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Five-Year Roundup

Here are the people and projects shaping the region's post-Sandy recovery
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RCH Wins

RCH Studios is selected to redevelop L.A.'s historic Lincoln Heights Jail
A team led by Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH Studios) and developers Lincoln Property Company and Fifteen Group has been recommended by the Los Angeles Chief Legislative Analyst to redevelop the Los Angeles River–adjacent Lincoln Heights Jail. The recommended scheme calls for repurposing the 90-year-old jail facility while also redeveloping an adjacent 3.2-acre parcel already controlled by Fifteen Group, Urbanize.la reports. The new scheme will be anchored around the Los Angeles River and the historic complex, utilizing the river frontage to create a broad promenade that stitches together new and historic buildings with the river. The plan incorporates new bicycle infrastructure and new street trees to connect and improve the surrounding blocks. Though project details are subject to change, the proposal currently calls for 268,250 square feet of residential spaces, 200,000 square feet of commercial uses, and 57,000 square feet of designated manufacturing and retail spaces. The project is slated to contain an unspecified amount of affordable housing. The RCH Studios–led development team was selected from among two other proposals—one led by CIM Group, Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects, LA Más, and Superjacent, and the other made up of WORKS, Mia Lehrer+Associates, Omgivning, and Killefer Flammang Architects. The teams were tasked with finding a productive and equitable approach for redeveloping the 229,000-square-foot art deco and modernist jail complex. The former jail was built in 1927, expanded in the 1950s, and finally decommissioned in 1965. The facilities were used variously thereafter until 2014. Plans call for adding three new structures on the eastern edge of the site to create new housing and a commercial strip, while redeveloping the former jail complex into a manufacturing-focused “makers hall.” The top three levels of the repurposed jail will contain residential functions as well. The project site would be anchored on one end of the riverwalk by a sports field, with a terraced amphitheater occupying the other extremity. The far eastern corner of the triangular site will host a nine-story commercial tower. The project is depicted in renderings as containing various roof gardens and planted areas, with the spaces between the existing and proposed buildings designed as pedestrian paseos. Interior renderings for the residential units in the repurposed jail depict exposed concrete beam ceilings and untreated concrete walls and columns. The project is scheduled for review and approval by the Los Angeles City Council on November 1st.
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200 Water Street

Water Street public space is one city vote away from a private retail takeover

In lower Manhattan, a prominent developer wants to convert a public space into private retail, and the city is at least a week away from a vote that could allow the project to move forward. Rockrose Development's bid to completely enclose and privatize the arcade at 200 Water Street comes just months after the city permitted the destruction of the landmarked Sasaki fountain at the Citicorp Center, and is yet another example of a public outdoor space the city could cede to a commercial interest.

Rockrose wants to take advantage of new zoning rules that would allow the company to fill in the public arcade on Fulton Street with retail and restaurants, reducing the public space by half.

When they were built in the 1970s, the Water Street Arcades were a covered network of walkways linking office buildings in the area, which extends three blocks in from the East River, north to Fulton Street and south to Whitehall Street. The arcades and accompanying plazas were built as tradeoffs that let owners build taller than existing zoning allowed. The target area contains 20 buildings, with 225,000 square feet of open plazas and 110,000 square feet of arcades. In exchange for building and managing these privately-owned public spaces, or POPS, developers near Water Street got to add more than 2.5 million square feet of extra floor area to their buildings.

In June 2016, the City Council approved a zoning change that opened up these spaces to commercial development. The Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment allows existing arcades to be infilled for retail and encourages "improvement" of existing plazas. In total, the new rules place more than 167,000 square feet of the POPS up for redevelopment.

The city maintains that the arcades are dull and underutilized because they push ground-floor retail away from the sidewalk, are obstructed by thick structural columns and poorly lit, and often terminate in dead ends. It also asserts that the plazas mostly open onto lobbies and feature little greenery, a combination that is uninviting to passersby. 

While some public spaces in the Water Street area do affirm these concerns, the ones at 200 Water Street are an exception. They originally featured exuberant public art, and are open to traffic on all four sides, a necessity for pedestrian circulation in an increasingly lively neighborhood.

From a design perspective, it would be hard to top the space's first incarnation, which was cool enough to land on the cover of Progressive Architecture (PDF) one year after opening.

The original owner was the Kaufman Organization, a New York developer known for above-and-beyond stewardship of its POPS. Emery Roth & Sons designed 200 Water Street (also known as 127 John Street) in 1971 as an office building in the International Style, but CEO Melvyn Kaufman playfully messed with its gravitas, ornamenting the glass curtain wall from street to roof.

"One twenty seven John Street is neither imposing nor distinguished in the usual sense of those words," said PA Associate Editor Sharon Lee Ryder. "It is imposing because you can’t forget it once you’ve been there and distinguished simply because there is nothing like it."

