Search results for "Downtown Brooklyn"
Tillett Lighting Design has been around since 1983, when founder Linnaea Tillett parlayed her theater background into a practice for lighting private fine art collections. In the past ten years, however, her firm has become known for the civic and landscape work it has produced in collaboration with such high-profile talents as Maya Lin, Toshiko Mori, Michael Van Valkenburgh, and Lebbeus Woods.
“I was raised in New York City,” said Tillett, “and have always been interested in the urban environment and what makes a safe-feeling street.” In 1990, she put her firm on hold and entered a graduate program at City College, studying the fundamentals of perception and, over the course of the next decade, earning a PhD in environmental psychology. “I wanted to learn more about how we understand our environment, how we understand fear, and the difference between fear and excitement. I was trying to get to the bottom of the psychological effects of lighting in a space.”
Tillett got a chance to put this training into practice in the late ‘90s, when she answered an RFP issued by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT was looking for designers to light a neighborhood and study its effects. Tillett chose a particularly desolate stretch of New Lots Avenue in East New York. Using inexpensive decorative fixtures, the firm lit a path from the elevated subway to the area’s two main landmarks: a church and a library. In the year following the installation, library attendance and circulation increased, and pedestrians reported increased comfort while walking home at night.
One of the most important lessons that Tillett took away from the East New York project was that too much light can be a bad thing. The “crime light” typical of such underserved neighborhoods—glaring floodlights more suitable to lighting a stadium than a streetscape—can end up working against residents’ sense of comfort. “We now ask the question, ‘Why light?’” said Tillett. “That’s a question that doesn’t get asked enough. It’s not just a question of energy, but of why do it at all? We want people to meet outdoors at night in a civilized way, to create a sense of enchantment that will draw people to a place and keep them there. Maybe in certain cases we need to take away lighting.”
Tillett is currently working on two civic projects that take the approach of using as little light as possible. One is a pedestrian and bicycle bridge that crosses a six-lane freeway in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tillett is installing LED strips at the edges of the pathway that will wash the expanded metal mesh tube enclosing the bridge in a peachy, watermelon-colored glow inspired by the color of the sunset on the nearby mountains.
The firm is also involved in a Federal Aid project to revitalize Syracuse, New York, by reinforcing the five-mile-long connective corridor between downtown and Syracuse University. Tillett has proposed coating specific nodes along this path with highly reflective material that will be illuminated with one watt of light, creating a series of bold markers along the way that highlight pedestrian spaces, bike paths, and public transportation.
Tillett Lighting Design has not given up its private clients. The firm supplements work in the public realm by lighting hospitality and residential spaces. “The private work gives a flow and stability to the office,” explained Tillett. In addition to the financial benefits, these projects feed the civic work both creatively and technically. “You can work more freely with private clients,” she said. “There are no codes or bureaucracies to deal with, and they often ask naive questions that lead to really innovative outcomes.”
For the Milne-Ojito Residence, a Soho loft, the clients needed a divider between their living room and sleeping area. Working with artist Joan Waltemath and architecture firm I-Beam Design, Tillet created a sliding glass door coated with phosphorus powder that glows cerulean blue. LED strips embedded in the door’s framing feed the phosphor, while mirrors and iridescent material in the glass further augment the lighting effect. “The difficult thing with phosphorus is color, but the technology is getting there,” Tillett said. “The next question is how to use it in a public space.”
One lament about the original World Trade Center was that its construction entailed the razing of Radio Row, the small neighborhood of shops around Cortlandt Street that specialized in electronics. While that bit of old New York has long been eulogized, many may not realize that a second swath of downtown has remained virtually on life support since the Twin Towers' completion: a 25-block area directly south of Liberty Street.
Newly dubbed Greenwich South, the neighborhood has been something of cipher since the construction of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel took a chunk out of its core, not to mention the accompanying parking garage and a warren of Revolutionary-era streets that make navigation difficult even for veteran New Yorkers.
“Right now, it's the hole in the donut,” said Elizabeth Berger, president of the Downtown Alliance. “But if you look at a map, it's at the heart of the action. We want to take a moment to explore this area and make it really integral to everything surrounding it.”
To that end, the Downtown Alliance selected Architecture Research Office in early 2008 to spend a year developing a master plan for the area. Stephen Cassell, ARO's partner-in-charge, said that in light of the many previous plans for the area-one of which called for 30-foot-high skywalks between buildings-designers took a more flexible approach.
“It really operates on multiple scales,” Cassell said of the plan, “and the key is you don't need one or the other to be successful. It's not averse to megaprojects, but it's not dependent on them, either.”
Each principle works both in the immediate and long terms. Beyond the literal reconnection of Greenwich Street-to be completed by 2011-the plan seeks to turn the byway into a connector for southwestern Manhattan, as it will now be the only other street besides Broadway running the entire length of downtown (the plan considers West Street and FDR Drive as essentially freeways). In fact, the hope for the long term is to create a bike-, transit-, and pedestrian-friendly boulevard superior even to Broadway.
