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Another one bites the dust?

Why we need architecture critics more than ever
Earlier this week we learned that Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne would be stepping down to take on the city’s newly-created role of Chief Design Officer. The move is a bold, encouraging one that should go a long way toward, as Hawthorne put it, “raising the quality of public architecture and urban design across the city—and the level of civic conversation about those subjects,” through his employment of oversight, advocacy, competitions, forums, and more. But it’s the second part of that statement, regarding civic conversation, that, regardless of this positive development, is under siege in the architecture world. Until Hawthorne is replaced — and given the turmoil at the L.A. Times that’s no certainty— our country will have still fewer regular architectural critics at its major metropolitan news outlets. You can count them on one hand in fact: Blair Kamin at the Chicago Tribune, John King at the San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Lamster at the Dallas Morning News, Julie Iovine at the Wall Street Journal, and Inga Saffron at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Beyond these dailies, while New York Magazine’s Justin Davidson and Curbed’s Alexandra Lange offer regular critiques, the New York Times’ critic Michael Kimmelman is M.I.A., the New Yorker has never replaced Paul Goldberger, and at The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, The Nation, The San Jose Mercury News, and Vanity Fair, Robert Campbell, Alastair Gordon, Michael Sorkin, Alan Hess and Goldberger—all talented voices, as are all the people listed above— haven’t appeared for at least half a year.  Papers like The Seattle Times, the Providence Journal, and the Washington Post never replaced their outgoing critics, USA Today has never had one, and half of the nation’s ten largest cities have no critic. It goes without saying that the L.A. Times absolutely must name a new full-time architecture critic, particularly at a time when the nation's second largest city is undergoing unprecedented transformation. Without a well-positioned critical voice, the city will lack a professional to alert them to and analyze these tumultuous built changes, or an advocate to critique decisions that, as they so often do in the developer-driven city, advance private interests over the public good. (Or, on the other end of the spectrum, marginalize design through discourse and work that most people can't relate to.) A critic can and must do much more, from awakening us to triumphs in sustainability and technology to suggesting ways to minimize sprawl or enhance public space. We don’t have to always agree with them, but he or she plays an essential role in instigating and informing a vital public discourse and to alerting us to the critical role design plays in our lives. The same goes for so many of the country’s cities, where nobody is minding the store, architecturally. The results speak for themselves: an overwhelming majority of architecture, both public and private, that’s ok, fine, serviceable. But not enough. It’s an architecture that, like most of our economy, excels for the very richest individuals, corporations and cultural institutions, but offers mediocrity to almost everyone else. Architecture should and must be for everyone, across the board, from housing to retail to schools to government buildings to civic parks. It must help propel our society, and our spirits, forward through inspiration and innovation, not just provide luxury, comfort, or status. Of course, architecture criticism isn’t limited to major commercial outlets. There are fantastic voices at many design periodicals, like this one. But critics at general interest publications still, even in this fractured media landscape, have the greatest ability to reach a wide audience, outside the bubbles of design or niche journalism, who are often preaching to the converted. While the news, sports, fashion, entertainment, and financial media promote and dissect the minutiae of their fields before millions, prompting debate, feedback, and change, the architecture and construction industry — a significant force in overall U.S. GDP—is largely on the fringe of the public conversation. (One example: If you watch March Madness this week, you’ll see more college basketball critics on one telecast than you’ll find countrywide speaking to architecture. Aline Saarinen was once NBC News’ full time architecture critic, but those days of elevated exposure are long gone.) Meanwhile, critics, as with so many players in the ailing journalism world, are increasingly being sidestepped for computerized engines like Rotten Tomatoes or for blogs that aggregate other work and churn out press releases. Or even worse, for abbreviated Facebook or Twitter posts. Algorithms and big data have their place in showing us where we are, but they can’t replace analysis, critique, understanding, common sense, and heart. Having Hawthorne— along with advocates like Deborah Weintraub at the L.A. Bureau of Engineering and Seleta Reynolds at the L.A. Department of Transportation— stationed at City Hall will be bring a keen eye and a valuable voice to the official conversation. But that conversation needs to extend to a much wider public, through experts outside the city payroll. As for his new job, Hawthorne must, as he suggests he will, make his work to improve the civic realm as public as possible, ensuring that design involves everyone, not just those in power. This is a fantastic opportunity for a gifted communicator to bring the public inside a generally opaque realm through his writing, speaking, and facility for public engagement. But he also needs a partner or two (preferably more) in the media, and as more chief design officers (hopefully) pop up around the country, so must they. Architecture is not art in a gallery. Along with landscape architecture and urban design, it is a public profession. It is for the public, not despite them. We need to empower more informed voices to keep it that way.
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Boring Tunnels

