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Bright Lights, Big City

Though ethereal, light is one of architecture's most important materials. Whether natural or artificial, light can accentuate architectural genius, mask mistakes, grab attention, make a place feel sacred or safe. New lighting technology and educational programs are keys to keeping architecture's spark alive.

Technology
LEDs, the Latest Frontier on Architectural Lighting

LEDs are everywhere, and not just in traffic lights and digital alarm clocks where they started several decades ago. LEDs, short for light emitting diodes, have been steadily making their way into architectural applications around the world. Until recently, LEDs were considered impractical for widespread use in large environments but the technology has improved dramaticallyythey're smaller and brighter, use less power, can be computer controlled, and cycle through all the colors of the rainbowwenticing more and more architects and designers to integrate them in their work.

Many manufacturers (even those that only recently incorporated the technology into their lines) have now made LEDs, if not a core component of their product offerings, part of their R&D. We consider implementing LED technology for every new product under development,, said Ted Chappell, president of New Jerseyybased Erco Lighting, which did not bring LED-based products into its line until its 2002/ 2003 catalog.

Left and below: UN Studio and Arup Lighting, both based in Amsterdam, teamed up to give Seoul's Galleria West fashion mall a dazzling, Paco Rabannesque makeover. Concealing a nondescript 1970s concrete building is a layer of 4,330 frosted glass discs, shielding an equal number of LED luminaires. Each disc acts as a giant pixel; the building becomes a vast display screen. With Dutch company Xilver, Rogier van der Heide of Arup developed an RGB LED fixture that improves the color tone of the LEDs.
Courtesy arup lighting

The most common application of LEDssmany would argue to a faulttis in color-changing scenarios and as decorative details in a larger environment. If I need a saturated color, I look to LEDs,, said lighting designer Jim Benya, principal of Benya Lighting Design in Tigard, Oregon, who is currently creating a midnight sky scene for a hospital MRI room with blue LEDs. Another lighting designer, Ken Douglas, principal of Illumination Arts in New Jersey, is embedding the light source into the faaade of dark red brick building that lost its presence at night. In our designs, we are using it mostly as a secondary aesthetic element, to add a little flavor or as a highlighting element,, he said.

Courtesy arup lighting

Color-changing capabilities exist with other lamps like metal halide, which was used by Horton Lees Brogden to light the Met Life building in New York City with stunning results. But Douglas noted, With those lamps, there has to be a physical component moving around, or glass moving back and forth, or a color wheel, and every time you have a part that moves, you have a part that fails..

RGB fluorescent has traditionally been the source behind color-changing effects, and is still being used very successfully on certain projects, such as on the faaade of the 41-story Deutsche Post tower in Bonn, Germany, designed in 2003 by Helmut Jahn. However, more designers like Darren Nolan, an architect with Peter Marino + Associates, which recently completed an eight-story building for Chanel in Tokyo, turned to LEDs to illuminate its faaade. We made comparisons between fluorescent and LEDs, but issues of maintenance, heat generation, and consistency of color temperature convinced us to go with the latter,, he said. The architects were also charmed with the ability of the LEDs, imbedded on the modernist glass and metal faaade, to change light patterns each night, simulating for example Chanel's signature tweed. While the upfront costs of LEDs were higher, said Nolan, in the long run the architects felt LEDs would be more cost effective.

Chanel's new Tokyo headquarters, designed by Peter Marino, has a triple-glazed facade featuring view-controlled glass and LEDs that enable the building to be completely transparent by day and lanternlike at night. The building has art director who programs different patterns for the facade.

Courtesy peter marino + associates

The extremely long life of LEDs makes them a particularly sound solution in situations where fixtures are hard to maintain. Paul Gregory, principal of Focus Lighting in New York City, specified LEDs for the new Semiramis Hotel in Athens, Greece, for example, for areas where limited space would have made it hard to replace other lamp types. Gregory, who collaborated with Karim Rashid on the project, felt confident in the choice, having used LEDs on the Morimoto restaurant in Philadelphia four years before, which he says has been extremely low maintenance and still looks good. The questions is always, Can you do something complex and still have it look great in four years,, he said. Not with Par cans [theater lighting]; not with MR16s..

While the overall lumen output from available LED sources remains low, there are extremely bright LED products for small-area applications, such as display cases or enclosed spaces. The technology is also ideal for low-light-level outdoor applications, like step lights and pavers, because the technology operates under a wide range of temperatures, unlike fluorescents which do not respond well to cold, and HID lamps, which do not start or extinguish immediately. Also, since they use few watts, LEDs can be solar or battery powered, which makes them appropriate to situations where uninterruptible power is important. Erco Lighting began its foray into LED-based fixtures with products dedicated to this application. We marketed them as orientation' luminaires,, said Chappell. They serve as excellent marker lights for pathways as well as safety lights for entrances and step applications..

Paul Gregory of Focus Lighting worked with David Rockwell on FAO Schwarz's renovation, which features a ceiling with 80,000 LEDs that can be programmed into different patterns

J. P. Lira / courtesy focus lighting

Since they do not radiate heat, LEDs work well in environments where heat may damage the object being illuminateddart or chocolate, for example. For this reason, task lamps are incorporating the technology, since users are generally in close proximity to the light source and can therefore be burned by it. The Arketto lamp, which Luxo released in 2004, produces virtually no apparent heat and has a 50,000-hour life, according to the company. That LEDs do not produce any heat is a myth, however, according to Benya. An LED does not radiate heat, which actually means it cannot cool itself in this way, but still has to conduct the heat away from the source. The higher the wattage, the bigger the heat problem.. If an LED source is not cooled, he notes, it negatively affects light output and longevity. He believes this problem is the Holy Grail for the industry; if it can be resolved, then LEDs will enter more standard architectural applications like downlightsand spots.

This and other shortcomingsslow overall light output, cool white range (lacking the warmth of incandescents), high priceehave kept LEDs out of mainstream architectural applications, but have also been the focus of manufacturers' research. For example, Color Kinetics recently introduced IntelliWhite, which offers an expanded range of temperatures. And, according to Dave Shepard, national sales manager with lighting manufacturer Luxo, which recently released an LED task light, the price of LED components seems to come down every six months or so. He notes that the industry is currently in the middle of a pronounced decrease.

Gregory also worked with Karim Rashid on the Semiramis Hotel in Athens, where LEDs work with colored glass for decorative effect.

