Search results for "9/11 museum"
If, as Louis Kahn said, a brick wants to be part of an arch, what does a biopolymer molecule, a block of aerogel, or a slab of metallic foam want to be? The empirical basis for inferring bricks’ intentions is well established, comprising building traditions that have evolved over millennia. For newer materials, the chance of moving from laboratories to construction sites can be a crapshoot. The successful ones not only capture markets but transform behavior.
The most promising approaches, materials specialists agree, emphasize integration rather than isolation. “We don’t just create materials or products; we create information systems,” says architect/author Blaine Brownell, who co-directs the MS in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota and whose most recent book, Material Strategies: Innovative Applications in Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012), links innovations in minerals, concrete, wood, metal, glass, and plastics to prominent case studies. Using the term hypermaterial to denote the convergence of materials and information processing, Brownell looks to the management of light, energy, and data as the leading edge of materials research.
Courtesy Jenny Sabin
Jason O. Vollen, associate director of the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE), a joint project of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and SOM, heralds “a fundamental paradigm shift from moving energy mechanically, which is how we do it now, to moving energy materially.” Instead of multiple layers of a structure performing different functions, Vollen says, as in Mike Davies’ concept of the polyvalent wall, “We think one layer should do multiple things; we think a potential solution is the multivalent material. That’s not so far off; it’s speculative fiction rather than science fiction.” Citing the “holy grail” of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Stephen Selkowitz—a material optimizing both daylight and insulation—Vollen says “what exists now won’t do that, but what exists around the corner might.” Nanotechnology, where categories blend and “metals can become more like glasses, glasses become more like ceramics,” he continues, is yielding unprecedented control over properties such as heat flow and daylight transmittance. With high-performance ceramics in particular offering properties that answer climate-change-driven imperatives, he is convinced, “the industry is poised for a revolution.”
Materials research is often a matter of systematic biomimicry, invoking a parallel understanding of natural processes occurring over time on multiple scales, from the nanoscale to the visible to the ecosystemic. “It’s not about translating shape, or a static image of a biological behavior,” says Jenny E. Sabin, assistant professor of architecture at Cornell and a founding member of Cecil Balmond’s Nonlinear Systems Organization. As the architectural member of the National Science Foundation-sponsored ESkin interdisciplinary team, which also includes a materials scientist, a cell biologist, and a systems engineer, Sabin investigates homologies in materials, geometries, and forms. She describes her challenge as “thinking about how those properties could work across scales” and replicating them in “highly engineered, sustainable materials that have very sophisticated responses to environmental cues.”
Generative models based on cellular activity inform her “Branching Morphogenesis” installation at Linz, Austria’s 2009 Ars Electronica (comprising 75,000 cable zip ties in tension, organized according to microscale cellular forces) and her all-knitted myThread Pavilion for Nike’s Flyknit Collective, produced with New Jersey-based fabricator Shima Seiki USA. “It’s not just that we can produce complex organic form,” she continues, but that designers can “directly interact with manufacturing technologies...Working with soft textile-based materials at a large scale is only possible through really cutting-edge fabrication technologies.” Strategies that arise from these investigations include “embedding a more nonlinear lifespan” into a material, so that products pass usefully through multiple life cycles; porosity, allowing lightness and transmissibility as well as strength; geometries that repel or absorb water, a high priority in materials that must endure sea-level rise; and self-organizing properties on nano-to-macro scales.
The technological transition suggested by business consultant David Morris, vice president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance—replacing the hydrocarbon-based economy, with all its externalities, costly extractive processes, and resource-availability constraints, with an older, cleaner system, “the once and future carbohydrate economy”—calls for more use of lifelike materials, Brownell suggests: those derived from agriculture and those deriving knowledge from living systems. A brick may want to be thick, but contemporary materials want to be smart.
Resource maximizers, beginning with light
Andrew H. Dent, PhD, vice president of library and materials research at Material ConneXion, sees two broad questions driving research in the field: what does Earth have in abundance, and what are we running out of? To the extent that materials and processes based on ample, readily available resources (from sunlight to silicon) replace those with sources in short supply (petroleum, gold, copper, clean air, and water), materials research represents a critical adaptation to emergent conditions.
Much of this work is economic optimization rather than new discovery, Dent adds. Methods of developing biopolymers from a wide range of plants harvested in different regions and conditions (corn, castor, switch grass, sugar cane, potatoes, and others) are already known. “The issue is how to beat out oil,” he says, which “even at a high price is still significantly cheaper.” Tradeoffs of this sort are inevitable. A material may be lightweight enough that its production and transport save energy and yield an admirable overall ecological footprint, but its components pose toxicity concerns, as with ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE, the transparent insulating “pillow” material seen in the 2008 Olympic Water Cube and other buildings worldwide). Biopolymers for construction, consumer products, or fuel, likewise involve edible crops and thus compete with food production. “Back in 2006 and early ’07,” Brownell recalls, “when there was so much excitement about biofuels and ethanol...states like Iowa were promising all kinds of fuel-making capacity without taking a hard look at how a lot of this corn that we make goes to developing countries in order to feed the world.” Vollen frames this starkly as “a political and regulatory issue: ‘if we replace oil with corn, what do we eat?’”
