Search results for "Rockwell Group"

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The bar in Virginns Commons Club.
Courtesy Virgin Hotels

Lest you think Virgin Hotel’s new outpost in downtown Chicago is a mild adaptation of its parent company’s ribald corporate persona—tempered for the historic confines of its art deco host—just know the lounge features a plush, circular “shag room.”

The first U.S. location of Virgin Hotels inhabits the Old Dearborn Bank Building at 203 North Wabash Avenue in Chicago’s Loop, one of only two office buildings designed by architects Cornelius Ward and George L. Rapp. Finished in 1928, the 27-story building was named a local landmark in 2003.

On one hand it seems an unlikely fit for Virgin, whose bushy, hang-gliding CEO Sir Richard Branson exudes an aesthetic and sense of humor that draw more on his playboy persona than his royal honorific. But there is whimsy in the original building, too. Facade ornaments depicting peacocks, acorns, and mustachioed old men mesh with the hipster sensibility informing some of Chicago’s ongoing boom in boutique hotels. “It was clear that they didn’t want a hotel that was Britannia, over-the-top,” said Diego Gronda, managing and creative director at Rockwell Group Europe. “They wanted it very respectful, but with a wink.” The design directive, Gronda said, went something like, “Don’t add TNT and destroy it, and don’t be boring.”

Chicago architecture firm Booth Hansen, led by Marshall  Butler, headed up restoration efforts, which were demanding after years of poor retrofits and neglect. Many of the historic features of the original bank had been covered up, battered, or both. Designers made silicon casts of intricate ceiling panels, replacing shattered tiles that in some rooms made up more than half of the ceiling. Original terrazzo floors and a stately curved stairway greet entrants who enter beneath a relatively understated overhang.


Once inside the lobby, however, guests are as likely to notice the cheeky art as they are the Jazz Age grandeur. A custom-designed red carpet flows down the stairs, spilling into a blob by the entrance like a giant pool of paint. Famous paintings are restaged with stuffed animals behind the check-in counter, an old cigar store that now accommodates guest interaction via smartphone.

That chic enthusiasm dulls a bit at the threshold to the 250 “chambers,” or guest rooms, giving way to a subtler palette mostly devoid of splashy art pieces. Though area rugs depict abstractions of London’s Tube and signature red phone booths, cool creams, and whites aim for serenity in what Virgin’s PR material describes as “home away from home” for its frequent travelers. The floor plan responds to a uniformity of business-class accommodations. The roughly 300-square-foot rooms open onto a small entryway with a sink, split closets, make-up table and mirror, toilet, and shower with a tile bench. That area closes off with a shade, leaving the bedroom a separate retreat. In an interesting touch smartly cornered by Rockwell Group Europe, custom beds feature a bonus headboard at the bottom corner for guests to lean against while reading or surfing a mobile device.


The heart of the hotel is the Commons Club, a double-height space beginning on the second floor that features a towering, elliptical bar, a cozily furnished “funny library,” and the moody “shag room” that can be closed off with a curtain and illuminated by an LED disk hanging overhead. Wary of overpowering the space with Virgin’s signature red, Gronda instead snuck it into the details in the carpeting—though it still screams in leather touches on the center bar, which frames a kind of exploded chandelier made from silver balls with zinc and long mirrors. Amid all this, the floor plan maintains a clean sightline from the Shag Room at the building’s south end to the daylight brushing the exposed kitchen against the northern exterior wall.

Though surely over-the-top by purist standards—ceramic molds of English bulldogs are chained outside pet-friendly rooms; Branson’s self-explanatory art installation “Large Ball of Tangled Chargers” adorns the concourse of the business floor—Rockwell’s marriage of old and new befits the boutique hotel model and the historic setting alike. Is it the start of a British invasion? Virgin plans to open another hotel in Nashville next year, and has set its sights on New York for 2017.

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Fashion Anchors the Yards
Courtesy Oxford Properties

A flagship Neiman Marcus store, marking the company’s expansion into New York, is scheduled to open in Hudson Yards in 2018. The store will occupy 250,000 square feet—or one-fourth of the retail space—at the Shops at Hudson Yards, a retail destination designed by the Boston-based firm Elkus Manfredi Architects. The announcement by the high end retailer further cements Hudson Yards as a center for fashion-related businesses.

The building’s glass curtain wall will afford shoppers a view of the High Line and also the Culture Shed, a Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group–designed structure that is the planned home of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Group. The three-story luxury store will face the public plaza designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects in collaboration with Thomas Heatherwick. The store will have a dedicated entrance on 10th Avenue between 31st and 32nd streets, as well as multiple access points throughout the complex.

