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Heroic Food Farms in rural New York teams up with Ennead to provide micro-housing, mentorship, and jobs to displaced veterans
We are all familiar with the story of American design practices and development companies working in China’s booming markets. Less discussed is the growing interest of Chinese capital and architectural talent in the United States. Here, Ann Lui wades into the increasingly two-way street of these intricately entangled economies.
Much has been written about United States architects and developers finding opportunities in China’s building boom, which is seemingly on perpetual fast forward. American architects are building small and large in the East—from corporate offices’ design of tall towers, such as KPF’s Shanghai World Financial Center, to the exhibition of boutique firms at Ordos 100, the new community in Inner Mongolia featuring houses designed by 100 architects from 27 countries. Yet, as the U.S. economy recovers from the recent recession, the trend is becoming paralleled by a flow in the other direction. Cities across the U.S., which once saw mostly outbound traffic of architectural design and real estate investment, are now brokering a two-way exchange. Metropolises from New York to Detroit have seen growing real estate interest from individual Chinese buyers as well as large developers. In parallel, Chinese architectural design practices—especially young and innovative ones—are seeking commissions in the U.S. and opening local offices to pursue new work. A fast-growing economy in China and decades-old bi-national relationships in architecture and development are resulting in new types of partnerships in the building industry, rooted in two deeply linked economies.
In the beginning of 2015, two noteworthy buildings made headlines in Chicago, capturing the breadth of new exchanges with China in the city’s architectural scene. In November, design publications headlined Beijing-based MAD Architects’ unveiling of a scheme for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on the city’s lakefront. Founding principal Ma Yansong proposed—in his own words—a “futuristic” mountainous building in partnership with two Chicago offices. In April, stakeholders watched in a hotel ballroom as final plans were unveiled for the Wanda Vista: Three towers in Lakeshore East by Studio Gang, the highest of which, at 1,200 feet, will be the third tallest in the city. Behind the scenes, these towers are bankrolled at a cost of $1 billion by the Beijing-based developer Dalian Wanda Group. Set to break ground in 2016, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, these Chinese-funded buildings are estimated to add 2,000 construction jobs to the city.
Bi-national exchanges between China and the U.S. in Chicago’s built environment are also simmering at a smaller scale. According to the National Realtors Association, in 2014 Chinese buyers purchased $22 billion dollars of United States real estate, more than any other foreign group. Chinese buyers represented 24 percent of all foreign sales nationally, up from 19 percent the previous year. According to Sam Van Horebeek, a director at East-West Property Advisors, a company that connects Chinese buyers to U.S. realtors, his clients are buying real estate in the United States to diversify assets, as investments, or for immigration purposes such as supporting a child enrolled in an American university. Increasingly, cities like Chicago are becoming of more interest. “In the past, it was only New York, Boston, or San Francisco,” said Van Horebeek. “Now there is more interest in second tier or third tier cities. We expect that to continue. There’s a higher demand than ever before and it will accelerate.”
More broadly, Chicago’s new relationships with Chinese real estate investors and architects serve as a microcosm for broader currents of interest from China in the U.S. building industry. Wang Jianlin, chairman of the Dalian Wanda Group and one of China’s richest men, announced his attention to further his real estate investment in the U.S. beyond the Windy City. “Investing in Chicago property is just Wanda’s first move into the U.S. real estate market,” he said in a press release. “Within a year, Wanda will invest in more five-star hotel projects in major U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.”
Other Chinese developers have entered the U.S. real estate market, often in partnership with local companies. In 2013, the Shanghai-based Greenland Group purchased a 70-percent stake in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project from Forest City Ratner Companies and is functioning as an “active partner” involved in construction as well as financing. Across the East River in Manhattan, China Vanke, the nation’s largest real estate developer, is building a glassy 61-story condo building on Lexington Avenue. In Los Angeles, Greenland invested $1 billion in residential towers and a hotel, in part of the city’s push to reactivate the Broadway corridor. Even smaller cities, like Tacoma, Washington, are benefiting from Chinese investment: Shanghai Mintong Real Estate is constructing a two-tower hotel and condo complex in downtown. Financially strapped Detroit has also attracted foreign real estate interests: This year, Dongdu International purchased three iconic buildings in the city’s downtown. The increased forays by large developers are in part due to the availability of EB-5 visas, which allow financiers to acquire green cards for investment purposes, drawing more Chinese capital to U.S. cities. Other reasons for the uptick include broader economic changes in China, characterized by a stronger yuan and a marked decrease in the nation’s own real estate market, which just dropped to a five-year low, according the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. “At an annual Chinese real estate convention,” said Van Horebeek, “one [developer] told me that in a two- or three-day convention during which there were a lot presentations on different topics—when typically most would be about the Chinese property market—[this year], one third were about America. So you have Chinese developers, major ones, discussing their plans for expansion overseas.”