In this regard, viewing solar energy as the ultimate free resource, Brownell is particularly enthusiastic about products that harvest and manipulate light, such as Sensitile’s light-piping panels, embedding optical channels in concrete and resin substrates, or a recent breakthrough at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, scattering silver nanocubes on a gold film to “help the substrate absorb virtually all the light...so incredibly efficiently that nothing leaves the surface” and improving the efficiency of sensors. Another promising use of multiwall carbon nanotubes, he says, is field-induced polymer electroluminescent (FIPEL) technology, which generates a warm, nonflickering wavelength resembling sunlight—“that spectrum that clearly influences human behavior and productivity in workplaces and learning places.” These flat lighting panels offer a distinct improvement over harsh compact fluorescents and heat-inefficient incandescents, with efficiency approaching that of LEDs. Developed at Wake Forest University and licensed for commercial development to CeeLite Technologies, the panels can be integrated with flexible substrates and incorporated into windows or even textiles.
Brownell also cites the engineer/designer Akira Wakita’s work with “conductive threads to make thermochromic and photochromic textiles that can act as computer monitors.” The importance of lighting in the developing world, he emphasizes, makes it a promising field for leapfrogging technologies that address “the good but tough 99 percent question” about new materials’ relevance to global populations, as well as a generally fertile field for disruptive technologies. “I’m still marveling at how LEDs have transformed the whole lighting field,” Brownell says. “It wasn’t that long ago [that] it was kind of hard to find an LED.”
Concrete, the most widely used construction material on Earth, is ripe for innovation. Its Portland cement component accounts for an estimated 5 percent of the global carbon footprint; by weight, concrete is environmentally friendlier than metals or polymers, Brownell says, but its sheer prevalence means that improving its performance has considerable ecological effects. Strategies include reducing cement volume with additives like blast furnace slag or rice husk ash (practiced by the Canadian firm EcoSmart). Then there is Calera’s carbonate mineralization by aqueous precipitation, which diverts preheated flue gas into seawater, combines energy production, cement manufacture, and carbon sequestration, and enhances CO absorption by using magnesium silicate, iron carbonate, or other alternative components. This process is done by TecEco in Tasmania, Novacem in London, and CarbonCure in Nova Scotia. (“Concrete strikes me as something like molé,” Brownell comments: “Every family has their own recipe.”)
Tensile strength is a concern with any concrete; among various high-performance crack-resistant concretes that use silica fume, superplasticizers, ground quartz, or mineral fibers, Victor Li’s work at the University of Michigan with fiber-reinforced, bendable concrete stretches the category’s definition altogether. Lafarge’s Ductal is another high-performance concrete that bridges the border between concretes and composites. A novel self-repair strategy developed at Newcastle University, BacillaFilla, programs a Bacillus subtilis strain to create calcium carbonate and a “microbial glue” when it is injected into cracks; it then cures to the same strength as the surrounding material (finally stopping, thanks to a genetic “kill switch” that keeps the bugs from surviving once they detect a surface; this feature relieves hypothetical sci-fi concerns about an uncontrollable Bill Joy-style gray goo).
The prospect that concrete could move from carbon-positive to carbon-negative strikes many commentators as an achievable goal—provided the newer variants gain market share, despite contractors’ comfort level with current recipes. “What we need,” suggests Dent, “are some high-profile architects to use some of [the new] material and show its advantages by being part of a high-profile, near-carbon-zero building.”
Untested novelties face market resistance, particularly in areas where suboptimal technologies are entrenched, easily available, and (as Vollen points out) insurable. The factors that add up to successful technology transfer are far from systematic; for some materials, decades passed between their invention and commercialization. Dent hails Gorilla Glass, the ultra-strong, scratch-resistant surface that allows durability and interactivity in smartphones, as a transformative material that could also be useful in architecture. Yet when Corning developed the similar Chemcor glass in the early 1960s, it mothballed the product after about a decade, only to revive the idea on request from Apple in the mid-2000s. Serendipity and a suitable niche among related technologies appear essential for promising ideas to migrate from laboratory R&D to the Sweets catalog or the shelves of Home Depot.
One of nature’s recurrent strategies for economizing on material bulk—porous forms—characterizes several materials whose properties have drawn attention. Metallic foams, often aluminum or zinc, combine strength with lightness and thermal resistance; one such product, an aluminum foam marketed by the Canadian firm Cymat as SmartShield, was originally developed as a blast barrier on the undersides of military vehicles that encounter roadside bombs. “An individual at Cymat who had an architectural background recognized that, in addition to having the extreme technical properties, the material was aesthetically interesting,” reports Kelly Thomas, spokesperson for its distributor, Stone Source. Slightly altered in cell structure and slab thickness, rebranded as Alusion, the foam (80 percent air by volume) is now available to serve as walls, partitions, decorative fixtures, acoustic drop ceilings, or exterior cladding. Currently a specialty material, Alusion could conceivably gain increased prominence after the opening of the 9/11 Museum, where it will appear on the undersides of the twin fountains.
