All posts in City Terrain

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Flowers and Recycled Planters Transform a Step Street in the Bronx
A formal dedication for a creative urban intervention called ARTfarm brings flowers and greenery to a formerly barren step street in the Bronx.  Architects Valeria Bianco, Christian Gonsalves, Shagun Singh, and Justin Taylor designed and built the project  with help from Architecture for Humanity and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Drawing inspiration from a nearby farmers' market, ARTfarm recycles wooden cabinet doors and crates into 59 planters for a variety of plants and transforms a concrete and stone stairway into a lush tiered garden. ARTfarm received $5,000 in funding from the New York Department of Transportation Art Program, pARTners.  The program seeks to transform New York's public realm through art and design to create a safer, more inviting streetscape. “From concrete step streets to chain link fences on ordinary street corners, we’re bringing art to streetscapes citywide to redefine these in-between spaces,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan in a release. “With the help of our local partners, New Yorkers are rediscovering slices of neighborhoods near and far through colorful artwork that makes these places more attractive, welcoming destinations for everyone.” ARTfarm was built by local school children, community residents, and Architecture for Humanity volunteers and will be in place for eleven months.  The installation is located on Step Street at 165th Street and Carroll Place in the Bronx.
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More Construction Canvases Downtown, Still No UrbanShed
The Downtown Alliance unveiled "Restore the View" today, the latest installation in its re:Construction program, which gussies up downtown construction fencing. The program began in 2007 and has gotten bigger each year, with five installations done earlier this summer and now three from Pasquarelli, the first artist to conceive of more than one. "Restore the View" just went up over the weekend at the site of Fitterman Hall, across from 7 WTC. "Secret Gardens" will mask road construction on Chambers Street and "Hours of the Day" is going up on a plaza across from the new W Hotel on Washington Street. Not only is it nice that the Alliance is concerned with how these sites look, but it means there is a lot of work still going on downtown. Still, one project is conspicuously missing, and that is the Urban Umbrella, the winner of last winter's UrbanShed competition. UrbanShed was launched by the DOB and the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects with the goal of redesigning those ubiquitous construction sheds that must be set up at even minor construction or renovation sites. The hope was to make something more transparent and accessible, something apparently achieved by the Urban Umbrella. Apparently because the new construction shed was to be installed some time this summer at one of Lower Manhattan's multiple construction sites. So far nothing. James Yolles of the Alliance said it should be up by October, DOB said year's end. Still no word on why there have been delays, but it's too bad because who is going to want to huddle together on a blustery fall day for the ribbon cutting?

Santiago Calatrava's Lower Manhattan PATH Station begins to takes flight
It'll be at least 4 years before Santiago Calatrava's scaled-back, over-budget World Trade Center PATH station is completed (though as our upcoming feature on Lower Manhattan showcases, everything's been a long time coming, but it seems to have finally arrived). Still, from the start of the interminable process, we've had some of the flashiest renderings around to tuck us in at night. Now comes an illustrated video courtesy the Journal's Metropolis blog that gives us our clearest view yet of just what's planned, as well as what Calatrava meant when he told the New Yorker a while back that he was striving for something akin to Grand Central—a truly great room where the interiors, not the exteriors, would be what truly matters. If this video is any indication, despite all the cutbacks, he's succeeded grandly.
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New York designers Nicing, Icing stalled sites
Construction may not be expected to pick up until next year, but the city is already prepping for it with the UrbanCanvas program, for which registration closes Monday. The Department of Buildings and Department of Cultural Affairs are seeking out designers and artists to create new scaffolding, fencing, and other otherwise unsightly construction protections, of which there are nearly 1 million linear feet. If that's not enough, ArtBridge, a Chelsea non-profit, is pursuing a similar program, albeit just with the overhead scaffolding—which are also due for a redesign—though ArtBridge submissions are due tomorrow, so get cracking. And should you be not a designer but a building, or more accurately empty lot, owner looking an alternative way to dress up your site, consider Woods Bagot's Icebergs. As the firm describes them:
The design uses a modular and reusable steel frame, wrapped in translucent polycarbonate panels at grade and topped by infl ated pillows of super-lightweight ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene). One-tenth the weight of a conventional taxpayer building and able to be erected and dismantled in days, Icebergs deliver speed to market, reduce labor costs, and minimize future development hurdles. Icebergs achieve these economies by optimizing two of earth’s most affordable materials: air and light. The translucent roof is made of self-cleaning polymer sheets, one percent the weight of glass, and air-filled to form rigid “pillows”. These pillows are supported by “air beams”—used in airplane emergency slides and lightweight tents—to create the iconic pyramid forms that shed rain and snow.
