Search results for "Downtown Brooklyn"

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Lost Man Creek

Take a trip through this redwood forest in downtown Brooklyn tomorrow
Instead of staring out the window into the gloomy morass of this weekend's unrelenting rain, head over to downtown Brooklyn tomorrow for the opening of a real—and really small—public forest. Artist Spencer Finch has set up a 4,000-tree glen in MetroTech Commons for his latest solo exhibition, Lost Man Creek. In partnership with Save the Redwoods League, Finch has recreated a 790-acre chunk of California's Redwood National Park at 1:100 scale. The height and placement of the thousands of scaled-down redwoods, ranging from one to four feet tall, mimic the topography of the real redwood forest (although the trees there reach heights close to 400 feet). “Through both a scientific approach to gathering data—including precise measurements and record keeping—and a poetic sensibility, Finch’s works often inhabit the area between objective investigations of science and the subjectivity of lived experience,” said exhibition organizer and Public Art Fund associate curator Emma Enderby, in a statement. “In a world where climate change is at the core of societal debates, Finch’s installation in the heart of one of the most urbanized neighborhoods of the city presents us with the universal reality of nature’s power to awe and inspire, and the importance to remember and protect such wonders.” Visitors will be able to view the triangular patch of nature from a platform or at ground level. A custom-rigged irrigation system will keep the redwoods alive (although they'll probably get more water here than in their native, water-deficient California). Like the old-growth redwoods, Lost Man Creek will be around for awhile: The exhibition opens tomorrow and remains on view through March 11, 2018. The work is reminiscent of Michael Neff's suspended forest at the Knockdown Center, although Neff prefers his conifers dead.
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Mountain Men

A group of artists and architects revisit the famed Black Mountain College

A famous experimental college flourished in Black Mountain, North Carolina, from 1933 until it closed in 1957. Josef Albers taught there for 17 years, while Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer designed one of their first U.S. commissions and Buckminster Fuller attempted his first dome structure at the college. Last October, at its Lake Eden campus, Adam Void and Chelsea Ragan—artists who had settled in western North Carolina—invited a group of 18 colleagues to join them in planning a school inspired by Black Mountain College. Less than a year later, with guidance from the group, Void and Ragan launched a call for faculty, organized a curriculum, gathered tuition from students, and rented a building for a month-long experiment in community and education.

Black Mountain School—not officially affiliated with the original college—is founded on the proposition that higher education is caught in a perpetual spiral of increasing tuition and institutions unable to adapt to students’ needs. “In the face of extreme tuition cost, corporatized profit-driven learning, and a one-size-fits-all curriculum that defines the limitations of public and private higher education, we are presenting an alternative,” reads the school’s online prospectus. “A non-hierarchical approach to organization, self-directed study in a wide range of subjects, as well as communal activities and events combine to provide students and teachers with the ability to learn from one another openly in an inclusive environment.”

This summer, a group of around 100 artists, designers, and teachers came together in the rented lodge at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly—Black Mountain College’s campus prior to Lake Eden—to launch the experiment, share cooking, cleaning, and administrative duties, and participate in courses that ranged from guided hikes, identifying wild plants, and “relinquishing self,” to more structured lectures on the histories of hip-hop and contemporary art. Then, as now, the school’s location in Black Mountain, 15 miles east of Asheville—on a campus where the alternative community coexisted with Christian summer camps—placed it in the nexus of cultural change dominating local and national politics.

“We think we’re kind of in that time right now where we’re in between worlds,” Void said. “Something is coming, but we’re not quite sure what. But we’re definitely a part of that transition.”

Educators and students traveled from all parts of the country and as far as London and Quito, Ecuador, to participate in courses like the Gilles Deleuze–influenced “A New Image of Thought” by New York–based Alexander Chaparro, “No Math Architecture” by New York artist Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, and “Analog Data Management” by Clocktower program director Joe Ahearn.

“I came here not knowing what the plan was, but knowing there was a lot to be learned by what happens when people start things fresh,” said Ahearn, who participated in last year’s planning session and also helps organize Brooklyn’s Silent Barn alternative space. “At the same time there’s a degree of accountability that’s placed on the whole thing by its connection to the history of the space and to Black Mountain College.”

