At an awards ceremony at Manhattan’s Center for Architecture on October 8, representatives from AIA New York (AIANY) and the New York chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLANY) gathered for the first annual Transportation + Infrastructure Design Excellence Awards (T+I Awards). The winners, winnowed down from a pool of 67 entrants, showed excellence in both built and unrealized projects related to transportation and infrastructure, with a heavy emphasis on work that integrated sustainability and engaged with the public. Outstanding greenways, esplanades, and transit improvement plans were lauded for their civic contributions. A variety of merit awards were handed out to speculative projects, and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) was honored a number of times for the studies it had commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan; it was noted that many of the solutions proposed in past Regional Plans had eventually come to pass. The jury was just as varied as the entrants: Donald Fram, FAIA, a principal of Donald Fram Architecture & Planning; Doug Hocking, AIA, a principal at KPF; Marilyn Taylor, FAIA, professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania; David van der Leer, executive director of the Van Alen Institute; and Donna Walcavage, FASLA, a principal at Stantec. Meet the winners below:
Search results for "waterfront"
The Center Party, a Swedish political party, has commissioned Anders Berensson Architects to design a speculative plan for a mass timber development in Stockholm. The design for the scheme was recently released without a timeline for execution. The development is a collection of towers and sky bridges built on top of the existing waterfront neighborhood of Masthamnen. The plan would leave the buildings below relatively untouched but would cap them with a public park and walkway level over which the new towers would rise. The designers embraced wood as a building material because it "releases the least carbon dioxide." Renderings show interiors and exteriors clad with wood finishes, and the architects describe the buildings using mass timber technologies like cross-laminated timber (CLT). The imaginative scheme is meant to provide additional housing close to the center of Stockholm, where the housing market is tight and space is expensive. There are no apparent plans to enact the proposal. The Center Party has worked with Berensson before on speculative designs for the city, many of which have included timber high-rises. The party has relatively little power to realize these ideas as they are the opposition party in the city's government, which is controlled by the Social Democrats. Timber has received a lot of attention in Sweden as a structural material for high-rises, although it's not clear what the country has been able to realize so far. Globally, mass timber is starting to make inroads as a standard building technique, but it faces a long road to widespread adoption in the U.S.
Up, Up, and Away
The Brooklyn Navy Yard goes vertical for the next phase of its life
After the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC) revealed a $2.5-billion expansion plan for the Yard in January of this year, it became clear that, with all of the existing buildings renovated, the only place left to go was up. Now, the BNYDC has released a slew of renderings from the Yard’s master planners, WXY, and a guide to development in the waterfront campus for the next 30 years. How will the Yard add an additional 5.1 million square feet of floor space to the already built-out campus? The BNYDC will be building on three available sites along Flushing Avenue, Navy Street, and Kent Avenue, and to accommodate the wide, open spaces that industrial manufacturers require, will be leaning into a strategy of “vertical manufacturing.” Transportation upgrades for both those who work in the Yard and the general public, and wayfinding improvements, have also been included. The heavy commitment to vertical manufacturing—which places large, floorplate-spanning manufacturing zones at the base of each building, with packaging and offices above—is part of the Navy Yard’s commitment to bolstering industrial manufacturing. Of the 10,000 new jobs the expansion is expected to support, 75 percent of them have been set aside for manufacturers, with technology office space and service jobs expected to fill in the remaining 25 percent. The currently vacant Kent Street lot sits on the Yard’s northern corner, right off of the Barge Basin Loop inlet. Two buildings totaling 2.7 million square feet would rise on the waterfront, as well as a public esplanade where manufacturers could directly showcase their products. At the Flushing Avenue site, which is still partially owned by the federal government and sits on the southern portion of the Navy Yard near the recently completed Building 77, two more buildings will rise for another 1.4 million square feet of mostly manufacturing space. Both of these buildings, which WXY has designed with an industrial feel and linked with several sky bridges, have been tentatively planned for food manufacturing. The parcel could also potentially link up with a pedestrian flyway from the waterfront that would run through W9’s Dock 72 building and allow ferry passengers to walk over the Navy Yard to reach the street. The Navy Street lot, currently an NYPD tow pound at the campus’s Sands Street entrance, would hold two new buildings on either side of a public plaza. WXY and the BNYDC have proposed a possible public museum of science and technology for the larger building, with the other housing classrooms, STEM development programs, and workforce development space. The same saw-toothed roof profile was used for both Navy Street buildings in the renderings, but more importantly, none of the new proposed projects overshadow the existing developments. WXY has also proposed a “historic core” area for biking and walking, which truck traffic would be routed around. “Forward-thinking cities like New York are using urban design to grow districts that support new kinds of jobs in urban industrial and maker settings,” said WXY managing principal Adam Lubinsky, who also led the master planning team. “The Brooklyn Navy Yard is leading the way, showing how to create and integrate valuable public space and amenities, multi-modal transit and streets, and state-of-the-art vertical manufacturing buildings, which will boost the Yard’s economic impact.” Residents interested in touring the Navy Yard can do so on October 2, where David Ehrenberg and Claire Weisz will discuss the future of the 300-acre Yard. Tours of Building 77, New Lab, the BNY Bridge, and Dock 72 will also be available beforehand.