Designer Pamela Waters used roofing gravel to craft a cheerful cat chasing a bird on opposite sides of the seventh floor setback, an almost wraparound terrace. Viewed from above, it's clear that the terrace's gap permanently prevents the cat from catching its prey (though there's another wire mesh bird that covered the window-washing rig). On the roof, mechanical equipment was painted kindergarten colors and decked out in lights to illustrate water and air flowing through the HVAC system.

On the plaza level, metal benches in the same colors sat beneath Op Art murals that zigzagged through custom scaffolds all the way up to the edge of the sidewalk. Visitors could ascend the scaffolding to access seating on above the street. Around the corner at John and Water streets, Kaufman pasted mirrored walls onto two buildings that couldn't move for the 32-story tower's construction, while an inset digital clock on the Water Street side of the old building mimics the grid of the new tower. Melvyn Kaufman even installed a wax likeness of himself on one of the benches (it was removed after some unspecified "hostile reactions"). The arcade's whimsy, capped off by a water feature and a neon-banded purple-and-blue light tunnel to the inside, was meant to enliven a long walk from the main entrance on Fulton Street to the building's elevator bank.

Since the Kaufman Organization sold the building in the mid-1990s, the space's cheerily excessive amenities have given way to a boring plaza that some believe is willfully neglected. Today, most of the remaining art from the Kaufman days is in serious disrepair: the white scaffolding is a blank skeleton, stripped of its canvas, while the original pool and fountain are empty. (The impossible-to-miss Water Street clock now graces a Starbucks, in front of a well-maintained but unoriginal public space occupied by wood benches and concrete planters.)

Rockrose maintains that the Fulton Street arcade is beyond rehabilitation, and proposes restaurants and retail as a way to enliven the front of the structure, which it converted to rental apartments in 1996. As soon as the end of this month, the City Planning Commission could hear Rockrose's application to infill three of the building's POPS, totaling more than 4,700 square feet, per rules outlined in last year's zoning text amendment. The developer would like to add almost 1,800 square feet of new residential space in the double-height arcade facing Fulton, and on the ground floor, the plaza would lose about 3,000 square feet of public space. New York–based MdeAS is working with the developer to design the new spaces.

In return, Rockrose estimates it would receive $600,000 in annual rent from the new spaces. Members of Manhattan Community Board 1 (CB1), whose district includes the property, held meetings with Rockrose this summer to ask if the developer would consider compensating amenities. Rockrose refused, saying that, by law, it was not obligated to provide additional amenities.  

CB 1 maintains that building into the arcade could interrupt the flow of connected spaces that distinguish the Water Street POPS and its buildings from the rest of the neighborhood. Though the city contends that the plazas are underused relics from bad midcentury planning, lower Manhattan is in the midst of a development boom that's slated to bring more foot traffic at all hours to the traditionally 9-to-5 neighborhood. The intersection of Fulton and Water streets is a heavily-trafficked corner, the gateway to the South Street Seaport. Likewise, the South Street Seaport's restaurant and tourist revival, including a new mall at Pier 17 and ferry service from nearby Pier 11, herald an increase in pedestrian traffic at Fulton and Water streets at what is already a busy intersection. According to CB1, Rockrose hasn't submitted a pedestrian traffic study on the impact of enclosing almost 4,000 square feet of space at this corner.

At press time, multiple attempts to reach Rockrose for comment on its plans for 200 Water Street were unsuccessful.

Mindful of the precedent-setting nature of Rockrose's request, and its dissatisfaction with the developer's concessions, the community board voted the whole proposal down last month.  The board released a statement, "CB 1 should urge the owners of the site and all stakeholders to maintain and keep the critically needed open space at 200 Water Street open for the public's use consistent with the original agreement made between the developers and the citizens of New York."

In a March 2016 resolution, just before the City Planning Commission passed the Water Street zoning rules, CB1 recognized the property as distinct from its neighbors, and asked the owners to not enlarge chain stores, but instead offer the community additional benefits:

"Owners of properties similar to 200 Water Street, where the benefit to the property owner clearly outweighs the community benefit from plaza upgrades, should be required to provide benefits in addition to the plaza upgrade, such as enhancements to surrounding sidewalks and the nearby Pearl Street Playground. CB1 requests that the arcade infill at 200 Water Street not be used just to expand the existing large box retail, and prefers retail that positively activates Fulton Street." 

(Despite this shout-out, CB1 nevertheless supported the Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment last year.)

Multiple nonprofit urban advocacy groups have weighed in on Rockrose's proposal. In an open letter, the City Club of New York suggested Rockrose's "lack of enthusiasm" for maintaining the POPS was an aegis for redevelopment-by-neglect. "In this case, converting half the space of the POPS to rental floor area and reducing the area maintained for the public by half is clearly a win-win for the owner," it said. 

