Search results for "Public Design Commission"

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Timber Party

Swedish political party asks architects to design timber neighborhood
The Center Party, a Swedish political party, has commissioned Anders Berensson Architects to design a speculative plan for a mass timber development in Stockholm. The design for the scheme was recently released without a timeline for execution. The development is a collection of towers and sky bridges built on top of the existing waterfront neighborhood of Masthamnen. The plan would leave the buildings below relatively untouched but would cap them with a public park and walkway level over which the new towers would rise. The designers embraced wood as a building material because it "releases the least carbon dioxide." Renderings show interiors and exteriors clad with wood finishes, and the architects describe the buildings using mass timber technologies like cross-laminated timber (CLT). The imaginative scheme is meant to provide additional housing close to the center of Stockholm, where the housing market is tight and space is expensive. There are no apparent plans to enact the proposal. The Center Party has worked with Berensson before on speculative designs for the city, many of which have included timber high-rises. The party has relatively little power to realize these ideas as they are the opposition party in the city's government, which is controlled by the Social Democrats. Timber has received a lot of attention in Sweden as a structural material for high-rises, although it's not clear what the country has been able to realize so far. Globally, mass timber is starting to make inroads as a standard building technique, but it faces a long road to widespread adoption in the U.S.
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Put Your Faith in Money

Historic midtown N.Y.C. church to transfer air rights to JPMorgan
JPMorgan Chase is one step closer to constructing its new headquarters atop the footprint of the soon-to-be-demolished Union Carbide building in New York City. Since February, the bank has successfully initiated the transfer of development rights from the adjacent Grand Central Terminal and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. On Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission signaled the third major structure to give over rights in the deal—the 100-year-old St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. The commission voted unanimously to approve a master plan for the restoration and continued maintenance of the historic church, pending the planned transfer of air rights to JPMorgan. Commissioner Michael Goldblum called the decision a “joyous day” for St. Bart’s and acknowledged the success of the many buildings that have begun a revival process due to the deal, some of which would “never have had the ability to raise adequate funds” for themselves. The financial giant has agreed to purchase at least 50,000-square-feet of development rights from St. Bart’s for $20.7 million, which the deteriorating church will use to underwrite countless renovation projects on site. At the end of June, The Real Deal reported that the bank is also considering buying 505,000 square feet of additional development rights for seven times the current price. This is all part of JPMorgan’s plan to secure the initial air rights needed to build out its new, 70-story headquarters at 270 Park Avenue. The tower would replace its current home, formerly known as the Union Carbide building, completed in 1961 and designed by Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie Griffin de Blois of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Though it’s not designated as a historic landmark, the building is considered one of New York’s most classic Modernist structures and preservation advocates are criticizing JPMorgan’s attempt to take it down. Under the Midtown East rezoning plan, which passed in August of 2017, the bank is allowed to build a larger office building as long as it contributes to a “public realm improvement fund.” This includes buying the air rights from various neighboring institutions in order to assist them in carrying out their own structural work. Since it received status as a New York City landmark back in 1967, the Byzantine-style St. Bart’s Church is eligible for both the city’s and JPMorgan’s help.  Representatives from the church touted the importance of yesterday’s LPC vote, calling it a transfer that “needs to happen” for the building to continue functioning properly. In addition, the New York Landmarks Conservancy as well as Community Board 5 recommended approval. “The only break in the skyline as you walk along Park Avenue is St. Barts,” said the church’s building committee chairman Peter Sullivan. “This beautiful building gives the eye a much-needed break amidst all the skyscrapers, but any person will tell you it needs a lot of work to fix.”
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For FLW Buffs(alo)

Frank Lloyd Wright's Barton House opens to the public after a full restoration
After a $2-million total restoration, the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed George and Delta Barton House in Buffalo, New York, is once again open for visitors. The Barton House, built in 1903–1905 as one of six interconnected buildings on the Darwin D. Martin House residential compound, was Wright’s first East Coast commission and introduced the Prairie School to the public. The Barton House, a commission by millionaire Darwin D. Martin for his sister Delta Barton and her husband George, was a bit of a test-case for Wright; Martin was so impressed that he tapped Wright to later design the rest of the complex, including the larger Martin House. “The restoration of the Barton House not only invites visitors to enjoy and understand its significance as an icon of Wright’s Prairie style but also provides a window into the role of patronage in architecture,” said Martin House executive director Mary Roberts. “With his offering of the Barton House project, Martin gave Wright an opportunity to explore his strengths and creativity free from financial restraints, and its success sparked a long-lasting patron-artist relationship that resulted in some of Wright’s most important built and unbuilt works.” The Barton House restoration was some twenty years in the making and began with the founding of the Martin House Restoration Corporation (MHRC) in 1992. Renovations on the site began in 1996, and restoration of the Barton House proper began in September 2017 based on the research and plans produced by Buffalo’s HHL Architects. Only three of the six Martin House buildings currently remain standing. The Barton House, while an earlier piece of Wright’s portfolio, exhibits the unmistakable low-slung proportions, large, overhanging roof, and ribbon windows associated with the Prairie School style. The design of the house and use of gold-tinted brick in the fireplace and terracotta roof tiles share similar beats with Wright’s J.J. Walser Jr. House in Chicago, which opened the same year. The Martin House compound is open to public guided tours, but private tours are also available, and the Barton House is available to rent for private events.
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Spinning a Yarn

