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Re-Imagining the Modern

New book grapples with ambitious, contentious moment in Pittsburgh’s urban history
Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance Rami el Samahy, Chris Grimley, and Michael Kubo The Monacelli Press List Price: $50.00 In times of cynicism, revisiting more optimistic moments in architecture can conjure mixed emotions. Mid-century architects, designers, and planners exuded the optimistic belief that architecture and design could solve social ills worldwide—a spirit celebrated in recent exhibitions of Latin America and Yugoslavia at MoMA, and new books on Miami’s modernism. In a new book, Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance (Monacelli Press), Rami el Samahy, Chis Grimley, and Michael Kubo paint a vivid picture of the mixed emotions evoked by the changing urban landscape in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city heralded as a role model of rustbelt reinvention. The book functions as an introduction to a complex moment in the city’s history, looking at Pittsburgh as a case study in a broader moment of urban renewal in many U.S. cities. Pittsburgh was deemed “the Mecca of urban renewal” in Architectural Forum in 1957, and yet Imagining the Modern is the first book to chronicle the city’s modernist history in a comprehensive way. The book emerged from a 2015–2016 curatorial experiment at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center, overseen by curator Raymund Ryan. Ryan invited the book’s authors, principles of the Boston-based studio OverUnder, to be architects-in-residence in the museum and explore Pittsburgh’s contentious relationship to urban renewal in an exhibition. The trio went to great lengths to dig up photography, publications, ephemera, and other documents around five Pittsburgh neighborhoods and projects: Gateway Center, the Lower Hill, Allegheny Center, East Liberty, and Oakland. The exhibition’s walls were plastered with unsung gems from local archives, and a series of panel discussions affiliated with the exhibition added to the cacophony of voices measuring the legacy of urban renewal and how architects ought to respond. Imagining the Modern distills this rich material in a manageable way, in the spirit of the authors’ reappraisal of Boston’s mid-century concrete, Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (Monacelli Press). Their new book specifically deals with the built and imagined architectural transformations of Pittsburgh in the 1950s and ‘60s, and with even a quick flip through the book one can see the changing urban fabric of the city. Imagining the Modern includes a wonderful array of high-quality images and well-designed diagrams—from archival documents to photographs to city maps, the stunning visual display is captivating and invites the reader to explore “the manifold ways in which the modern was imagined in Pittsburgh.” Imagining the Modern offers several modes of engagement rather than taking a strong position on Pittsburgh’s modern legacy. Scholars Kelly Hutzell, Caroline Constant, and Martin Aurand provide historical context and analysis for the development of Pittsburgh’s urban form and infrastructure. The book includes a series of diagrams entitled “Modern Networks” by Aurand that map the extensive networks of public and private entities that commissioned local modern architecture. The diagrams reflect the complexity of the patronage that funded this “Pittsburgh Renaissance;” one could spend hours trying to decipher the often confusing lines between architects, buildings (both built and unbuilt), commissions, and patrons. At the heart of the book are archival documents, which the authors present as evidence for readers to arrive at their own conclusions. A section of the book is devoted to reproductions of excerpts from two “Visionary Documents” that outlined the challenges for modernist designers to solve—pollution, traffic congestion, housing, parking, urban blight—while also suggesting ways to remedy such issues through architecture and design. Imagining the Modern goes on to show readers how plans for Pittsburgh neighborhoods and infrastructure were marketed, sometimes successfully, to respond to these issues through superlatives and dazzling renderings. Pittsburgh positioned itself as a “Cinderella City,” as a headline put it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on June 30, 1953: “Ridiculed, scorned and snubbed for over a century and a half, Pittsburgh throws off her pall to become the ‘City of Tomorrow.’” As steel production left the region and factories closed in the 1950s and ‘60s, dazzling buildings of mid-century modern buildings by leading architects rose with a zeal unfathomable today. Harrison & Abramovitz, Mitchell & Ritchey, Simonds & Simonds, and Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), to name a few, all built memorable works in Pittsburgh around this time. Imagining the Modern shows the development of the city’s most iconic buildings alongside ambitious plans that remain unbuilt, including one scheme that proposed filling the Oakland neighborhood’s Panther Hollow ravine with a mile-long research facility to bridge the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Rather than allowing the beautiful architectural renderings and photography to simply seduce the reader—which, occasionally, they do—Imagining the Modern also shows a collection of excerpts from the architectural and popular press responding to these proposals. The book juxtaposes the cheerleading coverage of The Pittsburgh Press alongside the coordinated, albeit unsuccessful, campaign by The Pittsburgh Courier to thwart plans for the displacement of thousands of mostly Black residents of the Lower Hill. The book’s photography also humanizes the actors on both sides of the city’s transformation, with moving images of people designing, building, debating, celebrating, protesting, photographing, and using the new works. Refreshingly, the book complexifies the role of architects in this transformative moment as well. Interviews and works by Troy West, for example, show that architects weren’t only the handmaidens of the powerful—his teaching and collaborative practices, which he operated as Architecture 2001 and Community Design Associates, offered an alternative model to the top-down design and planning approaches that often mar the legacy of postwar design. Instead of staking claims about the history of Pittsburgh’s modernism, Imagining the Modern showcases the debate that optimistic work by designers and planners continue to provoke. At a time when cities across the U.S. are working tirelessly to reverse the effects of urban renewal—understood as a pseudonym for “Negro removal,” as Dr. Mindy Fullilove suggests in her book Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, And What We Can Do About It—this book asks readers to take a closer look at a few urban visions through a mix of historical essays, sexy images, riotous press clippings, enlightening diagrams, insightful interviews, and informative project descriptions that offer everyone an entry into a fraught urban and architectural moment.
