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Curved, not Ponti

The Denver Art Museum announces itself with scalloped glass panels
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The Denver Art Museum is undergoing a significant expansion and overhaul led by design architect Machado Silvetti and architect-of-record Fentress Architects. The project includes the restoration of Gio Ponti’s glass tile-clad North Building and the construction of an entirely new, elliptical-shaped welcome center defined by a scalloped structural glass curtainwall. The site of the welcome center is not lacking in significant neighbors: Studio Libeskind’s expansion to the Denver Art Museum is located to the south, Michael Graves' addition to the Denver Central Library lies to the east, and Gio Ponti’s North Building to the northwest.
  • Facade Manufacturer Sentech Architectural Systems Oldcastle Building Envelope Vitro Guardian Northglass
  • Architect Machado Silvetti (Design Architect) Fentress Architects (Architect-of-Record)
  • Facade Installer Harmon Inc Saunders Construction (General Contractor)
  • Building Envelope Consultant Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
  • Location Denver, CO
  • Date of Completion 2020
  • System Custom Sentech System OBE HTC Reliance System
  • Products Vitro Solarban 60/72 Guardian SN 70/35
According to Andrea Kalivas Fulton, Deputy Director of the Denver Art Museum, "the primary objectives of the Denver Art Museum welcome center included creating a structure and spaces that would bring two very distinct, but disparate, buildings together to function as a true campus; to act as a counterbalance to the opaque, dense buildings we had built to house the artwork; and to serve as a beacon within the city that felt inviting and welcoming to all." A challenge for the design team was translating the civic ambitions of the client, and the cultural role of the museum within the region, into a facade strategy with a distinct identity that highlighted its surroundings without the visual hinderance of exposed fasteners and vertical mullions. For Machado Silvetti Principal Jeffry Burchard, “once this design concept was in place, the design team then went through many rounds of conversations with fabricators and installers in the process of realizing that full height curved IGUs, supported off of triple laminated glass fins connected to the second-floor cantilever was not only possible but the best and most efficient way to implement the concept.” In total, 52 glass panels enclose the welcome center. The panels have a universal width of 8 feet and a curve radius of 10 feet. Panel heights differ according to location; approximately two-thirds of the panels are 25-feet tall while those located along the clerestory are 5-feet tall.  To install the panels—the majority of which weigh 3,200 pounds—the installation team relied on a suction cup lifter with articulated mounts that conformed to the curved surfaces of the panels. The panels were hoisted by a team of eight and mounted onto the custom-fabricated facade system. “Each curved glass unit is supported at the top and bottom by a curved stainless-steel angle. These angles are supported by custom stainless-steel fittings that attach to triple-laminated, low-iron glass fins using stainless-steel bolts through holes drilled in the glass fins,” said Fentress Architects Principal and Director of Technical Design Ned Kirschbaum. “The glass fins are in turn point‑supported top and bottom with stainless steel bolts through drilled holes in the glass fins and connected back to the building’s primary steel structure through custom stainless-steel fittings.” The $150-million project includes a significant overhaul of Gio Ponti's castellated North Building, also led by Fentress Architects and Machado Silvetti. A significant component of the museum's overhaul is the repair of the building's facade, which is comprised of approximately one million glass tiles placed atop a concrete structure. Additionally, the design team will complete a roof terrace originally planed by Ponti but left incomplete due to budgetary constraints. Interior work includes a revamp of exhibition spaces as well as a new entrance. Denver Art Museum Deputy Director Andrea Kalivas Fulton, Machado Silvetti Principal Stephanie Randazzo Dwyer, and Fentress Architects Technical Design Director Ned Kirschbaum, will be joining the panel "Facade Strategies for Curatorial Institutions" at The Architect's Newspaper's upcoming Facades+ Denver conference on September 12.
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A Ring of Green

West 8 will redesign 11 miles of South Baltimore's waterfront
Dutch firm West 8 has beat out James Corner Field Operations and Hargreaves Jones for the chance to create an 11-mile-long stretch of parkland in South Baltimore. The winning proposal from the studio's New York office was chosen as part of the Middle Branch Waterfront Revitalization Competition, a city-backed plan to reengage locals with an underutilized section of the Patapsco River shoreline.  Located east of Westport and south of Port Covington across the river, the waterfront spanning from the existing Middle Branch Park will be expanded in the surrounding bay into a landscaped linear strip for recreational activities and observing wildlife. West 8 will partner with local teams from Mahan Rykiel and Moffat & Nichol on the multi-phase project, and figure out the best strategies to build a new green ring around the waterfront filled with piers, boardwalks, and other structures for performances and group gatherings.  Per the proposal, future phases will include converting the 103-year-old, Beaux Arts-style Hanover Street Bridge, which connects Middle Branch to Port Covington, into parkland as well. A new car-centric bridge will be built stretching from the planned Under Armour campus to Brooklyn, instead of Cherry Hill where Middle Branch Park is located. An artificial island will be built underneath it in the middle of the bay.  SouthBmore.com reported that in order to create this large ring of land, West 8 will redistribute dredge from a port nearby and place it further up the bay where it will eventually help form marshlands and other wetland ecologies. This move, according to Brad Rogers, executive director of the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, will help build an attractive waterfront for the South Baltimore community—one that could boost its economy like the other built-out improvements at Inner Harbor and Fells Point.  West 8 also aims to build a trail system that loops from Middle Branch Park to Westport Meadows and across Ridgeley’s Cove. A decrepit bridge there could possibly be made into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare as well, providing access to Swan Park in Port Covington.  For further context, the entire site sits south of M&T Bank Stadium and is close to the core of downtown Baltimore. A masterplan to revamp the Middle Branch area has been in the works since 2007, and the competition to redesign the waterfront started last summer, under the helm of the city-supported Parks and People Foundation.
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The time for failure is now

