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Refocus, Refresh

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

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

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

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

 
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Living large

Sotheby’s brings the grandiose pomp with Treasures from Chatsworth
When confronted with how to stage a show with art and design objects from 16 generations of nobility, Sotheby’s decided to turn to creative director and set designer David Korins. The resultant Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition puts art held by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire on display alongside macro-scaled details from their sprawling 35,000-acre estate. The exhibition, free and open to the public through September 18, 2019, makes ample use of OMA’s new additions to Sotheby’s York Avenue home in Manhattan. The two new grand galleries on the building’s third floor have been transformed to allow for monumental installations that, ironically, spotlight intimate items from the Chatsworth collection. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.
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Mezcal Memories

AN tours MoMA PS1's tropical 2019 Young Architects Program installation
The 20th iteration of MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program (YAP) opens today, and The Architect’s Newspaper took a sneak peek at the towering installation ahead of time. This year’s winners, the Mexico City-based Pedro y Jauna (and engineer Arup), have installed a 40-foot-tall ring of scaffolding in the Long Island City museum’s front plaza, complete with a tropical panorama and towering waterfall. Hórama Rama floats this “jungle” over a forest of scaffolding, with handwoven hammocks from the south of Mexico suspended between the columns. The natural comparisons don’t stop there; while the inner ring of the 90-foot-wide cyclorama features lush jungle imagery, the outer ring presents a wall of technical two-by-six wooden beams, each capped with a splash of blue tape. On the ground, the duo behind Pedro y Jauna, Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss, have scattered square benches made from the same material, and at first glance, they appear to be piles of unfinished lumber but eventually reveal themselves to be even more seating. Hanging work lights have been run through the pavilion to light it up at night, furthering the construction site feel. The entire structure was designed to be light and permeable but still provide shade from the harsh summer sun, in following PS1’s design brief. Hanging hammocks have been suspended in every nook and cranny of the courtyard, providing quieter respites for visitors who choose to explore the space. The most pervasive feature is the “infinity” waterfall at the center of Hórama Rama, which constantly recirculates water. As Reuss explained, the waterfall isn’t for cooling off (though it does splash and mist quite a bit), but to infuse the space with the sound of running water. Hórama Rama will remain installed through September 2 and will play host to PS1’s popular Warm Up concert series—the first in the indie music series will run on July 6. If you’re interested in seeing all five finalist entries for this year’s YAP competition, MoMA has installed models and diagrams of each inside the PS1 building proper. This exhibition usually runs at the MoMA proper, but with the Manhattan branch closed for the summer, the Queens offshoot is hosting it instead.
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The Bigger Picture

Mapping Community unveils how public buildings get built in NYC
A new exhibition now on view at the Center for Architecture explains how money moves across New York’s public building sector. It’s a complex system that, if you’re not directly involved in it, can seem unnecessarily confusing and slow. Mapping Community: Public Investment in NYC demystifies how things like libraries, schools, and parks pop up, as well as the players behind them. Curated by Faith Rose, former executive director of the NYC Public Design Commission, and David Burney, professor of urban placemaking management at the Pratt Institute, the showcase walks viewers step-by-step through the process of capital planning. It’s spread out over two floors and utilizes a very clear and graphic layout so that the information is distilled to the audience in a digestible yet still visually distinctive manner.  “No one entity is responsible for the entire process, and even people deeply involved in one part aren’t always aware what the other pieces entail,” said Rose in a statement. “I don’t believe there has ever been an exhibition that tracks the mechanisms of capital planning from start to finish.”  There probably hasn’t.  That’s likely because New York City boasts one of the largest local government systems in the United States and its beast-of-a-procurement-process is less than transparent. But things are changing and this big-picture view of the “ecosystem of agencies” involved reveals the work it takes to make tangible improvements to the city. This knowledge, for better or for worse, arguably gives a viewer (or in this case, a local resident), the agency to insert themselves into the planning process and help shape their own neighborhood.  To communicate the complexity of the subject, the curators pieced together an in-depth look into one public project per borough, separated by typology, and detailed the planning process at the community level. One of those case studies centers on Essex Crossing, the massive, mixed-use development on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A contentious construction project from the start, it was once an empty six-acre lot but now houses everything from luxury condos by SHoP Architects, to an affordable housing complex by Beyer Blinder Belle, a senior living community by Dattner Architects, and the newly-opened Essex Market.  This part of the exhibition tells the story of how Manhattan Community Board 3 and other local organizations fought over a series of negotiations with the NYC Economic Development Corporation, as well as the site’s developer, to get a new K-8 school in the program. Here, it explains why the Department of Education has currently decided not to move forward with building a new school. It also reveals how local needs in other areas can affect capital projects.  Whether it was the right thing to do or not, garnering this information allows locals and exhibition audiences to better understand how the 1.9-million-square-foot Essex Crossing has come to be, what its future may look like, and how they can have a say in that. According to Hayes Slade, 2019 AIANY President and principal of Slade Architecture, that’s the key to improving the city. “New Yorkers should feel empowered to be part of community-building,” she said, “and that is only possible if they are knowledgeable of the process.” Mapping Community will be on view through August 31. 
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Future Fellows