As Chinese developers increasingly look to the U.S., the country’s architects are also looking to enter the market. Two decades ago, most Chinese architectural designers would have been headed for state-run architectural practices. Yet beginning in 1993 with Atelier FCJZ, the firm often billed as the nation’s first private architectural practice, Chinese architects are establishing independent firms with international reach. Yung Ho Chang, who founded Atelier FCJZ, is a former head of the architecture department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He built his career in U.S. academia before establishing his now prolific practice in Beijing. Today, many Chinese architects are trained abroad and establish offices in the U.S. with an international scope. “For this generation of Chinese architects, I think it’s very natural for them to practice in any place,” said Ma Yansong, the designer of the Lucas Museum. “This generation feels already that they are in the global scene.”
Recently, young Mainland Chinese architecture firms have garnered international accolades and are maintaining U.S. offices, paving the way for more commissions abroad. Wang Shu of Amateur Architecture Studio won the Pritzker Prize in 2012, the first time the accolade was awarded to a Chinese citizen. The firm OPEN Architecture was founded in New York City in 2011 by Li Hu and Huang Wenjing, closely followed by a Beijing branch. While the office’s projects are mostly in China, OPEN Architecture’s increasingly international practice was recognized for its design of “Garden in the Garden,” which spoke to both mass production and traditional Chinese landscape, at last year’s Venice Biennale. Studio Link-Arc, selected to design the 2015 China Pavilion at the Milan Expo, was founded by Yichen Lu and also operates out of New York.
This model of young cutting-edge practices with bi-national roots is characterized by SO-IL, a firm founded by Jing Liu, a Chinese-born architect, with Florian Idenburg, who is from the Netherlands. The firm’s project “Pole Dance” was constructed for the P.S.1 Young Architects Program in 2010 and the office has since gone on to design commercial and cultural projects in the U.S. and internationally.
Ma Yansong argues for the positive potential of Chinese developers with both civic and investment interests in the U.S., especially when paired with design architects whose agendas focus on context and revitalization. “I don’t work with many commercial developers in China,” said Ma, “but I think that the Greenland Group, in the U.S., has a good vision. Many large developers come for the market, for financial reasons, and of course Greenland has financial targets too, but they really want Greenland to be a local office [in the U.S.]. Those are the same reasons we come to the United States. We want to bring new ideas to the American city and we want to find people who share the same vision. That’s why we have the office in Los Angeles, to try to blend into the community and understand what is going on.”
On one hand, China’s growing role in the U.S. architecture and real estate scene can be chalked up to the globalized economy, in which the borders of nations have become less significant in light of multinational corporations and fluid trade. On the other hand, the architectural exchange between the two nations deserves closer inspection. In early 2014, the Chicago Tribune ran a series of articles titled, “Designed in Chicago, Made in China,” which profiled the work of Chicago architects working in the East. Yet undergirding the lucrative commissions for U.S. architects working abroad are the architectural and real estate currents going in both directions between the two nations, emerging from the complexity of two deeply linked economies. As the architectural exchange between China and the U.S. increasingly flows both ways, critics and professionals will continue to navigate a new iteration of an old encounter that brings both fresh competition and new opportunities.
Bernheimer and Dattner start work on BAM building as construction in Brooklyn's art district kicks up a notch
One of the last remaining surface-level parking lots in Brooklyn’s new booming Cultural District will not be replaced by a rental tower, hotel, or even a cultural venue, but by a health center for unionized hotel workers. The 12-story, 180,000-square-foot, structure is being constructed for health provider, The New York Hotel Trades Council and Hotel Association of New York City, Health Benefits Fund, Health Center (HCI). The organization’s new home at 620 Fulton was designed by Francis Cauffman and is not your rudimentary medical facility--either in its form or its function.
The structure has a curved, glass facade that wraps around what the architects describe as the building’s “teardrop” shape. Its skin consists of alternating fins and frits that together create the impression of waves. “The idea is that the relationship of the frits and fins dematerialize the wall a little bit and give the building an ambiguous surface,” said James Crispino, president of Francis Cauffman.
