Search results for "Rockwell Group"

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City of the Glammed
The new Las Vegas City Center (left to right): KPF's Mandarin Hotel, Libeskind and Rockwell's Crystal's mall, Pelli's Aria, Helmut Jahn's Veer, Foster's Harmon.
Courtesy MGM Mirage

In case you’ve been locked in a vault at the bottom of the ocean, here’s the latest news from Las Vegas: MGM Mirage’s 67-acre, 18-million-square-foot, $7.5 billion CityCenter, one of the largest developments in the history of humankind, officially opened last month.


The buildings may be different, including Libeskind's Mall and Foster's Harmon Hotel, but the logos are familiar.
 
Inside, the mall is signature Liebeskind, though ultimately it is still a hall of commerce, not architecture.
 
Jahn's dramatic Veer towers.
 
 

The project, located in the center of the Las Vegas strip, includes buildings by Cesar Pelli (61- and 51-story Aria hotel and casino), Daniel Libeskind (Crystals entertainment and shopping center), Rafael Viñoly (57-story Vdara hotel and residences), Helmut Jahn (37-story Veer residences), KPF (45-story Mandarin Oriental hotel and residences), and Lord Norman Foster (26-story Harmon hotel). David Rockwell and Adam Tihany designed key interiors.

This lineup of contemporary design stars points to a sea change in the land of over-the-top kitsch, and holds out the dream of sophisticated urbanity (hence the name CityCenter). Whether they’ve created something truly cosmopolitan, or even particularly good, is another question.

Five years back and a psychological eon ago, before the Great Recession, MGM, concerned with the rising cost of real estate, decided to develop a dense concentration of buildings each by a different star architect in order to maximize square footage, rather than build one giant behemoth. The planners, which included Gensler, Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn, and MGM’s own design team, wanted to “jump out of our own skin and look at the project with fresh eyes,” according to Sven Van Assche, vice president of design for MGM Mirage Design Group.

Indeed, CityCenter’s legible urban plan, lofty density, and stylistic diversity are really something new here. The view toward the Aria from the project’s entrance road, when framed by rows of tall buildings on either side, is dazzling in scale and ambition, particularly at night. (Like most things in Vegas, they’re all better at night.) And from many vantage points—whether inside the Aria’s lobby or from one of its restaurants—it’s exciting to look out a window and see people swirling about. People looking out rather than at slot counters is a rarity in this self- contained city.

Among the architectural standouts, Jahn’s Veer towers are ambitious, with their off-kilter forms (five degrees off center) and intricate, colorful, fin-filled facades. The tension between lightness, monumentality, and surprising rawness is appealing in a real, un-gimmicky way. Pelli’s Aria, with its sweeping floor plates, giant canopies, and ultra-light, stepped facade, is strongest at night thanks to fantastic lighting that brings out the whiteness in the glassy building’s aluminum mesh sunshades. Libeskind’s Crystals introduces unexpectedly vivid abstractions to a landscape usually rooted in the pointedly literal. Viñoly’s Vdara is elegant and restrained; KPF’s Mandarin looks razor-thin (and excitingly light) from some vantage points, but bulky from others.

But like Vegas itself, the more you stick around and let it all sink in, the duller the glitz becomes. For all CityCenter’s flash, architecturally it is conservative and breaks little new ground. Anything goes in Vegas, but apparently a large public corporation like MGM can only go so far.

There’s a tokenism to the adventuresome, tilting Veer. Libeskind’s mall is dynamic and surprisingly appealing inside (the giant scale tempers the dizziness one sometimes gets inside his buildings), but similar to what we’ve seen him do elsewhere. Aria and Vdara, while quite handsome, would look at home in a sleek office park or in Miami. The poorest project seems to be Foster’s Harmon, whose shiny futurism was replaced with squatness when about half the building got cut due to a building error. Even its bright blue sheen feels a bit cartoonish.

The maestros behind the City Center: Liebeskind, Rockwell, Viñoly, Kohn, Gensler.

And while it’s great that CityCenter called for a diversity of styles, it’s unclear if there was a plan for bringing them together. Right now it’s an architectural petting zoo; a collection of pretty objects with limited relationship to one another. Urbanity as just a vague theme is a depressing concept. Instead, why not focus more on Vegas itself, with all its wackiness and complexity, as inspiration?

Walking around CityCenter feels like strolling through one of the newborn cities of Asia or the Middle East: a cold glass, steel, and concrete forest of tall buildings that don’t possess any of the richness in scale, use, or subtle texture that make a city resonate. Of course, CityCenter is not even a real city center. And where a real public plaza in the center of the development might have been, there is instead a giant traffic circle. The rear plaza between Aria and Vdara is even worse: a forgotten wasteland of confusing traffic ramps and empty space.

Which raises the question: Is it possible, or even a good idea, to strive for real urbanism and innovative architecture in a place like Vegas? Everybody knows that the aspiration here is to make money, so why pretend otherwise? I say, yes. Truly improving the public realm and redefining the city is the best way to stand out from the competition. Otherwise, it’s just the same old Vegas, with a pretty, architectural, twist.

See Sam's photos from his visit to the City Center on the A|N Blog.

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Concrete, Masonry, Stone, and Tile

A Voce Columbus by Rockwell Group with Unlimited Stone
Courtesy Rockwell
 

Alkemi
P.O. Box 55, Cabin John, MD; 301-320-0042
www.renewedmaterials.com

Archetype Construction Corporation
147 Broadway St.,
Hawthorne, NY;
914-769-2902

Bagno & Company
+39-5982-509-4304
www.bagno-company.com

Belden Brick Company
P.O. Box 20910, Canton, OH; 330-456-0031
www.beldenbrick.com

Caesarstone
6840 Hayvenhurst Ave.,
Van Nuys, CA;
818-779-0999
www.caesarstoneus.com

Concreteworks Studio
349 Dunhams Corner Rd.,
East Brunswick, NJ;
732-390-9944
www.concreteworks.com

D. Magnan & Co.
32 Cortland St.,
Mount Vernon, NY;
914-664-0700

Daltile
7834 C.F. Hawn Frwy.,
Dallas, TX;
214-398-1411
www.daltile.com

David Allen Company
150 Rush St., Raleigh, NC;
919-821-7100
www.davidallen.com

Designworks Tile and Stone
20 West 22nd St., New York; 212-645-3723

Endicott Clay Products
P.O. Box 17, Fairbury, NE;
402-729-3315
www.endicott.com

Evans & Paul
140 Dupont St., Plainview, NY; 516-576-0800
www.evansandpaul.com

Formglas
2 Champagne Dr., Toronto; 416-635-8030 www.formglas.com

Henraux
Querceta (Lucca),
Via Deposito, 269, Italy;
+39-0584-761217
www.henraux.it

Lido Stone Works
4062-601A Grumman Blvd.,
Calverton, NY;
631-208-1165
www.lidostone.com

Marmo Masters
2419 24th Ave., Queens;
718-728-5871

Pagliaro Bros. Stone Co.
6301 Foxley Rd.,
Upper Marlboro, MD;
301-599-6066

Plasterform
1180 Lakeshore Rd. East, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada;
905-891-9500
www.plasterform.com

Pompili Precast Concrete
12307 Broadway Avenue, Cleveland, OH;
216-581-8080
www.pompiliprecast
concrete.com

SMC Stone
640 Morgan Ave., Brooklyn; 718-599-2999 www.smcstone.com

Stone Source
215 Park Ave. South, New York;
212-979-6400
www.stonesource.com

Swenson Stone Consultants
P.O. Box 651, Hanover, NH; 603-643-0363
www.swensonstone.com

Unistress
P.O. Box 1145, Pittsfield, MA; 413-499-1441
www.unistresscorp.com

Unlimited Stone
239 Washington St.,
Berkeley Heights, NJ;
917-921-6505

Vermont Structural Slate Company
3 Prospect St., Fair Haven, VT; 802-265-4933
www.vermontstructural
slate.com

The YN 13 House by Morris Sato Studio with Evans & Paul
Amanda Switzer

“For the parking garages around Yankee Stadium, I worked with Endicott to develop four different colors of green brick. It took a while to get a really good palette, but I’m very pleased. I wanted the actual red clay of the brick itself to come through the glaze, to get an effect that varies in the light. They were able to keep the colors of the batches very standard, and that quality control was key.”
Wendy Evans Joseph
Wendy Evans Joseph  Architecture

“A very big part of research for us is experimenting with crushed stone, playing with the aggregate, adding flecks of mica and the like, and Pompili was very capable of giving us just what we wanted.”
William Horgan
Grimshaw

“For A Voce’s facade, we needed four slabs of really nice marble to get the minimal chic Italian look we were after. Theresa Quintong at Unlimited Stone searched all over upstate until she found them. We call her the Marble Lady.”
Gregory Sanford
Rockwell Group

“Our client, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, wanted their new headquarters to be elegant, understated, and timeless, and to be a living model of their sustainable mission as an organization. Slate was strategically used in the main public gathering spaces of the project, as it embodies all of these qualities. Vermont Structural Slate is 500 miles from most locations in the northeast, which minimizes material transport and therefore environmental impact. Stone is a natural material that does not off-gas. It is also highly durable, which means it is unlikely to end up as waste material.”
Sara Agrest
FXFowle

 

 

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Journey From The Center Of CityCenter
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.
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Adventure Central
Richard Dattner's Ancient Playground was one of two adventure playgrounds recently refurbished by the Central Park Conservancy
Courtesy Central Park Conservancy

Being a kid—or at least a playground designer—was a lot more fun in the 1970s, before the advent of telephone-book-thick ASTM standards, not to mention things like critical fall heights, head-entrapment guidelines, and the virtual outlawing of sand. “It’s almost like a police state, what you can and cannot do in a playground,” said Paul Friedberg, the landscape architect who created some of New York’s most innovative play spaces. “The freedom that we once had is just completely gone.”