Neiman Marcus is not the first fashion brand to call Hudson Yards home. The high-rise tower at 10 Hudson Yards, now under construction, will be the world headquarters for the leather goods maker Coach and the U.S. corporate headquarters for L’Oréal.

The Dallas-based Neiman Marcus, which was acquired by Ares Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for about $6 billion last year, also owns the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City, which is scheduled to undergo a multimillion-dollar modernization. The company is also opening an outlet store, Last Call Studio, later this year in Brooklyn.

The Neiman Marcus store at Hudson Yards will be showcased in a three-month exhibition, Hudson Yards: New York’s Future Is Rising, that opened at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle on Saturday, September 6, 2014. The exhibition will feature models and renderings of the transformation already underway on Manhattan’s west side. Exhibit goers will receive a build-your-own Hudson Yards postcard set designed by paper engineer and graphic designer Keisuke Saka as part of the “Make City” series of paper crafts that includes New York, London, and Tokyo.

The 28-acre Hudson Yards, developed by Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group, is the largest private real estate development in U.S. history and will bring more than 17 million square feet of commercial and residential space, more than 100 shops and restaurants, 5,000 new residences, 14 acres of public open space, a public school, and a 175-room luxury hotel to the city.

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Lagoon Taken
Courtesy Reed Hilderbrand

On April 11, The Contemporary Austin announced that it had selected Cambridge, Massachusetts–based Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture to design a master plan for its historic Laguna Gloria site. The master plan will seek to reconceive the 12-acre estate on the shores of Lake Austin, which comprises woods, meadows, and waterfront zones, as well as the Italianate 1916 Driscoll Villa. The goal is to create an ideal art-in-nature experience that will include a new sculpture park.

“This is an exceptional commission,” said Douglas Reed, partner of Reed Hilderbrand, in a statement. “The historic character of Laguna Gloria is a legacy of its terraced landform overlooking Lake Austin, the villa, its gardens, and the site’s diverse ecology. It is already exceptional among America’s cultural sites, and we look forward to expanding its natural appeal to support the Contemporary Austin’s remarkable curatorial program. It is an honor to be called on to design the master plan for what will become a must-see location for the art world.”

Reed Hilderbrand was selected by a committee headed by Frederick Steiner, Dean of the School of Architecture and Henry Rockwell Chair in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. The Cambridge firm beat out two other finalists to win the job: Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture of San Francisco, and Norwegian firm Snøhetta.

