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Like many private education companies, Career Education has struggled with declining enrollment over the past few years and has been losing money. The company's 2014 revenue fell to $736.9 million from $834.1 million in the year prior, and its loss widened to $178.2 million from $164.3 million in 2013.Nationally enrollment has declined at for-profit universities, as well. “We're saddened,” said McCoy. “We are. We are happy to have been able to partner with Columbia College, and the underlying thing is we're not closing the door on our students.”
Ten years ago Philadelphia architects might have asked themselves “why am I here when I could be in New York or Washington where there is so much more opportunity?” Today however, according to architect Brian Phillips, “the situation has totally flipped and the city is a place where people are encouraged to take risks.” Unlike a place like Boston, which is so put together, Phillips said Philly is still a work in progress and presents an exciting laboratory for architects. Today it is not only a place where young designers want (and can afford) to live and work, but a city that is once again looking to architects and urbanists to reinvigorate its de-industrialized core and give it a new identity. In fact, Philadelphia’s belief in what physical design can achieve and mean for daily life can be traced all the way back to William Penn’s utopian grid plan for the city. Though his plan was almost immediately overwhelmed by commercial demands, it set the stage for the city to be a place that makes linkages between planning, design, and its future.
R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia; Terry Foss
For example, Louis Kahn—Philadelphia’s greatest mid-century architect and mentor to generations of the city’s best designers, including Robert Venturi—worked on urban design plans for the city and its Planning Commission between 1939 and 1962. His urban design, traffic studies, and schematic tower buildings became iconic images, not just for Philadelphia, but for the entire nation’s urban renewal efforts. Then there are the massive physical changes brought to the center city by planner Edmund Bacon during the 1950s and 60s that also helped define the direction of American urban renewal. The bold and controversial changes that Bacon brought to the city can still be seen in the open landscaped plans of Penn Center, Society Hill, and Independence Mall. The other important architectural influence on Philadelphia is The University of Pennsylvania’s school of architecture (now Penn Design), which was founded in 1868 as the second university-based architecture school in the country. The importance of this school to Philadelphia is arguably more pronounced than any other American school to its host city. Its faculty—which has included such luminaries as G. Holmes Perkins, Lewis Mumford, Martin Meyerson, and Edmund Bacon—has periodically been engaged with Philadelphia’s urban condition. Under current dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor, the school has continued this tradition with faculty members like the late Detlef Mertens and today Witold Rybczynski, Marion Weiss, Winka Dubbeldam, Stephen Kieren, and James Timberlake engaging regularly in urban issues. The international reputation of the school has also brought major faculty figures to the United States who have influenced the course of the city’s (and the nation’s) architecture, including, in 1903, Frenchman Paul Cret, Denise Scott Brown, and the Scotsman Ian McHarg. McHarg, the father of environmental landscape planning, re-energized the Penn program in the 1950s and 60s and made it one of the most important landscape programs in the country. It has produced figures like Laurie Olin and James Corner and the current chair, Australian Richard Weller.
It would be hard to imagine the city’s great landscaped thoroughfare, Benjamin Franklin Parkway, without the influence of Penn faculty, from Cret who helped design the boulevard to Venturi and Scott Brown and Olin. A product of the early 20th century City Beautiful movement in urban design, the boulevard cuts across the Philly’s grid and was intended to alleviate industrial congestion, but it has became a grand cultural district that includes the Free Library of Philadelphia, Franklin Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rodin Museum, and now Todd Williams Billie Tsien’s new Barnes Museum with Parkway fronting gardens by Olin Associates. The panoramic image created by Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown for a 1976 U.S. bi-centennial celebration along the Franklin Parkway is a landmark of early post-modern concept and design. The city is making this historic boulevard, which was never a pedestrian friendly space, a best practices laboratory, attempting to knit it better into the urban fabric. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, which concludes the boulevard, has recently inaugurated a new garden designed by the late sculptor Sol LeWitt. Titled Garden Lines in Four Directions in Flowers, it consists of four different colors (white, yellow, red, and blue) arranged in four equal rectangular plots and rows going in four directions. It is intended to be colorful in all seasons. LeWitt designed it thirty years ago, but it only opened on the parkway last year. The parkway also has new OLIN–designed gardens and the Paul Cret–designed Rodin Museum, which features gardens by Jacque Greber, and the Barnes Foundation, all of which give a new emphasis to pedestrians. Nearby, where the Parkway meets Logan Square, The City Center District, a public-private organization, has just opened Sister Cities Park, which includes a Children’s Discovery Garden, Café, Visitor Center, and fountain. Designed by Philadelphia architecture firm DIGSAU and Studio | Bryan Hanes landscape architects, it is the most important new public space in the city along with Field Operations’ Race Street Pier, Erdy McHenry’s Independence Café, and a meandering 24-acre park and play fields that Michael Van Valkenberg Associates has created between the Schuylkill River, Amtrak rail line, and a highway.