Jenny Sabin Studio to bring high-tech textiles to Peroni's traveling popup
For the third year of Italian beer maker Peroni’s House of Peroni popup, the company has commissioned an interactive installation from the Ithaca-based Jenny Sabin Studio. LUSTER will be a full-service bar topped with an immersive woven canopy similar to Lumen, Sabin’s 2017 installation for MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program. The 2018 House of Peroni was curated by the Art Production Fund, a nonprofit that commissions and produces large-scale public art. Sabin’s selection was a conscious shift by Peroni toward showcasing cross-disciplinary, sustainable contemporary design pieces. Much like Lumen, LUSTER will use its canopy to delineate the popup’s programming through different lengths of hanging protrusions across a full bar and lounge, complete with high-top tables and seating. The space will be topped with a lightweight structure shaped into patterns that take their shape from Sabin’s research into the structure of cells and will be woven from textiles, tubing, photoluminescent materials, and fibers that can absorb and re-emit light. During the day the canopy will cast dynamic shadows over the bar and seating as the sun changes position, and the installation will glow at night, similar to the psychedelic experience that Lumen gave PS1 visitors. “We’re excited to be working with House of Peroni and Art Production Fund on this project, as it embraces collaboration and aims to provide a unique venue for artists and designers to share their work with diverse audiences in multiple cities,” said Sabin in a press release. “We’re honored to have the opportunity to design and produce the immersive environment that these exciting events and gatherings will take place in.” “Following the past two years, we’re excited to continue expanding House of Peroni throughout the U.S.,” said David Schmid, senior director of marketing for Peroni in the U.S. “Art Production Fund shares our mission to champion the arts and applies a modern outlook to everything they do. In their expertise and through Jenny Sabin Studio, House of Peroni is shifting from a focus on contemporary Italian style to a more expansive outlook on creative expression.” This year’s House of Peroni will kick off its cross-country tour in Manhattan’s West Village on October 19 and 20. After that, the bar will move to Los Angeles on November 8, Miami on November 14, and end in Washington D.C. on November 28. Tickets and more information can be found on the House of Peroni website.
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Better Late Than Never

