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LPC Delays Vote on Tower

At a January 16 public hearing, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) urged Foster + Partners to modify the designs for the proposed addition to 980 Madison Avenue in order to win approval for the project. The firm presented a scheme for a 30-story glass tower to stand atop a five-floor mixed-use building, originally known as the Parke-Bernet Galleries, a gallery and art auction building completed in 1950. The idea of planting a modern tower on top of a historic building echoes Fosterrs recently completed Hearst headquarters.

The projectts developer, Aby Rosenns RFR Holdings, and Foster plan to modify the design and present to the LPC yet again. Cheri Fein, spokesperson for Rosen and Foster, stated that the twomenwereepleased that a vote was not taken and that there is now the opportunity to redesign.. A followup presentation to the LPC has not yet been scheduled.

The January hearing was a continuation of the public hearing held on October 24, 2006, where a large public contingency voiced both opposition and support for the design. Among the opponents was the Municipal Arts Society, which testified that the design of the addition was inappropriate in terms of height, massing, design, and materials in relationship to the Parke-Bernet Building and the historic district..

LPC chair Robert Tierney called the January 16 hearing a good exchange of views and ideas.. Many comments centered on the height of the tower, which LPC vice chairperson Pablo E. Vengoechea deemed overwhelming. Others took issue with the materials and the way the glass tower would contrast with nearby buildings. One member of the commission, architect Jan Hird Pokorny, supported the project.

The second hearing again drew many Upper East Side residents who have been vocal about their opposition to the proposal, including writer Tom Wolfe. No limit was set for what height the committee would deem appropriate, although it is clear that the majority of the LPC board and neighbors think that 30 stories is too tall. Rosen said in a statement,, We appreciate the thoughtfully considered comments at the LPC meeting, and have returned to the drawing board to come up with a design that responds to these comments yet remains viable.. For approval, the design must win six of the 11 LPC member votes.

A. Stewart Walker and Alfred Easton Poor designed the 980 Madison building with a simple limestone facade. Fosterrs proposal includes restoration, which Tierney praised as an impressive return to the buildinggs historical origins.. The plan would have refurbished the building, including removing more than 50 windows cut into the building over time, removing the fifth floor added in 1957, reintroducing the original roof garden, and adding 25,000 square feet of public gallery space.

When asked if he felt thatmodernconstruction could fit in with the historic character of the Upper East Side, Tierney pointed out, Renzo Pianoos expansion of the Whitney was quite striking, modern, and contemporary, and was approved.. Despite winning the LPCCs approval, however, the Piano project was ultimately scrapped, after the Whitney decided to build an expansion in the Meatpacking District rather than engage in a prolonged battle with neighbors.

SARAH COX

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LMDC's Legacy
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Courtesy WEISS / MANFREDI
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.


Courtesy H3 HARDY COLLABORATION ARCHITECTURE
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.


COURTESY SMITH-MILLER+HAWKINSON ARCHITECTS
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..

SAMANTHA TOPOL IS AN EDITOR AT AN.

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Fragmentation and Absence at WTC

To date, the most realistic view of the future streetscape and urban environment of the WTC site is a drawing that Silverstein Properties released in late September (below) for the unveiling of the designs of Towers 2, 3, and 4 by Foster and Partners, Richard Rogers Partnership, and Maki and Associates, respectively. The site plan, credited to Fosterrs office, offers a dimensionality and level of detail that previous site plans offered by the LMDC do not. The irony of this situation becomes clear when you realize that the Foster-generated coordinating plan was not made by a public authority but by a private developer who is shaping one third of the original WTC sitees 16 acres. No such excellent, professional plan has been offered to the public by the public authorities that own and administer the land, and there has been no public discussion of urban design on or around the WTC site to date.

The Silverstein plan maps various vital open spaces and streetscapes, including the vast memorial (conceived by its designers as encompassing everything to the blockks curbline); the plaza areas around the Freedom Tower and 7WTC, the enigmatic Performing Arts Center, and WTC Transportation Hub; and the multi-level, glass-fronted commercial realms along Church and Greenwich streets, defined by the Silverstein towers.

Formal urban design guidelines, which until recently were expected to be released by the LMDC, would have formed these streetscapes. (Even as late as August 2006, LMDC board president Kevin Rampe was quoted in a New York Times article as saying that the agency would release guidelines in September.) Now the Port Authority is charged with the task of considering the voids between its real estate developments, voids that contain the civic life of the city. With so many of the sitees designs now in refinement phase, even the imminent release of commercial and urban design guideliness which the Port Authority promises to release in the coming monthss seems moot.

This sad situation might be contrasted with the more open process that accompanied the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, wherein vociferous critics challenged the developer, Forest City Ratner, leading to the projectts downsizing and improvements to Frank Gehryys design. No such democratic process has been applied to the WTC site since its inception nearly 40 years ago, when David Rockefeller, then the chair of Chase Manhattan Bank, influenced his brother Nelson, then state governor, to influence the Port Authority to create the corporate WTC complex. (David had something to gain: Chase had just built an expensive tower nearby and had a vested interest in the revitalization of the area.) The resulting WTC complex was recognized as an urban disaster long before it was destroyed on 9/11 with its vast, windswept podium and unremarkable, dull design.

Now we face a design disaster of a different order, with yet another dull tower looming over yet another roof-garden plaza. The title of Aradds memorial design, Reflecting Absence, states the current problem exactly: Absence of coordination now dominates all. There is no sense of a whole among the fragments, each of which will assert itself around the memorial. Each project stands on its own block, dealing with the landds slope toward the river with its own podium, stairs, and blank sidewalls.

Everything is subservient to the Twin Towerss absenceefrom the memorial design, with its landscaped terrace divided into small secure areas by the original towerss footprints, entry buildings, ramps, steps, benches, and side walls; to the surrounding towers that rise high from their sites, matching in volume the absent towers. The result is a disjointed streetscape that is only now being addressed as an afterthought by the Port Authority. We can only imagine what would have come from the site had it not been for the appealing distraction of Daniel Libeskindds original masterplan, with its sad central void and towering (though pointless) symbols.

D. GRAHAME SHANE IS AN URBAN HISTORIAN WHO TEACHES AT THE COOPER UNION AND CITY COLLEGE. HIS MOST RECENT BOOK IS RECOMBINANT URBANISM: CONCEPTUAL MODELING IN ARCHITECTURE, URBAN DESIGN AND CITY THEORY (JOHN WILEY & SONS, 2005).