Echoing the City Club's statement, the Municipal Art Society praised the original character of the spaces, adding that “[the] plazas and arcade have been allowed to deteriorate to the point that, instead of preserving these valuable community assets, Rockrose stands to benefit from the loss of public space.” This is not the first time Rockrose's stewardship of public space has been in called into question. The original designers sued Rockrose back in 1996 over its alleged failure to maintain the plaza and its art, which Rockrose owns. The parties reached a court-approved settlement that required the firm to maintain the artwork in the POPS through 2011. In a brief, the plaintiffs' attorney, Robert Ward, described the significance of the agreement: “When the building was built back in 1971, the owners got a plaza bonus. They were able to build a bigger building because of the plaza. The new owners of the building want to build in that plaza, but they do not want to take some of the building down. That is an important issue in terms of balancing the equities.” There may be other options for reuse, though, that preserve the public space. In a letter to Marisa Lago, chair of the City Planning Commission, the group Friends of Privately Owned Public Spaces suggested three ways that Water Street Arcades could be creatively repurposed without reducing the total amount of public space. The owner could glass in an arcade to make a public interior and collaborate with a public entity like the New York Public Library for programming, or create a POPS with a food service component a la Lincoln Center’s David Rubinstein Atrium. As a last option, the owner could cede space to a city-run concession (like the ones operated by NYC Parks) whose proceeds would fund improvements to other POPS in the area.

At the earliest, the City Planning Commission could review the application on October 30, although no public testimony will be heard at that meeting. To comment on Rockrose's proposal, members of the public may email the commission at centralintake@planning.nyc.gov with the subject line "Application N 170284 ZAM 200 Water Street Arcade Enclosure." The commission's website is updated regularly, so readers should check back there for the latest hearing schedule.

Editor's Note: Last year, The Architect’s Newspaper sponsored a design charrette for the Water Street POPS to envision how they could become the vibrant gathering spots and successful corridors they once were. In May 2016, AN Managing Editor Olivia Martin also provided testimony opposing the Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment at a meeting of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. Martin had no role in reporting, fact-checking, or editing this story. 
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Water Mark

A Milwaukee project creates a live atlas of city's water system
Milwaukee has a complex relationship with water. Along with its location on the shore of Lake Michigan, three major rivers flow through the city. Historically, the city has relied upon these water sources to drive industry, including leather tanning, food processing, and, of course, beer brewing. Since the decline of its heavy industry starting in the mid-20th century, the city has grappled with how to remediate its water system. Now a group of artists have a proposal to help bring the public into the conversation about the city’s water use. Currently all rain water and sewage in the city is filtered through the Jones Island water treatment facility on the lakefront before being returned to the lake. During typical rain events, this system works to keep polluted water out of the lake, but when extreme rainfall hits the city, the system can quickly become overwhelmed, resulting in sewage being discharged directly into the lake, which is also where all of the city’s drinking water is drawn from. WaterMarks is an initiative to help educate and engage with the public surrounding water issues. Launched by City as Living Laboratory: Sustainability Made Tangible through the Arts (CALL), the program hopes to install physical markers throughout the city to inform the public about major water events and educate them on the water systems that are often right under their feet. WaterMarks intends to “create a city scaled 3-D diagram of the multi-faceted manifestations of water” in the form of large-scale lettered markers, like dropped map pins throughout the city. Each marker would correspond with a different water system. Residents will also be able to access a WaterMarks app, which will supplement the markers and give information about additional public programming associated with the project. The first phase of the project proposes to engage with the Jones Island smoke stack, which sits in a highly visible space in Milwaukee’s Inner Harbor. WaterMarks’ plan is to illuminate the stack in order to signify the state of the water system. Blue will indicate the system is functioning at normal levels, while red will be shown ahead of impending heavy rains to encourage residents to think about their water usage and prepare. WaterMarks has been developed over the last three years with the support of Marquette University and a recent grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services. That grant will go towards initial prototyping and developing programming for the project with the help of Haggerty Museum at Marquette. The projected budget of $3.6 million was arrived at through conversations with the public as well as the Development Department, Department of Public Works and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewer Department, who helped identify the city’s needs. WaterMarks: An Atlas of Water for the City of Milwaukee from City as Living Laboratory on Vimeo.  
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Capitol Cluster

