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Parks Without Borders

NYC Parks Commissioner talks policy, parks, and breaking down barriers
Over the next three months, The Architect’s Newspaper will feature a series interviews with Susannah Drake, founding principal of DLANDstudio, and leading public space advocates about the meaning, design, and development of public space. Up first, New York City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell Silver will discuss New York's Parks Without Borders initiative to make parks and open space more accessible. Borders are a hot topic in our current politically volcanic world. Some are geographic, most are political, and many have to do with resources and strategic control. Robert Frost’s poem titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors is often misinterpreted as suggesting that defined boundaries between people or societies are positive. In practice, defined borders can lead to violence, social isolation, inefficiency, and habitat loss.  The classic phrase, “living on the other side of the tracks,” was taken to the extreme in the United States after World War II as new highway systems, elevated transportation structures, slum clearance, and dehumanized public housing towers transformed cities across the United States. Today, cities including Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis are working to break down physical and perceived boundaries to make a healthier living environment for all. In New York City, the efforts of three groups, one public and two nonprofit, demonstrate how smart urban planning and design can make the city healthier, safer, and more democratic by improving underutilized public lands. Mitchell Silver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, is the visionary behind the city’s Parks Without Borders program. As a native New Yorker who spent his formative years in the city before traveling the country and the world as a planner and thought leader, his vision as head of the public parks agency has been to expand the availability of park space by breaking down physical barriers, jurisdictional boundaries, and site lines into city parks. AN: What is the origin of the Parks without Borders program? MS: The origins came from two sources. Growing up in New York, I was always bothered by the big berm that separated Flatbush Avenue from Prospect Park. The road seemed like a raceway defined with so many fences and barriers. Through professional and personal experience, I encountered different forms of public space around the world and saw far fewer barriers. Public space was seamlessly connected to the city. Of course, fences are needed for sports and steep slopes but in many cases, they are unnecessary. When I became commissioner of the Parks Department, I remembered something that Frederick Law Olmsted said about parks: “The sidewalk adjacent to the park should be considered the outer park.” What I recognized was that the sidewalks around parks, such as Fort Greene Park and Prospect Park, were under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department but felt separate. The land from the park to the curb should feel like part of the park. The public realm should be seamless. The public doesn’t know or care who owns the land. The New York City Police Department needed to own the idea of crime prevention through community design. I submitted the idea to the Mayor as part of OneNYC and through a partnership between City Planning, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and our agency, and a $50 million pilot was launched. There were two components: $40 million was dedicated to eight showcase projects, determined through the extensive public process that received over 6,000 nominations. In addition, $10 million was dedicated to parks and playgrounds across the city already under development to enhance the park design.   The key principles are to make a seamless public realm by rethinking the edges, entrances, and adjacent spaces of parks across the city. Open space should be open. Growing dense urban centers need vital public space for all races, genders, and ages across the board. What barriers have you met in implementing the project? Resistance encountered? As with all projects of this nature, we met with all of the community boards via borough board meetings and held public meetings in each of the five boroughs to explain the program and ask the public to nominate a park for the program. We communicated our theory that good uses tend to push out bad uses. In other words, plan for what you want to see and not what you don’t want to see. Feedback was split along demographic lines. Older people perceived fences as safeguards and that reducing the height of fences and opening up parks invited crime and homelessness to take over. But we have had early success. At McDonald Playground in Staten Island where Parks Without Borders money was dedicated to a Community Parks Initiative project, the community was initially concerned about lowering fences. The park feels so open now that people ask if we added more land. And, while the plan for Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn is greatly supported by the community, there has been resistance related to the planned removal of some large, invasive, non-native trees, and the mounds constructed in the 1970s as part of the project. What is the schedule of implementation? Over 20 parks are in the pipeline. The showcase projects will be completed by 2020. They include Prospect Park, Seward Park, Jackie Robinson Park, Corona Park, Fort Greene Park, Faber Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and Hugh Grant Circle. How does the program align with other DPR/Administration initiatives? NYC Parks is advocating for Equity, Access, Placemaking, and Healthy Living. One of the programs, Walk to a Park, is intended to reduce the time it takes to get to a park. Reducing barriers and moving entrances helps increase access to parks. DPR planners conducted a thorough planning process examining the location and attributes of parks across the city and determined where residents might be underserved. Using GIS, they mapped a five-minute walk from parks, playgrounds, and trails across New York City and then used the analysis to prioritize capital expenditures. Does the DPR Parks without Borders program impact all communities across NYC regardless of demographics? Yes, with multigenerational, ADA access. At McDonald Playground, a woman hugged me suggesting that I changed her life because she can now sit with her daughter in a quieter area of the park and watch the kids play ball. She said I extended her life.  