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RIP

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

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

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

Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform employs photography and drawings to capture a movement
The United States of America of the 19th century was a civilization in rapid flux, subject to spiraling economic and demographic growth coupled with staggering socioeconomic inequality that manifested in deleterious urban poverty. Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform, on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston through September 15, 2019, effectively encapsulates the bold visions of the era's patrician reformers with the living conditions of the urban poor that influenced their sweeping plans. The exhibition is curated by Charles Waldheim, the Harvard Graduate School of Design's John E. Irving Professor of Landscape Architecture, Director of the Office for Urbanization, and the Ruettgers Curator of Landscape, and is largely made up of highly-detailed topographical and landscape maps, historical photographs, and personal mementos. According to Waldheim, "the show started with a very simple idea; could we take large urban plan drawings from the 19th century and treat them like works of art?" For Big Plans, Waldheim hones in on four protagonists; Frederick Law Olmsted, the historic doyen of landscape architecture; Isabella Stewart Gardiner, the museum's namesake and prominent member of the Boston Brahmins; Charles Eliot, Olmsted's apprentice and prominent city planner in his own right; and Lewis Wickes Hine, the sociologist and prodigious photographer of the American urban condition. Although contemporary controversies surrounding park construction largely center on budgetary or zoning constraints, the execution of such projects during the 19th century was remarkably radical in ideology and scope. Big Plans highlights the revolutionary nature of public landscape design with an initial focus on Olmsted & Vaux's design for Central Park in New York, juxtaposed with an original hand-colored map by William Bridges for New York's 1811 Commissioners' plan that would place the gridiron street layout of Manhattan. In comparing these two disparate visions of Gotham at the onset of the exhibition, the curatorial direction quickly lays out the reformers' visions of reshaping the rigid rationality of the industrial city into one that cultivated both economic and social progress. The theme of correcting the societal ills of the industrial metropolis is continued in the second room of the exhibition with five-by-seven-inch silver gelatin prints produced by street photographer and sociologist Lewis Hines. Similar to contemporaneous New York-based social reformer Jacob Riis, Hines advocated for photography as an effective tool to prod for social reform. The images are not beautiful; as is the case with much early photography, many are overexposed and out of focus. However, aesthetics were not their purpose. The photos are a searing indictment of child labor, depicting young men and women toiling in industrial mills and sifting through fetid landfills in search of scrap materials. The remainder of the exhibition is largely a collection of drawings that plot out the expansion of the public realm and park space in Boston and Chicago, ranging from the Back Bay Fens to Jackson Park. Absent from the curatorial direction of Big Plans is a perspective from the urban working class and impoverished for whom the grandiose schemes were tentatively laid out for. This top-down perspective was a conscious decision by Waldheim to highlight the uneasy paternalism, or noblesse oblige, of the era's social reformers. While not explicit, the exhibition begs the question of whether this condescension laid the groundwork for similarly grandiose urban renewal plans during the mid-20th century. Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 25 Evans Way Boston Through September 15, 2019
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In Memoriam

