For the first time in 160 years, a 6-acre span on the East River waterfront in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge is open to the public. Located in front of the former Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn, James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) designed Domino Park to inspire curiosity about the site’s history while including new materials to balance its unique identity with performance. A unifying element in Domino Park is its artifact walk that weaves throughout the site. According to Lisa Switkin, senior principal at JCFO, “Integrating the artifact walk with custom furniture made from reclaimed wood from the Raw Sugar Warehouse creates a unique experience where people come into contact with remnants of the original refinery and have an up-close relationship with those artifacts.” Throughout the park, JFCO-designed benches, tables, and chaise lounges create texture and a sense of community. The elevated walkway is supported by beams from the refinery, while other factory elements such as columns, lattice beams, and a loading dock are incorporated throughout. Stadium-style seating made out of the refinery’s salvaged wood creates a central gathering space in front of a water feature by Soucy Aquatik. The refinery’s influence is also evident in the playground, designed by Mark Reigelman, with its many nods to factory structures. It also incorporates part of the factory’s old floors. The park is organized into three areas. Each is connected by Hanover pavers selected in a mix of finishes for durability and color, “keeping with the tough, industrial look as well as maintenance and loading requirements,” said Switkin. The most active area, in the southern end, holds a dog park, a picnic playground, a bocce ball court, and a tennis court. The middle area is dotted with lawn chairs and features a fog bridge. The recreational stretch in the north houses the lawn, a beach, the playground, and the elevated walkway. Tectura pavers were chosen for the walkway because of the manufacturer’s ability to produce the long-format precast concrete planks needed to fit the dimensions of the walkway and meet the load criteria. Introducing new lighting by BEGA, Sentry Electric, and LED Linear, along with Landscape Forms’ Ring Bike Racks and Chase Park Receptacles, JCFO was able to work with materials that are highly durable and sustainable. Switkin explained, “These products created a dynamic urbanscape to activate the neighborhood.” Master Planner: SHoP Architects and James Corner Field Operations Landscape Architect: James Corner Field Operations General Contractor: Kelco Pavers: Hanover Architectural Products, Tectura Designs Lighting: BEGA, Sentry Electric, LED Linear Furniture: Custom benches, tables, and seating steps made with reclaimed wood from Raw Sugar Warehouse, Landscape Forms' Ring Bike Rack and Chase Park Receptacle, Elkay Drinking Fountains Fog Bridge: Soucy Aquatik Playground Designer: Mark Reigelman Custom Playground Equipment: Landscape Structures
Search results for "waterfront"
Nature as a model for architectural forms has been mimicked as imagery since the first archetypal building, and now, natural biological systems are reaching a heightened interest in emerging fields of architecture, science, and material structures as biomimicry. In Metamorphosis of Plants, Goethe’s scientific understanding of “dynamic archetypes” focused on transformation and evolution rather than fixed forms and species – notions undeniably reimagined in the adaptive system of variant cellular structures and surfaces of Jenny Sabin Studio’s LUSTER. Rather than imitating nature, scaling up data or images found in nature, a canopy structure is created through an understanding of morphology relationships between generative and computational design. Building on her previous collaborations with biologists, Sabin’s representation of nature, as in in Sir D’Arcy’s “On Growth and Form,” is recast using 3d seamless knitting developed with Wholegarment technology. As an engaged visitor immersed from dusk to nightfall in Sabin’s knit structures at House of Peroni New York debut exhibition of LUSTER curated by Art Production Fund, variable instances of growth are staged, playing out in a luminous performance of surfaces, rising and falling, as if inverted stalagmites captured in-formation. Like Goethe’s “sensuous dynamic archetype,” Sabin’s co-evolutional structure and materiality is animated by an opening and closing cellular system, distressed and stretched into unique yet familiar shapes. The systematized fabric sprouts a second life with striation patterns coming alive in alternating light and color transformations, where, one by one, photoluminescent knit fiber links are activated to release light. Sabin’s sensory and material choreographies create haptic desire. They set up responsive behaviors between the naturally swaying textured archetype and the human body, finding semblance in Tropos, Ann Hamilton’s topography of irregular patterned variegated horse-hair fibers’, or more closely in habitus’s gigantic hung textiles twirling in perpetual motion to the sound of their own mechanism. Moving beyond the organic, Sabin’s ethereal fabric surfaces dislodge the static experience to engage the body as perceptual devices - a testimony to human curiosity, sensory indulgence, and bodily silhouettes. Similar to