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Fresh Views

New renderings for AC Martin’s skyline-altering LA Times Mirror Square complex
Architects AC Martin and developer Onni Group have released new renderings depicting the teams’ redevelopment plans for the Times Mirror Square complex in Downtown Los Angeles. The project calls for demolishing the historic William Pereira–designed LA Times addition from 1971 and replacing the black metal panel-clad late modernist office block with a pair of podium-style housing towers. The two towers—one 37 stories tall, the other with 53 floors—would hug the sidewalk along Hill Street in order to create a pedestrian paseo through the site separating the existing LA Times and Mirror buildings from the new towers. The existing buildings, originally designed by Gordon Kaufmann and Rowland Crawford, respectively, would be preserved and renovated to house creative offices. No word on where the LA Times offices will be relocated to or if the publication will continue to operate out of the renovated offices. Overall, the project will contain 1,127 residential units and 34,572 square feet of commercial areas. The two flat-topped towers are depicted in the new renderings rather generically, with alternating stacks of projecting balconies and curtain wall expanses populating each tower’s facades. The dual monoliths sit atop a single podium populated by low-rise apartments and rooftop amenity spaces. The building’s ground level retail spaces wrap around the base and into the paseo area, which is shaded from above by an operable glass ceiling. The paseo itself will contain multi-level terraces spaces as well as the aforementioned storefronts. The LA Times building is depicted along Broadway as having a public marketplace along its ground floor. The towers will be joined in the vicinity by a blocky 30 story mixed-use tower designed by Gensler to be located on the block behind the LA Times complex. The projects will also feed into a growing push to convert the surrounding the Civic Center area into a new mixed-use residential enclave. The Times Mirror Square project is anticipated to begin construction in 2019 and open for occupancy in 2023.
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Motor City

