All posts in East

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Architectural Succession

Sarasota Art Museum's The Worker Project shows the faces of preservation work
A permanent exhibition at the new headquarters of the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida highlights the diligent work of the people contracted to help preserve the 93-year-old building around the show.  For the last year, local photographer Barbara Banks has quietly observed construction at the M. Leo Elliott-designed Sarasota High School, a Collegiate Gothic-style building at the edge of downtown that’s being renovated by Lawson Group Architects and K/R Architects. The result of her study, a photo series entitled The Worker Project, will be on view starting Saturday, December 14, when the museum officially opens to the public. The behind-the-scenes work of restoration often goes unnoticed, Banks explained. “Much of it you won’t see like welding, painting, piping, or men working on masonry,” she said. “Each element of work on the historic building was very carefully administered by each person and I wanted to be there for the intimate moments.” Through traversing the site each day, Banks cultivated relationships with many of the workers, all of which were contracted through the Sarasota-based Willis Smith Construction. Some of the men and women on-site (including Banks) were graduates of Sarasota High School and expressed pride working on their alma mater, which includes the 1959 annex building designed by Paul Rudolph. Both structures were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Because of the site’s storied history, the quality of craftsmanship was elevated, Banks said. “It immediately engendered respect from everyone involved.”  Anne-Marie Russell, director of the Sarasota Art Museum, has been working to move the institution into its new home for the past five years. The expansion to the Ringling College Museum Campus complex, also designed by Rudolph and Victory Lundy, was necessary due to the organization’s growing needs. According to Sarasota Magazine, it’s expected to receive 125,000 visitors in the coming year.  The Sarasota High building that the museum now sits in hasn’t been active with students in 23 years, and Russell’s team was eager to infuse its three stories with contemporary art. Demolition and construction work on the project began in June 2017 and wrapped up this October.  To Russell, The Worker Project will serve as a reminder of the museum’s rich legacy and the meticulous work done to bring it into the 21st century. “The through-line here exists in the quality of skills used on this site,” said Russell. “We work with artists and we know that manual labor is intellectual labor and vice versa. The overriding theme of this project was to shed light on the skilled people who do this work, especially against the backdrop of automation when all craftsmanship and connoisseurship is disappearing before our eyes.” Just like the men who built Elliott and Rudolph’s design with their own hands decades ago, those profiled in The Worker Project are part of a shared history. “That’s the power of adaptive reuse,” said Russell. “When you’re responding to an existing condition rather than just working off a drawing from scratch, every single person becomes a collaborator on improving the project. Everyone here demonstrated their unique expertise.”  David Stershic, a 1974 graduate of Sarasota High, served as the general superintendent on the project. He oversaw the daily work of over 100 people and expressed how Banks’ own work affected him. “As the project evolved, I began to see it as paying homage to the common man who made this project successful.”  But what’s more, he said, was the way Banks interacted with his team. “It amazed me that she got personal with all the workers. Every day she came in and took time to get to know their stories—what their talents are, what they’ve been through, what their lives are like.” The Worker Project will be on display at the new Sarasota Art Museum at 1001 S Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, Florida starting next week.
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POPS-up

Snøhetta reveals new renderings of 550 Madison's covered garden
Snøhetta’s vision for an expanded outdoor garden at 550 Madison Avenue—the former AT&T Building in Manhattan’s Midtown East district—was unveiled by developer Olayan Group this week. Set to increase the existing plaza space by 50 percent, the privately owned public space (POPS) will transform what was once considered a dark, narrow plaza stuffed with freestanding retail kiosks into a light, airy, and “welcoming sensory retreat,” according to the architects. Located on the backside of the postmodern office tower between East 55th and East 56th Streets, the glass arcade and four-story annex added in the 1990s will be taken down to make way for the larger, open-air garden. With a delicate glass-and-steel canopy covering the pedestrian space, the overhaul will effectively bring the site closer to the original architects' (Philip Johnson and John Burgee) 35-year-old design intent. Up to 50 new trees will be planted throughout, alongside a wide array of plant varieties including evergreens, and perennials. Ample seating, tables, and low-lighting will be integrated while a cafe with a public restroom will be built adjacent to the building’s west entrance. At just over 21,000-square-feet, the plaza will be the largest of its kind within a five-minute walk.  Snøhetta said the overall look for the new POPS is directly connected to Gensler’s newly-released plans for the revamped lobby. “This new garden complements the adjacent tower while drawing upon the vibrancy of the neighborhood and the natural history of the region, offering visitors an immersive respite in the city,” said Michelle Delk, Snøhetta partner and director of landscape architecture, in a press release.  Slated to reopen next year, 550 Madison is expected to house as many as 3,000 workers, though when completed in 1984, it was only intended to hold about 800 people across its 37 floors. The Olayan Group, Snøhetta, and Gensler had to go through a controversial approvals process with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to make sure the updated tower’s exterior—which was declared a New York City landmark in mid-2018—and rear plaza respected the history of the entire site.
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Culture Cap