spherulite formation in crystalline cell structures that start as circular forms and collide and transmute into morphing geometries due to different growth rates, Sabin’s geometric assembly of parts to whole appear as mutations of the circle. Each part, either growing slowly in the canopy above, or rapidly descending as a figure hovering above the ground. Moving away from masculine, formulaic, cartesian space that relies on mathematical principles, Sabin refers to more feminine, systemic, network assemblies that don’t follow a rigid order. The porous, soft, intimate nature of the knit engages the visitor’s desire to touch and peer into. Non-programmed openings generate organic distribution of holes, giving the cone’s structures a degree of autonomy. Sabin’s approach blurs the boundary between the objectivity of science and subjectivity of our perception. Originally an error in the calculation of density of holes, a tightly stitched ring around each individual hole produced “knots,” offering added rigidity to the overall forms and becoming a design parameter to eliminate unwanted sagging. Soon to be transported to 3 distinct environments and contexts, perhaps LUSTER’s most transformative power aims beyond its luminous essence through its formally responsive capacity for site-specific conditions. Adjustable distribution tension in the nylon webbing that supports the stretchy knit surfaces, along with zipper seam joints in areas that anticipate alternate configurations, the adaptive nature is masterfully built into her piece - transforming as a whole through its parts. House of Peroni’s 1-day lifespan installations and local artist interventions curated by Art Production Fund, incite visitors to witness how this ephemeral canopy might yield reincarnations of itself as a responsive archetype. From New York’s West Village industrial building at the edge of the Hudson river, to a converted indoor/outdoor warehouse in Los Angeles, an exterior waterfront space in Miami, and historic property in Washington, perhaps this project’s greatest luster is achieved by remaining in flux, shifting our perception of light and space as if the knitting machine was compelled to stop at its own intrinsic interval of time, capturing the beauty of the unfinished work of nature. Exhibition dates and collaborating artists: Nov. 8th.: Jeanette Getrost, Los Angeles; Nov. 14th: Michelle Weinberg, Miami; and Nov. 28th Lu Zhang, Washington.
The shutdown of the Foster + Partners–designed “town square”–style Apple store in Stockholm by the new City Council was only the beginning. Now, the city won’t appeal a decision on May 22 by Sweden’s Land and Environment Court to halt construction of the $132 million Nobel Center, effectively dooming the David Chipperfield Architects–designed complex. Stockholm’s bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics has also been halted, leaving only Calgary and a joint bid between Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo remaining on the shortlist. The shift is the direct result of the new center-right coalition established in the City Council between the right-leaning Alliance group and the Green Party following an election on September 9 that left the council without a majority group in power. The new power-sharing agreement was only realized in mid-October owing to the more than eight active major parties in Sweden's national politics. The coalition was predicated on two major deals: blocking the Winter Olympics bid and stopping the Nobel Center. This isn’t the first time that Chipperfield’s Nobel Center has faced pushback from the city government, and a revised, more contextual design was presented back in 2016. Opponents have argued that the Center, formed from two stacked boxes wrapped in vertical bronze louvers, would destroy the cultural and historic fabric of Stockholm’s Blasieholmen peninsula. The Blasieholmen extends into the Klara Sjö canal, and the Center would have oriented its double-height presentation out toward the waterfront to provide a permanent home for all future Nobel Prize award ceremonies. Despite the smaller footprint and a tighter circulation plan, the court ruling in May dinged the proposal for the building’s size, out-of-context color, and sensitive location. Now that the City Council has pledged to let the ruling stand, the Nobel Foundation is crying foul. “For the past seven years, we have acted in accordance with our agreements,” Foundation executive director Lars Heikensten told the Architects’ Journal. “We interpret today’s announcement as meaning that the Alliance, in co-operation with the Green Party, is trying to diverge from signed agreements. “A project of major, long-term significance for Stockholm as a city of science and a center for lively discussion in the spirit of Alfred Nobel is thus at risk of being sacrificed to short-term political interests.” David Chipperfield Architects released their own statement, saying that, “The project for the Nobel Centre has been developed over the last five years through a process of continuous dialogue between the client team, planners and the city authority. We are, therefore, extremely disappointed by this announcement.” If Stockholm’s city government ultimately decides not to challenge the lower court’s ruling, the Nobel Foundation will need to go back to the drawing board and choose an alternate location for the Center.