Elon Musk receives exploratory permit for D.C. to NYC Hyperloop
Seven months after Elon Musk claimed that he had “verbal governmental approval” from the Trump administration to build an underground Hyperloop from Washington D.C. to New York City, it looks like his plans might actually come to fruition. Musk’s The Boring Company has received a permit to begin exploratory digging in Washington, D.C., for what could one day be a stop along a D.C.-Baltimore-Philadelphia-New York route. Musk has made some ambitious claims about the Hyperloop, a high-speed rail system that would reach nearly 800 miles an hour and cut the 229-mile trip between D.C. and NYC to only 29 minutes. For contrast, the fastest train in the U.S. is Amtrak’s Acela Express, which tops out at 150 miles an hour and makes the same trip in three hours. Unlike Amtrak’s light rail network, the Hyperloop system would be more akin to a supersonic subway, moving small pods of up to 16 people, or vehicles, on electrically-powered sleds between widely dispersed stations scattered through each city instead of one centralized train hub in each. Now, The Boring Company will begin excavating a vacant parking lot at 53 New York Avenue NE, near the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters, after being granted a somewhat vague permit by the D.C. government. The initial exploration is just one piece of navigating a logistical boondoggle, as The Boring Company would need to tunnel under buildings, infrastructure, utilities, roads and just about everything else if an interstate Hyperloop network were to come to fruition. The city’s Department of Transportation has reportedly been trying to determine what other permits Musk’s company would need. Still, every piece of regulatory go-ahead has helped the Hyperloop inch closer to reality. In October 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan gave Musk permission to begin excavation of a 10-mile stretch of Hyperloop track for the future New York-to-D.C. line, although city leaders along the way expressed their surprise at the decision. The federal government would also need to grant the Boring Company the appropriate permits to dig under federally owned land, of which the proposed route crosses several stretches. While testing of the Boring Company’s drilling technology and ability to tunnel under urban areas is still ongoing in Hawthorne, Los Angeles, at least the company will be able to fund its endeavors; at the time of writing, Musk had sold out of promotional Boring Company flamethrowers.
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L-pocalypse Plans