To ensure that the planning principles work, ARO tapped ten designers and artists, who provided their work pro bono to implement pieces of the plan during a six-week charrette. Lewis.Tsuramaki.Lewis created a vertical park that bridges the Battery Park tunnel, offering east-west access while helping scrub the district's noxious air. Coen + Partners proposed vertical landscaping for the tunnel's exhaust shaft, neighboring buildings, and other access points to the neighborhood. DeWitt Godfrey created a sculpture as a gateway at Exchange Place, while Open devised flexible wayfinding solutions, and Beyer Blinder Belle created a new museum at the American Stock Exchange building.
On the grander scale, WorkAC devised a “plug-in building” designed to fit within the puzzle of structures that already fill the district. Morphosis proposed Battery North, an extension of the park into the district. IwamotoScott developed a swirling tower with openings at its base to encourage pedestrian flow. And ARO decked over the approach to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, replacing it with a tiered park and public market.
“In the long view, after the World Trade Center is completed, there's not that many places left in Lower Manhattan,” said Neil Kittredge, director of planning and urban design at Beyer Blinder Belle. “For development, Greenwich South is one of the last places that's left. But we want to make sure it is unlike anything else before it.”
The Downtown Alliance has installed an exhibition of the plan at Zuccotti Park, with a show of the 10 proposals due to open at the Center for Architecture Friday.
Vacant parcels of Manhattan real estate are usually cordoned off behind chain-link fences or occupied by “taxpayer” parking lots until they can be turned into income-earning buildings. But the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) has worked with Trinity Real Estate to make a bare downtown block the developer owns—in the newly designated Hudson Square neighborhood—into a temporary public space.
Bounded by Canal, Grand, Sullivan, and Varick streets, the block was intended for a rental building, but the recent market downturn forced the project to be put on hold. So Trinity donated the site for what the LMCC conceived as an “in the meantime” platform for contemporary art, design, and performance. Dubbed LentSpace and opening to the public tomorrow, the project will be programmed throughout the year by the LMCC, which commissioned the architects Interboro Partners to design it, with a graphic identity by the Brooklyn group Thumb.
Interboro has subdivided the graveled site into visually interlocking spaces through the use of earth-filled plywood boxes filled with trees, themselves destined to be repurposed throughout Lower Manhattan at a later date. A 215-foot-long, operable plywood fence fronts a display surface for commissioned graphic design projects, and doubles as a bench meant for social encounters. The first exhibit, Points and Lines, was organized by LMCC curator Adam Kleinman and features eight artists who created temporary sculptural pieces out of common building materials that refer to the constructive nature of the site. The exhibit also furthers Interboro’s aim to create activated spaces and thresholds, while encouraging a variety of performance pieces.
Together, the art and urban design help to invigorate a part of the city that is short on public open space. This site could easily have remained closed off to New Yorkers for years, so the developer should be applauded for donating the land—along with F.J. Sciame Construction, which donated the labor. The space is open from 7:00 a.m. to dusk, and Points of Light will run through January.
The city may call it Midtown West, but the corner of 8th Avenue and 41st Street certainly doesn’t feel like Midtown. The monochromatic New York Times tower has nothing in common with the lights of 42nd Street, and the new Eleven Times Square, with its relatively rectilinear offices atop layers of scrolling screens, has nothing in common with the Port Authority, which has spawned a brand-name, low-price hotel district just to its south, where McSam and the Lam Group have squeezed shiny buildings onto narrow tenement lots. And that’s only one clash of cultures between the titans in this so-called neighborhood.
The first three blocks, 33rd to 36th, are scheduled to open in 2013, when No. 7 riders could exit a Toshiko Mori teardrop-shaped station at the base of the park-slash-boulevard to be designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). There are two LEED-certified office buildings in development, Extell’s World Product Centre and Moinian’s 3 Hudson Boulevard, that would open at the same time if both financing and tenants appear.
Then there’s the biggest site, the Hudson rail yards. Construction on the eastern yard could start anytime (once Related signs a contract with the MTA), with buildings ready in 2015, but now is clearly not that time. The company has a new plan—released this spring as part of the ULURP review for the site—designed by KPF with MVVA as landscape architect, that has received favorable reviews from the community for putting streets back in the superblock and breaking the open space into smaller, more purposeful parks.
When Harry Rosen opened Junior’s in 1950, the Dodgers still played at Ebbets Field and Brooklyn was in its heyday. The restaurant’s Flatbush Avenue neighbors included the Paramount and Fox theaters, where Brooklynites could hear Duke Ellington or, a few years later, Chuck Berry. Downtown was a real neighborhood, said Joe Chan, executive director of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), and the recent wave of development—no matter how chaotic in appearance—aims to make it one again.