Two Bridges to Nowhere
The Dubaification of New York
The residents of the Two Bridges neighborhood in the Lower East Side find themselves in a predicament. Throughout the city, developers have targeted expired urban renewal areas originally governed by land-use controls that have ensured housing affordability for decades. The Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Development is one such target. Exploiting the site’s underlying high-bulk zoning allowances, a group of developers is proposing to build four new predominantly market-rate skyscrapers, ranging in height from 62 to 80 stories—four gleaming luxury megatowers that portend a storm of gentrification and displacement. The proposal needs approval by the city administration. Many argue that the development requires a “Special Permit,” which would call for a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). In 2016, Carl Weisbrod, then Chair of the City Planning Commission, declared the project a “Minor Modification” requiring no ULURP. After public outcry, the Department of City Planning requested the developers to undertake an unprecedented joint Environmental Review. On October 17, 2018, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing regarding the proposal’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The room was packed. About 100 people testified. The vast majority (myself included) raised serious objections to the project and the approval process. Only five were in favor: two members of a union advocating for 50 permanent building service jobs promised for the site; an advocate for the disabled, who supports all projects that add elevators to subway stops; the current Two Bridges commercial tenant, who is promised a long-term lease in the new complex; and the executive director of Settlement Housing Fund, who is selling air rights to the 80-story tower. At the public hearing, questions about the appropriateness of the project’s scale were addressed by Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP, the firm responsible for the 80-story tower, who showed examples of recent large-scale waterfront projects and said that the city has consistently approved this kind of development. In his presentation, Pasquarelli glossed over substantive issues of urban context. The audience was baffled if not offended. When Pasquarelli claimed that the project “will create a vibrant, beautiful, equitable, and appropriate skyline for the city and its residents,” the room actually burst into laughter. Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin pointed out that the projects of “tremendous scale” that Pasquarelli used to make his case were in manufacturing areas transitioning to a new use, while this expired urban renewal area was planned for, and still is, a low- and moderate-income residential development. Pasquarelli, showing what was at best was ignorance and at worst callousness, did not really respond and brought up the example of the American Copper Buildings, a SHoP-designed 800-unit residential development in an already affluent neighborhood, with nowhere close to the same risks of gentrification and displacement impending at Two Bridges. Laughter also greeted Pasquarelli’s closing sentence: “the city is in a housing crisis, and this provides a huge amount of affordable housing for the neighborhood.” Indeed, a quarter of the new apartments (694 out of 2,775 units) will have a degree of affordability. But for whom? Surely not the current residents of Two Bridges, whose households’ median income ($30K) is below the threshold for renting in the new ‘affordable’ units ($37K). City-wide trends and the advent of Essex Crossing have already resulted in the loss of rent-regulated units as well as higher eviction rates in the area. The influx of 2,081 market-rate apartments cannot but exacerbate the situation and lead to residential and business displacement. Whose neighborhood will this be once bodegas are replaced by cafés selling five-dollar lattes? The Environmental Review was meant to identify any adverse impact from the proposed development in 19 areas of analysis as defined by the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) Technical Manual guidelines. The review found negative impact in five areas—Transportation, Shadows, Open Space, Construction, and Community Facilities & Services—for which the developers are proposing some mitigation. No adverse impact was found in 14 areas, among them Socioeconomic Conditions and Neighborhood Character. How is this possible? The CEQR guidelines are notoriously flawed. For instance, per the guidelines, no resident of a building with even one rent-regulated unit is vulnerable to indirect displacement. Even more troubling: the guidelines call for a “No Action” scenario to be used as a comparison when evaluating indirect displacement. The DEIS defines “No Action” as a condition “in which projects are expected to continue the trend towards market-rate development and rising residential rents in the study area. In accordance with the CEQR Technical Manual guidelines, since the vast majority of the study area has already experienced a readily observable trend toward increasing rents and new market rate development, further analysis is not necessary.” The “No Action” scenario is one of several critical factors that make possible and seemingly inevitable what we might call the ‘dubaification’ of New York City. It is not a loophole: the developers and their compliant architects are going by the book, following the law to the letter. The problem is written in the law itself: once you accept the premise that the market is already conquering the city—that increasing rents and luxury developments are already the norm—no new project, no matter how big or in which urban context, can ever be held responsible for negatively affecting the socio-economic fabric of any area. The question, in assessing this proposal as well as the spate of massive developments popping up all over the city, is not solely about scale. To be sure, height is a major concern. (I find it ironic that the tallest of the existing six housing complexes at Two Bridges is a 21-story building that everyone calls “The Tower.”) But what these megatowers portend is something more ominous: an ever more homogeneous and generic skyline; the disappearance of neighborhoods and their communities; apartments becoming phantom residencies for absentee investors; dwelling valued only as an investment, a commodity; a city of resplendent buildings towering over dead streets. There is still time to do the right thing for Two Bridges. The City Planning Commission will be voting as early as November 14 on the “Minor Modification.” They must deny it. A ULURP must be granted, to allow the public and elected officials to negotiate for more significant community benefits, including greater and deeper affordability as well as height caps to truly tackle the adverse impact of the megatowers. More important, the Two Bridges debate is an opportunity to start imagining alternative visions for our city. The City administration must close zoning loopholes and fix the CEQR guidelines. Let’s build a city in which housing is not treated as a commodity but as a fundamental right.
