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100th Time's the Charm

Snøhetta's revised AT&T Building scheme clears Landmarks Preservation Commission
The protracted battle over the modernization of the Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed AT&T Building may finally be drawing to a close. Last time Snøhetta went before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) with its revised plans for the postmodern tower at 550 Madison Avenue, the commissioners adjourned without coming to a decision over whether proposed changes were appropriate. A month later, it looks like owners Chelsfield America, Olayan America, and minority partner RXR Realty will be able to move ahead with their plans to renovate the 1984 office tower into Class A office space. In a public meeting earlier today, the LPC granted the 550 Madison team a Certificate of Appropriateness, but not without first voicing concerns. Snøhetta’s scheme would only touch approximately six percent of the landmarked tower’s granite facade and would leave retail in the enclosed arcade. The full presentation can be viewed on the LPC’s website, but the biggest changes are as follows: The plan would remove the glass enclosure and accompanying heating and cooling elements that were added in the 1994 Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman renovation. The rear lot, which runs north-south through the block, will be converted into a garden and gain a lightweight, Y-shaped steel canopy. The retail kiosks at the rear will also be removed to expand the square footage allotted to the public plaza, and two stories of new windows will be punched in the back of the building at the base to lighten up the new amenity floors. On the Madison Avenue–facing side, the heavily-mullioned windows added to the flat arches in the 1994 renovation will be updated with much larger panes of glass. Inside the 60-foot-tall lobby, the elevators along the rear wall will be reoriented to provide a clear line of sight from the entrance to the garden. The ownership team also plans on building out a publicly-accessible retail mezzanine and two amenity floors above the lobby. Commissioners at the February 12th hearing once again expressed concern over the lack of an interior landmark designation, which was precluded by the “secret” demolition conducted last year. The proposed replacements to the Philip Johnson–designed pavers and flooring were also analyzed. The scheme was ultimately approved, but the project team will have to work with the LPC to address their issues with the current plan. All-in-all, now that work can begin, Snøhetta claims that the amount of public space will increase by 50 percent, and that the team is “targeting LEED Platinum, Wired, and WELL certifications.” Once the renovations are completed in 2020, it’s expected that the building’s employee capacity will increase from 800 to 3,000.
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Emerging Voices 2019

SCHAUM/SHIEH experiments with architectural tools to produce surprising spaces at every scale
Every year the Architectural League of New York recognizes eight dynamic young firms as Emerging Voices that have the potential to become leaders in the field. Historic winners like Morphosis (1983) and Toshiko Mori (1992) have become today's lions, and practices like Johnston Marklee (2007) and Tatiana Bilbao (2010) have jumped to new heights after recent wins. This year's crop was selected in a two-stage portfolio competition where a jury of architects selected the winners. The deciding jury included several previous winners like Dominic Leong (2017), Fernanda Canales (2018), and Marlon Blackwell (1998), giving the process a familial feel. Laureates for 2019 come from across North America and almost all are partnerships or collaboratives—capital letters feature prominently, too.  SCHAUM/SHIEH will lecture at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York, at 7:00 p.m. on March 21, as part of the Emerging Voices lecture series.

For SCHAUM/SHIEH, the city is not a mere backdrop for designing buildings. Instead, it is a source of productive potential and a platform for theoretical and built experimentation that has informed the firm’s relationship to design from its founding in 2010.

The studio’s founding partners, Rosalyne Shieh and Troy Schaum, first explored this interest in speculative projects for Detroit and the Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung. Their early urban proposals for Detroit led to an installation at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale of a room that was also a staircase and public seating, one of many prototype structures they envisioned could infill the spaces between vacant homes in the city. This design, part of a larger project called “Sponge Urbanism,” challenged the divide between domestic and public space and confronted the broader narrative about vacancy in Detroit.

This intersection of urbanism, form, and identity is something that the studio has carried into its commissioned work, especially for cultural institutions and spaces with hybrid programs. These include the Judd Foundation’s buildings in Marfa, Texas; White Oak Music Hall in Houston; and most recently, the Transart Foundation, also in Houston.

While its Judd Foundation work is an exercise in restraint, aimed at preserving and restoring the artist Donald Judd’s vision for more than a dozen buildings in Marfa, projects like White Oak show how the designers play with form, massing, and landscape to create a distinctive destination for Houston’s music lovers and a new open space for the city as a whole. The main two-story concert hall, which contains multiple stages for different types of music and audience sizes, is part of a larger 7-acre complex which includes a lawn for outdoor performances and an open-air pavilion and bar, converted from an existing shed on the site.

Across the studio's diverse range of projects, abstract representation and diagrammatic processes are essential tools to generate concepts and collaborate with partners and clients. But, as Schaum explained, “We always like to come back to where that kind of set-making and pattern-making starts to break down and question its own set of possibilities, where the sets open up new possibilities for inhabitation rather than where they complete themselves in perfect studies of pattern or complex assemblages.”

This is evident in SCHAUM/SHIEH’s Transart Foundation (a 2018 AN Best of Design Awards Building of the Year). The project includes two structures comprising a private residence, art studio, and exhibition space, and is located across from the Menil Collection within a largely residential neighborhood.

Transart's white stucco facades, with their thick massing, look substantial, but are peeled away at the edges and corners, giving the overall appearance of lightness, like curled paper. The sculptural massing of the main building, juxtaposed against its relatively compact size— closer to a large house than a museum—also makes the foundation appear more monumental than it is, demonstrating the way SCHAUM/SHIEH works with scale to blur the lines between private and public space. This exercise in form and material produces unexpected moments and transitions that serve the multi-functional art space well.