It is not just planning and landscape design that makes Philadelphia a hub of creativity, but also architecture. Perhaps the first really important building in the city was the Eastern State Penitentiary designed by architect John Haviland and opened in 1829. Though it is barely known today by architects, it was not only the second most expensive building in the country (after the U.S. Capital) when it was constructed, but its hub and spoke radial design quickly influenced the construction of at least 320 similar institutions around the world. This high perimeter walled 10 ½-acre facility was based on the Quaker-inspired notion of “confinement in solitude with labor.” While it seems a harsh environment today, it represented a major advancement in 19th century prison reform. It closed in 1971 after 142 years of active use and is now open to the public as a museum. It is not likely on many architects “must see” list when visiting the city, but it should be as it is a bricks and mortar reminder of how powerful architecture and its social programming are to those who inhabit its spaces.
New buildings in Philadelphia do not all receive the national press coverage that the new Barnes Collection facility garnered, but the city has a number of outstanding new works by local and regional architects that deserve to be better known. In the very heart of the city, adjacent to the 19th century City Hall (once the tallest masonry building in the world), Kieran Timberlake has designed Dilworth Plaza. The plaza combines landscape design (OLIN again) and architecture, including two soaring glass subway entrances, to improve accessibility while respecting the historic backdrop.
A dozen blocks west of City Hall and across the Schuylkill River, the University of Pennsylvania campus has always been a privileged zone of prestige architecture with buildings by Frank Furness, Louis Kahn, Venturi and Scott Brown, and Fumihiko Maki. In 2006, this illustrious list was joined by the iridescent, ivy green presence of Skirkanich Hall, designed by Williams and Tsien. A block away, the Weiss/Manfredi–designed Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology has just opened, continuing the tradition of extraordinary educational buildings. Weiss/Manfredi was a perfect choice for this building, which sits just off the campus proper, as the firm refined its “landscape into a building” signature style to create a gateway to the adjacent campus. The design arranges laboratories around a central quad, visually connecting the sciences to the street and providing a new indoor and outdoor open space for student and faculty interaction. It is a model for what universities, which often wall off their campuses to the outside world, should be doing in today’s cities.
As good as all this sounds, research by Mixplace Studio (a collaborative project that includes the Slought Foundation, People’s Emergency Center, PennDesign, Estudio Teddy Cruz/Center for Urban Ecologies, and UCSD) points out that all of the new architecture and advanced urban thinking taking place in Philadelphia tends to focus on the central commercial districts and not its surrounding residential neighborhoods—particularly those that are poor and underserved. One Mixplace project, “One Linear Mile,” focuses on ten consecutive blocks that move “across race and class, from public school to private university, and from public disinvestment to total privatization.” It points out that Philadelphia’s principle strategy for poorer residential neighborhoods is to hope the private market alone will solve the problem either through gentrification or cheap commercial housing. One Linear Mile points out the rather obvious fact that private real estate investment tends to avoid poor neighborhoods in search of the higher financial returns to be found in more affluent or up-and-coming areas.