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Tiledriver

Potential tile tariffs drive a wedge between distributors and designers
Seizing on the momentum generated by the Trump administration’s timber and steel tariffs, a coalition of tile manufacturers is lobbying the U.S. government to impose tariffs of over 400 percent on Chinese-supplied ceramic tiles. While the approval of new duties could lift domestic producers, some design industry professionals are pushing back. On April 10, eight U.S. ceramic tile producers, all members of the Tile Council of North America, successfully petitioned the Department of Commerce (DOC) to launch an investigation into China’s practice of tile dumping. That group, collected under the name "Coalition for Fair Trade in Ceramic Tile," included American Wonder Porcelain, Florida Tile, Inc., Crossville, Inc., Florim USA, Dal-Tile Corporation, Landmark Ceramics, Del Conca USA, Inc., and StonePeak Ceramics. The coalition claims that the Chinese government is subsidizing the production of ceramic tiles to below-market-rate prices (or even below production costs) to artificially crowd out the competition, and the group is asking that the DOC impose retaliatory penalties on Chinese manufacturers to level the playing field. To avoid confusion over what is and is not a tile, the coalition has issued a blanket request pertaining to any tile-like product, no matter the use, thickness, or design, for pieces up to five-feet-by-fifteen-feet. The scope of the complaint also includes tile originating in China and modified— beveled, painted, or refined in any way—in the United States. In response, the newly-formed Ceramic Tile Alliance (CTA), a group of designers, retailers, and distributors, has launched a petition against imposing new tariffs on Chinese tile. The group argues that doing so would hurt the long-term health of the U.S. ceramics industry to the benefit of domestic manufacturers, that architects and interior designers would lose valuable connections that they’ve cultivated with international artisans, and that retailers would only be able to offer a limited selection. Additionally, the CTA alleges that showrooms would need to renovate their displays, some of them larger wall and floor pieces, to reflect that certain products would be no longer available. Overall, the CTA estimates that “thousands” of jobs could be lost as distributors and retailers would be forced out of business by higher prices and restricted supplies. The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) will issue a preliminary injury determination by May 27. If the ITC and DOC find in favor of the coalition, the duties could be imposed as early as the beginning of next May.
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SO-IL Meets Soil

SO-IL and West 8 team up for an Artpark outside Buffalo, New York
The 37-acre Artpark in Lewiston, New York, straddles the Niagara River and Canadian border and has been showcasing public land art, installations, and performances for over 40 years. Now, the Artpark & Company board of directors has tapped SO-IL, urban designers and landscape architects West 8, and theater and digital design consultants Charcoalblue to create a master plan for the park that will modernize it for the 21st Century. The Artpark was, from its conception, an artificial landscape, as it was built in a quarry on top of waste material from the construction of the Niagara Power Plant, a hydroelectric plant nearby. The new master plan takes what works about the extent park and enhances it, while overlaying three key design principles, according to West 8. The first principle is “revealing a new nature,” or using strategic cuts to sculpt the landscape of the park and create programmatic areas using the cuts or plateaus created. Viewing platforms for land art will be created this way, surrounded by walking paths. An outdoor amphitheater is at the heart of the master plan and will be created by scooping out a deep depression and molding “mound” seats for the audience around the center stage, set against the bank of the adjacent river. The second principle, “amplifying environments,” means hills and galleries will be treated to capture views of the surrounding Niagara river and gorges, as well as the rest of the Artpark. New bridges, paths, and viewing platforms will also be integrated. The third, and most esoteric principle is “modulating frequencies,” or tuning the park’s programming to the seasons. Different performances, and new outdoor performance spaces, will build on the concerts offered in the summer and offer year-round reasons to visit. The new master plan is the fruit of a study commissioned in 2017, and will be funded by private donors, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, and Empire State Development, as the Artpark is part of the New York State Parks system. Artpark is welcoming public feedback from residents and parkgoers and will be fielding questions about the new plan at a public forum at 6:00 p.m. on June 5 inside the Mainstage Theater.