A child plays in a water feature at the Ancient Playground.
 

But vestiges of that freewheeling age can be found in Central Park, where the spirit of adventure thrives thanks to restorations this summer of two pioneering playgrounds. In overhauling these spaces to meet modern safety and accessibility needs, the Central Park Conservancy has shown that safety and rambunctiousness can still coexist.

Designed by Richard Dattner in 1972, Ancient Playground was one of 21 Robert Moses–era playgrounds installed around the park’s perimeter. In the late 1960s, these spaces began to be remade in the style of postwar Europe’s adventure playgrounds, where children molded their environments out of bricks, timber, and tires. Dattner themed his space on the Egyptian collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, just across a transverse road at West 84th Street. “I thought it would be wonderful to teach kids something of ancient construction—the pyramids, obelisks, mastabas, and so forth—and relate in a kids’ scale to what was across the street,” Dattner said.

The central challenge of the renovation—the fourth of Dattner’s playgrounds to be reconstructed in the park—was to create a required clear space around the main playground elements. Among other changes, the conservancy’s designers created a regulation tire swing that mimics the original design, while increasing the size of Dattner’s tunnels for better visibility. Since sand is not considered an accessible surface material, designers used safety surfacing that matched the spirit of the original.

The West 100th Street playground, designed by Ross, Ryan, Jacquette Architects, has also been restored by the conservancy.

The second playground, at West 100th Street, took its adventure-style form in 1972 to designs by Ross, Ryan, Jacquette Architects. The curving bridge, climbing cone, and water-spray feature have been restored, with the addition of complementary new equipment and resilient carpeting. A tree house was built around several mature trees, which were sadly removed after suffering damage during the August 18 storm. (The tree house remains.)

These respectful restorations are the latest sign that, 40 years later, adventure play is back. “In the 1970s, adventure playgrounds pushed the limits of demanding, physical play,” said Christopher Nolan, the conservancy’s vice president for capital projects. “We’ve been able to preserve the innovations that those playgrounds represented.” The two spaces join other playgrounds of this style, like the Rockwell Group’s Imagination Playground in Lower Manhattan, due to open next year, with a kit of loose parts that kids can use under the supervision of “play associates.”

Dattner, who consulted pro bono on his playground’s redesign, regards this latest generation of play spaces with a certain bemusement. “Much of my knowledge of the value of play has really been from the observation of kids playing with junk in the gutter,” he said. “The two major materials are sand and water. The rest is extra.”

A version of this article appeared in AN 18_11.04.2009.

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Eavesdrop NY 17
HAPPY B-DAY, MR. ARCHITECT On October 12, Richard Meier turned 75. His birthday bash for 150 was held that night at the Four Seasons, or rather under a white tent on Park Avenue alongside the Seagram Building fountains. Eavesdrop didn’t find anyone on the B-List who was invited, but all the A’s were there including Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, David Rockwell, Robert A.M. Stern, City Planning Commission chair Amanda Burden with TV talker Charlie Rose, and President of the American Academy in Rome Adele Chatfield-Taylor with playwright John Guare. A Meier follower tells us that his 50th was held at his duplex on East 72nd Street, where he raised eyebrows by exiling his mother to a far corner of the room, while putting Burden on his right. Interior designer Rose Tarlow hosted his 60th birthday on the tennis court of the house he designed for Norman and Lisette Ackerberg in Malibu. This time, he was sent into his fourth quarter of a century by daughter Ana, who arranged everything in no-surprise white. No roasts among the toasts made by family and friends, with Meier himself going only slightly off-color in his effusive compliments to his lovely offspring. The cake was a layered white slab. ET TU, GUY? Buried but not deep enough for our eagle eyes is this passage in the October issue of literary journal The Believer, from an engaging interview with Guy Nordenson: “Frank Gehry’s relationship to engineering and construction says: the cruder the better. You visit the Disney Concert Hall and, in the office of the musical director, there’s this gigantic gusset plate that’s part of one of the trusses in the system. It’s exposed and fire-protected. One of the architects who worked on the project described it to me as a train crash in a room. It’s monumentally messy.” TURNING THE PAIGE It’s that time of the month again when bets are placed in showrooms across the nation. What is the future of Paige Rense and, for that matter, Architectural Digest? Authoritative rumor has it that AD’s eons-long editrix has been told she’s out at the end of the year. One shelter magazine editor-in-chief reports having been interviewed and insists that Condé Nast is going through the usual suspects one by one. We’re guessing that’s Deborah Needleman, editor-in-chief of defunct Domino; Stephen Drucker of House Beautiful; and Margaret Russell, the editor-in-chief of Elle Décor. But La Rense is not likely to shuffle off quietly. According to a prominent designer, she recently arranged a skit to impress bosses Si Newhouse and Chuck Townsend. Honorees on her coveted AD 100 list gave testimony to a group of advertisers that AD is still the number one shelter magazine in the world and that, hard times notwithstanding, they should continue to buy pages. Take away? Paige is essential to Si’s ongoing health and wealth. Another source says that Si only makes major personnel changes twice a year—right after Labor Day and right after New Year’s. Look for the other Louboutin to drop around January 2, 2010. Send engineering tips and ad pages shart@archpaper.com. A version of this article appeared in AN 17_10.21.2009.
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The House the Mouse Built
The sole exterior addition to the museum is a glass box on the side facing away from the main parade grounds.
Bruce Damonte

The Walt Disney Family Museum has no amusement park rides. Instead, the museum, which opens tomorrow, is devoted to the life and times of the man synonymous with so many of those rides, and the approach is appropriately more academic. From the design standpoint, the $110 million project is a chance to see what architects and designers can get away with inside the historic sanctum that is San Francisco’s Presidio—it is the largest preservation project in the park to date—especially in light of recent setbacks.

The Walt Disney Family Museum is the product of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, hence the name—it is not meant to be a place expressly for families. The museum is in an 1890s barracks building right off the main parade ground. Behind it, the old Post gymnasium houses the museum offices, extra exhibition space, and the archives. The front façade of the barracks has been meticulously preserved: Per the Presidio Trust’s decree, original windows and glass are in place, with a secondary pane installed behind to block noise.

In back, a two-story glass curtain wall catapults the building into the modern age. Created by walling off the courtyard that separates the barrack’s two wings, it houses the largest gallery, adding an additional 15,000 square feet of space. The move shows that even if Don Fisher’s vision of a glass box on the Main Post was not to be, the Presidio is still open to some architectural creativity.

The front of this former 1890 baracks was restored to exacting standards given its location on the presido.
Courtesy Disney Family Foundation

“It was very tricky to make everyone happy,” said Jay Turnbull of Page & Turnbull, the firm that renovated of the building. Among the challenges, the exhibit designers wanted the new addition to be a blank slate inside, but the Trust wanted the old exterior walls to be visible. In the end, the brick walls of the wings are exposed within the glassed-in gallery.

The building is also notable for being the Rockwell Group’s first go at an entire museum. The New York design firm is known for creating slick interiors for hotels and restaurants, and some of that razzle-dazzle shows up here and there. The elevator is designed to look like a vintage train car, with pull-down shades and red velvet curtain; the bathrooms forgo historical context with brightly colored sinks set in white curved Corian countertops; and the lower level is exuberantly tiled with a pattern based on an Disney illustration. The showpiece gallery, inside the addition, has a long walkway that curves around a scale model of Disneyland as Walt originally envisioned it. Suspended above is an immense “video ball.”

For the most part, though, the museum is a fairly straightforward recount of Disney’s past. (For those wondering why the Walt Disney Family Museum is here in San Francisco instead of LA, Orlando, or Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri, it’s largely because his surviving daughter, Diane Disney Miller, has lived here for the last 20 years.) The displays, alas, do not include animatronics a la Country Bear Jamboree. The most newfangled element at the museum is the “touch tables,” which allow visitors to navigate video and images by touching icons projected onto wide tables.

