All posts in East

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School's In?

Former I.M. Pei–designed IBM campus in Westchester could become boarding school
The suburban corporate campus Pei Cobb Freed & Partners designed for computing giant IBM could become a private school focused on science, math, and the arts. The town of Somers, a small municipality in northern Westchester County, recently heard a proposal from a developer who wants to convert about half of the 750-acre campus and all its five buildings into a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) high school for day and boarding students. For-profit developers Evergreen Ridge told the town board that the campus's 1.2 million square feet would be converted into the school in three phases. Ultimately, the school plans to accommodate around 1,530 boarding and 270 day pupils, for a total of 1,800, lohud.com reported. Operations would kick off in 2021 with a summer program and the campus would reach full capacity three years later. Sports fields, a field house, and an arts building would be erected during the second phase of construction. The Pei Cobb Freed–designed campus, known for its pyramidal, zig-zagging buildings, was erected between 1984 and 1989. At peak occupancy, it hosted about 3,000 workers on the nine-to-five (they even had a song!). In 2016, however, IBM vacated the property and sold it to Sebastian Capital for almost $32 million. This isn't the only Pei news to emerge recently: Unless you're an architecture aficionado who's elected to live under a rock, you probably know that the Pritzker Prize–winning architect died last month at the age of 102.
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Pratt to the Future

Harriet Harriss named new Dean of Architecture at Pratt
The search to replace Thomas Hanrahan, the long-serving outgoing dean of the Pratt Institute School of Architecture, is now over, as Pratt has selected Dr. Harriet Harriss to take over come August 20, 2019. Dr. Harriss will bring an international spin to the position, as well as one of inclusion and pedagogy, topics that Harriss has written about, lectured on, and researched extensively. Harriss currently leads the Post-Graduate Research Program in Architecture and Interior Design at the Royal College of Art in London, and before that, led the Masters in Applied Design in Architecture program at Oxford Brookes University. Harriss has also taught at the New School and Parsons in the past and has run international collaborations with the New York Institute of Technology and Columbia University, among others. Additionally, Harriss cofounded Design Heroine Architecture (DHA) in 2004 and has worked on projects in both the public and private spheres. “Buildings aren’t just products, they’re philosophies with the potential to lead the zeitgeist. Tomorrow’s most successful architectural designers will be those whose education has enabled their intellectual agility and fostered connectivity to their communities,” Dr. Harriss said in a statement. “These qualities are what make Pratt Institute so unique. I am incredibly excited to get started.” Harriss will replace Hanrahan after his 22-year tenure. In his “exit interview,” Hanrahan expressed his desire to stand aside and let the next generation take the reins, but he’ll stick around at Pratt in a more hands-on teaching role.
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African American Design Nexus

Harvard's GSD launches platform to feature work of black designers
Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD) has launched a new platform to counteract the pervasive and enduring impact of racism that disproportionately affects black designers. The African American Design Nexus brings together the work of black architects and landscape architects from the past and present on the same website to explore their practices and provoke change within design institutions. That change is sorely needed. Only 2 percent of the nearly 110,000 licensed architects are black, while in landscape architecture, just 0.3 percent of licensed practitioners are black. For context, 2017 U.S. Census data estimates that people who identify as black or African American compose 13.4 percent of the country's population. Among the Design Nexus profiles is Hood Design Studio founder (and GSD alumnus) Walter Hood; Studio And founder and Columbia GSAPP professor Mabel O. Wilson; FAD Studio founder, professor, and textile engineer Felecia Davis; and Paul Revere Williams, the midcentury L.A. architect whose stylistically diverse work gained posthumous recognition. The Design Nexus grew from the leadership of Dana McKinney, president of the GSD’s African American Student Union and one of the principal organizers of the school's first Black in Design conference. McKinney and her peers generated a list of 2,000 African and African American designers, and from this list, an initial 50 designer profiles were created for the Design Nexus website by the student union and by the Frances Loeb Library. While there are fewer than 50 pages up now, more will be added over the summer. The project follows in the footsteps of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation's directory of women in architecture, which seeks to boost the visibility of women designers.
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Heart of Grass