Courtesy Lefarge; Courtesy Cymat
A class of even more ethereal materials, aerogels, has existed since the 1930s: they are exceptionally light (often called “frozen smoke”) and highly rated as thermal insulators. Brittleness limits their practical uses, though one aerogel, Kalwall+ Lumira, has found use as a translucent wall and skylight material. Recent work at NASA’s Glenn Research Center (GRC) in Cleveland, however, has generated polymer-based aerogels robust enough to resist crumbling and flexible enough for use in building insulation, clothing, autos, and elsewhere. About 500 times as strong as silica aerogels, with R values up to ten times those of polymer-foam insulation, NASA’s polyimide aerogel has attracted about 70 commercial inquiries since last August, reports GRC technology transfer specialist Amy B. Hiltabidel, with five possible U.S. manufacturers currently negotiating to license it.
It is too early to tell whether initial costs will drop enough for this material to catch on commercially, but Hiltabidel reports that on the GRC’s Technology Readiness Level scale, where a basic-research project rates a 1 and a 10 is already on the space shuttle, polyimide aerogel, “one of the first materials that has attracted such a varied interest” outside the aerospace/defense sector, is currently about a 6. “Because it’s more developed” than the average, she says, “it will have a faster time to market, and I would say well within five years, probably closer to two to three.”
Conceivably, either of these materials could become what every product wants to be: a market-maker that changes people’s expectations. Or both could end up in narrow niches. With any new technology, Vollen suggests, “what you probably want is not to bet on one horse; what you probably want to do, which is what nature has done, is bet on many horses. Within the larger ecosystem of material ecology and construction ecology, there will always be a place for new things to survive, and the longer each one of these things survives, the more fit it is, and the more it’s going to solve the problem, long-term.”
He analogizes commercial ecosystems to earthly ones: “In the ecological model, you think about what fills the void when something leaves: there’s always a gap... We think they’ll all find a place in the ecosystem, and we should encourage them. What’s really critical, I think now, is to encourage the process by which we use each building as an experiment, as a demonstration site, and see which one is going to be the model of fitness in the future.”
On September 11, 2012, no politicians spoke at Ground Zero. That absence contrasted with 2011’s tenth “Tin” Anniversary event, when Michael Arad’s Memorial Plaza opened, with speeches by Presidents Obama and Bush, governors Christie and Cuomo, former mayor Giuliani, and former governors Pataki and DiFrancesco. What came next, however, was considerably less uplifting: the freezing of funds for the 9/11 Memorial Museum, marking the continued dysfunctional normal for the World Trade Center site, which has been rebuilding since the attack in 2001.
Now, after seeing the intelligent documentary 16 Acres, which opens with Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken,” we come to understand what is behind the saga of building at Ground Zero.
The film was shown at the Architecture & Design Film Festival, in New York in October. Our main guides through this feckless roundelay are two journalists, Philip Noble, author of Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero (2004), and Scott Raab, who has written about the site for Esquire since 2005. With a wicked sense of humor and resigned irony, these keen observers analyze and synthesize the actions, decisions, and motivations of a parade of characters. Interviewees include George Pataki, Larry Silverstein, Danny Libeskind, Roland Betts (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation-LMDC), Janno Lieber (WTC Properties), Kenneth Ringler (Port Authority), David Childs (SOM), Michael Bloomberg, Rosaleen Tallon (family member), Chris Ward (Port Authority), and Michael Arad.
It’s an impressive collection, but obvious omissions include Paul Goldberger, who wrote his own book, Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York, (2005) about the same subject; John C. Whitehead, chairman of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation and chairman of LMDC; and former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
Telling this story in film brings these personalities and their motivations to vivid life and shows their true colors (Pataki as a political opportunist and obstructionist, Silverstein as a sometimes tone-deaf-but-earnest businessman). Then there are the made-for-the-camera, fig-leaf media events like the laying of a cornerstone on July 4, 2004 (an irrelevant act, as cornerstones are not used in modern skyscrapers). That event had been prompted by Pataki’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Convention.
Subsequently, the cornerstone’s siting drew objections from the New York Police Department as too vulnerable, and was moved. As a result, the Freedom Tower scheme had to be scrapped and redesigned. (The irrelevant cornerstone was finally removed and now sits behind the engravers’ headquarters on Long Island. Raab, meanwhile, fantasizes a scene of dumping the rock on Pataki’s front lawn, ringing the doorbell, and racing away as fast as possible.)
