Search results for "east"

Placeholder Alt Text

A Bit Off the Top, Please

Court ruling against Upper West Side tower could take down 20 floors
A striking New York State Supreme Court ruling may force the developers of an Upper West Side condo tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue to scale back their soaring design by 20 floors. While developments of this kind are often modified in the planning phase in order to comply with zoning regulations, this case has a twist: Construction of the 668-foot building is nearly complete. Last Thursday, Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry ordered that the New York City Department of Buildings revoke the building permit for the development at 200 Amsterdam as well as demolish all floors that exceed zoning restrictions. The exact number of floors slated for removal remains unclear, but The New York Times reports that it could be 20 or more, depending on the final interpretation of the zoning laws. That’s quite a trim for a 52-story building. 200 Amsterdam, designed by Elkus Manfredi, occupies the lot where the original Lincoln Square Synagogue stood. In 2013, the synagogue moved to an updated building designed by CetraRuddy right next door, and renderings of the luxury condo high-rise first appeared in 2016. UWS community activists have viewed the project with contempt over the past few years, and many celebrated the ruling as a feat for community organizing. “We are very gratified that after a long fight, the gerrymandered zoning lot at 200 Amsterdam has been declared illegal. This groundbreaking decision averts a dangerous precedent that would have ultimately affected every corner of the city,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), in a press statement. In a statement to AN, developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan defended their vision for 200 Amsterdam and indicated plans to appeal the ruling:
“This ruling is a shocking loss for New York City and its residents. It defies more than 40 years of precedent in the city’s zoning laws. It also ignores the thoughtful decision of the DOB to grant the permit which was upheld by the BSA following exhaustive document review and testimony over a two-year period. Both of those decisions recognized that retroactively applying new interpretations of the city’s zoning to previously approved projects undermines the stability of the regulatory environment needed to support the investment that is critical to New York City’s economy, tax base, housing stock and services.  We will appeal this decision vigorously in court and are confident that we, and the City, will prevail on the merits.”
While the retroactive trimming of a nearly-finished tower is certainly unusual, it is worth noting that New York has seen this situation before—in 1991, a New York developer was forced to tear down the top 12 floors of a 31-story residential tower at 108 East 96th Street five  whole years after it was built. This marked the most severe consequence a New York developer had ever faced for zoning violations; the NYT reporting from 1991 claims that developers of the project repeatedly blamed the violations on an “error in a city map.” The immediate future of 200 Amsterdam remains unclear, but the potential of a partial demolition presents a unique set of challenges, especially with some of the most profitable units located on the upper floors.
Placeholder Alt Text

Conflicts of Interest

Cooper Hewitt director and six trustees resign over wedding controversy
Caroline Baumann, director of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, resigned from her post last week after internal controversy arose over her 2018 wedding. According to The New York Times, an investigation conducted by the Smithsonian’s inspector general dove into the amount of money Baumann paid for a custom-made wedding dress, as well as the procurement of her East Hampton, New York, wedding venue—both acquired through potential conflicts of interest in the eyes of the design museum’s governing body.  Some background: All museums under the Smithsonian umbrella are partially funded by the United States government and, like all government jobs, its employee code of conduct states that “employees shall not solicit or accept any gift from any source that is, or appears to be, offered because the employee holds a Smithsonian position or may have influence within the Smithsonian.” The probe into Baumann’s wedding began after an anonymous staff complaint was filed over concerns on two aspects of Baumann’s nuptials. In September 2018, Baumann married branding consultant John Stewart Malcolmson in a $750 silver wedding dress which investigating agents believed, according to NYT, to be a heavily-discounted price that she negotiated using her status as head of Cooper Hewitt. According to Brooklyn-based designer Samantha Sleeper who made the piece, she did not give Baumann a discount nor did Baumann request a discount, even though her dresses start at a rate of $3,000. Sleeper denied the claim that Baumann used her status to procure the gown and insisted the low-dollar amount was standard for the cocktail-style dress which she had purchased. The other issue the agents looked into involved where Baumann and Malcolmson held their wedding; a 16-acre sculpture garden on Long Island founded by textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen. The property, LongHouse Reserve, won a Cooper Hewitt Award in 2015. Per multiple sources, Larsen and Baumann are good friends and he offered up the site for her to use free of charge. NYT noted that Larsen’s nonprofit of the same name has freely used Cooper Hewitt conference rooms for board meetings, an exchange that also drummed up concern within the Smithsonian.   Baumann reportedly stepped back from her directorial role over the claims, despite opposition from the museum’s board of trustees. In the aftermath, six of its 27 members resigned over the weekend from their posts, including architect David Rockwell. NYT reported that artist Judy Francis Zankel, the board secretary, wrote in her resignation letter that the way Baumann was treated “violates every principle of decency.”  “I feel that remaining on the board tacitly condones this behavior,” she continued. Zankel went on to question whether there was a “touch of misogyny” in Baumann’s forced ousting. “Can you imagine all this brouhaha about a dress and a wedding directed toward a man in the same position?”  The specifics of these accusations are especially confusing given Baumann’s success within the institution since she started working there in 2001. After being appointed director in 2013, Baumann supervised the museum’s rebranding by Pentagram and oversaw the $91 million renovation of its Carnegie Mansion home by Gluckman Mayner Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle. Diller Scofidio + Renfro completed its internal exhibition design in 2014 and the following year, the museum’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden reopened to the public. The massive project resulted in widespread praise for the 123-year-old institution. Over email, the museum confirmed Baumann’s departure and announced Dr. John Davis, Smithsonian Provost, as Cooper Hewitt’s interim director: “Baumann has been a passionate voice for design, and much was accomplished during her tenure."
Placeholder Alt Text

