Search results for "Manhattan"

Placeholder Alt Text

Byford Goes Bye-Bye

Andy Byford resigns as head of NYC’s subways
Andy Byford, president of MTA New York City Transit, has quit. The British transportation expert was hired to turn around the city’s ailing subway system in January of 2018 after pulling off a similar feat at the Toronto Transit Commission. Now it seems that clashes between Byford and Governor Andrew Cuomo have reportedly led to the former’s departure. The system did improve markedly under Byford’s tenure. On January 20, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released the latest update on its Subway Action Plan, demonstrating improvements in station and track cleanliness, a 10,000-delay-a-month reduction for the fourth month in a row, and an on-time performance rate of 72.6 percent, the highest in four years. Still, despite all of the tangible benefits of his work, this isn’t even the first time Byford has resigned from the MTA; he briefly quit and then rejoined the agency last October. The friction between Byford and the Governor had reached an all-time high and Byford claims that he was being forced to organize conferences at transportation conferences at the Governor’s behest, rather than doing his job. That came after Governor Cuomo swooped in last January to preempt Byford’s 15-month plan to shut down L Train service between Manhattan and Brooklyn for repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel with his own preferred alternative. According to the New York Times, Byford and Cuomo didn’t speak for four months after that, though relations had seemingly thawed since then. Byford’s announcement that he was leaving came during an MTA board meeting earlier today, and even his staff reportedly only learned it was happening through Politico. Immediately afterward, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson took to Twitter to try to woo Byford back, trying to kickstart the “#BringAndyBack” hashtag and calling his departure a crisis. So, farewell to the transportation official that railfans were so enamored with that they nicknamed him the “Rail Daddy.” He’ll live on as long as the MTA continues to run in-station ads for its new OMNY contactless fare system; Byford lent his dulcet voice to an audio announcement about the upgrade that has been running since January 7.
Placeholder Alt Text

Across The Street

Frick expansion critics propose buying Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion
Plot twist: Several New York preservation groups want the Frick Collection to stop part of its controversial expansion plan and instead, buy Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion across the street to use as gallery space. New York Daily News reported that two groups, Save the Frick and Stop Irresponsible Frick Development, propose that the late financier’s home, located at 9 East 71 Street, along with other buildings on the block, be alternatively used for the institution's growing needs. For years, the museum has attempted to upgrade its physical presence in the Upper East Side community but has been unsuccessful until recently in 2018, when a scheme by Selldorf Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle passed through the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The current plan includes repurposing 60,000 square feet of existing space and adding 27,000 square feet of new construction while enhancing accessibility, and most notably, moving and reinstalling the Russell Page-designed garden above its current location to make way for an auditorium underneath. Despite both pushback and support from various area residents, art world leadership, and preservation organizations, the design team negotiated several rounds of revisions on the plan, including the path to demolishing the Frick’s beloved Music Room and Reception Hall. Recently, Save the Frick launched a new petition calling for the LPC to reconsider a rejected proposal to designate the spaces as interior landmarks.   On-site work is set to begin later this year, and according to Joe Shatoff, COO of the Frick Collection, that the Epstein ploy doesn’t carry much weight given the amount of work it's taken to get the plan off the ground. He released a statement to the Daily News rebutting the proposal: 
“Our renovation and revitalization plan has been guided carefully by two key tenets—first and foremost, to preserve the unique, intimate experience of the Frick, and secondly, to ensure the long-term future of the museum and library. A separate building across the street does not answer these needs and would not provide the critical adjacencies required to make it a functional solution.”
It remains unclear what will happen to Epstein’s estate. His Upper East Side home—one of many—is reportedly valued at $77 million and where police uncovered hundreds of photos of underage girls. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Phantom Threads

James Carpenter Design Associates lets the light into Nordstrom with gargantuan double-curved glass panels
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
Over the last four decades, James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA) has been a pioneer in advanced glass installations and facade design, with projects ranging from the Museum at the St. Louis’ Gateway Arch to the Fulton Center Sky Reflector Net. The new Nordstrom flagship store in New York is located at the podium of the Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture-designed Central Park Tower, the world’s tallest residential structure. The storefront is yet another demonstration of JCDA’s proficiency in lightness and transparency, evident in the undulating curtain wall of double-curved and supersized glass panels. The JCDA-designed curtain wall is the public face for the retailer along the store's south and north elevations—the store also includes several buildings located on adjacent Broadway. Reaching a height of seven stories, the translucent exterior presents a striking streetwall that, in certain respects, resembles the articulated stone-and-brick massing of abutting historic structures, and, according to JCDA, its wavelike form is an homage to the East and Hudson Rivers bounding Manhattan.
  • Facade Manufacturer Cricursa Tvitec
  • Designer James Carpenter Design Associates
  • Facade Installer Permasteelisa
  • Facade Consultant Surface Design Group
  • Facade Structural Engineer schlaich bergermann partner
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Custom curtwainwall system
  • Products XXL Cricursa Curved Glass
Spanish glass manufacturer Cricursa—one of the few with the technical capacity to produce extra-large curved glass panels—was pulled into the project at an early stage. According to JCDA, “The design started with the glass itself and worked out to the surrounding frame system, so ensuring the bent profiles were achievable both in terms of structure, manufacturing, handling, and shipping was important in the early design stages, most critically in the visual mockup and the performance mockup stages.” In total, there are five typical profiles and four unique corner profiles, and their dimensions range in height from 17'-6" to approximately 19'-6", and in width from 3'-10" to 6'-2". The result is a striking succession of convexities and concavities following an A-A-B-B rhythm, with occupiable spaces similar to that of bay windows. It is difficult to overstate the complexity of the curtain wall system, and New York-based facade consultant Surface Design Group played an essential role in balancing aesthetic concerns, thermal performance, structural behavior, and code compliance. “The final glass composition was developed as a slump formed, complex curved, insulated glass unit, comprised of various layers of laminated, low-iron glass and a subtle, custom ceramic dot frit pattern,” said Surface Design Group partner Benson Gillespie. “Aluminum mullions were stretch-formed to an exacting tolerance that matched the glass.” The curtainwall is backed by a diaphanous steel mesh veil, that, similar to the now-defunct pool room of the Mies van der Rohe’s Four Seasons, filters daylight and adds a layer of depth, with shadows and iridescence, to the facade.  
Placeholder Alt Text