Andrea Steele's L10 Arts and Cultural Center will bring integrative cultural space to Brooklyn
Set inside Enrique Norten’s towering residential project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the upcoming L10 Arts and Cultural Center will bring together multiple mainstay institutions like the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), the Brooklyn Public Library, and 651 ARTS. The 32-story triangular 300 Ashland Place already boasts several pieces of booming retail on the property, including a Whole Foods Market 365 and an Apple Store. But the addition of a 50,000-square-foot space owned and operated by the city will ensure the building, designed by TEN Arquitectos and Andrea Steele Architecture in 2017, features more than stop-and-shop amenities. The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) aim to make it a community gathering place and give 651 ARTS—which teaches African Diaspora-inspired contemporary dance, theater, and music—its first dedicated permanent home. “For both visitors and residents alike, Fort Greene is a destination for arts and entertainment, and I’m thrilled to celebrate the addition of this new community space and all it has to offer,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett in a press release. “The opening of the L10 Arts and Cultural Center officially marks the completion of the entire BAM South Tower project, which has brought invaluable affordable housing, jobs, and community and public space to the neighborhood.” BAM South Tower, as 300 Ashland Place is referred to here, stands on a pivotal corner near downtown Brooklyn and in between the residential neighborhoods of Fort Green and Park Slope. Located near BAM’s other buildings within the Brooklyn Cultural District—a city-led invested area—it’s a central spot with its own public plaza to connect people crossing into either community. The uniquely-shaped site was previously a parking lot but was later transformed via a collaboration between the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Two Trees Management.  Andrea Steele Architecture, which recently acquired the New York office of its longtime partner TEN Arquitectos, has designed individual spaces for each institution within the L10 Arts and Cultural Center. For BAM, a new education center will be built, as well as a reading room where the public can access its 150-year-old collection. 651 Arts will get its own affordable dance studios and performance space, while a new branch of the Brooklyn Public Library will open for locals. In time for its 20th anniversary, MoCADA will receive a new gallery and performance space.   According to Andrea Steele, the project embodies Brooklyn’s burgeoning civic landscape: “The design elevates the public walk to connect the community to new resources,” she said. “While the exterior landscaped terrace has already become a vibrant destination and venue for dance performances, concerts, markets, and festivals; the new cultural spaces will bring critical activation and extend the public realm within, resulting in a 360-degree panorama of city life.” The L10 Arts and Cultural Center broke ground today, and with the project's expected completion in winter 2021, the BAM South Tower project will be fully realized. 
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Big-Time Bronx

See the four must-know developments coming online in the South Bronx
From artist studios to medical centers to sprawling mixed-use apartment buildings, various neighborhoods in the South Bronx have been facing a lot of new development this year. Over the past month, many of these projects have come into view through new renderings, names, and the beginning phases of construction. Despite popular opinions on the rising effects of gentrification, high-cost construction is inevitably altering the urban fabric of the borough. Here are four major developments to watch out for: Bankside 2401 Third Avenue & 101 Lincoln Ave. Mott Haven A couple of weeks ago, developer Brookfield Properties unveiled new renderings of its massive South Bronx waterfront redevelopment project titled Bankside. The seven-building project along the Harlem River in Mott Haven is one of the largest and most expensive development sites in the South Bronx, spanning 4.3 acres near the Third Avenue Bridge. With more than 1,350 apartments, a waterfront park, and ground-floor retail, Brookfield will invest $950 million into the project designed by Hill West Architects and MPFP. Construction is underway and anticipated for completion by 2021 to bring 450 apartments to the north side of the bridge.  The Peninsula 720 Tiffany St. Hunts Point The new mixed-use development that is replacing the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center is finally underway after four years of planning. Described as a “sign of gentrification” by Bronx Justice News, the five-building development called The Peninsula is said to include a mix of retail, recreational and industrial spaces, as well as health facilities, anchored by 740 units of affordable housing. The project was designed in collaboration with WXY Architecture + Urban Design and Body Lawson Associates. Phase one, which includes apartments for low-income households, is expected to be finished in 2021. Financed by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the NYC Housing Development Corporation, the first phase is slated to cost upwards of $121.5 million. The entire $300 million dollar project should be done in 2025. Richard Pruss Wellness Center 362 E. 148th St. Mott Haven Late November, Samaritan Daytop Village and Manatus Development Group kicked off construction for The Richard Pruss Wellness Center in the medically-underserved Mott Haven community. According to the Bronx Times, the facility will serve more than 6,000 individuals annually and will provide outpatient treatment for substance abuse and mental health services, while 10 percent of the building will be used as a primary health clinic. Designed by GF55 Partners, the six-story, 84,000-square-foot building will cost around $35 million and is privately funded by TD Bank.   Occupancy is expected in early 2021.  ArtCondo Gallery and Studio Space 368 E 152 St. Melrose On November 7th, local art collaborative, ArtCondo, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to build a new gallery and studio space in Melrose. A community-driven real estate enterprise, ArtCondo sets out to collectively organize artists so that they can purchase their own studio spaces. In 2017, co-founder, Michele Gambetta, and 15 artists purchased a vacant lot in Melrose with hopes of building a community arts space at 368 E 152 Street by March 2020. The campaign only has a few days left with under $8,000 of their goal. Renderings of the prospective building were created by Michael Muroff Architect.
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Insert Spaceship Here