Jennifer alexander / courtesy focus lighting

>I've never seen a technology in our field evolve so much over so short a period of time,, said Benya. Every time you stop and take a snapshot, remember that what you specify today is going to become obsolete faster than the computer you just bought.. This is in direct conflict with what Benya considers the purpose of architectural lightinggto design something permanent and durable. We call them light fixtures for a reason,, he said. He maintains a healthy skepticism toward LEDs, pointing out that when the source does fail, it often means the entire system must be replaced, not just a bulb.. The diodes need to be soldered or otherwise connected to a complex electrical system; when one goes, the entire lighting system may have to go. It's a monumental paradigm shift,, he said. A luminaire is now a throwaway wrapper around an expensive light-bulb, as opposed to the other way around..

Perhaps indicative of how far LEDs have come is that primary complaint about the technology from designers is not about their performance, but about their architectural applications. My criticism is about how the technology has been used in the last few years,, said Douglas. In the early 1990s, everything had to be MR16s; it didn't matter whether they were the right fixture or not. LEDs are like that. People are making things flash and dance even if it isn't a building that should be doing that..
Emilie W. Sommerhoff is the editor-in-chief of Architectural Lighting.

 

Urbanism
A Lighter, Brighter Jets Stadium

As the battle over the development rights of the Hudson rail yards enters its next phase (March 21 was the MTA's deadline for competing bids), the most prominent contender and mayoral favorite, the New York Jets, unveiled a revised design for its proposed New York Sports and Convention Center (NYSCC) that brightens and softens Kohn Pedersen Fox's (KPF) original scheme.

KPF's first try was a clunky, closed box plunked down between 31st and 33rd streets, split by a central axis that ran down 11th Avenue. The Municipal Art Society (MAS) put its carefully considered two cents in, and the architects listened. In the revised design, the structure's height is reduced by 120 feet. The wind turbines that were supposed to line the rooftop were also eliminated. Shrinking the structure improved it, but it was still a big awkward box.

courtesy l'observatoire international

>One of the initial driving forces in the new design was the Municipal Art Society's desire to create a strong axis on 32nd Street,, Bill Pederson said. They felt that the plan would be strengthened by a strong east-west orientation.. The architects responded by creating an asymmetrical faaade and reorienting the complex toward a new pedestrian-friendly entrance plaza on 11th Avenue, a planned retail corridor.

The most dramatic revision by far, however, involves the skin of the building. The designers have wrapped the core volume in a translucent glass veil, giving the structure the appearance of floating.

Toronto-based graphic designer Bruce Mau, originally brought in to develop wayfinding and graphic imagery, got into the collaborative design spirit and contributed by conceptualizing the entire 60,000-foot exterior surface as a single image, with each 6-by-12-foot pane of glass dotted alternately with translucent and transparent film. If you think about a pane of glass as a pixel, you can make an image that reads on an urban scale,, Mau said. From far away, it's very soft, light, and diaphanous; on an intimate scale it's very pop and graphic..

The Jets' desire to make the project less monolithic and more appropriately scaled to the neighborhood is furthered by the contribution of lighting designer Hervv Descottes, founder of New Yorkkbased L'Observatoire International. We wanted to work with different degrees of transparency,, said Descottes, discussing the wrap-around LED screen to be installed at the structure's ground level. The lighting designer envisions seven distinct lighting schemes that can be deployed, changing the building's profile from day to night and event to event. At times, the stadium would reflect the Hudson River, while at others it would shoot two beams of lighttone straight into the sky and one right into New Jerseyyto communicate game-day excitement. It's subtle but strong signage,, he noted.

Will the NYSCC's inventive use of media and light be enough to win over its objectors? Time will tell. Eva Hagberg is a New Yorkkbased writer.

 

Education
Parson's MFA in Lighting, the Nation's First to Incorporate Design

When Peter Wheelwright took over as chair of the architecture department at Parsons in 1999, he also inherited an ailing Masters of Arts program in lighting design. Shortly thereafter, the proverbial light bulb went off: Why not take advantage of the inherent synergy between the three fields in the departmenttarchitecture, lighting, and interior designnand at the same time extend the depth and breadth of the study of lighting design, which historically has lagged behind as an academic discipline?

Parsons has been a leader in lighting design since 1975, when Jim Nuckolls, a pioneer in both the practice and education of the discipline, launched the first incarnation of its MFA. Originally, the program was an appendage of the continuing education department. In the early 1990s, it joined the architecture program, yet after a decline in student enrollment, the school decided to turn it into a vocational one-year Master of Arts degree in 1998.

Lighting study by Azusa Yabe

courtesy parsons school of design

Wheelwright began the revamp by hiring the program's first full-time director, Joanne Lindsley, who had been the president of the International Association of Lighting Designers, and then resolved to transform the degree back into a two-year MFA with a fresh slant. The resulting program, which kicked off its first semester last fall at full capacity with 24 matriculated students, puts lighting design and architecture students in the same studio space. They share faculty as well as history and theory courses, and even work in tandem on the same design projects. It's radical for an architecture program to have such a strong relation to lighting design,, said Wheelwright. Although they think they do, few architects today really know how to design with light..

Key players in launching the new MFA are David Lewis, director of Parsons' graduate architecture program and a principal of Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis, and lighting designer Linnaea Tillett. The program's advisory board includes lighting designer Paul Marantz of Fisher Marantz Stone. Since Lindsley left the program in 2004, Wheelwright has served as acting director, while talks of a search for a new head are in development. Said Wheelwright, The new MFA needs an academic to run it, someone who understands the relationship of design to social practice..

Lighting study by Jung Eun Park

courtesy parsons school of design

Extending his theory that cooperation yields greater benefits for related disciplines, Wheelwright has widened his students' access to educators and facilities by networking with Parsons' main competitor in the field, the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). RPI is doing something very different,, he said, explaining that their Master of Science is focused more on scientific research and development. They're inventing light bulbs; we're designing. So we've begun to strategize linkages.. Students from Parsons have already visited Rensselaer, and RPI faculty members have given lectures as Parsons.

Most other lighting design programs in the U.S., such as those at Illinois State, Florida State, and Carnegie Mellon, are concentrations within their schools' theater design departments. Wheelwright believes that Parsons is embarking on a program that is unique. I hope [this year's class] will be the first batch of students trained in the history and theory of lighting design, who will look at light from a phenomenological point of view, as well as learning its mechanics and techniques. If we do that,, he claimed, We'll be doing what no one else does.. Anna Holtzman is a New Yorkkbased writer.

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Emerging Voices
JEAN VONG

The Architectural League of New York has named its newest crop of Emerging Voices. Since its inception in 1982, the program has served as a coming out for architects and designers, giving promising new talents a platform to share their ideas and work. 2005's featured firms talk about beauty, vent pipes, blue trees, and asking whether or not a client actually needs a building.

