All posts in East

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Tortoise Grid

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

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

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

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

Maya Lin will hang a grove of dead trees in Madison Square Park
Architect-artist Maya Lin is bringing a series of spectral cedar trees to New York’s Madison Square Park next year to shed light on the effects of climate change Talk about a timely topic.  On view from June 8, 2020, through December 13, Ghost Forest will feature a grove of regionally-sourced dead trees to stand in contrast to the Flatiron park’s lush summer landscape. The installation will show visitors first-hand the phenomena that occur year-round around the world as trees fall ill and die because of rising sea levels, salt-water inundation, and resource deprivation. Specifically, the trees chosen by Lin will come from the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, a massive sandy forest on a coastal plain that is afflicted with poor soil. A 1.1-million-acre national reserve, the landscape was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy due to a build up of salt in the soil.  While located very close to the major cities of New York and Philadelphia, little is publicly known about the Pine Barrens and its plight, which is why Lin aims to demonstrate just how close-to-home ghost forests really are and to educate people on how to protect and restore natural ecosystems. The trees used in the installation will help clear the way for the regeneration of the surrounding species and shine awareness on other dying forests in North America, from South Carolina’s barrier islands to beaches along the Oregon and Washington coasts.  Ghost Forest is the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s 40th public art commission. To Brooke Kamin Rapaport, deputy director and chief curator, Lin’s piece will embody the spirit of the organization. “The Conservancy’s public art commissions are transient by nature,” she said in a statement. “Ghost Forest underscores the concept of transience and fragility, and stands as a grave reminder of the consequences of inaction to the climate crisis. Within a minimal visual language of austerity and starkness, Lin brings her role as an environmental activist and her vision as an artist to this work.” Lin has long-been an advocate for environmental sustainability and has explored climate change in various projects including her What is Missing? series, an ongoing project on the loss of biodiversity which she considers her final memorial. 
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Shedding the Shed

the_shed_is_a_shack pokes fun at Hudson Yards and corporate malfeasance
On June 21, a couple of months after the opening of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group-designed Shed, the anonymous group behind the_shed_is_a_shack Instagram account began trolling the billionaire-real-estate-developer-funded arts center. Its organizers, who include an artist and an executive director of an arts institution, followed their friends' Instagram accounts to attract followers and began lampooning the Shed. They published a photo of a cracked electrical outlet cover and an electrical box with wires sticking out, poked fun at design and programming decisions, and savaged the financing behind the project. Increasingly they focused on its embodiment of extreme economic stratification, poor labor practices, and the "artwashing" of real estate the project embodies. We asked The Shack—as they call themselves—about the account, their trolling of the Shed and Hudson Yards, and their view of what should have happened there instead. They responded with a remarkably cogent argument for an alternative decision-making process for development on public property. AN: Can you tell us about your backgrounds or professional affiliations? Are you connected to any activist groups or have you been in the past? the_shed_is_a_shack: We are arts professionals with many years of experience with cultural institutions and in different aspects of the art world. The Shack includes an executive-level arts leader and an artist who is also active in a number of other social justice/advocacy issues. We are also people who care about our communities, our fellow citizens, and the importance of civic engagement.
 
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Are you creating some of the memes or are you mostly sharing other things you see? We create all of the content ourselves, except in a very few select cases where we have reposted and clearly credited the original poster. Our audience also sometimes sends ideas or news articles to us, and occasionally that’s a prompt for us to create a particular meme or post around that idea.
 
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How do you see this action: As advocacy or activism, or are you mostly just having fun trolling the developers? The account is light-hearted about a dark-hearted thing, and so we’re poking fun while also highlighting some very serious issues. There are a lot of problems with how money and power are distributed and abused in the art world, and also in the world at large, and what has happened (and is happening) at Hudson Yards and with the Shed is representative of some of the most egregious examples. There’s also such a huge gap between how Hudson Yards and the Shed were sold and marketed to the public, and what they have actually become. So much marketing hype was built into the selling of it, and so it feels right that the response should be similarly structured in terms of tone, as memes, faux ads, and hype-speak. Also, we’re in the art world, so we like our visuals. There’s a long history of art world projects that critique the structure and internal systems that underpin cultural institutions. We’d like to see that critique contribute to change, so there’s an advocacy element to our trolling.
 