Go Big or Go Home
University of Washington planning high-rise innovation district
The Seattle City Council has given preliminary approval to a transformative expansion plan for the University of Washington (UW) that would create a new high-rise innovation district beside the UW's waterfront campus in northeastern Seattle. The Seattle Times reported that the expansion could include up to 6 million square feet of new development, enough to cater to roughly 7,000 new students and staff members. Of that total, roughly 3 million square feet would be dedicated to the new innovation district, which is depicted in a rendering accompanying the proposal as a cluster of pixelated towers surrounding a proposed light rail transit stop slated to open adjacent to the campus in coming years. The expansion would also grow along the Portage Bay waterfront, according to a potential site plan, and would include up to 450 affordable housing units. Ultimately, the expansion could double the size of the university with respect to a previous growth plan approved in 2003 by building on top of existing parking lots and sports fields currently used by the university. The approval granted by the Seattle City Council is contingent on additional affordable housing—the university originally proposed building only 150 affordable units—and a greater emphasis on walkability and transit accessibility for the district than was originally proposed. According to the approved plan, the affordable housing component would serve to provide residences for some of the university's new low-wage workers. The greater emphasis on transit access aims to ensure that those workers, many of whom are expected to drive in from far-flung and more affordable areas, have other options for getting to work. The expansion is aimed at increasing the size of the university without meaningfully expanding its footprint into surrounding areas. As a result, up to 86 sites currently owned by UW would be open to development, including several slated for high-rise development with a maximum height limit of up to 240 feet, The Times reports. Next, the plan heads back to the university for final approval. A project timeline estimates that the plan will come into being in phases over the next decade or so.
Missed some of our articles, tweets, or Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! Jencks, Eisenman, FAT, and more remember Robert Venturi Robert Venturi passed away at age 93 on Wednesday, and there has been an overwhelming response from the architecture community. From dedicated disciples to former intellectual foes, many architects and critics have taken a moment to recognize how deep and impactful Venturi’s legacy really is. We collected some of those tributes here. How can architects build the equitable discipline we deserve? As the fall semester begins, how can architects and students work towards advancing a more equitable profession for the women, PoC, and disabled who have been marginalized or left behind by the system? Selby Library by SOM’s Walter Netsch may be demolished in Sarasota bayfront project The Walter Netsch-designed Selby Public Library is under threat as plans move forward for a much-anticipated, community-backed bayfront development in Sarasota, Florida. Enjoy the weekend, and see you Monday!
New York City’s Pier 17 will transform into a winter wonderland
As summer comes to an end and temperatures begin to drop, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved plans to convert the newly revamped Pier 17 into a rooftop winter village during the colder months. The proposal by Rockwell Group will introduce a warming hut, winter marketplace, and ice rink nearly the size of Rockefeller Center's to the city’s waterfront, making the historic South Street Seaport district a year-round attraction. In recent years, the Seaport has transformed into a lively residential and commercial hub, where residents and visitors have been drawn to the area for its top retail, dining, and cultural attractions, as well as its spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and New York City skyline. The winter wonderland idea originated from the urban ice skating rinks at Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park, which have historically been popular seasonal attractions. The design is further inspired by a set of five different materials that the firm wanted to celebrate in connection with the neighborhood’s rich past as a gateway for international shipping and maritime activities. Those materials include bronze, teak, commercial barrels, cargo units, and ice. While only temporary, the installment will cover over 50 percent of the rooftop of Pier 17, a massive 30,000 square feet. The renovation of Pier 17 and its subsequent winter addition are parts of a larger plan to bring new restaurants, shopping centers, and family-friendly public spaces to a neighborhood that is drenched in history. There is no doubt that Pier 17 will achieve this goal, as it has already helped revive the vibrant and effervescent neighborhood, contributing to Lower Manhattan’s recent evolution into a community that never sleeps. Pier 17’s rooftop is known for hosting several sold-out events ranging from comedy shows to concerts. Still awaiting completion are two restaurants by celebrity chefs David Chang and Andrew Carmellini, as well as a 19,000-square-foot ESPN studio.
