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Getting Dense

In last year’s developers issue, we focused on California’s highrises: the most obvious indication that the state is finally embracing infill density over sprawl. Yet in fact, most of California’s density is forming at a much lower altitude, in mixed-use projects within commercial corridors.

Mixed-use projects may not be universally embraced (fears of congestion and disruption of the local character are common), but their diversity and size often significantly bolster neighborhood vibrancy and efficiency while keeping development from spreading further away. Scales and solutions vary widely, of course, but you’ll notice in our roundup of projects across the state that many involve top-tier architecture firms and sensitive urban solutions like public plazas, street-level retail, sustainable design, live/work units, underground parking, and terraced and divided massing—an indicator that development doesn’t have to mean destruction of a neighborhood. Many people point out that locating new buildings on commercial boulevards rather than in the midst of residential areas is the best way to absorb the state’s staggering growth without intensely affecting people’s living environments. Locating them near mass transit is another tool, although that option is still slow to come in many parts of California.

And of all the mixed-use projects we’ve seen, many of the best come from the same place: West Hollywood. Thanks to a design-savvy and discerning planning commission and planning department, recent infrastructure improvements, a clear master plan, a population knowledgeable about aesthetics, and a proactive urban designer, John Chase, the area has attracted top design talent and is home to an enviable roster of mixed-use projects. Most are going up in its commercial districts along Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards. This is not to say that things have been easy: Just uttering the word “development” in many WEHO circles invites violent protest, and last summer, the city passed interim ordinances limiting the scale of development until further analysis is completed. But this just makes the scope of work here all the more impressive. Let’s face it, growth is inevitable, so we might as well grow the right way.

Produced by Sam Lubell with contributions from Danielle Rago and Helen Te.



West Hollywood

Location: 8120 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects
Developer: Pacific Development Partners, LLC/Walgreen Co. Joint Venture
Size: 120,000 sq. ft.
Completion Date: Spring 2009

Not your usual Walgreens, this project includes ground-level retail and 28 units with private gardens above. The project will be covered with a skin composed of stabilized aluminum foam.  

Location: 9040 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Eric Owen Moss Architects
Developer: Weintraub Financial Services
Size: 187,710 sq. ft.
Completion: 2011

Featuring Moss’ off-kilter floorplates and hard-edged forms, this retail, hotel, and residential project is built around an 11-story hotel with a glazed curtain wall. The smaller residential block will enclose small public and private courtyards. 

Location: 8430 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Kanner Architects
Developer: Combined Properties
Size: 225,000 sq. ft.
Completion: In design

The project includes a hotel, condominiums, a cafe, retail spaces, and an entertainment venue. The five-, six-, and seven-story hotel features maze-like, projecting floorplates. The residential portions of the project are much lower-scale and inconspicuous, terracing downhill from the site.

Location: 9040-9098 Santa Monica Blvd., 603-633 Almont Dr., and 9001-9021 Melrose Ave.
Architect: Studio One Eleven and Perkowitz+Ruth Architects
Developer: The Charles Company
Size: 250,000 sq. ft.
Completion: In design

This mini-city is marked by large roof overhangs, inset windows, and large bays. The project includes several floors of shopping—much of it outdoors—a parking garage, and apartments.

Location: 1342 Hayworth Ave.
Architect: Pugh + Scarpa
Developer: Grovewood Properties
Size: 28,000 sq. ft.
Completion: Spring 2009

With 16 units of luxury condominiums over a 36-car garage, these stacked townhouses are oriented to create two landscaped courtyards: One faces the street, while the other creates a communal front entry space for residents. A perforated copper skin wraps the facades.

Location: 8801 Sunset Blvd.
Architect: Gensler
Developer: Centrum Sunset
Size: 53,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2011/2012

Built on the site of the legendary Tower Records building, this development includes office and retail space, as well as a David Barton spa and gym. The project wraps around the corner of Sunset Boulevard with a repetitive pattern of large concrete facade columns, due to be lined with large billboards.

Location: 627 North La Peer
Architect: Moule & Polyzoides Architects
Developer: A.J. Khair
Size: 63,000 sq. ft., 8 condominium units, 69 hotel rooms
Completion: 2010

The project shows how traditional design can be done in a stylish way, with both Spanish and Art Deco motifs and a variety of scales and massing, all aligned with the street grid in a very urban manner. 

Location: 7350 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Tighe Architecture
Developer: West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation
Size: 5 floors, 42 units
Completion: 2008

The project includes 42 affordable, one-bedroom units and retail on the ground floor. An outdoor courtyard provides a garden for residents, and each apartment will have its own private outdoor space.

Location: 8350-8364 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Developer: Combined Properties
Size: 20 units with commercial space at grade
Completion: Entitlements completed spring 2008

The project reflects adjacent residential zoning by stepping down and breaking up the rear facade with private courtyards. The ground level combines retail and on-grade parking. 

Location: 901 Hancock Ave./8759 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Developer: CIM Group
Size: 133,476 sq. ft.
Completion: Late 2008

The 77,500 sq. ft. project features 11,000 sq. ft. of ground floor commercial retail and restaurant, with 40 housing units (33 condos and 7 affordable). Live-work housing units are proposed at ground level.

Location: Santa Monica Blvd. and West Knoll Drive
Architect: Aleks Istanbullu Architects
Developer: Seven Sandmore
Size: 8,700 sq. ft. of ground floor retail, 52,000 sq. ft. of residential space
Completion: 2010

This four-story building contains residential blocks sitting above a continous story of sidewalk retail. Nineteen condominiums are located above, separated by 15-foot-wide courtyards.

Location: 7302 Santa Monica Blvd.
Architect: Van Tilburg, Banvard + Soderbergh
Developer: Casden Movietown
Size: 526,800 sq. ft.
Completion: 2012

This sustainable project contains 20,000 sq. ft. of retail (including a new Trader Joe’s), 304 condominiums, and 76 senior rental units. A public plaza and streetside retail are planned to create a walking-friendly environment.




Best of the Rest

Location: San Jose
Architect: Brand + Allen Architects
Developer: Wilson Meany Sullivan
Size: 561,472 sq. ft.
Completion: 2013

Part of the master plan to revitalize downtown San Jose, the project, which includes residential and retail elements, encloses and activates a public plaza fronted by the San Jose Repertory Theater.

Location: 1 Kearny, San Francisco
Architect: Charles F. Bloszies
Developer/Owner: 1 Kearny
Size: 10-floor addition to 12-floor building, 120,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2009

Including office and ground floor retail, this renovation of a 1902 building uses the surrounding structures as seismic “bookends” for the original building. The new addition is clad in a glass-and-aluminum curtain wall.

Location: 55 Laguna St., San Francisco
Architect: Van Meter Williams Pollack
Developer: AF Evans Development
Size: 450 residential units, 10,000 sq. ft. of community facility space, 5,000 sq. ft. retail
Completion: 2012

This redevelopment of the former UC Berkeley Extension Campus will include new construction and the preservation of historically significant buildings.

Location: 55 Harrison St., Oakland
Architect: RMW in Association with Steve Worthington
Developer: Ellis Partners
Size: 1 million sq. ft.
Completion Phase I: 2009

The square is undergoing a $300 million redevelopment that includes restaurants, entertainment, new parking facilities, and Class A office space.