Meet Afterparti: The architecture collective that wants to fail better

“The time for failure is now” reads the front cover of Afterparti, printed emphatically in sans-serif, white type on thick, matte black paper. It’s not the only message on the magazine's cover: “Bring the justice of space to people. Build a new political conversation. You are all the agents of change,” reads another, followed by “p22” — the page where such inspiration can be found. Already, Afterparti, a new architecture "zine" hot off the presses, feels like a call to arms.

Afterparti, I should point out, is a collective, not just a publication. In June 2018, the group held a panel discussion at the Royal College of Art in London also titled, “The time for failure is now.” The group's inaugural members comprise Shukri Sultan; Aoi Philips; Tara Okeke; Marwa El Mubark; Thomas Aquilina; Nile Bridgeman; Samson Famusan; Josh Fenton, and Siufan Adey. Together, the collective is striving to further platforms for radical, underrepresented voices, advocating for a culture of collaboration and inclusivity. “We want to fail better,” they state inside their first magazine, which also includes an interview (read: argument) with Royal Institute of British Architects President Ben Derbyshire, survival tips and tunes for BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) architects, and articles from leading BAME industry professionals such as Pooja Agrawal of municipal planning initiative Public Practice and Akile Scafe-Smith of London design firm, Resolve.

AN sat down with Afterparti—who respond in this article as a collective rather than individually, as is the “parti line”—to find out more.

AN: What’s in the name "Afterparti"? AP: Afterparti is in two parts. The term parti is something that we all share in the language of architecture. What does parti mean? A big idea, a conceptual framing device. And so we take the term ‘parti' to connect with our architectural background and inject playfulness — by which we mean accessible, as the events we put on are for everyone. We want people to share their experiences and input on how we can make the city better for everyone. There's an openness to the term, too. We could roll out a series of different interpretations, but hopefully, the kinds of things we write or put on or stage or curate are going to be open-ended and not too closed. We want it to be a conversation that goes beyond the normal sphere of architecture. Ignoring race, it's often just middle-class people talking among themselves.

The term 'Afterparti' also suggests ourselves as a continuation of the New Architectural Writers (N.A.W.) program, as an idea, a platform, to bring together underrepresented voices. 

What is the N.A.W. program? Is that how you all met? N.A.W is a free writing program for black and minority ethnic people interested in writing about design. There was a mass email which asked: Are you under 30, based in London, interested in writing, with a background in architecture and of this minority? You kinda had to do it, it didn't matter how busy you were — that’s how we felt at least. 

Really what we're doing is an extension of this program but at the same time is the idea of events and a zine series. It’s always about extending that conversation as well: the conversation that happens on stage can happen in print and therefore there's an afterlife to any event. 

Why have you chosen to focus on failure? It was definitely a collective decision. Regarding the initial event we held, we wanted to find a theme for the panelists who were going to be on stage for a live debate. We wanted them to speak more openly and personally about ideas and issues that that might not be able to answer through the theme of failure. We challenged them on how they adapt and respond to failure, putting people on the spot, stopping them from giving us a readymade answer. 

In fact, that's a theme within our work. The zine is a very personal product. Whoever's article you read, it's a very personal piece. We put ourselves into it. The N.A.W. program came about because there's not enough of us [minorities who are writing] out there, so we take great pride putting ourselves into our work, in part, because we have a different background to share. We are a disadvantaged generation, there is potential failure at every turn. Failure isn’t just a singular event, it's systemic and we can develop ourselves through it. 

Why a zine instead of more events? The basis of why we came together was because we could all write in a sense and that was a common denominator. Afterparti is a lot more than just writing, everybody is doing different things and we have different skillsets. Events can take a range: we could be curating something, throwing a disco party, or something else, who knows what might come next. The zine, however, is always the reflection of those events. In this case, it builds upon the panel discussion we had at the Royal College of Art.

The zine also a way of opening up our platform to other BAME people within architecture. 

What made you produce your own publication instead of writing for somewhere else? It's not that we disagree with everything that architectural journalism stands for, it's just that we want a different flavor, something that represents us and how we feel about [architecture].

Aside from N.A.W., we've made it our own thing. There's no glossy front cover, no building reviews. This was all a deliberate choice. We were less interested in the aesthetics of single projects — though we don't ignore this by any stretch, we just don't feel as if what we have to stay stems from this. Of course, we do care about aesthetics in general, our magazine is beautiful! However, all of our articles are socially minded and/or politically motivated. It's less about a shallow, pictorial review of architecture. We are nine individuals, as has been said, all with individual takes and perspectives, on architectural practice and education and the myriad of things that entwine all of that and more together. Our approach to creating this written product comes from a place of play as well as a place of process. Plus we've only got so many pages as well, we want to write about the stuff that's important — important, but often overlooked. 

