Search results for "situ studio"

Placeholder Alt Text

Into the Woods
Swedish designers Front created a comfortable couch for Moroso, photo-printed to look like a hardwood bench.
Courtesy Moroso

Those attending this year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual orgy of the designer furniture market in Milan, might easily have expected slim pickings. Italian furniture exports to the United States in 2008 were down over the same period in 2007 by some 23 percent. In spite of these sobering numbers, however, there were plenty of savories on view, as well as light at the end of the tunnel from some brilliant fixtures at Euroluce, the lighting fair that takes place biannually alongside the Salone.

While many designers and manufacturers had the rhetoric of a new seriousness of purpose down pat, there really hasn’t been enough time to know for sure what impact grim economics might have on the shape of furnishings to come—the most ambitious pieces, after all, went into the works years ago. Designer Ross Lovegrove’s bamboo bicycle took Biomega three years to figure out how to produce, and Patricia Urquiola spent five years ironing out the technical complexities for Axor Hansgrohe, which cut openings into an ultrathin porcelain sink and spa tub that are wide enough for a towel, but also strong enough, incredibly, to sit on.


philippe starck's masters chair for kartell.


from moooi's ever-irreverent marcel wanders.
 
PATRICIA URQUIOLA'S ULTRATHIN SINK FOR AXOR HANSGROHE.

all images courtesy respective manufacturers

 
 

Derring-do furniture takes time—and investment money—to develop, and quite probably there is going to be less of it in the years ahead. Italian manufacturers were blunt about the new realities. Edra’s Massimo Morozzi told a crowd of Italian journalists that, to his mind, the current situation offered two options: suicide or shine. The creative director of Edra, known for its splashy furnishings, has naturally opted for the latter, showing crazy-colored, artificial-fur-covered couches designed by Edra’s discovery the Campana Brothers, who were inspired by cats hanging around their studio. In spite of the piece’s lumpy look, it was deeply comfortable, as reassuring as a cat in the lap. Over at Moooi there was a sparkly light designed by 70-year-old newcomer Raimond Puts, an inventor based in Amsterdam, along with Moooi founder Marcel Wanders’ own porcelain piggy bank with a none-too-subtle porcelain hammer stabbed in its back.

Along with the mordant humor, there was a palpable sense of longing for furniture to be plainer, simpler, and possibly even clunky. Four-by-fours are in, along with just about anything made of cheap wood. (Or even fake wood. For Moroso, the Swedish design group Front made an upholstered couch that only looks like a hardwood bench thanks to a new photo-print technique.) Brit designer Tom Dixon made his three-legged Offcut Stool out of wood remnants scavenged from a furniture factory, even leaving on the rough bits to show their authenticity as trash. For his part, Tord Boontje did a one-of-a-kind dining table with a compressed wood-chip surface covered in paint splatters that look like violets, mixed with real pressed flowers. And for Artek, Shigeru Ban’s Ten Unit System ingeniously solved the global paper manufacturer Upim’s problem by using leftover, plastic-coated paper that is fabricated in two identical, L-shaped pieces that lock into a chair without waste. Rather than pop-psychologizing about wood and warmth, Murray Moss of the Moss design empire pinpointed why wood now feels so right: “Production-wise, there are lower initial costs to using more basic materials like wood as compared to, say, the cost of injection-molded polycarbonates. I think we’ll also start seeing a lot of techno-crafts where high-tech materials are handled in a more craftsmanlike way, or imperfect materials are put into high-tech production. I call it ‘random serial production’ where the materials themselves are not stable, and so every piece comes out differently, and unique.”


shigeru ban's ten unit system for artek.
  
              

Still, a hankering for familiar forms of the past was much in evidence. Philippe Starck, ever the divining rod for new trends, came swanning into the Kartell booth in pajama bottoms—a swirl of pretty girls in his wake—to pose for photographs of his latest piece, Masters, an homage to midcentury pragmatism. A simple red plastic chair, its back is a mash-up of three iconic chairs by Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, and Charles and Ray Eames. For Established & Sons, Sam Hecht of Industrial Facility designed a bent-wood chair-bench-table, basically an extended wood slab with table legs and a chair back echoing shapes by the Shakers, Ming dynasty thrones, and midcentury Wegner. “We wanted it to be deliberately low tech and dependent more on the hand than the machine, even though we usually deal with machines and mass production,” said Hecht, the creative director for Muji, and more recently a consultant for Herman Miller. “Lower numbers mean less risk. It just seemed more relevant that way.”

And so went the message this year at the furniture fair: Straight on until we are out of the woods. Some designers seemed well suited to the task. The Campana Brothers, whose inspiration has long been rooted in the slums of Sao Paulo, were perfectly at home in the moment. “A sense of crisis is nothing new for us,” said Fernando Campana at a press conference introducing the furry sofa, Cipria. “We were inoculated by Brazil, so we can bring some positive vibes to the situation. For us, the cure for crisis is always creativity.”

That sentiment was seconded by Jeffrey Bernett, an American designer based in Milan and creative director for a dicey new enterprise, called Skitsch, a manufacturer-store and retailer-internet catalog that hopes to close the gap between producers and consumers with a collection of exclusive products by both well-known and newly discovered design talents, from the Campanas to Todd Bracher working out of Brooklyn’s Navy Yard. “Right now, everyone is trying to deal with the change and still work in interesting ways,” said Bernett at the opening party for the first Skitsch flagship store. “It’s easy to do great work when the resources are plentiful. It will be interesting to see what designers can do with just a little. It’s a benchmark time.”

The Campana Brothers' feline-inspired couch for Edra.

 

Sam Hecht of Industrial Facility designed a bent-wood chair-bench-table for Established & Sons
 
Placeholder Alt Text

Into the Woods
Swedish designers Front created a comfortable couch for Moroso, photo-printed to look like a hardwood bench.
Courtesy Moroso

Those attending this year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual orgy of the designer furniture market in Milan, might easily have expected slim pickings. Italian furniture exports to the United States in 2008 were down over the same period in 2007 by some 23 percent. In spite of these sobering numbers, however, there were plenty of savories on view, as well as light at the end of the tunnel from some brilliant fixtures at Euroluce, the lighting fair that takes place biannually alongside the Salone.

