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This Boston architecture firm believes virtual reality could create a revolution in architectural rendering and model making
While major cities in Europe and across the world are experimenting with the car-free lifestyle, the American South is not likely on anyone's radar as the next to embrace the trend. A neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee, however, has promised to not use cars for an entire week, leaving them at home as part of the "Don't Car Campaign."Having started on September 19, 30 participants will go carless until the 25th. “Parking has been a big issue here,” said Jamie Brown, a member of the Nations Neighborhood Association (NNA) board speaking to the Nashville Business Journal. “The residential density is getting higher. One [house] goes down and two or three go up,” she said. “Now we’re starting to see condominium and apartment units." Elaborating on the parking difficulties in the area Brown went on to say: “We’re worried about how [new development] is going to affect our overflow parking in the street. We don’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood. The developers keep telling us this is a walkable neighborhood, saying it’s close to downtown. … We wanted to test that concept.” The NNA campaign to go car-less highlights the outdated transit system currently in place, adjudged by the Nashville MTA as insufficient for the growing local population. The city, according to the Nashville Business Journal, is fortunate in that it is walkable and pedestrian-friendly with plenty of bike lanes. Abstaining from car usage then shouldn't be that much of an issue. “People in other neighborhoods have reached out and told us this is a great idea,” Brown said. “We hope the campaign could be done by other neighborhoods.” The team of 30 who will record and document their experiences seeks to be a leading example of how a population can get by without being dependent on cars. They also want people to start seeing how capable their transportation infrastructure really is.
San Francisco, California
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects / Auerbach Glasow French
Pelli Clarke Pelli’s $1.89 billion Transbay Center in San Francisco, set to open in 2017, promises to catalyze the redevelopment of its downtown neighborhood, centralize the Bay Area’s vast transportation network, and serve more than 100,000 rail, subway, and bus passengers a day.
San Francisco–based Auerbach Glasow French (AGF) designed the lighting scheme for the four-block-long project. The goal was to accentuate the architecture and make the glassy structure glow from within. “The building wants to feel like it’s filled with light,” said AGF principal Larry French. Achieving this effect came with its challenges. One, the project is aiming to be one of the most energy efficient transit structures in the country, so daylighting had to be a large component of the design. Two, towers surround the site, casting long shadows. In answer, the design team developed an inventive method to pull in as much natural light as possible while using the most efficient fixtures available.
The centerpiece of the 1.5 million-square-foot, five-level project is the Light Column, a massive steel structure that pierces the building’s multi-story Great Hall. The column is uplit and downlit by powerful fluorescent spotlights mounted on its frame. Similar lighting is attached to the building’s exterior columns and beams. Thus far LEDs are not powerful enough to fill the hall’s vast volume, said French, but that may change as technology advances, so the fluorescents may be switched for LEDs before construction starts. “Trying to keep the technology current is very difficult because of the very long lead times,” said French. The team began working on Transbay eight years ago, and the first construction documents were completed four years ago.
Most of the building’s vertical surfaces are washed with LED fixtures, emphasizing their planes and bouncing light out of the building. LEDs also line the railings of the escalators and stairs, and are present in gaps between areas with lower ceilings, such as in the bus deck below the rooftop park. French chose moderation over excess when it came to distributing the fixtures. “We tried not to have too much going on. A building can get busy very quickly,” he said.
During the day, the artificial light supplements the natural illumination enabled by the design. Glass curtain walls on all four sides of the building are covered with perforated metal “awnings” that allow dappled light to filter inside in geometric patterns.
Natural light flows in from above through three elliptical skylights, with ceramic fritting to limit heat and maximize privacy. The two smaller skylights measure about 65 feet by 40 feet, while the largest, hovering over the Light Column, measures 85 feet by 65 feet. Daylight also enters through a translucent and multi-layered 150-foot-long glass floor, which is part of the center’s 5.4-acre rooftop park. The Great Hall has its own glass floor that admits light into the center’s lower levels. It is a similar system to the rooftop, but measures about 40 feet in diameter.
Sunlight is balanced during the day with strategically placed fixtures, which were calibrated through extensive lighting studies. “You don’t want to bring in too much natural light and have dark contrast areas,” explained Heather Kim, a senior associate at Pelli Clarke Pelli.
