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LOOKING AND BUILDING IN ALL THE RIGHT PLACES
Downtown Los Angeles is thriving in unexpected places. It`s not the new, multi-billion dollar projects and sweeping conversions of old bank buildings into posh lofts that are invigorating the famously sleepy city core. It`s the old, scruffy 1920`s streets and the life that fills them. Greg Goldin interprets the scene..



Olivo barbieri / courtesy yancey richardson gallery
Italian photographer Olivio Barbien`s site specific_LOS ANGELES (2005)

Downtown Los Angeles is misunderstood. To most observers, there is no there there. Like the rest of the great metropolis, downtown is amorphous, indecipherable, a suburb in reverse that is occupied by day and empty by night. Yes, we`ve got the Frank Gehryydesigned Walt Disney Concert Hallla crown jewel to rival any city`s crown jewel. (And, don`t forget, ours was designed first, before Bilbao!) But the concert hall stands in singular aloneness, surrounded by parking lots, drab government behemoths, and piles of granite and glass tombstones occupied by elite bankers and law firms. What L.A. needs now is some big-time infill.

To an extent, this is underway. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation estimated in February that there has been $12.2 billion worth of built and planned construction in the downtown area since 1999. Lofts and condos are hot. More than 26,000 new residential units have been added since 2000. Thanks to an Adaptive Reuse Ordinance that eased the city`s regulations for restoring older buildings, historic properties are being converted at an unprecedented rate. The city has a new cathedral by Rafael Moneo and a new state transit building by Thom Mayne of Morphosis, while an arts school by Wolf Prix is the works. Meanwhile, local firm Rios Clemente Hale is designing a 40,000-square-foot plaza to anchor a 3.8-million-square-foot hotel-cum-mall-cum-residential-complex, known as L.A. Live!, adjoining the Staples Center, home court of the Lakers. The arena, which follows the nationwide trend of stadiums returning to cities` downtowns, is credited with a spurt of big-box growth at the south end of downtown since its opening in 1999.

Still, the view of a neglected and empty downtown persists because the city`s civic leaders, their developer patrons, and their acolytes in the press remain committed to transforming the admittedly grim but prominent civic center, which sits relatively removed from the rest of downtown, at the top of Bunker Hill. Bunker Hill has suffered more from the misguided attention of city bigwigs and planners than perhaps any neighborhood in Los Angeles. In 1961, bulldozers began clearing hundreds of flophouses, SROs, fine Victorian homes, and small shopssthe very things that made it a genuine, lively community. More than 10,000 residents were displaced. In one way or another, the city has been trying to get them back ever since, but 50 years of urban renewal has produced an eyesore and an international embarrassment. This is the downtownn that gets all the attention, and is frequently mistaken for the city`s real, other, downtown.


olivio barbieri/coutesy yancey richardson gallery
Italian photographer Olivio Barbieri`s site specific_LOS ANGELES (2005)

Unfortunately, this predicament is perpetuated by relentless efforts to pour more capital into Bunker Hill. The latest, a $1.8 billion scheme, was given the official seal of approval in late April when, after nearly two years of anticipation, Gehry unveiled a design for what is called the Grand Avenue Project. The private-public development, headed by New Yorkkbased The Related Companies, aims to transform Grand Avenue into a destination not only for downtown but for the entire region,, in the words of one leading public official. When it`s all completed, we`re going to have Gehry in stereo,, he boasted.

Whether Gehry in stereo can convert a 9-to-5 bureaucratic stronghold into a 24/7 boomtown is anyone`s guess. Still, the mistake is one of interpretation. Downtown Los Angeles has several centers. Bunker Hill, which is cut off from the rest of downtown by geography and freeways, is a hilltop governmental-cultural ghetto. The action, as a more sober Frank Gehry used to admit, is elsewhere. (Gehry once famously said that if the choice had been his own, he would have built Disney Hall somewhere along Wilshire Boulevard. That street, which connects downtown to the beaches in Santa Monica, is, as Gehry said, our true downtown, only it`s vertical..)

Downslope from Bunker Hill is Broadway, L.A.`s oldest main street. You can`t find a stronger contrast to the arid altiplano rising several blocks to the west. Broadway is teeming. You can get your shoes shined on the street. You can pop into the Grand Central Market and stand at a counter to snack on marinated cabbage and gorditas. You can stroll the wide, bustling sidewalks, in search of a fedora or a wedding gown. You can get married on Broadway, and pick-pocketed, too. You can buy bootlegged Mexican movies and tiny packets of Chiclets chewing gum.

Broadway bustles because it has hundreds of ground-floor shops, tightly spaceddlike any good main drag. And as John Kamp, a local city planner points out, Broadway is also successful because it has so many bus stops. People come to Broadway because it is part of their everyday trajectory through the city, not a special trip to an unlikely destination.. The crowds justify high rents, which in some cases are higher per square foot than on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

A bit further south and east is another area on the rise, the Fashion District, which borders Skid Row. In the past several years, the neighborhood has sprung to life with none of the fanfare or money heaped on Grand Avenue. The district has, in fact, benefited by being overlooked. A vestigial industrial zone where building owners are not required to have front yards, rear yards, or other setbacks, it contains a large stock of urban-friendly buildings. Buildings typically have multiple entrances. One, on the 800 block of South Main Street, has 14. Others might have a dozen small storefronts in the span of 150 feet of sidewalk frontage. The pedestrian-friendly scale allowed wholesalers to open their doors to retail. While garment workers sew upstairs, fashionistas ply the streets below, hunting for cheap knock-offs and bargain trendy buys. Here, too, rents rival those on Broadway. Buildings are selling for as much as $570 a square foot.

These are but two examples of other downtowns. There are still others, such as Little Tokyo and the nearby Arts District, Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, and Boyle Heights. These parts are thriving not because someone has managed to give them a theme but because visually interesting, authentic, aurally stimulating businesses are pressed hard against the sidewalks. These are the parts of downtown Los Angeles that have never been relieved of the compression that brings urban life to the surface. Check them out, and you will see that Los Angeles has a downtown. It`s just not where you`re told to find it.
Greg Goldin is the architecture critic at Los Angeles Magazine and a regular contributor to the L.A. Weekly. He guest-edited this issue of AN.


FRANK GEHRY, KING OF THE HILL
In 1980, Frank Gehry was one of the more modest members of the "L.A. Dream Team" assembled to develop a visionary, but ultimately unrealized scheme to redevelop what remained of Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles, whose decaying Victorian mansions had been bulldozed 20 years before in the name of urban renewal. He was still regarded as an outsider seven years later when he won the competition to design Walt Disney Concert Hall in the same Grand Avenue area. Now he`s back as king of this particular hill, with schematic designs for the site he tried to reshape two decades ago.


bart bartholomew
Gehry Partners` proposal for Grand Avenue.

The popular and critical success of Disney Hall has endeared Gehry to the suits who run downtown, and their new bad boy is Thom Mayne, whose Caltrans building and iconoclastic approach to urban planning they consider dangerously radical. It`s their loss, and they`ll probably catch up, even if it takes 20 yearssjust as they did with Gehry, who has finally gained acceptance in his hometown.

The current iteration of the Grand Avenue Project attempts the same lively mix of uses and attractions as proposed by the original developer, the Maguire Partners and their Dream Team in 1980. Defying all the conventions of urban development, they wove together contributions by different architects, including a plaza by Gehry, a highrise residential tower by Barton Myer, an office tower by Cesar Pelli, a hotel-condo block by Ricardo Legorreta, fanciful pavilions by Charles Moore, a modern art museum by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, and landscaping by Lawrence Halprin. The plan included contrasting buildings surrounded by walkways, fountains, and greenery.

The proposal was widely acclaimed by the public and in the architecture press, but the Community Redevelopment Agency, a hapless band of amateurs, preferred Arthur Erickson`s sleek office towers. His scheme was a series of isolated objects with no connective tissue, and which failed to engage the street. The featured public amenity was Arata Isozaki`s Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), but this was pushed below the street so as not to block the view of a shopping center on the site beyonddan element that was never built.

Twenty-five years later, Gehry is back, and has released a preliminary design that includes two L-plan towerssone of offices, the other for a hotel and condossthat act as frames for Disney Hall and a 250,000-square-foot retail-restaurant complex. This is the first of three phases in the $1.8 billion project, which will eventually comprise eight towers and a 16-acre park, to be designed by a team including the firms Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Levin & Associates. (Mayne was part of that team but was dropped by the developer, New Yorkkbased The Related Companies, in April 2005 for artistic differences. He was later replaced by Gehry, one of the initial competitors.)

Gehry`s May presentation at Disney Hall consisted of little more than a massing diagram. As it stands, there are no expressive gestures, and he offered few hints of how the scheme would be fleshed out. Skeptics wondered how great an influence The Related Companies would have on the design, and the extent to which it would be driven by retail imperatives. The ongoing fiasco at Ground Zero has undoubtedly reinforced a widespread cynicism about the contest between architecture and profit. (Gehry famously refused to submit a proposal for the original planning competition for the World Trade Center site, a decision that now looks incredibly prescient.) There is also the issue of whether one architect, however brilliant, can achieve unity and diversity through such an ambitious development, or whether parts should be delegated to other designers as in the old Maguire scheme.

The largest question, and one that will not be answered for at least a decade, is whether the Grand Avenue Project will animate the neighborhood as most downtown improvements have failed to do. In the wake of its loss on Bunker Hill, the developer, now called Maguire-Thomas Partners, spurred a redesign of Pershing Square, which had become as blighted as New York`s Tompkins Square Park. Legorreta understood how Mexican plazas work and landscape designer Laurie Olin drew on Rittenhouse Square, a lively oasis in his native Philadelphia. The block-sized park was opened to the street, colorful structures beckon pedestrians, but few enter except to retrieve their cars from the underground garage. As Robert Venturi once observed, Americans are reluctant to sit in outdoor public places except to eat and be entertained, and the city authorities failed to provide concession stands or programming. Even the crowds of shoppers a block east on Broadway ignored this one patch of greenery in east-central L.A. What does that say for the chances of the new park included in Gehry`s scheme?

Grand Avenue links some of the city`s most cherished public buildings, including the classic Central Library, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Disney Hall, as well as the Colburn Music School and the aloof citadels of the Music Center and Rafael Moneo`s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Even Disney Hall, everyone`s favorite new civic icon, hasn`t noticeably boosted foot traffic on the street, and most concertgoers arrive by escalator from the underground parking garage. The residential population of downtown has boomed over the last decade, and there has been a flurry of loft conversions and new apartment blocks. Urban homesteaders need shopping and services, but will they find those in the new retail center? For the newly crowned Gehry, this may be the toughest challenge of his 50-year career.
Michael Webb is a Los Angeles-based architecture critic whose most recent book is Adventurous Wine Architecture (Images Publishing, 2005).


IF YOU ADAPT IT, WILL THEY COME?
For more than 20 years, downtown Los Angeles has been the exclusive playground of bohemian artist-types who perferred cheap rents to Trauslen refrigerators and anonymity to swank eateries. not anymore. Downtown L.A. is slowly evolving into a collection of distinct neighborhoods each touting new high-end condominium and apartment conversion projects complete with rooftop swimming pools and fitness centers. You can even find an occassional cup of concrete-floored, skylit loft to your glass-enclosed office tower.

Newly minted lawyers, businessmen, and accountants, raking in mega starting salaries, think downtown will be a hot real estate market for years to come. Maybe it`s a chicken-and-egg situation, but they`re signing on to long waiting lists or pre-purchasing units before construction has even started. When the historic Douglas Building Lofts, renovated by Rockefeller Partners Architects, went on the market in 20044nearly 18 months before the Spring Street property was completeddall 50 units sold within a week. At the Flower Street Lofts, one of the first residential developments in the South Park district, several of the original buyers took advantage of the appreciating market and flipped their units within a year of purchase.

Emboldened by what appears to be an insatiable appetite for urban living, developers continue to increase unit prices, even as the rest of the L.A. market begins to flatten out. According to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID), in the first quarter of 2006 the average cost per square foot was $547.80, an astonishing 18.8 percent increase from last year at the same time. The market, in other words, is booming. Since 1999 nearly 7,000 new condominiums and apartments have been created in downtown Los Angeles. If all goes as projected by the DCBID, there will be nearly 20,000 more by 2015.

But, as the residents and workers in downtown Vancouver have learned, a thriving community won`t necessarily emerge just because you`ve built and occupied thousands of new units. Although one is in the works, up to now, there hasn`t been a grocery store downtown for decadessand Citarella or Whole Foods are far from the drawing boards. And no such thing as Sarabeth`s Kitchen or Frette is even imagined. Add to this a lack of community and no green space and downtown had little more to offer than lofty spaces with skyline views. Developers have worked to remedy this by enticing cafes and small businesses to open in the ground floors of residential developments, while others are creating courtyards and rooftop recreation areas. The uncertain promise is that there`s more to comeeenough to lure buyers out of the suburbs and into the core.

Clearly, an influx of new homeowners and businesses in downtown will be an economic boon for the city, but for the thousands of poor and homeless living in the area`s shelters and low-cost residential hotels, gentrification means one thing: eviction. Already, developers have converted several of the 240 hotels (many of them functioning as SROs) into market-rate apartments and condominiums. Fearful that more of the downtown poor will be displaced, the Los Angeles City Council recently approved a one-year moratorium on the conversion or demolition of low-cost hotels citywide, with the option for an extension. In an effort to further help the transient poor, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proposed a $1 billion bond measure to pay for subsidized apartments. The funds would cover housing as well as social services. And other plans to bring improvements downtown are in the works. In March, L.A. County officials unveiled a $100 million campaign that would house the estimated 14,000 homeless concentrated on downtown`s Skid Row by expanding much needed countywide programs and providing more emergency and transitional housing, and health services. The campaign is part of a $12 billion investment plan to build 50,000 housing units countywide over a ten-year span.

Ten years ago nobody would have believed any of this was possible. And had it not been for the new public icons, Disney Concert Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Staples Center, it might not have been. And while major cultural and entertainment projects are no doubt paramount in a successful urban environment, the most important ingredient of all is the local population, be they new condo owners, low-income transients, factory workers, or artists. Finding a way for all income levels to thrive in the new downtown will be the challenge of city officials and developers.
Allison Milionis is a freelance writer living and working in Downtown Los Angeles.

mill street lofts
1820 Industrial Street
The Los Angeles office of German firm Behnisch Architects has designed one of the first ground-up, loft-style buildings in an area filled with adaptive re-use projects. We realized early on that because of the low scale of the surrounding buildings, if you built up you could offer amazing views of downtown,, said project architect Christof Jantzen. The building, developed by local firm LinearCity, stands 16 stories high and contains what Jantzen describes as eight different unit types,, ranging from 650 to 2,100 square feet and including single-, double-, and triple-story condos, some following the inverted L-shaped configurations that Le Corbusier used in his L`Unitt d`habitation in Marseilles.


Behnisch Architects

In keeping with the spirit of the industrial loft conversions that surround the project, the project has a concrete structure with exposed concrete floors, tall ceilings, and large windows. The materials and fixtures used throughout will be sheet metal, fiber cement, and pre-cast concrete panelssall sustainable materials. In addition, operable windows, indirect sun-orientation, a gray-water treatment system, and a passive-cooling ventilation system might just earn the developer the LEED-rating it seeks. Adjacent to the 16-story highrise, a smaller set of townhousess shares the same material vocabulary as the loft building, though with more privacy.

I think the developers need to be highly praised for what they`re doing,, said Jantzen. They have a vision for the area that will transform it into a great neighborhood.. In 2004, LinearCity also developed and sold lofts in an adjacent building, the ToY Factory, and is engaged in another adaptive reuse project across the street, the Biscuit Company Lofts by Aleks Istanbullu Architects.

Biscuit company lofts
673 Mateo Street
When Paul Solomon, founder of the development group LinearCity, called Los Angeles- based Aleks Istanbullu Architects to transform a pre-existing factory into residential condos, the architect knew immediately that he wanted to do something different from a standard conversion. He wanted to design loft spaces that vary in size, plan, and character throughout the boxy building, a 1925 biscuit-baking factory formerly owned by the manufacturer Nabisco.


courtesy aleks istanbullu architects

The site comprises the 110,000 square-foot, seven-story main structure and a single-story annex; Istanbullu will add an additional floor to each, increasing the total square footage to 153,000 square feet. On the main building, Istanbullu created a large penthouse with extensive outdoor space. He transformed the existing annex into a set of three-story row houses by carving out a mezzanine and adding a floor.

According to Istanbullu, the architects decided to use the contrast approachh on the additions, by which he means making clear the distinction between old and new. The penthouse and the top floor of the annex are constructed out of steel, stone, and glass, though the colors were chosen to complement the brick building below. It will remain largely intact, though Istanbullu adjusted the circulation to create irregular interior spaces. I really wanted variety, to find and create unique units,, said Istanbullu. Although the building is a box, by shaping the hallways in an odd configuration, I could get a lot of plan varieties.. New structural walls in the core of the building were installed to bring it up to building code, while some pre-existing, non-load-bearing walls were removed to keep a feeling of openness.

The interiors will be minimally outfitteddmost won`t even include a refrigeratorrdominated by the pre-existing inch-thick maple floors, brick walls, and copper details. Like luxury loft-style condominiumns in New York City, prices will likely attract a wealthy clientele.

vibinia lofts
114 East 2nd Street
In 1996, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles initiated demolition of the 17,000-square-foot St. Vibiana Cathedral, its home since 1876, sparking a heated preservation battle that ultimately left it untouched and now the cornerstone of a major $120 million, 468,000 square-foot mixed-use development project by Los Angeles developer Tom Gilmore.


Courtesy Tom Gilmore

According to Gilmore, the Los Angeles Conservancy, a local preservation organization, approached him in 1997 and asked for assistance in purchasing the property, which includes a 2.5-acre lotta full city block. With money lent (somewhat ironically) by the Archdiocese itself, Gilmore bought the property for $4.6 million, pledging to restore the cathedral and ensure an active future for it.

Gilmore came to an agreement with the California State University to convert the cathedral into a performing arts space downtown, a plan that earned $4 million from the state toward the cost of restoration and seismic retrofitting.

I am an adamant urbanist,, said Gilmore, adding, I`m not a fan of little disconnected venues; I am all for density.. By transferring air rights from the cathedral and its connected refectory, Gilmore could plan a series of small mixed-use buildings and a 41-story residential highrise spread out throughout the site. We`re staggering the buildings and utilizing setbacks in order to create a pedestrian-friendly environment,, said Gilmore. Gilmore and his partner, Richard Weintraub, hired local architecture firm Nadel Architects to design the project, who began with massing diagrams to plan the site. The bottom line is that the skin and profile are less important than massing in a project of this scale,, Gilmore pointed out.

The $8 million restoration of the cathedral was completed last year, overseen by local preservation experts Levin & Associates Architects. The rest of the project is still in designnGilmore notes that the preliminary renderings are more flashy than I`d like to see themm?as the project goes through planning and zoning. Gilmore hopes the tower, which will have 2,200 square feet of ground-level retail fronting a parking garage, will break ground in the beginning of 2007 and be completed in 2009.

Fuller Lofts
210 North San Fernando Road
One of the more notable adaptive-reuse conversions downtown is Santa Monicaabased Pugh + Scarpa Architects` restoration of the 1927 Fuller Pink Company, a former office building and a relic of L.A.`s art deco moment. Though not an official landmark, it sports stunning details, including pilasters, sculpted floral bas reliefs, and according to principal architect Gwen Pugh, a wonderfully preserved lobby..


courtesy pugh + scarpa architect

Pugh + Scarpa has restored the five-floor, 151,000-square-foot building and added two additional floors, creating a total of 102 units. The architects cored out the center of the concrete building in order to create a 40-foot-wide lightwell and room for a small interior courtyard. The rooftop addition has its own identity, clad in glass and corrugated metal. On the building`s north side, the metal cladding undulates in plan, contrasting with the cube on which it is perchedda gesture that, according to Pugh, is intended to divorce the skin from the boxx and make the original building`s undecorated north facade more interesting.. On all sides, irregularly placed balconies, resembling constructivist boxes, further disrupt the original building`s simple planarity.

The Lincoln Heights district is roughly 2 miles from downtown, in an area that`s still largely undeveloped (parking lots and empty plots far outnumber supermarkets). According to Pugh, the Fuller Lofts is the only project in the immediate vicinity that has been motivated by the city`s new Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, which the city adopted in 1999 (and greatly expanded in 2003) in order to lure businesses downtown.


CIVICS LESSON
Frank Gehry`s Walt Disney Concert Hall, Rafael Moneo`s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Thom Mayne`s Caltrans headquarters have changed the way Angelenos understand their downtown. Spectacular, freewheeling, and deeply moving, these buildings have drawn crowds and made architecture relevant, and perhaps essential. So why haven`t more of the new public buildings followed suit? In the preceding decades, John Portman`s Bonaventure Hotel epitomized L.A.`s style, which typically meant being walled off from the street, virtually impenetrable, and wrapped in a one-way mirror. Now public buildings are increasingly incorporating plazas, street-level portals, and transparent facades. Though many public buildings still embrace the bunker mentality, it might reflect bad planning and site selection as much as architectural design: The city still has the habit of plopping security-conscious buildings cheek-by-jowl to public-conscious ones. Whole street elevations are permitted to go unarticulated and turn a barren carapace to neighbors. Several new public projects reveal how far L.A. has come, and how far it has to go.

central los angeles area
High School #9

450 North Grand Avenue


armin heiss / isochrom / courtesy coop himmelb(l)au

After the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Coop Himmelb(l)au`s High School for the Visual and Performing Arts may be one of the most dramatic structures to be completed in downtown L.A. The new structure, which began construction in March and is scheduled to openin 2008, will feature a dramatic glass and steel lobby and house 1,728 music, dance, visual and performing arts students. Estimated to cost $208 million, the signature feature of the school will be a 140-foot-tall tower that will give students a clear view of the adjacent Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

los angeles united states
Courthouse

First Street and Broadway


courtesy perkins and will
In 2001, Perkins + Will won a commission from the General Services Administration to design a 1,000,000-square-foot couthouse in downtown L.A. The 16-story building features approximately 40 courtrooms with floor-to-floor heights of 19 feet, along with some administrative office space and an expansive ground-floor atrium. Sustainability was crucial for the client and designers: Photovoltaic panels comprise about 50 percent of the large curving glass facade, under-floor circulation systems minimize heating and cooling costs, and clerestory windows throughout the courtrooms bring in natural daylight. The building is in still in design and construction should begin in mid to late 2007.