Opinion: It’s time to recognize Pereira’s LA Times building
The current proposal to bisect the Los Angeles Timess buildings facing City Hall on First Street would delete a key chapter from the city’s collective memory. In spite of the Cultural Heritage Commission’s September 20th approval of landmark status for the entire block, half of the block could still be demolished for two high-rise towers by Canadian developer Onni Group. What would be lost? One of Los Angeles’s most vivid symbols commemorating its ambitious rise from provincial outpost to global metropolis during the twentieth century. Commissioned by publisher Harry Chandler, architect Gordon Kaufmann’s 1935 building on the corner of First and Spring Streets announced Los Angeles’s arrival on the national stage. Two generations later publisher Otis Chandler (Harry’s grandson) hired architect William Pereira to design the 1973 wing on the corner of Broadway to proclaim that the city (and the Times itself) had achieved its destiny as a national and global presence. Together the two buildings embody the dynamic story of the city’s evolving vision that still shapes its direction. That tangible reminder is one of historic architecture’s essential roles in a city.  
But while Onni’s proposal at the moment would preserve the beginning of that story (Kaufmann’s widely beloved Art Deco masterpiece) it would sacrifice the payoff—Pereira’s wing.  This is the thornier issue. The Pereira addition’s Late Modern style has not yet had the time to become as widely appreciated as Art Deco. Late Modern landmarks were often corporate headquarters, aerospace campuses, new universities, master-planned cities, and cultural crowns—designs which undergirded Southern California’s tremendous growth, but which were not often praised by architecture critics in their time. Proper appreciation today is hampered by the fact that there is little published recently about this important style, or on Pereira‘s career. Yet Late Modern turns out to be the signature style of Los Angeles’s arrival as a global capital.
We can’t forget that the Kaufmann building’s Art Deco style was also once considered ugly and old-fashioned. Even Kevin Lynch, a respected observer, called another Art Deco landmark, the Richfield Building, “ugly” way back in 1960—just before it was demolished as expendable. Today it is lamented.  So opinions change, which is why we can’t dismiss Pereira’s 1973 design out of hand. The Late Modern style was part of a worldwide re-evaluation of Modernism—frequently spearheaded by Los Angeles architects, including William Pereira. 
By the 1960s the mainstream International Style of modern architecture was growing stale, and many architects around the world realized it. While some architects introduced historic sources—leading to Postmodernism—others held to Modernism’s faith in technology and functionalism. This was what we now call Late Modern. They realized that technology had changed since the 1920s when an earlier generation had defined the International Style.  Late Modern architects moved away from the simple glass box to sculpted forms that reflected the complex interplay between interior functions and exterior context. James Stirling and James Gowan lead the way at the Leicester Engineering Building in England in 1963. In Los Angeles, Cesar Pelli and Anthony Lumsden (lead designers at Daniel Mann Johnson & Mendenhall before Pelli moved to Gruen Associates) moved away from the transparent Miesian curtain wall framed by exposed structure to a taut multi-directional skin of glass that—they realized—could take almost any shape or color. Recent technologies offered fresh possibilities.  As historian Daniel Paul records in his Late Modern historic context statement for SurveyLA, they were also impressed by a new wave of artists such as Larry Bell, Donald Judd, and Craig Kauffman. Lumsden’s curvaceous Roxbury Plaza, Pelli’s blue Pacific Design Center, Pelli and Lumsden’s weightless FAA headquarters in Hawthorne, CNA’s mirrored box by Langdon & Wilson in Lafayette Park all followed. Pereira offered his own new direction for Modernism in the new LA Times wing and other buildings. He had already moved past International Style Modernism (best seen in his CBS Television City with Charles Luckman) at his Neo-Formalist Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1965) and the richly expressive Metropolitan Water District (1963), both inspired by the sunlight, water, and outdoor living in our region. 
If Kaufmann told the story of California’s raw power and potential in the 1930s, Pereira’s response in the 1970s was larger, lighter, and more sophisticated in its use of modern technological might. The pair mirrored the progression from the first trans-Pacific Clippers of the 1930s to the 747 of the 1970s.
For the new wing at the Los Angeles Times, Pereira drew on several innovative urban planning and aesthetic ideas. Breaking up the International Style box, he sculpted the building into receding and advancing planes, into dominant and secondary horizontals and verticals, each articulated with richly textured stone, metal spandrels, and tinted glass. Lifting its mass high in the air on muscular columns it echoed the forms of beton brut design and of R. M. Schindler’s Lovell House in Newport Beach. Though dynamic and sculptural, these shapes also responded to functions, carving out public space in a landscaped courtyard paved with cobbles at ground level out of the path of sidewalk traffic, and maximizing office space in the jutting prow overhead.  As a planner, Pereira knew that Los Angeles wanted to build an elevated people-mover system throughout downtown, so he added a second-floor walkway to serve as a convenient stop.  Then there was Pereira’s innovative response to the strong historic structure next door. He designed the new wing to respect the older, setting his building back, reducing its height, muting its colors so as not to detract from the Kaufmann building. This was a daring response in 1973 before historic preservation had become a major urbanist concern, but it reflects Pereira’s innovative thinking throughout his career. The new possibilities of Late Modernism allowed him the leeway to do so. It is time to leave behind outdated opinions of the Late Modern style and recognize Pereira’s LA Times building for its bold composition, its creation of urban public space, and its sensitive relation to its historic neighbor. Onni can still reasonably develop the site without sacrificing this significant building—or the legendary origin story it tells about how Los Angeles grew to greatness. Fashion inevitably changes. Late Modern architecture will soon return to fashionability, as Kaufmann’s Art Deco building has. Pereira’s lessons in good urban design must remain to help us plan the next chapter in Los Angeles’s civic center. Alan Hess is an architect, historian, and author of twenty books on Modern and California architecture. He has written landmark designation nominations at the local and national level for many midcentury Modern buildings, including CBS Television City by Pereira and Luckman for the Los Angeles Conservancy. Since 2004 he has been researching the work of William Pereira in preparation for a book on the subject. His newest book, Hollywood Modern: Houses of the Stars, will be published by Rizzoli International this October.
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Reevaluating the CHRS