César Pelli, Argentine architect of the modern skyscraper, dies at age 92
Argentine architect César Pelli passed away on Friday at his home in New Haven, Connecticut, according to a state news agency and government officials. He was 92 years old.  The award-winning architect was responsible for designing some of the most famous skyscrapers in the world, including the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, The Landmark in Abu Dhabi, the recently completed Salesforce Tower, and the first phase of the adjacent Transbay Transit Center, both in San Francisco. While Pelli was largely known later in his career for his innovative glass towers, his earlier years in architecture were majorly influenced by who he worked with and where he lived.  Born October 12, 1926, in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, Pelli completed his undergraduate architectural studies at the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán. After briefly working in the country, Pelli moved to the United States in 1952 to pursue his masters at the University of Illinois School of Architecture. From there, he worked in Michigan under Eero Saarinen for a decade, designing small pieces on projects such as the TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport.  Before starting his eponymous firm Cesar Pelli & Associates in 1984, Pelli held leadership positions at Daniel, Mann, Johnson, and Mendenhall and Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. At the latter firm, he designed his seminal Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, the all-glass, 1,600,000-square-foot facility known as the “Blue Whale.” In 1977, Pelli began his 12-year tenure as dean at the Yale School of Architecture in New Haven, where he continued to live until his death.  Seven years into his deanship, Pelli received the commission for the 1984 expansion and renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which, according to the New York Times, forced him to open his firm. He then went on design the World Financial Center and Winter Garden (now known as Brookfield Place) in Lower Manhattan, additional terminals for the Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and scores of towers in London, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Jersey City, among other global cities.  In 2005, Pelli renamed his studio to Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, giving credit to his long-time partner Fred Clarke and son Rafael, who assumed a large role in the company. His wife, Diana Balmori, was a landscape architect, urban designer, and a partner on his team as well. She passed away in 2016. They are survived by another son, Denis, and two grandchildren.  Though Pelli didn’t open his firm until age 50, the impact he made on architecture within the last four decades of his life was widespread. He designed hundreds of buildings and was awarded just as many times for his efforts. Pelli received the profession’s highest honor, the AIA Gold Medal, in 1995.   In response to Pelli's passing, Robert Ivy, chief executive officer of the AIA, provided the following statement: “César Pelli was a consummate architect, teacher, and mentor. Rooted both in the creative legacy of Eero Saarinen and the pragmatic leaders of west coast development, César transformed skylines around the world and influenced the modern city as we know it. A master of both the urban scale and the carefully conceived individual detail, he leaves a legacy that stands as tall as the buildings he designed and as rich as the lives of the many architects whose careers were shaped by his generous teaching.” 
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Lucy on the Curb with Diamonds

Studio Gang's Solar Carve tower meets the sun with sculpted glass
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The most recent addition to an already impressive collection of architectural characters inhabiting New York City’s High Line, 40 Tenth Avenue offers a sculpted massing that will maximize its solar exposure along the public park. The project, led by Studio Gang, is situated between the Hudson River and the High Line, with a primary west-facing orientation. To minimize the afternoon shadow cast onto the park, the architects developed a uniquely inverted, stepped setback shape to the building.
  • Facade Manufacturer Focchi
  • Architect Studio Gang
  • Facade Installer Walsh Metal & Glass
  • Facade Consultant & Structural Engineer Arup
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Focchi EWT 1, EWT 2, EWT 3
  • Products Focchi Insulated Double Glaze Units Ipasol Neutral 38/23 & 70/37 coating
Clad in a high-performance curtain wall from Italian firm Focchi, the tower integrates 12 types of glass. Despite a rather complex massing, the geometry of the enclosure was refined into a canted, diamond-shaped panel, surrounded by triangulated panels set perpendicular to the slab edges. The overall effect is a faceted, three-dimensional version of the architectural corner—perhaps a recasting, or import, of the Miesian corner to one of Manhattan’s most significant public spaces. The project adds to a portfolio of high-rises designed by the Chicago-based practice (which also has offices in New York, San Francisco, and Paris) that explore “solar carving” as a formal and performative strategy. “'Solar Carving’ is one strand of a larger body of research about how we can make buildings responsive to the specific qualities if their context and climate,” said Studio Gang design principal Weston Walker. “To maximize sunlight, fresh air, and river views for the public park, we pushed the building toward the West Side Highway and carved away from its southeast and northwest corners according to the incident angles of the sun’s rays.” A growing issue for the High Line is the diminishing degree of sunlight caused by the development of Manhattan’s Far West Side. According to Walker, the city’s prevailing 1916 Zoning Resolution—legislation that mandated ziggurat-like setbacks to boost ventilation and light for city streets—did not anticipate the proliferation of midblock public spaces such as the High Line. “As-of-right zoning would have endangered rather than protected the park by allowing the tower to be built directly over the High Line.”
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Well Actually, it's the Bloomberg Building