Beyond physical fences and walls, what other kinds of borders have you seen in your time as commissioner? Rules create barriers. We don’t want to engage in anti-planning which can exclude rather than include people. Including more people in more existing parks is one example. Anti-planning, or planning to prohibit a certain group is not fair. For example, some of our playgrounds have a sign that states: “Adults prohibited unless accompanied by a child.” That means a senior citizen is prohibited from using a public space or must walk to another park that doesn’t have that rule. To address this inequity, NYC Parks in 2017 evaluated all city playgrounds and installed new signs at locations that would allow adults in a park or playground, but only prohibited adults in fenced off areas where children’s play units were located, like swings, slides and climbing structures. This one change allows more adult New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy green space like sitting under a tree or using a comfort station.   As a planner what is your perspective on borders that might exist because of climate or geographic lines that are mapped but not always perceived by the public? Rockaways? In places where public safety is an issue such as around water, clearly there need to be rules and physical barriers to keep people safe. Environmental conditions can also require limited access. For instance, the habitat for piping plovers needs to be protected by limiting beach access. This reduced the walk score but was an important trade-off. In natural areas, controlling beach erosion is important. Sometimes these barriers are jurisdictional, particularly in coastal areas. New York City is doing a better job than in the past. What is your perspective on urban and transportation design decisions in the direct post-war period, in the '60s and today in relation to race, demographics, and urban living? White flight of the '60s, urban renewal with its characteristic superblocks, and highways dividing neighborhoods were not the highlight of good planning. Cities were perceived as unsafe and as a result, many parks were surrounded with high walls to create defensible space. Now Parks Without Borders is changing this situation by moving from defensible space to open and inclusive space. Prospect Park is a great example. Programming by the Alliance activated the park. They designed for what we want to see rather than what we don’t want to see. There are so many users in our parks that space needs to be very inclusive. Our parks are our outdoor living rooms and reflect those that use them. While DPR does not have purview over public housing, it would be great to get your perspective on the landscape of housing projects in New York City as well as their overall relationship to the city. The “tower in the park” model is somewhat right. The park part is not right. Residents assume that the landscape is off limits because it is fenced off. Design organizations are now engaging NYCHA Tenant Associations about opening-up the green space within the NYCHA housing campus. For example, some NYCHA Houses have converted open space to community gardens, so the trend of better using NYCHA green space is moving into the right direction. Digital access to information creates places where people collect in the city. Beyond these spheres are dead zones that might be considered another form of border. Are there any efforts by DPR to expand digital access? I’d love to see WiFi in parks. We currently have charging stations at some beaches and WiFi in some parks. Lack of funding for maintenance and operations is an ongoing issue for public space. How will Parks Without Borders impact maintenance needs of parks? Maintenance practice of 21st-century parks warrants reexamination. More funding and more staff are welcome but aren’t the answer. We need to be innovative with resources. The agency is now using a zone approach with analytics to optimize the work of maintenance crews. We are also employing new design approaches and adding horticultural staff. One example is having park cleaning seven days per week. This seems like an addition, but the change is cutting down Monday absences because those crews were not unfairly burdened with the weekend trash. This created a better team ethos. Utilization of staff is as important as getting more staff. Working smarter with specialized teams with more training that can troubleshoot issues system-wide (catch basin team, green infrastructure team) is helping. Any final words? With limited resources we are forced to think about what is important and how to be innovative, which I base of the 3 S’s of management: You must have the right organizational structure to achieve your vision and mission. You must have the right systems in place to be successful. You must have strong management and operation standards across the five boroughs to function as one agency.  
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Children are the Future