Did you fail along the way? Of course! We tried to have the awareness that we are in the midst of failure, but that's not a new thing.

What’s next for Afterparti? We are going to try to take more opportunities with different groups and not just stay strictly architecture. We want to continue going outside that sphere: being more intersectional and maintaining accessibility.

That's all we can say for now! Whatever the next theme is, it's going to be about holding the relevant people in power to account. It's always going to be a call to action.

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Neomenon

Saudi Arabia wants NEOM to have flying cars, a fake moon, and 24/7 surveillance
Have you heard of NEOM? The futuristic city-state rising on the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia The Wall Street Journal recently uncovered more details on the $500 billion desert destination that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) wants to create. The ambitious project, which aims to transform 10,000 square miles of desert into “the world’s most liveable city,” hasn't been a total secret. MBS has been promoting it since 2017. But the WSJ’s findings on what NEOM would truly consist of, based on a review of 2,300 pages of documents on the plans, offers the best glimpse inside it. We’re talking about a place of extreme automation, surveillance, and wealth meant to attract large Western companies, help diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy, and decrease its financial reliance on oil.  If fully constructed, NEOM could be the next Dubai, but with far more advanced technologies and an urban ecosystem built from scratch that would rival every major metropolis in the world, at least according to MBS. But the truth is that NEOM might not be fully realized due to the reported corruption that exists within the Saudi government. Right now, many countries are hesitant to do business there because of it. Even architects and major leaders in the field who previously committed to and served on NEOM's advisory board are flat-out refusing to work with the country anymore. Located on the very edge of Saudi Arabia where the Red Sea meets Egypt, Israel, and Jordan, NEOM features a masterplan that’s rather inconceivable and extremely expensive, but construction is already underway and an airport has already been built. Here are some of the consultants’ big ideas: flying taxis to take residents to work, robot maids to clean peoples' homes, beaches with glow-in-the-dark sand, cloud seeding to bring rain to the hot desert, a hologram faculty teaching at leading local schools, a robot dinosaur island that serves as a tourist attraction, and state-of-the-art medical facilities where scientists will work to “modify the human genome to make people stronger.” Last but not least, MBS wants to build an artificial moon that would light up the city at night. While that could be accomplished with drones, one of the more nefarious ideas proposed by MBS himself is the constant surveillance of NEOM's citizens through facial recognition technology and a legal system operating outside the bounds of Saudi Arabia's courts. Regardless of whether it gets built, it’s interesting to note that the proposal for NEOM was dreamt up by a team of U.S.-based consulting and management firms. The WSJ discovered that Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, as well as Oliver Wyman, were working on the project. Their recommendations go beyond urban planning and include a slew of economic incentives and legal systems that NEOM could utilize to both lure residents and keep them there. In addition, the expert advisory group also provides plans to relocate the over 20,000 people that already inhabit the region.  How and when these out-of-this-world ideas will come to fruition is unclear, but we do know that the Crown Prince wants things to move quickly. NEOM's first phase of development is expected to be completed by 2025, but it remains to be seen whether there will be any flying cars.
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Watered Down

Gluckman Tang brings a unique aquarium skylight to the Brant Foundation
Gluckman Tang has converted Walter De Maria’s former home and studio, a 1920s-era Con Ed substation on Manhattan’s East 6th Street, into a second location for the Brant Foundation. The renovation of the Colonial Revival structure, which is fronted by amber-colored brick, casement windows, and a limestone base, included the restoration of historic details as well as the sensitive insertion of contemporary infrastructure. The most dramatic of these interventions brings an aquatic touch to the building: To provide additional daylighting for gallery spaces, the design called for the grafting of a 120-square-foot skylight, which doubles as a reflecting pool on the building’s fourth-floor terrace. At first glance, the skylight might appear to be glass—the design team’s initial choice—but research done in collaboration with structural engineers from Silman showed that the material would require secondary structural support that would partially obscure the opening. According to Gluckman Tang project manager Edowa Shimizu, “It was determined that acrylic, a material often used for aquariums, had the structural characteristics necessary to support the weight of the reflecting pool without any visible secondary structure.” The design team placed the skylight within an existing girder bay, maximizing its size while avoiding the need to introduce significant loadbearing elements. For the production of the 12-foot-4-inch by 13-foot-8-inch acrylic tray, the design team turned to custom aquarium design firm Okeanos Aquascaping. On its own, the 4-inch-thick tray weighs 21/2 tons, and that figure doubles when the vessel is filled with 600 gallons of water. As could be assumed, placing a 5-ton pool of water above an art gallery in a century-old building required an intricate mesh of waterproofing details. The tray was craned into place on top of a concrete curb matted with a 3/4-inch-thick neoprene pad that allows for a 5/8-inch thermal expansion in any direction. Prior to the installation of the neoprene, the concrete was covered with a liquid-applied waterproofing membrane produced by Kemper System. The tray is bounded by a powder-coated steel frame, which is in turn held in place by a series of adjustable tightening bolts. From the interior, the skylight is visible through a rectangular opening paneled with lightly colored wood. The opening is outfitted with a motorized solar shade as well as an edge-lit acrylic light fixture developed by Flux Studio.
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Invasion of The Supertalls