However, there are two new commercial projects that belie this general rule and may well help create a more equitable future in low-income neighborhoods. The new environmentally aware mixed use housing project Folsom Powerhouse, designed by ISA Architecture, is just the sort of sensible and affordable project that could easily be copied all over the city. Then there is a project called The Piazza in the Northern Liberties neighborhood, which features an 80,000-square-foot public space. Designed by Erdy McHenry Architects, The Piazza is a three building complex with a perimeter wall that is the closest thing to a European piazza that we have in this country. The complex features shops on the ground floor that open onto the open space and above are Le Corbusier–inspired two-story loft apartments. The project has the feeling of being cut off from the surrounding troubled neighborhood. Once you are inside the Piazza, it is an experience unlike anything outside of Disneyworld. If the city were to build on this project with a more developed infrastructure it could be the catalyst for the entire area.
But de-industrialized neighborhoods like Northern Liberties are at least proving to be cheap workshop space for designers and fabricators. Milder Office moved there from New York. The fourteen-member collaborative of sculptors and fabricators called Traction operates out of a large old streetcar manufacturing warehouse. And Veyko metal fabricators is located in an old loft district.
In fact, according to Scott Brown, the city is not preserving the greenways that Ed Bacon created to link residential Society hill to the historic quarter on Walnut and Chestnut streets. When Scott Brown and Venturi designed the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, it was meant to be a way stop on Bacon’s pedestrians connections. In spite of Scott Brown’s protestations, the walkway into the memorial and museum has been gated off and closed when the Museum is not open. A few blocks along Bacon’s Greenway, however, Isaiah Zagar’s ongoing tile mosaic project Magic Garden is still morphing and growing in and around once abandoned buildings. It is now in the center of an increasingly gentrified part of the city. If this folk art monument is not enough to bring an urbanist to Philadelphia for a design weekend, perhaps they will be drawn by the recently completed James Turrell–designed Chestnut Hill Quaker meeting house, with one of his signature sky spaces, or Mark Newson’s upcoming first retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The list of attractions goes on.
Given these assets, if Philadelphia could just put a little more effort into upgrading the infrastructure of its troubled residential neighborhoods it would be a truly unique and exciting urban laboratory. This might be said of almost any American city, but Philadelphia has the tradition and creativity to make it work.
Labeling William Pereira as a maverick is the first surprise in the current exhibit on his architecture at Reno’s Nevada Museum of Art.
“Maverick” is usually reserved for brilliant loners who stray far from the herd. Pereira, on the other hand, was featured on the cover of Time, designed indelible urban landmarks like the LAX Theme Building, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and San Francisco’s Transamerica pyramid, and worked in the heart of California’s public and private establishments. Yet the architect-planner that emerges from this exceptional exhibit is clearly well ahead of the herd.
This exhibit is long overdue. It’s an embarrassment that no Los Angeles museum took on this task. But Nevada Museum of Art Executive Director David Walker (formerly with Art Center College of Design) saw the opportunity when he met Pereira’s son Bill in Reno. The Museum and curator Colin Robertson have achieved a balance of new information for scholars and a lively exhibit design for laypeople that ranks with the best of the Getty’s recent Pacific Standard Time Presents exhibits.
Not exhaustive, the exhibit focuses on five projects that capture the broad strokes of Pereira’s multi-faceted career. They include his own house in Hancock Park, but also the plan of an entire new town and university in Irvine, California, which addressed the shortcomings of garden-variety suburbia. He could create singular riveting architectural statements (such as San Francisco’s Transamerica pyramid and the reverse-pyramid of UC San Diego’s Geisel Library), and yet the planner in him was always compelled to integrate these icon-landmarks with their surroundings. And in Pereira’s farsighted early concepts for LAX (with then-partner Charles Luckman, implemented with joint collaborators Welton Becket Associates and Paul R. Williams), the technological complexities of jet travel are blended with a truly modern public architecture.
So Pereira is not just a conventional corporate architect at the beck and call of industry. In each of these projects he uses his confident insider status to push back boundaries. A trip to Reno to see the exhibit is made entirely worthwhile by the original black plastic model of the unbuilt 1,000-foot-tall ABC headquarters in Manhattan, which became an early study for the Transamerica pyramid. Its asymmetrical play of office floors and elevator cores, of served and servant spaces, explain how Pereira was pushing modernism forward at a critical time in its history.