Wandering Merchants

Gallery Gabriel & Guillaume takes on New York in grand style
Untethered to a fixed brick and mortar space in one city or another, a nomadic gallery has the advantage of setting up (temporary) shop in some of the most emblematic locales. Whether their wears feature prominently at an exhaustive list of fairs, in storied buildings, or in recently completed real estate projects, this type of platform often enters into and benefits from, win-win situations. These purveyors sell better when showcasing their collections in aptly-decorated contexts while the proprietors of these sumptuous settings can promote their venues more holistically. For the arbiters of historic palaces and stately homes, this type of program represents the chance to recontextualize and, in turn, shed new light on often forgotten sites. For developers of new residential projects, this type of arrangement puts a spin on the timeworn practice of open houses and helps their real estate agents sell more units. Brightening up a dreary, albeit warm, New York January is a special exhibition mounted by Beirut and Paris-based collectible design gallery Gabriel & Guillaume. Staged in the penthouse of the SHoP Architects and Studio Sofield-restored 111 West 57th Street building in Midtown Manhattan, the L'Œi'l du Collectionneur showcase brings together an eclectic array of historical and contemporary furnishings, presented in various domestic vignettes. The atypical initiative was conceived by marketing agency frenchCALIFORNIA, in partnership with JDS Development Group, Property Markets Group, and Spruce Capital Partners. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
Placeholder Alt Text

Walled Off

Related Companies backs down on building a wall around Hudson Yards
After outcry from city officials and local New York community groups, the developers behind Hudson Yards have backed down on building a 720-foot-long wall the neighborhood's southwestern perimeter. In a tweet today, Related Companies and Oxford Property Group said the site’s upcoming second phase will instead be open and connected to the High Line instead of overshadowing it as previously reported.  “Our plan has always been to build an open space along the lines of this years-old rendering and we are working to manage the technical challenges to achieve this,” the tweet reads. “There has never been a wall along the High Line and there will never be a wall.”  Last week, The New York Times broke the news that the real estate giants planned to place a 20-foot-high concrete wall around Western Yard, its official name, and include a new parking garage below a Nelson Byrd Woltz-designed “green deck.” Civic leaders including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson expressed anger over the wall, even calling the proposal a “breach of to public trust.” Robert Hammond, a cofounder of the High Line, sent out an email blast to the park's supporters, asking them to prepare to take action.  But today, Hudson Yards issued a series of tweets rebutting the entire idea:  “Unfortunately, there currently appears to be a lot of misinformation in the public domain, which is disheartening,” the statement continued.  Initial renderings of the project revealed a large green space set below a series of new towers that edges up to the High Line towards 34th Street. This landscape, or green deck, would cover the active rail yard below and help promote ventilation from underneath the development. Crain’s New York pointed out that the original environmental impact statement released by The Related Cos. in 2009 claimed both Hudson Yards or Western Yard would be accessible and open.  Phase one of the site opened last March along with The Vessel by Heatherwick Studio. Immediately after welcoming visitors, Husdon Yards was forced to update its controversial photo policy related to the Vessel. Once the public found out that climbing the spiraling structure meant giving up rights to personal images, audio, or video without credit, the terms and conditions were changed. 
Placeholder Alt Text

West by Northwest: Oregon Ways

The mythologies of Oregon’s utopian seekers still informs its design and architecture today

A few months back, while casually scrolling through some feed or another, I was struck by a series of images for a Portland-based boot company, Danner. Kicking up a faint cloud of dust with measured, deliberate steps, a lone photovoltaic maintenance worker moves across the image between parallel sets of solar trackers in a 64-acre facility in the high desert landscape just outside of Bend, Oregon. Emblazoned in bold over the image, the word “STRONGHOLD” conjured the work-boot family and the attitude of the region from which it springs. In what could pass for a Green New Deal campaign lifted from only the most heroic of WPA posters, other images from the commercial shoot evoke the photovoltaic maintenance process—a delicate operation involving technical expertise, careful stewardship, the right boots “built for comfort and stability,” and a Dodge Ram with plates reading “1932,” Danner’s date of establishment prior to relocating to Portland, where it would supply loggers with caulked boots during the Depression. From those origins spring the current slate of boot categories: work, hike, lifestyle, hunt, military, and law enforcement, producing an uneasy space where aesthetic cohesion and mythologizing coagulate in an open wound of mixed messaging between bright green and militarized versions of the future. The Danner website declares: “The Future Is Strong.”

Scenes like the above are a renewable resource in the Pacific Northwest, underwritten by a low-key utopian sense that’s as much about a “way” of doing things as it is about place. Oregon is of the American West, but not exactly the center of its mythos. In the estimation of the 1940 Federal Writers’ Project guide to the state, Oregon’s position at the “end of the trail” leveraged terminus into an exceptional charge that “inspire[d] not provincial patriotism, but affection”: “The newcomer at first may smile at the attitude of Oregonians towards their scenery and their climate. But soon he will begin to refer to Mt. Hood as ‘our mountain.’” Here, the “dismal skies” and rains of winter were merely the “annual tax” one paid for the privilege of inhabiting a state of “eternal verdure”—a cozy picture that excludes the desert land east of the Cascades mountain range and a whole host of volcanic and seismic activity lying in wait and prone to violent outbursts.

For its part, the city of Bend has recently been deemed a commuter town for Silicon Valley and is an increasingly expensive playground where brewpubs, rec centers, inner tube flotillas on the Deschutes River, and extensive parkland make their own kind of lively stronghold at the base of the Three Sisters Mountains. As in Portland just on the other side of the Cascades, there’s a rolling collision between earlier imported and newly imported visions of an affluent good life in nature that are just complementary enough to exist in tenuous détente while other narratives vie for recognition.