March 17

Taryn Christoff
Martin Finio
Hadrian Predock
John Frane

6:30 p.m.
Scholastic Auditorium
557 Broadway

March 23

Claude Cormier
Douglas Reed
Gary Hilderbrand

6:30 p.m.
Urban Center
457 Madison Ave.

March 31

Pablo Castro
Jennifer Lee
John Ronan

6:30 p.m.
Urban Center
457 Madison Ave.

April 7

John Hartmann
Lauren Crahan
Zoltan Pali

6:30 p.m.
Urban Center
457 Madison Ave.

 

Christoff:Finio Architecture
Manhattan

Elizabeth Felicella

Taryn Christoff and Martin Finio founded their joint practice in 1999. The firm has since completed many New Yorkkarea projects at an intimate scale, including the Catherine Malandrino store (2004), the headquarters of the Heckscher Foundation for Children on the Upper East Side (2005), and a beach house in New Jersey (pictured below). Their design for an aquaculture center in Aalborg, Denmark (above), was included in the National Building Museum show Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete.

While Taryn and I come from the culture of crafttit is part of our makeuppthe practice is evolving to the point where we want to test and even antagonize this sense of ourselves. Emerging technology interests us, but in the sense that we can use the formal possibilities of new modeling technologies to let us explore ways to make the world around us less familiar. It can make you question anew how buildings are built and how we live in them. We're interested in the way it compresses the line between drawing and the realities of fabrication, and while we haven't done as much of that yet, the promise is definitely there.

We don't put much focus on form-driven architecture but are looking for an architecture that works, solves the problems of the program, and looks good. We've also been called emergingg for a long time and are still evolving, so next year maybe our processes and work will be different. Martin Finio

 

Claude Cormier Architectes paysagistes
Montreal

Richard Barnes

Claude Cormier established his five-member landscape architecture firm in 1995. His work includes large-scale master plans for Montreal landmarks such as Place-des-Arts (2002) and Old Port (2000), urban plazas like Place Youville (pictured below), and small gardens such Blue Tree (above), an installation at the Cornerstone Festival of Architectural Gardens in Sonoma, California. Cormier is currently working on a project for the University of Quebec and an urban beach for Toronto.

Janet Rosenberg

Three elements we think are important: that each project make good, logical sense; that it is visually interesting; and that it has a sense of humor. Everything is so serious! There is never a break anywhere, ever. Sometimes it's not bad to surprise people and show a touch of one's sensibility. We use a lot of color, since there is room for it in the public, urban landscapes we typically work in. Of course, it must be done with an understanding of the space around it, and that is where the logical common sense comes in. Sometimes there is a furorrpeople say A tree is not blue!!?but conflict is not always bad. It can challenge one's sense of perception. Art does this, and so why can't landscapes? Claude Cormier

 

Freecell
Brooklyn

courtesy freecell

John Hartmann and Lauren Crahan founded Freecell in 1998 and were joined by associate Corey Yurkovich in 2002. Recent projects include MOISTscape, an installation at Henry Urbach Architecture (2004), Reconfiguring Space at Art in General (2003, pictured above), and Type A Studio (2004). The firm is working on a roof deck on the Lower East Side, a house in Florida, and a brownstone
renovation in Brooklyn. Both Hartmann and Crahan teach design studio at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Photography, painting, and drawing are important parts of the background of our work. We're fascinated with the lure of cities, even if we can't explain the appeal of certain objects in them. Taking hundreds or thousands of photographs of things we are drawn to is a way of discovering what those things are and why we like them; the pictures reveal color and form, or density and sparseness, and those qualities inevitably inform the architecture created.

When people ask how we choose the colors in our projects, I think of pictures of the incredible saturation of the orange-yellow glow of sodium halide lights on the street. We wouldn't mimic the light, but we can draw on that atmosphere and its quality for a project. The repetition of vent pipes on a building is also appealing, so the same type of repetition shows up in the book cave we did for Shortwave Bookstore [pictured above].

With drawing and painting, it is as simple as strengthening your ability to observe and concentrate. Something about forced concentration leads to a much more detailed knowledge of a thing, and that knowledge then becomes a part of you and the way you think and work. John Hartmann

 

OBRA Architects
Manhattan

courtesy obra architects

Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee left Steven Holl Architects in 2000 to found OBRA. Recent projects include an exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design entitled Architettura Povera (2004, pictured above) and the Tittot Glass Art Museum in Taipei, China (below). The firm is currently working on three projects in New York: Rockville Center Apartments, Motion Technology Manufacturing Facility and Offices, and a residence in Long Island designed with Steven Holl Architects. A house in San Juan, Argentina, will finish construction in late 2005.

For us, competitions are the engines that propel us forward. While we try not to do the same thing each time,
we are always interested in things like trees, running water, and people, which can take either metaphorical or actual form.

We all live in a technological age, and sometimes design seems to come down to choosing from a series of products. We try to address, subvert, and finally transcend that. We're interested in laser-cutting, but not as an objective in itself. We want to use it in a way that looks beyond the limitations of the technology itself, and towards its unpredictability. Since so many things can be homogenized by technology, we want to look at the potential of architecture to bring back a sense of identity.

Architecture is a living thing, a strange mirror that can bring us back to our own forgotten condition. Pablo Castro

 

Predock_Frane Architects
Santa Monica

courtesy predock_Frane architects

Hadrian Predock left his father Antoine Predock's firm in 2000 to start a practice with John Frane. The duo's work was included in the 2004 Venice Biennale, and current projects include the Central California Museum of History in Fresno, and two projects for Zen Buddhist groups: the Desert Hot Springs Zen Retreat in California (pictured above) and the Center of Gravity Foundation in northern New Mexico (below). They are also collaborating with the elder Predock on an inn at the French Laundry in Napa.

jason predock

We don't like the word contextualism, because it is such a codified and constrained term. So often, when people use it, they are just referring to other architectures. You have to ask What is context?? It can be the culture of the people or an artificial, imposed landscape as much as anything original. At the French Laundry, there is both the culture of Napa, and also [chef] Thomas Keller's conceptual approach and set of tools. In the Mojave Desert [Zen retreat], we are dealing with a set of positive and negative environmental forces. There is always wind and usually people try to block that force or funnel it awayyit is a negative. But you can also use it to elaborate the spatial sequences you are creating. We think you find deeper meanings and more intricacy when you start to think about all of these relationships and interactions.

As for our process, there are two parallel tracks, the pragmatic and the conceptual. You have to know how many bathrooms there should be, but you can also question the programmdo they even need a building?  John Frane and Hadrian Predock

 

Reed Hilderbrand landscape architecture
Boston

courtesy reed hilderbrand
landscape architecture

Douglas Reed founded his landscape architecture practice in 1993, and was joined by principal Gary Hilderbrand in 1997. Recent projects include the Children's Therapeutic garden in Wellesley, Massachusetts (pictured above) and Hither Lane, a private garden in East Hampton (below). The firm is currently working on several projects in the Boston and Somerville area, such as the waterfront near the New England Aquarium, a commission from Harvard University, and, with Tadao Ando, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.

