Search results for "Public Design Commission"

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The End of Parker Center

Former LAPD headquarters to be demolished after years of controversy
Various reports indicate that L.A.’s Parker Center, an International Style structure designed by Welton Becket and Associates that once served as the headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), is set to be demolished starting August 20.  The much-maligned building will make way for a new 750,000-square-foot, 27- to 29-story office tower that is being developed as part of a new master plan for the surrounding Civic Center neighborhood.  There was a short-lived effort to landmark and perhaps preserve the Parker Center last year that failed in large part due to community opposition to the building. One reason the building is unpopular is that the site for the complex was taken from what once the cultural and commercial core of L.A.’s Little Tokyo neighborhood. Resentment over the displacement of businesses and cultural institutions resulting from the land-grab still runs high in the area and helped to derail the building’s application for Historic-Cultural Monument status. The building is also widely criticized in Latino and African American communities for its associations with the LAPD itself, an organization with many documented cases of brutality and injustice against members of those communities, including the brutal 1992 attack on Rodney King and offenses resulting from the ensuing L.A. Uprising.  The building was originally designed as an “ultramodern” and “scientific” police headquarters that focused both on internal efficiency and—ironically—on thoughtful public interfaces.  The building’s lobby features an open design, for example, and is populated by a series of site-specific artworks, including a mural by the artist Joseph Young titled Theme Mural of Los Angeles that depicts city landmarks amid abstract color fields. The complex also features a bronze exterior sculpture titled The Family Group by artist Bernard J. Rosenthal. In a 2017 interview with The Architect’s Newspaper, Louis Naidorf, one of the architects who worked on the complex, lamented the building’s sordid reputation. He said, “[I] always assumed architects were supposed to positively affect the lives of the people who used their buildings and that the ‘real client’ for projects like Parker Center were the people who work in the building, the people who walk by the building, the people who were affected somehow by the presence of the building.” Naidorf added, “Your work was a setting for their lives. At a more basic level, [you] can create spaces that are depressing or spaces that are happy.” The LAPD left the building in 2009 when a new 491,00-square-foot, 11-story tower designed by AECOM located down the street opened for business. Earlier this year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and other preservationists attempted to convert Parker Center into a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, but the plan failed. Ahead of the planned demolition, the public art elements were removed for storage and eventual restoration. The complex is slated to make way for a key component of a new “Civic Innovation District” that will bring housing, offices, and new open spaces to the area. The new office tower that is set to rise on the Parker Center site has yet to be designed, but official estimates put its cost at $700 million. A detailed plan for the design and construction of the tower has not been announced, but planning documents explain that the city plans to complete the replacement tower around 2020. 
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Super States, Assemble

The Center for Architecture’s latest show imagines the future of the New York region
The nonprofit, nonpartisan Regional Plan Association (RPA) released its Fourth Regional Plan back in 2017, a 400-page prescription for a variety of problems facing the Tri-State New York metropolitan area. Now through November 3, visitors to the Center for Architecture can explore the RPA’s plans for increasing housing affordability, improving the region’s overburdened public transit, and addressing climate change by 2040. The Future of the New York Metropolitan Region: The Fourth Regional Plan exhibition at the Center breaks down The Fourth Regional Plan into four typologies: core urban areas, suburbs, local downtowns, and regional green spaces. Each section is further broken down to address affordability issues, the failure of policymakers to address problems in those regions, how climate change will impact each area, and how to best improve mass transportation. Both the problems themselves, as well as the RPA’s proposed solutions, are on display. The Four Corridors, an RPA-commissioned initiative that tasked four different architectural firms with reimagining different “corridors” throughout the region, is also on display at The Fourth Regional Plan. Rafi A+U + DLANDstudio proposed a “landscape economic zone” to protect the area’s coastal regions from flooding—a softer, living take on the traditional seawall; Only If + One Architecture proposed creating the Triboro Corridor, an accessible route from Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx; WORKac wants to turn the Tri-State suburbs into denser, greener versions of themselves and create easy access between smaller towns; and PORT + Range proposed reinvigorating the area’s highlands into ecological buffers with varied natural ecosystems. “RPA’s Fourth Plan is a blueprint for creating a healthier, more sustainable, more equitable region, one with more affordable housing, better and expanded public transit, and a closer connection with nature," said RPA Executive Vice President Juliette Michaelson. "This exhibit provides an opportunity for New Yorkers and regional visitors to explore the Fourth Plan and imagine what our future could look like if we are bold enough to reach for it." Other than the show itself, the Center will host two accompanying programs. Creating More Housing without New Construction will take place on September 14 from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM, and Designing the Future of the Tri-State Region will be held on October 29 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
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Chasing Perfection