Chicago needs a new architectural survey to protect its vernacular and postmodern heritage
  The aging Chicago Historic Resources Survey, or CHRS, is Chicago’s benchmark document for determining what the city considers historic. However, without contemporary updates, it fails to protect modern (and postmodern) architectural heritage and leaves vernacular structures regularly at risk for demolition. Chicago embarked on its very first survey of historic buildings in 1983 with the objective to identify new landmarks. The CHRS was a complex undertaking, combining research in archives and libraries with detailed field assessments and photography. A half-million properties were surveyed, with the work completed in 1994. Dividing up the city into Chicago’s system of 77 community areas and 50 wards, the survey work began with teams driving through each ward and color coding each property according to three criteria adopted by the CHRS: age, degree of physical integrity, and level of possible significance. Buildings given a red rating were determined to be significant on a national scale, the “best of the best” of historic resources. Orange properties possessed similar features but were significant locally. Yellow properties were identified as relatively significant and within a greater concentration of similar buildings. Yellow-green buildings were identified as being within a concentration of significant buildings but reflected alterations. Green buildings were identified in previous state surveys, and purple buildings reflected significant alterations. Lastly, the survey team included a category for buildings constructed after 1940 that were considered too new to be properly evaluated, blue, except in cases where significance was already established. Data forms and photographs were produced for each property in the second phase of fieldwork, as well as follow-up research including zoning and building permits. In total, 22 people worked on the CHRS over the course of the 13-year, $1.2 million-dollar project. A summary of the survey was published in 1996 and widely distributed at Chicago public libraries, but it only represented a selection of significant buildings. After the orange-rated 1927 Chicago Mercantile Exchange Building was demolished without oversight, the City Council approved a proposal sponsored by Mayor Richard M. Daley that would grant a measure of protection to significant buildings. Adopted in 2003, the Demolition Delay Ordinance requires a 90-day hold on the issuance of a demolition permit for a building rated red or orange in the CHRS. The CHRS online database is widely used to determine if a building is an “eligible” historic resource. Unfortunately, neither the online database nor the published summary fully represents the estimated 500,000 buildings that were included in the field assessment. Each only includes a selection of buildings that fell under subjective eligibility criteria, with the city GIS website only representing data on red- and orange-rated buildings. Demolition delay has become the most significant function of the CHRS, yet it was never the intention of the survey to have the data determine whether a building is demolished without a review of significance. The survey organizers felt strongly that the survey would have to be periodically updated to ensure accuracy. The “modern” cutoff date of 1940 was selected to provide a 50-year waiting period for eligible buildings based on the anticipated 1990 completion of the fieldwork. This determination mirrored the National Register of Historic Places requirement for a building to be at least 50 years old before its eligibility may be determined. It was felt that this choice would allow surveyors to be more objective, but there has been no public attempt to survey or evaluate midcentury modern resources. As only red- and orange-rated resources are subject to the Demolition Delay ordinance, most modern and postmodern buildings could be at risk. Buildings that were new at the time of the survey are rapidly aging to eligibility and could be threatened with demolition without a municipal matrix to protect them. Postmodern architecture is only represented in the CHRS if it is included but not contributing to a local landmark district. This leaves most of Chicago's postmodern architectural heritage absent, including all of the work of Stanley Tigerman and Harry Weese, as well as the James R. Thompson Center. In the survey, there are inconsistencies across neighborhoods and styles of architecture as well as works by individual architects. For example, a similar grouping of structures may be identified with a “warm” color rating in one neighborhood and have no information and no color rating in another. Vernacular buildings—the structures that make up Chicago’s neighborhoods—are disproportionately represented throughout the survey. Choices that include what modern buildings to include and how surveyors color rated them lack a degree of impartiality, as not enough time had passed between their construction and evaluation to make a fair, non-aesthetic judgment. Furthermore, while the original survey team included historic resources that are individually listed on the National Register, are National Historic Landmarks, and contribute to historic districts, the surveyors did not evaluate buildings that were already designated as City of Chicago Landmarks. While Chicago Landmarks are well known, the omission of established landmarks within the CHRS data makes the overall results less comprehensive. This also renders it difficult for researchers to review Chicago Landmark and CHRS data concurrently. While work has been done to informally update the data of the CHRS, no update or reinterpretation of the CHRS data or attempt to resurvey the portions of Chicago that are missing from the data would have the same effect as a comprehensive effort by a city-managed municipal survey. The Chicago Landmarks Ordinance states that the Commission on Chicago Landmarks must “encourage the continuation of surveys and studies of Chicago’s historical and architectural resources and the maintenance and updating of a register of areas, districts, places, buildings, structures, works of art, and other objects which may be worthy of landmark designations.” History is not static, and old buildings are continually taking on the mantle of significance, some by aging into it, some due to changing mindsets, and others by losing enough of their stylistic comrades to become rare when once they were common. The data that we rely on to determine what buildings are saved and what buildings are demolished in Chicago is at best 24 years old, and at worst 35. An updated CHRS, one that evaluates modern and postmodern architectural heritage and takes a fresh look at vernacular architecture, is the only way that Chicago can continue to protect its architectural heritage. Many thanks to Susannah Ribstein, Tim Whittman, and Charlie Pipal for assisting with this article.
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Arctic Addition

New York City's Pier 17 will transform into a winter wonderland
As summer comes to an end and temperatures begin to drop, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved plans to convert the newly revamped Pier 17 into a rooftop winter village during the colder months. The proposal by Rockwell Group will introduce a warming hut, winter marketplace, and ice rink nearly the size of Rockefeller Center's to the city’s waterfront, making the historic South Street Seaport district a year-round attraction. In recent years, the Seaport has transformed into a lively residential and commercial hub, where residents and visitors have been drawn to the area for its top retail, dining, and cultural attractions, as well as its spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and New York City skyline. The winter wonderland idea originated from the urban ice skating rinks at Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park, which have historically been popular seasonal attractions. The design is further inspired by a set of five different materials that the firm wanted to celebrate in connection with the neighborhood’s rich past as a gateway for international shipping and maritime activities. Those materials include bronze, teak, commercial barrels, cargo units, and ice. While only temporary, the installment will cover over 50 percent of the rooftop of Pier 17, a massive 30,000 square feet. The renovation of Pier 17 and its subsequent winter addition are parts of a larger plan to bring new restaurants, shopping centers, and family-friendly public spaces to a neighborhood that is drenched in history. There is no doubt that Pier 17 will achieve this goal, as it has already helped revive the vibrant and effervescent neighborhood, contributing to Lower Manhattan’s recent evolution into a community that never sleeps. Pier 17’s rooftop is known for hosting several sold-out events ranging from comedy shows to concerts. Still awaiting completion are two restaurants by celebrity chefs David Chang and Andrew Carmellini, as well as a 19,000-square-foot ESPN studio.
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Going Greek

Renzo Piano to “reinvent the ancient Athenian agora” in Baltimore

Johns Hopkins University has hired Italian architect Renzo Piano to design a building for its Homewood campus in Baltimore that will “reinvent the ancient Athenian agora for the 21st Century.” Hopkins commissioned the Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Genoa, Italy, to design a home for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute, an interdisciplinary center dedicated to “strengthening democracy by improving civic engagement and civil discourse worldwide.”