The Silverstein-issued site plan, rendered
by Foster, shows the
WTC Memorial (H) surrounded by steps along West Street, Liberty Street, and
the southern part of Greenwich Street (I), with level access only
at the junction of Fulton and Greenwich (J), opposite the PATH Station/Transportation Hub by Santiago Calatrava

 



SOMMs drawings of the Freedom Tower (A) show its Fulton Street side as level with the street. Facing West Street, however, the site slopes gently upwards, with sets of stairs and terrace landings forming a triangular plaza (B). One drawing of the plaza also indicates a 6-foot-high wind break,, extending partially toward the plaza and raising the height of a retaining wallla
dead sheer walllthat appears to continue down Vesey Street (C). The tower neighbors Frank Gehryys Performing Arts Center (D), which the city has assumed responsibility for, but whose fate remains undetermined.

 




Though the entrance of Silversteinns 7WTC (E) by David Childs is transparent, art-enriched, and faces
a friendly plaza on Greenwich Street (F),
its Vesey, Barclay, and Washington elevations are featurelesss windowless and doorless facades that convey the deadly effect of fear on urban street life. The towerrs fortified base, housing several floors of Con Ed generators, is also a monument to our failure to learn from past mistakes, i.e., creating
a single transformer center (and easy target) instead of a system
of geographically dispersed transformer stations.

 




Silverstein and mall developer Westfield are locating two thirds of
the Foster towerrs (G) retail at or above grade, and one third below.
The tower is complex
in section because it contains trading floors on lower levels, with a hotel and offices above. The design takes into consideration the slope of the site, incorporating cascading steps into a multi-level lobby. With its prime location and more urban engagement, this building could easily upstage the Freedom Tower, making Patakiis tower entirely redundant.

 



The landscaped terrace of the WTC Memorial (H) is split into small secure areas by
the towerss old footprints/reflecting pools, entry building, ramps, steps, benches, and side walls that address the sitees slope. Itts plausible, too, that the memorial will have perimeter barriers for public safetyy (or to prevent spontaneous demonstrations). Animations on Silverstein Propertiess site (viewed in December 2006) pan across West Street to the base of the Freedom Tower and appear to show 10-foot-high security mesh fences in the park across from the base of the tower. It is difficult to read from Fosterrs site plan (at right), but lines appear to show fences parallel to West and Liberty as well, creating a penned-in area within the park. Meanwhile, the severely downsized Memorial entry pavilion and visitor center by Snnhetta (L) will no doubt be dwarfed by the surrounding towers and serves merely as a light cover and security gate to the underground realm of the memorial.

 



Grimshawws Fulton Street Transit Hub at Fulton and Broadway (not shown on the map) won a recent victory when the MTA agreed
to go ahead with the construction of a passage beneath
Dey Street, linking
to the Calatrava Transportation Hub (J), just one block west.

 


Calatravaas Transportation Hub (K) is a monument to
the power of the Port Authority, costing $2 billion to accommodate 33,000 commuters daily. Its vast scale is out
of proportion to its passenger flow (compare with the 500,000 commuters
who pass through Grand Central daily). The station also contains a part of the underground Westfield shopping mall, which will link to the adjacent Foster (G) and Rogers (M) towers, and an underground tourist bus parking garage. Tourists will pass through the underground mall to reach street level and then cross Greenwich Street to enter the memorial plaza.

 



Of the three tower designs Silverstein unveiled in late September, Richard Rogerss tower (M) was the least detailed. (All three teams are working to meet a March 1 deadline for schematic designs.) Rogerss crude, giant exterior trussessa signature that also appears in his design of the Silver Cup Studios in Long Island Cityywill loom above Calatravaas delicate and costly wings..

 



Makiis tower (N) has an enormous entry on its east side, facing Cooper Robertsonns Zuccotti Park (V).
The majority of the commuters who arrive at Calatravaas station and work in Wall Street will pass through the underground mall (which continues through the Rogers tower) and exit through Makiis portal. Inside, the retail space climbs 85 feet up on
the Church Street side
from the underground concourse and then crosses through the building to Greenwich Street, terminating in a restaurant overlooking the memorial.



Cooper Robertson, designers of Zuccotti Park (V), acknowledged the sitees natural downward slope and allowed the park to
drop diagonally from its Church Street corner toward Wall Street. If
the same idea had been applied to the memorial site, we might look forward to an incredible new civic space, wherein the natural slope creates a kind of open theater, allowing for performances or other free expressions.

 


The Department of Transportation (DOT) website shows that the PA will build a plenum under the recently reconstructed West Street to serve the PATH tunnels below, disrupting the street for the next three years. When completed, vent stacks will protrude from the sidewalk in front of the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center (O) and the traffic median (P). The DOT drawings also show a Proposed Pedestrian Concoursee connecting the underground shopping mall under Fulton Street via a bank of escalators (Q) that ascend to the Winter Garden.
 



Though the block below Liberty Street, between West and Greenwich, was originally designated to be Liberty Park, the park has been relegated to the northwest corner of the site (R). The rest of site is destined to be occupied by a sloping entry/exit ramp (S) leading to the belowground Port Authority Vehicular Security Center, which will house service areas for the memorial and route trucks and buses beneath the Greenwich Street towers to a parking lot beneath the Calatrava station. The site will be punctuated by 40-foot-high vents (T) for the underground security center. The site will also house Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church (U), which was on the southwestern portion of the WTC site but was destroyed on 9/11. The new church (whose design has not yet been approved by the Port Authority) will be wrapped in diesel exhaust as it is placed between the ramp and another 40-foot-tall exhaust vent at Liberty and Greenwich.



The DOT Environmental Impact Study (EIS) by Eng-Wong, Taub & Associates (posted on the Port Authorityys website) reveals that, in 2015, 100 percent of the tourist buses heading toward the Vehicular Security Center on Liberty Street (entrance ramp, S) will go down Greenwich Street, past the memorial. The study also reveals that 100 percent of the buses exiting the center will go up Church Street and 90 percent will turn left at Fulton Street, spewing their exhaust and noise beside the memorial on their way to West Street.

 

 

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Progress at Ground Zero

Five and a half years after 9/11, the WTC site and its surrounding streets are rumbling nonstop, with armies of workers laboring to finish site preparation and complex below-grade work. It will be more than a year before most of the key projects begin rising above grade. While the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, MTA, NYC Department ofTransportation, and private interests such as Silverstein Properties and Brookfield Properties coordinate underground work involving tunneling, linking pedestrian passageways, and threading utilities through the catacombs beneath the site and the cityys streets, the architects behind the iconic projects continue to refine their designs.