bld.us designs paean to sustainable materials in the seat of American democracy
Like the famous Philip Johnson project that its name riffs on, the Grass House is all about transparency—but not the superficial, paranoid kind that relies on open floor plans and full-height glass windows. “This building is really about being as transparent with the construction process, with the material selection process, with the design process, as possible,” said Andrew Linn, cofounder of bld.us, the Washington, D.C.–based practice behind the house, “even if that leads to darker, rougher spaces than typical.” The house doesn’t present a frictionless, techno-utopian vision of sustainable design, but instead celebrates the texture and tactile richness of its organic constituent materials. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Disaster Dioramas

Artist Josh Kline brings climate change home in a new Manhattan show
In case you’ve missed it, the world is ending. There’s war, displacement, drought, famine, rising seas, sinking cities, faster winds, and a frightening U.N. report suggests irrevocable, possibly humanity-ending results if we can’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent of 2010 levels by 2050. Artist Josh Kline wants to give us a vision of this un-future. In Climate Change: Part One, Kline has transformed Chinatown gallery 47 Canal in Manhattan into a dystopian funhouse, one that reflects and refracts our world—and its possible undoing—back at us for unnerving effect. Through the first door, which features the stars of a mangled American flag peaking through plastered-on sand, you’ll encounter an irregularly shaped green table mounted with a lit vitrine. Against the nearest wall are a series of large, whirring industrial freezers. The tarp floors make a slight, sticky sound underfoot. This table is one of three bearing names that read like euphemisms for the current state of catastrophe capitalism: Transnational Finance, Technological Innovation. In this one, Representative Government, models of various seats of power—the White House, the Reichstag, rendered in Potomac River mud and placed against a satellite photo of Washington, D.C.—slowly drown under the water of melting miniature icebergs. The freezers sustain the chunks of ice just enough that the submergence is painfully slow, taking place over the month-and-a-half of the show's run.  As we know, cooling a small space puts out a great deal of heat elsewhere, rendering the gallery quite warm. Other vitrines hold different building typologies, like skyscrapers rising together from an imaginary Manhattan made from all the world's tallest buildings. The Burj Khalifa and the Chrysler Building aren’t in the same city, and there's no iceberg floating and melting in New York's Upper Bay, but you get the idea. The real-life ice may be far away, but water, and the planet, is a continuity. An ice shelf north of Greenland crashing into the sea has implications that reach far further than the Arctic Circle.  Through the doors there are other, unenclosed tables, with pink soy wax in the shape of insurance buildings and suburban homes melting down tubes that collect and direct the colored sludge into buckets below. Waste is not hidden, as everything is a system. The doors, each named after a degrees Celsius, with a second parenthetical appellation, are themselves artworks, but also serve their usual purpose. Some rooms, arranged together like a cartoon hallway from a Scooby Doo villain's mansion, can only be entered through a singular door, some an array of doors. They present a false sense of choice, and all lead to the same room, each degree of difference still resulting in the same ruins. The checklist is very clear about origins, at least for some of the more “natural” materials: beach sand from New York City, Shenzhen, and California; desert sand from Texas and the Sahara; steel powder from China. The flags, too, have origin stories, however misleading they might be. We might imagine that the nylon flags desecrated and pasted onto the doors with paint and sand and kelp may represent Germany, the U.S., China, and so on, but they are likely to all be from somewhere else, maybe the same factory, possibly located in none of these countries. To the tentacles of global commerce, borders are long gone. For the refugees of climate disaster and resource wars, the same can’t yet be said.  The doors, with their disfigured flags, are meant to represent the dissolution of borders and nations that Kline predicts climate change and its cascading ramifications will bring about. They also represent our willful participation in the house of horrors-style drowning disasters shown in each of the different rooms as we open and close them. Even when faced with three doors, the sense of choice is false: each opens to the same room. Whether our actions raise global average atmospheric temperatures by 2º C (Dutch, Belgian, French, and German flags, all compressed with Sahara Desert sand—a Colonial Chain Reaction) or 3º C (a mashup of the Union Jack and Japanese flags along with kelp and chlorella) or 5º C (American and Russian flags, Potomac River mud), we’ll still find ourselves in too deep, so to speak. Particularly resonant are the banal and domestic scenes. Situated in hermetically sealed versions of the fume hoods from your college chemistry class painted in subdued, aesthetically-pleasing shades of urethane paints with lighting to match, are scenes with dollhouse miniatures, submerged underwater (or really, cyanoacrylate glue and epoxy). They depict sorrily-stocked grocery stores, bland offices, and suburban home interiors, but their titles are not so bland: Erosion, Inundation, and Submersion.  Disintegration isn't loss, it’s transformation. Even as rising water washes away the mud of the miniature buildings, that same dirt just is transported elsewhere, but formless. Matter is conserved, even if our environment is not. What once was just becomes something else, and with us gone, who will be there to name it or know the difference anyway? Things happen on scales too large for us to know, or to know to even ask questions about. Kline shows us this, plainly, perhaps even at first propagandistically. In this show alone, the interlocking problems of political power, globalization, financialization, housing, architecture, technology, and climate change are all put on display. But there’s no real call to arms here, just a documentation of the future present. But it does make one have to ask: If this is Climate Change: Part One, what happens in part two? Climate Change: Part One 47 Canal 291 Grand Street, 2nd Floor, New York Through June 9, 2019
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The New Front Yahd

