All posts in East

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Ritchie Engineering
On Friday, Matthew Ritchie opened his new solo show, Line Shot, at the Andrea Rosen Gallery in Chelsea. While the work is impressive as always, most notable is the installation of the newest piece of "The Morning Line," a work unveiled at the Biennale last year (we saw it first hand!) that has begun to trek around the world in different forms, popping up earlier this summer in London, which is where the above video was shot. Inspired by the Big Bang, The Morning Line is notable not only for Ritchie's typically uncanny sense of and attention to detail but also its intricacy and precision, aided in part through a partnership with ARUP's Advanced Geometry Unit, led by Daniel Bosia, and the architects Aranda/Lasch, whose Ben Aranda walks us through the project in the video below. The piece is on view through December 2, as well as after the jump.
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Yankees Do Over Dandy
This weekend, a lot of New Yorkers were fixated on Yankee Stadium, though for far different reasons than the Times, which paid the House That Ruth Didn't Build some overdue (or undue, if you're a Steinbrenner) attention. The biggest and most alarming story was that the vaunted stadium—the most expensive ever built in the U.S., in part thanks to questionable public financingwas cracking, particularly in the ramps, a troubling spot given all the foot traffic. It was revealed over a year ago that a faulty concrete tester was employed on the project, along with hundreds of others in the city, though it also turns out the mob was involved in pouring all that concrete. The Times' description is so matter of fact as to be breathtaking:
The ramps were built by a company accused of having links to the mob, and the concrete mix was designed and tested by a company under indictment on charges that it failed to perform some tests and falsified the results of others. But it is unclear whether work performed by either firm contributed to the deteriorating conditions of the ramps.
Turns out the ramps are safe, according to a Department of Buildings inspection, but given recent revelations about the mob's infiltration of that city agency, we're glad we're Pittsburgh Pirates fans. Then again, maybe not. Elsewhere, About New York columnist Jim Dwyer took the team to task for not yet making good on its promise to replace the city park on which the new stadium sits with one on the site of the old one, forcing local Little Leaguers to travel as far as Staten Island for "home" games. Then again, part of the reason the Bronx Bombers could be dragging their heals is that preservationists are still fighting to keep part of the old Yankee Stadium intact at that new park, a facadist reminder to what once was. Or maybe all the mob contractors were too busy with other projects to get started on this one.
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New York Presses Its Green Collars
If there is one thing the recession has taught New York, it's not to put all the eggs in one basket. While Wall Street may not have collapsed as much as everyone feared—just look at those Goldman Sachs bonuses—the Bloomberg administration has been determined to diversify and strengthen the city's economy in industries beyond FIRE. Programs in media and fashion have been unveiled recently, and yesterday, green collar jobs took center stage as the mayor announced 30 initiatives to create a foundation for sustainability jobs in the city. The mayor has already taken steps in this direction with the well-known PlaNYC and the April announcement aimed at greening the building code. Now the city's Economic Development Corporation will offer a range of incentives [full list, PDF], from tax credits to training programs to green business incubators, many of them targeted at the city's building stock. There are tax abatements for green tech, "Solar Zones" where permitting will be easier, a wind turbine demo program, and educational opportunities for designers, contractors, amd building operators to create, install, and run such installations. The most visible of these 30 initiatives is a massive solar array that the EDC will build atop the Brooklyn Army Terminal, a 4 million square foot industrial building on the Sunset Park waterfront. When completed, the 500 kilowatt will generate 750,000 kilowatts per year, according to the EDC, enough to power 150 homes and save the city $120,000 on energy costs in its Sunset Park buildings. But the real hope is that it will prove the viability of PVCs to the private sector so they will begin to proliferate across the city. An RFP for the project is expected in December.
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Jailbreak
City-funded architecture work is becoming scarce, if the DDC's latest list of Design and Construction Excellence firms is any indicator, so it's heartening when public projects promised during the boom times move into the construction phase. Today, Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Kelly, and DDC Commissioner Burney broke ground on the Rafael Vinoly-designed 121st Precinct Stationhouse, which was unveiled in last year. It will be the first police station built on Staten Island since 1962, and the first in the city to be built under the 2030 sustainable design initiative. The project is expected to earn a LEED Silver rating and to be completed in 2012. See a rendering after the jump.