Upon arriving in Portland by way of a westward drive through the Columbia River Gorge, it was hard for me to escape the impression that this working landscape had been staged as an advertisement for the achievement of a kind of augmented reality just removed from the usual roiling of time. The B Reactor at Hanford, Washington, and the still-toxic ghosts of the Manhattan Project were out there somewhere, as was a Lamb Weston facility that processes 600 million pounds of frozen potato products annually, but here in this gash through the Cascades was a vision of forward movement in balance. Flanked by wind turbines running along the hill crests and with Hood’s emblematic peak directly ahead, rail and moss-lined roadways delivered a parade of works and features, from dams, locks, and spillways to waterfalls and elevated viewpoints. Some of these projects, like the Bonneville Dam, have been held up as pivotal but imperfect New Deal–era models of public hydropower administration, while The Dalles Dam is known more for its erasure of Celilo Falls, once a critical center of indigenous cultural and economic life. Such erasure and fragmentation, however, are far from the exception, as white nationalists have also long found refuge in Cascadia’s crevices and realty boards since the state’s founding in black exclusion. Here, too, the American Redoubt and various Cascadian secession movements pick up where Ernest Callenbach’s more countercultural 1975 novel Ecotopia left off with utopian search/seeking, be it for an ecotopia or a white nationalist stronghold.

As a perverse addendum to the theme of exclusion, however, Oregon’s urban growth boundaries have made for a compelling regional planning model, containing sprawl to preserve the "natural" playground and its biodiversity. In all things a kind of balance. Runaway utopian-as-utilitarian dreaming was, after all, the villain of California-born author Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 novel, The Lathe of Heaven, a fable of Portland’s exceptionalist attitude and the relative wealth of its natural inheritance. In this corner of the country, there was the possibility, for some, of a more comfortable—or less uncomfortable—future. Still, the novel’s status as a critique of progress or a privileged and resigned version of the same remains difficult to discern.

Storied weirdness aside, Portland is one of several metropolitan centers with the self-designation, “the city that works.” And it does, though critiques of the “sustainable city” are rolling in from those willing to cast a more critical eye toward the externalities and displacements produced through progress of this sort. Persistent NIMBY-ism and the ongoing battle over a proposed I-5 expansion amid new reports that Portland’s carbon emissions reduction progress has flatlined since 2012 suggest that the city’s climate policies are still far from where they need to be. On a more positive note, Oregon HB 2001’s move to effectively dissolve single-family zoning was the kind of course correction one would come to expect in the wake of new evidence of housing need. As with other improvements over its history—UGBs, public ownership of the coast, mass timber innovation by firms like LEVER and Hacker, ecodistricts, hydropower, cycling culture, and transit-oriented development—in paving the way for a proliferation of duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, Oregon again models a quietly progressive version of a future.

Exemplary care-oriented building projects also come to mind, like the Seven Corners Collaborative in Southeast Portland, where Waterleaf designed a new, fully accessible colocation center for local nonprofits that provide support services for people with disabilities, along with an assistive technology lab for training, consultation, and public interface. Elsewhere, in the Lents neighborhood, a shelter in the repurposed shell of an old church forms the heart of a new “family village” campus by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design, Carleton Hart Architecture, and Corlett Landscape Architecture that’s furthering the use of trauma-informed design and concentrated service delivery for families experiencing homelessness. Also in Lents, the new Asian Health & Service Center by Holst provides a venue not only for much-needed affordable healthcare services for the area, but also a well-appointed infrastructure for community social events, all granted a generous view of Mt. Hood from the top floor. SCOTT | EDWARDS ARCHITECTURE’s Portland Mercado fulfills a similar social function for Portland’s Latinx community through a modest adaptive reuse and landscape strategy that ties an existing structure together with a series of food carts, covered outdoor space, and copious seating. Led in part by the efforts of the latter two firms along with Ankrom Moisan and organizations such as Home Forward and Central City Concern, recent supportive housing projects in the city, such as Bud Clark Commons, the Beech Street Apartments, Garlington Place, and the Blackburn Center, are also demonstrating how architecture can operate and innovate through a lens of care and playfulness rather than singular virtuosity or brute force.

This ethos also comes out in Portland’s new and renovated green spaces, such as the collaboration by 2.ink Studio and Skylab on Luuwit View Park in East Portland. The park stands as a microcosm of the city’s celebrated urban landscape innovations, complete with community gardens, dog park, skate park, event shelter, public art, stormwater treatment area, and bilingual signage to acknowledge and accommodate the diversity of new residents in the neighborhood, as well as trails aligned with distant landmarks like Mt. St. Helens, or “Luuwit,” as named in the Cowlitz language. Likewise, with Cully Park in Northeast Portland, 2.ink explored similar design elements on the site of a former landfill in an underserved neighborhood, including significant habitat restoration, a fitness course, and the city’s first Native gathering garden. Developed by the community nonprofit Verde in partnership with the city, the project engaged neighborhood residents throughout the process with outreach, employment, and education programs. 

More broadly, a host of design and planning-based initiatives work to translate reparative sociopolitical agendas into spatial terms, such as the Portland African American Leadership Forum’s 2017 People’s Plan and the more recent Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability publication on the Historical Context of Racist Planning in the city. Blocking pipeline projects and filling streets in the name of climate action, Sunrise, XR, and 350PDX also stake active claims on the city and its future, while newly constructed works like FLOAT’s Portals in Southern Oregon stage direct action pipeline resistance, countering fossil fuel extraction logics with an expansive meditation on architecture’s capacity to support multispecies reciprocity. Further, initiatives and organizations throughout the region like Columbia Riverkeeper, Sightline, Wisdom of the Elders, the High Desert Partnership, and the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project engage in environmental care and land management through advocacy and cross-scalar collaborations, while efforts by the Friends of Trees and the city’s Green Street Steward Program involve volunteers in urban greening and bioswale maintenance. On the academic front, Portland State University’s Center for Public Interest Design was founded in 2013 to respond to the needs of underserved communities in the city and abroad and has since paired design-build work with robust community engagement processes, while the University of Oregon has launched a multidisciplinary fellowship initiative in Design for Spatial Justice, which mobilizes theory and practice in foregrounding narratives, experiences, and modes of design, political action, and biodiversity conservation long marginalized or excluded by fields responsible for the built environment.