Pereira’s innovations become clear in the accessible exhibition design by Nikolaus Hafermaas and UEBERSEE. Many architecture exhibits induce fatigue in the average visitor by relying on stylized models and obscure drawings. Hafermaas avoids this by high-lighting specific details that bring the architecture alive. Pereira’s sense of expansive cinematic space (after all, he won an Oscar for special effects in 1942 for Cecil B. DeMille’s “Reap the Wild Wind”) is tangibly conveyed in a series of openings cut into the exhibit’s partitions. These widescreen windows combine a wide shot of the entire exhibit with focused close ups of key exhibits. The experience of jet travel proposed by Pereira and Luckman for LAX in the early 1950s (well before jet travel was common) blends electronics with architecture in such details as a hand-held device to keep travelers updated on their flights—essentially a smart phone.
Courtesy Nevada Museum of Art (left, Right); Jamie Kingham (center)
Key to this accessibility is the inclusion of art, mostly commissioned for the installation. Several artists stretch and reimagine Pereira’s forms, iconography, and concepts in ways that that give us new perspectives on the architecture—literally. The Transamerica pyramid, a form almost too well known, is made startlingly fresh by Ball-Nogues Studio’s stunning four-story model rendered in ball chains and hanging upside down in the museum’s open stairwell. Deborah Aschheim’s luminous white plastic models reinvigorate the modern sculpted shapes of the Theme Building and a preliminary Transamerica Tower design, while her drawings of the UC Irvine campus in the throes of 1960s student rebellion undermine the conventional screed that Pereira produced futuristically lifeless designs.
Of course, Pereira’s accomplishments go beyond these five buildings. There were innovations in modern urban recreational venues (Marineland of the Pacific), retail architecture (several superb Robinsons department stores), and modern communications facilities (CBS Television City). These and others are represented in a timeline that graphically links major themes in his life and work, as well as providing in-depth material via icons that link to further material through visitors’ smart phones.
With LACMA proposing to demolish its original Pereira campus, we’ve seen attempts to downplay his significance. This exhibit demonstrates what little justification there is for that opinion. The Pereira shown here was an innovator, a builder, a doer, often visionary, and certainly a major shaper of modern twentieth century cities.
Modernist Maverick clearly establishes, with fresh and needed scholarship, that Pereira was a major architect. Above all, Modernist Maverick is a ringing reminder that we don’t know everything we think we do about the history of modern architecture. Though the Nevada Museum of Art may be on the outer fringes of the San Francisco–Los Angeles museum axis, it has produced an extraordinarily important exhibit and catalog.
From the late 1930s through the early ’60s, few photographers documented the changing residential lifestyles of the nuclear family as extensively as Maynard L. Parker.
Crisscrossing the nation, primarily for House Beautiful magazine and Better Homes & Gardens, Parker made photographs that championed the slowly emerging modern esthetic of the suburban Ranch-style house and the impact of the postwar consumer extravaganza.
Editor Jennifer Watts has put together a nice monograph on the best, most typical images Parker produced, starting from the peak of his long career. Still, these images read much more as a fun history of postwar suburbia and the growth of Southern California than as a documentation of the period’s architecture. Flipping through this book reminds you of going through old Life magazines while watching Leave it to Beaver. Modern kitchen appliances, hi-fi systems, and table settings are given equal footing with the architecture. Watts also does a nice job of providing a context to Parker’s photographs.
His legacy, she explains, is mostly one that translates the design directives of his various editors, in particular Elizabeth Gordon of House Beautiful. Gordon didn’t always have to be on location for the shoot, as Parker had been well conditioned to give her exactly what she was looking for. Gordon had her own agenda of not just pleasing the advertisers but of steering her readership away from the International style and “left wing” architects, such as Gropius and Mies, and more toward her views of middle class living and a “station wagon way of life.”