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Terminal B
Today, The Port Authority awarded a $59.8 million contract to a New Jersey construction company to complete the next phase of work in an ongoing project to modernize Newark Airport's Terminal B. VRH Construction Corp. of Englewood got the job of installing new check-in counters, baggage handling systems, and airline offices for domestic departures in an old baggage claim area on the lower level. The Port Authority, whose architectural office conducted the design work, is spending $324.6 million in the overall project to enlarge the terminal to make way for an increase in passengers, and expects the modernizations to be completed in 2012.
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Our Academy Awards
Or so they like to say, when referring to the Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Awards, or more accurately, the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum’s National Design Awards.  And that’s exactly what it was like: a little too much of a mouthful of an event. But it was also an undeniably bounteous banquet of everyone Who’s a Who in architecture and design of all stripes. The party was held last night not in the backyard tent as of old, but in the marbled bank hall palace of Cipriani 42nd Street. The stars were all out and too many to name as this year the museum was also celebrating its tenth year anniversary for the awards.  Herding everyone to table was not easy but a hush spread as gala chair Richard Meier passed the podium to Desiree Rogers, the White House social secretary who expounded on our nation’s children and the great role modeling that designers/architects could provide.  Everyone was impressed with themselves as next up was broadcast princess Paula Zahn, the evening’s tirelessly beaming emcee. And for the next three hours great awards were dished out (along with some seriously thick slabs of prime beef) to the very deserving and, among them, our especial friends SHoP Architects (winsomely introduced by Reed Kroloff) who received the Architecture Design Award; Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown (nicely roasted by Rodolfo Machado and Jorge Silvetti who recalled days when the four sculpted the great women’s hairdos of the 20th Century in the Long Island sands) who received the Interior Design Award; Constantin and Laurene Boym who gamely shared the mic just like Julia Roberts and Clive Owens might at the real Academy Awards; and Walter Hood of HOOD Design whose urban landscapes we want to know much more about. As often happens at the Design Awards, the presenters outshone the winners in matters only of sheer star dust: Chuck Close presented the Corporate Award to the Walker Art Center (the first museum ever to get one); John Waters riffed hilariously through the Boym’s disaster building paperweights; actress Eva Longoria had trouble with the teleprompter (everyone else handled their 4x5s or 8x11s adroitly enough) when awarding Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein the Fashion Award; Charlie Rose was so smooth I have forgotten which award he presented, but Armory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute was surely the bravest and coolest of them all when he bared his Pocket Protector & Pens when accepting the Design Mind Award for among very many other things, his Passive-solar Banana Farm.
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Eavesdrop NY 17
HAPPY B-DAY, MR. ARCHITECT On October 12, Richard Meier turned 75. His birthday bash for 150 was held that night at the Four Seasons, or rather under a white tent on Park Avenue alongside the Seagram Building fountains. Eavesdrop didn’t find anyone on the B-List who was invited, but all the A’s were there including Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, David Rockwell, Robert A.M. Stern, City Planning Commission chair Amanda Burden with TV talker Charlie Rose, and President of the American Academy in Rome Adele Chatfield-Taylor with playwright John Guare. A Meier follower tells us that his 50th was held at his duplex on East 72nd Street, where he raised eyebrows by exiling his mother to a far corner of the room, while putting Burden on his right. Interior designer Rose Tarlow hosted his 60th birthday on the tennis court of the house he designed for Norman and Lisette Ackerberg in Malibu. This time, he was sent into his fourth quarter of a century by daughter Ana, who arranged everything in no-surprise white. No roasts among the toasts made by family and friends, with Meier himself going only slightly off-color in his effusive compliments to his lovely offspring. The cake was a layered white slab. ET TU, GUY? Buried but not deep enough for our eagle eyes is this passage in the October issue of literary journal The Believer, from an engaging interview with Guy Nordenson: “Frank Gehry’s relationship to engineering and construction says: the cruder the better. You visit the Disney Concert Hall and, in the office of the musical director, there’s this gigantic gusset plate that’s part of one of the trusses in the system. It’s exposed and fire-protected. One of the architects who worked on the project described it to me as a train crash in a room. It’s monumentally messy.” TURNING THE PAIGE It’s that time of the month again when bets are placed in showrooms across the nation. What is the future of Paige Rense and, for that matter, Architectural Digest? Authoritative rumor has it that AD’s eons-long editrix has been told she’s out at the end of the year. One shelter magazine editor-in-chief reports having been interviewed and insists that Condé Nast is going through the usual suspects one by one. We’re guessing that’s Deborah Needleman, editor-in-chief of defunct Domino; Stephen Drucker of House Beautiful; and Margaret Russell, the editor-in-chief of Elle Décor. But La Rense is not likely to shuffle off quietly. According to a prominent designer, she recently arranged a skit to impress bosses Si Newhouse and Chuck Townsend. Honorees on her coveted AD 100 list gave testimony to a group of advertisers that AD is still the number one shelter magazine in the world and that, hard times notwithstanding, they should continue to buy pages. Take away? Paige is essential to Si’s ongoing health and wealth. Another source says that Si only makes major personnel changes twice a year—right after Labor Day and right after New Year’s. Look for the other Louboutin to drop around January 2, 2010. Send engineering tips and ad pages shart@archpaper.com. A version of this article appeared in AN 17_10.21.2009.