Los angeles police department headquarters
First and Main Streets


courtesy dmjm

Filling most of the block across from City Hall, the L.A.P.D.`s new headquarters went through an extensive public review process while it was under design, and ultimately incorporated the lessons of over 30 community meetings. The architects, DMJM/Roth-Shepard Design, incorporated necessarily strong security requirements such as 75-foot setbacks to surround the building with public spaces. The 500,000-square-foot building`s two above-ground volumes form an L-shape around a large plaza along First Street. The budget is set for $303 million, and construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2008.
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Looking and Building in All the Right Places

Italian photographer Olivio Barbien's site specific_LOS ANGELES (2005)

Downtown Los Angeles is misunderstood. To most observers, there is no there there. Like the rest of the great metropolis, downtown is amorphous, indecipherable, a suburb in reverse that is occupied by day and empty by night. Yes, weeve got the Frank Gehryydesigned Walt Disney Concert Hallla crown jewel to rival any cityys crown jewel. (And, donnt forget, ours was designed first, before Bilbao!) But the concert hall stands in singular aloneness, surrounded by parking lots, drab government behemoths, and piles of granite and glass tombstones occupied by elite bankers and law firms. What L.A. needs now is some big-time infill.

To an extent, this is underway. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation estimated in February that there has been $12.2 billion worth of built and planned construction in the downtown area since 1999. Lofts and condos are hot. More than 26,000 new residential units have been added since 2000. Thanks to an Adaptive Reuse Ordinance that eased the cityys regulations for restoring older buildings, historic properties are being converted at an unprecedented rate. The city has a new cathedral by Rafael Moneo and a new state transit building by Thom Mayne of Morphosis, while an arts school by Wolf Prix is the works. Meanwhile, local firm Rios Clemente Hale is designing a 40,000-square-foot plaza to anchor a 3.8-million-square-foot hotel-cum-mall-cum-residential-complex, known as L.A. Live!, adjoining the Staples Center, home court of the Lakers. The arena, which follows the nationwide trend of stadiums returning to citiess downtowns, is credited with a spurt of big-box growth at the south end of downtown since its opening in 1999.

Still, the view of a neglected and empty downtown persists because the cityys civic leaders, their developer patrons, and their acolytes in the press remain committed to transforming the admittedly grim but prominent civic center, which sits relatively removed from the rest of downtown, at the top of Bunker Hill. Bunker Hill has suffered more from the misguided attention of city bigwigs and planners than perhaps any neighborhood in Los Angeles. In 1961, bulldozers began clearing hundreds of flophouses, SROs, fine Victorian homes, and small shopssthe very things that made it a genuine, lively community. More than 10,000 residents were displaced. In one way or another, the city has been trying to get them back ever since, but 50 years of urban renewal has produced an eyesore and an international embarrassment. This is the downtownn that gets all the attention, and is frequently mistaken for the cityys real, other, downtown.


olivio barbieri/coutesy yancey richardson gallery
Italian photographer Olivio Barbieri's site specific_LOS ANGELES (2005)

Unfortunately, this predicament is perpetuated by relentless efforts to pour more capital into Bunker Hill. The latest, a $1.8 billion scheme, was given the official seal of approval in late April when, after nearly two years of anticipation, Gehry unveiled a design for what is called the Grand Avenue Project. The private-public development, headed by New Yorkkbased The Related Companies, aims to transform Grand Avenue into a destination not only for downtown but for the entire region,, in the words of one leading public official. When itts all completed, weere going to have Gehry in stereo,, he boasted.

Whether Gehry in stereo can convert a 9-to-5 bureaucratic stronghold into a 24/7 boomtown is anyonees guess. Still, the mistake is one of interpretation. Downtown Los Angeles has several centers. Bunker Hill, which is cut off from the rest of downtown by geography and freeways, is a hilltop governmental-cultural ghetto. The action, as a more sober Frank Gehry used to admit, is elsewhere. (Gehry once famously said that if the choice had been his own, he would have built Disney Hall somewhere along Wilshire Boulevard. That street, which connects downtown to the beaches in Santa Monica, is, as Gehry said, our true downtown, only itts vertical..)

Downslope from Bunker Hill is Broadway, L.A..s oldest main street. You cannt find a stronger contrast to the arid altiplano rising several blocks to the west. Broadway is teeming. You can get your shoes shined on the street. You can pop into the Grand Central Market and stand at a counter to snack on marinated cabbage and gorditas. You can stroll the wide, bustling sidewalks, in search of a fedora or a wedding gown. You can get married on Broadway, and pick-pocketed, too. You can buy bootlegged Mexican movies and tiny packets of Chiclets chewing gum.

Broadway bustles because it has hundreds of ground-floor shops, tightly spaceddlike any good main drag. And as John Kamp, a local city planner points out, Broadway is also successful because it has so many bus stops. People come to Broadway because it is part of their everyday trajectory through the city, not a special trip to an unlikely destination.. The crowds justify high rents, which in some cases are higher per square foot than on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

A bit further south and east is another area on the rise, the Fashion District, which borders Skid Row. In the past several years, the neighborhood has sprung to life with none of the fanfare or money heaped on Grand Avenue. The district has, in fact, benefited by being overlooked. A vestigial industrial zone where building owners are not required to have front yards, rear yards, or other setbacks, it contains a large stock of urban-friendly buildings. Buildings typically have multiple entrances. One, on the 800 block of South Main Street, has 14. Others might have a dozen small storefronts in the span of 150 feet of sidewalk frontage. The pedestrian-friendly scale allowed wholesalers to open their doors to retail. While garment workers sew upstairs, fashionistas ply the streets below, hunting for cheap knock-offs and bargain trendy buys. Here, too, rents rival those on Broadway. Buildings are selling for as much as $570 a square foot.

These are but two examples of other downtowns. There are still others, such as Little Tokyo and the nearby Arts District, Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, and Boyle Heights. These parts are thriving not because someone has managed to give them a theme but because visually interesting, authentic, aurally stimulating businesses are pressed hard against the sidewalks. These are the parts of downtown Los Angeles that have never been relieved of the compression that brings urban life to the surface. Check them out, and you will see that Los Angeles has a downtown. Itts just not where youure told to find it.
Greg Goldin is the architecture critic at Los Angeles Magazine and a regular contributor to the L.A. Weekly. He guest-edited this issue of AN.


FRANK GEHRY, KING OF THE HILL
In 1980, Frank Gehry was one of the more modest members of the "L.A. Dream Team" assembled to develop a visionary, but ultimately unrealized scheme to redevelop what remained of Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles, whose decaying Victorian mansions had been bulldozed 20 years before in the name of urban renewal. He was still regarded as an outsider seven years later when he won the competition to design Walt Disney Concert Hall in the same Grand Avenue area. Now he's back as king of this particular hill, with schematic designs for the site he tried to reshape two decades ago.


bart bartholomew
Gehry Partners' proposal for Grand Avenue.

The popular and critical success of Disney Hall has endeared Gehry to the suits who run downtown, and their new bad boy is Thom Mayne, whose Caltrans building and iconoclastic approach to urban planning they consider dangerously radical. Itts their loss, and theyyll probably catch up, even if it takes 20 yearssjust as they did with Gehry, who has finally gained acceptance in his hometown.

The current iteration of the Grand Avenue Project attempts the same lively mix of uses and attractions as proposed by the original developer, the Maguire Partners and their Dream Team in 1980. Defying all the conventions of urban development, they wove together contributions by different architects, including a plaza by Gehry, a highrise residential tower by Barton Myer, an office tower by Cesar Pelli, a hotel-condo block by Ricardo Legorreta, fanciful pavilions by Charles Moore, a modern art museum by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, and landscaping by Lawrence Halprin. The plan included contrasting buildings surrounded by walkways, fountains, and greenery.

The proposal was widely acclaimed by the public and in the architecture press, but the Community Redevelopment Agency, a hapless band of amateurs, preferred Arthur Ericksonns sleek office towers. His scheme was a series of isolated objects with no connective tissue, and which failed to engage the street. The featured public amenity was Arata Isozakiis Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), but this was pushed below the street so as not to block the view of a shopping center on the site beyonddan element that was never built.

Twenty-five years later, Gehry is back, and has released a preliminary design that includes two L-plan towerssone of offices, the other for a hotel and condossthat act as frames for Disney Hall and a 250,000-square-foot retail-restaurant complex. This is the first of three phases in the $1.8 billion project, which will eventually comprise eight towers and a 16-acre park, to be designed by a team including the firms Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Levin & Associates. (Mayne was part of that team but was dropped by the developer, New Yorkkbased The Related Companies, in April 2005 for artistic differences. He was later replaced by Gehry, one of the initial competitors.)

Gehryys May presentation at Disney Hall consisted of little more than a massing diagram. As it stands, there are no expressive gestures, and he offered few hints of how the scheme would be fleshed out. Skeptics wondered how great an influence The Related Companies would have on the design, and the extent to which it would be driven by retail imperatives. The ongoing fiasco at Ground Zero has undoubtedly reinforced a widespread cynicism about the contest between architecture and profit. (Gehry famously refused to submit a proposal for the original planning competition for the World Trade Center site, a decision that now looks incredibly prescient.) There is also the issue of whether one architect, however brilliant, can achieve unity and diversity through such an ambitious development, or whether parts should be delegated to other designers as in the old Maguire scheme.

The largest question, and one that will not be answered for at least a decade, is whether the Grand Avenue Project will animate the neighborhood as most downtown improvements have failed to do. In the wake of its loss on Bunker Hill, the developer, now called Maguire-Thomas Partners, spurred a redesign of Pershing Square, which had become as blighted as New Yorkks Tompkins Square Park. Legorreta understood how Mexican plazas work and landscape designer Laurie Olin drew on Rittenhouse Square, a lively oasis in his native Philadelphia. The block-sized park was opened to the street, colorful structures beckon pedestrians, but few enter except to retrieve their cars from the underground garage. As Robert Venturi once observed, Americans are reluctant to sit in outdoor public places except to eat and be entertained, and the city authorities failed to provide concession stands or programming. Even the crowds of shoppers a block east on Broadway ignored this one patch of greenery in east-central L.A. What does that say for the chances of the new park included in Gehryys scheme?

Grand Avenue links some of the cityys most cherished public buildings, including the classic Central Library, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Disney Hall, as well as the Colburn Music School and the aloof citadels of the Music Center and Rafael Moneoos Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Even Disney Hall, everyonees favorite new civic icon, hasnnt noticeably boosted foot traffic on the street, and most concertgoers arrive by escalator from the underground parking garage. The residential population of downtown has boomed over the last decade, and there has been a flurry of loft conversions and new apartment blocks. Urban homesteaders need shopping and services, but will they find those in the new retail center? For the newly crowned Gehry, this may be the toughest challenge of his 50-year career.
Michael Webb is a Los Angeles-based architecture critic whose most recent book is Adventurous Wine Architecture (Images Publishing, 2005).


IF YOU ADAPT IT, WILL THEY COME?
For more than 20 years, downtown Los Angeles has been the exclusive playground of bohemian artist-types who perferred cheap rents to Trauslen refrigerators and anonymity to swank eateries. not anymore. Downtown L.A. is slowly evolving into a collection of distinct neighborhoods each touting new high-end condominium and apartment conversion projects complete with rooftop swimming pools and fitness centers. You can even find an occassional cup of concrete-floored, skylit loft to your glass-enclosed office tower.

Newly minted lawyers, businessmen, and accountants, raking in mega starting salaries, think downtown will be a hot real estate market for years to come. Maybe itts a chicken-and-egg situation, but theyyre signing on to long waiting lists or pre-purchasing units before construction has even started. When the historic Douglas Building Lofts, renovated by Rockefeller Partners Architects, went on the market in 20044nearly 18 months before the Spring Street property was completeddall 50 units sold within a week. At the Flower Street Lofts, one of the first residential developments in the South Park district, several of the original buyers took advantage of the appreciating market and flipped their units within a year of purchase.

Emboldened by what appears to be an insatiable appetite for urban living, developers continue to increase unit prices, even as the rest of the L.A. market begins to flatten out. According to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID), in the first quarter of 2006 the average cost per square foot was $547.80, an astonishing 18.8 percent increase from last year at the same time. The market, in other words, is booming. Since 1999 nearly 7,000 new condominiums and apartments have been created in downtown Los Angeles. If all goes as projected by the DCBID, there will be nearly 20,000 more by 2015.

But, as the residents and workers in downtown Vancouver have learned, a thriving community wonnt necessarily emerge just because youuve built and occupied thousands of new units. Although one is in the works, up to now, there hasnnt been a grocery store downtown for decadessand Citarella or Whole Foods are far from the drawing boards. And no such thing as Sarabethhs Kitchen or Frette is even imagined. Add to this a lack of community and no green space and downtown had little more to offer than lofty spaces with skyline views. Developers have worked to remedy this by enticing cafes and small businesses to open in the ground floors of residential developments, while others are creating courtyards and rooftop recreation areas. The uncertain promise is that therees more to comeeenough to lure buyers out of the suburbs and into the core.

Clearly, an influx of new homeowners and businesses in downtown will be an economic boon for the city, but for the thousands of poor and homeless living in the areaas shelters and low-cost residential hotels, gentrification means one thing: eviction. Already, developers have converted several of the 240 hotels (many of them functioning as SROs) into market-rate apartments and condominiums. Fearful that more of the downtown poor will be displaced, the Los Angeles City Council recently approved a one-year moratorium on the conversion or demolition of low-cost hotels citywide, with the option for an extension. In an effort to further help the transient poor, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proposed a $1 billion bond measure to pay for subsidized apartments. The funds would cover housing as well as social services. And other plans to bring improvements downtown are in the works. In March, L.A. County officials unveiled a $100 million campaign that would house the estimated 14,000 homeless concentrated on downtownns Skid Row by expanding much needed countywide programs and providing more emergency and transitional housing, and health services. The campaign is part of a $12 billion investment plan to build 50,000 housing units countywide over a ten-year span.

Ten years ago nobody would have believed any of this was possible. And had it not been for the new public icons, Disney Concert Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Staples Center, it might not have been. And while major cultural and entertainment projects are no doubt paramount in a successful urban environment, the most important ingredient of all is the local population, be they new condo owners, low-income transients, factory workers, or artists. Finding a way for all income levels to thrive in the new downtown will be the challenge of city officials and developers.
Allison Milionis is a freelance writer living and working in Downtown Los Angeles.

mill street lofts
1820 Industrial Street
The Los Angeles office of German firm Behnisch Architects has designed one of the first ground-up, loft-style buildings in an area filled with adaptive re-use projects. We realized early on that because of the low scale of the surrounding buildings, if you built up you could offer amazing views of downtown,, said project architect Christof Jantzen. The building, developed by local firm LinearCity, stands 16 stories high and contains what Jantzen describes as eight different unit types,, ranging from 650 to 2,100 square feet and including single-, double-, and triple-story condos, some following the inverted L-shaped configurations that Le Corbusier used in his LLUnitt ddhabitation in Marseilles.


Behnisch Architects

In keeping with the spirit of the industrial loft conversions that surround the project, the project has a concrete structure with exposed concrete floors, tall ceilings, and large windows. The materials and fixtures used throughout will be sheet metal, fiber cement, and pre-cast concrete panelssall sustainable materials. In addition, operable windows, indirect sun-orientation, a gray-water treatment system, and a passive-cooling ventilation system might just earn the developer the LEED-rating it seeks. Adjacent to the 16-story highrise, a smaller set of townhousess shares the same material vocabulary as the loft building, though with more privacy.

I think the developers need to be highly praised for what theyyre doing,, said Jantzen. They have a vision for the area that will transform it into a great neighborhood.. In 2004, LinearCity also developed and sold lofts in an adjacent building, the ToY Factory, and is engaged in another adaptive reuse project across the street, the Biscuit Company Lofts by Aleks Istanbullu Architects.

Biscuit company lofts
673 Mateo Street
When Paul Solomon, founder of the development group LinearCity, called Los Angeles- based Aleks Istanbullu Architects to transform a pre-existing factory into residential condos, the architect knew immediately that he wanted to do something different from a standard conversion. He wanted to design loft spaces that vary in size, plan, and character throughout the boxy building, a 1925 biscuit-baking factory formerly owned by the manufacturer Nabisco.


courtesy aleks istanbullu architects

The site comprises the 110,000 square-foot, seven-story main structure and a single-story annex; Istanbullu will add an additional floor to each, increasing the total square footage to 153,000 square feet. On the main building, Istanbullu created a large penthouse with extensive outdoor space. He transformed the existing annex into a set of three-story row houses by carving out a mezzanine and adding a floor.

According to Istanbullu, the architects decided to use the contrast approachh on the additions, by which he means making clear the distinction between old and new. The penthouse and the top floor of the annex are constructed out of steel, stone, and glass, though the colors were chosen to complement the brick building below. It will remain largely intact, though Istanbullu adjusted the circulation to create irregular interior spaces. I really wanted variety, to find and create unique units,, said Istanbullu. Although the building is a box, by shaping the hallways in an odd configuration, I could get a lot of plan varieties.. New structural walls in the core of the building were installed to bring it up to building code, while some pre-existing, non-load-bearing walls were removed to keep a feeling of openness.

The interiors will be minimally outfitteddmost wonnt even include a refrigeratorrdominated by the pre-existing inch-thick maple floors, brick walls, and copper details. Like luxury loft-style condominiumns in New York City, prices will likely attract a wealthy clientele.

vibinia lofts
114 East 2nd Street
In 1996, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles initiated demolition of the 17,000-square-foot St. Vibiana Cathedral, its home since 1876, sparking a heated preservation battle that ultimately left it untouched and now the cornerstone of a major $120 million, 468,000 square-foot mixed-use development project by Los Angeles developer Tom Gilmore.


Courtesy Tom Gilmore

According to Gilmore, the Los Angeles Conservancy, a local preservation organization, approached him in 1997 and asked for assistance in purchasing the property, which includes a 2.5-acre lotta full city block. With money lent (somewhat ironically) by the Archdiocese itself, Gilmore bought the property for $4.6 million, pledging to restore the cathedral and ensure an active future for it.

Gilmore came to an agreement with the California State University to convert the cathedral into a performing arts space downtown, a plan that earned $4 million from the state toward the cost of restoration and seismic retrofitting.

I am an adamant urbanist,, said Gilmore, adding, IIm not a fan of little disconnected venues; I am all for density.. By transferring air rights from the cathedral and its connected refectory, Gilmore could plan a series of small mixed-use buildings and a 41-story residential highrise spread out throughout the site. Weere staggering the buildings and utilizing setbacks in order to create a pedestrian-friendly environment,, said Gilmore. Gilmore and his partner, Richard Weintraub, hired local architecture firm Nadel Architects to design the project, who began with massing diagrams to plan the site. The bottom line is that the skin and profile are less important than massing in a project of this scale,, Gilmore pointed out.

The $8 million restoration of the cathedral was completed last year, overseen by local preservation experts Levin & Associates Architects. The rest of the project is still in designnGilmore notes that the preliminary renderings are more flashy than IId like to see themm?as the project goes through planning and zoning. Gilmore hopes the tower, which will have 2,200 square feet of ground-level retail fronting a parking garage, will break ground in the beginning of 2007 and be completed in 2009.

Fuller Lofts
210 North San Fernando Road
One of the more notable adaptive-reuse conversions downtown is Santa Monicaabased Pugh + Scarpa Architectss restoration of the 1927 Fuller Pink Company, a former office building and a relic of L.A..s art deco moment. Though not an official landmark, it sports stunning details, including pilasters, sculpted floral bas reliefs, and according to principal architect Gwen Pugh, a wonderfully preserved lobby..


courtesy pugh + scarpa architect

Pugh + Scarpa has restored the five-floor, 151,000-square-foot building and added two additional floors, creating a total of 102 units. The architects cored out the center of the concrete building in order to create a 40-foot-wide lightwell and room for a small interior courtyard. The rooftop addition has its own identity, clad in glass and corrugated metal. On the buildinggs north side, the metal cladding undulates in plan, contrasting with the cube on which it is perchedda gesture that, according to Pugh, is intended to divorce the skin from the boxx and make the original buildinggs undecorated north facade more interesting.. On all sides, irregularly placed balconies, resembling constructivist boxes, further disrupt the original buildinggs simple planarity.

The Lincoln Heights district is roughly 2 miles from downtown, in an area thatts still largely undeveloped (parking lots and empty plots far outnumber supermarkets). According to Pugh, the Fuller Lofts is the only project in the immediate vicinity that has been motivated by the cityys new Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, which the city adopted in 1999 (and greatly expanded in 2003) in order to lure businesses downtown.


CIVICS LESSON
Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, Rafael Moneoos Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Thom Maynees Caltrans headquarters have changed the way Angelenos understand their downtown. Spectacular, freewheeling, and deeply moving, these buildings have drawn crowds and made architecture relevant, and perhaps essential. So why havennt more of the new public buildings followed suit? In the preceding decades, John Portmanns Bonaventure Hotel epitomized L.A..s style, which typically meant being walled off from the street, virtually impenetrable, and wrapped in a one-way mirror. Now public buildings are increasingly incorporating plazas, street-level portals, and transparent facades. Though many public buildings still embrace the bunker mentality, it might reflect bad planning and site selection as much as architectural design: The city still has the habit of plopping security-conscious buildings cheek-by-jowl to public-conscious ones. Whole street elevations are permitted to go unarticulated and turn a barren carapace to neighbors. Several new public projects reveal how far L.A. has come, and how far it has to go.

central los angeles area
High School #9

450 North Grand Avenue


armin heiss / isochrom / courtesy coop himmelb(l)au

After the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Coop Himmelb(l)auus High School for the Visual and Performing Arts may be one of the most dramatic structures to be completed in downtown L.A. The new structure, which began construction in March and is scheduled to openin 2008, will feature a dramatic glass and steel lobby and house 1,728 music, dance, visual and performing arts students. Estimated to cost $208 million, the signature feature of the school will be a 140-foot-tall tower that will give students a clear view of the adjacent Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

los angeles united states
Courthouse

First Street and Broadway


courtesy perkins and will
In 2001, Perkins + Will won a commission from the General Services Administration to design a 1,000,000-square-foot couthouse in downtown L.A. The 16-story building features approximately 40 courtrooms with floor-to-floor heights of 19 feet, along with some administrative office space and an expansive ground-floor atrium. Sustainability was crucial for the client and designers: Photovoltaic panels comprise about 50 percent of the large curving glass facade, under-floor circulation systems minimize heating and cooling costs, and clerestory windows throughout the courtrooms bring in natural daylight. The building is in still in design and construction should begin in mid to late 2007.