WORKac's RISD Student Center subtly integrates past and present with playful aluminum skins
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Brought to you with support from
Providence, Rhode Island's, College Hill is home to one of the finest collections of historic structures in the country, ranging from formal Federal to the ostentatious English Baroque. Both the campuses of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) are based in the historic district and have over time absorbed numerous buildings in the area—the former Providence Washington Insurance Company (PWIC) was built in 1949 and acquired by RISD in 1988. In August 2019, WORK Architecture Company (WORKac) completed a substantial internal renovation of the property as well as an addition clad in curved anodized and perforated aluminum panels. The single-story addition is located in the forecourt of the PWIC, which was most recently used as a surface parking lot. Facing west, the Steeple Street elevation is the public face of the addition and principally functions as a loading dock for the mailing facility found within. This utilitarian purpose does not, however, dampen the playful qualities of the primary elevation. The project is not WORKac's first use of perforated aluminum and past lessons were applied here. "We had been working with perforated metal for our Miami Museum Garage project and had noticed that since we back-painted the material (bright pink in that case), it created an effect where the facade looked white from the front and gradually more pink as you moved to the side. The light grey of the perforated metal is taken from the color of the granite pilasters and accents of the building, and it is back-painted a dark red to match the color of the brick," said the studio. "From the side, the facade becomes redder, and it has an interesting mottled effect that in a way mimics the roughness of the brick surface."
  • Facade Manufacturer Carritec Vitro Kawneer
  • Architect WORKac
  • Facade Installer Shawmut Design and Construction
  • Structural Engineer Odeh Engineers, Inc.
  • Location Providence, RI
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Kawneer 1600 System 1 Curtain Wall
  • Products Vitro Solar Ban 60 & Starphire HS Carritec anodized and perforated aluminum panels
Coloration was not the only tool used by WORKac to blend the extension with the PWIC. Individual panels on each facade layer are clearly defined by joints and seams, which, coupled with an oversized caricature of an eyebrow dormer found at the auditorium, are a lighthearted nod to contextual historic detailing. The aluminum panels are 45-inches wide—keeping the width under 48 inches limited the waste associated with fabrication—and rely on two systems. The solid anodized panels are clipped to a system of three-inch-by-three-inch HSS steel tubes that are bolted to the primary structure. One-inch gaps between the anodized aluminum panels were utilized to accommodate a series of steel-plate trusts, which in turn support the perforated aluminum panels. Although the PWIC is a comparatively young building, WORKac conducted an extensive replacement of the outdated mechanical system and renovated the interiors, all under the purview of local preservation authorities. "Since everything also had to be reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office and by the downtown Providence historic district review—and we were dealing with many different clients for the incredibly diverse program of spaces—we had to manage a very diverse range of interests and requirements for the design," continued the studio. "Like many architectural challenges—from budgets to building codes—the net result of having to really think through the various intersections and potential roadblocks in the end ensured that the approach had a solid concept and well-researched solutions that enabled us to argue its merits for all the stakeholders, which made the project that much stronger."
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Well, Well, Well