This author taught a course that proposed to use building-scale video projection as an urban interventionist medium to interact with the surrounding community in western North Carolina. It turned out that in March, after the class was submitted, the state legislature passed a regressive law prohibiting transgender people from using gender-appropriate bathrooms.

“I applied just at the point when I wasn’t aware what was going on,” said Luan Joy Sherman, a student from Savannah College of Art & Design. “I don’t think it had been signed into law yet. When I crossed the border it felt really heavy and it felt really violent. As a trans person I’m not welcome here, I’m not recognized here, I’m not valid here.”

The class opened up discussion within the school about the bathroom law and gender identity and framed a collaborative action in public space that would address the question directly. The students connected with local advocacy groups Tranzmission and Southerners on New Ground, and Sherman and filmmaker Adam Rush, another faculty member, quickly designed text-based projection installations intended to create a safe public space in downtown Asheville for sharing information and expressing solidarity with the trans community. On a Saturday evening in late May, students and faculty gathered on a slope of grass to view the projections while passersby stopped to chat and drivers honked in support.

“I feel really healed now,” Sherman said. “In a short period of time I’ve gotten over the hump of something that’s really big and is the biggest experience with personal injustice that I’ve ever felt.”

Void and Ragan hope to continue the experiment in the coming year. It was not without its controversies—more than one artist showed work that many considered racially insensitive—and the school will eventually need a stronger pedagogical theory to become more than an education-themed artistic residency. But like the original Black Mountain College and independent architecture schools like the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, Terreform’s ONE Lab, and many of the “radical pedagogies” throughout history, it clearly responds to a perceived need for an alternative to the current model.

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Flows Two Ways

Stephen Glassman Studio designs colorful sculpture for new Manhattan development
Flows Two Ways by Stephen Glassman Studio is one of the most innovative new public art wall projects in New York. The walls of the city have a long and complicated history as a site for public art that includes 19th century classical Beaux Arts reliefsWPA scenes on (and in) libraries, hospitals and public housing, and the graffiti that covers buildings all over the city. Furthermore, in the 1970s the loosely organized group City Walls created opportunities for artists to use blank, lot line facades all over downtown Manhattan, particularly in Soho and Noho. Only two City Walls murals remain in 2016 but there were many large works by artists such as Allan D’Arcangelo, Mel Pekarsky, Tania Lewin, Robert Wiegand, Todd Williams, and Forrest Myers. This was a moment when bare, unpainted walls were plentiful downtown and City Walls helped created a template and process for covering them with large graphic images. These artists' projects grabbed the public’s attention and helped define the art of Soho in the 1970s but, sadly, their work only became a template for commercial advertising signs. Except for the late, lamented 5 Pointz graffiti wall in Queens, there haven't been many wall projects of interest in New York since the 1970s—or until now, with Flows Two Ways. The Stephen Glassman project is sited on a new passageway few New Yorkers even know exists. The work is not a painted mural but a raised sculpture that measures sixty-by-sixty feet. It sits on a narrow passageway between the BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group-designed Via 57 West building and the Helena by FxFowle. It was commissioned by the Durst Organization, the owners of both developments. The piece was created through a truly 21st-century process of prefabricated construction. The mural is composed of colored aluminum, stainless steel, and rolled metal tubing. Furthermore, the layered eight-story, 32,000-pound jig-saw puzzle is composed of a stainless-steel mounting matrix embedded into the existing Helena wall, 35 interlocking aluminum panels, nearly 400 sixty-foot pipe clusters rolled and flowing in three axes, and faceted metal “boulders.” A sophisticated sliding plate system—which largely floats the 16-ton piece off the building—accommodates thermal expansion and forces generated by wind, rain, snow, and ice loads. It is effectively a panelized façade. To develop this technologically complex sculpture, Glassman used a team of engineers from Arup, architects, and designers to craft its layered construction and anchoring system. The artist’s intent for the work is to evoke “an enduring regard for earth and nature and a love of New York.” It cascades down and up the facade; Glassman says it replicates “the dualities of flowing and falling.” By playing with the sun’s changing angles, the artwork mimics the Hudson River’s glow at sunset. In particular, the artist hopes the work will direct the eye of the viewer upward to the sky rather than the confined, dark space of the narrow alley. The sculpture’s palette, derived through color studies of the historic Hudson River school of painting, imbues the passageway with an organic counterpoint to the surrounding steel and glass built environment. In fact, the majority of units facing onto the artwork are subsidized middle-income apartments that, without the colorful work, would be looking onto a narrow passageway's drab sheer concrete wall. The sculpture points to a new type of composite and prefabricated construction that can transform a blank vertical wall and otherwise dead space into a colorfully vibrant urban space.
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The Perelman Center