But ultimately, the practice is most interested in its ongoing dialogue with the broader world. As Shieh explained, “I want the buildings that we make to belong to the world, and not to architecture. We don’t necessarily put them out there in a way that we hope that they tell architecture what they are, but that they somehow produce some kind of surprise.”

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They're Here

Announcing the Architectural League's 2019 Emerging Voices
Every year the Architectural League of New York recognizes eight dynamic young firms as Emerging Voices that have the potential to become leaders in the field. Historic winners like Morphosis (1983) and Toshiko Mori (1992) have become today's lions, and practices like Johnston Marklee (2007) and Tatiana Bilbao (2010) have jumped to new heights after recent wins. This year's crop was selected in a two-stage portfolio competition where a jury of architects selected the winners. The deciding jury included several previous winners like Dominic Leong (2017), Fernanda Canales (2018), and Marlon Blackwell (1998), giving the process a familial feel. Laureates for 2019 come from across North America and almost all are partnerships or collaboratives—capital letters feature prominently, too. The League will hold a lecture series from this year’s winners every Thursday in March at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York. We profiled this year's winners, snippets of which are included below. Click on the images for the full profiles. And now, the winners are: Ignacio Urquiza, Bernardo Quinzaños, Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica Bernardo Quinzaños, Ignacio Urquiza, and Mexico City–based Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica (CCA) have over a decade of experience working toward their goal of using architecture as a “tool for change.” ... Urquiza explained, “We’ve always had a particular interest in architecture that is precise, yet at the same time has the flexibility of being able to give itself to each space.” He added, “Ambiguity is what gives architecture the freedom to be owned by its users.” UUfie Despite being just ten years old, UUfie has snagged commissions in high-profile locations around the world that any practice would envy. Few firms of a comparable size have worked in three continents, and UUfie’s founders are aware of the benefits of having worked around the world; they credit their global experience with bringing “more cultural awareness and diversity in thinking” to their practice. ... “In Canada, there is a growth in supporting Canadian talent and potential for establishing a vibrant design scene that is broadening its perspective. In Japan, this scene is highly established and appears to lean now toward a retrospective view,” [cofounder Irene] Gardpoit said. “Canada is a culturally diverse country in comparison to Japan. This diversity brings on its challenges, but it is also unique in that it does not necessarily have its own established identity. It allows us to experiment.”

Waechter Architecture

For Ben Waechter, practicing architecture is an investigation into creating spaces with clarity. ... “To us, a strong sense of clarity tends to be in places that simply feel the best to be in,” [Waechter] said. According to Waechter, that’s one of the main themes that must be teased out when reviewing a project.

MODU

Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem…blur the boundaries of their practice, working in multiple modes simultaneously. Their conceptual work, built work, research, teaching, and urban initiatives inform one another and allow the firm to continually develop, test, and refine their ideas. Through discourse and design at scales both large and small, MODU’s indoor cities and outdoor rooms ultimately ask one question: How can we live better?

SCHAUM/SHIEH

For SCHAUM/SHIEH, the city is not a mere backdrop for designing buildings. Instead, it is a source of productive potential and a platform for theoretical and built experimentation that has informed the firm’s relationship to design from its founding in 2010.

Colloqate

Colloqate Design, a multidisciplinary, New Orleans–based “nonprofit design justice practice” founded in 2017 by Bryan Lee Jr.—Sue Mobley came on in 2018—with the goal of “building power through the design of public, civic, and cultural spaces,” is setting a different path relative to other design offices. … “We want to be the most radical design firm out there,” Lee said, “and we need to build buildings to do that.”

FreelandBuck

FreelandBuck builds drawings. Not in the traditional sense of constructing what’s represented by a drawing set, but in the sense that its architecture directly evokes carefully constructed perspectives and painstakingly hand-drawn renderings. “We think about drawing at the scale of architectural space,” says partner Brennan Buck, “as an end product, not a means to build.”

Davies Toews

Partners Trattie Davies and Jonathan Toews are no strangers to working around tight spatial and financial limitations. Whether it’s a linear park that rises between a descending set of switchback staircases in Hudson, New York; a perspective-defying, split-level park and art gallery in Memphis, Tennessee; or a three-story townhouse in Brooklyn, their projects are united by the common thread of extreme site-specificity. “Our strategy has been: Do first, analyze second,” said Davies.
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The Opposite of Big Lots!

New York City and the AIA team up for a vacant lots competition
New York’s five boroughs are plagued with vacant lots, even as the city finds itself in a housing crisis. Architects and planners have explored potential solutions like modular construction and basement units, and now the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the AIANY are trying to recruit architects to design sensitive infill housing. Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC is soliciting design proposals for scalable solutions across 23 vacant lots around the city. The design competition is just one piece of the de Blasio administration’s Housing New York 2.0 plan, which aims to create or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026. For the project’s first phase, competitors have until March 24 to submit their proposals for a 17-foot-wide, 100-foot-deep vacant plot at 113 West 136th Street in East Harlem. Teams that submit the best-realized drawings and project narratives will be given a $3,000 stipend, have their materials exhibited at the Center for Architecture, and will be invited back for the competition’s second phase. Immediately after the finalists are chosen, HPD will assign the remaining teams different lots to develop proposals for, and the most promising may be built. New York currently has 1,023 acres of vacant public land across 1,367 lots citywide, according to Living Lots NYC, and many of them have sat unused for decades. A holistic solution is hard to come by, as some of the lots are as narrow as 13-feet-wide and others are nearly 10,000 square feet. Although the city hasn't exactly defined what “affordable” means for these lots, the New York Times noted that HPD is shooting for two-to-three family homes and may include below-market-rate rents. The nine-person Big Ideas jury reads like a who’s-who of New York–based architects and city officials: Jury Chair: Hayes Slade, AIA, IIDA, president, AIA New York and principal, Slade Architecture Deborah Berke, FAIA, LEED AP, dean, Yale School of Architecture and founder, Deborah Berke Partners Claudia Herasme, chief urban designer, NYC Department of City Planning Nick Lembo, chairman, Monadnock Construction, Inc. Ruchika Modi, studio director and associate partner, Practice for Architecture & Urbanism Justin Garrett Moore, AICP, executive director, NYC Public Design Commission AJ Pires, president, Alloy Development Katherine W. Swenson, vice president of design, Enterprise Community Partners Claire Weisz, FAIA, principal, WXY architecture + urban design
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Future Building

What do architects want from a Green New Deal?

