation for design surging, residential buyers are willing to pay more for the cachet of a big-name architecttand developers are catering to the new demand. But are designer buildingss adding quality to New York's urban fabric or just padding developers' pockets? Anna Holtzman finds it's a little of both.

Is residential real estate in New York finally catching up to its stylish inhabitants? The city seems to be going through a design boom: Richard Meier, Santiago Calatrava, Philippe Starck, Tsao & McKown, Winka Dubbeldam, Gwathmey Siegel, and Michael Graves have all recently made, or will soon make, their mark on the lower half of Manhattan. And there's talk of on-the-boards residential buildings by Frank O. Gehry and Christian de Portzamparc. The projects come with swanky names (the River Lofts, the Downtown), luxury amenities, and high-end price tags to boot.

If you suspect this designer craze is all about name-branding, you're right. The draw of well-known architects for developers is obvioussthey establish a certain price-point, like a designer label; they add status to a project,, said Bassie Deitsch of Boymelgreen, the developer responsible for the Starck and Tsao & McKown buildings, both on the lower west side. But before dismissing this phenomenon as a superficial trend, one must take into consideration the bigger picture. As New York architect and developer Peter Moore put it, any builder taking the risk of high design is a good thingg?whatever the initial motivation. And motives evolve. As Izak Senbahar, developer of the new Richard Meier tower on Charles Street, said, It raises the bar. Everyone is working for profit, but when you drive around the city and see something beautiful and elegant, you're encouraged to do more of that..

For Frank Sciame's first real estate development, 80 South Street, Santiago Calatrava proposes townhousess floating in the air.

Opinions vary on what has spurred this recent interest in design. Perry Street, and the amount of press it generated, did a lot to create that awareness,, said Meier, referring to the pair of gleaming residential towers he designed. Others see it as the result of broader influences: The time was right for this,, said Frank Sciame, developer of the Calatrava-designed South Street tower, currently in the works. Five years ago, we would have done a conventional tower.. Ironically, it was the tragic events of September 11 that indirectly led him to select a visionary architect for the project. After 9/11, given the great buildings that were going up at Ground Zero and the fact that this site was [relatively nearby and] at the river's edge, we decided that it should also be a tangible symbol of Manhattan's recovery.. What emerged was an unusual design by Calatrava comprised of 10 boxlike units that seem to float independently in the air.

Senbahar agreed that post-9/11, New Yorkers have a greater appreciation of good architecture. So if you create something of quality, people will pay more for it,, he said.

So why has it taken New York this long to wake up to design, when cities such as Miami and London started using architects to market residential buildings years ago? Senbahar posited, In New York, apartments sell from the inside out. Layout is important.. Meanwhile, faaade is secondary. There's also a greater demand for real estate in New York, so you have a captive audience,, said Senbahar. In Miami, you're talking about mostly second homes, so you have to entice the buyer with attractive buildings.. He continued, In construction, if you keep it simple, it's a lot easier.. So when the real estate market was lower, developers preferred to play it safe by sticking with conventional designs that were cheaper to build. Now that the market is up, developers are taking advantage of the fact that buyers won't blink at higher price-tagssand are using the added value of design to compete with one another.

Dubbeldam, who designed the interiors and undulating curtain wall of the Greenwich Street Project, cringed at this sort of thinking. Quality is not more expensive,, she stated emphatically, because it pays out more in the long run. It's better for the developer in the end.. Dubbeldam is appalled by the majority of American developers, saying that they have no consciousness about energy, no thinking about ecologyythey think that architects are just fancy picture-makers..

The glazed curtain wall of the Greenwich Street Project by Winka Dubbeldam of Archi-Tectonics cascades to the street.

Just how far developers are willing to involve architects in their grand plans varies from project to project. In many cases, as with the now two-year-old 425 Fifth Avenue designed by Michael Graves for developer Trevor Davis of Davis & Partners, the exterior and interior designs are done by a high-level architect, but considerations such as floor layouts and interior detailing are determined by a combination of real estate consultants and contract architects. The Sunshine Group is one such consulting firm. In addition to marketing, the group consults developers on pre-development planning, which architects to work with, apartment layouts, ceiling heights, number of bathroom fixtures, closet size, et cetera. Boymelgreen brought in Sunshine to consult on the Downtown, which in turn selected Starck to infuse the interiors and entryway with his signature playful style. Layouts and faaade, however, were left to project architect Ishmael Leyva.