The Ignored Realm

Rem Koolhaas sets a global non-urban agenda with Countryside at the Guggenheim
In both pre-Christianity Rome and China, the countryside was a place of retreat where those seeking respite from the bustle and grime of the city would go for rest, relaxation, and creative inspiration. The Chinese founders of Taoism called this freedom and wondering Xiaoyao, while Roman philosophers referred to time away as Otium: and idealized existences—from off-the-grid hippy utopias to the peaceful bliss of Arcadia—have continued to crystallize in the natural landscapes of the rural. Contemporary ideas around wellness, mindfulness, ayahuasca startup retreats, and glamping at Burning Man fill the same role in our society as a full-circle return to pre-industrial, pre-capitalist, nature-centric lifestyles that are paradoxically a product of our neoliberal consumerist culture and sold as an antidote to it. This lineage, from the beginning of western civilization and ancient eastern philosophy to 21st-century marketing culture, is just part of Rem Koolhaas’s ten-year transcultural, transhistorical research and analysis of non-urban territories, or what he calls the “ignored realm.” On view at New York’s Guggenheim Museum through August 14, Countryside: The Future is a project of Koolhaas, AMO director Samir Bantal, and Troy Conrad Therrien of the Guggenheim. The show fills the museum’s entire main rotunda. It is meant to upend traditional notions of the countryside by investigating the places where the influence, as well as the oddities, normally associated with the urban can be found outside the city. If, at one time in the not-so-distant past, the countryside was an idyllic place where each human had a role, Koolhaas posits that the “romantic” landscape of creek beds, hillsides, and family farms is now unrecognizable as a stable, human-centered place, but rather a hyper-efficient, inorganic, non-place where Cartesian technological systems define life. The show reverses course on much of what we have come to accept as the baseline for thinking about development. Take that famous statistic: by 2050, 70- to-80 percent of humanity would live in cities. “Are we really heading for this absurd outcome, where the vast majority of humanity lives on only 2% of the earth’s surface, and the remaining 98%, inhabited by only one-fifth of humanity, exists to serve cities?” Of course, Rem is not the first person to do research on the rural. But he has the resources (5 partner schools and AMO), the storytelling ability, and the platform (an entire museum in NYC) to reorient the conversation, as he has on other topics such as cities, Dubai, and toilets. The exhibition starts outside the museum, with a tractor next to a small, high-tech indoor tomato farm under pink lights that illuminate passing pedestrians. In the lobby, a requisite hanging sculpture in the rotunda is made from a bale of hay, an imaging satellite akin those used by Google Maps, and an underwater robot that kills fish threatening coral reefs. Land, sea, and even space are all implicated in this broad survey of the rural, as this sculpture sets the tone for the rest of the show, which launches into an outpouring of information. It is reminiscent of OMA/AMO publications Content, Volume, or the Elements exhibition and books, as visitors are greeted by a wall text of 1,000 questions posed by Koolhaas. Nearby is a table showcasing publications that provided context: The Red Book and the Great Wall, The Future of the Great Plains, Golf Courses of the World, and a German publication about Muammar al-Gaddafi. At the core of the show, the Guggenheim’s iconic ramp houses a set of themed vignettes. ‘Political Redesign’ is a catalog of ‘heroic’ 20th-century geopolitical operations, ranging from the founding of several United States federal agencies during the Dust Bowl, to German Architect Herman Sörgel’s plan to unite Europe and Africa by lowering the level of the Mediterranean Sea and building a bridge over the resulting span. Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and the evolution of the Jeffersonian grid from squares to circles are also highlights. Countryside then moves away from these governmental models into more polyvalent experiments with nature, technology, politics, planning, and preservation. Many of these we might normally associate with the urban, such as the anarchist community in Tarnac, France that was raided by police in 2008 but is now home to an informal university hidden in the forest. There are also glimpses of rural China, most beautifully Taobao Live, Alibaba’s live streaming channel that allows sellers in the countryside to broadcast their produce and foodstuffs to audiences in the cities. Arcosanti, afro-futurism, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative are among the other kaleidoscopic ways that the narrative extends beyond industrial farming into a host of other social and political spheres. Working through contemporary preservation methods, proposals, and scenarios, including a curious example from Siberia where valuable mammoth tusks are becoming exposed in the ground by climate change and creating new economies for local, amateur “archaeologists,” the exhibitions closes on ‘cartesian euphoria,’ a kind of paranoiac-critical reading of the technologies and systems that are rearranging nature and politics in the countryside, complete with a full-scale installation of a PhenoMate, a cutting-edge farming tool that uses machine learning to identify which plants in a nursery bed photosynthesizing the most, and selectively breeds stronger strains without genetic modification. The show operates politically in a context where the countryside, and those who live in it are a marginalized group, at least culturally. Urban elites deride rural areas as many things, most out-of-touchedly as “fly-over states.” After a decade or more or the architectural world focusing on cities and urban areas as the main spaces of inquiry, Rem’s turn to the countryside —most likely born from a desire to look where most others are not— and his ability to show the public that the so-called hinterlands are a place where not only are some of the most important agricultural, industrial, and social mechanisms of society operating, but it is also where many of the interesting intersections of experimental politics, economics, engineering, and social relationships are taking place. To ignore the rural because we don’t agree with the politics of those who live there, or think that their culture is not sophisticated is not only missing out on experiencing a countryside beyond a luxury faux-rustic retreat, but it is also disregarding the fact that the countryside and the city are and always will be inextricably linked, as elucidated by a brilliant provocation that cities have become stuck in “frivolity,” while supported by complex, managed landscapes in the countryside. For example, urbanites underneath London’s ArcelorMittal Orbit leisurely eat ice cream brought in from factory farms in the outskirts. It is also a show with a decidedly top-down lens on the countryside. Some will not like the relative lack of representation of small-scale communities in the show, but the acknowledgment of systems and technology is an important way of seeing these territories. Had the curators included more grassroots narratives, it likely would have watered down the larger, geopolitical stories being told, and the show is better off for staying focused on larger-scale issues rather than getting into the folk aspects of the countryside, which would be more predictable and less compelling. Countryside is definitely a magazine- or book-on-the-wall type of exhibition, but not in a bad way. The texts are snappily written in typical Koolhaasian style, and there are not too many complex maps or charts, making the exhibition feel more like a journalistic analysis of what is interesting about the countryside, not necessarily a theoretical treatise or prescriptive path forward. It could be read as a transformation of the museum into a publication, a curatorial strategy that upturns not only our ideas about the Guggenheim but about how to leverage a hyper-didactic exhibition into an aesthetic experience.  The show is literally distorted by the Guggenheim’s double-curved surfaces, spiraling ramp, and constantly shifting vantage points, with a string of text spiraling around the underside of the ramps like a dizzying thesis statement, always to be revisited. If there is a sticking point, it is that the aesthetic of the exhibition will be familiar to many, as it harkens back to previous OMA/AMO publications. Koolhaas has long collaborated with Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom, who created a custom Countryside typeface for the show, which resembles both handwriting and her Neutral typeface used throughout. In an exhibition that is really a publication, typefaces matter, and the familiar layouts and fonts make the exhibition seem more like the work of a signature architect or firm, not a global coalition. No, but seriously, folks, go see the show! Taschen has published an accompanying publication, available for 24.95 online or at the gift shop.
Placeholder Alt Text