The summer shows at the Shed take an eclectic look at the built environment
The Shed at Hudson Yards, the new inflatable arts venue on the western edge of Manhattan, has assembled a varied group of visual art exhibitions that are all on view through August 25. Open Call: Group 2 in the Level 2 Gallery and Collision/Coalition in the Level 4 Gallery all boast new artworks centered on the built world. Julia’s Weist’s Study for Fiction Plane makes its world debut in the Open Call show. Weist has aggregated a collection of eight photographers’ work depicting fabricated, simulated spaces or “sets” by artists ranging from Larry Sultan, Sarah Pickering, Corrine Botz, and the artist herself. Fake hospital rooms where actors affect symptoms for medical students, ersatz domestic spaces set afire for burn pattern analysis, a mock city constructed by the FBI, and a Mars simulator are some of the sites. Weist is now collaborating with Hollywood artists to place these photos in the background of upcoming TV shows to add another layer of artificiality. Another hall of mirrors, this time more literal, is in Hedges, 2019 by Hugh Hayden, where a shingled house with dormers is covered with large sprouting branches like the twigs of a bird’s nest is set inside three mirrored walls to reflect an infinite row. Gabriela Corretjer-Contreras’s Llévatelo To’ No Me Deje Na, 2019 takes us inside her alter-ego Nena’s bedroom from Puerto Rico where we can try on her clothes and examine her personal environment, with mementos of the colonial experience. Modern Management Methods, 2019, tackles the United Nations headquarters renovation in Manhattan. Caitlin Blanchfield and Farzin Lotfi-Jam used UN archives and X-rays to focus on the campus renewal that followed 9/11, and they take on such issues as security, nationalism, environment, accessibility, as well as the bureaucratic framework of this multi-billion-dollar capital project. The duo describes their artwork as a building section cut that simultaneously reveals “global managerialism.” Analisa Teachworth’s The Tribute Pallet, 2019, invites viewers into a shack-like scaffolded structure with a multimedia installation and a table with glass jars holding candy to be eaten by visitors. Similar to Kara Walker’s monumental Domino Sugar installation in 2014, the slave trade is called out in the harvesting and processing of sugar. Similarly, Kiyan Williams’s Meditation on the Making of America, 2019, uses soil as its main material for a “portrait” of America that violently extracted and exploited black bodies and the land. And The Forever Museum Archive: The untitled/A Template for Portable Monuments by Onyedika Chuke, 2019, is a structure adorned with snakeheads and symbols of divinity, protection, and descent. A bonus is New York’s Poetry Slot Machine, 2019 by Saint Abdullah and Daniel Cupic, which is based on a relic from WWI placed on the streets by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. They featured the poetry of the Persian poet Hafiz, which was used by Iranians for guidance when facing critical decisions. Surplus slot machines from empty casinos were installed around the city in 1917 and raised $2 million during WWI, $4 million during the depression and $6 million during WWII. At the Shed, you pull the lever and get a poem by the 14th-century poet instead. On another floor is the exhibition Collision/Coalition featuring work by Oscar Murillo. His canvases, dummies, and video depict a walk from Hudson Yards, where the Shed is located, to Rockefeller Center with the dummies pushed in wheelchairs. His central conceit is that the newly opened Hudson Yards is the inheritor to Rockefeller Center, a take very similar to that of The Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross.
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Three's Company

Pelli Clarke Pelli's massive tower complex will transform the Toronto skyline
A 4.3-million-square-foot, multi-tower development by Pelli Clarke Pelli could reshape the Toronto skyline as it is expected to become the largest mixed-use project in the city. Located in Union Park in the shadow of CN Tower, the $3.5 billion complex will bring 3.3 million square feet of offices, 800 residential units, and 200,000 square feet of high-quality retail to the city. The Union Park complex is an arrangement of three glassy towers on podiums: two are designed as near-mirror images, and the third will include housing with units specifically designed for families. A featured amenity of that third tower will be the 8,5000-square-foot daycare facility. Eric Plesman, executive vice president of North America, Oxford Properties, said the project would bring, “tens of thousands of jobs to Toronto … [creating] a progressive new workplace and community for working and living.” The development also allows the developer the opportunity to construct an adjoining two-acre urban park over the extant Union Station Rail Corridor, in an aim to deliver public green space to downtown. Additionally, the podium levels will feature large office floor plates of an estimated 100,000 square feet each. The project team includes Adamson Associates as Architect of Record, OJB Landscape Architecture, and developers Oxford Properties Group. Oxford is no slouch to the ground-up neighborhood development game or decking over railyards, having partnered with developer Related Companies in 2010 to build the 26-acre Hudson Yards in Manhattan. The sprawling project is currently accepting community input before being submitted to the Toronto City Council for formal consideration.
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Cash Cab