Snøhetta selected to design El Paso Children’s Museum
The El Paso Children's Museum announced yesterday that Snøhetta will design their brand new home in the heart of the city's Downtown Arts District. The firm beat out Koning Eizenberg Architecture and TEN Arquitectos for the honor, after a selection process that included public meetings, presentations, and the preparation of preliminary concepts for the museum. Snøhetta’s winning proposal lifts the museum off the ground on a series of angled columns, preserving the space underneath for interactive gardens. Designed for the young and the young-at-heart, the museum will inspire curiosity, exploration, and a better understanding of the world around us—something everybody could use a little more of these days—through immersive environments and innovative interactive exhibitions. The coalition of jurors who unanimously selected Snøhetta included the museum's board of directors, an architectural panel, and in, an unusually democratic process for an architecture competition, all the residents of El Paso, who were invited to vote on their favorite concept online. The commission is personal for the firm's partner and managing director Elaine Molinar, a native of El Paso. "The opportunity to create something of lasting impact for the city I grew up in is extremely rewarding," said Molinar. Supported through a combination of public funds, private-sector contributions, and a Quality of Life Bond program approved by El Paso voters in 2012, the $60 million project will be completed in 2021.
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Send in the Clouds

Tony Oursler’s Tear of The Cloud activates a Riverside ruin
In multimedia artist Tony Oursler’s site-specific installation Tear of The Cloud, commissioned by the Public Art Fund (PAF), five video projections converge onto the gantry of Manhattan's landmarked West 69th Street Transfer Bridge and its surroundings in Riverside Park. The images that unfold at the banks of the river comprise a nodal network of symbols, texts, and figures from both reality and myth to establish a vertiginous system of ideas and themes that illuminate the complex and still-evolving past of the Hudson River Valley. The histories and historiographies of this region have been a site of recurrent interest for Oursler since his first mature efforts in the early 1980s. Illuminated by a flowchart designed by the artist and displayed on one of the five projection booths that surround the gantry, the subjects of the video sequences range from the Headless Horseman to Timothy Leary, Morse code, the 19th-century utopian community Oneida, digital facial recognition technology, and the Manhattan Project. Approached from the south, dreamy music accompanies the crouched bodies of various youths crawling across the trusses slanting into the water. This soon gives way to the disembodied faces of various actors reciting characteristically enigmatic phrases written or found by the artist. To the right, a weeping willow gently bends toward the river, its swaying branches animating a montage of sequences projected onto its foliage. The primary structure of the bridge acts as the support for the most extensive section of the work, where a series of scenes describe the evolution of various systems of information distribution across the last few centuries. This theme is apt, as the bridge, which was built in 1911, once functioned as a dock that assisted the transfer of railroad cars to the barges that connected Manhattan to the Weehawken Yards in New Jersey. To the north of the structure, a projection onto the salty waters of the Hudson is visible—and audible—from the pier, providing deeper insight into some of the characters who inhabit the scenes projected onto the gantry. For example, we learn that Dexter and Sinister are the problematic names of a sailor colonist and a Lenape Native American, respectively, who uphold the 1915 official Seal of the City. The northern face of the gantry provides a portraiture-type space for some of the most primary characters in Oursler’s repertoire, including the figure that heads his flowchart: an anthropomorphic white horse head in the form of a knight chess piece. “Reprogram is everything,” she states, reciting a series of chess moves as her image slowly slips off the gantry’s supporting beams. Manifesting the flow of information through a site designed to aid the shipment of raw materials, Tear of The Cloud embodies the rhizomatic complexities of the present moment through the archival impulse that brings us the region’s past. Tear of The Cloud is on view Tuesday through Sunday from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in Riverside Park through October 31. The artist will discuss the work during a talk at The New School’s Tishman Auditorium on November 1.  
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Autumnal IPA

The Institute for Public Architecture to celebrate its sixth Fall Fête
New York City's Institute for Public Architecture (IPA) will celebrate its 6th annual Fall Fête on October 24 at the Plaxall Art Gallery in Long Island City, Queens. The benefit will honor Margaret Newman, FAIA, principal at Arup Planning, and the Queens Museum. Janette Sadik-Khan, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, and Bevin Savage-Yamazaki, senior associate at Gensler will give introductory remarks. The IPA describes its mission by saying, "We address urgent issues of design and policy by mobilizing our network of activists, professionals, government officials, and community stakeholders." In a statement, they said that the fundraiser will help fund its residency program and expansion of the organization's activities beyond New York City.
Tickets for the event are available here.
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Gold Medal Winners