Parker, working the same territory at the same time as Julius Shulman, was the go-to photographer for shooting the interiors of homes owned by Hollywood stars and the growing number of wealthy entertainment executives. As much as Shulman glamorized the Hollywood “house on the hill,” his aim first and foremost was about photographing the architecture. For Parker and the shelter magazines, it was about promoting a style and lifestyle that readers could either aspire to or at least live vicariously.
While Shulman was winning commissions from architects such as Pierre Koenig, Richard Neutra, and Raphael Soriano, Parker was left with shooting, for the likes of Quincy Jones, Leo Blackman, and Cliff May, housing developments, along with department store interior design service installations.
Although Watts has put together a book that shows Maynard Parker at his best, sadly this is still not saying a lot. Through House Beautiful Parker photographed a number of Frank Lloyd Wright projects and some of Edward Durell Stone’s work. But even the most avid Wright fan would be hard pressed to conjure up a single one of these images. Maynard Parker was clearly a hard-working, prolific, successful and very good photographer, just not a great one.
Maynard L. Parker
The three pillars of midcentury architectural photography were Ken Hedrick in Chicago, Julius Shulman in Los Angeles, and Ezra Stoller working out of New York. They are not equal, though. It is no exaggeration to say Ezra Stoller is the father of modern architectural photography. Stoller’s compositional aesthetic and technical mastery place him in the 20th century photographic pantheon with the likes of Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, and Edward Weston—this despite his being an editorial photographer who never aspired to be a fine art photographer.
Ezra Stoller Photographer, edited by Nina Rappaport and Erica Stoller, the photographer’s daughter and the owner of the Esto Photographics agency and archive, is a beautiful compilation of one iconic image after another that Ezra Stoller created during a 40-year career. Stoller photographed most of the best midcentury architectural masterpieces and created truly memorable images. When we think of either Saarinen’s TWA terminal, Wright’s Falling Water and the Guggenheim Museum, Philip Johnson’s Glass House, or Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute, we invariably think of these buildings as an Ezra Stoller image.
And for many great buildings, Stoller’s images are all that is left, thereby becoming the last word. Examples include Wright’s Johnson Wax Tower and headquarters, Morris Lappidus’ Americana Hotel, and the New York State pavilion from the 1964 World’s Fair. Stoller’s photographic style of simple, clean, graphic compositions was a perfect complement to the clean-lined and unadorned simplicity of modern architecture. Oft times Stoller could summarize a building in one shot encompassing all its essential elements.
It is not a stretch to say that some of the projects Stoller photographed are considered great architecture merely from the credibility Stoller’s images bestowed upon them. The Parking Garage in Miami, by Robert Law Weed, is a good example, showing each car carefully positioned without hindering the graceful floating effect of the stacked decking. This was truly “form following function.” Still, the structure was also just a parking garage. Yet Stoller’s image forces the viewer to appreciate it as a functional work of art. It is no surprise that Stoller accumulated a client list of the best modernist practices and firms throughout the country. In addition to those already named, Stoller shot extensively for Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Mies van der Rohe, Paul Rudolph, Marcel Breuer, and I.M. Pei.
Erica Stoller gives us just enough background detail about her father’s education (NYU architecture and industrial design), unlimited energy, and thoroughness in understanding his subject that we can better appreciate the creative source of the images. She shares how her father would not only scout a building for the best time of day to shoot but sometimes hold off until the right time of year. She then steps aside and lets the images speak for themselves.
Nina Rappaport, meanwhile, writes extensively about Stoller’s under-appreciated industrial images. Fortunately, many pages are dedicated to showing off his great catalogue of, once again, beautifully composed and technically near-perfect images. Stoller’s industrial images are the hidden treasure of his vast career catalogue. In his industrial imagery, as in his architectural images, the Stoller style is ever-present. Simple compositions are often dramatically lit, but not overly lit, to bring out the beauty of the subject, be it a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, paper plant, or hydroelectric dam. It is some of these detailed images that have the fine art quality of an Edward Weston photo.
Overall, Stoller’s work was a perfect blend of compositional artistry, technical know-how, and patience. For someone who was simply documenting others’ work, Stoller blurred the line between the architect’s art and his own.
