All posts in East

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Kids Build Massive Model of the High Line
Children from a school in the West Village love the High Line and they have a giant model to prove it.  Carol Levitt's second grade starchitects-in-training recently finished their wood-block coup de grâce detailing the story of the famed elevated park - past and present. The model shows the transition from railroad line in the 1930s to abandoned field of weeds (featuring actual plants) to the High Line we know today. The kids paid extra attention to detail and demonstrated engineering prowess with structures spanning the High Line, including a tin foil Standard Hotel. Other landmarks in the model include the Chelsea Market and Pastis (maybe the only time you won't have an excruciating wait for a table).
"The children in my group feel as if the High Line somehow belongs to them," Carol says, "They joyfully take their parents, grandparents, and friends of all ages to the High Line and tell them the story. The children followed the approval of the Rail Yards with cheers. How extraordinary that they studied the High Line as it grew and will continue to grow. They see themselves as being the future of the High Line—which they will indeed be."
Looks like the High Line will be in good hands for years to come!  [ Via High Line Blog. ]
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Architects Do Double Duty As Set Designers

Aging is a universal theme. ANCHISES, a new performance premiering at the Abrons Arts Center in New York tonight, explores that amid a striking set from design firm Harrison Atelier (HAt), who are also billed as co-collaborators with choreographer Jonah Bokaer. Central to this latest version of the Greek myth is Anchises' struggle to salvage memories from the burning city of Troy. This is reflected in the set design, where, according to HAt's website, "the set creates an environment that scripts the dance." Blocks, representing both the old and new city, are a central part of this multi-generational performance, and a recent New York Times review championed their use of medical tubing to subtly hint at the struggle of growing old.
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Potential Pyramid Scheme in DUMBO
Is NYC's next architectural adventure shaped like a pyramid? Maybe, if one of the groups competing for usage space in Brooklyn's historic Tobacco Warehouse has its way. The recently stabilized structure  is currently under the purview of the powers-that-be at the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, which sees the Warehouse as "most compelling public spaces" in the city's quest to spruce up the Brooklyn waterfront. Our friends at Curbed have some renderings of what dance and theater troupe LAVA would like to do if they win the great space race for this (currently) roofless brick structure that seems to sidle up next to the Brooklyn Bridge. This blogger has to wonder if it's less a pyramid and more a volcano (LAVA... volcano... get it?) Meanwhile, contestant #2, the DUMBO-based theater group St. Ann's Warehouse, has more a conventional, but potentially more contextually palatable, idea of what they'd like a revamped Tobacco Warehouse to look like.

Despite an appeal by former Partridge Family star and 1970s teen idol Susan Dey to send the contract out for re-bidding at Monday's tempestuous public meeting, the folks at Curbed are putting their money on St. Ann's to win the conditional designation sometime soon. (Leave us your predictions in the comments section below.)

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Rudolph's New York Home Passes Landmark Test
The latest Upper East Side landmark isn't another of its signature rowhouses, but rather what's atop one of those brownstones.  Yesterday, the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved landmark status for mid-century architect Paul Rudolph's less-than-context-sensitive home at 23 Beekman Place. Rudolph moved into the 4-story on which the addition sits in 1961 and added his three-story design in 1977, modifying the house throughout his life.  Located between East 50th and 51st Street, 23 Beekman Place has been moving through the landmark process for over a year, and its approval marks an emerging phase in historic preservation. Now that many examples of modern architecture are getting older, they are becoming fair game for landmark protection, a notion the New York Observer says can sometimes be full of contradiction:
And yet there remains a certain alienness to a building like 23 Beekman. In a way, it is an oxymoron, a cancer atop a truly "historic building." The very idea of a modern landmark is itself a contradiction in terms because modernism sought to wipe away history. Consider Robert Moses, Le Corbusier, even Rudolph, all trying to eradicate history, to defeat nature, end poverty and blight, addressing all of the world's ills through their work. Where better to recognize this tension than a building with such a clearly split personality? And yet all of that Utopian zeal failed as much as it succeeded, so much so that many of the buildings it left behind are now unloved, even hated. This makes modernist preservation all the more essential and immediate. Not only have these buildings-beyond-time themselves aged (some quite severely), but they have become examples of architectural idealism, experimentation, and failure. Thus they are something to be saved, even as they sought to wipe out their forebears.
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A Sculpture By Any Other Name. . .
