All posts in East

Placeholder Alt Text

It's a Matter of Trust

Joe Mizzi
Today, building is not just about adding one material to another in accordance to a blueprint. It is an exponentially more complex three-dimensional chess game played by a team of sibling experts across related fields. And things can get complicated. Sciame Construction Company has constructed buildings with the world’s leading architects, but Sciame president Joe Mizzi believes the collaboration could be even closer and better with the help of IPD. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a topic that seems to be buzzing in the design community. Even seasoned architects who have built worldwide using numerous project delivery methods seem anxious to discuss the IPD option and its potential in today’s marketplace. While there is a lot to recommend about IPD, much about it remains scary for many architects and construction managers because it will require us to engage in levels of trust and codependence associated more often with long-term marriages than the building of buildings. That said, we should take the leap. Basically, IPD is a project delivery approach in which the owner, architect, and construction manager collaborate extensively from early design through project turnover using Building Information Modeling (BIM) as a tool to support the process. IPD was introduced formally in the U.S. several years ago by the American Institute of Architects and represents a radical departure from the more traditional project delivery methods currently in use by architects and construction managers today. The AIA’s Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide outlines the principles of Integrated Project Delivery as mutual respect and trust, mutual benefit and reward, collaborative innovation and decision making, early involvement of key participants, early goal definition, intensified planning, open communication, appropriate technology, and organization and leadership. Some see this approach as wonderful in concept, but in reality very complicated. Even if it works, however, the question remains: Can IPD significantly improve the way architects and construction managers now build buildings? We think it can. More specifically, having discussed this approach with many of the architects we work with—but having utilized only certain aspects of IPD in practice—we are cautiously optimistic here at Sciame that under the right circumstances, IPD offers a real opportunity to deliver high quality buildings faster and more cost efficiently by maintaining and expanding on the collaborative approach that a proper construction management process affords. There are two primary factors that make IPD possible and that can (and will) radically change the design and construction process. First, IPD puts forward an entirely new contractual framework that has the project team (owner, architect, consultants, construction manager, and subcontractors) working under one contract. In principle, all parties are willing to waive certain rights and accept certain risks, and therefore absent the threat of litigation, the team can operate more effectively and efficiently to eliminate redundancies and deliver higher quality buildings in a shorter amount of time. By agreeing to share and manage risk together as opposed to transferring risk to other areas of the project (such as large contingencies), we can potentially generate significant cost savings. Using risk-reward models, such savings can be shared among the team that assumed the risk. But the concept of risk-sharing and mutual trust among owners, architects, and construction managers does not necessarily come easily and barriers still exist. As such, developing mutual trust and aligned interest among firms and individuals alike is perhaps one of the biggest challenges we will face in trying to fully implement a successful IPD project. Secondly, Building Information Modeling (BIM), if used to its full potential, can allow for a more efficient and collaborative design and construction process. With the construction manager, architect, consultants, subcontractors, and owner sharing a data-rich 3-D model, a real-time exchange of ideas and data can occur, bringing deep and meaningful progress on the design in faster time. Through the use of IPD, architects and construction managers can work more closely together using their respective strengths and skills, while shedding certain costs through more efficient staffing and a shared assignment of responsibilities across the team. However, in this arrangement it will be critical for construction managers to be productive early on during the planning phases (right now, for many construction managers, the pre-construction phase serves as a loss leader), while architects will be able to reduce costs on the tail end instead of seeing significant portions of their fee being used to perform construction administration services. Once architects and construction managers make significant progress in these areas, a compression of the design and building process will follow, making for real cost savings for all. IPD can help avoid repetitive value engineering, one of the nagging realities architects, owners, and construction managers experience on projects today, causing lengthy and costly redesign and recoordination work that can delay projects and increase costs in other areas, for instance, through escalation. And everyone would like to see an end to “defensive detailing,” the practice of adding details on drawings simply to avoid change orders and claims. Defensive detailing is counterproductive, inefficient, and takes away from innovative solutions. IPD seeks to eliminate this. Like any new approach, concerns exist. Should architects be worried that certain elements of their traditional approach to the design process will be hampered? Does IPD make sense on all projects or are there limiting factors? On the legal front, can acceptable business terms be developed to satisfy all parties within the framework of IPD’s underlying principles? Will certain firms be at a disadvantage in the marketplace if they cannot fully adapt to the changes imposed by this process? We believe these concerns are worth exploring and are not insurmountable. Clearly, a first step is establishing relationships with those you can trust and with whom a full collaboration feels comfortable. We are ready to go that distance and look forward to successfully completing a project using IPD. Joseph Mizzi is President of the F.J. Sciame Construction Company.