The process of design development and establishing construction schedules seems much clearer now that the LMDC is essentially out of the picture and the Port Authority has assumed control of the major WTC construction projectssa role it announced it would take last June and that was finalized on December 14. The Port Authority is overseeing the construction of the Memorial and Memorial Museum, the Freedom Tower, and the Transportation Hub. The agency is also producing Commercial Design Guidelines for private developments around the site, which should be released in the next few months. These guidelinesswhich are being produced with the help of Studio Daniel Libeskind and can be seen as a continuation of his work on the WTC Master Plannwill address issues such as massing, building heights, and street interface for commercial developments. The Port Authority is also in the process of contracting a consultant for streetscape design, following an RFP issued in December. The timing for these initiatives seems belated, given that the designs of the areaas most notable projectssincluding Silversteinns towers by Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Fumihiko Makii are well underway. With most of the projects looking at completion dates well beyond 2009, however, hopefully latee will prove better than never..

CATHY LANG HO




WTC Memorial




Courtesy WTC Memorial Foundation

The WTC Memorialls beleaguered design process is close to clearing another obstacle: resolving the treatment of victimss names. In Michael Aradds original design, the victimss names were randomly arranged in a ribbon surrounding the twin pools, viewed from contemplative below-ground galleries that encircled the pools. Following Frank Sciamees June 2006 cost-saving recommendations that eliminated underground components of the memorial, designers were asked to propose ways of integrating the names with the above-ground pools. Another new design requirement, which was ratified by the WTC Memorial Foundation in early December, is the grouping of victimss names according to where and with whom they might have been during the attack.

The designers are now exploring ways of integrating the names with the parapet surrounding the twin pools. Weere concerned with how to treat [the parapet] as not just a utilitarian object but as a contemplative one,,said Arad. Weere thinking about how a visitor approaches the edge of an enormous void, and how we can create an area of quiet reflection around it.. While he couldnnt offer specifics, Arad pointed out his desire for a parapet height that induces visitors to bow their heads, and a treatment of the inscriptions that allows visitors direct contact with names while discouraging behavior that might undermine the sacredness of the space.

With the memorial raised to the plaza level, consulting landscape architect Peter Walker has been called upon to revise his park design..Now therees pressure on the areas around the pool to have a more spiritual quality,, he said. Hees reexamining the space behind the parapets, considering densifying the canopy of trees or other measures that will give people a greater sense of a private space,, he said.

Walker is also studying the northeast corner of the plaza. The original design of the cultural center [by Snnhetta] provided an archway, which acted as a natural gateway into the park,, said Walker. Now the plaza itself must serve as a gateway, and our dilemma is how to create a meaningful sequence into a space thatts hallowed and quiet..

The Port Authority and Memorial Foundation expect to have design options for these memorial elements in the first quarter of this year. Also expected to be unveiled in the coming months is a revised design of the much smaller Snnhetta facility, which will now function only as the Memorial Museum and visitors center.



WTC Transportation Hub


Courtesy Port Authority

When Santiago Calatrava unveiled his design of the birdlike Transportation Hub in January 2004, the $2.2 billion project was heralded as an optimistic symbol for the rebirth of the WTC site. Located kitty-corner to the memorial plaza, the sculptural building has taken on new importance since the Snnhetta project was reprogrammed and no longer spans the northeast corner of the memorial plaza, anticipated to be the memorialls busiest entrance point.

This change in plans opens the station to more space and sky, but has also presented a new dilemma: The northeast corner of the plaza will now serve as the prime gateway to the memorial, and must be designed to convey a dignified approach. The problem is, the plaza is also the roof of the underground stationns mezzanine area, which Calatrava designed to be lit with skylights. At present, he and landscape architect Peter Walker are working intently on a solution that will preserve the capacity for light to descend into the mezzanine while also ensuring that the space shapes an appropriate procession to the memorial itself. The Port Authority anticipates that design options will be presented in the next few months.

Meanwhile, this month construction crews began work on a pedestrian concourse that will link the hub to the Winter Garden across West Street.



Freedom Tower




Couretsy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

The Freedom Tower has been a magnet for skepticism, since its first vague envisioning by masterplanner Daniel Libeskind as a soaring symbol for freedom, through its bumpy process, which included a complete design overhaul in 2005 due to 11th-hour security concerns raised by the New York Police Department. Many still question whether or not the project, by David Childs of SOM, will really materialize, with detractors persistently vocalizing alternative plans for the site. (As recently as January 18, at a Downtown Alliance event, Rafael Viioly issued a call to scrap the tower and divert its funding subsidies to the WTC Memorial, which is still shy of its fundraising goals, and cultural facilities, which have all but disappeared from the site.)

Itts time for skeptics to put away their doubts. The 82- story, 2.6-million-squarefoot tower is indeed rising: Foundation work is essentially complete and on December 19, Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg showed up to watch the first three 25-ton steel columns installed on the site. Theyyre the first of 27 extra-large steel columns that will line the perimeter of the tower base, to be in place by May. By the end of the year, more columns will brace the lower level and a second tier will bring steelwork to grade.

Of course, design goes on until the last day because field conditions change,, said Childs, but basically the building will look like how we showed it in June.. At that time, the designers revealed that the 186-foot-tall, 200-by- 200-foot base would be clad in 13-foot-tall glass prisms. I wanted to make sure the facade would be as lively as possible,, he explained. At present, the designers are working with three different glass manufacturers to test a range of options. The glass might be cast, or rolled, or milled,, he said. We want an interesting texture and a reflectivity that will cast a multicolored spectrum of light..

Childs has brought on top collaborators, including Washington, D.C..based lighting designer Claude Engel, who worked with Norman Foster on the Reichstag project, and New Yorkkbased sculptor Kenneth Snelson, an innovator in tensegrity structures, who will advise on the design of the towerrs broadcast antenna. (The Port Authority is in the midst of negotiations with the Metropolitan Television Alliance over the antenna.) Childs is also working closely with landscape architect PeterWalker on the design of the towerrs surrounding grounds (terraced plaza at Vesey and West streets, pictured). The choice of Walker, who is also working on the memorial, was especially sensitive given that itts been left to individual designers to addresshoweach project relates to one another.