Knight Foundation announces its first class of Public Spaces Fellows
Seven influential leaders, experts, and practitioners have been selected for the inaugural class of Knight Public Spaces Fellows. Launched this year by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a non-profit committed to fostering community in service of democratic ideals, the program will grant each individual $150,000 to put towards building effective public space initiatives around the United States. Selected from an open call that drew of over 2,000 candidates, the Knight Fellows stood out for their track records of influencing or creating spaces that advance community engagement and connection in cities. Sam Gill, the Knight Foundation vice president for communities and impact, describes the individuals recognized in this inaugural class, saying in a statement, “These rare people see something different when they look at streets, parks, and sidewalks—they see a vision of how our communities could look, feel, and be different.” Knight has expressed a desire for their chosen nominees to incorporate and build upon their existing and former projects, while also using the fellowship to break ground on new projects and ideas for the field. Check out the list of seven recipients below:  Anuj Gupta (Philadelphia) As general manager of Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia's famous 125-year-old food and retail hub, Gupta has helped bring a record number of visitors to the space in his tenure. He's integrated innovation distribution models for service, selected new and trendy vendors, and figured out special ways to keep people coming back to the market. He's widely recognized for his initiatives that connect people of different cultures through food.  Robert Hammond (New York) Hammond is the cofounder and executive director of the High Line on Manhattan's West Side. A vision that began 20 years ago, it's now one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city and has spurred a wave of development in the Chelsea neighborhood. In 2017, he established the High Line Network, which assists communities in the infrastructure reuse projects.  Walter Hood (Berkeley, California) Widely known for designing award-winning urban spaces for cultural institutions such as the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Broad Museum, and the Solar Strand at the University of Buffalo, Hood creates projects that intersect with art, fabrication, landscape, research, and urbanism. He's a professor at the University of California, Berkley where he teaches landscape architecture and urban design, and is the founder and creative director of Hood Design Studio Eric Klinenberg (New York) As the Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science at New York University, Klinenberg thinks and teaches on urban public spaces. He most recently served as research director of Rebuild by Design, the federal competition that sought innovative ideas for rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Last year, he published “Palaces for the People”, a book about how social infrastructure such as libraries, parks, and playgrounds can revitalize democratic culture and civic life. Chelina Odbert (Los Angeles) Odbert is co-founder and executive director of Kounkuey Design Initiative, a nonprofit design firm based out of Los Angeles, the Coachella Valley, Nairobi, and Stockholm. Her studio heavily focuses on community participation and its role in public development, as well as how design can integrate the strongest environmental, social, and economic strategies to help solve inequity.  Kathryn Ott Lovell (Philadelphia) Lovel currently serves as the commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, one of the nation's largest parks systems. Appointed in 2016, she established the first strategic plan for the agency, "Our Path to 2020," which emphasizes citizen-centric service, a commitment to the city's well-maintained assets, and creating relevant and accessible programming such as the Parks on Tap mobile beer garden, and the Philadelphia International Unity Cup soccer tournament, among others.  Erin Salazar (San Jose, California) Salazar is the founder and executive director of Exhibition District in San Jose, a woman-owned and operated arts nonprofit that's helping create economic opportunities for artists to do work in downtown San Jose. A muralist herself, she is committed to city beautification and redefining the concept of public space while also drawing out the cultural authenticity of a city that's rapidly urbanizing and full of large corporations. Most recently, Exhibition District started Local Color, an incubator project that reactivates neglected buildings. 
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Time for Tech