What is New England architecture?
New England might not garner the attention that other places get for contemporary architecture, but the region has a legacy of world-class architecture, including some great works of modernism. Two iconic monuments of modern architecture in America are in New England—Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard and Alvar Aalto’s Baker House at MIT—along with seminal late-modern buildings such as Boston City Hall and the Yale Center for British Art. Today, many contemporary design stars have built structures across New England, including Frank Gehry, Rafael Moneo, Norman Foster, Herzog & de Meuron, Michael Hopkins, Renzo Piano, Charles Correa, Fumihiko Maki, and Tadao Ando. The finalists for a competition for a new contemporary art museum on Boston’s waterfront included Switzerland’s Peter Zumthor and Studio Granda from Iceland. The only local firm considered for the museum was the then relatively young Office dA; principals Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de León went on to fame as architectural educators beyond Boston. Although not unique to New England, the whole mentality of "if-you-are-good-you-must-be-from-somewhere-else" is found here. As one might expect, Boston is the center of most architectural activity in the region. Yet, despite a heroic postwar age of Brutalism, too much contemporary architecture barely rises above the level of commercial real estate. With the exception of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art and David Hacin’s District Hall, much of the frantic new downtown construction features the kind of glass boxes that pierce city skylines from Dubai to Shanghai. The city’s embarrassingly named Innovation District (often called the Inundation District due to its propensity for flooding) is scaleless, overbearing, and disconnected from the soul of Boston. OMA’s new scheme for the area—which the architects gratuitously refer to as “a dynamic and vibrant area that is quickly emerging as one of the most exciting neighborhoods and destinations in the country”—is an 18-story glass cube with the dreary moniker of 88 Seaport Boulevard. One might have hoped for more from OMA’s first Boston commission. The block will offer almost half a billion square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of retail, and a paltry 5,000 square feet for civic and cultural use. Its gimmick is slicing the building into two sections with some terracing and plantings sandwiched in between. OMA disingenuously claims this double-volume exercise “creates diverse typologies for diverse industries,” and furthermore “generates an opportunity to draw in the district’s public domain.” In short, Boston will get an off-the-shelf dystopian nightmare. However, the Engineering Research Center at Brown University by KieranTimberlake is not just another knockoff. Although flush from the controversial but triumphant U.S. Embassy in London, the Philadelphians’ latest New England project is what good contemporary architecture ought to be. The $88-million, 80,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building is both understated and environmentally responsible. Its 22 pristine labs steer the Ivy League school into uncharted territory in nano research, energy studies, and information technology. The ERC is a triumph, especially given Brown’s decades of struggle to find an appropriate contemporary architectural voice. Recent work on the Providence campus includes an international relations institute by Rafael Viñoly—the design of which was dumbed down to mollify historic preservationists; a tepid Maya Lin sculpture; and an awkwardly sited Diller Scofidio + Renfro art center that was commissioned to show that Brown could do trendy and edgy. These common missteps are best exemplified by the university’s first competition for an athletic center. Although the competition was officially won by SHoP, the donor sponsoring it declared his dislike of modern architecture and demanded the school hire Robert A.M. Stern instead. The cutesy Georgian result is predictably bland. The ERC was ahead of schedule and under budget, and rather than treating Rhode Islanders as rubes, the architects created what Stephen Kieran calls “a nice piece of Providence urbanism.” While the firm’s great strength is diminishing the environmental impact of their buildings, the ERC also contributes a handsome facade to the campus’s traditional buildings. The fiberglass-reinforced concrete fins, the building’s signature element, impose a timeless probity worthy of Schinkel. If KieranTimberlake grows weary of being identified as the designers of the $1-billion embassy that Trump slammed as “lousy and horrible,” imagine how tired Tod Williams and Billie Tsien must be of consistently being tagged with the label “designers of the Obama Library.” Is a client choosing them because of the reflected fame? Will all new works by the New York-based architects be measured against that Chicago shrine? Yet Williams and Tsien have created a number of noteworthy academic works in New England that deserve similar attention, including buildings at Bennington and Dartmouth. Their theater and dance building at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, is almost complete. Here, the very long shadow is not cast by the architects’ own projects, but by Louis Kahn’s library across campus. Kahn’s brick tribute to 19th-century Yankee mills—and the symmetry of Georgian style—is one of the great pieces of architecture in New