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Is it connected to a particular set of positions? No matter how much we might have a laugh at some of the more outrageous details of Hudson Yards and the Shed, the development is actually a slap in the face to the people of New York and thus in need of more serious examination. A select group of wealthy individuals and corporations are benefitting from Hudson Yards, along with government officials who actively championed and pushed through the development to advance their own political or business interests (including Bloomberg, De Blasio, Dan Doctoroff, and others). But what did everyone else get? Our tax dollars went to build a private luxury neighborhood billed as “Little Dubai,” while many New Yorkers don’t have access to affordable housing, reliable subway lines, or adequate healthcare. The developers tried to cut out unions and limit worker safety standards, and people lost wages and got hurt. And with the Shed, our tax dollars helped pay for a building and organization that is not serving the cultural community or the public as promised, and instead has created a tax-deductible structure and plaything for the developer and his pals to utilize and benefit from. So, our position is about advocating for the public interest and for the cultural community.
 
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What motivated you in particular to start it, and is Instagram an effective tool so far to forward a message? The account started really just as a cathartic response and half-joke. We visited The Shed soon after it opened and were stunned by the experience. The building itself was in disarray. Hardware was falling off the walls or not properly installed, there were cracks in the glass and electrical socket plates, puddles of leaking lubricant from the escalator, peeling and chipped paint on multiple walls, exit signs with wires sticking out, obvious building code violations, and more.  
 
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For a brand-new, wildly expensive building supported by taxpayer money and on city-owned land—and touted by the developers and the city as representing the future of cultural institutions and civic public-private engagement—it was a massive failure. So many cultural institutions around the city are struggling to pay the bills, and money got poured into this development. It’s unconscionable that it turned out this way and that there has not yet been a reckoning for abusing the public trust. So what started as a joke among friends expanded as we realized how serious and ongoing the problems there were. Instagram is the art world’s preferred social media for the most part, at least for the moment, and so it seemed like a natural choice.
 
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What would be an ideal outcome? The desired outcome is to expand the conversation around the Shed and Hudson Yards. It’s also important to us to emphasize how the final shape of the development is not an accident; it’s what happens when a development that is privately owned and controlled does not include the appropriate level of input, regulation, and safeguarding by community groups and the public. The Shed is an extension of that core problem, with a board controlled by the developers and their buddies, and even the building itself is literally infected by and physically trapped inside the development Alien-style (The Shed ended up being constructed with much of its operational guts shared with and located inside of the skyscraper next door). So now we have a major NYC neighborhood and cultural institution that is being controlled by a small group of private investors, continuing to benefit from tax incentives and public money, in order to advance personal interests that are largely counter to the public’s.
 
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Although Hudson Yards is mostly owned by private developers, the Shed sits on public land owned by the city and is a nonprofit entity that is required to benefit the public good. So we—the public—need to hold the Shed accountable and see that necessary changes are made to the way it operates. There are many different options that might be proposed as an alternative; for example, a consortium of existing cultural institutions and community organizations could come together to re-envision how the space should operate and who should run it. The building could serve as an outpost/off-site programming space for other arts and culture organizations on a rotating basis, among other possibilities. It could also be converted into free or subsidized office/studio space for cultural nonprofits, artists, and community organizations that can’t afford rent because of developments like Hudson Yards, or for events like pop-up free healthcare clinics or other services for those in need. Further, there should be a public conversation to include government officials that rethinks how the next phase of Hudson Yards is allowed to proceed, with an eye toward much more community oversight, regulation, and built-in systems for clawing back public money/tax incentives if and when promises aren’t kept.
 