While many designers and manufacturers had the rhetoric of a new seriousness of purpose down pat, there really hasn’t been enough time to know for sure what impact grim economics might have on the shape of furnishings to come—the most ambitious pieces, after all, went into the works years ago. Designer Ross Lovegrove’s bamboo bicycle took Biomega three years to figure out how to produce, and Patricia Urquiola spent five years ironing out the technical complexities for Axor Hansgrohe, which cut openings into an ultrathin porcelain sink and spa tub that are wide enough for a towel, but also strong enough, incredibly, to sit on.


philippe starck's masters chair for kartell.


from moooi's ever-irreverent marcel wanders.
 
PATRICIA URQUIOLA'S ULTRATHIN SINK FOR AXOR HANSGROHE.

all images courtesy respective manufacturers

 
 

Derring-do furniture takes time—and investment money—to develop, and quite probably there is going to be less of it in the years ahead. Italian manufacturers were blunt about the new realities. Edra’s Massimo Morozzi told a crowd of Italian journalists that, to his mind, the current situation offered two options: suicide or shine. The creative director of Edra, known for its splashy furnishings, has naturally opted for the latter, showing crazy-colored, artificial-fur-covered couches designed by Edra’s discovery the Campana Brothers, who were inspired by cats hanging around their studio. In spite of the piece’s lumpy look, it was deeply comfortable, as reassuring as a cat in the lap. Over at Moooi there was a sparkly light designed by 70-year-old newcomer Raimond Puts, an inventor based in Amsterdam, along with Moooi founder Marcel Wanders’ own porcelain piggy bank with a none-too-subtle porcelain hammer stabbed in its back.

Along with the mordant humor, there was a palpable sense of longing for furniture to be plainer, simpler, and possibly even clunky. Four-by-fours are in, along with just about anything made of cheap wood. (Or even fake wood. For Moroso, the Swedish design group Front made an upholstered couch that only looks like a hardwood bench thanks to a new photo-print technique.) Brit designer Tom Dixon made his three-legged Offcut Stool out of wood remnants scavenged from a furniture factory, even leaving on the rough bits to show their authenticity as trash. For his part, Tord Boontje did a one-of-a-kind dining table with a compressed wood-chip surface covered in paint splatters that look like violets, mixed with real pressed flowers. And for Artek, Shigeru Ban’s 1- Unit Systemd ingeniously solved the global paper manufacturer Upim’s problem by using leftover, plastic-coated paper that is fabricated in two identical, L-shaped pieces that lock into a chair without waste. Rather than pop-psychologizing about wood and warmth, Murray Moss of the Moss design empire pinpointed why wood now feels so right: “Production-wise, there are lower initial costs to using more basic materials like wood as compared to, say, the cost of injection-molded polycarbonates. I think we’ll also start seeing a lot of techno-crafts where high-tech materials are handled in a more craftsmanlike way, or imperfect materials are put into high-tech production. I call it ‘random serial production’ where the materials themselves are not stable, and so every piece comes out differently, and unique.”


shigeru ban's reconfigurable chair for artek.
  
              

Still, a hankering for familiar forms of the past was much in evidence. Philippe Starck, ever the divining rod for new trends, came swanning into the Kartell booth in pajama bottoms—a swirl of pretty girls in his wake—to pose for photographs of his latest piece, Masters, an homage to midcentury pragmatism. A simple red plastic chair, its back is a mash-up of three iconic chairs by Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, and Charles and Ray Eames. For Established & Sons, Sam Hecht of Industrial Facility designed a bent-wood chair-bench-table, basically an extended wood slab with table legs and a chair back echoing shapes by the Shakers, Ming dynasty thrones, and midcentury Wegner. “We wanted it to be deliberately low tech and dependent more on the hand than the machine, even though we usually deal with machines and mass production,” said Hecht, the creative director for Muji, and more recently a consultant for Herman Miller. “Lower numbers mean less risk. It just seemed more relevant that way.”

And so went the message this year at the furniture fair: Straight on until we are out of the woods. Some designers seemed well suited to the task. The Campana Brothers, whose inspiration has long been rooted in the slums of Sao Paulo, were perfectly at home in the moment. “A sense of crisis is nothing new for us,” said Fernando Campana at a press conference introducing the furry sofa, Cipria. “We were inoculated by Brazil, so we can bring some positive vibes to the situation. For us, the cure for crisis is always creativity.”

That sentiment was seconded by Jeffrey Bernett, an American designer based in Milan and creative director for a dicey new enterprise, called Skitsch, a manufacturer-store and retailer-internet catalog that hopes to close the gap between producers and consumers with a collection of exclusive products by both well-known and newly discovered design talents, from the Campanas to Todd Bracher working out of Brooklyn’s Navy Yard. “Right now, everyone is trying to deal with the change and still work in interesting ways,” said Bernett at the opening party for the first Skitsch flagship store. “It’s easy to do great work when the resources are plentiful. It will be interesting to see what designers can do with just a little. It’s a benchmark time.”

The Campana Brothers' feline-inspired couch for Edra.

 

Sam Hecht of Industrial Facility designed a bent-wood chair-bench-table for Established & Sons
 
Placeholder Alt Text

Civic Park of the Mind
The new Civic Park stretches from City Hall to the Rose Chandler Music Hall in Downtown.
Courtesy Rios Clementi Hale

New designs for Civic Park, the recreational area linked to the $3.1 billion Grand Avenue development in downtown LA, were presented to the public on March 11. The project, a re-working of three concretized, LA County lots that link the Dorothy Chandler Music Center to Los Angeles City Hall, has been cited by Los Angeles politicians as a key benefit to the Grand Avenue project, which will receive millions of dollars in public subsidies.

The refined design is the newest go-round by landscape architects Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH). In April 2008, the firm presented two different schemes for the park: A “base scheme” that brought the design within the park’s $56 million budget and served to tie the three blocks, interrupted by streets and parking ramps, together. The second, an “enhanced scheme,” could be filled with more esoteric components—like a community pavilion indicated by colorful sunshades—as additional funds became available.


