purchase tickets online through MCNY. Tickets: $12 for non-members, $8 for seniors & students, $6 for museum members.Join Julie Iovine, executive editor at The Architect's Newspaper, tomorrow (Tuesday) evening for a compelling discussion with architect Rafael Viñoly at the Museum of the City of New York at 6:30pm. The topic for the night, "What Comes After Postmodern Architecture?", will tackle the state of New York City architecture. The recent building boom in New York City has radically altered the look and feel of the city and added considerably to the list of starchitects currently reshaping New York’s iconic skyline. It has also helped redefine boundaries of the eclectic pluralism of postmodern architecture. How do we label the current architectural style of the last decade? Is there a post-postmodern? Reservations required. Call 917-492-3395 or
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One of the biggest projects on the San Francisco Peninsula is the upcoming $720 million Stanford Hospital. It will replace -- though not displace -- the hospital's current home, a three-story affair designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1959, which has a concrete brise-soleil and is very much a building of its time. The new structure, which Rafael Viñoly Architects is in charge of, looks more like a hotel than a hospital, and the design is an indication of what state-of-the-art healthcare facilities are emphasizing these days. Designed to maximize natural lighting in what is often a rather closed, oppressive environment, the Viñoly hospital features a checkerboard layout, in which buildings are interspersed with squares of open space. You can get the general idea through this 3D animation, which must set some sort of bar for fancy architectural renderings -- forget about abstract outlines of people, here are models energetically walking around the space and cars driving past. (The animation was produced by a San Francisco company called Transparent House.) However, what the animation doesn't really show you is the interior, which has an enormous central atrium, like many a high-end hotel. The first two floors of the hospital are where procedures take place (surgery, imaging, and emergency services). Above are clear glass cubes, which contain the patient rooms (with 368 beds). The glass cubes are perched on opaque bases that hide all the mechanical equipment of the hospital, and the rooms look out over the hospital's gardens, meditation spaces and courtyards. The first two floors and adjacent two-story parking garage will be covered by roof gardens, which will create a second ground plane above the street and give patients access to open space without them having to leave the hospital and deal with all the attendant security issues. The rooms themselves will have window walls, offering views of the surrounding campus and town to provide some distraction from the tedium of a hospital stay. There will be motorized blinds that track the sun and reduce heat gain (LEED certification is planned). "It is an unusual layout for a hospital," said Chan-li Lin, who heads up Viñoly's San Francisco office. "Most hospitals don’t devote this much space to public amenities, because they do not generate income. But at Stanford, the buildings and landscape are always somewhat integrated, and the courtyard idea is embedded into their very DNA, so we were able to get our client on board. When you go to a very large hospital, it is easy to become disoriented because these buildings generally have such a large floorplate. Hopefully, we are creating a more humane environment for treatment and healing, where you are always aware of the connection to the outdoors. " Stanford is part of the low-density suburbs between San Francisco and San Jose, and at seven floors (and 130 feet), the hospital will be the tallest building in the area (except for Hoover Tower, which is pencil-thin) -- which is yet another motivation for reducing the mass of the building. The architects are working with the L.A. firm Lee, Burkhart, Liu, for their specialized knowledge in healthcare design. Ground-breaking is planned for the fall of 2012, and the first phase, with 820,000 square feet, is anticipated to take four years to complete.
The simmering opposition to the New Domino plan from the local community and especially its City Council rep has been well-noted, but the reaction from the design community has been more muted. And while the approval from the City Planning Commission, and the forthcoming showdown at with Councilman Steve Levin mean the project is pretty much headed for an up-or-down, maybe slightly tweaked if not entirely scrapped vote, design writer Stephen Zacks had made a bolder proposal, calling for the plan to be scrapped not because it is too dense and under invested, but because it is not visionary enough. "These unique sites are opportunities to generate new forms of urbanism and orders of magnitude greater revenue, instead producing the high volumes of similar units that are now languishing on the market," Zacks declares in a letter to the Council (in full, after the jump). He has a few ideas of his own, something called Domino University, but is also soliciting them from others. Feel free to leave them in the comments section, or on his Facebook page.