Terraces, French doors, skylights, fireplaces, Sub-Zero and Miele appliances, and spa-like bathrooms are among the amenities at the River Lofts, a combination restoration and new construction project by Tsao & McKown.

Some architects are pushing to increase the scope of their roles, however, and changing developers' minds in the process. In the case of Tsao & McKown's River Lofts, for example, Sunshine initially invited the architects to work on the project to add our particular brand of lifestylee to the interiors of the apartments, said Calvin Tsao. However, Tsao & McKown ultimately convinced the developer, Boymelgreen, to let them have a hand in the faaade as welllwith the support of Sherida Paulsen, then chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. When it came to the firm's next project with Sunshine and Boymelgreen, the Spring Street Lofts in SoHo, the architects were brought in at an earlier phase and were able to collaborate with the client in a much more organic way. Rather than look askance at being called in as lifestyle gurus,, said Zack McKown, we saw it as an empowering position..

The newest Meier tower, still under construction, echoes the first two completed in 2002, in design, luxury amenties, and price points.

A rare few architects are getting in on development at the ground level. Dubbeldam was brought onto the Greenwich Street Project by developer Jonathan Carroll of Take One before he even had a site in fact, Dubbeldam wound up find ing its location. In the case of Charles Gwathmey's Astor Place tower, the architect found himself in the unusual situation of starting out on the client side, as a board member at Cooper Union. Before signing on as the designer, he hired the developer, Related Companies, and selected the site himself. It was only later, after a series of unscripted events including Gwathmey leaving Cooper's board, that he was brought on as architect and was thus able to shape every part of the project, from the footprint to interiors.

What truly smart developers have come to understand is that taking architecture into consideration from the get-go can only benefit the value of their building in the long run. Senbahar chose Meier for Charles Street in deference to the Perry Street Towers, which were already built by developers Ira Drucker, Charles Blaichman, and Richard Born when he came on the scene. He wanted to maintain a consistent aesthetic among a grouping of buildings that he believes may someday be landmarked. In improving the neighborhood, this move also improves that which remains a developer's main concern: real estate values.

Charles Gwathmey's Astor Place is being touted by its developer, the Related Companies, as Manhattan's first rotational, asymmetrical, sculptural building..

Unfortunately, as Dubbeldam pointed out, the vast majority of developers are still stuck in the dark ages in terms of design. I think [these high-design buildings are] just isolated projects,, said Dubbeldam, but I hope they can inspire overall change.. Yet when it comes to the realm of affordable housing, even the optimistic have little hope that these high-end projects will inspire change. Unfortunately,, explained Senbahar, whenever design requires a higher level of construction, it's reflected in the cost, and therefore it would be very difficult, especially with the high land prices in New York.. Developer Moore lamented, We still have a long way to go [towards better design for the city as a whole]. That's where the city should get involved. There's no even-handed aesthetic control. We need an aesthetic cop..
ANNA HOLTZMAN, A FORMER EDITOR AT ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE, IS PRODUCING A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT SUBWAY MUSICIANS.

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THE NEW, TRUE SPIRIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Arnhem Central Station by UN Studio and engineer Cecil Balmond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO:NYC'S NEW URBAN MASTERMI

The Stealth Designers

For years, avant-garde darlings Diller + Scofidio have kept fresh with art projects, technologically innovative media installations, and paper architecture. However, writes Andrew Yang, what's propelling the firmmnow with partner Charles Renfrooare two major urban planning projects that may transform the face of New York City.

In contrast to the explicit directives of their work for Lincoln Center, above, Diller Scofidio + Renfro's (with OMA) master plan for the BAM Cultural District, is a conceptual framework for development. The early site plan, below, which has evolved with the needs of BAM, shows how different programs can be interwoven. The urban beach, and vertical garden, describe an attitude toward the public realm more than any actual building proposal.

According to Rebecca Robertson, the executive director of the Lincoln Center Redevelopment Corporation, there was a moment in 2002 when she was really doubtful that she could get Diller + Scofidio on the final list of competitors to redesign Lincoln Center's public spaces. The others were all major players with several large public projects under their belttNorman Foster, Cooper Robertson, Richard Meier and Santiago Calatrava. At that point, Diller + Scofidio had a handful of installations and a much-loved restaurant interior, the Brasserie. That summer, their conceptual architecture-cum-art piece, Blur, a mist-filled cloud-making apparatus over Lake Neuchhtel in Switzerland opened to the public. While Diller + Scofidio clearly had the intellectual acuity to go toe-to-toe with these architects, their lack of built projects meant the firm would be a tough sell for Lincoln Center's board.