John S. Chase, trailblazing Texas architect, celebrated in two exhibits
John Saunders Chase, FAIA (1925–2012) was a Houston architect who realized a large body of work in the city, throughout the state of Texas, and around the United States. At its peak, his office had nearly fifty employees in four cities: Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Washington, D.C. Chase, an African American in a profession that has struggled with diversity and discrimination, achieved many historic firsts during his career. His life, as seen via his personal and professional achievements and the work of younger architects who passed through his office, was on display this spring in Chasing Perfection, a two-part exhibit produced by the Houston Public Library. Born in Maryland, John Chase moved to Austin in the late 1940s after receiving initial architectural training at the Hampton Institute in Virginia and serving in the Army during World War II. He applied to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) School of Architecture after the Sweatt v. Painter Supreme Court decision in 1950 that fought the “separate but equal” policy of racial segregation in college education. After graduation, no firm would hire him, so Chase established his own practice in Houston, and in 1956, he became the first African American architect to be licensed in the state. Throughout his career, he designed churches, homes, union halls, libraries, high schools, fire stations, and institutional buildings, including much of the campus of Texas Southern University. He was a founding member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in 1970 and received his AIA Fellowship award in 1977. In 1980, Chase was selected by President Jimmy Carter to join the Commission of Fine Arts and was part of that committee during the contentious process of realizing Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. He was the first African American to serve on this commission. During the 1980s, his office was part of a consortium of local architects responsible for the design of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Chase is survived by his wife, Drucie, and their three adult children. According to Danielle Wilson, the exhibition’s curator, discussions about the show began in 2009 with Chase’s participation. At that time, his architectural archive had been donated to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center’s Architectural Archives, and his personal archive was in the process of being donated to the African American Library at the Gregory School. Wilson’s father grew up next to the Chases in Houston, so she was familiar with the family and immediately knew that she wanted to work on a show about the architect when she joined the staff of the Gregory School. After Chase passed away, it took a number of years to assemble the parts for this successful exhibition. On the second floor of the Julia Ideson Building in downtown Houston, letters, photographs, and artifacts were installed alongside photographs of built work, architectural drawings, and hand-drawn renderings. Seen together, Chase’s life and work could be understood through the staging of these personal and professional artifacts, sequenced together to tell a holistic life story. Wilson said, “When I think about architects and their work, everything goes all together. I think it’s great when you have that context of both. I think it makes works more powerful.” The room also included a large–scale model and drawings of the George R. Brown Convention Center mounted on a drafting table. At the Gregory School, the work of four architects who worked with Chase is on display and demonstrates the effect his mentorship had on a subsequent generation of African American architects. “When I was focusing on his work and life, it was hard to tell a comprehensive narrative without talking about these men,” Wilson said. Daniel Bankhead, AIA; Darrell Fitzgerald, FAIA; James Harrison; and Wilbert Taylor all worked at various points with Chase and went on to become professional and community leaders themselves. In February, the library hosted a discussion between these architects, in addition to a conversation with Mrs. Chase and her children. Chasing Perfection offered a powerful portrait of a 20th–century American architect through Chase’s life, work, and impact on the profession. Wall text for the exhibit was excerpted from a manuscript titled The Life and Work of Architect John Saunders Chase: You Can Do More from the Inside, by architectural historian Dr. Wesley Henderson with Andrea Lazar. Both worked for two years to conduct interviews with family members, colleagues, and former employees of John Chase. Henderson and Lazar believe that Chase’s life story deserves to be more widely known since very few biographies of successful black architects have been published. They were very pleased to be able to contribute to the show at the Houston Public Library. Chase’s legacy continues to be explored and celebrated. In February, UT Austin announced that it had purchased one of Chase’s early buildings in east Austin to renovate and use as a community engagement center. While Chasing Perfection closed in early June, Wilson says there are already discussions underway about touring the show at other institutions. She also said a brochure from Chase’s firm and drawing supplies from his office were recently acquired by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. Wilson added that she and Mrs. Chase are “going to go through his personal archives to see what materials might go to the NMAAHC, and the rest will be housed at the African American Library at the Gregory School.” Chase is an important figure among the talented architects who practiced in Houston during the second half of the 20th century. His career opened the door for many architects of color to enter the profession, and he serves as an example of the countless ways in which an architect can effect positive change in the world.

