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One Month of Design

AN rounds up all the must-see events happening this Archtober
Archtober is just days away and AN is here to get you ready by rounding up all the must-see events beginning October 1. Organized by the Center for Architecture, the month-long design celebration is now in its ninth year and there’s so much to see and do.  Ample new building projects have popped up throughout New York since last October, which means this is your chance to tour some of the most talked-about spaces in town. Not only that, but there will be plenty of after-work lectures, panels, workshops, films, conferences, and special events you can attend every day. Sales go fast, so purchase tickets to Archtober events today. Here’s our breakdown of 2019's can't-miss activities:  Buildings of the Day tours One Vanderbilt Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox October 3 Building 77 Contemporary Renovations by Marvel Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle October 8  Solar Carve Architect: Studio Gang October 10  Hunters Point Library Architect: Steven Holl Architects October 11  Moxy East Village Architects: Rockwell Group and Stonehill Taylor October 16 Statue of Liberty Museum Architect: FXCollaborative October 23  Bronx Music Hall Architect: WXY Architecture + Urban Design October 24  MoMA Renovation and Expansion Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler October 25 121 East 22nd Street Architect: OMA New York October 29   Lectures + Panels: Building Better Cities with Crowdfunding Organized by: Syracuse Architecture October 1 Cocktails & Conversation: Marlon Blackwell & Billie Tsien Organized by: AIA New York October 4 Shohei Shigematsu & Atelier Bow-Wow on the Past & Future of Tokyo Architecture Organized by: Japan Society October 11  Daniel Libeskind: Edge of Order Organized by: Pratt Institute October 15 NOMA '19 Conference Organized by: nycobaNOMA October 16-20 Breaking Ground: Architecture by Women Organized by: The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, The Cooper Union; Beverly Willis Architectural Foundation; Phaidon October 18  A History of New York in 27 Buildings with Sam Roberts & Alexandra Lange Organized by: Museum of the City of New York October 21 Extra Tours: Architecture and the Lights of Gotham: Nighttime Boat Tour Organized by: AIA New York; Classic Harbor Line Multiple Dates  Behind-the-Scenes Hard Hat Tour of the Abandoned Ellis Island Hospital Organized by: Untapped New York October 19  VIP Tour of the Woolworth Building Organized by: Untapped New York October 5  Special Events: Opening of Fringe Cities: Legacies of Renewal in the Small American City Organized by: Center for Architecture October 2 Architecture of Nature / Nature of Architecture Organized by: The Architectural League of New York October 3 World Cities Day Organized by: UN-Habitat October 31
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Detroit Design

Detroit Design 139 showcases how Detroiters are reshaping their neighborhoods
Detroit has always been a design-forward city, a fact made official back in 2015 when they were designated a UNESCO City of Design, the only in the United States. A center of architectural innovation, futuristic automotive design, boulevards meant to rival the Champs-Élysées, and one of the U.S.’s foremost collections of art, the city in recent years has gotten more attention for its bankruptcy, corruption, and mass foreclosures and vacancy.  But, as Olga Stella, executive director of Design Core Detroit, a partner organization which “champions design-driven businesses and their role in strengthening Detroit’s economy,” points out, “Detroit is not and never has been just one thing.” Throughout its expansive 139 square miles, many are working to create neighborhoods and a city that works for them. Design doesn’t just happen at the rarefied scale of a Beaux Arts museum, it happens in and by communities who work to create a city they want to live in. These projects are being celebrated at the second iteration of Detroit Design 139 (DD139), a serial exhibition co-organized by the City of Detroit, Design Core Detroit, and developer Bedrock. Members from each organization, as well as nine others, served on the advisory board. The projects were selected by a jury of design notables, both from Detroit and other cities, including New York City Public Design Commission executive director Justin Garrett Moore and Detroit-based equitable development strategist Lauren Hood. With the main showcase at street level in downtown Detroit in a Bedrock-owned building, as well as at three partner locations throughout the city, celebrates 70 projects under five thematic headings that, according to the organizers and jurors, embody DD139’s 2019 theme of "Inclusive Futures".  “All of us working on design problems and projects should be holding ourselves to higher standards,” said Melissa Dittmer, Bedrock’s chief design officer, of the ethos of inclusion ostensibly showcased in the exhibition, which features projects built in the last two years or to be built in the next three. The projects were laid out rather blandly like a well-executed science fair or a real-life PDF, with posters along temporary slatted walls and the occasional model or video. Stella said that, historically, “In a city that doesn’t have a lot of capital [the question of] ‘how are we going to pay for it?’ was guiding decisions, not design solutions,” noting that it was a developer-driven process, with Maurice Cox, Detroit’s outgoing planning and development director. (Cox was also on the advisory committee of DD139.) Dittmer says there was a need for new building to begin “prioritizing the process as much as the outcomes,” something many of the projects exhibited; for example a cafe-laundromat combo, The Commons, designed by the local firm LAAVU in a process which founder and chief design officer Kaija E. Wuollet explains, began by collectively creating a strategic plan to inform the design, building, and operations. The choice in amenities was guided by neighbor requests and they act as not only a space in their own right, but a revenue stream for the non-profit MACC Development, which provides literacy programs, coworking space, artistic opportunities, and other community resources right within the building. This was a recurring theme: neighborhood-focused and neighborhood-led design solutions are a strength of Detroit now and could be what shapes the city's future. But, another recurring theme that the MACC project implies is that due to a dearth of government support, many private organizations have had to pick up the slack. That said, some public programs were featured in the exhibition, perhaps among the most noteworthy for designers, the Michigan ArcPrep program, a public school architecture initiative led by the University of Michigan's Taubman College. Even restaurants were in the exhibition. In community engagement workshops, residents in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood expressed a desire for more places to eat and more Black-owned businesses. With the help of a Motor City Match grant, Norma G’s was opened by Lester Gouvia. Kaitlynn Hill, one of the project’s architects from Hamilton Anderson Associates, said she saw this as “a community-based project,” as much as a commercial enterprise. Other Detroit mainstays made the cut for the exhibition. The legendary Pewabic Pottery, whose distinctive glazed tiles that adorn high-rise facades and fireplaces alike are still made in small batches in Detroit, had recently undergone an expansion with the help of inFORM Studio. While the expansion added more workspace, it also helped Pewabic—which is organized as a non-profit—further advance their public mission. Like the original 1903 structure, this new building is close to the residential street. In addition to a shop, museum, and classroom space, there is also an open courtyard with a large mural that hosts events or allows passersby to come in and chill for a bit. In addition, Pewabic goes into communities with portable kilns, keeping design heritage alive and inviting others to participate in it. Many cultural projects were featured, including a skatepark-slash-sculpture park and public mural initiatives. One particularly intriguing project highlighted was the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67, which investigated the legacy of Detroit’s 1967 rebellion in a “community engagement” project by collecting oral histories, producing an exhibition, and providing grants to “placemaking” projects. Some of the projects include an LGBT-focused community garden, an outdoor theater space focused on the Black, Latinx, and Arab communities of Detroit, and a memorial to those who lost their lives around the time of the uprising. There were a number of environmentally-focused projects, both grassroots and large scale, a balance and comparison that was interesting to see. Some included academic research on stormwater management interventions, the Zero Net Energy Center, rain gardens, and an upcycled windmill Projects with international design pedigree also appeared: David Adjaye and New York’s Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates have designed a pavilion and other structures for the Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park, which, when it’s open, will be part of a network of riverside parks and greenways in an area that was once home to abandoned manufacturing plants. The park is currently overseen by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy However, on a tour through the Dequindre Cut, a rail-trail connected to the riverfront, on a Sunday when it was clearly being enjoyed by many, it was mentioned by an employee of the Conservancy that many houseless people formerly lived on the trail. In fact, this was mentioned many places, but inquiries made into where those people went and whether these “inclusive” projects accounted for housing access for those they were displacing remained mostly unanswered. While houselessness is declining in Detroit and new projects like the short-term housing Pope Francis Center (not exhibited) are on their way to reality, police have also been known to sweep away the belongings of the houseless, even in the dead of winter. If this park is for everyone, what about those who called it home?  