Robertson had worked with the duo in the early 1990s, when she was the director of the 42nd Street Redevelopment Corporation. As part of a plan to animate the closed theaters and other dead spaces in the district, the corporation worked with the public-art organization Creative Time to commission projects from the likes of Jenny Holzer, Tibor Kalman, and Diller + Scofidio. She knew of the designers' knack for multidisciplinary design, and the strong element of performance and surveillance in their workksuch as the monitors at the bar of the Brasserieeand knew they would be a good fit.

>For us, Lincoln Center was about more communication between the arts,, said Robertson. By focusing on that element of Diller + Scofidio's work, she was able to get the firm on the list, and the rest is history.

Now renamed Diller Scofidio + Renfro, to reflect the addition of partner Charles Renfro, the firm still shows up on the shortlists of major competitions, but they are no longer the long shots. Two of their recently completed projectssthe redesign of Lincoln Square's public spaces and a master plan for the Brooklyn Academy of Music Cultural Districttre-envision two of New York's cultural epicenters, and put the designers in a position to shape not just the buildings of New York, but aspects of the city itself.

It's like they've absorbed Lincoln Center into their DNA, and the outrageousness of what they have done is subtle,, said Robertson.

The most drastic and controversial part of the plan calls for the eradication of the Milstein Plaza, a raised platform designed in 1965 by Harrison & Abramovitz, and which covers much of 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. Their plan also calls for slicing through a corner of the hard, brutalist Pietro Belluschii designed Alice Tully Hall, also home of the Julliard School. Along with an elevated lawn in the plaza behind Avery Fisher Hall, the firm aims to integrate the different topographic levels of Lincoln Center into a public space that's more transparent and functional. If subtlety is the mark of this project, then the designers' masterplan for the BAM Cultural District may be so subtle it's downright invisible.

When the BAM Cultural District, designed in collaboration with Rem Koolhaas/OMA, was completed in 2002, very little in the way of fancy renderings was released to the press. That's because there weren't any. According to the firm, the masterplan really isn't a masterplan at all. It is a series of programmatic and building recommendations for a network of systems and spaces that will maximize the dynamic interplay between the district's different cultural institutions. We wanted them to understand that the project [had to be implemented] in phases, and could change, and affect what followed,, said Scofidio.

The plan for BAM, unlike Lincoln Center, is more of a conceptual schematic for the buildings in the district, and less of a stringent plan for buildings. While it recommends spatial programming like artists' live/work lofts, retail, administrative offices, residential buildings, and a hotel, its salient feature is a plan for acculturation.. Because the area is several blocks away from still-gritty downtown Brooklyn, a period of reinvestment and renewal could make the artistic aspects of the neighborhood more visible. The plan recommends installing temporary public art projects and even an urban beachh in order to draw in passersby and raise interest in the area. By incorporating the BAM ethos into the very sidewalks, it would attract more foot traffic and other cultural organizations, thus encouraging a more organic type of development.

>The essence of this plan is mixing,, said Jeanne Lutfy, president of the BAM Local Development Corp-oration (LDC). The streetscape will be the connective tissue that ties the district to Fort Greene,, she said, noting that the programming of visual art into the public infrastructure is already happening.

And the chips are falling into place. Enrique Norten's Library for Visual and Performing Arts, which was unveiled in 2003, will fill out a triangular block south of the BAM Opera House. The Manhattan-based Theater for a New Audience recently announced that Hugh Hardy and Frank Gehry will design a 300-seat, $22 million theater adjacent to the visual arts library. In between the buildings will be an open public space, which follows the Diller Scofidio + Renfro plan. Twelve new cultural organizations, including Bomb magazine and the Museum of Contemporary Diasporan Art, have just recently been announced to fill 80 Arts, an eight-story building that will be renovated by the BAM LDC. Because of the sharing of various amenities by the different groups, 80 Arts is in many ways a microcosm of what this district is going to be about,, said Lutfy.