Sasaki to remake Boston City Hall Plaza into a place people might actually want to be
The City of Boston is finally heeding 50 years of recommendations from countless undergrad architecture theses: fix the bricked-up prairie that surrounds Boston City Hall. Today Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the city would throw $70 million to hometown firm Sasaki over the coming years to spruce up the outdoor space, whose size and scope was dictated by I.M. Pei & Associates' master plan for Government Center. Its red-brick surface is a nod to the comely rowhouses of Beacon Hill and a complement to Kallmann, McKinnell and Knowles's brutalist City Hall. Both the building and plaza opened to the public in 1969. Sasaki aims to create a "front yard" for public gatherings that scales down the 305,000-square-foot terraces into seven softer, more manageable mini-landscapes that can be used for events or leisure. Notably, the renovations will make the site's 22-foot change in elevation more manageable for those who use mobility aids like wheelchairs. According to presentation documents, the project is on the cusp of design development, with final delivery expected as soon as 2021. The area's master planning kicked off in 2015, and since then, the city has tried to enliven the site via temporary light shows, beer gardens, and art. Phase One will more clearly connect Congress and Cambridge streets via a promenade equipped with shaded seating and play areas.  By the time all renovations are complete, there will be 3,000 seats, 100 new trees, and associated programming, as well as a new public building on Congress. To facilitate access to City Hall, the long-closed second floor of City Hall Plaza will re-open to the public, as well.
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Curatorial Platform