REX to impress with just-released design of the WTC Performing Arts Center
Today, REX’s design for the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center was revealed before an eager audience of architects, press, developers, and New York City patrons of the arts. “Downtown is back as a premier place for business," said Larry Silverstein, co-founder of Silverstein Properties, a major stakeholder in the World Trade Center site. "There is 10 million square feet of office space replacing what was destroyed on 9/11, and there are 25,000 workers in that space. The neighborhood has become a model of what is best and most exciting about New York. Daniel Liebskind's master plan for the area balanced commemorative function with the need to create a vibrant neighborhood. The performing arts center is an integral part of that and will bring a new dynamic to downtown." Maggie Boepple, president and director of the Perelman Center, noted that the group met with over 200 people—artists, neighbors, and critics—to determine what type of performing space the city most wanted. The resulting program translates the need for flexibility into mutable performance spaces that can be endlessly configured, explained Joshua Prince-Ramus, founding principal of REX. His team created a translucent marble box with a creamy amber pattern straight from a grandmother’s snakeskin purse but with all the requisite gravitas for a building on hallowed ground. “The light comes out like a beacon,” the eponymous Perelman gushed. "[The center] is a simple, pure form that creates a mystery box, defying [visitors'] expectations," Prince-Ramus said. At the intersection of Greenwich and Fulton, and perpendicular to Calatrava's PATH station, the three-story building is "an exciting pop" that dialogues with the entry to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, he noted. The facade is made of the same Vermont marble used for the Jefferson Memorial and the recently-refurbished Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, but the Perelman Center's stone will be sliced thinly and laminated between two layers of glass to improve the structure's performance. Like a magic show, architects from REX's team lined up to pull the model apart, layer by layer, as Prince-Ramus detailed its functions. Visitors enter the coffered main lobby (level one) through a staircase that spills from a steep cut at the top of a 21-foot plinth. The top floor, the Play Level, is comprised of four main auditoria—with 499, 250, and 99-person capacities, plus a smaller flex space—whose acoustic guillotine walls have “an endless number of permutations [for the artistic director to create] that we can’t even predict, and that’s incredibly exciting.” The renderings and diagrams in the gallery above depict some possible arrangements and circulations. The Performer Level, level two, is the building's support area, with practice spaces, dressing rooms, costume shop, and green rooms for performers. In most theaters, these spaces receive scant light; in REX's design, the translucent marble facade allows natural light in. AN spoke with Sebastian Hofmeister and Vaidas Vaiciulis, two REX architects on the project. The layered model took three or four weeks to make, "and at the end, even Joshua was gluing a few pieces on," they said. This video by David Langford (link here) takes viewers through the site, and inside the model, while the section GIF below shows visitor flow through the building: Brooklyn-based REX is collaborating with Threshold Acoustics consultants from Chicago and theater designer Andy Hales of Charcoalblue (the same firm that collaborated with Marvel Architects on the recently opened St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO).  The 90,000-square-foot building's design changed “remarkably little” between concept and execution, Boepple said, except to allow for additional security measures. Due in large part to a $75 million donation from its namesake board member, the Perelman Center has raised $175 million of its $250 million projected cost, with $99 million of the funds coming from HUD regeneration money dispensed through the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC). The center is expected to open in 2020. For more images and information, visit theperelman.org.
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Designed by W Architecture