Look on the Sunnyside
Amazon to split HQ2 between New York and Virginia, but can they handle it?
Only hours after the news leaked that Amazon was considering Crystal City, a suburb in Arlington, Virginia, that bounds D.C. for the site of its second headquarters, sources are reporting that two cities will actually be taking home a shiny new HQ2. Long Island City in Queens and Crystal City in Northern Virginia will both be getting a mini-HQ2 of sorts and the accompanying 25,000 employees, raising concerns that both neighborhoods will soon face an influx of wealthier residents that will further strain already stressed housing and transportation systems. Although the Chicago Tribune noted that Amazon’s decision to split up its headquarters may have been to head off criticism that it would overburden any city that HQ2 landed in (echoing complaints of Seattle residents), it may not be enough. Over the last year, 1,436 new residential units were built in Long Island City during a time when New York is already struggling—and using increasingly novel means—to hit affordable housing goals. The decision appears to have been weeks, if not months, in the making. Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have met with representatives of Amazon in the past few weeks, with the mayor’s office leading tours of the Queens neighborhood.
Just last week, the city announced that it would be infusing the waterfront neighborhood with $180 million in investments toward improving schools, infrastructure, transportation, and open space; it now appears that the announcement’s timing was more than coincidental. The city may also be banking on the future development of Sunnyside Yard, the 180-acre active rail yard situated between Long Island City and Sunnyside, to soak up some of the expected influx of new residents. Although Long Island City, directly across the East River from Midtown Manhattan, is served by eight subway lines, the Long Island Railroad, and easy connections to both John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, New York’s subway and bus systems are already in the middle of a crisis. Sky-high ridership in recent years, overcrowding, cascading mechanical failures, and struggles to find the funding necessary to fix the subways’ most pressing issues have all contributed to a decrease in the quality of New York’s transportation network. Governor Cuomo, for his part, has been quiet on whether the incentives offered to Amazon include money to improve, or at least fortify, the subway system, though to this point, the administration has already pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives. Yesterday, the governor joked that he’d go as far as to “change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that's what it takes." We’ll see if he follows through.
I don't know exactly where in LIC Amzon HQ2 will be, but the majority of LIC is categorized as opportunity zones. If HQ2 is built in an opportunity zone, Amazon will not pay taxes on land. In New York City. pic.twitter.com/IwTpYDK5Rt— Lena Afridi (@lpafridi) November 6, 2018
Florida’s soon-to-be tallest building, SkyRise Miami, is on track to becoming the country’s sole vertical theme park, complete with a dramatic sloping outer wall that will offer thrill-seekers the option to try gravity-defying stunts. After years of setbacks and legal controversy, the 1,000-foot-tall building—like something straight out of a Mission Impossible movie—will tower over the edge of Biscayne Bay by 2023. According to Building Design + Construction, the project was designed by Arquitectonica and will begin construction early next year on a small piece of land just outside of downtown Miami. Local firms Berkowitz Development Group and Plaza Construction will lead the build-out alongside a hefty team of partners including structural engineers Magnusson Klemencic Associates, exhibition designers gsmprjct°, and engineering consultants Cosentini Associates and DVS. Composed of 30,000 tons of structural steel, SkyRise will house several observation decks that will boast unfiltered views of Miami, and will serve as an entertainment and retail complex with restaurants, nightclubs, a ballroom, and boardrooms for rent. Among its many offerings will be the Flying Theater, inspired by the Soarin’ ride at Epcot in Disney World, the SkyPlunge for base-jumpers, and the Skydrop, which drops riders elevator-style 540 feet at speeds of up to 95 miles per hour. SkyRise will also feature a zero-gravity tunnel, a transparent slide that loops outside the building, as well as a clear skydeck that cantilevers off the structure. The facility will be operated by Legends, a sports and entertainment management company owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. Among the city’s handful of mega-projects in Coconut Grove and downtown Miami, SkyRise is one of the most ambitious and most politically-troubled structures in development. Per The Real Deal, the building was approved by the city commission and local voters in the August 2014 primary election, despite opposition regarding the project’s competitive bid process. The Florida Supreme Court swooped in the following year to stop the complaint and effectively allow the project to move forward. Not only is the tower’s planned construction a breakthrough for the developers and the project’s many supporters, the design itself is unprecedented. The teams at Berkowitz and Arquitectonica told BD+C that they plan to build it with concrete in addition to the structural steel—a combination that hasn’t been done before in South Florida. Given its small footprint with the bay, the building will also have to withstand up to 186 mile-per-hour winds during hurricane season. The engineering for the tower alone, much like the attractions inside, must be groundbreaking for it to stay afloat. Many of the upcoming residential and commercial enclaves in Miami, especially those sitting directly on its waterfront, pose the same challenges for their developers and architects. Merging (literal) high design with resiliency efforts is a hot-button issue for coastal communities across the U.S. and Southern Florida. With name-brand firms like Bjarke Ingels Group, OMA, and Zaha Hadid Architects taking on larger developments in Miami, other-worldly designs are poised to not only propel Miami as an architectural attraction but also to support the city’s efforts to disaster-proof all of its latest urban advances from future storms.