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Our Destiny, Our Democracy

Shirley Chisholm monument designers discuss using space to honor a legacy
A green and golden lace-like structure will soon stand 40-feet tall at the southeastern edge of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. From one angle it will unveil the profile of a woman and from another, the outline of the U.S. Capitol dome. That’s the winning design for the monument dedicated to trailblazing Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. Created by artists Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous—both trained as architects—Our Destiny, Our Democracy was chosen among the top five proposals submitted through She Built NYC, the city’s new initiative to make more monuments dedicated to women throughout the five boroughs. The pair’s bold vision to honor Chisholm will be the first public project to be built through the program and is set to rise on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Parkside Avenues by late 2020. AN spoke with Jeyifous, a Brooklyn resident himself, and Williams via email about how they came up with the striking memorial design and why it best embodies Chisholm’s spirit. AN: How did you conceive of intertwining the image of the Capitol with Chisholm's profile? OJ + AM: It’s best described in our proposal: The U.S. Capitol dome figures prominently as a backdrop in many of her photographs. The strategy for our primary sculptural profile reverses this relationship so that her figure engulfs or embodies the dome iconography, thus claiming ownership. This composite symbolizes how she disrupted the perception of who has the right to occupy such institutions and to be an embodiment for democracy…When approached from the park, a symbolic opening breaks through the capitol silhouette, creating a threshold that reinforces Chisholm’s fight to ensure that everyone could access their right to participate in the political process. Not a basic bust or figure statue, why do you think this design best represents Shirley Chisholm and her legacy of "leaving the door open" for others? We are not sculptors (in the most traditional sense of the word) so we knew that we would not be proposing a cast bronze representation of a figure. We are, however, trained in how to use space as a medium. We both bring that into our artistic practices in different but complementary ways. That proclivity toward space as an occupiable object inherently begs to be participatory and invites engagement. That seemed like a perfect analogy to Chisholm’s philosophy on democracy. Making a sculpture commemorating this incredible political figure in our current climate is about remembering the long arc of democracy. Her words ring true because she was ahead of her time, but also because her philosophy was embedded in core values of inclusion and meeting people where they were in order to bring them into the process. We feel strongly that we have made a thoughtful and decisive piece that pushes the boundaries of what it means to embody the ideals of a person and not just their visage. What are the connections or differences between the monument's design and the traditional ironwork you might see in a gateway to a park? The design is ultimately a threshold into what is a major urban park and that is reflected in the vine and leaf motif that weaves through the monuments tertiary sculptural profile. This was an intentional nod to the traditional garden gate typology. Now that we’ve been awarded the commission, we will begin the process of actually researching specifics and refining the design. We want to do a deeper review of the historic language of gates and thresholds associated with public parks, that material language for Prospect Park’s history, and then what we would want to add as new motifs. In what ways do you foresee the sun playing a role in the way the monument is experienced? We envision at certain vantage points the patinated and bronzed steel to be a glowing beacon and for the detailed filigree in the screens and perimeter fence to cast marvelous shadows on to the plaza surface. That the installation can be occupied contributes to the various ways in which light will transform the experience of visitors to the site. Shadows will also give it dynamism and whimsy as the sun angle changes by day and year. Its intensity is also something we hope to carry into night hours through the considered placement of lighting.
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Going Down, Coming Up

Forty-five story jail tower could be coming to Lower Manhattan
The de Blasio administration’s 10-year plan to close Rikers Island and replace it with four borough-based jails is ahead of schedule, but community groups are voicing their opposition to some of the proposed replacements. Residents of Tribeca and Chinatown are up in arms over the decision to build a 45-story jail tower at 125 White Street, currently the Manhattan Detention Complex more infamously known as “the Tombs.” While the city had originally planned to shift a portion of the island’s projected 5,000 inmates (the administration expects to reach that number from the current 9,000 through bail and sentencing reform) to a 40-story tower at 80 Centre Street in Lower Manhattan, that fell through in November of 2018. Now, the plan is to demolish the two towers at 124 White Street (13 stories) and 125 White Street (9 stories) and replace them with a 45-story, 1.27-million-square-foot tower with 1,440 beds. The entire Rikers replacement plan is currently moving through the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), and thanks to a $7.7 billion bonus to the Department of Corrections (DOC) in the 2020 capital plan, is expected to wrap up in 2026, a year ahead of schedule. But as part of the ULURP, each of the four borough-based jails are currently facing public feedback as part of the environmental and land use review. Tempers have flared at Community Board 1's meetings over the 125 White Street tower. At an April 8 meeting before the board’s Land Use, Zoning and Economic Development Committee, residents clashed with social justice activists. Because the proposed tower would be 37 percent larger than what the area’s zoning allows, the jail requires a permit from the City Planning Commission before it can proceed, of which public feedback is taken into consideration. Overall, a number of Tribeca, Chinatown, and SoHo residents raised concerns over the cost (the new jails will require $11 billion to complete); the shadows cast by the tower, which would stretch from West Broadway to Mott Street in the winter and from Church Street to Chrystie Street in the summer, according to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS); the impact of the Tombs demolition on the surrounding neighborhood; and the potential repurposing of the proposed tower into luxury housing if the city manages to decrease the number of incarcerated peoples enough. While that last concern may seem a tad outlandish, the original proposal for the tower at 80 Centre Street did involve a mix of affordable housing units. Architect Alice Blank, who sits on Community Board 1, also raised concerns