We are increasingly working in brownfield sites, but while the term is a relatively new one, the idea is not. In the 19th century, Olmsted took abused parts of the city and made something extraordinary. We see ourselves as engaging
in a long tradition, but in contemporary terms and with contemporary expression.

In our work, we look for clarity, brevity, and simplicity. It is a process of reducing a complex series of elements to something apparently simple and serene, but not simplistic. To endow an urban site with those qualities is a big challenge, but I think a great thing. Some of these characteristics are really ancient things, and we aren't afraid of gestures that are emotive or mysterious.

We have always celebrated the richness of vegetation, and are interested in the expressive use of plants and grading as a medium to convey ideas.  Gary Hilderbrand

 

John Ronan Architect
Chicago

courtesy John Ronan Architect

John Ronan founded his solo practice in 1997. In 2004, he won the competition to design a 472,000-square-foot high school for Perth Amboy, New Jersey (pictured above, left), and completed an addition to the Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. Current projects include a youth center for the South Shore Drill Team in Chicago (above, right), houses in Chicago and on Lake Michigan, and a residential conversion of the Yale Steam Laundry in Washington, DC.

I tend to work from reality backwardssI start off by asking what can I do with this?? instead of developing a notion, and then making that idea conform to what is already on the ground. That is a part of my interest in programmatic sustainability, or how buildings change and evolve over time. That often means designing spaces that can be manipulated by their users; the focus is on space over form. I start with spatial exploration, but material investigation also comes in very early in the process, and can have a truly generative role.

I think that one forges meaning through the interdependency of structure, materials, and space. At a certain point, the three come together, and you can't change one without changing the others.  John Ronan

 

SPF:a
Los Angeles

courtesy spf:a

Zoltan E. Pali established Pali and Associates in 1988, and in 1996 Jeffrey Stenfors and Judit Fekete joined Pali to found Stenfors, Pali, Fekete:architects, or SPF:a. The firm's recent work includes barn at the Sharpe House in Somis, California (2004, pictured above, left), and the Bluejay Way Residence in Los Angeles (2005, above, right). SPF:a is working with the Nederlander Organization on a project to restore Los Angeles' Greek Theater in Griffith Park and is transforming a warehouse into a charter school, also in L.A.

Some people want to wake up and reinvent architecture every Monday morning, but many of the results disappear pretty quickly. I'm not interested in being a formalist. Playing around with form is an un-objective way of going about design. I try to be as clear, concise, and objective as I can, so that it is not just my ideas that define a project, but what is there. I also enjoy the interaction with creative clients, and finding out what is in their heads.

I am much more interested in new materials and technologies and how you incorporate them into built structures for the betterment of the environment. That process is what generates the formmit comes from the way you choose to solve a problem. I always want to find beauty along the way. If I had to make a choice, I would sacrifice the new for beauty, since architecture is not about being the next new thing.  Zoltan Pali

Eavesdrop

Eavesdrop Issue 03_02.16.2005

CAUGHT ON FILM 
In a global exclusive, EavesDrop has obtained several unauthorized photographs of Rem Koolhaas and Philippe Starck. No, silly, the two designers weren’t caught “together.” They are, however, both pictured frolicking poolside—no, not with each other!—at the Raleigh Hotel during December’s Art Basel Miami Beach art fair. Imagine Koolhaas wedged into a burgundy Speedo with powder blue gussets, and Starck stuffing his face with freedom fries while sipping Zinfandel with a (topless!) woman, believed to be current squeeze Alice Lepers. Oh la la! Alas, our stringent Standards and Practices prevent us from publishing the revealing pics. Anyhow, we should be focusing on “real celebrities,” as Koolhaas, looking something like an ostrich (minus the big feathery body), reportedly admonished our paparazzo. Starck, meanwhile, was apparently too busy comparing his own bosom with that of Lepers.

REPORT FROM THE MAYLINE 
We’ve given up trying to figure out what you architects consider fun. Last month, throngs of you excitedly turned out at the Tribeca bar MI-5 for a design showdown between Matthew Johnson of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Jason Carlow of Smith-Miller + Hawkinson. The event, called the Master Disaster Architect Duel and sponsored by the LVHRD Foundation, pitted the two against each other in a heated one-hour charrette observed by over 500 revelers, organizers say. The design brief was to create a futuristic luxury hotel and government office complex for the year 2050 when, presumably in the name of spreading democracy there, the United States takes over the moon. At the finale, attendees were asked to cast ballots for either Johnson’s upside-down step pyramid or Carlow’s scheme of three inclined towers that meet at the top. Art continued its imitation of life when a draw had to be declared due to reports of widespread voting fraud.

A LIFT FOR ASPEN? 
Remember the International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA)? Founded in 1951, the once legendary annual gathering—which attracted everyone from George Nelson and Louis Kahn to the likes of Robert Rauschenberg and Gloria Steinem—has lost steam in recent years. However, now the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) wants to change that. We’re told the organization, which has been expanding its mission across design disciplines, will take over the management and programming of the conference beginning this summer. As part of the deal, the AIGA will provide a one-time infusion of $50,000 and provide its services for an annual fee of just one dollar. (Where are all the other sugar daddies out there?) “The conference will remain multidisciplinary,” maintains AIGA executive director Ric Grefe, who will assume the same IDCA title. This summer’s edition will be an invitational brainstorming session, with the new, improved conference debuting in 2006.

NOUVEL APPARTEMENTS 
We’ve lost track of Jean Nouvel’s on-again, off-again meatpacking district project for developer Stephen Touhey. But it sounds like the French architect’s failed 1999 design for a nine-story hotel in Dumbo may be getting its second act as apartments. As of press time, both Nouvel’s office and developer Two Trees Management were keeping mum. However, we’re told that the repurposed structure will largely keep to the original plan, which calls for it to be dramatically cantilevered over the East River.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

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Mall City

Critics have long cried foul over the construction of malls in New York City's densest borough, and in recent years developers have dropped the term in favor of euphemisms like vertical retail environment.. Asks Deborah Grossberg, are the indoor shopping mazes rising up across town really a different breed?