The combination of natural and artificial light is punctuated by “Parallel Luminous Fields,” a light sculpture designed by James Carpenter for Shaw Alley, a covered pedestrian passage leading to the center’s main entrance. The piece consists of 54 illuminated pairs of cast acrylic resin glass pavers set into the wave pattern of the ceiling and illuminated benches set into the pre-cast concrete floor. These two planes of light will create a sense of movement leading people into the center.
This varied combination of light sources is meant to aid with wayfinding and make users feel as comfortable as possible. But it doesn’t hurt that it adds a little “magic,” as French put it. “It’s exciting. The building is really going to be quite striking,” he said.
Sam Lubell is AN’s West Editor.
Pioneer Village Station
Alsop Architects, SGA / IBI Group, Realities United
When The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) opens six new stations along its Toronto York-Spadina Subway Extension, subway riders in Canada’s biggest city will not only be connected to an extra 5.3 miles of track. Thanks to an installation that doubles as platform lighting and a work of art, riders at the Pioneer Village Station will also gain a glimpse into the personalities of their fellow train riders.
Working from 3D models developed by station designers Alsop Architects and SGA/IBI Group Architects, Berlin-based Realities United created a station-specific art installation that allows visitors to broadcast a written message on an LED scroll displayed above the train platform. Dubbed LightSpell, the piece is composed of 40 LED chandeliers, organized into a row of 16-segments capable of displaying letters, numbers, and special characters.
According to the artists’ project description, “LightSpell is an experiment in public interaction and will entail various aspects of the theme of the freedom of the individual versus the interest of the larger group.” The intent is to anonymously display what riders type into the station’s five message kiosks, without filtering or oversight from TTC. That is still up for discussion, said Realities United’s Jan Edler, but he hopes “to come to a fruitful agreement with the stakeholders.”
“It is a democratic installation: Any wording—however rude, stupid, offensive—will inevitably also be the light source serving the demands of the community of other waiting people,” continues the project description. “We do believe that the interest to use the system in a stupid way will diminish once the students notice that there is NO censorship and hope that it will rather be used creatively,” Edler told AN by email.
The station sits at the intersection of Steeles Avenue and Northwest Gate on the edge of York University’s campus. Lighting is an integral part of the station’s design. “It’s a true hybrid between an art installation and function,” said Bruce Han, an architect with IBI Group.
While the illuminated messages of LightSpell comprise the bulk of the lighting along the subterranean platform, a conical opening in the roof at the platform’s center conveys natural light from above. Elsewhere in the station, the design team worked to include natural light wherever possible. Large triangular windows rise from ground level in the station entrance, filling the circular space with daylight. Metal poles topped with fluorescent fixtures lead visitors into the station, whose jellybean-shaped volume connotes playfulness, said Han.
When completed in fall 2016, the Spadina extension will be the first TTC rail line to span the city limits of Toronto. Pioneer Village Station includes a 1,900-space parking lot as an accommodation to suburban commuters in the adjacent city of Vaughan.
“We wanted to create a new public focal point that would encourage future development as well,” said Han. A swooping, cantilevered canopy shelters a regional bus terminal for York Regional Transit. Together with the train station entrance, the transit hub’s entrances serve as sculptural focal points, bisecting the parking lot.
Taking inspiration from rock-climbing walls, the architects wrapped the weathering steel-clad building with triangular planes and knobby shapes. Inside, above the escalator and stairs leading down to the platform, IBI added a light installation of its own: a cylindrical volume of perforated steel that transmits the glow of tubular LEDs inside through a peppering of small holes at its base.
Pioneer Village Station is not the only station along the York-Spadina extension that has been designed with an integrated art installation. TTC hired artists to enliven all six new terminals along the route, using funds from the “one percent” program it bakes into public construction costs. Whatever opinions subway riders have about the program or the new station’s design surely will not go unheard—just keep an eye on the LightSpell scroll once it is up and running.