Round and Round...
Allied Works and OLIN team up to complete a spiraling veterans museum
The concrete-wrapped National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM) in Columbus, Ohio, is now complete and open to the public. Rather than a traditional museum focused solely on exhibitions, the NVMM was envisioned as a memorial to departed veterans, a place of education, and as a gathering place for civic and commemorative events. The NVMM, sited right on the banks of the Scioto River, integrates a contemplative OLIN-designed landscape with the Allied Works Architecture–designed two-story, 53,000-square-foot museum building. The round museum building features a distinctive cross-braced concrete facade over the main entrance—a motif repeated across the interior walls—which symbolically elevates a rooftop sanctuary plaza. The skyline of downtown Columbus looms over the sanctuary, but the plaza is meant to be for reflection, events, and ceremonies exclusively. The sanctuary, which resembles a sunken amphitheater ringed by greenspace, can be accessed from inside the museum, or by traveling up a sloping concrete ramp that wraps around the building. Inside, the museum’s exhibition spaces have been ringed around the perimeter of the building, affording plenty of natural light and views of the surrounding waterfront. Past the ground floor lobby, a great hall offers views of the city as well as a place for gatherings and other events. The NVMM’s programming, laid out by the creative agency Ralph Appelbaum Associates with the Veterans Advisory Committee, uses the museum’s circular structure to guide visitors through a storyline designed to connect them with veterans’ experiences. Films, sculptures, photos, and quotes from veterans are included throughout each phase of the story: leaving home, being in service, returning, and becoming a veteran. On the second floor, guests will find a remembrance gallery dedicated to veterans who have lost their lives and an entrance to the sanctuary plaza, connecting the building’s external structure to the internal features. Outside, OLIN has designed a walkable landscape around the museum, including a circular path leading to a similarly-round memorial grove at its core. The grove has been bounded by a stacked-stone wall and several waterfall fountains that feed an illuminated reflecting pool below. The design, development, and construction of the museum, as well as the push to have it designated as a national site, was led by the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation. The NVMM is the country’s first national veterans museum, and as the project grew in scope, it eventually grew to include narratives and artifacts from veterans across every branch of the military and every state.
Spatial Affairs Bureau can get a lot done. Started in 2010, the multifaceted landscape, architecture, and design practice led by Peter Culley boasts a wide array of diverse and engaging projects in the United States and England, with offices in London, Los Angeles, and Richmond, Virginia. With a background in landscape-focused cultural projects—Culley earned his stripes at London-based landscape architecture practice Gustafson Porter + Bowman in the late 1990s—Spatial Affairs pursues an intellectually nimble practice by pushing project constraints toward broad ends that encompass everything from “interior landscapes” to urban-scaled configurations. As the number of commissions in hand has multiplied over the years, the practice has become well-versed in combining the advice of expert consultants with its own penchant for programmatic and spatial innovation. It does so in an effort to create layered material and historic conditions that always push back toward the landscape in some form or another. The approach has resulted in a string of under-the-radar but dramatically good-looking commissions that aim to create something greater—and more cohesive—than the typical, rigidly defined arenas of normative practice might allow. Aside from the work profiled here, Spatial Affairs Bureau has a number of other significant projects on the way, including several sustainable houses in Los Angeles, a master plan and remodel of the headquarters for advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, and a new pedestrian path and bicycle redevelopment scheme for the Richmond, Virginia, waterfront. Birmingham Markets Park As the city of Birmingham, England, looks to capitalize on a historic opportunity to create a new major civic space and park, Spatial Affairs is working to enrich a community-led proposal by laying out new residential, commercial, and public spaces in synergy with greenery and public health goals. To highlight the potential of the site, Spatial Affairs has developed an alternative approach that appropriates the leftover footprint of a redundant public market as the heart of the new parks complex. The project aims not only to meet the city's stated commercial and residential