TECH+ Expo returns to New York to talk the business of building
According to Dr. Andrea Chegut, there is a constant tension between securing capital investment and being inventive in the built environment. It’s something that architects have to grapple with as they make design decisions that will please the client and investors, but also adhere to their creative vision. “This tension is happening in your desktops every day,” she told attendees of AN’s third annual TECH+ conference in New York on June 13. Chegut is the cofounder and director of the Real Estate Innovation Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As the keynote speaker for the tech-focused forum, held in partnership between AN and Microsol Resources, she reminded the architects present that they are inventors and that it’s imperative to stand up for their work because smart design helps make money. Chegut’s role as a financial econometrician is to research technologies that can improve the relationship between investors and designers, advance communication, and turn design features into metrics that investors can feel good about. “Global research and development expenditures are at an all-time high,” she said, “and real estate is shifting towards R&D and scalable business models, too.” Chegut pointed out that last year, global venture investment in technology for the built environment exceeded $20 billion. That’s a major look into the future of the industry, she said. Not only that, but climate change is making the business of building and maintaining buildings even more costly. From 2000 to 2017, the United States spent $2.5 trillion on resiliency planning and recovery efforts, and $117 billion to manage chronic floods. To get ahead of these issues, Chegut believes technology can help architects and real estate stakeholders make smarter decisions about their projects. Think automation, which could transform valuations processes, accounting, and more, or robotics, such as the Mediated Matter group’s FIBERBOTS, a digital fabrication tool that can create sophisticated material architectures. Even as augmented reality advances through the integration of added sensory modalities, it can immerse and nearly alter one’s perception of the built environment. These could make working in the field substantially smoother. It’s not just tech tools still in the research stages that could change the future; there are products that exist now on the commercial market like transparent wood, view glass, as well as digital software such as Humanyze, the WillowTwin, and Skyline AI that are transforming the way architects work. Companies like Envelope City and Katerra are already leading the way in zoning analysis and material manufacturing optimization. Chegut noted that her team, in particular, has been working on a property technology that could benchmark value drivers of design for investors to get behind. Through an experiment they call Wide Data, the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab created a database with information on all buildings in New York City that was used to determine common themes across award-winning structures, specifically commercial office buildings. They found that access to daylight can lead to a direct 6.6 to 7 percent increase on the cost per square foot of a building in Manhattan if it meets the green standards set up by LEED. In essence, Chegut backed up through economic data that the value of daylight adds to the monetary value of not only a building but a company, too. “Give humans daylight and we’ll make money,” she said. It’s dedicated research to tools like this that make technology so important for the work of an architect. Everything from advances in BIM, Revit, AR, and VR to prefabrication and efficient construction techniques means that the business of building is getting better because of technology. The rest of the day’s events at TECH+ zeroed in on these innovations and how certain companies and architecture firms such as Kaiser Permanente, SOM, GeoSlam, SHoP, and Payette, among others, are doing big things with new tech. Other conversations included the unique integration of gaming technology to help tell stories through design, and the use of specific tools that helped create New York’s newest architectural landmarks: The Shed and Vessel at Hudson Yards.
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Good Lokko!

Lesley Lokko, architect and author, named dean of Spitzer School of Architecture
Lesley Lokko has written 12 bestselling novels, organized the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, and holds a doctorate in architecture from the University of London. And these are just three of her notable accomplishments. Her most recent? She has been named the dean of the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York. Her appointment comes as the Spitzer School prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary. “The Spitzer School’s distinctive perspective on urbanism, combining as it does classic approaches to architecture with a deep concern for the lived experience of the whole people, makes it the perfect home for someone with Dean Lokko’s abiding civic commitments,” said CCNY President Vince Boudreau in a statement. The renowned CUNY outpost in upper Manhattan has educated students from the city with affordability and social conscience in mind, and civic duty and politics like these have definitively shaped the space in which Lokko has worked over her 25-year career. The Scotland-born-Ghanaian-raised Lokko spends her time hopping between the U.K. and Ghana for life and work. After going back to school at age 26 to train as an architect, she soon after discovered her love for literature, and successfully leaped into becoming a full-time novelist. Her work often deals with race relations and identity, both globally and Africa-specific—and her next novel, slated for publication this spring, unfolds against the backdrop of the Arab Spring. Her writing also crosses into nonfictional and journalistic spheres: she is the editor of White Papers, Black Marks: Race, Culture, Architecture and is the current editor-in-chief of FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture. In the words of interim dean Gordon Gebert, “She is exactly the leader we need to bring renewed energy and define an exciting new vision for the Spitzer School as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school’s founding."
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A Quiet Place