Los angeles police department headquarters
First and Main Streets


courtesy dmjm

Filling most of the block across from City Hall, the L.A.P.D..s new headquarters went through an extensive public review process while it was under design, and ultimately incorporated the lessons of over 30 community meetings. The architects, DMJM/Roth-Shepard Design, incorporated necessarily strong security requirements such as 75-foot setbacks to surround the building with public spaces. The 500,000-square-foot buildinggs two above-ground volumes form an L-shape around a large plaza along First Street. The budget is set for $303 million, and construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2008.

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GUIDING LIGHT

GLOW IN THE PARK

In Houston, an urban lighting scheme encourages people to look at the moon and stars

New York–based consultancy L'Observatoire International has taken an unusual approach to designing a lighting scheme for a public park in Houston, Texas: Rather than illuminate what's below, the lighting draws attention to the night sky. The design is part of a larger $15 million revitalization of the park, which is located on a 10-mile stretch of land along the Buffalo Bayou, a narrow waterway that snakes through the city's center. A local nonprofit, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, manages the funding and is overseeing restoration work, which will be completed in time for the park's opening on June 10.


During the new moon, the park is awash in soft blue light, preserving views of the stars, as the full moon approaches, blue light is replaced by white.

As part of a program to incorporate public art into the park, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership invited Massachusetts artist Steven Korns to design a lighting masterplan for the site in 2001. Korns, in turn, asked L'Observatoire principal Hervv Descottes to collaborate on the design. The team decided to pursue an urban lighting scheme that would respond to the cycle of the moon.

I really wanted to connect the low-level pathways with something celestial,, said Descottes. With lighting pollution, there is a lack of a sense of the existential. I think we all need to connect with the cosmos to get a new perspective, to know that we actually live in a much bigger space..



The entire system, which includes lighting the park's pathways and bridges, is set to the 291/2-day lunar cycle and each night the lights along the path change in a linear pattern. Beginning with the center bridge and moving outward on either side (the site contains 7 bridges), powerful blue-filtered lights below the bridges turn on, one by one, as the new moon approaches. By the time of the new moon, all of the lights will be on. The lampposts that line the pathways will also be a part of the ballet. Each will be topped with a small orb containing LEDs. As the new moon approaches, they will turn from white to blue, starting from the center bridge and spreading outward, until all the orbs and bridges are glowing blue. Conversely, as the full moon approaches, the lights turn back from blue to white as the bridge lights turn off. Simply put: The park is white for the full moon, and mostly blue for the new moon.



The idea was that with the new moon, maybe you don't need so much light because the sky is so clear, this way you have an opportunity to see the stars,, said Descottes. He added that with the blue light you get a sense of brightness but without glare. To further minimize the glare, the lights under bridges only appear blue or not at all. During the full moon, then, only the path lights and the orbs on top of them are illuminated, while the area under the bridges stays darkened. According to Descottes, this decision was in part budgetary ($600,000 was allocated for the lighting of the project), but also came about because the designers wanted to preserve the long shadows cast by the moon at its strongest.

The lights are all managed and synchronized by computer. In order to maximize the system's efficiency, the same wire that regulates the LEDs also powers them. The color of the lights was determined after testing several trial mock-ups; the blue and white combination not only minimizes interference but also refers to the changing color of light that the moon emits depending on its phase and the time of day.


Courtesy L'Observatoire International

The new lighting scheme is only one of many larger improvements throughout the park. The entire project includes public art projects, new hiking and cycling trails, streets, stairways, ramps, and landscape treatments along the water's edge including the installation of berms and flood controls. Buffalo Bayou couldn't be happier with the outcome of the lighting project. Said Anne Olsen, president of the nonprofit : Hervv and Steven demonstrated that subtle lighting can be beautiful and give a feeling of safety to an area that has been traditionally desolate at night.. Jaffer Kolb is an editor at an.


A THOUSAND POINTS OF LIGHT
LEDs light a hotel in Spain and provide a colorful map of its daily solar diet
In today's digitally driven world, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are as elemental to mass communication as the pony was to the Pony Express. In the realm of sustainable architecture, the photovoltaic cell has an equally ubiquitous reputation as the basic building block for greater and more complex mechanisms.


The mesh screen will all but disappear at night, leaving multi-colored leds that seem to float. During the day, the screen will shade the building, passively conserving energy.

Increasingly, the two are united for applications in architecture, most notably in lighting systems in areas that are without electrical wiring. The two might seem at oddssLED screens suggest energy consumption on the spectacular level of Times Square, while photovoltaics retain a whiff of hay bale earnestnesssbut the two can be paired with interesting results. By devising a metal mesh studded with thousands of photovoltaically-powered LEDs, the Spanish architect Enric Ruiz-Geli has done just this for the Habitat Hotel, a project that will be completed in a suburb of Barcelona next year. Ruiz-Geli collaborated with Acconci Studio on landscaping and Brazilian architect Ruy Ohtake on the building design, while the lighting design was done entirely in house by Ruiz-Geli's firm, Cloud 9. The mesh wrapper begins to glow at night based on the amount and quality of the light the solar cells have taken in over the course of the day.



The building itself is a fairly regular and boxy 11-level volume with a few step-backs and terraces on the upper three levels. A series of metal posts jut out diagonally from the corners of the building, providing a loose skeleton upon which a largely transparent metal-link mesh drapes. The mesh screen is relatively fluid in profile, with parabolic concavities determined by the posts that give the curtain's grid a curvilinear appearance. The drape is comprised of a dense circuit of 5,000 hemispherical lighting units, each of which contains a photovoltaic receptor as well as a standard LED.



During the day, the photovoltaic receptors collect solar energyythe amount of which will vary widely depending on factors including sun angle, strength, number of daylight hours, cloud cover, and ambient pollutionnand store this energy to a standard solar battery. As soon as the sun sets, the computer notifies a microprocessor in each unit that activates the batteries to power the LEDs. In that instant, all 5,000 LEDs simultaneously turn on, displaying a rainbow of colors determined by the level of energy collected. LEDs operate by combining red, green, and blue to create different colors, red requiring the least energy and white the most. Thus, if the receptor has collected a small amount of energy, the light will shine a dim red. From that point, the LEDs respectively emit green, blue, yellow, magenta, cyan, and ultimately white as determined by increased energy levels. The drape becomes a three-dimensional diagram of its own solar diet. At sunrise, the lights turn back off, and the receptors begin collecting energy once again.

Lighting Fixture Detail
1 Green translucent plastic base
2 Curved glass
3 Photovoltaic cell
4 Cable mesh
5 Batteries
6 Structural silicon joint


This union of ecology and technology may seem like a sort of narcissistic advertising gimmick at first, but the mesh is, to its credit, more than that. The hemispherical cells are large enough and far away enough from the volume beneath to cast shadows on 20 percent of the building's total surface area, substantially reducing the buildings cooling costs. The architect likens the cells to the leaves of a tree, passively providing shade during the day to anyone below it. Beneath the drape, small trees, plants, and pools are placed on the building's various setbacks and terraces to further enhance the building's unique microclimate. Barcelona, perched just a half degree north of New York's latitude, experiences a similarly broad range of temperature variation; the building's sensitivity to climate changes demonstrates the architect's understanding of regional needs. Despite the self-sustaining efficiency of the mesh drape, the building itself will be powered by Barcelona's electrical grid.

While the building falls short of truly being able to call itself a card-carrying member of the sustainability party, the use of the hybrid photovoltaic-powered LED units is an exciting development in both technology and aesthetics. Considering that contemporary architecture must become increasingly communicative and sustainable, particularly in large urban centers, Habitat Hotel is an exceptional example of how to be passive and active at the same time.

Peter Christensen is curatorial assistant in the Department of Architecture and Design at moma. The Habitat Hotel was included in moma's recent exhibition On-Site: New Architecture in Spain.


AU NATUREL
Natural daylighting regains popularity among energy-conscious architects
Daylight has always been an integral part of architecture, but in the past ten years there has been a decided shift in natural lighting trends: Designers are putting more time and energy toward integrating effective daylighting schemes in their architecture and developers are increasingly willing to support them despite often higher costs.

This is due in part to a growing body of research that links well day-lit buildings to energy savings as well as improved human performance. One study, conducted by the Heschong Mahone Group of Sacramento, measured the performance of students taking standardized tests in day-lit and non-day-lit rooms. The scores of those in day-lit rooms rose as much as 26 percent more than those in rooms without windows. Another Heschong Mahone study showed that day-lit retail stores experience 40 percent higher sales.

Naturally ventilated and day lit, the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School designed by Mahlum Architects won the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects Award for 2006. below right: Tanteri + Associates' recent restoration of the museo de arte de ponce (puerto rico, designed in 1964 by edward durell stone) features new skylights that eliminate the need for artificial lighting.

There are also now more daylighting resources available to architects. Six years ago there were only three labs in the country that conducted daylight testing. Now there are 20.

There has been an attitude change as a result of the growing knowledge being disseminated,, said Russ Leslie, a program director at the Lighting Research Center in Troy, New York. The Lighting Research Center is a university-based center that's running a multi-year joint research program called Daylight Dividends. The $1.3 billion program, launched in 2003, has received funding from the U. S. Department of Energy, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and energy interests in California, Connecticut, Iowa, North Carolina, and the Pacific Northwest. Aimed at facilitating the implementation of daylight strategies in buildings, the program involves market research and technology development.

Leslie credits the Pacific Northwest for reviving the natural daylighting craze. Northwest architects are very proactive about promoting daylighting in buildings. They've been running outreach programs there for the past ten years..

michael tanteri / courtesy tanteri + associates


Joel Loveland, director of the Seattle Daylighting Lab, which offers consulting services to architects, likes to mention a study conducted by Pacific Gas & Electric in the late 1980s, which asked architects if they included daylighting as a strategy. Ninety percent said yes, but when investigated it turned out that less than 3 percent actually conducted any analysis.

Today people are actually being held accountable for the performance of day-lit buildings,, said Loveland. Projects that seek LEED certification are now getting points for daylighting. And California's 2006 Title 24, a bill that has had a ripple effect on legislation throughout the country, requires daylighting in a large portion of commercial buildings.

The Seattle Daylighting Lab utilizes sophisticated machinery to conduct its analysis of building models, including mirror-box, overcast sky, and heliodon sun simulators, and digital photographic and light-flux metering equipment, but Loveland is dismissive of the tendency to make his work sound high-tech. Daylighting isn't rocket science,, said Loveland. It's putting windows and skylights in the right place to evenly distribute light and it's removing or shading windows that would lead to glare or head loading..

Loveland and the Daylighting Lab recently worked on the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Kirkland, Washington, a 58,000-square-foot, two-story school designed by Mahlum Architects of Seattle. The school is broken into volumes that are clustered around courtyards; all interiors are naturally ventilated and day lit. The architects worked with the Daylighting Lab from the early design stages to help determine massing and alignment, devising strategies such as adjusting roof angles, minimizing apertures, and installing blinds and other window treatments.


Benjamin Benschneider / Courtesy Mahlum Architects


But daylighting a building in the Pacific Northwest and daylighting a building in New York City are two different challenges. Skyscrapers are huge energy consumers,, said Matthew Tanteri, a New Yorkkbased daylighting consultant who also teaches at Parsons. They are conceived with a complete disconnect between inside and outside.. Perimeter daylighting, which is all that is generally available in a skyscraper, relies on an aperture-height-to-depth ratiooone that in many tall buildings is not sufficient to adequately daylight an interior. Now, there are light-capturing and funneling devices that can bring daylight down into at least the top few floors,, he noted.

In spite of these challenges, Tanteri said that daylighting awareness is on the rise in New York City, in part due to the energy code which now requires buildings to consume less that 1 watt per square foot. Reaching this goal is complicated by the fact that buildings in New York City take longer to cool off due to its high density. Manhattan is a huge heat sink,, said Tanteri. It can be 50 degrees outside and you still have to have the air conditioning on inside..

As part of his efforts to promote the use of daylight, Tanteri is also working with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America to develop a metric for quantifying daylight. In Europe such a measurement already exists. Known as Daylighting Autonomy, it measures the percentage of time daylight will fulfill a target illumination and offers a direct understanding of how much the daylighting load will take off electric lighting. If you have an understandable and commonly used metric to quantify daylighitng then it's easier to get a building owner to understand the benefits,, said Tanteri. Aaron Seward is a frequent contributor to an.


LIGHTING THE WAY
The country's premiere lighting research center burns brighly
You hear them all the time: proclamations about all things light-relatedd?LEDs last 100,000 hourss; Xenon headlights allow you to see 300 yards further than halogenss; You need a minimum of 4 hours, 5 minutes, and 53 seconds of sunlight each day to stay healthyy?but who determines them? Who tests them and checks up on them? Much of what we know about lighting comes from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's (RPI) in Troy, New York. Founded in 1988, the center is dedicated to testing, exploring, and inventing lighting technologies.

Computer models of specific sites allow transportation lighting researchers to determine light trespassing,, the amount of light that moves between lots and into the roadways.

At the LRC, faculty and students participate in various research projects funded by private and public sources, such as Sylvania, Boeing, the states of New York and California, the Environmental Protection Agency, and many others. The facility plays an important part in the school's lighting programs; RPI offers a master's degree in lighting design and doctorate in architecture with a concentration in lighting design, the only PhD in lighting in the country. At any given time there are between 12 and 25 students and 33 staff members occupying 25,000 square feet of renovated space in the Gurley Building, previously a scientific-instrument manufacturing factory.

While the LRC (and RPI in general) is perceived as engineering-oriented, Russ Leslie, associate director at the center, countered, We aren't divorced from design, but we do approach design as something that requires extensive research and an understanding of precedent.. With its ties to industry and technology development, it's no surprise that one strong goal of the center is, in Leslie's words, to produce industry leaders who can effect change in policy, a generation that will work intimately with the government and groups to devise strategies that can really improve quality of life..


Courtesy Lighting Research Center
The NLPIP monitors thousands of light bulbs from various manufacturers to test for longevity and brightness.

The largest programs at LRC encompass research in light and health, transportation lighting, energy efficiency, solid-state lighting, lighting metrics, as well as product testing. According to Leslie, the LRC operates on a yearly budget of $4 to $6 million, with only 3 percent coming from RPI. The rest is funded through grants, which explains why a tour of the Gurley Building is like walking through a fun house of experiments, where every few feet another mock-up or project-in-development is aglow.

Dr. Maria Figueiro, a professor at the LRC and director of the light and health program, describes the center's research as mostly bound by a goal of measuring and testing. You can make any statement you want about something like circadian rhythms or light and productivity, but someone out there needs to quantify them and make recommendations based on research findings..

The light and health programs do extensive testing of, for example, how exposure to varying levels of light can prevent breast cancer and stimulate people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Most of our research has only been going on for only two or three years, so we can't make specific recommendations yet,, said Figueiro, but we're getting an idea of what we can tell people to make a difference..

The LRC created a mockup of an airport runway to determine how much solar-powered LED-emitted light is needed to safely guide pilots in areas with little or unreliable electricity.

As part of its transportation lighting program, the LRC is involved in projects ranging from testing headlights for automobile manufacturers to overhauling federal roadway guidelines for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). One ongoing research project is the study of the effects of lighttfrom houses, buildings, signs, lampposts, any possible source from every possible angleeon drivers. We try and look at the all things as part of the larger system,, said Dr. John Van Derlofske, head of the program.

A light device that is used to test how varying levels of light can regulate people's circadian rhythms.

The LRC strives to act as a regulatory force in the lighting industry. To this end, in 1990, it established the National Lighting Product Information Program (NLPIP), a product-testing division that is increasingly regarded by the industry as an objective third-party rating source. And recently, it created a division dedicated to determining and implementing a universal lighting metric system that would allow consumers and manufacturers to better relate to lighting products and systems. Soon, we might all share the conviction of LRC researchers, that light really can better the mind, body, spirit, and the world around us. JK
 

GROUND CONTROL
Turn on the lights, heat up the Jacuzzi, pull down the shadessall from a single control

Courtesy Available Light
The systems of this house, now under construction in Gladwell, Pennsylvania, will be interconnected and controllable from anywhere in the world.

Smart Houses have been on the horizon for some time nowwa promise of a techno-gadget heaven for some and of Orwellian terror for others. With computers increasingly integrated in building systems and appliances, that vision is coming closer to reality, accompanied by the emergence of systems-integration specialists.

Systems integration creates a network among a building's systems such as HVAC, lighting, audio-visual, security, even plumbing. The way that information is exchanged is becoming increasingly important,, said Abhay Wadhwa, founder of Available Light, a New Yorkkbased lighting firm that has collaborated with Philadelphia architecture firm Point B Design on a technologically integrated house in Gladwell, Pennsylvania. Systems integration must begin early in the design process, with a consultant advising both architects and technical consultants, ensuring, for example, that physical components, such as built-in audio-visual systems and lighting fixtures, are designed around pipelines and electrical wiring. Such planning can also ensure better performance, overlaying the varying functions of the house on a power grid. If a load changes from fluorescent to incandescent, your wattage could rise ten times on the circuit,, said Wadhwa. This would be hard to handle, typically, but the model will tell you exactly what effects may be produced in terms of the rest of the building's mechanics.. Practically speaking, this kind of holistic approach to planning the infrastructure of a building saves time and money by reducing redundancies. Rather than each consultant producing diagrams and plans that later have to be compiled and cross-checked, a systems integration consultant orchestrates planning from the outset.

Once the systems are installed, the smart environment is essentially a convenient method of management for the building's occupant. In the Gladwell residence, which broke ground in October and will be completed in early 2007, the entertainment system (television, projectors, sound), HVAC, and security (which includes motion and fire detectors) are all connected to a single processor which is in turn linked to an automated mechanical and plumbing processor. This processor is linked not only to the thermostats throughout the house, but also to the water pressure gauge, the pool drainage and cleaning system, and the hot tub. These systems are connected to an Ethernet-based server that also controls the house's lighting system.

All systems can be viewed and accessed on small 10-inch touch screens placed throughout the house. Because they are managed through a remote IP account, they can also be monitored and controlled from anywhere in the world. Some might ask, to what end? In the case of the Gladwell project, a 2,500-square-foot art gallery extends from the primary 8,000-square-foot residence, and requires highly flexible lighting, climate, and security systems.

Others point to the comfort and convenience systems integration can provideefrom allaying the fears of vacation-goers who worry about the proverbial coffee pot being left on to elderly or handicapped persons who can sit with their laptop and turn lights on or off throughout the home with the stroke of a computer key. There is one concern that may not be diverted, however: If you can access your home from abroad, who else can? Apparently it's not a widely held fear, as Available Light has systems integration projects in Hong Kong, New Delhi, Dubai, and New York. JK

BIRD ON A WIRE
Bill Pedersen reimagines the conference room light

Courtesy Ivalo
The systems of this house, now under construction in Gladwell, Pennsylvania, will be interconnected and controllable from anywhere in the world.

Through her six-year-old company Ivalo Lighting, Susan Hakkarainen is proving to be a discerning design patron. It is unlikely, though, that she sees herself as a Medici. In describing her working relationship with her commissioned designerssincluding Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis and Winka Dubbeldammshe said, They are the artists, and I bring the understanding of technology, fabrication, and the market..

New to her list of designers is William Pedersen of Kohn Pedersen Fox , who has designed L'ale, a pendant light which was just unveiled at New York's ICFF. Susan is an amazing scientist in her own right,, he said, and brings an incredible intensity to finding exactly the right source or fabricator or material.. For L'ale's 4-foot, 8-inch winglike span to have the crispness and ability to spread light horizontally that Pedersen wanted, Hakkarainen looked into a wide variety of fabrication methods and materials. We wanted a seamlessness for the wings, which meant we couldn't stamp them since the parts would never mate up; the same is true for injection molding,, she explained. We even looked into superplastic deformationna mixture of thermal forming and stampinggand realized that they would warp in welding.. They ultimately decided to use fiberglass and resin composite in a mold, so that there is no stress on the materials as they cure and thus no disfigurement.

Another important part of Hakkarainen's contribution to L'aleeand to all of Ivalo's hanging fixturessis a proprietary technology that allows for incredibly slender electric cables. Between the current-bearing wire and the thin stainless steel-mesh covering are two layers of Teflon. The Teflon allows the cable to glide independently of the outer sleeve, which bears the fixture's weight, and keeps the structural and current-bearing elements apart.

Before starting a new collaboration, Hakkarainen will often identify a problem or an area in which she feels lighting fixtures could be rethought. This way, she feels, the design process has a tightness it might otherwise lack. It isn't just arbitrary form-making,, she said. For Pedersen, the problem was the conference room light. The two thought about the dialogue that happens in such a room, and wanted the light to create a spatial intimacy. Pedersen decided that multiple fixtures could imply a canopy more successfully than a single, massive object, or an embracing form, like L'ale's. It is sort of like a baldacchino in a church,, he said, it creates a sheltered space within a space.. ANNE GUINEY is an editor at an.
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On Criticism

Architecture criticism, whether written for the profession or the general public, has one primary purpose: to parse the good from the bad. Of course, criticism involves much more than thumbs-up, thumbs-down assessments. Architecture is far too complex, demanding analyses on far too many levels. The critics interviewed here describe how their varied concerns—technological, political, ecological, cultural—have shaped their approach to a field they helped create. Meanwhile, a new generation of critics are joining ranks in what Ada Louise Huxtable calls "an uphill battle," setting out to prove that responsible criticism benefits not just the profession but society at large.

Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Born and educated in New York City, Ada Louise Huxtable pioneered the field of architecture criticism in the United States. In 1963, she became the architecture critic for The New York Times, a position she lobbied her editors to create, and which she held until 1982. She's still active today, at the age of 84, serving since 1997 as architecture critic at the Wall Street Journal. Over the course of her long career, she not only traced the trajectory of modernism, preservation, and urban development but influenced it.