Trahan Architects of New Orleans, New York’s Lord Cultural Resources, and ETM Associates of New Jersey are also on the design team. Local Austin collaborators include Urban Design Group and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Andaz Maui at Wailea
Since its founding in 1984, the Rockwell Group has developed a robust portfolio of contemporary spaces imbued with drama. Its latest hotel project, Andaz Maui at Wailea, employs the firm’s signature theatrical style, seamlessly blending it with the magical atmosphere of Hawaii. Completed in September 2013, the resort encompasses 15 acres on Maui’s south shore, an exclusive area known for its five-star hotels and scenic golf courses. The project called for overhauling three existing towers that made up the Renaissance Resort, shuttered in 2007. Rockwell also revamped the grounds and proposed five buildings containing 19 villas. The overall design intent, said firm partner Shawn Sullivan, was to create a luxurious environment that embraced the outdoors and incorporated references to local culture.
The captivating experience begins right as guests arrive. A covered, wooden and stone bridge overlooks a serene reflecting pool and leads to the hotel’s main entrance. Guests are ushered into an 8,000-square-foot lobby, where natural light cascades down through a large skylight and ample glazing offers views of the turquoise ocean. In the center of the lobby, a sandpit with free-form chairs lends a playful touch. A grand staircase sculpted of wood—inspired by traditional Hawaiian canoes—leads to a bistro serving seasonal cuisine. Other public spaces include a Morimoto restaurant, five meeting rooms, and a ballroom with a bespoke lighting installation made of glass pendants and braided ropes.
For the hotel’s villas and 290 guest rooms, Rockwell created fresh, modern spaces filled with natural light. Custom furnishings include platform beds, walnut side tables, and vanities with teakwood slats. Sliding glass doors open onto terraces that enable guests to take in the breathtaking surroundings.
Those seeking a respite from the sand and surf can get pampered inside a 14,000-square-foot spa. With its warm glow and tall wooden cabinets, the space feels earthy and soothing. In the reception lounge, a walnut table displays herbs, spices, and fruits that are used to prepare customized oils and lotions. “The ingredients come from the local hillside and local markets,” said Sullivan. “We wanted to invent a spa experience that was really specific to Wailea.” That commitment to honoring the resort’s milieu went a long way toward winning over the locals. Sullivan said area residents praised the design during the hotel’s opening party. “A lot of people were expecting it to be so out-there modern,” he said. “It was rewarding to hear them say the project feels very Hawaiian, even though New York designers created it.”
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Rahm Emanuel looks to lure George Lucas museum to Chicago
A short time from now in a neighborhood not far, far away… filmmaker extraordinaire George Lucas may land his art and film museum in Chicago. The move comes after the filmmaker's bid to build the museum in San Francisco fell through last year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel formed a task force last week, directing a dozen civic leaders to scout out, as the Sun-Times summarized, “a site ‘accessible’ to all Chicago neighborhoods that’s large enough to host a museum ‘comparable to other major cultural institutions,’ but does not ‘require taxpayer dollars.’” The task force is co-chaired by businessmen Gillian Darlow and Kurt Summers. Emanuel gave the group until mid-May to find a homebase for the Star Wars creator, who last year married Mellody Hobson, president of the Chicago investment firm Ariel. Lucas now lives in Chicago part-time, but Lucasfilm Ltd. and special effects company Industrial Light & Magic are still based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lucas had originally scoped out a spot in the Presidio, but was rejected by the Presidio trust—the nonprofit that oversees the federally owned land at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Lucas' was one of three proposals for The Presidio's 8-acre mid-Crissy Field site, all of which The Presidio Trust rejected earlier this year, saying in a statement "We simply do not believe any of the projects were right for this location." Spokesman David Perry has described the 95,000-square-foot museum as the “history of storytelling” and the “world’s foremost museum dedicated to the power of the visual image.” Chicago is home to many museums, both well-known like the Art Institute and the Field Museum, and a bit more odd—say, the International Museum of Surgical Science. But the Lucas museum, which will include film memorabilia as well as works of art from the likes of Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, would be a big get. San Francisco is still vying for the return of its film Jedi, but we’ll see in one month how Rahm’s empire might strike back.
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First Glass
A hanging lantern of acid washed glass and stainless steel cables captures and diffuses daylight throughout the large works gallery.
Scott Rudd

Queens Museum of Art
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, New York

Grimshaw’s recent renovation of the Queens Museum of Art involved the task of unifying a previously divided building under a single program. The institution used to share its walls with an ice skating rink. The museum occupied the north half of the building—originally constructed as the New York pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair—and the rink the south half. When, in 2008, the rink moved into the newly completed Handel Architects–designed Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Natatorium and Ice Rink, which was part of New York City’s 2012 Olympic bid, the museum had the opportunity to stretch out, occupying the entire 105,000-square-foot building for the first time since being founded in 1972.

The architects saw the opportunity to greatly improve the museum’s somewhat confusing circulation scheme, as well as support its mission of bringing the community together around art. By shifting the main entrance away from where it had previously been off the north parking lot, at the narrow end of the rectangular plan, to the center of the longer west facade, they were able to usher visitors directly into the building’s cavernous central volume. By arranging temporary exhibition galleries around this space, which functions as a large works gallery, the architects created an easy to navigate experience where figuring out where to go next is simply a matter of looking around.

The main entry facade (right) is outfitted with a programmable light display.
Scott Rudd; Holly Tsai

Glass played a key role in supporting Grimshaw’s design concept and in creating a bright and airy experience on the interior. Both eastern and western faces of the building were opened up with glass walls that let daylight in, welcome the community, and create a view corridor that passes straight through the space from the Grand Central Parkway to the Unisphere—the great, globular icon of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The west facade features a screen that can be animated by a color-changing LED system. A variety of artists will be invited to program the system over time.

Even with the glass facades, the large works gallery, with its soaring ceiling, promised to be a dark space. This could be solved with skylights, but then skylights, without control measures, can create tricky daylighting conditions for museum artifacts, many of which deteriorate in direct sunlight. In addition, the architects wanted to create a seamless experience, where visitors could go from outside, into the great hall, and then into the galleries without perceiving the difference in light level. “On a bright day, it’s 10,000 foot-candles outside,” said Mark Husser, managing partner for Grimshaw’s New York office. “We had to step that down to about 15 foot-candles in the galleries, and we attempted to do that without having a noticeable change or a lot of glare or shadow.”