Architect creates app to change how exhibitions are designed
For all the advances in technology over the past decade, the experience of curating and viewing museum shows has remained relatively unchanged. Even though digital archive systems exist and have certainly helped bring old institutions into the present, they have relatively little influence over the ways museum shows are designed and shared. The normal practice is more or less “old school” and even borderline “dysfunctional,” said Bika Rebek, principal of the New York and Vienna–based firm Some Place Studio. In fact, a survey she conducted early on found that many of the different software suites that museum professionals were using were major time sinks for their jobs. Fifty percent said they felt they were “wasting time” trying to fill in data or prepare presentations for design teams. To Rebek, this is very much an architectural problem, or at least a problem architects can solve. She has been working over the past two years, supported by NEW INC and the Knight Foundation, to develop Tools for Show, an interactive web-based application for designing and exploring exhibitions at various scales—from the level of a vitrine to a multi-floor museum. Leveraging her experiences as an architect, 3D graphics expert, and exhibition designer (she’s worked on major shows for the Met and Met Breuer, including the OMA-led design for the 2016 Costume Institute exhibition Manus x Machina), Rebek began developing a web-based application to enable exhibition designers and curators to collaborate, and to empower new ways of engaging with cultural material for users anywhere. Currently, institutions use many different gallery tools, she explained, which don’t necessarily interact and don’t usually let curators think spatially in a straightforward way. Tools for Show allows users to import all sorts of information and metadata from existing collection management software (or enter it anew), which is attached to artworks stored in a library that can then be dragged and dropped into a 3D environment at scale. Paintings and simple 3D shapes are automatically generated, though, for more complex forms where the image projected onto a form of a similar footprint isn’t enough, users could create their own models.  For example, to produce the New Museum’s 2017 show Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, Rebek rendered the space and included many of the basic furnishings unique to the museum. For other projects, like a test case with the Louvre's sculptures, she found free-to-use models and 3D scans online. Users can drag these objects across the 3D environments and access in-depth information about them with just a click. With quick visual results and Google Docs-style automatic updates for collaboration, Tools for Show could help not just replace more cumbersome content management systems, but endless emails too. Rebek sees Tools for Show as having many potential uses. It can be used to produce shows, allowing curators to collaboratively and easily design and re-design their exhibitions, and, after the show comes down it can serve as an archive. It can also be its own presentation system—not only allowing “visitors” from across the globe to see shows they might otherwise be unable to see, but also creating new interactive exhibitions or even just vitrines, something she’s been testing out with Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. More than just making work easier for curators and designers, Tools for Show could possibly give a degree of curatorial power and play over to a broader audience. “[Tools for Show] could give all people the ability to curate their own show without any technical knowledge,” she explained. And, after all, you can't move around archival materials IRL, so why not on an iPad? While some of the curator-focused features of Tools for Show are in the testing phase, institutions can already request the new display tools like those shown at Vizcaya. Rebek, as a faculty member at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, has also worked with students to use Tools for Show in conjunction with photogrammetry techniques in an effort to develop new display methods for otherwise inaccessible parts of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, a history and naval and aerospace museum located in a decommissioned aircraft carrier floating in the Hudson River. At a recent critique, museum curators were invited to see the students’ new proposals and explore the spatial visualizations of the museum through interactive 3D models, AR, VR, as well as in-browser and mobile tools that included all sorts of additional media and information.
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Soul Food Makes History

Museum of Food and Drink acquires Ebony's psychedelic test kitchen
The Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in New York has been selected as the new owner of a salvaged psychedelic interior from the landmarked Johnson Publishing Building in Chicago. Designed by local African-American architect John Warren Moutoussamy, the 11-story office building on Michigan Avenue was the longtime home of Ebony magazine, founded by John H. Johnson in 1945 as one of the first publications oriented towards African-American audiences. The magazine focused on black culture, celebrities, and leaders, but also explored politics and race issues throughout the 20th century. An especially popular feature was the cooking column by editor Charlotte L. Lyons, whose recipes were tested and photographed in the building’s custom-designed test kitchen, now headed to MOFAD. After the magazine was purchased by Clear View Group in 2016, the headquarters was sold to Columbia College, who planned to use it as a new student center. However, as the plan lost momentum, the building was sold again, this time for redevelopment by 3L Real Estate in 2017. The developer is turning the old offices into residential apartments and the landmark protections do not extend to the interiors. The kitchen was slated for removal. In advance of this planned residential conversion, however, a group of preservationists and volunteers from the not-for-profit organization Landmarks Illinois meticulously studied, documented, and preserved the space, placing its deconstructed components in storage. The group then published an RFP in February seeking a qualified institution that would be sensitive to the space’s history in order to best tell the public about the story of Johnson Publishing and the legacy of Ebony magazine from its inaugural 1945 issue to today. Designed in 1971 by interior designers William Raiser and Arthur Elrodwood, the kitchen is composed of an oblong central island, wooden cabinets, and walls all covered with orange and purple marbled wallpaper. The yellow countertops are curved around the island, and custom appliances are often playfully integrated—a toaster can be pulled out from a nearly invisible nook in the wallpaper when needed, rather than sitting on the surface. The original 1970s appliances remained intact, complete with their orange and brown paneled surfaces to match. As the winning institution, MOFAD plans to use the 70s-style marbled interior as the centerpiece for their upcoming exhibition, African/American: Making the Nation’s Table. Dr. Jessica B. Harris, the curator of the exhibition, said in a statement: “We seek to create the country’s first major exhibition to recognize how African Americans have laid the foundation for American food culture.” Harris believes that the salvaged interior is “a perfect embodiment of this exhibition’s story.” Freda DeKnight’s cookbook and Lyon's popular column were both celebrations of African-American culinary tradition that were shared with the world starting in Ebony’s kitchen.  The exhibition has been in concept planning since December of 2017, but the recent acquisition has become the centerpiece. Peter J. Kim, the museum’s director, included the image and news of the interior’s purchase in a May 22nd announcement calling for donations for the development of the exhibit. The bold yellow countertops are visible in countless vintage images from both the column and cookbook, but the swirly space and quirky appliances that will live on at the MOFAD welcome interaction with history and help tell the story of African American culture in America.
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Carpet Diem

