All posts in East

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Stacks on Stacks on Stacks

Hunters Point Library is being sued over ADA violations
Today, the nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a class-action lawsuit against Queens Public Library (QPL), the Board of Trustees of the QPL, and the City of New York over the Library’s newest branch, Hunters Point Library. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the branch in Long Island City has been facing backlash from patrons and community members since it’s opening in September for not being fully accessible to people with disabilities.  Despite disability rights laws, the newly constructed building's circulation relies heavily on stairs which limits access and excludes many from accessing the collection altogether. While there is one elevator, it does not stop at certain levels in the library and patrons have complained of long lines and congestion. The reason that was previously given for such an omission was that librarians can retrieve materials for patrons who cannot access the stacks themselves.  Plaintiffs Tanya Jackson and the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York are suing to require the library to fix this “unjust and discriminatory situation.” Jackson stated in a recent press release, “It is shocking to me that a brand-new public library would not be fully accessible to people with mobility disabilities like myself. Libraries should welcome everyone, not exclude whole populations of people.”  In addition to the three levels which are completely inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities, there are reportedly numerous other barriers at the library: The children’s section contains a multi-level lounge and meeting spaces inaccessible to children and caregivers with mobility disabilities, the upper level of the rooftop terrace has no access point other than stairs, the framed panoramic views of Manhattan throughout the library are only viewable from the stairs, and designated stroller “parking” areas block circulation from the elevator to other main parts of the library.  “The ADA is not a new requirement, and it is not hard to understand. It is baffling that this $41.5 million building is missing these fundamental elements. It’s as though the library didn’t even care about these requirements, or worse, didn’t even consider the needs of these members of the community,” said Andrew Kozak-Oxnard, a staff attorney at DRA. “People with disabilities should be able to browse, relax, and enjoy the library just like everyone else.” The lawsuit alleges violations of both federal and local civil rights laws for disability-based discrimination and hopes to rectify the situation by requiring the defendants to develop a plan that provides equal access to the library. DRA is the leading nonprofit in disability rights in the country and claims to win nearly all of its cases and “knock down barriers for people with all types of disabilities.” Rather than seeking monetary compensation, their suits aim to force reforms to systems and practices of oppression against those with disabilities.  Michelle Caiola, managing director of litigation at DRA insisted, “Hunters Point Library was meant to be a model, a state-of-the-art institution designed to serve the needs of the community. The Library’s total disregard for adults and children with disabilities must be addressed.” The Queens Public Library provided the following statement to AN:
"This morning we learned that a disability rights organization filed a lawsuit against the Library and the City of New York alleging that Hunters Point is not accessible to people living with disabilities. It is always the Library’s goal to be welcoming, open and available to everyone, including customers with disabilities. We are taking this matter very seriously."
Steven Holl Architects has been contacted for comment and this article will be updated accordingly.
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Above The Fold

Yoon-Young Hur channels architecture into her ceramics
On a sunny Thursday afternoon, Yoon-Young Hur, or YY as she’s known by friends, met AN Interior contributor Emily Conklin for lunch at a French bistro in the West Village, not far from Greenwich House Pottery, the studio that gave her a start with weekend classes while she was working as a full-time architect. She’s come a long way since that introduction and now maintains her own studio practice at Sculpture Space, and gallery representation abroad, and was invited to teach the 2019 summer intensive studio course at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union, where Conklin was her student. Hur straddles the creative worlds of both art and architecture with a soft, minimalist sensibility. A holder of two B.A’s—a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a B.Arch from the Cooper Union—her past practice continuously inform her current work. “At the Art Institute, I had this great connection with a professor who came from the Cooper Union,” Hur said. “For a while, I had been trying to figure out what his approach was and where it was coming from. When I found out, that’s where I went.” Hur’s ceramics are deeply rooted in her Korean heritage. After art and architecture school, She returned home to reconnect with family and culture, and South Korea is where she honed many of her formal technical skills. “There’s this embrace of imperfection in Korean art, which differs greatly from Chinese art, for example,” Hur said. “A moon jar’s seam, as well as the depressions and collapses that can happen within the kiln—are things to be celebrated, not discarded.” Some of her earliest work revolved around this archetype; that is said to be representative of a Korean aesthetic at large. A spherical vessel with a narrow opening at the top, this type of jar is traditionally created by throwing two semicircular bowls, inverting one, and assembling them together before firing. While it is possible to throw the entire jar with no seam, she finds that imperfect connection to be a tangible interaction with a long lineage of ceramicists. “It represents a raw and direct record of the fleeting moment,” she said. “By not over-refining my process, I perceive new surprises and results that are often beyond my expectations and preconceived ideas.” Read the full interview on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Watertight

