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(Mass)ive Growth

The U.S. mass timber industry is maturing while it branches out

This article originally appeared as part of our January 2019 print issue in the timber feature.

President Donald Trump’s tariffs, enacted in November 2017, have not yet made a significant impact on the U.S. mass timber industry. But if Trump chooses to take more aggressive action in the next two years of his administration, this could dramatically change. This urgency, coupled with the recent global obsession with building tall wood structures, newly motivates American wood manufacturers to become independent of foreign suppliers. This would entail American manufacturers catching up in machine technology and production capacity to bolster domestic trade and support innovative architecture sourced from home.

What’s clear is that U.S. demand for wood buildings is there. The country’s largest producer of cross-laminated timber (CLT), SmartLam, has experienced such rapid growth since opening six years ago that it is building a new headquarters in Columbia Falls, Montana, and planning a second facility in Maine to supply what the industry thinks will be an influx of midrise construction in New York and other cities along the Eastern seaboard.

“The expansion here is simply driven by need,” said SmartLam CEO Casey Malmquist. “There’s always been a grassroots support for CLT in the U.S. and a recently increased interest in research and testing. But now we’re no longer speculating about whether it will work—it’s going mainstream.”

While similar Pacific Northwest companies like DR Johnson and Katerra, as well as firms such as LEVER Architecture and Michael Green Architecture, have long led the field, production is growing in uncharted territories. South Carolina–based LignaTerra is adding another plant in Maine, while Canadian leaders like Nordic Structures in Montreal and Structure Fusion in Québec City, which already supplied CLT to projects across the country, are now focusing more attention on supplying the eastern U.S. market. Production is even swelling in the South with Texas CLT LLC, which is reopening a mill in southwest Arkansas.

But pioneering European companies, which have historically dominated the market and supplied American developers, are now putting down roots in the U.S. Austrian giant KLH is partnering with International Beams’ new factory in Dothan, Alabama, by supplying it with glulam blanks. Having opened this past September, it is the first plant east of the Rocky Mountains to produce CLT in the country and will primarily utilize the unique Southern Yellow Pine native to the region.

These investments show that the race to build such production facilities is vital to the U.S. market becoming competitive with other countries. But many experts say we need to increase cultural acceptance of mass timber as well as get investors on board before the industry starts churning up a sizable profit.

“The real strategy is that the big manufacturers in Europe are focused on making franchises here,” said Alan Organschi, principal of Gray Organschi Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut. “They can produce higher quality products cheaper, even with overseas shipping, than manufacturers can in the U.S. and Canada.”

Organschi’s firm has been at the forefront of timber innovation for 20 years. He is confident the market is growing and will prove that by designing 6- to 14-story buildings, the sweet spot for mass timber construction. Dominique Briand, general manager of Canadian structural engineering firm Structure Fusion, is also optimistic about North America’s future, but feels certain that product-specific issues still need to be addressed before wood can match the quality of other structural materials like steel and concrete.

“The problem is the tools are not there,” Briand said. “There’s not enough manpower or knowledge to make or sell mass timber in the United States. Plus it’s a disorganized market, which creates a big gap between the product and the project.”

Briand believes that as long as timber is trendy, it will take young U.S.-based companies about five to ten more years to be competitive with Europe. In the meantime, architects, engineers, and educators are working to imagine groundbreaking designs at modest scales to ramp up domestic interest and encourage policy changes.

Many U.S. states are using financial incentives to entice manufacturers to locate to their respective regions. In Maine, both the state and federal governments have provided funding for the University of Maine’s extensive research to advance timber assemblies. Russell Edgar of the university’s Advanced Structures & Composites Center says the ultimate goal of this work is to organize the state’s supply chain in order to make Maine viable for these companies.

“People are talking a lot about South Carolina and Georgia since they grow trees like corn at such rapid rates,” he said. “But in Maine, we have proximity to these huge markets in New York and Boston, so we’re busy trying to find ways to get these companies here now.”

Sourcing timber products within 250 miles of a project is a huge advantage to practicing sustainability and boosting regional economies—not to mention a reason for rarely crossing borders for building materials. But a little competition is healthy, especially for lumber producers who want to bid in a fair marketplace.

“The more people there are, the better it will be,” said Briand. “I only worry that because we’re such a fast-evolving industry, a lot of companies will build huge facilities and focus solely on making and selling products. It’s not just about the products; it’s about creating strong business plans so the investment pays off.”