Next stop, Hitsville

Detroit’s Motown Museum teases expansion in new flyover video
Detroit’s Motown Museum has reached out by releasing a flyover video that gives the first good look at its $50 million expansion in hopes that we’ll (eventually) be there. And although there ain’t nothing like the real thing, the teaser video showcases the under-construction museum in its full glory. “It’s such a thrill for us to give the world this fresh visual of what our expanded campus will look like when construction is completed,” Robin Terry, chairwoman and CEO of the Motown Museum, told Detroit News. “The dynamic format for this aerial ‘flyover’ video means you can experience the project in a way that even the most detailed plans and renderings cannot—bringing the expansion to life in a way that makes you feel like you’re there. This preview also illustrates how the museum will offer unique programming, a collaborative space for the community to gather and one-of-a-kind experiences that no other institution can match.” As previously reported, the museum expansion, which broke ground in September of last year, was designed by the late Phil Freelon of Perkins and Will. Most notably, the North Carolina-based Freelon led the design team behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as other museums dedicated to civil rights and the black experience. For the Motown Museum expansion, Freelon collaborated with Detroit’s Hamilton Anderson Associates. “Motown introduced a brilliant collection of voices and stories across racial, generational, and cultural lines,” said Zena Howard, a managing director at Perkins and Will, in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “The expansion of the Motown Museum will carry these voices even further.” When complete, the museum, which is currently located in the original Motown home offices/studios on West Grand Boulevard, will feature an additional 50,000 square feet of interactive exhibition space, performance venues, recording studios, community gathering areas, retail space, and more. The first phase will mostly involve renovating and connecting the existing museum buildings, and is the first of four. The sprawling new museum complex will be connected to Hitsville U.S.A., the name of Motown Records’ historic hit-producing compound. In effect, the expansion will create a sprawling cultural campus in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood. Currently, three of the seven original Motown-affiliated residential homes lining West Grand Boulevard make up the present-day museum. Motown mogul Berry Gordy purchased the first Hitsville home in 1959. In 1972, Gordy moved the label’s headquarters from Detroit to Los Angeles. Esther Gordy Edwards, sister of Berry Gordon and former senior vice president of Motown Records, established the Motown Museum at the Hitsville site in 1985. It remains one of southeast Michigan’s top tourist attractions. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, the Motown Museum announced it had surpassed the halfway mark of its $50 million expansion fundraising campaign on the same day it premiered the new flyover teaser.
Placeholder Alt Text

Forever Young (& Ayata)