From the street, colorful interior spaces on the structure’s lower floors can be seen through the waves of the facade. The architects also planned for a mural to cover the structure’s south-facing wall and carved out a public plaza that fills-in part of the site. A restaurant and retail space are slated for the ground-floor while upper levels are reserved for office tenants. A setback on the sixth-floor creates space for a terrace. The plan, explained Crispino, was not just to create a space for HCI, but a mixed-use, 24/7 building that contributes to the community.
HCI occupies 65,000 square feet of the structure with a state-of-the-art, patient-centered operation. In hopes of treating 85 percent of patients within an hour, the facility does not have traditional waiting rooms or even physician’s offices. When visitors arrive at the lobby, they sign-in at a kiosk and are printed out a slip that directs them to the appropriate floor or department.
The medical floors have clear, one-way circulation patterns and shared workspaces for physicians and nurses. An on-site pharmacy is designed to further expedite the process. The facility also includes “multifunction spaces” that can be used to host workshops and classes on healthy lifestyles.
Crispino said that the layout and design of HCI’s interior spaces are similar to what you would see in a prototypical office geared towards startups and creative firms: colorful walls, multi-purpose spaces, open meeting areas, and an overall environment that emphasizes the use of technology.
Cornell Tech's first academic building establishes an inspiring atmosphere for graduate-level research that will foster interdisciplinary collaboration with shared work areas and flexible learning spaces. The dynamic facade features bronze-colored perforated metal panels with strategic openings to the glass curtain wall beneath to control natural lighting and capture views of Manhattan and Queens. A monumental stair tower extrudes from the main structure above the lobby space to unmistakably mark the entrance along the central pedestrian walkway. The expansive undulating canopy does double duty in shading the roof surface to reduce thermal load and supporting an array of photovoltaic panels. At the ground level, an outdoor cafe offers views south to the central plaza and lawn, which will ultimately form the heart of the campus.Four Directions from Hunters Point According to the New York Design Commission:
Whether tucked between book shelves, pushing up through the roof deck, or peeking out of the Q in the library's sign, Julianne Swartz's portal lenses serve to engage, orient, and disorient the viewer. Each lens presents a different optical distortion of the vista beyond-capturing a wide angle of the sky, inverting the Manhattan skyline, or multiplying focal points of the library's garden. Taken together, the portals mirror the fundamental purpose of a library, where visitors seek out information, find themselves transported to new realities, and come away with a different perspective.Sunset Park Playground Reconstruction According to the New York Design Commission:
This sensitive playground reconstruction maximizes play value while respecting the aesthetic established in the 1930s, when Robert Moses included the original playground as part of the Works Progress Administration reconstruction of Sunset Park. Within an enlarged footprint, undulating pathways define the perimeter, separate play spaces by age group, and unite all users at a central spray shower with in-ground jets. By incorporating grade changes, these paths double as play features-challenging children to climb, balance, and explore. The planting palette adds multi-stem trees, shrubs, and groundcovers to complement the mature shade trees and incorporate seasonal interest.Peace Clock According to the New York Design Commission:
Located across First Avenue from the United Nations headquarters, Lina Viste Grønli's sculpture celebrates the legacy of Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Peace Clock is a 17-foot-diameter brass kinetic sculpture that functions abstractly as a clock. Twice a day, the hands of the clock form the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Symbol-more colloquially known as the Peace Sign. Inspired by the history of the UN's formation and Lie's dedication to peace and fundamental human freedom, Grønli's clock stands as a reminder that time is both fleeting and infinite, always offering the opportunity to achieve world peace.Joseph A. Verdino Jr. Grandstand According to the New York Design Commission:
Since its inception 60 years ago, the South Shore Little League has been a vibrant community institution, enriching the lives of thousands of children. The new grandstand, named in memory of a young player, is formed by a series of glue-laminated bents clad in a perforated metal screen with white painted supergraphics and a standing seam metal roof. With covered seating for 275 spectators, an elevated press box, a conference room, and protected dugouts, this simple yet elegant structure is a home run!Conference House Park Pavilion According to the New York Design Commission:
Perched at the water's edge, not far from the 17th-century stone Conference House, the pavilion presents a simple yet contemporary complement to the historic structure. Set atop piles to raise it out of the floodplain, the structure forms a light and airy overlook and event space. The pavilion's arched canopy layers translucent fiberglass over naturally moisture-resistant, glue-laminated cedar rafters to maximize natural light while shielding visitors from sun or inclement weather. A series of stone walls set into the upland lawn offers an attractive seating option but also works to control runoff along the slope.New York Botanical Garden's East Gate Entrance, Edible Academy, and Family Garden According to the New York Design Commission:
The redesign of the east entrance literally bridges the gap from the neighboring community to the Botanical Garden's horticultural collections and programming. Visitors follow a winding path through a verdant slope and cross a domestic hardwood pedestrian bridge over the valley to find the state-of-the-art Edible Academy and Family Garden. Employing simple shed structures, the design showcases sustainable features, including a greenroof system, solar panels, and geothermal heating and cooling. With classrooms featuring glass hangar doors for easy access to the garden plots and a decked overlook with views of the Bronx River, the Edible Academy and Family Garden promises to be an engaging and bucolic learning space.Alley Pond Environmental Center According to the New York Design Commission:
Set back from the busy thoroughfare of Northern Boulevard, the environmental center is nestled at the edge of Alley Pond Park. The redesigned center nearly doubles the size of the current facility, enhancing the staff's ability to serve the 50,000 schoolchildren who visit annually. While a glazed brick facade presents a buffer to the road, the classrooms have large windows providing views into the park, and access to an exterior deck. The two facade treatments are unified by a sloped standing-seam metal roof, which folds down to drain water into an adjacent rain garden. By incorporating good environmental building practices, the Center's new home is itself a teaching tool, helping the Center achieve its mission to preserve the city's natural landscape.SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR COMPLETED PROJECTS FDR'S Four Freedoms Park According to the New York Design Commission:
Four Freedoms Park commemorates President Franklin D. Roosevelt and celebrates the freedoms articulated in his famous 1941 State of the Union speech: Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. Designed by Louis I. Kahn, the project was only realized nearly 40 years after his death. The design capitalizes on the island's thin, triangular tip with a tapered lawn extending from the top of a grand entry stair, flanked with allées of littleleaf linden trees. The symmetrical plan focuses the visitor's gaze toward the threshold of an openair room partially enclosed with monumental slabs of granite, which contain an excerpt from Roosevelt's speech. A master statesman and a master architect have, between them, given us a remarkable public space in which to contemplate these four essential freedoms.LeFrak Center at Lakeside According to the New York Design Commission:
Constructed of rough-hewn granite and cloaked in earthen roofs, the LeFrak Center maintains a respectful low profile within the surrounding landmarked park. The one-story structures are linked with a bridge at roof level and frame an open-air elliptical skating rink and a regulation sized hockey rink. The hockey rink's monumental canopy features a midnight blue ceiling carved with silver shapes inspired by figure skating footwork. In the warmer months, the rinks are thawed out for roller skating, special events, and a water play feature for children. Combined with the restoration of the lakeside landscape, the construction of the LeFrak Center is the most ambitious capital project in Prospect Park since the park was completed in 1867.
The damage from Hurricane Sandy continues to resonate in New York. While devastated families and ruined homes grab the headlines, the economic impacts are complex and far reaching. One sector that could be drastically reshaped is the rarified world of art galleries. Far West Chelsea in Manhattan has solidified its position as the dominant gallery district in the city, and many galleries have commissioned architecturally significant spaces by leading firms, including Deborah Berke Partners, Selldorf Architects, Gluckman Mayner Architects, and Adjaye Associates, among many others.
Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in the neighborhood, damaging the physical spaces and destroying countless works. Most have since reopened, but a second wave of damage is headed for Chelsea. One gallery owner recently told me that fine arts insurance premiums have skyrocketed, and that many insurers are not extending policies to ground floor or below grade galleries. The blue chip brand names—Gagosian, Zwirner, et al.—that own their locations will survive. Smaller galleries that rent their spaces will likely be devastated. These galleries are an essential element in the city’s cultural ecosystem, and smaller spaces provide venues for emerging artists (and sometimes architects) who will later show in more established galleries or museums.
The character of Chelsea will inevitably change, but likely not for the better if the galleries close or decamp for another neighborhood. New York’s galleries have migrated from many different neighborhoods over the decades, but in this ever more gentrified city it is difficult to imagine where they would end up next (remember when Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had a gallery scene?). If SoHo is the clearest precedent, New York will end up with more of what it doesn’t need: high-end boutiques.