Cataloging Detroit over 25 years, Camilo Jose Vergara has documented the city’s decline and decay
Every so often, images of abandoned buildings circulate cyberspace, populating blogs or other online outlets in the form of slideshows and photo series. Chances are that if you have come across such photography, that you have seen the work of Camilo Jose Vergara. The photographer and writer specializes in capturing ruins and settings in states of decay and has become known for revisiting sites and producing a chronology of their fate. In 2013, he received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama, being the first photographer to be awarded the medal. Vergara is prolific. The 73-year-old from Santiago, Chile has produced seven books that document dereliction in Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, Camden, New York, and Detroit. His work builds on that of Jacob Riis, a 19th-century documentarian who published the landmark book, How the Other Half Lives, in 1890. Times have indeed changed since then, however, and Vergara's work remains relevant. "All of this comes from the idea that the real poor and segregated neighborhoods are different in every aspect," he told me as we drank beers on the rooftop of his Morningside Heights apartment. "It's the idea that you have separate Americas... what really fascinates me is the history of places that are in decline because everybody concentrates on the history of places that are moving up, but the other process is just as interesting. It involves people, people coping with their circumstances and its arresting visually too." Over the course of numerous decades, Vergara, a MacArthur Award winner in 2002, has revisited the aforementioned cities, capturing their evolving urban and suburban environments. His methodology is meticulous, returning to the exact same point time and time again to take the same photograph, while also speaking to the local residents. While he occasionally takes portraits of those that approach him, Vergara prefers to shoot buildings and streetscapes as they represent, in his eyes, a place more accurately. "You develop a relationship with the city," he said. "You don't declare that you're going 'steady' with that city until you're going to be back unless you have some assurance that you're going to do it—it's like having a girlfriend." So how do you do it? "You need the money to go there on a regular basis; you need somebody to put you up, or enough money to pay for a hotel; you need money to rent a car, and all of those things are expensive," he explained. Detroit, in particular, became available to Vergara on a regular basis in 1991 when his brother-in-law purchased a building there that was only ever two-thirds occupied. All he needed, he proclaimed, was a mattress and he was set. Before the internet, getting back to an exact location required lots of notetaking. Besides location, Vergara added, the same lens is required and the lighting needs to be similar, if not the same (so you have to be there at the same time of day). "And then sometimes it is rush hour and traffic is in the way, or you have you park your car in the middle of the street and stand up on the roof," Vergara continued "I do that all the time! The car is running, I'm up on the roof, but I can get away quickly if I needed to." But sometimes this zealousness has its consequences. In Detroit, Vergara was once reminded of the city's tensions. "One time a man showed me his gun, he didn't point it at me, just showed it to me." He laughed, apparently unphased by this experience. "I went to the police station and told them and they said, 'What business do you have coming to this neighborhood?' Apparently, I didn't have the right to complain." Other dissenters of Vergara deride his (and his contemporaries') work as socially irresponsible poverty porn. Vergara considers this an "absurd accusation." His view is that derelict structures have permanency, history, "feed the imagination," and sometimes, can be a device to propagate the development of their surroundings. "A problem folks who are interested in poverty and ruins deal with is that ruins tend to be very beautiful," Vergara elaborated. "The most magnificent ruins are from buildings that were spectacular to begin with." "There is more than one way to look at my work," he continued. "One way is to look at it, say 'nice' then forget about it. But then maybe other people want to find out more about what they are looking at. Those people would find what I am talking about—the context." Vergara couples short essays and interviews with his work; he is a sociological documentarian more so than just a mere photographer. "The context I think adds interest and gives it relevance." As for carrying out his work, Google Maps, he said, is making things easier. "It has changed they way I work tremendously. Before I go back to reshoot a location, I look at my old photographs and think to myself, 'What's around this place?' There is no way in the world I am going to photograph every building in Detroit so I use Google Streetview, using the time sequences they offer as well as my own work. After all this, I have a pretty good idea of what I want." Both online and in real life, Vergara has been roaming Detroit's poor neighborhoods, visiting housings projects and rooftops. I asked him if, despite being from Santiago and now living in New York, if he felt like a citizen of Detroit. "I feel like I am a citizen of the ghetto because those are the places I know the best," he replied, referencing the ghettos of Camden, Newark, South Chicago and Harlem as well. Detroit, though, has been Vergara's main focus. It was the city where his love of ruins brought him to and it is also the city on which he focuses on in his latest book, Detroit Is No Dry Bones: The Eternal City of the Industrial Age. Every year, for the past 25 years, the documentarian has visited the city for at least a week. The book catalogs Detroit's ill-fated suburbs, the city center's partial revival, as well as murals, churches, and signage. The latter is indicative of Detroit's changing landscape and morphing typologies. "The signs I photograph stand for the culture that has been developed over many decades," Vergara said. The subject of signage is even more poignant in Detroit, too, in a city that once produced the automobiles of America—cars that symbolized success and the American dream. Over time, the city's car mechanics and garages transformed into cheaper-to-run car washes, and drive-ins, as money left the area. "It's not just the white flight, it's the money flight," Vergara remarked. More than automobile imagery, Vergara argued religious signage is more representative of Detroit's visual culture. It's residents, he says in his most recent book, are waiting for God to save the city. In one instance, on 14849 Livernois Avenue, a church photographed in 2000 changes to become home to "Motor Sales." Vergara, on his rooftop with me, called these "storefront churches." This theme has been prevalent in his work for some time, most notably seen in his book, How the Other Half Worships, an explicit nod to Riis that tracked how poor neighborhoods embraced religion. Murals and signage are important to Vergara. In 2015 he was invited to speak at the Black In Design conference at Harvard University. "You think they're going to get the sign painter that worked for car washers in Detroit?" he asked me. "No. They got designers that went to Ivy League schools and worked at high-end firms. "That leaves out this visual culture." "I like to call attention to this," he continued, evidently agitated. "You can't just ignore segregated areas like you get in Detroit where people have been there for decades and don't have the money to move." Another annoyance of his is how new, predominantly white residents, who set up shops, bars, and restaurants in Detroit's downtown, display images from the 1930s and '50s. "My beef is, why don't you use the visual culture that was born from the riots?" (This year will be the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riots. A film called Detroit is coming out this August to mark the event.) In a lecture at M.I.T. this year, he furthered this sentiment, pointing out how neighborhood artists are unaware of how to publicize their work due to issues such as not having an email account of having their phones disconnected. Of the artists he had spoken to, some had either done time in jail, were homeless, sick, or made money away from art. "In contrast, white artists are often represented by galleries and are able to apply for and receive foundation grants," he said. "Local sign painters and commercial artists with a shrinking neighborhood market see their work further diminish as handmade signs are replaced by vinyl signs made inexpensively by commercial printers." In that same lecture, he added that it is his goal to acknowledge the "history and achievements" of people from Detroit's segregated neighborhoods, "no matter how insignificant they may seem to the rest of the nation. I also try to answer the question, 'What happens next?' as I track these neighborhoods within the city’s larger evolution." Vergara's answer to that question is bleak. To him, there appears to be "no way" of improving the living conditions of the majority of the population. "A dual city continues to develop in which a growing educated population is surrounded by 131 square miles of decline, where poor African Americans survive amidst decaying buildings and empty lots." As the original population flees the poverty stricken suburbs, local businesses such as dry cleaners or barbershops become unsustainable, a scenario Vergara only sees worsening. "Already a quarter of a century ago, black Detroiters believed that the city might not be theirs for very long," he said. "Now throughout Detroit one can find adumbrations of a white paradise of bed and breakfasts, fruit orchards, woodlands, goat farms and artists’ lofts." And as for what happens next to his own work? "Whether or not my work is used in 30 years time, I do not know," he answered. "But it will be preserved because the library of congress purchased my collection." Vergara does, however, have a proposal for Detroit. "As a lifelong documentarian of the ephemeral visual culture of the American ghetto, I believe that the weathered commercial signs with their whimsical lettering, the religious imagery, the Afrocentric historical murals and the memorials to the dead found in the city’s neglected neighborhoods are defining elements of the Detroit spirit." This visual culture, he attests, is overlooked by companies such as Shinola who prefer to reference the industrial age of Motor City. The artwork and signage by locals, argues Vergara, must be preserved and thus acknowledged by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and furthermore, this art should be encouraged. In addition to this, he calls for the production and worldwide marketing of luxuries (such as the products from Shinola) made out of street art, with some of the profit going back to the neighborhoods. "Detroit has a history that hasn't been told all that much, if at all. This is what I am trying to do."
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New'R Nantes

French housing tower wrapped in undulating balconies sculpts a new cityscape
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Paris-based Hamonic+Masson & Associés has completed a new housing tower that is composed of an angular core wrapped in undulating balconies. The project, titled "New’R," is located in Nantes, a city located in western France, and pays homage to Oscar Niemeyer as well as to the architecture of the 1970’s French Riviera. New’R contributes to an ongoing discussion about building height which according to the architects has become a pressing topic throughout the country. In 2015, the practice completed and delivered Paris’ first housing project measuring over 160-feet since the 1970s.
  • Facade Manufacturer Cladding: ALUBEL (product: OND-ALL 33, painted with RAL 9003 Signal White, 80% gloss)
  • Architects Hamonic+Masson & Associés (client: Kaufman & Broad)
  • Facade Installer Lucas Reha
  • Facade Consultants n/a
  • Location Nantes, France
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Reinforced concrete load-bearing facade with exterior thermal insulation and aluminum cladding
  • Products Wooden balcony floor tiles: FGI (product: Snap and go); Greenhouse: EUROSERRE; Elevators: KONE; Lighting: DELTALIGHT (product: Super Oh)
Jean-Christophe Masson and Gaëlle Hamonic, principals at Hamonic+Masson & Associés, said the facade of the project was about connectivity to surrounding flows of the city’s people, cars, and bicycles: “The building’s transparency, depth, and various perspectives engender a dynamism and liveliness around the perimeter of the project, consequently enriching the surrounding environment.” New’R’s massing strategy pairs a simple faceted angular building envelope with outboard curvilinear balconies. Both the facade and balconies are outfitted with aluminum paneling from Italian-based ALUBEL. The building’s volume breaks down into four sub-towers helping to compliment the surrounding scale of the city while providing additional functional rooftop terrace space.  The architects say these intermediate landings produce a sequence within the volume of the tower that helps to produce a “graduated system of high-rise living.” The most impactful element of the project, New’R’s guardrails, are composed of two assembly types: an open rail system, and a perforated panel system. Furthermore, plant containers are selectively incorporated into the lower levels of the apartment building. The architects say this variation was contextual, citing higher floors allowed for unobstructed views while lower floors require more privacy. They also add that the building is an observation tower, both functionally, but also—and perhaps more importantly—symbolically. “Living here enables people to understand and appreciate the city that surrounds them: architecture in cinemascope.”
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Telluride Transfer

Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis wins commission to design new arts center in Telluride, Colorado
New York firm Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis (LTL) has beaten Gluckman Tang and NADAAA to the commission for the Telluride Transfer Warehouse in Colorado. The practice will now lead the design for the new arts center in the former Victorian mining town in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Earlier this year, the "Telluride Transfer Warehouse Design Competition" attracted 30 firms, of which the aforementioned firms, from New York and Boston respectively, along with LTL, were named as finalists. The competition brief called for a historically sensitive proposal that respected the National Historic Landmark warehouse that was originally constructed in 1906. In its 111-year existence, the warehouse has suffered. Its roof collapsed in 1979, something which halted operations on site and from that point onwards the building has stood empty, becoming a well-known Telluride relic. LTL's design sees a timber structure nestled into the original sandstone walls. Without any roof, LTL's wooden form is able poke above the masonry to provide a rooftop terrace—one of three levels. Keeping visitors physically engaged with the 6,000-square-foot is a staircase that bridges the timber and stone and runs up two the longer, street-facing edge of the warehouse. Light enters the stairway space through a glass ceiling and through the original windows, thus maintaining the more recent history of decay and abandonment. Meanwhile by the entrance, a retractable skylight will partially cover a double-height ground floor concourse. This area will be known as the "Great Hall." Moreover, programmatically, the Telluride Transfer Warehouse will also include a screening and music venue below; two levels of flexible exhibition spaces can be found as well. The rooftop will offer a cafe and bar along with views out across the mountainscape. The building is sited in the the center of Telluride's arts district. “Key elements of the program include a Kunsthalle for exhibitions, flexible spaces that transform to host a multitude of events, and a small, museum-style bar/cafe that invites a constant flow of people and casual gatherings into a living-room atmosphere,” said the Telluride Artsorganization on their website. "Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis looks forward to working with and the community in the realization of this important structure in the heart of the historic town," the firm said in a press release. Construction is due to start in 2018. To learn more about the Telluride Transfer Warehouse visit the Telluride Arts website here.
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Residential Conversion

Historic Foreman & Clark in Downtown Los Angeles to become apartments
OKB Architecture has released renderings that depict planned renovations to the historic Foreman & Clark building in Downtown Los Angeles. The L.A.-based firm will convert the former department store and office building into a mixed-use apartment complex containing 125 units and 8,500 square feet of ground level retail. The building dates to 1928 and is organized along a series of double-loaded internal corridors, which, along with many of the building’s original decorative elements, will be retained through the conversion. The proposed apartments will ring the building’s exterior facades, with one set of units looking out over a large fifth floor courtyard and the others along the perimeter of the structure. The building will contain a collection of one- and two-bedroom units. New additions to the structure include renovations to the fifth floor terrace overlooking the street and the addition of a new rooftop penthouse level. The shared terrace will contain building amenities like integrated seating areas, shade pavilions, and modest plantings. Renderings for the project depict updated ground floor retail areas with double-height glass-clad storefronts buttressed by low walls. The renderings also depict a new, more prominent residential lobby entrance along 7th Street marked by an oversized awning.   The project joins a growing number of new developments within and around Downtown Los Angeles’s historic Broadway Theatre District, including a forthcoming 450-unit condominium tower inspired by the surrounding historic mercantile structures by architects Hanson LA. Because many of the area’s structures are historically significant, many of the new developments in the district consist of interior renovations and condominium and office conversions. A timeline for the Foreman & Clark project has not been announced.
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New York Values

NYCHA’s new guidelines for rehabilitation of public housing push for sustainability and preservation

Who knew the launch of a document about putting new rooftops on old buildings, raising boilers above flood levels, and updating kitchens and bathrooms in municipal housing would be the East Coast elite’s hottest ticket in town? The release of New York City Public Housing Authority’s Design Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Residential Buildings had to turn away dozens of attendees to its January 12th panel packing three stories at the AIA’s Center for Architecture.

Part of the reason for the overflow crowd may be the sheer number of partners, collaborators, and offices involved. Led by the agency’s Office of Design, the Design Guidelines implicated its Capital Projects and Energy & Sustainability divisions, affordable housing developer Enterprise Community Partners (ECP), the AIA’s Design for Aging and Housing Committees, participants in NYCHA’s Design Excellence program, including Andrew Bernheimer, Domingo Gonzalez, and Claire Weisz, and dozens of maintenance staff members and residents.

Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow Jae Shin served as embedded coordinator of many of these conversations within the agency and co-edited the guidelines. “She really helped facilitate a lot of the internal discussions that we had with our various groups at NYCHA as well as external partners,” said Bruce Eisenberg, deputy director of NYCHA’s Office of Design, who spearheaded the project. “We really wanted to make it a very interactive process.”

Produced in collaboration with ECP and supported by a $100,000 grant from Deutsche Bank, the Design Guidelines belong to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s NextGeneration NYCHA, a 10-year agenda to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of America’s largest and most successful public housing agency.

“This will impact all of our capital projects,” Eisenberg said. “We have a five-year plan of scheduled projects, and so we really wanted to raise the bar of design in how we execute them. This is a roadmap to enable us to do that.” It has implications for a vast and practically unending scope of work. If fully funded, renovation of NYCHA projects, which comprise 2,500 acres in 328 complexes containing 125,000 units and serving more than 400,000 residents, would require $17 billion in current capital costs. Allocations over the next three years amount to $784.4 million from the city’s budget.

In some parts, the Design Guidelines formalize the standards employed in recent capital projects, such as the exterior lighting installed at Castle Hill and Butler Houses in the Bronx, which replaces the dim yellow light of old with nearly 1,000 bright and energy-efficient LED fixtures to improve public safety. In other outdoor areas, the guidelines aim to reduce metal fencing around grass and add amenities to create more active and healthy spaces. They take cues from the guidelines set forth by the Center For Active Design, while encouraging visual sight lines. In-progress projects like KPF and Olin’s landscapes for Red Hook Houses—funded as part of the post-Sandy $3 billion FEMA recovery grant—indicate a High Line–like attention to detail.

“We’re starting to be more aspirational in that area,” Eisenberg said. “We’re looking to make our open spaces more attractive and useful to our residents and the community at large.”

NYCHA’s push toward environmental sustainability nudges projects to install subsurface infiltration systems, sidewalk bioswales, and porous pavers rather than asphalt to limit stormwater overflow and heat sinks. Pilot projects in Bronx River Houses, Hope Gardens, and Seth Low Houses will slow stormwater, while the Edenwald Houses in the Bronx will contain the city’s largest green infrastructure installation. For other areas vulnerable to stormwater rise, the guidelines recommend concrete retaining walls to double as seating, like the floodwalls as wood-clad benches by Nelligan White Architects in Baruch Houses below the Williamsburg Bridge.

At Sotomayor Houses, NYCHA will begin installing the new standards for kitchens and bathrooms later this year, expanding cabinet space and adding accessible grab bars and sinks. That is, after the roofing is done: Mayor de Blasio has dedicated $100 million annually to roofs alone for the next two years, recently supplemented by another $1 billion over 10 years. Upgrading the troublesome low- or no-slope roofs of its modern-era buildings is NYCHA’s biggest capital projects burden.

The Design Guidelines’ release landed on the same day as nomination hearings for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, adding a collective spirit of defiance to talk of preserving the country’s largest public housing agency. The De Blasio administration vows to press on, regardless of the new administration’s priorities, which appear to involve gutting all federal agencies the President’s cronies cannot use for profiteering.

“We have a 10-year strategic plan NextGeneration NYCHA that’s not a kitchen sink plan; it’s very specific, and we’re moving forward,” said Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, director of NYCHA’s Office for Public/Private Partnerships and president of newly formed Fund for Public Housing nonprofit, which coordinated privatesector grants for the guidelines. “We don’t know what the policy priorities will be, but we know what New Yorkers’ priorities are, so we are moving forward with that plan, because it’s the best investment in public housing in New York City.”

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Sad to FaB

New renderings unveiled for Mia Lehrer + Associates and OMA’s FaB Park in L.A.
Designs for the forthcoming First and Broadway (FaB) Park by Mia Lehrer + Associates (MLA) and Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) have been reconfigured to address community desires of Downtown Los Angeles residents. The new designs, portrayed in a collection of new renderings, depict a more leafy proposal for the two acre park than was originally proposed. The original design featured a central plaza flanked by groves of native plantings, sunken terraces, and a 100,000-square-foot food pavilion. The proposal was also dotted with large-scale shade structures and contained a small creek at its southwest corner. The new iteration of the project features a greater number of trees and shade structures, according to the renderings. The scheme also features a new 10,000-square-foot meadow that grows out of the creek bed, which had been retained in a reconfigured shape. The designers have also improved the food pavilion by adding a rooftop terrace and shade pavilion beside the structure. The two-story structure will host a restaurant, though a vendor has not been selected and there are community concerns regarding the future restaurant’s affordability. The project is expected to break ground in 2018 and be completed by 2020.
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Framed Views

LOHA’s star-shaped Mariposa 1038 brings 32 units to L.A.’s Koreatown
Los Angeles–based Lorcan O’Herilhy Architects (LOHA) recently completed work on Mariposa 1038, a diamond-shaped 32-unit multifamily apartment structure in L.A.’s Koreatown neighborhood. The 68,000-square-foot structure occupies a tight urban site in one of L.A’s densest neighborhoods and aims to provide much-needed housing to an area that is otherwise at risk for gentrification. The apartment building is shaped like a cube that has been puckered at the corners, revealing gently-curved facades that swing back from the street. Along the sidewalk, the voided segment leftover as the facade pulls back is filled with a large concrete block planter packed with trees and shrubs. The overlooking curved stucco walls are studded with folded metal window hoods that frame varied apertures and inset balconies. The window hoods themselves extend out from the curved facade to the original extents of the mass, are painted in monochromatic tones, and vary in width across the expanse, changing to their attendant apertures. In a statement announcing the project’s completion, LOHA drew attention to the window treatments, saying, “Throughout the day, the movement of dark shadows across the white and black facades activates the project with a dynamic sense of constant rearrangement.” Along its interior, Mariposa 1038 features a central, stark-white courtyard that is outlined in sinuous, streamlined geometries and contains an embedded water catchment system along the ground floor. When it rains, water collects from around the courtyard spaces into a landscaped planter that not only harvests water but contains integrated seating elements, as well—here, a pair of angular wooden benches. The segmented courtyard geometries wrap over the uppermost parapet, connecting the space to a rooftop terrace overlooking the city. Meanwhile, the units inside the structure are spare in their ornamentation and feature floor-to-ceiling window assemblies—the same openings framed by the exterior hoods along the facade. The units are organized with integrated storage walls and have been designed to maximize passive ventilation strategies, as well. Aside from the completion of Mariposa 1038, LOHA is also at work on a bevy of innovative projects across Los Angeles and recently opened a satellite office in Detroit, Michigan.
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Wagner Thereafter

Architects aren’t happy with plans to remodel this Manhattan park
Despite new developments reshaping the city from ground to sky, the Statue of Liberty endures as one of New York's most iconic sights. Without getting on a boat, one of the best places to see Lady Liberty is Wagner Park, a small green slice of Battery Park City on the lower edge of Manhattan. Two decades ago Boston-based Machado Silvetti, in collaboration with landscape architects at OLIN, unveiled the park, an open space that ushers people towards the water’s edge with sweeping views of New York Harbor and that famous freedom statue. Now, in response to the specter of Hurricane Sandy and the threat of rising seas, the agency that oversees the area is planning a total park overhaul. The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) is set to replace the existing landscape that architects and residents love with a park it says will align better with new resiliency measures that are reshaping the Manhattan waterfront. Though Wagner Park comprises just ten percent of Battery Park City's green space, its design punches above its weight. According to Machado Silvetti, the park has three defining features, all in service of stellar water views. The main building—really two pavilions whose rooftops are joined by a wooden bridge—is reached by facing allées that funnel pedestrians from Battery Park and Battery Place. From there, the view beckons park-goers onto a grassy expanse, framed by benches and stone paths. At its opening in 1996, architecture critic Paul Goldberger declared Wagner Park's three-and-a-half acres "one of the finest public spaces New York has seen in at least a generation." That was written in a pre-Sandy time, when climate change was a glimmer only in scientists’ eyes. Now, the BPCA, the state agency in charge of Battery Park City, says Wagner Park needs a totally new design to protect itself, as well as inland areas. Though it didn't flood during Sandy, hurricane-related inundation along nearby West Street and the area's "excessive vulnerabilities" made the agency consider a storm barrier to align with the city's Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) Project, said Gwen Dawson, vice president of real property at BPCA. Right now, LMCR protections terminate right before Wagner Park’s southern boundary and the city’s Battery Park City resiliency initiatives end at the park's north side, near the Museum of Jewish Heritage. At the water's edge, preliminary plans call for extending an existing esplanade to connect with nearby Pier A. To flood-proof inland areas, a deployable barrier set between thick columns would roughly contour the existing building's footprint and the southern allée, while a larger lawn and ornamental gardens would replace the current configuration of wood benches and stonework. BPCA has commissioned Stan Eckstut of New York’s Perkins Eastman, the same architect behind the original Battery Park City master plan, to design the new building and park (in collaboration with W Architecture and Landscape Architecture). Besides the landscape's vulnerability, Machado Silvetti’s building, BPCA says, is too deteriorated and set too deep into the 100-year floodplain to withstand future Sandys. At 12 feet, the structure's first-floor elevation is four-and-a-half feet shy of new minimum first-floor flood zone elevations. Perkins Eastman's design would keep the same footprint as the old building, but, at 42 feet tall, it would more than double the amount of retail space and add room for maintenance operations. The restrooms, which are bigger than those in Bryant Park, would be halved in size to deter tour buses from stopping at the park. Not everyone, though, thinks the BPCA’s approach—or design vision—fits the site. "Design is an important component of resiliency work,” landscape architect Laura Starr said. “The design community is able to translate engineering concepts in a way that’s legible—and attractive—to lay people, so everyone can understand all the options. We all need to be on the same page.” Starr—whose firm worked on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, a major initiative to build resiliency along the Manhattan side of the East River—contends that solutions to flooding should focus on Pier A’s plaza, where in 2012 seawater inundated main roads, the World Trade Center site, and the ballfields along West Street. She questioned whether the deployable barriers, which even at rest are very visible and do not go up automatically, would be the best solution. Instead, she believes built-in-place barriers that double as promenades, parks, bikeways, green space, and (in some cases) elevated roads are more effective from a holistic resiliency standpoint than deployable barriers that rely on an operations team to be effective and don’t contribute to the urban design.

Starr serves on Manhattan Community Board 1 (CB1), which met earlier this month to discuss the proposal, the latest in a series of public meetings that commenced in April 2016. (According to a BPCA spokesperson, her firm, Starr Whitehouse bid unsuccessfully on the Wagner Park redesign.)*

