Search results for "James Corner Field Operations"
An ongoing debate resurfaced at the Chicago Architecture Biennial. One critic in particular, Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects, criticized the curators, saying that it seems that “contemporary architecture [has] ceased to exist, the discipline’s guilt and bad conscience has sapped its vitality, and driven it to self-annihilation. Architects have now en masse dedicated themselves to doing good via basic social work.”
His complaint is part of an ongoing crisis in architecture that has divided the discipline. In one camp is a group of architects who work to build new forms, many of whom are divorced from a particular social or political agenda. Often, advanced technology is involved, though it is not mandatory. In the other camp, a group is far less concerned with form-making, and more with attempting to make the world better through design and architecture-related thinking and practice.
What has emerged, perhaps as a result of the fallout of the 2008 economic crisis, is a more expanded field of architectural thought, propelled by progressive urban politics and a hope that architecture can still make an impact in the world. These projects often eschew traditional notions of building altogether, looking to activism and conceptual art as fertile productive territory.
Of course, architecture is at its best when it encompasses both lines of thought—beautiful, inspiring solutions to relevant, urgent problems. But recently, architects seem to struggle to reconcile these differences.
In the realm of landscape architecture, however, these ambitions seem to be in harmony more than ever.
Landscapes are no longer simply beautiful complements to buildings or vague public social spaces. Designers and clients are activating landscape design to operate environmentally as flood barriers and water remediation zones, among other goals. Rebuild by Design harnessed this potential after Hurricane Sandy, and hopefully the proposals will come to fruition, as they are currently being moved forward by their respective governments now that HUD has stepped aside.
Landscape architects are also tasked with operating socially to create new public spaces, connect previously separated neighborhoods, and reclaim underused land in and around infrastructure, often in synch with other rebuilding and recovery efforts, such as waterfront development or neighborhood revitalization.
In our landscape feature, we profile some of the ways landscape plays out as a political agent in Detroit, where artists, activists, and farmers are using ecological planning and landscape design to create a new kind of urbanism—one that provides green space and fresh food while promising a better city for future generations.
While landscapes are growing in size and scale, technology is being implemented successfully to plan and execute bold new landscape forms, such as the green swoops and concrete curves of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the High Line. Landscape architecture incorporates Rhino, Grasshopper, and even Arduino and advanced robotics, to give new life to green social spaces across the country. Invivia, a team from Cambridge, MA, was recently selected to build 99 White Balloons at Circle Acres Nature Preserve in Austin, Texas. The project utilizes movement sensors to activate the installation when people are nearby and a series of weather sensors to illuminate the installation according to temperature changes.
Technology is implemented on the front end of design, too. The Trust for Public Land’s Climate Smart Cities initiative, for example, aggregates layers of GIS data to make it easier for cities and designers to use in a graphic interface. The data allows users pinpoint the sites that will best match their ambitions for the city. In the other half of our landscape feature, we look at socially activated projects that marry design and urban politics by engaging the public through visual software and presentation.
As landscape design becomes more relevant and powerful in the urban sphere, perhaps architecture could learn a thing or two about how to get along?
“You can’t rehearse what you ain’t invented,” said Frank Gehry in an interview in this month’s issue, offering up his favorite quotation from jazz musician Wayne Shorter. For L.A.’s most famous architect, the line speaks to improvisation, invention, and the vast possibilities of art and architecture. Vernacular in its delivery, it recalls Gehry’s early experiments with everyday materials. But so much for unrehearsed; he’s quoted it before—most recently to critic Oliver Wainwright when speaking about the Foundation Louis Vuitton, a project as couture as its client.
For me, the reference seems historical in its belief in future creations, reminiscent of a time when experimentation was the height of culture. As a native Californian, I take pride in the fact that the West Coast’s history is interlocked with its identity being on the leading edge of architecture, technology, environment, politics, and entertainment. But right now the biggest architectural goings-on are backward looking: Gehry’s retrospective at LACMA, the consolidation of Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection, and the L.A. Olympic redux. Even this summer’s blockbuster Straight Outta Compton is about looking in the rear-view mirror.
Each of these examples suggests that a bolder, more radical, inventive period
has fleeted by. It is a #tbt, or “throwback Thursday,” away. Poised on the Pacific
Rim, have we become so comfortable to our edgy condition that we need to rummage in the attic to again stir things up? (To wit, postmodernism is in the air again in some schools of architecture.)
Or, perhaps looking behind is a nervous condition, a kind of conservative reflex brought on by the economic downturn from which the profession (knock on wood) is finally recovering. Architecture by its very nature is speculative. And experimentation, of course, comes with risk. Risk is not something politicians and investors particularly like. Take the L.A. River, for example: According to Gehry, the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office approached him to transform the channel into something akin to The High Line in New York, a project that opened in 2009.