Boston architects come together to make a 3D-printable map of the city
The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) has long kept 3D models of its city. However, cobbled together over the years, the files are at times cumbersome and as firms increasingly turn to 3D printing for model making and testing, not so useful. Printers don’t know how to process them or they are not designed in a way that print with stability. MakeTANK, an initiative of the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) saw this as an opportunity. MakeTANK was initially started to “integrate maker culture into the design process,” according to Sasaki director of technical resources Bradford J. Prestbo, who has been intimately involved with the project along with the rest of the firm. The hope was to leverage the many makers and maker spaces in the greater Boston area, and help architects increase client engagement and decrease contractor risk—and cost—by testing their designs out first. “Imagine going into a restaurant where the chef only wrote recipes and has never actually cooked them,” said Prestbo, half-joking. “That's kind of like the architectural profession today, where we just do a lot of paper architecture and paper designs without going through the process to actually taste what we've coupled together to make sure it's actually an effective solution that also will perform long term.”  City Print is MakeTANK's latest project, just announced at ABX19, though it’s been under development for over a year. The collaborative team of architects that came together for City Print developed a series of scripts that helped turn the existing models of Boston into “watertight solids,” meaning that when processed in Grasshopper they can be effectively fed into 3D printers. They also added additional topographic details. The process, however, could not be fully automated. The files have to be individually opened, the scripts ran, and all of it double and triple checked for quality control. To help convert the over 200 model tiles of the city to be 3D ready, MakeTANK has enlisted the “who’s who” of Boston-area architects. “We are engaging in the greater AEC community to help us process the tiles,” explained Jay Nothoff, Sasaki fabrication studio manager, “and then turning around and handing this resource back to that same community as a finished project for everyone to enjoy and use as they will further project work.” The revamped models will be added to the BPDA's free repository and the BSA is using them themselves. They’ll be replacing their lobby's current scale model of the city—the basis of which was originally designed in the 1980s and is mostly focused on the financial district—with a new, modular replica made from these printed files. “We're zooming out from the financial district,” said Nothoff. “We're including the City of Boston in its entirety and we're making a model that is easily updated because it is built off a grid system. As portions of the city change and grow, these titles are semi-precious at best; they're just going to be held in place with magnets so we can pull the tile and put a new one in its place to most accurately represents the City of Boston in its current state.” Felipe Francisco, an architectural designer at Sasaki, went on to explain that many community groups didn’t feel represented by the previous BSA model. “We're open to try and create a new dialogue with those groups,” explained Francisco. “We want to use this as a resource for community groups to be able to come in and use this model to diagram stories over it through projection mapping about their communities.” By collaborating with visualization experts, the BSA is developing tools to use the re-built model as a storytelling and visualization device. “The intention is to build a base projection for the model itself that delineates roads, waterways and what have you,” said Nothoff. On top of that could be layered information on sea-level rise, income data, other metrics, or more abstract visuals. “We're reaching out to various organizations throughout the greater Boston area, such as the Boston Foundation, to help us gather all the voices that are currently feeling underrepresented and give them equity with his model and teach them how to use the projection map on to the model and tell their story.” The process is ongoing. Interested area firms can “check out” tiles from a grid of the city, and for a dose of healthy competition, check out a leader board. “You grab a tile, fill out a form, and submit it and shortly thereafter you get all the support files and the working files and scripting as well as instructions on how to process them,” explained Prestbo.
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Not Related to the Pants