As the scale of climate change has accelerated and grown direr in recent months, upstart politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have made addressing the issue a central part of their political platforms. Talk of a Green New Deal (GND) has picked up since November's elections, reflecting a major shift in how Americans discuss climate change. But what is the Green New Deal and how might it impact architects?

The impetus behind the GND is simple: Because the threat of anthropogenic climate change is so fundamental, only a government-led, war-like industrial and economic mass mobilization effort can potentially transform American society quickly and thoroughly enough to avoid global catastrophe.

There are plans to unveil the first round of draft legislation at the federal level this week, but as of yet, no official set of policies has been agreed upon by legislators and activists. But various elements of a supposed GND have been touted for years (see here and here for thorough explainers).

Generally speaking, GND proponents have three specific and wide-ranging goals:

First, activists are calling for the wholesale decarbonization of the U.S. economy. That means eliminating all carbon emissions across every industry in the country, including in vital sectors like energy production, building design, construction, and transportation.

Second, this transition would include a federal jobs guarantee backed by the large-scale deployment of new public works projects. A job guarantee, which, generally speaking, would provide anyone who wanted work with some form of federal employment, would allow people currently working in carbon-intensive industries to leave their jobs for publicly-funded green-collar work. The guarantee, supporters argue, would create a vast, fairly-paid workforce that could get to work transforming American society right away.

Third, activists pushing the GND generally agree that the transition to a carbon-free economy must incorporate socially-just practices that rectify past practices that have exploited certain communities. Such reforms include finding ways to house people displaced by climate change, countering the long-term effects of redlining and the racial wealth gap, and making sure that unlike the original New Deal, the benefits and jobs created by any GND are enjoyed by people of color and other historically marginalized groups.

The initiative would go beyond simply greening the country's energy grid or incentivizing a shift to public transit and electric vehicles; the GND envisions a top-to-bottom reworking of the U.S. economy. Likely, the effort will involve densifying existing cities, building new ones from scratch, and perhaps most importantly, retrofitting and upgrading nearly all of the country’s existing building stock. Architects will be vital to the effort and are likely to benefit from a potential GND through new commissions and opportunities to provide input and expertise across a range of projects and scales.

In an effort to help spur discussion among architects on a potential plan, The Architect’s Newspaper asked designers from around the country to share their wish lists for what a potential GND might include. The responses span a range of issues that touch on the built environment, project financing, building codes, and environmental regulation, among other topics.

For some, creating incentives to reuse and retrofit existing buildings could be a key component of the deal. Karin Liljegren, principal at Omgivning in Los Angeles said, “I’d like to see how legislators can reassert the importance of the federal government’s Historic Tax Credit Program (HTC). The HTC incentivizes developers to rehabilitate iconic and viable old buildings, but it has recently been under threat after decades of stability. Enshrining these incentives in the legislation would send a massive signal to clients like ours.”

But, of course, focusing only on the most iconic historic structures would likely send many buildings to the trash heap. To address “less iconic structures or ones that require an approach that is more adaptive than restorative,” Liljegren suggested “a program of economic incentives that helps developers prioritize the broader reuse of existing buildings. Reusing a structure can certainly be more challenging than building new, but the payoffs are enormous—less embodied energy and waste is only the beginning. In terms of texture, form, and spirit, existing buildings enrich our identities and communities.”

For other architects, increasing the scope of public transportation options in parallel with boosting density is the way forward. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of PAU in New York City, said, “A Green New Deal should include what I called the 'American Smart Infrastructure Act' in my 2013 book A Country of Cities. In that proposal, I call for the elimination of existing subsidies that encourage sprawl like highway funding, the mortgage interest deduction, and low gas taxes.” Chakrabarti argued for applying this new revenue toward building a national high-speed rail and urban mass transit network that can serve new investments in affordable transit-oriented multi-family housing and low-cost office space. The funding, however, “should only go to municipalities that discourage single-family housing density, like Minneapolis recently did,” Chakrabarti added.

Of course, the overarching network of regulatory policies, like environmental, structural, energy, and seismic codes, that shape the built environment could be improved, as well.

Anica Landreneau, director of sustainable design for HOK in Washington, D.C., pointed to the recently-adopted Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, which she helped craft, as a potential guide for creating a “self-improving threshold” that requires building owners to retrofit existing structures above a certain size according to rigorous energy performance standards. The plan, set to take effect in 2020, seeks to align the energy performance of existing buildings with the steadily-increasing performance metrics crafted for new structures, like LEED certification and Energy Star ratings. The plan will peg the performance standards for existing buildings to the median Energy Star score for all buildings of the same type in the District of Columbia. As the overall energy efficiency of buildings in the District improves over time, the thinking goes, periodic post-occupancy reviews will help create a self-improving target that will compel building owners to upgrade their structures to avoid fines.

In addition to improving incentive programs like the HTC, changes to the way projects are financed more broadly could also help bring to life many of the GND's transformative new projects.