Hidden In Plain Site
Curbed LA points us to a new video series by VBS.tv exploring the unexplored nooks and crannies of the country called Uneven Terrains. And like all things carrying the Vice label, the web series is populated by airy hipsters with a certain indifference, and yet sometimes they turn up some really cool stuff. Case in point: the hidden oil wells of LA, including in Beverly Center mall and a nearby high school. Our pal Dakota wonders how the parents ("Won't you please think of the children!") could let such a thing happen, but given oil prices, how couldn't you? After the jump, you can check out the "ruins" of New York—been there, done that—and our favorite, the Missile Silo home—most silos have been decommissioned, and many have been privatized[!!!]. They're perfect for any fan of urban exploration and cutting edge music.
Placeholder Alt Text

Focal Points
In the late 1960s, the New York architect Stan Ries was consulting on design and photography for the art nouveau exhibit Hector Guimard at the Museum of Modern Art, when the director approached him with an unusual opportunity to photograph the entire design collection. Given two days to decide between architecture and photography as a career, he chose the latter. “With photography, the creative cycle is much shorter, and you don’t have to have a client,” he said. “I can make the photograph and I can suit myself.” Since that time, Ries has amassed architectural photographs from nearly three dozen renowned artists, among them Ansel Adams, Julius Shulman, Margaret Bourke-White, and Martin Rich. Over 70 pieces from his unique collection can be seen in the exhibition Architectural Photography: from 1860 to the Present at Carrie Haddad Photographs in Hudson, New York, on view through November 29. The works on display have helped Ries sharpen his own eye behind the lens. Photographs from Ries’ collection range from English cathedrals to American skyscrapers, from antiquated architectural relics to minimalist interiors. They explore how the two-dimensional photograph captures three-dimensional structure through light, angle, and proportion. Paraphrasing the great architectural photographer Robert Lautman, Ries said the two most important things about architectural photography are knowing where to stand with your camera, and what time to stand there. “Architectural photographers do a lot of ‘hurry up and wait,’” he said. “The most interesting thing I discovered was that the earliest photographers were doing that too. The people that shot in the 19th century—there’s about 15 mid-19th century pictures in the exhibit, and they were not the straight-on Cathedral of Notre Dame,” he said. At the same time, his collection includes work such as David Trautrimas’ surrealist compositions of household appliances as architecture. “It’s the complete opposite of the 19th-century photography, which is what appealed to me about it,” said Ries. The exhibition also contains supplementary art such as the seven- and eight-foot-tall steel columns used in sculptor-photographer John Cross’ photos of ancient ruins. For Ries, architectural photography succeeds when it avoids two issues: generic subjects, too often prominent in travel photography; and poor framing, a symptom of content-driven street photography. “There’s a sense of design and there’s something very interesting going on in the composition. And I particularly like things that are not, how should I say, typical elevation photographs of a building,” he said. “You see the thing, and it has to grab you.” Ries will be present at Carrie Haddad Photographs this Saturday, November 14, at 4 p.m., when photographer Norman McGrath will speak about his newly released book, Architectural Photography: Professional Techniques for Shooting Interior and Exterior Spaces. Featured photographers Richard Edelman, Harry Wilks, Chad Kleitsch, and Martin Rich will also be in attendance.
Placeholder Alt Text

Free Design Help
Design has a strong history of pro bono work, from affordable housing to electioneering, and during these tough times, a helping hand can be especially appreciated. With that in mind, more than a dozen design firms and affiliates from New York are offering their services to those in the community in need as part of a new program called DesigNYC. With the goal of creating "a better New York by design," the group is currently seeking applicants by the end of the month for help solving a design challenge. Any design problem will do, and the only requirements is that an applicant be a not-for-profit organization located in New York and game for undertaking a collaborative design process. All design work will be free, though there may be costs associated with implimenting the design solutions. Following the November 30 deadline, the designers will have winnowed down finalists by mid-December, and the whole thing should be underway by the start of next year. Inspired by the service iniatives of the President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg, the ultimate goal is to create a collaborative design network where anyone can come to offer their services or seek out design help. Best of luck to all applicants and to the program as a whole. Those leading the way are: * Paola Antonelli, Museum of Modern Art * Karen Auster, Auster*Agency / BKLYN DESIGNS * Deborah Berke, Deborah Berke & Partners Architects * Maddy Burke-Vigeland, Gensler * James Biber, Pentagram * Majora Carter, Majora Carter Group * Gideon D'Arcangelo, ESI Design * Sona Hacherian, New York Magazine * Steven Heller, School of Visual Arts * Wendy Goodman, New York Magazine * Zack McKown, Tsao & McKown Architects * Michelle Mullineaux, ESI Design * Margie Ruddick, Margie Ruddick Landscape * Clay Shirky, New York University, ITP * Ed Schlossberg, ESI Design * Lauren Yarmuth, YRG Sustainability Consultants
Placeholder Alt Text