Mexico City’s public sculpture corridor is a broken dream worth saving
Soon after Mexico City was designated to host the 1968 Olympics, the idea of a year-long cultural program emerged—one which would come to shape the ethos of the games for years to come. Hinting at the Greek Olympics’ legacy, the Mexican Cultural Olympiad would deploy 20 cultural events and projects throughout the year while promoting a modern discourse of peace at a time when the cold war profoundly divided the world. As part of the program, the Polish-born, Mexican artist and architect Mathias Goeritz (who coined the concept of “Emotional Architecture” with Luis Barragán) proposed an ambitious public sculptures route integrated with the city as a way to respond to its rapid urbanization. La Ruta de la Amistad (or the Route of Friendship), as it was named, would offer new ways of navigating the capital while making art available to the masses and celebrating international dialogue. The proposal was received with great enthusiasm from the chair of the Mexican Olympic Organizing Committee, the influential architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. In the lead-up to the Olympics, a total of 22 sculptures were commissioned from 19 artists and architects, including the Uruguayan artist Gonzalo Fonseca, the French artist Olivier Seguin, the American sculptor Alexander Calder, and the Mexican sculptor Ángela Gurría. Goeritz’s curatorial brief was simple: All sculptures should be abstract, of monumental scale, and use concrete as their main material. The project would become the largest sculptural thoroughfare in the world, connecting Olympics venues across a distance of 11 miles—and a great source of pride for Mexico. However, a week and a half before the official start of the games, the route, like the rest of the Cultural Olympiad, was obscured by the Massacre of Tlatelolco, in which the Mexican military and the police killed at least 300 students and civilians protesting government repression and corruption. Politicians, used to controlling every aspect of Mexican society, showed little patience for the demonstrations, which they feared would damage their cherished reputation as Olympics hosts. For the government, the games had become a platform to project its progressive, modern ideals and to challenge the perception that it was a developing country. Fifty years on, the sculptures stand neglected, in a state of near decay, like the remnants of a broken dream. “In Mexico, the route isn’t seen as something important. Not for the people, nor the government,” lamented Luis Javier de la Torre, president of Patronato Ruta de la Amistad, as he toured us around its principal site, now overshadowed by the infamous Periferico, a dystopic, elevated highway crossing the city. The organization he cofounded in 1994 with Javier Ramírez Campuzano (the son of Ramírez Vázquez) is in charge of conserving the sculptures and promoting their legacy. Prior to this, the route was largely abandoned and subjected to vandalism. The Patronato was able to restore and relocate a number of pieces at risk of deterioration, creating a centralized location composed of 13 works between 2011 and 2013. To mark the Route’s 50th anniversary, the Patronato is launching a number of activities with partner organizations on a shoestring budget. The Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes is opening an exhibition about it this October, scheduled to coincide with Design Week Mexico (October 10 to 15). Meanwhile, the official program of World Design Capital Mexico City 2018 has incorporated educational projects to bring awareness to the route. “Its values live on,” argued de la Torre. So why does the route fail to receive the public interest and support it deserves? According to de la Torre, a combination of a conflicted sense of national identity, a lack of understanding, and the collective trauma of 1968 are responsible. “We don’t have a proper identity as a country,” he explained, nodding to Mexican poet Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, a series of essays that discusses the existential tension between colonial and indigenous cultures in the country. “No one believed that as a society we were capable of running the Olympics in ways that would be replicated by others around the world,” he continued. Most important, the political turmoil associated with 1968 overbearingly shaped the country’s consciousness of that moment. “This is where the dream broke,” said Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, this year’s Serpentine Pavilion designer, when we visited her studio. At the recent Biennale d’Architecture d’Orléans, Escobedo revisited the Ruta de la Amistad by presenting a reproduction of the metal frame behind the sculpture by Olivier Seguin. The precarious-looking, welded steel structure—now permanently installed at Le Parc Floral de La Source in Orléans, France—was inspired by an installation shot of the original work, which the architect discovered while visiting the archives of the FRAC Centre in France. “The picture presented the reality of 1968,” Escobedo recounted, reflecting on the ambiguous promise of modernism in the construction of Mexico’s national identity. “It’s all a spectacle.” “We haven’t been able to separate things,” explained de la Torre of the troubled legacy of 1968. “I think that now, there is an opportunity for both narratives to coexist.” But should the Olympics’ cultural legacy really be separated from its political context? Before the army opened fire at the crowd on October 2, 1968, anti-government protesters were chanting, “¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución!” (“We don't want the Olympics, we want a revolution!”)
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Green Queens