Chris Bentley is AN’s Midwest Editor
125th Street Corridor
New York City
West 125th Street in Manhattan between Broadway and the Hudson River has long been a no-man’s land of broken sidewalks and shuttered storefronts, a scar of urban blight in a neighborhood full of them. But it won’t be for much longer. In 2004, the New York City Economic Development Corporation hired New York City–based landscape architecture firm Mathews Nielsen to redesign the corridor as part of its West Harlem Master Plan. The $14.5 million street enhancement project was developed to improve access to the revitalized West Harlem Piers Park, which runs along the Hudson River between St. Claire Place and West 135th Street, while at the same time preparing the ground for the future development of Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus expansion. In March 2014, a decade after the design was commissioned, construction got started. By the end of 2016, this one-time blasted heath should be ready for the safe passage of college students and condo-dwelling urban professionals.
Mathews Nielsen’s design works within the guidelines of New York’s Complete Streets initiative to make the thoroughfare accommodating to people on-foot, cycling, and driving. Signaled crossings and pedestrian refuges aim to make the corridor safer for all, while trees and other plantings soften the urban environment’s hard edge. At the west end of 125th Street there is an intermodal plaza with a bus turnaround and a link to a ferry landing in the Hudson.
As it has done in many of its urban revitalization projects, Mathews Nielsen used existing infrastructure in the area to add flavor to its design. Old rails still imbedded in the pavement from the Third Avenue Rail System, for example, are being preserved as historic markers of sorts. More significantly, the design is making use of two steel arch structures that flank the site—one supporting the elevated tracks of the IRT subway on Broadway and the other the raised section of River Side Drive known as the 12th Avenue Viaduct. “There are these two incredible bookends of the 1 Train structure and the 12th Avenue Viaduct,” said Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen. “We thought about those as a way to create a sequence as one moves toward the water.”
To accentuate this sequence at night, these structures are being illuminated with lighting schemes designed by New York City–based L’Observatoire International. The lighting approach was different for each structure due to their distinct formal qualities as well as the peculiarities of the agencies that maintain them. The MTA, for example, would not allow the design team to attach light fixtures to the IRT structure, so the fixtures are being mounted on U-shaped poles that thread through the subway platform’s arch. NYCDOT, which maintains the 12th Avenue Viaduct, had no issues with the attachment of light fixtures. Here the designers are nestling the fixtures in the hips of the arches, where they uplight the cathedral-like spans.
While both structures are lit with white light, here again there is a variation. The designers chose warm, 3000K white light for the MTA bridge, which is painted beige, produced by four 315W metal halide fixtures with narrow four-degree beam spreads to cut down on glare and light pollution. The subway crossing also features blue light that comes on when a train is approaching the station, produced by eight 28W LED fixtures with six-degree beam spreads.
The team chose cooler 4000K white light for the viaduct, which is painted gray, produced by eight 150W metal halide fixtures. Under the current project scope, the lighting scheme will only be applied where the viaduct crosses 125th Street, but it is modular and could be rolled out along the entire length of the bridge, a proposal that the design team has put forth to the local business improvement district, in case it feels like funding it.
Aaron Seward is AN’s Executive Editor.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is getting a new view. Directly across the East River from Gracie Mansion is Hallets Point, an industrial stretch on the Queens waterfront that will be turned into a 2.4-million-square-foot mixed-use project. STUDIO V initially did zoning schemes for the project, but this spring Dattner Architects stepped in to oversee design. When completed, the $1.5 billion mixed-use complex, which is being developed by the Durst Organization, will include about 2,400 apartments, 20 percent of which will be set below market-rate.
Dattner has revealed new renderings for the project’s first building, which is tentatively scheduled to break ground this fall. Daniel Heuberger, a principal at the firm, said the buildings (eight in total) will be constructed on a rolling basis with each taking about two years to build.
The first of the 80/20 buildings comprises a pair of 20-story towers that rise from a residential and retail podium. The base is clad in high-performance concrete panels and is topped with a landscaped amenity deck. The towers face each other at an oblique angle, their interior faces clad in reflective glass that will bounce light onto the interstitial outdoor community space.
The building’s street facades have more opacity. Here, Dattner uses a pattern of red panels meant to differentiate the building from the countless glass towers along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront. Heuberger said the two different cladding systems create something akin to a geode, as the building has a textured exterior and a crystalline interior.
Since this project sits right along the water, Dattner took steps to protect the buildings from rising sea levels and storm surge. During the ULURP process, all of the ground floor spaces were lifted five feet above street level. These structures will also be separated from the river by a waterfront park designed by James Corner Field Operations.