In this second iteration of DD139, the choice was made to include projects from other UNESCO Cities of Design, like Saint-Étienne, France, and Montreal, which are using design to address many of the same challenges faced in Detroit. The organizers hope that this can help create a dialogue and show the fact that Detroit, though a unique situation, is not alone, and that everything from new elder caregiving studies in Singapore to canal projects in Mexico City could help Detroit think through its own unique challenges. However, how every project fit in seemed unclear. A project, the Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center, to help give homes and resources such as jobs and healthcare to houseless youth and those at risk of houselessness, especially LGBTQ+ kids who make up as much as 40% of this country’s houseless population, are undeniably necessary, ameliorative projects. However, on the poster for a banal mixed-use and mixed-income housing development the description of why the project is inclusive reads: “The project has gone through extensive design iterations, city vetting, and community engagement processes to ensure it captures neighborhood feedback. Meetings around the community were offered in both English and Spanish, with translators and/or translation equipment at every meeting, making it as accessible as possible for community members.” Is this not the bare minimum we should expect? Pair that with the bare minimum in architectural quick-build tastelessness by the Philadelphia firm SITIO and one has to wonder what sort of definition of “design” is at play here.  Some projects are more design-y than others. Pewabic Pottery, the Symbiotic Landscape watershed restoration, a digital mapping project that proposes using architectural and urban interventions to fight Detroit’s “digital divide”—these all make design part-and-parcel of their mission, and they're realizing that mission. An entrepreneurship incubator or a bakery in a mixed-use development, Core City, which some Detroiters I spoke with expressed distrust of, might be interesting, or at least tasty, but is it necessarily a “design” solution? Is a building in and of itself using design to address these so-called civic challenges, let alone being inclusive by and through design? This vagueness of mission and indeterminate take on the role of design in some projects points out a bigger issue. The project’s main sponsor and proponent, one of the three partner organizers, Bedrock, has undeniably reshaped downtown Detroit, perhaps in ways, some residents might see as for the better. From the design-forward Shinola Hotel to the forthcoming first foray by the fast-fashion retailer H&M to the revamp of the 475-foot-tall Book Tower, a magnificent and delirious example of early 20th-century architecture that has sat unoccupied for a decade, downtown Detroit is increasingly lively (and increasingly expensive). And, fitting with the exhibition's theme, “Creating unique, inclusive experiences through real estate is Bedrock’s mission,” claims a Bedrock press release. Yet, as the Detroit Free Press has recently revealed, Bedrock has gotten huge swaths of downtown property at little cost, with many incentives and tax breaks, and with an unheard of lack of financial oversight. Also, Bedrock has leveraged their power to strong-arm Michigan’s OSHA into looking away from their safety violations while “lecturing” inspectors on how to do their jobs. Is creating buildings without protecting working people inclusive? In addition, while Bedrock has been touting their successful bid to redevelop the site of the so-called “fail jail,” turning this long-vacant lot into usable space, this deal was negotiated with Wayne County by allowing Rock Ventures, another Dan Gilbert organization and Bedrock’s parent company, to construct that county’s jail, presumably without sullying Bedrock’s name. How can one claim to not only celebrate inclusive design but create "inclusive experiences," while supporting the creation of one of the United States’ most powerful and inarguably racist tools of social and mortal death?  Perhaps the theme, "Inclusive Futures", says it all: a virtuous-sounding word like “inclusive” can itself often be so inclusive as to be virtually meaningless, a rhetorical throwaway. Because what is “inclusion”—and what “inclusive futures” are possible—without equity, without reparations, without an effort to shift the balance of political and economic power? While many grassroots projects and even larger scale ones featured in DD139 are compelling, worthy, and deserve the spotlight, with the ongoing efforts of the exhibition’s primary sponsor Bedrock to stymy state oversight, build jails, and get land cheaply, you wind up not only with misplaced good intentions—you get design washing. DD139 is on view in Detroit through September 30th. You can read more about the projects here.