Thrice As Smelly
On Monday, we reported on the Bloomberg administration's continued vociferous resistance to Superfund listing for the Gowanus Canal. While the main complaint by the mayor was that the Superfund stigma would poison the area for development for decades to come, we did not mention—at least not this time—that a major concern is also that the city could be held liable for some portion of the Superfund cleanup because of a number of polluting properties on the canal. That seems all the more likely now—as does the potential for listing—as the Post reported yesterday that the city has been sent a notice for its liabilities. According to the tab, "The city’s responsibility comes through previous/current ownership of an asphalt plant, incinerator, a pumping station, storage yard, and Department of Transportation garage." In an interesting new twist, the Navy was also served with a notice for at least nine "facilities where the Navy directed and oversaw government contractors which owned and/or operated facilities adjacent to the canal."
Placeholder Alt Text

Retracting the Retractable Roof Retraction
Brooklyn has been called the borough of blogs, which probably explains why that's where the big city papers are all launching their hyperlocal efforts. First there was the Times' Fort Greene blog, and now the Post is getting in on the act—not surprisingly, we were notified about the new venture by the king of Brooklyn blogs, Brownstoner. While the Times has wound up with some odd, interesting mix of community driven news, the Post remains, at least in its first two posts, a decidely top-down affair, though this is not exactly a bad thing. Indeed, the inaugural post for the Post looks at borough president Marty Markowitz renewed efforts to include a retractable roof at the Grimshaw-designed concert pavilion at Asser Levy park, which we first unveiled back in April. At the time, we were told the designers were very excited about the possibility of a retractable roof, but it was deemed not only too expensive to construct but also to maintain, given the salty air out at Coney Island. (If you're wondering what they had in mind, it was very much the parachute-like roof at the Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt.) The Post suggests Markowitz sees the retractable roof as a way to assuage the project's neighbors who find it unsightly, but since the $64 billion price tag has already caused a stir, Markowitz would appear to be jumping out of a sinking ship and into the roiling sea: "Adding a retractable roof would likely increase construction fees by at least $3.5 million, sources said. And that doesn’t include anticipated increases in daily maintenance costs to deal with the seaside’s corrosive air." Construction remains at least a year away, so anything could happen by then. Grimshaw has yet to reply to requests for comment.
Placeholder Alt Text

After Megaprojects
Residential and commercial construction alike doubled in New York under Mayor Bloomberg, who rezoned over a fifth of the city to create large parcels for development under the assumption that the economy would continue to boom. Now, stalled megaprojects like Brooklyn's City Point complex leave depressing holes in neighborhoods, serving as daily reminders of the tenacious recession and leaving the city strapped for the cash it was counting on to fund other projects. What is to be done? An all-day symposium tomorrow at Cooper Union, presented by the Institute for Urban Design, tackles the question: Do megaprojects have a future? An opening address by Cooper Union architecture school dean Anthony Vidler will be followed by three panels of professors, politicians, and principals from top firms like ARUP, Morphosis and Kohn Pedersen Fox, examining the future of megaprojects in the suburbs, in the metropolis, and as new towns. The first panel, moderated by City College professor June Williamson, looks at the role of large-scale development in an unlikely place: the suburbs, which Williamson has examined through her recent book Retrofitting Suburbia, co-authored with Ellen Dunham-Jones. Other panels include Columbia University's Vishaan Chakrabarti, the author and professor Robert Fishman, and architect Thom Mayne.
Placeholder Alt Text