A custom-designed ring beam attaches to the bottom of the lantern’s cables, pulling them into tension.
Courtesy grimshaw

In order to accomplish this effect, Grimshaw designed what is unofficially referred to as the “Hanging Lantern,” a daylight chandelier of sorts composed of canted glass louvers suspended by stainless steel cables around the great hall’s central skylight. The glass louvers, which range in width, are built up from two 5mm-thick pieces of low iron tempered glass that are laminated together with an SGP interlayer. The down facing sides of the louvers are acid washed, to catch and diffuse daylight, while the up facing sides are left glossy, to make them easier to clean as well as to create a shimmering effect on the inside of the lantern. The edges of the glass louvers are polished, post lamination, a delicate process that removed a mere 1/64-inch of material to clean up the edges and create a sparkling, diamond-like effect. The louvers are canted at different angles to catch sunlight entering from the skylight, which also features louvers, and direct it to the galleries, whose ceilings are outfitted with louvers of their own that further diffuse the light. “We did sun studies to determine the angles of the louvers,” said Casimir Zdanius, Grimshaw’s head of industrial design. “When direct sunlight hits the pieces of glass they light up like a halogen.”

Courtesy Grimshaw

Grimshaw designed the Hanging Lantern, which combines daylighting and structural design, with consulting engineer Michael Ludvik. The tempered glass louvers, which handle some structural loads, are attached to inner and outer sets of steel cables that drop down from the ceiling with machine finished 304 stainless steel connections. At the bottom of the lantern, which hangs more than 31 feet down from the ceiling, is a ring beam made up of 6-inch-diameter solid steel billets fastened together with heavy-duty bolts. At 20,000 pounds, the ring beam pulls the cable system into tension. While the 8mm-diameter outer cable carries most of the load, the 6mm-diameter inner cable attaches to the ring beam via a spring connection that allows the pendulous structure to sway without breaking the glass. The inner cables are also tuned to achieve a sensuous curving profile on the inside of the lantern.

Grimshaw also designed a glass-treaded feature stair that encourages access to the second floor and provides a series of landings that offer a good view of the large works gallery and the Hanging Lantern. The landings and treads are composed of four piles of ½-inch-thick low iron annealed glass laminated together with SGP interlayers. The upper surface features an acid etched non-slip surface and the structure was designed so that even if all four piles break the interlayer will continue to carry the live load. Annealed glass was chosen, as opposed to tempered, so that the edges could be polished down flush without shattering, a detail that gives the edges of the treads a jewel-like translucency.

Aaron Seward

Names to Know:

Grimshaw Architects
Architect & Engineer of Record:
Ammann & Whitney
M.Ludvid Eng’g


Glass Fabricator:
Stair Glass Installation:
M Cohen and Sons
Lantern Fabrication & Installation:
AMG Design


Brad Feinknopf

Ohio State University South Campus Central Chiller
Columbus, OH

Ohio State University’s south campus central chiller is a utilitarian powerhouse. It pumps cool water to more than half of the campus’ buildings. It is also host to a dynamic light show, thanks to an array of glass fins affixed to its concrete facade.

“Rather than just showing the pipes, we wanted to represent energy itself,” architect Carol Ross Barney told AN when the project was first announced in 2010. Ross Barney worked with associate architects, Champlin, on the project. Now complete, the 95,570-square-foot building sports dichroic glass, composed of multiple micro-layers of fused metal oxides. A coating just 30- to 35-millionths of an inch thick can contain up to 50 layers of these materials, which condense on the glass after being vaporized by an electron beam in a vacuum chamber.

Brad Feinknopf

Those tiny bits of metal reject certain wavelengths of light, so the dichroic fins reflect and transmit different colors simultaneously. Which colors pass through and which bounce back depends on the angle of view. The end result is a constantly shifting array of colors that dance across the building exterior.

Previously it hadn’t been affordable to laminate dichroic film between layers of glass. Ross Barney Architects worked with glass manufacturer Goldray Industries to laminate the dichroic film, which was originally developed by NASA for use in space. The exterior application created concerns for the longevity of the thin film, so Goldray tested several glass products to sufficiently protect the film without distorting its ability to transmit light. Based on its success, Goldray has since used similar fins on projects from Indianapolis to Istanbul.

Brad Feinknopf

Structural shapes and welded plates hold the glass fins perpendicular to the building’s precast panels. The incandescent fins themselves convey a sense of energy, Barney said, but clear sightlines into the mechanical innards of the chiller plant also put the building’s utility front and center.