Location: Broadway and North Harbor Dr., San Diego
Architect: Tucker Sadler
Developer: Manchester Financial
Size: 3.95 million sq. ft.
Completion: Proposed

Located on the North Embarcadero of the San Diego Bay, the project—if approved—will include almost 4 million sq. ft. of hospitality, office, and retail space.

Location: Roscoe Blvd. and Tobias Ave., Panorama City
Architects: Nadel Architects
Developer: Maefield
Size: 1 million sq. ft.
Completion: Fall 2009

This development will feature a three-level vertical lifestyle center with over 415,000 sq. ft. of retail and five levels of parking. It will also include big-box retail and smaller street-front shops.

Location: Anaheim
Architect: RTKL, Kanner Architects, 30th St. Architects, RTK, and MBH
Developer: CIM Group
Size: 129 condominium units, 276 apartment units, 56,803 sq. ft. of street-level retail, and 32,056 sq. ft. of office space
Completion: In design

This project includes 500 housing units, plus retail and restaurant space surrounding downtown Anaheim’s main street.

Location: 9900 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
Architect: Richard Meier & Partners Architects
Developer: Project Lotus
Size: 203 units, 895,000 sq. ft. (residential), 16,000 sq. ft. (retail)
Completion: 2011

Designed to be sensitive to the neighboring hotel and golf course, the project is located on an 8-acre site between Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, and constitutes the western entrance to Beverly Hills.

Location: 2901 E. Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights, Los Angeles
Architect: Torti Gallas
Developer: Fifteen Group
Size: 6.1 million sq. ft.
Completion: 2020

The $2 billion plan calls for redeveloping the 1930s apartment complex to include 4,400 residential units, 300,000 sq. ft. of retail and commercial space, as well as 9 acres of publicly accessible open space.

Location: 6121 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: Johnson Fain
Developer: Apollo Real Estate Advisors
Size: 380,000 sq. ft. of offices, 20,000 sq. ft. of retail, 330 units, 125-room hotel
Completion: In design

Located at the historic CBS/Columbia Square Studio site, a 35-story residential tower and 16-story office tower rise from a ground floor mix of hotel, retail, and open space.

Location: 6200 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: VTBS
Developer: Clarett Group
Size: 1.12 million sq. ft.
Completion: 2011

Spanning both sides of Hollywood Boulevard on a 7-acre parcel are nine buildings of rental housing, with affordable units, public open space, live/work lofts, and retail. The project, which is seeking LEED certification, is next to the legendary Art Deco Pantages Theater.

Location: 5661 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: Gruen Associates
Developer: Continental Development
Size: 375 units, 377,000 sq. ft. (retail), 1680 parking spaces
Completion: 2010

Located on a 5.5-acre city block, this project incorporates a historic department store. Much of the retail is street-facing, and the buildings include high-rise, stoop housing, and town houses to create an urban ambience.

Location: Chandler Blvd. and Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
Architect: AC Martin
Developer: Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group
Size: 1.75 million sq. ft.
Completion: Proposed

Planned around a multi-modal transit station, the proposal includes a central plaza and an arcade linking the proposed grid of the project blocks, which respond in scale and configuration to the existing urban fabric.

6230 YUCCA
Location: Hollywood
Architect: Ehrlich Architects
Developer: Second Street Ventures
Size: 115,000 sq. ft.
Completion: 2010/2011

One block from the historic Hollywood and Vine intersection, this 16-story tower won entitlement after a battle with nearby Capitol Records. It includes eight live-work townhomes, 85 residential units in the tower, and 13,500 sq. ft. of creative commercial space.

Location: 6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Architect: HKS Hill Glazier Studio
Developer: Gatehouse Capital Corp. and Legacy Partners
Size: 330,000 sq. ft. condo, 300,000 sq. ft. hotel, 50,000 sq. ft. retail
Completion: 2009

This project includes a 305-room W hotel, 143 luxury W for sale residences, 375 luxury apartments, and street-level retail.


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Making Radio Waves
The initial KCRW concept model includes an ivy-screened facade.
courtesy Clive Wilkinson Architects

Clive Wilkinson Architects has won a commission to design a new building for Santa Monica-based public radio station KCRW.

The station, which is the largest public radio affiliate in Southern California, is located on the campus of Santa Monica College (SMC). Its growth over the years has forced it to scatter its facilities throughout SMC’s main campus. The new building, located on one of SMC’s satellite campuses, about a mile north of the main campus, will help the station modernize and consolidate.

The 35,000-square-foot structure, located on the site of a large parking lot off of Stewart Street, just north of the 10 Freeway, will include office and recording studio spaces. Plans are still very preliminary, but an initial concept model reveals a simple three-story building covered in a green screen of ivy.

Construction funding is subject to a bond measure due in November, and the proposed cost of the project has not been disclosed.

As part of the commission the firm will also be carrying out modifications to the SMC satellite facilities located just adjacent to the planned KCRW building, including new landscaping and a renovation of the Academy of Entertainment and Technology building.  

Other firms short listed for the commission included Gensler, HLW, Morphosis, and CO Architects.

While Clive Wilkinson Architects is known for its interiors projects, the firm, said Wilkinson, is aggressively pursuing ground-up work. Besides the KCRW building, the firm just won commissions to design a mixed- use building for handbag maker Harvey’s in Santa Ana, and to renovate the 450,000-square-foot headquarters for Finnish communications giant Nokia in Helsinki.

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Block By Block
Courtesy Cultural Landscape Foundation

The story of New York development in recent years has been defined by mega-projects, the large-scale urban moves unleashed by a rip-roaring market, sweeping rezonings, and once-in-a-generation super-deals. But the current economic meltdown has made for a very different mood. Certainly not chastened—this is still New York, after all—but circumspect, even cautious. A number of ambitious projects we featured here in the past—the proliferating towers at Queens West, or the 14-acre Sky View Parc in Flushing—are still gallantly moving ahead. Yet other grand plans have been parceled out in phases, pared back, or quietly put on ice.

To take stock of this changing landscape, we’ve gathered a selection of new projects—large and small, flashy and unfussy—that are filling in the streetscape and skyline, from hotspots like Williamsburg to newly beckoning corners of the Bronx. Together they offer a portrait of a city shaped less by the bravado of master builders than the block-by-block business of architecture. And that might not be a bad thing at all.

Produced by Jeff Byles, Danielle Rago, and Olivia Chen.

All images courtesy respective developers.



Above 59th Street 

Location: 37-41 Hillside Avenue
Developer: North Manhattan
Construction Company
Architect: Johnson Jones and
Mario A. Canteros
Size: 16 floors, 89 units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2010

Location: Amsterdam Avenue and West 100th Street
Developer: TBA
Architect: SLCE Architects
Size: 56 units, 72,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2010 

Location: 180 East 93rd Street
Developer: Greystone Property Development
Architect: Barry Rice Architect
Size: 7 floors, 9 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 535 West End Avenue
Developer: Extell Development Company
Architect: Lucien Lagrange Architects
Size: 20 floors, 22 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 305 East 85th Street
Developer: The Ascend Group
Architect: Cetra/Ruddy
Size: 20 floors, 58 units, 134,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 2075 Broadway
Developer: 2075 Holdings
Architect: Handel Architects
Size: 19 floors, 196 units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009


Between 14th Street
and 59th Street 

Location: 250 East 57th Street
Developer: World-Wide Group
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 2 buildings, 13 floors and 58 floors
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011–2013

