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Beyond Transparency



courtesy weiss/manfredi architects

BARNARD NEXUS
New York, 2009
Weiss/Manfredi Architects


The word contextuall strikes fear in the hearts of many architects, not because sensitivity to one's surroundings is a bad thing, but because its definition has proved to be so elastic, and even political. At one end of the spectrum, there is Prince Charles and his advocacy for 19th-century buildings with 21st-century technology; others argue that scale, massing, and material should be the central concerns for architects working within a developed site. For an arts building for the Barnard College campus, New York's Weiss/ Manfredi Architects is making a strong argument for the latter approach. When the Barnard Nexus is complete in 2009, it should show that sensibility can be more faithful to context than duplication: Instead of using the red brick that characterizes many of the college's older buildings, the architects riff on brick's color and material qualities. The steel-framed building will have a glass curtain wall whose surface suggests the spectrum of tone and texture inherent to brick.

Weiss/Manfredi won an invited competition to design a new arts library at Barnard in 2004 based on a design that would rectify the longstanding problem of a dramatic grade change between Broadway and the edge of the campus at 119th Street that created an unfriendly wall along the street. Two ideas were central to their early schemes: The first was to draw the public green space up diagonally through the building, making it visible from outside; the second was to develop a curtain wall that was a mixture of terra cotta panels and glass. The terra cotta would be a gesture of solidarity towards Milbank Hall (1896) next door, while the transparency of the glass would let the building light up its corner of the green and encourage students to use it as a social space as well as an academic one. As the design process progressed, however, they began to consider different materials. Principal Marion Weiss described making a series of charcoal sketches of the facade and getting interested in the blurred quality it gave to the panels: When we were working with terra cotta and clear glass, it was either figure or ground,, she explained, but the charcoal suggested a less definite line. Sometimes the tools you use are suggestive, and it is important to be able to capture the quality of an accident..

The project team began to look at glass and different ways of using it. They developed a system whereby the colored glass panels would be backed by a shallow cavity closed off by sheetrock, which they began to refer to as a shadow box. This gap (which is still being determined, but could be anywhere from 3 to 5 inches) is clearly perceptible as sunlight passes through it; the vertical supports, which will be painted, read as somewhat darker, and give definition and depth to the cavity, Like luminous terra cotta,, as Weiss described it. They are still experimenting with the shade of the sheetrock back panel, and Weiss said that it may well change over the course of the building in order to give more texture to the faaade. Partner Michael Manfredi described bringing endless samples to the roof of the building and seeing how one piece of colored glass looked 3 inches away from the back panel versus 5, or with white sheetrock behind it versus colored. The deeper the shadow box,, Weiss said, the more expensive it is, but it is also a richer effect..

Weiss/Manfredi found a company that could acid-etch or bake color onto the number 1 [exterior] surface of a glass panel. Usually the frit is on the number 2 or 3 surface, so the exterior is still highly reflective,, explained Weiss. The acid-etched frit gives a softer matte texture to the glass surface. Another issue was color: It is often laminated between two sheets, but the problem is that you are paying for more glass, and because the panel is heavier, the curtain wall structure has to be stronger.. The pattern on the facade loosely follows Nexus' more public spaces, which form a diagonal path through the building and terminate in a rooftop garden. To standardize construction, they developed a five-foot module, but have been able to give the faaade a finer overall grain by using more or less frit as needed. Mindful of the lessons of the charcoal sketch, the transitions from clear to opaque are rarely abrupt. Glass is typically treated as a neutral skin, and architects want to dematerialize it and make it go away,, said Weiss. We got interested in its presence and potential for decorative richness.. Anne guiney is an editor at AN.



Below: Weiss / Manfredi photographed various glass samples on the roof of their office in order to better understand the way shadowboxes of different depths would affect color and opacity in sunlight.



Below: Shadow Box Detail Section
1 Extruded aluminum transom, painted
2 Insulated glass unit
3 Shadow box
4 Finished concrete topping slab
5 Extruded aluminum stack joint, painted
6 Painted metal spandrel panel
7 Pocket slab at anchors




Below: Exploded axonometric showing the Nexus' primary circulation route (blue), the open, public spaces which are an extension of the campus green outside (green), and the gradations of colored, fritted, and clear glass panels which clad the exterior (grayscale).



courtesy weiss/manfredi architects


CREDITS
Owner: Barnard College, New York

Architect: Weiss/Manfredi Architects, New York

Consultant(s)
M/E/P/FP:Jaros, Baum & Bolles, New York
Structural: Severud Associates, New York
Civil: Langan Engineering, New York
Landscape: HM White Site Architects
Lighting: Brandston Partnership, Inc, New York
Food Service: Ricca Newmark Design, New York
Theater: Fisher Dachs Associates, New York
Theater Acoustics: Jaffe Holden Acoustics, Norwalk, CT
Glazing: R.A. Heintges & Associates, New York
AV/IT/Acoustics/Security: Cerami & Associates, New York
AV/IT/Security: TM Technology Partners, New York
Pre-Construction Services: Bovis Lend Lease, New York

GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS
Mullion/Metal Cladding: Custom color three coat fluoropolymer metallic finish.
Exterior Glazing: Four-sided structurally glazed unitized aluminum system.
Multiple combinations of clear low-e (low iron), etched glass, etched tinted glass, and color translucent ceramic frit.

Roofing
Built-up roofing: Hydrotech garden roof system consisting of lawn and low-maintenance sedum.

Glazing
Glass: Interior Glazing: Glazed system with custom graphic interlayer.
Skylights: Custom translucent etched walkable surface set into pavement.

TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART GLASS PAVILION
Toledo, Ohio, 2006
Kazuyo Sejima +
Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA


Like its pristine Miesian predecessors, the Toledo Museum of Art's new Glass Pavilion is seductively light and deceptively simple. It appears to be a straightforward glass box under a flat roof, but unlike the Barcelona Pavilion or the Farnsworth House, this building houses a series of discrete spaces that serve a wide range of programs including a caff, exhibition space for light-sensitive objects, and a workshop for glass artists. The Tokyo-based firm SANAA has used this programmatic diversity to push the possibilities of a glass pavilion in both scale and ambition. For the firm's many admirers, the projecttSANAA's first in North Americaais an amplification of the work they have become known for, like the Kanazawa Museum of Contemporary Art, which also uses curved glass and simple massing strategies.

Within the pavilion's all-glass rectangular box, 13 glass volumes float almost bubblelike in plan and act as various gallery, event, and exhibition spaces. The programmatic requirements for the space were the primary generator for SANAA's emphasis on discrete volumes in the project, explained principal Ryue Nishizawa. Our design came from the museum itself: Different temperatures and humidities were needed for various rooms, including a hotshop that generates an enormous amount of heat. Also, it is a big place [76,000 square feet] and we needed to break up the space.. Between most volumes are interstitial spaces that act as insulating pockets, further regulating the interior conditions of the galleries.

While minimalism is often thought of as stripping down and removing the inessential, it is just as much about hiding the unappealing but necessary. In this case, SANAA embedded most of the structural columns within the four rooms which are not glass encloseddthree are built with standard a wood frame and sheetrock, and the fourth is clad in rolled steel. Slender columns are scattered throughout the interstitial cavities, but sited to obstruct sightlines minimally. To avoid disrupting the irregularly spaced and sized rooms, the firm, with structural engineers Guy Nordensen & Associates, planned an intricate roofing system to accommodate mechanical systems and maximize structural capacity without requiring a regular column grid. They managed this by using differently sized beams that worked around the columns and HVAC systems, all of which were locked into perpendicular girders through flanges. Given that the roof is only 24 inches from top to bottom, it required coordination between the structural and mechanical drawings,, described SANAA project manager Toshihiro Oki. Also, they used -inch plate steel on the corners of the building to act as bracing for lateral loads. This allowed the columns to be smaller and support only vertical loads.

The 13-foot-high glass panels which define most of the volumes had to be shipped from Austria to a plant in China and custom-formed through a slumpingg process, in which the glass is placed above a curved mold and then heated until it settles into place. The glass panels are flat, fully, or partially curved, and while many are different, the designers tried to standardize some of the curvatures in the building. Oki estimated that approximately 30 different molds had to be fabricated to create the panels.

These panels are slotted into tracks on the floor and ceiling. The lower tracks are embedded into the structural concrete floor with 3-inch slabs, and employ a U-track system with a rocker device at the bottom of each track to allow the glass panels some degree of movement. The rocking mechanism is stainless steel, and has a shallow parabolic shape. This keeps the glass level and vertical, and the flexibility minimizes the potential for breakage. The top track employs Teflon slip-plates to minimize friction and allow the glass to move slightly based on vertical loads. An L-shaped -inch steel plate is locked into place after the glass is installed to hold the panel in place.

This support system is both stable and flexible, allowing the system to respond to external factors without discernible effect on the panels, which, with many measuring 8 by 13-feet, are quite large. The designers used low-iron, Pilkington Opti-white glass in order to minimize green tint and provide colorless transparency, and also to acknowledge their interest in manipulating that transparency: We realized that curved glass would transfer light differently, and also transparency would change in the building just through the layering of glass,, said principal Kazuyo Sejima. In the mock-up we built, even two layers created a certain level of opacity..

While the firm has worked with curving glass before, Toledo's Glass Pavilion allowed a new kind of experimentation. We were able to work with much thinner glass in Ohio than in Japan,, noted Sejima. The result is both greater clarity and more precision with the forms. The building is a perfect vessel to showcase glass, itself a feat, but as Sejima commented, the material may be fragile, but working with it is really no big deal..
Jaffer Kolb is an assistant editor at AN
.

SANAA built a full-scale mockup (center) of the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion (bottom) to test the visual effect of layering the glass walls, which were slumpedd on frames (center right) in China and are held in place by track inset into the concrete floor (top right).



courtesy kazuyo seijima + ryue nishizawa / sanaa

Below: Ground Floor Plan
1 Permanent exhibition
2 Temporary exhibition
3 Hotshop
4 Lampworking room
5 Restaurant/cafe
6 Courtyard
7 Restrooms
8 Support space
9 Multi-purpose room




Below: Glass Track Details, Head and Shoe
1 Primaryroof structure
2 Shim
3 1⁄2" Steel plate
4 Head support steel angle
5 Stainless steel head support plate
6 Teflon slip pad
7 Neoprene load transfer block
8 3⁄8" + 3⁄8" Laminated glass with PVB interlayer
9 Finished floor
10 Silicone sealant
11 Stainless steel glazing channel
12 Glass support rocking mechanism
13 Shim
14 Blocking





CREDITS
Owner:Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH

Design Architect: Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA, Tokyo

Architect of Record: Kendall Heaton Associates, Inc., Houston

Structural Engineer: Guy Nordenson & Associates, New York Sasaki and Partners, Tokyo
MEP Engineer: Cosentini Associates, New York
Lighting: Arup Lighting, New York Kilt Planning Group, Tokyo
Curtain Wall Engineer: FRONT, Inc., New York
Civil Engineer: The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc., Toledo, OH
Geotechnical Engineer: Bowser Morner, Toledo, OH
Acoustical/AV: Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, New York

Landscape: Neville Tree & Landscape, Holland, Ohio
Glassmaking facility consultant: Spiral Arts, Inc., Seattle, WA
Lampworking consultant: Glasscraft, Inc., Golden, CO
Graphics: 2x4 (NYC)
Project Manager: Paratus Group, New York
General Contractor: Rudolph/Libbe, Walbridge, OH

GLASS SPECIFICATIONS
Glass: Pilkington Opti-White
Glass Fabricator: SanXin Glass Technology, Shenzhen, China
Glass doors & structural calculations: UAD Group, New York
Local glass installers: Toledo Mirror and Glass, Toledo, OH
Aluminum fascia anodizers: TRB-Andarn, Paterson, NJ


DETAIL
7 WORLD TRADE CENTER

New York, 2006
Skidmore Owings & Merrill


According to Chris Cooper of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, creating an all-glass building in New York City is a lot harder than it seems, especially while trying to work within the financial constraints of a speculative office tower like 7 World Trade Center. In Europe, it is becoming more and more common to use a double skin. As we were thinking about how to brighten the exterior while still using standard construction techniques, we reached out to Jamie Carpenter of James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), and together we looked at ways to bring light into the spandrels.. The solution the two firms ultimately came up with is a system whereby the window glass hangs over the finished edge of the floor slab, which is clad in galvanized steel panels. The resulting cavityywhich is open to the air, as each glass panel covers only 11 of the 33-foot slab depthhallows the glass to seemingly lighten the building's facade between floors . Clear glass with space behind it is always brighter,, said Cooper. To subtly increase that effect, they added a strip of blue stainless steel to the base of the sill. You can't see it, but the blue steel tempers the quality of the light as it reflects it,, explained Cooper.

Because SOM decided to use single-glazed windows on 7 WTC, there was concern that the spandrel detail would cause the glass to lose its insulating value: For 11 feet, each pane would be exposed to the weather on both sides, and presumably conduct the cold in. Before glass manufacturer Viracon would sign off on the system, it conducted a temperature distribution analysis, as did SOM and two other consultants. All four found that, while the glass felt cold to the touch, heat transferrand its attendant condensation insideecould be kept to a minimum by insulating the spandrel and using thermal separators. AG



Below: Spandrel Detail
1 3/88 Glazing with PVB interlayer
2 Spacer
3 Thermal separator
4 Blocking
5 Aluminum mullion
6 Insulation
7 Steel fascia
8 Blue stainless Steel strip
9 Gasket
10 Gutter splice
11 Blind pocket
12 Mullion wrapper



CREDITS
Owner: Silverstein Properties, New York
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York
Collaborating Artist: James Carpenter Design Associates Inc., New York
Construction Manager: Tishman Construction, New York
Structural Engineer: Cantor Seinuk, New York
MEP: Jaros Baum & Bolles, New York
Civil Engineer: Philip Habib & Associates, New York
Lighting Design: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, New York
Signage: Pentagram, New York
Security: Ducbella, Venter & Santore Security, North Haven, CT
Curtain Wall Fabricator: Permasteelisa Cladding Technologies, Windsor, CT
Curtain Wall Installer: Permasteelisa Cladding Technologies, Windsor, CT Curtain Wall Glass: Viracon VRE-59


DETAIL
OFFICE BUILDING & SHOWROOM

Seoul, Korea, 2007
Barkow Leibinger Architekten


When architects Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger were asked to design a spec office building in an area of Seoul that hadn't even been developed yet, they realized they wouldn't be able to turn to the usual sourcessthe needs of clients, the feel of the neighborhooddto begin the design process. The site is a part of Digital Media City, a government-initiated project that will ultimately be a 2.5-square-mile business center between the airport and downtown Seoul. Since the only truly known quantity they had at the outset of the process was the budget, Barkow Leibinger decided to plan for the worst: The architects developed a highly reflective glazed primary faaade that would, in Barkow's words, take the neighborssno matter how terrible they might beeand pixilate them into coolness.. A mockup they built and put in the courtyard of their Berlin office showed endless fragmented images of the brick building, small triangles of blue sky, and cubist versions of anybody who happened to walk by.

The polygonal geometry of the faaade grew in part from conversations with the artist Olafur Eliasson, who was also working on a piece called the Quasi-Brick Wall that explored likeminded ideas. Eliasson served as an in-house critic for Barkow Leibinger while the Berlin office of Arup helped them turn the idea into a working curtain wall.

For all its kaleidoscopic glory, the 11-story building's plan is actually quite straightforward, and the curtain wall is based on a single module to make construction easier. The primary faaade is comprised of one 4-by-3.3-meter module that is rotated and flipped upside down to create a varied pattern; on the rear of the building, the curtain wall is flat to accommodate the service core, which is pushed to a rear corner to leave interior spaces open enough to accommodate any future tenant. According to Barkow, who has seen full-scale mockups in place on the construction site, It is a shallow, economical section, but when they are put together, there is the sense of being within a volumeethe faaade itself becomes volumetric.. Each of the module's seven surfaces is a piece of highly reflective glass held in place with silicone. The silver-white glass may fracture everything that ultimately passes by it but, promised Barkow, It's low-iron energy glass that lets in 49 percent of the sunlighttit isn't dark, 1970s stuff, like Houston in the bad old days.. AG

Below: A scale mockup of the faceted curtain wall gave a kaleidoscopic reflection of its surroundings, in this case, Barkow Leibinger's Berlin office.



Below: Barkow Leibinger designed an office building (below) for a site in Seoul's new Digital Media City, which is a massive government-initiated development on the outskirts of the city. As one of the earlier projects to go into construction, the only real constraints on the architects were zoning restrictions and budget.



Below: Curtain Wall Detail
1 Steel bracket
2 Anti-glare blind
3 Aluminum interior joint
4 Register with convector
5 Double-glazed glass panels




CREDITS
Client: TKR Sang Am
Design Architect: Barkow Leibinger Architekten, Berlin
Contact Architect: ChangJo Architects, Seoul
Structural Engineer: Schlaich Bergermann and Partners, Stuttgart
Jeon Lee and Partners, Seoul
Curtain Wall Consultant: Arup GmbH, Berlin,
Alutec Ltd., Seoul
Glass manufacturer: Viracon VRE-43


DETAIL
BRONX CRIMINAL COURT COMPLEX

New York, 2006
Rafael Viioly Architects


After the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed on August 7, 1998, leaving 224 dead and 5,000 injured, the Government Services Administration (GSA) beefed up its blastproofing standards for new construction. Rafael Viioly Architects had already begun design work on the Bronx Criminal Court Complex in New York, and while blast resistance was included in the program, the architects decided to team up with curtain wall fabricator Enclos Corporation to incorporate the GSA's new standards into the all-glass design. The court complex was already under construction when September 11 prompted safety requirements to be raised yet again, but Viioly's building already met most of the new standards, so the architects didn't have to put construction on hold.

The building's primary street-facing curtain wall is a series of triangular protrusions that form a sawtooth shape in plan; structural silicone holds Viracon low-E insulated glass panels in aluminum mullions. We were working with the physics of blasts,, said Fred Wilmers, project architect at Rafael Viioly Architects. They are impulse forces that last a matter of seconds, so a flexible surface that gives with the blast but remains intact, is actually more efficient than a rigid surface.. For example, a 1,000-pounds-per-square-foot blast applied to a rigid surface would produce a much higher-static pressure than the same blast load applied to a flexible surface, like a curtain wall system.

Due to security concerns, Wilmers was unable to speak specifically about the level of blast the court is built to withstand. He did say that the criterion for passing blast force is that glass doesn't fly into the building more than a certain distance. This means that not only does the glass have to stand up to a blast (a PVB interlayer on the interior pane prevents it from shattering), but so does the aluminum and silicone. The sawtooth shape that is so central to the building's aesthetic is also an important component of the curtain wall's blast resistance: Because the blast force would presumably meet the glass at an angle, its impact would be more diffused than on a flat surface. The designers also worked with the assumption that blasts would come from street level, so the wall was designed with a vertical gradient of blast resistance. On lower floors, mullions are reinforced with steel.

Blast resistance is about protecting the people inside the building,, noted Wilmers, not the building itself. After a blast, the outer panes of the glass would be shattered and the aluminum would be distorted, but the people inside wouldn't be hit with shredded aluminum and glass shards. It is for a one-time use, howeverrit couldn't resist a second blast..

The fact that a glass curtain wall is capable of meeting current security requirements is the key lesson of this building. It offers hope that in this age of terrorism, civic structures don't need to be concrete bunkers.
Aaron Seward is projects editor at AN.





Below: Vertical mullion at unit break and outside corner
1 Steel reinforcing plate
2 Painted aluminum mullion
3 Structural silicone
4 Insulated laminated glass unit
5 Painted aluminum corner mullion






CREDITS
Owner: City of New York, Department of Citywide Administrative Services, New York, NY
Developer: Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, New York, NY
Architects: Rafael Viioly Architects PC, New York, NY;
Architects and Engineers, New York, NY
Structural Engineers: Ysrael A. Seinuk, PC, New York, NY
General Contractor: Bovis Lend Lease, LMB, Inc., New York, NY
Curtain Wall Consultant: Gordon H. Smith Corp., New York, NY
Curtain Wall Fabricator: Enclos Corp., Egan, MN
Curtain Wall Erectors: Ornamental Installation Specialists, Warwick, NY
Enclos Corp., Egan, MN

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Breaking Ground

Rogers Marvel shows that security design needn't be defensive and formidable. With a holistic design approach, they prove that that there's more to safe streets than bollards and bomb dogs. Sara Moss reports.

Courtesy Rogers Marvel Architects

Addressing post-9/11 security requirements is now a central part of designing any major urban project. The obvious, and disheartening, reflex is to beef things uppto thicken walls, install barriers, widen distancessa trend most visibly seen in the redesigned Freedom Tower. But building fortresses and barricading streets aren't the only solutions. In two recent projects, Rogers Marvel Architects (RMA) has shown that safety can be integrated in subtle, multidimensional, and even beautiful ways.

In 2002, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) hired the RMA team after an open RFP process to oversee the streetscape improvement project, which included designing street lighting, furniture, and landscape features, as well as traffic planning. The project was prompted by both the congestion from last stages of building out the neighborhood as well as post-9/11 security activity (such as truck screening), which was making pedestrian and vehicular traffic worse. Security measures were an implicit part of everything they did. It's not healthy to feel like you're a target all the time,, said Rogers. From the beginning, we were talking about streetscapes as the thing to look at and the thing to start with.. The project team also included Sam Schwartz (traffic consultant), Ducibella Venter & Santore (security consultant), Weidlinger Associates (blast and security engineer), and James Carpenter Design Associates (art elements).Rogers Marvel designed a series of bus shelters and glass benches that double as security measures in Battery Park City

A core of collapsible concrete in front of the bench prevents heavily loaded vehicles get too close to the World Financial Center.
 

Addressing how Battery Park City meets its surrounding neighborhood, the designers found themselves deep in solving urban design problems that required large-scale decisions. Improving vehicular and pedestrian trafficcwhich would lessen potential threatsswas a paramount concern. With Schwartz, RMA devised a plan that called for adding raised crosswalks on North End Avenue (between 6 and 8 inches high, they make the street level with the curb). Further down the North End Avenue at Murray Street, they added neck-downss (curb extensions at intersections to slow down vehicles) to eliminate long, unimpeded approaches to Battery Park properties. These keep cars from picking up too much speed as they near the area. They also added truck and taxi lay-bys, areas where the vehicles could wait while separated from the street by barriers.

Even the sidewalks assumed protective powers in Rogers Marvel's scheme. RMA used the existing cobblestone band that surrounds much of the World Financial Center to install a special collapsible fillla kind of concrete that's ordinarily used at the end of airport runways. The fill is sturdy enough for pedestrians but is designed to give under the weight of anything heavy, like a truck bomb. The firm sought advice from the Army Corps of Engineers on the urban use of the material and eventually entered into an agreement to share their research. So many architectural projects start out with form but this is real science,, enthused Marvel. It feels great to be working on this level..

At night, LEDs illuminate the benches and shelters.

RMA also infused security qualitiessand hence multifunctionalityyin other elements, like cast-glass and stainless steel benches that are both furniture and illumination. Working with James Carpenter, the bench is luminescent depending on the angle of the sun; at night, it is lit by LEDs. The benches form an axis a quarter-mile long, from the site of the future Ferry Terminal to the World Trade Center site. The elements on the other axis, along North End Avenue, are lightweight stainless steel and structural glass shade structures that are lit from below, also designed with Carpenter. Interlayers in the glass bounce the light back down at night so that light pollution is minimized. One structure provides a shelter at the new dog run; another provides a structure for security workers checking trucks in the street.

After presenting their Battery Park City work to city agencies, RMA asked to consult for designing security for the New York Stock Exchange, which led to a larger projecttNew York Financial District Streetscapes + Security, started in 2003. There, RMA were presented with a very different situation: a landmarked district with many clients (the DCP, LMDC, and EDC) and stakeholders (the New York Stock Exchange, Alliance for Downtown New York, and Bank of New York))all with serious concerns about safety.

A fountain in front of the New York Stock Exchange (top) which would separate NYSE employees with security clearance from pedestrians.

Many of the streets in Lower Manhattan have been closed off since 9/11, creating traffic nightmares and logistical headaches for businesses. At the Wall Street intersections, RMA used retractable bollardssa sort of trap-door system that will allow bollards to drop below street grade. However, at Broad Street, tangles of utility lines below the street made this solution nearly impossible (and prohibitively expensive). RMA needed a solution that could be installed quickly and sit within a shallow depth. As in Battery Park City, RMA found their solution on the ground plane. Working again with security experts Ducibella Venter & Santore, and with Quennell Rothschild & Partners (landscape architect) and Philip Habib & Associates (traffic engineering), they came up with a rotating disc that sits level with the ground. With bollards lined up across it, the 20-inch deep disc rotates to allow vehicles to pass by when necessary. In a nod to some of the surrounding historic buildings' heavy old doors, the faceted bollards (which are in MoMA's Safe show) are made of bronze. RMA patented the crash-test rated turntables.

This patent, along with ones for other RMA designs, will be handled by the office's newest spin-off, Rock Twelve, a division for research and patenting of security architecture. Rock Twelve will share resources with TRUCK, RMA's product architecture division. These other divisions permit development of side projects while keeping the firm's main focus on architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. Rogers stresses that in the end, he and his colleagues are architects, not security experts. Their holistic approach, however, is proving to be popularrboth the Battery Park City and Financial District projects have won numerous awards in the past year.

Rogers Marvel has taken the sting out of security measures in the Financial District with bronze bollards that double as benches on Wall Street.

And both are being used as demonstration projects for the development of new FEMA security guidelines. And the firm was recently invited to work on a pedestrian open space project for the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. We have no ambition to be security guys,, said Rogers, but what we like to do is to be incredibly inventive and solve problems. That's what good architects do..
Sara Moss works on the Fulton Street Transit Center project.

Eavesdrop Issue 08_05.11.2005

LETTER FROM MINNEAPOLIS
Last month, we heeded the call of Minneapolis. After checking into our hotel, across the street from a bronze statue of Mary Tyler Moore (we kid you not), we tossed our hat in the air and snuck peeks at almost-finished projects by Jean Nouvel, Cesar Pelli and Michael Graves for, respectively, the Guthrie Theater, the Minneapolis Central Library, and both the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Children's Theatre Company. We also discovered that the Weisman Art Museum will soon announce a Frank Gehry>designed expansion to the building he completed for it in 1993.
Of course, we were mainly in town for Herzog & de Meuron's spectacular new Walker Art Center addition. Attending its opening night festivities were, among others, Ellsworth Kelly, Matthew Barney and Bjjrk, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, and the usual cotillion of museum directors, curators, and gallerists. As Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were getting besieged by well-wishers, their Harvard colleague, architecture chair Toshiko Mori, told us with wifely pride about the band shell that her husband, James Carpenter, built on a nearby island in St. Paul. Later, once the open bar turned into a cash bar, we got clearheaded enough to convince the folks at Herzog & de Meuron to let us in on their unreleased design for an Ian Schrager condo project on Bond Street, which we've learned will be some sort of radical take on the classic cast-iron building. Then they bought us a drink and we forgot the rest. But we do remember spotting former New York magazine architecture critic Joseph Giovannini pocketing a good half-dozen of the magnetic blinking red lights that Target, one of the event's sponsors, had arranged in the shape of its logo (and that other attendees were also picking off with abandon). They're for my daughter,, Giovannini explained, adding that he's now spending most of his time both teaching and designing in Los Angeles, away from his family. It helps the guilt..

GWATHMEY'S LATEST
We have to admit we think Charles Gwathmey's Astor Place condo tower is one of the more disappointing buildings to recently rise this side of downtown Houston. So you can imagine our regret when we learned that his latest plan, another luxury highrise for the Related Companies, looks similar. The proposed 250-foot-tall, 200,000-square-foot structure, which would replace the 1919 Superior Ink building on West Street, was publicly unveiled last month at a Community Board 2 hearing where we're told about 200 unhappy locals (citing contextual concerns) came to protest the Related Companies effort (citing hardship) to obtain variances for the project. Like the earlier building, the plan calls for rectilinear forms partly wrapped by a curving glass wall, though much larger. It's like Astor Place with a thyroid problem,, said one attendee. However, Gwathmey is taking the criticism in stride. Anything you propose there will make people unhappy,, he told us. [The building's form] provides more light and air,, he continued, and extends view corridors in a way that a regular walled building would not. Yes, it has references to Astor Place, but it's a very different site context and is not determined in the same way.. Nonetheless, the community board unanimously recommended against Related's application.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

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Mall City

Critics have long cried foul over the construction of malls in New York City's densest borough, and in recent years developers have dropped the term in favor of euphemisms like vertical retail environment.. Asks Deborah Grossberg, are the indoor shopping mazes rising up across town really a different breed?

Malls are a menace to New York: they drain the life out of vibrant neighborhoods by siphoning customers away from street-level retail and repelling Manhattan residents, leaving behind chintzy eyesores crowded with vacationing suburbanites. Or at least that's the conventional wisdom. But in recent years, as big-box stores and glitzy mall developments planned and funded in the bull-market 1990s appear in high-traffic pedestrian areas from Union Square to Harlem, fears among urban planners and theorists have shifted focus. New York City developers and architects have improved on the old models for urban malls, and the rapid gentrification spurred on by Mayor Giuliani's city clean-up effort combined with the development-friendly policies of the Bloomberg administration have encouraged a mall-city merger on a broader scale. While the new urban malls are more profitable and better connected to the street, small-scale street-level retail has started to look increasingly homogenized, chained-out, and mall-like.

 

uwe ditz photography,
courtesy the related companies

When Manhattan's first enclosed shopping malls opened in the 1980s, urban planners and theorists worried that the new megaplexes might herald an era of suburbanization for New York. Everyone was enraged when Trump built his mall 20 years ago and now it seems relatively benign,, said architect and critic Michael Sorkin. I'm a bit agnostic about these new developments.. Other critics have been less tentative. In December, one of the most popular new developmentssThe Shops at Columbus Circleewon the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) 2003 MASterwork Award in Urban Design for the best new privately owned public space. Rick Bell, executive director of AIA-NY and one of the award jurors, said, Since 9/11, many of the city's great public atriums have been closed off to pedestrians due to security concerns. The entrance hall at the Shops is an indoor-outdoor space with spectacular Central Park views that's open to all New Yorkers..

Malls have always been the domain of the middle class, and though the new Manhattan developments vary from bargain-basement to the height of luxury, they still represent a populist influence on the city's retail. Politicians and planners usually use malls as lures for the white middle class, but for Manhattan it's been reversed,, said Jeffrey Hardwick, author of Mall Maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). The middle class has come back to Manhattan and malls have followed..

Some say that the relative silence of mall-haters is the result of a wising-up on the part of the city's retail developers. Developers and retailers have gotten smarter about building in Manhattan,, said Peter Slatin, creator of the real estate news website The Slatin Report. They're working together to make more integrated vertical malls..

In attempting to redefine the urban mall, today's developers begin by banishing the term itself. Early shopping centers like the Manhattan Mall, which opened in 1989 at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 33rd Street, stuck to straightforward names and standard mall design. Introverted shops and cheap ddcor marked them for what they were. Those malls never resonated with New Yorkers,, said Bell. New mall developers avoid that negative image, instead conjuring jargon like vertical retail environment,, which is The Related Companies and Apollo Real Estate Advisors' preferred tag for their Columbus Circle shopping development.

courtesy manhattan mall

Historically, making vertical retail work has been impossible in a city where land values are too high to give the classic two-story mall model financial feasibility. In order to draw shoppers up to higher levels, architects and developers have improved connections to the neighborhood outside, executing transparent, extroverted designs.

Harlem USA, the shopping development at the corner of 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard that opened in 2001, emphatically rejected the typical introverted suburban mall style invented by Viennese architect Victor Gruen in his 1956 prototype for the modern mall, The Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota. At Southdale, Gruen closed off stores from the street, taking total control of the retail environment. When SOM was commissioned by Grid Properties to design Harlem USA, the firm focused on turning the Gruen model inside out. We created an anti-mall,, said Mustafa Abadan, the project's manager at SOM. The roots of New York retail are at the street level, and the idea was to engage that energy, to draw it in by orienting out.. SOM did away with internal circulation; The upper floors of individual stores are only reachable through escalators within the stores, and the lobbies of the third floor movie theater, accessible via an independent street-level entrance, face outwards. Even though the stores are bigger, they maintain the essential New York street typology,, said Abadan.

bob zucker courtesy som

Harlem USA has drawn much more negative press than the Shops due to its location in an historic neighborhood. Area shop owners make the standard arguments that chains have drawn business away from mom-and-pops, and that the character of the neighborhood is suffering. Others see the development as an important step in Harlem's economic renaissance. Harlem USA brought customers to the neighborhood who would otherwise have shopped on 34th Street or Downtown,, said Abadan.