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What should Hudson Yards have been? Hudson Yards should have been a true public-private partnership, which means careful input, oversight, and regulation by the community at every stage and ongoing for the life of the development. That’s a hard and challenging process, but it’s necessary and fair if developers want to get decades of tax incentives, city- and state-paid infrastructure, and other public money. Hudson Yards could have and should have been an actual mixed-use community, with truly integrated housing for low-income, middle, and yes even some luxury, as well as a range of nonprofit, business, and retail spaces that genuinely serve the neighborhood needs more broadly. It should have true public space (not privately owned space that the developer controls on whim) and cultural venues that more fully reflect the needs and interests of the community. Cultural and creative programming and public artwork should be informed by and ultimately decided by those with expertise in the field alongside community members, not by one rich guy who wants a big Heatherwick bauble because he thinks it’s what other rich guys like. If he wants a Heatherwick (or anything else), he’s welcome to buy it and build it—but not with the support and help of public money and infrastructure.
 
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Because the developers of Hudson Yards are claiming private control of the entire space (even though this isn’t actually correct, with the Shed on city-owned land and the Hudson Yards subway part of the MTA), they are asserting that visitors don’t have the same rights they would normally have in a public space. That’s deeply problematic on many levels (impacting everything from the right to protest, to who gets to sit on benches or be otherwise harassed under what conditions, as well as in their use of facial recognition technology in the kiosks and other surveillance measures by the developers). So there should be requirements that dictate how any development that benefits from public support can control that space.
 
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Also if you have anything to add about the processes by which public property is developed . . . Similar to what we noted should have happened with Hudson Yards, the process for [the] development of public space and property (and public-private developments) needs to be more carefully safeguarded and regulated, and there needs to be oversight by independent community experts and individuals who are not in any way affiliated with the developers. And this oversight should continue for the lifetime of the property and with teeth to match (heavy fines and claw-backs for developers who renege on promises, for example). We all know how arduous these kinds of processes can be, but it’s necessary if we want to ensure projects truly benefit the public. That doesn’t mean there needs to be total consensus on every aspect of a project (which is impossible to obtain in any case and often leads to art-horse-by-committee outcomes), but it means the decision-making needs to be led by a sense of true commitment to the public good and strict, proactive measures to ensure there are not conflicts of interest. There also needs to be a more nuanced understanding and recognition of how we assign expertise and decision-making power within this oversight and community process; for example, there’s a tendency to assume “expert” in the arts only applies to a well-known museum president, a wealthy collector, or a big name artist, when in fact it should include arts workers and others who have active, on-the-job experience within cultural organizations, or an avid arts goer who is not financially able to be a donor/collector but loves art with the same zeal as an Aggie [Agnes] Gund, among other examples. There are many of these people throughout the city, and their voices should be given a place. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because our public spaces will be made better by their input.
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Oh oh oh oh, it's Essex