While that successful linear park is a beloved example of infrastructural transformation and public-private partnership, it is a lazy precedent. Progressive six years ago, it’s an oft-repeated example suffering from the law of diminishing returns. In Seattle, the city council recently rejected a plan to transform the Alaskan Way Viaduct—a mile-long, six-acre elevated High Line style park near Pike Place Market. The project, a competing vision to James Corner Field Operations billion-dollar waterfront plan, will go to public vote in 2016.
On the flip side, Gehry Partners’ nascent studies on the L.A. River constituencies and hydrology skew toward a technofuturist narrative in which a 3-D model of the waterway and an interactive web platform aim to unify the whole of the L.A. River’s 51 miles. Perhaps activists and stakeholders would be pacified if they only donned a pair of Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles.
But maybe we keep looking backward because what is being passed off these days as innovation, invention, experimentation, or disruption is tepid. Not radical, but a warmed over approximation of something new. Over at my alma mater SCI-Arc, a place that’s pushed boundaries for more than four decades, a statement from new director Hernan Diaz Alonso reads dated, like leftovers from a Silicon Valley tech conference. “Where others drown in the complex flows of urban life, we thrive and choreograph its movements,” he wrote. “Alchemy is our craft—we turn things into gold.”
I’m all for change, and given my Berkeley upbringing, sympathetic to a little mysticism. However, I’m dubious of alchemist claims. Here and now in the Golden State, and throughout the West, ground conditions are at a critical juncture. There is more opportunity for built architectural and urban works than ever in the last decade. At the same time, rapid development is fueling inequity and displacement. While architecture may never be able to solve these issues per se, the discipline operates in this contemporary cultural milieu. Given this context, the built environment (as well as the market) is desperate for design that goes beyond simply an app, a hack, or a computational form. The time for thoughtful experimentation is neither behind us nor in some far off future—Blade Runner was set in 2019—it’s now.
As high-profile developments in downtown Milwaukee creep closer to the city's iconic, Santiago Calatrava–designed art museum, a $30 million design competition aims to unify the two with a new civic space. The so-called Lakefront Gateway Plaza project attracted 24 proposals, with four teams emerging as the finalists earlier this year: GRAEF, AECOM, Office of James Burnett, and James Corner Field Operations each lead a group of designers and consultants vying for the job.
In conceptual renderings recently made public, the design teams presenting visions of serpentine pedestrian bridges, illuminated sculptures, and globular dollops of lush public lawn. Public officials will pick a winner later this year. They are currently soliciting public feedback through community meetings and a website.
The project is a collaboration between the city of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, and the state of Wisconsin, but it is seeking private funds for construction (each of the four finalists received a $20,000 stipend from the city to complete their designs). Project briefs asked designers to stay within a budget of $25 million to $35 million, but at publication city officials could not say who would pick up the tab.
“I have not heard any limitations on where we will seek funds,” said Jeff Fleming, spokesman for the Milwaukee Department of City Development. “So, foundations, government grants, individual philanthropy, and even fundraisers are all possible.”
GRAEF, Milwaukee-based engineering, planning and design firm, has in their corner PFS Studio, Dan Euser Water Architects, Rinka Chung Architecture, and Newaukee. Their proposal frames the 1.5 acre space as an "urban confluence," and tucks a curvilinear pavilion beneath the descent of a wending footbridge lined with tall grass. Towards Lincoln Memorial Drive it presents a sheltered glass facade, while towards Lake Michigan it cradles a water feature and ice rink. A snake-like sculpture lifts off the ground, and is shown glowing purple in one firework-splashed rendering.
James Corner Field Operations, most famous for their work on New York City's High Line, leads a team that includes LaDallman Architects, Robert Silman and Associates, Kapur & Associates, Mailu Knode, Dan Euser Water Architecture, HLB Lighting, and Applied Ecological Services. Their plan emphasizes green features such as stormwater retention, and presents a series of spaces in a "procession to the lake." Two oval mounds of green space cleave off the lakefront terminus of the bridge, which gradually meanders toward ground-level after reaching the site.
Houston-based Office of James Burnett is a landscape architecture firm responsible for Chicago's Riverfront Plaza, and has on their side Johnsen Schmaling Architects, Buro Happold Engineering, Focus Lighting, Shore Art Advisory, K. Singh & Associates, and Fountain Source. They cite Frederick Law Olmsted's nearby Lake Park as historic inspiration, as well as modernist Dan Kiley’s Kiley Gardens. Melding the two influences, they hope to create “a playful, continuously evolving dialogue between natural systems and the built environment,” according to the proposal. Renderings show a year-round caravan of food trucks and clusters of drumlin “play mounds.”