The Foundation announced in June 2017 that it would commit $150 million to launch a joint effort with Hopkins to create the institute, assemble a faculty, and build a home for it on the Homewood campus. The project is called the Agora Institute because one of its goals is to reinvent the ancient Greek agora, or public gathering place. A budget for the building has not been established. The target completion date is 2022.

At 81, Piano is considered one of the world’s leading architects, with major projects on five continents and awards such as the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the RIBA Gold Medal, and the AIA Gold Medal. He is the subject of a retrospective that opened this month at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Past projects include the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Shard skyscraper in London; and, with Richard Rogers, the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. Piano has worked with the donor before to design the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, Greece.

Piano said in a statement that he accepted the commission because he has “great respect” for what the university and foundation want to build. This will be his first project in Baltimore, which has a “sister city” relationship with Genoa. “I was attracted to the Johns Hopkins project for its humanistic nature and also because I have always been interested in making places for learning,” Piano said in a statement. “I am very happy and honored to start this new adventure.”

University president Ronald J. Daniels said he believes Piano is the best choice to design the project. “SNF Agora Institute seeks to reinvent the ancient Athenian agora for the 21st Century,” Daniels said in a statement. “The institute will serve as a forum for scholarly research, the robust exchange of ideas, and for sharing strategies to repair civic discourse and strengthen democracy in America and around the globe.”

As “a visionary who understands the power of public space to foster conversation and create community,” Daniels said, “Renzo Piano is the ideal architect and artist to give physical form to the SNF Agora Institute.”

 

The institute is envisioned as an “academic and public forum” that will bring together experts in fields such as political science, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, ethics, sociology, and history. Its mission, according to Hopkins, is to “forge new ways to address the deterioration of civic engagement worldwide and facilitate the restoration of open and inclusive discourse that is the cornerstone of healthy democracies.”

The building will house a director, 10 faculty members, 10 visiting scholars, and both graduate and undergraduate students. It will be the setting for a wide range of public events, including an annual conference bringing together “representatives of different viewpoints to examine contested public policy issues.” There will be lectures, symposiums, dinners, and performances.

A site for the institute has not been finalized, and Piano is expected to help make that decision, along with determining the building’s size. Given the nature of the project and stature of the designer, officials say, it is likely that Hopkins will want it to be in a prominent location facing out towards the city, rather than buried deep within the campus.

