Search results for "Manhattan"

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Good Lokko!

Lesley Lokko, architect and author, named dean of Spitzer School of Architecture
Lesley Lokko has written 12 bestselling novels, organized the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, and holds a doctorate in architecture from the University of London. And these are just three of her notable accomplishments. Her most recent? She has been named the dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York. Her appointment comes as the Spitzer School prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary. “The Spitzer School’s distinctive perspective on urbanism, combining as it does classic approaches to architecture with a deep concern for the lived experience of the whole people, makes it the perfect home for someone with Dean Lokko’s abiding civic commitments,” said CCNY President Vince Boudreau in a statement. The renowned CUNY outpost in upper Manhattan has educated students from the city with affordability and social conscience in mind, and civic duty and politics like these have definitively shaped the space in which Lokko has worked over her 25-year career. The Scotland-born-Ghanaian-raised Lokko spends her time hopping between the U.K. and Ghana for life and work. After going back to school at age 26 to train as an architect, she soon after discovered her love for literature, and successfully leaped into becoming a full-time novelist. Her work often deals with race relations and identity, both globally and Africa-specific—and her next novel, slated for publication this spring, unfolds against the backdrop of the Arab Spring. Her writing also crosses into nonfictional and journalistic spheres: she is the editor of White Papers, Black Marks: Race, Culture, Architecture and is the current editor-in-chief of FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture. In the words of interim dean Gordon Gebert, “She is exactly the leader we need to bring renewed energy and define an exciting new vision for the Spitzer School as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school’s founding."
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A Quiet Place

Tadao Ando's first New York building creates high-end tranquility
Tadao Ando’s first building in New York is quiet. At least, that’s the way the Pritzer Prize–winning architect wants it to be perceived. Located in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, the newly-completed 152 Elizabeth is Ando’s latest luxury residential project, and though it only has seven home inside it, is slated to subtly stand out amongst its neighbors. While the idea of being quiet and sophisticated is reflected in its simple yet elegant design scheme, the 32,000-square-foot building quite literally is engineered to be noise-proof; it’s a “sanctuary” for its inhabitants, according to Ando.  Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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An American Experiment

Amanda Kolson Hurley dives into radical histories of U.S. suburbs
Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City Amanda Kolson Hurley Belt Publishing $16.95

When a book about suburbia contains a chapter called “The Anarchists Who Took the Commuter Train,” you know it is going to be an interesting read. That book is Amanda Kolson Hurley’s Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City, and it does not disappoint. In six well-researched and informative—yet fast-paced—chapters, Hurley introduces us to a tapestry of suburban social experimentation, from communal living in celibacy to a community of working couples inspired by the Bauhaus. It is a rich collection of projects, most of which have been overlooked by standard urban surveys.

And yes, there were anarchists in Piscataway, New Jersey, commuting to day jobs in Manhattan. Stelton was a development by anarchists decamping from New York’s East Village in 1915. It was centered around an experimental school, the Modern School, which had both year-round and summer residents united by ultraleft political beliefs and, apparently, a love of argumentation. As throughout the book, Hurley takes her research of Piscataway and the Stelton development on the road, visiting the remnants of the town and interviewing former Stelton residents who remember idyllic school days where—as you can imagine in an anarchist paradise—they were pretty much allowed to do anything they liked. Hurley tells Stelton’s story in rich detail, examining everything from how property rights were handled to the ways in which the houses were decorated.

The chapter on Concord Park, which is just outside of Philadelphia, is equally illuminating. Subtitled “Integrating the Suburbs at ‘Checkerboard Square,’” this section details the efforts of a white developer, Morris Milgram, to create a completely integrated suburb in the 1950s. Hurley effectively conveys the many hurdles Milgram faced and the agonizing choices he had to make, most notably his decision to mandate a quota of 55 percent sales to whites and 45 percent to blacks. As one of only a handful of suburban communities to offer high-quality homes to black residents, the quota was deemed necessary in order to keep it from becoming majority black, with the 10 percent disparity added to entice whites to buy. The project was an initial success (it later did revert to an upper-middle-class majority black neighborhood). Hurley again found authentic voices of former residents, combined with tireless research, to record its story.