A new breed of skyscraper threatens to devastate the fabric of New York
Imagine arriving at the Sheep Meadow in Central Park intending to lie on a blanket in the warm afternoon sun, as you have done many times before, only to find that there is no sunshine anymore. It has been blocked by a new tower just to the west more than twice the height of any building around it, including the 55-story Time Warner Center several blocks away. You look around and notice that more than half of the 15-acre lawn where you used to bask in sunlight is now in shadow. The greatest urban park in this country is directly threatened by those who see it only from a distance. Just as Capability Brown cleared long vistas in front of grand estates, new Excessively Tall buildings turn Central Park into a landscape framed from above. As a result of these new giants, in a few years Central Park may well be unrecognizable and barren—like much of our environment, dying off and becoming extinct. Our built environment, one that we architects designed, will have mortally damaged an Olmsted and Vaux masterpiece. The irony is that the new Excessively Talls (ETs), jacked up on stilts or interspersed with large and repetitive mechanical voids to increase their height over adjacent buildings and secure desirable park views, may ultimately lose their picturesque vistas. These multimillion-dollar investments may be responsible for the measured obliteration of New York City’s world-renowned park. Developers whose new, faster construction methods have accelerated the emergence of a building type catering to the superrich have now launched insidious advertising campaigns showing off the “new” New York: a thicket of gleaming skinny towers. None of these projects have affordable units. Their ads boast park and river views from altitudes of 600 feet and higher (not all ETs are Supertalls, defined by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat as towers measuring over 984 feet high). But the parks they showcase, Central Park first among them, will continue to exist in name only. No bucolic pasture will remain in the Sheep Meadow, the carousel will be too cold to enjoy, the ball fields unplayable (grass dies in the dark), Wollman Rink gloomy and windy, Tavern on the Green in shadow all afternoon. The New York City Marathon’s slowest runners will be greeted at the finish line not by waning sunlight but by a giant shadow, courtesy of the latest addition to the Upper West Side, a forthcoming tower designed by Snøhetta on West 66th Street, less than 600 feet from the park. The new ETs—many completed along 57th Street, now aptly nicknamed Billionaire’s Row—are also beginning to touch down wherever there is a view for sale and zoning doesn’t limit height, such as the remaining landing strip of underdeveloped properties between First and Second avenues with potential views of the East River and Long Island, and, most recently, on axis with St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Gensler has designed a tower. Has anyone considered that natural light would no longer stream through the church’s stained glass? Whatever happened to protecting our heritage and neighborhoods with sensible planning and human-scale development? ETs are catastrophic energy hogs, far worse than typical urban residential construction. Exaggerated floor-to-floor heights and full-floor apartments create a worst-case scenario for energy efficiency. Superskinny towers also have far more structural steel and concrete than is required to bear gravity loads because of the need to resist outsize wind loads. Local infrastructure (water, sewage, and power) is compromised, or service cut, because of the time needed to pump and discharge water and waste. And consider life-safety issues—how long will these buildings take to evacuate in an emergency, factoring in the time it takes to navigate multiple elevator banks, to rescue people in distress? But the impact of ETs spreads far beyond their physical footprints, especially when they appear in numbers. Sophisticated software can conduct shadow studies on the cumulative effect of more than one ET on a city block. The East Side will soon have two towers between 62nd and 63rd streets, one fronting 2nd Avenue and the other on 3rd. Surrounding apartments left in their shadows will need artificial light all of the time, increasing demand on the power grid and our dependence on fossil fuels. And then there is the wind. While data retrieved from the study of a single ET may show that it has no negative effect, the cumulative wind tunnel effect produced by multiple ETs will quite possibly create impassable and turbulent streets, with vicious downdrafts caused by the Bernoulli effect (increased turbulence, or downdraft, as the wind hits a large facade). The developers of these projects and some of our elected officials, unfortunately for us, have ignored the neighborhood residents affected. The public review process has become virtually nonexistent. Gone are community reviews, special permits, and even cursory notification to neighbors. The only way to find out how big these buildings are is by exhausting a Department of Buildings zoning challenge, then moving on to the Board of Standards and Appeals (Article 78), and finally, issuing an injunction. By then, the as-of-right ET will likely have entered construction, or worse, be built. All is not bleak, as there are new regulations limiting the use of glass on tall buildings, thanks in part to the monitoring efforts of the Audubon Society, which has reported that millions of birds fly into such buildings every year because they can’t recognize a mirrored image. That may help. Not since Central Park was practically devastated by neglect during the Beame administration in the mid-1970s has it been so direly threatened, but this time the danger is from without, not within. ETs and other out-of-scale development also place community and public gardens, pocket parks, and playgrounds at risk. It’s time for New Yorkers to rise up and insist on new restrictions to stop the indiscriminate abuse of light and air that could suffocate the city’s parks and their adjacent neighborhoods. To be sure, our skyline is rapidly changing, and there will be consequences, but the potential for irreversible damage demands a moratorium. To insist on more insightful planning is not “NIMBYism”—it is the professionals taking charge. Page Cowley is founder of the New York architecture practice that bears her name and serves as chair of Landmark West!, a New York preservation nonprofit, as well as cochair of the Manhattan Community Board 7 Land Use Committee. Peter Samton was managing and design partner of the New York architecture firm of Gruzen Samton, aka IBI/Gruzen Samton, and is a past president of the New York Chapter of the AIA. He now serves on Manhattan Community Board 7 Land Use and Preservation Committees. Daniel Samton practices architecture as Samtondesign in Harlem, has worked at KPF and Gruzen Samton, specializes in sustainability, and is a certified passive house designer.
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RIP