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Clay Bae

Architectural terra-cotta is advancing in Buffalo, New York
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Now in its fourth consecutive year, the Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW) has reached a new level of maturity. The annual conference, hosted in Buffalo, New York, counted a total of nine teams hailing from leading architectural and engineering firms across the country. For attendees, the gathering is an opportunity to part the veil behind the architectural terra-cotta manufacturing process, experiment with new concepts, and physically transform them into full-scale prototypes.  The collaborative project is the product of an ongoing partnership between manufacturer Boston Valley Terra Cotta (BVTC) and the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning (UB/a+p); engineering firm Walter P Moore served as an additional sponsor for the event. Buffalo, New York is home to a broad range of 20th-century architectural heritage. It should then come, perhaps, as no surprise that BVTC made its bones in the field of architectural preservation. The company, originally founded in 1889 as Boston Valley Pottery, was purchased by the Krouse family in 1981 who converted the operation into a manufacturer of architectural components. Beginning with local restoration projects such as Louis Sullivan's Guaranty Building, BVTC has since partnered with UB/a+p in the use of digital documentation to mass-produce historic architectural pieces. The use of digital design has facilitated BVTC's ascent in the field of custom terra-cotta assemblies; current projects range from Kohn Pedersen Fox's (KPF) supertall One Vanderbilt to Morphosis's Orange County Museum of Art The teams were made up of new attendees and familiar faces who had developed their prototype concepts in the months leading up to the conference. The prototypes largely followed the ACAW statement of intent, which encouraged an exploration of the intersection between ceramic furniture and cladding. Projects ranged from SHoP Architects' self-supporting structure formed of interlocking terra-cotta units to KPF's manipulation of geometry and glaze embedded atop a concrete panel. There was also a significant alteration to the overall procedure of the conference. Andy Brayman, founder of the Kansas City ceramics collaborative Matter Factory and past ACAW attendee, recently partnered with BVTC to develop the company's first off-site Research & Development Lab within his own facility. "This strategy is helpful when taking on the ACAW projects which by their very nature contain at least one element (and often several) that could be considered experimental," said Brayman. "The bulk of the technical know-how comes from BVTC and it is augmented by research that has been done at the Matter Factory. Taking the projects out of the main factory that is focused on the production of existing jobs allows a different dynamic to take place." The conditions present at the BVTC are effectively replicated at the Kansas City collaborative as the gas-fired kilns are produced and calibrated by the same Italian manufacturer. Keynote speakers, many of them also workshop attendees, included Andy Brayman;  Dr. William M. Carty, a ceramics professor at Alfred University; Billie Faircloth, partner at KieranTimberlake; Sara Lopergolo, partner at Selldorf Architects; Sameer Kumar, director of enclosure design at SHoP Architects; Jason Vollen, vice president High Performance Buildings AECOM. What is the overarching goal of this annual earthenware gathering? According to UB/a+p associate professor and conference organizer Omar Khan, "ACAW’s ambition is to make Western New York a recognized center for architectural ceramic research. It is the only one of its kind and we feel that it will influence design and innovation in terracotta usage. From this year’s success, we are already receiving many inquiries to participate next year but our intention will be to internationalize the participants to some extent. This will put other issues and traditions in the mix, which we feel will help us better address more global concerns." Let's see what the future has in store for this corner of the Empire State.
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Let the Sunshine In

The leaking Oculus skylight will cost another $200K to fix
Port Authority officials are currently working on repairing the damaged Oculus skylight at the Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center Transportation Hub. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have already spent at least $50,000 on waterproofing the $3.9 billion dollar Manhattan transit hub's glass ceiling, according to The Wall Street Journal, and are expected to spend another $200,000 on repairs.  The skylight consists of dozens of glass panels that run the 355-foot length of the Oculus's spine and are powered by a mechanical system with 130 motors that move each of the panels in sync, rather than as two static hemispheres. Officials believe that the retractable skylight began leaking on to the marble concourse in 2018 after a rubber seal that spanned the length of the roof ripped due to a system malfunction. As the software failed to work, workers were forced to repeatedly start and stop the program to get the skylight to open and close. Despite sealing the ring around the skylight with water-resistant tape, the agency expects to spend more on sealing the skylight with an actual waterproof membrane instead of a stopgap.  The feature is designed to open each year during the September 11 commemoration, envisioned by Calatrava as a symbol of a dove being released from a child’s hand. The architect's initial proposal required that the entire roof pivot open but that idea was nixed after the building's soaring budget doubled from the initial $2 billion dollar estimate.  One Port Authority spokesman said last Thursday that the agency is conducting an engineering analysis on how to permanently repair the skylight. “While that analysis is ongoing, we are taking prudent steps to better protect the skylight with a more durable barrier system,” he said.  City officials had anticipated the skylight would be able to open for the 2019 memorial, however, it remained closed for the first time since the building opened in 2016.