All of the stories in this book are masterfully told, adding depth to the examination of suburbs within the disciplines of urbanism and architecture—while at the same time providing enough color and commentary to appeal to a reader with little experience or prior interest in the subject. Hurley’s focus on social experimentation and the ways developments affected residents’ day-to-day lives is part of this success.

What gets perhaps less attention, however, is the wonkier architectural-urban analyses of urban design and architecture in contributing to the radicality of these projects. Of the two more “architectural” projects detailed in the book, The Architects' Collaborative’s collection of Modernist homes outside of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the planned city of Reston, Virginia—the dreamchild of developer Robert E. Simo designed by William Conklin and Thomas Rossant—which only Reston could be considered a truly radical challenge to the standard subdivision in terms of its urban design, embracing both density and mixing of uses. Even at Reston, Simon was forced out and the project reverted to typical suburban norms. (The knife in the gut is that the companies that took over the project were Gulf Oil and Mobil—as if we needed any further proof of what oil companies are looking for in terms of how people live and commute.)

As a result, the book is rather short on critical analysis of the role of design and, perhaps more important, whether design can play a role in remedying any of the problems—restrictive covenants, lack of density and connections, the effects of climate change—that Hurley details in her conclusion as everyday realities. As many—if not most—of the projects in the book ended up failing in themselves or at least failing to inspire any larger movements, the role of design in the relative success of an example like Greenbelt, Maryland—where the proto-modernist forms of Art Deco were used to create a successful mingling of a main street with true suburban freedoms—would make for an interesting next volume.

Hurley’s organization of the book reflects this dichotomy between what is considered success and what is considered failure. She begins in the introduction with a full-throated defense of the suburbs, detailing their increased diversity, quality of life, and sense of community, arguing that the examples in the book are a refutation of suburban clichés of conformity, mediocrity, and blandness. Yet she ends with the aforementioned critique and offers a list of ways in which suburbs could improve. Even the most ordinary of suburbs can of course be considered a uniquely American experiment that has had extraordinary success in redefining how people live. As with any experiment, it is the failures that often provide the pathway to new solutions, and Hurley shows how a number of outliers previously lost to history offer clear alternatives. With 50 percent of Americans still living in the suburbs, even the most hardcore urbanist cannot refute the need to reexamine and redesign them. Hurley has provided us with much-needed fuel for the imagination.

Dan Wood, FAIA, is a cofounder of WORKac and author of We’ll Get There When We Cross That Bridge and 49 Cities.

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57th rising

SHoP's Midtown supertall brings terra-cotta and bronze to new heights
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Over the last two decades, SHoP Architects has pushed the envelope of facade design, leading a notable shift from predominantly glass-clad skyscrapers to supertalls incorporating a variety of materials. SHoP’s 111 57th Street is currently rising on Manhattan’s Billionaires’ Row—a stretch of dizzyingly luxurious towers. The tower stands out with a facade that incorporates three materials: terra-cotta, glass, and bronze ornamental work. The tower rises from a narrow lot located immediately behind and adjacent to the historic Steinway Building. In the mold of historic New York skyscrapers, the tower sets back and tapers upward along its south elevation. Both north and south elevations are clad in a glass curtain wall with vertical strips of bronze sprouting into finials at each setback.
  • Facade Manufacturer NBK Architectural Terracotta ELICC Americas Corporation SYP Glass Group
  • Architect SHoP Architects
  • Developer JDS Development Property Markets Group Spruce Capital
  • Facade Installer Parkside Construction Builders
  • Facade Consultant BuroHappold Engineering
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion 2020
  • System Custom ELICC unitized system
  • Products NBK Architectural Terracotta custom terra-cotta rainscreen
As a result of the site’s constraints, the approximately 1,400-foot-tall tower’s width runs at a remarkably narrow 45 feet—the width-to-height ratio comes out to just 1:24. Partnering with BuroHappold Engineering, a key challenge for the project was developing a facade system capable of supporting the weight of cladding materials, notably the terra-cotta panels. Concrete shear walls back the facade for these two elevations with only select opportunities for punched window openings. “These select openings allow for vision glass to be used while the remaining glass panels contain shadow boxes,” said BuroHappold Associate John Ivanoff. “The unitized curtain wall panels are consistent in dimension across the width of the facade; the units are separated between different materials.” The composition of the east and west facades is formed by a trio of terra-cotta, glass, and bronze. Curtain wall–manufacturer Ellic Americas merged the three materials into approximately 4-foot-by-16-foot panels, with bronze filigree fluttering between vertical stripes of glass and terra-cotta. These panels were then delivered to the site, craned into position, and hung from concrete structural slabs similar to typical curtain wall systems. In total, nearly 43,000 terra-cotta pieces, mechanically fastened to a unitized aluminum curtain wall system, run across the two elevations. The design of the quasi-fluted terra-cotta strips was formulated using a 3-D wave geometry generated by a computational script. This geometrically focused design by SHoP was adapted by NBK Terracotta to conform to its specific fabrication parameters. The building is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
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Disaster Dioramas