England. The big block of the drama building by Williams and Tsien wisely does not choose to echo Kahn but is curiously almost a throwback to the early Brutalism of I. M. Pei. It establishes a more rugged character with a marvelous texture composed of gray Roman bricks. A more satisfying Granite State structure by Williams and Tsien is a library, archives, and exhibition complex at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. MacDowell is a century-old artists’ colony where thousands of painters, writers, and musicians, including James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Willa Cather, have sought quiet and isolation in a collection of rustic cabins in the woods. Thornton Wilder wrote his classic play Our Town during his time here. Williams and Tsien’s sensitive addition to the colony’s 1920s library is only 3,000 square feet, cost around $2 million, and is an exquisitely crafted gem. The single-story library is constructed of a nearly black granite. Set in a birch grove created by the leading modern landscape architects in Boston, Reed Hilderbrand, this gathering place for residents appears at one with the rocky soil and forests of Northern New England. A 23-foot-tall outdoor chimney flanking the entrance plaza to the library makes reference to the hearths in all of the MacDowell studios. It also looks like a primitive stele, giving the entire ensemble an aspect that is more primal than modern. Another prominent New York architect, Toshiko Mori, has produced a simple yet elegant warehouse for an art museum in the faded seaport and art destination of Rockland, Maine. Built to house a long-time contemporary art cooperative that had no permanent collection and only inadequate facilities for exhibitions and classes, the saw-toothed clerestories at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) make reference to New England factories while bringing in what the architect calls “that special Maine light.” Like those functional structures, Mori used economical, non-custom materials such as plasterboard and corrugated zinc that wrap the exterior, embracing the lack of funds to her advantage. Despite the nod to Rockland’s working class vibe, Mori created a thoughtfully wrought sophisticated work of art on an unremarkable side street. Mori’s Japanese heritage comes through in her subtle proportions based on a 4-foot grid. The CMCA offers a refreshing contrast to extravagantly costly new museums by superstar architects—the 11,000-square-foot arts center cost only $3.5 million. Mori has crafted a museum based on flexibility rather than attitude. A summer resident of nearby North Haven, she endowed her simple statement with an air of Yankee frugality. But perhaps the most encouraging new project is the $52-million John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A cooperative venture of three departments in three different colleges—architecture, landscape, and building technology—the autumn-hued, aluminum-wrapped school embodies the dynamic spirit of New England’s first publicly supported architecture program. The 87,000-square-foot studio and administrative space is the work of Boston–based Leers Weinzapfel and landscape designer Stephen Stimson, with contributions from the faculty-cum-clients. Construction Technology chair Alexander Schreyer, for example, a guru of heavy-timber structural systems, helped fashion what is perhaps the largest wood-frame building on the East Coast. The zipper trusses that span the 84-by-56-foot, two-story-high common area demonstrate the inventiveness of wood technology. The glulam trusses arrived on-site precut and were snapped together with pins. In short, the academic contributors got to show off their research and also benefit from it. In a region noted for some of the nation’s oldest and most renowned design schools, the Design Building announces the arrival of the new kid on the block. Its handsome envelope is pierced by asymmetrically placed tall and narrow fenestration as a nod to the doors of the tobacco barns that are the university’s neighbors in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley. From its roots as a fledgling offering in the art department in the early 1970s, design education at UMass has grown into a powerhouse. As the core of a complex of postwar and contemporary architecture, the Design Building helps to bring Roche Dinkeloo’s Brutalist Fine Arts Center into contact with a business school designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). While BIG’s work is sometimes incredibly innovative, the firm’s UMass project looks as if it might be another example of a second-tier work foisted on a boondocks location. Less flashy than its newer neighbor, Leers Weinzapfel’s Design Building is nonetheless a bold, homegrown achievement. New England’s patrimony is a tapestry of local and outside talent. A significant regional building would not be a postmodern structure in the shape of a lighthouse or a neotraditional re-creation of a Richardson library, but something like the UMass studios. Capturing the spirit of the best of New England design depends little upon reputation and huge expenditure. Rather, there is a direct correlation between realizing a quality work of art and understanding the region’s history of wresting a hard-won life from the granite earth. The challenge for successfully practicing architecture in New England is accepting an uncompromising intellectual toughness that demands respect for the eminently practical as well as the aspirational.