Still, no moving parts are visible. Instead, the precast plates that make up the ten-story building are punctuated with varied rectangular windows, complementing the geometry of the glass fins. Oldcastle manufactured the aluminum curtain wall window system, whose insulated exterior panels also cut down on energy use. Inside, equipment decks are grated for natural cooling so the chiller, which anticipates LEED certification, won’t have to be chilled itself.

To hear the designers tell it, in a rundown of their research and development process, “the building becomes an ethereal expression of the functional process of releasing thermal energy into the air to produce chilled water.” Cool.


Chris Bentley

Names to Know:

Ross Barney Architects
Glass Fins:
Goldray Industries
Curtain Wall:




Shawn Bowman

Langham Hotel
Chicago, IL

Like many who attempt to transform Mies Van der Rohe landmarks, interior designers Richmond Group got some flak for putting a glitzy hotel into one of the architect’s stately modernist icons along the Chicago River. Langham Hotel, which now occupies floors 2-13 of the 52-story tower, is more known for glamour than clean geometry.

But the design team’s intervention narrowed in on one of the skyscraper’s key materials: glass. “We wanted to emphasize the extensive use of glass on the facade,” Richmond Group’s Deborah Bray said in a press release, “to deliver an individual and innovative design, which reflected the linear elements of the existing architecture.”

Alliance Glazing and GLASSource helped outfit the lobby’s two-floor RiverRoom with a unique array of composite panels of Pilkington Optiwhite glass. They bonded ¼-inch low-iron beveled glass to both sides of an extremely flat 3/8-inch monolithic panel, computer numerically controlling each panel to keep the floor-to-ceiling array of panels uniform. Individually cut and fit brass strips divide each panel.

Shawn Bowman

“The feel is almost like you’re in a prism. The light reflects in different directions,” said Alliance’s Dan Shields. “But when you get close to it, you’re able to get nice views out, so you’re not taking away the skyline feel. It’s more art than it is just glass.”

Over six months of testing and mock-up production, Alliance and Bohle Group developed an adhesive that cures under ultraviolet light, keeping the composite panels together without forming bubbles in the glue. Despite being made from many small pieces of beveled glass, the feature wall appears unified.

Shawn Bowman

GLASSource’s Jim Arnold said the UV bonding was the first of such detail and scope. “Full size vinyl templates were printed to control the layout process and each small section took between two to four days per panel just to do the UV bonding,” he said. “After almost 15 months from the first discussions the designers vision and the end result turned out to be very spectacular as well as unique.”

Langham Hotel opened its Travelle restaurant and bar this year, completing the bottom floors’ transformation from office space to high-end hotel; and the focus on glass does not end at the lobby. Electrochromic glass from Guardian separates the bathrooms—with the flip of a switch, the glass switches from opaque to transparent. Televisions within the mirrors add another touch of luxury, rounded out by custom diamond-cut shapes in each mirror enclosure that match the carpeting.


Chris Bentley

Names to Know:

Lohan Anderson
Rockwell Group


Glass Fabricators & Installers:
Alliance Glazing Technologies




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Wines, Gang, Sorkin Among Honorees at 2013 National Design Awards
When an artist begins,      they try to bury him with neglect. When he gains a small foothold,      they try to bury him with criticism. When he becomes more established,      they try to bury him with covetous disdain. When he becomes exceptionally successful,      they try to bury him with dismissals as irrelevant. And finally, all else failing      they try to bury him with honors! This is how James Wines of SITE, quoting Jean Cocteau, accepted his 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum at their National Design Awards. Wines joined a 'Lifetime Achievement' group that includes Richard Saul Wurman, Bill Moggridge, Paolo Solari, the Vignelli's, Dan Kiley, and Frank Gehry. Last night's awards program was a special one as the Museum—led by its new director, Caroline Baumann, and an indefatigable team—worked throughout the government shutdown of the least two weeks to put on a spatular gala that gave awards to designers that included Janette Sadik-Khan, Michael Sorkin, Studio Gang Architects, Paula Scher, Aidlin Darling Design, and Margie Ruddick. These figures each asked a special commentator to introduce them. Theaster Gates presented Jeanne Gang from Chicago and Michael Kimmelman said that Michael Sorkin was the first person he spoke to when he decided to be the New York Times architecture critic. Sorkin accepted his award for "Design Mind" with a powerful tribute—as only he can—to his late friends and intellectual mentors, Lebbeus Woods and Marshall Berman. Al Gore presented the TED Talks with an award and finally it was left to Tom Wolfe to introduce James Wines, who he said had created the "first really new architecture after modernism" in his famous Best Stores which "added nothing to the architecture" only re-arranged what was already" as in his Best 'Notch' project in suburban Sacramento, California. Wolfe claimed that Wines wanted to replace "plop art" like formal plaza sculptures by Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi with a new form that put the art onto the architecture. Its about time that Sorkin, who is our greatest living architecture critic to not have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, and Wines, who is not a registered architect, to be given an award as a great architect.  
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Travelle Restaurant Chicago
Tim Street Porter