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Design by Community

Take a sneak peek at NYCxDESIGN’s 2019 events
NYCxDESIGN 2019 is right around the corner, and AN has a selection of highlights from what design-savvy visitors and NYC residents alike can expect. At a press conference held at the Parsons School of Design, officials from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) laid out a selection of events from the fair, which will run from May 10 through May 22, 2019. The Diner, a collaboration between David Rockwell, Surface Magazine, and the design consultancy 2x4 will return after a successful debut at the 2017 Salone Del Mobile in Milan. The pop-up restaurant will bring a “coast-to-coast journey” to diners, offering a mélange of American food and eatery aesthetics. DESIGN PAVILION will return to Times Square for the duration of NYCxDESIGN, bringing performance spaces, interactive kiosks, seating, an information kiosk, and a collaboration with Nasdaq. Sound & Vision, a two-week long show from the American Design Club on the confluence of sound, technology, and design will use the area as staging. New outdoor furniture from the Times Square Design Lab will also be making an appearance, as will a competition for public-space furniture. ICFF will once again take over the Javits Center from May 19 through the 22. This year’s showcase of high-end interior design will focus heavily on integrated smart home and office technology via ICFF Connect. Over 900 global exhibitors are expected to present their wares at the 2019 show. WantedDesign will return to Brooklyn’s Industry City in Sunset Park with more participants than ever; graduate students from over 30 international schools are expected to present their work. At WantedDesign Manhattan, SVA’s Products of Design MFA students will present Tools for the Apocalypse, a showcase of products designed for life after a climate change-induced apocalypse. Each contribution is grouped thematically into one of four categories (fire, water, earth, and air) and addresses the evolution of essential materials in a time of dramatic ecological uncertainty. While the details have yet to be finalized for the city’s five design districts, expect a collection of architectural walking tours, happy hours, and installations across New York's various Design Districts (Downtown, Madison Avenue, TriBeCa, SoHo Design District, and NoMad). Museums across the city are also participating. At the Cooper Hewitt, Nature will gather work from designers across all disciplines to paint a picture of a more harmonious, regenerative future. At the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), The Value of Good Design gathers design objects from every corner (from home goods to toys to transport-related items) from the late 1930s through the '50s. Through the Good Design initiative that MoMA championed during that period, design was made more democratic and accessible throughout society, and this exhibition will track that shift. At the Museum at FIT, the School of Art and Design will host the 2019 Graduating Student show, not only at the museum but with pieces across the campus. Work from over 800 BFA students will be exhibited and represent areas ranging from jewelry to packaging to interior design. The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) will spice things up with Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986. The show will look back on the often DIY flyers, posters, and albums from the era through a contemporary lens, similar to the Met’s 2013 examination of the lasting impact of punk fashion. On the architecture side, Fernando Mastrangelo Studio (no stranger to experimenting with concrete) will be casting a full-scale tiny home from cement, glass, sand, and silica. The “home” will contain a living room, bedroom, and exterior garden, and visitors can explore the house after its completion. Following a kick-off party at the studio’s space in Brooklyn, the house will be placed on a trailer and moved around the city for a “Where’s Waldo” experience. Empire Outlets, the SHoP-designed outlet mall in St. George, Staten Island, opens in April. During NYCxDesign, architects from SHoP and representatives from Empire Outlets will lead tours of the sprawling shopping complex. The first El-Space, a repurposing of the area under the Gowanus Expressway in Sunset Park, was such a success that the Design Trust for Public Space and NYC Department of Transportation have followed up with El-Space 2.0. On May 16, a jointly-held event will reveal the project’s next iteration in Long Island City as well as the framework for planning future “El-Spaces.” The Center for Architecture is also planning to get in on the action, and from May 14 through 18, interested architecture buffs can take a sneak peek of this year’s Archtober lineup. Both the “Building of the Day” tours, which will highlight five buildings across the city’s five boroughs, and Workplace Wednesday, where architecture studios open their doors to the public, will be previewed. Of course, NYCxDESIGN, now in its seventh year, hosted nearly 400 events; too many to chronicle in one article. For now, those interested in staying abreast of the talks, workshops, gallery shows, retail options, and more can stay updated on the festival’s website.
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Spring Awakening