City Within a City
Baltimore’s Port Covington to be the Silicon Valley of athletics wear
South Baltimore’s underdeveloped waterfront neighborhood, Port Covington, will officially become a sprawling new development with 3 million square feet of space surrounding Under Armour’s global headquarters. According to The Baltimore Sun, over the next three years the long-time owner of the site, Weller Development, will build out one-third of the planned apartments, offices, and retail space for the 260-acre peninsula. The development is the 25-year-old vision of Under Armour’s founder and CEO Kevin Plank, who also owns Sagamore Development, which is backing the project. Part of the $5.5-billion plan will include a 50-acre expansion to the brand’s current campus, which sits along the Patapsco River adjacent to the Sagamore Spirit Distillery, the Rye Street Tavern, and The Sun’s facilities. The entire neighborhood will take over two decades to construct and is meant to also exist as a hub for tech innovation and start-up businesses, according to Curbed. Over 10,000 Under Armour employees will commute there once complete and Plank hopes to also attract the creative and engineering communities to live, work, and play. Phase 1 construction includes outfitting the neighborhood with 12 new buildings featuring office space, room for retail, and 1.34 million square feet of residential. A 156,000-square-foot hotel will also rise on the site. Forty acres of new parks and 2.5 miles of restored waterfront will buffer the community, and a new light-rail station will link it to the surrounding enclaves. The City of Baltimore will help develop the needed infrastructure within the neighborhood through a $600-million-dollar Tax Increment Financing deal approved in 2016. This “city within a city” is expected to break ground next year with the three-story market hall proposed for the complex. So far, there’s been no announcement as to which architectural firms have joined the project, though Sagamore Development has released initial designs.
In 1844 the Scottish city of Dundee eagerly anticipated its first royal visit in almost two centuries. Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert’s stay was a resounding success and to mark the occasion, the city erected the “Royal Arch” in 1853. It was an instant icon. A monumental structure, it towered over the nearby docks and could be seen all around the city, and indeed the world as Dundee capitalized on its marketing potential. In 1964, however, the Royal Arch was shamefully demolished so the Tay Road Bridge could be built as part of a comprehensive redevelopment plan. Fast forward 54 years and Victoria and Albert have returned, albeit in the form of a museum, and with it, Dundee once again has an icon worthy of global attraction. The V&A Museum of Design, colloquially known as the “V&A Dundee” has been designed by Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma. Bizarrely, yet also somewhat endearingly, train station departure and arrival boards display the architect and his nationality. The city is undeniably proud of its revived, post-Victorian internationalism. “I was inspired by Japanese temple archways,” Kuma told The Architect’s Newspaper. “The archways connect the mountain and nature to the city.” Composed as two inverted pyramids, the V&A Dundee forms an archway of sorts of its own, framing a view on the River Tay and the Tay Road Bridge that spans it. Kuma was also keen to keep the museum decidedly Scottish. It’s ragged, craggy facade is inspired by Scotland’s cliff-edged coastline and comprises 2,429 pre-cast concrete slabs. These lean over the River Tay, mimicking the prow of a ship. One segment of the museum does, in fact, edge out into the river, while porthole-like windows looking over the Tay create the impression of being on a ship when inside. On the Tay’s banks, even at the end of summer, the wind is ferocious. The shallow pools that circle the V&A’s base produce miniature waves, enhancing the sensation of being, as Kuma calls it, “in conversation with nature.” Externally the V&A Dundee is an impressive structure. Walking around the building, it’s staggered facade undulates and unwinds, revealing views onto the building and the River Tay beyond. As a result, the museum has become an instant photo opportunity, with the public (myself included) capturing its curvature to send straight to their Instagram feeds. (The hashtag #V&ADundee already has more than 2,000 posts). This is a digital building for the digital age. “Twenty years ago, we could not have built this building,” said Kuma. “It’s curves and structure are too complex.” Such a distinctive form has its pros and cons inside. The structure works in tension, with a steel truss spanning roof to link up with the outward leaning facades. As a result, the new museum has the largest column-free exhibition space in Scotland, allowing it to host exhibitions that were previously only available to Scots and Dundonians willing to either fly or take a six-hour train to London. Gallery spaces are located on the museum’s upper level. The fittingly nautical Ocean Liners exhibition, sailing up from the V&A in London, inaugurates the museum. The Scottish Design Galleries, meanwhile, host permanent exhibitions, showcasing Scotland’s design prowess. Of the 300 objects on display, one