Often the difference between a good city and a great one is its defining public park, which becomes a destination, a refuge, and a transformer of peoples’ conceptions of the place. Can you imagine New York without Central Park? Paris without the Tuileries or the Luxembourg Gardens? Contemporary Chicago without Millennium Park?
But when you think of Los Angeles, central urban spaces do not spring to mind. Downtown, which has been undergoing a metamorphosis in the last few years, is still culprit number one in this shortage. Its most notable park is Pershing Square, a concrete-dominated postmodern monstrosity that draws more vagrants than tourists or residents. Other small parks in the area suffer similar fates.
But the new Grand Park, whose first phase opens today (the second half should be done by the fall) is a huge step in the right direction.
Designed by local architects and landscape architects Rios Clementi Hale, the $56 million park, funded mostly by the Related Companies (who chipped in $50 million as a trade off for being able to develop their largely-on-hold Grand development) begins to mend the deep scars created by the city’s auto-centered, modernist planning dogma and changes one’s perception of its neighborhood, and to some extent, of the city at large.
What was once an off-putting, sterile, unfinished, and overlooked space called the Los Angeles County Civic Center Mall is now inviting, vibrant and, yes, transformative. While it’s not perfect, it’s an example of how for once the city’s public realm has aspired to greatness, not good-enoughness. It’s also a perfect example of how LA’s attitude toward urbanity has transformed in recent years, however the city kicks and screams.
The long park slopes downhill along a 12-acre, 4 block stretch between the Music Center to the east and City Hall to the West, lined on both sides by austere modernist municipal buildings like the Hall of Records and the County Courts building. Along its length are a series of lawns, plazas, and terraces, including the Fountain Plaza, containing the renovated Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain and the Performance Lawn, designed for shows and events. In coming months it will also include the Community Terrace, which will contain among other things a new subway station, and the Event Lawn, for larger events at the base of City Hall. These components are layered with a huge variety of plants and trees, crisscrossed by long, curving walkways and edged by linear paths.
It seems like a simple formula, but it’s not. In fact, it’s an amazing balancing act.
For one, Rios Clementi Hale has deftly combined grand gestures with intimate moments. The magnificent vista of City Hall, which can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the park, is the true “wow” moment, which the firm enhanced by moving and trimming trees to frame the view. Much more subtle, informal zones were created by planting (or re-planting) 150 trees and adding 24 gardens worth of draught tolerant plants arranged in a multitude of configurations.
Courtesy LA County
The firm also kept the parts of the old park that worked and scrapped the ones that didn’t. They removed the tops of the huge curved parking ramps that once blocked the park’s physical and visual connections to Grand Avenue. Now one can walk straight into the park, enjoying the wonderful, dancing fountain (which has been thoroughly rehabilitated with the help of Fluidity Design) and gazing at City Hall beyond. The Music Center, the DWP Building, City Hall and the flanking municipal buildings are all in clear dialogue. We get the best of Modernism; its inspiring gestures, not its arrogant mistakes.
The bottom quarter of the park, which was once a parking lot, will soon be a grassy lawn. And some of the red granite walls that once disturbed the park’s unity have been removed; although a few remain, raised above the park’s plane like standoffish older relatives. A few cast-in-place concrete benches remain, but these are not obtrusive. They add a nice retro touch, their heaviness offset by sinuous magenta metal street furniture designed in house by Rios Clementi Hale and manufactured by Janus et Cie.
That new furniture, much of which can be picked up and moved around the park, lends a touch of light-hearted fun, which has long been lacking in this somber part of town. It also lends a feminine touch in what has long been a white male bastion. Much of the design was inspired by the city’s off-the-charts diversity. Not only are metallic entry columns, created by design firm Sussman Prejza, etched with welcomes in countless languages, but the plants hail from regions around the world, including Africa, Asia and South America.
The park’s architecture is quite contemporary but not distracting. The lime green coffee shop to the south, with its angled canopy roof and standing seam metallic façade, somehow fits right in. The park’s staff building to the north is covered with white perforated metal. It feels new, but somehow feels like it’s always been there, like a part of the landscape.