Haters of kitsch rejoice!  No longer will visitors to the New Museum be greeted by Ugo Rondinone’s glowing, rainbow affirmation.  Hell, Yes! has been replaced as part of the museum’s ongoing Façade Sculpture Program.  In its place, Rose II, a far subtler work by German artist Isa Genzken.  Growing from the first tier of SANAA’s ethereal Bowery building, the sculpture, a 28-foot tall rose, was created in 1993 and reprised in 2007. The New Museum describes Genzken as “an artist whose work re-imagines architecture, assemblage, and installation, giving form to new plastic environments and precarious structures.”  Her art “draws on the legacies of Constructivism and Minimalism and often involves a critical open dialogue with Modernist Architecture.”  In this respect she will likely be considered a pleasant successor to Ugo Rondinone, whose Hell, Yes! garnered less than favorable reviews when the New Museum opened in December 2007. Though she lives and works in Berlin, Genzken formed a lasting bond with New York when she first visited as a student forty years ago.  Rose II, her first public work in the United States, is on extended loan from the David Zwirner Gallery, New York, and will be on view through 2011.
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MEKA Goes Modular with West Village Eco-Home
On the corner of Washington and Charles streets in Greenwich Village, a modular home has been plopped down in a vacant parking lot. It may seem an unlikely sight—or site for that matter—but what distinguishes this home from most of its tony neighbors is its eye-catching price tag: $35,000. MEKA Modular Homes founder Michael de Jong came up with the idea of offering inexpensive yet smartly designed units via the Internet, and engaged Jason Halter and Christos Marcopoulous of Toronto-based Studio (n-1) to create them. Another partner, Stephen Do, oversees the manufacturing in Ningbo, China. The units are built utilizing standard shipping containers, and several original features are maintained once horizontal cedar strips are faceted onto the exterior, including industrial doors and a few ship-metal gray accents. Elsewhere, bamboo covers the interior floors, walls, and ceiling. Brushed stainless steel meets tangerine cabinets, and natural light floods the 320-square-foot space through a floor-to-ceiling window that opens onto a collapsible deck. The homes arrive on site 95 percent complete. It’s possible to configure the units in any number of ways, creating courtyards, cantilevering one on top of another, or expanding them up to 1,920 square feet. As the entire container is utilized, the structure can withstand hurricane-strength winds. The reuse of shipping containers remains part of a long-running trend, but the firm hopes to distinguish itself by streamlining the process, keeping costs down and the design standards high. “All the owner needs is a screwdriver and a hammer,” Marcopoulous said during a tour of the show unit yesterday, which is open for public perusal through mid-December. He allowed that an electrician and plumber would be advisable to bring the unit onto the grid, as well as to hook up kitchen appliances, like a stove and refrigerator, which are not included in the price. Solar power and water-retention options are available to those who want to remain off the grid. The entire installation should take no more than five days. Asked if the low cost could hold makings of Levittown sprawl without the planning, Marcopoulous responded that owners still need local building permits. “I don’t think we’d cause a huge problem in the Midwest. Even if a lot of these were assembled, I think it would make a great neighborhood,” he said. Interest has been swift, with the first two units sold before yesterday’s opening. A few may even be moving in next door: Marcopoulous said that artist Julian Schnabel is considering hoisting a couple of them atop his nearby palazzo.
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Have Your Say On the Future of the BQE Monday Evening
It's not too late to join community leaders from the Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Columbia Street Waterfront neighborhoods along with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to discuss the future of the Bronx-Queens Expressway.  The third and final BQE Community Design Workshop takes place this evening and will cover refined designed proposals aimed to reconnect areas surrounding the urban expressway. Act quickly, as the final Community Design Workshop takes place this evening from 6:30PM until 8:30PM at the Long Island College Hospital (LICH), Avram Conference Center, Rooms A and B located at 339 Hicks Street in Brooklyn.  Attendance is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is requested at BQE@nycedc.com. Among topics to be discussed are noise reduction, pollution mitigation, beautification, connectivity, and pedestrian safety.  The BQE Enhancement project target area is bounded by Hamilton Avenue and Atlantic Avenue and is planned to be built in the next five to ten years.