Mourning the old Essex Street Market
How do we say farewell to buildings? Through what strategies or mechanisms might we experience parts of the city marked by disuse or disaster? Aside from traditional adaptive rehabilitation or cosmetic upgrades, simply refraining from intervening is one possibility. Providing equitable, safe access to an otherwise untouched site can be a radical act of civic elegy. For example, earlier this year, Seattle gave its residents the opportunity to inhabit the elevated freeway on its waterfront before scheduled demolition. Indeed, numerous cultural practices celebrate the death (and/or rebirth) of structures, ritualistic events in contrast to morbid photographs documenting implosions or ruins. Such performative acts of remembrance might approach what artist-architect Jorge Otero-Pailos called "experimental preservation," whose proponents “choose objects that might be considered ugly or unsavory, or unworthy of preservation, objects that might have been ignored or excluded by official narratives, perhaps because they embody the material, social, and environmental costs of development which governments and corporations seldom account for.” The old Essex Street Market in New York’s Lower East Side, slated to be torn down, is presently a time capsule, largely unchanged since May when vendors left or relocated to the new market digs in the recently opened mixed-use Essex Crossing complex across Delancey. The historic market’s past dates to the late-19th century, when pushcart peddlers congregated on Hester and Ludlow Streets, later formalized in 1940 by Mayor La Guardia, who opened indoor public market buildings to not only alleviate unsanitary conditions and congestion but also to limit and control street vendors. In the mid-1990s the city consolidated the remaining tenants. Throughout its lifespan, the area’s changing demographics—predominantly Eastern European Jewish, Italian, and Puerto Rican immigrants—shaped the space, transforming it into a vital working-class community hub. New Yorkers had one last chance to visit before it is razed and enters the next phase. Organized by Artists Alliance Inc., Italian artist Andrea Nacciarriti’s site-specific 00 00 00 00 00 [Essex Street Retail Market] intervened into the brick building with the sparest of means, yet achieved a dramatic and visceral effect. His project blacked out the large skylights, “installing darkness,” according to curator Alessandro Facente. After signing a waiver, visitors equipped with flashlights had the chance to explore the pitch-black environment practically alone. The low visibility was pierced by a bright white cube: the former Cuchifritos gallery, now housed in the location across the street. Its door and partitions were ripped away in a pile nearby, echoing other architectural instances of institutional critique removing gallery facades or opening up such hermetic spaces. The only foreign object introduced to the building was a representation of time in the form of a mysterious, red digital clock, reminiscent of the giant one in Union Square, counting down presumably to the end of the show’s run and thus civilian access. Markets are a vibrant typology defined and energized by temporal human activity. Without people buying, selling, and surveying goods, the physical infrastructure comprises a modest stage set sans actors. Wandering amongst the abandoned stalls and empty shelves induced an exhilarating, unsettling vibe. The building’s materiality and remaining appliances/furniture all registered traces of past lives and usage; each object is information. Residual evidence dotted the abandoned aisles and walls, ranging from dry onion skins to drawings by local school children. Barren deli counters and their ilk hinted at missing wares or services. The graphic design on leftover cheese labels and flattened cardboard boxes narrated geographic origins. Prices advertised phantom radishes, leeks, baby bok choy, tomatillo, and okra. The darkness and silence attuned one’s senses moving through space, sharpening visual attention and heightening aural or tactile stimulation. Throughout the defamiliarized setting, your flashlight illuminated entropic fragments along the way. Overall, the project indexes, and invited guests to bear witness to, the types of old school New York institutions disappearing due to development, gentrification, or negligence. In this way, the ephemeral installation offered a spatio-historical experience similar to the nearby Tenement Museum. Nacciarriti framed the project in terms of a Greek play’s choral intermission, a pause and commentary in between scenes. The intention is not to freeze bits of urban fabric forever, but to acknowledge and celebrate buildings and social relations amidst brute state changes. As the city continually evolves at breakneck speeds, nuanced moments like these, of reflection and silence, become all the more valuable to help process our surroundings. 00 00 00 00 00 [Essex Street Retail Market] ran from September 13 through November 17, 2019, at 120 Essex St, New York, NY.
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What’s The Tea?

New Practice breathes new life into New York's hospitality scene
One part cafe, the other some kind of shop or service—hybrid cafe-shops have been popping up right and left in New York City. The typologies are exhaustive: a barbershop-cum-cafe; a nail salon-cum-cafe; a record store-cum-cafe; and so on. Though, there are exceptions to the cliche. One of them is the New Practice Studio-designed tea room and accessories store, Sage Collective. As the story goes, founding partner of the Shanghai and New York-based firm, Neo Zhong, was approached by NYU graduate Feng Ye to design her first business venture: a tripartite retail-teahouse-bar space. In approximately 1,600 square feet (a modest size for a SoHo storefront), New Practice Studio devised a transformative enclave. Customers enter through a retail space with tea paraphernalia sourced from China. At the heart of the operation—the middle section—lies a cafe by day and bar by night. The expanse culminates in the rear with a semi-private tearoom.  This treatment of spaces slowly expanding into each other was inspired by traditional Chinese gardens. Traditionally, the layout of these classics landscapes were arranged so that visitors could not see the entirety at once. Instead, small vignettes were staged to be discovered as one wanders, one sees a series of intimate views.  “There are different depths of space," explained Zhong. "Your eyes are drawn to different focal points.” Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Build it Back