Location: 1775 Broadway
Developer: Moinian Group
Architect: Gensler
Size: 26 floors, 625,000 sq. ft.
Type: Commercial (reclad)
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 250 West 55th Street
Developer: Boston Properties
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 40 floors, 1 million sq. ft.
Type: Commercial
Completion (est.): 2010

Location: 800 10th Avenue
Developer: Alchemy Properties
Architect: FXFowle
Size: 96 units, 130,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential (conversion)
Completion (est.): 2010

Location: 770 11th Avenue
Developer: Two Trees Management
Architect: TEN Arquitectos
Size: 911 units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011

Location: 53 West 53rd Street
Developer: Hines Interests
Architect: Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Size: 75 floors, 120 condominium units, 100 hotel rooms, 50,000 sq. ft. gallery expansion
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2012

Location: 55 West 46th Street
Developer: Extell Development Company
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 40 floors, 800,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011

Location: 455 West 37th Street
Developer: Rockrose Development
Architect: Handel Architects
Size: 23 floors with two levels of underground parking, 421,164 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: West 30th to West 33rd streets, 10th to 12th avenues
Developer: Related Companies
Architects include: Kohn Pedersen Fox, Arquitectonica, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Elkus Manfredi Architects
Size: Approximately 5,000 units, 5.3 million sq. ft. (residential), 5.5 million sq. ft. (commercial), 1 million sq. ft. (retail and hotel)
Type: Mixed-use
Completion Phase I (est.): 2014

Location: 450 Hudson Boulevard
Developer: Alloy Development
Architect: Della Valle Bernheimer and Architecture Research Office
Size: 1.1 million sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2013

Location: 9th Avenue between West 33rd and West 31st streets
Developer: Brookfield Properties
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 5 million sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2013

Location: 316 11th Avenue at 30th Street
Developer: Douglaston Development
Architect: The Stephen B. Jacobs Group
Size: 34 floors, 369 units, 387,500 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 420 Park Avenue South at 29th Street
Developer: Gansevoort Hotel Group with Centurion Realty
Architect: The Stephen B. Jacobs Group
Size: 18 floors, 225 units, 200,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 515 West 23rd Street
Developer: Alf Naman Real Estate Advisors
Architect: Neil M. Denari Architects
Size: 14 floors, 11 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 30 West 21st Street
Developer: Beck Street Capital
Architect: Karl Fischer Architect
Size: 11 floors, 11 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 15 Union Square West
Developer: Brack Capital Real Estate
Architect: Office for Design and Architecture with Perkins Eastman
Size: 12 floors, 36 units, 97,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 130 West 20th Street
Developer: EG West 20th
Architect: H. Thomas O’Hara Architect
Size: 36 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 57 Irving Place
Developer: Madison Equities
Architect: Audrey Matlock Architect
Size: 12 floors, 9 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009




Below 14th Street

Location: 385 West 12th Street
Developer: FLAnk
Architect: FLAnk
Size: 7 floors, 12 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: East Houston Street at Pitt Street
Developer: Common Ground
Architect: Kiss + Cathcart, Architects
Size: 12 floors, 263 units, 99,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 350 West Broadway
Developer: RFR Holding
Architect: Moed de Armas & Shannon
Size: 10 floors, 8 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 351 Bowery
Developer: 351 Bowery Associates
Architect: Scarano Architect
Size: 15 floors, 14 units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: Five Franklin Place
Developer: Sleepy Hudson
Architect: UNStudio
Size: 20 floors, 55 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 99 Church Street
Developer: Silverstein Properties
Architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects/SLCE Architects
Size: 80 floors, 175 hotel rooms, 143 condominium units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011

Location: 375 Pearl Street
Developer: Taconic Investment Partners
Architect: Cook + Fox
Size: 32 floors
Type: Commercial (reclad)
Completion (est.): 2009/2010

Location: Beekman Street, between William and Nassau streets
Developer: Forest City Ratner Companies
Architect: Gehry Partners
Size: 76 floors, 903 units, 1.1 million sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2010

Location: 45 Broad Street
Developer: Swig Equities
Architect: Rockwell Group/Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects
Size: 62 floors, 77 units, 128 hotel rooms
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2010


Location: 150 Myrtle Avenue
Developer: BFC Partners
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 37 floors, 240 units, 260,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 237 Duffield Street
Developer: V3 Hotels
Architect: Karl Fischer Architect
Size: 22 floors, 172 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2010

Location: 166 Montague Street
Developer: United Management Realty
Architect: RKT&B
Size: 10 floors, 24 units
Type: Mixed-use (conversion)
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 33 Lincoln Road
Developer: Henry Herbst
Architect: Gilman Architects
Size: 23 floors, 90 units, 180,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2010

Location: 80 DeKalb Avenue
Developer: Forest City Ratner Companies
Architect: Costas Kondylis and Partners
Size: 34 floors, 365 units, 333,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: Atlantic Avenue and Eastern Parkway
Developer: Habitat for Humanity
Architect: Dattner Architects
Size: 3 buildings, 4 floors, 41 units, 53,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 5th and Smith streets
Developer: Gowanus Green Partnership
Architect: Rogers Marvel Architects
Size: 774 units, 675,000 sq. ft. (residential)
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2014

Location: Bond Street between Union and Degraw streets
Developer: Gowanus Canal Joint Venture
Architect: RKT&B
Size: 11 buildings, 350 units, 355,000 s.f. (residential), 10,000 s.f. (commercial)
Type: Mixed-use
Completion: In design

Location: 80 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg
Developer: Steiner NYC
Architect: GreenbergFarrow
Size: 6 floors, 123 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


Location: 11-02 49th Avenue, Long Island City
Developer: The Stahl Organization
Architect: Cetra/Ruddy
Size: 122 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 28-02 42nd Road, Long Island City
Developer: Roe Development Corporation
Architect: DeArch
Size: 25 floors, 180 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 10 Court Square, Long Island City
Developer: Rockrose Development
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 25 floors, 961,698 sq. ft.
Type: Commercial with ground-floor retail
Completion (est.): 2011

Location: 11-25 45th Avenue, Long Island City
Developer: TerraMax
Architect: Fogarty Finger
Size: 7 floors, 28 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2010

Location: Queens West Site 2 at Center Boulevard
Developer: Rockrose Development
Architect: Arquitectonica
Size: 39 floors, 737 units, 1.1 million sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011

Location: Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 67th and Beach 69th streets
Developer: Benjamin Beechwood
Architect: Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects
Size: 28,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009


Location: East 161st Street between Courtlandt and Melrose avenues
Developer: The Phipps Houses Group
Architect: Dattner Architects
Size: 323 units, 362,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2010

Location: East 163rd Street and 3rd Avenue
Developer: Atlantic Development Group
Architect: Hugo S. Subotovsky Architects
Size: 7 buildings, 8 to 13 floors, 689 units, 47,000 sq. ft. retail
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009/2010

Location: 1259 & 1275 Grant Avenue
Developer: Grant/Briarwood
Architect: Danois Architects
Size: 2 buildings, 10 floors, 160 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: 922 East 169th Street and 1140 Tiffany Street
Developer: Atlantic Development Group
Architect: Atelier 22
Size: 2 buildings, 8 floors, 94 units, 110,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

Location: St. Ann’s Avenue and East 159th Street
Developer: Jackson Development Group
Architect: Hugo S. Subotovsky Architects
Size: 8 buildings, 8 to 13 floors, 600 units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011

Location: 29 West Kingsbridge Road
Developer: Related Companies
Architect: GreenbergFarrow
Size: 5.6 acres, 550,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2013


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Crit: Hanger, No Starch
Richard Pare/Courtesy Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

“On a bad day, I feel like we’re a glorified laundry service,” said Leslie Paisley, standing in Stone Hill Center’s paper conservation lab, “because we’re cleaning, pressing, and mending.” Salvaging prints and drawings from the ravages of time is notoriously slavish work. But this wasn’t a bad day for Paisley, who heads the paper department for Stone Hill’s main tenant, the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. Not a bad day at all. Paisley and her dozen colleagues were settling into a remarkable new space that—with its opening on June 21—has pulled art’s scullerywork out of the cellar and onto the global architectural map.