Egyptian street food chain Zooba gets situated in New York
Egyptian street food is the perfect blend of Arab and North African influence. Fava beans replace chickpeas, bessara, hummus, and tahini. Recently opened in New York's bustling Nolita district, Zooba has quickly become a unique player in the city's daunting and at times saturated food scene. The new outpost offers up a focused menu of its national cuisine while paying homage to its hometown Cairo. The chain's refreshed brand identity was carefully conceived by celebrated graphic designer Jessica Walsh while it's New York interior was designed by award-winning architect Ahmed El Husseiny, founder of Brooklyn-based creative agency AE SuperLab. Situated on the corner of storied thoroughfares Kenmare Street and Cleveland Place, the spacious eatery joins the neighborhood with a facade mural that depicts a huge, sloppily painted Arabic logo designed by Walsh. This fresco distinguishes itself from the litany of painted walls nearby and yet seamlessly integrated into the urban vernacular of the area. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Just Like the Tuition

The Cooper Union launches a free database dedicated to student work
Two weeks ago, The Cooper Union’s Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture launched its new online Student Work Collection database, an archive of student projects from the 1930s through today. Spanning over eight decades, the database aims to illustrate how The Cooper Union’s experimental approach to architectural education has evolved over time and influenced architectural pedagogy at large. The collection is free and open to the public.  The database's release was organized into two phases. To celebrate the project's initial launch on November 13, the school hosted a two-part discussion between former and current faculty members. The first phase provides access to approximately 20,000 analog records dating from 1930-2000, including almost 1,600 design studio projects completed at the school. The collection “highlights the singular inclusion of humanities in architectural pedagogy that distinguishes The Cooper Union from other schools of architecture,” the school wrote on their website Accordingly, the first discussion was centered around the school’s pedagogy up until 2000 and John Hejduk’s legacy as teacher and dean. Participants included Diana Agrest, Peter Eisenman, Michael Sorkin, Sue Ferguson Gussow, and Michael Webb. The second discussion was centered on “the impact the pedagogy has had on the teaching and discipline of architecture” and was comprised of former graduates including Peggy Deamer, Laurie Hawkinson, Stan Allen, David Gersten, Bradley Horn, Kyna Leski, and Toshiko Mori.  Phase II began earlier this month and is expected to continue through 2022. “Once complete, the Collection will become the first comprehensive, public, digital resource for historical and contemporary architectural pedagogy and student work,” said the school. The second phase will broaden the collection’s material by including 32,000 images, text, and audiovisual records from 2001 through today.  You can browse the database according to courses, projects, locations, and people organized in alphabetical order. Users can also filter the collection of photos, drawings, and models by role, semester, or problem being addressed. A selection of this material was on view at the school’s 2018 exhibition, Archive and Artifact: The Virtual and the Physical, which presented 50 years of the school’s undergraduate thesis projects.  “We are excited to share this rich body of work digitally and are certain it will help provide an integral reference point for any student, educator, or researcher of architecture about the radical changes in architectural education and practice of our last century,” said Steven Hillyer, director of the Architecture Archive.
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Honed Edge

Ahead of Design Miami, Aric Chen talks sustainability, economics, and China

Aric Chen is the new curatorial director of Design Miami, the premiere show of collectible design, which features the world’s top designers and architects. The show returns for its 15th edition December 2 through 8, 2019, alongside Art Basel, showcasing a body of work that revolves around the theme of environmental sustainability. Until recently, Chen was the lead architecture and design curator at the soon-to-open Hong Kong museum M+. Long before that, he grew up in Chicago with his Taiwanese mother before studying architecture at Berkeley and then design history at Cooper Hewitt. In 2008, he was the co-creative director at Design Fair Shanghai, and served as the creative director at Beijing Design Week from 2011 to 2012. Chen now lives in Shanghai, where he teaches and works as M+’s curator-at-large.

A former Archpaper columnist himself, Chen recently spoke with AN’s products editor Gabrielle Golenda about the current state of design, the environment, and issues affecting the industry, as well as major changes that will shape the field in the coming years.

AN Interior: How is the environmental impact of humanity on the world affecting design?

Aric Chen: When it comes to issues of the environment, I don’t think we can talk about design as solving problems anymore, as we now realize that the problems are too complex to “solve.” That being said, design offers a way to help change behaviors, to mitigate our impact on the planet, and to adapt and build resilience to what we can’t change. It’s prompting us to rethink the relationship between natural and man-made, raw materials and waste, and production and consumption in exciting and promising ways.

How can platforms like Design Miami influence how we think about these issues? How are you addressing sustainability at the show?