Young & Ayata builds practice through discipline
The following interview was conducted as part of “Building Practice,” a professional elective course at the Syracuse University School of Architecture taught by Molly Hunker and Kyle Miller (and is now an AN interview series). On October 10, 2019, Felix Samo and Tirta Teguh, students at Syracuse University, interviewed Kutan Ayata of the Brooklyn-based Young & Ayata. The following interview was edited by Kyle Miller and AN for clarity. Felix Samo and Tirta Teguh: We’ll start with an easy one… What does it mean to practice architecture? Kutan Ayata: Do we have three hours?! Actually, this is something I recently discussed at length in a lecture titled, “Practicing-Teaching.” These two modes of operation are inseparable for us, as well as for many of our colleagues who established their offices after the recession in 2008. We actually started our office three months before the recession… timed perfectly! We quickly realized that traditional practice was no longer going to be viable for us. So, our practice includes teaching, our teaching includes practice. They’re inseparable. Practicing architecture is pedagogical. It’s about an exchange of ideas. Because we are primarily supported by teaching salaries, we can be very selective when it comes to our practice. Our office is a space where we actively explore our evolving curiosities about architectural potentials without too much compromise. Was starting an office something that you always wanted to do or something that happened unexpectedly or circumstantially? It’s both. I always knew I wanted to have a practice of my own. Michael [Young] would say the same thing. We both worked for about eight years for others before starting our practice. The way we started was incredibly casual. Michael and I lived on 14th Street in Manhattan after we graduated. We met up one night for drinks and had an unplanned discussion about starting a firm. We studied at Princeton at the same time and we worked together at Reiser + Umemoto. We got along, and we enjoyed working together. At that time, forming a partnership was almost more of a social decision than a professional decision. The spirit of that moment is maintained—we enjoy working together which helps us stay motivated. The answer is “yes” to both parts of the question: the practice came about rather unexpectedly, but it was also very intentional. What was your experience of the financial crisis in 2008? How did it affect the way you and your peers practice? That was a defining moment. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have happened to us. We had real projects, real contracts, projects going into construction… and all that basically disappeared overnight. All of a sudden, no job, no income. It was obviously a moment to freak out. But we found ways to deal with the situation. That’s when I started teaching, which changed the way I look at the world. The crises gave us an opportunity to slow down and contemplate our position in the discourse of Architecture. We began developing self-generated speculative projects, which, to this day, serve as the conceptual basis for much of our work. Concerning success you’ve had as an architect and as an office, do you attribute these moments more to fortunate circumstances or to skill and perseverance? Again, both. Nothing happens without hard work. In this last 10 years, both of us have started families, had kids… our lives got more and more hectic. We have less and less time to work. Additionally, we often teach at multiple schools each year and every day of the week, which is not common, nor easy. Before Michael earned the tenure-track position at Cooper Union, he was jumping around quite a bit—sometimes teaching at three schools in three different states in one semester. We figured out a way to make our work time more efficient amongst all those scheduled pressures. Success doesn’t come without a tremendous amount of hard work, but it also doesn’t happen without luck. We’ve had some luck. But in this country, I still believe you’re rewarded for hard work. That’s what strikes me about living and working in the United States… value is assigned to sustained effort. Persistence is recognized here and that’s quite amazing. What was the experience of starting a firm in a country in which you didn’t grow up? When we started the firm in 2008, I had already been in the US for 14 years. I came right after high school. The US was my home at that point. Now I’m quite removed from the place I come from, in the sense of customs and business… it’s all very unfamiliar. I know my high school lingo in Turkish, but I don’t know how to operate there as an adult. Does where you grew up have an influence on your work, or have you been removed from where you grew up for so long that it does not affect the work? It’s hard to say. I’m sure it does in some deep psychological level. It’s been 25 years, and I’ve lived most of my life in the US now. But let’s unpack this. When I was in Turkey, I was a die-hard skateboarder, and I always wanted to go to California. I didn't quite make it that far, but I found a partner who's from California. I tried to come to the US during high school as well. I ended up in a really small town, which was very depressing. At that moment, I didn’t want to stay, but it was very clear to me that my future would be in the US. But where I come from certainly influences me. Exposure to certain conditions present in Turkey during the time I lived there definitely influence how I look at the world today. Do architects have the responsibility to engage global issues? You can’t escape them. But I don’t think architecture as a discipline is responsible for solving the world’s problems. There are other issues that we are immediately engaged with, that are more disciplinary and, to us, more important, at least from the perspective of an architect. I’d like to draw the line between a citizen and an architect. We have our politics, we have our interests, we know where we stand in terms of the issues. In the last 10 to 15 years, there are always voices within the discipline which claim a broader reach and an urgency to deal with political issues. We’re more interested in central disciplinary questions that operate through aesthetics, which has its own political agency. Your answer reminds me of something you said in your 2014 Architectural League of New York talk, when you claimed that architecture should be separate from politics. You said that “architecture is not contingent, it develops its logic internally and grows from disciplinary concerns.” Can you elaborate on that and share how this belief affects your work? The relationship between architecture and politics is intensifying, but we have remained focused on issues internal to our discipline as a way to ensure its continual evolution. For us, it’s most interesting to talk to other architects about architecture… to have deep discussions and debates about the pertinent and persistent architectural topics. Of course, architecture performs on a broader cultural platform once it’s out in the world, but we believe that we have a responsibility to imagine that we can use our knowledge and tools to create new worlds rather than simply reflect and accommodate the one in which we live. In many of your projects, there is a continuous translation between objects, drawings, and buildings. Where does this interest come from and how does it ultimately affect your work? Michael and I are stuck in-between architectural generations, which is simply a result of what was happening in architecture culture when we graduated from Princeton. We’re close friends and colleagues with the generation of architects above us—let’s call them digital formalists or the affect and sensation generation who focused on digital modeling, digital fabrication, and rendering—and the generation of architects below us, who are interested in things like figure, graphic expediency, and engagement, and who more commonly use physical models and collage. We're interested in the routines and techniques of both cohorts. When we completed graduate school, the digital project was winding down as it pertains to experimentation in an academic environment. Michael and I were never directly a part of the authorship of that project. We never rejected it, but we also weren't looking to dismantle it. We quickly realized that we were interested in engaging multiple contemporary mediums and modes of representation. We were operating through sketching, physical modeling, digital fabrication, lecturing, teaching, writing, etc. Our projects are intellectual pursuits as much as they are design speculations, and they are developed through and across each of those modes of operation. The combination of and translation between drawings, objects, and buildings is a way for us to combine unique mediums through which our aesthetic ideas mature. Can you talk about this approach to design in relation to your most recent project, DL 1310? How does the building embody conceptual studies that may have first appeared in drawings or objects? It’s important to recognize that we evaluate all mediums individually. Throughout the development of DL 1310, drawings did things for us that objects could not, and vice versa. Equally important to note is that a drawing of the project by itself doesn’t necessarily capture the entire idea of a project, nor does a model, nor does the building. Cumulatively, these three outputs are the project. In fact, I would argue that as much as we love to build, the building is a form of representation with the very least amount of freedom in terms of articulating the architectural idea. This is because the building must account for more than a drawing or a model… concern for cost, financing institutions, contractors, subcontractors—these things add more complexity. We don’t think about these complexities in relation to compromise, but we do recognize the addition of necessary forces beyond our control that claim partial authorship over the project. In DL 1310, the building is inspired by a range of drawings and objects we’ve produced over the years in addition to the ones produced for that project. It goes back to an answer I gave earlier. All of our projects, including DL 1310, are part of a body of work with an interconnected and evolving aesthetic sensibility. Regarding clients, who commissioned DL 1310? How did your relationship with the client impact the result? The project is a collaboration between our office and Michan Architecture. Michan Architecture is an office based in Mexico City that is led by a former student of mine, Isaac Michan Daniel. We kept in touch after he graduated and moved back to Mexico, where his father owns a development company and serves as a collaborator. He called us one day a few years ago and asked us if we’d like to collaborate on a small housing project. That's how it all started. It's a relationship that developed through teaching that became a friendship and now a collaboration. How does the office operate now? How many people do you employ? Right now, it’s just me, because Michael is in Rome. Well, today he’s in London, but he is away all year at the American Academy in Rome. What’s interesting is that I've seen him more frequently this fall than I last fall when we were both in New York. Our teaching schedules don't typically align so we're always communicating over the phone and through email. So, it’s actually not different this year with him living in Italy. We’re currently working on a competition and our shared comments are made on the internet. This is the reality of practice today, regardless of whether your office is distributed or operating in one place. That's how we’re managing projects right now. During the winter months, we rarely have anybody else in the office with us. In summer, we try to grow to four or six people for more intense production outside of the academic calendar. With a few exceptions, almost all of our projects have been completed during the summer months. What’s been the most rewarding moment in your practice thus far? The office is a place where I can go and explore ideas freely without the pressure of economic performance. Teaching affords us the opportunity to approach practice in this way. The space academia created for the practice is thrilling. It's an incredible luxury. To have time to think about issues that interest us and to speculate on the way in which they become architectural… that's the biggest reward. It’s incredible for Michael and me to have time to spend working on things that we love. For architecture, that's incredibly important. If you're working on a project that you're not interested in, you’re not likely to do a good job. We really enjoy the day to day activities of the office. Because of the way in which we are able to practice, we remain excited and optimistic about the future and our ability to make meaningful contributions to the world through design.
Placeholder Alt Text