City and MTA reveal alternate transit plans for L train shutdown
Last night the two agencies in charge of transit in New York kicked off an open house series for the public to learn more about plans to move commuters between Brooklyn and Manhattan during the 15-month L train shutdown. The events are being held over four weeks in neighborhoods that will be most impacted by the closure.
About 70 people filled the cafeteria of Williamsburg's Progress High School for the first open house, which was jointly hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT). Employees of both agencies stood by boards outlining transit options, science fair–style, as members of the public approached to ask questions about the bus, train, ferry, and bike routes that will carry them to Manhattan and back. The shutdown begins April 2019. During that time, the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River will close so workers can replace infrastructure that was damaged by flooding from 2012's Hurricane Sandy. Each weekday, 225,000 riders move through the tunnel, and 50,000 rides take the L just in Manhattan. The agencies are in the process of soliciting community feedback on the transit options; no plan has been determined yet. In Brooklyn, proposed changes include three-person HOV restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge during peak hours, as well as new protected bike and bus lanes to ferry riders between the J/Z/M and G trains, L-adjacent lines the city expects 70 to 80 percent of affected riders will utilize to get across the river. Work is being done to ensure these lines can handle additional capacity, and the bus routes could be upgraded to give buses priority over private vehicles. The city estimates an additional 5 to 15 percent will use buses only, with new Williamsburg Bridge–bound buses, dubbed L1, L2, and L3, slated to carry approximately 30,000 riders, or 13 percent of the weekday total. After that, the agencies say five percent of straphangers will switch to the ferry, two percent will cycle to work, and between three and ten percent of riders may use taxis or ride-sharing services for their commute. In Manhattan, 14th Street (the crosstown thoroughfare under which the L train runs) would be converted into a busway, with only local private car access allowed. A block south, protected two-way bike lanes would be added to 13th Street to accomodate cyclists headed to and from the Williamsburg Bridge, which touches down on the Lower East Side. The next public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 31, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan.
Residents had many questions—and more than a few concerns—about the proposed routes. "The main impetus of the plan is to keep people out of North Brooklyn," said Felice Kirby, a longtime Williamsburg resident and board member of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. "There are a couple of thousand small businesses and manufacturers who, along with residents, made this area famous. We're in a lot of trouble if people can't get into our area to eat, shop, and work." She grilled an MTA official on why ferry service wasn't being expanded to increase the percentage of L-train riders who might use the boats to get to work.
"It's a timid and meek approach," she added.
Lifelong Williamsburg resident Vikki Cambos has already started thinking about alternative travel plans. Though she lives off the Grand St L and works off Hewes Street J/M, she is weighing the shutdown as she job-searches. "I don't want something directly off the L, because that will be a headache," Cambos said. As another option, she's considering jobs in lower and upper Manhattan that are easily accessible by trains other than the L. She's worried too that the proposed shuttle will add crowds in a neighborhood that's already undergone extensive gentrification.  "I'm excited to see people move out," she said. Jeff Csicsek, a software engineer who volunteers with the North Brooklyn arm of transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, wants Grand Street in Brooklyn to be for bikes, buses, and pedestrians only—no private cars allowed. He cited Downtown Brooklyn's no-car Fulton Street, one of the city’s most profitable retail corridors, as an example of how the streetscape could be retooled to favor pedestrians and mass transit on Grand.  "I don't think it's physical changes [that are needed] so much as policy," he said. "A do-not-enter sign for private cars would make this actually work." Even Andy Byford, the newly-appointed president of MTA New York City Transit, showed up to hear the public's questions. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was also in attendance. "We simply have to get this right," he told a small crowd of reporters. The MTA, he added, is soliciting community feedback to decide on final transit options. "The plan is not set in stone," he said.  This post has been updated with the MTA's map of possible transit alternatives during the shutdown.
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Don't Stop Believing

What’s going on with the Brooklyn-Queens streetcar?
With the recent revelation that New York City’s proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar project had missed its deadline for launching the public review process at the end of December, new questions have arisen over how feasible the project is. As the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has instead chosen to begin a review of the streetcar’s cost and feasibility this year, it’s worth looking back at the BQX’s bumpy ride through 2017. The last time AN wrote about the BQX, it was to report on the release of a leaked memo from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s advisory team to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen in April. While the 16-mile-long BQX line was originally envisioned as a way to transport residents up and down a revitalized Brooklyn-Queens waterfront by April 2024, the memo called into question the rising costs of relocating below-grade utilities along the line’s route. It was additionally suggested that the use “value-capture” for the $2.5 billion project, which would finance the BQX through rising waterfront property values, might not be enough. Fast forward to November 9th, when two anonymous sources with connections to the project told the New York Post that “It’s going to die.” Citing the contentious relationship between Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, and breaking with the mayor’s assertion that the BQX would require no state-level intervention, the sources broke down why the streetcar relied on the governor’s approval. Several parcels of land along the BQX’s proposed route are owned by the state government and would need permission to build over, and the MTA has stated that it would not cross-honor BQX tickets for the bus and subway systems. Killing the “last mile” aspect of the streetcar is especially important, as the project was initially pitched as linking neighborhoods that lacked mass transit options. Four days later on the 13th, the nonprofit group Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector unveiled a life-sized streetcar prototype at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The mockup featured enough room for 150 passengers and open gangways, while Friends of the BQX have promised that the streetcar would have an average speed faster than the busses it would share the street with. As December drew to a close, the BQX missed a major milestone in failing to launch the public review process. As the EDC begins an in-depth review of the project, Crain’s has noted that the review would save taxpayers $35 million if plans for the streetcar were scrapped, but would delay the project’s launch another six months, potentially costing up to $100 million every year that it’s delayed. Only a few days after, on December 28th the Post reported that the Department of Transportation would need to repair the decaying Brooklyn-Queens Expressway directly over the proposed streetcar route, potentially delaying the project further. While the Friends of the BQX and the mayor’s office have remained adamant that funding for the project can be found, there are still significant hurdles in the way. A route has to be finalized, some sort of agreement between the city and MTA must be worked out, and protection measures for flooding will need to be discussed as the entire line runs along the most climatologically vulnerable part of the waterfront. As 2018 progresses, it will be worth keeping an eye on whether the BQX can meet its original 2019 groundbreaking date. A Friends of the BQX spokesperson gave AN the following statement in regards to the project's future. "The BQX will dramatically increase opportunity for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront who are clamoring for better access to jobs, education, healthcare and recreation. We're optimistic that the project will take significant, concrete strides forward in 2018."
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Bay Area Basin