330 North Wabash Ave.
Tel: 312.923.0007
Designer: Rockwell Group

The Langham Hotel occupies the first 13 floors of Mies van der Rohe’s historic IBM building in downtown Chicago. Tucked away in the building’s southwestern corner is Travelle, a 24-hour restaurant designed by the Rockwell Group. David Zaccheo, lead project designer, focused on the structure’s original namesake tenant when designing the space. Entering the restaurant, diners are faced with a golden decorative wall whose pattern evokes a layered mass of computer chips. “This isn’t a preservation project,” said Zaccheo. A row of vertical glass tubes separates the dining area from the bar, where golden discs hover in a ceiling recess. As the bar seating sprawls to greet stunning riverfront views of downtown Chicago, wood and leather restore the mutable lounge vibe.

In aiming to shed the trappings of a typical hotel bar, a little luxury goes a long way. While purists could not call it a harmless intervention, the update is flashy but not without a tasteful restraint. Rockwell also collaborated with the Art Production Fund to curate a collection of original artwork for the interior, which evokes the building’s mid-century modernist past.

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Rockwell Group Designs A Treehouse-esque Playground for Park in Brownsville
The Rockwell Group and NYC Parks unveiled their plans last week to turn a 1.5-acre section of Betsy Head Park in Brownsville into a lush and active playground. When designing Imagination Playground, the firm looked to treehouses for inspiration. The site will feature a winding ramp that snakes around London Plane trees and connects to slides and a series of jungle gyms that spill out into an open area with sand, water, benches, and plantings. In collaboration with landscape architecture firm MKW + Associates, the Rockwell Group has taken on this project pro-bono and will donate a set of Playground Blocks to the Brownsville Recreation Center. The $3.92 million playground was funded with the help of government subsidies from Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Markowitz, and Council Member Mealy. Partner David Rockwell founded Imagination Playground in partnership with NYC Parks and KaBOOM, a non-profit organization, to encourage activity and unstructured play for children at nominal cost by providing loose building blocks in outdoor recreational spaces. Right now the project is slated to break ground in spring of 2014 and open in 2015.    
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Studio V
Niagara Falls Bridge and Cross Link Bridge Development
Courtesy Studio V

Studio V was founded in 2006 by Jay Valgora who at the time was a design principal for Walker Associates/CNI, and had been a design director at Rockwell Group. In these previous positions Valgora focused on refurbishing projects located in gritty urban industrial areas: A residential tower addition above the RKO Keith in Flushing, Queens, the historic Empire Stores in Brooklyn, and a large zone of Anabel Basin in Queens. Crucial to his later Studio V career as an urban designer, Valgora simultaneously developed theatrical designs for Cirque du Soleil, Mohegan Sun resort, and the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. These widely diverse project types have come together in Studio V’s current work, which shows Valgora’s interest in projects that “reconcile modern architecture and the city’s abandoned or fragmented edge urban areas... emerging neighborhoods, public parks, and sustainable communities.” The 18-member office has under taken a massive renovation of the interior and exterior of Macy’s Herald Square. Other projects include architectural and urban design work in Long Island City, Flushing (Flushing River Waterfront), Astoria (Halletts Point and Astoria Cove), Sunset Park (Bush Terminal), and Red Hook (Atlantic Basin). The firm is also designing new parks and public spaces along the East River in collaborations with internationally recognized landscape firms James Corner Field Operations and Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect.