Fulton Street Transit Center


Courtesy Grimshaw Architects

As recently reported by William Neuman and David Dunlap in The New York Times ((Planners Clash Over Transit Hub, and Riders Win,, January 8, 2007), the Fulton Street Transit Center has overcome its latest hurdle, with theMTAagreeing to fund the difference between the $847 million in federal funds committed to the project and the current estimated cost of $888million.The funds secure the future of a passageway beneath Dey Street, leading to the WTC Transportation Hub one block west.

The project, which will serve as a headhouse for a multitude of linessthe A, C, E, J,M,Z, R,W, 2, 3, 4, and 55 has had its share of hairy moments since it was commissioned to Grimshaw Architects in 2003. The initial design, a bulbous, glasssheathed steel cone, unveiled in May 2004 and budgeted at $750 million, had to be modified one year later due to budget problems: To build the center, the MTA had to acquire all the real estate on Broadway between Fulton and John streets, and no one anticipated real estate prices would skyrocket as they did.


Courtesy Grimshaw Architects


Courtesy Grimshaw Architects

In spring 2006, the architects offered a scaled-back design that included the elimination of a sub-basement, the relocation of MTA offices to a ring around the domed atriummoccupying what principal Vincent Chang described as found spacee?and a reconceived dome. It was a different program, so we had to design a different building,, said Chang. Importantly, the new design preserves the architectss essential concepts: providing a strong civic icon as a response to the previously hidden, building-embedded subway entrances scattered in the area; bringing natural light and some of New Yorkks vibrant street quality to the stationns subterranean depths; and clarifying views within the station to aid in wayfinding. Performance and light were the conceptual drivers,, said Chang, explaining how their terms of analysis applied equally well to the new design. For the dome, which is not only slightly shorter but has lost its outward bulge, designers have decided on an elegant diamond cable-net (left, below) suspended from a steel ring that will form an oculus, outfitted with glass blades that will filter incoming light (left, above). From the projectts outset, the firm, in collaboration with James Carpenter, has been conducting extensive studies to predict the angle and nature of lightts reflection inside the cone and how it is redirected to the spaces below.

The team is still finalizing the design of the facade of the rectangular glass pavilion, following requests last August from the NYPD for a more beefed-up perimeter to withstand blasts. (Chang assured that the amount of glass and transparency would remain the same.) Construction drawings will be finished in March, and a completion date is set for 2009.


Courtesy Grimshaw Architects

Eavesdrop: Alexander Gorlin

I was advised to find a pseudonym before writing Eavesdrop, and looked to the example of Charles Edouard Jeanneretts fabulously successful Le Corbusier or even Maria Louise Ciccone>s Madonna as the paragon of simplicity. Alas, my own name will have to suffice. With that said, letts hope the arcane world of architectural gossip, perhaps of interest only to a few, even in our own community, serves the purpose not only to bind our group together but also to humanize the increasingly faceless world of global architecture.

Now, down to business: To recap Art Basel, the international art fair held in Miami Beach in early December, a number of New York architects were found Jet Blueing south, including Robert Stern, Walter Chatham, Gisue and Mojgan Hariri, Liz Diller and Ric Scofidio, Peter Marino, Lee Mindel, and Joseph Giovanni. Also seen were the Rizzoli honchos, the legendary editor David Morton and chief publisher Charles Miers, to lead the charge against their nemesis, Taschen, omnipresent at the art fair. Zaha Hadid was ensconced at the Setai Hotel, in town to unveil a new furniture design for Established & Sons. Greg Lynn was on the same mission, and was seen during the weekend partying solo (sans wife Sylvia Lavin) at the Raleigh and the Surface magazine party on the rooftop of the Townhouse on the Beach.

Heard at the fair that Ole Bouman, formely editor of the Dutch magazine Archis, was taking the position that Aaron Betsky, new director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, abdicated at the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi). Betsky appeared at the glamorous party sponsored by the Dutch Consulate, hosted by Robert Kloos and Jeanne Wikler, in honor of Li Eidelkoort, head of the famous Eindhoven Design Academy. The party was held at the apartment of yours truly, at Aqua, high above Indian Creek on the Beach.

Among the many exhibitions during the Art Fair, one of the most smashing was French Modern Sources, an exhibition organized by the Georges Pompidou Art & Culture Foundation. Magnificent examples of original furniture by Chareau, Jean Prouvv, Robert Mallet-Stevens, and Le Corbusier as well as the original model of Rem Koolhaas> house in Bordeaux were displayed. Incidentally, Robert Rubin, who last year bought the extraordinary Maison de Verre by Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet, has revived the foundation, which was founded by Dominique de Menil but languished after her death. He donated to the foundation the prefabricated Maison Tropicale by Prouvv, which he rescued from Brazzaville, Congo, in 1997. The structure will be installed on the fifth-floor terrace of the Pompidou later this month.

Also in Miami, albeit weeks after the fair was over, I had dinner with Michael Graves and Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk at Yuca, a Cubanesque restaurant. Michael was zipping along Collins Avenue in his motorized wheelchair and can be happily reported to be in good spirits, clearly using his hands without problem.

Closer to home (well, at least this writerrs home) is the cacophonous, daily, insistent pile-driving of Donald Trump>s 45-story SoHo projecttdespised by all, except perhaps its architect Gary Handel. Both of our offices overlook the site: For Gary the noise must be music to his ears. Meanwhile, we have powerful telescopes trained on the excavation, hoping to discover Native American bones to shut down the site permanently. Unfortunately, the discovery of remains of Episcopalians only delayed construction for a few days.

Send observations, tips, suggestions (no matter how banal), et cetera, to EDITOR@ARCHPAPER.COM

Eavesdrop


I was advised to find a pseudonym before writing Eavesdrop, and looked to the example of Charles Edouard Jeanneret’s fabulously successful Le Corbusier or even Maria Louise Ciccone’s Madonna as the paragon of simplicity. Alas, my own name will have to suffice. With that said, let’s hope the arcane world of architectural gossip, perhaps of interest only to a few, even in our own community, serves the purpose not only to bind our group together but also to humanize the increasingly faceless world of global architecture.