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Google Goes to Governors Island
Among the revelations in Nick Paumgarten's recent meandering piece for The New Yorker was that the designs for the park had actually been completed months ago and are under lock-and-key within the former Coast Guard grounds, awaiting the stabilization of Albany—sometime in 2012, perhaps?—for a proper unveiling. The other piece of news that struck us was that Leslie Koch, the director of GIPEC who had fought to have the island put back on maps it had been excised from decades prior, had gone so far as to convince the notorious Google Street View car to come over to the island so people could explore the place inside-out, in-season and out. (The park closes the second weekend of October.) Well, upon reading The New Yorker story, we went online to see for ourselves, but were dismayed that the magazine's vaunted fact-checking department had somehow let us down. Turns out that wasn't exactly the case. Thanks to Curbed, we were alerted to the fact that the Google car had indeed been on the island, as the picture above from the Governors Island Blog proves. The actual Street View did not go online until yesterday, though. Check it out for yourselves, and while you're there, see if you cant turn up some of those models of the new park.
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All Planning Is Local
One of the roles played by the city's 59 community boards—besides issuing liquor licenses—is to oversee local planning issues, and while the input of the board is only advisory, it tends to weigh in the decision making of the City Planning Commission (as was the case at Hudson Yards earlier this week) and the City Council. The only problem is, the boards have no professional planners on staff. Manhattan has been blessed with a great deal of help the past three years, however, thanks to a fellowship program begun by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and today he announced it will hopefully be expanding to the entire city by next year. Stringer is no stranger to the plight of the community boards, as he joined his when he was still a teenager, and empowering the boards has been a central issue on his agenda. (Like the boards, the borough president's job is as much advocacy and ceremony as it is real executive power, at least since the dissolution of the Board of Estimates in 1989.) Upon taking office in 2006, Stringer launched his Planning Fellowship Program to help place planning students from the surrounding universities—Pratt, Columbia, Hunter, City College, Rutgers, NYU, and the New School—with the 12 community boards in Manhattan. While their work was part time, they helped out with technical challenges, research, and special projects that even the boards' land-use experts struggled with or lacked the time to execute, as highlighted in a story we wrote the following year. This year, two Brooklyn boards—Fort Greene and Park Slope—have picked up fellows, and Stringer, with the backing of the Bloomberg administration, which controls his and the boards' budgets, said today at a press conference that he hopes to have fellows in every board in all five boroughs by the start of the next academic year. Starting this year, the program is no longer run out of the planning department of his office but at Hunter College, which has been the lead partner on it since day one. "With all that my office has accomplished since becoming Borough President, I can honestly say that the Community Planning Fellowship Program is one of our proudest achievements to date," Stringer said in a release. "Not only has the Program focused new attention on what should be the primary role of community boards—neighborhood-based planning—but it has also helped shift the focus of a new generation of professional urban planners toward a real understanding of how community members, local government and land use experts interact and engage in discussions about the future shape of our city." And while we're happy the hear the program is expanding, it can't happen fast enough. After all, just look at the areas being served—Manhattan and two of Brooklyn's toniest neighborhoods—and it becomes clear that those boards still in need of the most help have yet to receive it.