Claire Weisz, principal at WXY in New York City suggested the government “require banks to invest a required minimum 40 percent of their loans in building construction and projects that have sustainable longer-term benefits and proven investments in training and hiring for green jobs.”

David Baker, principal of David Baker Architects in San Francisco, advocated for increased funding for affordable and urban housing projects overall. Baker said, “A major limiting factor on beginning to solve our affordable housing crisis—and the associated climate impacts—is simply money. We have many affordable projects ready to go but currently delayed by a lack of funding.”

Peggy Deamer of The Architecture Lobby wants to make sure that the rights of workers—and the right to work, in general—are not left out of the conversation amid talk of green infrastructure and shiny, new projects. Deamer said, “It is too monothematic to go after environmental solutions without the larger economic structure into which both the effort unfolds or the new carbon-free world functions. If the tech industry’s effort at automation leaves most of us without work or income, who wants to live in that green world?”

In conversations with architects, the issue of affordable urban housing came up often, especially in relation to the stated aims of the GND’s main backers, which include increasing social equity through the program. Because America’s urban areas contain 85 percent of the country’s population and are responsible for 80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, it is likely that the GND’s effects will be most profoundly felt in cities.

That’s important for architects concerned with racial and social equity in the field. With a rising cohort of diverse young designers—as well as many established firms helmed by women and people of color— it’s possible a potential GND could engender a surge of important projects helmed by diverse practitioners. That possibility, when coupled with the existing diversity of urban residents and potential clients, could transform how architecture is practiced across the country.

It’s a realm where Kimberly Dowdell, president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), thinks her organization can have an impact. “Black architects have a unique opportunity to take the lead in shaping the future,” Dowdell said. “In under-resourced urban communities, which are often majority Black, there is a great need for a new approach to design and development that fully embraces the quadruple bottom line: social, cultural, environmental, and financial.” Dowdell added, “NOMA members have been doing this kind of work for generations. Now, with the Green New Deal, this experience is especially relevant.”

With a “quadruple bottom line” approach at the center of a potential GND, professional architecture organizations pushing for increased equity among their ranks, and demographic trends leading to greater diversity, the architectural profession is poised for significant change that could be accelerated by a GND.

As the potential changes begin to take form, inclusion will likely remain a top priority for designers. Dowdell explains: “In general, everyone needs to have a seat at the decision-making table as it relates to shaping our collective future on this planet. With such a high concentration of minorities in cities, it is absolutely critical that a truly diverse set of minds and voices are empowered to implement the best of the Green New Deal.”

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A Legacy of Labor

N.Y.C. Landmarks Preservation Commission approves Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire memorial
Last week, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to approve a memorial dedicated to the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. Reframing the Sky, designed by architects Uri Wegman and Richard Joon Yoo, will debut next year if supporters can raise $850,000 to cover long-term maintenance costs. The commission’s approval is the latest step in what’s been a six-year-long process to install the project in commemoration of the tragedy. Gina Pollara, a consultant with the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, said now is the perfect time to get it done due to heightened awareness on labor rights issues in the United States. “Given the current political climate, I’m hoping this project begins to really open up the conversation about the importance of unions, workplace safety, and how we can address certain social justice issues today,” said Pollara. “For all of their imperfections, unions still perform a vital duty and are an important piece of the American labor force.” The factory’s infamous fire, now 108 years ago, set off a series of historic legislative reforms to protect workers’ safety. The employees who died there, many of which were young immigrant women, were trapped on locked floors of the multi-level facility at 29 Washington Place. Today, the structure, known as the Brown Building, is owned by New York University and though it’s a local and national landmark, many people don’t know its history. The coalition seeks to change that through a public memorial that shines a light on the tragedy and details its significance for blue-collar workers in the 21st century. According to the project statement, the future memorial will mimic the mourning ribbons that were traditionally draped on building facades as outward expressions of a community’s collective sorrow. It will feature horizontal stainless-steel bands that wrap the southeast corner of the building and a textured panel that lines its vertical edge. The names of the victims will be laser cut into the elongated panels where daylight will shine and reflect the letters off a highly-polished, steel surface placed at hip level. Through this, visitors will be able to see the names reflected in the sky. The project has already received widespread support since its announcement in 2013. Three years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a $1.5 million grant for its design and construction, but money is still needed to maintain it. The coalition is organizing a two-day upcoming event in collaboration with the Fashion Institute of Technology to raise awareness of the project and offer people the chance to contribute to its design. Anyone interested will be able to bring an individual piece of fabric that will be used to create a large ribbon that the designers will cast in metal and mount onto the building for the textured vertical panel. “The public engagement piece of this memorial is the most important part to us,” said Pollara, “because the legislation that came from this tragedy has affected us all personally whether we know it or not. The design features a very subtle thread of stitching the past and present together.” A public event, A Collective Ribbon — Weaving Stories of the Triangle Fire, will take place on March 16 and 17 at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Those who are unable to attend can send in personal pieces of ribbon to the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition at PO Box 1822, New York, New York 10113. Donors of $25,000 or more will have their names inscribed on the memorial.
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H/T to the Gorillaz