Chasing Perfection: The Work and Life of Architect John S. Chase Houston Public Library Julia Ideson Building

Chasing Perfection: The Legacy of Architect John S. Chase The African American Library at the Gregory School

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Alamo City

San Antonio’s architecture has a bright future illuminated by a rich heritage
When it comes to notable architecture in Texas, it would seem strange to place San Antonio on par with Houston or Dallas. As the second-largest city in the state, San Antonio seems to only mimic the kind of architectural largesse seen in those cities. There are plenty of jewel-like late modern skyscrapers and austere civic buildings by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Caudill Rowlett Scott, and Marmon Mok in the city, but these are not the kinds of projects one would mention in the same breath as Houston landmarks like Johnson/Burgee’s Pennzoil Place and Williams Tower, Renzo Piano’s sublime Menil Collection, or Fort Worth's iconic Kimbell Art Museum by Louis Kahn. A selective itinerary of San Antonio’s past and future architectural projects reveals a steady commitment to buildings with bold, expressive forms that reference the city’s unique environment, history, and culture. Alamo City warmed up to these compelling architectural additions as it expanded during the late 1940s and early ’50s, and became a home to energy and utility companies during the 1970s and ’80s. Funded by philanthropic organizations and influxes of oil cash, many of these buildings are now hidden by giant, swooping highway overpasses, corporate plazas, and other developer-driven projects. Despite the earlier innovative and controversial projects, San Antonio remains overlooked. This will soon change. Newly appointed mayor Ronald Nirenberg has re-energized discussions about creating new housing, battling gentrification, and committing to more public art. This will certainly place a spotlight on San Antonio’s rich architectural offerings while reminding us of how these and other past projects have embodied this city’s distinctive topography, Latino heritage, and dry, arid environment. Emilio Ambasz’s Lucile Halsell Conservatory, completed in 1988 at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, is a good starting point. Located on the city’s northeast side, Ambasz’s scheme took advantage of the sunken site with a series of prismlike canopies that appear to rise out of the bermed earth like upturned shards of glass. Each canopy creates its own kind of climate and features particular plant ecologies—architecture designed, as Paul Goldberger observed in 1987, for the interaction between plants and humans. The project is notable for its combination of building, landscape, and infrastructure into a seamless whole. The Lucile Halsell Conservatory accommodated some very particular environmental and topographical conditions, and did so with a formal and technological expressiveness unlike anything that had been built in San Antonio. Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta’s San Antonio Central Library, completed in 1995, continues in this vein. Here, cubic volumes are stacked at various angles, creating a series of triangular-shaped courtyards intended to be outdoor reading rooms. Legorreta’s debt to Mexican architect Luis Barragán’s minimalist polychromy is clear. Working with the painter Mathias Goéritz, Barragán created spaces framed by walls and surfaces doused in highly saturated reds, blues, yellows, oranges, magentas, and pinks. At his Central Library, Legorreta appears to invert Barragán with a simple, playful interplay of volumes that seem to be wrought from its own color palette as well. The reddish-brown colored cubes appear gutted in some places, revealing inner planes of yellow, blue, and purple. When viewed from the air, the Central Library appears otherworldly, framing circular plazas made from grass and limestone and located on a triangular-shaped site near the geographical center of the city, as if something from another time had arrived here. That a Mexican architect was chosen for this project is important. As the seventh-largest city in the United States, San Antonio has one of the biggest Spanish-speaking populations. Over 62 percent of its residents are of Latino origin. The appeal of Legorreta’s Central Library stemmed as much from the need for more public libraries as it did from the desire to reflect the city’s heritage. Though this was the first building in San Antonio designed specifically to reflect the city’s Mexican-American heritage, there are older buildings that expressed the cultural richness so important to the city. The Alamo and the four Spanish Missions (recently designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites) all combine Spanish and Catholic influences while referring to the rituals and structures of indigenous peoples. This is to say that San Antonio’s architecture continues to find a way to embody its venerable cultural geography. It also incorporates its distinct environmental geography. San Antonio is a city hewn from mesquite-dappled hills, limestone quarries, and deep-set aquifers. Lake|Flato continues to be the standard-bearer among the city’s firms for a kind of tectonic and environmental sensitivity that is immediately recognizable for its ingenious references to these conditions. Imagine a version of John Lautner’s spacious geometric forms where large cornices made from corrugated metal peer over meticulous compositions of glass, limestone, slats, and brise-soleil made from local woods, all culminating in views that privilege the rolling, arid mesquite and persimmon landscapes of the Texas Hill Country. This would not do justice to Lake|Flato’s work, but perhaps it is as close as we can get to a kind of South Texas regionalism. Yet some of Lake|Flato’s current work points to something altogether different. Their recently completed pavilion at Confluence Park designed in collaboration with Matsys connects the joining of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek, to nearby Mission Concepción, an 18th-century basilica. This is a highly-charged site in predominantly Spanish-speaking South San Antonio. The most visually arresting parts of Lake|Flato’s project are the concrete “petals” that reference the local flora while reminding the most architecturally astute observer of Spanish-born Mexican engineer Felix Candela’s sweeping hyperboloid structures, like Los Manantiales Restaurant (1958) in Mexico City’s Xochimilco Park, or the Chapel Lomas de Cuernavaca (also 1958) in Cuernavaca. Confluence Park is also part of the larger San Pedro Creek Cultural Park. This scheme is projected to transform a once-neglected 2.2-mile-long drainage spur into a cultural attraction with water features, public art, and areas dedicated to the preservation of local grasses and wildlife. In a nod to its aspirations, lead architect Henry R. Muñoz and others have embraced this project’s more common nickname—the “Latino High Line”—which may say more about Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Field Operation’s celebrated scheme than the actual goal of the project, which is to create a version of the Riverwalk devoid of its tourist traffic while celebrating Latino heritage. Urban designers are finding new ways to move San Antonio forward while referring to curious artifacts from the history of American cities. Architect Antonio Petrov, who teaches at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is the founder of Urban Future Lab, is one of the most outspoken voices when it comes to redevelopment in the city. He is a proponent of bringing back skyrides, which were already used during HemisFair ’68 as a means of connecting the city’s downtown with San Antonio International Airport. Petrov’s proposal, though evocative of pie-in-the-sky urban transportation schemes, is to be taken seriously. Similar proposals were actually in use at the 1932 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago as well as in Disneyland and Disney World (which were, in a sense, attempts to envision cities of the future.) Other schemes, though funded by corporate dollars and serious placemaking advocacy firms, are barely more pragmatic in their approach. A case in point is the proposed Alamo Plaza Redevelopment. Philadelphia-based Preservation Design Partnership authored one of the first master plans, a scheme that caused controversy when it called for relocating many of the businesses surrounding the Alamo and converting them to privately run cultural attractions. Current versions of the plan have done little to improve on the previous proposal. For example, the recent Alamo Comprehensive Interpretive Plan—spearheaded by St. Louis–based “placemaking” firm Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets; the heritage consulting firm Cultural Innovations; and landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand—still hinges on the creation of a pedestrian-friendly “Alamo District” designed to turn this historically charged site into an open-air museum. A previous scheme took this idea a step further by encircling the Alamo with a glass wall, as if preserving this architectural artifact in a kind of amber. There are plenty of other projects that are reenergizing the architectural scene in San Antonio. The city is in a bit of a gut-rehab frenzy, as landmarks like the Pearl and Lone Star Breweries have been renovated as pricey hotels and higher-end restaurants, all with the end goal of molding San Antonio into a destination for design-savvy millennials with money to burn, in hopes they will ditch an Airbnb in the picturesque King William District in favor of the Hotel Emma’s posh industrial-chic. It is in this milieu that Adjaye Associates’ Ruby City arrives as one of the most exciting projects to break ground in the Alamo City. This 14,000-square-foot gallery and contemporary arts center—scheduled to open later this year near the city’s burgeoning arts district—appears as a strange hybrid, part OMA Casa da Musica, part Legorreta Central Library. Adjaye’s building appears as a literal jewel, a faceted brick-red form whose speckled, punctured surfaces make it seem fleeting and otherworldly. But it is anything but that, for this building, which sits precariously on the edge of the one-acre CHRISpark in downtown San Antonio, will anchor the San Pedro Creek redevelopment scheme, and provide the Linda Pace Foundation’s extensive collection of modern and contemporary art with a bold, exciting home. Adjaye is still earning accolades for his groundbreaking National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and with Ruby City soon to be completed, this will be the most significant architectural gesture for San Antonio—one that will hopefully inspire an influx of more commissions and projects of a similar caliber. How should we look at San Antonio’s architectural legacies and gestures? It is tempting to stack them up against those in Houston or Dallas, but in doing so, we would risk ignoring how one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States is busy generating its own architectural identity. Don’t call it haphazard, however. The pace of architectural developments in San Antonio may appear slow, but like the city, its architecture is humming busily from what once was an undetectable purr to something greater. This sleepy South Texas city is anything but, and its architecture will demonstrate how this is the case.
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Clear Choice