Now, down to business: To recap Art Basel, the international art fair held in Miami Beach in early December, a number of New York architects were found Jet Blueing south, including Robert Stern, Walter Chatham, Gisue and Mojgan Hariri, Liz Diller and Ric Scofidio, Peter Marino, Lee Mindel, and Joseph Giovanni. Also seen were the Rizzoli honchos, the legendary editor David Morton and chief publisher Charles Miers, to lead the charge against their nemesis, Taschen, omnipresent at the art fair. Zaha Hadid was ensconced at the Setai Hotel, in town to unveil a new furniture design for Established & Sons. Greg Lynn was on the same mission, and was seen during the weekend partying solo (sans wife Sylvia Lavin) at the Raleigh and the Surface magazine party on the rooftop of the Townhouse on the Beach.

Heard at the fair that Ole Bouman, formely editor of the Dutch magazine Archis, was taking the position that Aaron Betsky, new director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, abdicated at the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi). Betsky appeared at the glamorous party sponsored by the Dutch Consulate, hosted by Robert Kloos and Jeanne Wikler, in honor of Li Eidelkoort, head of the famous Eindhoven Design Academy. The party was held at the apartment of yours truly, at Aqua, high above Indian Creek on the Beach.

Among the many exhibitions during the Art Fair, one of the most smashing was French Modern Sources, an exhibition organized by the Georges Pompidou Art & Culture Foundation. Magnificent examples of original furniture by Chareau, Jean Prouvé, Robert Mallet-Stevens, and Le Corbusier as well as the original model of Rem Koolhaas’ house in Bordeaux were displayed. Incidentally, Robert Rubin, who last year bought the extraordinary Maison de Verre by Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet, has revived the foundation, which was founded by Dominique de Menil but languished after her death. He donated to the foundation the prefabricated Maison Tropicale by Prouvé, which he rescued from Brazzaville, Congo, in 1997. The structure will be installed on the fifth-floor terrace of the Pompidou later this month.

Also in Miami, albeit weeks after the fair was over, I had dinner with Michael Graves and Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk at Yuca, a Cubanesque restaurant. Michael was zipping along Collins Avenue in his motorized wheelchair and can be happily reported to be in good spirits, clearly using his hands without problem.

Closer to home (well, at least this writer’s home) is the cacophonous, daily, insistent pile-driving of Donald Trump’s 45-story SoHo project—despised by all, except perhaps its architect Gary Handel. Both of our offices overlook the site: For Gary the noise must be music to his ears. Meanwhile, we have powerful telescopes trained on the excavation, hoping to discover Native American bones to shut down the site permanently. Unfortunately, the discovery of remains of Episcopalians only delayed construction for a few days.

Send observations, tips, suggestions (no matter how banal), et cetera, to EDITOR@ARCHPAPER.COM

Last But Not Least


Mechanical engineering has come a long way since the end of the 18th century when industrialization introduced new building technologies and construction methods. Heating and ventilation became part of everyday building, but mechanical services were still seen as subservient to style and structure in architecture. Consequently, mechanical engineering remained somewhat behind the progress of architectural thought, and MEs were last to join the design team.

Modernists changed this by declaring the new era of stylelesss architecture, and establishing a relationship between the aesthetic and the technical. Some architects searched for ways to give aesthetic expression to mechanical systemssmost notably Le Corbusier, who sculpturally exposed the roof ducts in the Unitt ddHabitation in Marseilles. Today, the way mechanical engineering affects the representational aspect of architecture varies from building to building, of course. But growing interest in sustainable designnwith many concepts derived from mechanical engineeringghas made the close collaboration between architects and mechanical engineers essential.

In fact, for some projects, it seems that mechanical engineering technologies have become equal in importance to a projectts structural aspects, challenging the priorities of conventional architectural process. It has become more important to collaborate with mechanical engineers as early as possible in the design process,, said Robert Fox, a principal at Cook + Fox Architects, acknowledging the potential of MEs to strongly influence the design of a building..

On a high-performance and highly intensive infrastructure building such as One Bryant Park, the mechanical engineerrs role is absolutely critical to the success of the project,, agreed Serge Appel, a senior associate at Cook + Fox and project director for One Bryant Park. I cannt imagine a well-designed, high-performance building whose overall composition hasnnt been impacted by the mechanical criteria.. For example, for One Bryant Park, a 54-floor skyscraper thatts aiming for a LEED Platinum rating, the architects took the input of their MEs from Jaros Baum & Bolles (JB&B) early enough to be convinced of the value of an underfloor air systemma decision that, in turn, raised floor heights and provided opportunities for more flexible floorplans, affecting the way the architects planned interiors.

Contemporary mechanical systems do impact the design of the buildinggnot necessarily how the building looks on the outside, but definitely its efficiency and its structural system,, explained David Cooper, managing director of Flack & Kurtz. MEs can help optimize all the functions of the building, if the collaboration with designers and other consultants starts early enough.. He cited the New York Times tower, which his firm worked on with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop and FXFowle Architects, as a great example of truly integrated space, where architecture, structural, and mechanical engineering become one.. For example, together with structural engineers from Thornton-Tomasetti, Flack & Kurtz helped architects develop a double-glazed curtain wall that ties into the buildinggs HVAC system. Air circulates between the layers of glazing, a cavity that also contains motorized shades.

In a complex case like the New York Times tower, building information modeling is designed to bring this sort of dialogue to a new level. For Daniel Libeskindds Denver Art Museum, the extreme geometries made the full integration of mechanical and structural systems essential. By importing plans into a 3D structural model, Ove Arupps team from its Los Angeles office could successfully accommodate the complex blend of the buildinggs mechanical and structural elements. The improved communication that comes with information management systems like BIM can significantly reduce the number of requests of information (RFIs) between the design team and the contractors, and in some cases allows direct constructability, bypassing 2D drawings altogether.

Another important development has been the extent to which mechanical engineers are engaging in computer simulations that allow them to test a buildinggs performance. Itts expensive to build mock-ups, so when we create complex spaces, computer simulations are extremely helpful,, said Cooper of Flack & Kurtz. For example, for his firmms work on the Hearst Tower, they used computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to analyze indoor airflow, which they knew would be affected by the irregular angles of the structure.

The future of design seems to be closely linked to BIM. Murat Karakas, a mechanical engineer at Arup who worked on the Denver Art Museum, certainly thinks so. We see a lot of potential not currently in place,, he said, suggesting that in future, the BIM model could serve as a user manual for building owners, So if a part fails ten years down the road, they will be able pinpoint the problem,, he said.

While the improved integration of efficient mechanical systems is by no means dependent on 3D modeling technology, it can definitely ease the process. With 3D modeling, you get a better set of tinker toys,, said Lenny Zimmerman, another Flack & Kurtz mechanical engineer. Now, you donnt just draw what you are going to builddyou actually build it..

