All posts in East

Placeholder Alt Text

Rikers Revolution

As the Rikers Island replacement plan moves forward, activists and architects look for alternatives
On September 3rd, to the dismay of many community members and prison reform activists, New York City’s Planning Commission (CPC) approved Mayor de Blasio’s “Smaller, Safer, Fairer” plan to shut down Rikers Island's jail facilities and replace them with four smaller borough-based centers by 2026. With CPC’s 9-to-3 approval, the plan now moves forward to City Council before heading to the Mayor for approval as the last step in the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The council was given 50 days to consider the details before making the make-or-break vote scheduled for October 17.  The Mayor’s plan would introduce a 1,150-bed jail tower to a site in close proximity to each borough’s courthouse—down from what was originally proposed—as a way of improving transportation to court dates as well as bringing inmates closer to their families and communities. (Bronx residents are already suing the city for not living up to this promise with the jail proposed in Mott Haven.)  Bronx Community Board 1 wasn’t the only board to unanimously vote against new jails. Each community board in an area sited for a new jail tower voted down the plan for a number of reasons, which have been echoed by local residents and prison reform activists—including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who recently endorsed the most prominent advocacy group, No New Jails. For Ocasio-Cortez, the Rikers Island complex should absolutely be closed but no jails should be built in its place. She hopes that at the “bare minimum” the vote is delayed until further information on what will be done with Rikers Island after its decommissioning has been gathered.  She also points to the lack of clarity in what the plan will actually do. This lack of concrete vision was also a concern for Orlando Marín, one of the three CPC commissioners who voted against the project. “At this point, we are being asked to vote on an application but have few details,” Marín said during the September meeting, according to Curbed. “The programming thoughts are clearly not finalized by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and contradictions that exist in the thinking and planning of physical structures.”  “For me one of the red flags is the fact that the largest infrastructure investments that we’re going to make as a city ($11 billion) won’t be towards homelessness, fixing our subways, or repairing NYCHA...it’s going towards incarcerating people,” Ocasio-Cortez explained to a reporter on C-SPAN. America currently incarcerates more people than any place in the world, and Ocasio-Cortez added, “We need to de-carcerate our country.” While de Blasio’s plan claims that it will shrink the city’s jail population from 7,400 to 4,000 by 2026 through a combination of sentencing and bail reform, jail abolitionists are questioning whether building new towers is the right way to accomplish this. The question remains: How does architecture enforce systemic injustice, and how can architects develop ethical guidelines to address the right way to navigate the country’s jail crisis? One group of New York City architects, engineers, and designers have organized to develop an alternative to the borough-based towers in favor of a college-campus-like plan (seen above) that they believe would create more humane conditions for inmates, save money for taxpayers, and not impose new development on any neighborhoods.  The 45-page plan was delivered to City Council last Friday. It includes razing the existing Rikers Island Facilities and creating a new campus that includes a hospital, mental health facilities, open farming space, and work-training centers. To cut back on the travel time issue, a ferry system would be implemented. A last-minute attempt to be sure, and according to the New York Post, one de Blasio spokeswoman, Avery Cohen, declined to address questions about the plan.  Cohen wrote in a statement: “We consider this a historic opportunity to build on the city’s decarceration efforts that have fundamentally reshaped our criminal justice system, and will continue working with the Council as we move forward to finalize our plan.”
Placeholder Alt Text