Design Miami, and the work it shows, has always been about more than aesthetics and form. To me, what makes a design “collectible” are the ideas that inform it: the experimentation—in terms of these ideas, but also through materials, making, and, yes, aesthetics and form—that it embodies, and the messages and narratives it communicates. The best design speaks to the issues and concerns of its time, so questions around materials, production, and sustainability in our current environmental condition are naturally finding their way into Design Miami through the work of designers who are pushing the boundaries of experimentation and discourse—and, I hope, finding a market to support their work in doing so. As such, I hope we’re contributing to a cultural conversation while also taking practical steps to make the fair more sustainable—for example, by partnering with the advocacy group A Plastic Planet to eliminate single-use plastics from the fair’s food and beverage.

Read the full interview on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Forever Young

Exclusive: MoMA and PS1's Young Architects Program is going on hiatus
MoMA and PS1 have disclosed to AN that the Young Architects Program (YAP) will be going on hiatus next year, following its 20-year anniversary this past summer. AN had heard from sources close to MoMA PS1 that the program might be shutting down, and upon following up with the Queens institution, Martino Stierli, the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the MoMA, provided the following statement:
"Following the 20th anniversary of the Young Architects Program (YAP), MoMA and MoMA PS1 have decided to place the program on a one-year hiatus. We remain deeply committed to supporting and recognizing emerging architectural talent. "We’ve already started to use the hiatus to bring together a diverse group of influential scholars and professionals, experimental architects and designers, and previous YAP winners to assess the program’s impact for the past two decades, explore its potential, and strategically chart its future. We look forward to sharing more news as we move along in this process."
MoMA could be moving toward a more durable, longer-term commission in its courtyard to serve its outdoor summer Warm Up music series, performance events, and art book fair, but that's only speculation. The Young Architects Program's origins go back to 1998, a year after the Frederick Fisher-designed renovation enclosed the PS1 entrance courtyard in concrete walls. That year, Vienna-based artist group Gelatin installed a scrappy "environment" in conjunction with PS1's first series of Warm Up summer concerts. Percutaneous Delights was composed of rough compositions of stacked refrigerators, discarded furniture, Po-mo inflatables, a graffitied shipping container, and an array of sprinklers to activate the space with what the P.R. at the time described as a welcoming hang-out for hot summer days. The following year, PS1 inaugurated its gradual absorption into the MoMA collective with a project by Philip Johnson, ever a follower of fashions (even if it led him, at times, in the direction of Nazism), who designed a Dance Pavilion DJ booth for the 1999 summer concerts as the first collaboration between the two institutions. It wasn't until 2000 that MoMA architecture curator Terence Riley formally established the Young Architects Program as an annual invited competition to promote innovative practices. The program was simple: provide shade, seating, and water for Warm Up. The first winner—if anyone can still remember the now 190-plus person office as a young startup—was SHoP Architects, which demonstrated the kind of digitally designed, people-friendly, carefully crafted form-making that would make them the go-to firm for urban development projects that need a warmer public face. The program frequently created opportunities for younger architects to demonstrate conceptual ideas percolating in academia on a small but meaningful scale. Early winners of the competition included Lindy Roy (2001), William Massie (2002), Tom Wiscombe (2003), nARCHITECTS (2004), Hernan Diaz Alonso (2005), and OBRA Architects (2006). Sometimes the projects leaned in the direction of conceptual follies that had less of a service component, and early projects at times demonstrated the limits of digital design as often as its potential. The initial budget was $25,000, later increased to $75,000, though it became common knowledge that most firms would spend more out of their own pockets and lean heavily on interns to build out the ideas. It was not an open competition: MoMA curators and advisors pre-selected a handful of designers and frequently favored well-connected circles from Ivy League schools and well-connected academics. The arc of the program traces a mini-curatorial history of MoMA, from Riley to Tina di Carlo and Peter Christensen, Barry Bergdoll, Andres Lepik, Pedro Gadanho, Sean Anderson, and Stierli, whose influences are reflected in the selections, along with changes in the profession. Little by little, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center became PS1 MoMA, then MoMA PS1. Some of the better-regarded highlights over the years included WORKac's 2008 P.F.1 (Public Farm One), which installed a demonstration urban farm that could survive the barren courtyard environment and created an ascending staircase of planter boxes on top of the gravel-covered space. SO-IL's Pole Dance (2010) engaged the playful possibilities of the program with colorful beach balls, overhead netting, hammocks, misters, and flexible PVC pipes, programmed with dance performances. On the most service-oriented end, Interboro Partners (2011) used their project as a demonstration of how PS1 could engage the surrounding neighborhood, building out the courtyard with a kit-of-parts based on the expressed needs of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and others in the community who they interviewed and donated components to at the end of the summer. Later projects by MOS (afterparty, 2009), Hollwich Kushner (Wendy, 2012), The Living (Hy-Fi, 2014), Andrés Jacque/ Office for Political Innovation (COSMO, 2015), and Jenny Sabin Studio (Lumen, 2017) increasingly verged in the direction of critical grotesques, parametric design, and environmental remediation experiments to varying degrees of success. Through it all, the surrounding neighborhood blew up in an astonishing, if predictable manner, in ascending towers of luxury apartments, demolishing the beloved 5 Pointz graffiti space in the process. If SHoP's origins as a young firm are hard to remember, it's even more difficult to retrieve the imperative that once made PS1 so improbable and ingenious a proposition in the first place—and the Young Architects Program an innocent delight—when its enterprising founder Alanna Heiss somehow convinced the Queens borough president to hand over a closed-down public school to a group of misfits from the SoHo/ Tribeca alternative space scene who proceeded to saw through floors as sculptures. Notably, one of the names that appears as a funder in the first decade of YAP, along with Bloomberg, Agnes Gund, and Isaac Liberman, is none other than real-estate-reality-show-specter-turned-president Donald J. Trump. How a contemporary art center can meaningfully respond to the current situation, if at all, could be a starting point for the continuation of the program or its eventual cancellation, but the Young Architects Program unquestionably pioneered a model of temporary urban pavilion imitated worldwide, activating public spaces that without major capital improvements or altering their historic character remained inhospitable and inflexible for contemporary needs.
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Currying Favor