CB1, for its part, wants more information. Although it affirmed its pledge to work with BPCA on the plans, CB 1’s Battery Park City Committee believed the expansive character of Wagner Park should be preserved. It expressed concern over the expanded commercial space, especially given the abundant retail options on Pier A. Its resolution states that "it has not been made clear to members of the Committee why the existing structure, which was built in 1994, must be replaced by a new building or why the new building is necessary." The original architect, too, is less than thrilled with the proposal. “The design premise is an insult to the Statue of Liberty,” said Rodolfo Machado, founding principal of Machado Silvetti. “This project seems totally non-site-specific; the symbolic content of the park is completely lost. It’s very banal.” He had not heard about the BPCA proposal until AN reached out for comment last week. Perkins Eastman principal Stan Eckstut maintained that Machado Silvetti’s design is sound, but added that the pavilion was not constructed for the restaurant that today occupies its ground floor. Water, though, has seeped through the bricks and built up inside the walls, causing deterioration. There’s also not enough space for maintenance operations, so the BPCA wants to add 1,800 square feet of space for maintenance, bringing the total to 4,300 square feet. The project's budget has yet to be finalized, but it's estimated it will cost tens of millions of dollars. The next step, BPCA officials said, is engineering and design, which includes the development of an RFP for a more detailed program that is set to come out within the next 90 days. Though this plan affects only a sliver of New York’s 520 miles of coastline, the rebuild-and-replace approach raises larger questions about the future of climate change design in New York City. At Machado’s suggestion, AN reached out to architects for comment on the proposed changes to Wagner Park and the future of resilient landscapes in New York. We’ll update readers as more comments come online. Nader Tehrani, founding principal of NADAAA and dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union:
[It’s] unfortunate that there is a move to demolish these pavilions and replace them with structures that do not acknowledge the colossal scale at which pavilions would need to operate in relation to the NYC skyline, nor acknowledge the critical urbanistic connections to the Statue of Liberty…or the other more nuanced connections within Battery Park City. It might be that these pavilions, like many other structures and landscapes on the edge of Manhattan, would need to be revisited in terms of resilience, and their ability to absorb the cyclical fluctuations of a piece of infrastructure. But to deny them of the critical urbanistic function they offer is to deny NYC some of its paradigmatic qualities. At the end, rising tides will become a consistent challenge in the coming years. If at every turn, the alibi of impending doom is adopted as the basis for the demolition of critical values that make up the discipline of urbanism, then we will end up with a series of barriers (both physical and cultural) that deny us of engaging the very reasons we build urban cultures.
Toshiko Mori, founding principal, Toshiko Mori Architect:
I think the park has become a type of fixture in our downtown life. The design is a bit idiosyncratic but it is very well-detailed and there is something very endearing about the structure which takes into account multiple scales of elements occurring on the site from high rises downtown to the view of the harbor to the experience of park at human scale. In particular, the front esplanade is an excellent design, it makes for a beautiful transition from the building to the lawn. Its gentle arc and steps and stone details help negotiate this important edge in a very graceful manner. Isn't it possible to leave it as is and let it flood like they do in Venice? Or take care of flooding issue in a less obtrusive manner?
Zack McKown, founding principal of Tsao & McKown:
I would like to know more, especially regarding alternative ways of dealing with sea level rise that could preserve the Wagner Park structure by Machado Silvetti. Their design enhances an urban place that offers uniquely strong visual connections to the Statue of Liberty. They employed a powerful and erudite architectural vocabulary that elevates one's appreciation for an appropriately monumental civic celebration and at the same time delightfully challenges one to ponder its mysterious formal origins.
The project that is being proposed has no comparable ennobling or engaging qualities that I can see from these drawings.
*Starr Whitehouse is currently working with Perkins Eastman on another project and the partners worked with the BPCA at a previous firm
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Simple in Seattle

In a Seattle neighborhood of traditional family homes, Heliotrope Architects create a modern abode using local materials

In a hip and funky part of Capitol Hill—Seattle’s answer to Brooklyn—sits one new home that is unlike the others. Amid the surrounding sea of bungalow and cottage-style homes is a new residence designed by Seattle and-Portland-based Heliotrope Architects. With its stained-cedar facade and abstract gable roof, it is contemporary yet quietly different, its boldness found in soft details, a monochromatic color palette, and honest materials.

An engineer and an artist—the former an online-retailer employee and the latter a graduate of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design—initially reached out to Heliotrope for the project. The couple had big plans to create a home on an empty mid-block lot (the former cottage-style home on the lot was razed) that could house a shared art studio space and feel airy, light, and cheerful.

The interiors take inspiration from white-walled contemporary art galleries, providing a neutral backdrop to a clean, clutter-free space filled with smart furnishings and Arne Jacobsen lighting fixtures. “The approach is not indulgent,” said Heliotrope co-founder and principal Mike Mora. “It’s relatively modest.”

White-painted sheetrock adds tranquility and calmness without feeling sterile. There are Northwestern myrtlewood floors in the peripheral spaces and wood-look tile and concrete flooring (with radiant heat) in the main living areas. The kitchen features custom cabinetry and walnut butcher-block counters, and the living room has custom bookshelves, all crafted by local builder Dovetail (known for building out local Seattle eateries like Joule and Mezcaleria Oaxaca). Ample glazing and skylights bring daylight inside, valuable in a region that can have nine months of cloud cover each year.