The intervening decades saw the area along Flatbush decline into automotive uses and an uninviting barrier condition. In 2004, the nonprofit DBP and the commercial and academic stakeholders it represents, along with relevant city agencies, saw the area’s rezoning as a chance to recapture that history with residents, jobs, entertainment, diverse retail, and 24/7 street life. “It should have all the elements of economic sustainability,” said Chan, who spent five years as City Hall’s point person for the rezoning. The plan also incorporated PlaNYC’s principles for greening public space and guiding density toward transit nodes.
Much of the area’s physical and social healing depends on whether Flatbush continues to resemble a highway or evolves toward a boulevard with development that “knits neighborhoods together,” according to SOM’s Duffy. Flatbush needs to be “less of an edge, more of a permeable condition between pre- existing neighborhoods.”
Noting how vehicles and the “defensive” MetroTech buildings combine to separate Fort Greene from downtown, Duffy looks to design as well as programming for reintegration. Toren, with its dimpled facade of Argentine aluminum panels painted powder-coat silver, stands out from the area’s dominant masonry styles; at ground level, its facade “was meant to foster transparent activity at the street edge,” he said.
Schermerhorn House, designed by Susan Rodriguez and Polshek Partnership for a publicly-owned site near Hoyt-Schermerhorn station, is an intriguing exception to the highrise activity, performing a comparably mediating function on a 12-story structure. With a glass-tower design that Rodriguez describes as having two distinct faces—one reflecting Downtown Brooklyn’s larger scale, and the other stepping down to the brownstones of Boerum Hill—this multipurpose project spearheaded by Common Ground Community and Actors Fund of America includes studio units for special-needs populations like the formerly homeless, artists, and other low-income residents.
Built in 1904 as part of New York City’s first subway line—the IRT—the Bleecker Street station retains much of its turn-of-the-century charm. It also shows its age in less appealing ways: The station’s platforms are narrow and inaccessible to the handicapped, water infiltration has marred its beautifully detailed tile work, and a direct transfer to the nearby Broadway-Lafayette IND station is only provided from the southbound track.
These flaws are all on the way to being remedied, however. The MTA, as part of its 2005–2009 capital program, has begun construction on a $94 million expansion and rehabilitation of the station. Designed by Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects (LHP) and Weidlinger Associates, the project is scheduled for completion in 2011.
Much of the work involves restoring the landmarked station’s historic architectural detail while bringing its systems up to contemporary specs. The project will clean and repair the white ceramic tile, mosaic bands, roman brickwork wainscoting with marble caps, and the eight blue terra cotta Bleecker Street name plaques. It will also replace the lighting and public address system and update the MTA’s maintenance facilities.
The bulk of the design and engineering work, however, surrounds the transfer between the Bleecker Street station’s northbound platform and the Broadway-Lafayette station. To achieve this, LHP and Weidlinger designed an extension of the platform 300 feet to the south, connecting with a mezzanine of the Broadway-Lafayette station that has been out of use since the 1960s. This mezzanine is the linchpin of the design, both containing the space for the elevators and escalators that will make both stations ADA compliant, as well as providing the transition point to tie them together architecturally.
“From an architectural point of view, we saw an opportunity to create a three-level atrium space that connects from the Broadway-Lafayette platforms to the Bleecker platforms,” said Jim Wright, project manager for LHP. “By visually connecting the stations, you provide orientation and security. You can see where you’re going.”
LHP took its design cues from a 1995 renovation of the Broadway-Lafayette station, which was first opened in 1936. That renovation, completed by New York City Transit’s Office of Station Design architects, created a double-height atrium space that opens into a gently curving mezzanine. LHP echoed this curve when carving out its own atrium and replicated the finishes of the earlier space. “The look and the feel will be of the Broadway-Lafayette station,” explained Wright.
The newly rehabilitated mezzanine will have its own distinguishing characteristic, however. At the top of the atrium the MTA is installing a honeycomb-patterned LED light sculpture by artist Leo Villareal, which is entitled Hive.
From a structural engineering point of view, the project presented challenges familiar to all who have sought to adapt and rehabilitate early-20th-century constructions. “Most of the drawings from 1904 that we were working with didn’t have all the information,” said Denis Galvin, an engineer at Weidlinger. “So we had to obtain a lot of our information from observation and measurements, and design around what’s there.”
Weidlinger called for a new tunnel wall in order to expand the northbound IRT platform. They will also construct a new platform, roof, and tunnel duct manhole, and re-support the roof. Completing this work has necessitated excavating along the IRT tunnel box structure adjacent to an existing six-story building, garage, and giant billboard. The foundations of all of these structures had to be deepened and stabilized. Weidlinger expects all of this work to be carried out without interfering with train or utilities service.