Preview Heatherwick Studio’s upcoming New York City projects
Three of Heatherwick Studio’s monumental projects are taking shape along Manhattan’s High Line, part of the transformation of the Meatpacking neighborhood from a gritty industrial landscape to a playground for the ultra-wealthy. From Hudson Yards at the elevated park’s northern-most tip, to the manmade island taking shape on the coast off of 15th Street, AN recently checked in on the status of the London studio's rapidly rising projects. Pier 55 Pier 55 seemed like it was on the verge of financial collapse just a year ago, as the cost of the Barry Diller–backed project rose to $250 million and the nonprofit Hudson River Park Trust was buffeted by lawsuits. Diller withdrew his support of the 2.75-acre pocket park in the Hudson, and the floating island, supported by sculpted concrete piers, looked like it was never going to happen. Then, thanks to Governor Cuomo stepping in at the last minute to mediate between billionaire Douglas Durst, the City Club of New York, and Diller, the project was declared back on. When AN last toured the site in April of 2018, piles were being driven into the Hudson’s riverbed for the two walkways that would lead to the park. Now, at the start of 2019, it appears that construction is picking up steam. Most, if not all, of the piers appear to be in place, and the 132 sculptural, wave-like concrete caps are being installed. Each of the “pots” was fabricated in Upstate New York from custom foam molds and it’s expected that they’ll be fully installed in March 2020. The installation is on hold for the winter and should begin again in May of this year. Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects will be handling the landscape design proper, and the park is expected to open in early 2021. Once complete, Pier 55 will include an amphitheater and two landscaped staging areas. 515 West 18th Street Further north on 18th Street, the first tower of the two-pronged 515 West 18th Street has already topped out. The 425,000-square-foot development was only first revealed in January 2018 thanks to a video aimed at luring foreign investors, but the project has already made considerable progress in a year. The split project drew polarizing reactions for its bulging, barrel-like bay windows, which almost seem to be inflated from the inside. The two towers (connected via a single-story annex under the High Line) are expected to bring 181 condos to the neighborhood. The 10-story tower on the eastern half of the High Line has topped out as of January 2019, and the western tower, which will reach 22 stories so that residents can catch views across the Hudson River, is already above ground. It’s likely the condos in the finished development will be pricey, as developer Related Companies has promised high-end interiors, plenty of amenities, and 175 parking spots. Coincidentally enough, Thomas Heatherwick’s High Line–straddling project is going up right next to BIG’s; on the southern side of 18th street is the XI, the Bjarke Ingels Group’s pair of twisting, travertine-clad towers. Once complete sometime in mid-2020, Heatherwick’s bulging towers will sit comfortably between the Gehry-design IAC building to the west, and venerable performing arts space the Kitchen to the north. The Vessel At the High Line’s northern terminus, looming over the entire park is the glass-heavy presence of Hudson Yards. At the center of this massive public-private development is the Vessel, Thomas Heatherwick’s $150 million, 150-foot-tall, bronzed-steel-and-concrete staircase sculpture. Completely climbable (an elevator will also be included for those unable to take the stairs), the Vessel features over 154 flights of stairs, 80 landings, and over 2,400 treads. The installation expands as it rises, going from a 50-foot-wide footprint at the base to a 150-foot-wide diameter at the top. Once at the top, visitors can expect unobstructed views across the Hudson River, down the city, and of the surrounding Hudson Yards neighborhood. The piece was prefabricated in 75 large parts in Italy, then assembled on site, with the last segment installed in December of 2017. When AN visited the site last, construction workers were busy putting the finishing touches on the sculpture’s rails and lights. Phase one of Hudson Yards, which includes the Vessel and the development’s five-acre public plaza in which it sits, is expected to open to the public on March 15 of this year.
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At the ForeFRONT

FRONT International names artistic directors for its 2021 triennial
Prem Krishnamurthy and Tina Kukielski have been chosen as co-artistic directors of the second edition of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art in 2021. The duo will help curate the large-scale exhibition based in Northeast Ohio that elevates the region as a center of arts and culture. Both art leaders have extensive design and curatorial experience. Krishnamurthy, a founding principal of the award-winning New York firm Project Projects is now partner and director of Wkshops where he designs visual identities for cultural organizations and brands. He champions the power of graphic design as a tool to shape narratives and bring social awareness. Krishnamurthy is a member of the creative team for the currently-open 57th Carnegie International. He also works as an independent exhibition maker and writer. Kukielski directs and serves as chief curator of Art21, a nonprofit arts organization that crafts stories on contemporary art and artists through documentary film. She produces the group’s longest-running TV program, “Art in the Twenty-First Century,” in which recent features included artists Nathalie Djurberg, Olafur Eliasson, David Goldblatt, and Hans Berg. Kukielski previously held curatorial positions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York as well as the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. In 2013, she co-curated the Carnegie International with Daniel Baumann and Dan Byers. Krishnamurthy and Kukielski’s appointment comes on the heels of last summer’s highly successful first edition of FRONT. Themed An American City, the inaugural triennial was directed by artist and curator Michelle Grabner and presented the work of over 120 global artists. The showcase, which was held in 28 different institutions and spaces across Northeast Ohio, brought in over 90,000 visitors and $31 million for the region. The next edition of FRONT will run from July 17 through October 2, 2021.
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Hitting Benchwallmarks