How this expanding constellation of projects and practices might fare in an escalating climate struggle is a crucial question. With even cursory estimates of climate-induced in-migration to the region due to sea level rise alone projecting numbers in the hundreds of thousands over the next few decades, the challenge for utopia would initially seem to be one of scale. The war footing rhetoric of the GND, like that of the New Deal before it, anticipates such scales of action in the work of justice and infrastructural investment. A war footing for scaling care, however, is perhaps a more fraught and paradoxical charge, particularly as the goal would be to move beyond a narrow definition of relief as an improvised response toward the construction of more durable and equitable systems merging care with justice.

In a dysfunctional climate regime, what does it mean to position oneself as a stronghold or a refuge, or a model city? When PG&E issued its now-infamous directive to its California customers to “use your own resources to relocate” when the utility company unilaterally shut off power to nearly a million people back in October, it signaled that climate change survival would become a matter of self-reliance if left in the hands of those with no obligation for care. Against this backdrop, even a modicum of external accountability would come to appear as care and competency. As Holly Jean Buck writes, “There are plenty of scenarios where we deal with climate change in a middling way that preserves the existing unequal arrangements…[where] even muddling through looks like an amazing social feat, an orchestration so elaborate and requiring so much luck that people may find it a fantastic utopian dream.” In a global theater of sociopolitical and ecological degradation, it becomes difficult to assess the utopian potential of projects that work well within familiar registers, leading in some cases to a privileging of expediency and the reenactment of functioning models. 

But, even with the relative risk aversion, what bridges the perceived cultural gulf between the measured and occasionally errant strands of progressivism in the Pacific Northwest and the most fanciful Silicon Valley fever dreams is the recurring belief in some level of remove as a precondition for positive transformation and mastery. The right person in the right boots in the right geography, and a comfortable future is assured. The inclusion of photovoltaics in that picture is a welcome addition, but what is the future of an image like this in a present where what’s demanded is both a dissolution of the concept of human mastery over the environment and a dramatic mobilization, reorientation, and upscaling of progressive instruments closely aligned with the tools, attitudes, and systems that delivered the environment to the brink of collapse in the first place? Its violence veiled as much as romanticized, the story of a pioneer harnessing the productive power of a landscape was one promise of “the West.” As many of Oregon’s latest projects begin to suggest, there are and should be others, and the next steps are critical in defining the kind of refuge the region will become.

Placeholder Alt Text

Ice Cold

Alaska’s Cold Climate Housing Research Center is rethinking how the Circumpolar North builds

The Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) describes itself as “an industry-based, nonprofit corporation created to facilitate the development, use, and testing of energy-efficient, durable, healthy, and cost-effective building technologies for people living in circumpolar regions around the globe.”

Aaron Cooke, the architect who leads the Sustainable Northern Communities Program at the CCHRC in Fairbanks, Alaska, is at the front lines of helping northern communities in developing solutions for homes in extremely cold climates. Cooke spoke to Matt Shaw, AN’s executive editor, and Stephen Zacks, AN contributor, about technologies and prototypes being developed to conserve energy, recycle heat, rethink building envelope systems, stabilize homes situated on melting permafrost, and ensure supplies of fresh air. As the communities of the Circumpolar North adapt to climate change, their solutions hold lessons for carbon-neutral designs in the temperate zone while providing a pointed message about post-colonial regional design.

The Architect’s Newspaper: What are the main areas of research for the CCHRC?

Aaron Cooke: Our largest program is the Building Science Research program, which deals with testing and researching the suitability of different techniques and products for the physical environment and cultural environment of circumpolar peoples. We also have a design program, the Sustainable Northern Communities program, that aims to take some of the building research and find real-world or holistic building applications. We design prototype homes that we test with occupants living in them for various periods of time. Then we have a smaller program called Policy Research, which aims to aid policymakers and governmental entities but also looks at the code amendments that northern communities need to consider. Most northern places have small populations, so they don’t have their own building code; they’ll take a building code from the temperate region and add amendments specific to the physical environment in Alaska and the Circumpolar North. Between those three programs, we try and stay at the forefront of regional design for the Arctic and subarctic climates.

Can you talk about the challenges of the extreme terrain and cold weather in the north?

The north has two primary challenges that it has to face constantly. We have an antagonistic physical environment that is very hard on buildings. Oversights in detailing or failures to plan small appropriate details in construction do not fail small in the Arctic: They always fail big, because it’s a zero-forgiveness environment. But in addition to our physical environment, the north has always faced a postcolonial problem. Every Arctic country in the world is governed by a capital city that is not in the Arctic—and that goes for Russia, Canada, Alaska, everywhere. So, there’s underrepresentation in the design field, and in policy and building code. Importing technologies, assumptions, and best practices from the temperate zone without thorough vetting causes us as many problems as our physical environment does. The idea of what a home—or a public building or a school—looks like and how it should behave is often based on temperate models, and we then have to retroactively make them Arctic. There have been famous attempts to make an architecture for the north, but there's been very little impetus to create an Arctic architecture from the north. It generally comes at us from the south, and we have to manage it somehow.

Are there things that you’re learning from traditional methods of conserving heat that go into your research, or is the group mainly developing new technologies?