has American roots: a model and sketches of Frank Gehry’s Dundee Maggie’s Centre. The most notable exhibit is Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s “Oak Room” which was designed for the Ingram Street Tearooms in Glasgow. The beautifully crafted ensemble from one of Kuma’s “heroes” has been restored and rightfully put on display, marking its first outing in half a century. Alongside the two galleries on the upper level are studios and an auditorium. These are joined by an open gallery, free to the public and restaurant, both of which look down into a lobby below via a mezzanine with the latter also offering views along the River Tay. It’s here, though, that the museum’s shape causes problems. An outdoor terrace for the restaurant feels like an afterthought. Up here it’s even windier than at ground level and the tight space is encased by the concrete cladding system meaning there isn’t even a view worth braving the elements for. A similar story continues downstairs in the lobby, too. Oak veneered panels emulate the external facade and as a result are too steep to be sat on and truly useful. An auditorium may already be upstairs, but these panels could easily become bleachers, creating an informal auditorium in the process. This would even dovetail with Kuma’s notion of the museum’s lobby supposedly being a “living room for the city.” “This is not a space just for art lovers,” the architect said, but in reality, the lobby is just a cafe area and museum shop. The V&A Dundee has come at a price: $105 million, twice the initial budget. It’s also four years late. Dundonian’s, however, don’t seem to mind. “I’m just pleased that that kind of money is being spent of Dundee!” said one local, though on it’s opening day, a small protest by anti-poverty campaigners did take place. For all the efforts gone into making the museum happen, considerably less has gone into improving the surrounding area. An awful train station-hotel greets those visiting by rail and another, equally drab hotel is currently going up opposite the V&A. This is all part of a $1.3-billion waterfront masterplan which rehashes the work of planners 60 years ago. It’s just as well Kuma’s museum makes all that comes before instantly forgettable. The V&A Dundee is the icon Dundee has craved, turning the city into a genuine Scottish destination. https://vimeo.com/284710327
Tear Down for What?
Selby Library by SOM’s Walter Netsch may be demolished in Sarasota bayfront project
A Walter Netsch–designed library is under threat as plans move forward for a much-anticipated, community-backed bayfront development in Sarasota, Florida. On Thursday, September 6, the city’s planning board voted 3-2 to approve phase 1 of The Bay project, a 53-acre recreational and cultural complex which indirectly calls for the demolition of the old Selby Public Library building. According to Sarasota Vice-Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, zero consideration was given to the fate of the 30,000-square-foot structure despite other historic buildings being saved on site. “My biggest issue with this is that the proper process isn’t being taken to determine the library’s future,” she said. “Why is the first step of creating this legacy project destroying a former legacy project?” The Selby Public Library, designed under Netsch's lead at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1976, sits on an underutilized waterfront plot that’s been eyed for large-scale development for over a decade. The building, now known as the G.Wiz Science Museum, has been empty for six years and costs the city $40,000 annually to maintain. Ahearn-Koch and other G.Wiz advocates claimed that leading up to an early September special planning meeting, neither the city nor the public had been officially notified of the decision to take the building down. She also said the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO), which is spearheading the effort, did not provide sufficient evidence for the $10.5-million cost the group estimated that it would take to rehabilitate the 42-year-old structure. The SBPO only provided a presentation with pictures of the proposal, which did not include the G.Wiz building. “Before you talk about why you can’t save a building and repurpose it, you have to discuss the historical and cultural value of it and then figure out how much it will cost,” Ahearn-Koch said. Following the SBPO’s presentation, locals took over the two-hour comment period citing concerns over G.Wiz. According to Ahearn-Koch, the city received countless emails calling for its preservation, but the SBPO team claimed they never received any pleas to save it prior to the meeting. Now the group says it will welcome ideas on how to reuse the building as part of The Bay. Sarasota boasts a rich architectural legacy and a burgeoning development scene that often gets overshadowed by mega-projects nearby in Miami. The Sarasota School of Architecture includes an incredible roster of modernist buildings by architects such as Paul Rudolph, William Rupp, Mark Hampton, and Ralph Twitchell. According to Vassar College Professor of Art Nick Adams, Netsch’s Selby Public Library, while not widely known compared to Netch's other projects, is a pure demonstration of "field theory," the late architect’s approach to designing architecture around unique