about the potential history that would be lost if the Tombs came down. Blank pointed out a resolution recently passed by Community Board 3 against the demolition, which states: “The Art Deco/Art Moderne-styled South Tower of the current Manhattan Detention Center is NYC Landmark eligible, and the Manhattan Criminal Courts Building and Prison at 100 Centre Street have previously been determined to be New York State National Registry-eligible. These eligibilities suggest that the proposed demolition and redevelopment would be an inappropriate and significant loss of historic and architectural resources. The 100 Centre Street building, which retains some Egyptian Revival architectural details from the original ‘Tombs’ building, as well as 80 Centre Street and 125 Worth Street constitute a coherent architectural group in Civic Center. The demolition of ‘the Tombs’ would undermine the value of a visible piece of the criminal justice history and the historical development of NYC.” Of course, criminal justice and prison reform advocates have pushed back. In 2017, Rikers was appraised as being so dangerous by the State Commission of Correction that the agency halted transfers of inmates into the jail from outside of the city. At the time, the oversight commission found that Rikers failed to meet minimum safety standards. The Tombs has its own well-documented legacy of violence, and the building’s squalid conditions aren’t helped by the tiny slit windows punched into its monolithic facade. At the April 8 meeting, it was clear that pro-jail tower activists saw the issue as a racial one, while opponents of building a jail tower in Manhattan have argued that renovating Rikers Island would only cost $1 billion and would mitigate all of their concerns. “I’m disgusted to hear that y’all don’t even want to have a new jail when 90 percent of the people who are incarcerated in the Department of Corrections are black and brown Latin people. Not any of you that are opposing this tonight!” a woman shouted at the CB1 meeting, according to The Tribeca Trib. “Having jails on Rikers Island doesn’t solve half of our problem,” said a spokesperson from the Mayor’s Office, who offered to comment after AN queried the DOC. “Renovating Rikers wouldn’t do it. The facilities are too archaic and old, and they don’t have the appropriate space or programming. To say that Rikers can be rehabilitated is untrue.” Centralizing the jail population on an island mainly accessible via the Rikers Island Bridge adds an extra level of undue hardship to the jail’s staff, visitors, and inmates who have to meet court dates in their home boroughs—each jail tower has been proposed for a site close to the borough’s courts. It also damages inmates’ connections to their local support networks, added the spokesperson. Building new facilities will allow the city to not only increase the cell size for each inmate and better the light and air conditions, but to add vocational, health, educational, and re-entry programs to each location. When asked whether the city could convert the Manhattan jail tower into market-rate housing down the line, however, the spokesperson was unable to rule it out. They said that it was too early to draw any conclusions about where the prison population would be ten years down the line, especially before the bulk of Mayor de Blasio’s bail reform proposals took effect. Time will tell whether the city alters its Manhattan tower proposal before appealing to the City Planning Commission. The Manhattan Community Board 1 Land Use Committee will be voting on a recommendation for the Borough Based Jails/Manhattan Detention Complex ULURP application on May 13. A full board vote will come later in May, followed by a public hearing held by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. After that, the scheme will be voted on by the City Planning Commission, and finally, the City Council. It should be noted that all of the preliminary massings released thus far have been just that, and no concrete design details have been made public yet. Update: An earlier version of this article stated that Rikers Island was reachable by ferry, which is incorrect. While plans to connect the island to the NYC ferry system have been proposed, it is not a stop at the time of writing.
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Probably Not A Metaphor

Trevor Paglen’s orbital sculpture lost forever after government shutdown
After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year raised $76,000 for the launch of the Orbital Reflector “art satellite,” the installation has been lost in space. The project arose from a collaboration between American artist Trevor Paglen and the Nevada Museum of Art. Once the diamond-shaped balloon was fully deployed, it was supposed to circle the Earth for two months, reflecting sunlight back to the ground at night. Once the small “CubeSat” carrying the balloon reached space, it was to separate from the rocket, establish a unique orbit, and inflate the balloon using a compressed nitrogen cartridge. Orbital Reflector was supposed to have been the first piece of public art visible from space, with a truly global reach (edging out Pepsi’s attempts at low Earth orbit advertising). The 100-foot-long reflective polyethylene balloon was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket alongside 63 other satellites on December 3 of last year, but was unable to deploy as scheduled thanks to the ongoing government shutdown. Each satellite requires a unique ID number so that it can be tracked at ground level; unfortunately, the Combined Space Operations Center, a division of the Air Force that allocates those identifiers, was unable to perform this task during the government shutdown. The Nevada Museum of Art lost contact with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who had requested the team wait for their go-ahead before expanding the balloon, during that time as well. Now it seems that the team has thrown in the towel. According to a letter dated May 1 posted on the Orbital Reflector website, communication with the satellite has been lost. “Orbital Reflector successfully separated from the rocket,” reads the final update, “and was deployed within a cluster of similarly sized spacecraft. To avoid collision, Orbital Reflector was set to inflate once it drifted away from potential impacts, and after it had received final clearance and approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The satellite’s electronics and hardware were designed to function during this waiting period but were not hardened for long-term functionality in space. From the start, the satellite was designed to be as light and functional as possible to allow for eventual disintegration. “By the time the government was re-opened and the Air Force renewed its attempts to sort out the cloud of satellites, communications from spacecraft had gone silent. At this point, it became clear that tracking Orbital Reflector, either before or after its inflation in space, would no longer be a viable outcome.” With the satellite dead in the water, the project’s Kickstarter backers at least received the pins, patches, and postcards they had pledged for.