Along with fantasy, the film lets us steep ourselves in the site itself, via reminders of the fits and starts of building at Ground Zero, the alphabet soup of stakeholders, the complicated rebuilding efforts. In contrast, 7 World Trade, also designed by David Childs and sited directly across the street, involved only Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority and was completed in 2006.
After the destruction of the twin towers, an immense architecture and planning opportunity arose for the city on what Raab called “perhaps the most valuable 16 acres on the face of the earth…at the center of the cosmos and fair game.” But the ensuing saga can now be viewed only as a series of scrambled opportunities and mixed messages.
These skeins are effectively sorted out in this smart film. Nobel highlights that these yet-to-be-built office buildings were being asked to embody the nation’s collective response—defiant renewal, a symbol of vengeance, and a symbol of healing. But as Paul Goldberger said in his book, “The greatest conflict was not between those who wanted to build and those who wanted the site to remain empty but between those who saw the priority of new construction on the site as primarily commercial and those who saw it as primarily symbolic and cultural.” Rather than void the pre-existing agreement with the leaseholder and rethink the use of the 16 acres, the arrangement remained, thus dictating that the rebuilding utilize the equivalent space for the same designated purposes.
A prime example of the zig-zag trajectory is the competition for the master plan (largely interpreted as the design of buildings themselves), which turned out to be a charade. First, the LMDC, created by Pataki and Giuliani to oversee the rebuilding, chose a design by THINK (Shigeru Ban, Frederic Schwartz, Ken Smith, Rafael Vinoly). Pataki, however, disregarded the agency’s choice and instead selected Libeskind’s proposal.
Yet neither THINK nor Libeskind had the chance to realize their schemes, since leaseholder Larry Silverstein, who was paying for the rebuilding (as well as $10 million per month in rent to the Port Authority whether any buildings existed or not), wanted his own architect, David Childs. A shotgun marriage between Liebeskind and Childs didn’t work. Nobel tells the story of how SOM staff removed the large illuminated model of the Freedom Tower while it was being displayed at yet another Pataki press conference, this one at Federal Hall.
The last Libeskind remnant—a “stick on top,” reaching to the symbolic 1776 feet—was even lopped off as the model exited the hall, never to be seen again.
Michael Arad, who had to make his own compromises on the memorial, said, “It’s easy to think about all of the strife, all the disagreement, to focus on this didn’t go right, that didn’t go right…Actually, in the big picture, something did go right, really right.”
At present, four towers are in various stages of completion on the 16-acre site: 1 World Trade (no longer called the Freedom Tower), by David Childs; 2 World Trade, by Norman Foster; 3, by Richard Rogers; and 4, by Fumihiko Maki. As Philip Nobel said, “It’s an incredibly healthy thing that the city responded to September 11 in classic New York fashion by beating each other up, and grandstanding, and political manipulation. And you can say, ‘Oh, that’s awful,’ or you can say, ‘What a wonderful thing that New York healed this big wound with more New York.’” Let’s hope that it’s worth the wait.
As the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches, another major design element has quietly moved forward at the World Trade Center site: the design of the St. Nicolas Greek Orthodox Church and an above grade park that will mask the Vehicle Security Center (VSC) at the southernmost edge of the site.
Most World Trade Center maps don’t include the VSC or the Greek Orthodox Church, which will sit south of Liberty Street. It was less than a year ago that the Governor Andrew Cuomo brokered an agreement that allowed the church to return to the site near its former home on Cedar Street. A decade-long battle with the Port had kept its fate in the courts.
TS & BK / The Architect's Newspaper
Now, the steel latticework of the VSC’s truck ramp is clearly visible from nearby towers. In addition to being the entrance and exit for deliveries, the center of the doughnut-shaped ramp will also support the 60 by 60 foot church sanctuary. Steve Plate, the Port’s director of construction, said work on the park will begin this time next year. AECOM is designing an open space that will swell approximately 30 feet above the Liberty Street entrance to the VSC, creating a man-made hill on the south side of the World Trade Center site. State of the art security, engineered by Liberty Security Partners, will allow all vehicles to be x-rayed on their way in.
The church sanctuary will rise another 56 feet above Liberty Street, a full 78 feet above the sidewalk. Church architect Nicholas P. Koutsomitis said that the Port stipulated that the church not rise above the September 11 Memorial Museum’s roof plane. An additional emergency exit will drop Cedar Street below grade and into the VSC complex.
Fritz Koenig’s Sphere for Plaza Fountain, which sustained substantial damage on 9/11 and now sits in Battery Park, appears destined for the VSC site as well. It appears prominently in the renderings, and Koutsomitis confirmed that the sculpture will be included in the new park.
On May 3, the second of a four part series on architecture and the media organized by AN, Oculus, and AIANY’s Marketing and PR Committee, focused on media channels outside the design and building industry.