After all the display cases set in rooms with exposed brick, one of the last galleries provides a welcome dose of Tomorrowland. Interior and exterior design come together in a narrow space with a sculptural white wall on one side and all glass on the other—a sky box with a panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge. On the wall, the nature documentaries that Disney produced are playing. But the real star in this gallery is the architecture of San Francisco, past and present.

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Oscars to Rock Well
Possibly channeling a youth well spent watching late night reruns, David Rockwell envisioned a stage set for the 81st Academy Awards straight from the dazzling finale of 42nd Street wherein a woman's face dissolves into a crescent moon.  And that would be almost as surreal as David Rockwell incorporating some paving ideas from the Piazza del Campidoglio.
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Checking In
Frames encircling fine art and fantastic views of the Hollywood Hills are trademark Philippe Starck moves for the rooftop pool of the SLS.
James Merrell

A slew of new hotels have debuted in California over the last year, riding what will likely be the last big wave of development for some time due to a slowing economy and dismal travel forecasts. They’re the lucky ones: The results from the November 2008 STR/TWR/Dodge Construction Pipeline show that 93,219 hotel rooms nationally have been abandoned in various stages of development, from preplanning to in-construction. That’s a 75 percent increase in such abandonments since 2007. Other data from the Pipeline also point to a slowdown: Through November 2008, 1,565 hotels nationally were in construction, down from November 2007, when there were 1,609 hotels in construction.

In California, most new properties were a long-time-coming response to hotel room deficits in many tourist-heavy areas. In Beverly Hills, for example, a luxury hotel had not been built from the ground up since the early 1990s, while in San Francisco, the 32-story InterContinental is the largest hotel to open in the city in two decades. Two major California cities saw massive and much-needed room additions adjacent to their convention centers: the 420-room Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, and the aforementioned 550-room InterContinental San Francisco, located near the Moscone Center in SOMA. (Los Angeles will have to wait until 2010 for its 54-story Ritz Carlton, part of the downtown development LA Live.) Across the U.S., this seems to be the case as well: The country has seen an exceptionally slow growth of only five percent in new rooms since 2001, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

This cautious expansion led to an age of conservative design for California hotels. Even the most anxiously anticipated debut in the state, the SLS Hotel—the first venture into the hotel niche from nightlife wunderkinds SBE Entertainment (famous for their Philippe Starck-designed LA bars and restaurants like Katsuya, S Bar, and XIV)—went for wit and whimsy rather than over-the-top, cutting-edge design. It’s a huge departure from the sleek, cold modernism of the recent past—think the Standard or Mondrian of the late 1990s.
 


A baroque moderne white-on-white palette at the SLS private lobby (top) and the hotel's rooftop pool (above), designed by philippe starck.
James Merrell
 

“Instead of a very sparse, modern design, the approach we took is multi-layered in color and texture and decor and accessories,” said Theresa Fatino, chief creative officer for SBE. “Guests can come back over and over and feel that same sense of discovery, these feelings of rejuvenation and delight and wonderment and surprise.” This sensation—that they’ll discover another Starck design pun, or find a new favorite dish on José Andrés’ menu—aims at bestowing upon guests a feeling of belonging to some perpetual in-crowd.

Hotel palomar by gensler with cheryl rowley
David Phelps

Starwood's aloft by rockwell group
courtesy starwood

London west hollywood by collins design
courtesy lxr

montage beverly hills by HKS Hill Glazier Design Studio
courtesy montage
 
 

While the boutique concept is alive and well—Thompson Beverly Hills and London West Hollywood both nod aesthetically to their New York predecessors—these properties have seen the same style evolution, towards warm, sumptuous luxury and a sprinkling of nostalgia.“In the LA area, there’s a trend of capturing the glamour of old Hollywood and incorporating it into a design relevant to today’s lifestyle,” said Bryan Oakes of Gensler, project architect for the Hotel Palomar in the Westwood neighborhood of LA. The Montage Beverly Hills is modeled after the Mediterranean-influenced estates that sprang up in the city during the Golden Age of Hollywood, while Hotel Palomar and the London West Hollywood reference the same period with dramatic, sparkly interiors and Hollywood-referencing art. The Thompson Beverly Hills indulges a noire-ish theme, with deep, dark interiors that are signature of the designer Dodd Mitchell. Here, black leather upholstery, black lacquered wall panels, and glossy black wood floors convey Chinatown chic.

California continues to capitalize on the renovation of its older hotels by elevating former discount motel-like properties to luxury status, said Oakes. “One of the successes of Palomar is that we took a dated 1970s building, originally built as a Holiday Inn, and elevated it to a chic four-star hotel.” This seemed to work best for new boutique operations like the Thompson Beverly Hills, which inhabits a crisp white modernist box that was once a 1960s Best Western, and the London West Hollywood, a revitalization of a tired, nondescript Wyndham Bel-Age. For the green-aspirational, a renovation could also be spun as a huge sustainable selling point: The Good Hotel in San Francisco combined two aging hotels into one eco-friendly property, complete with room appointments made from reclaimed materials and the option to contribute to a carbon offset program upon check-in.

While the hotel pool has traditionally been the place for designers to show off, a growing emphasis is focused on creative public spaces that are twists on the hotel bar. Whether these are seamlessly melded indoor/outdoor lounges or multi-functional lobbies, designers are giving guests more reasons to come out of their rooms and hang out. “Trends ebb and flow, but I think that one area that should always be emphasized is that of the social gathering space,” said David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group, who calls for public spaces that are “open, transformable, and comfortable.” He outfitted the first W’s for the Starwood chain and designed the Aloft (scheduled to roll out 500 locations worldwide over the next five years) with three major areas that encourage congregation and socialization: a communal lobby area with gaming and pool tables, the wxyz bar, and a 24-hour snack bar. The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel is broaching yet another approach: a warren of spaces blending bar, lounge, restaurant, and boutique for design retailer Moss, allowing guests to nibble and sip (and shop) in a variety of environments throughout an evening.
 


The Carrier Johnson-designed Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter provides a transition to the city's fun-loving entertainment district.
Courtesy Hard Rock 
 

One trend perfectly timed with the sagging economy is that of the discount design chain, which has swept into Southern California with the opening of two new ventures: Andaz is Hyatt’s first design hotel, and Starwood’s Aloft designed to deliver W-level accommodations at Holiday Inn prices. “One major trend in the last few years has been the recognition that the everyday traveler also appreciates a high level of design,” said Rockwell. (Aloft’s first California location is in Rancho Cucamonga). “We transformed this type of otherwise nondescript hotel into a chic oasis by using materials and amenities that are state-of-the-art, but simple and affordable.” The 257-room Andaz was designed by New York–based Janson Goldstein to give personality to the former “Riot House” Hyatt on the Sunset Strip in LA, with a variety of colorful appointments from local retailers that add high-end flavor to simple, modern rooms. (Of note to music fans: The hotel’s famous balconies, once launching pads for televisions and other after-party detritus during the hard rocking years, have been replaced with glassed-in sunrooms.)

According to trend-tracking site HotelNewsNow.com, 2009 national occupancy is only predicted to dip slightly, down 3.9 percent, but that’s where the discount design trend might win over guests: In a December 2008 survey of business travelers by Orbitz for Business and Business Traveler, only half of the respondents expected to travel less in 2009, but 79 percent of travelers said they have been pressured to cut costs. For those hitting the road, there still might be a few new places to write home about.

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XI International Architecture Biennale
Rockwell Group with Jones/Kroloff
Martin Perrin

The Arsenale

The theme was “Out There” but the experience was over the top as the leading lights of the profession plus a smattering of young up-and-comers from around the world produced a heroically-scaled display of performance architecture.

By Julie V. Iovine

To make sharp critical observers out of his audiences, German playwright Bertolt Brecht inserted blackout moments into scenes. The 11th International Architecture Biennale offered its own alienation effect in a dark-as-pitch room—a forecourt to the vast two-mile long Arsenale exhibition space—featuring an installation by Rockwell Group with Jones/Kroloff involving towering interactive screens where scenes from architecture’s favorite movies (Cleopatra,The Fountainhead, A Clockwork Orange, etc.) as complex XY-axis projections leapt up in response to the crowd moving through. This Hall of Fragments set a seductive stage for the subsequent installations commissioned from 24 architecture practices by Biennale director Aaron Betsky. The brief was to show architecture “beyond building,” that is “revelatory, utopian, and critical.” Visitors marched past a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of gargantuan works: elegantly embalmed prototyped extrusions by Asymptote; Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Oz-like Feed Back Space first envisioned in 1969; and Zaha Hadid’s brand-perfect acid green furniture/architecture. Most breathtaking in this sequence was Frank Gehry’s Ungapatchket, a three-story timber model of a Moscow hotel that the architect is designing, slabbed over with clay in the spirit of Cai Guo Qiang’s ephemeral Rent Collection Courtyard figurines shown in New York last winter, but originally exhibited in the Arsenale in 1999.