Huxtable had worked as an assistant curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art from 1946 to 1950. She was a Fulbright scholar in Italy in 1950 to 1952, extending her research on modern Italian architecture, which she began as a master's student in architectural history at the Institute of Fine Arts. She emerged as a critic at a time when cities were in crisis, losing their built patrimony in the name of modernization and renewal. She built a mass audience for architecture criticism by bringing reason and passion together in straight-talking—sometimes sarcastic, always sophisticated—prose. When she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970, her field was validated and papers across the country rushed to add architecture to their critical and journalistic beats.

Her newspaper columns are anthologized in Kicked a Building Lately? (Quadrangle, 1976), Goodbye, History, Hello, Hamburger (Preservation Press, 1986), and Architecture, Anyone? (Random House, 1986). She is also the author of The Unreal America (New Press, 1997), and Frank Lloyd Wright (Penguin, 2004).

What was the attitude toward architecture criticism when you were starting out?

There wasn't any! I'm proud of the fact that I convinced The New York Times that it needed to have an architecture critic. The very first thing I wrote for the Times, even before I started freelancing for them, was a long letter to the editor. This was 1959. The Sunday art section had a praising review of a photography show of a modernist housing project in Caracas. I had just been there and saw the project and the residents were having a terrible time—these were people from the countryside, having to deal with elevators and an alien type of architecture. The paper published my letter in full. Not long afterward, I got to do a cover story for the magazine, on the Guggenheim. I was terrified.

You were freelancing for the Times before they named you the critic. What shaped your story ideas and why do you think they grabbed your editors' attention?

I felt New Yorkers were entitled to more than they were getting from developers. There was so much building in the city but there was a total lack of understanding or care about architecture. I had just gotten married and my husband [industrial designer Garth Huxtable] was part of the team designing the interiors of the United Nations. I was just fascinated with architecture and construction.

The Times had plenty of real estate coverage. There were constant press releases about new buildings, all full of praise. These all came from real estate developers; at that time, there were no publicists for architecture. And I'd go to the editor and say, Good buildings don't just grow on trees, you know.

One day I walked in to see Lester Markel, who ran the Sunday magazine. I remember I had a notebook with a list of all the stories the Times was missing. Well, you tell an editor what he's missing, and he pays attention. I was a young, brash, believing woman. You have to be very naive. I was fixated on what I was interested in, so it didn't occur to me that you didn't barge in on an editor and ask for what you wanted. You have to give the Times a lot of credit.

How much input did your editors have in what you wrote?

Because they didn't know anything about the subject, they pretty much took anything I would suggest. And papers are always hungry for copy. Remember, too, this was a time of urban renewal and the total destruction of Lower Manhattan, when the beautiful warehouses on Front Street were being torn out for street-widening and Greenwich Village was being threatened. Most of the writing was crisis-oriented. You were crusading.

The paper didn't think we could do opinion pieces unless we first reported the facts of a story, so I would write news stories and appraisals that would appear in the daily newspaper. Then my critical columns appeared on Sunday. My criticism pieces were never edited because I was given the title of critic immediately. I don't know how it is at the Times today but back then, critics were edited for length and style. They never meddled with content.

After 10 years, they invited me to join the editorial board. I stopped writing for the daily paper and only wrote the Sunday opinion. That's when they hired Paul Goldberger to write for the daily paper.

How has the role of the architecture critic changed over the years?

The role is the same but the emphasis has changed. A critic has a lot of responsibility. It is largely informational and educational—to let the public know what's going on in the large and small issues and to let them know the difference between good and bad, how to distinguish a work of art. Today, I think the emphasis is too much on chasing celebrities, which has emerged all through society.

I want people to understand that architecture is an art. It's been my life's battle, to increase awareness of the field. But the way things have gone ...don't wish for what you ask for! Architecture is definitely more in the public eye today than before, but I don't think it's understood any better.

How do you deal with any controversy your pieces elicited?

It was always difficult but I'm not capable of doing anything else. I'm of a generation that was not brought up to work in a man's world, to deal with jealousies—I'm fairly thin-skinned. But the Times was always wonderful. There were times that powerful people demanded meetings with the publisher to protest my pieces.

One time, a developer pulled a big advertising section because of something I wrote, but I was never blamed. The publisher only asked me, "Do you have all your facts and are they right?" It's a great lesson for all critics. You've got to have all your facts.

My feelings of insecurity were always before I wrote. I would worry, "Am I going to be able to write this piece?" And I'd work doubly hard. I remember one the first pieces I wrote about Colonial Williamsburg. I wrote about how much of it was wishful thinking, how much was destroyed to build it, and how it was a false form of preservation that denigrated real history. I heard that later that they put up a sign there that read, "Ada Louise Huxtable is a Tory!"

Who do you consider your audience?

I don't really ask myself that question when I'm writing. If you have enough belief and pleasure in what you are writing, and write in an understandable manner, then an audience finds you.

One complaint I've heard from lay readers about architecture criticism—particularly of Herbert Muschamp's writings—is that they think they must have a background in the field to understand it.

That is the fault of the people writing it. A lot of writing has been self indulgent, really. You can imagine how I feel about it. The Times didn't know better, I suppose. It's as innocent about the field as anybody. Architecture criticism is still an uphill battle. That's why the responsibility of the critic is so great. It's the way my editor, Clifton Daniel, felt. He trusted me. He always said, "I knew if you got in trouble I'd hear about it soon enough."

I think my approach works for a changing field. I'm not dogmatic or doctrinaire. I stay open-minded. If you're rigid, you can't be a good critic. I wouldn't be in it if I didn't feel optimistic. I'm still full of wonder, I still love it. I like seeing what's going on with vernacular architecture now, for example. And the arguments over 2 Columbus Circle show that the preservation movement is upside down right now. When they compare its loss to that of Penn Station—I've got smoke coming out of my ears! It's not being lost, it's being transformed. I live and believe in the present. I don't live in the past and you can't live in the future. That's why I'm basically a modernist.

Cathy Lang Ho is an editor at The Architect's Newspaper.


From "Zoning: The End of the Line"
The New York Times Magazine
December 14, 1980
Ada Louise Huxtable

In an attempt to legislate an impossible balance between a profitable city and a livable city, New York has created a monster—call it Frankenstein zoning. The process by which good intentions and innovative practice are turned into an urban nightmare has been gradual and technically arcane. But what has been happening, insidiously and overtly, is that the whole idea of zoning has been turned upside down. It has been subverted from a way to control building bulk and size to a method for getting bigger buildings than ever.

If that seems like an anachronism, it is; exactly the kind of overbuilding is being encouraged that the law was designed to prohibit. The result, which is just beginning to be visible, is the rapid appearance of ranks of oppressively massive, sun- and light-blocking structures of a size that we have never seen in such concentration before. Their outline and impact appeared first on Madison Avenue from 53rd to 57th Street, with the 42-story, block-long Tishman building from 53rd to 54th Street, another tower across Madison at 55th Street, and the gargantuan AT&T and IBM buildings, from 55th to 56th, and 56th to 57th Street. This enclave of blockbusters was joined by the huge Trump Tower looming on the Bonwit Teller site at 56th and Fifth.

When the first of these immense projects designed under the city's revised 1961 zoning regulations appeared, such as Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue or Citicorp on Lexington, they seemed unique; as singular structures they were more interesting than overwhelming. As a standard to be replicated, however, they have become cautionary examples. What must be understood is that this wave of bigger-than-ever New York buildings is not some overreaching passing fancy. It is the new and future norm. The bottom line is that the developers build what they are permitted to by law.

These new buildings, therefore, are equally revealing of the manipulative, negotiable, and mutable art that New York's zoning has become. And because what New York does in zoning is emulated by the rest of the country, whether it is innovative and constructive or dangerous and foolish, other cities will probably follow an example that has evolved from a reasonably system of controls, including creative attempts to balance restraints with public amenities, to an ad hoc exercise in horse-trading that is a clear environmental disaster.


Allan Temko

 

When Allan Temko started writing for the San Francisco Chronicle in the early 1960s, he didn't see himself as a regional critic, despite outsiders' perceptions to the contrary. Back then, the city was a fast-growing metropolis, the Golden State's financial capital. But Temko hardly limited his writings to the region. He wrote a book on Eero Saarinen and countless articles for Architectural Forum (he was its West Coast editor), Horizon, and other magazines. Still, Temko, now 81, is best known as an activist who unhesitatingly took on anything that threatened the Bay Area's soul—the first designs for the San Mateo Bridge, for example, and the horrendous plan to criss-cross San Francisco with freeways. Without Temko's voice, the Bay Area would be markedly different, and decidedly less beautiful, today. Fifteen years have passed since Temko left his post. One realizes, talking with him, that the people he wrote about were often his friends, despite his reputation for making enemies. He was admired, even by his targets, for his ability to place design in a cultural context he so clearly loved.

How did you become a critic?

When I left Columbia University in 1947, my professors helped me get an American Lectureship at the Sorbonne. I was in France, teaching American literature, for seven years. Most of this time, I looked at Gothic churches, which to me had everything—rational structure and daring new forms to suit new conditions. But I also saw modern architecture, like Le Corbusier's. Because there was no good book in English on Notre Dame, I wrote one. [It was published by Viking Press in 1955.] Lewis Mumford edited it. When I returned to the U.S., he suggested I do what he was doing for the New Yorker, but for a mass audience. I knew the executive editor of the Chronicle, Scott Newhall, so I went there.

What's changed since then?

In the 1950s and 60s, people talked about painters, sculptors, and politics. Now they talk about buildings, spaces, and important environmental problems. The need for good criticism has never been greater, but if you look around, it seems mighty sparse. There are some outstanding critics, like Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune, but not many writing today understand activist criticismm the need to get out there and fight with fang and claw. With a big metropolitan paper, you can accomplish a good deal. Looking back, we were much better at stopping bad things than creating good things, but we were far ahead of other metropolitan areas, especially when you consider our resources. One big difference between being the critic of the Chronicle and being one for a great newspaper like The New York Times is that New York is really unmanageable. Here, it was possible to have an effect—to stop the freeways and keep Fort Mason and the Presidio from being ruined.

How were you edited at the Chronicle?

Newhall read my things. So did the city guys, the assistant managing editors, and if they couldn't understand something, I'd rewrite it. They were good stand-ins for the public. Newhall encouraged me to be controversial and shielded me from the owners. When the architect of Pier 39, Sandy Walker, sued me for $2 million, the Chronicle defended me. Actually, Bill German, then the executive editor, told me that if I lost, the paper would pay half! The suit was thrown out, but Walker appealed. When I learned that the case was back in court, I asked Chronicle executive Phelps Dewey why I hadn't been told. "We want to win this thing," he replied. When you're trying to stop something, you have to go straight for the jugular. Most critics today don't have that instinct—but neither do their papers. I'm vain enough to think that I could have stopped the whole Bay Bridge fiasco if I hadn't been ill.

What influenced you as a critic?

My years in France led me to see art and architecture as expressions of great civilizations. I always cared about heightening the public's sensibility. I wrote for the educated public, but I wanted everyone else to be able to understand my articles and enjoy them. I saw my role as achieving better design for the whole region. I might have been the only architecture critic in this period who looked at cities at a larger scale—even as large as, say, the Bay Area's seashore, which became a national park. Today, you can walk on public land along the ocean for 50 miles north and south of San Francisco. That wouldn't have happened without people fighting for it, and stopping things like the nuclear reactor that PG&E wanted to put on Bodega Head. I played a big part in these initiatives, writing articles and then getting the Chronicle behind them. They were great victories. But I took on causes that ran the gamut—protecting Frank Lloyd Wright's store on Maiden Lane from retrofitting, sparing Market Street the mediocrity of the early design for San Francisco Center, taking Silicon Valley seriously, helping make the Presidio a national park. That's an appropriate range for a critic.

Did you make enemies?

Sometimes I was a bit harsh. People say I was brave, but that wasn't the point. It sold newspapers. It still would today but, despite media's resources, there's still not enough serious coverage of architecture and planning. One big difference is that when I was writing, I was often speaking for the paper as an institution. I would write a critical piece and then I would write an unsigned editorial for the Chronicle that supported my stance. Without that endorsement, there's no way I could have accomplished what I did.

What do you think of today's critics?

There are very few people writing things that you'd remember the next day. Part of our purpose, after all, is to be entertaining. Architecture is like tennis—there's a small group playing at Wimbledon, and the rest are playing on the neighborhood courts. Which is not to say that the small courts don't have big players. When I started as a critic, San Francisco was a magnet for good architects. Richard Rogers was among them—he appeared on my doorstep one summer, saying, " Lewis Mumford sent me,"—and I got Chuck Bassett to sign him on at SOM. That influx of talent gave us Bassett in my generation and Stanley Saitowitz in the next—architects whose work is original and unique but which also reflects what they found here.

John Parman co-edits "Commentary" for San Francisco's LINE.


From "Colossal Boondoggle: San Francisco's Airport Mess"
San Francisco Chronicle
April 20, 1964
Allan Temko

All that is maddeningly incompetent, stupidly complacent, brutally insensitive and almost incredibly extravagant in San Francisco—a city that perhaps did know how to build in William Howard Taft's time, but would be hard-pressed to erect a decent municipal doghouse today—is epitomized in our New Era Airport, which in fact is one of the most old-fangled, inconvenient, and wastefully designed air facilities in the nation.

As a gateway to San Francisco, it should be blazoned with the inscription of Dante's Inferno: Abandon all hope, ye that enter. For if this is the best we can do in the way of large public works that, precisely because of their staggering cost, are supposed to serve long-time needs, we had better give up hope for the future environment in this part of the world.

Rather than inaugurating a new era, this sprawling assemblage of malconceived and coarsely executed structures is already obsolete. Almost certainly the entire terminal—which even in its unfinished state measures about half a mile from end to end, and may yet be extended farther—will have to be extensively rebuilt if not totally demolished when the supersonic jets go into operation. Yet by rough estimate the city has thus far sank $45 million in terminal and parking facilities alone, and the end is not in sight.

The Public Utilities Commission—a veritable citadel of mediocrity—is cheerfully prepared to spend as much again, or more, to complete the master plan, which to me is not a plan at all, but a gross improvisation at the taxpayers' expense.

Surely this colossal boondoggle warrants a Grand Jury investigation, such as the one which yielded such fascinating information concerning the genesis of the late Charles Harney's multimillion-dollar beauty, Candlestick Park.

But the public is entitled to know who, precisely, made the efforts which saddled the city with the most unwieldy airport of its size in the country, and why a comparable metropolis, Washington, D.C., obtained at substantially lower cost a resplendent terminal in every way vastly superior to our own. Above all, we should find out what is wrong with the building procedures of the city government, and try to set them right before more damage is perpetrated. For in recent years we have been suffering from an onslaught of architectural butchery that might be likened to a St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, administered by self-righteous hacks.

The airport, in truth, is merely one of a series of so-called civic improvements—the Geary Street expressway is another, and so is the new Hall of Justice, which is the most unjust building in town—which re really public excrescences.


Paul Goldberger

 

Paul Goldberger joined the staff of The New York Times in 1972 at the age of 22, and a year later was named architecture critic of the daily paper. For nearly 10 years, Goldberger was the junior critic under the paper's esteemed senior critic, Ada Louise Huxtable. Shortly after ascending to the role of chief critic in 1982, he won a Pulitzer Prize (in 1984). As critic for nearly 25 years at the newspaper of record, Goldberger was often a champion for architectural values in the civic realm and at other times, an easy target for those who considered his views one and the same with the Times. During the heady 1980s, he was one of the few critics who wrote favorably about postmodernism, fueling a lively debate that pushed architecture further into the public's consciousness.

In 1997, Goldberger left his New York Times post to succeed Brendan Gill as the New Yorker's architecture critic, a position he holds today, simultaneously serving as dean at Parsons the New School of Design. Goldberger has proven to be one of the most prolific and long-standing critical voices in New York.

He is the author of several books, including most recently Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York (Random House, 2004).

How did you get started in criticism?

I had been interested in architecture since I was a kid. I remember when, once for my birthday, some family friends gave me a subscription to Progressive Architecture, which I found amazing. I didn't understand what was in it but I read most of it and found it very enticing.

I love architecture and I love journalism. And I wasn't very good at making up my mind about which of those professions I wanted to pursue because each one seemed to exclude the other. So I was lucky enough to find the place where they intersected.

Who influenced your criticism?

I went to Yale and studied architecture with Vincent Scully, who played a huge role in shaping my sensibility. If my eye was formed by anybody, it was Scully more than any other individual.

How did you end up at the Times?

I went to the Times first as an editorial assistant on the Sunday magazine. And I really missed architecture, and then I started to do freelance architecture pieces for the Times and elsewhere. But I was increasingly restless being away from architecture. And then I had an amazing opportunity, which was the chance to move within the Times, to become the architecture critic.

That's quite a leap.

It was quite a leap. I use the word lucky a few times. At the time, Ada Louise Huxtable was at the Times. She had been there for many years but she was moving to a new assignment—part time on the editorial board, and part time, she would continue to be the senior architecture critic. So they were very deliberately looking for someone who would be a number two to her. Not someone who had a huge independent reputation. If I had had a more established reputation, I might not have gotten the job. My guess is that she encouraged her bosses to choose somebody who would be quite junior to her, so there's no question who the senior voice was. And I fit the bill.

How did you go about picking your topics?

I was young, eager, loved the opportunity to put my passions into print and would do anything. And the Times had, and still has, a vast appetite for copy. The needs were enormous. I recall very few instances of being told, "No, it's not a good idea. Don't do it."

When you wrote a review, did they ever question your opinion?

I don't remember that happening too many times. The Times has traditionally been pretty good about backing its critics. I recall having two arguments with the executive editor while I was there. One was a piece about the Art and Architecture building at Yale. The editors thought it was too arcane. It was the only time I was ever told that. I was never told that about my writing any other time.

There was another thing that had nothing to do with the newspaper—a freelance piece in another magazine about the truly wretched design of the Times newsroom. This was the first time they re-did it to accommodate the first generation of computers. Big carpets, tile floors and horrible lighting, and fake-wood Formica furniture. It was really tacky. The executive editor was quite upset, and thought I was disloyal. As an employee, I was supposed to say positive things about the newspaper, no matter what.

When you were starting out, were you self-conscious about the role or responsibility of an architecture critic?

An architecture critic has a lot of authority but not much real power. Power is a much more raw and direct force. Authority is respect and trust. I don't think architecture critics have the power. It used to be said that The New York Times theater critic can close a Broadway show. Well, that's power. But nobody tears down a building if an architecture critic doesn't like it.

The most important responsibility of the critic is not to be stupid, not to be vicious, and not to be ad hominem. And I don't believe I've ever been any of those things as a critic. I was never interested in attacking people as people—I only wanted to discuss the work. Negative reviews are often interpreted as personal attacks, which obviously they are not.

Frankly, as I look back at what I did at the Times, I am proud of all of it. The things I might redo are not the times when I was too harsh on something, but situations where I think I was too kind and too generous, too patient and too forgiving.

You're willing to admit you're wrong?

I've been wrong on some things. I think I've been a little bit too generous about good intentions. Therefore what errors in judgment I've made over the years have come from the mistake of putting too much weight on good intentions, which can bring bad results.

What's the most important quality for a critic?

I would say a combination of a passion and a thick skin—two things that don't always go together. Angry responses or reactions are part of the territory. I am the happiest when people realize I'm just doing my job. I would hope [angry readers] would not personally direct their anger to me.

Speaking of having a thick skin, are you friendly with Michael Sorkin today?

Yes, we actually are. I have great respect for him. The issue on which we probably had our nastiest arguments was Times Square, many, many years ago. And that's probably—if I were going to give you any example where my inclination to think in terms of good intentions rather than results was most manifest—it was in my writing on Times Square. I was far too slow to realize how badly conceived that project was, and how bad [Philip] Johnson's design was initially. I don't believe I was wrong in thinking that the basic premise of the master plan was basically right—it was basically right. The basic design schemes were terrible, and I was much too forgiving of them.

Was it the thick of postmodernism that clouded your judgment?

I think that might be right. And I think I was probably a bit more forgiving of postmodernism in general, too, because that, too, was about intentions. In the end, most of that stuff was no more than transition architecture to wean us away from something. Now we've come to a much more mature modernism, a more intelligent modernism.

How has the role of the critic changed since you've left the Times?

Everyone interprets the role differently. I don't think the role or obligation changes very much. The critic of the Times plays a very central role in the civic dialogue of New York.

How is your job different now writing for a weekly magazine?

It's very different. At The New Yorker, we don't try or aspire to be exhaustive. We don't try to cover everything. The New York Times has an obligation to cover everything. It's like, "If a tree falls in the forest and Times is not there to write about it, does it make a sound?" It can tire you out after a while. But at the New Yorker, we just write about what interests us, and what, over the course of the year, would make interesting types of pieces.

Andrew Yang is an associate editor at AN.


From "Green Monster: A Startling Addition to Astor Place"
The New Yorker
May 2, 2005
Paul Goldberger

The first thing you think when you see the new luxury apartment building at Astor Place—a slick, undulating tower clad in sparkly green glass—is that it doesn't belong in the neighborhood. The tone of Astor Place is set by places like Cooper Union, the Public Theatre, and the gargantuan former Wanamaker store on Broadway: heavy, brawny blocks of masonry that sit foursquare on the ground. Louis Sullivan once described one of Henry Hobson Richardson's great stone buildings as a man with virile force—broad, vigorous, and with a whelm of energy. The new building, designed by Charles Gwathmey, is an elf prancing among men.

Of course, cities are often enriched by architecture that seems, at first, to be alien: the pristine glass towers of Mies van der Rohe and the sylph-like bridges of Santiago Calatrava have brought grace to countless harsh, older cityscapes. But this new building, which is on one of the most prominent sites in lower Manhattan, does not have a transforming effect. If, as Vincent Scully proposed, architecture is a conversation between generations, this young intruder hasn't much to say to its neighbors. Its shape is fussy, and the glass facade is garishly reflective: Mies van der Rohe as filtered through Donald Trump. Instead of adding a lyrical counterpoint to Astor Place, the tower disrupts the neighborhood's rhythm.