Global design giant AECOM's team is URS, Tillotson Design Associates, Cynthia Reeves, and Delta Fountains. Dubbed “The Hanging Gardens of Milwaukee,” their concept winds its pedestrian bridge over the site, spiraling around landscaped areas and a terraced amphitheater.
The plaza project is part of a larger infrastructure program that includes improvements to lakefront streets and highways, as well as bike infrastructure and private development. Its planning follows a controversial widening of Lincoln Memorial Drive by Wisconsin's Department of Transportation last year.
About four-and-a-half miles south of Philadelphia’s Center City, a collection of highly regarded architects are proving that office parks do not have to be soulless and stuffy. For over a decade, the city’s 1,200-acre Navy Yard has been transitioning into a business campus with a focus on high design, all under the parameters of a master plan drawn up by Robert A.M. Stern.
Philly-based firms DIGSAU and Erdy McHenry have already filled in part of that framework with creative buildings wrapped in dynamic facades. Liberty Property Trust also recently unveiled renderings for 1200 Intrepid, a curved office building at the site designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group.
At the center of the Navy Yard is the Central Green—a newly completed, nearly five-acre green space by James Corner Field Operations. Sarah Astheimer, a senior associate at the firm who also lives in Philadelphia, said the project aims to cater toward the young professionals currently working at the Navy Yard, as well as the future residents who will live in the site’s yet-to-be-built apartment buildings. “It is an innovative live-work-play type place,” she said. “The ‘live’ hasn’t gotten there yet, so it’s sort of ‘work-play’ right now.”
Like many of Field Operations’ projects, Central Green has a vibrant mix of landscapes and programming. A gray and yellow running track, dubbed the “social track,” rings the space, forming a recreational band around a collection of smaller circular spaces, each one offering a specific environment or activity. There are lawns, bocce courts, meadows, fitness equipment, a hammock grove, and places for food trucks.
Visually connecting the Central Green are pops of yellow, from the café tables to Ping-Pong tables. Astheimer said the vibrant color was repeated throughout the space to give it a strong, iconic identity.
Built into the playful space is the “Wet Meadow,” a bio-retention area that collects and treats storm water from Central Green as well as an adjacent street. The area is also surrounded by a series of rain gardens.
Field Operations pulled all of these elements together quickly and with a tight budget. Construction of Central Green took only nine months and cost $8.2 million.
Near the end of his final term as mayor, Michael Bloomberg unveiled a proposal to shore up the finances of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) by allowing developers to build mostly market-rate apartment towers at eight public housing campuses in Manhattan. While the plan would supposedly generate $50 million-a-year for the cash-strapped agency, it was met with swift and stinging criticism, and a lawsuit from the New York City Council and a coalition of NYCHA residents. Bloomberg’s land lease proposal was further derailed by the politics surrounding it: A billionaire mayor letting developers bulldoze grassy plots and basketball fields at public housing developments for expensive new apartments. One of the most vocal critics of the proposal was Bill de Blasio, the progressive public advocate gunning for Bloomberg’s job. But about a year-and-a-half after becoming New York City’s chief executive, de Blasio has revived the proposal, albeit with some significant changes.
De Blasio’s Infill Vision
For starters, Bloomberg’s 80/20 model (80 percent market-rate, 20 percent affordable) has been switched for 50/50 and 100 percent affordable schemes for new infill buildings. In total, de Blasio said NYCHA infill will create 10,000 new units of affordable housing. These will count toward his larger goal of building 80,000 new units of affordable housing in a decade.
The infill scheme is part of a larger “NextGeneration NYCHA” plan that aims to stabilize and strengthen the agency, which is saddled with $17 billion in unmet capital needs. For NYCHA’s some 400,000 residents, this means living with leaks, mold, broken elevators and lights, and long wait times on repairs. (To take some financial burdens off NYCHA’s hands, the de Blasio administration is also cancelling a tax payment the agency has owed the city since 1949, taking over its call center, and trying to secure some federal funds for the agency. Meanwhile, NYCHA is boosting its parking rates and launching some other modernization measures.)
In early July, the infill process officially got underway with NYCHA releasing an RFP for 100-percent-affordable buildings that are geared toward families and seniors making up to 60 percent of area median income. The buildings, which will comprise about 500 units, are planned for three NYCHA campuses: the Ingersoll Houses and Van Dyke Houses in Brooklyn, and the Mill Brook Houses in the Bronx. At Ingersoll and Mill Brook, new developments will rise on grassy, fenced-in lots; at Van Dyke, new buildings will replace parking lots. NYCHA said it will negotiate with developers over how much revenue these new buildings will generate for the agency. Current NYCHA residents will also get preference for a quarter of these apartments. In August, NYCHA is expected to release an RFP for 50/50 buildings in more expensive markets that would generate between $300 million and $500 million in revenue over 10 years.