Dear Honorable Members of the New York City Council: As a part of the New York City community of architects, designers, and urbanists, we recognize that condo developments in upzoned areas have brought enormous benefits to the public through new tax revenues, high-quality architecture, affordable housing, waterfront parks, and remediation of brownfield sites. But as the market has seemed to have been over-saturated by condos and the rental vacancy rate remains unaffected by the inclusionary rezoning process, we are inviting you to consider a new model of development for the Domino Sugar site, one of the great icons of manufacturing in the area of North Brooklyn and, indeed, the United States. As you may know, Domino was the first sugar company to use branding to sell its products, and it remains one of the most recognizable brands in the country. We believe that the current plan to preserve the landmarked buildings and provide open space, affordable housing, waterfront access, and generous community space is a good start, but we think there can be a more ambitious and visionary approach to this site‹and to waterfront development in general‹which embraces the history of Domino and uses the site to prove that there is another way. As a city, we have progressed far beyond the point we had to beg developers to invest in New York. We are in the unique position of having investors compete for the right to put billions of dollars into complicated sites that require hundreds of millions in infrastructure, even during the worst recession in decades. The Domino site presents an absolutely unparalleled opportunity, and we ask whether its redevelopment according to the same model befits its enormous significance. While we have made great progress, this model still has not lived up to the standards for design and urbanism that the city must aspire to for the next century. The Domino Sugar site is Williamsburg¹s High Line. It is clear that the market is still supporting well-designed, high-quality architecture and urbanism. These unique sites are opportunities to generate new forms of urbanism and orders of magnitude greater revenue, instead producing the high volumes of similar units that are now languishing on the market. We believe that Rafael Viñoly is a superb architect capable of great work, but this inclusionary condo model does not permit the creativity and dynamism that could be supported by this architect, this community, this site, or this city. We ask you to send this plan back for revision, to incorporate the care and attention to detail in site planning and land use that it deserves. As a body empowered with the ability to accept or reject this plan but not, perhaps, to propose a new model of development, we ask you to take a risk. We all remember the terrible plight of New York during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, and we never want to go back to a time when burning buildings was more profitable than designing new ones. Rejecting a 1.5 billion dollar investment in our city, especially one that is loaded with community benefits, is a risky step. But it¹s also a vote of confidence in New York City: that we can do better, that we can begin to create a city and an architecture, and a model of urban development that is fitting for a world-class city, a city that embraces its immigrant communities, a city that is in constant transformation as every generation takes hold of it and reshapes it for itself. We ask you to consider the Domino site an example for what can be accomplished in every neighborhood and every district in the city with more attention to detail, more care, more originality, and a greater level of inclusion, not represented by percentages of units, but by a vision that connects to the history of the place and the future of the city. The Domino University plan is the beginning of a process that can begin to impact the core problem that we still face after decades of redevelopment: a rental vacancy rate that remains below three percent. We need new housing in New York City, but not of this kind. It's time to explore a new way, and the Domino site is the place where it can begin to happen. Respectfully, Stephen Zacks
Last night, I was lucky enough to enjoy assorted swells (but not very many architects) at the Hearst building for a screening of the enigmatic “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?", a film devoted to his lordship’s extravagantly photogenic architecture and life of work. Or so it looks in this approximately 90 minute film which sweeps us from the Engadin Alps where Foster annually plows through a 26-mile mile cross-country ski marathon in tight black lycra with some 14,000 others to his redbrick childhood home quite literally on the wrong side of the tracks in Manchester to his current home in a Swiss villa, spectacularly void of human touches, to his 1,000-plus strong office in London to the early Sainsbury Centre; the Swiss Re gherkin; the British Museum Great Court; the Berlin Reichstag, etc, etc, and of course, the
Hong Kong Beijing Airport that is the largest building on earth as narrator Deyan Sudjic intones mellifluously. (The trailor below provides but a morsel of this delight.)
Many of his buildings are seen as if from the wing of a Cessna gliding overhead—especially the great dinosaur-scaled Millau Viaduct in France—with the nice touch of swelling slow-mo clouds, and almost as if Foster himself were at the controls. And possibly he was, as we learn that he is quite the speed and height freak. All is accompanied by an original, also very swelling, score performed by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra.