Governor Cuomo presents plan to prevent L train tunnel closure
At a 12:45 p.m. press conference Thursday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans to prevent the 15-month-long L train shutdown that was set to begin on April 27. Seated between a panel of engineering experts from Cornell and Columbia Universities and representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Cuomo repeatedly touted the innovative nature of the proposed solution—as well as his success in building the new Mario Cuomo Bridge. After Hurricane Sandy struck New York City in 2012, the Canarsie Tunnel that runs between Manhattan and Brooklyn was flooded with salt water. The L line, which ferries 250,000 riders a day between the two boroughs, still requires extensive repairs to fix the corrosion caused by the storm. The concrete bench walls lining the tunnel were damaged, as were the wires and other electrical components embedded behind them. The MTA was scrambling to implement alternatives for commuters, including turning an east-west stretch of Manhattan's 14th Street into a dedicated bus lane, but it now looks like the planning was for naught. The new scheme presented by Cuomo, a joint effort between the governor’s engineering team, WSP, Jacobs Engineering Group, and the MTA, restricts the slowdowns to nights and weekends. Instead of removing and rebuilding the tunnel’s bench wall, and the components behind it, only the most unstable sections will be removed. Then, a fiberglass wrapper will be bonded to the tunnel’s walls via adhesive polymers and mechanical fasteners. A new cable system will be run on the inside of the tunnel via a racking system and the old wiring will be abandoned. New walkways will be added to the areas where the bench walls have already been or will be removed. Finally, a “smart sensor” network of fiber-optic cables will be installed to monitor the bench wall’s movement and alert the MTA to potential maintenance issues. Governor Cuomo hailed the move as innovative, saying that this cable racking system was commonplace in European and Chinese rail projects but that this would be the first application in America. He also claimed that the fiberglass wrapping would be a “structural fix”, not just a Band-Aid, and that it was strong enough to hold the new Mario Cuomo bridge together. To increase the system’s sustainability, floodgates would be added to the First Avenue station in Manhattan and the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn. After the presentation was complete, Cuomo passed the microphone to MTA acting chairman Fernando Ferrer, who said that the agency would be implementing the changes immediately. Still, skepticism over whether the MTA would be able to implement the plan quickly bubbled up from the members of the press in attendance and on social media. Because this method of tunnel repair has thus far been untested in the U.S., the question of whether the MTA would be able to find skilled workers to implement the plan was raised. Cuomo, for the most part, brushed the concerns off, claiming that each piece of the repair scheme has been conducted individually before. If the L train repair plan proceeds as scheduled, one track at a time will be shut down on nights and weekends for up to 20 months. To offset the decrease in service, the MTA plans on increasing service on several other train lines, including the 7 and G.
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Trump in a Slump

Petition aims to rename the block in front of Trump Tower after Obama

As of today, over 3,900 people have signed an online petition to name a stretch of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan after former President Barack Obama. The petition comes shortly after a portion of Rodeo Road was renamed "Obama Boulevard" by the L.A. City Council in August.

“We request the New York City Mayor and City Council do the same by renaming a block of Fifth Avenue after the former president who saved our nation from the Great Recession, achieved too many other accomplishments to list, and whose two terms in office were completely scandal-free,” wrote Elizabeth Rowin, the author of the petition.

The clear controversy surrounding the appeal stems from the fact that the famed Trump Tower occupies the block, located on Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets, which petitioners want to dub “President Barack H. Obama Avenue.” If the name change were to be approved, President Trump would be constantly reminded of the president before him, a president who Trump has falsely accused of a variety of offenses over the years, ranging from lying about his citizenship to spying on Trump's campaign.

With 3,975 signatures and counting, the MoveOn.org appeal is a little ways away from reaching its goal of obtaining 4,000 signatures total.

To the dismay of the petitioners, the City Council holds that in order to get a street renamed after an important figure, the honoree must have had a meaningful connection to the community and must no longer be alive. While Obama does not meet at least one those prerequisites, petitioners and local residents hope to deliver the online form to Mayor Bill de Blasio for approval.