Currier Museum of Art acquires a second Frank Lloyd Wright home
New Hampshire’s Currier Museum of Art announced on November 14 that they will be adding a second Frank Lloyd Wright house to their permanent collection, making the institution the sole museum in the world to own two of “America’s most important architect’s” buildings.  The Toufic H. Kalil House is one of seven Usonian Automatic homes ever built and was put on the market this past September for $850,000. An anonymous donor provided the museum with $970,000 in funds to acquire the property and make it accessible to the public.  “This generous donation is a tribute to the philanthropy in our state, and serves as an example for others,” said Steve Duprey, president of the museum’s Board of Trustees, in a press release, which went on to say that with “the impending sale of the Kalil House, there was a real danger that it might be altered, moved away, or even torn down.”  The house is located at 117 Heather Street in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was built in 1955 with Wright’s patented technique of individually-cast interlocking concrete blocks reinforced with rods set into the walls and roof. The system stemmed from Wright’s larger vision for more democratic design and planning of modern architecture for middle-class America. Such houses were designed with the idea that home buyers could construct the homes themselves out of a kit.  Wright designed approximately 60 homes under the name “Usonian” including the seven Usonian Automatics. The term was used throughout his work to refer to the United States, as opposed to the term America, which of course also includes Mexico and Canada. For Wright, Usonian architecture was to be set apart from all previous “American” architectural conventions specifically.  Usonian houses, including the Kalil House, were typically small, single-story dwellings with an L-shaped plan. They made use of natural light, local materials, flat roofs, and radiant floor heating. The Kalil House, a 1,406-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house meets all of these requirements and, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, still includes much of the architect’s original furniture, textiles, and kitchen appliances. The house’s mahogany clad interior is illuminated by 350 individual glass windows, both fixed and operable.  While many of the features have been maintained, the house has also received updates to the roof, landscaping, and back patio. An unfinished, 264-square-foot guest home is located behind the house and was constructed in the same modular construction technique.  The Kalil’s were inspired to build the home after seeing their friend’s FLW-designed home just three doors down the street. The Zimmerman House was also acquired by the museum in 1988 as noted in the owner’s will, alongside an operating endowment for the building's maintenance.  Currier Museum’s director, Alan Chong stated in the press release, “Although they are about the same size and on the same street, the Zimmerman and Kalil houses are very different in character... Frank Lloyd Wright intended his Usonian designs to be affordable to the broader American public, but each is a distinctive work of art.” Just like the Zimmerman House, the Kalil house will be preserved and opened up for guided tours next April.
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Tortoise Grid

BKSK and BuroHappold crown Tammany Hall with a glass shell
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The neo-Georgian Tammany Hall located on the northeastern corner of Union Square has assumed multiple identities over the course of its nearly century-long existence: It has been the home of the notoriously corrupt Society of St. Tammany, a union headquarters, and a theater and film school. Now, BKSK Architects and BuroHappold Engineering are leading the conversion of the building into a contemporary office space, which will be topped by a bulbous glass dome ringed with terra-cotta panels.
  • Facade Manufacturer Eckelt-St. Gobain Permasteelisa Gartner
  • Owner Reading International
  • Architect BKSK
  • Facade Installer Permasteelisa Gartner
  • Facade Consultant BuroHappold Engineering
  • Structural Engineer Thornton Tomasetti
  • Location Manhattan, New York
  • Date of Completion 2020
  • System Custom shell grid
  • Products Saint-Gobain Parsol Grey, SGG Cool-Lite Xtreme
The design of the glass dome derives from both international Georgian precedents as well as the historical origins of the Society of St. Tammany—named after renowned Lenape leader Chief Tamanend, whose clan’s symbol was a turtle. According to BKSK partner Todd Poisson, the design team interpreted Chief Tamanend’s tribal imagery “With a turtle shell-like dome rising from this neo-Georgian landmark building, reimagining its tepid hipped roof with a new steel, glass, and terra-cotta base supporting an undulating glass dome.” Austrian manufacturer Eckelt, a member of the Saint-Gobain group, produced the structurally glazed insulated glass units. To reduce solar exposure to the office space below, the outer shell is built of tinted Saint-Gobain Parsol Grey panels treated with a high-performance sputter solar coating. The second layer of the carapace, separated from the tinted panels by a layer of air space, is comprised of clear glass panels. The roof, made of 850 isosceles triangular panels ranging from a 5- to 9-foot base, encompass a total surface area of approximately 12,000 square feet. Rising from the rear of the cornice line, the glass panels are fastened to an undulating steel free-form shell grid fabricated by Gartner. To support the weight of the dome, and to facilitate the straightforward installation of structural members, the entire structural system of the historic building was replaced with a poured-in-place concrete core—effectively transforming the original load-bearing brick enclosure into a freestanding rain screen. The project is scheduled to wrap up in 2020. BKSK partner Todd Poisson and BuroHappold Engineering associate principal John Ivanoff will present the Tamanny Hall project at Facades+ NYC on April 2 as part of the "Adaptive Reuse Challenges in NYC Historic Icons" panel.
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History's Mysteries

Pittsburgh's MuseumLab renovation finds wonder in history
The thrill of discovery is palpable throughout Koning Eizenberg Architecture (KEA)’s MuseumLab in Pittsburgh. The museum is designed for older kids—tweens ages 10–15 years old—and encourages hands-on learning through arts and technology. The restoration of its building was driven by curiosity and inquiry into a historic structure that had fallen into disrepair. The MuseumLab is an expansion of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the third building to be renovated in what has become the largest cultural campus for families in the U.S. It’s the Santa Monica-based KEA’s second project on that campus, following their transformation of an 1880s-era post office and the adjacent 1940s planetarium in 2004. MuseumLab (along with a charter school and incubator for education-based startups) now occupies the next building in the row, a 40,000-square-foot Richardsonian Romanesque library was once known as the Carnegie Free Library. Commissioned by the industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1886, it was the first of over 1,600 free libraries he would build across the U.S. As the first library in his adopted hometown, Carnegie spared no expense on this Gilded Age gift to Pittsburgh’s workers. Unfortunately, the textured terracotta tiles and ornately carved column capitals were sacrificed in a 1970s redesign that saved the building from urban renewal efforts but covered up its most distinctive qualities under dropped ceilings, plaster, and carpeted walls. In 2006 a lightning strike sent a three-ton piece of granite crashing through the roof, causing damage that led the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to finally abandon the building altogether. In need of new space, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh saw an opportunity to turn the neglected building from a library into a “lab” that offers tweens a maker space for complex projects, a tech lab run in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, and art exhibitions. In working with KEA, the renovation exemplified MuseumLab’s focus on curiosity and discovery. KEA partner Julie Eizenberg described the approach to the project, which didn’t necessarily begin with a fixed outcome in mind. Eizenberg and the Children’s Museum team approached “architecture as an exploration. … We have a philosophy that the building is an armature for learning in every project we do, and that applied here as well. We started pulling the building apart and that’s when we realized that more of the building had been removed than anyone had expected.” Christen Cieslak, director of facilities and special projects at Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, describes how the renovation fits the mantra of the Children’s Museum to encourage visitors to: “Play with real stuff, and be authentic.” She saw the potential for authenticity in the renovation: “This building has a story to tell.” Exposing the crumbling plaster, missing tile, and stripped ornamentation was a way of exploring the many stories embedded in a post-industrial city and brought about unexpected design opportunities. In that sense, KEA’s work was equal parts excavation and renovation, or in Eizenberg’s words, “more of a reveal than restore.” Peeling away layers of midcentury plaster and vinyl flooring uncovered the building’s industrial materials, colors, and textures and offered surprises along the way, like an entryway lined with terra cotta fox head tiles that were only discovered at the last minute. But rather than restore the building to its original splendor, the team decided to celebrate the layered qualities of the space. “We said, ‘we’re not going to make this a clean and tidy restoration, this is going to be a lovely ruin.’ It ended up making a lot of sense economically and poetically, in terms of reinforcing program values,” Eizenberg said. There’s an irreverence to this approach that should resonate with the building’s young users without “talking down to them.” For Eizenberg, the space “needed to be cool, it needed to not to feel like it was your parents’ place or a kid’s place, and it needed to suggest the idea of discovery.” After uncovering the tall ceilings and large windows of the original design, the Carnegie Free Library was treated like a found object. Materials were restored or recontextualized to create a richly textured environment rooted in industrial materials, particularly granite, tile, and the Carnegie-brand steel that built the philanthropist’s fortune. Perforated steel floorplates that once supported the original library stacks were repurposed as a screen wrapping the main staircase, which doubles as a striking backdrop to the lean, low reception desk. The desk and light-wood benches in the lobby were built from repurposed bookshelves. Original iron shelving that once held the stacks now supports an enticing three-story architectural lace climbing structure designed by architect-trained artist Manca Ahlin that will open in January 2020. “We didn’t want a little kiddy climbing structure,” Ciezlak says, “This is art. It’s a little scary.” The renovation also whimsically reimagines the building’s past. In the Grable Gallery, for example, a lost Tiffany-glass ceiling inspired a commission by Los Angeles and New York-based architecture studio FreelandBuck. The team hung a complex layered laser-cut fabric sculpture to create the illusion of a domed Beaux-Arts space as an homage to the lost ceiling. Visitors are also invited into the process. A local mosaic artist used salvaged tile and glass from different parts of the building in a collaborative sculpture to teach visitors how to create mosaics. For Eizenberg, the reveal was a way to respect the past and change the way visitors engage with older spaces. “The key is not to do something clever and new that makes the past less important,” she said, “everything you do with historic buildings has to in some way be part of the story of the life of the building into the future.” It's noteworthy that the project was designed, financed, and built by a team led by women, who among other things oversaw the building’s capital campaign, supervised the construction, led the design, and directed the museum. As to whether this impacted the final result, Eizenberg suggested that “communication is different when there’s a lot of women around. There’s a lot more comfort, psychologically, in asking questions, in looking at options rather than feeling like you had to have the perfect answer for everything.” Altogether, the building has a dynamic feel to it, as though it is in the process of decay and construction at the same time, making the building an engaging experience for users of all ages. Sarah Rafson is the founder of Point Line Projects and teaches at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture.
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Drab to Fab