Even if you had not already been over to the Giardini, the other part of the Biennale dedicated to national pavilions and their individually curated exhibits, and seen the Estonian’s big yellow “pipeline” providentially and ominously running down a gravel slope to the steps of the Russian pavilion, you might have questioned the relevance of the Arsenale’s fabulously blousy installations. The European press has already come down hard, especially on the nudes brought in by French architect Philippe Rahm in an effort to demonstrate space-making through convection air currents instead of walls. The concept was certainly clever, and might have been enough for an art installation, but it cannot pass muster at an architecture fair if it doesn’t actually work. Betsky tried to make an end-run around buildings that “just stand there” in favor of architecture that inspires and “transforms one’s perception of one’s world.” And while there was plenty of food for thought about the latest way to turn data into structure, from artist Matthew Ritchie & Aranda/Lasch’s scale-less, fractal-turned-structural-doily to M-A-D’s AirXY, which replicated the technology of Hall of Fragments with LED lights instead of movies, many of the installations looked as if they could too easily end up as catalog fodder for the amusement of galleristas.



Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Iwan Baan

The urban problems that preoccupied some architects—the lives of singletons for the Dutch collective Droog; the pile-up of unrecyclable and ghastly plastic toys for Greg Lynn—didn’t seem global enough. Pros at performance architecture like Diller Scofidio + Renfro did not disappoint with a video installation that mashed up interviews with gondoliers in three different Venices—Italy, Las Vegas, and Macau—along with anyone’s belief in authenticity of place. UNStudio, too, satisfied with a slitheringly stunning rendition of a villa fit for Zoolander that served as a screen for footage from an Alexander McQueen fashion show.

But as one continued down the vast Arsenale where in the 12th century, entire battleships could be built in a week, the impression that today powerful minds were bent to far less mighty tasks was hard to ignore. Ten months ago when Betsky set to work, presidents and vice presidents had not been nominated, Georgian borders had not been crossed, and hurricanes both natural and financial had not rocked our foundations. Now that they have, architects working in high concepts rather than hard realities seem somehow passé.
 


 


 
 

Arsenale Interrota

By Anne Guiney

After the machined perfection of so many of the Arsenale’s massive installations, the drawings of Roma Interrota provided the show’s first real jolt. The recreation of a 1978 exhibition of the same name was inspired by the 1748 Nolli Map of Rome. The drawings show the eternal city reimagined by 12 architects, including Aldo Rossi (pictured), Paolo Portoghesi, Robert Venturi, Leon and Robert Krier, and Colin Rowe, who were themselves monumental practitioners in the 1970s. The reinstallation was an eye-opener for a new generation, including Casey Jones and Reed Kroloff, who collaborated with David Rockwell on the video installation Hall of Fragments. For them, the juxtaposition provided a revealing contrast in the ways architects look at cities. “It has the stillness of a time capsule,” said Kroloff, “and it’s amazing to see how radically the tools of expression have changed.”

The original Roma Interrota was organized by then-mayor of Rome Giulio Carlo Argan, and took as its premise the idea that since the publication of Giovanni Battista Nolli’s famous New Plan for Rome, planning in the city had been stymied and destructive. Argan asked architects to start where the 230-year-old plan left off and dream of what the city could be. Revisiting the new reinstallation at the Arsenale, Argan wrote, “It is comprised not of proposals for urban planning, naturally, but of a series of gymnastic exercises for the imagination whose course runs parallel to that of memory… [Here] are hypotheses for the Rome which would have resulted had man continued to imagine it and not to plan it (badly.)”

 





Belgium's curators David van Severen and Kersten Geers commemorated a missed centennial—the country first entered the Biennale in 1907—with after the party, an installation whose main components are confetti and mostly empty rooms.
Martin Perrin

Giardini

At the mouth of the Grand Canal, the city’s largest public garden is dotted with 35 national pavilions and a series of outdoor installations. Inside, a few curators showed how architecture can indeed be pushed “beyond building,” with results ranging from poetic to pragmatic.

By Anne Guiney

By taking the Biennale’s theme “Out There—Architecture Beyond Building” as more guideline than directive, curators of more than 30 national exhibitions in the Giardini found expansive and fertile ground for their ideas. Expansive enough, in fact, to encompass almost anything. Freed from the physical limitations of building, architecture could relate to everything.

The two most prevalent (and often intertwined) ideas curators explored were politics and the environment, but the work ranged from the poetic approach of Japan’s Junya Ishigumi, who created a dreamland of flower-structures, to Russia, whose installation of a competitive architectural chess game could be read as a mirror held up to contemporary politics.

Perhaps the most immediately satisfying project was not in a pavilion, but running between two. Estonia put a real-scale gas pipe on the ground between the German and Russian pavilions to represent a Gazprom proposal to build the Nord Stream pipeline connecting the two countries through the Baltic Sea. It was wonderfully concise in its ability to make a political argument physically manifest, and to raise questions about issues from regional power dynamics to environmental damage.


GERMANY
martin perrin 


POLAND
Eric holm


SWITZERLAND
martin perrin
 
 

Poland’s curators took the seldom-sexy idea of recycling and gave it some style by repurposing their pavilion as the Hotel Polonia, complete with beds. Inside, there were a series of photographic triptychs showing a building as it looks today and then one that Photoshops it into the future. A 2004 basilica becomes a fantastic water park, since after a while the only people attending church would be tourists anyway, so why not? Likewise, a university library is rebranded as a mall, and cheekily, a Foster-designed building became a convincingly ominous jail. The mixture of solid ideas and a light touch led the jurors to award it the Golden Lion. 

Germany, too, drew attention to the use and abuse of nature, though without the humor of its neighbor. To highlight the way we often squander our resources, the curators did some squandering of their own: The neoclassical German pavilion’s portico was lit with 32 massive spotlights, which gave it an unfortunate eerie glow, and each visitor passing underneath felt their heat. The physical sensation made an effective point, and while there was a notice inside that team members were reducing energy consumption to offset the 50,000 kilowatts of electricity the piece will ultimately consume, the choice seemed dubious. A second inadvertently funny moment was an indoor grove of apple trees under Gro-lights, fed by an IV-like sack of radioactively bright liquid that suggested nothing more than Soylent Green.

Japan’s curator Junya Ishigumi took a very different stance on the issue of our relationship to nature, and imagined a world where architecture was not set in a landscape but inextricably a part of it. The seemingly blank white walls of the pavilion were covered with dozens of drawings of greenery-clad structures in different scenarios, and outside were a series of delicate glass greenhouses filled with flowers. Its dreamy beauty made it a favorite, but the ideas it raised were really no more far-fetched than much of the more ecologically-minded work in the Italian Pavilion.



 


Ryan Reitbauer

U.S. Pavilion

By William Menking

When word first went out that the theme of this year’s architecture biennale was “Out There: Beyond Building,” I suspected that Aaron Betsky would take a more formalist approach and not include the kind of social activism that has recently engaged an increasing number of architects frustrated by a sense of impotence in the face of the country’s crumbling infrastructure and frayed social fabric. I turned to Teddy Cruz, whose housing proposals for Hudson, NY, we’ve covered in AN, and he started a conversation with Pratt Institute’s Deborah Gans. Soon the team also included Andy Sturm of the PARC Foundation and Aaron Levy of the Slought Foundation, two non-profits often involved with architects pursuing alternative practices. There seemed to be an opportunity to provide a counterpoint to the main exhibition with something that focused more on new approaches to engaging with communities and shaping local infrastructure.

Time was not on our side: We had only four months to conceive, develop, design, ship, and install everything down to the guestbook to Venice. Right at the start, Leanne Mella, with years of experience as a biennale coordinator and with the State Department, warned me, “I’ve done exhibits in Africa, and it can be a difficult place to mount an exhibition, but Venice is tougher!” and then she joined our team, an unbeatable vote of confidence.

Our goal was not modest: We were basically trying to develop and encourage an architecture culture that doesn’t yet exist in the United States. And while we included efforts like The Heidelberg Project, where abandoned houses in Detroit have been encrusted by recycled refuse collected in the neighborhood, or Kyong Park’s New Silk Road video montage, the impulse was to provoke new thinking about architecture, not to feature art projects.

While some of the work we decided to include (and that you may have read about in the last issue of AN) was very critical about aspects of American culture and the built environment, some of it was equally proactive about our problems, because they are in fact hard to believe. The reality is that in the last 25 years, this country hasn’t really invested in our infrastructure, and so a lot of the projects in the pavilion looked at that rather than at buildings in order to make a connection between an architectural sensibility and a larger social infrastructure. Finally, I believe that architects are by and large urbanists who love cities and want to make them function better, and the projects we chose to include represented a range of ways to do just that.