In an inelegant way, Gwathmey's building has exposed a truth about this part of lower Manhattan: inside those rough-and-tumble old masonry buildings is a lot of wealth. By designing a tower with such a self-conscious shimmer, the architect has destroyed the illusion that this neighborhood, which underwent gentrification long ago, is now anything other than a place for the rich. The thirty-nine apartments inside the Gwathmey building start at $2 million.

It is a paradox of the New York real estate market that nothing breeds gentility like harsh surroundings. Once, it all happened indoors—grimy factory floors in SoHo became expensive lofts. Sleekness was a private pleasure, not a public display. But the pair of exceptionally elegant glass towers designed by Richard Meier that went up on the western reaches of Greenwich Village a few years ago changed the rules. High-gloss modernism, preferably attached to the signature of a famous architect and dropped into an old industrial streetscape, became the hottest thing in Manhattan apartment architecture since Emery Roth invented the foyer.


Michael Sorkin

 

Michael Sorkin started his career in criticism writing for the Village Voice in 1978 and went on to write the alternative weekly's architecture column for ten years. In the Voice's permissive, freewheeling editorial environment, he developed an unflinching, pugnacious writing style—indebted as much to the gonzo journalists of the 1960s as to iconoclasts in the design fields, from Archigram to Jane Jacobs to Robert Venturi. He quickly became notorious as a silver-tongued antagonist of the architectural elite. Taking Philip Johnson to task for his Nazi past, as well as admonishing The New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger (one of his unforgettable pieces was titled "Why Paul Goldberger Is So Bad: The Case of Times Square"), Sorkin is the embodiment of the fearless critic, becoming a hero to many (and a thorn in the side of a few).

Since his Voice days, Sorkin, now 57, has continued to write, as well as practice and teach. In all his work, he has consistently championed environmental issues, sustainability, and social justice. With his regular contributions to the Critique column in Architectural Record, Sorkin continues to serve as the profession's voice of outrage—and of moral reason.

Currently, he serves as director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at CCNY, a program that he founded. His New York-based architectural practice, Michael Sorkin Studio, continues to promulgate his idealist, socialist vision in both practical and theoretical projects. His Village Voice columns are anthologized in Exquisite Corpse (Verso, 1991) and most recent book is Starting From Zero: Reconstructing Downtown New York (Routledge, 2003) and he is currently preparing five other titles, including Indefensible Space: The Architecture of the National Insecurity State (Routledge), Work on the City (Monacelli), and Fifteen Minutes in Manhattan (Reaktion Press).

Why and how did you get started as an architecture critic?

I first started writing about architecture in college, but I had always been interested. My mother gave me a copy of [Lewis] Mumford's The City in History when it first came out, which was always a touchstone for me. For years I thought Vallingby [the Swedish sustainable New Town] was the omega point of urban civilization. Fortunately, I finally saw it! Having always been interested in both architecture and writing, criticism was a natural progression. When I got to New York I quickly started writing for the Village Voice, which allowed me to indulge another of my ardors, left-wing politics.

Do you feel that left politics was much more of a cultural motivator when you started? And did that carry over into the architecture writing of the era?

Absolutely. I was under the spell of the doughty Marxism of the day. But there was very little architecture writing at the time—almost none in the daily press. Ada Louise Huxtable was the major exception, but there was very little architectural journalism in general. There were a few influential documents around—Archigram magazine, The Whole Earth Catalogue, and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture—that were beginning to unsettle the moribund architectural climate from very different directions.

Did you have any other influences?

My prose style was certainly influenced by an undergraduate subscription to Private Eye Magazine, which authorized a certain latitude for the ad hominem, not to mention egregious punning. And then there was the triple whammy of Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and Rachel Carson, who provide a lovely synthesis of architecture, city, and environment.

How do you choose your subjects?

I have no specific method for choosing my subjects. Part of it is looking for the social meaning of the formal. Part of it is settling scores. And part is just defending one's taste. I've always been a designer as well as a writer so part of my project has always been to advance the agenda of my fellow travelers. And the Voice is a local paper, so I wrote a lot about New York.

Speaking of the Voice, did your editors there have much input in terms of subject matter or the tenor or your articles?

Almost no input in terms of subject matter. It was quite a free situation. They were always happy when I went for the throat, of course.

Who do you consider your audience?

The profession, for starters. Many of my books are directed a little more broadly—to the remnants of the left as well as to a wider circle engaged in urban and environmental struggles. I do feel a bit parochialized, writing primarily in the architectural, rather than more broadly-based, media.

What do you see as the primary role of the architecture critic? And how has it changed?

I see my primary role as an advocate for urban civilization and the planetary environment. That's the big picture. The smaller picture is writing about people, objects, and places I love. That hasn't changed. Of course, the performance of critics fluctuates with the seasons. The majority of critics nowadays are simply flacks: There are too many fashionistas and too few street fighters. We've been taken up into the culture of branding. I think that it is possible for architecture criticism to embody resistance, but it seems in most cases that irony and analysis stops short of availing an original position. People are too accepting of the will of the leviathan and they want their piece of the action.

Do you think that the same can be said of architecture these days? In which case how do you feel about the state of architecture?

I have mixed feelings. Most architecture and criticism is driven by motives too limited, by the bottom line or branding. But both are public projects and my architectural practice and my writing are always concerned with their social effects, their contribution to a more just environment. While I don't believe that architecture creates democracy, architects aren't mindful enough of the distributive effects of planning, the way in which architecture organizes privilege and equity. I think it's important for architecture to make propaganda for a better life, to resist the horror of Bush-world. I truly loathe the smug surfer culture that seems to be in the saddle these days.

Aaron Seward is Projects Editor at AN.


From "Let a Hundred Styles Blossom"
The Village Voice
March 19, 1979
Michael Sorkin

Reports of the death of modern architecture appear to have been greatly exaggerated. This, at any rate, seems to be the drift of the Museum of Modern Art's newly hung Transformations in Modern Architecture. The show has been breathlessly awaited by the architecture set for many years. When, everyone wondered, would Architecture and Design director Arthur Drexler make his move? While fierce controversy roiled over the fate of the modern movement, the museum remained strangely quiescent, almost aloof. The factions raged furiously, each hoping to win the museum to its cause. After all, MoMA virtually made modern architecture in America with its famous show of 1932, and a likewise definitive stand could conceivably have a similar impact today. For Drexler, the opportunity was enormous.

But so was the pressure. Anybody with any sense knew that old-fashioned modern architecture, with all its imputed evils, had to go, but what would replace it? The megastructural maniacs seemed to have been suppressed but did that mean that we were to have the quaint eclecticists or the nouveau neo-classicists? All that was certain was that everyone, except the most unreconstructed Miesians, was yapping for a change...

Still, MoMA temporized, hedging its bets, keeping up but never summing up: All hope for clarification was pinned on Transformations. Designers trembled over drafting tables, pens nervously poised, waiting to be told what to do next. Expectation was apoplectic; fortunes hung in the balance. Seventh Avenue shows a collection every season and the air is electric every time. The Architecture and Design Department makes a major statement only a few times in a lifespan. What was the word to be?

Alas, MoMA copped out. The show is like Hamlet on matte-board: Drexler couldn't make up his mind. Instead of a Cultural Revolution we get "Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom." Instead of leadership, vacillation.

Of course what's really interesting about the compilations is who gets left out. Here, the choices get wiggy. Virtually Philip Johnson's entire oeuvre is included but not a single Alvar Aalto. Anybody could become Philip Johnson given the right historical circumstances but only Aalto could have been Aalto. Vulgarians like Harrison and Abramowitz of Albany Mall fame survive the last cut but Pier Luigi Nervi doesn't even get the court. Is this sensible? Where are those splendid Dutchmen Herman Herzberger and Aldo van Eyck? Where are Steve Baer's Zomes and Bucky's geodesics? Where is SITE? Wasn't the Guggenheim finished in 1959? Some of this seems just plain bitchy. The whole town is asking why John Hejduk's fine work is not to be found with that of the other members of the New York Five, inexplicably reduced for the occasion to Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Richard Meier, and Michael Graves...Ultimately, though, what do Drexler's peccadilloes matter: Group shows always entail a certain amount of grievance. Let them form a salon des refusés if they want.


Robert Campbell

 

Since 1973, Robert Campbell has been architecture critic of The Boston Globe and for many years, has been a regular contributor to Architectural Record's Critique column. At 68, Campbell is a consistent, informed voice on the scene, his writing enriched by his backgrounds in journalism and architecture.

In a September 2004 Architectural Record column, Campbell wrote, "I've always thought that a good model for any critic is Alice, the heroine of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Alice is constantly running into creatures who are crazy—the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit—but they're crazy in a special way. They're obsessed by ideas, and they ignore real-world experience. Alice isn't fooled or overly impressed by her crazies, and neither should any critic be." Campbell's sobriety and unique insight, as one of the field's own practioners, earned him a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1996 and the medal for criticism from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1980.

Why and how did you begin your career as a critic?

I was an English major and I didn't want to be a professor, so I went to Columbia University and tried journalism in New York for a few years, but I didn't like it. I decided to become an architect, and got my degree from Harvard's GSD in 1967. I had no thought of writing at that point, and didn't write for many years, while I was practicing. I met an editor from The Boston Globe and started writing for the newspaper in 1973. There was a great deal of enthusiasm about criticism at that time. There was an interest in preservation and the era of urban renewal was ending. Ada Louise Huxtable had begun writing for The New York Times in the 1960s and she essentially generated a career path for many others. Other papers were adding architecture critics to their ranks, like David Dillon at the Dallas Morning News and Paul Goldberger, who was already writing at the the Times as well.

What do you feel your role is, as an architecture critic for a major daily paper and at-large-advocate, observer, something else?

The architecture critic is not a consumer guide like other critics. The chief role of an architecture critic is to stimulate and participate in an ongoing conversation about the world we build and live in and what makes [projects] good or bad. When I started, as I said, there was a lot of interest. There have been periods of less interest. Today, it's hot again, but it is all about the star performer—characteristic of the media culture we're living in. This makes it incumbent on critics not to get sucked into the media whirlwind. We must weigh in on important issues. Blair Kamin does this well in Chicago.

What do you think of activist criticism, which Kamin, as well as Allan Temko in San Francisco, advocate?

I certainly think that activist criticism is appropriate and can be a positive force. Blair Kamin and Michael Sorkin, in different ways, are doing this. It is not my temperament to take that attitude, but it's certainly a valid strategy.

What are your feelings about what's going on in architecture today: the influence of computer technology on design, the rise of sustainable design, and other developments?

Certainly, computers are important. Young people are very good at them and they can make shapes that have never been made before. They are playing a game. It's easy to dream up new shapes, but it's difficult to give them meaning.

I am very interested in the growing importance of landscape architecture and the increasing integration of architecture and landscape. As for green buildings, many are largely symbolic. The bigger issues are sprawl and energy, I think. Certainly, symbols are important, and architects should take opportunities to make high-performance buildings that are also visually exciting in ways that are not just arbitrary. The only long-term green solution involves reorganizing the patterns by which we inhabit the earth.

How do you choose your subjects? How do you converse about a subject that many people may not understand?

I intuit what I think will be interesting. No one buys tickets to see buildings, so you have to think about what purpose you serve: to get people thinking and talking about the built environment. You might write about a building because it's great, bad, or otherwise important. I choose all my own topics. As for conversing about a subject that people care about but may not understand, I do the best I can. I enjoy making things clear.

What can be done to enhance the level of architectural literacy in this country, where only two percent of construction involves architects?

The level of architectural literacy is going up rapidly. The subject is in the magazines and newspapers more than before. Maybe people are more interested because more of them are moving from city to city, or because they are all traveling more.

Did you ever change your mind about anything you've written?

Of course I have; many times. But I don't go back to revisit. There's not much room at a paper to say, "I was wrong about that."

Do you think that having been a practicing architect gives you a special understanding as a critic?

Yes, in the same way that art historians or others bring special perspectives. I understand how collaborative architecture is, and the importance of time and money.

What critics have been significant influences for you?

Jane Jacobs was a huge influence, but beyond her, I can't really cite major architecture critics as my biggest influences. My models are from the English literature side of my background: Randall Jarrell, George Bernard Shaw, and Edmund Wilson.

You have talked about how the single-issue experts are to blame for poorly designed cities, and that generalists—such as designers and mayors—should be running the show. Why?

I don't think traffic experts and others should be deciding issues of city design. You need a broader perspective. The age of the expert is over. I think the worship of experts is way down; even doctors and lawyers don't get the respect they once did. But I'm not sure it's been replaced by healthy collaboration. In the the absence of experts, it is possible to get a kind of populist decision-making, or decision-preventing, in which every interest group or individual is consulted and, as a result, nobody can build anything that anyone dislikes. This leads to a kind of bland common-denominator world, punctuated by the occasional star icon.

Kira Gould is a Boston-based design writer.


From "What's Wrong With the MoMA?"
Architectural Record
January 2005
Robert Campbell

A critic is supposed to stimulate a dialogue, not be one. So wrote the great Clement Greenberg. I seem to be one of only a few critics around who wasn't crazy about the new Museum of Modern Art in New York. Maybe I'll change my tune after a few more visits; Greenberg reversed his judgments sometimes, and it's greatly to his credittand if I do, I'll perform a mea culpa. But for now...

It isn't that MoMA's bad. There's nothing bad about it. It's just that it isn't good enough. It's elegant, but it lacks life and imagination, and those are qualities we used to associate with modernism.

New museums often open with a blizzard of hype. It's hard for critics not to be caught up in the excitement. Years ago, that happened with I. M. Pei's East Building for the National Gallery in Washington. More recently, it happened with Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern in London. I didn't like either of them at the time and I still don't. And I think a consensus opinion, over the years, has borne me out. I say this despite the AIA's recent Twenty-Five Year Award to the East Building. I recall when the East Building opened, the architect Jean Paul Carlhian, who founded the AIA's Committee on Design, said, "It is an airline terminal." It was and it is, with most of the art crammed into residual spaces around the edges of a vast, self-regarding, nearly empty concourse.

Anyway, here are my problems with MoMA:

There isn't any architecture. The design architect, Yoshio Taniguchi, was quoted more than once as saying that if MoMA gave him enough money, he could make the architecture disappear. Unfortunately, he's succeeded. Most of the museum consists of an endless rabbit-warren of more or less identical white-walled galleries with track-lit ceilings. Every attempt is made to remove any sense of the presence of architecture. A typical gallery wall, for example, appears not to touch the ceiling, the floor, or the adjacent walls. Instead all surfaces are divided from one another by a thin recessed shadow line. The effect is to make the wall appear to be floating, without substance. It looks not like a wall, but like a white projection screen. The paintings on it, as a result, begin to feel like projected images. You are in the placeless, timeless world of the slide lecture. Because the wall doesn't feel real, neither does the artwork. You begin to feel unreal yourself. Architecture has failed to create a place that either the paintings or you yourself can inhabit with a sense of presence.

MoMA argues that it was trying to avoid creating a destination building, like Frank Gehry's Bilbao, the kind of building that can upstage its contents. "It's all about the art," one curator told me. But this is a false dichotomy. The choice is not between no architecture and too much architecture. What's wanted is the right amount of architecture. Many museums—to cite a few, the Kimbell and Mellon by Kahn, the Maeght and Miro by Sert, the De Menil, Beyeler and Nasher by Piano, the Bregenz by Zumthor, the Pulitzer by Ando, the Dia:Beacon by Robert Irwin and OpenOffice—all find ways to articulate space clearly enough to give the artworks a place within which to exist.


Deyan Sudjic

 

Deyan Sudjic lives in an elegant Victorian house on the fringes of Regent's Park. In contrast to the opulence of the neighborhood, the room where we talk is rigorously stripped of detail, with austere white walls and a vast bleached wood table—not a book in sight. "Truth is," says Sudjic, " I'm between books right now." His latest, The Edifice Complex (just out in the U.S.) has, perhaps understandably, drained his formidable energies. The book, subtitled How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World, is a visceral, uncompromising analysis of the 21st century uber-architect, whom Sudjic criticizes as venal, opportunistic, only too eager to deal with tyrants.

This critical stance is characteristic of Sudjic, who co-founded Blueprint in the mid-1980s precisely to provide an alternative perspective on the profession. Sudjic also made time to write books, including the highly acclaimed 100-Mile City (Harvest/HBJ Books, 1992), a scholarly assessment of late-20th century urbanism. A supreme networker, Sudjic was named editor of Domus in 2000. His stewardship of the Milan-based magazine transformed it into a truly international forum for architecture, art, and design, which in turn made him an obvious choice to direct the 2002 Venice Architecture Biennale. He has also curated London exhibitions at the British Museum, the Royal Academy, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He is currently architecture critic for The Observer, the Sunday edition of the daily newspaper The Guardian.

How did you come to write about architecture?
My father was a journalist and my mother was hell-bent I shouldn't follow in his footsteps. I guess that's why I chose to study architecture in the first place but once at university I was forced to realize the dramatic limitations of my skills—not least during my year out in the Chelsea offices of Chamberlain Powell & Bon, architects of the Barbican complex in East London. I was also editing the student newspaper; Gordon Brown, UK Chancellor and Tony Blair's right hand man, was news editor at the time! Given a dearth of architecture work—this was the early 1980s—I reckoned that writing was, despite my mother's dire warnings, the way forward for me. Peter Murray, then editor of Building Design, gave me my first break. After a year I realized I was having a fantastic time. I certainly learned a great deal more about architecture as a writer than I had done studying it.

It wasn't long before you started Blueprint. What prompted you to do it? Did you feel architecture in the UK was too polite or clubby?

Blueprint was meant to be a bit of fun, a youthful sense that the existing UK magazines were run by managers with only a limited sense of what a magazine could be. It was meant to be a co-op, run collectively. We—the writers, designers, photographers and illustrators who got together to do it—all wanted a new, challenging outlet. I was also keen to broaden architecture's perspective, to make it a part of a wider visual culture, I guess influenced by Domus which dealt with art, industrial design, fashion, graphics, and urbanism.

Of course we were clubby too, but every generation succeeds by trashing their predecessors, so we just started another club. Encouraging good writing was also important.

Can you pinpoint key priorities you bring to your work as a critic?

If you are not entertaining, people will not read you. But that does not mean that you should be shallow. I think that you have a duty to be interesting, and interested, to use your eyes as well as your head. It's also important not to take architecture at face value. I would also rather not accept financial support from owners or architects to travel to see projects, but in the currrent climate of reduced budgets at newspapers and ever-more-far-flung projects it's hard to avoid it if you are going to keep up with the key buildings. Of course seeing them gives you a strange world view: Nobody else, not even the architects themselves, see Herzog & De Meuron in California one week, Daniel Libeskind in Tel Aviv the next, Norman Foster in Beijing the month after, followed by Rem Koolhaas in Porto.

What was the climate of criticism when you started out and how has it changed?

There were great people: Reyner Banham was a marvelous inspiration, in his style, and his range of subject matter, and I wanted to be able to write like that. I wanted to ensure that architecture could get into mainstream newspapers, and that meant having a direct approach—approaching the subject not from the preconceptions of architects or taking the work at face value.

You write today for both the general and specialized reader. How difficult is it to switch tone, frame of reference, et cetera? Do you feel a sense of responsibility to educate your lay audience?

The word "educate" really sets my teeth on edge when applied to journalism. You operate by seducing and surprising your audience into reading you. That means being as stylish a writer as you can, and trying to make sense of complex things in as direct a way as you can. I have not only written for specialists and a lay audience, but I have simultaneously been an editor and a writer—useful in terms of acquiring a sense of perspective.

Have you ever regretted a piece you've written?

I certainly regretted some headlines. By far the worst was for my obituary of Philip Johnson for which some bright spark came up with "A Nazi Piece of Work." There's no going back from that one!

Can you identify key differences between criticism in the UK and that of the U.S., or Italy, where you worked?

These are three very different cultures. Doing Domus I was acutely aware how different the Anglo-Saxon discussion was from the Italian—I could never be sure if it was the quality of the translation, or the sometimes maddening diffusion of the Italian language. Sometimes Anglo-Saxon directness translated into Italian offended people. I remember Mario Botta complaining to the magazine's owner that I had hired a gang of English mercenaries to disparage him. I suspect that Americans think that the British are a bit limited. We do not have the same intellectual rigor. In the newspapers, the U.S. gives its critics more space—2,000 words is common in The New York Times, whereas 800 is a standard length here. Personally I prefer not to write a detailed architectural description, I tend to talk about what a project means, rather than how it looks.

In a recent interview, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, suggested that the basic principles of a museum should celebrate John Locke's civic humanism. Can you point to leading architects whom you feel champion the notion of civic humanism?

I believe great cities are the product of an exchange of ideas. What I fear most is no conversation, no discussion. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against shift-making buildings, but let's not just grab the next tower off the shelf, dust it off, and build it. There are inspired architects, great architects who want to engage in real ideas. The key thing is to create a forum where that's possible and it's the role of the critic to build that debate.

Do you believe that criticism has a direct effect on the evolution of architecture? Is there, or should there be, a tangible link?

No. As Charles Jencks says, critics are the messenger boys.

Robert Torday is associate director of ING Media, London, and contributes to Architects' Journal and ICON magazine.


From "Landmarks of Hope and Glory"
The Observer
October 26, 2003
Deyan Sudjic

Last week the East of England Development Agency launched what it described, with Pooterish grandiloquence, as an international competition to find a visionary plan for a landmark, or series of landmarks. The agency says it is looking for an icon that will foster a sense of identity for the region as a whole—to underscore its message that the East of England, is a region of ideas. All that was missing from its litany of threadbare received wisdom was a passing reference to its world-class ambitions.

No site has been specified, nor has the development agency committed any money to the project, which hardly inspires confidence, but Yasmin Shariff, an architect who is also a board member claims that this piece of wishful thinking is a fantastic opportunity for us to come together as a region and decide how to present ourselves to the rest of the world.

It's not hard to imagine what an Angel of the East might look like, or for that matter, a Lincoln opera house, faced with titanium fish scales, designed by Frank Gehry as a free-form blob, or an eccentrically exhibitionistic Santiago Calatrava footbridge across the Cam as being the sort of structure that the agency is after. Competitions such as this have become ubiquitous, leading all but inevitably to the kind of architecture that looks best reduced to a logo on a letterhead or to the confined spaces of one of those Eiffel-Tower-in-a snow-storm paperweights. It claims to be about inspiration but ends only in the obvious. The search for the architectural icon has become the ubiquitous theme of contemporary design.