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Developing the Desert

Arizona activists oppose new 12,000-acre Benson development
The town of Benson in southeastern Arizona is set to acquire another Tuscan-style housing development, golf courses and all, made possible in the wake of the Trump administration's repeal of the 2015 “Waters of the U.S” act. The new development would be within arm’s reach of the San Pedro River, a body of water vital to the state’s desert ecosystem, and currently threatened by rising temperatures and a lowering water table.  Mike Reinbold is the man behind this master plan, a lead developer at El Dorado Benson LLC. While he insists that the 12,000-acre, 28,000-home development will have no effect on the region’s water supply, environmental groups are poised to sue. Benson currently has a population of about 5,000 people, sprinkled around a landscape of open, rolling hills and brush on the banks of the San Pedro. The proposed development, called Villages at Vigneto, promises to “dredge-and-fill” the site to reach a population target of 70,000.  Yet the most potentially effective piece of legislation to block construction is set to be obsolete as early as January 2020. Reinbold is optimistic about the repeal, telling The Arizona Republic that, “If there's no 'Waters of the U.S.,' by default, you don't need a permit. Thereby, the permit is no longer needed and is no longer valid. It gets put on a shelf.” El Dorado Benson has amassed a coalition to fight for his interests, a politically connected group that includes Vice Mayor Joe Konrad, who spoke at a news conference for the newly organized Southwestern Communities Coalition. “We’re here to join together as a united force, to push back against the outsiders, who will pretty much stop at nothing to impose their agenda upon us. We will stand against the evil that masquerades as environmental activism.”  However, local environmentalists are ready for a fight, as they have been working to block development in this particular community since 2006 when a permit was first acquired by a previous developer. Robin Silver, cofounder of Tucson’s Center for Biological Diversity, commented on the loosening of the Clean Water Act, saying, “Under the guise of private property rights, they think that they can go ahead and destroy public treasure. We’re losing the San Pedro, and there’s no federal advocacy to help us.” Called ‘The Center’ for short, it is just one group involved in the battle. Other organizations including the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance, the Sierra Club, the Tucson and Maricopa Audubon Society, and the Cascabel Conservation Association have pledged their support to conserve the public lands and groundwater supply. While these organizations have been labeled “fearmonger activists” by Konrad, the resounding voice is simply summed up by Silver: “When you’ve got a gigantic development, you have to look at all of the effects.” 