SHoP Architects reveals an urban farm and wellness space for D.C.’s Ward 8
SHoP Architects has revealed plans for a new urban farm in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8. Spearheaded by local organization DC Greens, The Well at Oxon Run will cover 50,000 square feet of land next to the Oxon Run tributary in an underserved part of the nation's capital city known as Anacostia.  According to D.C. blog Urban Turf, residents in the area have a drastically lower life-expectancy rate due to diet-related chronic illnesses than people living in Northeast D.C. Poor access to quality, healthy food is a major source of strain for locals south of the Anacostia River. In an effort to combat this, The Well will grow over 150 varieties of fresh produce, herbs, and edible flowers while also housing space for events, programming, and a farmers market. DC Greens noted in a tweet that a youth classroom will also be built, and local art will be incorporated on-site.  Due to its location in a highly urbanized part of D.C.’s southeastern quadrant, the project will help beautify and activate a blighted piece of landscape next to the long-polluted, seven-mile-long stream. Friends of Oxon Run, which supports activities surrounding Oxon Run and the nearby Oxon Run Park, is working with DC Greens, as well as The Green Scheme, a local nonprofit that advocates for a healthier environment on behalf of communities of color, to bolster the area’s reputation.  Abby Bluestone, development director at DC Greens, told AN that The Well will be more than a community hub or food haven, it will also be an inclusive wellness space. "In this space, we will be growing crops, but mostly we'll be growing community," she wrote in an email.  "We are imagining an intergenerational space for community health and healing, centered around food... A farm space that honors the full power that food has to bring people together, and make people whole." The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation is collaborating on the project too, which slated to start construction sometime in 2020. Before breaking ground, DC Greens hopes to raise up to $1 million in an online campaign to cover construction costs. Additional renderings are expected to follow in the coming months.
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ULURP it, ULOVE it

NYC pushes forward with plans to convert Rikers Island into public space
New York’s City Planning Commission certified an application on Monday that would rezone Rikers Island as a public space. The application launched the beginning of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for the conversion, which would ban jails from operating on the 400-acre island after December 31, 2026. The application is just one step involved in the controversial plan to replace Rikers with four borough-based jails, which was approved by the City Council in October.  “By guaranteeing that Rikers will never again be used for incarceration, we’re charting a new course forward for the Island and the people of New York City,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement, “Though mass incarceration may not have started here, we’ll do all we can to make sure it ends here.” The proposal was filed by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the Department of Corrections and is solely focused on changing the mapping of the island to end its use as a jail. Any further plans for development and construction will require new review processes as necessary. As Rikers falls under the jurisdiction of Queens Community Board 1, the community board and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will oversee map changes as part of the seven-month ULURP process. Because Rikers Island is technically within Bronx borough boundaries, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will have the option to offer input on the plan as well.  “This City map change will bring Rikers back to the public, and no longer be used to incarcerate individuals,” Council Member Margaret S. chin stated. “The future of Rikers must be decided by the people, and I commend the City for beginning a participatory planning process to ensure that any uses for this space reflect the needs and input of all New Yorkers.” Florence Koulouris, the district manager of Queens Community Board 1, expects the board to hold a public hearing before January 21. She stressed the importance of educating locals and community members on what the map change entails. Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Elizabeth Glazer, stated that the filing “is another step forward in our commitment to build smaller, safer, and fairer justice system,” and that “New Yorkers are witnessing proof of how our city is turning from a model of safety that relies primarily on enforcement and incarceration to one that relies on building on community strength and partnership.”
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Sounds Good