Held at the Center for Architecture and moderated by Julie Iovine, the panel included Robin Pogrebin, culture reporter at The New York Times, Steve Cuozzo, real estate reporter and restaurant critic at The New York Post, Matt Chaban, real estate editor and reporter at The New York Observer, and Rob Lipincott, senior vice president, education, at PBS. Here are some edited and excerpted highlights from the conversation, starting with each of the three print reporters describing their beats:
Robin Pogrebin: I am a reporter on the Culture Desk at the Times where there are actually not that many reporters. A few years ago, when Nicolai [Ourossoff] started as architecture critic, it was decided that there was a need to cover architecture as a story as opposed to as criticism. There had not been a dedicated reporter prior to that so that’s what I became and I have been doing it ever since. I still cover cultural and performing arts issues, the NEA budget, preservation, and a lot of these things intersect but architecture is the main thing.
Steve Cuozzo: As a genetic New Yorker who loves the city with an intense passion, I have since 1999 been covering commercial real estate. It’s only since after 9/11, that I have also been writing on design-related and architecture issues. I am a real-estate reporter only part-time; and architecture is just a sub-set of that.
I have no training, no background, and I don’t even have the proper vocabulary. Still, I believe I can really contribute to the dialog because architecture is this strange art form that’s the most invested in people’s daily lives while it also comes across as the most elitist of the art forms.
I say that, in part, because architecture critics don’t write that much. Imagine if restaurant critics, dance critics, theater critics wrote as infrequently as most architecture critics do. Just look up their by-line counts! I feel that the public is entitled to more of a voice in the realm of architecture and design and urban issues than they are getting from people who really know more about it than I do.
Matt Chaban: I am also a genetic New Yorker, although I happen to have been born in Pittsburgh. I write on real estate for the paper and edit a daily blog aimed at real estate professionals and aficionados. I see my job as explaining how the city works. And as much as I like covering the big new buildings, it’s really the nitty-gritty of how and why projects drag out that is the most interesting to me.
How much interest in, and knowledge of, architecture do you assume there is among your readers?
RP: Since Bilbao and the so-called starchitect phenomenon, there has really been a heightened interest in architecture. That changed coverage in that the general audience now knows names like Rem Koolhaas. Lately, I have found with the downturn that as major projects have fallen off there has definitely been diminished coverage from my standpoint. When I first took the beat, I could go anywhere, cover anything and that was my mandate. Given the finances of the Times, now it only makes sense that the critic go to some places. There also seem to be fewer grand projects to write about now and so the question becomes, what else rises to the level of really needing to be covered?
I get pitched in 100 to 200 emails a day; and I feel terrible about what might be falling through the cracks. I know the bar has become somewhat higher in terms of what we write about. Why should we write about this one? That is a hard question to answer. Ideally, it is a story that has larger implications beyond just the project itself: something about it represents a trend; or there’s a controversy about it (for better or worse); or a window into architecture through another route, say, the controversy about naming of Miami Art Museum.
At what point do you write about a project, and how many times can you return to it?
MC: Since we run a daily blog, it’s as much as I want, and then there’s the weekly paper, too. The upside of the blog is that those stories can be either long or short, whatever the story needs. It’s a judgment call. But the basic line is that the more you write about something, the more you start hearing about it. So for me I cover things as often as I can: right now I write as often as possible on New York University because I think it’s a serious development.
RP: Traditionally we might write about something when a design came out. Increasingly, it became clear that some of these projects were pie in the sky and might never be realized. Writing about fantasies seemed a kind of disservice to the reader. It made more sense to wait for the actual bricks and mortar to happen: then the critic can review it and we can talk to the experience of the building. So now, we’ve been doing more at the tale end than at the beginning.
SC: The important issue is what and when does a project rise to the importance for a broader audience. Frankly, I don’t understand the way the architectural critical establishment works. Theater critics, film critics, book critics review everything; I don’t understand why architecture is placed on such an exulted plane of discourse and appreciation that does not obtain in any of the other art forms. To illustrate, the 9/11 memorial opened in September, it’s now May and unless I missed it, the New York Times architecture critic has yet to weigh in. Never mind that the museum is incomplete, we all know that; the fact is the Times wrote for ten years about the importance of the 9/11 museum and the urgency of the memorial and all the design issues. Now that it has finally opened to the world, they seem to have gone silent. I don’t get it.
RP: At the Times, critics are in a separate world from the reporters. In this case, Steve, I happen to agree and I have raised the question. I thought maybe it happened while we were in the process of changing critics and it had fallen through the cracks. I think Michael Kimmelman has a very different approach to criticism than we have ever had. He’s not, so far, reviewing individual projects as we have in the past. He doesn’t really have an architectural background. We may see some frustration: Not only are we not up to reviewing every thing, we may not review what might be expected of individual projects.
Are you pressured to cover subjects, or projects?
MC: I have been told to be less wonky. I have been told to stop invoking Robert Moses. We write almost not at all about architecture except in terms of development; we do a lot of residential real estate and industry types fighting each other. I have been asked to profile architects—for example Tod Williams and Billie Tsien because of the Barnes Museum opening—but that goes in the culture section. It’s not considered hard news.