One of the greatest changes to the new plan is in the park's center block, with its "Court of Flags."
 
The 1960s Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain will become a centerpiece of the new park.
 
Ample lawns will replace acres of concrete.
All images COURTESY Rios Clementi Hale
 
The firm’s alteration of the base park adds more softscape to a project whose earlier iteration had been criticized for preserving too much paving. The most significant change comes to the park’s center block, which lies between Hill Street and Broadway, and currently features the “Court of Flags.” RCH now offers a broad walkway cutting through the center of the block, flanked by bands of community-like gardens on either side.

To represent LA’s ethnic diversity, the designers have proposed a 30,000-square-foot patchwork of varied mini-garden plots here.Terming this section of the park a “condensed Huntington Gardens,” RCH project manager Tony Paradowski sited a range of botanical species from Asian to African countries. The Court’s flags will be relocated to a group of steps and platforms overlooking Broadway to the south. The new design scheme also includes grow boxes throughout this terraced area, to add a hint of the natural environment to the previously barren steps.

According to Paradowski, the firm also added softscape to a “performance lawn” situated in the segment of Civic Park that lies between Hill Street and Grand Avenue, removing pathways that had cut through the area in a previous scheme. Gone, too, is trestle work that the firm had previously employed to disguise two intrusive ramps leading to an underground parking garage. Instead, more landscaping will be added between the park and the ramps.

Other new elements will include rows of olive trees sprouting from a hardscape court that forms a new “gathering space” on the west side of the performance lawn. The new scheme also more deeply engages the 1960s-era Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, creating a pool that incorporates a wading area and pop-up jets, if the budget will allow. The firm will also reduce the depth of the water to make the fountain more efficient.

The new designs for the park were presented to the LA Community Redevelopment Agency on April 2 and the Board of Supervisors on April 7. The County Board of Supervisors initially designated $56 million for the park. An additional $27.1 million in state funds, coming from California’s Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act, is on hold because that money is tied to construction of phase 1 of the delayed Grand Avenue project.

Placeholder Alt Text

Lighting

Bank of America Headquarters, One Bryant Park by Gensler with HDLC Architectural Lighting
Courtesy Gensler

 

DESIGNERS

Aurora Lampworks
172 North 11th St., Brooklyn
718-384-6039
www.auroralampworks.com

Bonilla Dacey Design Group
1275 15th St.
Fort Lee, NJ
201-917-5366
www.bonilladaceydesign.com 

Brandston Partnership
122 West 26th St., New York
212-924-4050
www.brandston.com 

Fisher Marantz Stone
22 West 19th St., New York
212-691-3020
www.fmsp.com 

HDLC Architectural Lighting
10 East 38th St., New York
212-529-7800
www.hdlclighting.com

Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design
200 Park Ave. South, New York
212-674-5580
www.hlblighting.com

Johnson Light Studio
335 West 38th St., New York
212-868-5204
www.johnsonlightstudio.com 

Lighting Workshop
20 Jay St., Brooklyn
212-796-6510
www.ltgworkshop.com 

lightTH!S
256 Hanover St.
Boston, MA
617-227-6920
www.light-this.com 

Office for Visual Interaction
207 West 25th St., New York
212-206-8600
www.oviinc.com 

Renfro Design Group
15 East 32nd St., New York
212-229-9990
www.renfrodesign.com

Sachs Morgan Studio
224 West 30th St., New York
212-765-4144
www.sachsmorganstudio.com 

Susan Brady Lighting Design
132 West 36th St., New York
212-967-1274

FIXTURES

Artemide
46 Greene St., New York
212-925-1588
www.artemide.us 

Boyd Lighting
944 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA
415-778-4300
www.boydlighting.com 

Broome Lampshade
325 Broome St., New York
212-431-9666
www.lampshadesny.com 

Crosslink
950 Bolger Ct.
St. Louis, MO
877-456-5864
www.crosslinkusa.com 

Liberty Lighting Group
100 Passaic Ave.
Chatham, NJ
973-701-0600
www.llgnjinc.com 

Lido Lighting
966 Grand Blvd.
Deer Park, NY
631-595-2000
www.lidolighting.com 

Lutron
7200 Suter Rd.
Coopersburg, PA
888-588-7661
www.lutron.com 

Michiko Sakano Glass
1155 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn
917-783-0893
www.michikosakano.com

O’Lampia Studio
155 Bowery, New York
212-925-1660
www.olampia.com 

Selux
5 Lumen Ln.
Highland, NY
845-691-7723
www.selux.com 

Vision Quest Lighting
90 13th Ave.
Ronkonkoma, NY
631-737-4800
www.vql.com

Zumtobel Lighting
44 West 18th St., New York
212-243-0460
www.zumtobel.com

 


scottsdale museum of contemporary art installation by studio luz with crosslink
 
COURTESY studio luz
 
 

“For our exhibit installation at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, we worked with Crosslink to develop a canopy with an integrated lighting system. It’s an electroluminescent film printed on fabric that’s flexible and very beautiful. They’re currently deploying the concept for military tent structures in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Hansy Better Barraza
Studio Luz Architects 

Michiko Sakano is amazing. She works on projects for the Smithsonian Museum as well as artists around the world. I believe she is one of the best glass designers and blowers in the world. Not only did she do our custom lighting at I Sodi but also vases, sconces, and even glasses for the bar.”
Josh Dworkis
Isadore Design Build 

“In addition to design, Bill Pierro is also a lighting consultant, so Lido Lighting is like one-stop shopping. He’ll come up with new products and solutions that will work for different situations. We used them to figure out the lighting in Bar Blanc and also the townhouse, and almost every project. “
Will Meyer
Meyer Davis Studio 

Aurora created very thin pancake electrical boxes that could be hidden in the historical fixtures at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, and even got them UL certified. And they got a great patination on the replicas they made.”
Jill Gotthelf
Walter Sedovic Architects