S9 Architecture cofounder Navid Maqami has passed away
Navid Maqami, cofounder of New York's S9 Architecture, passed away on Friday, July 19. Below is a statement of remembrance from his colleagues, friends, and coworkers: Navid Maqami, prolific New York architect and cofounder of S9 Architecture, known widely for his kindness, humor, and dedication to his craft, died on Friday, July 19 after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his wife and two sons in Manhattan. He was 59 years old. His wife Niloo confirmed his death. S9 Architecture, which Maqami cofounded with John R. Clifford in 2011, is responsible for creating some of New York’s most celebrated projects of the last decade. Built with a deep and defining sense of teamwork, he empowered those around him to develop and express their creativity. Maqami believed that every project had a story, and that narrative was the inflection point between a block or neighborhood’s past and its future. His dedication to this kind of social, societal and physical storytelling made him one of New York’s most respected contextual architects. This commitment earned him more than a dozen awards including from the Municipal Arts Society and Urban Land Institute. One of his most lauded projects is Dock 72, towering 16 stories above the East River in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Historically the birthplace of some of America’s most venerated warships, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was one of the nation’s premier maritime construction facilities for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Maqami led the design process to reimagine the shipyard as a hub of innovation that pays homage to the mighty ships built along the river while simultaneously creating a modern ecosystem to foster technology, manufacturing and creative sectors. In 2016, the project received the Excellence in Design Award from the New York City Public Design Commission. Dock 72 celebrated its grand opening just a few weeks before Maqami died. Unable to attend, he commemorated the opening from his hospital room with his wife and two sons, never missing a moment to celebrate both an extraordinary opportunity and his unyielding love for his family. Born in Iran and raised in the United Kingdom from age 13, Maqami attended Oswestry Boarding School before graduating from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1984. He moved to New York in 1987 and worked at Davis Brody and GreenbergFarrow before launching his own venture, S9 Architecture. Devoted to bringing out the very best in his people, Maqami was infamous for using laughter as a tool to help young associates learn and grow. Never from a place of judgment and always smiling, he used clever turns of phrase and extraordinary wit to communicate the thesis of a critique. His life outside of work was dedicated entirely to his family. Since 1993, the West Village of Manhattan was their beloved home where he and Niloo, his wife of nearly 40 years, raised their sons. Arsean, a senior director of development at WeWork, and Arman, a musician and actor, brought him much joy. Maqami was a member of the American Institute of Architects, the Architectural League, the Urban Land Institute and the Urban Design Forum. A celebration of Navid Maqami’s life will be held on Saturday, July 27 at the S9 Architecture office in Manhattan.  Please visit navidmaqami.com for details.
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Mott Street Crease

Toshiko Mori Architect greets the Lower East Side with CNC-milled granite
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Due to be completed in 2019, 277 Mott Street is a seven-story, retail infill project that offers a contemporary vision of contextual development in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Designed by the New York-based Toshiko Mori Architect—whose office is located just a few blocks away—the project features a custom-fabricated CNC-milled dark granite facade with vertical ribbons of fenestration. The Lower East Side is no stranger to development; the neighborhood continues to experience seismic alterations of its architectural makeup in the form of historic demolition and the subsequent construction of often non-contextual development. In a welcome change of pace, 277 Mott Street is not built on the bones of a predecessor but rises on a 21-foot-wide lot that had stood empty for decades.
  • Facade Manufacturer YKK Campolonghi Caliper Studio FACE Design AM Architectural Metal & Glass
  • Architect Toshiko Mori Architect
  • Owner's Representative Doug Fountain
  • Facade Installer Caliper Studio AM Architectural Metal & Glass IA Construction
  • Facade Consultant Eckersley O’Callaghan Engineers
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System YKK YCW 750 FSG
  • Products CNC-milled Black Zimbabwe granite stone Custom-fabricated aluminum fins
The Mott Street-facing elevation is set back 18 inches from the street wall and is clad in dark Black Zimbabwe granite fabricated by Campolonghi Montignoso in Italy. “We worked extremely closely with the stone fabricator due to the highly specialized fabrication process as there is a very close interface between the initial digital model and the final product,” said the design team. “There were several technical challenges with the digital model to overcome, full-scale mockup reviews, and visits to the factory in Italy—where the stone was fully assembled—before the end result arrived disassembled on-site.” The result of this intense collaboration is a bold and seemingly twisting facade that echoes the brick-and-glass rhythm of its historic Italianate neighbors. At the front elevation's summit, which is 65 feet tall, the front facade's crown reaches slightly above the adjacent cornice line while the panels themselves flatten into more formal piers with an approximately four-and-a-half-foot width. The panels are anchored to a steel substructure fastened to each concrete floor slab. "The main challenge in developing the facade was achieving the architectural intent of the twisting and undulating stone with the vertical slot glazing, whilst keeping the details appropriately simple and rational enough to meet the tight budgetary constraints," said Eckersley O'Callaghan principal Phil Khalil. "This was successfully implemented to the point where—other than for the stone—local fabricators and installers were able to handle all of the glazing, framing, and installation without issue." Since the project is exclusively for retail use, it was crucial for the design team to ensure an ample amount of daylight made it inside. For this purpose, the rear elevation of the structure is clad in a glass curtain wall backed by twisting chords of aluminum, which serve as shading devices against western solar exposure. A monumental stairwell—which also serves as a point of egress—rises and is completely visible through the rear elevation. Toshiko Mori Architect was in continual dialogue with the Department of Buildings throughout the design and construction process to gain approval within the protected Special Little Italy District zoning area.
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In Memorium