Leaving aside the wounding possibility that the rest of the world is likely to remain just as indifferent to the fate of the Fens and Humberside, however they choose to present themselves, as it has ever since the collapse of the wool trade in the Middle Ages, the agency has a fight on its hands. If it is to stand out from an endless procession of decaying industrial backwaters, rural slums, and development areas that are equally star-struck, equally determined to build the icon that will bring the world beating a path to its door, then it must come up with something really attention-grabbing.

This is the way to an architecture of diminishing returns in which every sensational new building must attempt to eclipse the last one. It leads to a kind of hyperinflation, the architectural equivalent of the Weimar Republic's debauching of its currency. Everybody wants an icon now. They want an architect to do for them what Gehry's Guggenheim did for Bilbao, Jorn Utzon's Opera House did for Sydney, and Piers Gough's green-tiled public lavatory did for the Portobello Road.

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All Rise

New Yorkers have always been real-estate obsessed, and as housing price records are broken on what seems like a weekly basis, the conventional wisdom is that everyone should get in while they still cannit's not a bubble, it's New York City. There is logic to the sentiment, of course: While the space is finite, the demand doesn't appear to be.

There are plenty of more concrete and measurable reasons, too, for such widespread interest in the real estate market, from still-reasonable interest rates to a noticeably development-friendly climate. The Bloomberg Administration has been more proactive about rezoning neighborhoods in all five boroughs than any in recent memory: West Chelsea, the Hudson Yards, Downtown Brooklyn, and the Williamsburg/Greenpoint waterfront will all become significantly denser over the next decade.

The development process has also become more transparent. According to Laura Wolf-Powers, urban planning chair at the Pratt Institute (and a regular contributor to AN), there are also some institutional reasons. New York is seen as development friendly right now,, she said, explaining that beyond the highly publicized rezoning initiative the Department of City Planning has championed along the Williamsburg waterfront and scuffle over the future of the Hudson Yards, quieter changes have taken place that make it easier for newcomers to get into development.

>Under the Bloomberg Administration, the Department of Buildings has basically moved fromm the 19th to the 21st century, so it is much easier to pull permits. There is a new website [www.nyc.gov/html/dob] where all that information is accessible. It used to seem like an insider's game, in which you had to know somebody, or pay expediters, but that has changed..

All of these forcessboth large and small, based on economics or just gut instinct and crossed fingerssare adding up to what looks like a new environment for development in New York. Here's a look at some of the new buildings that are reshaping neighborhoods all over the city.

Manhattan
Between 14th Street and 59th Street

Bank of America tower
Location: One Bryant Park
Developer: Durst Organization/Bank of America
Architect(s):Cook + Fox Architects
Consultant(s): Severud Associates, Jarros Baum Bolles
Size: 54 floors, 2.1 million sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2008
Along with office space, this project includes a reconstructed Georgian-style theater and was approved for Liberty Bond financing. One of the nation's largest green office buildings, the project includes a graywater recycling system, high ceilings for maximum daylighting, and an advanced HVAC system. It will be the first large-scale office tower to seek LEED Platinum certification.

 

31st Street Green
Location: 125 West 31st Street
Developer: The Durst Organization / Sidney Fetner Associates
Architect(s):Fox & Fowle with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s):Gotham Construction Corp.
Size: 58 floors, 459 units, 583,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2005
This green mixed-use tower will loom over its low-lying Hell's Kitchen neighbors. In addition to hundreds of condominiums, the tower will also include the headquarters for the American Cancer Society and a treatment center and hospice. The building's slim profile will allow natural daylighting into its core, and it includes bike storage areas and low VOC building materials.

 

IAC/InterActivCorp Headquarters
Location: 11th Avenue between West 18th and 19th Streets
Developer: IAC with The Georgetown Company
Architect(s): Frank O. Gehry Associates with Studios Architecture
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: 9 floors, 147,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Late 2006
Frank Gehry makes his contribution to the ranks of glass-facade buildings that are beginning to line the West Side Highway. The block-filling headquarters (financed in part by Liberty Bonds) for Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp media company will be clad in a skin of fritted white glass.

 

Clinton Green
Location: 10th Avenue at 51st and 53rd streets
Developer: The Dermot Company
Architect(s): Fox & Fowle
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Langan Engineering, Edwards & Zuck, Site Architects

Size:
24 floors, 300 units, 400,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Budget: $170 million
This mixed-use development in Clinton (nne Hell's Kitchen) includes spaces for two theater companies, retail, and loft-style and conventional apartments. The architects and developers will seek LEED certification for the project, which includes bike storage, Zipcar parking, low-energy glazing, and locally produced and low VOC materials.

 

325 Fifth Avenue
Location: 325 Fifth Avenue
Developer: Continental Residential Holdings
Architect(s): The Stephen B. Jacobs Group
Consultant(s): WSP Cantor Seinuk Structural Engineers, I.M. Robbins Consulting Engineers, Thomas Balsley Associates, Levine Builders, Andi Pepper Interior Design
Size: 42 floors, 250 units, 390,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Budget: $200 million
This tower, right across the street from the Empire State Building, features floor-to-ceiling glass walls and balconies, which is somewhat unusual for a glass curtain wall building. A landscaped plaza designed by Thomas Balsley is open to the public.

 

4 West 21st Street
Location: 4 West 21st Street
Developer: Brodsky Organization
Architect(s): H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): Bovis Lend Lease, Rosenwasser Grossman, T/S Associates
Size: 17 floors, 56 units, 93,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Spring 2006
Budget: $60 million
This new loft building in the Ladies' Mile Historic District is a harbinger of the area's many planned residential conversions. The structure gives a nod to its contexttincluding its next-door neighbor on 5th Avenue, which housed the offices of McKim, Mead & White from 1895 to 19155with its masonry facade, cornice lines, and window proportions.

 

Bryant Park Tower
Location: 100 West 39th Street
Developer: G. Holdings Group and MG Hotel
Architect(s): Nobutaka Ashihara Associates Architects
Consultant(s): Kondylis Design
Size: 45 floors, 93 units, 53,860 sq. ft. (plus 2,052 sq. ft. roof deck)
Completion (est.): Late 2005
The top ten floors of this new tower a block from Bryant Park are devoted to rental apartments, while the remaining ones will become a 357-suite Marriott Residence Inn, which is oriented towards extended visits.

 

High Line 519
Location: 519 West 23rd Street
Developer: Sleepy Hudson
Architect(s): ROY Co.
Consultant(s): ABR Construction
Size: 11 floors, 11 units, 18,600 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Spring 2006
The first ground-up project for the new development company Sleepy Hudson, this floor-through condo project on a 25-foot-wide lot is nearly adjacent to the High Line. The east wall of the building, facing the elevated tracks, is sheathed in wood and punctured by a small number of windows. Curved metal scrims on the south and north facades function as balustrades and balconies, respectively.

 

50 Gramercy Park North
Location: 50 Gramercy Park North
Developer: Ian Schrager
Architect(s): John Pawson
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: 15 floors, 23 units
Completion (est.): January 2006
A home that's a refuge, not a second careerr is how Ian Schrager describes this condo building attached to his posh Gramercy Hotel, also under renovation on the site of the old Gramercy Park Hotel. With units going for $5 to $16 million (up to $3,000 per square foot), and only four left at press time, buyers are eating up the building's featured lifestyle managerss ((ber-concierges) and clean, modern design by John Pawson.

 

Manhattan
Above 59th Street

One Carnegie Hill
Location: 215 East 96th Street
Developer: The Related Companies
Architect(s): HLW International
Consultant(s): HRH Construction, Cosentini, Ismael Leyva Architects, The Rockwell Group
Size: 42 floors, 474 units, 582,000 sq. ft.
Continuing the trend of marketing residences by their architect, Related Residential Sales is using the name of The Rockwell Group to attract attention to its newest tower. Related chose to give Rockwell two amenity floorss?the lobby and common spacessto design, while Ismael Leyva Architects designed the bulk of the interiors.

 

Cielo
Location: 438 East 83rd Street
Developer: JD Carlisle Development Corp.
Architect(s): Perkins Eastman Architects
Consultant(s): M.D. Carlisle, Rosenwasser Grossman, Cosentini Associates
Size: 28 floors, 128 units, 247,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Winter 2006
Budget: $50 million
The twist on this Yorkville luxury condo is a focus on art. There is an art concierge service for residents and free memberships to the nearby Whitney Museum of American Art. Developer and art aficionado Jules Demchick of JD Carlisle also commissioned a mural from artist Richard Haas for the wall of a 19th-century building across the street.

 

170 East End Avenue
Location: 170 East End Avenue
Developer: Skyline Developers
Architect(s): Peter Marino + Associates, Architects
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, MGJ Associates
Size: 19 floors, 110 units, 300,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Fall 2006
In response to this development's location on Carl Schurz Park on the East River, its relatively large site, and developer Oren Wilf's desire to move in to the building with his family, Peter Marino designed the project around the idea of suburban livingg in the city. In translation, that means homes are fairly large and have features like fireplaces and views of grassy yards.

 

Riverwalk Place
Location: Roosevelt Island
Developer: The Related Companies and the Hudson Company
Architect(s): Gruzen Samton with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): DeNardis Associates, Ettinger Associates, Monadnock Construction
Size: 16 floors, 123,620 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Spring 2006
Budget: $45 million
Part of Roosevelt Island's larger revitalization, Riverwalk Place is the third building in Southtown, a smaller community on the island that will introduce 2,000 new housing units, some of which will be reserved for students at Cornell University's Weill Medical College.

 

Manhattan
Between 14th Street and Canal Street

163 Charles
Location: 163 Charles Street
Developer: Barry Leistner
Architect(s): Daniel Goldner Architects
Consultant(s): Regele Builders
Size: 8 floors, 3 units, 13,671 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): June 2006
An earlier owner had asked Zaha Hadid to design a tower on this Far West Village site, but developer Barry Leistner wanted Daniel Goldner Architects for the job. Goldner's design for the modestly scaled building has a penthouse triplex and two duplex residences, and uses brick and glass to respond both to the neighborhood and the adjacent Richard Meier towers.

 

One Kenmare square
Location: 210 Lafayette Street Developer(s): Andrr Balazs and Cape Advisors
Architect(s): Gluckman Mayner Architects with H. Thomas O'Hara
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Gotham Construction, Prudential Douglas Elliman
Size: 6 and 11 floors, 53 units, 84,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Fall 2005
Budget: $26 million
Balasz originally planned to build a hotel on the site called the Standard, but due to economic conditions after 9/11,, said Gluckman Mayner project architect James Lim, he decided to change the program to condos. Gluckman Mayner also designed the hotel, but chose to start from scratch when the project went condo.

 

Urban glass house
Location: 328 Spring Street
Developer: Glass House LLC
Architect(s): Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie with Selldorf Architects
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: 40 units, 90,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): April 2006
Budget: $30 million
After being put on the back burner for more than a decade, Philip Johnson's design for condos will be built, albeit with a different developer. The original plan was for a radical and multifaceted building,, said project architect Matthew Barrett; it was turned down by local community groups. More recently, Selldorf Architects was asked to redesign the plans for the interiors.

 

Cooper Square / Avalon Chrystie Place
Location: Houston and Bowery, E. 1st Street and Bowery, 2nd Avenue and Bowery
Developer: Avalon Bay Communities
Architect(s): Arquitectonica
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: 6, 7, 9, and 14 floors, 708 units, 877,500 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): April 2006
This mixed-use residential development includes four individual mid-rise buildings spread out among three adjacent city blocks on the Lower East Side. They include ground-floor retail and a community fitness center, and incorporate two existing community gardens. As the first building on Houston nears completion, some neighbors are excited about the arrival of Whole Foods Market, while others worry about the scale.

 

255 Hudson
Location: 255 Hudson Street
Developer: Metropolitan Housing Partners and Apollo Real Estate
Architect(s): Handel Architects
Consultant(s): Gotham Construction
Size: 11 floors, 64 units, 94,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
At the base of this glass, concrete, and zinc building are three duplex apartments, each with a 60-foot-long private backyard. The backyards arose from zoning restrictions on the project's extra-deep lot: The developer toyed with the idea of creating a courtyard or public park before settling on private gardens to raise the value of the lower units.

 

40 Mercer
Location: 40 Mercer Street
Developer: Andrr Balazs and Hines
Architect(s): Ateliers Jean Nouvel with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): Cosentini Associates, Gilsanz Murray Steficek, Ravarini McGovern Construction
Size: 13 floors, 50 units, 156,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Budget: $60 million
This super-luxurious condo development incorporates all the comforts of Andrr Balazs' hotelsspersonal shoppers, housekeeping, and continental breakfast deliveryyas well as a bathhouse with a 50-foot lap pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, and private lounge. Nouvel's first residential project in the United States, the building features red and blue glass curtain walls, massive sliding glass walls, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

 

Switch Building
Location: 109 Norfolk Street
Developer: 109 Norfolk LLC
Architect(s): nArchitects
Consultant(s): Builders & HVAC, Sharon Engineering, AEC Consulting & Expediting
Size: 7 floors, 13,600 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Spring 2006
Budget: $4.25 million
According to Mimi Hoang, cofounder of nArchitects, her firm got this job when a group of thee independent developers strolled into 147 Essex, a group studio housing several young firms. The developers saw the firm's portfolio and were impressed enough to hire them for their first major building.

 

Blue at 105 Norfolk Street
Location: 105 Norfolk Street
Developer: John Carson and Angelo Cosentini
Architect(s): Bernard Tschumi Architects with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): Israel Berger & Associates, Thornton Thomasetti, Ettinger Engineers
Size: 16 floors, 32 units, 60,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Budget: $18 million
The irregular form of this building is due in part to a series of site restrictions: The developers purchased the air rights to the building next door so that they could build over it, but zoning regulations do not permit the insertion of a column within the neighboring commercial space, so the architects had to cantilever the upper floors out over the adjacent building. The upper levels taper back because of setback requirements.

 

Manhattan
Below Canal Street

One York Sreet

Developer: One York Property
Architect(s): TEN Arquitectos
Consultant(s): Donald Friedman Consulting Engineer, Ambrosino Depinto & Schmieder Consulting Engineers, Bovis, Israel Berger & Associates
Size: 12 floors, 41 units, 132,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
TEN Arquitectos inserted a 12-story condo tower in the center of an existing six-story building on the edge of the Tribeca Historic District at Canal Street and Sixth Avenue. New balconies, roof terraces and windows will embellish the older building, while the top six stories are housed in a transparent volume.

 

Tribeca Green
Location: 325 North End Avenue
Developer: The Related Companies
Architect(s): Robert A. M. Stern Architects with Ismael Leyva Architects
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Matthews Nielsen Landscape Architecture, Steven Winter Associates
Size: 24 floors, 264 residential units, 350,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Late 2005
Tribeca Green in Battery Park City features photovoltaic panels in its crown, a green roof, a graywater recycling system, operable windows, and a high-performance curtain wall. Located adjacent to Tear Drop Park, the blocky building has a massive brick-clad lower-level with glass and steel corners.

 

200 Chambers
Location: 200 Chambers Street
Developer: Jack Resnick & Sons
Architect(s): Costas Kondylis Partners
Consultant(s): Cantor Seinuk Group, Cosentini Associates, Plaza Construction, Israel Berger & Associates, Thomas Balsey
Size: 30 floors, 258 units, 470,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Along with office space, this project includes a reconstructed Georgian-style theater and was approved for Liberty Bond financing. One of the nation's largest green office buildings, the project includes a graywater recycling system, high ceilings for maximum daylighting, and an advanced HVAC system. It will be the first large-scale office tower to seek LEED Platinum certification.

 

200 Chambers
Location: 200 Chambers Street
Developer: Jack Resnick & Sons
Architect(s): Costas Kondylis Partners
Consultant(s): Cantor Seinuk Group, Cosentini Associates, Plaza Construction, Israel Berger & Associates, Thomas Balsey
Size: 30 floors, 258 units, 470,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Foster and Partners was the original architecture firm behind this project but parted ways with developer Jack Resnick & Sons after the design encountered opposition from the community, which disliked its scale. New York is quite different from Europe,, says to Joy Habian, director of communications at Costas Kondylis Partners, which now has the job. The company has designed more than 46 highrises in New York alone.

 

Vestry Building
Location: 31133 Vestry Street
Developer: Vestry Acquisitions
Architect(s): Archi-tectonics
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: 9 floors, 30,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Unavailable
Despite initial problems with city approval because of its location in a landmarked district, the Vestry building is slated to begin construction within a year. Although it is of a consistent scale with its surroundings, Winka Dubbeldam has designed a cool, glazed-front building that stands in relief from its chaotic neighborhood.

 

River Lofts
Location: 425 Washington Street, 92 Laight Street
Developer: Boymelgreen Developers
Architect(s): Tsao & McKown with Ismael Leyva Architects
Consultant(s): Alisa Construction Company, N. Wexler & Assoc., Lehr Associates
Size: 13 floors, 65 units, 200,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Fall 2005
Tsao & McKown scored River Lofts, the firm's first project with Boymelgreen Developers, through Louise Sunshine of the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group. The project, part ground-up construction and part restoration of a loft warehouse on the edge of the Tribeca Historic District, is designed to respect that marriage, as well as the surrounding neighborhood,, according to principal Calvin Tsao.

 

Historic Front Street
Location: Front Street at Peck Slip
Developer: Yarrow LLC
Architect(s): Cook + Fox Architects
Consultant(s): Robert Filman Associates, Lazlo Bodak, Saratoga Associates, Steven Winter Associates
Size: 96 units
Completion (est.): 2005
Located just north of the South Street Seaport at Front Street and Peck Slip, this retail and residential development comprises both sides of the street along a full block, including eleven 18th-century buildings and three new ones. The renovated buildings preserve historic building materials while integrating green technologies such as green roofs, photovoltaic panels, and geothermal heating and cooling.

 

Fultonhaus
Location: 119 Fulton Street
Developer: Daniell Real Estate Properties
Architect(s): Hustvedt Cutler Architects
Consultant(s): NTD Realty
Size: 14 floors, 19 units, 31,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Summer 2006
Budget: $8 million
A 7-story addition doubling the height of a 1908 office building by architect Henry Allen, Fultonhaus is a contemporary steel and glass structure half enclosed by early 20th-century masonry. Because the original structure was so narrow, the greatest design challenge, according to project architect Bruce Cutler, was structural and seismic.

 

Millenium Tower Residences
Location: 30 West Street
Developer: Millennium Partners
Architect(s): Handel Architects
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, I.M. Robbins, Flack + Kurtz, Matthews Nielson Landscape Architecture
Size: 35 floors, 236 units, 410,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Winter 2006
Budget: $180 million
The tallest of the new Battery Park City residential towers is the Millenium Tower Residences. The building will consume 25 percent less energy than a conventional residential tower, and will include solar panels, green roofs, a fresh air intake system, and locally-sourced building materials. The developers did not apply for Liberty Bonds because they opted aginst a 5 percent set-aside for affordable housing.

 

The Verdesian
Location: 211 North End Avenue
Developer: The Albanese Organization
Architect(s): Cesar Pelli & Associates with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Flack & Kurtz, Balmori Assoc., Turner Construction
Size: 24 floors, 253 units
Completion (est.): Fall 2005
Budget: $73 million
The Verdesian employs many of the same green technologies used in Cesar Pelli & Associates' last sustainable residential tower in Battery Park City for the same developer, the Solaire, such as building-integrated photovoltaics, a fresh air intake system, and low VOC building materials. The developer is seeking a LEED gold certification for the Verdesian. This project was financed in part by Liberty Bonds.

 

Brooklyn
Downtown

Atlantic Yards
Location: Atlantic Avenue between Flatbush and Vanderbilt avenues
Developer: Forest City Ratner Company
Architect(s): Frank O. Gehry Assoc.
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: In 17 buildings: 6,000 units, 230,000 sq.ft. retail,
Completion (est.): Arena, 2008
Budget: $3.5 billion
Another sports team, another railyard: Forest City Ratner Company's (FCRC) proposal to build a deck over the Atlantic Yards and develop the 21-acre site into offices, retail, housing, and a sports arena, is creating some controversy based on its scale and dependence on eminent domain. But by upping the percentage of affordable rental units to 50 percent, FCRC has managed to defuse a great deal of community opposition.

 

Williamsburg Savings Bank
Location: 1 Hanson Place
Developer: The Dermot Company with Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds
Architect(s): H. Thomas O'Hara
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: 34 floors, 216 units
Completion (est.): Unavailable
The Williamsburg Savings Bank building isn't in Williamsburg; rather, it has anchored downtown Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal with a gold-domed clock tower for 78 years. In May, HSBC sold the building to a partnership including basketball star Earvin Magicc Johnson's development company, Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds, which intends to restore and renovate the old commercial structure into a condo building with 33,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

 

189 Schermerhorn Street
Location: 189 Schermerhorn Street
Developer: Procida Realty and Second Development Services
Architect(s): The Stephen B. Jacobs Group
Consultant(s): Rosenwasser Grossman Consulting Engineers, Sideris Consulting Engineers
Size: 25 and 6 floors, 214 units
Completion (est.): 2007
Architect Stephen Jacobs split this development into a 25-story tower and a 6-story block, and separated them with a courtyard. In the block, there are 15 larger townhouselike apartments, while in the tower, the apartments are somewhat smaller but have a view.

 

Schermerhorn House
Location: 160 Schermerhorn Street
Developer: Hamlin Ventures and Common Ground Community Development Architect: Polshek Partnership
Consultant(s): Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Silman Associates, Flack + Kurtz
Size: 11 Floors, 189 units; 98,000 sq.ft.
Completion (est.): 2007
This affordable housing development is built with a cantilevered superstructure to accommodate subway tunnels that consume 45 per cent of area under the site. The building includes a green roof and recycled and low VOC building material, and also includes retail, community and performance spaces, and support services for tenants.

 

Brooklyn
Williamsburg

184 Kent Avenue
Location: 184 Kent Avenue
Developer: 184 Kent Avenue Associates
Architect(s): Karl Fischer Architect
Consultant(s): Lilker Associates, Severud Associates
Size: 10 floors, 240 units, 520,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2008
Budget: $80 million
For the renovation of this 1913 Cass Gilberttdesigned Austin-Nichols warehouse along the East River, architect Karl Fischer plans to add four new floors to the roof pulled back from the parapet. He also plans to insert an 80-by-20-foot open-air courtyard in the center of the existing 500,000-square-foot building.