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1926-2019

George Homsey, giant of California architecture, has passed away
George Homsey, one of the founding members of San Francisco–based firm Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis (EHDD), has passed away. Widely considered a giant of California architecture, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, Homsey practiced architecture with EHDD for nearly 50 years before parting ways with the firm in 2000 to run his own practice. During Homsey’s storied career, he worked with some of the greats of late-20th-century Northern California architecture, including business partner Joseph Esherick, and collaborators Charles Moore and William Turnbull. Together with these architects, Homsey helped bring to life Sea Ranch, the iconic shingled housing development situated on the rugged California coast north of San Francisco, as well as many delightful and contemplative private residences, schools, and public buildings. Homsey was regarded as the diligent and strong-willed counterpart to Esherick at EHDD, and helped to animate Esherick’s conceptually-driven works with a sensitivity to light, composition, and pragmatic materiality that made Homsey one of the fathers of what some called the “Third Bay Tradition,” a vernacular style of architecture that channeled and updated the Bay Area’s woodsy architectural and environmental influences for a new generation. Homsey, for example, was one of the chief designers of the hedgerow homes at Sea Ranch, a series of shed-roofed and wood-clad abodes that simultaneously struck out from and blended into the site’s scrubby terrain. Born in 1926 in San Francisco’s Western Addition, Homsey grew up in a typical San Francisco duplex where the modest units were separated by a pragmatic light well. The son of an auto mechanic, Homsey trained to become a naval aviator to serve in the military, but the war ended before he could take flight. With this training in hand, Homsey set out to study architecture at the City College of San Francisco and at the University of California, Berkeley. He joined Esherick’s fledgling firm in 1952 and made partner 20 years later. Homsey would go on to create the design guidelines for Yosemite National Park as well as comprehensive designs for San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit stations. He was awarded the Maybeck Award for lifetime achievement in architectural design by the American Institute of Architects, California Council in 2006 for his work.
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Round Two of...

San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter is approved, but opponents vow to sue
After a GoFundMe duel that raised $101,000 for opponents of what could become San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter (and $176,000 for opponents of the opponents), the Embarcadero Navigation Center officially received approval from the city on April 23. However, even after a series of concessions between the city and opponents that the center would scale up to its 200-bed capacity from an initial 130 beds, and cut its operating life from four years to two (with an option to renew), opponents still weren’t satisfied. The SF Port Commission unanimously approved leasing a plot of land in the Embarcadero neighborhood to the city. Wealthy residents vowed to fight the shelter in court, after packing the hearing with orange, syringe-bearing signs that decried the “mega-shelter,” according to Gizmodo. Navigation centers differ from traditional shelters in that they allow pets, offer transitionary and health services, and allow residents to stay 24 hours; they’re also designed to be temporary structures. San Francisco mayor London Breed is pushing for the center at Seawall Lot 330, currently a 2.3-acre parking lot, to open before the end of the summer as part of her plan to add an additional 1,000 beds to the city’s capacity. It’s estimated that over 4,300 people sleep on San Francisco’s streets every night, and the city has become the most expensive to live in worldwide. Opponents have claimed that because navigation centers don’t allow drug use, the new residents will be doing drugs in public, and create an unsafe atmosphere in a neighborhood that welcomes a large number of families and tourists alike. Using the GoFundMe money raised, the shelter’s opponents, a group calling themselves Safe Embarcadero, have hired real estate attorney Andrew Zacks to fight the city. According to Gizmodo, Zacks claims that the city failed to deliver the relevant documents in a timely manner and will be suing. Meanwhile, the group presented a petition with 2,600 signatures at the April 24 hearing in opposition to the shelter. It seems that the courts will now decide whether the shelter can be built in time to meet Mayor Breed’s end-of-summer deadline.
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1922–2017

Remembering the life and architecture of Kevin Roche
The death of architect Kevin Roche on March 1 at 96 marked the end of an era—the midcentury modern era that the work of his mentor, Eero Saarinen, came to symbolize. Roche and his late partner, John Dinkeloo, founded the successor firm that finished a number of the projects that remained incomplete when Saarinen died in 1961 at 51. Roche, Dinkeloo, and their partners then went on to build impressive high modern buildings of their own. Roche, who was born in Dublin, Ireland, studied architecture at the National University there, and received his first commission even before he graduated. It was from his father, Eamonn Roche, for a piggery in County Cork that housed 1,000 animals. After completing his degree in 1945, he became an apprentice to Ireland’s most important modern architect, Michael Scott, and worked on the Busáras bus station, Dublin’s first significant modern building. Then he moved to London to work for Maxwell Fry, where he read an article in The Architectural Review about Mies van der Rohe, who “was not as well known as Le Corbusier at the time,” and decided to come to America to study with him at the Illinois Institute of Technology. That venture, in 1948, was short-lived, as Roche was short on funds and found the experience disappointing. So he moved to New York to join the officially international team designing the United Nations headquarters under Wallace Harrison, before moving to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, to join an unintentionally international team in the office of Eero Saarinen. It was the place to be at that moment in time, with people from all over the world in the office, including Chuck Bassett, Gunnar Birkerts, Edmund Bacon, Kent Cooper, Niels Diffrient, Ulrich Franzen, Olav Hammarström, Hugh Hardy, Nobuo Hozumi, Mark Jaroszewicz, Louis Kahn, Paul Kennon, Joe Lacy, Anthony Lumsden, Leonard Parker, Glen Paulsen, Cesar Pelli, David Powrie, Harold