The city’s garment industry has organized around preserving its footprint in the five boroughs, arguing that local clothing manufacturing is essential to maintain New York as a fashion capital. Time will tell if they can succeed, but they have set a precedent that others in the cultural community could follow.
Worrying over the future of New York’s art galleries might not seem like a high priority in the populist de Blasio era, but if there is one thing we have all come to learn in this constantly changing city it is that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
The recent conference at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, “Since Now From Then,” celebrated the 30th anniversary of the minuscule but influential space on Kenmare Street. It made clear the far-reaching impact the Storefront has had on the culture of architecture but also how much New York City has changed around the gallery.
The first public exhibition at the original Storefront on September 18, 1982, then at 51 Prince Street, was a month-long series of performances titled A-Z, with a different artist featured each day. Many of these artists in the 1980s lived in the blocks surrounding Prince Street except Tehching Hsieh whose prescient performance was to live “homeless” on the streets of the city for a single year.
Today when the Storefront presents a group of emerging artists it is doubtful that any of them could afford to live anywhere near gentrified Kenmare Street. They are more likely living in Crown Heights or Bushwick, Brooklyn. In fact Kyong Park, one of Storefront’s founders, made an off-hand comment during the conference that if anyone today wanted to do what he did at the Storefront in the 1980s “they should leave New York City.” Park, who hails from Detroit and now lives in L.A., may have been thinking of the particular challenges and opportunities for young urbanites in post-industrial landscapes like Detroit.
But New York City officials would do well to heed Park’s advice and begin thinking about strategies for creating affordable housing, not just for the young creative class, but for all New York residents.
Mayor Bloomberg promised to focus on creating 165,000 units of affordable housing and claims to be meeting this target. He may believe this was enough new affordable units for this enormous city, but the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development analyzed Bloomberg’s housing program and came to another conclusion. Not only did tens of thousand of affordable units go off-line as landlords exited subsidized programs and regulated apartments went market rate, but in Harlem, to pick one neighborhood, property values have jumped 222 percent and in East Harlem, median market rents went from roughly $1200 in 2002 to $1900 in 2011.
Further, “it’s not only that rents are rising; it’s also that a growing part of the population is trying to live in New York City on very modest incomes. According to the city’s own poverty measure, roughly 46 percent of New Yorkers were what is considered “near poor” in 2011. For a family of four, that means earning under $46,000 annually.” Thus the Furman Center says that nearly a third of New Yorkers were what is called “severely rent burdened” in 2011, which means they were spending more than half their monthly income on rent.
The association admits the Mayor’s initiative is on track to meet its housing goal but these units too often do not meet the actual affordability needs of the neighborhoods in which they were built. Further, “one-third of these units have an upper income limit above the actual New York City median income and in half the city’s community districts, the majority of units built are too expensive for a household earning the local median income for the neighborhood.” The association claims that “starting in 2017, New York will be at risk of losing an annual average of 11,000 units built with city subsidy and by 2037, the city could also lose many units as were built by Bloomberg, greatly undermining the value of the City’s efforts.” Bloomberg can point to two recent housing projects that illustrate—if they were replicated ten times over—the kind of new housing that can and should be built in the city. The Lower East Side project called Essex Crossing will replace a forty year old urban renewal site with 1,000 units of new housing which the city claims will be 50 percent “permanently affordable for low, moderate, and middle-income households and senior citizens.” In addition, the project includes a 15,000-square-foot open space, a new and expanded Essex Street Market, a school, a community center run by Grand Street Settlement, a rooftop urban farm, the Andy Warhol Museum, 250,000 square feet of office space, and a diverse mix of retail space. In addition the Mayor recently announced a new housing facility in downtown Brooklyn as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s expanding district that will have 42 units of affordable housings built above a large cultural space and restaurant. It is clear that New York City has run out of easily and cheaply developable land in vacant neighborhoods like the South Bronx and Brownsville, so finding sites for new affordable housing will not be easy.
It is important to point out that in the deeply flawed 2030 Plan for New York City identified vast areas for new housing above open areas over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Sunnyside Yards, but these would require massive public investment in infrastructure and will not likely yield any truly affordable housing.