2017 Best of Design Awards for Urban Design
2017 Best of Design Award for Urban Design: India Basin Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Location: San Francisco
Embodying a commitment to sustainable placemaking, the India Basin project proposes the transformation of acres of overgrown former industrial land on the San Francisco Bay into an active waterfront destination and a vibrant, diverse village. The comprehensive design reconnects surrounding communities with the shoreline, cultivates economic opportunities, and provides mixed-income housing. The mixed-use project creates a complete community at a human scale, with all basic services and amenities located within short walking distance. It interweaves parks, plazas, and open space with new pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly connections, as well as buildings for residential, commercial, and community-serving purposes.
The design also embraces the existing ecology of the land. A robust stormwater management strategy links streetscape streams and bioswales (landscape elements that remove silt from runoff water) with a landscape of canals, reservoirs, and wetlands. "This is a significant redevelopment that will affect this part of the city in profound ways. That said, it is an elegant and reasoned plan that integrates nicely with its surroundings." —Matt Shaw, Senior Editor, Architect's Newspaper (juror) Client: Build Inc. Landscape Architect: Bionic Civil Engineer: Sherwood Design Engineers Urban Design and Planning: Gehl Studio
Honorable Mention Project: Atlanta's Park Over GA400 Architects: Rogers Partners and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Location: Atlanta
Atlanta’s Park Over GA400 seizes the opportunity to reclaim the GA400 highway void with a 2,500-foot-long public space for community gatherings and public art. A dense cover of native trees over the highway links adjacent canopies and reduces the heat island effect, captures stormwater, and supports native flora and fauna. Honorable Mention  Project: The Reconstruction of Astor Place and Cooper Square Architect: WXY Location: New York The network of streets in and around NYC’s Astor Place and Cooper Square benefitted from configurations that improve the experiential nature of the neighborhood. At the behest of the city’s Department of Transportation, the design team developed a rich pedestrian environment, relieved pedestrian and vehicular congestion, and created custom-designed seating throughout the plazas.
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Hudson Hawks