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A Case for Cable

Gondolas over Jerusalem spark international controversy
The Holy City of Jerusalem is known for its hilly geography and the narrow, winding roads that delineate distinct Jewish, Arab and Christian neighborhoods. The city fabric nonetheless requires both visitors and residents to cross borders, whether to see various holy sites or to get to the market.  Ronnie Ellenblum, a sociology professor at Hebrew University, describes this Old City layout as requiring “that you pass through all sorts of places before you reach your destination, mingling, feeling lost, ultimately finding yourself.” However, this feeling of self-discovery in the Old City is set to be altered; Israeli authorities have approved plans for a cable car system that would fly visitors high above the city skyline, with lines corresponding specifically to Jewish heritage pilgrimage routes.  While Moshe Safdie, the renowned Israeli-born architect, calls the project “A total outrage against a fragile city,” as well as “An aesthetic and architectural affront,” the criticisms go far deeper than just the unimaginatively modern glass-and-steel aesthetics. The locations for stations, and the sites and neighborhoods set to be serviced, boil down to be controversial choices from all angles within the context of the Holy City.  Right-wing Israeli leaders have hailed the concept as a sustainable solution to the problems of vehicular traffic in the city, congested by ever-increasing numbers of pilgrims and tourists. However, the current cable car plan curates a certain "City of David" program over the city, as large-scale urban planning and transportation has the power to fundamentally change how cities are traversed and dictate what people see, how they see it, and how it's remembered.  The plan includes a standard station architecture of raised glass boxes that would rest on pylons at high points and hills, beginning in a Jewish neighborhood, swooping downwards towards Mount Zion, and finally landing at the Western Wall.  The new transit system would fundamentally alter the visual experience of the ancient city, juxtaposing the low yellowed-brick walls with the ubiquitous international glass box aesthetic, rising high above them and crisscrossing the streetscape. The architect of the station, Mendy Rosenfeld, believes it’s a matter of taste and execution, but also admits that “there is no way you can hide a cable car system.” Rosenfeld and supporters of the design cite I.M. Pei’s famous pyramid at the Louvre, and specifically the backlash the design received in advance of its international recognition. Yet Paris is not the crossroads of three major religions.  While Israeli governments have historically been hypersensitive to aesthetic changes to the city, the current body is taking a more progressive stance towards the built environment. With approvals for 40-story skyscrapers as well as a new office park, it seems like city officials are interested in keeping up with other rapidly growing commercial cities. But the choices in taste and architectural style continue to dominate not just architecture conversations, but international politics. Whether it’s traditional Jewish West Jerusalem cladding or shiny glass-and-steel pavilions, the choices in how the world sees and experiences the built environment today have implications far beyond form and function. 
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No Money, More Problems

Architecture Billings Index dipped to record lows in August
Looks like nonresidential construction in the United States has dipped yet again to record lows. Per the AIA’s monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI), the demand for design services on commercial, industrial, and mixed practice projects has fallen from a score of 50.1 in July to 47.2 in August. The ABI gives architects a glimpse into what the construction industry will look like a little less than a year from now. When the ABI falls below 50, that means billings have decreased from the prior month and helps the industry understand where to look for new work and of what kind. In May, AN reported on what was then the largest contraction the U.S. has seen in over two years: from February to March, the ABI fell from 47.8 to 50.3. The drop in the most recently-issued index is even larger. “The sizeable drop in both design billings and new project activity, coming on the heels of six months of disappointing growth in billings, suggest that the design expansion that began in mid-2010 is beginning to face headwinds,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker in a statement Calculated every three months, the average regional statistics for August showed that there was an increase in billings across the West with 51.2, but individual decreases in the Northeast (49.1), South (48.2) and Midwest (46.4).  Per sector—also broken down quarterly—the Architecture Billings Index revealed that institutional and multi-family residential work saw slight increases with 50.6 and 50.5 respectively. Commercial/industrial projects dropped to 46.9 and mixed practice projects fell to 46.3.  Furthermore, the Project Inquiries index for August was 54.5 and the Design Contracts index was 47.9.
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Neighborhood of the Moving Image

Bjarke Ingels designs an Astoria film production campus for Robert De Niro
It's no secret that New York's film and television industry is booming, or that there's been a recent real estate push for investment in spaces for the creation of shows, movies, and more. Robert De Niro has thus enlisted the help of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to design a “vertical village” for film in Astoria, Queens. Initial renderings were released this week, unveiling a 650,000-square-foot facility dedicated to film, television, and AR/VR atop the former home of a Steinway & Sons Piano Storage Facility. The $400 million project was first announced in July when a group of investors, including the actor and his son, purchased the five-acre plot along Steinway Creek in the northwestern edge of Queens. Promising to bolster the city's fast-growing production economy and provide over 1,000 daily union jobs, Wildflower Studios will be a “true destination film campus,” said Adam Gordon, president of the company, in an interview with The New York Times BIG’s grand vision for the grounds, sited at 87 19th Avenue, so far includes a singular structure that will house interconnected spaces for offices, production-support, stages, and lounges. Because the building will be located within a rather industrial part of Astoria and overlooks part of the East River, Wildflower is required to provide public water access and land conservation where necessary.  In a statement, Bjarke Ingels said the spatial constraints made it tricky to design the project: “We were challenged by Wallflower to distill all the physical, logistical, technical and experiential aspects of film production into a one of a kind vertical village for film."  Most studios in the city, from Steiner in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Silvercup in Long Island City, are located on large plots of land within warehouses that have long-existed as the homes of manufacturing outlets. These unassuming properties include open floor plates, ample oversized doors and elevators, as well as little access to light—perfect for film production. BIG's design for Wildflower is clearly seeking to strike a different tone as it uses natural light spilling in from exterior cutouts, greenery scattered from the lobby to the lounge, and views of the adjacent water. For De Niro, this strategic focus on design symbolizes the studio's commitment to production spaces where creatives want to work and are proud to be every day. “Completion of this project ensures that future generations of producers, directors, writers, and storytellers will play a vital role in filmed entertainment in New York for years to come,” he said in a press release. So far, no date for completion has been announced but the plans are now being filed with the New York City Council. 