The cocktail party was not so dizzying with guests including Cesar Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Vishaan Chakrabarti, Mark Wigley, Beatriz Colomina, Bob Stern, and Paul Goldberger who after the film said he had no recall whatsoever of where or when he was filmed speaking so glowingly of the Hearst tower. Pelli remembered exactly when he first met Foster in the 70s, when he was the partner in charge of design at Victor Gruen and Foster insisted on a meeting. Meanwhile, Foster smiled as graciously and blankly as the many on-hand socialites known primarily to Lady Foster, who produced the film. When asked about the film, Foster said he was amazed that it was so deep in detail. Agreed! And then we were all called into the auditorium where Lady Foster by way of introduction to “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?” said: “And we were able to follow Foster closely for three years!” As his wife, I should hope so.
And, oh yes, the title comes from a question Buckminster Fuller, a mentor of sorts for Foster in the 70s, asked on visiting his Faber headquarters in Ipswich many years ago. Apparently it weighed quite a few tons. And for one night of fun, so did his film.
New Las Vegas megaresort City Center, which we reviewed in January (it features buildings by Daniel Libeskind, Cesar Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Helmut Jahn, and others) just reported its first quarter results. They weren't good. The's $8.5 billion project, owned by MGM Mirage and Dubai World (which has finally worked out a debt restructuring deal with its creditors), recorded an operating loss of $255 million, and has only been able to sell about 100 of its 2,400 luxury condominiums, according to the Wall Street Journal. MGM is also locked in a lawsuit with its contractor, Perini Building Co, for defective workmanship and overbilling. For what it's worth the company claims that it will soon begin to turn a profit on the project. Now that's a Vegas bet we're interested in following.
Update (4/21/10): Three more firms have been confirmed: Snohetta, Rafael Viñoly, and L.A.'s Frederick Fisher. This is shaping up to be a pretty diverse crew. The SF Chronicle reports that the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive has sent out letters to ten architecture firms, asking them to submit qualifications to design their new home. Adding to the three that have already been sussed out (Bernard Tschumi, Tod Williams Billie Tsien, and Will Bruder), we have confirmed a fourth: Ann Beha, whose Currier Museum of Art in New Hampshire has been well-received. If that partial list is any indication, the museum is looking at a more diverse group than SFMOMA is considering for its addition, though (as in SFMOMA's case) no local names have surfaced yet. It is going to be an interesting adaptive reuse project: the old printing plant on the site will be renovated, and a 50,000 square-foot addition incorporated into the whole.
As the redevelopment of the massive Domino Sugar refinery on the WIlliamsburg waterfront continues to trudge through the city's public review process, what remains of the once mighty sweetener plant continues to deteriorate—or improve, depending on your attitudes towards street art. Following on the footsteps of the busted windows some feared would cause water damage to the main refinery building, now warring graffiti crews have set up shop on the bin building. A concrete addition from the 1960s that will be demolished to make way for some of Rafael Viñoly's 2,200 apartments, the bin building has now been bombed by no fewer than 5 graffiti writers. But it's not all bad news for the development, as it won conditional approval from Borough President Marty Markowitz on Friday, though some of those conditions are pretty steep if also in line with the demands of the local community board, which does not support the project. They include reduced bulk and density for the project; more and better subway service, especially on the L, for all those new residents; and room for a school, supermarket, and "possible artisan establishments" within the development.
Even with its generous amounts of affordable housing—30 percent of some 2,200 units, as opposed to 20 percent—the New Domino project surrounding the former Domino sugar refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront has faced stiff opposition from the community, as we reported in Issue 02 earlier this year. The local community remains opposed to the project's density and lack of infrastructure to support all those new residents in towers designed by Rafael Viñoly that reach 40 stories, twice as tall as the iconic Domino refinery they will surround. Community Board 1 reaffirmed its opposition last night, when it voted 23-12 against the project. Our pal Aaron Short has an insanely detailed blow-by-blow over on his blog, but it all basically boils down—not unlike most of the board's decisions on land-use matters—that the project is just too damn big. Meanwhile, something even stranger is going on at the waterfront site, as the above picture demonstrates. It turned up yesterday on Curbed, the apparent work of a preservationist cum conspiracy theorist who insists the refinery's many blown-out windows are leading to structural instability and imminent collapse. To which we ask: One lump or two?