St. Petersburg City Council approves $19.5 million for long-awaited "Pier Approach"
The City Council of St. Petersburg, Florida has approved $19.5 million in funding for W Architecture & Landscape Architecture's Pier Approach, the lead-up to the new Rogers Partners–designed St. Pete Pier. In addition to approving the design, the city council expanded W Architecture's scope of service to include detailed design and construction documents. The Brooklyn-based architecture firm is collaborating with ASD Architects and Rogers Partners on the redesign. Rogers Partners designed the pier itself, which will be connected to W Architecture's approach. W Architecture and local partner Wannemacher Jensen Architects are working on the Pier Approach. Tampa-based firm ASD is the executive architect on the pier. The aim of the approach is to connect the pier, located at Spa Beach, to downtown St. Petersburg. Plans for a new pier have been in the works since at least 2012, but that year a group of residents organized a referendum that rejected a design from L.A.-based architect Michael Maltzan. Rogers Partners won a new city-issued design competition in 2015. When The Architect's Newspaper profiled the project in May, W's concept phase was just wrapping up. Rogers Partners design offers a 13-acre public space that, together with the approach, integrates the water with the waterfront. Some of the amenities that will be available to the public include restaurants, a kid's play zone, a fishing deck, and bait shop. Ken Smith Landscape Architect is also part of the pier design team. Chris Ballestra, the city's managing director of development coordination, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that a lack of activities was a key reason the previous design was scrapped. However the new design may have raised concerns about too much activity, as the pier's three restaurants were reportedly a point of discussion. The city's timeline has the pier and approach both completed by the end of 2018. The pier and approach will be treated as separate projects throughout the design, permitting, and construction processes, with progress on the approach following slightly behind the pier itself. The pier is currently in the schematic design phase, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Public outreach showcasing the final pier and approach designs together will follow.
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Just Share It

Portland and Nike launch branded bike share program
The City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation, Nike, and bike share operator Motivate have partnered to bring an innovative, $10-million, 1,000 cycle bike share system to Portland’s central city. The bike share program, named “Biketown,” originally was to only encompass 600 bicycles and a compact service area. However, Nike’s involvement (a Citi Bike-style branding effort) increased the program's visibility and enabled the expansion of the number of bicycles by 66 percent. This allowed the system to expand into several downtown-adjacent neighborhoods as well. According to a joint press release issued earlier this year, the sports and apparel multi-national, based in nearby Beaverton, Oregon, will provide the initial $10-million in funding for the program and maintain a five-year contract over the system’s branding, including the production of 400 limited edition and yet-to-be-released specialty wrapped bicycles every year. Nike’s contribution, combined with projected ridership revenues, will make the program cost-free for the city. The network’s aluminum frame bicycles were produced by Brooklyn, New York-based Social Bicycles, a transportation technology company that has revolutionized bike share infrastructure by pioneering a “smart-bike” containing integrated communications and locking technologies. These features relieved some the need for the expensive docking systems other bike share systems use. Bicycle docks were not eliminated entirely, and are still utilized as a highly-visible form of urban infrastructure, but the bicycles were designed with integrated slots for U-Lock bicycle locks so they can be locked to and checked out from traditional bicycle rack systems as well as branded bike docks. The bicycles’ on-board digital communications and payment displays are also solar powered, as opposed to being located on the bicycle docks, as is common in other locales, making the type of free-flowing movement described above possible. The 45-pound, chain-less shaft-drive, 8-speed models will be managed by Motivate, the New York City-based bike share management and coordination services provider that also runs programs in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and the Boston metropolitan area. With new bike share systems making their debut in Los Angeles, West Hollywood, California, Cleveland, Ohio, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Vancouver, Canada, Portland’s system is the latest in a rapid increase in bicycle systems in North America.
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Make No Small Plans

Inside the diverse practice of Chicago- and Philadelphia-based PORT Urbanism

It is sometimes difficult for people who encounter PORT Urbanism’s work to know whether the projects are hypothetical or practical urban proposals. Despite this confusion, PORT would tell you that all of its work is practical, if not sometimes fantastic.