A Lab, For Art!

Barkow Leibinger and Sasaki create a radiant, net-zero ArtLab for Harvard
The Berlin-based Barkow Leibinger, with the help of the Boston-based architect of record Sasaki, has created the adaptable, translucent ArtLab for Harvard. As the university expands across the river into Boston’s Allston neighborhood, they’ve been developing an ArtYard—a contemporary, arts-focused answer to the walled Harvard Yard in Cambridge. Barkow Leibinger’s brief was to create an adaptable, net-zero-energy building that offered space to meet the many programmatic needs of different disciplines working side-by-side. The 9,000-square-foot ArtLab is arranged in a pinwheel configuration, providing spaces for artmaking, research, classes, and performances. It also has studios for artists-in-residence, a sound lab and recording studios, and an open workshop in the building’s center. “We were designing the building, but also designing the programming,” explained Frank Barkow, cofounder of Barkow Leibinger. “Different programs had to be in close adjacency to each other: studios, workshops, film editing suites, those sort of things.” Previously, disparate creative fields were spread across the campus, many with limited space, said Barkow. In the ArtLab, “different arts are in close proximity to each other,” he said. “You've got fine artists working close to film, close to performance, close to dance. It was important that the ArtLab acting as an incubator with different creative practices in close proximity to each other.”  The ArtLab also had to be temporary, or at least portable. Made of a steel frame that’s been mechanically fastened and clad in insulated glass and polycarbonate panels, the building is not only lightweight in visual character, but in physical design. Placed on grade on a concrete slab, it can be quickly dis- and re-assembled as the spatial needs of the expanding campus evolve. “It’s what I call basic Kmart construction,” joked Barkow. “It’s open web, steel joints, glazing, polycarbonate, chipboard, plywood. It’s quite simple.” He added that the firm is used to designing factories and inflected the art building with an industrial element. “It’s robust. They can knock it around. They can beat it up. In a way, it’s much less precious than the historical buildings that make up much of the Harvard campus.”  While a polycarbonate envelope is common for industrial construction in Europe, it’s used less frequently in the United States, which was a challenge for the local architects of record. Sasaki undertook “a lot of research and testing,” according to Sasaki principal Lan Ying Ip. “To our knowledge, there has never been a net-zero building designed with a polycarbonate facade,” she said. Sasaki’s director of technical resources, Brad Prestbo, added that when working with the material “all the fundamental design moves that you normally make really have quite an impact on the overall performance of the envelope.” Sasaki also worked to create a custom system that could meet the solar heat metrics required by the energy model. And, not only is the continuous envelope well-insulated, but every aspect of the building is electric-powered by photovoltaic cells on the roof and requires no fossil fuels for heating. The polycarbonate was used throughout as both a barrier wall and as part of a rain screen assembly. “Oftentimes, the same piece of polycarbonate would transition between those two states,” explained Prestbo. The project had to use both opaque and transparent polycarbonate to hide mechanical elements and while creating an overall translucent effect, and making it appear as a “light box” at night. More than purely aesthetic, transparency is also a guiding conceptual feature. “[Harvard] wanted the building to be a kind of mediator between the neighborhood’s community and the campus,” explained Barkow. “It’s meant to be open. It's meant to be inviting. The public can come in and see what’s going on.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Keel Calm and Peep On