New York City Council approves controversial East Side flood protection plan
The New York City Council voted to approve the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project yesterday, with little opposition from officials. Local councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents the affected area, fell in favor of the $1.45 billion project, which will raise East River Park to 8- to-10 feet above sea level with landfill from Montgomery Street to 25th street to protect against future floods. Forty-six members voted in favor, with only one against and one abstention, and the plan now only has to cross Mayor de Blasio's desk, and he's indicated that he'll sign it. The project has experienced strong ongoing opposition from organized community groups, civic associations, and neighborhood parks advocates, who voiced opposition to the extended loss of play areas, removal of trees, and lack of consultation during the design process. A coalition of community groups had drafted an alternative People's Plan, which the final project considered as a part of its community engagement, along with the EDC's Waterfront Esplanade plan and WXY Studio's East River Blueway Plan. The city responded with a plan to phase work over a longer period to ensure the availability of parks during the construction. Others, like architect William Rockwell, who lives in an Amalgamated Dwellings Cooperative building and experienced severe flooding and loss of power during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, voiced support. Among the notable benefits of the design, apart from potentially live-saving flood protection, will be vastly improved pedestrian connections to the East River across on grade bridges spanning FDR Drive. The areas protected from flooding, according to the Scope of Work in the Environmental Impact Statement, fall within the 100-year flood zone and extend upland to meet the 90th percentile projection of sea-level rise to the 2050s. That includes large parts of the Lower East Side and East Village, Stuy Town, Peter Cooper Village, and Stuyvesant Cove Park, which was built on top of low-lying marshes. Originated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as part of the BIG U Rebuild by Design project—with Bjarke Ingels Group as the lead urban designer in collaboration with One Architecture, Starr Whitehouse, James Lima Planning + Development, Green Shield Ecology, AEA Consulting, Level Agency for Infrastructure, ARCADIS, and Buro Happold—the ESCR became the northern half of two separate projects, with the other part section, the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project, extending below the Manhattan bridge. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development originally committed $511 million to the project during the Rebuild by Design phase, with New York promising an additional $305 million. The environmental impact statement (EIS), however, only cites the $1.45 billion cost and $335 million committed by HUD from a federal Community Development Block Grant. An October 2019 independent review of the ESCR by the U.S. arm of Dutch water research institute Deltares noted the lack of publicly available information on aspects of the project, making it impossible to review in its totality. The report argues that "transparency of the decision-making process by city agencies will help rebuild trust and gain [the] support of the community," and recommended establishing a community advisory group and keeping community representatives involved in the later, more detailed stages of project design. It also recommended adding two more feet of fill, coordinating with the green infrastructure program, and studying groundwater patterns in the East Village to evaluate the impact of rainfall on the neighborhood and basement flooding. The implementation is being led by the New York City Department of Design and Construction with AKRF/KSE Engineering as the lead consultant.
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It's a Large World After All

SOM unveils design for Disney's new Manhattan headquarters
Disney is coming to Lower Manhattan’s west side. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has unveiled its vision for the media company’s new 1.2-million-square-foot headquarters in the burgeoning Hudson Square. Slated for the former City Winery site, the Silverstein Properties project will be located three blocks above the busy thoroughfare of Canal Street. 4 Hudson Square will take cues from the surrounding industrial-scale brick structures that populate the area. It will be comprised of three tower buildings—the largest standing 320-feet-tall—that will all emerge from a 10-story podium. Taking up an entire city block, it will be a massive project with a large floor plate featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and an exterior grid of green terra cotta tile and anodized aluminum panels. The project will mimic the punched windows and facade materials of the other local buildings nearby. A series of setbacks will also define the upper floors of each structure, creating various terraces over a total of 19 stories.  Hudson Square, once the printing press capital of New York City, boasts tons of textured and aged buildings that each exude a strong presence—something the team at The Walt Disney Company wanted to embody in its contemporary office space. Set to hold up to 5,000 employees, 4 Hudson Square will be a major addition to the neighborhood when completed. Disney officials estimate its construction will wrap up in four years after the current building is demolished. The ground floor of the project will be outfitted with retail and restaurants and will serve not just Disney staff, but the public as well.  Amenity-rich office buildings with ample communal public space are increasingly being pitched as attractive lures for the Manhattan neighborhood, which is undergoing a major corporate-led redevelopment. Many tech and media companies, including Squarespace, Horizon Media, and several design firms have claimed space in the neighborhood. Disney’s move to Hudson Square from their Upper West Side location seemingly cements the area's future as a corporate campus. The headquarters will be one of the first large-scale, ground-up projects in the neighborhood and will be built on track to receive LEED and WELL Standard certifications.  Gensler is set to design the interiors for Disney while SCAPE will take on the exterior landscape.
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Lite Brite