Winning design chosen for Sandy Hook memorial
A final design has been unanimously selected for the Sandy Hook memorial in Newtown, Connecticut, the Newtown Bee reports. On Friday, the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission announced that out of the top three concepts unveiled in May, The Clearing by Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck of SWA Group will be presented in front of the city’s Board of Selectmen at the end of this week as the commission’s official recommendation. The board is slated to make the final approval this month. It’s been five years since the commission was created to establish a public memorial honoring the 26 victims and survivors of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. From 189 international submissions, Waldo and Affleck’s vision for the 5-acre site became the top choice after a July 17th presentation by the three final teams. The Clearing features a sprawling landscape of winding pathways, trails, lakes, and flowery woodland centered around a young sycamore tree planted in a fountain. The names of the victims are prominently carved into the fountain's stone edge. The latest design iteration, which the team updated for the most recent presentation, includes an added manmade pond and an alternative entrance and pavilion. It also includes more details on the proposed materials for the site. Waldo and Affleck are based out of SWA Group’s San Francisco office. The design team also includes Justin Winters of SWA/Balsley, Jim Garland, AIA, of Fluidity, as well as Jason Loiselle, principal at Sherwood Design Engineers and his colleague, design engineer Gabe Duque. The Board of Selectmen will meet Friday, August 9 to review the commission’s recommendation.
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Designed to Recycle