Masha Panteleyeva studied architecture at the cooper union and is an editorial intern at AN.

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Growing a Green Building Market

A cornerstone of sustainable building is buying local: Sourcing products and materials from local manufacturers both conserves fossil fuel energy that is expended to transport of a product
and supports the regional economy. The New York Industrial Retention Network (NYIRN), a not-for-profit founded in 1997, supports this sustainable strategy by helping to strengthen the local manufacturing economy. NYIRN has developed a free
online business-to-business network (www.madeinnyc.org) to
help connect them to architects, designers, and builders.
Furthermore, NYIRN encourages its network of nearly 4,000 industrial businesses to stay competitive by developing
sustainable products and practices.

The city has thrown its support behind their efforts: In 2005,
City Council awarded NYIRN, with the Industrial & Technology Assistance Corporation (ITAC), an economic development nonprofit also devoted to retaining jobs for New Yorkers, a
$75,000 grant. NYIRN also administers a City Councill funded program, the North Brooklyn Energy Grant, and recently allotted $50,000 toward Brooklyn-based Colonial Glasss purchase a cogeneration plant, which would remove its operations from the power grid.

While there is still no widely adopted standard about what exactly
a green manufacturer is, NYIRN director of business services Tanu Kumar acknowledged that at least 30 businesses within its network are fully committed to the cause of sustainability. Among them: Mercury Paint in Brooklyn, which makes non-toxic, non-VOC paint and varnishes; DFB Sales in Long Island City, a manufacturer of solar shades and environmentally sensitive window treatments; and Green Depot in Brooklyn, a supplier of green building materials ranging from recycled denim insulation to bamboo flooring. Herees a closer look at a some of the suppliers in the network:




Globus Cork
www.globuscork.com


Corkkwhich is actually the bark of a cork treeeis a rapidly renewable resource, and does not endanger the tree when it
is harvested. Of a growing number of cork distributors in the
United States, Globus Cork is one of the few that imports raw material and does manufacturing on site. The material used for
the companyys glue-down and snap-lock tiles is an industrial
byproduct from the wine and other cork-stop industries. It can be dyed to resemble stone or wood, and muffles sounds. It also adds cushion to hard surfaces, making it ideal for environments like
retail or banks where people spend a lot of time standing. Cork maintains a median temperature around 60 degrees, so it can
be applied on a heat-absorbing surface like cement for insulation, reducing energy costs. Globus also uses all water-based stains and adhesives, so its products do not produce harmful off-gases.




IceStone
www.icestone.biz


Based in the Brooklyn Navy Yards, IceStone offers hard surfaces made from 100 percent recycled glass that can be used as flooring, countertops, or even wall cladding. Cook + Fox used the product, which comes in 24 colors, in its own sustainably designed office and has specified it for the bathroom counters in One Bryant Parkkthe largest order Icestone has had to date. Currently, the glass used by IceStone is brought in from out of state because New York does not sort and crush glass by color, as most other cities do. This will change, however: On July 21, City Council approved an initiative to build a glass recycling plant in Red
Hook. Our ultimate goal is to have no waste,, said IceStone spokesperson Ilya Perchikovsky. It would be ideal for us barge over glass from Red Hook, which would be more sustainable
all around..





Bettencourt Green Building Supplies
www.bettencourtwood.com


Williamsburg-based Bettencourt Green Building Suppliesss main inventory is a variety of reclaimed and recycled wood products
for flooring and construction. The company carries well-known products like Plyboo (plywood bamboo), as well as lesser-known sustainable alternatives such as Kirei board, an MDF-like sorghum grass composite made from the agricultural byproduct of sorghum harvests, and Dakota Burl, a sunflower-seed hull composite that looks like burled wood. Co-founder Bart Bettencourt has also started a furniture design business called Scrapile, which reuses locally reclaimed woods.

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Dia's Moving Plan D.O.A.


Dia's Moving Plan D.O.A.
Whitney now eyeing Meatpacking District site 


Dia's now-defunct design by SOM 
COURTESY SOM 

When the Dia Art Foundation’s galleries at 548 West 22 Street closed in January 2004, it left a temporary void in New York’s cultural landscape, filled later that year with the promise of a new location connected to the proposed High Line Park. But on October 24, as reported in the New York Times, Kate Levin, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) received a letter from Dia’s new board chair, Nathalie de Gunzburg, announcing that the institution would not occupy the city-owned building at 820 Washington Street as intended. The announcement was followed by the surprising news that the Whitney Museum of American Art is considering the site as an alternative to expanding its Marcel Breuer–designed home on Madison Avenue.

The Dia’s Gansevoort proposal matched the pioneering spirit the foundation embodied. Just as the museum settled in the then-burgeoning West Chelsea area in 1987, spurring its rise as an arts district, Dia would have created a stronghold for art in the transitioning Meatpacking District, and become a crucial part in the transformation of the High Line from an aging elevated railway into a dramatically landscaped public space.

In February of this year, Dia’s director Michael Govan was hired away after a 12-year tenure to become director and CEO of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Shortly thereafter, Leonardo Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble, stepped down from Dia’s board after serving for eight years, thrusting the institution into a state of instability as both men were key leaders in Dia’s growth.

Sources close to the situation suggest that between time pressure from the city, which aims to open the building by 2009, and the Whitney Museum’s expressed interest in the location as an alternative to their much-contested uptown expansion plans, Dia was forced to make a decision before they had a new director in place. Laura Raicovich, Dia’s deputy director, conceded that timing was a factor. She stated that going forward with the Meatpacking District plan did not make sense until the foundation had a director in place and the “New York City program is developed.” 

While construction on the Meatpacking site had yet to begin, Dia had been working with Roger Duffy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) on the design of the 92,600-square-foot location. “It would have been a perfect project for the city,” Duffy said. “We worked closely with Ricardo Scofidio and James Corner [the masterplanners of the High Line] to make sure that the projects would interface well. I am a huge fan of Dia, and anyone who thinks highly of them is disappointed by the news.

“The site wasn’t entirely easy,” he continued. “There are meat lockers close by, and the maintenance and administration areas for the High Line—and public bathrooms—had to be in the building. But we managed an elegant solution. Maybe a wiser person would have seen the writing on the wall when Michael left.” 