Court strikes down appeal in Tate Modern privacy battle
It appears to be high time for the beleaguered inhabitants of London’s Neo Bankside, a Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP)-designed luxury development located a little too close to the Tate Modern museum, to finally invest in window treatments. Neo Bankside’s four hexagonal towers, angular affairs constructed from steel and glass with exterior bracing that’s characteristic of RSHP, are located opposite the west entrance of the Tate Modern’s Herzog & de Meuron-designed extension. Dubbed the Blavatnik Building, the brick addition was completed to much fanfare in 2016 with its observation deck touted as a main attraction. Neo Bankside opened four years earlier in 2012. It didn’t take long after the extension opened for residents living in certain Neo Bankside apartments to sense that they were being watched—closely watched. In addition to sweeping panoramic views of London, hordes of Tate Modern visitors were enjoying glimpses of other things from the terrace. Per The Telegraph, one resident complained of needing to be “properly dressed” at all times, lamenting that it was impossible to enjoy a meal at his dining room table without a rapt audience watching from across the way. Another spoke of being “under surveillance” by museum-goers. A female claimant expressed that she no longer felt comfortable hosting birthday celebrations for her young daughter at home, adding: “I feel as though my life revolves around the viewing platform’s opening hours.” Other residents claim to have been filmed, photographed, waved at, taunted, put on social media, and been subjected to lewd gestures by Tate Modern visitors, some of them wielding binoculars. Despite what they called this, what they called a “relentless” invasion of privacy, five residents of Neo Bankside have now experienced yet another blow in an ongoing legal battle with the museum. Earlier this week, the residents lost an appeal that challenged a February 2019 ruling issued by the High Court in favor of Tate Modern. In that ruling, Justice Anthony Mann dismissed an injunction that would have forced the Tate Modern to prevent “hundreds of thousands of visitors” from peering straight into the residents’ multi-million dollar flats across from the wildly popular 10th-floor viewing terrace. Specifically, the injunction demanded that the Tate Modern install privacy screening or block public access to sections of the viewing platform with direct views into the apartments. As reported by The Guardian, Mann suggested that Neo Bankside residents take it upon themselves to halt the onslaught of voyeurism by simply lowering their solar shades, installing privacy film, or opting for good old-fashioned sheer curtains. “These properties are impressive, and no doubt there are great advantages to be enjoyed in such extensive glassed views, but that in effect comes at a price in terms of privacy,” the judge explained. He went on to note that residents had “created their own sensitivity” by purchasing luxury apartments with floor-to-ceiling windows in an increasingly crowded city. In the latest setback for the claimants, the appeal court sided with the previous ruling to throw out the injunction. “The court has dismissed the appeal on the basis that overlooking does not fall within the tort of nuisance,” explained master of the tolls Sir Terence Etherton. In the latest ruling, the Court of Appeal also refused the claimants’ application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. According to the ruling,
“Despite the hundreds of years in which there has been a remedy for causing nuisance to an adjoining owner’s land and the prevalence of overlooking in all cities and towns, there has been no reported case in this country in which a claimant has been successful in a nuisance claim for overlooking by a neighbour.”
Still, despite the most recent defeat, Natasha Rees, the head of property litigation at the law firm representing the five claimants, announced that the case was far from over. “The leaseholders are obviously very disappointed with the outcome of the appeal, not least because they lost on a ground raised by the court of appeal,” Rees told The Guardian. “This is not a case of ‘mere overlooking’ but a situation that can clearly be distinguished from the type of overlooking experienced between residential or commercial flats and houses, a fact that was accepted by the first instance judge.” A Tate Modern spokesperson said of the most recent ruling: “We have noted the decision of the court of appeal and are grateful for their careful consideration of this matter. We continue to be mindful of the amenity of our neighbours and the role of Tate Modern in the local community.”
Placeholder Alt Text