Can you capture a portrait of a city with a taxi-mounted sensor?
Big data and its purported utility comes with the attendant need to actually collect that data in the first place, meaning an increase of sensing devices being attached to all manner of things. That includes treating many everyday things, from skyscrapers to human beings, as sensors themselves. When it comes to the urban environment, data on air quality, weather, traffic, and other metrics, is becoming more important than ever. However, in general, the sensors that collect this data are fixed, attached to buildings or found in other stable spots. “They’re good in time, but not in space,” said Kevin O’Keeffe, a postdoc in MIT’s Senseable City Lab, in a release from the university. Airborne sensors such as drones, on the other hand, explained O'Keefe,  work well in space, but not in time. To collect greater data that more accurately reflects an entire city—in both space and time—mobile sensors would be needed at street level. Cities already have fleets of mobile devices close to the ground: vehicles. While private cars operate only sporadically, and buses run fixed routes, taxis spend all day and night traversing large swaths of cities. Incidentally, the lab also tried using garbage trucks, but they did not collect as much data as they predicted cabs could. Inexpensive sensors could be attached to taxis to provide researchers and others important data on the on-the-ground status of urban environments. However, to see the viability of this concept, the Senseable City Lab had to first find out just exactly how much ground taxis actually cover. And then, how many sensor-enabled taxis would it take to create an accurate picture of a city's terrain and air quality? By analyzing taxi routes in New York City, researchers discovered that a relatively small number of cars covered a pretty wide territory. It took just ten cabs to cover a third of Manhattan in a single day. And, while one might expect this to be particular to Manhattan and its orderly grid, the researchers also discovered that similar patterns occurred in cities across the world, from Vienna to Singapore. That said, because many taxis travel to similar areas and along high-traffic routes, the number of cabs it takes to cover even greater ground grows quite rapidly. In the case of Manhattan, it takes 30 taxis to cover half the island and over 1,000 to reach 85 percent. To realize the full potential of car-borne sensors, which can reach popular areas as well as underserved ones, O’Keeffe suggested a hybrid approach: placing sensors on taxis along with a few dedicated vehicles, à la Google Street View. The research team hopes that this data will help planners and politicians put together a more realistic idea about how mobile sensing could work in their city, its cost, and potential impacts. The data will also hopefully help cities tailor any mobile sensing projects to their particular needs, and the Senseable City Lab believes that these mobile sensors would be less expensive than traditional options. This research also appears in a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that was co-authored, along with O’Keeffe, by Amin Anjomshoaa, a researcher at the Senseable City Lab; Steven Strogatz, a professor of mathematics at Cornell University; Paolo Santi, a research scientist at the Senseable City Lab and the Institute of Informatics and Telematics of CNR in Pisa, Italy; and Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab and professor of the practice in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Curious urbanites can check out the accompanying maps and infographics on the lab’s website.
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Refocus, Refresh