Just as ideas of performance, technology, surveillance, and the public domain are central to Diller Scofidio + Renfro's conceptual work, they are proving to be a trademark of the firm's public planning projects as well. We didn't think of it as a masterplan as much as There is a performance on the inside of the building and we want to bring that quality out,'' said Scofidio. And we wanted to add the aspects of street performance and bring them in.. None of the blocks in the district as proposed are solid, but instead composed of varied units with public spaces cutting through.

By the time this long-term process is complete, the entire cultural area may be eclipsed by developer Bruce Ratner's proposed new Frank Gehryydesigned basketball arena a block away. Its monstrous proportions and planning are the antithesis of OMA and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's delicate, piece-by-piece, neighborhood-building strategy. The invisibility of the BAM Cultural Districttand how it unfolds over the next several yearssis just how the firm wants it.

Our interests are really broad and not about an image,, said Renfro, who is a generation younger than his partners and has witnessed the transformation of the office since he arrived seven years ago, after four years with Smith-Miller + Hawkinson. Brasserie was their first permanent work in this country,, he said. That project really changed the way people think about the firm. And it helped promote the development of the work into larger and larger scales,, he says.

Just as Lincoln Center is a dynamic interplay of buildings designed by heavyweights like Philip Johnson, Belluschi, and Wallace K. Harrison, Diller Scofidio + Renfro's intervention is subtle and respectful. And the BAM district is also proving to be a fruitful collaboration of architectural visionaries, the public can take it as a sure sign that the built reality will finally match the imaginations of the firm guiding it.
Andrew Yang, an editor of 306090, contributes to Wallpaper, Men's Health, and Surface.

Eavesdrop: Aric Chen

MUSCHAMP'S CLAIMS ON GROUND ZERO
Architects may have outsized egos buttif there was any question beforeeHerbert Muschamp's may be out of control. As of press time, rumors were swirling that the NYT architecture critic has been making life difficult for the publishers of the forthcoming book Imagining Ground Zero: Official and Unofficial Schemes for the World Trade Center Competition (Rizzoli and Architectural Record). It seems the book's author, Record editor Suzanne Stephens, wants to include schemes from the September 8, 2002, designer-palooza featured in the NYT Magazine in which Muschamp asked architectssincluding Charles Gwathmey, Peter Eisenman, Richard Meier, Zaha Hadid, and Rem Koolhaas>to contribute plans for Ground Zero. However, He's been calling the architects and telling them not to let their work be published,, says a designer familiar with the fiasco, and several of them are complying.. Why would Muschamp want to interfere, when the NYT itself has acknowledged it doesn't own the rights to the designs? He was asked to write about the projects in the book,, the source continues, so it can't be that he just feels left out. The only answer would have to be power.. While the story is still developing, we've learned that Rizzoli is exploring legal options and, though they wouldn't give an explanation, the offices of several of the architects we contacted, including Meier, confirmed they don't intend to provide the plans in question. Both Stephens and her Rizzoli editor declined comment, and Muschamp did not return calls.

STARCK: I'VE HAD IT WITH YOU PEOPLE
Don't expect any more Target toothbrushes from Philippe Starck. The Frenchman has had his fill of big, American clients. At the SoHo MoMA Design Store earlier this month for the launch of a travel clock and weather monitoring device he designed for Oregon Scientific (which, for the record, is based in Hong Kong), the colorful designer talked to us about everything from how high atmospheric pressure gives him the blues to how one can make lovee in just 15 minutes. (Okay, we're leaving out some context here, but you get the idea.) Wanting to change subjects, we asked about a rumor we'd heard that he was designing a new W Hotel. It's not true. I don't want to work anymore with big American companies,, Starck snapped. When pressed to elaborate, he would only offer: Because they're big and American. Think about it..

NO MALLS FOR MEIER?
We don't like them, either. But could it really be that Richard Meier has never, ever in his 69 years been to a shopping mall? At last month's much-ballyhooed opening of the new AOL Time Warner Center, one of our spies overheard the architect confessing as much in the complex's mall, er, urban retail center,, as its developers insist on calling it. This is so interesting. I've never been to a mall before,, our snoop reports Meier admitting in all seriousness. What? Not even out of curiosity? Not even when malls made, like, totally trendy social commentary? Meier's rep points out that he recently visited quite a few of themm to look at different retail outlets for research,, before adding, He has a very compressed schedule and doesn't have a lot of time to go shopping, period..

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com