With small offices in Chicago and Philadelphia, PORT Urbanism fits into a niche of designers that are not typical urban planners and not strictly architects. As its name would suggest, it works at the urban scale, engaging with city governments and large-scale developers to envision near and far futures for public spaces.

AN visited the firm’s Chicago office, which seats four in a small space on the ninth floor of the Burnham and Root–designed Monadnock Building. The office walls are plastered, floor to ceiling, in bright renderings, small models, site photos, and marker-laden site maps. Partner Andrew Moddrell and two employees make up the Chicago office, while the Philadelphia office is comprised of partner Christopher Marcinkoski and one other employee. Moddrell and Marcinkoski started PORT in 2012. With the support of academic positions at the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, they were able to practice on their own terms.

Despite PORT’s small size, it is no stranger to large and complex projects. After being chosen from a request for proposal for a Denver park design with Denver-based Independent Architecture, a NIMBY battle ensued. The project was eventually moved and redesigned for a new park in a neighborhood with a community that appreciated the project. PORT is now moving forward through design development with an improved plan.

Presented at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Big Shift envisioned adding a new coastline and additional land east of Millennium and Grant Parks in downtown Chicago. While dismissed by many as too far-fetched, the project struck a chord with critics and the public. “If we had proposed putting an island in Lake Michigan, then nobody would have cared,” Moddrell said. “But when we ground it in the precision of an infrastructural hierarchy and proposed repositioning of Lake Shore Drive, extending boulevards, and turning Grant Park into a Central Park, and pitch it with a straight face, it is not just architects screwing around for other architects.” Moddrell stands by the idea, however grandiose, as a serious, though speculative proposal.

Carbon T.A.P. (Tunnel Algae Park) New York, New York

Winner of the WPA 2.0 competition, the Carbon T.A.P. envisions a carbon-harvesting algae park attached to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The speculative project proposes to use carbon dioxide released by cars passing through the tunnel to feed algae that can be used to produce oxygen, biofuels, bioplastics, nutraceuticals, and agricultural feeds. Linked to the algae production is a large-scale public space in the form of a swinging bridge. Part of the rationale behind the project is that with the introduction of an innovative industrial infrastructural typology—carbon-reducing algae farms—a new civic infrastructural typology can be realized.

The Big Shift Chicago, Illinois

The Big Shift was originally conceived as an entry to the Art Institute of Chicago’s show Chicagoisms. It was developed further for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The Big Shift proposes to move Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive east and add hundreds of new acres of land in order to expand the city’s downtown and produce hundreds of new acres of park along the lake. Making no small reference to Chicago’s history of reconfiguring its lakeshore, which was mostly fabricated after the 1871 fire, the Big Shift aims to produce trillions of dollars of new real estate. Despite its large upfront infrastructural costs, the plan highlights the advantages of a lakeside park that is three times the size of the current park and of 30 new city blocks of tax-paying, job-producing real estate.

City Loop Denver, Colorado

City Loop is a $5 million public park planned for the City of Denver. Comprised of a continuous ribbon of program and activity space, the Loop is designed to encourage healthy lifestyles and active play. A series of tubes, colorful paths, and diverse activity pods stretch over the half-mile loop, providing for every age group and taste. Along with physical health, the park aims to promote social and cultural well-being as a civic and community space. The full team working on the project is PORT, Denver-based Indie Architecture, Indianapolis-based Latitude 39, Boulder, Colorado–based engineers Studio NYL, Denver-based metal fabricators JunoWorks, athletics consultant Loren Landow, and Tulsa, Oklahoma–based contractors Site Masters Inc.

Goose Island 2025 Chicago, Illinois

In an ongoing collaboration with Chicago developers R2, PORT’s Goose Island 2025 addresses the large industrial Goose Island on the near North Side of Chicago. A planned manufacturing district, Goose Island is now in the middle of a quickly developing part of the city. The island itself, though, has seen little development due to its designation as a planned manufacturing district and the city’s lack of an overall vision. R2 and PORT’s plan looks at the possibilities of the island as it continues as a place of industry, as well as anticipates a future in which some of its land may become available for other programs.