West Philadelphia Born and Raised

PAU's JFK Towers will stagger over Philadelphia's Schuylkill Yards
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
Philadelphia's Schuylkill Yards is undergoing a massive redevelopment by Brandywine Realty Estate that will bring half-a-dozen new buildings, totaling approximately six million square feet, into the center of the city. Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), is joining the fray with JFK Towers; a duo of cantilevering, offset mixed-use buildings clad in terra-cotta and aluminum. The project, which broke ground in November 2017 and is master-planned by SHoP Architects, follows a spate of railyard redevelopments around the country; ranging from the ongoing construction at Hudson Yards to the 244-acre revamp of Sacramento's former Union Pacific Railyards. In this instance, the redevelopment is located atop the former parking facilities at the adjacent 30th Street Station, rather than decking over the yards that neighbor the Schuylkill River.
  • Architect PAU HDR (Architect-of-Record)
  • Developer Brandywine Realty Trust
  • Structural Engineer LERA Consulting Structural Engineers
  • Location Philadelphia, PA
  • Date of Completion TBA
  • System Glass and aluminum curtainwall with terra-cotta base
As a tabula rasa, the architects enjoyed the opportunity of shaping an entirely new district that will be visibly prominent from most vantage points within Philadelphia—the east tower will reach a height of 512 feet and the west tower will stand at 360 feet—and will effectively bridge Center City to University City across the Schuykill River. "We generated the forms through the site geometry. Rail is adjacent on three sides which bifurcate the buildable area at different angles and heights informing the cantilevers and stacking," said PAU associate partner Mark Faulkner. "The breaking of our massing into low, mid, and high-rise blocks yields a playful stacking of volumes, efficiency for the complex mixed-used program, and a unique addition to the skyline that announces this important new neighborhood in the city." Although the planned towers of Schuykill Yards will dwarf surrounding structures in this corner of West Philadelphia, the design team has included several material choices that will tie the JFK towers to the city-at-large. Outside of Center City, Philadelphia is comprised of residences and small businesses rendered in often brownish-red low-rise brick and masonry. An additional influence can be found in the historic red metal coaches used by the defunct Pennslyvania Railroad headquartered in Philadelphia. The east tower of PAU's duo will appropriate this heritage with a red terra-cotta base for the vaulted arcade and a similarly-colored polychromatic paint coating over the aluminum cladding. The west tower will be subject to a similar material treatment but in a brownish-gray hue. The fenestration pattern that will rise from the arcaded base of the two towers will be a clear nod to commercial high modernism, with ribbons of windows divided by protruding vertically-oriented fins, and is a significant diversion from the predominantly all-glass towers otherwise rising throughout the city. PAU associate partner Mark Faulkner and Brandywine Realty Trust vice president Joseph Ritchie will be joining the panel "Schuylkill Yards First Facades: Architects’ and Developers’ POV" at the Architect's Newspaper's upcoming Facades+ Philadelphia conference on October 18.
Placeholder Alt Text

Dewey Dontecimal

Hunters Point Library called out over accessibility issues
Three sections of Steven Holl’s recently opened Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, Queens, have raised concerns due to only being accessible by stairs and are now being reorganized. While the library was previously applauded for the staircase’s design, and there's an elevator, it doesn't provide access to the three, tiered levels of stacks above the lobby. The Queens Public Library has announced that it is taking steps to fix the issue, but given the project's lengthy development timeline, how could such an obvious flaw make it past the design phase?  “With all the money they spent and all the years of delay, it struck me as strange," library patron Joe Bachner, told Gothamist. With the building costing upwards of $41 million, it does seem to be a big mistake that such popular sections of a library (fiction and periodicals) would exclude individuals with wheelchairs or other mobility challenges, as well as parents with strollers, and the elderly.  The library does technically meet the American Disabilities Act's (ADA) requirements due to a promise that librarians would retrieve books for patrons unable to make it up the stairs—but patrons don’t always know what they are looking for when they enter a library. The search and the discovery are a part of a library’s experience—a crucial part of obtaining knowledge. This statement was met with backlash by community members on Twitter (and in the comments on our previous article about the building's opening): “A 41 million budget and accessibility wasn’t considered in a beautiful inclusive way...” posted Sinéad Burke As Justin Davidson wrote in New York Magazine, "Staircases can be wonderful, providing drama, seating, exercise, and hangout spaces all at once—but they must never be the only option. Holl’s design, as sensitive as it is in many ways, fails to take that mandate seriously." In a statement to Gothamist, Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said, “Our goal is to be inclusive and provide access and opportunity to all.” The library plans to move the fiction stacks to another location in the library and provide the community with updates as they come.
Placeholder Alt Text