Malls are a menace to New York: they drain the life out of vibrant neighborhoods by siphoning customers away from street-level retail and repelling Manhattan residents, leaving behind chintzy eyesores crowded with vacationing suburbanites. Or at least that's the conventional wisdom. But in recent years, as big-box stores and glitzy mall developments planned and funded in the bull-market 1990s appear in high-traffic pedestrian areas from Union Square to Harlem, fears among urban planners and theorists have shifted focus. New York City developers and architects have improved on the old models for urban malls, and the rapid gentrification spurred on by Mayor Giuliani's city clean-up effort combined with the development-friendly policies of the Bloomberg administration have encouraged a mall-city merger on a broader scale. While the new urban malls are more profitable and better connected to the street, small-scale street-level retail has started to look increasingly homogenized, chained-out, and mall-like.

 

uwe ditz photography,
courtesy the related companies

When Manhattan's first enclosed shopping malls opened in the 1980s, urban planners and theorists worried that the new megaplexes might herald an era of suburbanization for New York. Everyone was enraged when Trump built his mall 20 years ago and now it seems relatively benign,, said architect and critic Michael Sorkin. I'm a bit agnostic about these new developments.. Other critics have been less tentative. In December, one of the most popular new developmentssThe Shops at Columbus Circleewon the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) 2003 MASterwork Award in Urban Design for the best new privately owned public space. Rick Bell, executive director of AIA-NY and one of the award jurors, said, Since 9/11, many of the city's great public atriums have been closed off to pedestrians due to security concerns. The entrance hall at the Shops is an indoor-outdoor space with spectacular Central Park views that's open to all New Yorkers..

Malls have always been the domain of the middle class, and though the new Manhattan developments vary from bargain-basement to the height of luxury, they still represent a populist influence on the city's retail. Politicians and planners usually use malls as lures for the white middle class, but for Manhattan it's been reversed,, said Jeffrey Hardwick, author of Mall Maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). The middle class has come back to Manhattan and malls have followed..

Some say that the relative silence of mall-haters is the result of a wising-up on the part of the city's retail developers. Developers and retailers have gotten smarter about building in Manhattan,, said Peter Slatin, creator of the real estate news website The Slatin Report. They're working together to make more integrated vertical malls..

In attempting to redefine the urban mall, today's developers begin by banishing the term itself. Early shopping centers like the Manhattan Mall, which opened in 1989 at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 33rd Street, stuck to straightforward names and standard mall design. Introverted shops and cheap ddcor marked them for what they were. Those malls never resonated with New Yorkers,, said Bell. New mall developers avoid that negative image, instead conjuring jargon like vertical retail environment,, which is The Related Companies and Apollo Real Estate Advisors' preferred tag for their Columbus Circle shopping development.

courtesy manhattan mall

Historically, making vertical retail work has been impossible in a city where land values are too high to give the classic two-story mall model financial feasibility. In order to draw shoppers up to higher levels, architects and developers have improved connections to the neighborhood outside, executing transparent, extroverted designs.

Harlem USA, the shopping development at the corner of 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard that opened in 2001, emphatically rejected the typical introverted suburban mall style invented by Viennese architect Victor Gruen in his 1956 prototype for the modern mall, The Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota. At Southdale, Gruen closed off stores from the street, taking total control of the retail environment. When SOM was commissioned by Grid Properties to design Harlem USA, the firm focused on turning the Gruen model inside out. We created an anti-mall,, said Mustafa Abadan, the project's manager at SOM. The roots of New York retail are at the street level, and the idea was to engage that energy, to draw it in by orienting out.. SOM did away with internal circulation; The upper floors of individual stores are only reachable through escalators within the stores, and the lobbies of the third floor movie theater, accessible via an independent street-level entrance, face outwards. Even though the stores are bigger, they maintain the essential New York street typology,, said Abadan.

bob zucker courtesy som

Harlem USA has drawn much more negative press than the Shops due to its location in an historic neighborhood. Area shop owners make the standard arguments that chains have drawn business away from mom-and-pops, and that the character of the neighborhood is suffering. Others see the development as an important step in Harlem's economic renaissance. Harlem USA brought customers to the neighborhood who would otherwise have shopped on 34th Street or Downtown,, said Abadan.

The Vornado Realty Trust shopping development at the southwest corner of Union Square also used transparency to ensnare shoppers. In Manhattan, people see shopping as sport,, said JJ Falk, principal of JJ Falk Design, the firm that designed the Filene's Basement, DSW Shoe Warehouse, and interior circulation for Vornado's Union Square development. It's like visiting a museummif people like what they see, they'll stay in the space longer.. A glass towerr of circulation is meant to draw street traffic up from the Union Square transport hub, and Falk located the escalators within the three-story Filene's Basement flush with floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing Union Square. It's like you're in the park,, said Falk.

 

courtesy jj falk design

DSW and Filene's opened at the Union Square location in October and a Whole Foods Market is slated to open later this year. Although preliminary sales data for the stores were unavailable, Falk said that the entire construction cost for the project would be recouped in six months should current sales trends continue.

Neighborhood tie-in was important to developers of The Shops at Columbus Circle as well. It was first a matter of creating great spaces for pedestrian passage to tie the city together,, said Howard Elkus, a principal at Elkus/Manfredi, the Boston-based firm specializing in retail architecture that designed the Shops. Their design weaves the retail space of the Shops into the city grid with two axes of circulation, one curving around Columbus Circle's arc, and the other sweeping up 59th Street into a five-story, 150-foot-high great room.. The minimal boundary between mall and street was emphasized through James Carpenter Design Associates' design for the entryway's faaade, an 85-foot-wide, 150-foot-tall cable net glass wall that boasts the title of largest in the world.

Besides an emphasis on transparency, Related and Apollo banked on the position of the 365,000-square-foot Shops at the heart of the 2.8-million-square-foot mixed-use Time Warner Center (designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) to offset the enormous cost of building in New York (The Time Warner Center cost a total of $1.7 billion) and to justify the astronomical annual rents for prime retail space ($300 to $400 per square foot). The classic anchor store model was supplemented with luxury residences, high-end office space, five top-tier restaurants, and a concert venue for Jazz at Lincoln Center (designed by Rafael Viioly Architects). The Shops therefore have a better chance to become a destination for shoppers from New York as well as farther afield.

Moreover, the development's high-end mix of shops is as good a fit for Upper West Side shoppers on the way home from work as it is for tourists making a beeline from Times Square to Central Park. One big attraction has been the 60,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market in the complex's basement. Although some complain about the grocery store's high prices, most have seen it as a godsend. Cities don't need malls to function as community centers as they do in the suburbs, but when they're combined with the things that people loveeand in New York that begins with fooddthey have greater potential for success,, said Bell..

The approach to luring customers with extensive mixed-use developments comes closer to realizing the utopian dreams of early mall designers like Gruen. At Southdale, Gruen planned apartments, a park, a medical center, even schools to accompany the mall. It looked like a Corbusier plan with towers and green space,, said Hardwick. Gruen's fantasy suburban city was scrapped for lack of budget, a fact to which he often attributed the ultimate decay of his vision.