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The Ashland

New renderings revealed for FXFOWLE's luxury Fort Greene apartments
Construction is wrapping up on the The Ashland, a 53-story mixed-use skyscraper in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. In anticipation, the building's website has launched ahead of the July 19 opening of its leasing office. The tower has a total of 586 units, about half of which were opened to applications through the city’s affordable housing lottery. The tower was designed by FXFOWLE, with interiors by SPAN Architecture. According to 6sqft, the units will range in price from $2600 per month for a studio to $7500 per month for a 3-bedroom, which is on par with rents in the area. On the new website's availability page, however, only studios and one-bedroom apartments are listed. The page also offers a link for rental applications. The website showcases many of the building’s amenities, like a fitness studio, rooftop lounge, and barbecue area. It also features renderings of the Gotham Market at The Ashland, a dining hall located at the base of the tower. The market will host eight different dining options, with one rotating pop-up space. This is in addition to the rooms themselves, which offer central air conditioning, floor-to-ceiling windows, and dishwashers in each unit. The luxury apartment tower is located on the edge of Fort Greene, adjacent to the BAM Harvey Theater and the Brooklyn Cultural District. The district, anchored by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, has been a hotspot for development since its inception. Industry has also boomed in the area following the opening of the Barclays Center. Marketing for The Ashland capitalizes on the fact that Downtown Brooklyn is increasingly becoming a center for art and culture in the city, emphasizing the many destinations within walking distance.
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Top Shop

SHoP makes the Brooklyn skyline with a “brooding, elegant, and badass” supertall... There goes the neighborhood?

If you zone it, they will build, and they will build tall. New York–based SHoP, in partnership with JDS Development Group, revealed plans earlier this year to build 9 Dekalb Avenue, a 73-story, 1,066-foot-tall residential tower fused to the landmarked Dime Savings Bank in Downtown Brooklyn. Last month, the design cleared a crucial hurdle when the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approved the tower’s design and consequent modifications to the bank.

“There’s a sort of brooding Gotham to it,” noted Gregg Pasquarelli, founding principal of SHoP. “There’s a little bit of badass to it, but it’s quite elegant at the same time. Isn’t that what we all want to be as New Yorkers?” The 417-unit building is clad in bronze, stainless steel, and stone, with view-maximizing interlocking hexagonal exposures. Pasquarelli explained that the facade detailing is such so that when two sides of the hexagon are viewed from an oblique angle, it will resemble one face, a sleeker reference to the grand old New York skyscrapers like Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building.

Michael Stern, founder of JDS Development Group, proclaimed: “The tower will be Brooklyn’s next icon. Brooklyn was really missing that one iconic statement that was worthy of the borough. This building will really put Brooklyn on the map.” Drawing from the landmark on-site, the spacing of the tower’s vertical facade elements mirrors the spacing of the bank’s neoclassical columns. The color and materials palette picks up on the bank’s colorful stone interiors, which will be converted to retail, while parts of the bank’s roof will be used for the building’s private outdoor spaces.

“The downtown rezoning of Brooklyn in 2004 has been very successful. This is a place where the city could handle density. It’s an incredible kudos to the city they upzoned that area, that they thought about tall towers,” said Pasquarelli. At the prow of Flatbush and Dekalb, the building will be visible from all over Brooklyn, and its distinctive facade will reinforce its prominent position on the skyline.

He and Stern enjoy experimenting with exteriors. Referencing the terra-cotta facade on 111 West 57th Street and the cladding on the East River–facing American Copper Buildings, Pasquarelli intimated that developers and architects are obligated to build for the public realm. “Some people get to live in these buildings, but we all have to live with the exterior.”

While preservationists sometimes bristle at the modification of an individual landmark, Gina Pollara, executive director of the preservation advocacy organization Municipal Arts Society (MAS), thinks there’s a larger issue that’s expressed in the development of tall towers like 9 Dekalb. “For us, it’s not really about the towers itself. Most of these supertalls are going up as-of-right. Because they’re not asking for any variance or any change, there’s no opportunity for public comment.” This tower was unusual, she elaborated, because it involved a landmarked structure. “These buildings are so out of context or out of scale with the neighborhood, and there’s no space for public comment until developers release their renderings. There’s no discussion of the cumulative effects these towers are having on public space.”