AIANY and ASLANY honor 2018’s best transportation and infrastructure projects
At an awards ceremony at Manhattan’s Center for Architecture on October 8, representatives from AIA New York (AIANY) and the New York chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLANY) gathered for the first annual Transportation + Infrastructure Design Excellence Awards (T+I Awards). The winners, winnowed down from a pool of 67 entrants, showed excellence in both built and unrealized projects related to transportation and infrastructure, with a heavy emphasis on work that integrated sustainability and engaged with the public. Outstanding greenways, esplanades, and transit improvement plans were lauded for their civic contributions. A variety of merit awards were handed out to speculative projects, and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) was honored a number of times for the studies it had commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan; it was noted that many of the solutions proposed in past Regional Plans had eventually come to pass. The jury was just as varied as the entrants: Donald Fram, FAIA, a principal of Donald Fram Architecture & Planning; Doug Hocking, AIA, a principal at KPF; Marilyn Taylor, FAIA, professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania; David van der Leer, executive director of the Van Alen Institute; and Donna Walcavage, FASLA, a principal at Stantec. Meet the winners below:

Best in Competition

The Brooklyn Greenway Location: Brooklyn, N.Y. Designers: Marvel ArchitectsNelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, WE Design Landscape Architecture, eDesign Dynamics, Horticultural Society of New York, and Larry Weaner Landscape Associates Now six miles long and growing, the waterfront Brooklyn Greenway project kicked off in 2004 with a planning phase as a joint venture between the nonprofit Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) and the RPA. The 14-mile-long series of linear parks has been broken into 23 ongoing capital projects under the New York City Department of Transportation’s purview—hence the lengthy list of T+I Award winners. Funding is still being raised to complete the entire Greenway, but the BGI has been hosting events and getting community members involved to keep the momentum going.

Open Space

Honor

Hunter's Point South Park Location: Queens, N.Y. Park Designers: SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi Prime Consultant and Infrastructure Designer: Arup Client: New York City Economic Development Corporation With: Arup The second phase of Hunter’s Point South Park opened in June of this year and brought 5.5 new acres of parkland to the southern tip of Long Island City. What was previously undeveloped has been converted into a unique park-cum-tidal wetland meant to absorb and slow the encroachment of stormwater while rejuvenating the native ecosystem. Hunter’s Point South Park blends stormwater resiliency infrastructure with public amenities, including a curved riverwalk, a hovering viewing platform, and a beach—all atop infill sourced from New York’s tunnel waste.

Merit

Roberto Clemente State Park Esplanade Location: Bronx, N.Y. Landscape Architect: NV5 with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Client: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation With: AKRF, CH2M Hill

Citation

Spring Garden Connector Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Landscape Architect: NV5 Client: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation With: Cloud Gehshan, The Lighting Practice

Planning

Merit

The QueensWay Location: Queens, N.Y. Architect: DLANDstudio Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and WXY Architecture + Urban Design Client: The Trust for Public Land Could a High Line ever land in Queens? That’s what The Trust for Public Land set out to discover, tapping DLAND and WXY to imagine what it would look like if a 3.5-mile-long stretch of unused rail line were converted into a linear park. The project completed the first phase of schematic design in 2017 using input from local Queens residents, but fundraising, and push-and-pull with community groups who want to reactivate the rail line as, well, rail, has put the project on hold.