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Visit the Haunted iMuseum
Perhaps it's just a reflection of the post-bubble zeitgeist, but there's been much ado lately about the Museum of the Phantom City app for the iPhone, from BLDG BLOG to Urban Omnibus all the way up to the Times. Admittedly, who doesn't love a nice iPhone app (not that we would know personally...) especially one that allows you to navigate the city that could have been—at least if architect's ruled the world—in real time and space. Developed by the two-man firm of Cheng+Snyder as part of the Van Alen Institute's New York Prize fellowship, the app uses the phone as a tracker to pinpoint unrealized projects, usually of a highly theoretical persuasion—John Johansen's Leapfrog Housing, Michael Sorkin's Brooklyn Waterfront, THINK's World Trade Center proposal. If this all sounds terribly confusing, either download the app yourself, or better yet, meet up with Chen and Snyder in Bryant Park from 2:00-4:00 on the phantasmagorically appropriate day of October 31, where they'll give a full tour of the museum, so to speak.
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Bowled Over by Bronx Architecture
The Bronx isn't exactly known for its architecture, excepting maybe the Grand Concourse, but the Lehman College Art Gallery is hoping to change that perception with a new and very impressive website chronicling the borough's vast architectural heritage. (The gallery happens to be located in one of those hidden treasures, a campus building that was Marcel Breuer's first project in the city.) The site, called simply Bronx Architecture, chronicles some 75 notable buildings scattered about the borough, ranging from the notable (the Bronx County Building, the Hall of Justice, the Kingsbridge Armory, new Yankee Stadium) to the obscure (Villa Charlotte Bronte, the Institute for Special Education, Williamsbridge Reservoir Keeper’s House). The site also contains thorough biographies of the architects behind these buildings, as well as profiles of 35 Bronx neighborhoods, walking tours, maps, teachers' guides, and—in case there was any doubt in Bronx Architecture's authority—a bibliography of 55 sources. It's a remarkable enterprise, and arguably unmatched in scope and style by anything in the other four boroughs, though it does have a predecessor: the gallery launched a similar site surveying the Bronx's public art in 2003. Should you be impressed enough to toast those behind Bronx Architecture, swing by the gallery tonight to celebrate its 25th anniversary, its current show, and the launching of the site. To which we say, "Cheers!"
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Chiofaro Chopped
The news out of Boston this morning is that developer Don Chiofaro has bowed to community opposition (pun intended?) and will reduce the height of his harborside Boston Arch tower complex, designed by KPF. Formerly at 1.5 million square feet, the building will shave off 10 to 15 percent of its bulk, including the loss of the distinctive "skyframe" that gave it its name. The frame, which rose to 780 feet, is gone, leaving the towers behind, also at reduced heights. The slenderer residential and hotel tower will now rise to 625 feet, instead of 690, a Chiofaro representative told us today, and the 560-foot office tower will also shrink. Final designs are still in the works. Not to say we didn't see this coming. Indeed, when we first wrote about the tower back in June, we expected as much:
Then again, this is how most real estate deals get done: propose the most extreme possible project, and work down from there. Chiofaro said he had toiled for months on getting the project just right, revising its scale, composition, and components. “The geometry of the buildings begins to be set specifically by what goes inside of them and what we’re trying to achieve on the ground,” Chiofaro told AN. [...] The only problem was that against the skyline, the two towers looked somewhat muddled, which is how the arch was conceived. “Not only does it create an icon, a real gateway,” said Andrew Klare, an associate principal at KPF, “but with that addition, it actually makes the scale break down.”
According to Chiofaro, the height reductions were provoked by Massport, which oversees the airport and apparently did not feel safe with anything taller than 625 feet near the Logan approach, and thus the reduction. But could it also be that the arch was originally conceived as a folly to make the building look taller than it actually is, only to be cast aside later to assuage the concerns of the community? When we suggested as much, Chiofaro's people demurred. Now we're left with two stepped towers with some sort of retail base—not unlike Chiofaro's first major success, the nearby International Place, designed by Philip Johnson. And now, onto round two, as we wait to hear from the BRA on its Greenway study, which was advocating for something in the 400-foot range at the extreme.