In an interview with AN, Stern said that he could not react to critiques like MAS’s (which he had not heard about), “but I can tell you that the commissioners had comments ranging from, ‘the best of urbanism’ and ‘flawless,’ and the LPC approved the project unanimously, as did the community board. It’s something we’re quite proud of.”

Pollara would like to see a better conversation around the 100-year-old zoning code, and reform beyond Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability, the recently codified zoning text amendments. “It’s time to make zoning much more transparent—not just to the layperson, but to elected official,” Pollara said. “We need to get in front of the issue rather than being at the mercy of what is being built around us. Preservation in the 21st century is not necessarily rallying around a specific building, but looking at open space, light, air—all of the elements we want to preserve. We don’t want to live in a city that’s created by default.”

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Book it to Brooklyn

Claire Weisz on WXY's reimagining of the Brooklyn Strand

From a pedestrian perspective, Downtown Brooklyn and its waterfront have an odd relationship. Despite the Brooklyn Bridge’s looming (literally) presence in DUMBO, the area’s potential to become an idyllic promenade and an active space has never quite been realized.

Now, however, New York practice WXY architecture + design—who specializes in planning, urban design, and architecture–is proposing to connect DUMBO, Downtown, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. As part of a public-private scheme, in collaboration with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), WXY’s project, the Strand, sets about creating views within the site, giving it an identity while creating a place that puts pedestrians first.

WXY principal Claire Weisz said that the first thing her practice sought to do was to see what connections needed to be reestablished with a focus on who they should serve. “One of the main priorities of the Strand effort is to privilege pedestrians and cyclists,” said Weisz. “We [looked] at what spaces used to connect and then we sought a way to reimagine and provide resources to the public spaces and places that are valued by the people living, working, and studying in this area.”

Striking a dialogue and creating a “positive sense of journey” was another key aspect of the scheme. Working with Copenhagen artist group Superflex, a responsive and pedestrian friendly scene was established: Here, functional, yet visually inspiring routes were developed, evoking the cultural and historical aspects of the area’s neighborhoods from Fulton to Farragut and the Navy Yard.

Weisz also spoke of new subway connections and the potential to develop sites around infrastructure, adding how the Gateway to Brooklyn action plan concept “demonstrated the importance of approaching access holistically.” In light of this, Weisz proposed connecting Cadman Plaza East with the walkway off the Brooklyn Bridge, thus protecting pedestrians who “have to dodge traffic at Cadman Plaza West.”

Weisz noted how the dominance of car travel has led to the emergence of “unappealing leftover public space.” Here, she explained, a “continuous city fabric where walkable, bike-able, active streets connect Downtown Brooklyn to the Waterfront” is a necessity from an infrastructure perspective.

While improved circulation is a priority, visual connectivity is also on the agenda. Weisz plans to give landmarks visual precedence to celebrate Brooklyn’s history and improve wayfinding throughout the Strand. As a result, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges are allocated framed views from within the Cadman Plaza Park, Anchorage Plaza, and Trinity Park, in order to reaffirm the sense of place throughout the Strand.

“The Strand’s identity is linked to not losing the layers of history that made Brooklyn what it is today but adapting them for today’s needs,” said Weisz, who added that creating a “cohesive” identity was discussed with stakeholders.

“The main challenge of the Strand has been demonstrating the potential of spaces that are currently invisible to the public,” said Weisz. “Whether it be spaces around, over, or under highways [or] a new vantage for accessing and experiencing the Brooklyn Bridge, residents can look forward to a rejuvenated place that realizes the potential for the Strand to better connect downtown Brooklyn.”