Pier 97 at Hudson River Park is getting a $38 million overhaul
Pier 97, Hudson River Park’s northernmost pier, will be getting a $38 million park designed by !melk. The pier, located off of 57th Street and 12th Avenue, was used as a docking pier until the 1970s and then as a Department of Sanitation parking lot but has most recently been repurposed as an outdoor music venue. The 680-foot-by-120-foot lot will soon be packed with playscapes, a sports field, sun lawn, seating areas, and landscaping, offering coveted outdoor space in a space-strapped city.  The West Side Highway and Bjarke Ingel’s triangular VIA 57 West will serve as the park’s backdrop, while an elevated promenade will overlook the Hudson River. “We wanted to give the pier a significant identity because it’s kind of like the gateway to Hudson River Park. What we tried to do was bring a sort of romanticism back, all squeezed into the limited real estate that we have,” Jerry van Eyck, principal of !melk, told Curbed Hudson River Park, which snakes from West 59th Street down to Tribeca on Manhattan’s West Side, is currently undergoing an extensive $1 billion renovation. The park is comprised of dozens of repurposed piers in various stages of completion and design. The Gansevoort Peninsula across from the Whitney Museum of American Art is slated to get a sports field and beach, while further downtown, Pier 26’s boardwalk is currently under construction. Yet, not all of the piers will be solely park space—Pier 57 at West 15th Street will be home to Google and City Winery offices, stretching Google’s already expansive Chelsea campus from 8th Avenue to the shining pier. Though a designated commercial pier, Pier 57 will have a public rooftop park and esplanade in addition to paying for part of the park operations.  Construction on Pier 97 will begin fall 2020, with an anticipated opening by spring 2022.
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Moving on Up

Rikers replacement process begins as New York issues RFPs
Whether or not you believe in the abolition of the carceral state in New York City—in its case, 9,400 people in jail are waiting for trial on any given day—the announcement of the start of the Rikers Island jail replacement project may be good news. The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) will start issuing Request for Proposals (RFPs) for early program work later this month, in preparation for four design-build projects to create new jail towers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The brief will aim to create a new borough-based jail system comprised of smaller, safer, more humane facilities, located within easier reach of courts, families, lawyers, social workers, educational services, and care providers. The jails will be sited: in Manhattan in place of the existing jail complex on White Street (replacing the Tombs); in downtown Brooklyn in a reconstruction of the existing detention facilities; in Queens in place of a decommissioned detention center on 82nd Avenue, and in the Bronx on a city-owned property that had once been a police tow pound. While the towers had originally been planned to reach a maximum height of about 450 feet, those limits were later slashed to 295 feet, as the city revised its estimates of what the incarcerated population would number in 2025. The outlines of this plan can be traced back to the work of former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, which issued a 2017 Justice in Design report produced by Van Alen Institute and led by NADAAA. That report brought together a wide range of stakeholders within the criminal justice system (including corrections officers, families of incarcerated people, formerly incarcerated persons, social workers, psychologists, and other experts) to gather their experiences and insights on how to create a more humane jail system. The de Blasio administration frames the Rikers replacement projects as no less than a historic decarceration plan, which aims to reduce the number of people in jails to 3,300 and vastly expand alternatives to detention and incarceration. The city says it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in these programs since the beginning of the administration, in a manner reminiscent of Laura Kurgan's Million Dollar Blocks project that argued for replacing jails that cost a million dollars a year per block with the equivalent social services. The housing segments in the new towers are expected to be organized as single cells with no more than 32 people within each housing unit instead of the current dormitory-style cells, according to best practices to promote safety, according to the decarceration plan's outlines. They would provide better space for programming and access to educational and recreational activities, as well as for meeting with lawyers and social workers, and welcoming family members with child-friendly areas. Modern air conditioning and heating, natural light, and more normalized environments will also contribute to more humane conditions for both corrections officers and incarcerated people. The call will seek "vendors with significant design-build experience, with an emphasis on a team’s ability to design facilities that integrate well into surrounding neighborhoods,” DDC Commissioner Lorraine Grillo said in the press release, which notes that the Rikers Island Jail Complex Replacement Act of 2018 was passed specifically to prioritize design, quality, past performance, and qualifications rather than price. The first two Request for Qualifications (RFQs) are for early program work, including for a new parking garage at the Queens site and demolishing the outmoded detention center, and building a space in Brooklyn for the transfer of incarcerated people to court appearances during the construction of the new Brooklyn facility. The other RFPs are expected in the first quarter of 2020.