Washington, D.C., turns recycling trucks into art
In an effort to encourage locals to reduce landfill waste and pollution, Washington, D.C. has relaunched a beloved program that wraps recycling trucks in brightly-colored art. The “Designed to Recycle” initiative, put on by the Department of Public Works, selected 15 local artists this year to design graphic artwork for the trucks this summer. Last week, the city released the first two of the newly-wrapped trucks and will continue to launch them in weekly pairs through September 6. The program, which started in 2015, also plans to rewrap and “refresh” five of the trucks that received the treatment during the inaugural year. The project is funded by the Commission on the Arts and Humanities and is part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s commitment to expanding the creative economy in the city. “Through the Design to Recycle Project, we are able to support and showcase the talent of our local artists, further enhance the visibility of the city’s recycling efforts, and add to the creative landscape of the District in all eight wards,” said Angie Gates, interim director for the commission, in a statement. As one of the country’s leaders in sustainability and efforts to address climate change, D.C. has worked tirelessly to advance its zero waste goals and introduce green building laws into its current construction market. Here are the 15 selected designs along with the artists: Waste Not by Nicole Hamam; Recycle Now by Michael Marshall Design; Urban Jungle by Jackie Coleman; Nurturing Nature by Kofi Tyus; Untitled by Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann; Untitled by Dean Kessman; Recycled Fish by Carly Rounds;  Evolution with an “R” by Gordon Steven Spencer Davis II; Mapping by Santiago Flores-Charneco; Inform, Reduce, Recycle by Minsoo Kang & Andre Sanchez-Montoya; Untitled by Anne Masters; Pop District by Sarah, James & Parvina Gilliam; Recycled Flowers by John Gann; Nuestra Terra I recycle DC by Nicolas F. Shi; and Fair Chard Value by Michael Crossett.
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Pittsburgh's Postmodern Posterboy

Exclusive: Venturi Scott Brown-designed house suffers secret demolition
Only a month-and-a-half after a colorful Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown-designed house in Shadyside, Pittsburgh was put up for sale, AN has learned that the new owner plans on tearing it down. The Abrams House, commissioned by Irving and Betty Abrams and completed in 1979, is a striking example of Venturi’s playful postmodernist style. One-half of the roof curves and swoops like a cresting wave over the more traditionally-shaped rectangular portion, with a 20-foot-high vaulted ceiling below. The house’s front facade is capped with a window arrangement that resembles both a ship’s wheel as well as the rising sun and is accentuated with green-and-white “rays” emanating from the window assembly. A ribbon window wraps around the house and illuminates the interior, allowing the primary colors used everywhere from the soffits to the furniture to stand out. A mural by Roy Lichtenstein in the living room accentuates the house’s pop art aesthetic. Other than the colorful flourishes, the Abrams House is particularly notable for its location; the house is surrounded by midcentury work from well-known architects, including the Frank House by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer and the Giovannitti House by Richard Meier. The two-bed, two-and-a-half bath was put up for sale in mid-June of this year for $1.1 million, and the new buyer, Bill Snyder, closed on the building on July 20. Preservationists had briefly hoped that Snyder, who also owns the Giovannitti House, would restore the building, but a demolition permit was filed on July 23. Pittsburgh requires a 15-day wait period between the filing of a demolition permit and the start of work, but an anonymous source has informed AN that the interior of the house has already been gutted. The large Lichtenstein piece has been covered and removed, either causing or revealing significant degradation in the wall behind, and fixtures throughout the house have been cleared out. Snyder had purchased the Giovannitti House from its original owners, Frank and Colleen Giovannitti, in 2017 and is currently restoring the exterior of the home to its original condition. With the demolition of the Abrams House, the entire lot may become a landscaped addition to complement Meier’s building. Brittany Reilly, a board member at the nonprofit Preservation Pittsburgh, has been trying to raise awareness of the house. According to Reilly, the home is a unique piece of architecture for Pittsburgh in a neighborhood full of architecturally-significant houses. The problem? The Abrams House isn’t visible from the street, and Reilly believes that seclusion has led the public to overlook it. The next step for preservationists is to “respectfully” drum up community attention to the demolition. Preservation Pittsburgh has reached out to VSBA Architects & Planners, who were unaware of the demolition, as well as other Pittsburgh-based preservation groups, and is currently trying to establish a dialogue with Snyder. Update: After this story was originally published, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) has been working to mount an individual landmark nomination with the Historic Review Commission, planning commission and Pittsburgh City Council before the 15 day period elapses. Denise Scott Brown expressed her displeasure with the demolition reached for comment by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Why does he need to do that? Why doesn’t he save it,” said Brown. “This is not very honorable.” AN will follow this story up as more details become available.
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Chippendale Gyrations