Designed by Tadao Ando, Stone Hill isn’t your typical new museum building. Set into a steep slope up a winding footpath in Williamstown, Massachusetts, it sits amid enveloping stands of birch, beech, and sugar maples. When you reach this mountain redoubt—the latest addition to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute—you’ll find no soaring atrium, no signature reflecting pool (though one of those is coming in the next phase of the Clark’s expansion). What you will find is a lavishly appointed, $25 million, art-sudsing laundromat.

Though it does sport a cafe, classroom, and lovely galleries—with white oak floors and windows that open onto the woods—Stone Hill’s showpiece lies elsewhere, in the main painting conservation lab. There, with work stations flanked by elephant-trunk-like vacuum tubes, a wall of glass washes conservators with northern light. On a recent visit, two monumental Arshile Gorky paintings were set opposite that wall. Refugees from the Newark International Airport, they had once been blotted out with 14 coats of house paint. Inch by inch, conservators were stripping away decades-old sludge to reach the mother lode: Gorky’s original 1937 brushstrokes. The building was designed, Ando said, to give its occupants the same natural light under which such canvases were first created. Gorky, I’m sure, never had it quite this good.

In today’s age of mega-museums, the center’s varnish spray booths, vacuum hot tables, and assorted studios give the place a refreshingly workaday feel. (How many trophy buildings can claim, at their core, a lead-lined x-ray room? Top that, Daniel Libeskind.) Credit Gensler, the project’s architect of record, for knitting together the 32,000-square-foot building around a generously proportioned, 24-by-24-foot module, with a geothermal heating and cooling system.

True, conservators can mainly be glimpsed toiling through glass from the building’s exterior terraces. But as compensation, Stone Hill’s natural setting can be lived in the full. The center’s two-story form is pierced by a dramatic diagonal wall, drawing it into the landscape. (During an interview, Ando seemed bowled over less by his own handiwork than the surrounding Berkshires scenery. “I feel like I’m in Switzerland,” he joked.) Working from a campus master plan by Cooper, Robertson & Partners, landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand Associates have restored Stone Hill’s site—once a grazing field—to a tall-grass meadow, so that the building slowly unfolds from the hillside. The effect is heightened by Ando’s trademark concrete walls, formed here with acid-etched pine boards that leave a wood-grained imprint as a trace of the treeline beyond.

Stone Hill’s debut bodes well for the Clark’s canny ambition as an art destination (one that’s either in the heart of western Massachusetts or the middle of nowhere, depending on your mode of transportation). An Ando-designed second phase, due for completion in 2013, will reshape the main campus around a reflecting pool (fitted out for public ice-skating in winter) and add new visitor, conference, and exhibition facilities. Meanwhile, New York–based Selldorf Architects will renovate the Clark’s original building and its Pietro Belluschi–designed Manton Research Center (1973), giving the tired galleries and research rooms a much-needed revamp. As if that weren’t enough, New York firm WORK Architecture Company is designing new gallery and storage space for the Clark at the MASS MoCA complex in nearby North Adams, where there may be hope yet for the Clark’s long-suffering archivists: That sprawling former factory would seem another fine excuse to bring the back-of-house to light.

Preparing for the R-Word

The Numbers

From Pennsylvania coal miners to New York City investment bankers, everyone is worried about the economy, and architects are no exception. “People are waiting to see what happens,” said Richard Rosan, president of the Urban Land Institute. “Everyone I’ve talked to has more work than they can handle.” But, he added, “everyone is nervous.”

Many architects speak of yearlong backlogs and having to turn down projects. Still, a number of sobering reports were released in recent weeks that show that trend may not continue. Chief among these was the AIA Architecture Billings Index.

The index is based on a monthly survey of over 100 firms and measures their current billings record. In February, it recorded its second lowest reading, 41.3, since its inception in 1995. It was also the steepest two-month decline, at 13.2 percentage points. Numbers above 50 represent an increase in billings, and below, a decrease.

For the past four years, the index has been on average five points ahead, indicating the robust construction market. The last time it showed a prolonged decline was in 2001, in line with the collapsing tech bubble that culminated in October of that year, when the index recorded its slowest month ever at 40.1.

Without March’s numbers, due in mid-April, it is hard to say exactly where the market is headed, but the AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, who created the index and a number of other devices to track the architectural economy, said he remains circumspect. “It’s very clear now that the economy is a good deal weaker than it was last fall,” Baker said by phone from Boston, where he is also a senior research fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. “I don’t think you’ll really see it in the construction economy until third or fourth quarter ‘08, but design usually comes first. Some of this is certainly indicative of where the construction economy is headed.”

Baker said the situation is not as dire as the last recession because there is much less spec building. “You don’t have these tech companies building with 20, 30, 50 percent excess space for projected expansion,” he said. Baker also said that the nature of the downturn, which is concentrated in the housing market, is of less concern to AIA members; 85 percent of their work is non-residential, and that tends to be at the more stable high-end. The recent crisis in the financial markets could have a greater impact, but Baker said the work will then shift to governments and institutions, which like to build when markets are down and prices are cheaper.

“Thank god we’re global,” Asymptote principal Hani Rashid said. “We made sure—or were fortunate—to find different clients in different economies to buffer us against what’s happening now.” Baker countered that only a small percentage of US firms work abroad, but said that this may provide an opportunity to reduce outsourcing of backend work like construction documents.

Though the New York City Department of Buildings said construction permits—another early indicator—were down 40 percent for January and February from the previous year, AIA New York executive director Fredric Bell said members remain as busy as ever. “I look out the window and I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” he said. “Just look at all the construction cranes.”

Nancy Jenner, the deputy director of the Boston Society of Architects, said Boston had largely avoided the real estate craze whose aftermath now plagues most of the country since it was hit so hard in 2001. “Everyone’s talking about it, but no one is feeling it yet,” she said. “Sometimes it takes a while, but as far as I know, everyone is hiring.”

Others have not been so fortunate. The travails of Miami are well known, and the local chapter is still counting the casualties. “Some people have a lot of work, and some people don’t,” said AIA Miami executive director Mike Brazlavsky. “The big firms are doing better. But everyone is still working for the time being.”

David Gensler, an economist and executive director at his father’s eponymous firm, may have thousands of projects in the works, but still feels cautious. “It’s a weak market,” he said. “I expect a few wild cards that will make this longer and deeper than many people expect.” 

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Getting Pumped
Courtesy Los Angeles World Airports

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is about to get a lot bigger. According to a recently-closed Request for Proposals (RFP), the city of Los Angeles is preparing to build its largest new terminal at the airport in over 20 years. Several major firms have applied for the project, one of the first steps in the airport’s ambitious redevelopment plans. An architect should be chosen within one to two months, according to LAX officials. 