 


 

Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Wei Wei
Martin Perrin

Experimental Architecture

Inside the Italian Pavilion, 56 exhibits showed the range of experiment across the spectrum, from Lebbeus Woods’ drawings to architecture’s future as seen through the I Ching. With a tone set by the early, ground-breaking work of masters like Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Coop Himmelb(l)au, the work suggests that the spirit of the new is alive and engaged.

By Anne Guiney

The Italian Pavilion in the Giardini promises an overview on the state of progressive practice in architecture, and while it certainly delivers, it does so in a way that is alternately provocative, satisfying, and dispiriting. Curator Aaron Betsky chose to devote the building that once housed the host country’s installation (now relocated to the Arsenale) with the work of 55 experimental firms, many of whom are younger, like MOS, NL Architects, and LOT-EK, and seven of the avant-garde’s old school, most now prolific builders, including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Morphosis. Most of the masters pulled work from their archives—Zaha Hadid’s drawings were particularly spectacular, and a reminder of her extraordinary talent. A noteworthy exception was Herzog & de Meuron, who teamed up with Ai Wei Wei, their collaborator on the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, and made a simple but beautiful installation from the bamboo poles so prevalent on construction sites in China.


NL Architects


MA0/Emmeazero
courtesy the architects
 
 

Almost all of the work on display is drawn from projects that were underway long before the Biennale, and Betsky has grouped like with like. Teddy Cruz’s cross-border work in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego is catercorner to FAST’s planning and community organizing project in the Arab-Israeli town of Ein Hawd, while Field Operations’ large-scale and long-term efforts in landscape urbanism share a room with the Colombia-based Husos’ engaging Proyecto Cali, which wonderfully manages to include the restoration of a habitat for Monarch butterflies, an exhibitions building, and a soap opera called Butterflies and Passions.

One of the more striking things that emerges from the contrast Betsky sets up between the old-new and the new-new is the preoccupation with creating a more socially engaged practice over form-making, and the use of different means to tell a story. Along with Husos and its racy telenovela, AOC developed a Monopoly-based board game to help Venetians rethink their shrinking city, and J,P:A Jones Partners put together a Marvel-style comic book projecting 50 years into the future of Dubai. CUP’s intentionally crude Xeroxed posters diagram a link between sneakers and poverty, while Urban Think Tank’s colorful wall of posters from Caracas, Venezuela is as suggestive of a vibrant public realm as any in the show.

Yogi Berra, as usual, had it right: The future ain’t what it used to be, and utopia as we know and love it is in fairly short supply in the pavilion. One of the more provocative pieces calls the very idea into question: Abitare editor Stefano Boeri and a student team took on the eco-enthusiasm so prevalent in the pavilion and beyond and ask what it would really be like if nature once again was deeply integrated into our cities. Boeri’s Sustainable Dystopias presents three scenarios—the city of energy devices, the city of vegetable surfaces, and the city of wild animals, each of which pushes the proposal to its logical conclusion and points out the pros and cons. As neat as it might sound, the piece argues, there’s also a downside to having elk and moose wandering through protected greenbelts in a city. NL Architects also presents cut-n’-paste what-if scenarios in Virtual Realities that are a little uncomfortable, in spite of their humor. The ice caps are melting? Let’s make one out of trash, since there’s plenty of that! The two projects stand in marked contrast to the visually appealing yet thin suggestion represented by ma0/emmeazero’s Footprints, whose vision for new types of public space seems more grounded in the possibilities of Photoshop than in a meaningful sense of how people use city streets and parks.

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Las Vegas Is Learning
Courtesy MGM Grand Mirage

Las Vegas has become a barometer for architecture, though it’s usually a little bit behind the times. It was all glamorous modernism in the 1970s, but by the 1990s, local developers here were obsessed with postmodern fancies that brought the world close, and down to size: The Venetian had its own Grand Canal, and the Paris arrived with a scaled-down Eiffel Tower, while New York, New York went so far as to put maintenance staff in uniforms like those worn by Sanitation workers in the five boroughs. At the turn of the century, developers moved toward upscale, lifestyle-oriented resorts and boutique hotels like the Wynn and the Hotel at Mandalay Bay.

Now another shift is underway: The MGM CityCenter, still under construction, is creating iconic buildings in a dense, mixed-use environment. Believe it or not, Vegas is selling urbanism—or at least a local version of it—and taking a page from cities around the world by using big-name contemporary architects to generate interest.

The $7.8 billion, 18-million-square-foot CityCenter will be in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip (on the site of the former Boardwalk Hotel and Casino), and is set to open next year. Touted as the largest privately funded development in U.S. history, it will include hotel, casino, residential, cultural, retail, and entertainment uses connected via indoor and outdoor pedestrian passageways. The major buildings were designed by Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Viñoly, Helmut Jahn, Foster + Partners, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Pelli Clarke Pelli, and the Rockwell Group, with Gensler as the executive architect, and Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn as master planner. The marquee names continue to the art program, which will include work by Maya Lin, Jenny Holzer, Nancy Rubins, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Frank Stella, and Henry Moore.


 
 

CITYCENTER UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN late MAY (TOP) AND AS RENDERED (ABOVE), with the adjacent monte carlo casino at far left.
 
 

While CityCenter’s 76-acre site measures about the same as most of MGM Mirage’s properties, it will be about three times as dense, said Sven Van Assche, vice president of design for MGM Mirage Design Group. The push for density was first necessitated by economic conditions: The sharp rise in land prices in the city forced planners at MGM Mirage (which owns a number of Vegas casinos including the Bellagio, the MGM, and the Excalibur) to consider other revenue sources when they first conceived the project in 2004.

“We quickly realized we were getting ourselves into a very urban condition,” said Van Assche. Mixing uses, he pointed out, is not new in Vegas, and most developments now contain hotels, casinos, retail, and even condos. But nowhere is that mix so tightly packed, so large, and so full of programmatic variety.

Van Assche explained that in order to promote CityCenter’s variety, MGM looked for several architects, and asked each to design something contemporary. New projects in the city are typically designed by the same group of local firms, but Van Assche said they decided to go beyond the standard modus operandi and “look at the project with fresh eyes.” This jump, he added, meant putting architects not accustomed to the Vegas scene through “an intense learning process.”

The interaction of the architects, said J.F. Finn, managing director at Gensler Nevada, started out with very few guidelines, but once a vision began to emerge, planners started to rein things in. Working with so many designers helped spur what Finn termed “happy accidents,” like the plaza between the casino and the Crystal. That came about when designers decided that Pelli and Libeskind’s buildings should have some breathing room. Likewise, a charrette between Libeskind and Jahn helped change their respective projects from one unified, mixed-use building to two very distinct entities.

All seven buildings will be connected by a meandering network of walkways that meet at larger nodes, usually marked with public art or a water feature. “We wanted to create places where people could gather that weren’t near slot machines,” said Finn, in explaining the nature of these nodes. Because of Vegas’ temperature, he added, the majority of these passages will be indoors, although a few outdoor walkways and bridges, landscaped with varied greenery, will act as connectors.

Is this urbanism? Finn argues that it is, and points to the functionally indoor nature of projects in other extreme climates like Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Libeskind’s project was originally planned to be outdoors until the team realized it was not feasible. Still, having a retail project at the very front of a development in Vegas is rare. Inside it will resemble a small city with large public spaces, curving walkways, and changes in scale from small nooks to a 200-foot-high grand stair.

Van Assche and Finn both noted that other Vegas developers are looking at mixed-use and iconic buildings. Boyd Gaming’s Echelon will contain five separate hotels, 9,000 square feet of retail, and two large theaters. The newly-opened Planet Hollywood has a massive retail complex at its front door, and Harrah’s is reportedly considering a mixed-use, multi-building mega-development as well. “I think it’s the evolution of where the city is going to go,” said Van Assche.

Like anything in Vegas, CityCenter’s goal is to attract attention and stand out from the pack. And so it appears that like the flashing neon signs before them, the pyramids and Grand Canals will give way to Libeskind’s jagged steel forms and Jahn’s diagonal towers, the newest icons in a city full of them. 

Sam Lubell is the California editor of AN. 
 