Merit

Nexus/EWR Location: Newark, N.J. Architect: Gensler Client: Regional Plan Association With: Ahasic Aviation Advisors, Arup, Landrum & Brown

Projects

Merit

The Triboro Corridor Location: The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, N.Y. Architect: One Architecture & Urbanism (ONE) and Only If Client: Regional Plan Association Commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan, Only If and ONE imagined connecting the outer boroughs through a Brooklyn-Bronx-Queens rail line using existing freight tracks. Rather than a hub-and-spoke system with Manhattan, the Triboro Corridor would spur development around the new train stations and create a vibrant transit corridor throughout the entire city.

Structures

Honor

Fulton Center Location: New York, N.Y. Design Architect: Grimshaw Architect of Record: Page Ayres Cowley Architects Client: NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority With: Arup, HDR Daniel Frankfurt, James Carpenter Design Associates Fulton Center was first announced in 2002 as part of an effort to revive downtown Manhattan’s moribund economy by improving transit availability. Construction was on and off for years until the transit hub and shopping center’s completion in 2014, and now the building connects the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, and Z lines all under one roof (the N, R, and W trains are accessible through an underground passage to Cortlandt Street). Through the use of a large, metal-clad oculus that protrudes from the roof of the center, and the building’s glazed walls, the center, which spirals down from street level, is splashed with natural light.

Merit

Number 7 Subway Line Extension & 34th Street-Hudson Yards Station Location: New York, N.Y. Architect: Dattner Architects Engineer of Record: WSP Client: MTA Capital Construction With: HLH7 a joint venture of Hill International, HDR, and LiRo; Ostergaard Acoustical Associates; STV

Merit

Mississauga Transitway Location: Ontario, Canada Architect: IBI Group Client: City of Mississauga, Transportation & Works Department With: DesignABLE Environments, Dufferin Construction, Entro Communications, HH Angus, WSP

Merit

Denver Union Station Location: Denver, Colorado Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Landscape Architect: Hargreaves Associates Client: Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) With: AECOM, Clanton & Associates, Kiewit Western, Tamara Kudrycki Design, Union Station Neighborhood Company

Student

Turnpike Metabolism: Reconstituting National Infrastructure Through Landscape Student: Ernest Haines Academic Institution: MLA| 2018, Harvard Graduate School of Design Anyone’s who’s ever cruised down a highway knows that equal weight isn’t necessarily given to the surrounding landscape. But what if that weren't the case? In Turnpike Metabolism, Ernest Haines imagines how the federal government can both give deference to the natural landscapes surrounding transportation infrastructure and change the design process to allow nature to define routes and structures.
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New Year, New Work

Fifty-two emerging New York artists chosen for The Shed’s inaugural year
Ahead of its spring 2019 opening, The Shed has selected 52 emerging artists in New York City for its inaugural Open Call program. The cultural organization announced the news on Monday, unveiling the chosen individual artists and collectives and how their work will be integrated into Open Call. “We launched Open Call with the intent of creating a meaningful opportunity for emerging artists to make new work,” said Tamara McCaw, chief civic program officer at The Shed. “A fundamental part of our mission is to engage our local communities and support New York City’s diverse talent.” Each artist, either local to New York or showing work in the city, will be allocated a stipend between $7,000 and $15,000 based on the scope of their proposed projects. The commissioned work will be displayed throughout The Shed’s principal performance venues, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group, during the 2019 spring–winter season. Theater and dance performances will be held inside the building’s black-box theater, while art, sculpture, and other mediums will be situated within the 12,5000-square-foot, column-free Gallery 1. Larger-scale performances, also including theater and dance, as well as bigger art pieces will be shown in the 17,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor plaza. Over 900 applications were submitted for Open Call over a three-month period starting last March. A panel of nearly 30 New York–based designers, filmmakers, academics, artists, and performers came together to review the proposals, including The Shed’s main staff. All exhibitions and programs on view during its first year will be free and open to the public. You can learn more about the artists and their planned work here.
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Concrete, Brick, and Wrightwood