The new “Midfield Satellite Concourse,” located about a quarter mile west of the airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal and at the location of a current hangar area, would measure 500,000 to 600,000 square feet. Cost estimates have not been released. According to an RFP issued last fall and closed to entrants on December 20, the new terminal would stand about 140 feet wide, 700 to 1,000 feet long, and three to four levels high. 

The new terminal would be able to accommodate eight to nine Airbus A-380 aircraft gates, and would be connected to Tom Bradley via a 1,400-foot-long underground pedestrian tunnel. That tunnel would either include moving walkways, a people mover system, or both. The plans also call for a 100,000-square-foot, 80-foot-wide and 540-foot-long expansion of the Tom Bradley terminal, allowing for new gates along its west side. The RFP also says the building would aim for a LEED Silver rating. 

LAX officials have not disclosed which architecture firms applied for the project, but according to one applicant, the competition includes Santiago Calatrava with Gensler Architects; Foster and Partners with Leo Daly Architects and the Smith Group; Fentress Architects with HNTB; and Johnson Fain with HKS. DMJM Aviation was awarded $25 million on March 3 to be the project’s contractor. 

The airport’s last major expansion came in 1984, with the opening of the Bradley terminal and domestic Terminal 1. The current expansion is a major step for the LAX Master Plan, released in 2005. The massive $5 to 8 billion plan also calls for new gates, taxiways, parking structures, a new ground transportation center, an intermodal transportation center to connect to public transit, and even a new Central Terminal Area that will replace the airport’s existing parking structures. 

Last February, work began on the $723.5 million modernization of the Tom Bradley Terminal, led by Leo Daly Architects. That project, which the airport calls the largest individual project in city history, includes interior renovations (including an updated look and new furniture, lounges, and amenities), new LEED certified building systems, installation of an in-line checked-baggage security system, and a second boarding gate for extra-large planes. Work should complete by March 2010. 

Meanwhile, this February the city approved the building permit for restoration of the airport’s iconic white-arched Theme Building. The 1961 building designed by Paul R. Williams had deteriorated significantly. The work, led by LA-based Gin Wong Associates, will include reinforcing the structure’s core, adding new lateral bracing for its upper arches, repainting its exterior, replacing its plaster cladding, and seismic upgrades. That project is scheduled to be done in May 2009. 




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Nokia Calling
John Edward Linden

No matter where you were in Los Angeles on the night of October 18, it was difficult to miss the opening of the Nokia Theatre. Not only did the building glow brighter than every other building in downtown, but dozens of lights spun deliriously into the sky, putting any klieg-lit premiere in Hollywood to shame. The sleek building is the first completed building at L.A. Live, the massive residential and entertainment corridor taking shape in the blocks adjacent to the Staples Center, in the South Park neighborhood.

When completed in 2010, the 4-million-square-foot L.A. Live will also include the 2,400-seat Club Nokia venue, corporate office space for Herbalife, studios for ESPN, a Grammy museum, and a flurry of dining and entertainment tenants. A 54-story tower designed by Gensler will serve as the anchor hotel for the convention center, including residential units, a 123-room Ritz-Carlton and an 878-room J. W. Marriott. AEG, the sports and entertainment corporation that also owns Staples Center, is serving as developer for the project, which is estimated at $2.5 billion. Berkeley-based ELS Architecture designed the 260,000-square-foot, 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre. The 40,000-square-foot plaza surrounding the theater was designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studio of Los Angeles.

Designed to complement the Staples Center, the Nokia’s exterior uses a similar palette of materials, including metal panels, concrete, and glass, which will in turn be referenced in other elements at L.A. Live. Beyond the drama of a three-story glass-fronted lobby buzzing with LED panels, the interior of the theater itself is understated, almost unfinished, meant to be a neutral backdrop for the performers (it’s described by the designers as the “biggest black box in the country”). The theater blends the raw energy and high-end production capabilities of larger venues—the stage measures 14,000 square feet, one of the largest in the United States—with the intimacy of a concert hall. “No seat is further than 220 feet from the stage,” says ELS principal Kurt Schindler. “Seating is designed with a comfort level that exceeds an arena and approaches a performance theater.”

More important to the exterior are the throbbing LED panels that plaster the building, giving it that healthy glow. These had to be distinctive from the air, as the Nokia-Staples complex will serve as the centerpiece of the “blimp shot” for broadcasting events. A similar consideration had to be made for the plaza, where an elegant graphic paving pattern lends richness for television cameras and familiarity on a human scale, said Bob Hale, partner at Rios Clementi Hale, alluding to more than 15 residential towers completed or under construction within walking distance of the plaza.

“For certain events it will be the center of LA, but on a day-to-day basis it’s the town square for that part of South Park,” remarked Hale, who also said that developers would like to bring a greenmarket to the plaza as just one of its many uses, from red carpet arrivals to cultural festivals. For special events, the plaza itself can convert into an entertainment venue, aided by an electronic infrastructure that allows “plug and play” audio visual capabilities, and the six towers, which can further support filming, projection, or performance space. The plaza is flanked by landscaping, including planters that provide places to sit and gather while shaded by canopies of plane trees. Rios Clementi Hale’s design will continue to be implemented to visually unite the entire L.A. Live complex. 

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A Rough Beauty
Zoning required a setback roughly in line with the building's third box. A tight budget prevented a full build out to that line, creating the opportunity for SANAA's playful composition.
Dean Kaufman


ome renderings, like some photographs, become fixed in the brain. Architects equipped with ever more sophisticated techniques for producing ever more seductive—and seemingly real—images must contend with the expectations their renderings produce. Some visitors may grouse that the built reality of SANAA’s New Museum of Contemporary Art does not correspond exactly with the shimmering rendering that the late Times critic Herbert Muschamp breathlessly called “little SoHo lofts that died and went to heaven,” but so much the better. The building’s unexpected toughness is appropriate for its location on the Bowery, where a still-active flophouse sits next door and restaurant supply wholesalers line the block across the street, and for its client, known for showing experimental work and for eschewing the preciousness of more established institutions.

Which is not to say that the building doesn’t shimmer, sometimes. When sunlight or nighttime illumination strike the aluminum mesh cladding just right, it glints and sparkles. More often, however, the building appears somewhat muted except at the transparent street level, which, with its delicate electronic signage, visible rear gallery, retail space, café, and exposed loading area, promises to be full of activity. This tension between stillness and animation—emphasized so much further by the arrangement of the building’s offset box-like floor-plates, perfectly balanced between the deliberate and the haphazard—creates a fascinating, somewhat off-axis terminus to Prince Street.

Initially the architects had planned to clad the building in galvanized or stainless steel panels, but testing found that New York’s lead-filled air would have quickly left the surface pitted and dirty, exposing its seams. Eventually, they settled on the mesh, an industrial material manufactured in England that was originally used to stabilize roadbeds. The sheets of mesh overlap, creating an almost seamless look from the street. Suspended by simple aluminum clips, the mesh covers a system of extruded aluminum panels. “We wanted it to read as a single surface,” said Florian Idenburg, one of the two people from SANAA’s office who relocated to New York to run the project. Gensler is the executive architect on the job, acting, said Idenburg, “like the big brother firm, showing us how things work,” he said.