Joshua David, co-founder of Friends of the High Line, maintains that despite Dia’s decision, the emphasis of the High Line continues to be on its cultural and artistic value, but added, “That site is unusual because it’s owned by the city of New York, so the city has the ability to shape how it is used.”

Despite the disappointment, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden seemed sure that another cultural institution will take over the space. “A cultural use at 820 Washington is ideal for the southern terminus and principal entry to the High Line. The city will be actively seeking another cultural use,” Burden wrote by email.

Whitney spokesperson Jan Rothschild declined to comment about the museum’s intentions at 820 Washington Street other than to reiterate that the Whitney is “keeping its expansion options open.” But, she added, “No matter what we do, we are committed to working with Renzo Piano, and he is committed to us.” In an interview with Newsweek on November 2, Piano said that in September the museum asked him to consider the notion of designing a new building on a downtown site, and brought him to 820 Washington Street.

The Whitney’s attempts to expand its facilities spans 20 years, during which time it has hired and fired two architects—Michael Graves in 1985 and Rem Koolhaas in 2003—before hiring Renzo Piano to draw up plans in 2005. Piano’s initial plan met with stiff resistance from the community and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) but ultimately won all the necessary approvals and was granted several zoning variances in July from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals. A new hurdle took shape when a coalition of Upper East Side neighbors filled suit against the museum in late August to contest the variances.

Meanwhile, Dia remains committed to finding another location in New York. “The Gansevoort site is a great location, but New York has other great locations,” Raicovich said. “Dia’s top priority is looking for the site that will best accommodate its programs.” 

Shanghai Architect Appointed Dean of USC

The University of Southern California has named Qingyun Ma, the principal of Shanghai-based architecture firm MADA s.p.a.m., as the new dean of its architecture school. Ma, who is one of the most well-regarded practitioners among the current generation of Chinese architects, replaces Robert Timme, who passed away last October. While Ma has taught at Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania, his largest projects, including a university library, have been in China. The appointment marks a major move and a surprising choice for the university, which has signaled its intentions to increase the national and international profile of its architecture school. Ma beat out other candidates that included Dana Cuff, Peter Pran, and Margaret Crawford (see “Department Heads Wanted,” AN 10_06.07.2006).

“To maintain a critical practice is crucial for a dean, who should cultivate and demonstrate leadership both administratively and pedagogically,” Ma wrote in an email to AN. “My practice through MADA s.p.a.m. will continue and surely undergo some critical transformations,” he added, saying that his office would be dividing into three locations—Xian, Shanghai, and Los Angeles. Part of his Shanghai practice will merge with a local office in Xian, his hometown in the northeast part of China. The Shanghai office will remain as his communications and coordination base among the three, while his Los Angeles outpost will be, as Ma described it, “the innovative/idea nucleus.” His appointment is effective January 1, 2007. 

Shanghai Architect Appointed Dean of USC

The University of Southern California has named Qingyun Ma, the principal of Shanghai-based architecture firm MADA s.p.a.m., as the new dean of its architecture school. Ma, who is one of the most well-regarded practitioners among the current generation of Chinese architects, replaces Robert Timme, who passed away last October. While Ma has taught at Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania, his largest projects, including a university library, have been in China. The appointment marks a major move and a surprising choice for the university, which has signaled its intentions to increase the national and international profile of its architecture school. Ma beat out other candidates that included Dana Cuff, Peter Pran, and Margaret Crawford (see Department Heads Wanted,, AN 10_06.07.2006).

To maintain a critical practice is crucial for a dean, who should cultivate and demonstrate leadership both administratively and pedagogically,, Ma wrote in an email to AN. My practice through MADA s.p.a.m. will continue and surely undergo some critical transformations,, he added, saying that his office would be dividing into three locationssXian, Shanghai, and Los Angeles. Part of his Shanghai practice will merge with a local office in Xian, his hometown in the northeast part of China. The Shanghai office will remain as his communications and coordination base among the three, while his Los Angeles outpost will be, as Ma described it, the innovative/idea nucleus.. His appointment is effective January 1, 2007.

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Nine Million Stories in the Naked City?
Red Hook, 2005

Demographers say that New York will grow by a million residents within the next 25 years, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg wants to plan for them. An as-yet unreleased report commissioned by Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff makes some interesting recommendations—like decking over the Sunnyside yards and parts of the Brooklyn-Queens expressway—but doesn't get into the nitty gritty of who might actually pay for them. Is the report, Visions for New York City, really that, or is it a map for the next generation of developers? By William Menking and Anne Guiney. Photography by M. E. Smith.

In his 2006 State of the City address, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg promised to deliver a strategic land-use plan that would encompass housing, transportation, and infrastructure for all five boroughs, and would be closely tied to redevelopment initiatives already underway. For a city whose planning process has historically been decentralized, it was welcome news. Word of the report began circulating several months later, and this August, a copy appeared on the website Streetsblog.com. Visions for New York City: Housing in the Public Realm (which has not been officially released yet, and is therefore presumably still in draft form) covers much of what the mayor suggested it would, but comes from a different quarter than many expected: It was commissioned by Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and prepared by Alex Garvin & Associates for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC). (The two worked very closely together on NYC2012, the bid to bring the Olympics to New York.) As it makes explicitly clear, Visions for New York City is not official policy, but when it is ultimately released, will nonetheless likely provide the framework for coming discussions about what New York will look like in 25 years, and how the city will get there.

The introduction to Visions for New York City cites a projection from the Department of City Planning (DCP) that by 2030, New York City's existing population of over 8 million will exceed 9 million, if not sooner. It makes the reasonable argument that while the city's current economy is strong and has a well-planned infrastructure and a high quality of life, this cannot be ensured if growth happens in an unplanned fashion. The report thus makes a series of recommendations on where the city might house this population and how to improve its infrastructure.

Visions for New York City is divided into two sections: Increasing the Housing Supply and Improving the Public Realm. The first, and more comprehensive, section essentially looks at what developers call soft sitess in all five boroughs, i.e., areas that are now either underutilized, such as neighborhoods zoned for industrial uses where little industry still occurs, or rail yards or highways which could be decked over and turned into blank development sites. Some of the many sites Garvin & Associates studied are the Sunnyside Yards in Queens, portions of the Bronx and Harlem Rivers in the Bronx, Staten Island's north shore, and the sunken section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Cobble Hill. The report further suggests that increasing mass transit into underserved areas will stimulate development. It also acknowledges the unlikelihood of securing major public investments to extend existing subway lines, and concedes that the creation of light rail or bus rapid transit systems is far more feasible.