Tadao Ando's first New York building creates high-end tranquility
Tadao Ando’s first building in New York is quiet. At least, that’s the way the Pritzer Prize–winning architect wants it to be perceived. Located in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, the newly-completed 152 Elizabeth is Ando’s latest luxury residential project, and though it only has seven home inside it, is slated to subtly stand out amongst its neighbors. While the idea of being quiet and sophisticated is reflected in its simple yet elegant design scheme, the 32,000-square-foot building quite literally is engineered to be noise-proof; it’s a “sanctuary” for its inhabitants, according to Ando.  Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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An American Experiment

Amanda Kolson Hurley dives into radical histories of U.S. suburbs
Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City Amanda Kolson Hurley Belt Publishing $16.95

When a book about suburbia contains a chapter called “The Anarchists Who Took the Commuter Train,” you know it is going to be an interesting read. That book is Amanda Kolson Hurley’s Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City, and it does not disappoint. In six well-researched and informative—yet fast-paced—chapters, Hurley introduces us to a tapestry of suburban social experimentation, from communal living in celibacy to a community of working couples inspired by the Bauhaus. It is a rich collection of projects, most of which have been overlooked by standard urban surveys.

And yes, there were anarchists in Piscataway, New Jersey, commuting to day jobs in Manhattan. Stelton was a development by anarchists decamping from New York’s East Village in 1915. It was centered around an experimental school, the Modern School, which had both year-round and summer residents united by ultraleft political beliefs and, apparently, a love of argumentation. As throughout the book, Hurley takes her research of Piscataway and the Stelton development on the road, visiting the remnants of the town and interviewing former Stelton residents who remember idyllic school days where—as you can imagine in an anarchist paradise—they were pretty much allowed to do anything they liked. Hurley tells Stelton’s story in rich detail, examining everything from how property rights were handled to the ways in which the houses were decorated.

The chapter on Concord Park, which is just outside of Philadelphia, is equally illuminating. Subtitled “Integrating the Suburbs at ‘Checkerboard Square,’” this section details the efforts of a white developer, Morris Milgram, to create a completely integrated suburb in the 1950s. Hurley effectively conveys the many hurdles Milgram faced and the agonizing choices he had to make, most notably his decision to mandate a quota of 55 percent sales to whites and 45 percent to blacks. As one of only a handful of suburban communities to offer high-quality homes to black residents, the quota was deemed necessary in order to keep it from becoming majority black, with the 10 percent disparity added to entice whites to buy. The project was an initial success (it later did revert to an upper-middle-class majority black neighborhood). Hurley again found authentic voices of former residents, combined with tireless research, to record its story.

All of the stories in this book are masterfully told, adding depth to the examination of suburbs within the disciplines of urbanism and architecture—while at the same time providing enough color and commentary to appeal to a reader with little experience or prior interest in the subject. Hurley’s focus on social experimentation and the ways developments affected residents’ day-to-day lives is part of this success.

What gets perhaps less attention, however, is the wonkier architectural-urban analyses of urban design and architecture in contributing to the radicality of these projects. Of the two more “architectural” projects detailed in the book, The Architects' Collaborative’s collection of Modernist homes outside of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the planned city of Reston, Virginia—the dreamchild of developer Robert E. Simo designed by William Conklin and Thomas Rossant—which only Reston could be considered a truly radical challenge to the standard subdivision in terms of its urban design, embracing both density and mixing of uses. Even at Reston, Simon was forced out and the project reverted to typical suburban norms. (The knife in the gut is that the companies that took over the project were Gulf Oil and Mobil—as if we needed any further proof of what oil companies are looking for in terms of how people live and commute.)