This careful balancing act is of course not without its flaws. The park could use more shade, including umbrellas on its plazas, although that situation will improve as plants mature; there’s too much concrete, which hardens the feel and reflects too much harsh light; the parking ramps along Hill Street, whose removal was deemed too expensive, block the park’s connection to that street; and considering its location in one of the deadest parts of Downtown the park still needs many more amenities, which the county promises are coming. Perhaps along with food carts the park will also get some more impressive public art? Did city leaders get a look at Millenium Park’s Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor?
Courtesy LA County; Sam Lubell
Related deserves credit for maintaining control over construction, which they accomplished by leasing the land during the project’s development (they handed it over to the Grand Avenue Authority, a county and city joint venture, upon completion). And the Music Center, which will now program the park, seems determined to provide events from fairs to symphonies to farmers markets that will keep it busy and in peoples’ minds. We’ll see how that proceeds.
The park is already making an impact. The civic center, and the city, already seem more connected and alive. The Grand, which has so long stayed on hold (with the exception of a new residential tower next to the new Broad Museum) already feels like more of a possibility, which of course Related claims was its plan all along.
Is this Central Park? Of course not. But the very fact that it invites such comparisons without howls of laughter is a triumph. This is a good example of what LA’s staggering amount of design talent can accomplish when given a fair chance to shine in the public realm. LA is still a big, stubborn, maddening giant. But sometimes we look around and see that things are getting better.
The Center for an Urban Future has more good news about the state of the design industry in New York. Last June the Manhattan-based think tank issued “Growth by Design,” a white paper on the state of what it calls the "innovation economy" in the five boroughs. It pointed out that New York City has nearly twice as many designers (architecture, graphic, interior, fashion and industrial design) as Los Angeles, the nation's second largest design hub. There are for example 8,200 architects and 2,680 interior design firms compared to visual artists (805) and performing artists (1,048). The point of last year’s study was to highlight the fact that designers and architects in this city do not really get the attention they deserve as members of the creative economy. Since then Christine Quinn has proposed some sort of design festival for next year, but the Bloomberg administration seems more focused on Cornell's new applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island and the five new sound stages at Brooklyn's Steiner Studios as potential job generators than on our dynamic design industry.
In view of this official disregard, we pointed out in our June 22 editorial that the study also neglects to mention the number of non-profit institutions in the city that for years have supported and promoted design. The other vibrant design institutions the report neglected to mention were the many design schools in the city that feed graduates into the profession and community. Now the Center has just issued a report, “Designing New York’s Future,” that details local educational institutions with design schools and design departments. Here again, New York City is the clear leader in design education in the United Sates, if pure numbers are any indication of leadership in this field.
New York City graduates “more than twice as many students in design and architecture as any other city in the country.” The report also claims “that the city’s leading design schools—including Parsons The New School for Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute, and the School of Visual Arts—have become critical catalysts for innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth." In short, New York City needs to recognize that no other city matches it in terms of education infrastructure in design and architecture. In 2010, New York City graduated 4,278 students in design and architecture, while the city with the second most, Los Angeles, graduated less than half as many (1,769). It also has two architecture schools in the country’s top ten by the number of degrees awarded: Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (#5) and Pratt (#8).
In addition, enrollment at New York’s design universities has been growing at a faster rate than at other universities in the city: Between 2001 and 2010, full-time student enrollment at the city’s 10 largest design and architecture schools increased by 34 percent, going from 18,002 students at the beginning of the decade to 24,065 students ten years later. During the same period, student enrollment at all institutions of higher education in New York City grew 27 percent.