“It’s not just a two-story box,” said Mora, explaining why they focused on keeping the house low instead of maximizing the building envelope.

There is a thoughtful balance and unity between contemporary and warm, indoor and outdoor, public and private. As Mora explained, the design relies on a checkerboard layout—a careful juxtaposition between the interior and two ground-level gardens that help distribute natural light throughout the home (there’s also a rooftop garden as well). The master suite is split between two levels: The master bedroom is on the upper floor and looks over the double-height artist studio, while the master bath downstairs includes a custom Japanese soaking tub and cedar countertops. The guest suite lies underneath the gable roof, separated from the master suite.

In the end, Heliotrope was driven by its clients’ close connection to design. “Physical objects are important to them,” said Mora. In fact, the couple is so meticulously organized that the house required just five minutes of staging before the photographer came to shoot this feature.

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A New Look

New renderings revealed for Lucas Museum in L.A.
MAD Architects’ proposed designs for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles have undergone a slew of design changes, according to documents filed with the Los Angeles City Planning Commission (LACPC). The documents, first reported by Urbanize.LA and filed in advance of a forthcoming meeting between the project’s backers and the LACPC set for May 11, come roughly five months after the museum board chose Los Angeles’s Exposition Park as the preferred site for the new $1 billion complex. L.A. was chosen in January over a parcel on San Francisco’s Treasure Island. The two California cities were briefly in competition with for the complex after backers abandoned an earlier pitch made for Chicago, Illinois. Now, as the project moves toward its projected 2018 construction kick-off, developers for the project are making their way through L.A.’s dense building approval process. The planning document calls for the construction of a 115-foot-tall museum, education, and leisure complex that will contain a restaurant, movie theater, lecture hall, digital classrooms, library, and event spaces in addition to gallery spaces. The project—unlike the proposed bids for San Francisco or Chicago—will contain a massive amount of parking: 2,425 stalls contained within a three-level subterranean garage. The 300,000-square foot complex will be organized with a collection of ground floor open spaces that connect to an 11-acre, park-like site. A rendering contained within the document indicates that the complex has tightened up, programmatically-speaking, and occupies a both a wider footprint and tighter envelope than before. The complex will be organized within an arrangement of dual, three-story piers topped by a continuous, two-level gallery block. The ground floor of the southern pier will contain archives and offices, with educational spaces on the second floor, and the library on the third. The northern pier will contain a pair of theaters and a main entry pavilion for the museum. A rendering included in planning documents shows a sinuous, metal-clad structure topped with trees and planted areas. The renderings differ somewhat from earlier designs and include the addition of a new underground space located below the project site. Construction for the project is expected to begin in 2018 and complete in 2021.
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975 Feet Tall

New rendering released for L.A.’s third-tallest tower
To take a walk down Downtown Los Angeles's Figueroa Corridor these days is to behold a sea of construction cranes. The entire area is currently being transformed by rising crop of transit-accessible high-rise luxury towers. One of the biggest changes coming to the area will be the recently-proposed Figueroa Centre tower project by architects Callison RTKL. The designers recently revealed a second rendering for their new 66-story tower which, if completed according to plan, will become not only the third-tallest structure in Los Angeles, but also the tallest residential building in the region. The project is slated for 200 condominium units, 220 hotel rooms, and 94,000 square feet of retail spaces. The new tower—it will be located at 925 S. Figueroa Street and rise 975 feet—is part of the large-scale effort to make Los Angeles a better draw for large-scale trade and professional conventions by boosting the overall supply of rental housing and hotel rooms in the areas surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center and L.A. Live complexes. The city is currently planning to add 8,000 new hotel rooms to those areas, a boom that over the next few years will add a new wing to Downtown Los Angeles’s fledgling skyline. For the most part, the new towers are being built above existing surface parking lots. Up until recently, the city’s downtown skyline was made up mostly of high-rise office towers built in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Over the next ten or so years, however, roughly 20 new towers are due to sprout along Figueroa Street alone, from the foot of L.A.’s newest, tallest tower—the 1,018-foot-tall, A.C. Martin-designed Wilshire Grand Hotel—to the southernmost flank of Interstate-10. Several of those projects are already well under construction, including the Callison RTKL-designed Oceanwide Plaza complex, a $1 billion project consisting of a trio of towers rising between 40- and 49-stories in height. The podium levels of that project are quickly rising out of the ground. Ultimately, the project will contain 150,000 square feet of shopping areas, 504 condominium units, and a 184-key hotel. The twin, 36-story tall Circa towers by Harley Ellis Devereaux are nearly topped-out, according to a time-lapse camera perched over the site. Crews at the Circa site have been snapping curtain wall elements into place over the last few weeks, while crews at the Metropolis project have finished one of that project’s four towers are and are making quick work of the remaining three. A timeline for the Figueroa Centre project has not been announced.