New York's 200-year-old National Academy of Design won't ever reopen
America’s oldest artist-advocacy organization, the National Academy of Design, has decided to permanently close its museum operations. The Beaux-Arts mansion at 1083 Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side has been sold, and the institution is reinventing itself with an endowment. Run by artists for artists since 1825, the Academy is comprised of invite-only members, a whos-who list of many of the biggest names in American art. For most of the institution’s history, each member was also required to donate to the Academy’s collection, meaning that the NAD has pieces by American greats like Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Thomas Eakins. This collection made for groundbreaking shows that produced world-class art historical scholarship. But what about the living members?  Previously, the academy had been aligned with both its own museum as well as a well-respected art school, but now the NAD has now cut ties with both. “The museum and school were draining all the resources," Walter Chatham told the Art Newspaper. An architect who has served as co-chair of the Board of Governors since 2014, Chatham added, "There wasn’t any money for the programs that would actually improve the academicians’ lives. Eventually we want to get back into education and exhibitions, but I don’t think we’re going to have a museum again.”  The museum debate came to a head with the sale of two Hudson River School masterpieces, prompting condemnations and sanctions from national museum organizations like the Association of Art Museum Directions and the American Alliance of Museums. Brian T. Allen, an art historian writing for the National Review, said, “I was a member of both and supported the sanctions. My museum wouldn’t lend work to NAD shows. In retrospect, I think the penalties did the NAD a disservice.” Unlike the sale of the paintings, the sale of the Academy’s three Upper East Side buildings leaves them with an enduring source of income—a legally restricted $66 million endowment to put towards operations that will prioritize the current academicians and living artists as the center of the Academy’s mission. The refreshed focus will hopefully help the institution that has long grappled with the "existential" question of its inherent museum-ness. The "class" of 2018 includes artists Mel Chin, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and Vik Muniz, who will join the over 400 other living members. Refocusing their efforts on the class of living artists isn't the only initiative for the "new" NAD, as the academy has also begun publication of an online journal, NAD Now, which features fresh writing focused on the art and scholarship of members both past and present. The National Academy of Design is a storied and historic institution that is emerging once again for the 21st century, and, following in the footsteps of many other renowned arts institutions making the move out of increasingly expensive Manhattan. For example, take SculptureCenter, which sold its longtime home on the Upper East Side in order to “reinvent” itself in Long Island City, Queens, and continues to thrive. These changes are difficult for a time-honored institution’s legacy. However, in the words of Allen, “I say ‘Welcome back,’ and hope my colleagues in the American art world will do the same.”
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Yikers Rikers

We need to rethink the Rikers Island replacement jails
Technology is abstracting so much of our lives that it is easy for change to come out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Many physical objects have been reduced to algorithms hidden in cloud servers and embedded in code on handheld devices. Remember CDs, day planners, watches, and cameras? Architecture, on the other hand, is more difficult to eliminate and maintains its relevance by making visible the invisible within our society. For example, a proposed Manhattan jail tower towering 45 stories over Chinatown and Tribeca makes visible the fact that we can’t just abstract and sweep away our country’s mass incarceration problem. This proposal confronts us—including some very wealthy residents of those neighborhoods—with the harshness and scale of the problem. New York City has chosen four sites—one each in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens—for relocating the jail facilities currently located on Rikers Island. Activists say that moving the incarcerated closer to their homes is a more humane way to keep them connected with their families and communities, citing the difficulty of visiting the island as well as transportation costs for court dates. However, the realities of moving 5,000 inmates brings a spatial challenge: Where do you put them? So far, each proposed site seems tone-deaf about how they would affect the surrounding streets and neighborhoods. Lynn Ellsworth of Human-scale NYC and Tribeca Trust has done a great service by publishing her paper, “How Did Reform of the Criminal Justice System Turn Into a Real Estate Project?” that highlights how the city will sell Rikers Island to real estate developers for $22 billion and then spend another $11 billion dollars on the new jails. In addition, she has also done a deep urban design analysis on the 45-story Manhattan jail on the edge of Chinatown and Tribeca and produced a series of ghost building images that show how the Manhattan jail will negatively affect its surroundings. However, her proposal calling for the city to keep and renovate Rikers Island highlights the contradictions in what can be considered progress on this issue. Perhaps the real question needed now is, “How can we rethink the entire jail debate?” The official renderings from the city’s Department of Correction show only exterior images. A recent New Yorker story, “Inside the Mayor’s Plan to Close Rikers,” quotes architect Frank Greene, who is working on the new jail plans. “I could see these buildings we’re doing for New York City someday becoming community colleges with dormitories inside them,” he told the magazine, a statement which represents the sort of design thinking we endorse. But this thinking needs to be put into signed and approved architectural plans. As the plan currently stands, the fact that the city would build a massive skyscraper jail that would replace half of the historic “Tombs” detention facility on Centre Street with no concrete plan for what will be inside of the building, how incarcerated people will actually live in the building, and what facilities are planned for visitors is truly insane. This is a moment for New York City, its corrections department, its local politicians, and the public to discuss what our incarceration policy should look like on an institutional and facilities level. All we have now are promises and nothing about how these monster facilities will actually operate. Finally, one noted criminal justice reform advocate, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, makes a serious case for closing all prisons. In New York Times Magazine, she asks, “Why don’t we think about why we solve problems by repeating the kind of behavior that brought us the problem in the first place?” The Times article points out that for Gilmore, prison abolition is “both a long-term goal and a practical policy program, calling for government investment in jobs, education, housing, health care—all elements that are required for a productive and violence-free life.”  This is the question to ask as President Trump has just signed his First Step Act, which will begin the release of thousands of prisoners from federal prisons; and as prisons in California, by court order, have begun to empty out their overcrowded facilities by releasing low-level offenders. Rather than build more jails or prisons, we should ask if we really need carceral structures in the way we have thought about them since the 19th century, as places of punitive architecture and inhumane residence. But we also need to ask if we even need more jails or prisons, or whether there might be better ways to rehabilitate people in the future.
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Walls of Air maps the myriad divisions that mark contemporary Brazil