The question now is whether the inclusion of residential, cultural, and palette- pleasing elements will function as planned. It's unclear whether it will actually pay off, or whether it's just a new PR spin,, said Hardwick. Now nearing its first anniversary, the Shops report promising numbers, with higher sales than expected and 99 percent of its 347,000 square-feet of leasable space occupied.

The South Street Seaport mall is one decades old development that has consistently struggled to turn a profit.

courtesy south street seaport

As malls adapt to embrace city life, planners seem more concerned about what urban historian and professor at Harvard's GSD Margaret Crawford termed spontaneous malling,, the process by which an urban space starts to take on the qualities of a mall without the aid of developers. At this point, Broadway in SoHo is a total mall,, said Crawford, who wrote the essay The World in a Shopping Malll published in Sorkin's Variations on a Theme Park (Noonday Press, 1992). Broadway, which used to sport hip boutiques and galleries, is now lined with chain outlets like Old Navy, Crate & Barrel, and Sephoraathe same stores found in suburban malls. Spontaneous malling is happening more and more, and cities consider it desirable since it attracts suburban shoppers, in this case from New Jersey..

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are often the culprits in emerging street-as-mall phenomenon in New York. By organizing signage, street furniture, wayfinding, and even the uniforms for garbage collectors, BIDs often induce mall-like situations. Said Slatin, It's a constant tug-of-war over whether to homogenize a neighborhood or leave the jumble. There's value in the order, especially in terms of security and comfort for tourists, but at the same time the city has a way of making its own order..

Manhattan has managed to remake malls in its image, while the traits that make up malls have quietly bled into the city's fabric. There have always been cries that the mall is going to kill things or that it's dying,, said Hardwick. The amazing thing is how flexible the form actually is.. Even in a city with such a vibrant retail culture, the mall has found ways to penetrate. The end result in Manhattan has been two surprisingly similar variations: the mall as city and the city as mall.

 Deborah grossberg is an associate editor at an.

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Eavesdrop Issue 02_02.02.2005

LOVEGROVE IN ACTION; GOVERNMENT INACTION
It seems that Ross Lovegrove has learned that no good deed goes unpunished at least in cases where national pride is involved. We happened to find out that, when the recent tsunamis hit Phuket in Thailand, the well-known British designer and his architect wife, Miska Miller, were staying at the island's plush Amanpuri resort. Left physically unscathed, they sprang into action, helping to raise money from other guests for the relief effort. However, other attempts at providing assistance were less successful. While none of the parties directly involved could be reached for comment, we're told that Lovegrove also contacted some of the manufacturers he designs for, including Vitra, and secured pledges of furniture to help refurbish local schools. However, the Thai government refused the offers. They didn't want to be considered a third world country in the eyes of the world,, a friend of the couple reports. They said, Offer the stuff to Sri Lanka, we can take care of ourselves.'' That's odd, considering that, in the tsunami's aftermath, the Thai government has been widely accused of taking better care of tourists than its own people.

EAU MY!
Leave it to Herzog & de Meuron to tackle the froufrou world of fragrances and come out with a conceptual meditation. The Swiss master architects have released a limited edition, unisex perfume that includes tangs of, among other things, patchouli, cinnamon, and Rhine water, dog, and shit. We want to destabilize our prejudices about smells, just like we try to do with our architecture,, Jacques Herzog told us when we met him for breakfast at some ungodly hour and were feeling a bit destabilized ourselves. Named after Rotterdam, where it's being debuted in conjunction with the firm's current retrospective at the Netherlands Architecture Institute, the fragrance is the first in a planned series that will each take after a different city, with an emphasis on the role scents play in memory and perceptions of space. We shudder to think what our beloved New York might inspire, though we sure have enough buildings that truly stink.

A PRODUCT PLUG
Tom Dixon has done it. So has Marc Newson. Now, in time for Valentine's Day, add Matali Crasset to the list of star designers who have had their hand at, um, male anatomical substitutes. We were caught off guard when we visited Crasset's Paris studio several months ago and first saw renderings of the (non-motorized) red silicone dohickey she created for the Paris retailer Point G. With blobby contours, and the expected proportions, it's meant to double as a bedside sculptural object for those who know what they want and aren't ashamed to show it.

THE OFFICE WIND TUNNEL
Let us first say that we did not solicit this information, and we apologize for passing it on, so to speak. But which namesake partner of a prominent three-surname firm has been grossing out his employees with his out-of-control flatulence problem? It's as if the long hours and meager salaries weren't cruel enough. Every time we spot him coming,, one staffer reports, practically dry heaving, we try to get away as fast as we can..

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

Eavesdrop Issue 01_01.19.2005

THE RESULTS ARE INN
It turns out we're not the only ones who think Charles Gwathmey's new condo tower on Astor Place looks like it belongs in a Shenzhen office park. Granted, the building's not done yet, but our thoroughly unscientific poll has revealed that 100 percent of a select handful of acquaintances think it's somewhere between uglyy and the B-word (that would be banall). It's shiny. I'll give it that,, one respondent offered. In fairness, we should mention that some peopleeactually, just Gwathmeyyhave admiringly compared the curvy glass tower to an obelisk (come to think of it, our fire escape evokes Louis Sullivan, too). And it's definitely a stellar example of the Floor Area Ratio school of architecture. However, call us chumps, but many of us had higher hopes for a site as storied as Astor Place. Mind you, we fully support the Cooper Union, which owns the land on which Gwathmey's building sitssand on whose board Gwathmey once sattin making a pretty penny. (It leased the site to the Related Companies, which was the developer). But you'd think they'd make sure we got something better, even if it still meant luxury condos for rich people,, says one observer, reminding us of the school's social mission and High Architecture posturing. They definitely took the ivory out of the ivory tower with this one..

THE BEST OF GROUND ZERO
The day after 9/11, Rem Koolhaas, who was in Chicago, did what any traumatized glamitect would: He headed to the nearest Prada. That, at least, is according to Philip Nobel's hotly anticipated new book, Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero (Metropolitan), which is now landing in stores. The book rehashes a number of unflattering incidents: how aspiring Ground Zero designer Rafael Viioly's onetime association with the Argentine junta somehow turned into a convenient yet unverifiable story about his own political persecution; Frank Gehry's controversial I-won't-work-for-just-$40,000 stance; and let's not even start with Daniel and Nina Libeskind. Added to this are new revelations, like about how the Library of Congress paid gallerist Max Protetch a whopping $408,140 to acquire the 58 architect schemes that Protetch pulled together in 2002 for his blockbuster show of Ground Zero proposals. And then there's the one about Protetch discussing the site's future with LMDC chairman Roland Betts while prancing about in his underwear (they were at the gym). Has Nobel turned into architecture's Kitty Kelly? No, his book has all the hard-hitting insights and analyses you'd want. But perhaps it's one of his other juicy tidbits that best characterizes the behavior of many architects in the Ground Zero fiasco: in a missive to Gehry, who'd earlier declined to join his so-called THINK team, Charles Gwathmey wrote: Peter [Eisenman], Richard [Meier], and I think you are a total prick..