Remembering César Pelli
The death of César Pelli at 92 on July 19 marked the end of an era. Yet the firm he headed with Fred Clarke and his son Rafael Pelli continues, with dozens of important and innovative projects underway. Pelli’s modest demeanor belied the fact that he and his partners designed over 300 buildings and 68 unrealized or theoretical projects. The best known built works are the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (briefly the tallest buildings in the world), the colorful glass-skinned Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, the complex Cleveland Clinic, the American Embassy in Tokyo, and the recent Salesforce Tower and Transit Center in San Francisco (the tallest building there). In New York, they built the 1977-84 addition to the Museum of Modern Art and its residential tower, the World Financial Center—now dubbed Brookfield Place—in Battery Park City, the unusually contextual Carnegie Hall Tower, the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building in downtown Brooklyn, and the pioneeringly energy-efficient Verdesian apartment building in Battery Park City, along with numerous other buildings that fit into their surroundings so well that they are not easily recognized. An office building for Trinity Church on Wall Street, the Yale Biology Building, the one-million-square-foot Bulfinch Crossing in Boston, a Natural History Museum in Chengdu, China, the Google Tower in Austin, Texas, and 3.3-million-square-foot Union Park in Toronto are among dozens of buildings underway now. Given the size of the practice, the complexity of its projects, their international range, size, scale, and sensitivity to place, it is surprising that the work of Pelli Clark Pelli has not received more critical attention. It is not something the partners sought. Doing innovative work and treating colleagues well has always been the firm’s priorities. César Pelli was one of architecture’s real artists and intellectuals. He was born in the medium-sized city of San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, where one of the most innovative architecture schools in the world opened just before he matriculated. His father, Victor Pelli, was an innovative tinkerer who loved to make things. His mother. Theresa Pelli was a professor at Resistencia, who taught alongside the mother of the woman César would eventually marry, Diana Balmori. They got to know one another in architecture school, and then applied to various graduate programs together around the world. They ended up moving to the United States, where César earned a Master’s degree at the University of Illinois. It was not easy. Other young Argentinians they knew soon returned home. Diana once told me that they sold their wedding presents to make ends meet, but that fact that she spoke excellent English helped. Then, César’s professor recommended that he join the very busy office of Eero Saarinen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. That move was not easy for Diana either, who had two young sons, but it was there, on the lush Cranbrook campus, that she developed an interest in landscape design. Saarinen’s office, enriched by the opportunity to design the $100 million, 320-acre General Motors Design Center, had attracted talented young architects from all over the world. César soon became the one Saarinen trusted with some of his most challenging projects. The firm was thriving with numerous enticing commissions. Eero had recently remarried journalist and architecture critic Aline Bernstein Saarinen, who wanted to move to the East Coast where her career, and increasingly Eero’s, was centered. Lonely in Michigan, she often invited the Pellis to join them for lunch. But soon after the birth of their son Eames, Eero developed a brain tumor and died within days. The firm moved to New Haven as planned to finish his work. César was in charge of two of the most challenging projects: the proto-postmodern Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges at Yale, which imaginatively acknowledged Gothic Revival buildings nearby, and the TWA Terminal at JFK (then Idlewild) Airport in New York, which has now been restored and turned into the centerpiece of a new hotel. When Saarinen’s work was completed, some associates formed a successor firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Partners, but the Pellis instead moved to the booming Los Angeles. César went to work first for the pragmatic commercial firm, Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall from 1965 through 1968, then to Gruen Associates from 1968 through 1976, often collaborating with young talented international architects he had known at the Saarinen firm, such as Anthony J. Lumsden. By the mid-70s, Pelli, who had been teaching part-time at UCLA, decided he would like to work in architectural education. He was offered deanships at UCLA, Harvard, and Yale, that last being where he moved in 1977 and had been living ever since. Soon he was invited to expand the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, so he opened the original Cesar Pelli & Associates office in New Haven, which continued to grow after he stepped down as Yale dean in 1984, but which still operates on an open-minded academic model. Over the years, Pelli worked on and off with Balmori, who herself developed an innovative practice in landscape design. She died in 2016. César Pelli is survived by sons Rafael and Denis, as well as dozens of colleagues, friends, clients, former students, and admirers. His legacy is enormous.
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On Mexican SO - IL