development goals, but also to use urban design in an effort to focus the benefits of rising land values surrounding the site toward community needs. Metropolitan Museum of Art Spatial Affairs Bureau has worked on several projects with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, both as a part of an interdisciplinary team that provided new outdoor seating areas for the museum’s Fifth Avenue location, and for several other projects as an independent contractor, including at the Met Breuer building. As part of its work with the Met, for example, the firm developed a pair of black metal panel–wrapped security buildings to flank the museum. Here, Culley deploys gently tapering forms designed to “respond to the classical architecture and soften the impact of larger elements as they meet the ground.” The approach was mirrored in a series of sleek bronze ticketing kiosks Culley created to help relieve crowding at both museum locations. Crosstown Arts The Contemporary Art Center in Memphis, Tennessee, is an arts and culture complex strategically carved out from within the hulking mass of a landmarked—but currently underutilized—1.5 million-square-foot former Sears warehouse and distribution center. The venue includes galleries, shared art making facilities, offices, artist-in-residence studios, and a bar. These amenities encompass portions of the first two floors of the warehouse, including a 10-story light well located at the center of the complex. With a distinctive, curving red staircase and excavated flared concrete columns populating the main “hypostyle” lobby, the complex represents an attempt to breathe new social life into a long-forgotten relic. Bouverie Mews Culley is also pushing the envelope in terms of housing, especially with the firm’s proposal for a planned 5,400-square-foot arts and residential compound in North London. There, the architect is working on a ground-up duplex anchored by studio space and a sculpture court. The Passive House complex is located atop a former brownfield site and is sandwiched between existing multifamily homes, warehouses, and the Grade II Listed Abney Park Cemetery Wall. Due to the landlocked project site, designs for the complex include multi-tiered gardens, precisely calibrated frameless skylights, and an interior layout that emphasizes borrowed daylight and views between different project areas.
Concerns about data privacy continue to dog the “smart city” planned for the Toronto waterfront by Google’s sister company Sidewalk Labs. But it isn’t just residents and watchdog groups raising the alarm—consultants and advisors to the project are also jumping ship. The latest to leave is Dr. Ann Cavoukian, a privacy expert whose resignation was intended as a “strong statement” about the project's data protection issues. Announced last year, Quayside, as the neighborhood development is called, has from the beginning been envisioned as a district run on data and tech, and is the largest urban development of its kind in North America. A layer of sensors embedded in the city would control traffic systems, monitor air pollution, automate garbage collection, transport residents, and much more. In response to concerns about how it would protect the data, Sidewalk Labs just last week proposed that it should be managed by an independent data trust, according to a new data governance proposal. But this is far from enough for privacy experts like Cavoukian. “I imagined us creating a Smart City of Privacy, as opposed to a Smart City of Surveillance,” she wrote in her resignation letter. Cavoukian’s guidelines center around Privacy by Design principles, which incorporate privacy protection in every step of a project’s engineering process, a condition that she said Sidewalk Labs had also committed to. However, Cavoukian said she realized last week that the data gathered in Quayside, instead of being wiped and unidentifiable, would be available to third parties who would not be beholden to the privacy commitment made by Sidewalk Labs. The Alphabet company, for its part, released a statement that essentially said its hands were tied: "It became clear that Sidewalk Labs would play a more limited role in near-term discussions about a data governance framework at Quayside." With Cavoukian's resignation, she joins Saadia Muzaffar, founder of Tech Girls Canada, who stepped down earlier this month from the project's digital strategy advisory panel due to what she called a lack of transparency and public information about its data protection measures. As Muzaffar wrote in her own letter of resignation: "The most recent roundtable in August displayed a blatant disregard for resident concerns about data and digital infrastructure. Time was spent instead talking about buildings made out of wood and the width of one-way streets, things no one has contested or expressed material concern for in this entire process.” The final plan for the tech-driven district will be released next year.