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Fat Pockets

The MTA proposes its largest capital plan ever
Signal modernization, line extensions, and upgraded subway cars may not sound like riveting headline news, but the recently released blockbuster $51.5 billion Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) budget proposal is targeting the woeful state of New York City's public transportation network. If approved, the MTA’s 2020-2024 capital plan projects a 70 percent jump in funding from the previous budget cycle.  The capital plan was proposed on the heels of major criticisms of the city’s subway system. In 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the subway system after an A train derailed in upper Manhattan. Other common complaints included delayed service, overcrowded cars, and sweltering platform temperatures. Accordingly, well over half of the funds have been allocated for the subway system alone.  The program made major promises to MTA riders, including faster service, 70 new ADA accessible stations, and the completion of the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway. More specifically, the capital plan committed to modernizing signaling for 50 percent of passengers by reaching 11 train lines, and a total of 80 miles in track replacement. The transit system could also see sweeping upgrades like 1,900 new subway cars, 2,400 new buses, and over $4 billion spent for station renewals.  The capital plan would require billions of dollars worth of concerted federal, state, and local funding. The plan asked for $3 billion in federal funds for the Second Avenue Subway alone, which President Trump has already tweeted his support for, seemingly unprompted (Governor Cuomo was puzzled and denied reaching an agreement with the federal government). Another $3 billion is expected each from state and city authorities. While Cuomo has already committed to sending the state funding, the Governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio have notoriously disagreed over who is responsible for paying for the subway’s state of disrepair. The capital plan faces a lengthy approval process, including an upcoming MTA Board review and a review by the Capital Program Review Board. A major portion of the funding, $15 billion, is expected to be generated from the newly approved, but yet to be implemented, congestion pricing in parts of Manhattan. 
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Rink On

Long-neglected North End of Central Park will get a $150 million revamp
The northern end of Central Park is slated to get a major upgrade by 2024. Today the Central Park Conservancy and the New York City Parks Department unveiled its plans for a $150 million restoration of the long-damaged landscape surrounding the Harlem Meer Envisioned by the conservancy’s design office, led by chief landscape architect Christopher J. Nolan, in collaboration with Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture | Design and Mitchell Giurgola, the project aims to repair the land, restore the local ecology, and revamp access to a new recreational facility that will replace the 53-year-old Lasker Rink and Pool. Built like a concrete box, the building has blocked views of the Harlem Meer towards the south and diminished the size of the 11-acre landscape since it opened in 1966.  The project is the final piece of the puzzle that is the conservancy’s 40-year renewal plan to update Central Park. In 2016, the group completed restored the Ravine landscape next door to the Lasker Rink, and the Loch watercourse in the North Woods. Pedestrian circulation was improved, infrastructure was updated, and the deteriorating rustic bridges and stone steps that populated the landscape were rebuilt.  The design team wants to build upon that project by further enhancing access to all the recreational activities available at this end of the park. By removing the rink building, they will build a new, sustainable, light-filled facility that shows off the surrounding landscape rather than obstructing it. The building will be embedded into the topography of the site along its eastern slope and feature a green roof that doubles as a pathway and gathering place. It will boast views of the park, pool, and rink below, which will be lowered slightly than its existing location and reshaped into an elongated oval to maximize its impact on the site.   All of these design moves, big and small, will allow for water from the Ravine to flow more easily into the Meer. Visitors will be able to observe this transition as they walk around a curvilinear boardwalk that extends over the freshwater marsh and across a series of small islands. Other upgrades to the project will include a new pool deck, bathrooms, locker rooms, and concessions area.  Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2021.