Roth, Robert Venturi, and Lebbeus Woods. “And everyone was designing,” as Venturi once told me. “It was not like today when half the people would be doing public relations or something.” Roche, who arrived in the office as it was beginning to grow from 10 to over 100, soon became Saarinen’s right-hand man. “He liked the way I organized a job,” Roche told me. The way things were done there was that every day a number of the young architects would be asked to work on a building or a part of a building, to sketch and develop ideas. Then Roche would collect the sketches and hang them up for Saarinen to examine. Eero would come in later and pick the most interesting ones and ask the person who had created it to develop it further. It was a devastating experience for some, like Venturi, whose sketches were never chosen, and a high for those, like Pelli, who were asked to develop designs further and put in charge of important projects. After Saarinen died, the firm moved to New Haven as previously planned. Some then drifted off. Pelli, for example, left after completing the TWA Terminal (formally the TWA Flight Center) and the Morse and Stiles Colleges at Yale. Roche remained in Connecticut and, along with technologically gifted John Dinkeloo and some other talented young architects, founded Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Partners. They completed Saarinen’s Corten-steel-faced John Deere & Company headquarters in Moline, Illinois (1964), the mirrored glass Bell Telephone Corporation Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey (1962), the iconic North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana (1964), and the dignified Columbia Broadcasting System Headquarters in New York City (1965). Roche Dinkeloo then went on to design numerous distinctive buildings, such as the dark metal and glass Ford Foundation headquarters in Manhattan with its central, enclosed garden (1967); the Oakland Museum of California (1969), with a 5-acre terraced roof (designed by Dan Kiley) that functions as a public park; and the rather funereal but original Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University in Connecticut (1973). There were corporate headquarters—a sprawling white-walled palazzo for General Foods in Rye Brook, New York (1982); a futuristic, low-lying structure for Union Carbide in Danbury, Connecticut, that houses cars as comfortably as workers (also 1982); and a columnar skyscraper on Wall Street for J. P. Morgan (1990)—among the practice’s 50 or more projects. Over the years, Roche Dinkeloo designed and renovated galleries at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, including the dramatic pavilion for the Temple of Dendur; the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue; and the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City. Although his firm did buildings all over the world, Roche’s last major one was a conference center in Dublin, where he had been born in 1922. Roche’s close relationship with Saarinen defined much of his career, though. He met his wife, Jane Clair Tuohy, at Saarinen’s office. They were planning to marry a few weeks after Eero died but waited until 1963. His wife, five children, and 15 grandchildren survive him. Roche was a recipient of the Pritzker Prize in 1982 and the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects in 1993. He will be remembered as a major figure of his time.
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Go Fund Yourself

San Francisco homeless shelter inspires online fundraising battles
A homeless shelter proposed for San Francisco’s Embarcadero has resulted in dueling GoFundMe campaigns; one from residents who want to keep the Navigation Center out, and one to support the shelter. On March 4, San Francisco mayor London Breed allowed a plan to move forward that would transform a 2.3-acre parking lot in the eastern waterfront neighborhood into the city’s largest Navigation Center. Centers allow residents to stay 24 hours, provide health and wellness services, and allow pets—they’re also designed to be temporary. It’s expected that the center at Seawall Lot 330, if allowed to open by the end of this summer as anticipated, would only operate for four years while the city wrangles with its homelessness crisis. Some Embarcadero residents aren’t happy. On March 20, a group calling themselves Safe Embarcadero for All launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $100,000 for a legal defense fund to help them oppose the shelter. Complete with its own website, Twitter feed, and well-heeled backers, Safe Embarcadero successfully hit its goal in 25 days. The group cited the large number of families and tourists the neighborhood draws, and the site’s potential proximity to landmarks such as Oracle Park as reasons for trying to push the shelter elsewhere. “The rushed process the Mayor is following to build the homeless shelter by the end of the summer is concerning to the community,” reads the Safe Embarcadero for All GoFundMe page. “We are worried that the rushed process puts the political goal of building a large Navigation Center ahead of legitimate concerns about public safety, drug use, and other problems that a large shelter may bring to the community. According to the city’s own data, a third of the homeless are drug users and some are sex offenders. “The Navigation Center will not allow drug use inside, meaning that about 75 drug users will be forced into the surrounding family neighborhood to use drugs. The community is also concerned about the environmental effects of building on a site that is known to have toxic materials beneath.” Perhaps recognizing that concerted opposition by “not in my backyard” organizers has killed or segregated low income and homeless housing elsewhere, a counter fundraiser was created in support of the Navigation Center. SAFER Embarcadero for ALL, citing the potential legal costs and community challenges that the shelter is facing, sought to raise $175,000 in support of the Coalition on Homelessness. With 1,900 donations, in comparison to the original group’s 360, that goal was reached in 17 days. The GoFundMe in support of the Navigation Center also drew big donations from Salesforce, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and GoFundMe itself, which contributed $5,000. The fight over the Embarcadero center is playing out in real-world meetings and protests that are just as charged as their online counterparts. On April 3, Mayor Breed was shouted down at a town hall meeting as she tried to stump for the scheme. While the mayor has proposed opening another 1,000 beds worth of shelters by 2020, so far only 212 have actually come online. The final battle over Seawall Lot 330 will culminate in a vote by the Port Commission on April 23, as the body (whose five members were selected by the mayor) votes on whether it will lease the site to the city.