The rugged materials are carried inside: poured concrete floors with circular scuffs from the finishing, plain white plaster and sheetrock walls, grids of fluorescent lighting, and polycarbonate panels over the skylights. Aluminum mesh is used on counters and shelving in the bookstore as a subtle marker of identity for the institution. “Initially the concept for the building looked luminescent, like a giant Noguchi lamp, but what they delivered is industrial strength,” said Richard Flood, the New Museum’s chief curator. “Since Dia in Chelsea closed, the city has lacked a museum with industrial strength galleries. These spaces are very virile with a real sense of purpose.”

Using ordinary materials, albeit carefully detailed, is something of a departure for SANAA, whose aesthetic identity has been defined by ultra-refined surfaces: nearly invisible glass walls, such as in the Tokyo Dior headquarters or the Glass Pavilion in Toledo, Ohio, or razor-thin steel partitions, as in the House in a Plum Grove, also in Tokyo. Idenburg admits that the firm’s comfort with commonplace materials called for a learning curve, but thinks it is better suited to their client. “They asked us to design a black box theater and we asked if we could make it white instead, and they said sure, we’ll just paint it black if we don’t like it,” he said with a laugh. The architects may be prominent, but at the New Museum there are few sacred cows. “Sejima calls it beautiful rough,” said Toshihiro Oki, the other member of SANAA’s office in New York, of principal architect Kazuyo Sejima.

If the materials are simple, the sequence of spaces is rich. “When you are designing galleries for contemporary art, you are basically designing spaces for art that doesn’t exist yet,” said Idenburg. SANAA responded by creating three distinctly different galleries with varying levels of natural light. All three are restrained white boxes lit by grids of fluorescent tubes: unpretentious, blank canvases for artists and curators. The fourth floor gallery feels vast with 24-foot ceiling heights. An unadorned staircase edges outside the elevator core, offering a glimpse outside through a side window. This outside stair is also the only point of access for a small art alcove, carved out of the building core, which also serves as an air return. The third floor is more moderately scaled at 21 feet high, while the second, accessed by elevator or through an internal stair in the core, is the lowest, at 18 feet, but has the largest floor-plate. Above the galleries, an event space offers sweeping views of downtown, including from a somewhat vertiginous glass railed terrace. Educational spaces and offices are located on the fifth and sixth foors. The top box holds mechanicals and is open to the sky.

Flood praises the galleries, which at press time where just beginning to be filled with art. “Some people were concerned about the fluorescents, but they’re proving to be wonderful for hanging art,” he said. “There’s something that’s very honest about the lighting. It creates a very direct experience.” This idea of honesty seems well suited for much of the work the museum shows, which, according to Flood, “often isn’t interested in seamlessness. It shows the process of its making.”

SANAA’s work has often been referred to as evanescent, and their early conception of the building may have fit that description, but they have delivered a much firmer and well-defined work of architecture. By initially offering an image that could bewitch the imagination of the public—and perhaps more importantly, the imagination of the press—and then moving away from it to serve the needs of their client, SANAA has satisfied the contemporary lust for spectacle while creating a museum building that is all about the art.

Alan G. Brake is an Associate Editor at AN.

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Spaceport Blasts Off
Foster's hangar evokes the shape of a nearby rock formation
Courtesy Foster + Partners

In early September, a competition-winning plan by UK-based Foster + Partners and design and engineering company URS was cleared for lift-off, as details were finalized on the hangar and terminal facilities for Spaceport America, the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world. The 100,000-square-foot complex located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is expected to be fully operational by 2010, with two or three suborbital flights daily, five days a week.

The $31 million hangar by Foster is a small portion of the $200 million spaceport complex, funded by New Mexico and a 0.25 cent gross receipt tax adopted by local counties. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will serve as the spaceport’s anchor tenant, occupying training facilities, pre- and post-flight lounges and two maintenance hangars.

The competition included two other finalists: Dallas-based HKS working with Antoine Predock of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a San Francisco-based Gensler team in association with Rohde May Keller McNamara Architecture, also of Albuquerque.

URS Spaceport
The hangar is bermed into the earth.

A major requirement of the design was that it could not disturb the uses or views of nearby El Camino Real, a historic trade route that traverses the valley. Completely concealed from the west, the spaceport will be bermed in earth materials sculpted into low-rising berms. An undulating roof will mimic the rise of a formation called Point of Rocks located in the valley.

The shape of the structure is meant to evoke the dimensions of a spacecraft, with the double-height hangar rising along the linear axis, administration offices to the west, and areas for preparation and viewing in the larger eastern flank. Passengers will enter the building through a deep channel cut into the ground, walking along retaining walls housing exhibitions by the region’s residents and about the history of space travel. Views of the main “superhangar” will also be revealed before passengers reach the terminal, building drama with glimpses of the spacecraft and simulation area. A similar technique will be used for the terminal, where the control room will be visible but not open to the public. 

The facility hopes for a LEED Platinum certification, with passive energy solutions, consolidating glazing to the eastern elevation to minimize heat gain, and using the building’s massive size to draw ventilation into cooling subterranean chambers. Photovoltaic panels will supplement power production.

Acknowledging the element of spectacle certain to be associated with the structure’s novel use, while playing upon New Mexico’s rich space travel history, resulted in “flowing, dramatic spaces, and a form using natural materials that are essential, and awe-inspiring,” says Antoinette Nassopoulos, a partner at Foster + Partners. Viewing platforms are incorporated as large windows into the concrete shell, designed to best deliver the experience to both space-bound astronauts and the general public. “Visibility of mission control and take-off and landings from the spaceport add to the drama,” Nassopoulos added. Groundbreaking is set for next year. 

Banking On Leed

At last year’s Green Build Conference in Denver, the USGBC announced the Portfolio Program, a one-year pilot that commits large-scale corporations to adopting LEED building practices by bulk certifying comparable buildings. Participants commit 25 buildings, or two million square feet, for LEED certification; both new construction and retrofit projects are eligible. The corporations develop green prototypes for standardized use with USGBC incentives such as discounts on the LEED certifications, customized training, and educational resources. The program launched with commitments from the University of Florida, Starbucks, Toyota, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and HSBC.

While the number of participants is limited in the first year of this program, which runs until the end of 2007, new LEED certified buildings are already debuting. The London-based international banking giant HSBC has opened its first LEED Gold certified branch in Greece, New York. The building is carbon neutral thanks to geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and energy purchased from a wind farm. Rainwater captured from the roof is used for restroom operations and watering the landscape. Indoor lights dim in response to sunshine and the glowing sign uses LEDs. Rapidly renewable materials used on the interior include bamboo flooring and wheat and corn-based products.

John Beckinghausen, VP and Director of Environmental Sustainability for HSBC North America, explains that with this prototype in place, the company will open 24 new LEED certified branches over the next four years. While some projects may take over existing buildings, all will be new branches as part of an expansion project. While green features of the Greece prototype will be repeated, the company is not establishing a standardized aesthetic for the designs, which will appear all around the country. A new 460,000-square-foot HSBC headquarters building in Chicago will also seek LEED certification; the five-story office tower is being designed by Wright Architects in Chicago.

Previously, the time and expense of applying for LEED certification has prevented corporations from green “volume building,” but for now volume certification seems to have captured the banking world’s attention. PNC Bank opened its first LEED facility in Pittsburgh in 2000, and now boasts a Gensler- designed prototype. The company already has 45 LEED certified buildings and 18 more waiting for certification. Citi has plans to retrofit a bulk of projects for LEED certification and will soon complete a 15-story building in Queens featuring a stormwater recycling system, energy-efficient fixtures, and day-lit work

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LMDC's Legacy

Weiss/Manfrediis concept design for Park Row introduces a landscaped, terraced pedestrain connection to the elevated Police Plaza.