The Vornado Realty Trust shopping development at the southwest corner of Union Square also used transparency to ensnare shoppers. In Manhattan, people see shopping as sport,, said JJ Falk, principal of JJ Falk Design, the firm that designed the Filene's Basement, DSW Shoe Warehouse, and interior circulation for Vornado's Union Square development. It's like visiting a museummif people like what they see, they'll stay in the space longer.. A glass towerr of circulation is meant to draw street traffic up from the Union Square transport hub, and Falk located the escalators within the three-story Filene's Basement flush with floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing Union Square. It's like you're in the park,, said Falk.

 

courtesy jj falk design

DSW and Filene's opened at the Union Square location in October and a Whole Foods Market is slated to open later this year. Although preliminary sales data for the stores were unavailable, Falk said that the entire construction cost for the project would be recouped in six months should current sales trends continue.

Neighborhood tie-in was important to developers of The Shops at Columbus Circle as well. It was first a matter of creating great spaces for pedestrian passage to tie the city together,, said Howard Elkus, a principal at Elkus/Manfredi, the Boston-based firm specializing in retail architecture that designed the Shops. Their design weaves the retail space of the Shops into the city grid with two axes of circulation, one curving around Columbus Circle's arc, and the other sweeping up 59th Street into a five-story, 150-foot-high great room.. The minimal boundary between mall and street was emphasized through James Carpenter Design Associates' design for the entryway's faaade, an 85-foot-wide, 150-foot-tall cable net glass wall that boasts the title of largest in the world.

Besides an emphasis on transparency, Related and Apollo banked on the position of the 365,000-square-foot Shops at the heart of the 2.8-million-square-foot mixed-use Time Warner Center (designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) to offset the enormous cost of building in New York (The Time Warner Center cost a total of $1.7 billion) and to justify the astronomical annual rents for prime retail space ($300 to $400 per square foot). The classic anchor store model was supplemented with luxury residences, high-end office space, five top-tier restaurants, and a concert venue for Jazz at Lincoln Center (designed by Rafael Viioly Architects). The Shops therefore have a better chance to become a destination for shoppers from New York as well as farther afield.

Moreover, the development's high-end mix of shops is as good a fit for Upper West Side shoppers on the way home from work as it is for tourists making a beeline from Times Square to Central Park. One big attraction has been the 60,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market in the complex's basement. Although some complain about the grocery store's high prices, most have seen it as a godsend. Cities don't need malls to function as community centers as they do in the suburbs, but when they're combined with the things that people loveeand in New York that begins with fooddthey have greater potential for success,, said Bell..

The approach to luring customers with extensive mixed-use developments comes closer to realizing the utopian dreams of early mall designers like Gruen. At Southdale, Gruen planned apartments, a park, a medical center, even schools to accompany the mall. It looked like a Corbusier plan with towers and green space,, said Hardwick. Gruen's fantasy suburban city was scrapped for lack of budget, a fact to which he often attributed the ultimate decay of his vision.

The question now is whether the inclusion of residential, cultural, and palette- pleasing elements will function as planned. It's unclear whether it will actually pay off, or whether it's just a new PR spin,, said Hardwick. Now nearing its first anniversary, the Shops report promising numbers, with higher sales than expected and 99 percent of its 347,000 square-feet of leasable space occupied.

The South Street Seaport mall is one decades old development that has consistently struggled to turn a profit.

courtesy south street seaport

As malls adapt to embrace city life, planners seem more concerned about what urban historian and professor at Harvard's GSD Margaret Crawford termed spontaneous malling,, the process by which an urban space starts to take on the qualities of a mall without the aid of developers. At this point, Broadway in SoHo is a total mall,, said Crawford, who wrote the essay The World in a Shopping Malll published in Sorkin's Variations on a Theme Park (Noonday Press, 1992). Broadway, which used to sport hip boutiques and galleries, is now lined with chain outlets like Old Navy, Crate & Barrel, and Sephoraathe same stores found in suburban malls. Spontaneous malling is happening more and more, and cities consider it desirable since it attracts suburban shoppers, in this case from New Jersey..

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are often the culprits in emerging street-as-mall phenomenon in New York. By organizing signage, street furniture, wayfinding, and even the uniforms for garbage collectors, BIDs often induce mall-like situations. Said Slatin, It's a constant tug-of-war over whether to homogenize a neighborhood or leave the jumble. There's value in the order, especially in terms of security and comfort for tourists, but at the same time the city has a way of making its own order..

Manhattan has managed to remake malls in its image, while the traits that make up malls have quietly bled into the city's fabric. There have always been cries that the mall is going to kill things or that it's dying,, said Hardwick. The amazing thing is how flexible the form actually is.. Even in a city with such a vibrant retail culture, the mall has found ways to penetrate. The end result in Manhattan has been two surprisingly similar variations: the mall as city and the city as mall.

 Deborah grossberg is an associate editor at an.