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Fort Less-Than-Greene

Neighbors and preservationists sue N.Y.C. Parks Department to save a rare brutalist landscape
After a year and a half of radio silence, a contentious plan to transform the northwest entrance of Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park is back in the spotlight. Friends of Fort Greene Park, a collection of neighborhood residents and preservationists, and the Sierra Club have brought a lawsuit against the N.Y.C. Parks Department in the New York State Supreme Court over plans to modernize the park and remove a rare landscape intervention from Arthur Edwin (A.E.) Bye, Jr. Jump back to 2017, when the proposal to build a new grand entrance at the northwestern corner of the park first came before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The 30-acre Fort Greene Park was Brooklyn’s first and originally grew out of the military fort from which the neighborhood took its name. The city brought Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux on in 1868 to turn the green space into an official park, and the duo cut tight, winding pathways that offered wide views of the planted landscape, similar to their work in Prospect Park and Central Park decades later. The park has been updated three times since then, but the basic layouts and deference to the Olmsted and Vaux plan have remained consistent throughout. In the early 1900s, McKim, Mead & White cut across the meadow in the park’s northwest corner to improve access to the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, a 150-foot-tall column dedicated to the over-11,500 American prisoners who died on British ships during the Revolutionary War. The monument is reached by climbing a 100-foot-wide granite staircase cut into the side of a hill. In 1971, landscape architect A.E. Bye was commissioned to accentuate the path from the park’s entrance to the sweeping monument steps using cobblestones and native plants. Bye, who rarely took on public projects, proposed a series of subtle, multipurpose brutalist mounds reminiscent of graves—a reference to the prisoners interred in the crypts below the monument. Bye worked largely through sculpture and drawings to realize his designs, and a pre-Diller Scofidio + Renfro-era Ricardo Scofidio was enlisted to help create a drawing set that the city could build from. A $10.5 million renovation and a “grand new entrance” to the park would scrap that. The improvements are part of the Parks Department’s Parks Without Borders initiative, which seeks to break down barriers between city parks and the street to create a more inviting landscape. The new scheme would move the park’s entrance to the corner and create a direct route to the monument through the existing circular garden…and Bye’s mounds. Those would be leveled to create a tree-lined “boulevard,” while 58 trees would be removed. The Parks Department claims that the mounds impede ADA accessibility, although the new flattened concrete plaza would terminate at the steps of the monument. Those changes were unanimously approved by the LPC in November of 2017. Then, on April 1 of this year, Friends of Fort Greene Park, the Sierra Club, and Michael Gruen, president of The City Club of New York and the attorney for Friends, filed a petition (here) with the State Supreme Court over the decision. The Parks Department claims that of the 52 mature trees it would be removing, 38 are for design purposes and 14 are in failing health. Twenty-eight of those trees are Norway maple, a species that the department classifies as an invasive species with a typical lifespan of 60 years in City parks, and many are at least 50 years old at the time of writing. Additionally, another 31 trees would be removed for a drainage project near the park—13 for design reasons and 18 for their condition. The department states that in keeping with their tree restitution plan, 80 trees would be planted in and around Fort Greene Park. Additionally, the department states that these improvements, as well as adding a basketball court and expanding the barbecue area, were all researched with input from elected officials, the community board, and the surrounding neighborhood. Friends of Fort Greene Park disagrees with that assessment, claiming that the department was able to avoid conducting a full environmental review. When the group had previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request over the environmental impact statement, it received a heavily redacted version. Over one-quarter of the 150-page report was blacked out. “Despite community outcry, the Parks Department is proceeding with plans to cut 58 park trees, and to bulldoze popular landscape features in the historic park,” reads a statement from Friends of Fort Greene Park. “Neighbors had no alternative but to sue the Parks Department, to compel the city to do the required environmental review assessing the impact of the proposed project. Neighbors had earlier brought a successful court action against Parks to release secret documents about the decision to remove mature park trees. “Despite a court order, Parks has refused to fully comply with the release of documents. Neighbors believe that documents will reveal that Parks had misled city officials about the health of the park trees, creating a false impression that the trees were in poor health when the opposite is true. Fort Greene neighbors commissioned an independent arborist's report that proved the trees were in excellent health. “In addition to removing scores of trees, the Parks Department plan would also demolish a picnic area and rolling landscape mounds that are popular with neighborhood families. In what neighbors see as a scandalous act of social engineering, the Parks plan would relocate the leafy picnic grounds to a new, and more exposed site across the street from an existing NYCHA building, and away from the planned luxury high-rise.” While the lawsuit is still pending (the first filed at the state level to protect a brutalist structure), Friends has pledged that it will continue to raise awareness of the issue. When reached for a statement, the Parks Department wrote that it doesn't comment on pending litigation. AN will follow this story closely as it develops.