 

Schaefer Landing
Location: 440 Kent Avenue
Developer: Kent Waterfront Associates LLC
Architect(s): Karl Fischer Architect with Gene Kaufman
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: 25 and 15 floors, 350 units, 530,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Late 2005
Budget: $90 million
As the first tall residential building along the Williamsburg waterfront, this development provides a glimpse of what is likely to come under the new higher density zoning regulations. The phased two-tower project also includes public park space along the East River.

 

Brooklyn
Dumbo

70 Washington Street
Location: 70 Washington Street
Developer: Two Trees Management Co. Architect: Beyer Blinder Belle
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: 13 floors, 259 units, 360,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): December 2005
Budget: $50 million
The rehabilitation of this 1910 manufacturing building is DUMBO's most recent conversion of a factory-turned-artist's studio into condominiums. The building's relatively narrow floor plates made it more suitable for residential use than many of its bulkier neighbors, several of which will remain as studio space.

 

Beacon Tower
Location: 85 Adams Street
Developer: Leviev Boymelgreen
Architect(s): Cetra/Ruddy
Consultant(s): Linden Alschuler & Kaplan, Benjamin Huntington
Size: 23 floors, 79 units, 116,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): September 2006
Budget: $45 million
At 314 feet tall, Beacon Tower will be the tallest building in DUMBO. The architecture firm Cetra/Ruddy collaborated with feng shui consultant Benjamin Huntington to design what is being marketed as a positive living environment.. Located directly adjacent to the Manhattan Bridge, the building was designed with dual-glazed laminated glass and sound absorbing acoustic liners to keep the noise out.

 

The Nexus
Location: 84 Front Street
Developer: A.I. and Boymelgreen
Architect(s): Meltzer/Mandl Architects
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: 12 floors, 56 units, 86,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): January 2006
This 12-story new condo building is similar in scale to its early 20th-century neighbors, but doesnnt employ their industrial vocabulary. According to principal Marvin Meltzer, the client had already purchased the yellow brick, and so his firm decided to incorporate more contemporary metal panels in green, blue, and metallic silver on the facade.

 

Queens

The Windsor at forest Hills
Location: 108824 71st Road
Developer: Cord Meyer Development Co.
Architect(s): Ismael Leyva Architects
Consultant(s): Rosenwasser Grossman Consulting Engineers, Burrwood Engineering, Bovis Construction
Size: 21 floors, 95 units, 166,242 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Late 2005
The site of the Windsor is along a stretch of Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills where there are currently no comparably scaled projects. Mid-rises across the street balance the proposed building somewhat, but project architect Luen Chee of Cord Meyer foresees the neighborhood being developed at a much larger scale in the near future.

 

Flushing Town Center
Location: College Point Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue
Developer: Muss Development
Architect(s): Perkins Eastman Architects
Consultant(s): Bovis Lend Lease, Langan Engineering, Urbitran/Rosenbloom Architects
Size: 1,000 units, 750,000 sq. ft. retail, 3.2 million sq. ft. total
Completion (est.): Spring 2007
Budget: $600 million
On a 14-acre site in downtown Flushing near Shea Stadium, this mixed-use commercial, residential, and manufacturing development on the site of a former Con Edison facility is attracting big-box retailers to its 50,000 to 130,000-square-foot commercial spaces. The Flushing waterfront was rezoned in the late 1990s to accommodate such developments.

 

Queens West Six and Seven
Location: Centre Boulevard, Long Island City
Developer: Rockrose Development Corp.
Architect(s): Arquitectonica with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): Unavailable
Size: 30 floors each, 965 units, 1,159,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Budget: $200 million
This mammoth development on a 22-acre industrial site along the Queens waterfront consists of seven buildings ranging from 7 to 35 stories in height. It will form an urban edge between the traditional mid-rise structures of Queens and the East River waterfront park.

 

Researched and written by Alan G. Brake, Deborah Grossberg, Anne Guiney, Gunnar Hand, Jaffer Kolb, and Jenny Wong.

Also in this issue:

Developmentally Challenged

Architects Turned Developers

Practically Ready


Sustainable


NEW Developers


Liberty Bonds


Conversions

Eminent Domain

 

The Cool Hunt

The Cool Hunt Every architecture office has a materials library, though that can mean anything from a pile of product samples to a rigorously organized and staffed archive. Luckily for architects, the explosion of new materials in the last decade has brought with it an array of tools to help architects keep up with it all. Cathy Lang Ho surveys the sources. For an installation in Milan during the International Furniture Fair last month, Steven Holl Architects created a piece (left) that explored the theme porosity,, using a wood-veneered aluminum he found at Material Connexion. The material's ability to be laser cut and creased without breaking perfectly suited the design. Nick Gelpi Is not architecture determined by new materials and new methods?? Le Corbusier wrote in Architectural Record in 1929. The Swiss architect pressed further: A hundred years of new materials and new methods have made no change whatsoever in your [American] architectural viewpoint.. And where do things stand today? American architecture is still not exactly regarded as being on the forefront of material or technological innovation. Architecture is so boring,, lamented George Beylerian, president of Material Connexion, the mother of all materials resources, founded in 1997. What happened to the days when architects were fearless? It seems like only a few are trying to see what they can do with new materials or new ways of using materials.. Of Material Connexion's 1,200 users, architects comprise a minority, far outnumbered by industrial designers, manufacturers, and even fashion designers who tap into Material Connexion's Manhattan library or online database, where thousands of cutting-edge materials and processes have been juried, explicated, and catalogued. Some might consider the cost of Material Connexion's membership an obstacle: An individual membership, which includes access to both on-site and web libraries, is $450 per year. A corporate membership, which allows up to four people to use the on-site and web libraries, is $1,470. Many architecture firms balk at such fees, unlike, say, Prada, BMW, Target, or Steelcase (members all). But the payoff can be immense. With materials harvested from sources like the journal of the Society of Plastic Engineers and industries from medical equipment to aerospace, Material Connexion's offerings are more surprising and fantastical than what one would encounter walking the floors of a building trade fair. Consultation comes with the membership. Designers will come and tell us the characteristics they're looking for in a material, and we'll do our best to narrow down the possible solutions,, said Angela Aldrete, who works in the library. For many of Material Connexion's membersswho include Jean Nouvel, Bernard Tschumi, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Office of Metropolitan Architectureethe amount of time saved by this type of research assistance can be priceless. The most recent issue of DesignAid included MesoOptics' PureFX (left), in which a material is coated with a special film that transforms a laser point into a line with only a five percent loss of light; and Bendywood, available in beech, ash, oak, and maple, can be bent in a cold, dry state at a radius of over ten times its thickness (below). Courtesy Inventables Robin Reigi, whose eponymous showroom in Chelsea provides innovative materials and processes to architects and designers, has also seen a burgeoning demand for material research since she started her business six years ago. Somewhat organically, she has branched into material consultation, with clients like General Motors, Nissan, and Herman Miller recruiting her to hunt down materials to solve specific design problems. But Reigi doesn't expect architects to start paying for advice. We market our products to them but we won't look to them for fees,, she said. The best service she can provide is to act as a filter, offering a carefully edited selection of products that are functionally and visually extraordinary. She represents mostly small (under $5 million) companies, and often works closely with them to improve or develop products and processes that she thinks will appeal to architects. Architects always tell me what they want, and it often makes me think, Does that exist? If it doesn't, why not? And who can make it?? Reigi said. For architects who are part of that large New York demographic that's addicted to having everything delivered, two compelling subscription services have emerged in response to the wave of material-mania. Chicago-based company Inventables launched DesignAid three years ago, a quarterly magazine about fresh technologies and materials that comes with a box of labeled samples (about 20 in each installment). Zach Kaplan and Keith Schacht came up with the concept for DesignAid after talking to architects and designers and finding that everyone's office was in chaos,, in Kaplan's words. The service starts at $6,500 yearly and increases according to the size of the firm and number of users. Meanwhile, Princeton Architectural Press is launching a similar publication, though on a smaller scale than DesignAid. Subscribers to Materials Monthly will receive three to five samples per month, for $200 per year or $24.95 per volume. Schacht would not specify how many subscribers DesignAid has, though he did note that architects are the smallest group, lagging far behind manufacturers, industrial designers, and interior designers. One reasonable explanation is that new materials are easier to apply to fashion, products, and interiors than architecture. It takes a lot of guts for an architect to use a material that's new and hasn't been tested,, said Rita Catinella Orrell, product editor at Architectural Record. When she's wading through the thousands of product samples and press releases she sees every year, she pays particular attention to the amount of research a manufacturer has done to back up a product. Sure, there are general trends that manufacturers and architects are interested in at the moment, like translucency and sustainability,, she said. But getting something tested and approved for buildings is a long process.. It's easy to get sucked into the sexy trap,, agreed Morley Bland, resource director at Beyer Blinder Belle, but when push comes to shove, if something is unproven, too expensive, or so special that you have to wait around for it, most architects be reluctant to use it.. Bland is a member of the Research Directors Association, a group of individuals who are formally in charge of their firms' libraries or informally their firms' resident product geek.. Only in its sixth year, the group has chapters across the country and about 200 members, 60 in New York who meet monthly. Their primary aim is to share information, for example, turning each other on to cool new finds or providing recommendationssor warningssabout specific materials or manufacturers. They also share ideas about how to best conduct research and present their findings to their firms. Some make staff presentations, while others send weekly email newsletters. Blaine Brownell, an architect and Seattle-based NBBJ's resident product guru, has gone so far as to offer free product-of-the-week email newsletters to anyone who asks. (He also created his own printed and PDF catalogue of new materials, Transmaterial, available on his website.) The group has also discussed ways of creating a national shared database and of formalizing what they do, perhaps by establishing requirements or at least a clear definition of the resource director's job, which might increase their value to a firm. All this progress on the materials front is sure to pull architecture along with it. Cathy Lang Ho is an editor at AN. RESOURCES www.materialconnexion.com www.robin-reigi.com www.inventables.com www.rdanet.org www.transstudio.com Materials Matter Material Connexion recently launched a quarterly publication called Matter, which is mailed to its library members and distributed at its resource centers in Manhattan, Cologne, and Milan. Featuring case studies, profiles, and topical articles, the latest issue (#3, Spring 2005) also presents four best in showw materialssstand-outs from Material Connexion's monthly jury sessions. The following is excerpted with permission: Cement: Construction Cement (MC# 5151-01) High toughness cement for construction. This cement is a high-performance material that possesses a unique combination of properties including good tensile and compressive strength, ductility, durability, and enhanced aesthetics. It has been designed to serve contemporary architectural creativity and can be used in a highly diverse range of applications. There are currently three different types of this cement: FM contains metal fibers and is suitable for structural civil engineering applications such as load-bearing structures; AF is a variation of FM that includes the same mechanical properties and incorporates excellent standardized fire-resistance behavior; and FO contains organic fibers and is suitable for architectural applications such as wall panels, furniture, canopies, etc. Current applications are for architectural and engineering applications where high-performance cement is required. It can be used as a self-consolidating material, which can replicate fine formwork detail or dry cast, facilitating the creation of highly architectural aesthetic structures. Process: Fragrance Encapsulation (MC# 5167-01) Moldable resin with encapsulated fragrance. A custom-designed fragrance is incorporated into a cellulose base polymer and extruded into pellets. These pellets form the raw material for secondary injection molding into various shapes. The fragrance has a lifespan of 20 years from initial encapsulation and there are currently over 20,000 different fragrances that may be encapsulated. A range of percentage loadings (the intensity of fragrance) as well as color co-ordinations is available in pearlized, gloss, and matte finishes. Current applications include injection molded packaging items for cosmetic and fragrance industries, watchbands, and toys. Naturals: Formable Composite Board (MC# 5165-01) Molded composite panel from recycled carpet. Natural (wool) and synthetic (nylon 6 and nylon 6, 6) fibers from post-consumer carpet is bonded using a synthetic resin (non-urea formaldehyde) with heat and pressure to create rigid paneling for construction. The panels have good compressive and impact strength, are water, mold, and rot resistant, may be machined easily using conventional woodworking tools and exhibit excellent dimensional stability. Thermoforming is possible, creating de-bossed surfaces as well as hemispherical cylinders with radii of curvature diameters as low as 4 inches (10.2 centimeters). Panel thickness ranges from 0.37551 inches (112.54 centimeters) and panel sizes up to 4 x 24 feet (1.22 x 7.3 meters). The panels may be laminated with wood veneers, GRP (glass reinforced plastic) sheets, or painted. Current applications are for wallboard, as an alternative to MDF for cabinetry and office furniture and as an alternative to pressure treated lumber. Polymers: Acoustical Panel (MC# 5174-02) Acoustical panels for interior exposed applications. Expanded polypropylene pellets are bonded together to create a lightweight, non-fibrous sound-absorbing panel used as an exposed tackable surface. The panels are available in white and charcoal gray in 1 and 2 inches (2.54, 5.08 centimeters) thicknesses and in 2 x 2 and 2 x 4 feet (60.1 x 60.1, 60.1 x 122 centimeters) sizes. The panels comply with ASTM E-84 class 1 for flame spread and smoke generation and give absorption of both low and high frequency sound (12554,000Hz). The surface of the panels may be cleaned with regular detergents and are both water resistant and have high impact strength. Current applications are for sound absorption in gymnasiums, swimming pools, and other sports facilities, in manufacturing clean rooms, food processing plants and restaurants as well as machine shops, offices, and gun ranges. Material-of-the-month Club Princeton Architectural Press introduces a subscription-based catalogue of new materials Materials Monthly's first issue (left) includes Polygal's polycarbonate sheets (below), which feature extreme flexibility and durability, and KnollTextiles' Imago resin sheets (at bottom), which are embedded with fabric. Courtesy Princeton Architectural Press This month, a new publication will join the ranks of subscription services dedicated to helping architects specify materials. Materials Monthly, published by Princeton Architectural Press, has a different take on materials than established publications like McGraw-Hill's Sweets catalog, however. Ten times per year, subscribers will receive a cardboard box filled with three to five samples of innovative products, along with leaflets describing their potential applications, technical specifications, and manufacturers. The sheets will be indexed for easy organization, and subscribers will receive a binder system for storage. Subscribers will also have access to a searchable database and an online forum for architects to post their experiences using materials they find through the service (www.materialsmonthly.com). Los Angelessbased architect Jennifer Siegel is editing the content of the first ten boxes. According to publisher Kevin Lippert, guest-edited issues are also in the works. We'd like to do some issues that are related to a specific building, where an architect, say, from Frank Gehry's office, might talk about three interesting materials used in the Disney Concert Hallltheir upsides as well as their downsides,, said Lippert. Inspired by his childhood subscription to a service that sent science kits through the mail every month, Lippert wants the new publication to be playful as well as useful. Getting cool new stuff in the mail is something architects enjoy,, said Lippert. He also sees small firms using the service to build or enrich their libraries without too much hassle. There are so many new materials coming out these days that it's hard for small practices to keep on top of what's going on,, he said. That's especially true for firms based outside of metropolitan areas like New York.. Materials Monthly already has a few hundred subscribers, according to Lippert, and he'd like to see those architects contribute to the direction of the publication. The whole thing is kind of fluid,, he said. We're looking at what the audience is interested in, and that will lead us in new directions.. DEBORAH GROSSBERG is an editor at AN. It's Not Easy Being Green Specifying sustainable materials is still harder than it should be. Deborah Grossberg looks at the problems involved, and the best ways to go about going green. 3form, a Salt Lake Cityybased materials company concerned with sustainability, developed EcoResin, a 40 percent post-grind recycled resin, which serves as a base for all its products. Its newest line of resins, Varia 05, includes layers of sustainably harvested materials from across the globe, as in Capiz (pictured at left), which features Indonesian Capiz shells. Courtesy 3form In the past decade, sustainability has become an essential part of an architect's vocabulary, and the demand for green building materials is growing in step. Materials specialists report that architects and designers are in consistent pursuit of green materials. Though some of those conversations are stymied by lack of availability or high costs, their increased demand has driven manufacturers to develop and test more and more green building products. The Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments, an organization composed of six major companies in the building products businesssPhilips Lighting, Johnson Controls, Forbo Flooring, Owens Corning, JohnsonDiversey, and Milliken Carpetssis one new collaborative that's pushing the movement further by banding together and serving as one-stop shopping for architects or clients seeking green solutions. Paul von Paumgartten, director of energy and environmental affairs at Johnson Controls, said, Everyone who makes a product in the building industry is in the process of making their products green. If they don't get it, they're going to be left behind.. Von Paumgartten's attitude is driven by bottom line as much as a commitment to the environment. As city and state governments mandate standards for energy efficiency based on systems like the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED certification, manufacturers have begun to see sustainability as the future of their largest contracts. Around a quarter of all Fortune 500 companies now do an annual sustainability report,, said von Paumgartten, who has also served on the board of USGBC. What they're finding is that they consume a huge amount of energy in their buildings.. The company is also thinking green at the design level; it utilizes a software application to help architects design with EcoResin in a cost-effective and waste-conscious manner. 3form's booth at ICFF used the software to duplicate and flip its undulating surfaces, thereby cutting in half the number of molds needed. Courtesy 3form But even as talk of sustainability becomes mainstream, problems remain for architects. For one thing, the question of what's green and what's not is a matter of constant contention. Mark Piepkorn, an editor of GreenSpec, a catalogue of green building materials and products published annually by Vermont-based BuildingGreen (which also publishes Environmental Building News), said, It's difficult to figure out which products are truly green. There's no way to make a formula that you can apply the same way to every product every time.. For example, though a product's recycled-content and recycling potential are generally regarded as green attributes, they can pose a conundrum, particularly when considering a material's lifecycle. Polyvinyl chlorides, or PVCs, which are used in most vinyl building products, cause a great deal of damage during processing, use, and disposal, when they release noxious chemicals such as dioxins into the environment. Some companies have come out with recycled PVCs, but these materials still have serious environmental consequences at the fabrication or disposal stages, even though recycling does lessen the amount of PVCs in landfills. LEED decided in February not to provide credits for avoidance of PVCs, stating on its website that the available science does not support such a creditt? a decision many in the industry find irresponsible. Two new green materials available at Robin Reigi Art & Objects are Kirei Board (left), a strong, lightweight wood alternative made from compressed and woven raw sorghum stalks and bonded with formaldehyde-free adhesive; and Icestone (below), a stone substitute made of concrete and 75 percent post-consumer recycled glass, and manufactured in a day-lit facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Courtesy Robin Reigi Art & Objects A major problem for architects hoping to specify green building materials is the lack of a standardized, reliable system for classifying and comparing them. Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs))scientific studies of a material's impact on the environment before, during, and after processinggare expensive, difficult, and time-consuming to perform. Manufacturers pay for them, but without a dependable third-party system for disseminating information about the studies, it is often hard for architects to tell whether the manufacturers are highlighting good results in one category of performance while suppressing negative ones in otherssin effect, greenwashing their products. Some third-party rating systems do exist, but none have been singled out as the definitive source for information about green materials. Of the available systems, Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) software, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and available for free online at www.bfrl.nist.gov, allows architects and designers to compare the relative sustainability of 200 classes of generic materials, but not specific products. Another source, ASTM's Standard Practice for Data Collection for Sustainability Assessment of Building Products (coded E2129-03) provides manufacturers and architects with a template for conducting LCAs. A PDF of the document costs $33, and is available online at www.astm.org. The most promising new rating system proposed, a web-based tool called eLCie developed by the International Design Center for the Environment (IDCE), will be launched in June. eLCie will provide manufacturers a chance to submit information for third-party LCAs at reduced rates, and the completed quantitative assessments will be displayed in standardized forms online, allowing architects to compare ratings for specific products at a glance. eLCie will be compatible with Autodesk's Revit software, allowing architects to quantitatively compare the relative environmental gains of using different materials in a given project. Architects interested in trying the software can sign up for a free two-month trial at www.idce.org. Another encouraging development was the USGBC's release of the long-awaited rating system for existing buildings (LEED-EB) in November. The program focuses more on the lifecycle of a building and its materials than LEED for new construction does, and it is significantly cheaper to obtain. Many environmentally conscious architects have skipped the confusion and expense of green materials, choosing instead to think about green design on a macro scale. It's often cheaper to go green with design solutions like daylighting or rain water catchment than green material specification,, said Piepkorn. In any case, a more holistic solution is necessary in the long run. According to von Paumgartten The greening of materials is a trend that's only going to get bigger and broader and bolder.. DEBORAH GROSSBERG Mori, Material Maverick Architect Toshiko Mori designed the installation for the Extreme Textiles show at the Cooper-Hewitt, but her interest in new materials is long-standing. Anne Guiney recently spoke with Mori about her research into textiles and their applications in architecture. all images courtesy toshiko mori architect You have been looking into the possibilities of textiles in architecture for some time now, first with the show Immaterial/Ultramaterial (Harvard Design School, 2001), and the accompanying book (George Braziller, 2002), then with your work for the Extreme Textiles show, and now for your forthcoming book Textile Tectonic (George Braziller, 2005). Immaterial/Ultramaterial started the exploration, and looked specifically at materials and their properties. It is very expensive and time-consuming to develop new materials, and so we [Mori and Nader Tehrani, of Bostonn based Office dA] worked with students to combine two or more materials and their different properties. For example, insect netting used on doors has tensile strength. If you pleat or iron it, you give it structure. By casting it in clear rubber, it becomes solid and stable. Two weak materials can then become one strong one. The question was how to change the original properties of materialssmuch like reinforced concrete. A self-supporting fiberglass staircase Mori recently installed at a house in Florida, shown here in the shop in which it was fabricated. Textile Tectonic is the second version, and deals with issues of fabrication. Once you start talking about materials, you have to start thinking about how to use them in making things, and issues of performance. After you develop a material, and then begin to fabricate with it, you have to ask yourself Why?? The answer is ultimately in how it performs. New materials are often developed by or for the military, the medical industry, or other industries for specific applications, in which one can articulate the performance precisely. In nanotechnology, the idea that you can make new materials for specific purposes is still more theoretical. In a sense with textiles, we are already there. We can use them to protect from heat, to waterproof things, to give strength, and to produce them in any pattern. They can be multilayered and multifaceted. What are some applications for textiles in building? Boat building is an almost didactic example of the ways they have been used. The traditional methods of constructionnwooden plank cladding over a structural wooden frameegave way to plywood, which in turn gave way to composite materials like fiberglass. Now, boats are basically all made out of textiles. With composites, one can weave different materials and different strands, or change the direction of the weave of the fiber in the composites. There can be specific weaves for specific layers, to better distribute load of the wind or the force of the water. In Eric Goetz's shop [a Connecticut-based boat builder also featured in Extreme Textiles], you can see this evolution. He makes hulls for America's Cup yachts, and they have to be very stiff and very lighttlight for speed and stiff to stand up to the extreme forces of the water and the wind. There is a huge amount of money involved, but I am interested in the question of how to make this amazing machine out of textiles. Three projects developed by Mori's students at Harvard in a 2003 seminar called Weaving Materials and Habitation.. Top: This project explored the idea of floppy structures, and the minimum amount support that must be used to create a shelter. Center: To develop an unlikely and weak material into something strong, students pasted five layers of toilet paper together, and then notched and wove the resulting strands into this undulating wall. Bottom: To explore the lateral distribution of force, students sandwiched elastic between two layers of basswood, and then wove them into a wall which responds to touch. Opposite: A rendering of Mori's installation design for the Extreme Textiles show at the Cooper-Hewitt. How have you been able to apply these ideas in your own work? I recently completed a staircase for a house in Florida. The conditions there are extremeethe wind, sun, and water are all very strong. We had to come up with a material that is light and that can stand up to these forces. Stainless steel is good, but it isn't really stain-free. We designed a structural staircase made out of seven layers of composite fiberglass on the stairs themselves; the landing is made out of nine layers. Usually, fiberglass is used as infill paneling, but in this case, there are no supporting beams. Another project I am working on with Eric Goetz is to develop a series of lightweight roof prototypes out of composite materials, almost like an upside-down boat hull. Ideally, a great deal of the infrastructure would be woven into the roof. But boat hulls have much tougher performance criteria than typical buildings, and are much more expensive, so I have to keep telling Eric, It's not for [America's Cup entrant] Team Prada, okay!! We are trying to degrade, or lessen the performance criteria to see if we can incorporate this technology into standard building methods so that the price drops. How did you approach your work for the Extreme Textiles show? I was an adviser to the museum and the exhibition curator Matilda McQuaid, and I designed the installation. The show looks at materials from an architectural point of view, sorting them by their performance qualitiesslighter, stronger, et ceteraanot by their function. The installation wasn't easy, because of the historical context of the Cooper-Hewitt museum building. None of the materials are decorative per se, but their visual quality is important in attracting people and showing how exciting they aree I wanted to use that as a lure. The materials are installed in a series of steel frames, because they are all at very different scales. The frame is meant to be a virtual one in which materials are suspended, and can be seen in the round, not just in a case. The frames are focusing devices. Otherwise, it would be like the World's Fair!