LOOP DE LOOP

London’s Universal unveils new NYC office with an interactive installation
On the heels of opening their first U.S. office in Manhattan, London’s Universal (formerly Universal Design Studio) unveiled a performance-based installation at A/D/O/ by Mini in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The participatory On Loop underpins the firm’s research and development-driven methodology, a process of collaborative experimentation to design unique spaces that interact with their users. In a sort of "formal-exercise-slash-performance-piece" hybrid, the installation underscores this ethos with a set up that asks visitors to experiment and co-create.  On view through the duration of this year's Archtober, On Loop highlights the design process with an unassuming setup. Fashioned from inexpensive materials—plywood, plexiglass, and masking tape—a half-painted loop and semicircular shelf circumscribe a round table and stools. Inspired by the Surrealist game Exquisite Corpse, where a drawing is arbitrarily finished by multiple artists, visitors are encouraged to participate in an on-going evolution of infinite accidental outcomes. In this context, masking tape is randomly placed on a plexiglass square on a spinning tabletop slide carrousel-like display. Over the 31 days On Loop remains on display, the “finished” works by individuals will contribute to a collective display on the installation’s surrounding shelf.  Universal will continue to activate its New York presence with a series of workshops co-led by local artists, designers, and makers. With the same premise as On Loop, the programming will ask visitors to participate in a similar Exquisite Corpse-like performance in different mediums. Including a clay, sound, drawing, writing, motion graphics, and food, the curious selection of medium-focused workshops can be found on the dedicated A/D/O/ Eventbrite page At their new location in the Manhattan wing of design agency AKQA, Universal will focus on continuing to collaborate with local architects, designers, and artists on various projects. When asked, they took particular interest in the hospitality typology—citing previous projects like the London Ace Hotel and Stockholm’s At Six Hotel. The design duo will operate on a bi-continental basis; codirectors Jason Holley and Paul Gulati will continue to work with founders Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby in London and at AKQA in New York.
Placeholder Alt Text

Made to Measure

AN Interior chats the future of workplace with Aaron Schiller
Since graduating from the Yale School of Architecture in 2013, New York–based architect Aaron Schiller, founder and principal of Schiller Projects, has completed a series of offices that are pushing the limits of what workplace design can be. Rather than create simple open plans or collaborative spaces with no direction, Schiller and his team analyze how businesses operate in order to deliver data-driven solutions that help employees work better. AN Interior’s executive editor Matt Shaw sat down with Schiller at his Hudson Yards studio to discuss. AN Interior: In your practice, workplace design is really more of a research process. What is the thinking behind that? Aaron Schiller: When we take on a new project, first we work with the company and all stakeholders to understand the core functionality underneath how they’re using their current space. The design solution is really that study; it’s analytical design. And out of this analytical design, we get to a new program. In a way, what we do is essentially community organizing within a workplace culture. AN: How do you think that is different from a typical client briefing on an office design? AS: It is about the level of investigation we get to. It takes real engagement on the side of ownership or leadership to commit to this path because it requires more time upfront, but it results in an analytics-driven playbook that looks somewhere between IDEO and OMA. Our workplace strategy and cultural engagement booklets have lots of infographics and charts. We don’t go into these workshops with just architects. We also bring in MBAs, data visualizers, people with experience in community organizing, or people with sociology backgrounds. We move in with the clients, we observe how they work in the space, and we get real data metrics behind it. They’re all distilled to attack the core issues of scale, duration, and frequency. In the law office we designed at Hudson Yards, they came to us and they said, “Look, we’re really collaborative, but we have a traditional space and we don’t like it.” We said, “OK, let us study you.” And we came back to them, and we said, “OK, you’re not going to be a trading floor, and you’re not going to be a traditional law firm anymore, either. Here is something in between that fits your model better.” Part of that was understanding that the majority of their collaboration—their meetings, so to speak—were only two or three people. So now we have a scale. They lasted 15 to 25 minutes, so now we have a duration. And the frequency is that these are 90 percent of all meetings in total. So now we know there’s a lot of what we call impromptus, and they happen all the time. So, we don’t create traditional dead spaces, which is what offices can largely be for a lot of companies. We’re not creating space for happenstance. We’re creating very clear multipurpose space. The great businesses are not getting rid of offices to be cheap toward their employees. They’re getting rid of offices to offer their employees what they think will be a richer working environment. Read the full interview on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.  
Placeholder Alt Text

Sensual Skyscrapers

Design firm turns Hudson Yards towers into sex toys
New York-based design studio Wolfgang & Hite is taking a more intimate approach to critiquing the development boom in Hudson Yards. The studio’s newest project, XXX:HY, casts the controversial West Side development in a whole new light. A self-described “luxury real estate dildo experience,” the project presents a series of pink silicone sex toys modeled after Hudson Yards’ most iconic sites. Wolfgang & Hite specializes in interior architecture, exhibition design, and art production. In the past decade, the firm has completed a number of commercial, residential, and studio projects from Atlanta to Copenhagen. While the phallic undertones of skyscrapers may be old news, the inspiration for XXX:HY came from one particular comment by architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable in 2008. In a Wall Street Journal review of Hudson Yards proposals, the 87-year-old Huxtable remarked that “Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's most conspicuous contribution is a pair of skyscrapers that look, in profile, alarmingly like sex toys.” While Huxtable never lived to see these buildings in all their not-so-subtle glory, Wolfgang & Hite has paid a grand tribute to the late critic by reducing SOM’s skyscraper (known as 35 Hudson Yards) to Huxtable’s interpretation—a hot pink silicone dildo. The collection includes a clitoral stimulator modeled after Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s The Shed as well as a ribbed butt plug mimicking Thomas Heatherwick's Vessel. All items were created at 1:100 scale and fit neatly into a base formed from a similarly scaled model of the entire 28-acre development. “There’s a lot to love in NYC’s recent building boom, but the city and developers have been jerking each other off for decades, so naturally we wanted to join in the fun… Masturbation is a great metaphor for the latest wave of development in New York City,” Wolfgang & Hite said in a statement about the project. “Architects design dildos all the time. We wanted to put these buildings to the test.” In a move to make its statement even more provocative, Wolfgang & Hite has gifted a full set of XXX:HY prototypes to the New York City Department of City Planning and Stephen M. Ross, chairman and founder of The Related Companies. "Sex does the body good. After the fiery criticisms of Hudson Yards this year, we thought city officials might need a healthy outlet for working through some of that guilt,” the firm said in a public statement.
Placeholder Alt Text

Bruce Almighty

Eskew+Dumez+Ripple reveals quarry-inspired addition to the Bruce Museum
New Orleans-based firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple has unveiled designs for the much-anticipated $45 million renovation and expansion of the Bruce Museum. Located in downtown Greenwich, Connecticut, the 107-year-old institution for arts, science, and natural history hasn’t been significantly upgraded in 26 years, but that’s about to change as it prepares to double in size.  The design team, alongside Chicago studio jones/kroloff, will redesign the museum’s existing facility—a 30,000-square-feet private residence from the 1850s—and add new, state-of-the-art exhibition, education, and community spaces and more storage room. The result will be a seamlessly-connected, 70,000-square-foot structure, nicknamed the New Bruce, centered around a brand new three-story wing that will open onto the adjacent 30-acre Bruce Park. For the new wing, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple will create a contemporary look that plays off the geology of the surrounding region. The facade will be clad in cast stone and glass with striations that mimic Connecticut's coastal rock quarries. The interior will hold a new, public entrance lobby, a large lecture hall, and an events space. According to the architects, the design, like the museum itself, is intended to be a “repository for exploring the complex relationships between art and science. The Bruce is conceived of as a stone monolith that is carved and excavated to create a monument that celebrates the geology of the site and its impact in shaping the culture of Connecticut.” Reed Hilderbrand will revamp the landscape surrounding the Bruce Museum in an effort to connect it more strategically with Bruce Park. One of the boldest ways they’ll do this is by outfitting a central courtyard in the middle of the building between the lobby and gallery spaces to immerse visitors in lush greenery regardless of whether they are outside or indoors. Additionally, Reed Hilderbrand will preserve and restore the tree canopy around the museum and create a clear circulation system with a guided path for museum-goers to view outdoor sculptures.  Renovation work on the current gallery areas began last month and is expected to wrap up in early 2020 following the completion of the Permanent Science Galleries. Once open, the expanded art galleries will allow The Bruce to host larger exhibitions, as well as showcase more of the museum’s 15,000-piece permanent collection, much of which was previously hidden away in its basement. Construction on the new wing is expected to begin next summer. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Architects of Austria

Resident Alien: Austrian Architects in America explores the globalization of locality in design
The Austrian Cultural Forum’s iconic building by Austrian-American architect Raimund Abraham plays a fitting setting and set-piece for Resident Alien: Austrian Architects in America. The exhibition, jointly curated by Stephen Phillips and Axel Schmitzberger, opened on September 25 with a standing-room-only panel and five galleries showcasing the iconic works of expat Austrian masters, from the classic modernist forms of Adolf Loos to the current high-tech work of Peter Trummer.  The opening night panel used the contextual significance of the exhibition as a springboard to address broader themes, opening with a conversation between the Austrian passport-carrying panelists including Herwig Baumgartner, Andrea Lenardin, Christoph Kumpusch, Peter Trummer, Bettina Zerza, Duks Koschitz, and Matias del Campo. Their varying generations resulted in the discussion of the contemporary meaning of hyphenated Austrians, as well as the implications of being from an era of voluntary, rather than forceful, migration stateside, differing from their predecessors in the ‘30s and ‘40s.    Andrea Lenardin referred to this 20th/21st-century transition as stemming from a collective “idea of the misfit,” to the nods and agreement of everyone else on the stage; “we weren’t forced out, we were free to come here. Hopefully, the 21st-century idea of who you are will not be tied to locality,” said Lenardin.  With ideas of identity and the weight of the creators of modernism on the mind, visitors were invited into the galleries after the panel, which was forced to end on time despite the high energy circulating through the conversation to the very end. The galleries are thematically split into the five themes: Primitive Domains, Aggregate Families, Urban Terrestrials, Cloud Natures, and Media Atmospheres, all said to explore the idea of bicultural heritage. However, while the stated intent was ascribed to the sort of heritage discussed on the panel, these five themes were presented more so as shelves on which to categorize interesting projects and objects, rather than come alive as platforms for deeper cultural ideas or placemaking. Starting with Primitive Domains, drawings, models, and photographs explore the beginnings of modernism as geometries set in landscapes, free from ornamentation and following the concept of form and function. As the galleries progress, towards Aggregate Families and Cloud Natures, the architectural forms acquire added complexity, both in form and context—including an evolving urban setting. The works and representations on the walls reach towards increasingly digitized methods of creating, viewing, and building, with the uppermost gallery housing Media Atmospheres, a darkened and immersive space where spatial manipulation—even intangible elements, like neon light—is explored as a manipulation of the human condition itself.  While this exhibition explores the physical outcomes of the flow of ideas and design culture from Austria to the U.S, the objects and concepts read more as being a part of the flow of contemporary messages we recognize today, global in scale and adaptation—there is a continuous feedback loop, not a one-way street, in the design world. Today, practicing architects are often true global citizens, like the panelists, all of whom have worked in their home country, the U.S, and around the world, not just as “cosmopolitans” in the dated sense, according to Duks Koschitz.  Design and architectural representation, pushing new limits in digital and post-digital worlds, is a language in itself, with an identity untethered from locality, the same untethered existence that Lenardin hopes for the professionals themselves. So while there may indeed be some truth in the humorous myth of the Trummer-suggested Austrian “architect gene” that sent laughs around the stage, it’s no longer contained, but carried by the self-proclaimed misfits in the lab, studio, and world.  Resident Alien is on display at the ACFNY until February 17, 2019.
Placeholder Alt Text

Precast and Stacked

Studio Gang's first residential tower in New York ripples with scalloped concrete
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
Since rezoning under the tenure of Michael Bloomberg, Downtown Brooklyn has undergone a tremendous transformation from a relatively low-slung commercial district to a burgeoning neighborhood defined by row upon row of residential towers. 11 Hoyt, located on the southern boundary of the district, is another addition to the area set to be completed in 2020. The tower, developed by Tishman Speyer, is Studio Gang's first residential project in New York City and breaks from the fairly lackluster design typology of the area with a unitized curtainwall of scalloped precast concrete panels. The 770,000-square-foot project rises to a height of over 600 feet and is tucked in midblock—the tower will be ringed by a street-wall podium which is in turn topped by a private park.
  • Facade Manufacturer BPDL Guardian Glass Stahlbau Pichler Metra
  • Architect Studio Gang Hill West Architects (Architect-of-Record)
  • Facade Installer Midwest Steel Enterprise Architectural Sales
  • Facade Consultant Gilsanz Murray Steficek
  • Location Brooklyn, New York
  • Date of Completion 2020
  • System Custom Metra system, Custom Stahlbau Pichler window system
  • Products BPDL precast concrete panels Guardian Glass SunGuard® Neutral 50/32
The approximately 1155 precast concrete panels were produced by Canadian manufacturer Bétons Préfabriqués Du Lac (BPDL), and measure just under twelve feet in both height and width. The panels are composed of white concrete with a thin veneer of light grey calcite. They are arranged in seven sweeping undulations along the east and west elevations, and three to the narrower north and south elevations, creating diagonal strands of bay windows that protrude from the otherwise flush curtainwall. According to Studio Gang senior project leader Arthur Liu, "the design process and digital design tools helped create a small number of discrete facade elements arranged in a way that offered variation and flexibility to the design of the facade while simultaneously aligning with interior spaces and respecting the limits of constructability." The custom aluminum window systems fabricated by Stahibau Pichler were, for the most part, installed by BPDL into the precast while at the factory. In total, over 110,000-square-feet of glass, produced by Guardian Glass and cut by Tvitec, was used for the project. Prior to the construction of the park-topped podium, the multi-lot space has served as a staging ground for the installation of the oversized panels. The panels are split into two categories; the 22,000-pound "scalloped" panel and the 11,000-pound flat panel. Both are hoisted into position and connected for lateral and gravity support at the floor slab with multiple galvanized steel anchor assemblies. A particular challenge of the project was waterproofing associated with the exposed horizontal precast panels. "The waterproofing had to be applied at the BPDL plant to avoid costly and difficult installation in the field and it had to be done immediately at the time of production without disrupting BPDL's plant workflow," said Gilsanz Murray Steficek Partner Achim Hermes. "Due to winter weather restrictions in Alma, Quebec from October to April, the application of the waterproofing had to be done indoors. That meant it had to occur shortly after the precast panels were stripped out of their forms."      
Placeholder Alt Text

1962 - 2019

Pratt Institute’s Enrique Limon has passed away
“It is with heavy hearts to write that our Pratt School of Architecture mourns the passing of Enrique Limon this past Friday, September 20th,” Pratt Architecture professor Dagmar Richter wrote to AN last week. “He has been a professor and dedicated teacher at Pratt since 2004. Students and colleagues alike adored him.” Enrique Limon received his MSAAD from Columbia University and BArch from the University of Southern California. He was the founder and principal of limonLAB, a Manhattan-based urban laboratory dedicated to experimentation in architecture and design. He was also an associate of Groundlab, an international landscape urbanism firm with locations in London, Beijing, and New York. Limon’s practice engaged in work across disciplines—graphics, furniture, interior design, and urbanism—and has been recognized in many publications and exhibitions including as an Emerging Architect in Architectural Record and as a participant in the Emerging Professionals show at the AIA headquarters in Washington D.C. He had given lectures across Europe, Asia, and the US.  According to Richter, he had also just finished and published a design of a new sustainable, “smart city” in Nepal as well as large-scale housing projects in Mexico and Jamaica. Limon not only advocated for sustainable building practices but used his research to foster knowledge of local building materials and design that supported the health of the communities that it serves.
Placeholder Alt Text

Over Troubled Waters

Controversial Lower Manhattan flood protection plan moves forward
New York City's City Planning Commission met last Monday to vote on the future of the $1.45 billion resiliency plan to bolster flood protection in Lower Manhattan, a mammoth scheme designed and planned by One Architecture & Urbanism, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, AKRF, and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The approved East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project will stretch from Montgomery Street to 25th Street and, controversially, rebuild the East River Park eight feet higher than it currently stands. That plan, which was first unveiled in January, was designed to withstand a 100-year coastal flood scenario through 2050. In addition to elevating the East River Park, the ESCR project will also replace several bridges and build new flood walls, flood gates, and underground flood protection.  The ESCR is one of several projects initiated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to prepare the city for the continued threats of sea-level rise. The complete 10-mile-long plan, initially envisioned by BIG as the "BIG U," will wrap around the southern tip of Manhattan from West 57th Street to East 42nd Street. As far back as 2015, the original design proposal for the ESCR was rejected by Community Boards 3 and 6. Three years later, the city released the current iteration of the project, shocking some residents with its huge price tag and new design. The current version of the project will cost $1.45 billion, up from the original $338 million, but will shorten construction time by 1.5 years compared to previous proposals. The new scheme would also allow equipment to be brought in via barge to avoid closing the neighboring FDR Drive.  While the park and surrounding area were heavily flooded in 2012 by Sandy and fall well within FEMA’s 100-year flood zone, residents expressed outrage at the flood protection plan. Protestors were distrustful after previous plans were unexpectedly scrapped, and doubt the city's ability to meet the new  2023 deadline. Residents have expressed such intense opposition to the project that Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, recently commissioned an independent review by the Dutch group Deltares to assess it. Despite weighing the pushback, the City Planning Commission ultimately voted to approve the project, citing the immediate threat that rising sea levels pose. The ESCR plan will next need to receive the City Council's blessing before it can be voted on by Mayor Bill de Blasio for final approval.
Placeholder Alt Text

Carbon Canceled

A built environment symposium closes out Climate Week NYC 2019
With Climate Week NYC coming to a close, the Built Environment Symposium was a fitting finale, gathering together political bodies, industry professionals as well as architects and designers to speak openly about their collaborative efforts to make New York City a greener place The third panel discussion in particular, “New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act: Significantly Reducing Building Emissions,” brought together preeminent voices working to address the environmental impacts of New York’s buildings. Melanie La Rocca, commissioner of the Department of Buildings (DOB) sat down with Jason Vollen, director of architecture for Metro New York at AECOM and Christopher Toomey, vice president of major projects at McKinsey & Company to discuss the importance of addressing the costs of the built environment, and why pieces of legislation are invaluable to instituting rapid change.  With 67 percent of the city’s emissions stemming from its buildings, the need for action is acute, and the mayor’s office has accentuated the urgency by implementing Local Law 97, a mandate that all buildings over 25,000-square-feet comply with aggressive carbon caps by 2024. The very building the panelists sat in, the Midtown Manhattan office of host firm AECOM, is one such building that will fall under the new jurisdiction.  Local Law 97 is the first of its kind to make the financial penalties for non-compliance so significant that building owners will have to address the issues head-on. Fines start at $268 per metric ton over the predetermined limits (based on a building’s size and class) and additional fees are added for non-submittal of records, as well as false or flawed reports, all on an annual schedule. Hopefully, these financial roadblocks will incentivize building owners in ways that previous legislation has only wagged fingers.  This regulation doesn’t just apply to new buildings, but all buildings in New York City. That’s roughly 50,000—and this measure has sparked controversy as older buildings will have to invest in major renovations, as many did not incorporate energy efficiency in their original designs. Aged technologies like boilers and old-fashioned window glazing will need to be replaced, likely at a great initial cost to those landlords.  The panelists talked very seriously and practically about the realities of retrofitting all these spaces. “We could build an entire industry around retrofitting structures,” Toomey said, adding that there are studies that speculate that this would necessitate the creation of up to 140,000 new jobs.  However, the bureaucracy involved in clearing thousands of new buildings in the next four years in advance of the “penalty stage,” where non-complying structures will be fined heavily for carbon use, is intimidating even for the DOB: “We don’t want 20,000 applications coming in 2023,” said La Rocca. To avoid this, the DOB, architects, and project managers are encouraging companies to act now and stay ahead of the curve for not only the 2024 benchmarks but the 2030 ones as well. “No one wants to be an SUV in a Prius world,” said Vollen, “It would be an embarrassment down the line.” Architects like Vollen are encouraging high-profile companies to handle their compliance measures sooner than later with a leading mindset—to both leverage their names as well as allow for more time to design creative, innovative solutions to emissions targets rather than hasty adaptations.  While the panelists all acknowledged the risks and experimentation needed in NYC’s fight to lower emissions, La Rocca closed the discussion, saying, “This is an opportunity for us all to reimagine what we do.”