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Yankee Modern

What is New England architecture?
New England might not garner the attention that other places get for contemporary architecture, but the region has a legacy of world-class architecture, including some great works of modernism. Two iconic monuments of modern architecture in America are in New England—Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard and Alvar Aalto’s Baker House at MIT—along with seminal late-modern buildings such as Boston City Hall and the Yale Center for British Art. Today, many contemporary design stars have built structures across New England, including Frank Gehry, Rafael Moneo, Norman Foster, Herzog & de Meuron, Michael Hopkins, Renzo Piano, Charles Correa, Fumihiko Maki, and Tadao Ando. The finalists for a competition for a new contemporary art museum on Boston’s waterfront included Switzerland’s Peter Zumthor and Studio Granda from Iceland. The only local firm considered for the museum was the then relatively young Office dA; principals Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de León went on to fame as architectural educators beyond Boston. Although not unique to New England, the whole mentality of "if-you-are-good-you-must-be-from-somewhere-else" is found here. As one might expect, Boston is the center of most architectural activity in the region. Yet, despite a heroic postwar age of Brutalism, too much contemporary architecture barely rises above the level of commercial real estate. With the exception of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art and David Hacin’s District Hall, much of the frantic new downtown construction features the kind of glass boxes that pierce city skylines from Dubai to Shanghai. The city’s embarrassingly named Innovation District (often called the Inundation District due to its propensity for flooding) is scaleless, overbearing, and disconnected from the soul of Boston. OMA’s new scheme for the area—which the architects gratuitously refer to as “a dynamic and vibrant area that is quickly emerging as one of the most exciting neighborhoods and destinations in the country”—is an 18-story glass cube with the dreary moniker of 88 Seaport Boulevard. One might have hoped for more from OMA’s first Boston commission. The block will offer almost half a billion square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of retail, and a paltry 5,000 square feet for civic and cultural use. Its gimmick is slicing the building into two sections with some terracing and plantings sandwiched in between. OMA disingenuously claims this double-volume exercise “creates diverse typologies for diverse industries,” and furthermore “generates an opportunity to draw in the district’s public domain.” In short, Boston will get an off-the-shelf dystopian nightmare. However, the Engineering Research Center at Brown University by KieranTimberlake is not just another knockoff. Although flush from the controversial but triumphant U.S. Embassy in London, the Philadelphians’ latest New England project is what good contemporary architecture ought to be. The $88-million, 80,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building is both understated and environmentally responsible. Its 22 pristine labs steer the Ivy League school into uncharted territory in nano research, energy studies, and information technology. The ERC is a triumph, especially given Brown’s decades of struggle to find an appropriate contemporary architectural voice. Recent work on the Providence campus includes an international relations institute by Rafael Viñoly—the design of which was dumbed down to mollify historic preservationists; a tepid Maya Lin sculpture; and an awkwardly sited Diller Scofidio + Renfro art center that was commissioned to show that Brown could do trendy and edgy. These common missteps are best exemplified by the university’s first competition for an athletic center. Although the competition was officially won by SHoP, the donor sponsoring it declared his dislike of modern architecture and demanded the school hire Robert A.M. Stern instead. The cutesy Georgian result is predictably bland. The ERC was ahead of schedule and under budget, and rather than treating Rhode Islanders as rubes, the architects created what Stephen Kieran calls “a nice piece of Providence urbanism.” While the firm’s great strength is diminishing the environmental impact of their buildings, the ERC also contributes a handsome facade to the campus’s traditional buildings. The fiberglass-reinforced concrete fins, the building’s signature element, impose a timeless probity worthy of Schinkel. If KieranTimberlake grows weary of being identified as the designers of the $1-billion embassy that Trump slammed as “lousy and horrible,” imagine how tired Tod Williams and Billie Tsien must be of consistently being tagged with the label “designers of the Obama Library.” Is a client choosing them because of the reflected fame? Will all new works by the New York-based architects be measured against that Chicago shrine? Yet Williams and Tsien have created a number of noteworthy academic works in New England that deserve similar attention, including buildings at Bennington and Dartmouth. Their theater and dance building at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, is almost complete. Here, the very long shadow is not cast by the architects’ own projects, but by Louis Kahn’s library across campus. Kahn’s brick tribute to 19th-century Yankee mills—and the symmetry of Georgian style—is one of the great pieces of architecture in New England. The big block of the drama building by Williams and Tsien wisely does not choose to echo Kahn but is curiously almost a throwback to the early Brutalism of I. M. Pei. It establishes a more rugged character with a marvelous texture composed of gray Roman bricks. A more satisfying Granite State structure by Williams and Tsien is a library, archives, and exhibition complex at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. MacDowell is a century-old artists’ colony where thousands of painters, writers, and musicians, including James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Willa Cather, have sought quiet and isolation in a collection of rustic cabins in the woods. Thornton Wilder wrote his classic play Our Town during his time here. Williams and Tsien’s sensitive addition to the colony’s 1920s library is only 3,000 square feet, cost around $2 million, and is an exquisitely crafted gem. The single-story library is constructed of a nearly black granite. Set in a birch grove created by the leading modern landscape architects in Boston, Reed Hilderbrand, this gathering place for residents appears at one with the rocky soil and forests of Northern New England. A 23-foot-tall outdoor chimney flanking the entrance plaza to the library makes reference to the hearths in all of the MacDowell studios. It also looks like a primitive stele, giving the entire ensemble an aspect that is more primal than modern. Another prominent New York architect, Toshiko Mori, has produced a simple yet elegant warehouse for an art museum in the faded seaport and art destination of Rockland, Maine. Built to house a long-time contemporary art cooperative that had no permanent collection and only inadequate facilities for exhibitions and classes, the saw-toothed clerestories at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) make reference to New England factories while bringing in what the architect calls “that special Maine light.” Like those functional structures, Mori used economical, non-custom materials such as plasterboard and corrugated zinc that wrap the exterior, embracing the lack of funds to her advantage. Despite the nod to Rockland’s working class vibe, Mori created a thoughtfully wrought sophisticated work of art on an unremarkable side street. Mori’s Japanese heritage comes through in her subtle proportions based on a 4-foot grid. The CMCA offers a refreshing contrast to extravagantly costly new museums by superstar architects—the 11,000-square-foot arts center cost only $3.5 million. Mori has crafted a museum based on flexibility rather than attitude. A summer resident of nearby North Haven, she endowed her simple statement with an air of Yankee frugality. But perhaps the most encouraging new project is the $52-million John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A cooperative venture of three departments in three different colleges—architecture, landscape, and building technology—the autumn-hued, aluminum-wrapped school embodies the dynamic spirit of New England’s first publicly supported architecture program. The 87,000-square-foot studio and administrative space is the work of Boston–based Leers Weinzapfel and landscape designer Stephen Stimson, with contributions from the faculty-cum-clients. Construction Technology chair Alexander Schreyer, for example, a guru of heavy-timber structural systems, helped fashion what is perhaps the largest wood-frame building on the East Coast. The zipper trusses that span the 84-by-56-foot, two-story-high common area demonstrate the inventiveness of wood technology. The glulam trusses arrived on-site precut and were snapped together with pins. In short, the academic contributors got to show off their research and also benefit from it. In a region noted for some of the nation’s oldest and most renowned design schools, the Design Building announces the arrival of the new kid on the block. Its handsome envelope is pierced by asymmetrically placed tall and narrow fenestration as a nod to the doors of the tobacco barns that are the university’s neighbors in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley. From its roots as a fledgling offering in the art department in the early 1970s, design education at UMass has grown into a powerhouse. As the core of a complex of postwar and contemporary architecture, the Design Building helps to bring Roche Dinkeloo’s Brutalist Fine Arts Center into contact with a business school designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). While BIG’s work is sometimes incredibly innovative, the firm’s UMass project looks as if it might be another example of a second-tier work foisted on a boondocks location. Less flashy than its newer neighbor, Leers Weinzapfel’s Design Building is nonetheless a bold, homegrown achievement. New England’s patrimony is a tapestry of local and outside talent. A significant regional building would not be a postmodern structure in the shape of a lighthouse or a neotraditional re-creation of a Richardson library, but something like the UMass studios. Capturing the spirit of the best of New England design depends little upon reputation and huge expenditure. Rather, there is a direct correlation between realizing a quality work of art and understanding the region’s history of wresting a hard-won life from the granite earth. The challenge for successfully practicing architecture in New England is accepting an uncompromising intellectual toughness that demands respect for the eminently practical as well as the aspirational.
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Building Makeover