Miniature undulating cityscape comes to Madison Square Park
Manhattan’s Madison Square Park has opened its 38th outdoor installation to the public today, dropping an evocative, interactive “cityscape” from sculptor Leonardo Drew into the park that will stay up until December 15. The 100-plus-foot-long City in the Grass stands as a solitary statement on its own but also makes ample reference to the city surrounding it, including the Empire State Building, which looms over the park. The piece is a tapestry of colors, textures, and materials that simultaneously evokes growth, comfort, ruins, and intimacy on the park’s Oval Lawn. Three stepped spires, the tallest of which tops out at 16 feet, anchor City in the Grass and are an obvious allusion to the Empire State Building to the north. Each spire is made from a mixture of plaster and latex paint, and Drew says that their eclectic appearance is a reference to Cuba’s dilapidated hotels, where peeling paint reveals the underlying structure. Surrounding each spire is an abstracted landscape of black and white wood offcuts of varying heights, reminiscent of buildings, but without a specific reference. These urban islands “float” in between waves of steel panels adorned in colored sand and patterned after Persian carpet designs, literalizing the “ebb and flow” of urban life through peaks and valleys. The peeling, layered look of the carpet, complete with holes and seams that let the grass below poke through, is meant to evoke the feeling of a familiar, well-worn home item. While the piece may look like it was assembled from found materials, Drew was quick to point out that he doesn’t use found objects; every piece and tear is deliberate. Drew is typically known for his wall pieces and City in the Grass is his first outdoor public installation. Appropriately enough, the piece is meant to encourage public interaction. While City in the Grass might look fragile, visitors are encouraged to sit, stand on, and explore it from every angle (just don’t climb on the spires). City in the Grass was commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy. As the exhibition will remain up throughout the fall and winter, visitors can experience the materials weathering in real time in response to the natural landscape around it.
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Tonya Harding & House Music

Gen X design surveyed at New York's Friedman Benda gallery
What do the Rick Roll and Boris Yeltsin have in common? The cultural phenomenon and political figure were both fixtures of the late 20th and early 21st-century cultural zeitgeist, a time heavily defined by Generation X. Separate from the populous Baby Boomers and their Millennial offspring, this segment of western society was born between the late 1960s and early '80s. X-ers lived in a pre and postdigital world and were witness to how technology transformed culture. Coming of age just before the turn of the century, this generation experienced the growth of globalization and a collective loss of innocence. Currently on view at New York's Friedman Benda gallery, An Accelerated Culture—closing on June 8—is a unique group exhibition that seeks to survey rather than typecast design from this period. Read the full story on our design and interiors site, aninteriormag.com.
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Jail Simulator 2019