The Icebergs could transform hundreds of vacant sites here and around the world into events spaces. It's a great idea. Until the buildings comes back. Which can't come soon enough.
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Snohetta Takes Broadway with Times Square Repairs
While it was nearly hot enough to fry in egg in Times Square Tuesday, things have since cooled off a bit, and not simply because the temperature dropped back into double digits. Today the city's Department of Transportation began installing in the public plazas Molly Dilworth's 18-month installation, "Cool Water, Hot Island," which will not only prettify the eight newish plazas with an abstracted heat map of the city but also reflect some sunlight, making for a more comfortable experience. Meanwhile, DOT along with the Department of Design and Construction announced that it had selected Nordic knockouts Snøhetta as the lead designer for the long-term transformation of the square. The selection of Snøhetta is not exactly a surprise, as it is one of the eight firms in the city's Design + Construction Excellence program, from which DOT had already said it would make its choice because it streamlines the design process as the firms are prequalified. Yet it was Snøhetta's experience outside the city that helped win it the commission. “It is a classic New York story that reconstruction of the ‘Crossroads of the World’ will be led by a firm with an international reputation for creative vision and excellence,” DDC commissioner David Burney said in a statement. Snøhetta's preference for public art, landscape design, and sustainability may have played a role in its winning the commission. Still, the nature of the project is rather new to the firm, most of its successes having come through buildings such as the Library of Alexandria and Oslo Opera House, though both are incredibly public in their nature, so Snøhetta should prove a good, and certainly interesting fit, as its work at Ground Zero has shown. Joining the Oslo- and New York-based firm on the design team are WXY Architecture and Design, Weidlinger Associates (engineers), Mathews Nielsen (landscape), Billings Jackson Design (industrial), and Bexel (audio-visual), all of whom are Excellence program participants. The design work is just beginning, with no time line or budget yet set for its unveiling, according to a DOT spokesperson, though the plan remains to begin construction in 2012. The firms will be responsible for improving the pedestrian experience in the plazas as well as the infrastructure for the various events held in Times Square throughout the year. "Our goal is to improve the quality and atmosphere of this historic site for pedestrians and bicyclists while also allowing for efficient transportation flow for the betterment of the city,” said Craig Dykers, head of Snohetta's New York office and its co-founder. And in more Molly Dilworth news, online art gallery Art We Love is selling a series of seven prints for 15 bucks a pop.

Some Serious Equipment
It would appear the Second Avenue Subway is really, truly happening. Not to have doubted all the construction work that's gone on so far, but we have been-there-done-that about half-a-dozen times over the past century. Now, however, the 200-ton Cutter Head has arrived, the main piece of the Tunnel Boring Machine that will begin carving out the tunnels for the first phase of the new line. The MTA posted some pretty cool pics of the device, including the one above, on its Facebook page. And if that weren't socially networked enough, there's a YouTube flick of the thing being lowered underground with a soundtrack that sounds oddly like that of a softcore sex scene in some '90s movie. Second Avenue Sagas points out that this is largely "symbolic," as the real challenge, technically and fiscally, is not digging but building the lines and stations. That said, we still wonder if all this money wouldn't be better spent on maintaining service than pushing ahead with capital projects, even if it does mean their nth death. While you ponder, the flick and more pics after the jump.
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New and Not So New
Bloomberg (left) and Walder check out a new 7-Train station. Hopefully it won't leak like recent MTA projects. (Courtesy Office of the Mayor) On a day when the MTA announced that its budget shortfall may now surpass $400 million as last year's payroll tax is bringing in even less revenue than expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg began his day underground. He and MTA chief Jay Walder were touring a new station underway at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, the terminus of the underway 7-Train extension. At least during boom times, the project was seen as a boon to residential development on the Far West Side. Now, with construction limited and the MTA in desperate need of money, transit advocates like the Straphanger's Campaign and the City Council continue to call for tapping capital funds—namely stimulus set-asides—to help cover the gap. And if two recent projects are any indication, maybe that's not a bad idea. Perhaps, on their way to today's photo op, Bloomberg or Walder picked up a copy of amNY. Therein, they would have seen reports by Heather Hadon detailing leaks at two recently completed MTA projects, South Ferry and Cortlandt Street stations, both of which are said to be leaking. If this is where all that capital money is going, perhaps we'd be better off with more trains, albeit dingier ones. The MTA and others insist that using capital funds is only a stop gap solution, while the MTA needs real, sustainable reform. This may be true, but it would help if the work that was getting done weren't so shoddy. What'll people think when the Starn brother's mural starts to run. Or the fancy new BRT buses catch a flat?