The New York City Council frequently votes on street co-namings, with 164 streets renamed within the past year. In December, the council voted to co-name streets after three of New York's greatest musical icons: Notorious B.I.G., the Wu-Tang Clan, and Woody Guthrie.

h/t 6sqft
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Density Immensity

This map depicts the population density of world cities in stunning detail
Maps are cool, maps are fun, maps show us things in the world that we couldn't otherwise see. Over at The Pudding, Matt Daniels has extruded block-by-block population data for some of the world's major cities to give viewers fine-grain insight into population distribution across the core and metro areas. New York, with Manhattan at the center, resembles a geyser just before gravity intervenes, while nearby but less dense locales like Philadelphia, D.C., and Boston look like a teenager's cheekbone in a Clearasil ad. (No shade towards the Northeast Corridor, I swear!) Daniels copped the data from the Global Human Settlement Layer and processed it using Google Earth Engine. For areas like India and China where population counts are unreliable, the data appears a little noisy in map view. A detailed explanation of the data gathering and manipulation is available here. Curious to see your city in bars? Head on over to Human Terrain. h/t City Observatory
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Political Innovation

Andrés Jaque offers an approach to “intersectional architecture”

Andrés Jaque is the founder of the New York and Madrid–based Office for Political Innovation. By exploring the expanded potential of architecture through both speculative and realized designs, the firm has received numerous accolades, including the 2015 MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program and the 2016 Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts. In 2014, Jaque’s SALES ODDITY: Milano 2 and the Politics of Direct-to-Home TV Urbanism garnered a 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale Silver Lion award. The 2011 IKEA Disobedients was the first “architectural performance” piece to enter the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. In this project, local residents were invited to hack IKEA furniture, and in doing so publicly perform their everyday private talents and determine their own lifestyles. The project suggests that not all people necessarily abide by the same normative principles or architectural dictates. Jaque is also the director of the Columbia University GSAPP postgraduate Advanced Architectural Design program.

As a member of this year’s AN Best of Design Awards jury, Jaque spoke to The Architect’s Newspaper contributor Adrian Madlener about the current state of architecture. 

The Architect’s Newspaper: What roles do architecture and urbanism play in addressing today’s global challenges?

Andrés Jaque: Architecture and urbanism have a responsibility to mediate some of the most pressing topics reshaping contemporary life: environmental degradation, mounting geopolitical tensions, and the articulation of physical and virtual worlds. There are three unavoidable facts facing society today: Climate change is forcing humanity to redefine how we engage with nature; technology is becoming increasingly autonomous, making it impossible for humanity to maintain control over its impact; and the evolving interaction society has with the offline and the online realms is blurring the distinction between what is real and what is virtual.

Attempting to set clear boundaries between these two realities requires a greater effort. Architecture plays an important role in all these issues. The field has a great capacity and responsibility in the making of facts catering to the collective sense of truth that all forces in society should now—more than ever—respect. Architecture is in the best disciplinary position it has ever been to shape the present and propose potential scenarios for the future.

AN: How can the discipline look to the past to inform the present?

AJ: As architects, we have to reflect on our practice, but also on our legacy. On one hand, we need to develop new ways to operate and respond to changing societal and environmental paradigms. On the other hand, we need to reconsider how we view our predecessors, how we understand and learn from architectural history. Just a few years ago, figures like Cedric Price, Lina Bo Bardi, the Ant Farm collective, and Frederick Kiesler were seen as marginal. Today, these unsung innovators are proving to be the best sources of information for tackling the field’s evolutionary challenges.

AN: You often say that architecture needs to incorporate knowledge from other disciplines. What are the benefits of this interdisciplinary approach?   

AJ: Architecture has the unique capacity to express different perspectives, materialities, temporalities, and scales in interventions charged with multiplicity. Whatever priorities we’re going to address, our response needs to be informed by different realities. Architecture is not an isolated practice. We have to consult other fields: science, art, technology, etcetera. In that way, the discourse around our discipline is becoming more intersectional. It’s important to understand that the design of a building or environment cannot just be accomplished with form and aesthetics alone. Different political, social, economic, and ecological implications need to be considered if a design is to be relevant. 

I defend the concept of intersectional architecture in my capacity as a practitioner and educator. My goal is to develop methodologies that can shift architecture’s interdependence on different realities into an opportunity to engage criticality and to intervene in many areas of contemporary life that are currently being disputed.

AN: Do any of your current projects exemplify the concept of intersectional architecture?

AJ: At Office for Political Innovation, we’re currently designing an experimental school. The project obliges us to simultaneously consider the daily life of its students, but also the larger context that they will occupy. On a larger scale, we’re actually structuring an ecosystem that addresses its own consumption. This aspect will also become an important resource when teaching the students about sustainability. 

We’re also currently designing a house on one of the outer islands near Corpus Christi, Texas. Our proposal offers solutions on different levels. On one hand, it’ll serve as a getaway for a Dallas-based family; on the other, it’ll collect fresh rainfall to irrigate the surrounding mangrove—an important line of defense that can combat erosion and rising sea levels. The house can accommodate the owner’s almost hedonistic desires while still ensuring the survival of its surroundings. What we’re realizing in our practice is that architecture needs to simultaneously cater to different realities within a single response. A design has the ability to address often disparate elements and perspectives.