It’s generally developing new technologies, but it’s also giving a platform for traditional wisdom, because people have lived here for a very, very long time and have come up with innovative ways of building in the north. You’re trying to make traditional communities aware of new technologies applicable in a harsh physical environment, and then you’re also trying to be receptive and a good listener when people are saying what has worked or hasn’t worked in the past. As an example, we did an eight-sided house for a community in the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska called Quinhagak. It was a very windy place: Although it only got about 24 inches of snow a year, the snow would drift in houses to the point where you couldn’t get out of the windows or in the door. We did some pretty complex wind drift studies, and we came up with this eight-sided house. We went out to the community to see if they were interested in building a prototype there to test it, and they were. We gave an analysis of winds, vector diagrams of how we thought the snow would self-scour away from the house, and I remember being in the community building and saying, “This is the shape I think that would be best for this region.” Someone stands up and said, “We used to make our houses that shape, we used to know that. It’s only in the last 50 years that we’ve started making square boxes, and [snowbanks] started drifting in.” Some things we’re discovering, and some things we’re remembering, I guess.

What are some of the new technologies you’re developing or working with? Are they materials-based or are they wall sections?

I’d say a very large bulk of our work could be divided into three fields. One is envelope design: We need warmer envelopes, and we need materials that go together in wall design differently. Arctic villages often don’t have heavy equipment, so you’re trying to find materials that can be constructed without cranes or trucks, or any of the things that we assume are going to be on job site. We also are looking at how things are transported when we choose our construction materials. When I was in architecture school, I never once had a class on sourcing materials. We assumed that the materials are going to show up at site; we’d choose them based on how they perform once they’re assembled.

In our region, about 40 percent of overall construction costs are in shipping. But we don’t take a course on how to choose materials based on how they ship, and the shipping companies are smart: The barge season is short, the air strips are short, and if something’s heavier than it is big, they charge you by weight. If something’s bigger than it’s heavy, they charge you by volume. If the barge gets delayed, you don’t build next month, you build next year. Most of our economics can be boiled down to how we get our materials to site and how we select them based on their appropriateness for shipping. In envelope design, a big part is to create a materials package that can be shipped and easily brought to a very remote location.

Besides envelope design, we work quite a bit with foundation design. The Arctic is one of the fastest changing regions in the world. There are a million models, and they all contradict each other, but one thing is for sure: We have a lot less sea ice than we used to, and that is creating unprecedented coastal erosion that is forcing our communities to relocate. Land that has been permanently frozen since the last ice age is melting in very unpredictable ways and causing massive foundation failures. It’s not hypothetically happening sometime in the future, it’s happening to us now. Those are very expensive problems, so foundation design is something that we’ve been working quite hard on. One of the easiest things to get funding for is how to design foundations for the degradation of permafrost. The third tier of what we research is mechanical systems: how to provide heat. We’re always looking for heat that is more efficient, heat that is more clean and reliable. That’ll never go away, no matter how much global warming occurs. The Arctic will always be one of the colder places on the earth, and we’ll always have a winter in which we need heat somehow.

Are there solutions that you’ve come up with, or ideal systems that you’ve developed?

A paradigm shift has happened in foundation design in the Arctic during my short career. When I was studying to be a specialist in northern design, the basic rules for permafrost foundation design were if the ground’s frozen, keep it frozen, and if it’s thawed, keep it thawed—that’s foundation design in the Arctic. In the 1960s and ’70s and ’80s, when they were putting more modern and larger buildings in the Arctic, as we were urbanizing, most of the building failures were because the building was leaking heat into the ground around the base of the foundation and melting the permafrost, creating a sinkhole. The building then had this foundation failure, and that was why most of the emphasis was on keeping the ground frozen through installation. But now the permafrost is melting even if we do everything right. Even if we perfectly thermally isolate our building from the thermal regime of the soil, it’s still melting out from under us in many circumstances, and the circumstances aren’t something that we’re able to easily predict. Since the research center is focused mostly around housing, we want adjustable foundations that the occupant can adjust without specialized knowledge—very simple mechanical foundations that can be leveled as the ground drops away or floods or heaves.

What does that look like?

It can be as complex as a kind of a Buckminster Fuller–style space frame, where you’ve got triangulated points that can be hand ratcheted, or it can be as simple as car jacks on top of columns that are pounded into the ground. We’ve tested no fewer than a dozen types of adjustable foundations. We’re mostly looking at threaded rod and things that can be jacked with a cheater bar in a circular motion or with what’s basically a glorified wrench. We haven’t given up on trying to keep the ground frozen. For larger buildings, we’re still using thermosiphons and technology that takes advantage of state change and chemicals that have a boiling point around 32 degrees Fahrenheit so that they can move heat away from the ground. We’re also looking at ground source heat pumps—or geothermal, as it’s commonly called in the Lower 48—to move heat from the ground to the house for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

What does fieldwork look like? Is it mostly working with communities, or testing experiments?

It’s both. Almost every year we’re building a prototype home somewhere with a local construction force. We train the local carpenters on new construction techniques. Living in an experimental house means there needs to be quite a bit of follow-up. We try to make a good, close relationship with the occupants so when there are problems with technology, they can call us, and we can get on a plane and head out there. I always require a resident of the experimental home to be on the crew, so that they fully understand the systems that are different than the rest of the houses in the village. That way, we have an above-average success rate with new technology acceptance and more pride in the construction. It’s like Habitat for Humanity for building scientists.

What are the main differences between the prototypes and traditional buildings?

The prototypes always have an envelope that we’re testing that’s different than a two-by-six wall or a structural insulated panel, which are the two most common types of walls out there already. They always have a foundation type that we’re trying to test, whenever we know that the ground is going to be volatile. We’re also looking for new mechanical systems, because rural Alaska is by and large an economically depressed region. There are large rates of poverty and overcrowding. We’re always trying to lower the heating bill and create efficient mechanical systems and healthy indoor air quality, while lowering the amount people have to pay for fuel.

Are you going out to sites and living in extreme conditions yourself?

Oftentimes when we’re building a house in the summer season, and we’re in a village that’s small enough that there’s no real lodging, we’re just sleeping on the gym floor at the school while school is out and building with the local crew. This summer, we oversaw the building of 13 homes for a community that’s relocating entirely because their original community site’s falling into the ocean now that there’s no sea ice anymore. The fall storms have been eating about 80 feet of shoreline a year, and they’re being forced to relocate the entire community. In that case, when we were building the first prototype home over there at the new community site, there was nothing there. We were just basically camping and getting our water and dealing with our own waste, and trying to stay warm through the season. Sometimes it’s a very remote field camp, and then other times it’s just hanging out at the school at night.