Break On Through
The good news continues for mass transit, as the MTA announced today that the first phase of construction on the extension of the 7 Train has been completed, stretching from 26th to 34th steets, where trains will be housed as they shuttle back-and-forth between the West Side and Flushing, Queens. The Bloomberg administration, which is paying for the $2.1 billion project, put together this nice video to help demonstrate the subterranean, and thus often invisible, work. It's the kind of stuff New York mag is calling in its annual roundup a reason to love the city: our perseverance on such mighty projects, past falterings be damned. And yet, these are exactly the kinds of capital expenditures some transit advocates are hoping to cut into to stave off the MTA's budget crunch. Will the next stop be to stop?
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The Newest LA Award Show
The Urban Land Institute LA’s inaugural LARC (Los Angeles Real Creativity) Awards was not your average design show. Mistress of ceremonies Frances Anderton, the host of KCRW’s “Design and Architecture," set a light tone that discouraged back slapping and the stodgy speeches that often accompany such congratulatory musings.  As dinner was served by Wolfgang Puck, guests seated at tables in the lobby of Wayne Ratkovich’s recently renovated William Pereira building at 5900 Wilshire were treated to a crash course in some of LA’s most innovative projects.  And the winners were: In the Design Category, recognizing projects still in the conceptual stage, the Hollywood Cap Park took the award (which, by the way, was a Tiffany Frank Gehry designed paper weight).  Conceived 25 years ago and recently revived, a 44-acre park would “cap” the 101 Freeway from Bronson Avenue to Santa Monica Boulevard. The Place Award, honoring completed buildings that have “world-changing” potential, went to the Academy of Entertainment Technology, the media campus of Santa Monica College and home to KCRW which is being designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects. YOLA – Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel won the Enterprise award in the community or social program category for its work building youth orchestras in undeserved communities. And the Big Idea award recognizing a “game-changer” went to the Imagine Mars Project initiated by JPL/NASA, which combines science, engineering and art to help children learn how to create design solutions by imagining what kind of community they would build on Mars. HONORABLE MENTIONS Design: Flower Street Bioreactor East Cahuenga Corridor Alley Place: Bert Green Fine Art for the Downtown L.A. Art Walk Maltman Bungalows New Carver Apartments (Michael Maltzman Architecture) Enterprise The Community of Mar Vista Wilson Meany Sullivan, LLP for Hollywood Park Tomorrow Idea Thinking Out of the Big Box --STACIE STUKIN
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A New Infrastructure: Jury Convenes/Winners Saturday
It finally happened! The jury for the AN/ SCI-Arc design competition A New Infrastructure: Innovative Transit Solutions For Los Angeles met at SCI-Arc on Monday to pick the winners. They selected from 75 professional and student proposals from the U.S., U.K., Estonia, Italy, and France. The winners will be announced this Saturday at 2pm at SCI-Arc (960 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles), followed by a panel with the jurors and an exhibition of the top proposals. The event is open to the public. Jury members included Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, and Neil Denari, along with Aspet Davidian, the Director of Project Engineering Facilities at LA METRO; Cecilia Estolano, Chief Executive Officer of CRA/LA; Gail Goldberg, Los Angeles Director of Planning; Roland Genik, Urban Planner and Transit Designer; and Geoff Wardle, Director of Advanced Mobility Research at Art Center College of Design. And after seven hours, two meals, hundreds of discussions, and over 150 boards (ranging from highly practical to intensely surreal), the group picked its top choices. Hats off to them for their herculean effort! Come downtown on Saturday to see the winners and to enjoy the festivities!
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The Real McCoy
During an unrelated call earlier today, Craig Dykers, head of Snohetta's New York office and the man behind the 9/11 memorial pavilion, divulged that he was rather disappointed with the renderings that the city released last week to widespread fanfare. It's bad enough that the design has been scaled back--like everything else on the site--but Dykers said that officials also went behind the firm's back to have the renderings done. He was then kind enough to send along some model shots he greatly prefers. Check 'em out after the jump.