AECOM chosen to oversee design-build of Rikers replacement towers
A joint team of AECOM and the Philadelphia-based construction consulting firm Hill International has been tapped by the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to oversee the design and construction of the four borough-based jail towers that will replace Rikers Island. The pair was awarded a $107.4 million contract to administer the four teams that will build the new jails, one team for each location. Once complete, the four new jail towers will each be expected to hold approximately 1,500 beds, as well as rehabilitative and reentry programs, counseling, educational, and health components, as well as community space, at a total cost of $8.7 billion. If the new jails in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan move ahead, they would be the city’s first design-build projects. The DDC issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Program Management Consultant team in October of 2018 for the borough-based jails project. AECOM touts that the company is no stranger to building correctional facilities, and the company’s broad architecture and engineering experience makes it a good fit for design-build, where the architects and builders work in tandem to realize the project. The AECOM-Hill team will work off of a framework first devised by Perkins Eastman, which, along with 17 subcontractors, laid out the potential sites and space requirements for the replacement jails. Their final determination was that the city should refurbish existing buildings or build new jails close to the central courthouses in each borough so that inmates could easily make their court appearances. Of course, the plan hasn’t been without its detractors. All four jails are being moved through the Uniform Land Use Review Process at once in an effort to close Rikers as fast as possible, but residents have been pushing back against erecting new jails in their neighborhoods, and clashing with carceral activists. At the time of writing, four community boards have voted against the plan (Community Board 1 rejected building a 45-story jail tower at 125 White Street on Tuesday), although their votes are nonbinding.
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House of AOC

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helps launch green affordable housing complex in Queens
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on hand at the opening of a new 67-unit senior housing complex in Corona, Queens—the first affordable housing to be built in the neighborhood in 30 years. In close alignment with the representative's leadership on climate change initiatives like the Green New Deal, the $36 million affordable development is also one of the largest low-income senior housing projects in the country to meet Passive House standards for energy consumption, according to a statement by New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The 8-story senior housing project at 54-17 101st Street was designed by New York–based THINK! Architecture and Design and developed in a partnership between HANAC—the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee—a community organization, and affordable housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. All 67 units, a mix of 1-bedrooms and studios, are set aside for low-income seniors, with 21 units expressly dedicated to formerly homeless seniors. In addition, the project is a mixed-use development, with a preschool in the building that will serve 60 children and will be administered by the New York City School Construction Authority. Constructing the building 8 stories tall was needed to make the project financially feasible, and required rezoning. But because it is located in a largely low-rise neighborhood of two- to three-story buildings, the architects used a number of strategies to make the project seem less imposing. THINK! broke up the facade into "townhouse-like scales," using different planes and layering materials, window patterns, and colors to vary the surface, according to Jack Esterson, principal at THINK! and the lead architect of the project. The building was also designed so that an upper layer of floors is set back above the first four stories, with a transparent band of windows separating the two layers and making the upper level appear to float above the lower level. This level of windows also fronts an outdoor terrace for residents that connects to the lounge and laundry room. The Corona Senior Residence, as the complex is called, is one of the concrete outcomes of the Willets Point Community Benefits Agreement, a part of the negotiations over the controversial Willets Point Development Plan led by developers Related Companies and Sterling Equities. Funding for the project came from the city, including HPD, the City Council, city subsidies, the Queens borough president's office, Chase, and the low-income housing tax credit, among other sources. "Affordable housing is critical for our most vulnerable New Yorkers, especially our seniors. I am proud to support an organization that strives to provide community-centered, innovative, energy efficient housing," Representative Ocasio-Cortez said at the opening. "With a pre-K on the ground floor and additional programs and services, this is precisely the kind of development our borough needs. I am thrilled to join HANAC on this important occasion as we fight to keep Queens affordable for all." As the representative added on Twitter, "Today was a great example of what can be accomplished w/ a !"