Is there an ideal wall section that you’ve developed at this point—or if not, what are a few examples of improvements?

One thing that almost all Arctic and northern walls need to have in common that makes construction more challenging is you absolutely need a complete thermal break in the walls. That flies in the face of every stud wall we’ve ever built. Generally, a stud wall has a structured component, and then in between the structural components is insulation. But that means, of course, that the structure is leaking heat. At the inside, the two-by-fours are in the warm; at the outside, the two-by-fours are in the cold. That might get you through the winter in the temperate zone, but it absolutely doesn’t work in the Arctic. We’re always trying to make sure that nothing that touches the inside of the thermal envelope is also touching the outside of the thermal envelope. We’ve done walls where we’ve used two-by-four studs and then had a gusset plate made of something like PVC or OSB that holds the cladding up, and then we fill it with something so that the stud doesn’t reach all the way through the thick wall. We were looking at spray-applied polyurethane for a while; you can spray past the stud and make this adobe kind of shape as a way to avoid thermal bridging of materials. The double-wall that could all go up at once added efficiencies to the framing of thick-walled structures. We’ve also looked at an older Canadian technique, recently updated, which involves reframing a two-by-four wall, sheeting the entire outside of the wall in rigid installation, and lapping the joints, not allowing any of the framing to touch the outside of the wall. This is called the REMOTE wall technique, and it would be a good fit for temperate regions with hard winters too.

What are the main challenges to energy-efficient retrofits of existing buildings?

The retrofits are a large part of our work. When you create a giant impermeable coat over your old building, the first thing that almost always happens is your indoor air quality suffers. When we do retrofits today, we’re always trying to approach indoor air environment and thermal comfort at the same time, because the understanding now is that a lot of times when you add R-value to a wall, you’re tightening the house, and you’re going to have to come up with a mechanical solution to address ventilation and fresh air.

Are heat-recovery ventilation technologies a method for bringing in fresh air and ventilating moisture without losing heat in the process?

Certainly there should be no such thing as waste heat in a place this cold, and heat recovery ventilators have been one of the technologies that have made the most progress in the last ten or 15 years.

What is a heat-recovery ventilator, exactly?

It is a method of solving the problem of fresh air being colder. You’re in a house, it’s very cold outside—say it’s 30 degrees below zero outside—and you don’t want to open your windows. You want to keep all the heat that you possibly can in your building. What that means is the carbon dioxide goes up, and anything your furniture is off-gassing becomes more concentrated. You’re not getting the air changes that you need to be a healthy human when you’re scared of the cold air coming into the house.

There’s a branch of mechanical engineering that is concerned with taking your wonderfully warm but dangerously dirty indoor air and allowing the wonderfully clean but dangerously cold outdoor air to rob the heat from it without mixing with it. That’s the question: How do we steal heat from our used air and then get it out of the house so that we can get fresh, clean air inside, but have it be warm enough that people will use that system?

The prototype in Anaktuvuk Pass looks strikingly different than other approaches. Is there a break from the past that you’re exploring, or is there a radically new wall section that you’re trying out there?

It was a wall section that we had not tried before. Anaktuvuk Pass is fly-in only. They have no roads or barge delivery. Construction costs are extremely, prohibitively expensive there. We had been working with a spray-applied polyurethane applicator to see if we could create a wall that was a two-by-four steel structure that would be built inside out. We put the interior sheeting on the stud, and then we’d spray foam out and keep spraying past the foam to create that thermal break. The look that you see there—they’re a kind of dumpling, adobe look—is all based on the thermal requirements. It’s pretty far north. The other thing is that the residents there wanted to try a building where the foundation was on the ground. We use that polyurethane foam to create a raft, and the raft basically floats on the permafrost and bridges it if any movement occurs. The spray foam comes in barrels and expands to 30 times its size when it comes out of the gun. We can fit the barrels on the plane, and we can fit a lot more R-value per cubic foot on that plane because it’s going to expand once it gets to the site.

Can you talk about any problems that you might anticipate in the crafting of policy around the Green New Deal mandates meant for temperate regions that could have a potentially harmful effect on you?

Ten or 15 years ago, there were a lot of adaptations that needed to be made for, say, a LEED system when it finally came north. The research center tries to incorporate environmentally conscious building practices into everything we do—we’re the farthest north LEED Platinum building in the world. There are certainly things that don’t apply: There was a time when permafrost was considered a wetland by professionals from the temperate zone, and in the south, you can’t build on a wetland. Here that would mean you couldn’t build on 70 percent of Alaskan soils—think about a land area bigger than the state of Texas that you’re not allowed to build anything in. Simple things like that. The other thing is the passive house ideal: Getting to 90 percent off fossil fuels in the Arctic is possible, but for the last 10 percent, the returns are just not there. Ninety percent has to be good enough, and then we have to realize that sometimes our heating is going to have to come from somewhere else.

For all the theories of architecture and design, and all the isms out there—Classicism and deconstructionism, and all the isms that exist—I believe in regionalism in architecture because I live in a place where it’s necessary. Regionalist architecture manifests itself when and where it’s most necessary. It’s no mistake that it tends to be in places like deserts and the Arctic, places where if you ignore regional inputs to design, you ignore them at your peril. Your building will fail.

In your collaboration with the Royal Danish Academy, how did their experience in extreme environments and yours overlap or inform each other?

I try to work in a pan-Arctic sense because we are all trying to solve similar, difficult design problems, but we’re doing it alone because the polar region is spread-out with a lot of different governments involved. The centers of design learning are also very far from us. There is no accredited degree in architecture north of 60 degrees latitude in North America. You’ve got to go south to get your degree, and then come north and unlearn quite a bit of what you learned in school. The Royal Danish Academy’s Architecture and Extreme Environments program recognizes this, and it does a very good job of engaging underrepresented regions in design discourse.