Hudson River tunnel agreement comes into focus, but Trump administration balks
In a joint statement by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie last week, both states pledged a combined total of $5 billion towards $12.7 billion Gateway Hudson Tunnel Project. The announcement fulfills a promise that half of the project be funded at the state level and half at the federal level, but the Trump administration has called the proposal "entirely unserious." The Hudson tunnel has been contentious for years. Only one rail tunnel currently runs under the Hudson River and between New York and New Jersey, and lingering damage from Hurricane Sandy threatens to close one of the two train tubes. According to Amtrak, which owns the rail tunnel, 200,000 riders pass through daily and closing just one of the tubes for necessary repairs would reduce train traffic between New York City and cities to the west by 75 percent. An earlier, $8.7 billion iteration of the proposed Gateway tunnel would have doubled train traffic between New York and New Jersey, but was canceled by Governor Christie in 2010 over rising costs. The tunnel is also only one part of the larger, $24 billion Gateway Plan that, if fully realized, would expand Penn Station and build new bridges to connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City. Now that the New Jersey governor is on his way out, Christie seems to have no qualms about recommitting to the now more expensive version of the project. New Jersey has pledged $1.9 billion in funding, with New York agreeing to contribute $1.75 billion, both financed through a 35-year, fixed-interest loan from the Department of Transportation's Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program. Under the agreement, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would also contribute $1.9 billion through a similar loan. Despite both states offering to take loans and pay them back with interest, a common method of financing for large infrastructure projects, the Trump administration has refused to accept this deal. While the Obama administration viewed Gateway as an important part of modernizing transit infrastructure in an area that’s vital to the American economy, the current administration has relegated it to a local project. As the Department of Transportation (DOT) spokeswoman told Crain’s, "The plan now seeks 100% of its funding from federal sources." "No actual local funds are committed up front. They propose the project is funded half in grants and half in loans. This is not a serious plan at all." It remains to be seen how the DOT’s shift in attitude will affect similar transit projects nationwide, or how the $1 trillion infrastructure bill proposed by President Trump will impact the Hudson tunnel. Unlike the traditional 50/50 funding model used in the past, Trump’s bill would be funded through public-private partnerships.
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99 Visions

Seattle votes to tear down a highway tunnel, but designers see valuable public space
This week, the Seattle city council approved a timeline to tear down the elevated Highway 99 viaduct, a double-layered roadway that was damaged by an earthquake in 2001. As Seattle presses on with its expensive and sometimes controversial plan to bore an underground replacement Highway 99 tunnel, some groups are questioning what will be done with the land underneath the existing highway. While plans to revitalize Seattle’s waterfront in 2019 have been well-publicized, an opportunity to add more public space to the offering may lurk even further down. The Highway 99 viaduct currently runs over Battery Street Tunnel, a 2,000-foot-long, 60-foot-wide artery under the street, scheduled to be decommissioned alongside the viaduct. Although the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) plans to fill the 120,000-square-foot tunnel with concrete, Recharge the Battery, a collection of architects, artists and planners, have proposed activating the roadway as a public space. After Recharge the Battery took public comments in September on how to transform the space, some of the ideas that came to the forefront were an inclusive public park, bath house, interactive art gallery, monster hall of fame, and turning the tunnel into a skate park. The group has argued that, following successful adaptive resuse projects in cities around the world, such as the High Line and Transit Museum in New York, giving the Battery Street Tunnel a second life isn’t impossible. “To look at the tunnel simply as a liability and fill it in is a one-sided take,” said Jon Kiehnau, Recharge the Battery ‘s co-founder. “You have to look at the fact that the tunnel is 120,000 square feet. Based on the current price of real estate it’s worth more than $100 million. You have to look at what a positive thing it can be.” Although competing visions for the tunnel have been offered, it’s uncertain whether WSDOT would alter their infill plans, or even decouple the decommissioning of the viaduct from the destruction of the Battery Street Tunnel. WSDOT spokesperson Laura Newborn has stated that the department is legally obligated to fill in the tunnel, as it has become seismically unstable and expensive to maintain. Even Recharge the Battery has acknowledged that retrofitting the tunnel to meet seismic safety standards could cost anywhere from $10 million to $100 million. With WSDOT scheduled to begin decommissioning work in February, Recharge the Battery and the general public only have a few months left to plead their case.
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Flatiron Reflection