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Views from the 69th

Gensler-designed OUE Skyspace debuts in Los Angeles
The Gensler-designed $60 million rehaul of the US Bank Tower’s public areas in downtown Los Angeles opened this weekend in Los Angeles. Renovations for the original 1,015-foot tall building, designed by Henry Cobb of the architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, came about after several years of high vacancy rates for the office building. When the building came under the ownership of Singapore-based Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE) in 2014, plans were floated to convert a portion of the building to residences and a hotel. Eventually, however, the owners and Gensler decided to pursue a modest renovation of key elements of the existing structure, adding tourist-oriented program elements to what will continue to otherwise to be an office building. The renovation includes a new ground-level plaza and lobby area, as well as a snaking labyrinth of so-called “digital interactivity” spaces, including moody hallways, panoramic video displays, and movement-sensitive light installations on the 54th floor. Because the building’s existing elevator configuration could not be altered, this floor’s waiting areas are a required stop on the way to the 70th floor OUE Skyspace viewing platform and restaurant. The big ticket item for the new OUE Skyspace is a 1¼ inch-thick glass panel slide that exits the building’s envelope at the 70th floor, curves out over the city 1000 feet below, and swoops back onto an outdoor terrace at the 69th floor, where the rider is dumped onto a red, padded mat. At $8 per ride, the slide’s to price tag luckily leaves room for second guessing, as the long line leading to the terrifying threshold is the perfect place to see and hear screaming thrill seekers tumble through the air just outside the building. The slide, designed by Brooklyn-based engineer M.Ludvik & Co consulting engineers, requires the user to scoot over a precipice into the hazy abyss beyond. In a region short on tall buildings, the new viewing area will join a growing list of sky-high vistas including the rotating bar atop the Bonaventure Hotel and the more recent rooftop bars at the Ace and Standard Hotels. The slowly rising steel frame of the nearby Wilshire Grand Hotel will also boast a rooftop pool terrace over 900 feet above the street when completed in early 2017.
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Propose Your Plaza

City of Baltimore to open design competition for McKeldin Plaza

The City of Baltimore is hosting a citywide design competition to seek proposals for the redevelopment of McKeldin Plaza in downtown Baltimore. The call follows plans to demolish the existing McKeldin Fountain later this year and the Department of Planning will supervise the open competition.

This follows years of talk about redesigning the plaza, which is currently dominated by the 1982 Brutalist concrete McKeldin Fountain. The fountain stands adjacent to the Inner Harbor area and memorializes former Baltimore mayor Theodore McKeldin, who was instrumental in  revitalizing the harbor area in the 1960s.

The Waterfront Partnership recently released plans for “Inner Harbor 2.0,” which will improve the area with new green spaces and pedestrian connections using Brooklyn Bridge Park and Waterfront Seattle as precedents.

 

McKeldin Plaza is an important fixture of Downtown Baltimore, and a designated free speech zone that was the focal point for the city’s Occupy and Black Lives Matter protests. In addition, the fountain is a historically significant holdout from the Brutalist movement, and its design attracts tourists and office workers from the surrounding area.

The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore supports redevelopment of the plaza into an open space, while many local artists, designers, and architects support its preservation as a public art piece.

The fountain itself has fallen into disrepair, and according to the Downtown Partnership its mechanics are prone to expensive breakdowns that leave it non-functional for months at a time. However, maintenance and enhancements could also go a long way toward revitalizing the plaza while preserving the fountain.

Up until recently the Brutalist design of the fountain matched the nearby Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, which was demolished in 2015. The theater was designed by John M. Johansen and opened in 1967, remaining in use until 2004. After its owners chose not to renew the lease on the building in favor of the newly reopened Hippodrome Theatre, the building fell into disrepair. A new high-rise residential and commercial space is now under construction on the site. Since the demolition of the Mechanic, McKeldin fountain is the only example of Brutalist architecture in Baltimore.

The fountain has its share of defenders, including Baltimore’s City Council president, who introduced a bill to block the demolition last year.

A Change.org petition calls for the postponement of demolition until a new design is approved. Others—including the fountain’s designer—are against the demolition entirely and want to preserve the site.

The Downtown Partnership plans to move forward with the demolition in Summer 2016 pending approval of permits. The fountain and the skywalk across Light Street were recently closed to pedestrians.

The architecture firms Ayers Saint Gross, Mahan Rykiel, and Ziger/Snead will oversee the project and finalize designs. Details about the public competition are still taking shape.