In terms of sustainability, Durst and Dattner have big goals. Heuberger said the entire project will generate its own electricity. To make that possible, new gas service will be brought into the project to power three co-generation plants. Waste heat from the generators will be used to heat the project’s water.
Along with a new supermarket and retail, the scheme also includes an MTA restroom and dispatch facility to support existing and possible future bus service to the area. Durst is also pushing for new private ferry service from the Queens waterfront to Manhattan. This seems plausible as Helena Rose Durst, a vice president at the organization, is also the president of New York Water Taxi.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tends to highlight the differences between himself and Michael Bloomberg any chance he gets. But on sustainability and climate change, Gotham’s current mayor has not only lauded his predecessor’s policies, he has built upon them. And so on Earth Day, Mayor de Blasio unveiled his update to Bloomberg’s PlaNYC—a wide-ranging blueprint aimed at cutting the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Now, that plan has even more ambitious goals, a new focus, and a new name: One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City.
“PlaNYC looked at sustainability, looked at resiliency. These were crucial, crucial issues to address and it did it very well,” said de Blasio when unveiling OneNYC. “But we knew we needed to go farther.” He argued that the plan had to become broader to incorporate issues like inequality because “you can’t have environmental sustainability without economic sustainability.”
Courtesy NYC Mayor's Office
After calling for a minimum wage hike and pledging to bring 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty by 2025, de Blasio turned to sustainability, where superlatives abounded: the city will send zero waste to landfills by 2030, cut greenhouses gasses by 80 percent by 2050, and have the cleanest air of any large American city by 2030.
Within the lengthy OneNYC plan, there are multiple proposals—many of which are already in progress—to move the city toward this idealistic future. On air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, specifically, the administration focuses much of its attention on mass-transit. By providing better transportation options in the outer boroughs, it believes car-free travel will become a more appealing option to more New Yorkers.
This year, the NYC DOT has plans to roll out three new Select Bus Service routes, which will be followed by five more in the following two years. The bike lane network will also be expanded 200 miles, 20 of which will be protected, over the next four years. And then there is de Blasio’s much talked about five-borough ferry service that is expected to face a host of logistical and operational challenges as it comes into service.
All of these plans were previously unveiled. New was de Blasio’s call for the MTA to study an expansion of the subway system along Utica Avenue, a particularly transit-poor corridor in Brooklyn. The mayor was upfront about how difficult it would be to see the extension through to fruition, given the current state of the MTA. “There is a reckoning that has to happen in terms of where we’re going with the MTA, and that’s going to involve the state, that’s going to involve us, that’s going to involve a lot of other partners in the region to make sense of it,” he said at the press conference.
On greenhouse gas emissions, the mayor wants to see an 80 percent reduction by 2050 over 2005 levels. This target—another idealistic figure—was announced last fall. De Blasio said it can be achieved by drastically reducing energy usage in buildings. This starts with the retrofitting of public buildings and boosting renewable energy production. According to the OneNYC plan, “For privately-owned buildings, the city will create a thriving market for energy efficiency and renewable energy investments and services.” On air quality, the plan calls for an acceleration in the retrofitting of oil boilers.
As for the “zero waste” goal, the city plans to ramp up curbside recycling and composting. The city is also exploring “waste audits” for large commercial buildings that would be similar to energy audits.
On resiliency, the city will continue implementing the first phase of a $3.7 billion coastal protection plan created during the Bloomberg years. While the city searches for funds to implement the entirety of the plan, it will continue with ongoing and planned capital and infrastructure projects including installing new bioswales, rain gardens, green roofs, and permeable pavers. OneNYC specifically mentions “The Dryline”—a landscaped berm and parkland for Manhattan’s East Side. The project, designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group and Starr Whitehouse, was awarded $335 million in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild By Design competition.
The mayor said OneNYC is intended to be more of a rallying call for action than a collection of specific policy proposals. “We do not provide all those answers because we don’t have them all yet,” he said.