The next mayor will have an enormous challenge to build enough units to meet the pressing demand for housing that always seems to be part of life in this city. Aside from protecting NYCHA and its 230,000 units of affordable housing and maintaining rent control, which helps thousands of middle income New Yorkers, the next mayor will need a new and different approach if more housing is to be built. This is an absolute necessity if New York is not to become a victim of its own success. Bill de Blasio, the apparent next mayor, claims to be a progressive politician. This will mean nothing unless living here is a possibility for the sort of person who wants to start the next Storefront.
A new mixed-use development, called “EyeBAM,” is the latest addition to Brooklyn’s burgeoning Downtown Cultural District. Dattner Architects and Bernheimer Architecture, along with SCAPE / Landscape Architecture, have been selected by the Mayor’s Office and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development to design a 12-story building, which will include 109 apartment units (40 percent affordable and 60 percent market rate) and a Craft-branded restaurant. It will also carve out space for two arts-and-science-focused organizations, Eyebeam and Science Gallery.
The building, equipped with entrances on either side, is designed to engage with neighboring cultural institutions. The restaurant will flow into the new Arts Plaza, which is the forecourt to the Theater for a New Audience, and in nice weather, will include outdoor seating to activate the space.
“We really view this site as a hinge of the heart of the Cultural District, and it was very important to create a lively pedestrian experience and open the building to the neighborhood,” said Bill Stein, principal at Dattner Architects.
To further accentuate the cultural space, the architects plan to implement a glazed exterior on the lower levels. The material palette, composed of terracotta and brick, is a nod to Brooklyn’s architectural history.
“We wanted to create a scale and texture to the building that was both contextual to the neighborhood but also gave the building its own identity,” said Stein. “A solid piece of architecture that has variation, color, and texture.”
Two non-profits will take over 27,000 square feet of space in the new building. They share much of the same programmatic needs and will “require flexibility for performance, new technologies for art and display, and a great deal of teaching,” according to Andy Bernheimer, principal at Bernheimer Architecture.
In-set balconies and rooftop terraces, designed by Kate Orff, principal at SCAPE, will provide both residents, cultural organizations, and visitors with ample open space.
The architects are seeking to attain LEED Gold certification. “We are looking, along with the developer Jonathan Rose, to use materials and building systems to make it a sustainable building,” said Stein.
The development is scheduled to break ground in 2015.
It is no easy feat to retrofit a historic structure to house two arts organizations with vastly different programming and workspace needs. This was the challenge that LEESER Architecture faced, and recently tackled, after winning a commission five years ago to convert the 94-year old Strand Theatre into a robust, community-accessible arts facility in downtown Brooklyn’s emerging Cultural District. The new 60,000 square foot building is the new home to BRIC Arts | Media, a non-profit dedicated to arts and media programming, and UrbanGlass, an organization focused on the art of glass making.
“It is to serve as an anchor of the BAM Cultural District and of the larger vibrant and rapidly evolving areas of Downtown and Fort Greene, Brooklyn,” said Sofia Castricone, senior architectural designer at LEESER Architecture. “The strategy for the exterior of the project was to integrate elements of architecture, signage and exterior lighting to unify the building as an arts center, while maintaining the distinct identities of BRIC and UrbanGlass and to do so within the limited budget.”
Jenna Salvagin / Courtesy BRIC
The building is designed to invite the public through the placement of an “Urban Lobby,” which connects the building’s entrance to the sidewalk “to provide transparency to the vibrant activity going on inside,” said Castricone.
The interior is composed of a myriad of spaces to accommodate a variety of uses from studio work (from media production to glass blowing) and educational programming to art exhibitions and live performances. Emerging and mid-career artists can show their art in a 3,000 square foot gallery or in a smaller space, dubbed “The Project Room,” which is geared more towards video work. Perhaps, paying homage to one of Brooklyn’s iconic architectural features, LEESER created “The Stoop,” a large row of steps designed to function as a gathering and event space.
Jenna Salvagin / Courtesy BRIC
For UrbanGlass, the new building provides ample room for both studio work and exhibitions. Artists have access to 17,000 square feet of studio space, which also includes a state-of-the-art, temperature controlled “Hot Shop.” A gallery and retail shop are located right on the first floor—providing a direct link to the neighborhood to help the organization engage with the public.
“The purpose of the project was to expand BRIC and UrbanGlass to the vacant first and cellar floors of the Strand building, to reimagine the building’s street presence to signify it as an arts center, and to showcase the full diversity of programs and creative energy of the community-based activities that occur within,” said Castricone.