New York Philharmonic reveals $550 million overhaul of its Lincoln Center home
The much-maligned Lincoln Center home of the New York Philharmonic is finally getting a major redesign. After over a decade of stalled plans—Norman Foster was selected to revamp the hall in 2005, and more recently Thomas Heatherwick was to design the refreshed home for the Philharmonic—a new design team has been announced. Now called David Geffen Hall after the music mogul of the same name infused $100 million into the project, Toronto's Diamond Schmitt Architects will oversee the interior architecture with the help of the acoustics firm Akustiks, as well as Fisher Dachs Associates, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects will reimagine the concert hall’s public spaces. The $550 million project, of which around $360 million has already been spent, will move the stage forward 25 feet and will eliminate the proscenium. New seating—reduced down by over 500 seats to 2,200—will be wrapped around the performers, more in line with contemporary concert hall building practices in what the Philharmonic described as a “single-room concept.” The seats will also be oriented towards the stage, which they currently are not. The hope is to turn a hall that The New York Times recently described as “acoustically and aesthetically challenged” and “ugly” into a more intimate space with better sightlines and a more balanced sonic experience. Once finished, it will feature a flexible arrangement with natural finishes and curvilinear wood forms. The Philharmonic also says that accessibility will be improved and there will also be a “Lightwall” wrapping three sides of the building’s top interior. The acoustic performance of the concert hall has been criticized for decades (it originally opened in 1962 and was renovated in 1976) and so the architects are resurfacing walls and introducing other alterations to improve the sound quality. The footprint, and Max Abramovitz–designed facade, will remain in place. The public spaces will also be significantly reimagined. The lobby, which Billie Tsien told the Times had “all the charm of an airport terminal,” will double in size and get a “media streaming wall” to show ongoing concerts in real-time. Additional bars and restrooms will be added, along with a new "destination" restaurant. The box office will be relocated and a new welcome center will be created. In addition, office space on 65th Street and Broadway will be made into a “Sidewalk Studio” for classes, community activities, and performances, and the north facade will be used for site-specific art installations. The upper tiers of the building will gain 11,000 square feet of office space. Construction is expected to begin in full in May 2022, with the Philharmonic playing a truncated season that will begin in November of that year, before the hall closes again the following May. With the help of prefabrication, the Philharmonic hopes to complete its overhaul by March 2024.
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Free-for-All

The Noguchi Museum launches new online archive and updated Catalogue Raisonné
On November 20, the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum (the Noguchi Museum) announced the digital launch of The Isamu Noguchi Archive and an update of The Isamu Noguchi Catalogue Raisonné. This expansion includes 60,000 archival photographs, manuscripts, and drawings by the Japanese-American artist and landscape architect, some of which are fully accessible to the public for the first time.  The launch of the digital archive completes a multiyear project supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. Of the 60,000 items, 28,000 are photographs documenting the artist’s artworks, exhibitions, and studios, as well as his travels and relationships. Other materials include correspondence, exhibition records, press clippings, and architectural drawings that Noguchi collected during his lifetime.  The archive's collections are broken down into categories such as Photography, Manuscript, Architectural, Business & Legal, Noguchi Fountain & Plaza, and Publication & Press Collection in a minimal, user-friendly design. The Architectural Collection as a whole contains 3,000 cataloged sketches, detail drawings, and construction documents of both real and unrealized projects.  The collection also showcases work with Noguchi’s key collaborators such as Shoji Sadao and Louis Kahn, and a simple search will bring visitors to photographs of Noguchi and Kahn hanging out in Jerusalem, or to a letter in which Noguchi brainstormed ideas with Buckminster Fuller. So far, 1,500 items have been uploaded to the online archive with more to come. First launched in 2011, the Catalogue Raisonné has also undergone an extensive update to include works and exhibitions from the early decades of Noguchi’s career, including the 1920s and 1930s. “Focused efforts to better document this period have led to the discovery of several significant artworks which were assumed to have been lost or destroyed, as well as the identification of a group of heretofore unknown artworks, which the project is now able to confirm as works by Noguchi,” explained Alex Ross, managing editor of the catalog.  Both efforts will undoubtedly bring a deeper understanding and appreciation to the vast body of work Noguchi produced throughout his lifetime. “The materials that are now available to everyone with access to the internet manifest the protean, interdisciplinary nature of Noguchi’s work,” said museum director Brett Littman in a press release. “They will not only enlighten those who browse the digital archive and catalogue raisonné, but it will also inform the Museum’s programming as new ideas and directions take form.”
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Hou de Sousa’s Flatiron Holiday Design installation is open

Last week, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute unveiled the winning design of the sixth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition in the flesh. The colorful, “kaleidoscopic” Ziggy lights up the plaza with 27,000 feet of iridescent cord and painted rebar while also serving as seating for visitors.  Created by the New York-based architecture and design studio Hou de Sousa, Ziggy encourages a rethinking of how we view and interact with others in public space. “Ziggy is a polyvalent creature that strings together gateways, apertures, and seating,” said Josh de Sousa, principal and co-founder of Hou de Sousa, in a recent press release. “This porous wall will welcome folks arriving from all directions while ringing in the holiday season with a flourish of color and light.” It is described on the designer's website as a "moment of respite" and a "kaleidoscopic beacon, designed for the people of New York." The installation is the centerpiece of the district’s “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” events, as the pavilion's winding form frames the area’s attractions and landmarks (both the Empire State Building and, of course, the Flatiron Building) while creating filters of shifting color, pattern, and light across all its surroundings. “This competition continues to demonstrate the importance of both public art and programming in DOT public plazas,” said NYC DOT art and event programming director, Emily Colasacco. “Hou de Sousa’s interactive larger-than-life-size configuration will bring even more color to the already vibrant Flatiron district.”  Ziggy will be on view and open to the public (weather permitting) through January 1, 2020, at the intersection of Broadway, 5th Avenue, and 23rd Street. Throughout the holidays, the Partnership is encouraging visitors to use #ZiggyFlatiron to share images of the installation on social media for the chance to win prizes from local businesses.
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Braided Strokes