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Photographic Memory

A French startup is using drones and AI to save the world's architectural heritage
Now active in over 30 countries around the world, French startup Iconem is working to preserve global architectural and urban heritage one photograph at a time. Leveraging complex modeling algorithms, drone technology, cloud computing, and, increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI), the firm has documented major sites like Palmyra and Leptis Magna, producing digital versions of at-risk sites at resolutions never seen, and sharing their many-terabyte models with researchers and with the public in the form of exhibitions, augmented reality experiences, and 1:1 projection installations across the globe. AN spoke with founder and CEO Yves Ubelmann, a trained architect, and CFO Etienne Tellier, who also works closely on exhibition development, about Iconem’s work, technology, and plans for the future. The Architect's Newspaper: Tell me a bit about how Iconem got started and what you do. Yves Ubelmann: I founded Iconem six years ago. At the time I was an architect working in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iran, in Syria. In the field, I was seeing the disappearance of archeological sites and I was concerned by that. I wanted to find a new way to record these sites and to preserve them even if the sites themselves might disappear in the future. The idea behind Iconem was to use new technology like drones and artificial intelligence, as well as more standard digital photography, in order to create a digital copy or model of the site along with partner researchers in these different countries. AN: You mentioned drones and AI; what technology are you using? YU: We have a partnership with a lab in France, the INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique/National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation). They discovered an algorithm that could transform a 2D picture into a 3D point cloud, which is a projection of every pixel of the picture into space. These points in the point cloud in turn reproduce the shape and the color of the environment, the building and so on. It takes billions of points that reproduce the complexity of a place in a photorealistic manner, but because the points are so tiny and so huge a number that you cannot see the point, but you see only the shape on the building in 3D. Etienne Tellier: The generic term for the technology that converts the big datasets of pictures into 3D models is photogrammetry. YU: Which is just one process. Even still, photogrammetry was invented more than 100 years ago…Before it was a manual process and we were only able to reproduce just a part of the wall or something like that. Big data processing has led us to be able to reproduce a huge part of the real environment. It’s a very new way of doing things. Just in the last two years, we’ve become able to make a copy of an entire city—like Mosul or Aleppo—something not even possible before. We also have a platform to manage this huge amount of data and we’re working with cloud computing. In the future we want to open this platform to the public. AN: All of this technology has already grown so quickly. What do you see coming next? YU: Drone technology is becoming more and more efficient. Drones will go farther and farther, because batteries last longer, so we can imagine documenting sites that are not accessible to us, because they're in a rebel zone, for example. Cameras also continue to become better and better. Today we can produce a model with one point for one millimeter and I think in the future we will be able to have ten points for one millimeter. That will enable us to see every detail of something like small writing on a stone. ET: Another possible evolution, and we are already beginning to see this happen thanks to artificial intelligence, is automatic recognition of what is shown by a 3D model. That's something you can already have with 2D pictures. There are algorithms that can analyze a 2D picture and say, "Oh okay, this is a cat. This is a car." Soon there will probably also be the same thing for 3D models, where algorithms will be able to detect the architectural components and features of your 3D model and say, "Okay, this is a Corinthian column. This dates back to the second century BC." And one of the technologies we are working on is the technology to create beautiful images from 3D models. We’ve had difficulties to overcome because our 3D models are huge. As Yves said before, they are composed of billions of points. And for the moment there is no 3D software available on the market that makes it possible to easily manipulate a very big 3D model in order to create computer-generated videos. So what we did is we created our own tool, where we don't have to lower the quality of our 3D models. We can keep the native resolution quality photorealism of our big 3D models, and create very beautiful videos from them that can be as big as a 32K and can be projected onto very big areas. There will be big developments in this field in the future. AN: Speaking of projections, what are your approaches to making your research accessible? Once you've preserved a site, how does it become something that people can experience, whether they're specialists or the public? YU: There are two ways to open this data to the public. The first way is producing digital exhibitions that people can see, which we are currently doing today for many institutions all over the world. The other way is to give access directly to the raw data, from which you can take measurements or investigate a detail of architecture. This platform is open to specialists, to the scientific community, to academics. The first exhibition we did was with the Louvre in Paris at the Grand Palais for an exhibition called Sites Éternels [Eternal Sites] where we projection mapped a huge box, 600 square meters [6,458 square feet], with 3D video. We were able to project monuments like the Damascus Mosque or Palmyra sites and the visitors are surrounded by it at a huge scale. The idea is to reproduce landscape, monuments, at scale of one to one so the visitor feels like they’re inside the sites. AN: So you could project one to one? ET: Yes, we can project one to one. For example, in the exhibition we participated to recently, in L'Institut du monde arabe in Paris, we presented four sites: Palmyra, Aleppo, Mosul, and Leptis Magna in Libya. And often the visitor could see the sites at a one to one scale. Leptis Magna was quite spectacular because people could see the columns at their exact size. It really increased the impact and emotional effect of the exhibition. All of this is very interesting from a cultural standpoint because you can create immersive experiences where the viewer can travel through a whole city. And they can discover not only the city as a whole but also the monuments and the architectural details. They can switch between different scales—the macro scale of a city; the more micro one of the monument; and then the very micro one of a detail—seamlessly. AN: What are you working on now? ET: Recently, we participated in an exhibition that was financed by Microsoft that was held in Paris, at the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, a museum that has replicas of the most important sites in France. They're 3D architectural replicas or maquettes that can be 3 meter [apx. 10 feet] wide that were commissioned by Louis XIV and created during the 17th century because he wanted to have replicas to prepare a defense in case of an invasion. Recently, Microsoft wanted to create an exhibition using augmented reality and they proposed making an experience in this museum in Paris, focusing on the replicas of Mont-Saint-Michel, the famous site in France. We 3D scanned this replica of Mont-Saint-Michel, and also 3D scanned the actual Mont-Saint-Michel, to create an augmented reality experience in partnership with another French startup. We made very precise 3D models of both sites—the replica and the real site—and used the 3D models to create the holograms that were embedded and superimposed. Through headsets visitors would see a hologram of water going up and surrounding the replica of Mont-Saint-Michel. You could see the digital and the physical, the interplay between the two. And you could also see the site as it was hundreds of years before. It was a whole new experience relying on augmented reality and we were really happy to take part in this experience. This exhibition should travel to Seattle soon.