Snarkitecture's plastic beach makes waves in Chicago
Although much of the country, Chicago included, is being blasted by arctic air, that doesn’t mean that the beach is out of reach. From now until February 3, Chicagoans can leap into Snarkitecture’s The Beach Chicago, back in the states after serving its last tour of duty in Sydney, Australia. Interested visitors can find the 1.1-million-ball-beach installed inside of the Aon Grand Ballroom at the Navy Pier. The ballroom, designed by Charles Sumner Frost and completed in 1916, is an imposing location for The Beach, as the installation sits under an 80-foot-tall stone-and-steel dome. Visitors can take in the impressive view by lounging on a deck chair, or “floating” in the ocean of translucent antimicrobial balls. The 18,000-square-foot space on the pier has been transformed into a full “beach," complete with umbrellas, lifeguard stations, inflatables, lounge chairs, and the appropriate signage. Restaurants on the pier will be offering up complimentary “beach-themed” menus, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater will continue its run of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Beach began as a commission for the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., as part of its annual Summer Block Party series. Snarkitecture responded to the prompt by flooding the museum’s Great Hall with colorless white balls, creating both a play space and meditation on the form of the balls themselves. The installation was so successful that it’s been touring the world as a series of pop-ups ever since, and returned (partially) to the National Building Museum as part of the Snarkitecture retrospective in 2018. The Beach Chicago was made possible with support from The Chicago Free For All Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, the Navy Pier Associate Board, and Hilton Worldwide.
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Art Hanging on the Waller

Waller Creek Conservancy stages fifth annual Creek Show
This article originally appeared in Texas Architect. For the fifth time in as many years, artists, architects, and Austinites alike descended the banks of Waller Creek to experience Creek Show, an annual display of temporary light installations commissioned by the Waller Creek Conservancy. Intended to delight the public and spark conversation about the transformation of Waller Creek, the show has swelled in popularity since its inception as a one-night event in 2014. This year was no exception, as thousands of Austinites were dazzled by six local design teams over nine nights in November. TENTSION by Perkins+Will anchored the southern entrance to the show, which sprawled north between 9th and 11th streets in downtown Austin. Dozens of internally lit camping tents hovered over the creek bed in a variety of configurations, occasionally soaring into the tree canopies and over spectators’ heads via taut cables. Inspired by tensions at this intersection of the creek and Austin’s urban fabric, the tents themselves were donated to a local organization serving those in need after the installation was disassembled. Moving north, La Noria by Drophouse Design rests on the creek bed, allowing the natural current to power two large, connected paddle wheels adorned with glowing spokes and fluorescent paddles. The playful armature is also unapologetically industrial, aiming to draw a contrast between the mechanics of the installation itself and the natural power source of the creek. AOD contributed Parabolus as homage to the geometry of the 1930s arched masonry bridges that allow downtown streets to pass over the creek. Thin tension fibers illuminated by hidden black lights lend the installation its form, which resembles a graphed tangent function. Per the design team, the installation “draws [viewers’] gaze to both water and sky, creating an immersive experience that emphasizes Waller Creek’s symbiotic urban and natural connection.” Urban Scrim by Lemmo Architecture and Design (LA-N-D) features ephemeral projections of silhouetted pedestrians and cyclists mapped onto rectangular modules of tight scrim fabric. Formally inspired by the West Texas land art movement, its simple forms and impressive scale seek to pair “the movement of the urban streetscape with the texture and nature of water flowing through the creek.” Ambedo ßeta from Polis employed a series of linear LED lights that wrap continuously throughout the three rectangular tunnels beneath the 11th street bridge. The installation also featured two “phone booths” on opposite ends of the tunnel, where visitors could engage in a form of conversation as their voices manipulated the lighting. By turning visitors’ voices to lights, the installation reminds guests that words can tangibly affect those around them. The terminus of the show resided within Symphony Square, a city-owned public plaza that features a terraced amphitheater and several historic buildings that the Conservancy renovated to house its own offices and support facilities for public-facing events. A collaboration between Campbell Landscape Architecture and Tab Labs yielded Light Lines, an abstracted representation of the city’s waterways and drainage system. As another interactive display, the installation used a series of electroluminescent wires suspended from a grid that extends over the terraced steps of the amphitheater. Per the team, “interactive touch points allow viewers to manipulate the light intensity as it moves across the structure and reflects upon the water.” While Creek Show and its installations are only temporary, the Conservancy’s work in preparing the annual event is an around-the-clock endeavor. Austin-based artists looking to participate need only check the Creek Show website in the coming months for the next call for submissions. As the event continues to gain momentum, it’s never too early to wonder what the next chapter for Creek Show has in store for Austin and the future of Waller Creek.
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No Towers, No Comprise