OLD MAN SACHS GETS HIP
EavesDrop has learned that the proposed $1.8 billion Goldman Sachs headquarters in Battery Park City, designed by Harry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed, will feature the work of some young'uns, too. After a closed competition that we hear included the likes of Architecture Research Office, Allied Works, and others, Preston Scott Cohen was tapped to create an outdoor arcade, while SHoP will design a conference center. We're told landscape architect Ken Smith has also been thrown into the mix.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

Eavesdrop Issue 18_11.02_2004

HERE WE GO AGAINN
Geesh, will people please stop sending us gossip about the Cooper-Hewitt? Just to recap, there was that tidbit we reported about a Dennis Kozlowskian $159,000 that the museum spent on a new admissions desk. And a proposed karaoke night that was meant to boost employee morale (yikes). Then there was that in-house PowerPoint presentation on e-mail etiquette (example: E-mail is NOT an outlet for emotionn), a copy of which happened to land in our inbox. And now we're told that, in an effort to stop further leaks, the museum temporarily shut down the e-mail accounts of at least two employees, simply because we were listed in their address books. We wonder what that did for morale. Apparently not much, because the stories keep comingglike about how the new Chief Financial Officer, Ellen Ehrenkranz, allegedly insists on being called Ms. Ehrenkranz.. Just as sassy is curatorial director Barbara Bloemink, who we've learned has a Vegas showgirl-style makeup table (with lighted mirror)) in her office, along with shelves of shoes for which museum workmen recently built concealing cabinet doors. We actually think this makes them both kind of fab. But we were disturbed by the museum's Orwellian crackdown on those e-mail accounts (and not because we got our scoops from themmwe didn't). That's just creepy.

NOTABLE NUPTIALS
The die-cut flowers were brought out for the October 16 wedding of Dutch-born design superstar Tord Boontje, 36, and his longtime partner and collaborator, glass artist Emma Woffenden, 42. With the help of a double-decker bus, guests at the London civil ceremony, at the Peckham registry office, were shuttled to a reception at the Royal College of Art, where the two met in 1994. That was followed by a shindig at an art gallery which, according to friend and hip London designer Ab Rogers, was full of their work, as well as a live band, lots of champagne, dancing and children. It was a very daytime affair.. He continues, I could send you very torrid photos of Tord's stag party, but he would never speak to me againn?If you've noticed an inexplicable bounce in Julie Lasky's step, it's because she also got marrieddthough secretly. That's right, on August 25, the 44-year-old I.D. Magazine editor-in-chief eloped with former Wall Street Journal reporter and freelance writer Ernest Beck, 52. The two clandestinely tied the knot, both for the first time, at City Hall. We got married to expedite the adoption process,, Lasky explains. Yep, they're also in the process of adopting a baby girl from China. But why elope? There's no amount of pomp and circumstance that beats the pleasure of a two-minute ceremony,, Lasky sayss Meanwhile, we've learned that the previously confirmed bachelor and golden-maned man-about-town Christopher Mount, 41, is finally engagedd or, rather, engaged to be engaged. The former Museum of Modern Art design curator and current Parsons director of public programs is planning to pop the question to girlfriend Stephanie Emerson, 36, who will leave her job ashead of publications at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to move to New York. I don't know,, Mount said when we asked when he would make it official. Soon. By Christmas. Yeah, by Christmas..

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

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THE NEW, TRUE SPIRIT

Singular glories are a thing of the past, writes Andrew Yang. Architecture firmssbig and small, young and established, independent and corporateeare collaborating to create new design models, in project and in practice.

This past summer, Sir Richard Rogers arrived in New York, where his firm, Richard Rogers Partnership, had just been awarded a contract to redesign New York's East River Waterfront from Battery Park to the Lower East Sideea commission landed with SHoP Architects. We're not really about conquering,, he told The Architect's Newspaper at the time. We're more about collaboration.. Rogers, whose first major project was a collaboration with Renzo Piano to create the Centre Georges Pompidou, is echoing a level of openness that has helped his 30-year-old practice integrate its resources with the young upstart SHoP, an office that is less than ten years old and heavily influenced by new technologies.

As the competition for plum projects becomes more cut-throat, firms are increasingly taking less of a divide and conquer attitude, and opting for an approach that is more open to exchange and sharinggeverything from office space to design fees. Since the competition to design Ground Zero resulted in ber-teams like Steven Holl, Richard Meier, and Peter Eisenman; United Architects (UN Studio, Foreign Office Architects, Greg Lynn), and THINK (Frederic Schwartz, Rafael Viioly, Shigeru Ban), SHoP and Rogers is only one of many high-profile design teams that have emerged to take on large, complex public projects. When competing for large-scale urban redevelopment undertakings such as the High Line, the East River Waterfront, speculative projects for New York's Olympic bid, and others, pooling talent has become de rigueur, if not en vogue.

The idea that architecture is shaped by one all-powerful creative geniusssuch as the mighty hand of Corbbis slowly starting to dissipate as built realities become more complicated. While contributions to large projects have always necessitated a variety of different playerss structural engineers, architects of record, lighting specialists, interior designers, graphic design consultants, landscape architects, et ceteraanever before has the role of design lead been so open to interpretation by designers themselves.

Landscape designer Diana Balmori and architect Joel Sanders' collaborative design of the equestrian center for NYC2012 (top). Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Olafur Eliasson, Piet Oudolf, and Buro Happold's winning entry in the High Line competition (left).

The practice of stacking a team to include the expertise or profile required by a particular RFQ or RFP is nothing new. It's also common for firms with international work to bring on local partners to help realize projects in contexts with which they are unfamiliar. After winning the competition to design the new headquarters for The New York Times, Renzo Piano tapped Fox & Fowle Architects for its experience building skyscrapers in New York City (Fox & Fowle is behind many of the tall buildings in Times Square, including the Condd Nast Building, not far from The New York Times site). When the two firms started working together, the project really started over again,, explained Bruce Fowle. As the firm began to integrate Piano's design with the restraints of New York's Byzantine building codes, the design altered drastically. Along with other details, a dramatic cantilever in the base was eliminated in favor of a more realistic structure. Previously, many collaborative arrangements have seen one firm leading the others, and the others working in the service of the lead firm. The nature of collaborations might be shifting, however, with firms seeking collaborations not out of necessity but out of desire to enrich their own design processes and, ultimately, the final product.