William Menking


Niagara Falls Bridge and Cross Link Bridge Development

This project turns an abandoned railway bridge over the Niagara River and an adjacent 40-acre site into a mixed-use commercial development, museum, and cultural center. The bridge’s current owner, the City of Niagara Falls, Canada, must ether destroy it or find a buyer to turn it into a gateway attraction so they hired Studio V to develop a creative and realistic proposal for the structure. The second site is across the bridge and adjacent to Downtown Niagara Falls and the canyon escarpment. Their master plan for the site includes a series of elevated outdoor gardens on the existing track and smaller bridges leading to the main bridge. The scheme also includes a series of pavilions that contain a variety of supporting uses including restaurants, a new train station, a theater, and a hotel tower suspended over the edge of the bridge with views of the famous falls. The bridge is meant to be a contemporary gateway and symbol for the nation of Canada. The glass canopy over the bridge is an aluminum grid shell covered with ETFE foil for the museum and conference center.


Residential Building at Vernon and Jackson Avenues

Queens, New York

The Long Island City site for this new residential structure lies at the intersection of two of the most prominent streets in Queens: Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue. They also face onto two very different plazas: Vernon Plaza (a 100 foot wide street with a new green median) and the Midtown Tunnel toll plaza. The overall massing of the building responds in a sculptural manner to its unusual triangular site. The corners of the building are articulated with cantilevered balconies that extend out into the angled corners of the site as the facade peels away in a series of layers to reveal the concrete structure beneath. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the building is an unusual mid-block courtyard raised up in the air to over look the adjacent boulevard and provide an outdoor space for the residents. Finally, the taut stainless steel and perforated aluminum facade fits perfectly into this mixed industrial, residential, and cultural (P.S.1 is only a few blocks away) zone of the city.


Yonkers Raceway / Empire City Casino Expansion

Yonkers, New York

A gambling casino attached to a horse-racing track in Yonkers is not one where you would expect exciting architecture. Yet Studio V’s striking design for a new Empire City Casino sets out to “re-invent the modern casino with an unlikely and innovative contemporary architecture.” Valgora has designed a volume of stacked elements—balconies and overlook openings between floors, including a dramatic bar, an Alain Ducasse restaurant, and a bowling ally—to create an entirely new paradigm for the casino. The facade is a four-story arc of frameless glass that not only brings the daylight into the casino but projects the excitement of the space outward to the street and the city. The facade is a large steel lattice structure which seems to grow out of its hillside site to create a sculptural entrance canopy and porte-cochere.


Macy’s Herald Square

New York

R.H. Macy’s has occupied their Herald Square Store since 1902, when it moved uptown from 6th Avenue. It first occupied just one building designed by DeLemos and Cordes but eventually began acquiring additional properties on the block bounded by Broadway and 34th and 35th streets until it owned the entire block. Though the building had the first modern escalator in the world and still has several of the great old wooden moving stairs and beautiful deco details, it feels cobbled together with various dropped ceilings, unexplained partitions, and inefficient mechanical equipment. Macy’s, Valgora claims, has always been “contemporary” and it is the Studio’s intention to create a new contemporary environment with restored historic architecture to create a “spacious, grand yet light and fit space for the 21st century shopper.”

The store’s master plan will create an entirely new interior, a high-end restaurant, a café on the mezzanine overlooking the grand ground floor, and a champagne/coffee bar in the Women’s shoe department. It also includes restoration of a Grand Retail Hall with coffered ceilings, visible exterior windows, double-height entrances, and soaring illuminated columns.