Architecture collective joins activists to protest luxury towers on New York's Lower East Side
One Manhattan Square, an 800-foot-tall glass tower in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is at the center of a grassroots battle against displacement. Designed by Adamson Associates, the Extell Developmentbacked skyscraper threatens to push out throngs of immigrants and longtime local residents who call the area home. It’s a common story found in the ever-evolving city, but this particular narrative possesses one distinct difference: It’s location. Since much of New York’s luxury residential building boom has focused on expanding Hudson Yards, buffing up Billionaires’ Row, and readying Long Island City for Amazon’s HQ2, the Lower East Side has been somewhat unaffected by such large-scale development. Until now. A series of sky-high apartment buildings, starting with the nearly-complete One Manhattan Square (also called Extell Tower), is slated to dot the Lower East Side waterfront enclave known as Two Bridges. Four planned towers are in the works, although One Manhattan square is the only one currently under construction. The surrounding community is predominantly composed of Chinese immigrants and working-class people, a major reason why the city designated the neighborhood a Large-Scale Residential Development (LSRD) area in 1972, which protects and promotes affordable and mixed-income housing for residents. According to Zishun Ning, leader of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, the proposed high-end projects violate the LSRD, which requires that all new developments secure approval from the City Planning Commission or receive special permits through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process. Ning argued the city's decision to move forward with the Two Bridges development is therefore illegal, and indicative of discrimination from the mayoral administration. Not only is it politically fraught, according to Ning, it's socially irresponsible. The towers are situated within a three-block radius of each other and will sit near NYCHA housing. One will cantilever over an existing senior center and another, One Manhattan Square, will feature a “poor door,” as the coalition calls it, for the building’s affordable housing residents.   Yesterday a slew of protestors gathered at the 80-story tower and marched to City Hall in opposition to the plan. Ning said the day’s event, officially titled the March to Reclaim the City, was the coalition’s latest attempt to get Mayor de Blasio’s attention. “We’re not against development,” Ning said, “we just want some regulation and future development that fits our community.” Last fall the group submitted an alternative proposal to the commission in which the neighborhood could be rezoned for more appropriate use. They integrated height restrictions on new construction and called for 100 percent affordable housing on public land. Ning said their efforts were ignored, and in early December, the commission approved a special building permit submitted by the developers. The commission said the projects only presented a “minor modification” to Two Bridges’ zoning law and that a full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process would not be required. “It’s evident that racism plays into the city’s zoning policies,” said Ning. “They rezone communities of colors for the interests of developers. We call out the city’s illegal approval, along with Mayor de Blasio’s collusion with developers to approve these towers and deny our plan that came out of a democratic process. We want to reclaim our democracy and control as a community.” History has seen many local working groups stand up against giant developers and influential politicians, but, according to Ning, there needs to be more support from area architects to help such groups envision a bigger, more inclusive picture for their neighborhoods. A new collective of aspiring architects and non-architects interested in the field, citygroup, wants to do just that. The organization aims to become a young social and political voice for the architecture industry. Members gather periodically for informal debates on serious topics like the need for affordable housing in New York, the nature of architectural expertise, and architects’ tricky relationship with real estate developers. The group's inaugural exhibition, set up inside its new space on the Lower East Side, details various visions of One Manhattan Square that imagine a more useful development for the local community. “We wanted to rethink the Extell Tower as something that isn’t as foreign to this neighborhood as it is now,” said Michael Robinson Cohen of citygroup. “It’s built on a plinth and houses mostly luxury apartments. We asked ourselves, How could we recreate the tower for different uses or for a diverse group of inhabitants?”   The exhibition centers on a series of 21 drawings done by different citygroup members. These individual visions, expressed within the confines of the building’s plan, feature different ways to reuse the tower’s 1.2 million square feet of space. Some pictured it as pure parkland, others cut it up into a grid of 3-meter-by-3-meter apartments. One strips away the idea that a housing complex must cater to the traditional single-family home by creating personally-designed apartments outfitted for everyone from single moms to yoga teachers, a Russian oligarch, a cat lady, and even a family of five. Thinking critically about megaprojects like One Manhattan Square, according to Robinson Cohen, allows architects to investigate the best ways for new developments to improve a community, instead of displacing residents and stripping away the character of a neighborhood. “Much like the coalition, we’re for challenging the tower, but are not against development in general,” he said. “Obviously, as architects, we want to build and it’s clear the city needs more housing, but to us it’s important to think about the people these developments serve.” To Ning, the architect’s mission isn’t far from that of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side. He says the two parties can work together to imagine developments that engage with local residents rather than taking away access to light and air. “We actually encourage architects to put their creativity into building things that benefit the community,” Ning said. “But in order for that to happen, we first need to fight the city.” A new lawsuit against the City was just brought on by the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors in opposition to the development. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is slated to support with future litigation efforts. Until then, the City is still contending with another lawsuit calling for the towers to go through the ULURP process, initiated by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson last month. “These towers are just one piece of a bigger picture,” noted Ning. “If 3,000 units are added to the neighborhood, the demographics will change and the land value will rise. Harassment and eviction will escalate. This is happening all over New York City. It’s segregation, and it’s very visual.” Walk-throughs of citygroup’s exhibition are available upon request through early February at 104b Forsyth Street. Email group@citygroup.nyc for hours.
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(Again)