Placeholder Alt Text

Other Services and Suppliers

Double Crown by AvroKO with Synchro
Yuki Kuwana

 

COLOR

Donald Kaufman Color
336 West 37th St., New York
212-594-2608
www.donaldkaufmancolor.com

CUSTOM FABRICATION

Associated Fabrication
72 North 15th St., Brooklyn
718-387-4530
www.associatedfabrication.com 

F Product
250 St. Marks Ave., Brooklyn
917-202-2349
www.fproduct.net 

FIT Fabrication
310 Colfax Ave.
Clifton, NJ
973-685-7344 

Kenneth J. Herman
151 Dixon Ave.
Amityville, NY
631-789-4646
www.kennethjhermaninc.com 

Lancaster Knives
165 Court St.
Lancaster, NY
800-869-9666
www.lancasterknives.com 

Material Process Systems
87 Richardson St., Brooklyn
718-302-3081
www.materialprocess.com 

Showman Fabricators
47–22 Pearson Pl.
Long Island City
718-935-9899
www.showfab.com 

SITE NY
49 Bogart St., Brooklyn
718-366-7483
www.siteny.net 

Synchro
338 Berry St., Brooklyn
718-384-2096
www.synchro-pm.com

DECORATIVE FINISHES

David Higginbotham/Art Tech Decor
122 Ludlow St., New York
646-691-5017 

ELECTRICIAN

Pinnacle Electric
130–45 91st Ave.
Richmond Hill, NY
718-846-6200

EXCAVATION

Euro Excavation
976 McLean Ave.
Yonkers, NY
914-668-4616

MATERIALS CONSERVATION

Integrated Conservation Resources
41 East 11th St., New York
212-947-4499
www.icr-icc.com

MODELMAKER/RENDERER

IO Media
91 Fifth Ave., New York
212-352-1115
www.io-media.com

radii
66 Willow Ave.
Hoboken, NJ
201-420-4700
www.radiiinc.com

Saleh & Dirani
155 West 29th St., New York
212-736-8338 

Situ Studio
20 Jay St., Brooklyn
718-237-5795
www.situstudio.com

PAINTING & PLASTERWORK

EverGreene Painting Studios
450 West 31st St., New York
212-244-2800
www.evergreene.com 

Fine
1160 Rt. 22 West
Mountainside, NJ
908-301-1040
www.finepainting.com 

JM Painting Contractors
13 Bedford Dr.
Matawan, NJ
732-566-1272 

L & L Painting Company
900 South Oyster Bay Rd.
Hicksville, NY
516-349-1900
www.llpaint.com 

PLASTICS

3form
520 8th Ave., New York
212-627-0883
www.3-form.com 

Abet
60 West Sheffield Ave.
Englewood, NJ
800-228-2238
www.abetlaminati.com 

Foiltec
13 Green Mountain Dr.
Cohoes, NY
518-783-0575
www.foiltec.de 

Panelite
315 West 39th St., New York
212-947-8292
www.e-panelite.com 

Sandhill Plastics
119 W. 19th St.
Kearney, NE
308-236-5025
www.sandhillplastics.com 

Veritas/Robin Reigi
48 West 21st St., New York
212-924-5558
www.veritasideas.com 

PRINTING

Bio Graphix Digital
302 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn
866-441-4635
www.biographixdigital.com 

Duggal
29 West 23rd St., New York
212-924-8100
www.duggal.com 

SOLAR & SCREENING

AltPower
125 Maiden Ln., New York
212-206-0022
www.altpower.com

Colt International
New Lane, Havant
Hampshire, UK
+44-23-9245-1111
www.coltinfo.co.uk 

STEEPLEJACK

Vertical Access
P.O. Box 4135, Ithaca, NY
607-257-4049
www.vertical-access.com 

TECH SUPPORT

Control Group
233 Broadway, New York
212-343-2525
www.controlgroup.com 

Sinu
285 West Broadway, New York
212-380-1230
www.sinu.com 

Valiant
307 7th Ave., New York
646-775-2771
www.valiant-ny.com 

TENT FABRICATOR

J. Miller Canvas
2429 South Birch St.
Santa Ana, CA
714-641-0052
www.jmillercanvas.com

 


macondo by crÈme design with f product
 
COURTESY crÈme design

 

east harlem school by peter l. gluck & partners with euro excavation
 
COURTESY plgp
 
 

Donald Kaufman makes his own paint. White being my favorite, I’m really difficult with color, but I always come to terms with him very quickly. He comes up with solutions, and I always think how I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
Annabelle Selldorf
Selldorf Architects 

F Product did the gel pads for our stools at Macondo. The gel seats which we had them produce can be used as a top of a bar stool or an ottoman. We have worked with them on several occasions and they have the most interesting materials.”
Jun Aizaki
crème design 

David Higginbotham just keeps blowing our minds. We try not to tell him what we want and just try to get him to give us his ideas. At Thompson LES hotel we put a photo lithograph of stills from a Warhol Factory film by Gerard Malanga onto the tile at the bottom of the pool, and David even made sure the grout between the tiles matched to the image precisely.”
Ed Rawlings
Rawlings Architects 

“The East Harlem School site was fairly mushy and just in terms of staging everything and working with the concrete guy, the digger, Euro Excavation, really saved the day. We had a lot of dewatering to do and they pumped the water to the other side of the site and let it percolate down, which means we didn’t have to have a dewatering sub. That probably saved the project $35,000.”
Marc Gee
Peter L. Gluck & Partners 

“Some of the more striking elements in JWT are the tent elements, and the people we worked with on them really deserve credit—J. Miller Canvas. Jim Miller is a guy who is endlessly entertained by a challenge. We touch base early on in the process and outline our ideas for the project, and in tandem we come up with a solution. We’re really enthusiastic about him.”
Neil Muntzel
Clive Wilkinson Architects 


volcom by CCS architecture and site construction
 
COURTESY volcom
 
 