Artist Josh Kline brings climate change home in a new Manhattan show
In case you’ve missed it, the world is ending. There’s war, displacement, drought, famine, rising seas, sinking cities, faster winds, and a frightening U.N. report suggests irrevocable, possibly humanity-ending results if we can’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent of 2010 levels by 2050. Artist Josh Kline wants to give us a vision of this un-future. In Climate Change: Part One, Kline has transformed Chinatown gallery 47 Canal in Manhattan into a dystopian funhouse, one that reflects and refracts our world—and its possible undoing—back at us for unnerving effect. Through the first door, which features the stars of a mangled American flag peaking through plastered-on sand, you’ll encounter an irregularly shaped green table mounted with a lit vitrine. Against the nearest wall are a series of large, whirring industrial freezers. The tarp floors make a slight, sticky sound underfoot. This table is one of three bearing names that read like euphemisms for the current state of catastrophe capitalism: Transnational Finance, Technological Innovation. In this one, Representative Government, models of various seats of power—the White House, the Reichstag, rendered in Potomac River mud and placed against a satellite photo of Washington, D.C.—slowly drown under the water of melting miniature icebergs. The freezers sustain the chunks of ice just enough that the submergence is painfully slow, taking place over the month-and-a-half of the show's run.  As we know, cooling a small space puts out a great deal of heat elsewhere, rendering the gallery quite warm. Other vitrines hold different building typologies, like skyscrapers rising together from an imaginary Manhattan made from all the world's tallest buildings. The Burj Khalifa and the Chrysler Building aren’t in the same city, and there's no iceberg floating and melting in New York's Upper Bay, but you get the idea. The real-life ice may be far away, but water, and the planet, is a continuity. An ice shelf north of Greenland crashing into the sea has implications that reach far further than the Arctic Circle.  Through the doors there are other, unenclosed tables, with pink soy wax in the shape of insurance buildings and suburban homes melting down tubes that collect and direct the colored sludge into buckets below. Waste is not hidden, as everything is a system. The doors, each named after a degrees Celsius, with a second parenthetical appellation, are themselves artworks, but also serve their usual purpose. Some rooms, arranged together like a cartoon hallway from a Scooby Doo villain's mansion, can only be entered through a singular door, some an array of doors. They present a false sense of choice, and all lead to the same room, each degree of difference still resulting in the same ruins. The checklist is very clear about origins, at least for some of the more “natural” materials: beach sand from New York City, Shenzhen, and California; desert sand from Texas and the Sahara; steel powder from China. The flags, too, have origin stories, however misleading they might be. We might imagine that the nylon flags desecrated and pasted onto the doors with paint and sand and kelp may represent Germany, the U.S., China, and so on, but they are likely to all be from somewhere else, maybe the same factory, possibly located in none of these countries. To the tentacles of global commerce, borders are long gone. For the refugees of climate disaster and resource wars, the same can’t yet be said.  The doors, with their disfigured flags, are meant to represent the dissolution of borders and nations that Kline predicts climate change and its cascading ramifications will bring about. They also represent our willful participation in the house of horrors-style drowning disasters shown in each of the different rooms as we open and close them. Even when faced with three doors, the sense of choice is false: each opens to the same room. Whether our actions raise global average atmospheric temperatures by 2º C (Dutch, Belgian, French, and German flags, all compressed with Sahara Desert sand—a Colonial Chain Reaction) or 3º C (a mashup of the Union Jack and Japanese flags along with kelp and chlorella) or 5º C (American and Russian flags, Potomac River mud), we’ll still find ourselves in too deep, so to speak. Particularly resonant are the banal and domestic scenes. Situated in hermetically sealed versions of the fume hoods from your college chemistry class painted in subdued, aesthetically-pleasing shades of urethane paints with lighting to match, are scenes with dollhouse miniatures, submerged underwater (or really, cyanoacrylate glue and epoxy). They depict sorrily-stocked grocery stores, bland offices, and suburban home interiors, but their titles are not so bland: Erosion, Inundation, and Submersion.  Disintegration isn't loss, it’s transformation. Even as rising water washes away the mud of the miniature buildings, that same dirt just is transported elsewhere, but formless. Matter is conserved, even if our environment is not. What once was just becomes something else, and with us gone, who will be there to name it or know the difference anyway? Things happen on scales too large for us to know, or to know to even ask questions about. Kline shows us this, plainly, perhaps even at first propagandistically. In this show alone, the interlocking problems of political power, globalization, financialization, housing, architecture, technology, and climate change are all put on display. But there’s no real call to arms here, just a documentation of the future present. But it does make one have to ask: If this is Climate Change: Part One, what happens in part two? Climate Change: Part One 47 Canal 291 Grand Street, 2nd Floor, New York Through June 9, 2019
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Carpet Diem