Flatiron holiday installation provides festive respite from the city
If you’re craving holiday cheer in Manhattan, Brooklyn-based Future Expansion’s festive seasonal installation in the Flatiron is now open. Urbanist nonprofit and installation co-sponsor Van Alen Institute unveiled the winning design in October, and it recently released images of Flatiron Reflection, the final design by winner Future Expansion, comprised of shimmering semi enclosure of metal tubes and sited across from the Flatiron building. The installation resembles a public pipe organ, with a white base that floats above the ground. Niches on the outside are meant for close huddles, while the interior allows for quieter contemplation of the busy 23rd Street intersection near Madison Square Park. “We’re excited to be working with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute to temporarily transform this spectacular site,” said Deirdre and Nicholas McDermott, principals of Future Expansion, in prepared remarks. “The installation is designed for three scales of experience: The deeply creased exterior makes spaces for individuals; the interior room offers an intimate panorama for small groups; and the north-facing wedge presents a platform toward the plaza. We hope that the installation opens new possibilities for interaction and experiences while reinforcing the pure public essence of the site.” Future Expansion’s installation is the fourth in the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition, an annual event produced in collaboration with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, the neighborhood’s Business Improvement District (BID). The project is permitted through New York City Department of Transportation’s DOT Art program, and is free and open to the public daily through January 1, 2018, weather permitting.
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Hometown Heroes

nArchitects to complete Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn, NY
  nARCHITECTS have designed a new Equal Rights Heritage Center to be built in Auburn, NY. The town is one of the most important places in 19th century American history, as two of the most prominent equal rights crusaders of the era—Harriet Tubman and William Seward—called Auburn home. The museum will house a permanent exhibit and will comprise a 7,500-square-foot building that includes both exhibition and community spaces. It will showcase “the role the State and New Yorkers have played in the struggle for women's rights, abolition, civil rights and the more recent efforts for LGBTQ rights,” according to a statement from the governor's office. The center is located in the South Street National Register Historic District, directly across from city hall and next to the William H. Seward House Museum. Auburn is also home to Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. The design treats the unique location as a part of the exhibition by introducing visitors to their immediate surroundings through large glazed openings and by engaging views of the nearby Seward House Museum, Memorial City Hall, the historic YMCA and Westminster Church, and a new plaza and landscape. These vistas are highlighted through openings along a board-formed concrete perimeter which connects the interior exhibition spaces. The exterior relates to the scale of nearby houses with four one-story volumes of different heights and alternating roof pitches which are punctuated by triangular courtyards. "Sitting at the crossroads of Central New York and the Finger Lakes, Auburn has a played a unique role in New York State history as people and ideas traveled across the state," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "The city was home to great New Yorkers like Harriet Tubman and William Seward who fought for equal rights, and whose homes are now landmarks. The new Equal Rights Heritage Center will pay tribute to their efforts, and the sacrifices of the many who sought equality, while encouraging travelers to visit all that this region has to offer." The center is funded primarily by a $10 million dollar grant as part of the Central NY Rising initiative, a state initiative to spark economic and community growth in the region. Another $889,000 will be allocated from the Department of State grant through the Local Water Revitalization Program, and $500,000 will be allocated from the Department of Transportation for road construction around the site. "The Equal Rights Heritage Center is another example of the importance that New York State places on educating and recognizing its history and honoring those who served as pioneers before us so that we can become trailblazers for future generations. When we know where we come from we can understand where we need to go," said New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey. The expected completion time is fall 2018.
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October 11

Institute for Public Architecture's Fall Fête to honor Michael Murphy, Rosalie Genevro, and Janette Sadik-Khan
The Institute for Public Architecture (IPA)'s fifth annual Fall Fête is coming up! The nonprofit's mission is to spur socially-engaged architecture by giving the public opportunities to shape the built environment. Based in New York City, the group hosts talks and symposia; hosts urban research projects; and sponsors a bi-annual residency program for designers. This year, the IPA will honor three guests: Architectural League Executive Director Rosalie Genevro, MASS Design Group Co-founder and Executive Director Michael Murphy, and former NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, now a principal at Bloomberg Associates. Tickets for the October 11 event are on sale now, and proceeds will go towards three main efforts. The IPA will expand its Fellows Residency Program, a group of architects that gets financial support from the IPA to do work and research in the public realm. In March 2017, IPA launched “Open City,” a discussion series that brought Paris's deputy mayor to New York to debate housing solutions for the most vulnerable urban residents. Building on the first event, IPA hopes to launch partnerships with architecture schools in the U.S. and abroad. The organization also plans to build its leadership capacity. This year, the party is at the Prince George Ballroom in Manhattan. A benefactor's reception will run from 6:30–8:30 p.m. and the after-party starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets and more information can be found here. The Architect's Newspaper is a media partner for the 2017 Fall Fête. 
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Pocket Perks