AN: From your experience as a cocurator of 2018’s Manifesta 12 biennial in Palermo, Italy, how do you think art practice influences the way we imagine and/or create cities?

AJ: Palermo is not a city but rather a hub for the stratified relationships that tie it to distant places like sub-Saharan West Africa, Bangladesh, and the United States. These connections occur through the flow of capital and investment—that dispute the future of the city’s built environment—but also the nearby military base that foreign powers use to strike the Middle East and northern Africa. Palermo’s architecture, the dialectic between its role on a local and global level, has proved to be ineffectual in dealing with these transnational interactions.

In this scenario, architecture and art are the only disciplines that can bring heterogeneous situations together. Whether it’s the migration crisis or a personal struggle, these realities simultaneously develop on different scales. Architecture and art can mediate the evolution of these realities by introducing the values of urbanity, new forms of citizenship, and the aesthetics of inclusivity. This can only happen if such interventions take stock of what is already in place and grasp the full scope of complexity that the context might contain. To be truly impactful, the initiatives must cater to all parts rather than just the most powerful elements. An open cultural platform like the Manifesta art biennial offers architects and artists the space to test out independent action that the urgency of commercial commissions rarely provides. 

AN: How is architecture education changing?

AJ: Within the Advanced Architectural Design Program that I direct at Columbia University, students—who already have significant experience with design as a critical medium—explore new forms of practice in different contexts. They gain an analytical understanding that will allow them to intervene and apply architecture as a contemporary methodology. Various speculative exercises allow them to test out how the field could have a wider scope of influence in the future. They don’t learn a predetermined set of skills, but rather work together and with faculty to reinvent architecture as a discipline that can respond to the world’s greatest problems. 

It is crucial that they are able to translate this discursive approach when entering or reentering the profession. In our program, we’re trying to change architectural education by introducing an experimental pedagogy. Students are given the time and space to develop situated projects that address specific, real-world briefs. With its many firms, experts, advocacy agencies, and organizations, New York offers the perfect context for these investigations.

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Stacks on Stacks

Take a look behind the construction of the tallest modular hotel in the U.S.
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Modular construction is gaining steam in New York City, with the technique being utilized for new projects ranging from affordable housing to academic facilities. In September 2018, modular technology reached a new height with the tallest modular hotel in the United States, the 21-story citizenM New York Bowery located in Manhattan. For the modular units, Concrete Architectural Associates, Stephen B. Jacobs Group Architects and Planners, and DeSimone Consulting Engineers reached out to Polish manufacturers Polcom Modular, and Aluprof S.A.  The units, which measure 48 feet by 8 feet by 9 feet and incorporate two hotel rooms and a central corridor (following a pattern of guestroom-corridor-guestroom), were specifically designed to navigate the street width of New York City. Each module was assembled with the street-facing facade included.
  • Facade Manufacturer Aluprof S.A., Poland Polcom Modular
  • Architects Concrete Architectural Associates & Stephen B. Jacobs Group Architects and Planners
  • Facade Installer Architectural Building Services
  • Facade Consultants DeSimone Consulting Engineers                  Gilsanz Murray Steficek LLP
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion September 2018
  • System Mullion/transom captured system with hopper tilt-in windows
  • Products Aluprof MB-SR50 Hi; MB-60l
Following fabrication, the 210 modular units were transported hundreds of miles from the manufacturing facilities in Goleszów, Poland to the northern port city of Gdańsk where they began the second leg of their trip to New York’s Red Hook Terminal. From Brooklyn, a convoy of flatbed trucks transported the units across the East River to the construction site. The project began with the construction of a four-story concrete base, topped with a 36-inch-thick slab that spans up to 38 feet. This podium, which houses larger amenity spaces below, serves as a transfer slab to support the modular pods above. While the bulk of the citizenM New York Bowery hotel is composed of modular units, there are certain structural elements that span the building’s height. Prior to the craning in of prefabricated components, the construction team poured a full-height concrete structural core along the sites southwest corner and a sheer wall to the north. These concrete structural elements are the primary lateral system for the tower, with the sheer wall largely preventing the modular units from twisting. "Diagonal strap bracing on the module ceiling acted as the floor diaphragm to transfer the floor lateral loads back to the sheer walls," said DeSimone Consulting Engineers Managing Principal Borys Hayda, "the sheer wall's steel connection plates were bolted into the module ceilings and the female end of a Halfen stud embedded into the concrete structure." Once on site, the modules were lifted by crane and stacked module-to-module, each tied to the one directly below by bolted connections. According to DeSimone Engineers, "countersunk bolts were typically used for the diaphragm connections to prevent boltheads from interfering with the bearing of the module above." During construction, the prefabricated units were effectively cocooned within a watertight membrane, with the central portion later being cut out for the hotel’s corridors. After a brief learning curve at the start of the project, the construction team was capable of installing one floor of modular units per week. The top two floors of the tower are framed by structural steel, allowing for larger amenity spaces.
 
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PAU Wow

PAU to unleash 2,100-unit affordable housing complex in East New York
Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) is bringing over 2,000 units of affordable housing to the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, via a partnership with the Christian Cultural Center (CCC), an influential neighborhood church, and the Gotham Organization. The ten-acre development will be anchored by community services geared towards current residents in a neighborhood that's been in developers' crosshairs since a 2016 rezoning. Over the next decade-and-a-half, the team plans to deliver an "urban village" in the shadow of Starrett City, the country's largest federally-backed affordable housing complex. In addition to 2,100 apartments spread out over nine buildings, the new development will include performing arts center, medical services, a site for vocational training, retail space for local entrepreneurs, as well as athletic facilities and over two acres of public space. The plot, now used for parking on worship days, is owned by CCC. Groundbreaking is slated for sometime in the mid-2020s. "When we traditionally think about infrastructure, it’s transportation and utilities," said PAU Founder and Principal Vishaan Chakrabarti, in a press release. "Today, we know that for a community to succeed it needs access to a broader infrastructure of opportunity—open space, education, health care, child care, social opportunities, and culture. Each of these things is considered in the plan that we have prepared with Gotham to advance Rev. Bernard’s vision for a sustainable and equitable community." The reverend Chakrabarti references is Rev. A.R. Bernard, leader of CCC's 45,000-member congregation. Although his church and its future development sit about two miles south of the recently-rezoned area, the idea for the development came about as a way to protect the largely working-class community the church serves in the face of rampant developer-driven speculation in the neighborhood. East New York is second only to Long Island City, Queens, in the number of residential permit approvals last year, according to The New York Times. As local developers line up to build in East New York, it'll be a busy next decade for PAU, too. The New York firm was tapped to master plan Sunnyside Yards, the pasta tangle of rail lines in Queens that could be largely decked over for up to 24,000 apartments and companion facilities.
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Thanks for all the Flames

Egads! Here are the top architecture scandals and controversies of 2018
2018 is nearly over, and the world of architecture wasn’t immune from the deluge of drama that swept over politics and pop culture. Take a look back at the wildest stories of the year, and relive some of the outrage as the New Year rolls in. Richard Meier accused of sexual assault After a stunning New York Times expose in March where multiple women detailed four decades of harassment at the hands of Richard Meier, the architect announced that he would be taking a six-month leave of absence from Richard Meier & Partners Architects. The backlash was swift, and the AIANY announced that they would be stripping the 2018 Design Awards from Meier as well as Peter Marino, who was facing his own set of sexual harassment allegations. After Meier’s leave of absence ended in October, he announced that he would “step back from day-to-day activities” at the firm he founded in 1963. However, how involved Meier remains with the firm is still a matter of debate, as the studio announced that he “will remain available to colleagues and clients who seek his vast experience and counsel.” #MeToo rocks the architecture world After the revelations about Richard Meier went public, a debate over harassment and discrimination in the design world blew up. A Shitty Architecture Men list went live and detailed anonymous complaints about some of the biggest names on the architecture scene—before Google pulled the plug on the list over legal concerns. Still, the conversation around the gendered power dynamics typically present in architecture’s educational and professional track boiled over, and the AIA contiuned to address the topics at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018. Asbestos makes a comeback In AN’s most outrage-inducing story of 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that asbestos was back on the menu for use in products on a case-by-case basis. The agency issued a SNUR (Significant New Use Rule) that meant the impacts of asbestos on the air and water no longer needed to be considered in its risk assessment (asbestos is a friable material and easily crumbles into carcinogenic fibers when broken). After a significant uproar online, including from Chelsea Clinton, the AIA called for a blanket ban on the material’s use. Kanye’s summer of meltdowns Kanye West had an interesting summer. After returning to Twitter with a vengeance, ostensibly to promote his new album, West hung out with conservative commentators, took a trip to SCI-Arc’s Spring Show, declared that he would be launching an architecture studio called “Yeezy Home,” and revealed a collaboration with interior designer Axel Vervoordt. AN’s readers weren’t exactly thrilled at the news, but West did manage to at least release renderings of the studio’s first affordable housing prototypes. Unfortunately, West later deleted all of his past tweets and the fate of Yeezy Home, and the social housing project, is currently unknown. The sunset of 270 Park When it was announced that Chase wanted to tear down and replace the 52-story former Union Carbide headquarters, questions abounded about when, why, and how. The 57-year-old tower was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), but much of the credit goes to SOM partner Natalie Griffin de Blois, and the news prompted a debate about her legacy in what was then a predominantly male field. Debate erupted online over whether the tower should be demolished and replaced with a Foster + Partners-designed alternative, and AN’s senior editor, Matt Shaw, penned an op-ed asking that New York not stymie progress for buildings that weren’t worth it. The trials and tribulations of the AT&T Building The saga of Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s postmodern Midtown skyscraper took yet another turn this year. In January, the lobby of the AT&T Building (or 550 Madison) was stealthily demolished. Then, in July, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to landmark the building’s exterior, a definitive blow to the Snøhetta-designed renovation that would have glassed over the 110-foot-tall arch at the granite tower’s base. Unfortunately, owing to the work done earlier in the year, the lobby was no longer eligible for the same such protection. Then, ahead of the next round of LPC hearings, Snøhetta went back to the drawing board and released a much more sensitive scheme for restoring the tower that kept the arch, and the building’s imposing columns, intact. The AIA speaks out against rolling back license requirements Readers had an intense reaction to the AIA’s first Where We Stand statement of 2018. As the institute came out against an increasing trend of states rolling back license requirements for architects, readers were split. Would decreasing the barrier to entry increase competition, as the states claimed? Do architects really need to study for years and spend thousands of dollars in test materials to claim their certification? On the other hand, we expect doctors, lawyers, and practitioners in other highly-specialized fields to require licensing, so why should architecture be any different? Patrik Schumacher takes Zaha Hadid’s fellow trustees to court Patrik Schumacher drew scorn from the public after taking to London’s High Court in a bid to strip the other three executors of Dame Zaha Hadid's will from her $90 million estate. Zaha’s niece, Rana Hadid, artist and friend Brian Clarke, and developer and current Pritzker Prize jury chairman Lord Peter Palumbo, released a joint statement decrying the move. Before Hadid’s death, she had chosen the four to disperse her estate through the Zaha Hadid Foundation, and the non-Schumacher executors claimed that Schumacher's suit was for his personal financial gain. Schumacher responded, lamenting that his former friends and colleagues should have spoken with him first before going public with their grievances. Amazon takes Queens After a year of speculating, Amazon declared that it would be splitting up its HQ2 into two separate headquarters, dropping one in Long Island City, Queens, and the other in Crystal City, a suburb of Arlington, Virginia. The backlash against dropping a sprawling campus for 25,000 employees in New York’s already-overburdened waterfront neighborhood was swift, as city politicians and local residents criticized the $3 billion in subsidies the tech giant would receive, as well as the impact on the neighborhood. Foster + Partners’ London Tulip pierces the skyline The not-so-innocuously phallic Tulip tower in Central London made waves across the internet when it was revealed in November. Commentators and critics alike decried the 1,000-foot-tall observation tower, which balances a glass observation atrium atop a hollow concrete stem and would spring up next to the Gherkin. The icing on the cake is that the rotating pods on the outside of the glass bulb could be disruptive to the London City Airport’s radar system, meaning construction may have to wait until a full study is completed. Venturi Scott Brown-designed house suffers secret demolition When the purple-and-green, sunrise-evoking house designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, went on sale in June, it was hoped that a preservationist would save the building. The two-bed, two-and-a-half bath Abrams House was built in 1979 and was in great condition, but it soon came to light that the new owner only purchased the home so that he could tear it down. The buyer, Bill Snyder, also owns the Richard Meier-designed Giovannitti House next door and began a secret interior demolition which he claimed was necessary to preserve the landscape around the Meier building. After the news came to light, preservationists and colleagues of Venturi and Scott Brown rallied for the house’s protection.
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Slurp It Up

2018 Best of Design Awards winners for Interior — Hospitality
2018 Best of Design Award for Interior — Hospitality: Hunan Slurp Designer: New Practice Studio Location: New York For an eatery that features authentic street rice noodles from the Hunan province of China, New Practice wanted to create a dining space that engages with the bustling East Village neighborhood. Hunan Slurp was conceived as a place to both look into and out of. Grabbing the attention of passersby, a linear volume runs from the storefront into the interior, while a group of communal dining tables anchor the core of the space and add to its continuity. The interplay between white plastered walls and backlit lattice wood screens creates a bright and warm atmosphere. The arched, fillet corner design is intended to resemble the shape of rice noodles. Beyond this central focal piece is a more intimate space. Marble-topped tables and a cozy banquette flank a glazed-wall kitchen, allowing diners to see their food being prepared. Honorable Mentions  Project Name: City of Saints, Bryant Park Designer: Only If Location: New York Project Name: Sant Ambroeus Coffee Bar at Hanley Designer: Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture Location: New York