Miniature undulating cityscape comes to Madison Square Park
Manhattan’s Madison Square Park has opened its 38th outdoor installation to the public today, dropping an evocative, interactive “cityscape” from sculptor Leonardo Drew into the park that will stay up until December 15. The 100-plus-foot-long City in the Grass stands as a solitary statement on its own but also makes ample reference to the city surrounding it, including the Empire State Building, which looms over the park. The piece is a tapestry of colors, textures, and materials that simultaneously evokes growth, comfort, ruins, and intimacy on the park’s Oval Lawn. Three stepped spires, the tallest of which tops out at 16 feet, anchor City in the Grass and are an obvious allusion to the Empire State Building to the north. Each spire is made from a mixture of plaster and latex paint, and Drew says that their eclectic appearance is a reference to Cuba’s dilapidated hotels, where peeling paint reveals the underlying structure. Surrounding each spire is an abstracted landscape of black and white wood offcuts of varying heights, reminiscent of buildings, but without a specific reference. These urban islands “float” in between waves of steel panels adorned in colored sand and patterned after Persian carpet designs, literalizing the “ebb and flow” of urban life through peaks and valleys. The peeling, layered look of the carpet, complete with holes and seams that let the grass below poke through, is meant to evoke the feeling of a familiar, well-worn home item. While the piece may look like it was assembled from found materials, Drew was quick to point out that he doesn’t use found objects; every piece and tear is deliberate. Drew is typically known for his wall pieces and City in the Grass is his first outdoor public installation. Appropriately enough, the piece is meant to encourage public interaction. While City in the Grass might look fragile, visitors are encouraged to sit, stand on, and explore it from every angle (just don’t climb on the spires). City in the Grass was commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy. As the exhibition will remain up throughout the fall and winter, visitors can experience the materials weathering in real time in response to the natural landscape around it.
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Jail Simulator 2019