SCAPING up to Boston
Boston taps SCAPE for a resilient harbor vision
The city of Boston has unveiled a new vision for protecting the city’s 47 miles of shoreline and has used New York’s SCAPE Landscape Architecture to visualize the vision plan. The plan, "Resilient Boston Harbor," was presented yesterday by Mayor Martin J. Walsh before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. It builds off of the Climate Ready Boston 2070 flood maps and existing district-level plans, coastal resilience neighborhood studies, and the work done under the Imagine Boston 2030 initiative. The ultimate goal is to reinforce Boston’s public spaces, buildings, and infrastructure against the encroach of rising sea levels, the strengthening of storms that climate change will bring, as well as heat waves, drought, and worsening blizzards. With Boston’s population approaching 700,000 for the first time since the 1960s, catastrophic flooding would affect more residents than ever. “We’re not just planning for the next storm we’ll face, we’re planning for the storms the next generation will face,” said Mayor Walsh. “A resilient, climate-ready Boston Harbor presents an opportunity to protect Boston, connect Boston, and enhance Boston, now and for the future. As we enter a new era in our Harbor’s history, Boston can show the world that resilience is not only the ability to survive adversity, but to emerge even stronger than before. That’s the promise of a Resilient Boston.” To meet that ambitious goal, the city has broken down its plan into separate chunks for each neighborhood. The final goal involves opening up public access to the waterfront by raising portions of the coastal landscape, installing strategic flood walls, elevating infrastructure, and flood-proofing buildings, representing a synthesis and consolodation of the prior resiliency work done in the city. In East Boston and Charlestown, Wood Island and Belle Isle will be reinforced to prevent the loss of Boston’s only remaining salt marsh, and the most important transportation corridors will be elevated. The Schrafft Center waterfront will also be redeveloped to incorporate elevated parks and boosted economically by the addition of new mixed-use buildings. In South Boston and Fort Point, Fort Point Channel is currently a major floodway that will need to be redesigned, and a string of parks, dubbed the “Emerald Necklace,” will sop up excess floodwater along Columbia Road. In North End and Downtown, the Harborwalk and Long Wharf are slated for renovations, and the city is planning to kick off a Climate Ready Downtown study to pinpoint further optimizations. Similarly, Boston will launch Climate Ready Dorchester to study improvements to the Dorchester Waterfront. A redesign of Morrissey Boulevard to buffer it against flooding, and the opening of the waterfront along Columbia Point, have already been singled out as potential strategies. The cost won’t be cheap, but Mayor Walsh rationalized the expense as preventative. “In East Boston, we could invest $160 million in resilience or we could do nothing, and expect damages of $480 million," Walsh told the Chamber. "In Charlestown, we could invest $50 million now or pay over $200 million later. In South Boston, we could invest $1 billion or we could pay $19 billion in citywide damages, when Fort Point Channel and Dorchester Bay meet and flood the heart of our city. “We either invest now, or else we pay a much bigger price later. And we’ll pay that price in more than dollars. We’ll pay it in jobs lost, small businesses that never recover, homes destroyed, and families displaced.” The city will start by investing millions at each of the above sites and ten percent of all future capital funding towards resiliency initiatives. Still, the north-of-a-billion-dollar estimates will require funding from Massachusetts, the federal government, and private, non-profit, and philanthropic organizations. Besides hitting the goals outlined in Resilient Boston Harbor, the city is also committed to going completely carbon neutral by 2030.
The Future is Green
Major investment coming to Detroit and Buffalo’s waterfront park projects
As Detroit and Buffalo get set to take on two transformative park projects along their respective waterfronts, both cities have been generously backed by a philanthropic organization aiming to enhance green space and bolster community engagement. Today, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced its pledge to invest over $1.2 billion in the cities by 2035 in honor of its founder, the Buffalo Bills’ late owner, and his centennial birthday. The Foundation is making a sizable donation to Western New York and Southeast Michigan—the two areas Wilson loved most—by committing a combined $200 million for upgraded parks and 250 miles of trails in the regions. A large chunk of that change will go directly to revitalizing LaSalle Park in Buffalo and West Riverfront Park in Detroit. With a design already envisioned by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) and David Adjaye, the latter parkland will give Michiganites long-desired, tangible access to the Detroit River. Though the 77-acre LaSalle Park has stretched across Lake Erie’s edge since the 1930s, it’s massive potential for further beautification and elevated programming could increase the quality of life for Buffalo residents and beyond. Dave Enger, president of the Foundation, stressed that community involvement is the key to taking on these monumental landscape goals. “Foundations don’t build parks, communities do,” he said. “Our vision is really to support these wonderful projects and the people that have the vision.” The design process is well underway for West Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit. Situated atop a former industrial piece of land, the 22-acre parkland will be a year-round destination for fishing, skating or swimming, sports, entertainment, and family gatherings. MVVA’s proposal was chosen over 80 other submissions in an international design competition to reimagine the park, which was transferred from private ownership to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy in 2014. Since their master plan was selected earlier this spring, MVVA has worked alongside the Conservancy and the Detroit Mayor’s office to garner feedback from locals and find out their personal ambitions for the park. The firm’s principal, Michael Van Valkenburgh, said his team especially loved talking to people aged 60 and older about their childhoods in Detroit—the places they loved and why. For many, the secluded Belle Isle was the only locale they could go to enjoy green space and the river at the same time. But that’s about to change thanks to these new ideas for downtown. “Not every place in Detroit has what New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park offers—a way to touch the water and put your toes in,” said Van