Tadao Ando–designed architecture exhibition space opens in Chicago
Pritzker Prize laureate Tadao Ando has transformed a vintage Lincoln Park apartment in Chicago into a space for exhibitions devoted to architecture and socially engaged art. Wrightwood 659 is a private, non-commercial initiative founded by Alphawood Foundation president and Chicago philanthropist Fred Eychaner and architectural historian Dan Whittaker. The building is the second work by Ando commissioned by Eychaner, whose private residence was designed by the self-taught Japanese architect in 1998 and is located next door to the exhibition space. The Eychaner home was the first free-standing building constructed by Ando in the United States. For Wrightwood 659, Ando worked within the existing envelope of a four-story 1930s apartment building, which has been completely hulled, leaving the brick shell along with minimal classical revival details on the outside. A new rooftop structure hovers above the existing building on a tilted axis from the original building, leaving room for a rooftop terrace that provides skyline views and an additional gallery. Inside, the reconfigured space contains a new steel and reinforced concrete structure, allowing for the creation of a multi-story atrium clad in Chicago common brick reclaimed from the existing building, and a grand staircase of smooth poured concrete, an Ando signature. Wrightwood 659 celebrated a soft pre-opening earlier this year with Trace by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, exhibited in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. The exhibition space opens to the public on October 12 with Ando and Le Corbusier: Masters of Architecture, with works on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris, as well as scale models of works of Le Corbusier by students of Tadao Ando. The second floor of the space will be filled with the works of Le Corbusier, while the third and fourth floors will focus on Tadao Ando. The exhibition kicks off with a lecture by the architect at the Art Institute of Chicago on October 11 and continues with a symposium of Le Corbusier scholars on November 8 and 9.
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Sou Much To See

L.A. exhibition celebrates the paleo-futuristic architecture of Sou Fujimoto
This fall, Japan House Los Angeles will showcase Sou Fujimoto: Futures of the Future, an exhibition highlighting the works of visionary Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. The wide-ranging retrospective of the Marcus Prize-winning architect’s work will open October 27 and will run through December 12. Over 100 models and large-scale photographs of past and current projects will go on display for the exhibition, including images for the architect’s cloud-like 2013 Serpentine Pavilion in London, England.
The exhibition will also feature several works from the architect’s Architecture is Everywhere collection. The series is made up of a collection of miniature models created by juxtaposing small-scale human figures adjacent to everyday objects with the intention of highlighting the notion that architecture “must be found before it can be created with intent.”
At the time the Serpentine commission was awarded, 41-year-old Fujimoto was the youngest architect to win the honor. Before that, in 2008, Fujimoto was awarded the Japan Institute of Architects Grand Prix. In 2012, the architect’s entry for the Japan Pavilion of the 13th Venice Biennale was awarded the Golden Lion citation. 
In his larger body of work, Fujimoto addresses the notion of a so-called “primative future,” where enigmatic reasoning yields diverse and multi-faceted formal and programmatic arrangements that are rendered through crisp and angular geometries. As a result, Fujimoto’s work is able to join inside and outside, nature and urbanity, objects and spaces, and notions of public and private, according to a press release accompanying the exhibition.
The exhibition comes to the newly-opened Japan House Los Angeles following the venue’s late-August debut. The cultural institution is currently exhibiting Prototyping in Tokyo: a Visual Story of Design Led Innovation, a robotics-themed installation, and will feature a collection of architecturally-relevant talks and events throughout the year.
For more information, see the Japan House L.A. events page.
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Timber Party

Swedish political party asks architects to design timber neighborhood
The Center Party, a Swedish political party, has commissioned Anders Berensson Architects to design a speculative plan for a mass timber development in Stockholm. The design for the scheme was recently released without a timeline for execution. The development is a collection of towers and sky bridges built on top of the existing waterfront neighborhood of Masthamnen. The plan would leave the buildings below relatively untouched but would cap them with a public park and walkway level over which the new towers would rise. The designers embraced wood as a building material because it "releases the least carbon dioxide." Renderings show interiors and exteriors clad with wood finishes, and the architects describe the buildings using mass timber technologies like cross-laminated timber (CLT). The imaginative scheme is meant to provide additional housing close to the center of Stockholm, where the housing market is tight and space is expensive. There are no apparent plans to enact the proposal. The Center Party has worked with Berensson before on speculative designs for the city, many of which have included timber high-rises. The party has relatively little power to realize these ideas as they are the opposition party in the city's government, which is controlled by the Social Democrats. Timber has received a lot of attention in Sweden as a structural material for high-rises, although it's not clear what the country has been able to realize so far. Globally, mass timber is starting to make inroads as a standard building technique, but it faces a long road to widespread adoption in the U.S.
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Put Your Faith in Money