Zaha Hadid Architects with Balmori Associates, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and Studio MDA's finalist design for the High Line competition (left).

When the firm Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer disbanded last summer after 37 years of practice, partner Hugh Hardy named his new venture H3 Hardy Collaboration. We're not making an exclusive practice of just working with other architects. We think of collaboration as a big idea,, said Hardy, who is working with Frank Gehry on a new theater for the Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district, as well as entering into a competition with Enrique Norten for a new theater at Ground Zero. The collaboration involved with each projectteven when it's your own firm projecttinvolves everybodyyclients, consultantsseverybody..

The close circles of the architecture profession often dictate the many reciprocal relationships that now crowd the competition scene. While Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos have built their practice, UN Studio, on a model of collaborations between various specialists for years, the United Architects team is one of the most visible and memorable collaborative efforts within recent years. The relationships among its membersswhich include New Yorkkbased designers Reiser+Umemoto and Kevin Kennon and Mikon von Gastel of the motion-graphics studio Imaginary Forcesshad been in place for many years when they all decided to participate in the WTC competition together. In our case, we were teaching and became friends, and slowly began to influence each other's work,, explained van Berkel. Some members of the group had met at a conference years ago that was organized by Jeffrey Kipnis at Ohio State University. There were heavy brainstorms of the quality of each other's work,, said van Berkel. The relationships were beginning to form. Nobody knew it at that time, but we called ourselves The Ohio Group.' We were invisible at the time..

Meanwhile, SHoP's partnership with Rogers' firm resulted from a simple cold call. According to Chris Sharples, one of the five partners of SHoP, the firm had wanted to go after the East River project, but did not have enough significant civic projects under its belt. SHoP had always wanted to work with Rogers. So they called London, and the rest is becoming history.

Regardless of how collaborations are formed, many architects are finding the experience rewarding. Since winning the job earlier this year, both SHoP and Rogers have learned to integrate their operations, despite the dramatic difference in each office's size. We've gained a tremendous amount of knowledge working with their team,, said Sharples. There's a lot in their partner structure that we'd like to integrate into our office in the futuree?for example, weekly directors' meetings (at Rogers, partners are titled directors) to review each other's projects.

The Arnhem Central Station by UN Studio and engineer Cecil Balmond

However, not all collaborative relationships are as rewarding and collegial as they may seem. There have been several reports that, within both the Holl/Meier/Eisenman and United Architects teams, one architect's vision eventually came to dominate that of the others. The issue of credit, too, is (as it's always been) a potential minefield, with participantssand perhaps more problematically, the mediaaeager to point out individual contributions. There's also the threat of one party running off with the commission, or controlling it to the extent that it can dump other collaboratorsssomething that architect Michael Sorkin unfortunately experienced when he teamed up with landscape architect Margie Ruddick for the Queens Plaza project earlier this year.

Landscape architect Diana Balmori, a finalist for the High Line competition, a team consisting of Zaha Hadid, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, and Studio MDA, warned that working relationships need to be carefully considered, and that collaborations often don't work the way they seem to. Speaking from her own experiences, she said, Right now, the model is very different than it was in the past [for landscape architects]. Collaboration didn't workkand doesn't work,, she said, since most collaborations come in the wake of a scramble for RFPs that doesn't allow the time for proper exchange. Teams are built for the sole purpose of assembling an image, and that really doesn't give you the time to put the different pieces together..

The High Line project, which was eventually awarded to the formidable team of Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Olafur Eliasson, Piet Oudolf, and Buro Happold, was heavily sought after by teams that consisted of not only structural engineers and landscape architects but also graphic designers, artists, and consultants for elevators, lighting, and historic preservation. The High Line was one of those rare cases, a very satisfying experience,, said Balmori. As a team, we were able to put the pieces together and start integrating something with much greater vision. The problem is, we lost the competition before we got to that part.. In the end, she reflected, the architecture remained totally by itself and we were never able to put it in the big image..

>

The New York Times headquarters has been a collaborative effort by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Fox & Fowle Architects.

Image, however, might have everything to do with trend toward collaboration. Beyond the expectation of super-teams producing super-projects, a star-studded team is a marketer's (and developer's and politician's) dream. Never mind the actual results. A project could be considered a blockbuster on the basis of its cast alone (think of Ocean's Eleven).

A less skeptical reading of this trend, however, is the genuine interest that many architects express in expanding process and sharing ideas. The assembly of architects as a true union of peers is a heartening development in a field where a big ego is a survival tool and in a world that has not yet lost its taste for signature architecture. For some, eschewing the star vehicless of the past in favor of collaboration is the best expression of the balance of ideas that design should embody.

Since the High Line experience, Balmori has made a permanent commitment of sorts to working with architect Joel Sanders to pursue projects, an effort that has required reorganizing each office. Their first joint project was the design of an equestrian center for New York's Olympic bid. The alliance between a landscape architect and an architect is hardly unusual but this sustained and equal collaboration is telling of how Balmori and Sanders approach their work. They see contextthow a building fits into its surroundingssas a paramount concern and don't regard one aspect of a project as any more or less important than another.

Collaborations must be carefully considered, however. Because we're not a style-based practice, we're not trying to protect something or impose something on a project that doesn't want it,, said Sharples. If we were working with someone with a strong style, they would want to make sure that their style is in there.. They found a perfect match. According to Ivan Harbour, a director at Richard Rogers Partnership, Our approach is very fluiddit's not We want this, this, and this.''

This collaborative mode of practice may not be possible or even desirable for every projectt?I don't think you'll be putting together five architects to design an Alessi teapot,, joked van Berkel, who is working with engineer Cecil Balmond on the Arnhem Central Station. However, there is an increased demand and conscientiousness on the part of the client, according to van Berkel. Now we've noticed that clients are becoming more sophisticated. They have their own specialists, including marketing people,, said van Berkel. As long as they get a good product, he explained, they don't care about how many names they have to put on the press release..

This is really about creating ways to allow the profession to evolve,, said Sharples, who, along with his colleagues, set out as young architects to explore the feasibility of a decentralized five-way partnership. We're finding that [in larger projects], it requires a collective enterprise.. Given all the factors now at play in designntechnology, sustainability, contextualismmthe answer is rarely going to come from one place. And that's how architects have to sell themselves,, he said.  ANDREW YANG IS A CONTRIBUTOR TO AN, AND ALSO A WRITER FOR WALLPAPER, DWELL, AND THE NEW YORK TIMES

East River Waterfront Reclaimed

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