Valkenburgh. “Because Detroit is so vast horizontally, we knew needed to add shock and awe to the design to get Detroiters who were far away to come to the water. Michiganders feel defined by and proud that the state is surrounded on three sides by the Great Lakes. We thought giving access to the water, through this cove and beach creation, would be a big draw.” A construction start date hasn’t yet been announced for West Riverfront Park, but officials estimate it will be complete by 2022. Van Valkenburgh is sure the master plan will go through many design iterations before ground is broken and he’s excited about more community input. “I’ve been going to public meetings since 1990,” he said. “These have been the most uplifting public meetings I’ve ever been a part of. People come with a real sense that this park is going to be a big lift for the city. They really want it.” At the other end of Lake Erie is LaSalle Park in Buffalo. Though it’s a long-loved and well-utilized community treasure, city stakeholders agree that it could use significant improvements. In 1998, the city conducted a planning review to overhaul the expansive parkland and identify priorities for a new design and upgraded programming. That vision was never realized until the Regional Institute at the University of Buffalo began researching its history and surveying people through a project called Imagine LaSalle. A focus group even spent this summer exploring the park and visiting other famous green spaces in Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York for inspiration. “The feedback has been tremendous so far,” said Brendan Mehaffey, executive director for the city’s Office of Strategic Planning. “Part of the mayoral administration’s core values is inclusion so we’ve talked to people from all backgrounds including low-income individuals, young professionals, business owners, and more.” Community engagement is at the heart of both efforts in Buffalo and Detroit. Much like Imagine LaSalle, MVVA also transported a busload of teenagers to visit their Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, and other groups went to New York and Philadelphia. Mehaffey sees the connection between the two waterfront park projects, and the two cities in general, as vital to their respective successes. “The Detroit team is much further into the design process than we are, so we’re delving into their research to try and discover best practices for building our own LaSalle Park,” he said. “I think that commonality between us is part of what the Wilson Foundation’s statement is going to make to the country.” Enger also believes the two cities are inextricably important to one another—that’s why his organization has zeroed in on their combined futures. He emphasized that spurring economic development through green space is a key way to democratize the municipalities on a greater level. “Where else in the United States are you going to find world-class parks in post-industrial cities that overlook international border crossings and feature some of the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets?" he said. "We think the total leverage of this project will be far greater than what our investment will bring.”
Last One Standing
What can we learn from the house that survived Hurricane Michael?
Amidst the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Michael on the 1,200-person town of Mexico Beach, Florida, one house emerged from the 155-mph winds relatively unscathed. As the New York Times reported, the 3-story house built by Dr. Lebron Lackey and his uncle Russell King was the only one remaining on his beachfront block and one of the few left standing in the flattened landscape of the Florida Panhandle town. The house, ironically dubbed the "Sand Castle" and designed by architect Charles A. Gaskin, was completed just this year. Florida windstorm code for this part of the state requires houses to be built for 120-mph winds, but the Sand Castle was designed for 240 to 250-mph winds. The entire house was built on top of 40-foot-tall pilings to allow for storm surge, and its walls are made of poured concrete reinforced by rebar, with steel cables throughout the structure and extra concrete reinforcing the house's corners. Rather than privilege window views, an expected feature of a vacation home, the number of window openings was limited and the roof overhang was minimized, thus reducing the risk of winds lifting the entire roof off. Lackey told CNN that other features that he and his uncle had originally wanted, like a balcony, were also discouraged by their engineer. In the end, the damage sustained by the house was the loss of an outdoor stair, which, along with the siding covering it, was designed to tear off without harming the rest of the building. The ground floor pavers and entryway features were also ripped away, along with a window and a heating unit, and water damage is evident in the building, according to the house's Facebook page. But, as Lackey and King told the Times, these repairs are estimated to take a month. This is far from the case for the rest of the town, which took the hardest hit from the storm and has lost many of its older structures, built before the 2002 code was put into place. Still, for most of Mexico Beach, a largely working-class community, the cost of hurricane-proofing the way that Lackey and King did would have been prohibitive. The measures implemented in the Sand Castle home double the cost of construction per square foot, according to the architect. The quiet town, which has eschewed major waterfront development and prohibited structures taller than five stories, now faces the hard task of rebuilding or making the painful choice to leave the area entirely. The long road to recovery raises the familiar questions that Hurricanes Andrew, Irma, and Harvey have also provoked in recent years. Those who rebuilt after Irma, for instance, have had a hard time finding enough experienced contractors to rebuild to code and local inspectors to check their work, with many still waiting for FEMA assistance and insurance payouts. With FEMA's budget cut by $10 million and transferred to ICE this summer, the path ahead might be even longer. For architects, their role in designing homes that can withstand extreme weather events is perhaps more urgent than ever. Last year, of the roughly 800,000 single-family homes that were built, only 8 percent had concrete frames, a feature that would help them withstand such weather conditions. In ten years, only about 8,000 homes have met the insurance industry standard for a roof that wouldn't leak or tear off during a hurricane. Homeowners may understand the importance of building resilient homes, but the incentive for developers is much lower. Scaling up the innovations for resilient new construction while keeping them affordable is perhaps the field's greatest challenge.