In the post-truth age, the effective and public display of meticulously researched data is a welcome change. The Americas Society's Walls of Air exhibition is an instructive and concise mapping of the trends of urbanism, environmentalism, and economic relations, amongst many other subjects. Four Brazilian and Mexican architects curated the exhibition: Sol Camacho, Laura González Fierro, Marcello Maia Rosa, and Gabriel Kozlowski. The Americas Society’s gallery is located on the ground floor of McKim, Mead & White’s Neo-Federal 680 Park Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The gallery, in contrast to the grandeur of the turn-of-the-century mansion, is relatively stark and divided into three rectilinear spaces. The show's curatorial medium du jour are large format, ten-foot-by-ten-foot UV prints on aluminum composite material, mounted on aluminum frames. The panels are supplemented with video interviews with project researchers. The exhibition was originally displayed in 2018 at the Brazilian Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale and began as a research project to examine and discuss the visible and non-visible walls or barriers that make up contemporary Brazil.   It is immediately apparent from viewing the cartographic drawings the exhaustive level of research undertaken to produce them. The curators partnered with a multidisciplinary team with particular expertise on the subject matter for each panel. In total, over 200 professionals, ranging from the fields of social sciences to the visual arts, aided in the project's collaborative research. This data, in some circumstances Excel sheets with over a million entries, was then visualized with a broad toolbox of software including GIS, Rhino, and Illustrator. Visually, the Brazil displayed throughout the exhibition is not bounded by national frontiers, but placed amid a fluid web of global and regional forces. Deforestation, a trend reshaping the Amazon basin, is presented as a continental issue stretching from the Andes to the river deltas on the coast of the Atlantic. Land stripped bare to the west effectively reduces the level of humidity and rainfall in other places, such as northeastern Brazil—in effect, the policies of one locality catastrophically spin outwards across the ecosystem and impact the surrounding region. A particularly well-documented aspect in Walls of Air is the mapping of commodity flows, immigrant migration, and the geography of the country's real estate market. Lines of increasing width are color-coded to specify the material harvested—bearing a fair resemblance to Charles Minard's map of Napoleon's Russian Campaign—and drive from the Brazilian hinterland to the primary trade ports in the country's southeast. The destination of each type of commodity, its monetary value, and the nation's imports are neatly placed on the side margins of the print. When juxtaposed with the concentration of real estate value in the country's southeast and the destination of immigrant groups within the primary economic centers, one can tease out the prevailing socioeconomic contours of Brazil and the geographic inequalities therein. Walls of Air concludes with an analysis of the Brazilian city in history and the present day. Beginning with Portuguese colonization in the 16th century, the curators mark every single city founded within the country since and the maritime routes that fed them. The subject is expanded upon further with the analysis of post-war urban planning, maps of manmade modifications to metropolitan topography, and data focused on acts of insurrection.

Walls of Air: The Brazilian Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale Americas Society 680 Park Avenue New York, New York Through August 3, 2019