The mandate of the LMDC, formed by Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the aftermath of 9/11, was not only to oversee the rebuilding of the WTC site but to spearhead the comprehensive, integrated urban renewal of all of Lower Manhattan. To that end, it commissioned several major urban studies in areas below Canal Street by top-tier design firms, and encouraged them to truly think big-picture about rebuilding downtown. Weiss/ Manfredi, H3 Hardy Collaborative Architects, Robert A. M. Stern, and Smith-Miller + Hawkinson were all awarded contracts, amounting to over $2 million in fees, according to research compiled by AN at the time of these particular planss completion in 2004 (see World Trade Windfall,, AN 19_11.16.2004). When the LMDC announced last July that it would dissolve in the months to come, it maintained that its primary responsibilitiess selecting a masterplan and memorial design for the WTC site and allocating more than $2.78 billion in federal grants toward fostering business, residential, and cultural growth downtownnhad been fulfilled. Construction of the memorial and development of urban design guidelines for the site has been since delegated to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, but the fate of the urban studies the LMDC initiated has been more difficult to assess.

The LMDC was never intended to be the agency that implemented such plans. Moreover, there is never a guarantee that any commission will translate into a realized work. But the fact that so little has been publicly discussed with respect to urban design at the WTC site or its surrounding neighborhoods since 9/11 merits a closer look at these plans, and at how or whether the ideas they propose might be expressed in built form.

According to LMDC spokesperson John DeLibero, all of the above-mentioned plans have been transferred to the Department of City Planning (DCP). Rachaele Raynoff, DCP press secretary, confirmed that the DCP is in possession of them but could not specify how the plans are being prioritized. At present, the DCPPs biggest initiative in Lower Manhattan is the East River Waterfront Study by SHoP Architects and the Richard Rogers Partnership.

One piece of news that gives reason to be optimistic that the plans wonnt end up in a drawer is Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patakiis announcement in May 2005 of a comprehensive allocation plann for the LMDCCs unspent $800 million. The plan earmarked $110 million to implement certain elements of the LMDCCs urban plans, including the studies conducted by Weiss/ Manfredi, H3, and Stern. For some of the designers, the announcement was the last concrete news they received regarding their projects.

Raynoff confirmed that the DCP, together with the Department of Transportation (DOT), is currently studying one aspect of Weiss/ Manfrediis larger plan, which looked at the area surrounding the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage (see A View from the Bridge,, AN 10_6.08.2005). The plan envisions connecting Chinatown to the seaport through streetscaping, and makes specific recommendations for reinvigorating the closed-off area under the Brooklyn Bridge and replacing the concrete retaining wall behind Police Plaza on Park Row with a grassy, stepped pedestrian path to connect the elevated plaza with the street.

After the architects presented the plan to the LMDC in 2005, the LMDC and other consulting city agencies focused on their recommendations for Park Row as a feasible project. Shortly after, as part of Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patakiis allocation plan, $32 million was granted to fund components of their study and a related Chinatown study, including Park Row. As of yet, however, the DCP and DOT have not announced any concrete plans or schedule for the project.

H33s design for Greenwich Street South proposed roofing over the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to create a park along with new residential and commerical space.

Aspects of the Greenwich Street South Study, developed by a team of seven design and consulting firms headed by H3 Hardy Collaborative Architects, also appear to have a promising future. This study proposes decking over the existing entry to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (owned by the MTA), which currently separates Battery Park City South from the financial district south of the WTC site. The plan suggests that the new surface area of the deck would create valuable buildable space in an area where opportunities for largescale development no longer exist. In that new space, it recommends the creation of a 2-acre park surrounded by residential and commercial developments, as well as a bus garage south of Morris Street that would decrease current street-level congestion and house buses that might be displaced by potential developments on the East River Waterfront and Pier 40.

At H33s last meeting with the LMDC in September, attending city officials agreed that if the engineering required to build the deck could be coordinated, the MTA would revisit the proposals. The DCP anticipates working with the Governor Eliot Spitzerrs administration to realize this plan. Though the prospects for the plan seem positive, principal designer Hugh Hardy still worried, With the fading of the LMDC, [the plan] doesnnt have a champion.. Senior associate John Fontillas added, The unfortunate thing is that [the LMDCCs former vice president of planning and development] Alex Garvin intended for all of these parts to knit together. With personnel changing, therees little institutional memory.. Though the designers have not received any updates on the status of the plan, it has been allotted $40 million under the 2005 Bloomberg-Pataki initiative.

By comparison, aspects of Sternns Fulton Street Revitalization seem to be moving forward. With $38 million (again, part of Bloomberg and Patakiis 2005 initiative) approved by the LMDC board of directors in February 2006, the parts of the plan that have been retained for implementation, according to the DCP, include: enhancing the 35,000-square-foot Titanic Memorial Park and Pearl Street Playground, both set for completion in 2008; improving retail, facades, and streetscape elements along Fulton toward the East River; and creating a new open space at corner of Fulton and Gold streets. It is difficult to know, however, how close these elements are to the original design recommendations of Stern and partner on the study, Gensler. A public presentation of the study in 2005 was cancelled at the last minute, and even then, the plan was reportedly only in draft form (see Fulton Street Plan Chugs Along,, AN 12_7.13.05). Moreover, both then and now, the designers have declined to comment, barred by the LMDC from speaking about the plan.

Louise Nevelson Plaza is the result of a larger study by Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects to identify open-space possibilities in the blocks east of the WTC site. View west toward William Street.

The most tangible results from any of the studies are from Smith-Miller + Hawkinsonns comprehensive urban study Strategic Open Space: Public Realm Improvement Strategy for Lower Manhattan. The study, which won a P/A Award in 2003, canvassed 500 acres of Lower Manhattan in the area roughly bound by Fulton, Church, and Water streets to identify possibilities for creating new public spaces and bolstering existing ones. One site, Louise Nevelson Plaza, a run-down traffic island at the corner of William and Liberty, stood out as a feasible location to move forward on right away. The architects worked with the LMDC and other consulting city agencies to draft construction documents, and had successfully gone through the majority of the approval process well before the LMDC began to phase out. Since the LMDCCs dissolution, the Department of Design and Construction has taken over execution of the project, and has folded it in among its general infrastructure improvements on Liberty Street.

The design for the plaza involves a series of changes meant to create, in principal Laurie Hawkinsonns words, a 24/7 open spacee in an emerging mixed-use neighborhood. The park will feature benches of cast glass, new lighting and planting, and seven restored Nevelson sculptures that the artist herself donated to the park in the 1970s. The project will break ground this summer, and is expected to be completed in 2009.

The LMDC has never been forthcoming about its undertakings, despite the fact that these compelling urban design studies are nothing to hide. Even now, no one from the LMDCC including Kevin Rampe, chair of the LMDC boarddwill comment on the planss respective fates. The arrival of Governor Spitzer, who has been critical of the way the LMDC has been operating, may bring a change in direction. A. J. Carter, spokesperson for Empire State Development Corporation, the LMDCCs parent body, offered, We are taking a fresh look at everything and re-evaluating whatts been done and what needs to be done as we get started with the [Spitzer] Administration..