SC: I have numerous editors breathing down my neck about many things but never about architecture and design. I have this truly strange role at the paper that I wish I could share with architecture enthusiasts who are more learned than I am. I can just tell my editors at business or the editorial section that I really have to write this piece, and I have extraordinary freedom to do that. There’s a lot more pressure when it’s about breaking news concerning commercial real estate and that has become an extremely competitive environment only in the last four years.
RP: Opinions are really not my turf. The conventional wisdom now is that there is no such thing as subjectivity if there ever was. And there is certainly more attitude and voice in what you see online, but at the Times, it is the critic’s job to weigh in with opinions, not mine.
What’s your take on starchitecture? Does it make reporting easier?
RP: I have started to want to move away from the usual suspects. We will always write about these guys with the names but it’s nice to expand the circle. That said, it’s not as easy to get at those other stories.
Rob Lippincott: I think we can chock up some of the interest in starchitects to Charlie Rose; he had them all on his show and he really help demystify what current architecture is all about.
SC: On balance, the starchitect phenomenon was a good thing. It drew attention to a subject that too many people did not think about on a regular basis, in the same way that star chefs brought attention to food or the way the American Ballet theater and dancers like Baryshnikov in the 1970s made classical dance popular in a way that had never been done before.
On the other hand, you have something like the Gehry building on Spruce Street that is dammed marvelous. I wonder about all the people who look at it everyday and think, That’s terrific, and if they really even know it’s by Frank Gehry or if they know anything at all about Bilbao. I really don’t know.
What needs to be written about right now?
SC: There’s a lot of residential building going on and I could be missing the boat here, but there really isn’t that much going on in terms of design issues to be discussed and debated. Yes, there are these huge projects like Hudson Yards and Hudson West and Ratner’s site behind the arena where there may, or may not, be some new buildings. But I am not aware that any of these projects are even remotely close to happening in terms of actual development. There are holes in the ground everywhere, but there’s nothing to engage the public’s attention the way the Trade Center did or even Columbus Circle did when it went through its many permutations before it finally got built after ten years. There’s nothing like that right now.
RP: One of the things interesting me right now is the degree to which developers have decided whether name architects were worth the investment in bringing added value. We haven’t checked back, post-recession, to see whether developers feel like those architects were worth the extra cost and the headache.
AN’s annual resource list may be published every year but it is never the same. Painstakingly drawn from extensive interviews by our editors with the architects and builders of the best architecture of 2011, these names are the too-often unacknowledged cornerstones that guarantee the quality and excellence of today’s architecture. We both herald and share them with you.
General Contractor / Project Manager
Arroyo Contracting Corp.
Brad Feinkopf (left) AND Albert Vecerka/Esto (right)
“Arroyo Contracting did a good job on the Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator. It was a complicated project with many angled walls and corners. They looked into new ways of working, moving from their background in traditional design to contemporary design.”
“Graciano has experienced masons that know how to work with terracotta and its reinstallation, using pieces that were reconditioned and some that were brand new.”
“We were fortunate to have RC Dolner build the Atrium. They had just finished the Greek and Roman galleries at the Met; we were confident they could make elegant and refined traditional detailing. At the Atrium they were able to apply their same high standards in a modern setting.”
“Yorke’s level of service was outstanding. The site superintendent in particular was exemplary and always in contact with us about how the construction was affecting the design. That attitude then filtered down to the contractor and subcontractors.”
“John Riner of PW Grosser is one of the handful of consultants in this area who has substantial experience with open loop wells.”
“We have worked on several historic buildings in New York, but when they are as high profile or popular as the Puck Building, you need a consultant who understands these types of spaces. EBM Structural Engineers is one of the preeminent firms in New York with vast experience in adaptive reuse in a historic context. We worked with Ken Eipel and Rich Grabowski on the REI Soho project and their expertise as historians on New York architecture made them valuable partners for Callison.”
“Joseph R. Loring and Associates anticipated issues at NYU SCPS and worked creatively with the design team to insert contemporary mechanical systems into an existing building with a complex new program.”
“Cantor Seinuk developed a core outrigger wall design that eliminated a lot of sheer walls, which helped a lot with the very complicated unit layouts at 8 Spruce. We just find them to be the best when it comes to structural engineers.”
“Edward Messina at Severud Associates is known as ‘Fast Eddie’ around our business because you call him up and he’s right over.”
“DeSimone designed the tree column and the big spans for Centra. It was a big effort to make that happen. They’re a really great engineering firm, and one thing that they’re great at is keeping the design team and client comfortable with very complicated things and also working with the construction team, while keeping everything on schedule.”
“The North Carolina Museum of Art is really all about daylight, and Arup did an extraordinary job calculating the amount of natural and artificial light and how it combined throughout the space.”
“At Clyfford Still, everything you see is structure. So KPFF's role was very key, especially in translating the structural design so it would be read in the perforated ceilings where the tolerances were very tricky, combined with reinforcing with rebar to maintain a crack-free finish.”