New York City is looking for artists to beautify its construction fences
On September 12, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs announced a call for applicants for “City Canvas,” a 24-month-long pilot program designed to improve New York City’s visual landscape through the installation of large-scale, temporary artwork on protective construction structures including construction fences and sidewalk sheds. Protective structures scattered throughout the five boroughs of New York have been criticized for their invasive nature and unattractive appearance. While New York construction codes typically prohibit the alteration of these structures, the City Canvas program will allow select artists and cultural institutions to install visual art on the unsightly supports that lurk over the city’s construction sites. “Sidewalk sheds are unattractive, but they keep us safe,” Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler, P.E., told Broadway World. “If anyone can bring some love to the sidewalk sheds New Yorkers love to hate, it’s our city’s artists.” There are two main goals associated with the City Canvas initiative: to improve the pedestrian experience of city residents and tourists by transforming protective structures into beautiful works of art, and to increase opportunities for artists and cultural institutions to gain recognition and create artworks that are representative of the communities in which they are installed. “Art is a way for people to connect, and promoting the installation of more art in public spaces is a fantastic way to create a stronger sense of community in neighborhoods throughout New York City,” Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr. told Broadway World. “City Canvas is an innovative way to support local artists and build community, all while beautifying otherwise unattractive construction sites. I hope the many great cultural nonprofits that serve our city take advantage of the great opportunity, and that it becomes a lasting initiative that brightens our public spaces for many years to come.” During the pilot period, the City is seeking proposals from at least one qualified nonprofit organization to install artwork on at least one location. The deadline is Friday, October 12. The pilot program will run for the next 24 months. Application instructions are available in detail on the NYC Cultural Affairs website.
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Tear Down for What?