I can remember taking my first construction methodology course while I was getting a master’s degree in Ohio, and we were talking about foundation design, and the professor—who was a very good professor, a good architect—was teaching us about how to get our foundations below the frost line. It was my first year of school, and I asked, “What do we do when we can’t get below the frost line?” He said, “Well, don’t build there. That’s a bad site.”

So, we have this familiar problem. We want to engage universities in our design growth. We want young, smart people to care about this place and move here or return here and practice architecture here. But again: Every university that is interested in saving the Arctic is located outside the Arctic, and this is a textbook postcolonial problem, right? We get approached by universities all the time; it’s very in vogue right now to save the Arctic. The icecaps are melting, polar bears are going extinct—there are plenty of reasons that Lower-48 universities are suddenly interested in us, and we need them. We need the attention of the young designers who want to solve some of the difficult problems we have. But the question is always, are you willing to send your studio here, or are you going to try and solve the problem from South Florida?

University architecture programs, from our small rural perspective, bring a lot of resources. The unspoken worry in Alaska is that we are very far from the rest of the world. A lot of disaster relief funding is federal. It’s been undeniably challenging that we’re the first part of the world to be dealing with these massive community shifts due to climate change, but it’s also good to be at the beginning of the process. The instant the rest of the population has to deal with it, too, there’s not going to be any money left to move tiny little Alaskan villages. Once New Orleans and San Francisco and Manhattan have a climate change problem, that’s the end of our help. We’re trying to figure out how to handle these moves now, and what we’re going to do when the resources to handle them get diverted to larger population centers. That’s the Arctic problem.

Placeholder Alt Text

Finally

Construction of Santiago Calatrava's disputed World Trade Center church is back on
Two years after a payment dispute between Skanska USA and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) shut down construction at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, things are finally back on track. On January 2, Governor Cuomo announced that work would soon resume under the oversight of a new board. Santiago Calatrava’s $80 million design for the new St. Nicholas in Manhattan's World Trade Center complex was revealed in 2013 and was set to replace the 1916 structure destroyed on September 11th. The structure, a ribbed central space that would be illuminated from within and ensconced between four burly pillars, was intended to seem both resilient and reference the Hagia Sophia. Although the GOA and city had been negotiating for years over the fate of the site and the GOA had signed a $1, 198-year lease, Skanska terminated their contract in 2017 after the Archdiocese failed to pay their outstanding bills. At last estimate, there was still a $40 million shortfall, and in April of last year, the Governor personally intervened—reaching out to potential donors—to try to get the project moving again. Now, construction will be overseen by the new, 13-member nonprofit board, “the Friends of St. Nicholas,” which is aiming to have the church finished in the next two years. The board will reportedly be responsible for raising money, overseeing the construction process, and holding audits to make sure the project stays on schedule. It should be mentioned that many of the board members (including the billionaire Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis, and former Chairman of the Battery Park City Authority Dennis Mehiel) were among those that Governor Cuomo reached out to April, according to the New York Post. Although there was no announcement of when work would resume, or if Skanska would return, a 2022 completion date would be four years after the originally planned opening. Although the project broke ground in 2014 and the church topped out in 2016, the site has sat vacant and draped with a tarp since December 2017.
Placeholder Alt Text

Pier Not!

Cuomo rejects plan to build offices atop Hudson River Park's Pier 40
In a rare victory for public parks over commercial development, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have allowed increased office space on Hudson River Park’s Pier 40. The bill would have allowed developers to build up to 700,000 square feet of new buildings reaching as high as 88 feet tall on the pier, which currently serves a popular play spot with sports fields, a commercial parking lot, and administrative offices for the entire park. As the largest pier in Hudson River Park and one of its largest sources of revenue, Pier 40 has long been a contentious topic among community members and city officials. Currently generating 30 percent of the park’s budget, Pier 40 is caught in the awkward position of being a neighborhood gem of public space and the park’s cash cow. Revenue from the ill-fated office buildings would have gone to funding the park’s operations. However, other commercial piers, such as Pier 57, remain and will soon house office space for Google and City Winery. Both are set to also contribute to park costs. "We crafted a measure to try to balance their needs for what they claim is their need for development and our strong belief that we had to protect the playing fields at Pier 40," said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who sponsored the bill but supported Cuomo’s veto, in an interview with Gothamist. "This wasn’t something where anybody was particularly happy about the compromises we were making,"  This isn't the first time Pier 40 has been at the center of the tug-of-war between developers and community advocates. In 2016, the city council approved a massive air-rights transfer from Pier 40 to the St. John’s Terminal redevelopment across the street for $100 million. The local Community Board 2 had rejected the recent proposal to bring office buildings to the pier. Often depicted as deteriorating and cash-strapped, Pier 40 has sparked numerous proposals and impassioned pleas for its future. For now, at least, it seems it will remain as park space.  “Money is always the rationale to develop sites in Manhattan, hence the lack of open space, green areas, parks or recreation space. We have so few remaining parcels available for community use,” Cuomo wrote in the veto memo. “The one thing we are not making any more of in Manhattan is open space, and this must be protected.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Falling Facades

NYC considers drones for building inspections after deadly facade collapse
In the wake of architect Erica Tishman's death, New York City officials and lawmakers are considering the use of drone technology for urgent building inspections. The incident, in which a piece of terra cotta fell from an aging facade and killed Tishman near Times Square, unnerved New York pedestrians and brought up major concerns about the poor conditions of local buildings.   In the case of 729 7th Avenue, where the fatal accident occurred, owners Himmel + Meringoff Properties had still not installed scaffolding to address a violation issued back in April for hazardous conditions. The New York Post reported that thousands of other buildings have similar open violations issued by the Department of Buildings.  Brooklyn City Councilmember Justin Brannan announced he would propose a bill early this year that would require a drone inspection be deployed within 48 hours of a building complaint or DOB violation, according to Gothamist. While drone use has already been selectively introduced by the city's police department, the move would be unprecedented for the DOB—especially since drones remain largely illegal in New York.  Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is backing Brannan's idea, released a statement applauding the proposed measure. "The new legislation I am introducing with Councilmember Justin Brannan will make building inspections more cost-effective, saving building owners and the City millions of dollars, it will help us take down sidewalk sheds that often stay up for years, and most importantly, it will keep New Yorkers safe." While terra-cotta as a material has a history of falling off facades, property owners have also failed to be held accountable for open violations on their buildings. In the weeks following Tishman's death, the DOB conducted inspections on 1,331 building facades across the city that had been cited for hazardous conditions. Of these buildings, 220 received Class 1 violations for reported facade issues that remained unaddressed. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Boy Bye