Snøhetta brings revised AT&T Building plan before the Landmarks Preservation Commission
Following the release of an updated scheme for 550 Madison in December of last year, Snøhetta once again went in front of New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), this time for a Certificate of Appropriateness. The changes to the postmodern, Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed skyscraper (now a New York landmark) are much more modest than the Snøhetta design that sparked the ire of preservationists back in 2017. Under the revised plan presented to the LPC on January 15, only six percent of the 1984 AT&T Building’s original facade would be changed. That includes a new row of windows on the western side (the rear) of the tower’s base and infilling the two large arches to accommodate the new elevator shaft locations in the lobby and the relocated doors to the rear passage. At the LPC meeting, Snøhetta, along with representatives of 550 Madison’s owners, Chelsfield America, Olayan America, and minority partner RXR Realty, described their design philosophy for the scheme: “Preserve and revitalize the landmarked tower, restore the original site design intent, improve on multiple alterations at the base, increase and enliven the public space." The glass-enclosure added to the building’s rear plaza in the 1994 renovation by Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman would be stripped and replaced with a lightweight and open-ended Y-shaped steel-and-glass canopy. The quarter-circle glass canopy and attached annex were original to Johnson and Burgee’s design, but enclosing the open-air walkway meant that catwalks and a ductwork system had to be installed to ventilate the space. Snøhetta claimed that by removing the annex building and extending the canopy to the tower’s neighbor, along with opening the rear row of enclosed colonnades, the firm could increase the amount of available outdoor public space to 21,300 square feet from the current 4,500 square feet. That’s up from the original open-air breezeway scheme from 1984 as well, which only included 20,500 square feet—and that’s including the unenclosed colonnades that served as the building’s privately-owned public space (POPS). The new garden would be arranged according to a program that heavily invokes circles, a motif that, as Snøhetta noted, Johnson returned to again and again throughout his career. At the building’s Madison Avenue–facing front entrance to the east, the design team elaborated on their plan to replace the heavily-mullioned windows added to enclose the flat arches by Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman. At the direction of Sony, which was headquartered in the building from 1992 to 2013, the columns were enclosed to create street-level retail spaces—something that AT&T fought against vehemently during the tower’s design process. While 550 Madison’s ownership team won’t be opening up the colonnade POPS and transforming it into a public space again, they’ve instead proposed replacing the windows in the flat arches with much larger panes. The new windows, which would only be divided into a three-by-four grid with two-inch-thick bronzed mullions, would be set back five feet from the front of the arches, unlike the current windows, which sit flush with the sidewalk. Public testimony presented before the commissioners was mixed but trended favorably. Representatives speaking on behalf of Robert A.M. Stern, Barry Bergdoll, Richard Rodgers, Signe Nielsen, Alan Ritchie (who worked on the original project with Philip Johnson in the 1970s), Claire Weisz and Mark Yoes, Elizabeth Diller, and others presented letters of support for the new proposal. Johnson Burgee wasn’t available to speak, but he contributed a letter of support for the plan as well. Many of the speakers addressed that upon its opening in 1984, the AT&T Building’s arched public space was dark and underutilized, and that Johnson was a proponent of adaptive reuse. Architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who had previously testified his support for the 550 Madison team’s changes to the building (and its landmarking), also spoke, but this time disclosed that he had been working as an outside consultant on the project. Goldberger had drawn criticism after an article in The Real Deal revealed his role, and that he subsequently had not revealed his ties to the tower’s management team prior to testifying. Speaking to AN, Goldberger admitted that he had made a mistake in not disclosing his involvement sooner but stood by his criticism of the building’s underutilized public space as having remained consistent throughout his career. His role in the project, he said, is that of a historian and someone who has intimate knowledge of the building. The praise wasn’t unanimous. Liz Waytkus, executive director of Docomomo’s U.S. chapter, criticized the new windows on Madison Avenue as they would allegedly stray even further from the tower’s original design intent and create a false sense of openness for an enclosed area. Concerns were also raised over the replacement of Johnson’s original articulated paving in favor of a simplified circular plan. Preservationist Theodore Grunewald spoke to the need to preserve 550 Madison’s “forest of columns” design and the relationship of void-to-solid between the cavernous underside and upper mass of the tower. Ultimately, the commission adjourned without making a decision. They needed time to consider the new scheme and accompanying testimony, and more importantly, lacked the number of commissioners required for a quorum. The LPC will reconvene and discuss the matter again at a future date. The entire presentation shown at the January 15 meeting is available here.
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Sterling Bay Does the Hard Yards

Lincoln Yards cuts plans for soccer stadium and large entertainment venue
Chicago’s unbuilt Lincoln Yards mega-development will no longer include a soccer stadium and entertainment district. Under pressure from constituents, Alderman Brian Hopkins of Chicago’s 2nd Ward has rejected developer Sterling Bay’s proposal to include a 20,000 seat United Soccer League stadium, as well as a series of large Live Nation–run entertainment venues. Live Nation will divest itself from the development, as will the United Soccer League and Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who is the majority owner of a Chicago franchise. Alderman Hopkins has called for Sterling Bay to retool the project to bring more open space to the development in place of the stadium and venues, and bring a variety of smaller, scattered venues through the site, as well as restaurants and theaters. The public has yet to hear this proposal, despite Lincoln Yards' presence on the January 24 Chicago Planning Commission meeting agenda and confirmation from Mayor Rahm Emanuel that the project will "move forward on a balanced path," Crain's Chicago Business reported. Expected to cost upwards of $6 million dollars, Lincoln Yards will transform nearly 55 acres of former industrial land along the Chicago River into a dense cluster of retail, office, and residential development, delivering a planned 5,000 residential units, 500 hotel rooms, a mile of new riverwalk, and an extension to the 606. Designed by SOM, the project is slated to include multiple skyscrapers reaching a height of up to 650 feet, making the overall height of the development as tall as some structures in the Loop. This isn’t the first time Sterling Bay has had to trim its plans for Lincoln Yards; community input dictated a decrease in the maximum height of the high-rise towers and an increase in publicly-accessible open space in response to a community meeting in November. The move to ax Live Nation from the plan had advocates of The Hideout feeling cautiously optimistic as the Live Nation–run spaces could have threatened the independent venue and provided competition, despite Sterling Bay's commitment to keeping The Hideout a component of the Lincoln Yards plan. While Sterling Bay has agreed to provide opportunities for independent music operators to participate, concerns remain. The City of Chicago introduced the Cortland/Chicago River Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district in November, which encompasses the entirety of the Lincoln Yards site. As Sterling Bay would be the primary property owner, it would be allowed to pay for the project and its future improvements through TIF funds, raising questions of the appropriateness of the new district, as TIF is intended to revive struggling neighborhoods. Members of the City Council Progressive Caucus have been advocating for a measure that would allow the city to provide TIF funds only to projects that cannot be completed without them. Sterling Bay has also yet to address how many of the residential units will be considered affordable, or the demand the project will place on new schools. While some concerns regarding infrastructure and transportation have been addressed, area residents remain concerned about traffic and congestion, as well as the availability and equitability of public transportation.
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Corn on the Cobb