Here are some of our favorite PARK(ing) Day interventions
Today, pocket parklets popped up across the country for Rebar Group's 2017 PARK(ing) Day – now a beloved tradition among public space enthusiasts and designers. According to the PARK(ing) Day Manual, the celebration treats metered parking spots as a "short-term lease for a plot of precious urban real estate." In place of parked cars, a range of creative interventions abound. This year, the American Society of Landscape Architects asked landscape architects all over the country to invest their quarters on temporary, miniature green spaces. Here are some of our favorites from the #ASLAPD17 hashtag on social media. Site Design Group in Chicago built a human-powered hamster wheel, albeit with one glaring design flaw: the absence of an attached grass smoothie machine. In Baltimore, Hord Coplan Macht constructed a peaceful little greenspace with terraced timber seating. D.C.'s Landscape Architecture Bureau (LAB) built a small field of artificial tulips from plastic taken from the Anacostia Watershed. L.A.'s AHBE LAB privileged the deep thatch in a rewilding of a parking space recalling Agnes Denes' 1982 Wheatfield in Battery Park Landfill. https://twitter.com/ahbeland/status/908757935999803392 From Instagram, Seattle's Weisman Design Group created seesaws and tetherballs amid tall grasses that we really wish were permanent. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZEdSumFbSg/?taken-by=weismandesigngroup The ASLA's branch at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona constructed a lovely raised topographic seating area. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZEw2TXlNUZ/?taken-by=asu_asla Finally, in Austin, Texas, Daniel Woodroofe Group put up a hedge public hammocks. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZEqDLjnJ6q/?taken-by=studiodwg Other parklets are permanent. As The New York Times reported in late August, 18 curbside pop-up spaces have appeared across New York City alone (double last year's count), and they're here to stay. Most of these spaces have been created through a partnership between the city's Transportation Department and local groups, including the Parsons School of Design, which created a flexible space called Street Seats with planters constructed of bamboo and movable seating. PARK(ing) Day has catalyzed similar programs nationwide. Regardless of its permanence, parklets remain a charming, temporary form of urban acupuncture expanding public and green space.
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Misstep

$243 million later, NYC's Department of Transportation still fails to meet ADA regulations for street curbs

About 80 percent of New York City’s street curbs are not in line with federal standards for the disabled, as first reported by DNAinfo.

A recent study by a federal court monitor revealed that even after $243 million in taxpayer funds over the last 15 years were allocated to build curb cuts, the city failed to keep them up to the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) regulations. Curb cut, or curb ramp, is the term for a ramp created by grading down a sidewalk to meet the surface of the adjoining street.

There are 116,530 ramps across the city; some were built to ADA standards but never maintained while around 4,431 curbs were simply built without ramps.

Special Master Robert L. Burgdorf, who is also the original author of the ADA Act of 1990, blamed the city’s 2002 settlement with the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association. In a report he submitted to federal court, he noted that the settlement did not set up any timelines for building curb cuts, nor did it require ADA compliance for curb cuts.

“It is quite plausible that the 2002 stipulation may actually have slowed down progress in achieving accessibility of the curb ramps of New York City,” he wrote in the report.

According to Burgdorf, the city only built 198 ramps in 2016, down from 6,667 ramps in 2002.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) responded by saying it increased the budget—$800 million over the next 10 years—for inspection and construction of these ramps. “As the nation’s largest municipal transportation agency, NYC DOT takes its responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) very seriously,” Scott Gastel, a DOT spokesperson, said to DNAinfo.

Burgdorf’s report recommended that the city survey all curbs within 90 days, install ADA-compliant ramps for the curbs without them in five years, and repair all of the noncompliant ramps within eight years. However, city officials estimate that it could take another 20 years before all curbs are brought up to standard,