MIT researchers think glowing plants could reshape our relationship to the built environment
Could the solution to more sustainable buildings be what’s planted in and around them? Researchers at MIT have discovered a way to turn plants into sources of light and are imagining a new conception of architecture that would integrate them into everyday spaces as a more sustainable alternative to electric lighting. In 2017 MIT chemical engineer Michael Strano devised a method to make plants glow without genetic modification. Plants are submerged in a solution filled with nanoparticles that have been enriched with an enzyme called luciferase, which is what allows creatures like fireflies to give off light. High pressure is added to push the nanoparticles through the pores of leaves. While the techniques have grown in efficiency over the past two years, researchers are currently working to devise nano-capacitors that will store light and allow it to give off illumination over time, as well as adapting the technology for larger plants such as trees. Strano partnered up with MIT professor and Kennedy & Violich Architecture partner Sheila Kennedy to imagine how the technology could shape the built future. Rather than treating the light-up plants as “just another light bulb,” the team wanted to think critically about how plants fit into architecture more broadly. Modern thinking on architecture, Kennedy explained to the MIT Architecture blog, has largely hidden away or hyper-managed everything from sunlight to waste composting. In an architecture that puts people face-to-face with their environment by integrating organic systems, people would have to confront the environment and their impact on it. These glowing plants are a non-toxic, non-fossil fueled lighting system that doesn’t rely on massive infrastructure. “People don’t question the impacts of our own mainstream electrical grid today. It’s very vulnerable, it’s very brittle, it’s so very wasteful and it’s also full of toxic material,” she told the MIT blog. “We don’t question this, but we need to.” Kennedy went on to say that lighting accounts for as much as 20 percent of global energy consumption. This then becomes an architectural problem, as infrastructure has to be designed to accommodate lighting as part of an “internal ecosystem.” New Yorkers can see a version of the project at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum where Strano and Kennedy have devised an installation that imagines a New York tenement built around a light-up plant as part of the Design Triennial.
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Pushing Boundaries

Cornell forms new interdisciplinary collaboration to teach students about digital design
"Design is inherently interdisciplinary," J. Meejin Yoon, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of Cornell Architecture Art Planning (AAP) school, told the department’s blog last month. In that spirit, Cornell AAP and Cornell Tech have announced a collaborative, cross-disciplinary program for digital design solutions. The partnership includes the new M.S. Matter Design Computation (MDC) program for graduate students and undergraduate architecture students at AAP NYC, along with Cornell Tech students in computer science, business, engineering, law, and health technology. The school has already hosted classes such as Design Topic Research Studio: Matter Design Computation; Special Topics in Visual Representation: Coding for Design; and Product Studio.  Faculty across various disciplines lead the classes and students are encouraged to create new digital design product solutions in response to prompts from both their teachers and companies. "Our undergraduate and graduate students bring an ability to synthesize a set of complex relationships, form a plan, and follow through in a meaningful way," said Jenny Sabin, Cornell’s Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Professor in Architecture and associate dean for design initiatives. "It's not only about problem-solving but problem generating." And those problems are increasingly complex—Yoon added: "At a moment when the challenges facing the built environment and society are multiscalar, complex, and dynamic, the collaborative initiatives between AAP and Cornell Tech will give our students opportunities to engage in pressing questions across technology, human-centered design, and the built environment with an expanded perspective on the design challenges facing society today." Andrea Simitch, the Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow and architecture department chair describes the program as a natural extension for architectural learning. "Architecture pedagogy is by default a collaborative practice based on interactive dialogues," she told Cornell AAP’s blog. The hope is that students will learn to collaborate, think beyond siloed disciplines, and get an education in delivering functional, well-executed projects.