Alexandra Mocanu weaves tapestries like paintings
At first glance, one might perceive Alexandra Mocanu's broad brushstrokes as mere brazen, single gesture applications of paint. But on closer inspection, these expansive pieces reveal themselves as woven tapestries; interpretative impressions of gouache croquis, the French Romanian-born artist paints as prompts for the highly complex works she eventually creates. Rather than boasting themselves as loud, one-note assertions of skill or trompe l'oeil gimmicks—a trend far too prevalent these days—the intricate tapestries satisfy the haptic and visceral desires of an image-saturated, art-savvy audience. On view till January 24th at New York's Twenty First Gallery, the Tapisseries exhibition brings together 10 of Mocanu's latest oeuvres. Capturing the painterly qualities and effects of such an ethereal medium in a coarse, fibrous application is no small feat. Mocanu has tirelessly mastered a bespoke technique that is as contingent on visual perceptibility as it is on manual expertise. Developed over time, this approach has allowed her to meticulously perfect certain graphical nuances in the tapestries; the elucidation of rough edges, the resignation towards unexpected drips, the control of quick gestural movements, and the contrast between opaque and translucent layering. Read the full profile on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Stacks on Stacks on Stacks

Hunters Point Library is being sued over ADA violations
Today, the nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a class-action lawsuit against Queens Public Library (QPL), the Board of Trustees of the QPL, and the City of New York over the Library’s newest branch, Hunters Point Library. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the branch in Long Island City has been facing backlash from patrons and community members since it’s opening in September for not being fully accessible to people with disabilities.  Despite disability rights laws, the newly constructed building's circulation relies heavily on stairs which limits access and excludes many from accessing the collection altogether. While there is one elevator, it does not stop at certain levels in the library and patrons have complained of long lines and congestion. The reason that was previously given for such an omission was that librarians can retrieve materials for patrons who cannot access the stacks themselves.  Plaintiffs Tanya Jackson and the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York are suing to require the library to fix this “unjust and discriminatory situation.” Jackson stated in a recent press release, “It is shocking to me that a brand-new public library would not be fully accessible to people with mobility disabilities like myself. Libraries should welcome everyone, not exclude whole populations of people.”  In addition to the three levels which are completely inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities, there are reportedly numerous other barriers at the library: The children’s section contains a multi-level lounge and meeting spaces inaccessible to children and caregivers with mobility disabilities, the upper level of the rooftop terrace has no access point other than stairs, the framed panoramic views of Manhattan throughout the library are only viewable from the stairs, and designated stroller “parking” areas block circulation from the elevator to other main parts of the library.  “The ADA is not a new requirement, and it is not hard to understand. It is baffling that this $41.5 million building is missing these fundamental elements. It’s as though the library didn’t even care about these requirements, or worse, didn’t even consider the needs of these members of the community,” said Andrew Kozak-Oxnard, a staff attorney at DRA. “People with disabilities should be able to browse, relax, and enjoy the library just like everyone else.” The lawsuit alleges violations of both federal and local civil rights laws for disability-based discrimination and hopes to rectify the situation by requiring the defendants to develop a plan that provides equal access to the library. DRA is the leading nonprofit in disability rights in the country and claims to win nearly all of its cases and “knock down barriers for people with all types of disabilities.” Rather than seeking monetary compensation, their suits aim to force reforms to systems and practices of oppression against those with disabilities.  Michelle Caiola, managing director of litigation at DRA insisted, “Hunters Point Library was meant to be a model, a state-of-the-art institution designed to serve the needs of the community. The Library’s total disregard for adults and children with disabilities must be addressed.” The Queens Public Library provided the following statement to AN:
"This morning we learned that a disability rights organization filed a lawsuit against the Library and the City of New York alleging that Hunters Point is not accessible to people living with disabilities. It is always the Library’s goal to be welcoming, open and available to everyone, including customers with disabilities. We are taking this matter very seriously."
Steven Holl Architects has been contacted for comment and this article will be updated accordingly.