SO - IL is building a social housing prototype in the heart of Mexico
For many in Mexico, the phrase “social housing” conjures images of vast housing tracts falling into disrepair, abandoned by workers tired of two-hour commutes. While architects and planners look back to understand what went wrong in the country’s early-2000s push to build affordable housing on city outskirts, authorities and designers are also looking ahead to explore alternative strategies. The Municipal Housing Institute (IMUVI) of León, a city of 1.6 million people in the central state of Guanajuato, invited Brooklyn firm SO – IL to collaborate on the design of a new prototype for social housing in the city’s center, and the team broke ground on the result, the Las Américas project, in May. Designed for low-income families, the building includes 56 apartments, most of which will be sold at far-below-market rates. Guanajuato is traditionally known for its artisanal leatherworking, but more recently, rapid growth in the auto-manufacturing industry has transformed the region; León’s population has doubled since the 1980s. Like many Mexican cities, it grew outward, with limited government planning. Some new arrivals built informal settlements on the city edges or, with access to credit, bought into exurban subdivisions. IMUVI faces two monumental tasks: regularizing the informal settlements, which requires extending utility services and other infrastructure and building housing for those who still need it. According to Amador Rodríguez, director of IMUVI León, 45 percent of the city’s residents don’t have access to federal housing credit or traditional bank loans. Rodríguez estimates that the city needs another 80,000 housing units to meet the demand. Instead of building more units on the outskirts, far from schools, jobs, and services, IMUVI has committed to densifying the city center. Working with SO – IL, IMUVI identified a lot in a downtown neighborhood to build Las Américas, a 62,431-square-foot complex of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. SO – IL’s partnership with IMUVI began when Florian Idenburg, the firm’s Dutch co-founder, was invited to Mexico to share his experience with the firm’s New York City micro-housing project tiNY, lessons from which informed Las Américas. “Affordability should not go against quality,” said Idenburg. “And one of the qualities that is very important to us is light.” Thanks to single-loaded open-air corridors, the apartments in Las Américas receive natural light from at least two sides. No two units directly face each other, maintaining both density and privacy. The housing block wraps around two shared courtyards, while openings in the building’s mass create additional, elevated common spaces. Exterior stairwells link each level. Idenburg said these features foster interaction between neighbors and a sense of community. “It was very refreshing to work with this team in León,” Idenburg said. Even with a limited budget, he said, there are opportunities for customization in Mexico that can lend character to what could otherwise be a uniform building. The team worked with local fabricators to develop a precast concrete brick that can be installed in different positions, creating a variety of wall textures for the apartments. “We made really nice custom windows that are hand-welded,” he added. “You probably wouldn’t be able to do that in the United States because of cost.” The design process included workshops and meetings in León to understand the needs of low-income families. SO – IL worked pro bono on the project. “It was a very productive collaboration,” said Idenburg. “Everything was very collective.” While construction continues, IMUVI is identifying families to move into Las Américas. Out of a total of 56 apartments, 44 will be priced at just under half a million Mexican pesos (about $25,000), the legal limit for a social housing unit. The remaining 12 units will be available at market price to families with federal Infonavit (workers’ housing) credit. “I hope other people will see our project and think it is possible to achieve density and affordability in the city center,” Idenburg said. Finding central but affordable lots is an ongoing challenge for agencies like IMUVI, but Idenburg hopes Las Américas can become a model for social housing in city centers and inspire projects in developing economies facing similar conditions.
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Built In Secret