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Hudson Yards Breaks Ground as Manhattan’s Largest Mega-Development
Tuesday morning, New York's top power brokers gathered in a muddy lot on Manhattan's west side to mark the official groundbreaking of the 26-acre Hudson Yards mega-development. The dramatic addition to the New York skyline will comprise a completely new neighborhood of glass skyscrapers at the northern terminus of the High Line. The South Tower, the first structure to be built and the future headquarters of fashion-label Coach, will rise on the site's southeast corner at 30th Street and 10th Avenue, where Related CEO Stephen Ross, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and others celebrated the first turning of dirt as a large caisson machine bored into the ground. Representing the largest single piece of undeveloped land in Manhattan and the largest private development since Rockefeller Center, Hudson Yards will eventually house towers designed by some of the biggest names in architecture: Kohn Pedersen Fox, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, David Rockwell, SOM, and Elkus Manfredi with landscapes by Nelson Byrd Woltz. Hudson Yards is being developed by Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group, who made a deal with rail yards-owner MTA for 13 million square feet of development rights in May 2010. Speaking at the groundbreaking, MTA chairman Joe Lhota remembered back to January 1995 when, acting as the NYC finance commissioner, he realized the lost economic potential in the Hudson Yards site as it generated no revenue for the city. With Hudson Yards, though, Lhota said, "It's not only going to be a new source of revenue. It's going to be something you rarely ever see in New York: the creation of a new neighborhood." The 47-story South Tower by KPF recently crossed the 80-percent-leased line, anchored by Coach which nabbed 740,000 square feet in the 1.7 million square foot building. The footprint of the first tower sits just south of the rail yards, below where a platform will be built to accomodate further development, and adjacent to the High Line, partially straddling a portion of the wildly successful park. A large atrium at the base of the South Tower will overlook the High Line. The tower is being designed to achieve LEED Gold certification and will be complete in 2015. Once additional tenants are secured, KPF's second, larger North Tower with 2.4 million square feet will be built atop the rail yards and linked to the South Tower by Elkus Manfredi's shopping mall complex along 10th Avenue, which will contribute 750,000 square feet, the majority of the overall 1.15 million square feet of retail space at Hudson Yards. "As more tenants commit to the area, Related will build the platform and the additional towers that will be constructed atop the platform allowing us to realize our vision," Bloomberg told the crowd. The North Tower will feature an observation deck precariously cantilevering 80 feet out into Manhattan's air space. "We began with two basic principles," Bloomberg said. "We determined Hudson Yards should be a mixed-use community and an extension of the Midtown central business district." He cited affordable housing, schools, and world class commercial spaces as key to the areas success. "The second principle was recognizing that public policy decisions and infrastructure investment will be crucial to this new community." He lauded the 2005 city council approval of a 300-acre rezoning of the area and an agreement with the MTA to expand the 7 line west from Times Square to this area, a project he was quick to point out is completely funded by the city. West of the South Tower, the flagship cultural component of Hudson Yards will occupy a dramatic spot alongside the High Line. "Working with dynamic architects Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and David Rockwell, [the Culture Shed] is another step in New York City's development as the world's home for innovation in the arts. And that's what gets an awful lot of people to come here," Bloomberg said. "The Culture Shed will welcome all the creative industries—performance, exhibitions, media, design, and fashion week—and be a destination for community events." The 100,000-square-foot Culture Shed is expected to build on recent cultural additions lining the High Line like the new Whitney Museum to the south. Elsewhere on the site, 5,000 residences and a luxury hotel in towers by DS+R and SOM and a new public school will be built. SOM's 60-story "E Tower" features rounded corners and gradual setbacks as it rises, meant to evoke abstracted canyons and produce stunning views. It will house the hotel, residences, office space, and a health club. The "D Tower" by DS+R will stand 72 stories tall and connect with the Culture Shed. The tower's main design feature is called "The Corset," an intricately deformed portion of the building's middle where criss-crossing "straps" that make the building appear fluid in form. Eventually, more than 40,000 people will live or work at Hudson Yards. The entire development is organized around large public spaces, which appeared in a recent issue of AN. Running north from 33rd Street, another public space by Michael Van Valkenburgh, called Hudson Park and Boulevard, will house a new entrance to the expanded 7 Line subway, expected to open in 2014. Be sure to check out the full multimedia gallery below, featuring renderings of all the buildings that will comprise Hudson Yards, the site today, speakers from the groundbreaking, and views of the site's detailed architectural model.
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Take a Bow
The new Lincoln Center bridge replaces the plaza over 65th Street.
Courtesy Lincoln Center

The eight-year long renovation of Lincoln Center concluded on October 1 with the opening of a new pedestrian bridge over 65th Street. Designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro (DSR) with architects of record FXFowle, the blade-like bridge reflects the firm’s surgical approach to the entire campus. DSR has peeled off facades, sliced through existing circulation routes, and grafted on new programming and media, all while working in tandem with other specialists including Tod Williams Billie Tsien, Rockwell Group, and H3 Hardy Collaborative.

The bridge replaces a large plaza that covered 65th Street. The plaza had linked Julliard and the School of the American Ballet with the main campus, but it deadened the street below. The bridge serves the same link function while restoring the street circulation. The east side of the span is glazed and ultra-slim, while the west side, which provides structural support, is a faceted, monolithic bar. The crossing forks as it approaches the main campus. The structural bar bends back and down to the foundation under the Vivian Beaumont Theater, and the circulation plane jogs slightly east toward the theater’s entrance.


Painted in matte-grey, the structural bar has a muted, somewhat austere quality. “The area is a juncture between Saarinen’s modernist theater, Pietro Belluschi’s Brutalist building, and the postmodern building that houses the School of American Ballet,” said Liz Diller, principal of DSR. “We didn’t want to add another thing.” It is that sensitivity to background and foreground, to when to play soloist or as an ensemble, that has made the renovation a bravura performance.