Sunnyside Yards, 2001

Red Hook, 2003

These potential building sites would allow for the creation of between 160,000 
to 325,000 new residential units with virtually no residential displacement,, depending on how densely each site is zoned. Such a significant amount of new housing without any displacement is politically appealing, but of course there is a catch: The largest and most promising site is the Sunnyside Rail Yards in Queens, which would need to be decked over before it could be developed as housing. It is close to Manhattan, and if developed, would reconnect Astoria to Sunnyside Gardens, which, from an urban planning standpoint, would be an additional benefit. But at 166 acres, the very aspect that makes it so appealing —its size—is likely to make it politically and economically difficult to pull off. The site has been coveted for development since the Regional Plan Association's 1929 Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs proposed it as a place for an intermodal train station to relieve overcrowding in Manhattan. And while the Metropolitan Transit Authority owns the majority of the site, this summer, real estate attorney Michael Bailkin purchased a development option on part of it, which raises the financial stakes for anything that happens on the site. Without massive city subsidies, the cost of building such a large deck—the relatively diminutive 13-acre deck planned for Manhattan's Hudson Yards is estimated to cost $350 million—is likely to discourage anything but extremely high-density or luxury housing. According to Vishaan Chakrabarti, a senior vice president at The Related Companies who served for two years as the Manhattan director for the DCP, making some of that new housing affordable will be difficult. "The implication of the report is that all of the housing will be market-rate, but when you are talking about building housing on platforms, there are economic drivers that make [building any of it as affordable] difficult," Chakrabarti said. "We have not yet perfected the mechanism to harness market forces to build affordable housing, though it is not for a lack of trying." He added, "I was hoping to see something about this in the report."

The Sunnyside Yards are not the only familiar item on the list of suggestions: as D. Grahame Shane, a professor of urban design at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (and a contributor to AN) said, "The list of development opportunities reads like a record of every university urban design studio for the last 15 years." That said, the report does represent an effort on the part of Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Doctoroff to think spatially about the future of the city. This is something architects and planners have long hoped would be true of city politicians. But Ronald Shiffman, a former City Planning Commissioner himself under Mayor David Dinkins and director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, nonetheless had reservations about Visions. "These same politicians are afraid to engage the public in a discussion to flesh out its finer points," said Shiffman. "They have come up with a proposal but don't discuss the social infrastructure: They don't say how this million new people will make a living. I'm glad that they are looking at it, but they also need to engage the broader community on other levels. This whole new population won't work in offices."

 Sunset Park, 2005

 Sunset Park, 2005

This oversight on the part of the report has serious drawbacks, according to other observers. Laura Wolf-Powers, chair of Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at the Pratt Institute, believes that Visions uses a narrow and shallow definition of the public realm, since it only discusses housing and to a lesser account some transportation issues. "There are many important quality of life issues that are not acknowledged in this report, like sanitation and waste water remediation facilities. Not only that," she added, "these uses are often located in the very manufacturing zones like those along the Bronx and Harlem Rivers that the report would give over entirely to housing." While these sites might be better used as housing, these functions must go somewhere. It's not news that manufacturers and industrial businesses that want to remain in the city are having trouble finding affordable space. The East Williamsburg Industrial Park, for example, which is home to over 2,500 small businesses, is facing residential encroachment from gentrifying sections of Williamsburg and Bushwick. One of the areas cited in the report as worthy of future study is the Sunset Park waterfront, which is mostly industrial today and has been recently designated as an area that the city has committed to keeping that way. While Visions acknowledges the value of the area's current character and only recommends converting 90 acres of surface parking (operated by the Department of Small Businesses) into sites for development, it still proposes 27,400 new units of housing, which would undoubtedly put pressure on the area's industrial functions.

Infrastructural capacity is a looming issue, said Chakrabarti, and one that cannot be ignored. Nor should it preclude the kinds of conversation that Visions will surely raise: "Energy capacity and wastewater treatment are real problems. We have capacity now, but not for another million people. Still, I don't think you can say, 'We don't have the infrastructure, so we can't fulfill the demand for housing.' It just means that housing will get more expensive."

The very fact that the report was commissioned from a private planning firm 
and did not come out of DCP is telling about the nature of its recommendations. There is an underlying assumption that public investment will allow for private sector development; the ultimate feasibility of finding these public monies is skated over. In the past, the city's planning reports have come out of the DCP, or people engaged with the Planning Commission—like Robert Wagner, Jr.'s 1984 New York Ascendant under Mayor Ed Koch—but Visions rarely mentions the DCP and any role it might play in planning for the future. (Doctoroff's office and the DCP both declined to comment for this article.) In fact, the report details a list of government agencies that must coordinate to make such far-reaching new policies work, like the EDC, the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD), the Department of Transportation, but goes on to suggest, "The Mayor's Office must delegate management for these projects, as doing so is integral to their execution and ultimate success." While some might see this as a cession of public authority, Chakrabarti points out that sometimes, outsiders can say things that City Hall cannot. "There are often conflicting goals in terms of what is good for the city as a whole and what an individual neighborhood may want, especially in regards to density," he said. "An outside consultant can make important suggestions that are politically difficult."

One wonders if the secretive nature of the process, and its stress on the primacy of the private sector, is a product of Doctoroff's recent trouble with getting the West Side Stadium built, which was the sine qua non for bringing the Olympics to New York City. Several of the larger sites mentioned in Visions for New York City are on land that is at least partially owned by the state, not the city, which means that they are exempt from the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and thus due much less public review. But the controversy and public acrimony surrounding Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal—which also involves decking over infrastructure, public subsidy, and no ULURP—the now-defunct West Side Stadium project, and the World Trade Center site should suggest that proposals with only a nominal amount of involvement are no less immune to trouble than those which involve public input. When Visions is released, no doubt in a modified form, we hope that it is treated not as an identification of development sites across the city, but the starting point for a comprehensive and very public conversation about New York City's long-term needs. 

William Menking and Anne Guiney are editors at AN.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS: When photographer M. E. Smith noticed one day about 10 years ago that the subway station at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn had been torn down, he decided to start documenting the changes in the city around him. As the pace of development picks up and once-desolate areas fill with commerce and people, his photographs have inevitably taken on a documentary quality. A show of his work in and around New York was recently on view at Cooke Contemporary in Jersey City (see Functional Shift, AN 16_10.06.2006).