 
 


Mandarin Oriental
Kohn Pedersen Fox

Unlike the majority of CityCenter, which attempts to introduce a new form of urbanism to Las Vegas through a pedestrian-friendly, open-access environment, Kohn Pedersen Fox’s Mandarin Oriental goes out of its way to create an isolated and exclusive world of luxury and tranquility, well-insulated from the crush of the city. Sited along the Strip, the 46-story, 1.2-million-square-foot hotel is separated from the development by its main access road, and is further delineated by a high-walled courtyard planted with bamboo trees. “The entry sequence was very important,” said KPF principal Paul Katz, “because this is a five-star hotel, guests will arrive from the airport in a limo and step right out into the world of the Mandarin.” From the courtyard, visitors take a shuttle elevator to the sky lobby, which is on the 26th floor; and from the sky lobby there is the option to ride down to the 400 hotel rooms, or up to the 215 full service condos. The building’s high-performance curtain wall combines insulated aluminum panels with ceramic-fritted, low-e coated glass in a 60/40 mix to create high levels of transparency while mitigating heat loading from the sun. AS


 

 


ARIA Hotel & Casino
Pelli Clarke Pelli

As the centerpiece of MGM’s development, Pelli Clarke Pelli’s 6.1-million-square-foot ARIA hotel and casino epitomizes the project’s spirit of interconnectivity, featuring easy or direct links to the buildings by Libeskind, Foster, Viñoly, and Jahn. It’s also permeable in other ways: In a revolutionary gesture for Vegas, the architects opened up the casino and convention center to daylight and views to the exterior. The facility also features a black box theater for the Cirque du Soleil, 4,000 hotel rooms, and a pool area arranged within a podium and tower. The podium’s plan of two interlocking circles helps to limit views down the long corridors to the tangent of the circles, creating more intimate environments within the massive enclosure. The tower also plays with views. The high-tech curtain wall combines fritted, low-e coated vision glass panels with shadow box panels of glass to achieve a shading coefficient appropriate for the desert sun while maintaining a consistent materiality. Also, the cladding over each room features an angle, or prow, which invites guests to look out at oblique angles, to take in more of the cityscape and mountains. AS



Veer Towers
Murphy/Jahn
(above, left)

Rising above CityCenter’s retail and entertainment district, Helmut Jahn’s Veer Towers distinguish themselves with a seeming feat of engineering. Inclined in opposite directions at 85 and 95 degrees respectively, the towers appear attracted toward each other, conveying the distinct relationship between them. The off-kilter forms, however, reflect the pragmatic logic of unit layouts. “Structurally, it looks challenging, but it’s not so mysterious,” said Francisco González Pulido, principal architect with Murphy/Jahn. The structure is created from a three-floor module composed of repeating unit plans. The 37-story towers will include approximately 337 units made up of studios, one- and two-bedroom residences, and penthouses ranging from a modest 500 to over 3,000 square feet. The transparent reflective glass facade with perforated aluminum framing includes fins to promote energy-efficient climate control. Yellow ceramic frit encased in the glass modulates sunlight and provides residents with privacy, while creating a checkerboard pattern on the facade, boldly expressing the building’s program on its skin. DR

The Crystal
Studio Daniel Libeskind 
(above, center)

Daniel Libeskind’s shopping and entertainment hub called the Crystal holds the center of the complex, not so much like the anchor of a mall, but organically, like a heart with main arteries and secondary conduits to enhance free-flowing circulation. “I am aiming for a new sense of orientation where people are not locked in a box with one way in and out,” said Libeskind. “It’s a shaped space with its own topography. There are many ways to come and go or move from level to level. It’s a work in the round.” The 650,000-square-foot structure is lapped in metal petals that break down into discrete volumes with large interstitial openings that Libeskind described (in terms of scale) as “beyond any skylights ever known.” Restaurant, entertainment, and retail interiors are being designed concurrently by the Rockwell Group and billed as a “natural and electronic landscape” for shopping and dining. Nesting between Foster’s Harmon and Jahn’s Veer, the Crystal aims to create the cosmopolitan urbanism of a European piazza within a highly climate-controlled environment. “This is no longer the signs-and-signals Vegas of Venturi,” said Libeskind. “It’s no longer just about surface. This is true urban growth.” JVI


The Harmon Hotel, Spa and Residences
Foster + Partners
(above, right)

If the strategy of CityCenter is to break out of the prejudices surrounding Las Vegas as a city of low-brow kitsch, then the Harmon Hotel, Spa and Residences, designed by Foster + Partners, is meant to be a defining structure that brings gravitas to glitter. Towering above Planet Hollywood across the Strip and diagonally across from the Paris’ faux Eiffel Tower, its walls are glass. Bear in mind that transparency has always been a taboo in this city of windowless casinos, where gamblers don’t know whether it’s day or night. Eschewing decadence, Foster has fashioned a column that borrows more from the Gherkin, his insurance headquarters in London, than from anything in Vegas. No surprise. In his film Casino, Martin Scorcese was telling us that the accountants were pushing aside the mobsters and cowboys, and the Harmon reads as a monument to the corporate domination of Sin City. There are no winks and no gambling in Foster’s austere column, but there’s something very Vegas all the same. Building higher and more expensively is another way of raising the ante, and Vegas gamblers love nothing more than a high-stakes game. DD




 
 


Vdara Condo Hotel
Rafael Viñoly Architects

In the Vdara Condo Hotel, a 57-story glass ascent of three overlapping curves, Rafael Viñoly echoes the message of the Foster tower at the nearby Harmon Hotel: There is no kitsch-theming here, beyond a cool corporate assurance that says, “Vegas, not ‘Vegas.’” Gambling won’t be among the offerings at this non-gaming facility, and owners of the more than 1,500 condominium units won’t share a lobby with retirees stampeding to the slots. Wedged into the dream-team ensemble, the Viñoly crescents stand in a corner—alone as any 57-story building can be, a block from the Vegas strip, at a distance from the Crystal, Daniel Libeskind’s retail and entertainment hub. And unlike the Crystal, the Vdara does not repeat forms that are signature elements in its architect’s style. The Viñoly design offers the promise of modernist, even minimalist elegance, once again echoing the larger ensemble’s ambition to refine—and perhaps redefine—Las Vegas. Yet the glass curves send a mixed message: It is part Miami hotel that opens to the sun and sand (the desert, rather than the beach), and part garden corporate headquarters (although the packed garden of highrises in CityCenter barely gives Vdara room to breathe). Its nostalgic simplicity gives off the welcoming feel of Brasília, rather than a hastily-built Dubai. But not too welcoming. The graceful curves form an enclosure as they turn their back to the street, which is marketed as exclusivity. And exclusive it is: 900 square feet in the Vdara starts at $1.3 million. DD



LEEDing Las Vegas

With all the blinking lights, splashing fountains, and blasting air-conditioners, Las Vegas is probably at the bottom of any list of places one would associate with sustainable design. But with rising energy costs and environmental awareness becoming increasingly mainstream, CityCenter hopes to be a model for green thinking in Sin City. Though all the buildings at CityCenter will seek LEED certification, most of their sustainable features are conventional and relatively modest: low-VOC paints, extensive use of daylighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and drip-irrigation for the landscaping.

Like the city’s privatized monorail, however, sometimes large-scale private development can yield green results through the creation of efficient infrastructure. Much of the development’s energy will be generated at an on-site cogeneration plant. The plant will recycle the heat generated by producing electricity for the hot water used throughout the complex.

Also, by striving to create a truly urban place with density and a diversity of uses, residents and visitors to CityCenter will be less reliant on cars and taxis, which, with gas prices continuing to climb, seems a very wise wager for the future. AGB


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Block By Block
Courtesy Cultural Landscape Foundation

The story of New York development in recent years has been defined by mega-projects, the large-scale urban moves unleashed by a rip-roaring market, sweeping rezonings, and once-in-a-generation super-deals. But the current economic meltdown has made for a very different mood. Certainly not chastened—this is still New York, after all—but circumspect, even cautious. A number of ambitious projects we featured here in the past—the proliferating towers at Queens West, or the 14-acre Sky View Parc in Flushing—are still gallantly moving ahead. Yet other grand plans have been parceled out in phases, pared back, or quietly put on ice.

To take stock of this changing landscape, we’ve gathered a selection of new projects—large and small, flashy and unfussy—that are filling in the streetscape and skyline, from hotspots like Williamsburg to newly beckoning corners of the Bronx. Together they offer a portrait of a city shaped less by the bravado of master builders than the block-by-block business of architecture. And that might not be a bad thing at all.

Produced by Jeff Byles, Danielle Rago, and Olivia Chen.

All images courtesy respective developers.