Back On Board
If there was any question Howard Roberts' resignation yesterday was forced, it can be put to rest, as his replacement atop New York City Transit, the MTA division that runs the subways and buses, was announced today. Thomas Prendergast will be returning to the agency—after a hiatus atop Vancouver's public transit system—where he used to run the Long Island Railroad, and before that was VP for subways. Though only 57, Prendergast has more than 30 years experience in the field, having begun at the Chicago Transit Authority out of college, then the Federal Transportation Authority, before joining the MTA in 1982. While Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphanger's Campaign, said authority hopping is the norm, it is worth noting that like his new boss, Jay Walder, also came from a system outside the country, arguably freer from the culture war that at times dogs mass transit in America. "Tom's work running one of the most technologically sophisticated systems in Vancouver will be invaluable as we take the MTA to the next level in performance and customer service," Walder said in a release. Beyond technology, Prendergast's time in Vancouver may have prepared him all too well for his job at the MTA, where he will be faced by high expectations but a budget crunch. According to local Vancouver radio station News 1130, Prendergast never received the full support or funding for the ambitious projects he and others had proposed during his five years in the Great White North, though the TransLink board member Gordon Price tells the station that his colleagues departure "tragic" is tragic and his "resignation means we can kiss transit expansion goodbye." And already innovative programs are falling away—in a way. At a event yesterday to unveil 311 calling for the MTA, the Times asked Mayor Bloomberg about his plans for transit improvements he touted during his reelection campaign, such as Express F service and, most notably, free cross-town buses. Well...
“I thought it was a good idea, although, the real issue there, there’s two things we’re trying to do: one is to make it easier for people to go back and forth, but two is also to stop the delays from getting on and off the buses,” the mayor said. “That’s another one of these things down the road. I think there’s a whole bunch of things that we laid out that we can explore together."
Good luck, Tom. You're gonna need it.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Return of Cousin St. Vinny
Back in March, Protect the Village Historic District sued the Landmarks Preservation Commission over its granting of a hardship to St. Vincent's Hospital, so that it might demolish Albert C. Ledner's National Maritime Union Headquarters, now known as the O'Toole building, and replace it with a new hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb and Freed. The focus of PVHD's suit is that the hospital did not explore suitable alternatives, nor did the commission require them, but now, the state Supreme Court appears to be questioning the very nature of the hardship finding—that retaining the O'Toole buildings prevented the hospital from carrying out its charitable mission—or at least that is the finding of a brief filed today by the Municipal Art Society and half-a-dozen preservation groups that directly challenges the LPC on the matter. Filed on behalf of neither the petitioners nor the defendants but at the behest of the court, which is trying to better understand the mechanics of the hardship finding, the MAS' attorneys argue that the LPC erred in finding that a hardship was created by the O'Toole building when in fact it was the neighboring buildings that created the problems for the hospital. The LPC then falsely created a campus that included both the historic buildings east of Seventh Avenue and the Ledner building west of it, and with this campus, extended the hardship from the buildings responsible for it to the one that was not. MAS and company—Historic Districts Council, Greenwich Village Society, the National Trust, the Preservation League, Brooklyn Heights Association, and Friends of the UESHD—argue that in part because the Ledner building remains quite usable, and is not directly infringing on the functioning of the neighboring hospital, it can not be held accountable. And this does not even get into the issues of whether sufficient off-site alternatives were explored and the fact that St. Vincent's knowingly bought a landmark it could not alter, which are at the heart of the original suit. MAS does note that the standards for determining hardship are complex, and it should also be pointed out that, while ostensibly neutral, all seven amici have lobbied on behalf of preserving the Ledner buildings and indeed hold quite a vested interest in the LPC's defeat. Simply consider the conclusion of the brief [PDF], which states, in part, that the commission "has created a dangerous precedent that may have a devastating effect on the preservation of landmark buildings and historic districts throughout New York City." This is personal. We're still waiting to hear back from some real estate attorneys as to the exact role this brief might play in the case, whether or not it will actually sway the judges, but as soon as we know, you'll know.
Placeholder Alt Text

Thrown from the Bus
If you've been frustrated by the recent flood of delays on the Subway, don't complain to Howard Roberts. The president of New York City Transit, which operates the R142s and the various city buses, Roberts submitted his resignation today, effective the end of the month. The move did not come as a surprise to the Times, which noted that the move had actually been expected by many within the MTA because of failings over a recently renegotiated transit workers contract and, more simply, "a changing of the guard [...] is often accompanied by staff shake-ups." (Jay Walder, the new head of the MTA who accepted Robertson's resignation, took over roughly a month ago.) Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, lauded Roberts, however, for working under tight budgetary strictures and for implementing line "czars" for each subway. Still, it appeared to be too little, too late, as service remained relatively spotty, for which the former head of Philly's public transit often took the blame, as well as for enforcing an MTA rule requiring Sikh's to affix an agency logo to their turbans. Reading each others minds as usual, both the News and the Post point out in their ledes that Robertson will be awarded a $300,000 severance.
Placeholder Alt Text

Only In Brooklyn: Archostumes
Last week, we threw out some ideas for architectural-themed Halloween costumes, including a proposal for a New Museum costume. Well, we've been one-, make that twice-upped by this adorable trio, who were spotted Trick-or-Treating in Cobble Hill by a colleague. Marcel Breuer, Frank Lloyd Wright, and SANAA must be so proud.
Placeholder Alt Text

Engine Company 201
Last week, the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) broke ground on a police station in Staten Island designed by Rafael Vinoly. This week, the agency announced the completion of another such project: a firehouse in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Both projects were commissioned under the DDC's Design and Construction Excellence program, which has raised the bar on design in public architecture. The firehouse—Engine Company 201—was designed by RKT&B Architecture, a local firm that has been around since the 1960s and has completed its fair share of  city work. The building's red glazed brick and backlighted Maltese Cross telegraph its function to the neighborhood, while the glass apparatus doors—a first for a firehouse in the city—maintain a close connection with the community. Look after the jump for more pictures.