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Story Time

A first look inside the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial
Now in its third iteration, the Chicago Architecture Biennial will open to the general public on Thursday, September 19. The show's main venue, the Chicago Cultural Center, has once again been filled with large installations, multimedia displays, and extensive texts. What you will not see, diverging from the last two installments, are the extensive architectural models, renderings, and full-scale mock-ups. This year's show, curated by Yesomi Umolu, Sepake Angiama, and Paulo Tavares has a distinctly different feel than most architectural shows. Entitled "...and Other Such Stories," the curatorial team opted for research-heavy content focusing on social justice, equality, and civic activism. Most of the 80+ contributors come from urban studies and activism fields, with only a handful calling themselves architects. The exhibition will be on show from September 19th through January 5th at the Chicago Cultural Center and a number of other sites around the city.
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Taking Titles and Stealing Views

Central Park Tower tops out to become the world's tallest residential building
The 1,550-foot-tall Central Park Tower is officially the tallest residential building in the world. After topping out earlier this week, the Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture-designed structure now stands nearly complete at 217 West 57th Street, higher than any of its neighbors on Manhattan's Billionaire’s Row.  It’s the second project on that strip of premiere Midtown Manhattan real estate from Extell Development Company, the minds behind Christian de Portzamparc’s One57. The latter project became the first supertall condominium on the street in 2016. Since the original unveiling of that design in 2005, over eight similar projects have popped up and are now either finished or under construction along or near West 57th Street. As the latest to top out, Central Park Tower has broken the height record set by Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue, with 131 floors. Though largely residential and boasting 179 luxury condos, Central Park Tower—with its glass-clad facade and stainless-steel, pinstripe-like fins—will feature a seven-story Nordstrom flagship store at its base and three floors of amenities for apartment owners. Spanning a total of 50,000 square feet, these areas include an outdoor terrace with a pool, a wellness center with an indoor pool, and a ballroom and cigar bar on the 100th floor (without a pool, sorry).  At 300 feet above the street, the tower cantilevers slightly to the east and then nearly all the way up to the top floor, allowing views of Central Park from the north-facing apartments. Looking up from the park below, the building has the appearance of a series of extremely thin, elongated towers stacked closely to one another. That design move was intentional to maximize those (multi)million-dollar views. Together, the sections created a textured look that gleams during the daylight in different ways. Despite its fancy features, the supertall project might suffer a similar sales fate like the other towers on Billionaire's Row. It’s been widely reported that 40 percent of the seven buildings in the area are unsold simply because they are too expensive and the Midtown market isn't as favored as some Lower Manhattan or even Brooklyn developments. There's one sign, though, that this could be changing: 220 Central Park South by Robert A.M. Stern recently passed $1 billion in sales according to 6sqft, largely thanks to the close on its $238 million penthouse by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin. Until Central park Tower hits its expected sellout of over $4 billion, 220 Central Park South will remain the most expensive residential building in the United States.  In an interview with Justin Davidson published this week in New York Magazine, Gordon Gill said that, apart from being another competitive project on Billionaire's Row, Stern’s building posed another challenge for the architects from the beginning. It sits directly in front of Central Park Tower and boasts closer views of the sprawling landscape below. 
“It’s like being at the theater; if everyone’s in rows trying to see the stage, nobody can see anything at all,” said Gill. “The solution is to stagger the seats. When we moved the tower off-center to get better retail spaces, we discovered an opportunity to capture incredible direct and oblique views. That’s why the building is stepped and staggered in every direction — north, south, east, and west — walking all the way up to 1,550 feet. If you look at this building from a distance, it has a strong ethos and a sense of stability. On the other hand, there’s a lot of movement. The trick was managing all that activity without getting overly effusive.”