Facade & curtain wall
Island International Exterior Fabricators
david seide (left) AND Robert Garneau (right)
“Gordon Smith is a tried and true Manhattan curtain wall consultant. He kept us out of trouble and found good value for the wall at Centra. We could barely afford a curtain wall for this building and he helped us sneak it in and detail it really well so we can sleep at night.”
“There’s a learning curve on installing a European curtain wall system. Architectural Metal Fabricators took a real interest in jumping in and getting a technical understanding of the system.”
“Front was the key to unlocking the prefab facade at Via Verde. It cost a bit more, but it was faster to put together on site. They helped us translate that.”
“They protected me! At 8 Spruce, the extremely unique wall was largely aesthetically driven but it's just as advanced in performance and Heitmann took care of everything behind the wall in terms of feasibility, budget and schedule.”
“Island Fabrications knows how to bring all the components together; they ordered material globally and fabricated them locally.”
Fittings & Furniture
Carpet & Textile
Custom Fixtures & Signage
Doors & Frames
Kitchen & Bath
Michael Moran (left) AND Courtesy Forest City Ratner (right)
“Interior glass subcontractor A-Val worked creatively to ensure design intent in extremely complex conditions including the three-story open elliptical stair at the NYU SCPS.”
“You can get good window R-value in the United States but you can’t get the quality of high solar heat gain as you can with Walch. The combination is unmatched.”
“CBO out of Buffalo did the glass veil and other curtain wall systems for the Buffalo Courthouse. The most difficult part was printing the Constitution on the glass with ceramic fritting. It took a lot of editing and laying it out and a very long time on our side and theirs.”
“John Lewis Glass would work closely with Tony Dominski at West Edge Metal. Even though it was a custom bench, it was even more custom because of the collaboration of the two firms.”
“Aircuity did the recovery wheels and air handlers at Penn Medicine. Their system helped the owner meet their energy goals. It monitors the occupancy and the amount of CO2 in a space and optimizes the number of air changes so you wind up saving energy and money.”
“Crescent was good in assisting the contractor in LEED complience during construction and helped focus the team on elements that really mattered.”
“Bright Power did a great job of administering and coordinating the LEED application and they were responsible for designing the photovotaic system which was an important part of the building's design.”
“We used Veridian as the sustainability consultant on Centra. Originally, we were just aiming for LEED certification. Now the numbers are coming in and they're very good. It looks like we're going to get Platinum.”
“Julie Bargmann of D.I.R.T.’s knowledge of brown fields, Navy Yards, and their detritus, was a really nice fit.”
Paul C. Steck
Ty Cole / OTTO (left) AND Robert Garneau (right)
“Armstrong worked closely with us in providing customized, perforated metal ceiling panels that met the design intent of the Frick Chemistry Laboratory. Additionally, they did a excellent job field coordinating the installation of those panels with adjacent elements.”
“The project involved finishing hundreds of custom fabricated steel elements—KC Fabrications was extremely flexible with the schedule and was able to turn around material on short notice. They are always willing to do what is necessary to achieve the highest quality finish work.”
“For custom metal work that requires demanding precision and meticulous crafting, Metalman is an invaluable resource. If you can't find the right piece of hardware from a manufacturer, he will design and fabricate a custom piece to fit the requirement.”
“Mani from Millenium Steel is very accurate, and very budget-oriented. We worked with him before. He was able to make big steel pivot pieces.”
“We sent our drawings of pleated metal panels to a few people and got the impression that something custom would be too expensive. But a rep introduced us to Gage, who worked with our contractors to make our designs for the panels in a cost competitive way.”
Custom Fabrication/ Carpentry
“The careful execution of the FSC certified teak screens and planters at Carnegie Hill House resulted from the close collaboration between our design team and Ivory Build. Their skill and rigorous approach to craft enabled us to unify this sequence of outdoor spaces through the meticulous stacking and subtle articulation of teak slats.”
“Bob Seetin is irrepressible and has a 'bring it on' attitude. He created the metal tables, wine racks, and counters we needed for the Film Society cafe quickly and even joyfully, turning everything around within a few weeks.”
“Tom Kozlowski is an exceptional carpenter. He was able to think around unpredicted problems. He comes up with very straightforward and quick solutions. It no longer looks like construction work, it starts to resemble millwork.”
“A pivotal design goal for REI Soho was the adaptive reuse of the materials from the existing historic Puck Building and its subsequent transformation into a retail space. Callison’s vision from the outset was to bring the space back to its original context, from the wood cladding that was repurposed from the interior brick piers to the timber from the ceiling above the ground floor that was remilled and reused for the monumental staircase treads. Terra Mai was a collaborative partner through the entire reuse process providing expert guidance and advice.”
Iwan Baan (left); david seide (center); AND Ori Dubow (right)
“Paul Marantz's lighting design is one of the most mesmerizing aspects of the 9/11 Memorial and plaza.”