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Gehry Gets Frank With Pratt Students
Famed architect Frank Gehry enthralled a packed auditorium of students and community members at Pratt Institute yesterday afteroon. Speaking with The Architect's Newspaper’s own executive editor Julie V. Iovine and Yael Reisner, author of Architecture and Beauty: Conversations with Architects about a Troubled Relationship, Gehry reminded the budding architects in the audience that his job involves more than just sitting around and creating curvy buildings from crumpled paper--it’s about delivering a finished product to a client, albeit a unique one. Though creativity and the language of the architectural past are not absent from Gehry’s design equation, the architect admitted that he’s often driven by the desire to not repeat what’s already been done. He also feels that it’s important to recognize that inspiration can come from many different places, and that it’s good to “grab ideas as you can get them.” For Gehry, this happens to include the Talmud--studying the age-old Jewish texts is where Gehry learned to ask “why?”, and where he learned that questioning the status quo was okay. Architecturally, that translated into asking himself why chain link fence is considered by many to be a "throwaway" material and made him wonder how he might use it--a move that worked out pretty well for the architect. Sometimes a little tweak can make a building distinctive, like the new 8 Spruce Street building (formerly known as Beekman Tower) in Lower Manhattan. Gehry said that the only change he made from the typical New York City apartment pro-forma was that many of the apartments will have bay windows--a feature often found in historic buildings on the Upper West Side--and that those bay windows help give the skyscraper its distinctive shape.

Taking his audience into account, Gehry reminded the students that they have to understand and accept the practicalities of being a working architect: “Be real about your responsibilities,” he said, even if you don’t like them. In light of that, Gehry's most important lesson of all for those in the audience was, “Be yourself, and you’ll like what you do.” When a student in the audience asked a question about materials, Gehry said that he doesn’t necessarily begin a project with materials in mind, but he does like to explore material possibilities (an agenda also promoted by the lecture's sponsors, the Steel and Ornamental Metal Institutes of New York). He also pointed out that aesthetics can relate to budget, and that he often uses what’s available because he still has to deliver a finished product to his client. He was honest about the realities of the job; the everyday stuff one doesn’t always hear architects of this caliber mention--the budget, the client, and that client’s agenda; the construction managers and their often-changing crews; and the cost per square foot (Bilbao came in at $300 per square foot, surprising many in the audience). Despite all of those difficulties, Gehry showed that there is still evidence of all the things that architecture can be--beautiful, awe-inspiring, majestic, and sometimes even formidable--around us every day.
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Foamly Footed
More cave-itecture under the High Line.  Architecture firm Leong Leong and fashion designer Siki Im have teamed up for the fifth and final installation in the Building Fashion series of pop-up collaborations beneath Chelsea’s High Line Park.  Picking up where Snarkitecture and Richard Chai left off, Leong Leong has turned the former Sales Tin for Neil Denari’s HL23 condos into another amorphous cave-like interior—only now you’ll have to take off your shoes before entering.  “We wanted to radically transform the interior,” explained principal Chris Leong.  “We wanted to breakdown the traditional pop-up experience.”  To do this, the firm oriented the store around a parabolic, foam-covered ramp and hung clothes seemingly at random from the walls and ceiling, which were sculpted with the same soy-based spray-foam. Leong Leong, a winner of the AIA’s 2010 New Practices New York Competition, is no stranger to the fashion world.  The New York firm has designed stores for Phillip Lim and Opening Ceremony in New York, Los Angeles and Seoul.  The Siki Im pop-up is located at 504 West 24th Street and will remain open through November 15. More photos available from BOFFO.
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The Taxman Cometh for Moss - UPDATED
UPDATE — November 10, 2010 — The good news is Moss reopened today after resolving a reported tax bill of around $150,000. It seems that for now the store is safe. The bad news is your credit card may not be. "Design Hates a Depression"—that was the verdict delivered by Murray Moss, owner of the eponymous store and gallery space in Soho, at the beginning of last year. It seems that he was right. As of Friday morning, the store had been seized for nonpayment of taxes. For now, the arbiter of design retail in NYC and beyond is the property of the State of New York. A visit to the store this morning found the shop shuttered, with this notice on the door: A source working with the company to procure some pieces from its warehouse for an upcoming exhibition told AN that the facility had also been shut down. Moss foreshadowed his own troubles in his response to Michael Cannell's argument that, in fact, "Design Loves a Depression," and benefits from the stresses placed on it during hard times:
"Design tends to thrive in hard times," says Mr. Cannell. No, it doesn't. It tends to suffer, like any of the other humanistic disciplines. New ideas do not get championed or realized. Leadership turns to market-driven accommodation.