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The Crystal Method

At the Hearst building on 57th Street, the trip up from street level on a side-skewed escalator embedded in a stepped glass waterfall feels a bit like scaling the sides of a pyramid. Reaching the mezzanine lobby of this old-new corporate headquarters is to experience a true sense of arrival, just as its architect Norman Foster surely intended.

The Hearst building is the most significant of the new crop of Manhattan icon buildings because it changes the terms of engagement. Instead of making itself known by powerhousing its way into the skyline like the Time Warner Center, Foster's first skyscraper in the United States enlists restraint and sophisticated technologies—qualities so much harder to grasp than a snappy image—to endorse a corporate brand. But whether all the advanced environmental, structural, or social engineering is for real or for show remains unclear.

The main lobby is a showstopper. Elevated three levels above the street, it is every bit as operatic—albeit with a sci-fi air—as the Aida-esque cast concrete original built by set-designer Joseph Urban and George P. Post in 1928, which has been preserved as a kind of orchestra pit from which the new skyscraper rises. Occupied by pharaonic phalanxes of 30-ton box columns and various mega-diagonals with artist Robert Long's six-story banner of mud art running up the core, this 35,000-square-foot space—which Foster calls the piazza—is rendered even more like a real town square since Urban's concrete walls have been stripped clean and furred out to look like the exteriors of, say, the walls of a Milanese bank building circa 1930. But instead of opening to the sky, the piazza is covered by a vast skylight. Tilting back in a cafe chair at Cafe 57 (aka the company canteen and the main occupant of the space), one stares right up at 36 stories of glass and steel muscle flexing its way to the skyline. Suddenly, the to-ing-and-fro-ing of people is reduced to an inconsequential shuffle, as soothing as the sound of the Jamie Carpenter–designed waterfall that has been computer programmed to mimic a babbling brook. Corporate confidence this suave is intimidating.

That makes it all the more significant that most of the building's rave reviews have dwelled not on Foster's magnificently controlled stagecraft but on its environmental and structural features. It's especially unusual given the business of its client: Hearst is a media giant, the third largest magazine company in the country, with a stable of titles including Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, Seventeen, and Esquire. For an empire fixated on image to put good works before good looks is a watershed moment in corporate branding strategy. In fact, Hearst is so proud of all the green stuff going on in the building that it has emblazoned its LEED Gold medallion right between the revolving doors leading into the building. And kudos to them for the 75 percent of the year that air-conditioners will be using outside air; the reduction in electrical energy use that can be estimated to be the equivalent of 1,074 tons of CO2; and the 14,000-gallon reclamation tank in the basement that is at the ready to supply some 50 percent of the water needed for all the building's plantings. And so on.

Not to diminish the building's very real accomplishments, but the United States is so far behind most European and Asian efforts when it comes to enacting sustainability measures that it's hard to get too excited about reducing electricity and water consumption. The building doesn't have nearly as many of the energy-saving strategies as Foster's Free University in Berlin and Swiss Re in London boast. In fact, its accomplishments as a green building are modest when compared to almost any other building by its own architect. It might rate well by local standards, but the truth is, every new skyscraper in New York should be LEED Gold–certified by now.

As for the diagrid structure, which has been described variously as a jack-in-the-box, a French-market net bag, and a hydraulic scissor-lift, it is derring-do of a higher order. The diagrid started out as a device to stiffen the east facade, which was necessary because the architects pushed the service core off-center, toward the western edge of the site, up against a neighboring 50-story apartment building. (They placed the core on that edge, reasoning that westward views would be blocked anyway by the apartment building.) But the diagrid looked so good, Foster went for the full wrap even though it creates floor plates that vary considerably in size, from 17,000 to 21,000 square feet. This is just another of the idiosyncrasies that a single corporate client can afford. At another point, the architects thought a cable rod running vertically through the building's corners might be necessary to steady any sway resulting from the 20-foot difference in floor-plate size at the extreme corners, but that became redundant once the longest beams were suspended from above rather than secured by a cantilever.

In a similarly productive collaboration between determined aesthetics and innovative engineering, the design team managed to come up with a way to make the lobby even more grandiose, in spite of structural necessities. (The space is already an impressive structural feat in that its skylight is the primary support for the old concrete shell of the Urban structure.) Foster was not going to let the opening between the modest ground-floor entrance and the spectacular mezzanine lobby look like some trap door from below. Instead, there is a gaping 80-foot-by-30-foot space through which the elevators rise, thanks to a specially devised ring beam that disperses the force thrust of all those mega-columns supporting the tower.

Traditionally, the job of corporate icons has been two-fold: to show off institutional might and to instill employees with slavish devotion. The Hearst building accomplishes the first of these tasks with impressive pizzazz. The office floors should please employees, too, even if views from some senior editorial offices are slashed right through with big fat braces. The plan is conspicuously open with cubicle walls that are lower than American Dilbert cells and higher than their Euro-equivalents. And all perimeter offices have glass walls allowing sunlight to flow in unimpeded.

Still, there's an overall sameness, even with the glorious conference corners where unimpeded glass meets vertiginous views. They made me think of the good-old bad days when hierarchies were more visible, even aspirational. Here, there's no art department ghetto where the music blasts and the walls are tacked-up with messy collages. There's no editor-in-chief lair with furnishings better than the rest, inspiring ambitious underlings to plot their climb up the masthead. All that sunlight is well worth the loss of outdated modes of status reinforcement, right?

But then deep in the heart of the building is the Good Housekeeping Institute. It is a strange and vital place where stacks of new products are piled around and row upon row of lab equipment sits at the ready to test everything from the latest washing machine from Miele to the next generation of Fruit Loops, all hoping for the coveted Seal of Approval. The Institute, with its messes and lab-coated technicians huddled at a counter sharing lunch, underscored the complete aesthetic control and good taste that practically smothers the rest of the building.

Since the 1920s, the Institute has held luncheons in a special dining room that has received numerous U.S. presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, as well as Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton. Hearst executives decided to replicate the original dining room in the new 29th floor Institute—a Mount Vernon set piece, complete with black marble fireplace, sconces, rugs, and furnishings re-installed intact. Apparently, they think that our presidents are more comfortable in a colonial-style setting rather than in a space like the 46th-floor boardroom where two diagonal columns intersecting the northward view of Central Park etch a mighty V for victory.

The new Hearst building is a welcome addition to the Manhattan horizon. It may not dominate the skyline but it certainly raises the bar for the next corporate brand with ambitions.


Gross square footage: 856,000 sq feet
Total construction cost: $400 million (estimated)
Architect: Foster and Partners: Norman Foster, Brandon Haw, Mike Jelliffe, Michael Wurzel, Peter Han, David Nelson, Gerard Evenden, Bob Atwal, John Ball, Nick Baker, Una Barac, Morgan Flemming, Michaela Koster, Chris Lepine, Martina Meluzzi, Julius Streifeneder, Gonzalo Surroca.
Fit-out: Norman Foster, Brandon Haw, Mike Jelliffe, Chris West, John Small, Ingrid Solken, Michael Wurzel, Peter Han
Associate architect: Adamson Associates; Tishman Speyer Properties, development manager.
Engineers: Cantor Seinuk Group, structure; Flack & Kurtz, mechanical; VDA, vertical transportation.
Consultants: George Sexton, lighting; Ira Beer, food service; Gensler, interiors.
General contractor: Turner Construction
All Images: Chuck Choi / Courtesy Foster and Partners