The Spirit of 78

Related reveals first phase of Chicago’s massive The 78 development
Related Midwest, the Chicago-based arm of New York real estate development firm Related Companies, has revealed concrete design details for the first phase of its The 78 project, a 62-acre “vibrant, mixed-use community” (according to the developer) that’s poised to transform a long-vacant riverside parcel along Chicago’s South Loop. A Related megadevelopment through and through, it’s tempting to compare this $7 billion built-from-scratch neighborhood—master-planned by Chicago’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill—as the Windy City’s answer to the shiny, supertall-stuffed Hudson Yards enclave that opened last year on the far western fringes of Manhattan. And there are myriad similarities, minus any climbable sculptures for now, anyway. Yet whereas at the heart of the critically walloped Hudson Yards was a luxury shopping mall and a Björk-christened arts center, the focal point of The 78, in its first phase at least, will be focused on research and innovation in the form of a world-class new home for the University of Illinois’ Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), which is part of the Illinois Innovation Network. In a press statement, Related Midwest credited DPI for helping to “set the stage for The 78’s future as a global technology and innovation hub.” Curt Bailey, president of Related Midwest, described the project as such:
“Our vision for The 78 is to create Chicago’s next great neighborhood. With a dynamic Phase 1 plan that includes DPI as its centerpiece, we’re showing how a 21st-century neighborhood, created from the ground-up and connected to so many exceptional areas, will bring new opportunities to all of Chicago. DPI’s organizational model will drive long-term innovation across critical growth industries and draw corporate tenants, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists— from across Chicago and around the globe  to The 78, where they will find top talent, groundbreaking research and new technologies that support future expansion.”
Joining the 50,000 square-foot DPI campus in Phase 1 will be 1.5 million square feet of office space spread across a mix of high-rise and “loft-style” buildings; 700,000 square feet of residential space, with 20 percent of that earmarked for affordable housing, and 100,000 square feet dedicated to eateries, shops, hotels, and fitness locations. Phase 1 also marks the beginnings of what will eventually amount to 12 acres of publicly-accessible green space woven throughout The 78. This includes 5 acres of Crescent Park, a curvy 7-acre urban refuge/outdoor recreation hotspot following the natural path of the Chicago River. Various infrastructural tweaks are set to begin within the next year as part of Phase 1. They include appending and renovating streets, as well as reconstruction of the Chicago River Seawall. Work is already underway on the Wells-Wentworth Connector, a pedestrian-centric main street of sorts with protected bike lanes that will link The 78 with adjacent neighborhoods. Envisioned as a southward extension of Chicago’s central business district, The 78}s name is a reference to the development’s future status as the newest community to join Chicago’s 77 established neighborhoods. As for the DPI's new home, the “state-of-the-art immersion facility” will be nestled on land donated by Related Midwest along the Chicago River between Crescent Park and bustling Wells Street on the Loop’s northern edge. STL Architects, the Chicago-based firm behind the DPI complex's initial conceptual renderings, noted that the building’s “distinct” design was directly inspired by its park-flanked riverfront location. Sporting a central atrium that will act as an indoor public square, the building is intended to foster social interaction between students, and the facility is expected to attract 2,000 of them annually from the U.S. and abroad. Per Related Midwest, academic activities at DPI will initially zero in on “applying the Illinois economy’s existing strengths in data analytics and computing to drive innovation in food and agriculture; environment and water; health and wellness; transportation and logistics; and finance and insurance.” In addition to creating 9,000 permanent jobs, Phase 1 of The 78 is expected to generate over 9,500 construction, trade, and professional services jobs. It’s slated for completion in 2024.
Placeholder Alt Text

Troubled waters

Greece floats plan for refugee-deterring sea wall
The Greek government has announced plans for a floating barrier in the Aegean Sea, meant to slow the movement of asylum-seeking migrants arriving on the country’s North Aegean Islands via boat from mainland Turkey. Envisioned as a sort of buoyant maritime version of the Trump Administration’s U.S.-Mexico border wall, the netted blockade would stretch 1.7 miles off the northern coast of Lesbos, Greece’s third-largest island and home to the notoriously ill-equipped and overcrowded Moria refugee camp. Per Reuters, the barrier could potentially extend over nine miles if the initial segment is found to be an effective deterrence tool by Greece’s Defense Ministry. Plans call for the floating wall to rise above sea level by nearly two feet and be topped with flashing lights so that it's visible in the dark of night. While there’s currently no clear start or completion date for the estimated $545,000 undertaking, The New York Times reports that the search for private contractors to erect the barricade is underway and a selection will be made within three months. Government officials are confident that a floating sea wall will successfully thwart refugees attempting to reach Greece’s northeastern islands, pointing specifically to a barbed wire-laden land barrier built along Greece’s northern border with Turkey in 2012 that officials believe has produced desirable results. “In Evros, physical barriers had a relative impact in curbing flows,” Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos explained to Skai Radio when the proposal was announced late last month. “We believe a similar result can be achieved with these floating barriers.” Although Panagiotopoulos is confident in the plan’s efficacy, the very idea of a refugee-blocking floating fence in the Aegean Sea has been met with swift condemnation from humanitarian groups and former government officials alike, many of which have criticized the idea as being potentially dangerous and likely ineffective—after all, small vessels carrying migrants can simply navigate around the barrier. “The idea that a fence of this length is going to work is totally stupid,” said Greece's former Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas. “It’s not going to stop anybody making the journey.” “This proposal marks an alarming escalation in the Greek government’s ongoing efforts to make it as difficult as possible for asylum-seekers and refugees to arrive on its shores and will lead to more danger for those desperately seeking safety,” warned Massimo Moratti, European research director with Amnesty International, in a press statement. “The government must urgently clarify the operational details and necessary safeguards to ensure that this system does not cost further lives.” Amnesty International notes that roughly 60,000 migrants, largely from war-torn Syria, arrived in Greece by sea in 2019, nearly double the number of arrivals in 2018. From January through October 2019, the International Organization for Migration recorded 66 deaths along maritime migration routes in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Placeholder Alt Text