“A company in California called Holly Solar fabricated the LED lights in the facade of the Nitehawk Cinema. It’s a small little company, but they do custom light fixtures. They’re good.”
“Kugler Ning is on board with understanding the world architects work in—working with tectonics—to create the right effect. Sometimes lighting designers can be more interested in the fixtures than the final effect. Kugler Ning helped to make the lighting fixtures disappear.”
“We worked with Lumen Arch on the lighting design of Penn Medicine. They just did a fabulous job. We implemented a lot of lighting controls, occupancy sensors, daylight sensors, and things of that nature in the labs to bring down the energy usage and Lumen really knew their way around those systems.”
“We worked with Lighting By Gregory who helped us get the most energy efficient fixtures for the Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator. We as architects know what’s out there, but Lighting By Gregory opened our eyes to more LED opportunities.”
Paul Warchol Photography (left) AND peter aaron/esto (right)
Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects (left) AND don pearse photopgraphers (right)
Concrete, Masonry, Stone, & Tile
ADM Concrete Construction
Helical Line Products
Reginald D. Hough Concrete Construction
“Peter Dagostino at ADM Concrete made it possible to get the building up. He coordinated everything. ADM is a very smart company and did a quick job.”
“Boston Valley is one of the premier companies to go to for very careful matching of terracotta.”
“The excellent stone work by Port Morris Tile & Marble helped us make this a place of permanence and beauty. They worked with our vision and found the spectacular green marble for the benches.”
“The slate siding from Vermont Structural Slate was naturally resistant to spray paint.”
“We used Reginald Hough as a concrete consultant for Milstein Hall. They came in during construction process to facilitate the subcontractor, Pike, and help us to decide on some of the materials to test and techniques to use. The lower levels have a smooth concrete dome ceiling with integrated lighting. Because it is both architecture and structure, it required a very precise installation method. Hough was invaluable in achieving that.”
A/V & Acoustics
Fire Protection/ Code Consulting
Montroy Andersen DeMarco
Food Facility Planning
Radiant Consulting Services
Turf and Sports Regulations
“Acoustic Dimensions was great. They were really hands on, heavily involved in the Nitehawk. We have apartments above the movie theater so acoustic isolation is a big part of this project. They designed the second floor’s ceiling to hang on springs. They also tested the sound transmission when it was all done and you can’t hear a thing.”
“Richard Demarco is the most informed architect in New York City about building code and law. This guy is a joy to work with.”
“Clarity Custom is a terrific 'full system' provider and installer who took the lead on specifying A/V equipment and lighting control systems. There was an excellent interface with the general contractor and architect to minimize coordination issues. Clarity did a great job of integrating hardware, wiring and controls in a project where every detail matters.”
“Building Conservation Associates have areas of expertise that bring refinement and an ability to find the resources.”
“At the Museum of the Moving Image, Scharff/ Weisberg and Jaffe Holden had a real hand in setting the stage to accommodate different uses in terms of all the data and audio visual systems that allow the museum to be a plug + play environment.”
“Bob Powers is very keen in navigating the historic restoration tax break. He's tech savvy and politically savvy, which helps get city, state, and federal approvals.”
“Laurent Corradi of Vertical Garden Technology has created two grand and beautiful green walls that are loved by all. His knowledge of the botany and technical aspects of plant walls will insure that these features will thrive for generations to come.”
“The Musuem of the Moving Image faced a lot of challenges not to mention being a publicly-funded project in hard economic times. Levien took it all in stride and helped us meet the extra demands on budget cutting without sacrificing quality.”
Other Services & Suppliers
Graphic Design/Signage & Wayfinding
Enclosure Testing / Facade Maintenance
Epoxy Specialists and Supply
Finishes and Coatings
Heat Recovery Ventilator
Light Fixture Restoration
Painting & Epoxy Installation
Riggers to the Arts
Security Bollards/ Traffic Barriers
peter aaron/esto (left) AND courtesy wxy (right)
“At Queens Plaza, we collaborated with Michael Singer, an artist whose commitment to the public realm complements Margie Ruddick's environmental sensibility for landscape. He designed and produced special pre-cast components integrated into the architecture of new social spaces that withstand the site's powerful infrastructural presence.”
“Claudy Jongtstra’s artistry is present in two monumental tapestries that cover both long walls of the Atrium. These extraordinary artworks were made possible by her artistic vision as much as her involvement in the technical aspect, managing all from Europe.”
“Fountain consultant Dan Euser is really familiar with the potentials and limits of water dynamics. He's visionary in terms of creating things of beauty and simplicity.”
“When the graphic designers Karlssonwilker joined the team, the design of the Museum of the Moving Image was fairly well resolved, but they were able to complement and add to its strength in a way that carried through the branding of the entire institution”
“The reception desk at the Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator is custom designed and Panelite made it easy for me because they built a model on site for approval and I was able to see our 3-D computer drawings in real life before the desk was fabricated.”