AECOM chosen to oversee design-build of Rikers replacement towers
A joint team of AECOM and the Philadelphia-based construction consulting firm Hill International has been tapped by the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to oversee the design and construction of the four borough-based jail towers that will replace Rikers Island. The pair was awarded a $107.4 million contract to administer the four teams that will build the new jails, one team for each location. Once complete, the four new jail towers will each be expected to hold approximately 1,500 beds, as well as rehabilitative and reentry programs, counseling, educational, and health components, as well as community space, at a total cost of $8.7 billion. If the new jails in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan move ahead, they would be the city’s first design-build projects. The DDC issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Program Management Consultant team in October of 2018 for the borough-based jails project. AECOM touts that the company is no stranger to building correctional facilities, and the company’s broad architecture and engineering experience makes it a good fit for design-build, where the architects and builders work in tandem to realize the project. The AECOM-Hill team will work off of a framework first devised by Perkins Eastman, which, along with 17 subcontractors, laid out the potential sites and space requirements for the replacement jails. Their final determination was that the city should refurbish existing buildings or build new jails close to the central courthouses in each borough so that inmates could easily make their court appearances. Of course, the plan hasn’t been without its detractors. All four jails are being moved through the Uniform Land Use Review Process at once in an effort to close Rikers as fast as possible, but residents have been pushing back against erecting new jails in their neighborhoods, and clashing with carceral activists. At the time of writing, four community boards have voted against the plan (Community Board 1 rejected building a 45-story jail tower at 125 White Street on Tuesday), although their votes are nonbinding.
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Augmented Materiality

Designer and engineer Nassia Inglessis creates responsive canopy
Today, most people live in cities—artificial structures that determine how we move through space and relate to others and the world around us. But, all too often these cities feel fixed, designed and determined by larger powers that shape a landscape that the average denizen has little direct influence over. So what would a responsive city, one that worked like a natural ecosystem and subsumed participants in its very fabric, look like? This is the question that Nassia Inglessis, founder of Studio INI, is provoking in her installation Urban Imprint, now on display in Brooklyn at A/D/O by MINI. A 340-square-foot pavilion, Urban Imprint invites visitors to move all over a field of brick-red, water-jet-cut rubber-concrete composite tiles that sinks slightly underneath one's feet, in turn deforming a hidden web of laser-cut steel below. Above, a web of that same brick-red material deforms upwards, rising in direct proportion to the weight of participants on the platform. The entire project was conceived and prototyped in just under six months, fabricated in Athens and then shipped to New York for its unveiling during New York Design Week. So often, Inglessis said, our cities are a “design that somebody has given us and we have to navigate.” From the grid of Manhattan to the walls of a building, “there is no imprint that you are leaving behind, no evidence that you've been there.” This lack of interaction leaves citizens feeling “muted,” Inglessis said, “you feel just part of somebody else's design, and we often feel that we are quite lonely in the city.” Urban Imprint is designed to resist this static notion of architecture. “It doesn't have a final form and it never will because the human element is what completes the design.” Plus, when more than one person steps on the surface, it reconfigures entirely how you relate to one another—your sightlines and ground shift and move, and the effect of other participants in this microcosm of urban space is quite palpable. You're all participating in remaking this "space." While “there are a lot of digital tools and fabrication and computational design that went into [Urban Imprint], the actual end result is completely analog,” Inglessis explained. A series of pulleys with cables hidden behind the red-hued mirrors, a color chosen to accentuate the brick facade of the former industrial space, operate the entire process. In function, Urban Imprint is like “a physical megaphone,” suggested Inglessis—taking the deformation of its participants and expanding it four times above their head, helping visitors imagine what it would be like to “have your urban environment give evidence of your presence.” Speaking on the choice of creating a analogue, mechanical final form, Inglessis reflected: “Although I had the knowledge and tools of all these amazing new capabilities that have opened up from computational design and digital fabrication tools [both of which were used to design and fabricate the steel and rubber-concrete components], I felt there was so much activity moving us towards living in a headset.” Instead, she said, “we should look at technology and the new digital tools as a means to an end, rather than an end itself.” So often, beyond just simulating the “real world” on screens and headsets, many new mixed-reality technologies just overlay digital elements onto a physical world that’s “still pretty static.” Instead of augmented reality, Inglessis proposes “augmented materiality,” a sort of “new analog” that blends old and new fabrication, production, and experiential tools to create new possibilities in our physical, urban world. In Urban Imprint, she says, “the material itself has the ability to transform, to be dynamic, to create interaction, and to be seamless.” Urban Imprint was realized by Inglessis with the help of Manos Vordonarakis and the Studio INI team. It will be on view at A/D/O in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, until September 2.
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Pyramid Power