Whichever side of the fence you're on, Moss has been a staple of the design community for more than 15 years, and according to the owner, will remain on Greene Street for many more. In response to a request for comment on whether the company was facing bankruptcy, Moss replied in an email: "100% NOT TRUE! Will send letter to you shortly ... but we're not going anywhere...!" Stay tuned: We will post the letter as soon as we receive it. UPDATE Here's an email Moss and partner Franklin Getchell sent to AN and other contacts a little after noon today:
Quick note to our friends and colleagues from Franklin Getchell and Murray Moss, MOSS, NY, re: all is ok: As explained to us yesterday, mid-day, during an unexpected visit by officials from the NY State Tax Department, due to our failure to file a document (one of literally hundreds!) with the Department, an official, non-negotiable ‘procedure’ was triggered, whereby Moss was required to temporarily close. Our tax advisors, lawyers, and accountant have been great, working throughout the evening and morning to satisfy this State bureaucratic situation (which escalates 10-fold once the ‘procedure’ has been implemented); we believe we can get them all the documents they need within today, and re-open, if not tomorrow, then hopefully by Monday. We are of course embarrassed and a bit shaken (it’s not a fun moment when the State officials arrive…), but are at least grateful that the problem is in fact bureaucratic, and that we have resources in place, and that the problem can be remedied quickly (although at the State’s ‘pace’….). Because we’ve all been in dialogue, we know that many of you, like Moss, during the severe economic downturn of the past two years, in addition to possibly downsizing where logical, until growth is again possible, have entered into negotiations with various business partners, as well as the State, to arrive at mutually acceptable financial arrangements which make sense and allow for a stable, doable plan going forward. We have put financing in place, adjusted our overhead, and re-evaluated our projections, and are ready to go forward. This is to re-iterate to our friends: we are, in short, ok. And in two weeks we will begin to install what we believe will be a fabulous Holiday offering. That’s it! Sorry for the inconvenience; thank you for your concern and love and support. Franklin and Murray
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Zero Energy Red Hook Green Gets Zero Help From City
Red Hook Green gets a red light from the NYC Department of Buildings.  Brooklyn's touted "brownstone of the future" is up against the ropes after a zoning decision ruled the mixed-use building cannot proceed as planned.  Jay Amato's ultra-sustainable, shipping-container chic Red Hook Green was denied its proposed accessory residential use on industrially zoned land, officially throwing the entire project into limbo. Designed by Garrison Architects, Red Hook Green was to be a model of sustainability in the Brooklyn neighborhood.  The 4,000 square foot net-zero-energy structure would have provided live-work space with an array of green technologies including a solar car charging station, photovoltaic panels, and an ultra-insulated building envelope. It was that residential component that ran Red Hook Green afoul with the DOB.  By law, the accessory residence cannot exceed 15 percent of the building's gross area - and in fact the space in question only comprised 12 percent of the total area - but the city saw the entire structure as too small to warrant such a space to begin with.  Amato shares the latest on the RHG blog:
As of yesterday, my dream of building the first net Zero-Energy work live building in Brooklyn seems to be officially DEAD! ... I was advised that given my particular use, I could  make an “M” zoned plot work.  What that means is that given the majority of my structure was to be dedicated to commercial use, the living quarters would be an ‘accessory’ to the true function of the building.  Therefore we would request the building department grant us permission to live in what would is called a “caretakers apartment”, which would be incidental to it’s primary use.
The Brooklyn Paper spoke with the architect about the current state of Red Hook:
Garrison saw his defeat as part of an ongoing conflict in Red Hook between residential and manufacturing. “It’s been a battleground,” Garrison said because industrial businesses do not want Red Hook to become residential. So Garrison’s lot remains zoned for manufacturing, even though it is actually too small to be used for anything except residential. “Common sense is not prevailing here,” Garrison said.
Red Hook blog A View from the Hook shares this sentiment, pointing out that the lot where the project was to be built is next to two residential structures. We'll see how Amato proceeds from here.  Three options he's considering - redefine the project as an office building, file for a zoning variance with its requisite costs and delays, or scrap the site and begin anew somewhere else - will surely add time, cost, and frustration to the already ambitious project.
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Dan Rockhill, Straight Outta Kansas
Dan Rockhill is best-known in New York as the design father of Studio 804 at the University of Kansas, where he teaches. The studio is among the most successful in the country at actually creating high-quality, sustainable, and LEED-certified buildings produced and built by students. Not only has the studio won many “green” awards for their design-build structures, but they are notable for their high design standards—unusual in sustainability studios. New Yorkers will get a glimpse of the studio’s pathbreaking work on Wednesday, November 10 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., when Rockhill delivers a lecture at the Dom showroom at 66 Crosby Street. In addition to showing the work from Studio 804, Rockhill will present his own work that is, as he says, “tightly bound to the natural milieu and culture of the Kansas region.” This means, I suppose, that the work does not have the architectural flamboyance of Rural Studio, but, befitting the context of its Midwest roots, is more spartan. Rockhill is an architect who works at the highest design level, but always within the local vernacular of substantiality. He rarely speaks in New York, so don’t miss this special night in Soho—you can RSVP here. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres will follow the lecture, which starts at 7:00 p.m. and is co-sponsored by The Architect’s Newspaper and the Center for Architecture.