geometries suited to the program and environment. “It’s not a building that’s very well-covered in Netsch literature,” said Adams. “But it’s quite ingenious how the shapes of the building have a residence within the location that’s very attractive. There aren’t very many field theory buildings that are still active in their original function. I do hope before they swing the wrecking ball that the city does a proper recording of what was there and what changes were done.” Local architect Dale Parks completed an award-winning retrofit of the library in 2000, transforming it into G.Wiz and adding a soaring glass atrium to Netsch’s design. Parks believes his work didn’t inherently warp the SOM building’s original character. As an expert on the structure, he outright denies any claims that it did. “We tried to respect SOM’s construction as much as possible, and I know it would be quite easy to restore it,” Parks said. “Whatever repurpose it may have in the future, it’s definitely not going to be a library because the layout doesn’t pertain to future use. But the outside of the building is still there.” The top arguments for taking down the building are that it doesn’t stand up to current FEMA standards and would need to be significantly elevated, and that the city is spending too much money on its upkeep as tenants have shied away from staking claim to it over the past several years. Commissioner Hagen Brody, who voted yes to approve phase 1 of The Bay in favor of demolishing G.Wiz, recognizes its importance but believes removing it from the site will serve a greater good. “The community overwhelmingly wanted green space, not buildings or redevelopment on that site,” he said. "With all of that, the choice was pretty clear. A vote against moving forward with phase 1 would have sent the whole project back to the drawing board after years of public input and would have seriously jeopardized the entire effort as well as fundraising. I believe these are tough decisions, but it’s a positive change for Sarasota and that’s the definition of progress.” The initial build out of The Bay, led by a nearly all-female team from Boston-based planning firm Sasaki, would turn 10 acres of the site’s southern portion into a new public park by 2020. After being selected for the project last October, the team has worked with the SBPO and held an exhaustive community engagement process to shape the final master plan, first revealed in May and updated Friday. Susannah Ross, Gina Ford, and Christine Dunn conceived a grand park and cultural community less than a mile away from Sarasota’s beloved Boulevard of the Arts. One of the structures on the site, the lavender-colored Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall designed by Taliesin Associated Architects in 1969, is included in Sasaki’s latest renderings, only after a major public outcry occurred over its absence in the initial images. Christopher Wilson, president of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, said the specific reuse of Van Wezel isn’t clear, but it’s more or less saved. “Saving Van Wezel and not G.Wiz makes no sense,” Wilson said. “From the beginning, this building has not gotten the proper attention that it should. The excuse that it’s in the floodplain and not up to FEMA standards is not a reason to demolish it. The city is throwing around the $10 million number prematurely with incomplete evidence.” Wilson also noted there are five other aging structures on site that have been deemed part of Sarasota’s cultural zone: the Municipal Auditorium (1938), Chidsey Library (1941), Arts Center Sarasota (1949), the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce (1956), and the Garden Club of Sarasota (1959). These buildings will remain during the construction of The Bay. In a letter sent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune last weekend, Eric Keune, design director at SOM Chicago, provided a list of five ways G.Wiz could be adapted for reuse, including making it an open-air pavilion, a co-working space, or a satellite studio for the University of Florida architecture program. The Architect’s Newspaper was sent a copy of the text, though it has yet to be published. In his argument, Keune wrote that though the structure today is undoubtedly not the Selby Public Library, he believes the building, along with Netsch’s original vision, is still inside it and “only needs to be (re) discovered.” Vice-Mayor Ahearn-Koch feels the same way. For her, this fight is personal and she thinks people need to act fast, as Keune did, if they have ideas. "All too often in this city we do demolition by neglect and this is a perfect example of that," she said. "This is such a stunning building. I remember going to the big stack as a student, checking out a book and going off into one of the side nooks to read. I still feel this can be a very useful building for the future of Sarasota. Our arts community, including our architecture, is who we are, and I just don't see the logic in destroying it." Sarasota's Historic Preservation Board voted unanimously to recommend the SBPO and city commission find a new tenant for G.Wiz, pursue alternative renovation plans, as well as host more community workshops as phase 1 plans move forward. This is the third time in two years the advisory group has advocated for the building.