 

Manhattan

Above 59th Street 

37-41 HILLSIDE AVENUE
Location: 37-41 Hillside Avenue
Developer: North Manhattan
Construction Company
Architect: Johnson Jones and
Mario A. Canteros
Size: 16 floors, 89 units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2010


AMSTERDAM AVENUE SITE
Location: Amsterdam Avenue and West 100th Street
Developer: TBA
Architect: SLCE Architects
Size: 56 units, 72,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2010 


180 EAST 93RD STREET
Location: 180 East 93rd Street
Developer: Greystone Property Development
Architect: Barry Rice Architect
Size: 7 floors, 9 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


535 WEST END AVENUE
Location: 535 West End Avenue
Developer: Extell Development Company
Architect: Lucien Lagrange Architects
Size: 20 floors, 22 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


GEORGICA
Location: 305 East 85th Street
Developer: The Ascend Group
Architect: Cetra/Ruddy
Size: 20 floors, 58 units, 134,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


2075 BROADWAY
Location: 2075 Broadway
Developer: 2075 Holdings
Architect: Handel Architects
Size: 19 floors, 196 units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009


Manhattan

Between 14th Street
and 59th Street 

250 EAST 57TH STREET
Location: 250 East 57th Street
Developer: World-Wide Group
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 2 buildings, 13 floors and 58 floors
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011–2013


1775 BROADWAY
Location: 1775 Broadway
Developer: Moinian Group
Architect: Gensler
Size: 26 floors, 625,000 sq. ft.
Type: Commercial (reclad)
Completion (est.): 2009


250 WEST 55TH STREET
Location: 250 West 55th Street
Developer: Boston Properties
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 40 floors, 1 million sq. ft.
Type: Commercial
Completion (est.): 2010


800 10TH AVENUE
Location: 800 10th Avenue
Developer: Alchemy Properties
Architect: FXFowle
Size: 96 units, 130,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential (conversion)
Completion (est.): 2010


CLINTON PARK
Location: 770 11th Avenue
Developer: Two Trees Management
Architect: TEN Arquitectos
Size: 911 units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011


53W53RD
Location: 53 West 53rd Street
Developer: Hines Interests
Architect: Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Size: 75 floors, 120 condominium units, 100 hotel rooms, 50,000 sq. ft. gallery expansion
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2012


55 WEST 46TH STREET
Location: 55 West 46th Street
Developer: Extell Development Company
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 40 floors, 800,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011


455 WEST 37TH STREET
Location: 455 West 37th Street
Developer: Rockrose Development
Architect: Handel Architects
Size: 23 floors with two levels of underground parking, 421,164 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009


HUDSON YARDS
Location: West 30th to West 33rd streets, 10th to 12th avenues
Developer: Related Companies
Architects include: Kohn Pedersen Fox, Arquitectonica, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Elkus Manfredi Architects
Size: Approximately 5,000 units, 5.3 million sq. ft. (residential), 5.5 million sq. ft. (commercial), 1 million sq. ft. (retail and hotel)
Type: Mixed-use
Completion Phase I (est.): 2014


450 HUDSON BOULEVARD
Location: 450 Hudson Boulevard
Developer: Alloy Development
Architect: Della Valle Bernheimer and Architecture Research Office
Size: 1.1 million sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2013


MANHATTAN WEST
Location: 9th Avenue between West 33rd and West 31st streets
Developer: Brookfield Properties
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 5 million sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2013


316 11TH AVENUE
Location: 316 11th Avenue at 30th Street
Developer: Douglaston Development
Architect: The Stephen B. Jacobs Group
Size: 34 floors, 369 units, 387,500 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009


GANSEVOORT PARK
Location: 420 Park Avenue South at 29th Street
Developer: Gansevoort Hotel Group with Centurion Realty
Architect: The Stephen B. Jacobs Group
Size: 18 floors, 225 units, 200,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009


HL23
Location: 515 West 23rd Street
Developer: Alf Naman Real Estate Advisors
Architect: Neil M. Denari Architects
Size: 14 floors, 11 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


ALMA
Location: 30 West 21st Street
Developer: Beck Street Capital
Architect: Karl Fischer Architect
Size: 11 floors, 11 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


15 UNION SQUARE WEST
Location: 15 Union Square West
Developer: Brack Capital Real Estate
Architect: Office for Design and Architecture with Perkins Eastman
Size: 12 floors, 36 units, 97,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


PRIMA
Location: 130 West 20th Street
Developer: EG West 20th
Architect: H. Thomas O’Hara Architect
Size: 36 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


57 IRVING PLACE
Location: 57 Irving Place
Developer: Madison Equities
Architect: Audrey Matlock Architect
Size: 12 floors, 9 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009

 

 

Manhattan

Below 14th Street

385 WEST 12TH STREET
Location: 385 West 12th Street
Developer: FLAnk
Architect: FLAnk
Size: 7 floors, 12 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


THE LEE
Location: East Houston Street at Pitt Street
Developer: Common Ground
Architect: Kiss + Cathcart, Architects
Size: 12 floors, 263 units, 99,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


350 WEST BROADWAY
Location: 350 West Broadway
Developer: RFR Holding
Architect: Moed de Armas & Shannon
Size: 10 floors, 8 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


BOWERY RESIDENCES
Location: 351 Bowery
Developer: 351 Bowery Associates
Architect: Scarano Architect
Size: 15 floors, 14 units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009


FIVE FRANKLIN PLACE
Location: Five Franklin Place
Developer: Sleepy Hudson
Architect: UNStudio
Size: 20 floors, 55 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


99 CHURCH STREET/FOUR SEASONS HOTEL AND PRIVATE RESIDENCES
Location: 99 Church Street
Developer: Silverstein Properties
Architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects/SLCE Architects
Size: 80 floors, 175 hotel rooms, 143 condominium units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011


375 PEARL STREET
Location: 375 Pearl Street
Developer: Taconic Investment Partners
Architect: Cook + Fox
Size: 32 floors
Type: Commercial (reclad)
Completion (est.): 2009/2010


BEEKMAN TOWER
Location: Beekman Street, between William and Nassau streets
Developer: Forest City Ratner Companies
Architect: Gehry Partners
Size: 76 floors, 903 units, 1.1 million sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2010


NOBU HOTEL AND RESIDENCES
Location: 45 Broad Street
Developer: Swig Equities
Architect: Rockwell Group/Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects
Size: 62 floors, 77 units, 128 hotel rooms
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2010


Brooklyn

TOREN
Location: 150 Myrtle Avenue
Developer: BFC Partners
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 37 floors, 240 units, 260,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009


HOTEL INDIGO
Location: 237 Duffield Street
Developer: V3 Hotels
Architect: Karl Fischer Architect
Size: 22 floors, 172 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2010


166 MONTAGUE STREET
Location: 166 Montague Street
Developer: United Management Realty
Architect: RKT&B
Size: 10 floors, 24 units
Type: Mixed-use (conversion)
Completion (est.): 2009


PARK TOWER
Location: 33 Lincoln Road
Developer: Henry Herbst
Architect: Gilman Architects
Size: 23 floors, 90 units, 180,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2010


80 DEKALB
Location: 80 DeKalb Avenue
Developer: Forest City Ratner Companies
Architect: Costas Kondylis and Partners
Size: 34 floors, 365 units, 333,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


ATLANTIC AVENUE
Location: Atlantic Avenue and Eastern Parkway
Developer: Habitat for Humanity
Architect: Dattner Architects
Size: 3 buildings, 4 floors, 41 units, 53,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


GOWANUS GREEN
Location: 5th and Smith streets
Developer: Gowanus Green Partnership
Architect: Rogers Marvel Architects
Size: 774 units, 675,000 sq. ft. (residential)
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2014


GOWANUS CANAL HOUSING
Location: Bond Street between Union and Degraw streets
Developer: Gowanus Canal Joint Venture
Architect: RKT&B
Size: 11 buildings, 350 units, 355,000 s.f. (residential), 10,000 s.f. (commercial)
Type: Mixed-use
Completion: In design


80 METROPOLITAN
Location: 80 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg
Developer: Steiner NYC
Architect: GreenbergFarrow
Size: 6 floors, 123 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


Queens

L HAUS
Location: 11-02 49th Avenue, Long Island City
Developer: The Stahl Organization
Architect: Cetra/Ruddy
Size: 122 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


THE STAR TOWER
Location: 28-02 42nd Road, Long Island City
Developer: Roe Development Corporation
Architect: DeArch
Size: 25 floors, 180 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


10 COURT SQUARE
Location: 10 Court Square, Long Island City
Developer: Rockrose Development
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Size: 25 floors, 961,698 sq. ft.
Type: Commercial with ground-floor retail
Completion (est.): 2011


MURRAY PARK
Location: 11-25 45th Avenue, Long Island City
Developer: TerraMax
Architect: Fogarty Finger
Size: 7 floors, 28 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2010


EAST COAST 4
Location: Queens West Site 2 at Center Boulevard
Developer: Rockrose Development
Architect: Arquitectonica
Size: 39 floors, 737 units, 1.1 million sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011


ARVERNE BY THE SEA TOWN CENTER
Location: Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 67th and Beach 69th streets
Developer: Benjamin Beechwood
Architect: Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects
Size: 28,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009


Bronx

COURTLANDT CORNERS
Location: East 161st Street between Courtlandt and Melrose avenues
Developer: The Phipps Houses Group
Architect: Dattner Architects
Size: 323 units, 362,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2010


BORICUA VILLAGE
Location: East 163rd Street and 3rd Avenue
Developer: Atlantic Development Group
Architect: Hugo S. Subotovsky Architects
Size: 7 buildings, 8 to 13 floors, 689 units, 47,000 sq. ft. retail
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2009/2010


THE SOLARA
Location: 1259 & 1275 Grant Avenue
Developer: Grant/Briarwood
Architect: Danois Architects
Size: 2 buildings, 10 floors, 160 units
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


TIFFANY STREET APARTMENTS
Location: 922 East 169th Street and 1140 Tiffany Street
Developer: Atlantic Development Group
Architect: Atelier 22
Size: 2 buildings, 8 floors, 94 units, 110,000 sq. ft.
Type: Residential
Completion (est.): 2009


ST. ANN'S TERRACE
Location: St. Ann’s Avenue and East 159th Street
Developer: Jackson Development Group
Architect: Hugo S. Subotovsky Architects
Size: 8 buildings, 8 to 13 floors, 600 units
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2011


KINGSBRIDGE ARMORY
Location: 29 West Kingsbridge Road
Developer: Related Companies
Architect: GreenbergFarrow
Size: 5.6 acres, 550,000 sq. ft.
Type: Mixed-use
Completion (est.): 2013

 

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Food and the City
David Rockwell and Danny Meyer at Gramercy Tavern, March 27, 2008.
Adam Friedberg

AN: We’ve been thinking about restaurants and their role as public spaces, and the way they interact with and influence the life of a neighborhood. In different ways, both of you have worked to expand that role. Danny, this neighborhood has changed a lot [20th and Broadway] in the last 15 years, and must have seemed on the fringe when you decided to open. What brought you here?