Weekend edition: Pei passes, Apple in D.C., and more
Missed some of this week’s architecture news, or our tweets and Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! I.M. Pei passes away at 102 Pioneering architect I.M. Pei has passed away at 102, after a storied career designing modern buildings all over the world, as well as a Pritzker Prize. Winner revealed for University of Illinois at Chicago arts building competition The University of Illinois at Chicago picked OMA and KOO Architecture to design its new 88,000-square-foot Center for the Arts building. Apple takes over Washington, D.C.'s historic Carnegie Library Apple Carnegie Library has taken over one of Washington, D.C.'s historic structures, turning it into a massive "town hall"–style store. Shirley Chisholm monument designers discuss using space to honor a legacy The architect-artists won the open call to design a new monument dedicate to Congressperson Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. The World Trade Center Oculus is still leaking The lengthy skylight of the WTC Oculus is designed to open every September 11, but computer errors last year may have ruined the opening's rubber seals. Have a great weekend!
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Ready for her Close-up

Statue of Liberty Museum by FXCollaborative opens this week
How do you design a museum that makes the most of a small plot, honors the history and spirit of the Statue of Liberty, and can handle millions of visitors a year? The FXCollaborative-designed new Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island, which opens to the public this Thursday, had to address all of these concerns. The materiality of the 26,000-square-foot museum is intrinsically linked to the Statue of Liberty it lies directly across from, and the pedestrian mall it connects to. When approaching the island by ferry, the museum’s prominent 14,000-square-foot green roof and vertically-striated exterior precast concrete firmly distinguished the building from anything else in its surroundings. The most striking feature is the 22-foot-tall wing dedicated solely to the Statue of Liberty’s original torch, which was replaced in the 1984 renovation. The glass walls provide a nearly 360-degree view of the island, the Manhattan skyline, and the statue itself from inside, but also make the torch highly visible from the exterior. To enter the museum and reach the green roof, visitors must first ascend a series of steps made from Stony Creek granite, the same stone used in the Statue of Liberty’s podium. The museum’s entrances and programming are designed to be highly permeable, as they are expected to accommodate up to 500 visitors an hour. As such, the museum offers several different branching “paths” once inside. Other than the aforementioned torch room, an immersive theater, broken into three discreet rooms, is stationed near the entrance and provides an immersive, 10-minute movie on the history and impact of the statue. After filing out, guests can either move to the “Engagement Gallery,” which dives deeper into the French workshop where sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi assembled the statue, or to the "Inspiration Gallery." In that space, visitors can snap a selfie and append a note about what liberty means to them; that photo will then be added to a collage called “Becoming Liberty.” The interactive exhibitions were all handled by ESI Design. On the roof, visitors are afforded unobstructed views of pretty much everything in the area, including Manhattan, Staten Island, and New York Harbor. Eagle-eyed patrons might notice that the roof flares both upwards and downwards in certain points, including a dramatic dip over the main entrance. FXCollaborative extended the green roof along the harsh incline by using a series of tray planters smoothed over to appear as if they’re one continuous slope, protecting against any potential runoff. Liberty Island is also a hotspot for migrating birds, and the team specified a fritted glass to cut down on the reflectiveness of the windows and mitigate bird strikes. The Statue of Liberty Museum will open to the public on May 16, and admission is included in the cost of a ferry ticket: $18.50 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $9 for children.
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Torts, Tech, Towers

Weekend edition: Tech urbanism, liability explained, and more
Missed some of this week’s architecture news, or our tweets and Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! Forty-five story jail tower could be coming to Lower Manhattan The plan to close the jail facilities on Rikers Island is chugging along, but community opposition towards the borough-based replacements is bubbling over. The origins and perils of development in the urban tech landscape Author and professor Sharon Zukin looks at the history and the origins of the urban tech landscape, and how it has manifested in New York and elsewhere. Are design professionals liable for failing to anticipate the effects of climate change? Two experts give advice to architects about their legal liability in designing for climate change in their projects—just following code may not be enough. After Hudson Yards, Sunnyside could be New York's next megadevelopment After New York City's Hudson Yards megadevelopment elicited critical disappointment when it opened, our editor in chief posits Sunnyside could be next. Mexico City’s cost-saving replacement airport to break ground in June President Andrés Manuel López Obrador canceled the $13 billion Mexico City airport after a public referendum, but the alternative will soon break ground. Have a great weekend, and see you Monday!
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Decks (over) and Yards