The MTA hopes that opening up this transfer point will improve its network performance in Lower Manhattan. The northbound IRT is currently under capacity during the morning rush hour. Once riders coming from Brooklyn on the IND can make an easy northbound transfer, the MTA expects more people to use this route, thus relieving some of the congestion from stations in Lower Manhattan.
- Staten Island
After years of fighting, redesigns, and cutbacks, Frank Gehry is now officially off the Barclays Center, the Nets basketball arena that was to be the centerpiece of his sprawling 22-acre Atlantic Yards complex in central Brooklyn. According to a statement released by Forest City Ratner, Gehry Partners is now the master planner for the site, having been replaced by Ellerbe Becket as designer of the arena. The announcement came less than an hour after the Times reported the news, which was attributed to various government officials and real estate developers who had seen plans for the new arena.
“Throughout this process—as litigation produced delay; as rising construction costs impacted the budgets of all developers; and a slowing economy altered expectations—Frank and his team have shown remarkable flexibility and professionalism, making cost-effective revisions as needed,” Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner, said in the statement. “The current economic climate is not right for this design, and with Frank’s understanding, the arena is undergoing a redesign that will make it more limited in scope.”
Last week, news broke that Ellerbe Becket was involved with the arena project, though at the time, Forest City Ratner maintained that Gehry was as well, which was not exactly surprising given the announcement in December that value-engineering was underway. According to the Times, the arena is now expected to cost $800 million, down from a projected $1 billion. A Ratner spokesperson declined to give exact figures, though he suggested the developer did not object to those numbers, either.
Asked for a timeline on the rest of the project, which includes 16 residential and office towers in addition to the arena, the spokesperson said that remained undecided, as the first priority was finishing the arena. But the spokesperson also suggested that Gehry Partners’ involvement might have come to an end. “Frank might design one of the buildings later, I don’t think it’s impossible,” the spokesperson said. “But right now, he is just the master planner.”
Calls to Ellerbe Becket were not returned, but the Times managed to wrangle a rendering of the project (seen above), despite Forest City Ratner’s release stating that images would not be available until the end of the month. Gehry’s swooping glass and metal designs have been swapped for a more traditional brick facade—something that has, in some ways, already been proposed—that is not unlike Ellerbe Becket’s Conseco Fieldhouse, home to the Indianapolis Pacers.
Gehry had long been seen as a linchpin to the project’s success, touted on the Atlantic Yards website and by numerous politicians. At the announcement of the project in December 2003, Borough President Marty Markowitz declared, “Brooklyn is a world-class city, and it deserves a world-class team in a world-class arena designed by a world-class architect.”
With the announcement of the Gehry removal, Markowitz has not changed his tune, though he is singing in a different key. “The great architect Frank Gehry has been absolutely central to creating the guiding vision for this project, and Ellerbe Becket is one of the best firms in the business—so we can be confident that the Nets and Brooklyn will indeed have a world-class, stunning arena here in Downtown Brooklyn,” Markowitz said in a statement.
Whether or not the switch will cause greater political fallout at the state and city levels remains to be seen, but Daniel Goldstein, head of anti-Yards group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, believes it will. “The project is a zombie project,” he said in a phone interview from Cleveland, where he has flown to attend Forest City’s annual shareholder meeting. “Governor Paterson had to take control and end the charade that this project benefits the public in any way.”
The greater political threat may not even come from Frank Gehry’s departure but from a handful of bureaucrats. Tomorrow, the Independent Budget Office is expected to release a report that shows that the arena, instead of netting a possible $25 million in tax revenues over 30 years, could end up costing the city money, as its contributions have risen from $100 million to $205 million.
Furthermore, Forest City Ratner’s efforts to renegotiate its $100 million payment to the MTA, which are due to be heard at a June 23 meeting, point to ongoing financial problems. “They want to pay $20 million upfront and the rest at a date to be determined,” Goldstein said. “If $80 million is that big of a deal to them, then they’re still in a lot of trouble.”
He also questioned whether Barclays would still be interested in paying $400 million over the course its 20-year naming-rights deal, now that it would not be attached to a Frank Gehry-designed building.
It has not been all bad news for Gehry, however, as Forest City Ratner announced on Monday that the architect’s 76-story Beekman Tower would go ahead as planned, instead of being capped at 40 stories as had been considered earlier this year. Could that decision have had any bearing on today’s announcement? “No, I don’t think there’s any connection,” the Forest City Ratner spokesperson said. “These are business decisions.”
Update: Earlier this morning, Ellerbe Becket sent AN the following statement:
"We are thrilled to be working on what will be a world-class sports and entertainment venue," Bill Crocket, a firm principal, said. "In partnership with Forest City Ratner, we will deliver a spectacular arena that will give Brooklyn the first-class facility it deserves."