Historic midtown N.Y.C. church to transfer air rights to JPMorgan
JPMorgan Chase is one step closer to constructing its new headquarters atop the footprint of the soon-to-be-demolished Union Carbide building in New York City. Since February, the bank has successfully initiated the transfer of development rights from the adjacent Grand Central Terminal and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. On Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission signaled the third major structure to give over rights in the deal—the 100-year-old St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. The commission voted unanimously to approve a master plan for the restoration and continued maintenance of the historic church, pending the planned transfer of air rights to JPMorgan. Commissioner Michael Goldblum called the decision a “joyous day” for St. Bart’s and acknowledged the success of the many buildings that have begun a revival process due to the deal, some of which would “never have had the ability to raise adequate funds” for themselves. The financial giant has agreed to purchase at least 50,000-square-feet of development rights from St. Bart’s for $20.7 million, which the deteriorating church will use to underwrite countless renovation projects on site. At the end of June, The Real Deal reported that the bank is also considering buying 505,000 square feet of additional development rights for seven times the current price. This is all part of JPMorgan’s plan to secure the initial air rights needed to build out its new, 70-story headquarters at 270 Park Avenue. The tower would replace its current home, formerly known as the Union Carbide building, completed in 1961 and designed by Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie Griffin de Blois of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Though it’s not designated as a historic landmark, the building is considered one of New York’s most classic Modernist structures and preservation advocates are criticizing JPMorgan’s attempt to take it down. Under the Midtown East rezoning plan, which passed in August of 2017, the bank is allowed to build a larger office building as long as it contributes to a “public realm improvement fund.” This includes buying the air rights from various neighboring institutions in order to assist them in carrying out their own structural work. Since it received status as a New York City landmark back in 1967, the Byzantine-style St. Bart’s Church is eligible for both the city’s and JPMorgan’s help.  Representatives from the church touted the importance of yesterday’s LPC vote, calling it a transfer that “needs to happen” for the building to continue functioning properly. In addition, the New York Landmarks Conservancy as well as Community Board 5 recommended approval. “The only break in the skyline as you walk along Park Avenue is St. Barts,” said the church’s building committee chairman Peter Sullivan. “This beautiful building gives the eye a much-needed break amidst all the skyscrapers, but any person will tell you it needs a lot of work to fix.”
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For FLW Buffs(alo)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Barton House opens to the public after a full restoration
After a $2-million total restoration, the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed George and Delta Barton House in Buffalo, New York, is once again open for visitors. The Barton House, built in 1903–1905 as one of six interconnected buildings on the Darwin D. Martin House residential compound, was Wright’s first East Coast commission and introduced the Prairie School to the public. The Barton House, a commission by millionaire Darwin D. Martin for his sister Delta Barton and her husband George, was a bit of a test-case for Wright; Martin was so impressed that he tapped Wright to later design the rest of the complex, including the larger Martin House. “The restoration of the Barton House not only invites visitors to enjoy and understand its significance as an icon of Wright’s Prairie style but also provides a window into the role of patronage in architecture,” said Martin House executive director Mary Roberts. “With his offering of the Barton House project, Martin gave Wright an opportunity to explore his strengths and creativity free from financial restraints, and its success sparked a long-lasting patron-artist relationship that resulted in some of Wright’s most important built and unbuilt works.” The Barton House restoration was some twenty years in the making and began with the founding of the Martin House Restoration Corporation (MHRC) in 1992. Renovations on the site began in 1996, and restoration of the Barton House proper began in September 2017 based on the research and plans produced by Buffalo’s HHL Architects. Only three of the six Martin House buildings currently remain standing. The Barton House, while an earlier piece of Wright’s portfolio, exhibits the unmistakable low-slung proportions, large, overhanging roof, and ribbon windows associated with the Prairie School style. The design of the house and use of gold-tinted brick in the fireplace and terracotta roof tiles share similar beats with Wright’s J.J. Walser Jr. House in Chicago, which opened the same year. The Martin House compound is open to public guided tours, but private tours are also available, and the Barton House is available to rent for private events.