Timber Takeover

France mandates public buildings be built with at least 50 percent timber
Instead of forcing a uniform style of federal architecture, French President Emmanuel Macron wants to go green with government-funded structures. The Times reported that after 2022, Macron is aiming for all new public buildings in France to be built with at least 50 percent wood or another bio-sourced material. Not only that, but the President has his sights set on creating 100 urban farms across the country in an effort to bolster its large-scale sustainability measures. Julien Denormandie, the French minister for cities and housing, said the move was inspired by Paris and its recent low-carbon mandate to build structures that are at least eight stories or higher for the 2024 Summer Olympics from timber. “If it is possible for the Olympics, it should be possible for ordinary buildings,” he said in a statement. “I am imposed on all the public entities that depend on me and which manage development to construct buildings with material that is at least 50 percent wood or from bio-sourced material.” Dominique Perrault’s master plan for the river-adjacent Olympic Village includes a series of mid-rise developments that comprise 2,400 units of housing, offices, shops, restaurants, and activity centers. Located in the lower-income neighborhood of Saint-Denis, most of the buildings will be passive or energy-plus structures that utilize wood or other sustainable materials. City Lab pointed out that Paris is using the international sporting event as a way to regenerate the inner suburbs of Northern Paris. The project broke ground on its 126-acre site in November. The push to use eco-friendly materials on big building projects has already started in other cities across France too. In Bordeaux, the country’s first mass timber residential tower is currently under construction as part of a three-structure development called Hyperion. Designed by Jean-Paul Viguier, the 187-foot-tall building will feature 16 stories of housing and office space built around a concrete core. Each floor, which cantilevers slightly over the one below it, will be made of cross-laminated timber. Hyperion is expected to open next year.  As France increases the build-out of these sustainable structures, the country is also boosting access to nature throughout the country’s densest urban enclaves. Denormandie said the first set of urban farms, a group of 30 locations, will be announced this summer. The government also wants to build 90 low-carbon “eco-neighborhoods” that can adapt to extreme weather events such as heatwaves and floods. A new group called France Ville Durable is spearheading the effort.  
Placeholder Alt Text

Minimal Me This

Feuerstein Quagliara puts its own twist on the traditional side-gable house
Deep within New York’s Catskills region, this reinterpreted American side-gable house casts an impressive profile. Set back on a 45-acre lot, the black-stained, pine-clad structure incorporates a diverse set of interior environments with expansive views of pastoral farmland. Brooklyn-based firm Feuerstein Quagliara implements a so-called “program bar” that makes the most of the site’s undulating perch and southern exposure. Extruded along an east-west axis, the house segments into six equal blocks: a guest bedroom, entry foyer, dining room, kitchen, living room, and master suite. As the more intimate bedrooms offset from the central array, residual alcoves and impromptu patios form within the core’s recesses. Tying the home together, the gabled roof evenly covers both indoor and outdoor spaces and creates a crystalline mass. Sliding glass doors maintain an even flow throughout the entire interior and forge a strong connection with the exterior. Anchoring both bedrooms on either side is a central communal core. This main, open-plan living space has large skylights and vaulted ceilings. Two Baltic birch kitchen islands float in the center of the space and delineate between a lounge and dining room on either side. A clever interplay of stark white walls, wooden built-ins, and polished concrete floors and countertops makes for a minimalist yet inviting interior scheme. The same contrast of materials and textures carries through to the home’s bathrooms, where custom wooden cube tubs sit pretty in the white-tiled volumes. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
Placeholder Alt Text

New York Clearing highlights the East River, with help from K-pop band BTS

British sculptor Antony Gormley’s large-scale installation at Brooklyn Bridge Park is now open to the public. New York Clearing (2020) consists of an 11-mile continuous “line” of square aluminum tubing that loops and coils without a beginning or endpoint. Standing nearly 50 feet at its tallest point, the sculpture welcomes visitors to interact with its swooping lines from a variety of perspectives, and walking through New York Clearing is encouraged. Born in London in 1950, Gormley has had a number of high-profile solo exhibitions of work that grapples with the relationship between self and spatial environment. “This is the first time that I have attempted to make Clearing without architectural support,” said Gormley in a press statement. “I am enormously excited about the opportunity of making this energy field in conversation with Manhattan across the waters of the East River. It can be seen as an evocation of human connectivity, a materialization of the energy of the people that view it and the people that made it.” Appropriately enough, the sculpture resembles a frenetic line drawing, with swoops and curves that flow into the Manhattan skyline. Gormley’s commission is part of CONNECT, BTS, a global art initiative launched by the Korean boyband BTS. The project aims to create a more connected world through collaboration with curators across five cities on four continents: London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seoul, and New York. Drawing from the work of 22 contemporary artists, CONNECT, BTS hopes to create a self-described “cross-pollination” between the visual arts and pop music under the artistic direction of independent Korean curator Daehyung Lee. Brooklyn Bridge Park President Eric Landau welcomed New York Clearing to Pier 3 on Tuesday, saying that “we have a long history of incredible art installations in the Park, and can’t think of a better place than Pier 3 for this amazing piece.” New York Clearing is on view at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 3 from February 5 to March 27, 2020. Viewing is free and open to the public.