As a result, the book is rather short on critical analysis of the role of design and, perhaps more important, whether design can play a role in remedying any of the problems—restrictive covenants, lack of density and connections, the effects of climate change—that Hurley details in her conclusion as everyday realities. As many—if not most—of the projects in the book ended up failing in themselves or at least failing to inspire any larger movements, the role of design in the relative success of an example like Greenbelt, Maryland—where the proto-modernist forms of Art Deco were used to create a successful mingling of a main street with true suburban freedoms—would make for an interesting next volume.

Hurley’s organization of the book reflects this dichotomy between what is considered success and what is considered failure. She begins in the introduction with a full-throated defense of the suburbs, detailing their increased diversity, quality of life, and sense of community, arguing that the examples in the book are a refutation of suburban clichés of conformity, mediocrity, and blandness. Yet she ends with the aforementioned critique and offers a list of ways in which suburbs could improve. Even the most ordinary of suburbs can of course be considered a uniquely American experiment that has had extraordinary success in redefining how people live. As with any experiment, it is the failures that often provide the pathway to new solutions, and Hurley shows how a number of outliers previously lost to history offer clear alternatives. With 50 percent of Americans still living in the suburbs, even the most hardcore urbanist cannot refute the need to reexamine and redesign them. Hurley has provided us with much-needed fuel for the imagination.

Dan Wood, FAIA, is a cofounder of WORKac and author of We’ll Get There When We Cross That Bridge and 49 Cities.

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57th rising

SHoP's Midtown supertall brings terra-cotta and bronze to new heights
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Brought to you with support from
Over the last two decades, SHoP Architects has pushed the envelope of facade design, leading a notable shift from predominantly glass-clad skyscrapers to supertalls incorporating a variety of materials. SHoP’s 111 57th Street is currently rising on Manhattan’s Billionaires’ Row—a stretch of dizzyingly luxurious towers. The tower stands out with a facade that incorporates three materials: terra-cotta, glass, and bronze ornamental work. The tower rises from a narrow lot located immediately behind and adjacent to the historic Steinway Building. In the mold of historic New York skyscrapers, the tower sets back and tapers upward along its south elevation. Both north and south elevations are clad in a glass curtain wall with vertical strips of bronze sprouting into finials at each setback.
  • Facade Manufacturer NBK Architectural Terracotta ELICC Americas Corporation SYP Glass Group
  • Architect SHoP Architects
  • Developer JDS Development Property Markets Group Spruce Capital
  • Facade Installer Parkside Construction Builders
  • Facade Consultant BuroHappold Engineering
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion 2020
  • System Custom ELICC unitized system
  • Products NBK Architectural Terracotta custom terra-cotta rainscreen
As a result of the site’s constraints, the approximately 1,400-foot-tall tower’s width runs at a remarkably narrow 45 feet—the width-to-height ratio comes out to just 1:24. Partnering with BuroHappold Engineering, a key challenge for the project was developing a facade system capable of supporting the weight of cladding materials, notably the terra-cotta panels. Concrete shear walls back the facade for these two elevations with only select opportunities for punched window openings. “These select openings allow for vision glass to be used while the remaining glass panels contain shadow boxes,” said BuroHappold Associate John Ivanoff. “The unitized curtain wall panels are consistent in dimension across the width of the facade; the units are separated between different materials.” The composition of the east and west facades is formed by a trio of terra-cotta, glass, and bronze. Curtain wall–manufacturer Ellic Americas merged the three materials into approximately 4-foot-by-16-foot panels, with bronze filigree fluttering between vertical stripes of glass and terra-cotta. These panels were then delivered to the site, craned into position, and hung from concrete structural slabs similar to typical curtain wall systems. In total, nearly 43,000 terra-cotta pieces, mechanically fastened to a unitized aluminum curtain wall system, run across the two elevations. The design of the quasi-fluted terra-cotta strips was formulated using a 3-D wave geometry generated by a computational script. This geometrically focused design by SHoP was adapted by NBK Terracotta to conform to its specific fabrication parameters. The building is scheduled to be completed in 2020.