Henry N. Cobb reflects on Hancock Tower
After seven decades in practice, Henry Cobb has published his first collection of essays, interviews, lectures, and projects: Henry N. Cobb: Words & Works 1948–2018. The story of his best-known building, Boston’s John Hancock Tower (now 200 Clarendon), follows a dramatic arc from the controversies of its public review and construction to its recognition as a beloved icon of the city. In this excerpt, Cobb describes the Hancock’s apparent adherence to the rules of typical office buildings yet acknowledges that the form of the “notched rhomboid” deviates from such expected patterns. It can only be understood as a response to the setting, Copley Square, where the tower stands adjacent to H. H. Richardson’s Trinity Church. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the idealized image of the square had suffered from the intrusion of commercialism, and had, as Cobb observed, lost its meaning. His proposition was to find a new meaning for the square, seizing the opportunity of the Hancock company’s need for office space to propose that “Copley Square should have its own tower.” As Cobb's newest tower—the Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences, One Dalton Street—nears completion, it's time to hear in his own words how its bold precursor, the Hancock, came to be more than 40 years ago: Our proposal was not well received. Indeed, the response in Boston was one of shock and horror. What we saw as the right building in the right place at the right time was seen by almost everyone else, and above all by our fellow architects in Boston, as the wrong building in the wrong place at the wrong time. But after nine months of acrimonious public debate, the necessary permits were obtained, and in the fall of 1968, construction began. Permission was granted not because I had succeeded in converting people to our way of thinking—for with only a few exceptions, I had not—but because had a building permit been denied, the Hancock company might well have carried out its threat to move its headquarters, with its 12,000 employees, to Chicago. This brazen exercise of corporate arm-twisting on the part of our client naturally contributed to the widespread opinion, often explicitly conveyed to me in person, that my colleagues and I had prostituted ourselves professionally in accepting and carrying out this commission. To compound the agony, during construction the building endured a series of mishaps that caused us and our client to experience the rare privilege of being, for almost half a decade, simultaneously despised and ridiculed. The most notorious of these problems, publicized worldwide, was the failure of insulating glass units that necessitated removal and replacement of all 10,334 panels in the curtain wall. Many in Boston saw all this as entirely just retribution for the egregious overreaching of the city’s largest corporation. Mercifully, however, an entrepreneurial T-shirt artist didn’t lose his opportunity to find a lighter side, with which I was able to outfit all three of my daughters in the otherwise miserable summer of 1973. Although the deceptive mutability of its image may suggest otherwise, there is nothing mysterious about the design of the Hancock Tower. It perfectly illustrates my view that the architecture of a tall building is 99 percent logic and 1 percent art—but don’t you dare take away that 1 percent! The extreme disparity in size between the tower and the church was the central predicament we faced. We chose to deal with it not by creating a gratuitous distance between the two—this would only have exacerbated the problem—but by bringing them into close proximity while positioning and shaping the tower in such a way that it becomes the contingent satellite and the church the autonomous center in the composition. To accomplish this, several aspects of the tower’s design may be cited as essential. First, the attenuated rhomboid plan-form, placed diagonally on its site, emphasizes the planar while minimizing the volumetric presence of the building, so as to effectively disembody the tower as seen from the square. Second, a bullnose corner detail facilitates the crucially important transition from trapezoidal base to rhomboid tower. Third, notches bisecting the end walls accentuate the weightless verticality of these planes and make legible the tower’s nonrectangular geometry. Fourth, the tower’s uniformly gridded and reflective surface, stripped of all elements that could suggest a third dimension, mutes the obtrusiveness of its enormous bulk and defers in all respects to the rich sculptural qualities of its much smaller neighbor. Fifth, rather than standing on the ground, the tower’s rhomboid volume slips weightlessly up out of the surrounding granite pavement, from which it is separated by a 1-inch-wide perimeter slot. Finally, the triangular space created between the church and the broad face of the tower pays homage to the apsidal view of Richardson’s building, reinforcing its intended role as the architectural cynosure of Copley Square. With regard to this latter aspect, it should be noted that the three-story lobby at the base of the tower is sheathed in precisely the same manner as all other floors; had the monumental scale of this space been directly exposed to view, it would surely have destroyed the delicate balance in the dialogue between church and tower. This concern also accounts for the modest scale of the three entries, originally sheltered by clear plastic domes, which were subsequently replaced by an attenuated stainless-steel canopy. Truth be told, the tower’s reflective surface and reticent posture do not invite entry. I used to joke with my colleagues—but not with our client!—that the proper means of gaining access to this impenetrable monolith would be through the porch of Trinity Church and along the nave to the crossing, where one would turn and descend by escalator into a tunnel below the street and emerge, finally, in the tower’s elevator lobby. On October 28, 1980, more than four years after the building’s completion, in my inaugural lecture as chairman of the architecture department at Harvard, I summed up my view of the matter as follows: We adopted a strategy of minimalism in the design of the Hancock Tower not for ideological reasons, but because the situation of the building demanded it. In the determined pursuit of our goal—to achieve a symbiosis between the church, the tower, and the square—we excluded everything that did not contribute directly to this end. For we believed that only thus could we temper the inherent arrogance of so large a building and endow it with a presence that might animate rather than oppress the urban scene. Today, more than three decades after writing these words, I find that I can still subscribe to them. Yet I also find myself still confronting a few questions that just won’t go away: Can this accommodation justify that transgression? Is this performance appropriate to that occasion? Does this tower belong in that city? To each of these questions the answer, it seems to me, must finally be both yes and no. This persistently disturbing ambiguity, in which the building discloses the anxiety of its predicament, perhaps explains why, among all my built works, the Hancock Tower is as close as I have ever come to poetry. It is also as close as I have ever come to silence. The building’s restraint to the point of muteness, its refusal to reveal anything other than its obsession with its urban context, is surely its greatest strength but also its ultimate limitation as a work of architecture. Despite the forcefulness of its gesture, the tower remains virtually speechless, and this resolute self-denial is, in the end, both its triumph and its tragedy. Henry N. Cobb: Words & Works 1948–2018, Henry N. Cobb, The Monacelli Press, $45.00