Details emerge on the architecture of China's Uighur re-education camps
A chilling news documentary released by VICE News Tonight late last month highlighted the mystery behind China’s Uighur people, a minority Muslim group that’s been disappearing under the cover of night. The United Nations believes at least one million members of this community are being detained in "re-education camps" around the Xinjiang province in northwestern China, and their children are being taken to state-run orphanages—renamed “kindergartens”—where they’re indoctrinated into Chinese culture and customs.  Earlier this month, 22 countries sent a joint letter to the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights urging China to stop the mass detention and allow UN officials to investigate. According to government officials in Beijing, these camps have been created to curb Islamic extremism and ensure the safety of the Chinese people. Other reports have noted allegations of torture.  VICE News Tonight went undercover in Xinjiang to capture the dystopian world that’s been set up to control locals through a massive network of surveillance infrastructure and constant policing. The reporters even got footage of eight Uighur men being taken away after midnight in total silence. While it seems most people within Xinjiang know about these Uighur holding facilities, they don’t exactly know where they are located. So VICE News Tonight’s Isobel Yeung and her crew followed Google Maps and a series of coordinates to find the internment architecture that’s been both built and adapted for “vocational training” of the Uighur people. AN spoke with Yeung over email about her experience in Xinjiang and what her team uncovered about the Uighur’s plight during the production of They Come for Us at Night: Inside China's Hidden War on Uighurs, which premiered on VICE News Tonight on HBO on June 27th.  AN: What was your initial reaction to all the security infrastructure and policing set up in Kashgar?  IY: It’s a really intense set-up. There are surveillance cameras every few meters, facial recognition cameras, full-body scans, facial and iris scans, groups of armored police roaming the streets with big spiky clubs, police cars and armored trucks patrolling the streets… It’s unnerving and chilling to be in.  Did you notice how other Uighurs or Chinese people approached these interactions? It’s all become eerily normal for the people living there. I asked one Uighur woman who had just had her phone scanned and been strip-searched while entering a public space how she could handle being constantly treated as a security threat. She just shrugged and told me that she’d got used to nothing making sense anymore.  The documentary showed the rows of surveillance lights at the Urumqi bazaar. Were there other spaces in which you were overwhelmed by the number of cameras? Cameras were everywhere. Only when I was in the safety of my hotel room did I feel like I wasn’t being watched (and even then, we didn’t know if they’d bugged our rooms). In public spaces where there are likely to be gatherings, or on the front of public buildings like schools, hospitals, and markets there were more. Around any mosque there were clusters.  Can you explain the spatial context of the re-education campus you saw in Kashgar?  From AN: Yeung referred us to University of British Columbia law student Shawn Zhang and his work completed over the last few months pulling up satellite imagery of the camps throughout Xinjiang. See them all here Did anyone in the group of former detainees you spoke with in Istanbul talk about the architecture of the camps and their layout?  Over the course of six months, we spoke to many people who had spent time in the camps—in Istanbul, the US, and elsewhere in Europe. Some of them had been in detention centers that had been converted into camps, others had been in newly erected camps. One woman told us that there were many cells, with around 20 people per cell, and that interrogation and isolation cells were underground. Many of them spoke of the sounds they heard such as people arriving in the night, screams from other cells, people being beaten, chains dragging, and endless propaganda songs. Many of them said that there were cameras inside the rooms and cells, so they were being watched the whole time. This made it difficult to communicate with each other. They talked about having to make their beds with military perfection and about having to sit with their feet crossed, facing the front for hours on end while they were taught Chinese law. Can you explain the spatial context of the kindergartens in Hotan?  They were mostly in the outskirts of town often in run-down neighborhoods quite far from the city center. They look somewhat out of place given their surroundings. In your opinion, what is the architecture of the large kindergartens communicating to both the children, the Uighur adults, and the rest of the Chinese public?  These buildings look like brightly colored, garish castles. There are Mickey Mouse’s painted on the walls and bright patterns on the ground. They’re clearly designed with children in mind. Several local Han Chinese adults told us that these are examples of how the Chinese government is looking after Uighur children, which I think is the impression they’re trying to give. But they’re also heavily fortified with big barbed wire fencing, high brick walls, and guards at the entrance.  Did anyone discuss with you the programming within the schools and whether it was similar or drastically different than what normal Chinese schools look like?  No one really discussed the programming. One young Uighur child told me that they have “ethics” classes and Han Chinese classes and written on the front of one of the kindergartens are slogans emphasizing that ‘ethnic unity’ must be taught and the Chinese language must be spoken. So that’s clearly a big focus for these kids. 
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Oh Sugar Sugar

PAU reinvents the center of a complex postindustrial waterfront
The conversion of a 137-year-old sugar factory into a contemporary office complex requires a delicate touch when the building is landmarked—and even more so when it’s the heart of a complex, 11-acre riverfront master plan. The Domino Sugar Factory sits along the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn on a SHoP Architects' master-planned redevelopment which also includes the James Corner Field Operations–designed Domino Park, SHoP’s doughnut-shaped 325 Kent, and COOKFOX’s mixed-use 1 South First. The facade of the Domino Sugar Factory is landmarked, but the interior, a tangle of sugar refining machinery, much of which acted as support infrastructure, was not. So, when Two Trees tapped Vishaan Chakrabarti’s Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) to helm the factory’s conversion, the studio proposed a radical solution. Rather than renovate the building, they would instead stabilize the historic brick facade, and drop in an entirely new structure with a glass curtain wall. “The original building has a simplicity and muscularity,” Chakrabarti, told AN, but the building's American Round Arch style arched windows rarely line up across floors and are a variety of different sizes. That meant that using standardized floor plates that touched the landmarked facade was infeasible. Separating the brick walls from the new structure negated the issue. By nesting the new building inside the old one, PAU has created a 10- to 12-foot-wide “breezeway” between the two that allows light to permeate all the way to the ground floor. This also affords each floor a different view of the facade. All of the original windows in the historic facade will be removed, creating a shell that will surround the new building, which will be stabilized with steel supports extending from the new structure. Chakrabarti, who helped lead the master plan while a partner at SHoP, described the site as a bridge between the past and the future, and the design fully embraces that philosophy. The glass topper that rises above the original factory’s roofline (but sticks below the smokestack facing Kent Avenue) consists of structurally-glazed mullions and heavily articulated glass at regular intervals. The barrel-shaped roof is reminiscent of an industrial skylight, but while it was a clear reference, the team didn’t want the contemporary addition to be too industrial nor compete with the heaviness of the surrounding brick. Rather than thinking of the building as having traditional front and back entrances—pitting Williamsburg versus the East River waterfront—PAU lowered the bottom all of the windows on the first floor of the brick facade to the ground, creating a permeable membrane and allowing the public to pass through. According to PAU, merging from the hardscape on Kent Street to River Street and Domino Park fulfills the pledge that SHoP made in the master plan to “pull” River Street out toward the public. While no tenants have signed on to occupy the offices yet, Chakrabarti expects that the building will attract creative industries thanks to the unique atmosphere. No completion date for construction on the Domino Sugar Factory conversion has been given yet, but interior demolition is ongoing.