With all the notice being paid to the new U.S. embassy this week, an even bigger (physically if not psychically) project just next door was overshadowed as it won a key approval yesterday. Rafael Viñoly's massive Battersea development, which will turn the iconic Battersea Power Station and 40 surrounding acres (once on the cover of a Pink Floyd album) into a huge mixed-use community, won approval from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. According to our colleagues at BD, the CABE found the 5.5 billion pound project to be "intelligent and well-resolved." It includes more than 3,700 apartment units, 1.5 million feet of office space, 500,000 of retail, and community facilities, though an ecodome and other expensive features have been ditched on account of the bad economy. It wasn't all good news for Viñoly this week, though, as his similarly post-industrial New Domino project in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, took a lashing from the local community board. We'll have a full report on that when there's a final vote next month.
And so it begins. MGM Mirage's 67-acre, 18 million square foot, $7.8 billion CityCenter, one of the biggest developments in the history of mankind, officially opened today. It includes buildings by Cesar Pelli, Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Viñoly, Helmut Jahn, KPF and Norman Foster. We can't wait to put together our commentary. Here are some initial thoughts after our first day here: The Pros: -It's a great accomplishment for Las Vegas to finally highlight contemporary architecture instead of theme-based pastiche (Paris, Venice, Luxor, etc. etc) or high end luxury (Bellagio, Wynn, etc). This place doesn't have a theme, but the closest two are architecture and urbanism. Who knew? Whether they pulled this off is another question. -There are some architectural gems. All the buildings have their strong points: Jahn's Veer towers are the most ambitious, with their off-kilter forms, intricate and colorful facades, and tension between lightness and monumentality. Pelli's Aria, the epicenter of the development, is strongest at night when its facade glows thanks to fantastic lighting that brings out the brightness in the glassy building's aluminum mesh sunshades. Inside its highlight is the collection of large windows that open to Libeskind's Crystals, and to natural light. More critique to come.. -The collection of buildings does create a feeling of urbanity, particularly from certain perspectives. For example the view toward the Aria from the entance road, when framed by the rows of buildings on either side, is a powerful moment, particularly at night. In fact like most things in Vegas, everything is better here at night, when more people are activating the place and lights and excitement cover up any flaws. -Most of the buildings have achieved LEED Gold certification, and many even incorporate natural light and views of the (gasp) outside, a rarity for Las Vegas, where experience is tightly controlled to suck you in and even confuse you into spending money. -Perhaps the biggest pro is that this thing actually got done in such troubled economic times. A bailout from Infinity World Development Corp, a subsidiary of (we're not joking here) Dubai World is what gave it the last push when things were looking bleak. The Cons -While it's admirable that the development is seeking to be more urban than the self-contained megastructures of Las Vegas, it's not really a city center. A diversity of styles and a grouping of self-contained buildings is certainly a start. But there's very little diversity of uses, little connection to the street (or to the realities of everyday life) and to the rest of Las Vegas, very few pedestrian friendly spaces that aren't intended to suck out your money, and a chance for a real public plaza in the center of the development has been wasted in favor of a giant traffic circle. -It's great that CityCenter went for a diversity of styles, but it would have been nice if they fit together in a more logical way. Right now it's sort of an architectural petting zoo; a collection of pretty objects with limited relation to one another. -While the buildings are all solid the architecture for the most part is pretty conservative and not breaking any new ground. There's only so far that a large public corporation like MGM will go in its taste for experiment. The exception is Jahn's, which while a formal spectacle (perfect for Vegas!) doesn't feel gimmicky. Libeskind's is very edgy as well, but not much different from what we've seen him do elsewhere. Time for us to digest some more and get back to you. But here are some pictures taken by yours truly to enjoy.