Selby Library by SOM's Walter Netsch may be demolished in Sarasota bayfront project
A Walter Netschdesigned library is under threat as plans move forward for a much-anticipated, community-backed bayfront development in Sarasota, Florida. On Thursday, September 6, the city’s planning board voted 3-2 to approve phase 1 of The Bay project, a 53-acre recreational and cultural complex which indirectly calls for the demolition of the old Selby Public Library building. According to Sarasota Vice-Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, zero consideration was given to the fate of the 30,000-square-foot structure despite other historic buildings being saved on site. “My biggest issue with this is that the proper process isn’t being taken to determine the library’s future,” she said. “Why is the first step of creating this legacy project destroying a former legacy project?” The Selby Public Library, designed under Netsch's lead at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1976, sits on an underutilized waterfront plot that’s been eyed for large-scale development for over a decade. The building, now known as the G.Wiz Science Museum, has been empty for six years and costs the city $40,000 annually to maintain. Ahearn-Koch and other G.Wiz advocates claimed that leading up to an early September special planning meeting, neither the city nor the public had been officially notified of the decision to take the building down. She also said the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO), which is spearheading the effort, did not provide sufficient evidence for the $10.5-million cost the group estimated that it would take to rehabilitate the 42-year-old structure. The SBPO only provided a presentation with pictures of the proposal, which did not include the G.Wiz building. “Before you talk about why you can’t save a building and repurpose it, you have to discuss the historical and cultural value of it and then figure out how much it will cost,” Ahearn-Koch said. Following the SBPO’s presentation, locals took over the two-hour comment period citing concerns over G.Wiz. According to Ahearn-Koch, the city received countless emails calling for its preservation, but the SBPO team claimed they never received any pleas to save it prior to the meeting. Now the group says it will welcome ideas on how to reuse the building as part of The Bay.  Sarasota boasts a rich architectural legacy and a burgeoning development scene that often gets overshadowed by mega-projects nearby in Miami. The Sarasota School of Architecture includes an incredible roster of modernist buildings by architects such as Paul Rudolph, William Rupp, Mark Hampton, and Ralph Twitchell. According to Vassar College Professor of Art Nick Adams, Netsch’s Selby Public Library, while not widely known compared to Netch's other projects, is a pure demonstration of "field theory," the late architect’s approach to designing architecture around unique geometries suited to the program and environment. “It’s not a building that’s very well-covered in Netsch literature,” said Adams. “But it’s quite ingenious how the shapes of the building have a residence within the location that’s very attractive. There aren’t very many field theory buildings that are still active in their original function. I do hope before they swing the wrecking ball that the city does a proper recording of what was there and what changes were done.” Local architect Dale Parks completed an award-winning retrofit of the library in 2000, transforming it into G.Wiz and adding a soaring glass atrium to Netsch’s design. Parks believes his work didn’t inherently warp the SOM building’s original character. As an expert on the structure, he outright denies any claims that it did.  “We tried to respect SOM’s construction as much as possible, and I know it would be quite easy to restore it,” Parks said. “Whatever repurpose it may have in the future, it’s definitely not going to be a library because the layout doesn’t pertain to future use. But the outside of the building is still there.” The top arguments for taking down the building are that it doesn’t stand up to current FEMA standards and would need to be significantly elevated, and that the city is spending too much money on its upkeep as tenants have shied away from staking claim to it over the past several years. Commissioner Hagen Brody, who voted yes to approve phase 1 of The Bay in favor of demolishing G.Wiz, recognizes its importance but believes removing it from the site will serve a greater good. “The community overwhelmingly wanted green space, not buildings or redevelopment on that site,” he said. "With all of that, the choice was pretty clear. A vote against moving forward with phase 1 would have sent the whole project back to the drawing board after years of public input and would have seriously jeopardized the entire effort as well as fundraising. I believe these are tough decisions, but it’s a positive change for Sarasota and that’s the definition of progress.” The initial build out of The Bay, led by a nearly all-female team from Boston-based planning firm Sasaki, would turn 10 acres of the site’s southern portion into a new public park by 2020. After being selected for the project last October, the team has worked with the SBPO and held an exhaustive community engagement process to shape the final master plan, first revealed in May and updated Friday. Susannah Ross, Gina Ford, and Christine Dunn conceived a grand park and cultural community less than a mile away from Sarasota’s beloved Boulevard of the Arts. One of the structures on the site, the lavender-colored Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall designed by Taliesin Associated Architects in 1969, is included in Sasaki’s latest renderings, only after a major public outcry occurred over its absence in the initial images. Christopher Wilson, president of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, said the specific reuse of Van Wezel isn’t clear, but it’s more or less saved.  “Saving Van Wezel and not G.Wiz makes no sense,” Wilson said. “From the beginning, this building has not gotten the proper attention that it should. The excuse that it’s in the floodplain and not up to FEMA standards is not a reason to demolish it. The city is throwing around the $10 million number prematurely with incomplete evidence.”   Wilson also noted there are five other aging structures on site that have been deemed part of Sarasota’s cultural zone: the Municipal Auditorium (1938), Chidsey Library (1941), Arts Center Sarasota (1949), the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce (1956), and the Garden Club of Sarasota (1959). These buildings will remain during the construction of The Bay. In a letter sent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune last weekend, Eric Keune, design director at SOM Chicago, provided a list of five ways G.Wiz could be adapted for reuse, including making it an open-air pavilion, a co-working space, or a satellite studio for the University of Florida architecture program. The Architect’s Newspaper was sent a copy of the text, though it has yet to be published. In his argument, Keune wrote that though the structure today is undoubtedly not the Selby Public Library, he believes the building, along with Netsch’s original vision, is still inside it and “only needs to be (re) discovered.” Vice-Mayor Ahearn-Koch feels the same way. For her, this fight is personal and she thinks people need to act fast, as Keune did, if they have ideas. "All too often in this city we do demolition by neglect and this is a perfect example of that," she said. "This is such a stunning building. I remember going to the big stack as a student, checking out a book and going off into one of the side nooks to read. I still feel this can be a very useful building for the future of Sarasota. Our arts community, including our architecture, is who we are, and I just don't see the logic in destroying it." Sarasota's Historic Preservation Board voted unanimously to recommend the SBPO and city commission find a new tenant for G.Wiz, pursue alternative renovation plans, as well as host more community workshops as phase 1 plans move forward. This is the third time in two years the advisory group has advocated for the building. 
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Progress and Potential

National Smithsonian symposium will celebrate black architects and planners
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C., is gearing up for a national symposium that will reflect on a half-century of work by black American design professionals. Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now will be a three-day event in late September featuring talks and presentations from Sir David Adjaye, Justin Garrett Moore, Mabel O. Wilson, Jennifer Newsom, and many more at Adjaye's NMAAHC building and the National Museum of African Art. The event will highlight the work of black architects and planners since the late '60s, and speakers will reflect on the evolving relationship between design and activism. The events are also intended to allow participants to network and form relationships that could help young designers advance their careers. The symposium is one of many events this year that looks at the profession's progress on racial equity since Whitney M. Young Jr.'s 1968 address to the annual convention of the AIA. In that speech, the then–executive director of the National Urban League exhorted architects to take on the nation's social and political issues, especially those of the nation's cities. He also encouraged the profession to embrace diversity and encourage designers from underrepresented groups to take their place in the design community. Although the symposium has already reached capacity, its Thursday and Friday events will be streamed online here. Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now will take place Thursday, September 27, through Saturday, September 29 at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of African Art, both in Washington, D.C.