After Hudson Yards, Sunnyside could be New York's next megadevelopment

Lawrence Halprin and William “Holly” Whyte both published books in the 1960s that highlighted the ad hoc and often bottom-up design decisions that make cities successful for their users and inhabitants. Facing the massive Nieman Marcus–emblazoned steel and glass street wall that greets visitors entering Hudson Yards from 10th Avenue, the lessons of Halprin and Whyte seem a quaint reminder of how city building has changed in the past 50 years. Hudson Yards, or as its developers like to call it, “New York’s next great neighborhood,” is not so much an accretive, incremental part of the city, but a pop-up assemblage of high-rise corporate boxes surrounding a shopping mall. There is little here that would interest Halprin or Whyte about how to design a city.

As America’s white middle class was abandoning the city for the suburbs, the authors wanted to rediscover and celebrate the joys of high-density living. Gentrification has gone from an obscure English academic theory to a popular derisive term to describe how our cities are being organized, planned, and developed. In New York City in 2019, even affordable housing has been handed over to large corporate entities, much as it was in the 19th century, when tenements proliferated and developers were allowed to do as they wished with their property holdings.

The urban critics writing about Hudson Yards yearn for a seamless Whyte-inspired urban fabric that gives as much as it takes from the city. Sadly, the Yards are described, variously, as “an urban failure,” a “$25 billion enclave,” “too clean, too flat, too art-directed,” and “a vast neoliberal Zion.” But how could it have been otherwise? It was conceived, planned, and designed by a corporation with little interest in anything but short-term profit, and it proceeded with little input from community boards, elected officials, or planners. The community boards had all been bludgeoned for years by proposals for sports stadiums on the site, and they gave the go-ahead to the first proposal that promised housing and a school, even if that meant luxury towers. Without serious input from community boards and city planners, this new quarter of the city was destined for failure. Developers only begrudgingly accepted the High Line—one of the most successful top-down planning projects of the past 25 years—into its 14 acres of “public” space when pushed hard by the department of city planning. The High Line, to its credit, makes provision for the sort of urban happenstance that we like about cities, and we can be thankful it wends its way through Hudson Yards and does not stop at its perimeter. The short High Line spur, with its still unfinished plinth for a rotating case of public sculptures, visible overhead to cars driving up 10th Avenue, is the sort of unexpected condition that makes the city richer. Unfortunately, the gigantic footprints of the Hudson Yards buildings and their corporate lobby design aesthetic makes it impossible for any bottom-up ad hoc events to take place.

A major problem for the Yards is that it sits on a 28-acre concrete pad and underground infrastructure complex that precludes any urban use that doesn’t generate billions of dollars in income. It’s the same problem faced in varying degrees by the World Trade Center site and Park Avenue, but these seem like triumphs of urban design compared to Hudson Yards.

Sadly, this blueprint for city building on concrete pads (and its economic and financing formula) may be the model for the next big development site in the city, Sunnyside Yard, as New York’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has already begun planning its future. It was identified as a potential development site in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2030 plan, and the 180-acre site in western Queens is not far from Manhattan and the growing centers of Long Island City, Astoria, and Queens Plaza. It potentially has 19 million square feet of retail, commercial, residential, and mixed-use spaces, and has been identified by the EDC as a place that could potentially house up to 24,000 homes, 19 schools, and 52 acres of public parks.

In February 2017, the city unveiled a feasibility study of the Sunnyside Yard area, which showed that decking was in fact possible, and that there were various scenarios in which a development of the site could move forward. But again, expensive decking will almost certainly preclude anything but corporate high-rise offices and luxury residential towers with commercial and open space, exactly like that at Hudson Yards.

Sunnyside Yard sits next to one of the most important residential developments in the United States, Sunnyside Gardens, designed by Henry Wright and Clarence Stein of the Regional Planning Association of America (RPAA). If only the planners for Sunnyside Yard could look next door and have the expertise and nerve to propose something as revolutionary as the RPAA did in the 1920s. But let’s not hold our breath—we are more likely to get another version of Hudson Yards on this public land.