Wheel of Misfortune
New York City’s massive Staten Island ferris wheel may never spin
For the past six years, the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island in New York City has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of what would be one of the city’s greatest landmark attractions: the giant, 630-foot New York Wheel with views of the New York Harbor, Statue of Liberty, and New York City skyline. While over $400 million has been sunk into the project since its conception, little has been done to get the ball rolling. Construction has barely begun, and Mayor de Blasio recently signaled that it may not ever happen. The main problem is the cost. The New York City Economic Development Corporation reported that the estimated cost of the Wheel has skyrocketed from $250 million when the project was first proposed in 2012 to a devastating $999 million under the de Blasio administration. When the Wheel’s developer, New York Wheel LLC, asked the city for $140 million in support, de Blasio rejected their pleas, refusing to bail out the floundering project. His administration told New York 1 that the city government is “clear-eyed about the risks of putting public money into an expensive, speculative project.” The New York Wheel promised to transform the humble yet densely packed neighborhood of St. George into a world-class, waterfront destination. Aside from the Wheel itself, whose 36 spacious and climate-controlled pods would provide visitors with fine food, drink, and breathtaking views of the city, the site also comprises five acres of publically accessible grass space for events, a state-of-the-art children’s playground, and a terminal building with restaurants, shops, and boutiques. The project would have potentially revitalized Staten Island, a borough that has long been neglected by New York City tourists. Yet the government’s decision to oppose the funding of the New York Wheel comes after a surge of similar projects in cities like Berlin and Beijing that eventually failed due to a lack of support and income. “Despite many recent conversations with the Wheel developer, we remain convinced that public funds are too scare and valuable to be leveraged for this venture,” an official with the Economic Development Corporation told New York 1. Since the Wheel’s developer and former contractor, Mammoet-Starneth, hoped to rely on the city for financial provision, the two parties were forced to craft a new deal that would give the development team until January 7, 2019 to hire a new contractor and complete the project. According to Staten Island Advance, a hearing on a motion to approve the agreement has been set for September 21. Until then, the fate of the Wheel remains unknown.
A New Way to Cross
Spatial Affairs Bureau unveils BridgePark plan for riverfront in Richmond, Virginia
Los Angeles and London–based Spatial Affairs Bureau has unveiled a series of transformative concept designs for a major new downtown linear park that would reconnect several communities and establish key points of access to the historic falls of the James River in Richmond, Virginia. The so-called Richmond BridgePark plan has been in the works for over six years as part of an expanding set of improvements slated for the city’s waterfront, where several historic and modern bridges cross over the James River. The aim of the project is to connect the city’s downtown and South Side neighborhoods by creating new pieces of pedestrian-focused urban infrastructure that can draw both sides of the city together. Within a short section of the downtown area, the river is crossed by bridges at 14th and Manchester Streets as well as by State Route 301 and Interstate 95, among other crossings. The latter three spans were built as part of modernization efforts during the mid-20th Century, but their wide configurations and oversize arterials have isolated spaces and dislocated communities. With their expansive plan, Spatial Affairs is aiming to remedy at least some of these malignant conditions by “borrowing” space from the bridges in order to create a pedestrian boardwalk across the river. The plan also calls for transforming an existing but disused median along the bridge into a “bicycle superhighway” that could carry bicycle commuters over the river, as well. The paths will have generously landscaped footholds on either side of the river, according to renderings, and will extend formally and informally into the neighborhoods on either side. The reworked transportation route will also host several of the city’s Pulse high-speed bus lines and add a new interconnected park system studded with event spaces and public art. Another aim for the project is to create a new people-centered route that offers expansive views of a historic train viaduct that was burned down at the conclusion of the American Civil War. The remaining foundation elements and ruins will be visible from the pedestrian bridge and will serve as a focal point for the entire project. The project is moving into the final design stages over the next couple of years as work continues on a private fundraising campaign aimed at funding the plan. Meanwhile, backers of the BridgePark are moving toward getting the city to include the initiative in the city’s forthcoming development plans. Regarding the project, Peter Culley, director at Spatial Affairs said, “We are at a very exciting stage in what is an appropriately ambitious project taking its place as part of Richmond’s impressive renaissance as a river city with important histories now ready to be reexamined.” Culley added, “As cars begin to take a second place in our cities, human stories and experiences can appropriately move up to the front of the line.” In a press release, BridgePark Foundation President, Ted Elmore, states, “We are thrilled to work with the community and this extraordinarily accomplished team in examining our past and envisioning monuments to our future. The popularity of newly achieved river initiatives, such as The Potterfield Bridge, coupled with exciting projects pending downtown make now an ideal time for us to contribute a bold vision to our City.” The unveiling of the conceptual plan for the project follows a six-year-long community outreach effort and the completion of an ideas study by Spatial Affairs Bureau in 2015. Spatial Affairs has an office in Richmond to help coordinate the project. Buro Happold New York is on board for structural and economic impact studies for the project with Sam Schwartz Engineering working on the pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular transportation strategies. Timmons Group will provide civil engineering services while Gardiner & Theobald will conduct cost estimation for the project. A timeline for completion of the park has not been announced.