Stephen Ross steps down from The Shed's board amid Trump criticism
After a controversy over his fundraising for Donald Trump, Stephen M. Ross, the real estate billionaire of Hudson Yards infamy, has stepped down from The Shed’s board of directors. Hyperallergic reported last week that The Shed, a contemporary arts center which opened this past April in Hudson Yards, confirmed Ross's departure “to focus on his other philanthropic activities.” The development mogul, whose organization, The Related Companies, is associated with the luxury fitness brands SoulCycle and Equinox as well as the Momofuku and Bluestone Lane franchises, has been at the center of protests after it was unveiled in August that he was planning to host a fundraiser for Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Ross, a longtime Republican donor, defended his track record as “an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education, and environmental sustainability.” As previously reported, in addition to facing boycott threats, several high-profile designers backed out of shows to be hosted at The Shed amid the controversy and artists staged on-site protests of Ross's history as a donor.  The Shed itself has also faced its fair share criticism. It recently announced its 2020 line-up featuring a diverse group of voices such as Claudia Rankine and British playwright Arinzé Kene. In the wake of Ross's departure, a spokesperson for the art space told Hyperallergic they were “grateful for his service and his important role in helping found The Shed.”
Placeholder Alt Text

A Chromatic Wonderland

Peter Halley’s Heterotopia II explored the relationship between painting, architecture, and image
Peter Halley’s Heterotopia II, a candy-colored shrine to geometric abstraction closed on December 20 at Greene Naftali gallery in Chelsea (Manhattan). The exhibition, which embodied the relationship between painting and architectural space, brought visitors into a disorienting, hyperreal world collaged out of references to science fiction, modernist architecture, and mass media—all painted in fluorescent hues. The installation was both a fortress and a stage set and brought to mind the importance of creating alternative worlds and ways of seeing while also probing the ties between architecture, art, and image.  The experience could be described as stepping into one of the Neo-Geo paintings Halley became known for in the ’80s. Or, like stepping into a Josef Albers color study—the same floor appearing to drastically transform in color as one moves from a room with pink walls to one painted orange. Housed between floor-to-ceiling yellow walls coated in Roll-A-Tex, visitors could catch small glimpses of the polychromatic, multi-level interior spaces from narrow cut-outs along the perimeter prior to entering and one could enter one of two ways: through a long hall covered in glimmering metallic tinsel, or an entry immediately confronted with a set of low, blue steps. Eight rooms in total contained eight new shaped-canvas paintings that incorporated the same Roll-A-Tex coating as the exterior walls. Like the three-dimensional space the paintings occupied, symmetry was abandoned in favor of variously sized stacked rectangles reminiscent of prison cells, circuit boards, or maybe a section taken through a PoMo building. The rooms emanated from a central glowing core which was the only space in the gallery that could not be climbed into and occupied, but only looked down into through three distinct apertures in the surrounding rooms. Both the positive and negative shapes recalled iconic elements from modernist architects—Luis Barragan or Ricardo Legorreta’s stairs (not a handrail in sight), Louis Kahn’s concentric cut-outs, or Peter Eisenman’s grid.  Halley utilized such elements to compose sightlines, resulting in the most exciting views of the paintings being not from directly in front of, but mediated by the architecture itself—from the top of a staircase, at the intersection of two contrasting colored walls, between beams and columns, or framed by a “window”. The paintings themselves are worlds within a world within a world and have accordingly been named after Isaac Asimov’s fictional universes: Helicon, Galaxia, Terminus, and Gaia Creating paintings that depicted both social isolation and connectivity, the artist's work has often looked to geometry as a metaphor for society. A heterotopia can be defined as institutions that are in opposition to the utopia, spaces that are different and that operate outside of societal norms (prisons, temples, cemeteries, and brothels are some of the examples Michel Foucault outlined in his essay "Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias"). At the same time, heterotopias often reveal as much as they conceal, acting as a mirror that reflects back the values of the dominant culture. Halley’s Heterotopia II is a labyrinthian universe that highlighted visitors’ relationship to and perception of color in the built environment whether applied to a canvas, a wall, or pixels of a photo uploaded to social media. In today’s terms, the installation is “Instagrammable,” to say the least. The work exhibited tensions and connections between rationalist geometry, color, and the relationship to technology that seem inescapable. So of course, I posted an image of the alien green room housing the painting Terminus to my Instagram story, to which my sister replied: “Wow! It looks like Mario World.” Despite her distance from any sort of contemporary art world discourse, she’s not all that far off. And perhaps like Mario World, much of the essence or aura of the installation was lost in stillness, on pause, or in a photograph. It took traversing the space, hugging the wall so as not to fall off the different heighths of stairs, moving up to go back down again, hopping over obstacles, or darting past other gallery-goers to truly experience the work.  It’s impossible to enter this exhibition and not think about the thousands of uploads it will, and has, generated in digital space. In the age of pop-up experiences and Instagram museums, Heterotopia II inevitably lends itself well to fashionable stories and selfie opportunities (yes, it was listed on FOMOFeed). Perhaps the work was more of a reverie than critique. The installation depicted digitally in the square cells of Instagram, rather than the physical location itself, could be viewed as the heterotopia at hand. How we see and perceive color on the screen, as opposed to witnessing the interplay of surfaces IRL, reveals a lot about how we’ve come to relate to, consume (and share) both art and architecture on a broader level.