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Emerging Voices
JEAN VONG

The Architectural League of New York has named its newest crop of Emerging Voices. Since its inception in 1982, the program has served as a coming out for architects and designers, giving promising new talents a platform to share their ideas and work. 2005's featured firms talk about beauty, vent pipes, blue trees, and asking whether or not a client actually needs a building.

March 17

Taryn Christoff
Martin Finio
Hadrian Predock
John Frane

6:30 p.m.
Scholastic Auditorium
557 Broadway

March 23

Claude Cormier
Douglas Reed
Gary Hilderbrand

6:30 p.m.
Urban Center
457 Madison Ave.

March 31

Pablo Castro
Jennifer Lee
John Ronan

6:30 p.m.
Urban Center
457 Madison Ave.

April 7

John Hartmann
Lauren Crahan
Zoltan Pali

6:30 p.m.
Urban Center
457 Madison Ave.

 

Christoff:Finio Architecture
Manhattan

Elizabeth Felicella

Taryn Christoff and Martin Finio founded their joint practice in 1999. The firm has since completed many New Yorkkarea projects at an intimate scale, including the Catherine Malandrino store (2004), the headquarters of the Heckscher Foundation for Children on the Upper East Side (2005), and a beach house in New Jersey (pictured below). Their design for an aquaculture center in Aalborg, Denmark (above), was included in the National Building Museum show Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete.

While Taryn and I come from the culture of crafttit is part of our makeuppthe practice is evolving to the point where we want to test and even antagonize this sense of ourselves. Emerging technology interests us, but in the sense that we can use the formal possibilities of new modeling technologies to let us explore ways to make the world around us less familiar. It can make you question anew how buildings are built and how we live in them. We're interested in the way it compresses the line between drawing and the realities of fabrication, and while we haven't done as much of that yet, the promise is definitely there.

We don't put much focus on form-driven architecture but are looking for an architecture that works, solves the problems of the program, and looks good. We've also been called emergingg for a long time and are still evolving, so next year maybe our processes and work will be different. Martin Finio

 

Claude Cormier Architectes paysagistes
Montreal

Richard Barnes

Claude Cormier established his five-member landscape architecture firm in 1995. His work includes large-scale master plans for Montreal landmarks such as Place-des-Arts (2002) and Old Port (2000), urban plazas like Place Youville (pictured below), and small gardens such Blue Tree (above), an installation at the Cornerstone Festival of Architectural Gardens in Sonoma, California. Cormier is currently working on a project for the University of Quebec and an urban beach for Toronto.

Janet Rosenberg

Three elements we think are important: that each project make good, logical sense; that it is visually interesting; and that it has a sense of humor. Everything is so serious! There is never a break anywhere, ever. Sometimes it's not bad to surprise people and show a touch of one's sensibility. We use a lot of color, since there is room for it in the public, urban landscapes we typically work in. Of course, it must be done with an understanding of the space around it, and that is where the logical common sense comes in. Sometimes there is a furorrpeople say A tree is not blue!!?but conflict is not always bad. It can challenge one's sense of perception. Art does this, and so why can't landscapes? Claude Cormier

 

Freecell
Brooklyn

courtesy freecell

John Hartmann and Lauren Crahan founded Freecell in 1998 and were joined by associate Corey Yurkovich in 2002. Recent projects include MOISTscape, an installation at Henry Urbach Architecture (2004), Reconfiguring Space at Art in General (2003, pictured above), and Type A Studio (2004). The firm is working on a roof deck on the Lower East Side, a house in Florida, and a brownstone
renovation in Brooklyn. Both Hartmann and Crahan teach design studio at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Photography, painting, and drawing are important parts of the background of our work. We're fascinated with the lure of cities, even if we can't explain the appeal of certain objects in them. Taking hundreds or thousands of photographs of things we are drawn to is a way of discovering what those things are and why we like them; the pictures reveal color and form, or density and sparseness, and those qualities inevitably inform the architecture created.

When people ask how we choose the colors in our projects, I think of pictures of the incredible saturation of the orange-yellow glow of sodium halide lights on the street. We wouldn't mimic the light, but we can draw on that atmosphere and its quality for a project. The repetition of vent pipes on a building is also appealing, so the same type of repetition shows up in the book cave we did for Shortwave Bookstore [pictured above].

With drawing and painting, it is as simple as strengthening your ability to observe and concentrate. Something about forced concentration leads to a much more detailed knowledge of a thing, and that knowledge then becomes a part of you and the way you think and work. John Hartmann

 

OBRA Architects
Manhattan

courtesy obra architects

Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee left Steven Holl Architects in 2000 to found OBRA. Recent projects include an exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design entitled Architettura Povera (2004, pictured above) and the Tittot Glass Art Museum in Taipei, China (below). The firm is currently working on three projects in New York: Rockville Center Apartments, Motion Technology Manufacturing Facility and Offices, and a residence in Long Island designed with Steven Holl Architects. A house in San Juan, Argentina, will finish construction in late 2005.

For us, competitions are the engines that propel us forward. While we try not to do the same thing each time,
we are always interested in things like trees, running water, and people, which can take either metaphorical or actual form.

We all live in a technological age, and sometimes design seems to come down to choosing from a series of products. We try to address, subvert, and finally transcend that. We're interested in laser-cutting, but not as an objective in itself. We want to use it in a way that looks beyond the limitations of the technology itself, and towards its unpredictability. Since so many things can be homogenized by technology, we want to look at the potential of architecture to bring back a sense of identity.

Architecture is a living thing, a strange mirror that can bring us back to our own forgotten condition. Pablo Castro

 

Predock_Frane Architects
Santa Monica

courtesy predock_Frane architects

Hadrian Predock left his father Antoine Predock's firm in 2000 to start a practice with John Frane. The duo's work was included in the 2004 Venice Biennale, and current projects include the Central California Museum of History in Fresno, and two projects for Zen Buddhist groups: the Desert Hot Springs Zen Retreat in California (pictured above) and the Center of Gravity Foundation in northern New Mexico (below). They are also collaborating with the elder Predock on an inn at the French Laundry in Napa.

jason predock

We don't like the word contextualism, because it is such a codified and constrained term. So often, when people use it, they are just referring to other architectures. You have to ask What is context?? It can be the culture of the people or an artificial, imposed landscape as much as anything original. At the French Laundry, there is both the culture of Napa, and also [chef] Thomas Keller's conceptual approach and set of tools. In the Mojave Desert [Zen retreat], we are dealing with a set of positive and negative environmental forces. There is always wind and usually people try to block that force or funnel it awayyit is a negative. But you can also use it to elaborate the spatial sequences you are creating. We think you find deeper meanings and more intricacy when you start to think about all of these relationships and interactions.

As for our process, there are two parallel tracks, the pragmatic and the conceptual. You have to know how many bathrooms there should be, but you can also question the programmdo they even need a building?  John Frane and Hadrian Predock

 

Reed Hilderbrand landscape architecture
Boston

courtesy reed hilderbrand
landscape architecture

Douglas Reed founded his landscape architecture practice in 1993, and was joined by principal Gary Hilderbrand in 1997. Recent projects include the Children's Therapeutic garden in Wellesley, Massachusetts (pictured above) and Hither Lane, a private garden in East Hampton (below). The firm is currently working on several projects in the Boston and Somerville area, such as the waterfront near the New England Aquarium, a commission from Harvard University, and, with Tadao Ando, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.

We are increasingly working in brownfield sites, but while the term is a relatively new one, the idea is not. In the 19th century, Olmsted took abused parts of the city and made something extraordinary. We see ourselves as engaging
in a long tradition, but in contemporary terms and with contemporary expression.

In our work, we look for clarity, brevity, and simplicity. It is a process of reducing a complex series of elements to something apparently simple and serene, but not simplistic. To endow an urban site with those qualities is a big challenge, but I think a great thing. Some of these characteristics are really ancient things, and we aren't afraid of gestures that are emotive or mysterious.

We have always celebrated the richness of vegetation, and are interested in the expressive use of plants and grading as a medium to convey ideas.  Gary Hilderbrand

 

John Ronan Architect
Chicago

courtesy John Ronan Architect

John Ronan founded his solo practice in 1997. In 2004, he won the competition to design a 472,000-square-foot high school for Perth Amboy, New Jersey (pictured above, left), and completed an addition to the Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. Current projects include a youth center for the South Shore Drill Team in Chicago (above, right), houses in Chicago and on Lake Michigan, and a residential conversion of the Yale Steam Laundry in Washington, DC.

I tend to work from reality backwardssI start off by asking what can I do with this?? instead of developing a notion, and then making that idea conform to what is already on the ground. That is a part of my interest in programmatic sustainability, or how buildings change and evolve over time. That often means designing spaces that can be manipulated by their users; the focus is on space over form. I start with spatial exploration, but material investigation also comes in very early in the process, and can have a truly generative role.

I think that one forges meaning through the interdependency of structure, materials, and space. At a certain point, the three come together, and you can't change one without changing the others.  John Ronan

 

SPF:a
Los Angeles

courtesy spf:a

Zoltan E. Pali established Pali and Associates in 1988, and in 1996 Jeffrey Stenfors and Judit Fekete joined Pali to found Stenfors, Pali, Fekete:architects, or SPF:a. The firm's recent work includes barn at the Sharpe House in Somis, California (2004, pictured above, left), and the Bluejay Way Residence in Los Angeles (2005, above, right). SPF:a is working with the Nederlander Organization on a project to restore Los Angeles' Greek Theater in Griffith Park and is transforming a warehouse into a charter school, also in L.A.

Some people want to wake up and reinvent architecture every Monday morning, but many of the results disappear pretty quickly. I'm not interested in being a formalist. Playing around with form is an un-objective way of going about design. I try to be as clear, concise, and objective as I can, so that it is not just my ideas that define a project, but what is there. I also enjoy the interaction with creative clients, and finding out what is in their heads.

I am much more interested in new materials and technologies and how you incorporate them into built structures for the betterment of the environment. That process is what generates the formmit comes from the way you choose to solve a problem. I always want to find beauty along the way. If I had to make a choice, I would sacrifice the new for beauty, since architecture is not about being the next new thing.  Zoltan Pali

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THE NEW, TRUE SPIRIT

Singular glories are a thing of the past, writes Andrew Yang. Architecture firmssbig and small, young and established, independent and corporateeare collaborating to create new design models, in project and in practice.

This past summer, Sir Richard Rogers arrived in New York, where his firm, Richard Rogers Partnership, had just been awarded a contract to redesign New York's East River Waterfront from Battery Park to the Lower East Sideea commission landed with SHoP Architects. We're not really about conquering,, he told The Architect's Newspaper at the time. We're more about collaboration.. Rogers, whose first major project was a collaboration with Renzo Piano to create the Centre Georges Pompidou, is echoing a level of openness that has helped his 30-year-old practice integrate its resources with the young upstart SHoP, an office that is less than ten years old and heavily influenced by new technologies.

As the competition for plum projects becomes more cut-throat, firms are increasingly taking less of a divide and conquer attitude, and opting for an approach that is more open to exchange and sharinggeverything from office space to design fees. Since the competition to design Ground Zero resulted in ber-teams like Steven Holl, Richard Meier, and Peter Eisenman; United Architects (UN Studio, Foreign Office Architects, Greg Lynn), and THINK (Frederic Schwartz, Rafael Viioly, Shigeru Ban), SHoP and Rogers is only one of many high-profile design teams that have emerged to take on large, complex public projects. When competing for large-scale urban redevelopment undertakings such as the High Line, the East River Waterfront, speculative projects for New York's Olympic bid, and others, pooling talent has become de rigueur, if not en vogue.

The idea that architecture is shaped by one all-powerful creative geniusssuch as the mighty hand of Corbbis slowly starting to dissipate as built realities become more complicated. While contributions to large projects have always necessitated a variety of different playerss structural engineers, architects of record, lighting specialists, interior designers, graphic design consultants, landscape architects, et ceteraanever before has the role of design lead been so open to interpretation by designers themselves.

Landscape designer Diana Balmori and architect Joel Sanders' collaborative design of the equestrian center for NYC2012 (top). Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Olafur Eliasson, Piet Oudolf, and Buro Happold's winning entry in the High Line competition (left).

The practice of stacking a team to include the expertise or profile required by a particular RFQ or RFP is nothing new. It's also common for firms with international work to bring on local partners to help realize projects in contexts with which they are unfamiliar. After winning the competition to design the new headquarters for The New York Times, Renzo Piano tapped Fox & Fowle Architects for its experience building skyscrapers in New York City (Fox & Fowle is behind many of the tall buildings in Times Square, including the Condd Nast Building, not far from The New York Times site). When the two firms started working together, the project really started over again,, explained Bruce Fowle. As the firm began to integrate Piano's design with the restraints of New York's Byzantine building codes, the design altered drastically. Along with other details, a dramatic cantilever in the base was eliminated in favor of a more realistic structure. Previously, many collaborative arrangements have seen one firm leading the others, and the others working in the service of the lead firm. The nature of collaborations might be shifting, however, with firms seeking collaborations not out of necessity but out of desire to enrich their own design processes and, ultimately, the final product.

Zaha Hadid Architects with Balmori Associates, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and Studio MDA's finalist design for the High Line competition (left).

When the firm Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer disbanded last summer after 37 years of practice, partner Hugh Hardy named his new venture H3 Hardy Collaboration. We're not making an exclusive practice of just working with other architects. We think of collaboration as a big idea,, said Hardy, who is working with Frank Gehry on a new theater for the Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district, as well as entering into a competition with Enrique Norten for a new theater at Ground Zero. The collaboration involved with each projectteven when it's your own firm projecttinvolves everybodyyclients, consultantsseverybody..

The close circles of the architecture profession often dictate the many reciprocal relationships that now crowd the competition scene. While Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos have built their practice, UN Studio, on a model of collaborations between various specialists for years, the United Architects team is one of the most visible and memorable collaborative efforts within recent years. The relationships among its membersswhich include New Yorkkbased designers Reiser+Umemoto and Kevin Kennon and Mikon von Gastel of the motion-graphics studio Imaginary Forcesshad been in place for many years when they all decided to participate in the WTC competition together. In our case, we were teaching and became friends, and slowly began to influence each other's work,, explained van Berkel. Some members of the group had met at a conference years ago that was organized by Jeffrey Kipnis at Ohio State University. There were heavy brainstorms of the quality of each other's work,, said van Berkel. The relationships were beginning to form. Nobody knew it at that time, but we called ourselves The Ohio Group.' We were invisible at the time..

Meanwhile, SHoP's partnership with Rogers' firm resulted from a simple cold call. According to Chris Sharples, one of the five partners of SHoP, the firm had wanted to go after the East River project, but did not have enough significant civic projects under its belt. SHoP had always wanted to work with Rogers. So they called London, and the rest is becoming history.

Regardless of how collaborations are formed, many architects are finding the experience rewarding. Since winning the job earlier this year, both SHoP and Rogers have learned to integrate their operations, despite the dramatic difference in each office's size. We've gained a tremendous amount of knowledge working with their team,, said Sharples. There's a lot in their partner structure that we'd like to integrate into our office in the futuree?for example, weekly directors' meetings (at Rogers, partners are titled directors) to review each other's projects.

The Arnhem Central Station by UN Studio and engineer Cecil Balmond

However, not all collaborative relationships are as rewarding and collegial as they may seem. There have been several reports that, within both the Holl/Meier/Eisenman and United Architects teams, one architect's vision eventually came to dominate that of the others. The issue of credit, too, is (as it's always been) a potential minefield, with participantssand perhaps more problematically, the mediaaeager to point out individual contributions. There's also the threat of one party running off with the commission, or controlling it to the extent that it can dump other collaboratorsssomething that architect Michael Sorkin unfortunately experienced when he teamed up with landscape architect Margie Ruddick for the Queens Plaza project earlier this year.

Landscape architect Diana Balmori, a finalist for the High Line competition, a team consisting of Zaha Hadid, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, and Studio MDA, warned that working relationships need to be carefully considered, and that collaborations often don't work the way they seem to. Speaking from her own experiences, she said, Right now, the model is very different than it was in the past [for landscape architects]. Collaboration didn't workkand doesn't work,, she said, since most collaborations come in the wake of a scramble for RFPs that doesn't allow the time for proper exchange. Teams are built for the sole purpose of assembling an image, and that really doesn't give you the time to put the different pieces together..

The High Line project, which was eventually awarded to the formidable team of Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Olafur Eliasson, Piet Oudolf, and Buro Happold, was heavily sought after by teams that consisted of not only structural engineers and landscape architects but also graphic designers, artists, and consultants for elevators, lighting, and historic preservation. The High Line was one of those rare cases, a very satisfying experience,, said Balmori. As a team, we were able to put the pieces together and start integrating something with much greater vision. The problem is, we lost the competition before we got to that part.. In the end, she reflected, the architecture remained totally by itself and we were never able to put it in the big image..

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The New York Times headquarters has been a collaborative effort by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Fox & Fowle Architects.

Image, however, might have everything to do with trend toward collaboration. Beyond the expectation of super-teams producing super-projects, a star-studded team is a marketer's (and developer's and politician's) dream. Never mind the actual results. A project could be considered a blockbuster on the basis of its cast alone (think of Ocean's Eleven).

A less skeptical reading of this trend, however, is the genuine interest that many architects express in expanding process and sharing ideas. The assembly of architects as a true union of peers is a heartening development in a field where a big ego is a survival tool and in a world that has not yet lost its taste for signature architecture. For some, eschewing the star vehicless of the past in favor of collaboration is the best expression of the balance of ideas that design should embody.

Since the High Line experience, Balmori has made a permanent commitment of sorts to working with architect Joel Sanders to pursue projects, an effort that has required reorganizing each office. Their first joint project was the design of an equestrian center for New York's Olympic bid. The alliance between a landscape architect and an architect is hardly unusual but this sustained and equal collaboration is telling of how Balmori and Sanders approach their work. They see contextthow a building fits into its surroundingssas a paramount concern and don't regard one aspect of a project as any more or less important than another.

Collaborations must be carefully considered, however. Because we're not a style-based practice, we're not trying to protect something or impose something on a project that doesn't want it,, said Sharples. If we were working with someone with a strong style, they would want to make sure that their style is in there.. They found a perfect match. According to Ivan Harbour, a director at Richard Rogers Partnership, Our approach is very fluiddit's not We want this, this, and this.''

This collaborative mode of practice may not be possible or even desirable for every projectt?I don't think you'll be putting together five architects to design an Alessi teapot,, joked van Berkel, who is working with engineer Cecil Balmond on the Arnhem Central Station. However, there is an increased demand and conscientiousness on the part of the client, according to van Berkel. Now we've noticed that clients are becoming more sophisticated. They have their own specialists, including marketing people,, said van Berkel. As long as they get a good product, he explained, they don't care about how many names they have to put on the press release..

This is really about creating ways to allow the profession to evolve,, said Sharples, who, along with his colleagues, set out as young architects to explore the feasibility of a decentralized five-way partnership. We're finding that [in larger projects], it requires a collective enterprise.. Given all the factors now at play in designntechnology, sustainability, contextualismmthe answer is rarely going to come from one place. And that's how architects have to sell themselves,, he said.  ANDREW YANG IS A CONTRIBUTOR TO AN, AND ALSO A WRITER FOR WALLPAPER, DWELL, AND THE NEW YORK TIMES