DM: It’s hard to give language to what was a gut feeling. With Union Square Cafe in 1985, it was an infatuation with the Greenmarket. In 1993, this was still sort of a no-man’s-land, bizarre but true, but the architecture in the neighborhood wasn’t going to change dramatically. It is also a classic feature of New York to have pockets of industries, and here, they were on the wane: In Union Square, there was the men’s garment district, and literally you couldn’t get down the sidewalk on 16th Street without bumping into rolling garment racks; you knew that wasn’t going to last. In Madison Square, there were wholesale industries, like toys, tabletop, kitchens …

DR: How much of that was a conscious process?

DM: When I realized I’d dumbed into making it work at Union Square, I thought, ‘Well, this can work anywhere,’ and started looking for dying industries. In 1985, I walked around the Meatpacking District and thought it was one of the world’s great stage sets. Later on, it hit with a combustibility that made it completely unattractive for me.

DR: Now you’ll have to wait for its revival in 50 years! It’s like South Beach without the beach.

DM: It doesn’t have a natural balance of residences and businesses; it’s still a stage set. If you’re the kind of chef who likes Las Vegas, this is where you would do it in New York.

DR: Thinking back 15 years to when we designed Nobu, Tribeca had a lot of the characteristics you’re describing, like great architecture, but it also had residential pockets. I think part of the appeal for people going to restaurants is the exotic journey to a place where they didn’t live, the notion of a destination. The Meatpacking District is by-and-large design boutiques and restaurants, as opposed to being embedded in a fabric that’s kind of growing around it.

DM: I always felt that if the balance tipped either way too much, it would be less appealing. Why? Because I wanted to be busy at lunch and dinner. Midtown was never interesting to me because it was all business, and the Upper West Side, because it was all residential.

DR: There is also something about authenticity, in being the quintessential embodiment of the neighborhood. Think of the Theater District: I’m a huge theatergoer, and after all these years, I still go to Orso’s on 46th Street because it feels like an integrated part of the community. As a designer, that’s fascinating to me. Design has become a bigger discussion point in restaurants—which it wasn’t when we started 22 years ago—and what has become clear to me is that there has to be a leader—a restaurateur or a chef who has a vision that the design can relate to. If not, it becomes sort of an alien object. I was going to Union Square Cafe long before I knew Danny, and what I admired about it most is that you couldn’t put your finger on the single ingredient that made it work. That’s what we strive for in design: to have the design embedded in the concept of the owner and the operator in a way that it provides a back story; then design decisions aren’t arbitrary.

DM: The neighborhood is the frame that provides the context, and the restaurant has to belong in that frame. I wanted to pick neighborhoods that I felt comfortable in. One of the reasons you don’t see me in Las Vegas (so far) or you wouldn’t see me in the Meatpacking District, is that it’s not who I am.

DR: Another week, you never know!

DM: But it’s not going to ring true. I always thought that, like Union Square, I’m weird, but not too weird, and normal, but not too normal.

DR: You know it’s interesting you mentioned Vegas, which is nothing like this city. Just take the circulation in Vegas, for example, where it’s a one-way corral—there’s a way in, there’s a way out, and you’re largely directed like cattle. I think most people who look at restaurant design don’t understand that the biggest decisions really aren’t what things look like. The biggest decisions are about choreography, circulation, scale, a series of views that unfold, the ability to get the food to the tables, how the first 15 people feel—all of the basic decisions that break down the scale of the room. And all of those decisions have to be driven by a relationship with the restaurateur or chef.

AN: Those are all urban design issues, too.

DR: Exactly.

DM: I think a good designer is like a really good shrink. The information is there, you just don’t know how to pull it out of your subconscious. This is what I’ve loved about the relationships I’ve had with architects. It was dumb luck that I met Larry Bogdanow, who designed Union Square Cafe. I didn’t know the first thing about architecture. I told him I wanted a place that looks like an architect was never in there, and that you’d never know it had been designed in 1985. But what I learned was that all these small episodes that happened because of that architecture are what people wanted. Here at Gramercy Tavern, I wanted to create episodes so that, as a diner, wherever you are, you’re in your own neighborhood. Another neat thing happened—David probably figured this out 30 years ago, but I hadn’t—when you create more small communities within the restaurant, you multiply the number of corner tables!

DR: Another fascinating thing is the collaboration that goes on in a restaurant. It’s a social place in which you are eating food that is handmade for you, so you have the ability to make links between all of these things and the texture of a place. I think more than ever, since we’re in this world of sameness and can replicate a design through CNC milling a million times, that the notion of craftsmanship and sense being touched by the human hand is increasingly important.

AN: We wanted to ask you both about private programming in public spaces, in particular the controversy over replacing the restaurant in the old bathhouse in Union Square. On the one hand, there’s been a seasonal restaurant there, Luna Park, for years, but many argue that it amounts to a privatization of public space. 

DM: It’s a fascinating issue for me. Any question that begins with ‘What does the community want?’ always leads me to wonder, ‘Well, who is the community?’ Whether or not you ever went to Luna Park or ever believed it should have been put smack dab in the middle of Union Square, there were lines of people trying to get in every single night. There was clearly a community of people who loved having a place to go. To some degree, it made others feel safe because there were people in the park. These are people who may not go to community board meetings or get politically active. Then there are also preservationists, and people who think there shouldn’t be any money exchanged in a public space unless it’s for the public good. It’s kind of like religion—no one religion can be all right unless the rest are all wrong. All these constituencies need to be balanced: There is a playground constituency, a Greenmarket constituency, a food constituency, a dog-run constituency… I’m very comfortable, for example, with the model we have at Shake Shack, where we have a partnership with Madison Square Park Conservancy so that we can return money to that park.

DR: The opportunities for architects to work with public/private partnerships to create interesting new opportunities is going to grow exponentially—with tighter budgets, there’s just less and less public money. We’ve been thinking for three or four years about playgrounds, and wanted to establish a pro bono, not-for-profit group in New York. I realized early on that we had to build in parents as a constituency—the people who use playgrounds had to be comfortable with it. And so when we were making our presentation—it had to be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Seaport, and Community Board 1—it was hard for them to understand at first that there was no reason for us to do this other than to contribute, and we volunteered to raise money to endow the organization. That’s when the light bulb went off for them. Now we’re approached by every community in New York that wants a playground. They’re all private groups for public places.

DM: People are okay with playgrounds because you don’t have to pay to use them.

DR: But the link that I’m making is about the programming of public spaces. And one of the things that we haven’t touched on, Danny, though it is an interesting point, is to look at the city inside-out. Look at the role of restaurants, and by extension hotel lobbies—New York’s inner spaces. During the 1920s, which was the golden age of hotels in this country, lobbies were an extension of the public realm; they’re private spaces but opened to the public. The city looks so neat and organized from the air, and then when you get down to the ground, it’s much messier and it’s much more vital—that’s what is fascinating.

DM: I moved to New York for good because I had fallen in love with the Algonquin lobby.

DR: I moved to New York because when I was 11, we came into the city, went to lunch, and then went to the theater to see Fiddler on the Roof. And with both of those city experiences, a kind of light bulb went off and I knew that this is where I wanted to be. I got a sense of the relationship between communal spaces and storytelling, and it was a real eye-opening experience for me, to see the relationship between audience and performer.

DM: Well, that’s New York. In fact, it’s the dialogue between whoever is performing and whoever is the audience, everywhere. Those were my first experiences, too—it could have been theater, it could have been jazz, it could have been in a restaurant. There’s always someone who has something to say and someone who’s there listening. That’s what the whole city is about.