The AT&T Building is now a New York City landmark
It’s official: Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s postmodern Manhattan skyscraper 550 Madison, better known as the AT&T Building, is now a protected landmark. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted unanimously this morning to landmark the 1984 tower, making it the youngest building to receive landmark status in New York. A movement to protect the building began last year when developers Chelsfield America and Olayan America revealed plans to renovate the base of the tower. The contested (and protested) scheme from Snøhetta to strip the pink granite from the 110-foot-tall arch and loggias at the tower’s base and wrap it in glass drew immediate criticism when revealed in October 2017. The proposal would have unbalanced the tripartite arrangement between oversized openings at the base, in the central tower, and through the ornamental “Chippendale” topper, and preservationists and Johnson’s contemporaries rallied to prevent alterations. Before designating the AT&T Building as a landmark, commissioners noted the outpouring of support from residents, critics, and architects at the public hearing on June 19. Special attention was drawn to the building’s relatively recent completion date; Fred Bland, the interim chair of the commission, remarked that it was one of the rare buildings of which commissioners had experienced the original intent. To that end, commissioner Kim Vauss recounted that on a tour of the building in college she was struck by the grandeur of the original lobby. It was only years later that she would learn the original lobby was gone, AT&T’s Golden Boy statue having been removed by Sony in 1992, and the arcades having been converted into enclosed retail spaces in 2002. Keeping retail off of Madison Avenue and confined to the passage between East 56th Street and East 55th Street (now enclosed by a Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman-designed canopy added in 1994) was Johnson’s original intent, something that Sony disregarded during their occupation. The lobby was ineligible for landmarking as the ownership consortium–including minority partner RXR Realty­­­­–demolished the ground floor interior in February. The demolition is part of ownership’s plan to reorient the building by creating a large enclosed garden and seating area in the rear and to open up sightlines through the new lobby. The tower’s interiors, originally designed for 800 single-tenant employees, will be converted into Class A office space for up to 3,000 workers. 550 Madison’s ownership team released the following statement to AN: “We are proud that 550 Madison is now an official New York City landmark, claiming its place in our city’s architectural heritage. Ownership strongly supports designation of the iconic office tower and applauds the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision. Since acquiring the building, we have taken our role as stewards of this important building very seriously. We look forward to an ongoing dialogue with the LPC and other stakeholders to preserve 550 Madison's legacy as a commercial Class A destination in East Midtown, with smart and sensitive modifications to serve modern tenants.” When reached for comment on what exactly the designation covers, the LPC issued the following statement: "The landmark site for the AT&T Corporate Headquarters Building is the tax block and lot (Tax Map Block 1291, Lot 10), and includes the exterior facades of the office tower and the annex, and the exterior facades of the enclosed covered passageway."
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Columbus Connection

Miller Prize winners announced ahead of the Exhibit Columbus 2018 National Symposium
Exhibit Columbus has announced the winners of the 2018-2019 J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize competition. The five winning firms will be featured in the Docomomo US and Exhibit Columbus 2018 National Symposium, titled Design, Community, and Progressive Preservation, taking place September 26 through 29. Firms will then return on January 19 to present their design concepts to the community. Each firm is tasked with constructing site-responsive installations that interact with Columbus’s midcentury modern heritage, with the final works opening to the public on August 24, 2019. This is the second year that the Miller Prize has been awarded. Here are the five winning firms: Agency Landscape + Planning With work that ranges from the Chicago Riverwalk to a two-year examination of the post-Hurricane Sandy landscape, Cambridge-based Agency has a deep commitment to ecological and social mindfulness. Agency is currently leading the White River Vision Plan, a year-long strategic plan for redeveloping 58 miles of southern Indiana river. Bryony Roberts Studio New York-based Bryony Roberts Studio uses design to bring intangible heritage and social histories to contemporary audiences, often through distinctive collaborations. As a participant in the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Bryony Roberts brought the South Shore Drill Team to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Center for an electrifying performance that used careful choreography to mirror the lines of the iconic modernist plaza. Frida Escobedo Studio Fresh off her commission to design the 2018 Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens, Mexico City-based Frida Escobedo creates sophisticated structural forms using vernacular materials and methods, including concrete block, brise-soleil, and post and beam. MASS Design Group Based in Boston, and Kigali, Rwanda, non-profit MASS Design Group believes that architecture is never neutral, and that it has the power to heal. The firm’s work includes both research and design. This spring MASS Design Group unveiled the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. SO-IL With work that creates “structures that establish new cultures, institutions, and relationships,” New York-based SO-IL created L'air pour l'air for the second Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2017, a project that brought the firm to the Garfield Park Conservatory, where they encased an ensemble of wind instrument players in air-filtering mesh enclosures, designed to clean the air through breathing.
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In Memoriam

Thomas Todd, former partner of Wallace Roberts & Todd, passes away

Thomas Abbott Todd, a retired architect, planner, and artist who was a partner in the Philadelphia firm of Wallace, Roberts & Todd (WRT), died on June 14 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 90.