The Wharf, D.C.'s massive waterfront development, is now open
The Wharf–a $2 billion new development on a former industrial stretch of the D.C. waterfront–has finally opened. The developers are Madison Marquette and PN Hoffman, and the master architect and planner is Perkins Eastman. Previously the site was a mile-long stretch of boat storage, industrial space, and some back-door barbecue joints. At its northern end, it also includes the oldest fish market in the United States. Before the Wharf could be built, the existing seawall and promenade were torn up and replaced by an underground, two-story parking garage spanning the length of the development. The garages connect from below into an array of luxury residential structures with ground-level commercial space–restaurants, yoga studios, and other amenities. Last week all of these opened to the public–in total, 1.2 million square feet of mixed-use space including office structures, luxury and affordable residential space, a marina, and waterfront parks. The fish market was the only structure preserved as-is. The Anthem, a new 6,000-person theatre venue, is a cornerstone development of the Wharf. Designed by New York-based Rockwell Group, the venue is essentially a concrete volume hedged in by two L-shaped residential structures. The Anthem has a warehouse-like interior and two levels of balconies split into smaller, drawer-like extrusions. Massive steel panels flank the stage, laser cut and illuminated with the pattern of two enormous curtains drawn back, resembling the velvet drapery of Baroque theaters. The space is managed by a 30-year old staple organization in D.C. entertainment–the 9:30 Club–to whom the Wharf reached out in the initial stages. The building’s board-form concrete paneling and industrial facade are intended as a nod to the Club’s famed punk-laden lineups. In the lobby, one can look up through an installation of floating cymbals to four rectangular skylights three floors up. If you look closely, the skylights ripple with water–the underbelly of a pool for a residential structure stacked above. A key design challenge for the Anthem was its siting between two residential structures. To address the noise issue, Rockwell spent several million dollars designing a multi-layered sound barrier between the structures, which are reportedly so effective that amplified concerts are inaudible from the interiors of apartments less than a hundred feet away. Supposedly, a resident could sleep soundly while Dave Grohl shredded away on opening night. The Anthem's neighboring structures include designs by FOX Architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Perkins Eastman, Parcel 3A, Cunningham Quill Architects, BBG_BBGM, Handel Architects, WDG Architecture, Studio MB, SmithGroup JJR, MTFA Architecture, SK&I, and Moffatt & Nichol. Only Phase One has opened. Phase Two will add an additional 1.2 million square feet to the overall site footprint, mostly extending south. The roster of new structures will include designs by firms such as SHoP Architects, Rafael Viñoly, Morris Adjmi Architects, Hollwich Kushner (HWKN), ODA, WDG Architecture, and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). The expansion will include increased office and residential space, an additional pier and marina, as well as increased park space. Phase One is notably without much public greenery. The construction of Phase Two is slated to begin in 2018, with a projected opening of 2021.
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Summerlin Sports

Las Vegas ballpark revealed for master-planned desert community
Three years ago, the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) bought Las Vegas’s Triple A baseball team, the 51s, with the plan of relocating the team from its outdated facility north of downtown Las Vegas to a new state-of-the-art facility in Summerlin, the company’s massive master-planned community of more than 100,000 people at the western edge of the Las Vegas Valley. Last week HHC unveiled the preliminary design of Las Vegas Ballpark, its new 10,000-capacity ballpark, designed by the San Francisco office of HOK. It is the latest sign that sports are becoming increasingly important both to Las Vegas’ ambition of becoming a “real city” as well as a driver of a new generation of more urban development. This season also marks the debut of Las Vegas’ NHL franchise, the Golden Knights, playing out of a new arena on the Las Vegas Strip (itself part of a large pedestrian-oriented plaza space on the Strip). The NFL’s Oakland Raiders, meanwhile, will relocate to Sin City in a brand new stadium starting in 2020. The new baseball park will form the centerpiece of a 400-acre tract called “Downtown Summerlin.” The ballpark will join an existing 1,000-room hotel casino, a large outdoor shopping center that opened in 2014, and a practice rink for the Golden Knights which opened last month. Over the next 10 to 15 years, Hughes expects to fill in the rest of the site with new office buildings, small parks and up to 4,000 urban dwelling units — none of which will be single-family detached homes. The design, which is still being finalized, will leverage the park's connection to the desert – the ballpark is a short drive from the color-drenched mountains of the Red Rock National Conservation Area.“There’s something about a project in the desert that’s a little bit different than a project in other places,” said Anton Foss, Managing Principal of HOK's San Francisco office. The base will be comprised of stucco and earthy burnished blocks. "We’re emphasizing the materiality of the ground — pieces of the project being of the earth," said Foss. The other design cue was the legacy of Howard Hughes himself. The aviator and industrialist originally bought up the 25,000-acre parcel that became Summerlin in the 1950s. Development of the land as a master-planned community didn’t begin until the late '80s. Foss said early plans actually considered trying to incorporate a Hughes museum on site, complete with his legendary Spruce Goose flying boat aircraft. The idea was abandoned, but it got Foss and his colleagues thinking about Hughes’ aviation legacy. Inspired by aircraft, the upper section is composed of exposed structural steel, glass and metal panels. The roof, Foss promised, “will touch the sky lightly like an aircraft wing.” A few Vegas touches are planned for the ballpark, including an outfield pool and an outfield concourse lined with games like ping pong tables and corn hole. Las Vegas usually hosts a few Cactus League games during Spring Training, so the new stadium will feature amenities like a clubhouse and a weight room that are designed to impress major league players. But the watchword here is more about grace than glitz. The design will eliminate complex vertical circulation like ramps — despite an 18-foot west to-east downward slope, the entire park can be accessed by one 360-degree, sloping circulation system. The ballpark, estimated to cost $150 million, is scheduled to break ground early next year and open for the 2019 season. As for the 51s' current home, Cashman Field, plans for next year include hosting a new minor league soccer franchise which will play alongside the baseball team until the 51s move. Beyond that, there are more question marks. The city is kicking around a variety of ideas, ranging from a sports complex (if the minor league soccer team draws interest, it could lead to a Major League Soccer franchise in a few years) to a new campus for tech giant Amazon, which has invited cities to bid for the chance to host their new headquarters. The Cashman ballpark dates back to 1983 and is one of the oldest Triple A fields in the country. It is part of a larger complex called Cashman Center, which includes a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall. Just north of downtown Las Vegas, but cut off by an elevated freeway, the Cashman site is adjacent to a popular outdoor neon museum and a public library. The ongoing redevelopment of downtown Las Vegas has yet to cross over the freeway. For Tom Warden, Senior Vice President with the Howard Hughes Corporation, the future of both Downtown Summerlin and Downtown Las Vegas are bright. For him, the 400-acre Downtown Summerlin site is a dream opportunity to implement New Urbanist policies devoted to walkable, pedestrian-scaled environments on an unprecedented scale. “To be able to build that way tabula rasa is an exciting thing for planners,” he said.
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Towering Performance

Los Angeles approves first high-rise development in Westlake neighborhood
The Los Angeles City Planning Commission has approved the Lake on Wilshire project, a 41-story mixed-use housing tower complex proposed by Archeon Group and developer Walter Jayasinghe for L.A.’s Westlake neighborhood. The proposal currently plans to bring 478 market-rate apartments—including 39 affordable units—to the area. The project site at 1930 Wilshire is currently occupied by a surface parking lot and is being developed to include an 850-seat performing arts center dedicated to Sri Lankan culture. The 70,000-square-foot performing arts center will sit at the corner of the site and is depicted in renderings for the project as a five-story structure wrapped in angular, multi-colored mosaic panels. The cultural center is planned to include ground floor public open spaces and feature a large statue located at the corner as well. An existing and historic medical office building located next door to the proposed tower and cultural center will be converted into a 220-key hotel room as part of the project. The project is located around the corner from the Westlake/MacArthur Park Purple Line Station and represents one of the first major market-rate developments for the predominantly working class and immigrant neighborhood. Westlake is sandwiched between Koreatown—which has seen many proposals for new, dense housing towers in recent years—and Downtown Los Angeles, another growing area. There are many concerns about the project, especially with regard to its less-than-stellar community benefits package and the high potential for neighborhood displacement the project could bring. Plans to provide $20,000 for the installation of Los Angeles Police Department surveillance cameras within a two-block radius of the project have also raised concerns in the neighborhood. Recent development in the area includes a 52-unit supportive housing complex for formerly-homeless veterans by L.A.-based Brooks + Scarpa and the Skid Row Housing Trust as well as a proposal by KTGY Architecture + Planning for an 85-unit transitional housing project built using repurposed shipping containers. A timeline for the Lake on Wilshire project has not been released. The project next heads to the Los Angeles City Council for final approval. For more information, see the Lake on Wilshire project website.
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Blueways To Be

Climate Profiles: Chris Reed, Stoss, and the future of Boston's waterfront
In AN's new series of climate profiles, we will be learning from designers who are working to incorporate climate responsiveness in their work or have blazed the way for others in the field.  As this year's hurricane season reaches its third quarter, coastal and riverfront cities across the country are thinking more than ever about how to adapt urban landscapes to increasingly intense storm surge and sea level rise. Chris Reed, founding principal of Stoss and professor of landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), is particularly good at asking questions about these issues. While completing his undergraduate degree in urban history at Harvard College in the 1990s, Reed was exposed to a split in schools of thought among landscape architects: one approaching landscape at the scale of urban planning, another at the more traditional gardens and parks scale. James Corner, who at the time was beginning his own landscape practice, was someone Reed felt successfully merged the two. Reed sought to do the same. In 2001, after he completed a Master’s at the University of Pennsylvania, Reed’s firm Stoss was born out of a desire to create high-density urban environments thoroughly engaged with landscapes and environmental processes. Over nearly two decades, Stoss has completed riverfront designs for five cities across the globe (Shanghai, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Dallas, and London, Canada) as well as countless waterfront parks and public spaces. A 2011 profile of Reed in Places Journal noted that "stoss" is a German word that means "to kick, as in 'kick in the pants,' to initiative, activate." In Dallas, Stoss' Trinity Waterfront project innovatively addressed a vacant flood zone of land dividing the downtown area from Trinity River, which winds through the city. The city wanted to transform this zone into a new public space and economic boon to draw developers. While the city's RFP asked designers to connect the downtown area to the waterfront, Stoss expanded the landscape in two directions – extending fingers of the river and wetlands into the city, and likewise extending the city out into the flood zone. This is especially illustrative of Stoss' approach to adaptive water management. Even an open-air theater has the capacity to flood, diverting waters from the paved and developed areas beyond. The sports fields are flanked by bioswales, depressed areas that are designed to capture runoff. The resulting parklands are both densely urban and perform ecological functions. "The debate now has become not just how to incorporate environmental resilience into cities but also social resilience," Reed told AN. "The world is not the same as when I was in school. Now we have to ask questions like: what are the responsibilities of designers to address climate change, population growth, political shifts–and how have all of these things affected design?" Most recently, Stoss has worked on providing solutions to some of the climate-focused questions through a large-scale riverfront project in Boston. In January 2017, the City of Boston released a public RFP seeking design teams to realize elements of their Imagine Boston 2030 plan. A major part of the plan is riverfront development, both in terms of creating more effective storm-resistant infrastructure as well as in creating compelling public spaces. Stoss was an obvious firm to address the tasks at hand. Of the six neighborhoods identified in Imagine Boston 2030 for waterfront renewal, Stoss was selected to work on two: East Boston and Charlestown. In East Boston, the site runs roughly from around Falcon Street to Piers Park. The Charlestown stretch is still under wraps, with the entire waterfront owned by a single private entity. The focus for both will be on coastal flooding and sea level rise. To tackle these issues, Stoss partnered with Kleinfelder, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the New York office of Dutch firm One Architecture. According to Stoss' Studio Manager Amy Whitesides, the project will occur in a layered approach at three different scales. The first, most local scale, will look at simple engineering solutions to flooding, common sense gray infrastructure that will prevent stormwater from rising up or scouring its way into the city's streetscape. An example of this would be a retrofit to the East Boston Greenway that would funnel water along the park's existing railway rather than letting it run off into adjacent neighborhoods. The second, intermediate scale will look at the landscape's existing and potential ecologies—including the redesign of Piers Park itself. The current plan is to take the land and raise it into a berm-like park, creating a barrier that will protect the Greenway and the residential areas while doubling as public space. The third scale looks at the waterfront as a whole from a developer's standpoint, asking which areas will require rezoning for designs to be effectively implemented, how to address private interest (as a good portion of the waterfront property included is privately owned), and perhaps most importantly: how will this all get paid for? The project takes inspiration from the same multi-scalar approach Reed discussed – territory-scale projects with a social bent. "I'm interested in projects that are more about setting up relationships between people rather than relying solely on form-based agendas," Reed told AN. "How do you have a conversation that might seek change?" In East Boston and Charlestown, these kind of conversations are well underway. The design team has held over fifty meetings with stakeholders ranging from Boston's Department of Parks and Recreation to private developers, held community workshops in all of the affected neighborhoods, and formed working partnerships with a number of local nonprofits to inform the design. According to Reed, it should be impossible to complete such large-scale designs with far-reaching impacts without forging local relationships. "Many cities across the U.S. are looking at profound issues of aging infrastructure," Reed said"With major riverfront projects like this, the changes made are often wrapped up in concerns about affordability." Reed referred to the fear of rent increases pushing out residents as new development moves into neighborhoods. "In dealing with climate change, the question becomes: how do we design for equity? How do we make for welcoming spaces?" Stoss will formally announce their design for the Imagine Boston 2030 plan in the coming weeks.
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River Come Home

AECOM wants to add 36,000 housing units around the L.A. River
AECOM has a bold, transformational vision for the areas immediately surrounding the Los Angeles River in Downtown Los Angeles. The firm’s recently-published Los Angeles River Gateway proposal envisions a dense web of newly interconnected neighborhoods and recreational areas surrounding a four-mile stretch of the river between Elysian Park and the Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, Arts District, and Civic Center neighborhoods. The plan calls for nearly 300 acres of publicly-accessible riparian areas surrounding the river. Those recreational and flood-control areas would be joined, according to the plan, by 36,620 residential units, including at least 7,874 affordable homes. The plan calls for making 100 percent of the riverfront areas accessible to the public by absorbing the surrounding industrially-zoned lands and converting those parcels to park areas. The unsolicited study seeks to join “the city with [the] river and nature” by physically connecting the neighborhoods surrounded by the L.A. River with the river itself. It also works within the confines of existing neighborhood plans and leans on already-approved proposals to paint – not a radical vision for the future – but something more akin to a visualization of what the built-out area might eventually look like under current plans. AECOM proposes a series of approaches for bridging over privately- and publicly-owned rail yards surrounding the river’s banks on either side, including plans for underground tunnels that would serve high-speed rail, public transit, and private freight trains. Other potential options include the erection of an elevated trestle system for trains that would allow pedestrians to walk below the tracks and a fill-and-mound system of terraforming to span over the tracks. The River Gateway proposal also calls for adding nearly 150,000 jobs to the area, a 200% increase over the existing number of jobs currently contained within the study areas, according to the authors. Under the plan, 97% of the area’s jobs would be located within a 10-minute walk from the handful of existing and forthcoming light rail stops that serve the area. Renderings for the scheme depict sweeping, tree-filled vistas of the areas surrounding the river, with the areas around Union Station particularly transformed by new structures. The renderings show the City’s brutalist Piper Tech records and police facility being replaced by mixed-use housing towers, for example. Low- to mid-rise apartment blocks would flank the riverbanks on both sides and ultimately bleed into realized visions projected under the new Civic Center Master Plan. The Los Angeles River Gateway plan calls for a 40-year implementation schedule, with many of the improvements either begun or partially completed in time for the 2028 Olympic Games. Under the plan, the downtown section of the L.A. River would act as a “gateway” for Olympics visitors. A full version of AECOM’s proposal can be found here.
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caged city

Ai Weiwei's fences take on borders and belonging in NYC exhibit
In Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, a new exhibition by Ai Weiwei presented by the Public Art Fund, the artist and activist takes on the security fence as a medium for urban intervention, with New York City as his canvas. Some of the works might be easy to miss, like the chain link fences suspended over a gap between two buildings on East 7th Street, just steps from Ai’s old basement apartment. But others, like the monumental Gilded Cage at Doris Freedman Plaza in Central Park, or Arch, nested under the Washington Square arch, are unmistakable and grandiose. The exhibit, which spans the five boroughs, opens to the public on October 12 and is comprised of more than 300 pieces. Like the Robert Frost poem it references, the show examines the tension and contradictions surrounding borders and those excluded by them, inspired by Ai’s concerns about the global refugee crisis and related geopolitical conflicts. Many of the city sites selected by Ai, once a New York immigrant himself, also have close ties to histories of immigration, protest, and free speech. For the artist, the exhibition became an opportunity to utilize the existing infrastructure of New York City as a scaffolding for public art. From lampposts and flagpoles as well as on the public bus shelters dotting the city, Ai has installed a range of two- and three-dimensional works that combine fencing material with his cell phone shots of border checkpoints and refugee encampments. The images the exhibit has hung from lampposts throughout the city are delicate portraits stamped out of a black mesh fabric, and feature archival shots of Ellis Island entrants, notable refugees and immigrants like Nina Simone and Emma Goldman, and contemporary faces of displacement and exile, such as Iraqi refugees. Ai Weiwei also resurrects some familiar metaphors from his oeuvre, especially the birdcage. It becomes an inhabitable monolith in Gilded Cage, with turnstiled arcades forming the outer perimeter and a clearing in the middle that frames the sky and the surrounding foliage of Central Park. In Arch, the birdcage that blocks the Washington Square arch is shot through with a mirrored portal shaped into a silhouette of two people, a reference to a Duchamp work that also suggests how cages can become doorways, or hint at the inevitability of human migration despite the barriers that are erected. Circle Fence, which rings the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, is grand on a different scale, essentially forming a low 1,000-foot-long soft fence that doubles as a collective hammock and seating. Here the fence does not resemble a jail or barrier, but the mesh netting stretched over the fence posts still blocks movement even as it invites the public to lie down and relax. More quotidian fences clamp around the columns of Cooper Union’s facade or swing as pixelated banners from the Lower East Side’s Essex Market. Their unobtrusive presence echoes Ai Weiwei’s belief that fences tap easily into existing structures of power and don’t require a separate infrastructure to be erected. Or, as Public Art Fund’s Chief Curator Nicholas Baume stated, Ai's works show "what we have thought was open can suddenly be closed.” The full list of works and venues for Good Fences Make Good Neighbors can be found here. The exhibit will be on view through February 11th.
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highway havens

Renovations to Halprin’s Freeway Park move closer to reality
With the completion of initial community-engagement efforts and a recent approval by the Seattle Design Commission, the extent of potential changes coming to Seattle’s visionary Freeway Park are beginning to come into finer relief. The late modern freeway cap park designed by Lawrence Halprin and Angela Danadjieva spans a downtown section of Interstate-5 and is undergoing community-driven wayfinding upgrades aimed at boosting the park’s pedestrian visibility and its diversity of uses. Potential changes include the installation of a bandshell, new restroom facilities, a food kiosk, a playground, and even a bouldering wall, Capitol Hill Times reports. The additional functionality will also come with cosmetic and safety-oriented upgrades like increased street lighting, new signage, and the addition of visual markers and colorful paving aimed at drawing more people to and through the 5.2-acre park. The changes were initially led by the Freeway Park Association (FPA), a nonprofit steward of the park. FPA hired local landscape architects Site Workshop to design improvements for the park. The team is now joined by the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC), which is contributing $10 million toward the renovations as part of a public benefits package associated with its own expansion plans. WSCC’s funds would be utilized by the Seattle Parks and Recreation department to implement the design solutions generated via FPA and Site Workshop’s efforts. That effort will be joined by a Seattle Department of Transportation initiative aimed at sprucing up seven of the park’s entrances. The proposed changes come as the 44-year-old park and its constituent “freeway vernacular” aesthetic of board-formed concrete and clustered, stepped terraces and fountains becomes surrounded by an ever-increasing number of corporate office and condominium towers. As the neighborhood around the park has densified, portions of the site have fallen into shadow and some the meandering park’s many entrances have become obscured by new development. The resulting disuse has rendered one of Seattle’s largest urban parks dangerous—a person was murdered there in 2005, a crime at least partially blamed by some on the park’s overgrown state. Referencing the park’s physical isolation, Riisa Conklin, executive director of Freeway Park Association, told The Architect’s Newspaper (AN), “‘Perception of safety’ is particularly complicated for a park that is essentially without the typical ‘eyes’ that surround most urban parks connected to city life via streets and building facades.” Conklin added, “Freeway Park's edges are occupied by private development or the freeway. While the rush of the freeway provides a truly beautiful and unique experience it does not engender the feeling of security that most park users long for.” The park’s mid-life crisis is a common one for late modern structures and landscapes. As the doggedly polemical works of the 1970s and 1980s begin to age, their often austere faces are being met with interventions aimed at softening the edges a bit. In the case of Freeway Park, changes are geared toward pacifying the park through occupation in the form of  “programming” and “activation.” And so, bold the designers and organizers behind the renovations envision bold and colorful initiatives throughout the park that according to some, clash with the contemplative nature of Halprin and Danadjieva’s original designs. At a recent Seattle Design Commission meeting, several design commissioners expressed disapproval with the proposed upgrades, arguing that some of the proposed ideas were incongruous with the quiet, contemplative nature of the park. The commissioners pointed to proposed blade signage, paving materials, and particular art installations as aspects of the new designs that should be reconsidered. At the meeting, Capitol Hill Times reports, commissioner Laura Haddad suggested “going back to the natural palette whenever possible,” adding, “I would not look at this crosswalk and think ‘Freeway Park.’” Despite the commissioners' reservations, the FPA initiative was approved and will now head to the City for final decision. In an email to AN, FPA’s Conklin celebrated the SDC approval, saying, “This is just the beginning! And we are thrilled to have secured the funding to do much-needed upgrades, restoration, and added modern amenities for Freeway Park.” And while the planned changes are surely being pursued with good intentions, it remains to be seen what existential impact the renovations will have on what is widely considered a seminal work of landscape architecture designed by some of the field’s leading figures. Freeway Park was among a collection of Seattle-area parks listed in a compendium created by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) highlighting threatened nationally-significant landscapes. In a press release announcing the list, TCLF describes the proposed changes to the park as "incompatible" the park's original design. As the world’s first freeway cap park, Halprin and Danadjieva’s designs helped to bring landscape architecture into the postmodern era by challenging the totality of both the freeway and the prototypical American lawn simultaneously by stacking one above the over. Designs for the park were widely published upon its completion, providing a brief but nuanced window into a bleeding edge of design and urbanism trends that would not gain common currency for decades. Today, urban freeway cap parks are allowing cities across the world to retake precious space from cars by healing some of the physical scars resulting from the initial build-out of automobile highways. Freeway Park’s layered array of winding, concrete paths and terraces dared to postulate that areas above and around freeways could be wonderful places too, a direct rebuke to much of that era’s urban planning regimes. A question for today is whether some of the most lasting effects of that era—grit, grime, and yes, darkness—have a place in the urban parks of tomorrow.
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Data Breach

Google's Sidewalk Labs emerges as top contender for Toronto waterfront project
What happens when urban planning decisions fall into the hands of tech companies? This is a question that has been asked with increasing frequency as driverless cars, data-driven urban interventions, and "smart cities" have insinuated themselves into the daily news cycle. This week, it was reported that Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation startup under Google's parent company Alphabet, has emerged as the top contender to tackle a major new urban development project in Canada. Waterfront Toronto, a government-funded corporation operating in of Canada's most populous city, has selected Sidewalks Labs for Quayside, a project which aims to rework 12 acres along Old Toronto's inner harbor into mixed-use space including residential development, of which 20 percent must be affordable. Quayside is part of Toronto Waterfront's mission to adapt nearly 1,977 acres around the city's port to modern use. Waterfront Toronto has been upfront about their tech-focused approach to the redevelopment project. In the competition's RFP, they announced the project was to be "a test bed for how we construct the future city" focused on "forward-thinking urban design and new technologies to create people-first neighborhoods." Sidewalk Labs seems to match these requirements, with projects like the Link NYC wi-fi kiosks now dotting the streets of New York's five boroughs, which is managed by a new Sidewalk-managed company called Intersection. Much like their (and Google's) parent company Alphabet Inc., one of Sidewalk's approaches has been to function as a kind of business incubator for organizations dealing with topic-specific urban interventions. Among their other projects, Cityblock Health addresses urban space as a determinant for public health and Semaphore Lab prototypes adaptive traffic lights. Sidewalk's slogan, "We're reimagining cities from the internet up," may provoke unease among urban planners or socially-minded architects – language is telling, and this catchphrase is notably people-less. Even when addressing issues like affordable housing, urban congestion, and health, solutions based on predictive algorithms rather than human experience can engender healthy skepticism. Waterfront Toronto, now in a self-imposed "blackout period" as they finalize the process, expects to make a formal announcement sometime this fall. The board has a scheduled meeting on October 20th to decide on the staff recommendation.