“The one person I would love to get listed as one of the best in New York is a specialty fabricator named Chris Larkin, who has a shop called Synchro in Williamsburg. In my rolodex, under job title, I have him listed as “bad ass,” and that’s about the best description of him. He has a metal machine shop as well as a wood shop, but what he really has is an ability to pretty much build anything with an unquenchable thirst for solving the unsolvable. I tell you, the man works miracles, I even saw him turn water into wine once. No joke, it was delicious.”
Adam Farmerie
AvroKO 

Site Construction produced solid results at Volcom. They didn’t compromise quality when speed and tight deadlines were a factor. Their experience was evident when value engineering and change orders were necessary, as they found ways to keep the project within budget while preserving design integrity vital to the success of the project.”
David Winston
CCS Architecture

Placeholder Alt Text

Rough Waters
Locals fear the aging marina, once a
courtesy Marina Del Rey CVB

With proposed development in Marina Del Rey that could add more than 3,700 residential units and 630 new hotel rooms, the County of Los Angeles has officially begun a process to determine whether it would adopt recent California Coastal Commission recommendations to limit and examine development and bring the marina’s Local Coastal Plan (LCP) into compliance with the California Coastal Act.

On October 29, the county held a meeting to gather public input about the Coastal Commission’s 67 recommendations—made on October 16—concerning density and urban planning. These included changing land use designations of parks or parking lots; a comprehensive study of anticipated future development; and incentives for free or lower-cost public uses on waterfront parcels. While the county is not required to follow the recommendations, it must provide the commission with a report specifying its reasons for not following them.

As the aging marina—once a bastion of stewardesses when air travel was the sleek new way to travel—has been slated for updates and new development, the county has faced increasingly contentious opposition to its handling of the roughly 950-acre marina, initially financed through a publicly-funded bond measure.

Underlying community objections is the fact that the county both owns the marina’s property and controls all planning in the area. Officials negotiate terms of leases with developers in closed-door sessions, leaving the public and urban planners with little capability to adjust those terms once they reach the design process. The Coastal Commission has therefore been viewed as a non-partisan decision-maker.

“The county is the landlord on every property, and development partner on every property,” noted Steve Freedman, a Venice resident who lives just feet from the marina’s property line. “I think there’s a term for that—conflict of interest.”

Freedman’s assertion is disputed by David Sommers, a spokesperson for County Supervisor Don Knappe, whose 4th district includes the marina. Sommers said the dual role, which dates back approximately 50 years, was “not a conflict,” and all decisions made by the Board of Supervisors are reviewed by several other entities.

But in October, the Board of Supervisors shifted some responsibilities, as well as the meetings of the local review board known as the Design Control Board (DCB), to the county’s regional planning commission downtown. A person familiar with the decision who agreed to speak with AN on condition of anonymity believed the move was partially to limit decisions that ran against developer interests, as in the case of the Woodfin Hotel. initially slated to be situated on protected wetlands. Though the project is now moving forward, the Design Control Board delayed its approval, requiring that its site plan be changed.

In an e-mail to AN, Susan Cloke, the Design Control Board’s chair said, “The recent action, removing site plan and conceptual review from the board’s authority, diminishes our ability to help the marina become all that it could be.” Cloke cited recreational activities like boating, walking, and cycling, essential to producing income for the area, that had been sidelined in favor of residential and commercial development.

“The magnificent thing about the marina is that it was designed as a resort for daily life,” observed John Chase, co-author of the book Everyday Urbanism. “But because the marina is county territory… there is little local control and accountability for the nature and quality of development there.”

According to Gina M. Natoli, supervising regional planner with the County of Los Angeles, the county will address the commission’s recommendation for a comprehensive study of development and the DCB will continue to exercise design review authority after the county has approved site plans. Among those on the DCB are planners like Simon Pastucha, whom Gail Goldberg appointed to the Urban Design Studio to set a design criteria system for walkable streets in the City of Los Angeles.

Additionally, the county’s Department of Beaches and Harbors is planning a study on the cumulative effect of all redevelopment projects that are in the proprietary or regulatory processes, according to Kerry Silverstrom, chief deputy director. The review will study the impacts of such large projects as the 19-story, 424-room and time-share unit Woodfin, large residential projects like a 544-unit apartment complex, and large-scale restaurants, retail, and mixed use.

The county’s October 29 public meeting also kicked off a series of working groups organized to review the Coastal Commission recommendations and report their input to the county’s Board of Supervisors. Natoli anticipates the county will complete its response to the Coastal Commission’s recommendations by October 2009.

Placeholder Alt Text

Blade Runner Barbie
Whether you are buying gifts this weekend or merely window-shopping, New Yorkers willing to brave the crowds on upper Madison Avenue can also see cutting edge architecture, albeit in miniature form. REX has designed a doll house for the Calvin Klein Collection, on view now through January 5, 2009 at their store on Madison at 60th Street. But this doll house isn’t child’s play. The structure, which looks like a large origami birdhouse suspended from diagonal braces, was built with the help of Magnusson Klemencic engineers and the fabricators at Situ Studio. While this rendering makes the piece look like it’s suspended between buildings on one of New York’s canyon-like streets, it is, in reality, hung in the window. Go see it for yourself. UPDATE: Here are some photographs of the doll house, for comparison with the rendering. It's pretty impressive. The interiors feature tiny versions of Calvin Klein's apparel, furniture, and home accessories lines.
Placeholder Alt Text

Profile: Dawanna Williams

Yoko Inoue
 
 

Dawanna Williams
Founder and Principal
Dabar Development Properties


From the perspective of an airship or an urban planner’s PowerPoint, the city may look like swathes of unified development along major avenues and big-acre sites like Rockefeller Center, Stuy Town, and Battery Park City. But on the street, urban dwellers experience the city block by block, building to building. It’s that smaller scale that appealed to Dawanna Williams, so much so that she left off lawyering to become a developer in what she calls “signature neighborhoods,” including Harlem, Fort Greene, and Bushwick.

In a field dominated by extensive family clans and an apprentice-eat-apprentice ethos, Williams, 38, comes from an atypical background. Raised in Atlanta by a single working mother, she went on to study economics and government at Smith College. She came to New York in 1997 and started working for law firms with a hand in corporate real estate. That led her to get involved in deals like the sale of the 1921 skyscraper 30 Wall Street and financing the rehabilitation of the Starrett-Lehigh in Chelsea. “I liked the idea of putting together projects that people would later enjoy,” said Williams and so, while still working as a lawyer, she started buying up townhouses in her own Clinton Hill neighborhood, renovating them into rental apartments and using the assets to make more purchases. “One of her strong qualities is Dawanna’s ability to address and resolve gracefully unforeseen issues,” said Hilary Weinstein, a vice president at the Community Preservation Corporation that financed Williams’ first Harlem project. “She has a great temperament for dealing with things, and that’s rare in developers.”

In 2003, Williams founded Dabar Development Partners and set out to work on small and medium-scale developments in emerging communities. The name Dabar comes from the Hebrew for “words from God,” which Williams came across while reading Deuteronomy in the Torah. “In the late 90s, I had seen how the big developers went for older buildings and vacant sites, and I thought I could apply that same approach in signature communities with undervalued assets.” Williams started scouting properties marked by what she calls “tangible and intangible hallmarks,” including historic resonance, architectural distinction, thriving churches, intellectuals, and artists. She found those qualities in Fort Greene and Bedford Stuyvesant where, while still a lawyer, she started working on townhouse deals with four to six units. It grew quickly into something she hadn’t really expected: a niche in high-quality housing in historic but undervalued communities.

The first significant project on her own was the $6.2 million Marshall building in Harlem. Taking two 1920s townhouses that had been vacant for some 40 years, Williams gutted them, added 34 feet to the back, and transformed them into ten one-, two- and three-bedroom condos with 11-foot ceilings, granite kitchens, and fireplaces. With the most expensive unit going for $872,600, the project sold out quickly.

Up until then, Williams worked for the most part with contractors, but then she met Paola Antonelli, a senior design curator at the Museum of Modern Art, and Thelma Goldin, director of the Studio Museum Harlem. Both encouraged her to take it up a notch and engage with more adventuresome architecture and emerging architects. Antonelli wrote in an email that Williams has “a deep understanding of the context where she is operating and on pushing herself always a bit beyond her own comfort zone in order to deliver not simply buildings, but meaningful additions to the urban and social landscape.”

She started working with Galia Solomonoff, an architect who designed, as part of OpenOffice, the Dia:Beacon museum and has also done time in such prestigious firms as OMA in The Netherlands and Bernard Tschumi and Rafael Viñoly in New York. For Dabar Development, Solomonoff is currently designing an unusual $26.5 million project on an enviable site smack in the middle of Central Park North. It’s a joint venture with the New York United Sabbath Day Adventists to rebuild a church on the site with a 15-story setback condominium tower. “Dawanna’s dual talent is her patience in bringing together seemingly opposite stakeholders—bankers, community, church—and her ability to seize on rewarding yet underestimated urban situations,” said Solomonoff. “She’s a dealmaker extraordinaire.”

Williams has also tapped Danois Architects, a firm with a background in sustainable design, including the completion of Melrose Commons in the South Bronx that won a top award for affordable green housing from the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association in 2003. Williams turned to David Danois in 2006 when Dabar was selected as one of 25 teams to participate in Mayor Bloomberg’s New Foundations Initiative for developing 236 city-owned abandoned or vacant lots. Dabar will build 22 town- and multifamily buildings on 17 sites in Bushwick and East New York, one-third of which will be affordable and all LEED-certified.

Casting an eye beyond the city, Williams discovered the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia, a kind of sixth-borough Dumbo that has drawn artists to its warehouse conversions and new construction. With rapper/ producer Jay-Z as an investor, she is well underway constructing a 24-loft, eight-story condominium designed by the Philadelphia firm EM Architecture on a site with views of Ben Franklin Bridge and a block over from the 11-story American Lofts building designed by Winka Dubbeldam.

So far, Williams said that the biggest challenge she has had to face as a developer of projects over 15,000 but under 60,000 square feet is financing. “New York is loaded with tenement developers and visionary project developers,” she said, “but there’s not a whole lot in between. The banks are better set up for those extremes, while midsized developers tend to be undefined and have to structure deals case by case.”

One by one suits Williams just fine, and she is even sanguine about the current economic downturn. “I believe in, I am even thankful for, corrections because I believe that in the end, the most qualified will remain in play.”

Editorial: Into the Open

The urge to take architecture beyond buildings is aspirational, timely, and increasingly unavoidable. Sure, thinking outside the traditional four walls makes sense as a business model in today’s flagging bricks-and-mortar economy. And then there’s the need to rethink our constant depletion of ever scarcer materials in the service of buildings with their own shrinking life spans. If architects are no longer building for the ages, what does it mean to build for a season, or not at all?

And so it seemed to make perfect sense when it was announced that the theme of the 11th Architecture Biennale in Venice, due to open on September 14, was Out There: Beyond Building. Aaron Betsky, director of the Cincinnati Museum and a longtime champion of the new next thing, is planning a multi-media blitz where architecture, he said, “is a way of representing, shaping, and perhaps even offering critical alternatives to the human-made environment.” The early word is that Betsky’s notion could translate into a variety of showstoppers at the biennale, from interactive movie walls to on-site espresso made from water piped in from the Grand Canal.

Yet there are other “critical alternatives” for architects that focus more on the street-level situations that alter everyday life. To explore the ways that architects are working well beyond the construction of four walls, AN has joined with a group of architects, academics, and designers to create an exhibition for the U.S. pavilion at the biennale. Called Into the Open: Positioning Practice, the exhibition’s aim is to document an emerging but widespread effort, a kind of social regionalism, that ranges from exploring what it means to live literally on the border to the socializing implications of something so simple as a kitchen garden or mapping the correlation between drug use and housing.

Some of the work to be included in the show will be as familiar as the community-based projects of Rural Studio and the border-crossing provocations of Teddy Cruz. Others are environmentally savvy offshoots of past design-build movements or research-heavy urban laboratories that translate data into calls for action. Still others reflect an artist’s awareness of the subtle atmospheric shifts that can lead to major realignments in urban environments, as in the work of the Brooklyn-based Center for Urban Pedagogy or the Heidelberg Project in Detroit.

Some 15 groups from across the nation will be part of Into the Open. Together they paint a heartening portrait of a new generation of architects eager to seize an active role in shaping the world—not merely with bricks and mortar but with open minds as well.

Placeholder Alt Text

Rudolph Revisited
The restored Rudolph Building, above left, includes improved mechanical systems and new sustainable features. Gwathmey Siegel's addition, above right and rendered below, will house the History of Art department.
Courtesy Gwathmey Siegel & Associates

 

Paul Rudolph’s 1963 Art & Architecture Building at Yale University may be the most hapless masterwork in the canon of modern architecture, but its fortunes appear to be changing. This early example of brutalism is being restored to Rudolph’s original intention by one of his students, Charles Gwathmey, who received his Master of Architecture degree there in 1962. He has also designed a reverent addition, linked in name to a key donor from the same class and to be known as the Jeffrey Loria Center, which will house the university’s history of art department. The client is another student of Rudolph’s, Robert A. M. Stern, class of ‘65, currently the dean of the Yale School of Architecture. The entire project, budgeted at $126 million, is due to be completed by mid-August.

Paul Rudolph designed the building, known on campus as the A&A Building, while he was chair of the Yale School of Architecture. An intricately conceived, grooved, bush-hammered concrete structure with 37 levels on 10 floors, it was hailed by critics as a marvel of space, light, and mass. But its fortress-like appearance, rigid plan, and indifference to its neighbors won few campus admirers. In that era of political uproar, students saw it as an emblem of establishment arrogance. In 1969, it was severely damaged in a fire, the cause of which was never determined.

To make matters worse, Rudolph’s successor as chair of the architecture department was the postmodernist Charles Moore. He oversaw the building’s reconstruction, including the removal of asbestos insulation throughout. To address students’ needs, Moore permitted the ad hoc partitioning of the interior, significantly altering its spatial integrity. Over the years, other alterations further diluted Rudolph’s vision, causing him to ultimately disavow what had once been considered his crowning achievement. “The building was a victim,” said a rueful Gwathmey, who was a leading defender of modernism in the style wars of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Ironically, one of his chief antagonists was the young turk postmodernist Stern. While Stern calls Rudolph “the most talented architect of his generation,” his commitment to renovating his professor’s landmark is as a historicist.

While there is a renewed critical interest in Paul Rudolph, Stern notes that getting Yale to restore the much-derided building was “a hard sell.” The university only agreed because tearing it down would have been more expensive. While Gwathmey proudly recalls evenings in grad school “spent hunched over a drafting board with my rapidograph, working on the building’s plans,” he was not the original choice for the task. Stern first selected Richard Meier to design the addition and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s David Childs, class of ‘67, to undertake the renovation. But dividing the project between two architects proved unfeasible. Rumor has it that the collaboration between the teams was less than smooth, and that Meier’s addition blocked the panoramic views from the building’s upper-floor studios, one of its few cherished features, irritating the architecture faculty. Apparently in response to all this dysfunction, the renovation’s patron, Yale alumnus Sid Bass, whose Fort Worth home is one of Rudolph’s most celebrated residential designs, pulled his pledge of $20 million. More evidence, it seemed, that the building was jinxed.

Gwathmey professes ignorance of what exactly prompted the earlier team’s dismissal or Bass’s displeasure, conceding only that “it’s a challenging commission because the clients are all architects.” He added that Meier graciously provided him with his model of the building when he took over the project in 2005. Happily, when Bass saw Gwathmey’s new scheme he reinstated his gift, along with the stipulation that the renovated structure be known henceforth as the Rudolph Building.


EZRA STOLLER/ESTO


EZRA STOLLER/ESTO


COURTESY GWATHMEY SIEGEL & ASSOCIATES

The A&A Building as it appeared in 1963 (top), in bold contrast to Louis Kahn’s Yale University Art Gallery (center) across the street. The Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library (above) links the original structure to its addition.
 

Gwathmey’s firsthand knowledge of Rudolph’s design was of little use during the renovation. Intimidated by building next door to Louis Kahn’s Yale University Art Gallery, Rudolph not only designed numerous iterations of what he hoped would be the greatest modernist building of its day, but he also continued to tinker with his design even during the construction process. This was possible because the university had negotiated a time and materials contract with the builder. “The more complicated it got, the better he liked it,” Gwathmey chuckled. “Almost every day we discovered conditions that were not in the plans.” Unfortunately, Rudolph’s ambition surpassed the construction technologies of the time, and by the time the university was ready to renovate, the building was in poor condition, with rebar poking through the concrete in some places.

For Gwathmey, one of the worst indignities to Rudolph’s building was the installation of insulated fenestration composed of small busy panes, which detracted from the building’s spatial rhythms. He rectified matters by installing what are the largest panes of Viracon insulated panes ever fabricated. He has also restored Rudolph’s clerestories, his dramatic open spaces on the main floor and between the fourth and fifth floors, and the internal bridge. Gwathmey’s scrupulous attention to detail has extended to commissioning an orange carpet based on the exact specifications of a two-inch-wide swath of rug rescued from the original building, and to designing lighting fixtures fitted with energy-efficient metal halide bulbs that mimic the exposed incandescent ones in the suspended lighting system Rudolph conceived for the building.

One of the reasons students deemed the building arrogant was that while Rudolph fussed over architectural details like custom lighting, he neglected creature comforts like air conditioning, which made the building insufferable in summer. Remedying this situation posed a challenge because there was little tolerance in the ceiling for wiring and ducts. Gwathmey opted for an energy-efficient radiant ceiling panel system, which cut the ductwork by two thirds. (The project has a LEED Silver rating.)

Accessibility posed another contemporary challenge for designers. Few buildings could be more hostile to the disabled than the A&A. So that it would comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Gwathmey placed additional elevators in the tower at the A&A’s north end, which he transformed into the fulcrum between the building and its addition. The tower also houses a handicap-accessible lobby and entrance for the main lecture theater, Hastings Hall. While there are still multilevel passages that are not accessible by wheelchair, there are now alternative routes.

Gwathmey has sought to give the adjacent zinc-paneled Loria Center an identity of its own, while engaging the A&A in a visual dialogue, matching the glazed void of its facade with a protruding limestone solid that similarly has three rows of windows. His addition consists of a three-story base with a tower rising to the same height as the Rudolph building. Its outdoor terraces on the fourth and seventh floors offer views of the building never before seen. Linking the two on the ground floor is an expanded glass and aluminum library, which for the first time brings together the university’s art, architecture, drama, and arts of the book collections under one roof. Gwathmey’s use of zinc and limestone is an attempt to remedy Rudolph’s supposed contextual indifference. Louis Kahn’s nearby Center for British Art is also clad in zinc, and the limestone not only picks up the hue of Rudolph’s concrete, but is also a material used throughout Yale’s old campus.

Ornery but brilliant, much like the man himself, the Rudolph Building will doubtless provoke and inspire many generations of Yale students to come. However, once a statement of a defiant modernity, it is today an architectural relic, making it an instructive icon as well.

Placeholder Alt Text

Ribbons in the Sky
UNStudio's Five Franklin Place.
Courtesy Archpartners 2008

Though famous for the winding and unwinding Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart and the iconic Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, until now Dutch firm UNStudio, led by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos, had not had an opportunity to build in New York City. On May 7, they unveiled the design for a 20-story residential tower in Manhattan, Five Franklin Place.

Situated amid the cobblestone streets of Tribeca, Five Franklin Place has 55 apartments and three living types—lofts, city residences, and penthouses. As in so many other high-end condominiums, the developer, Sleepy Hudson, will lure future residents with amenities like a well-designed gym, a private spa, an elegant lobby, and lip-smacking 360-degree views over Manhattan. As far as slick and sexy renderings in sales brochures can give a reliable idea of future spaces, these will be beautiful: operable walls in the bathrooms, floating mezzanines, internal glass cab elevators for the penthouses, and walls connecting libraries, kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms that make one’s thoughts drift to delightful visions of Bond Girls and secret service devices.

But it is the facade that will grant Five Franklin Place a special place among the architectural ranks of the city. Whereas most new apartment buildings either hide behind ostentatious gift-wrap or are wallpapered with generic patterns of glass and concrete, UNStudio promises a combination of contextualism and a subtle displacement of typical expectations. Inspired by the strong but often overlooked decorative horizontal elements found in the historic cast-iron buildings of Tribeca, the architects are wrapping corners, balconies, and terraces in swirling, reflective black metal bands of varying widths. Whereas a horizontal line in a facade typically indicates a new floor, Van Berkel and Bos lightheartedly play with the sense of scale that the passerby uses to read the city on a day-to-day basis. Their horizontal ribbons placed at varying distances give no indication of floors, and will leave us questioning the height of Five Franklin Place. Once completed, these bands could give the building the strange and pulsating energy of an accordion at standstill—anytime, one could expect the building to stretch itself up to greater heights or come down to the level of surrounding buildings. By redefining Tribeca’s notion of decorative horizontality, UNStudio’s Five Franklin Place might effectively straddle the historicizing and the blingification most new condominiums appear to struggle with these days.

Eavesdrop: Alissa Walker

LIFE’S NOT SO GRAND
Well, October came and went and despite earlier announcements, if our keen Eavesdrop eyesight serves us correctly, the Grand Avenue project in downtown Los Angeles has still not broken ground. Where, oh where to place the blame now? Some say civic bureaucracy, some say steel costs, but we don’t buy either of those excuses since AEG’s L.A. Live seems to be progressing quite nicely just down the street. We do know that the designers are starting to feel the pinch. Our top-level informants tell us that Gehry Partners have put a freeze on hiring, a first in at least the last decade at the firm. And that was before the whole lawsuit from MIT citing “design flaws” in his Stata Center building. Meanwhile, Gehry himself was shilling for Audi’s new Cross Cabriolet Quattro at the L.A. Auto Show. We hear you can pick up some serious cash in those spokesman gigs.

SCI-ARC TENT CITY 
No, those people sleeping in SCI-Arc’s parking lot in early November weren’t students down on their luck, they were actually four artists recruited to inhabit experimental structures built by instructor Stephanie Smith’s design studio. Iana QuesnellAlex NerouliasJelani Haywood, and Aaron Garber-Maikovska occupied the scaffold-like aluminum shelters for ten days, and were challenged to manipulate their dwellings to explore the architecture of temporary living situations. Quesnell, a Tijuana-based artist, spent all ten nights in the downtown parking lot foraging in the SCI-Arc trash for bedding materials, bathing in a bucket shower of her own design, and using discarded sawblades to keep rats from climbing into her living room. Although her past work has included living in her truck and a stint in a tent in Bosnia, Quesnell described the situation as intense. “The first five days were a blast,” she said, “but by the sixth day I was finished.” The structures will remain up until November 30.

LONELY, LONELY LAUTNER 
World-famous mid-century modern structure. Seminal work by leading architect. Reduced to $495,000. That’s the reality in Desert Hot Springs, where a 1947 John Lautner motel can’t sell to save its life. Sure, the four-unit property, which went on the market after former owner Steve Lowe died suddenly in January, could use some work, but what gives? Tony Merchell, who managed the motel as recently as 2005, and now manages April Greiman and Michael Rotundi’s Miracle Manor nearby, says it’s actually because the neighborhood is just really …unattractive. “This neighborhood is basically no better or worse than other Desert Hot Springs neighborhoods, it’s just kinda ugly,” he said, describing the immediate area as speculative development, infill houses, vacant lots, and trailer parks. He says people who are familiar with the Julius Shulman photos showing the motel surrounded by 160 empty acres are scared away when they come to see the property. But once you get inside, says Merchell—who has slept in all four rooms—none of that matters. “All the windows and views are to the sky. It’s like looking into another world.”