Born in Connecticut and raised in the Philadelphia area, Todd was educated at Haverford College and the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in city planning, respectively. A licensed architect from 1963 to 1991 and professional planner starting in 1970, he was a named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1980.

Along with David Wallace, Ian McHarg, Bill Roberts, and others, Todd built a large firm that was known for its multidisciplinary approach to design, combining architecture, landscape architecture, and planning. Based in Philadelphia, it has a second office in San Francisco.

Among Todd's best-known projects were the master plans for Baltimore’s Inner Harbor renewal area, the U. S. Capitol area in Washington, D. C., and Abuja, the Capitol of Nigeria. He worked on landscape architecture projects for Battery Park in New York and was part of the design team behind Philadelphia’s Liberty Place towers, which broke the longstanding gentleman's agreement that no structure could be taller than William Penn’s statue atop City Hall.

Working in a variety of idioms, Todd also designed smaller works, including three houses for his own family as well as urban sculpture. His 1982 McKeldin Fountain, also known as The Waterfall, was designed to be an explorable waterfall formed by a series of concrete prisms with water cascading down on all sides and collecting in pools below with platforms at different levels containing plants and walkways for people. Both a utilitarian part of the city’s infrastructure and a sophisticated work of Brutalist architecture, it was part of Baltimore’s official inventory of public art until it was demolished by the city in 2016.

Joseph Healy, architect and managing principal of WRT, said employees in the Philadelphia office spoke about Todd last week during a staff gathering, reflecting on the key role he played in the firm.

“To this day, the underlying beliefs and integrated practice that Tom helped shape at WRT hold great value for the talented professionals and aspirational clients drawn to the firm,” Healy said in a statement. “The positive impact of their collective work is more relevant than ever.”

Todd was “a versatile designer, not always a Modernist,” Healy added. “He was very attentive to context and craft.”

Todd’s professional career began with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, led for many years by the noted planner Edmund Bacon. After winning a fellowship that allowed him to travel in Europe for a year, Todd joined the University of Pennsylvania as a campus planner and designer, then started a planning firm known as Grant & Todd, then worked for Geddes, Brecher, Qualls & Cunningham.

In 1963, Wallace and McHarg hired him to work for Wallace-McHarg Associates, which was taking on land planning projects and other commissions around the country, including a much-publicized plan to control development in Baltimore County’s Green Spring Valley. After Todd and Bill Roberts became full partners, the firm was renamed Wallace, McHarg, Roberts & Todd.

Todd’s penchant for planning and his attention to detail extended to his leisure time activities, including model shipbuilding, music, and painting. He could speak and read Latin, which he studied at Germantown Friends School and Haverford, and enjoyed translating common phrases and quotes into that language. He traced his family history back to the colonial era, discovering that he was related to Benedict Arnold. He made a harpsichord and taught himself to play it. He sang in choral groups. He painted portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, and still lifes.

After WRT’s master plan for Baltimore called for the USS Constellation to be the sculptural centerpiece of the Inner Harbor, Todd built a scale model of it, down to the miniature cannon balls on the upper deck. His model is on display at the U. S. Naval War College in Newport, R. I.

In 1956 Todd married the former Carol Roberts, who died in 2014. They had a son, Jonathan Christopher “Chris” Todd, and two daughters, Suzannah Elizabeth Arnold Todd Waters and Cassandra Roberts Todd.  Besides his children, he is survived by a sister and four grandchildren.

In 1991, Todd retired from WRT and moved to Rhode Island, where he continued to consult professionally. In 2008 he moved to Duxbury, Massachusetts. He lived in Plymouth, Mass., at the time of his death.

Todd’s son paints a picture of a restless Renaissance man who saw the glass as half full and threw himself into whatever he chose to pursue, whether it was traveling to see the lands discovered by the Norse explorer Leif Erikson or building frames for his own oil paintings.

“He loved bad jokes and good company,” Chris Todd said. “I wouldn’t say he didn’t have his moments of concern about finances or health. But by and large, he led a rich life.

“He was absolutely the most industrious person I have ever met,” his son continued. “TV was uninteresting to him. He would get up after a few minutes. He wasn’t interested in passive entertainment. He wanted something more. He wanted to make things, and he wanted to learn about things in order to make them, to be able to discuss them intelligently. He had a questing mind.”

A memorial service for Thomas Todd will be held on October 27 at 10 a.m. at the Germantown Friends Meeting, a Quaker church at 47 West Coulter Street in Philadelphia. In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association.