These numbers however do not highlight the creative relationship the design institutions have with the profession, where junior designers have long supplemented their income with adjunct teaching assignments and faculty meet (and hire) the best design talents bringing them into the profession and community. It should be pointed out that this report studies only design schools in the five boroughs, but if we think of Princeton to our south and New Haven and Ithaca to our north as part of New York's orbit then the picture becomes even more impressive. Justifiably famous for their faculties, these schools employ—in addition to many New York-based architects—the most creative design historians, theoreticians, engineers, city planners, and urban designers. Further, the lectures, symposia, and colloquiums they continue to produce make this the most dynamic design environment on the planet, let alone in the United States. The New York design community seems to go from strength to strength, but it’s not the utopia the numbers suggest. Speaker Quinn's design festival is a good if slightly frivolous start, but how about a city-financed incubator for young designers opening their first studio? That would make an actual difference, while also showing us that the city understands the rich potential of our industry to advance its own future. To see the full report, visit the Center for an Urban Future's web site.
As part of her annual State of the City address, on February 9 City Council Speaker and potential mayoral candidate Christine Quinn announced her support for the future growth of New York’s design industries: “We have more designers than any city in the United States, with nearly 40,000 New Yorkers working in everything from graphics to movie sets, architecture to interior decorating. We’ll grow our design sector by stealing an idea from the fashion industry. Fashion Week, which starts today, brings 300,000 visitors and nearly $800 million into our city every year. Working with Council Member Karen Koslowitz, we’re going to give that same kind of boost to our design industry by creating and hosting a New York City Design Week.”
The next mayoral election is still over a year in the future, but the speech does raise the question of what a new mayor will mean for the city's departments of Planning, Transportation, Parks and Design and Construction not to mention our dynamic design community. It is common knowledge that Mayor Bloomberg’s administration made a conscious effort to bring architectural and urban design thinking into city government more than at any time since Robert Moses and John Lindsay in the late 1960s. In the same way that Lindsay's two terms as mayor coincided with a remarkable transformation of urban life in New York, Bloomberg’s three terms have witnessed a profound change in the life of the city. It will of course be up to future historians to assess the current mayor’s ultimate success and failures but his quartet of Commissioners at City Planning, Transportation, Parks, and Design and Construction have overseen a total transformation in how citizens move about, experience, and live in the city.
Then again it may be that Bloomberg only happened to be mayor when architecture was taken up for the first time by New York property developers as a salable commodity and when they commissioned some of the world’s best architects to design Manhattan luxury housing. The mayor certainly did not directly create anything of great civic architectural quality for our public sphere, but as a believer in the private market supported by public, philanthropic initiatives of high design quality like the High Line, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Governors Island development, and the DOT’s bike lanes and “parks in a street” maintained by Business Improvement Districts and other non governmental agencies. These are of course heavily Manhattan-centric in their geographic reach and influence, so Bloomberg’s new city is less visible the farther one travels from Midtown. We all remember when he pinned his legacy to an Olympic master plan, West Side Football stadium, and the possibility of a really great World Trade Center development.
Or it may be that Bloomberg happened to be mayor when New York emerged as the most important design hub in the United States if not the world. Last summer we commented on the Growth by Design report assembled by the Center for an Urban Future that detailed the growing importance of the design sector to New York’s economy. It revealed how design sector jobs in the New York metropolitan area grew by 75 percent over the past decade. In fact the report claimed that in New York the design field (architecture, graphic, interior, fashion and industrial design) has nearly twice as many designers as Los Angeles, the nation's second largest design hub.
But back to Speaker Quinn and her support for design in New York City. Really, is a week-long design festival the best that the Speaker can do to support and encourage this dynamic sector of the city's economy? We need to hear what she proposes for the various departments like City Planning and Parks. Its hard to imagine that department heads like Amanda Burden, David Burney, Janette Sadik-Khan, and Adrian Benepe will stay on after 12 years of public sector employment, but will the new mayor even want them to stay or will she/ he replace them, and what types of policies will new commissioners be pursuing? Will the next mayor continue to support new bicycle lanes and curbside park development from the DOT and the ambitious architecture policies of Commissioner Burney? We have heard almost nothing from Quinn and the two or three other likely candidates about their potential policies. Proposing a week-long festival is not really enough of an initiative to tell us much about what a new Quinn administration might mean for the city. In the coming months, we need to hear much more from the Speaker and all the other candidates.