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Preservationists watchful as New York’s American Museum of Natural History taps Jeanne Gang for addition
“No one has proven to me that a name attached to the design brings enough cachet to justify the return on investment,” [RVC Board Chairman Michael Dunn, Jr.] said. “The culture argument is not about who designed the building. It’s about what’s in it.”Director of the Rockford Area Arts Council Anne O’Keefe had a different take:
“Jeanne Gang is going to be the Frank Lloyd Wright of our generation,” O’Keefe said. “I’d just hate to lose this opportunity and look back in 20 years and say oh, we let that one get away.”
Jeanne Gang will soon join the likes of Neil Denari, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Ennead, and Shigeru Ban with a new project near the High Line in New York City. The roughly 180,000-square-foot office tower will rise along 10th Avenue between 13th and 14th streets, pending city approval.
The project will be Chicago-based Studio Gang’s New York debut, and its atypical form is a novel take on New York’s zoning. “We looked at what we could build as of right and realized that it would block out light, air, and views from the High Line,” principal Jeanne Gang told AN. Gang pointed out that the High Line creates the unusual urban condition of having a much-loved public space mid-block. “So we rearranged the building’s mass so that the tallest part to face 10th Avenue,” she said.
In addition to pulling the building to the lot-line along 10th Avenue, Studio Gang’s design calls for angled notches, slicing off wedge-shaped portions of the tower, allowing river views and minimizing shadows on the elevated park. The design for the building has a glass skin, which will be smooth on the vertical portions and faceted in the cutaways. “The faceted edge emphasizes what I call the ‘solar carving,”’ she said. “The serrated-edge demarcates the special character of these spaces.”
For Gang the project is an opportunity to respond to and critique New York’s building and planning standards. “We’re using the principal of the zoning envelope, but we’re recognizing the exceptional condition that the High Line creates,” she said. “It’s an interior block public space. How do you respond to that?” The project draws on research her firm conducted for the un-built Solstice Tower in Hyde Park, which employed an top-heavy, angled facade to mitigate heat gain on the southern exposure in the summer while increasing it in the winter.
William Gottlieb Real Estate is developing the project. It will replace an empty meatpacking plant on the site, and will include ground level retail. “They really want to defer to the fundamental asset of the High Line,” she said, noting that other developers and architects have built over the park. “This is the opposite approach.” The project is located outside the Gansevoort Market Historic District, so it is not dependent on approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Gang’s unconventional take on city zoning is currently being filed with New York’s Board of Standards and Appeals. The building is targeted for completion in 2015.
When developers courted an empty lot at the southwest corner of the Polish Triangle in the late 1980s, the residents of Chicago’s East Village neighborhood lobbied for a landmark. Instead they got a Pizza Hut.
Now 1601 West Division Street will house an 11-story mixed-use development with 99 units and ground-floor commercial tenants, PNC Bank and Intelligentsia Coffee. Wheeler Kearns Architects will design the project, which sits at the southwest corner of West Division Street and North Ashland Avenue.
The high-rise will be the first to take advantage of an ordinance introduced by alderman Proco Joe Moreno that allows projects near public transit to qualify for high-density, low-parking zoning.
“We wanted to build consensus around the notion that we should be attracting people who want to use public transit, walk, bike,” said Scott Rappe, an architect who has lived and worked in the neighborhood since 1988. Rappe is a co-chair of the East Village Association (EVA), which has lobbied aggressively since the 1980s for forward-thinking development.
Developer Interra-vision proposed a stand-alone Walgreens and a parking lot in 2007, to East Village Association’s dismay. “We have a golden opportunity,” wrote EVA member George Matwyshyn in a 2007 letter to then-alderman Manny Flores. “What path do you want to take?”
The Wicker Park & Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, the West Town chamber and prominent community members, including architect Jeanne Gang—Studio Gang’s office is one block north of the site—joined in the fight. “This corner represents a fantastic opportunity to help create a more sustainable city and further define the triangle with great urban architecture at the same time,” Gang wrote in a letter at the time.
“Paying an obscene $4.85 million dollars for this real estate and then keeping it from serving its highest and best use,” Rappe wrote in 2007, “is like an art patron purchasing the Mona Lisa and squirreling it away for their own private enjoyment.”
Their campaign worked. The property was foreclosed and Rob Buono, the developer who acquired it, proved much more receptive to EVA’s vision.
“It was collaborative. The community was very forward thinking,” Buono said.
The transit-oriented development ordinance is limited by both zoning and distance. It applies only to B or C district developments with dash 5 density that are located within 250 feet of a CTA or RTA station, and that have at least one bike parking space for each car that would otherwise be required. But Rappe, Buono, and Raymond Valadez, chief of staff for alderman Moreno, all say they hope it serves as a precedent for transit-oriented development elsewhere.
“This was really the first time this policy idea of true transit-oriented development was embraced in the city,” said Valadez . “Communication was ultimately the key to success between the developer, the community, and our office.”
For Buono, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1992, it’s an opportunity. “I think it’s going to provide a basis for city council and city planners to think more about transit-oriented development and how it might be appropriate at more locations throughout the city,” he said.
Gas stations and fast food restaurants occupy many prominent corners around the city. Those are risk-averse developments, Buono added, that make sense when times are tough. “I think that’s viewed as more problematic particularly in proximity to public transit,” he said.
They aim to break ground this fall and complete construction 10 to 14 months later.