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Loving Landscapes

Sandy Hook memorial moves forward with three potential designs
Three teams are in the running to design a memorial honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The top groups are set to present their concepts to the memorial commission on Tuesday, July 17 in Newtown, Connecticut. The chosen teams, representing various cities and firms throughout the U.S., were selected out of 189 international submissions due last December and were narrowed down from 13 shortlisted designs in May. The project is the result of a five-year-long development by the memorial commission which was established in late 2013.  Per the submission guidelines, entrants were asked to envision a public memorial that stretched across five acres of donated land located a quarter of a mile from the elementary school. Designers were challenged to consider the existing site’s rural setting and to maximize the use of its woods, wetlands, and ponds as well as to include native plants suited to the region and microclimate. In addition, entrants were asked to incorporate the “sacred soil” of incinerated items such as stuffed animals and flowers that were left as temporary memorials throughout the town following the shooting. Up until this summer, all submitted designs were kept anonymous as the family members, public and memorial commission reviewed them privately. Now that the design teams have been made public, each group will present updated iterations of their initial proposals below at Tuesday's meeting.   The Clearing was designed by Berkeley-based designers Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck. It features an encircling landscape of winding pathways and trails that wrap through a flowery woodland. At the center is a young Sycamore tree planted inside a fountain with the names of the 26 victims of the shooting engraved around the stone edge. According to the team, the design symbolizes that the healing process does not end, but rather continues to grow and bring people closer together. The inspiration behind the Sandy Hook Memorial Garden revolves around 26 gardens and miniature fountains, each dedicated to the individual lives lost that day. A 36-inch-tall stone wall will be erected at the edge of the site and will include four separate dedications to the town of Sandy Hook, the first responders, the surviving teachers, and classmates as well as the American community who offered loved and support after the shooting. The concept was created by Justin Arleo of Arleo Design Studio LLC from Tempe, Arizona. Let the Earth Hold Us + Heal Us features six experiential elements including an open green space dubbed the Breathing Field, a Memorial Grove, a Reflection Pool as well as a Belonging Bench and Community Arbor. The project was conceived by Joan MacLeod of Damon Farber Landscape Architects, Teri Kwant of RSP Architects, and Julia McFadden of Svigals + Partners, who worked on the design for the new elementary school. Once the memorial commission reviews the designs above, the chosen proposal will go before the Newtown Board of Selectman. A final decision will be announced in August.
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Keeping Up A-Pier-Ances

SHoP and Field Operations bring a mall, public space, and balloons to Lower Manhattan
As SHoP Architects and the Howard Hughes Corporation continue to put the finishing touches on Pier 17, AN took a behind-the-scenes look at the Manhattan seaport’s reinterpretation of the big-box mall and the massive rooftop gathering space above. The 300,000-square-foot mall and public space has been under construction since 2013 and has undergone several design tweaks since its original presentation before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The proposed glass pergola on the roof has been cut, as has the lawn shown in earlier renderings. The roof is now covered in pavers and designed for flexibility; the planters are modular and can be moved to accommodate larger crowds, and a freight elevator allows food trucks onto the roof directly from the adjacent FDR parkway. According to Howard Hughes, the roof can accommodate up to 3,400 (standing) guests. SHoP took suggestions from the LPC and surrounding community into account when linking Pier 17 with the surrounding waterfront and in their decision to wrap the East River Esplanade around the building. The Esplanade extends into the interior of the first floor, as the building’s base is wrapped in double-height glass doors that can be fully raised if weather permits. The restaurant and retail sections have been reimagined as two-story 'buildings', separate from but still attached to the main structure and aligned on a grid that preserves views of the Brooklyn Bridge and surrounding skyline. SHoP has clad each building-within-a-building in materials that correspond to the area’s nautical heritage, including sustainably harvested tropical hardwood, corrugated zinc sheets, and overlapping zinc tiles. Howard Hughes has already locked down several big-name anchor tenants for Pier 17, including a two-floor restaurant from David Chang and upper-floor office space and a green room for ESPN. Outside, SHoP has collaborated with James Corner Field Operations for the landscaping and furniture, and global firm Woods Bagot has designed the Heineken pavilions. Visitors looking to soak in views of Brooklyn will also find a bar and lounge on the eastern side of the building in the shadows of artist Geronimo’s massive multicolored balloon sculpture. Her creative process is documented in the video below: The top half of Pier 17 has been clad in vertical panes of foggy green-gray channel glass, which rises and falls as it wraps around, in reference to the passing East River below. Some of the crazier renderings have shown the building’s upper floors lit up in technicolor at night, and internet-connected color-changing lights have been embedded in the facade. The public can experience Pier 17’s rooftop when it opens to the public on July 28, complete with an accompanying concert series.