“There are a lot of NYCHA developments that are towers in the park and have a lot of empty space and FAR that is available” said Andrew Bernheimer, principal of Bernheimer Architecture. Bernheimer is doing pro bono site testing and documentation for NextGeneration NYCHA through his studio at Parsons. “They have an asset in a city where land is valuable so it certainly seems like a reasonable opportunity to build new things, especially in a place where we need new housing.”
The RFP for the first three sites comes out of “Community Vision Plans” that NYCHA created in coordination with its residents in an attempt to gauge their housing needs and desires for future development. This type of community outreach was notably absent in Bloomberg’s proposal.
Despite the push to engage with public housing residents and create new affordable housing, the very idea of building new towers on NYCHA land remains contentious. “I am not crazy about infill,” said Victor Bach, senior housing policy analyst for the Community Service Society of New York. “I think a lot of residents may resist the idea, but right now, I think it is NYCHA’s only hope for generating the revenue it needs to survive into the next generation.” His organization’s official stance on the proposal is “neutral.”
But as Bach, and a host of other stakeholders note, if done correctly, infill at NYCHA sites has the potential to deliver more than revenue and affordable apartments—it could lead to new public amenities, better retail, improved streetscapes, and the reknitting of public housing campuses into the larger New York City fabric.
The Design Opportunities of Infill
Last fall, NYCHA tapped Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), which worked alongside ARUP and OLIN, to find ways to achieve these goals while boosting the agency’s sustainability and resiliency measures. Jill Lerner, a principal at KPF, said she was surprised to learn that well over half of the so-called “open space” on NYCHA’s campuses is actually fenced-off or used for parking. “There is a real opportunity to take these big sites that have tremendous amounts of beautiful open space and find a way to organize and improve it for the residents and surrounding communities,” she said. This could include incorporating new landscaping, reorienting pathways, and constructing new buildings on the edges of NYCHA campuses to create dynamic streetwalls with amenities like retail and supermarkets.
These are the types of strategies that STUDIO V is incorporating into an upcoming NYCHA infill project at the Astoria Houses in Queens. The firm has designed two buildings that are both 100 percent affordable and will include ground-floor retail or community spaces that face 27th Avenue. This project was approved under the Bloomberg administration as part of the Durst Organization’s Hallets Point mega-development that will transform an adjacent, industrial stretch of waterfront into a mixed-use community and park. As part of the rezoning, a school will also rise on NYCHA property. The STUDIO V-designed affordable towers are slated to break ground this fall, along with the first phase of the larger development.
Jay Valgora, founder of STUDIO V, said the infill project comes with other design interventions to integrate the Astoria Houses into the surrounding community, as well as the future James Corner Field Operations-designed park and esplanade along the water. New pathways are cut through the NYCHA complex that lead toward the river, and Astoria Boulevard is extended through the development creating a continuous connection between the upcoming public space and eastern Queens. “This was really about looking at combining different interests,” said Valgora. “It was about improving the neighborhood, restoring streets because there was not sufficient access through the whole peninsula, providing more affordable housing, and space for schools, and other amenities.”
This community-based ethos is imbued in a hypothetical—and highly ambitious—infill strategy proposed for NYCHA’s Robert Fulton Houses in Chelsea by the non-profit Friends of Fulton Houses. The project includes some expected infill moves like street-facing housing towers with ground-floor commercial space, but also presents ideas far beyond what is currently being discussed by developers and planners.
The non-profit envisions a three-story structure that snakes through the development and is topped with a continuous public park system complete with grassy lawns and sports fields. “The entire neighborhood is being upgraded, but the Fulton Houses is essentially the same as it was when it was created 55 years ago,” said Galia Solomonoff, an architect and founding member of the group who is known for her work on Dia:Beacon. “When we started thinking about how to upgrade it, we realized there was a lot of potential to increase the amenities, density, and to create more housing.”
Fulfilling the Vision
For now, NYCHA has a less ambitious architectural vision, only making some fairly broad design suggestions in its RFP like “architectural design should blend, complement, or sensitively contrast with the existing structures and/or salient neighborhood features.” The agency is also encouraging the incorporation of Active Design elements to promote healthy lifestyles at NYCHA campuses.
To Bernheimer, pulling this whole thing off will take more than thoughtful architecture. He said that new buildings should not be “dropped like gold teeth into the jaws of NYCHA.” Instead, he explained, successful infill will require input from a range of stakeholders, and planning that considers the day-to-day experiences and needs of NYCHA residents.
After all, it was a lack of comprehensive community planning that helped tank Bloomberg’s plan. Now, Mayor de Blasio and NYCHA leadership are pushing forward with their own proposal that is very much shaped by the lessons of the past.