Dallas is, by any standard, a car-oriented city. This, however, does not preclude the possibility of the city possessing areas of good urban space. In the past few years, Dallas has seen the improvement and creation of many key public spaces within the city; Klyde Warren Park, Lower Greenville, Main Street Garden, and the Continental Avenue Bridge to name a few. The mentality of the city has been steadily, if slowly, shifting toward a greater focus on enhancing the pedestrian experience and providing public space.
It was within this improving climate that the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) hosted its 23rd annual meeting in Downtown Dallas from April 29 to May 2. One touted strategy of the CNU’s “Next Generation” group is Tactical Urbanism, which is essentially citizens taking initiative to improve their city’s public spaces, with (or sometimes without) official support.
A stone’s throw from the CNU conference’s location is Deep Ellum, a historic neighborhood is in the midst of a renaissance. But this active neighborhood is without any sort of public communal gathering space. In response to this deficiency, the Deep Ellum Community Association birthed the idea of shutting down three blocks of the lightly trafficked Crowdus Street during the CNU conference and creating a pedestrian-only communal space. A group of local CNU members, community activists, architects, landscape architects, and urban designers took up the challenge of implementing this vision using the principles of Tactical Urbanism.
Rik Adamski, of AL Strategies and a CNU member, organized a design team that consists of local firms Callison (architecture) and TBG (landscape architecture). At the onset, the design team engaged the community to determine what they wanted for this space. Through public meetings they discovered that the desire of the community is for a practical space that can be used day and night.
Some specific ideas garnered through community input include an interactive chalk/graffiti wall, outdoor movie projection area, shade structures, a green “loop” connecting main community focal points, and secure bike storage, among others. The challenge for the design team is to synthesize these ideas into a cost-effective, impactful, and yet temporary solution. A master plan informed by the community’s feedback has been developed.
Though the installation only lasted a few days, the effort has great potential to make a lasting impact on the neighborhood of Deep Ellum. The hope is that the City of Dallas will take note of the positive change brought about by this infusion of public space into the heart of Deep Ellum and make this change permanent. Ask anyone involved in the effort, and they will tell you with unguarded enthusiasm what a positive addition this would be for the neighborhood.
This type of grassroots urban design initiative is not without precedent. The same strategy resulted in permanent road closures and the creation of pedestrian-only space in multiple locations throughout New York City and San Francisco.
2015 National Planning Excellence RecipientsDaniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan
- Vibrant NEO 2040 – Northeast Ohio
- Mueller Redevelopment – Austin, Texas
- First Last Mile Strategic Plan & Planning Guidelines – Los Angeles, California
- Making Planning Public: Newark Zoning Workshop – Newark, New Jersey
- Green City, Clean Waters: Philadelphia’s 21st Century Green Stormwater Infrastructure Program – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Boston Complete Streets Design Guidelines – Boston, Massachusetts
- moveDC – Washington, D.C.
- Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan – Louisiana
- Phase 1 Glenwood Refinement Plan – Springfield, Oregon
- The BIG U – New York, New York
- Tecnológico de Monterrey Urban Regeneration Plan – Monterrey, Mexico
- Honorable Greg Cox – San Diego, California
- Maryland Department of Planning – Baltimore, Maryland
- Raimi + Associates – California
- State Representative Harold Mitchell, Jr. and the ReGenesis Project – Spartanburg, South Carolina
- Donald Shoup, FAICP, PhD – Los Angeles, California
- Perkins+Will — San Francisco, California
2015 National Planning Achievement RecipientsThe Achievement Awards are a way for the awards jury to recognize good planning work and are similar to an honorable mention. National Planning Achievement Award for a Best Practice
- Realizing the Potential of The Porch: A Case Study in Data-Driven Placemaking – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Maryland State Arts Council – Arts & Entertainment Districts Program – Baltimore, Maryland
- Living Breakwaters – New York, New York
- Branch Brook Park – Newark, New Jersey
- Opa-locka Community Development Corporation/Gold Coast Section Pop-Up Park Initiative – Miami-Dade County, Florida
- Pop-Up Outreach for the Southeastern San Diego and Encanto Neighborhoods Community Plans – San Diego, California
- WalkBikeNC – North Carolina
- Tongva Park & Ken Genser Square – Santa Monica, California
- Greening Lower Grand Avenue – Phoenix, Arizona
- West End Community Plan – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
- Les Isles/ Domtar Lands Redevelopment – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada