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Future Building

What do architects want from a Green New Deal?

As the scale of climate change has accelerated and grown direr in recent months, upstart politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have made addressing the issue a central part of their political platforms. Talk of a Green New Deal (GND) has picked up since November's elections, reflecting a major shift in how Americans discuss climate change. But what is the Green New Deal and how might it impact architects?

The impetus behind the GND is simple: Because the threat of anthropogenic climate change is so fundamental, only a government-led, war-like industrial and economic mass mobilization effort can potentially transform American society quickly and thoroughly enough to avoid global catastrophe.

There are plans to unveil the first round of draft legislation at the federal level this week, but as of yet, no official set of policies has been agreed upon by legislators and activists. But various elements of a supposed GND have been touted for years (see here and here for thorough explainers).

Generally speaking, GND proponents have three specific and wide-ranging goals:

First, activists are calling for the wholesale decarbonization of the U.S. economy. That means eliminating all carbon emissions across every industry in the country, including in vital sectors like energy production, building design, construction, and transportation.

Second, this transition would include a federal jobs guarantee backed by the large-scale deployment of new public works projects. A job guarantee, which, generally speaking, would provide anyone who wanted work with some form of federal employment, would allow people currently working in carbon-intensive industries to leave their jobs for publicly-funded green-collar work. The guarantee, supporters argue, would create a vast, fairly-paid workforce that could get to work transforming American society right away.

Third, activists pushing the GND generally agree that the transition to a carbon-free economy must incorporate socially-just practices that rectify past practices that have exploited certain communities. Such reforms include finding ways to house people displaced by climate change, countering the long-term effects of redlining and the racial wealth gap, and making sure that unlike the original New Deal, the benefits and jobs created by any GND are enjoyed by people of color and other historically marginalized groups.

The initiative would go beyond simply greening the country's energy grid or incentivizing a shift to public transit and electric vehicles; the GND envisions a top-to-bottom reworking of the U.S. economy. Likely, the effort will involve densifying existing cities, building new ones from scratch, and perhaps most importantly, retrofitting and upgrading nearly all of the country’s existing building stock. Architects will be vital to the effort and are likely to benefit from a potential GND through new commissions and opportunities to provide input and expertise across a range of projects and scales.

In an effort to help spur discussion among architects on a potential plan, The Architect’s Newspaper asked designers from around the country to share their wish lists for what a potential GND might include. The responses span a range of issues that touch on the built environment, project financing, building codes, and environmental regulation, among other topics.

For some, creating incentives to reuse and retrofit existing buildings could be a key component of the deal. Karin Liljegren, principal at Omgivning in Los Angeles said, “I’d like to see how legislators can reassert the importance of the federal government’s Historic Tax Credit Program (HTC). The HTC incentivizes developers to rehabilitate iconic and viable old buildings, but it has recently been under threat after decades of stability. Enshrining these incentives in the legislation would send a massive signal to clients like ours.”

But, of course, focusing only on the most iconic historic structures would likely send many buildings to the trash heap. To address “less iconic structures or ones that require an approach that is more adaptive than restorative,” Liljegren suggested “a program of economic incentives that helps developers prioritize the broader reuse of existing buildings. Reusing a structure can certainly be more challenging than building new, but the payoffs are enormous—less embodied energy and waste is only the beginning. In terms of texture, form, and spirit, existing buildings enrich our identities and communities.”

For other architects, increasing the scope of public transportation options in parallel with boosting density is the way forward. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of PAU in New York City, said, “A Green New Deal should include what I called the 'American Smart Infrastructure Act' in my 2013 book A Country of Cities. In that proposal, I call for the elimination of existing subsidies that encourage sprawl like highway funding, the mortgage interest deduction, and low gas taxes.” Chakrabarti argued for applying this new revenue toward building a national high-speed rail and urban mass transit network that can serve new investments in affordable transit-oriented multi-family housing and low-cost office space. The funding, however, “should only go to municipalities that discourage single-family housing density, like Minneapolis recently did,” Chakrabarti added.

Of course, the overarching network of regulatory policies, like environmental, structural, energy, and seismic codes, that shape the built environment could be improved, as well.

Anica Landreneau, director of sustainable design for HOK in Washington, D.C., pointed to the recently-adopted Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, which she helped craft, as a potential guide for creating a “self-improving threshold” that requires building owners to retrofit existing structures above a certain size according to rigorous energy performance standards. The plan, set to take effect in 2020, seeks to align the energy performance of existing buildings with the steadily-increasing performance metrics crafted for new structures, like LEED certification and Energy Star ratings. The plan will peg the performance standards for existing buildings to the median Energy Star score for all buildings of the same type in the District of Columbia. As the overall energy efficiency of buildings in the District improves over time, the thinking goes, periodic post-occupancy reviews will help create a self-improving target that will compel building owners to upgrade their structures to avoid fines.

In addition to improving incentive programs like the HTC, changes to the way projects are financed more broadly could also help bring to life many of the GND's transformative new projects.

Claire Weisz, principal at WXY in New York City suggested the government “require banks to invest a required minimum 40 percent of their loans in building construction and projects that have sustainable longer-term benefits and proven investments in training and hiring for green jobs.”

David Baker, principal of David Baker Architects in San Francisco, advocated for increased funding for affordable and urban housing projects overall. Baker said, “A major limiting factor on beginning to solve our affordable housing crisis—and the associated climate impacts—is simply money. We have many affordable projects ready to go but currently delayed by a lack of funding.”

Peggy Deamer of The Architecture Lobby wants to make sure that the rights of workers—and the right to work, in general—are not left out of the conversation amid talk of green infrastructure and shiny, new projects. Deamer said, “It is too monothematic to go after environmental solutions without the larger economic structure into which both the effort unfolds or the new carbon-free world functions. If the tech industry’s effort at automation leaves most of us without work or income, who wants to live in that green world?”

In conversations with architects, the issue of affordable urban housing came up often, especially in relation to the stated aims of the GND’s main backers, which include increasing social equity through the program. Because America’s urban areas contain 85 percent of the country’s population and are responsible for 80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, it is likely that the GND’s effects will be most profoundly felt in cities.

That’s important for architects concerned with racial and social equity in the field. With a rising cohort of diverse young designers—as well as many established firms helmed by women and people of color— it’s possible a potential GND could engender a surge of important projects helmed by diverse practitioners. That possibility, when coupled with the existing diversity of urban residents and potential clients, could transform how architecture is practiced across the country.

It’s a realm where Kimberly Dowdell, president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), thinks her organization can have an impact. “Black architects have a unique opportunity to take the lead in shaping the future,” Dowdell said. “In under-resourced urban communities, which are often majority Black, there is a great need for a new approach to design and development that fully embraces the quadruple bottom line: social, cultural, environmental, and financial.” Dowdell added, “NOMA members have been doing this kind of work for generations. Now, with the Green New Deal, this experience is especially relevant.”

With a “quadruple bottom line” approach at the center of a potential GND, professional architecture organizations pushing for increased equity among their ranks, and demographic trends leading to greater diversity, the architectural profession is poised for significant change that could be accelerated by a GND.

As the potential changes begin to take form, inclusion will likely remain a top priority for designers. Dowdell explains: “In general, everyone needs to have a seat at the decision-making table as it relates to shaping our collective future on this planet. With such a high concentration of minorities in cities, it is absolutely critical that a truly diverse set of minds and voices are empowered to implement the best of the Green New Deal.”

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A Legacy of Labor

N.Y.C. Landmarks Preservation Commission approves Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire memorial
Last week, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to approve a memorial dedicated to the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. Reframing the Sky, designed by architects Uri Wegman and Richard Joon Yoo, will debut next year if supporters can raise $850,000 to cover long-term maintenance costs. The commission’s approval is the latest step in what’s been a six-year-long process to install the project in commemoration of the tragedy. Gina Pollara, a consultant with the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, said now is the perfect time to get it done due to heightened awareness on labor rights issues in the United States. “Given the current political climate, I’m hoping this project begins to really open up the conversation about the importance of unions, workplace safety, and how we can address certain social justice issues today,” said Pollara. “For all of their imperfections, unions still perform a vital duty and are an important piece of the American labor force.” The factory’s infamous fire, now 108 years ago, set off a series of historic legislative reforms to protect workers’ safety. The employees who died there, many of which were young immigrant women, were trapped on locked floors of the multi-level facility at 29 Washington Place. Today, the structure, known as the Brown Building, is owned by New York University and though it’s a local and national landmark, many people don’t know its history. The coalition seeks to change that through a public memorial that shines a light on the tragedy and details its significance for blue-collar workers in the 21st century. According to the project statement, the future memorial will mimic the mourning ribbons that were traditionally draped on building facades as outward expressions of a community’s collective sorrow. It will feature horizontal stainless-steel bands that wrap the southeast corner of the building and a textured panel that lines its vertical edge. The names of the victims will be laser cut into the elongated panels where daylight will shine and reflect the letters off a highly-polished, steel surface placed at hip level. Through this, visitors will be able to see the names reflected in the sky. The project has already received widespread support since its announcement in 2013. Three years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a $1.5 million grant for its design and construction, but money is still needed to maintain it. The coalition is organizing a two-day upcoming event in collaboration with the Fashion Institute of Technology to raise awareness of the project and offer people the chance to contribute to its design. Anyone interested will be able to bring an individual piece of fabric that will be used to create a large ribbon that the designers will cast in metal and mount onto the building for the textured vertical panel. “The public engagement piece of this memorial is the most important part to us,” said Pollara, “because the legislation that came from this tragedy has affected us all personally whether we know it or not. The design features a very subtle thread of stitching the past and present together.” A public event, A Collective Ribbon — Weaving Stories of the Triangle Fire, will take place on March 16 and 17 at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Those who are unable to attend can send in personal pieces of ribbon to the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition at PO Box 1822, New York, New York 10113. Donors of $25,000 or more will have their names inscribed on the memorial.
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H/T to the Gorillaz

Snarkitecture's plastic beach makes waves in Chicago
Although much of the country, Chicago included, is being blasted by arctic air, that doesn’t mean that the beach is out of reach. From now until February 3, Chicagoans can leap into Snarkitecture’s The Beach Chicago, back in the states after serving its last tour of duty in Sydney, Australia. Interested visitors can find the 1.1-million-ball-beach installed inside of the Aon Grand Ballroom at the Navy Pier. The ballroom, designed by Charles Sumner Frost and completed in 1916, is an imposing location for The Beach, as the installation sits under an 80-foot-tall stone-and-steel dome. Visitors can take in the impressive view by lounging on a deck chair, or “floating” in the ocean of translucent antimicrobial balls. The 18,000-square-foot space on the pier has been transformed into a full “beach," complete with umbrellas, lifeguard stations, inflatables, lounge chairs, and the appropriate signage. Restaurants on the pier will be offering up complimentary “beach-themed” menus, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater will continue its run of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Beach began as a commission for the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., as part of its annual Summer Block Party series. Snarkitecture responded to the prompt by flooding the museum’s Great Hall with colorless white balls, creating both a play space and meditation on the form of the balls themselves. The installation was so successful that it’s been touring the world as a series of pop-ups ever since, and returned (partially) to the National Building Museum as part of the Snarkitecture retrospective in 2018. The Beach Chicago was made possible with support from The Chicago Free For All Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, the Navy Pier Associate Board, and Hilton Worldwide.
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Art Hanging on the Waller

Waller Creek Conservancy stages fifth annual Creek Show
This article originally appeared in Texas Architect. For the fifth time in as many years, artists, architects, and Austinites alike descended the banks of Waller Creek to experience Creek Show, an annual display of temporary light installations commissioned by the Waller Creek Conservancy. Intended to delight the public and spark conversation about the transformation of Waller Creek, the show has swelled in popularity since its inception as a one-night event in 2014. This year was no exception, as thousands of Austinites were dazzled by six local design teams over nine nights in November. TENTSION by Perkins+Will anchored the southern entrance to the show, which sprawled north between 9th and 11th streets in downtown Austin. Dozens of internally lit camping tents hovered over the creek bed in a variety of configurations, occasionally soaring into the tree canopies and over spectators’ heads via taut cables. Inspired by tensions at this intersection of the creek and Austin’s urban fabric, the tents themselves were donated to a local organization serving those in need after the installation was disassembled. Moving north, La Noria by Drophouse Design rests on the creek bed, allowing the natural current to power two large, connected paddle wheels adorned with glowing spokes and fluorescent paddles. The playful armature is also unapologetically industrial, aiming to draw a contrast between the mechanics of the installation itself and the natural power source of the creek. AOD contributed Parabolus as homage to the geometry of the 1930s arched masonry bridges that allow downtown streets to pass over the creek. Thin tension fibers illuminated by hidden black lights lend the installation its form, which resembles a graphed tangent function. Per the design team, the installation “draws [viewers’] gaze to both water and sky, creating an immersive experience that emphasizes Waller Creek’s symbiotic urban and natural connection.” Urban Scrim by Lemmo Architecture and Design (LA-N-D) features ephemeral projections of silhouetted pedestrians and cyclists mapped onto rectangular modules of tight scrim fabric. Formally inspired by the West Texas land art movement, its simple forms and impressive scale seek to pair “the movement of the urban streetscape with the texture and nature of water flowing through the creek.” Ambedo ßeta from Polis employed a series of linear LED lights that wrap continuously throughout the three rectangular tunnels beneath the 11th street bridge. The installation also featured two “phone booths” on opposite ends of the tunnel, where visitors could engage in a form of conversation as their voices manipulated the lighting. By turning visitors’ voices to lights, the installation reminds guests that words can tangibly affect those around them. The terminus of the show resided within Symphony Square, a city-owned public plaza that features a terraced amphitheater and several historic buildings that the Conservancy renovated to house its own offices and support facilities for public-facing events. A collaboration between Campbell Landscape Architecture and Tab Labs yielded Light Lines, an abstracted representation of the city’s waterways and drainage system. As another interactive display, the installation used a series of electroluminescent wires suspended from a grid that extends over the terraced steps of the amphitheater. Per the team, “interactive touch points allow viewers to manipulate the light intensity as it moves across the structure and reflects upon the water.” While Creek Show and its installations are only temporary, the Conservancy’s work in preparing the annual event is an around-the-clock endeavor. Austin-based artists looking to participate need only check the Creek Show website in the coming months for the next call for submissions. As the event continues to gain momentum, it’s never too early to wonder what the next chapter for Creek Show has in store for Austin and the future of Waller Creek.
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No Towers, No Comprise

Architecture collective joins activists to protest luxury towers on New York's Lower East Side
One Manhattan Square, an 800-foot-tall glass tower in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is at the center of a grassroots battle against displacement. Designed by Adamson Associates, the Extell Developmentbacked skyscraper threatens to push out throngs of immigrants and longtime local residents who call the area home. It’s a common story found in the ever-evolving city, but this particular narrative possesses one distinct difference: It’s location. Since much of New York’s luxury residential building boom has focused on expanding Hudson Yards, buffing up Billionaires’ Row, and readying Long Island City for Amazon’s HQ2, the Lower East Side has been somewhat unaffected by such large-scale development. Until now. A series of sky-high apartment buildings, starting with the nearly-complete One Manhattan Square (also called Extell Tower), is slated to dot the Lower East Side waterfront enclave known as Two Bridges. Four planned towers are in the works, although One Manhattan square is the only one currently under construction. The surrounding community is predominantly composed of Chinese immigrants and working-class people, a major reason why the city designated the neighborhood a Large-Scale Residential Development (LSRD) area in 1972, which protects and promotes affordable and mixed-income housing for residents. According to Zishun Ning, leader of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, the proposed high-end projects violate the LSRD, which requires that all new developments secure approval from the City Planning Commission or receive special permits through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process. Ning argued the city's decision to move forward with the Two Bridges development is therefore illegal, and indicative of discrimination from the mayoral administration. Not only is it politically fraught, according to Ning, it's socially irresponsible. The towers are situated within a three-block radius of each other and will sit near NYCHA housing. One will cantilever over an existing senior center and another, One Manhattan Square, will feature a “poor door,” as the coalition calls it, for the building’s affordable housing residents.   Yesterday a slew of protestors gathered at the 80-story tower and marched to City Hall in opposition to the plan. Ning said the day’s event, officially titled the March to Reclaim the City, was the coalition’s latest attempt to get Mayor de Blasio’s attention. “We’re not against development,” Ning said, “we just want some regulation and future development that fits our community.” Last fall the group submitted an alternative proposal to the commission in which the neighborhood could be rezoned for more appropriate use. They integrated height restrictions on new construction and called for 100 percent affordable housing on public land. Ning said their efforts were ignored, and in early December, the commission approved a special building permit submitted by the developers. The commission said the projects only presented a “minor modification” to Two Bridges’ zoning law and that a full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process would not be required. “It’s evident that racism plays into the city’s zoning policies,” said Ning. “They rezone communities of colors for the interests of developers. We call out the city’s illegal approval, along with Mayor de Blasio’s collusion with developers to approve these towers and deny our plan that came out of a democratic process. We want to reclaim our democracy and control as a community.” History has seen many local working groups stand up against giant developers and influential politicians, but, according to Ning, there needs to be more support from area architects to help such groups envision a bigger, more inclusive picture for their neighborhoods. A new collective of aspiring architects and non-architects interested in the field, citygroup, wants to do just that. The organization aims to become a young social and political voice for the architecture industry. Members gather periodically for informal debates on serious topics like the need for affordable housing in New York, the nature of architectural expertise, and architects’ tricky relationship with real estate developers. The group's inaugural exhibition, set up inside its new space on the Lower East Side, details various visions of One Manhattan Square that imagine a more useful development for the local community. “We wanted to rethink the Extell Tower as something that isn’t as foreign to this neighborhood as it is now,” said Michael Robinson Cohen of citygroup. “It’s built on a plinth and houses mostly luxury apartments. We asked ourselves, How could we recreate the tower for different uses or for a diverse group of inhabitants?”   The exhibition centers on a series of 21 drawings done by different citygroup members. These individual visions, expressed within the confines of the building’s plan, feature different ways to reuse the tower’s 1.2 million square feet of space. Some pictured it as pure parkland, others cut it up into a grid of 3-meter-by-3-meter apartments. One strips away the idea that a housing complex must cater to the traditional single-family home by creating personally-designed apartments outfitted for everyone from single moms to yoga teachers, a Russian oligarch, a cat lady, and even a family of five. Thinking critically about megaprojects like One Manhattan Square, according to Robinson Cohen, allows architects to investigate the best ways for new developments to improve a community, instead of displacing residents and stripping away the character of a neighborhood. “Much like the coalition, we’re for challenging the tower, but are not against development in general,” he said. “Obviously, as architects, we want to build and it’s clear the city needs more housing, but to us it’s important to think about the people these developments serve.” To Ning, the architect’s mission isn’t far from that of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side. He says the two parties can work together to imagine developments that engage with local residents rather than taking away access to light and air. “We actually encourage architects to put their creativity into building things that benefit the community,” Ning said. “But in order for that to happen, we first need to fight the city.” A new lawsuit against the City was just brought on by the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors in opposition to the development. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is slated to support with future litigation efforts. Until then, the City is still contending with another lawsuit calling for the towers to go through the ULURP process, initiated by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson last month. “These towers are just one piece of a bigger picture,” noted Ning. “If 3,000 units are added to the neighborhood, the demographics will change and the land value will rise. Harassment and eviction will escalate. This is happening all over New York City. It’s segregation, and it’s very visual.” Walk-throughs of citygroup’s exhibition are available upon request through early February at 104b Forsyth Street. Email group@citygroup.nyc for hours.
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(Again)

Snøhetta brings revised AT&T Building plan before the Landmarks Preservation Commission
Following the release of an updated scheme for 550 Madison in December of last year, Snøhetta once again went in front of New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), this time for a Certificate of Appropriateness. The changes to the postmodern, Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed skyscraper (now a New York landmark) are much more modest than the Snøhetta design that sparked the ire of preservationists back in 2017. Under the revised plan presented to the LPC on January 15, only six percent of the 1984 AT&T Building’s original facade would be changed. That includes a new row of windows on the western side (the rear) of the tower’s base and infilling the two large arches to accommodate the new elevator shaft locations in the lobby and the relocated doors to the rear passage. At the LPC meeting, Snøhetta, along with representatives of 550 Madison’s owners, Chelsfield America, Olayan America, and minority partner RXR Realty, described their design philosophy for the scheme: “Preserve and revitalize the landmarked tower, restore the original site design intent, improve on multiple alterations at the base, increase and enliven the public space." The glass-enclosure added to the building’s rear plaza in the 1994 renovation by Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman would be stripped and replaced with a lightweight and open-ended Y-shaped steel-and-glass canopy. The quarter-circle glass canopy and attached annex were original to Johnson and Burgee’s design, but enclosing the open-air walkway meant that catwalks and a ductwork system had to be installed to ventilate the space. Snøhetta claimed that by removing the annex building and extending the canopy to the tower’s neighbor, along with opening the rear row of enclosed colonnades, the firm could increase the amount of available outdoor public space to 21,300 square feet from the current 4,500 square feet. That’s up from the original open-air breezeway scheme from 1984 as well, which only included 20,500 square feet—and that’s including the unenclosed colonnades that served as the building’s privately-owned public space (POPS). The new garden would be arranged according to a program that heavily invokes circles, a motif that, as Snøhetta noted, Johnson returned to again and again throughout his career. At the building’s Madison Avenue–facing front entrance to the east, the design team elaborated on their plan to replace the heavily-mullioned windows added to enclose the flat arches by Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman. At the direction of Sony, which was headquartered in the building from 1992 to 2013, the columns were enclosed to create street-level retail spaces—something that AT&T fought against vehemently during the tower’s design process. While 550 Madison’s ownership team won’t be opening up the colonnade POPS and transforming it into a public space again, they’ve instead proposed replacing the windows in the flat arches with much larger panes. The new windows, which would only be divided into a three-by-four grid with two-inch-thick bronzed mullions, would be set back five feet from the front of the arches, unlike the current windows, which sit flush with the sidewalk. Public testimony presented before the commissioners was mixed but trended favorably. Representatives speaking on behalf of Robert A.M. Stern, Barry Bergdoll, Richard Rodgers, Signe Nielsen, Alan Ritchie (who worked on the original project with Philip Johnson in the 1970s), Claire Weisz and Mark Yoes, Elizabeth Diller, and others presented letters of support for the new proposal. Johnson Burgee wasn’t available to speak, but he contributed a letter of support for the plan as well. Many of the speakers addressed that upon its opening in 1984, the AT&T Building’s arched public space was dark and underutilized, and that Johnson was a proponent of adaptive reuse. Architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who had previously testified his support for the 550 Madison team’s changes to the building (and its landmarking), also spoke, but this time disclosed that he had been working as an outside consultant on the project. Goldberger had drawn criticism after an article in The Real Deal revealed his role, and that he subsequently had not revealed his ties to the tower’s management team prior to testifying. Speaking to AN, Goldberger admitted that he had made a mistake in not disclosing his involvement sooner but stood by his criticism of the building’s underutilized public space as having remained consistent throughout his career. His role in the project, he said, is that of a historian and someone who has intimate knowledge of the building. The praise wasn’t unanimous. Liz Waytkus, executive director of Docomomo’s U.S. chapter, criticized the new windows on Madison Avenue as they would allegedly stray even further from the tower’s original design intent and create a false sense of openness for an enclosed area. Concerns were also raised over the replacement of Johnson’s original articulated paving in favor of a simplified circular plan. Preservationist Theodore Grunewald spoke to the need to preserve 550 Madison’s “forest of columns” design and the relationship of void-to-solid between the cavernous underside and upper mass of the tower. Ultimately, the commission adjourned without making a decision. They needed time to consider the new scheme and accompanying testimony, and more importantly, lacked the number of commissioners required for a quorum. The LPC will reconvene and discuss the matter again at a future date. The entire presentation shown at the January 15 meeting is available here.
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Sterling Bay Does the Hard Yards

Lincoln Yards cuts plans for soccer stadium and large entertainment venue
Chicago’s unbuilt Lincoln Yards mega-development will no longer include a soccer stadium and entertainment district. Under pressure from constituents, Alderman Brian Hopkins of Chicago’s 2nd Ward has rejected developer Sterling Bay’s proposal to include a 20,000 seat United Soccer League stadium, as well as a series of large Live Nation–run entertainment venues. Live Nation will divest itself from the development, as will the United Soccer League and Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who is the majority owner of a Chicago franchise. Alderman Hopkins has called for Sterling Bay to retool the project to bring more open space to the development in place of the stadium and venues, and bring a variety of smaller, scattered venues through the site, as well as restaurants and theaters. The public has yet to hear this proposal, despite Lincoln Yards' presence on the January 24 Chicago Planning Commission meeting agenda and confirmation from Mayor Rahm Emanuel that the project will "move forward on a balanced path," Crain's Chicago Business reported. Expected to cost upwards of $6 million dollars, Lincoln Yards will transform nearly 55 acres of former industrial land along the Chicago River into a dense cluster of retail, office, and residential development, delivering a planned 5,000 residential units, 500 hotel rooms, a mile of new riverwalk, and an extension to the 606. Designed by SOM, the project is slated to include multiple skyscrapers reaching a height of up to 650 feet, making the overall height of the development as tall as some structures in the Loop. This isn’t the first time Sterling Bay has had to trim its plans for Lincoln Yards; community input dictated a decrease in the maximum height of the high-rise towers and an increase in publicly-accessible open space in response to a community meeting in November. The move to ax Live Nation from the plan had advocates of The Hideout feeling cautiously optimistic as the Live Nation–run spaces could have threatened the independent venue and provided competition, despite Sterling Bay's commitment to keeping The Hideout a component of the Lincoln Yards plan. While Sterling Bay has agreed to provide opportunities for independent music operators to participate, concerns remain. The City of Chicago introduced the Cortland/Chicago River Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district in November, which encompasses the entirety of the Lincoln Yards site. As Sterling Bay would be the primary property owner, it would be allowed to pay for the project and its future improvements through TIF funds, raising questions of the appropriateness of the new district, as TIF is intended to revive struggling neighborhoods. Members of the City Council Progressive Caucus have been advocating for a measure that would allow the city to provide TIF funds only to projects that cannot be completed without them. Sterling Bay has also yet to address how many of the residential units will be considered affordable, or the demand the project will place on new schools. While some concerns regarding infrastructure and transportation have been addressed, area residents remain concerned about traffic and congestion, as well as the availability and equitability of public transportation.
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Corn on the Cobb

Henry N. Cobb reflects on Hancock Tower
After seven decades in practice, Henry Cobb has published his first collection of essays, interviews, lectures, and projects: Henry N. Cobb: Words & Works 1948–2018. The story of his best-known building, Boston’s John Hancock Tower (now 200 Clarendon), follows a dramatic arc from the controversies of its public review and construction to its recognition as a beloved icon of the city. In this excerpt, Cobb describes the Hancock’s apparent adherence to the rules of typical office buildings yet acknowledges that the form of the “notched rhomboid” deviates from such expected patterns. It can only be understood as a response to the setting, Copley Square, where the tower stands adjacent to H. H. Richardson’s Trinity Church. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the idealized image of the square had suffered from the intrusion of commercialism, and had, as Cobb observed, lost its meaning. His proposition was to find a new meaning for the square, seizing the opportunity of the Hancock company’s need for office space to propose that “Copley Square should have its own tower.” As Cobb's newest tower—the Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences, One Dalton Street—nears completion, it's time to hear in his own words how its bold precursor, the Hancock, came to be more than 40 years ago: Our proposal was not well received. Indeed, the response in Boston was one of shock and horror. What we saw as the right building in the right place at the right time was seen by almost everyone else, and above all by our fellow architects in Boston, as the wrong building in the wrong place at the wrong time. But after nine months of acrimonious public debate, the necessary permits were obtained, and in the fall of 1968, construction began. Permission was granted not because I had succeeded in converting people to our way of thinking—for with only a few exceptions, I had not—but because had a building permit been denied, the Hancock company might well have carried out its threat to move its headquarters, with its 12,000 employees, to Chicago. This brazen exercise of corporate arm-twisting on the part of our client naturally contributed to the widespread opinion, often explicitly conveyed to me in person, that my colleagues and I had prostituted ourselves professionally in accepting and carrying out this commission. To compound the agony, during construction the building endured a series of mishaps that caused us and our client to experience the rare privilege of being, for almost half a decade, simultaneously despised and ridiculed. The most notorious of these problems, publicized worldwide, was the failure of insulating glass units that necessitated removal and replacement of all 10,334 panels in the curtain wall. Many in Boston saw all this as entirely just retribution for the egregious overreaching of the city’s largest corporation. Mercifully, however, an entrepreneurial T-shirt artist didn’t lose his opportunity to find a lighter side, with which I was able to outfit all three of my daughters in the otherwise miserable summer of 1973. Although the deceptive mutability of its image may suggest otherwise, there is nothing mysterious about the design of the Hancock Tower. It perfectly illustrates my view that the architecture of a tall building is 99 percent logic and 1 percent art—but don’t you dare take away that 1 percent! The extreme disparity in size between the tower and the church was the central predicament we faced. We chose to deal with it not by creating a gratuitous distance between the two—this would only have exacerbated the problem—but by bringing them into close proximity while positioning and shaping the tower in such a way that it becomes the contingent satellite and the church the autonomous center in the composition. To accomplish this, several aspects of the tower’s design may be cited as essential. First, the attenuated rhomboid plan-form, placed diagonally on its site, emphasizes the planar while minimizing the volumetric presence of the building, so as to effectively disembody the tower as seen from the square. Second, a bullnose corner detail facilitates the crucially important transition from trapezoidal base to rhomboid tower. Third, notches bisecting the end walls accentuate the weightless verticality of these planes and make legible the tower’s nonrectangular geometry. Fourth, the tower’s uniformly gridded and reflective surface, stripped of all elements that could suggest a third dimension, mutes the obtrusiveness of its enormous bulk and defers in all respects to the rich sculptural qualities of its much smaller neighbor. Fifth, rather than standing on the ground, the tower’s rhomboid volume slips weightlessly up out of the surrounding granite pavement, from which it is separated by a 1-inch-wide perimeter slot. Finally, the triangular space created between the church and the broad face of the tower pays homage to the apsidal view of Richardson’s building, reinforcing its intended role as the architectural cynosure of Copley Square. With regard to this latter aspect, it should be noted that the three-story lobby at the base of the tower is sheathed in precisely the same manner as all other floors; had the monumental scale of this space been directly exposed to view, it would surely have destroyed the delicate balance in the dialogue between church and tower. This concern also accounts for the modest scale of the three entries, originally sheltered by clear plastic domes, which were subsequently replaced by an attenuated stainless-steel canopy. Truth be told, the tower’s reflective surface and reticent posture do not invite entry. I used to joke with my colleagues—but not with our client!—that the proper means of gaining access to this impenetrable monolith would be through the porch of Trinity Church and along the nave to the crossing, where one would turn and descend by escalator into a tunnel below the street and emerge, finally, in the tower’s elevator lobby. On October 28, 1980, more than four years after the building’s completion, in my inaugural lecture as chairman of the architecture department at Harvard, I summed up my view of the matter as follows: We adopted a strategy of minimalism in the design of the Hancock Tower not for ideological reasons, but because the situation of the building demanded it. In the determined pursuit of our goal—to achieve a symbiosis between the church, the tower, and the square—we excluded everything that did not contribute directly to this end. For we believed that only thus could we temper the inherent arrogance of so large a building and endow it with a presence that might animate rather than oppress the urban scene. Today, more than three decades after writing these words, I find that I can still subscribe to them. Yet I also find myself still confronting a few questions that just won’t go away: Can this accommodation justify that transgression? Is this performance appropriate to that occasion? Does this tower belong in that city? To each of these questions the answer, it seems to me, must finally be both yes and no. This persistently disturbing ambiguity, in which the building discloses the anxiety of its predicament, perhaps explains why, among all my built works, the Hancock Tower is as close as I have ever come to poetry. It is also as close as I have ever come to silence. The building’s restraint to the point of muteness, its refusal to reveal anything other than its obsession with its urban context, is surely its greatest strength but also its ultimate limitation as a work of architecture. Despite the forcefulness of its gesture, the tower remains virtually speechless, and this resolute self-denial is, in the end, both its triumph and its tragedy. Henry N. Cobb: Words & Works 1948–2018, Henry N. Cobb, The Monacelli Press, $45.00
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Eye of Sauron

Trial run of high-powered security scanners proposed for Seattle plaza
Smart cities, such as that planned by Sidewalk Labs in Toronto, are coming under increasing fire for their potential misuse of data gathered from their residents. Now, technology company Radio Physics Solutions (RPS) is working with Seattle-based Vulcan Inc. to install and demonstrate a scanning system across a public plaza capable of detecting concealed weapons from nearly 100 feet away. The scanning system, using a patented technology titled MiRTLE (also known as Millimeter-Wave Radar Threat Level Evaluation) developed by RPS, is proposed to operate across five workdays. If approved, RPS and Vulcan Inc. would have a 60-day window to implement the trial. In an application filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), RPS states that the system is capable of conducting over 3,000 scans of the plaza per second operating at a spectrum of frequency ranging from 71 to 100 gigahertz. While the Transport Security Administration and a high school in Texas have tested the technology, it has not yet been applied to an entirely public space. Additionally, past installations were mounted along rooftops while those for this trial are proposed at ground level. Besides concerns related to the scanning of lingering pedestrians and those with no intention of entering Vulcan’s headquarters, extended exposure to high-frequency radiation (potentially millions of scans over the course of many minutes) is not without its risks. In a statement to GeekWire, Gary King, CEO of RPS, responded to these concerns noting that RBS takes “safety very seriously, both in design and use of the product. Our safety calculations were presented to the FCC, which was completely satisfied with the safety of MiRTLE. Someone eating lunch in the plaza is very safe." While the proposal is still awaiting FCC approval, the agency has passed all of RBS's previous scanner trials.
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Political Innovation

Andrés Jaque offers an approach to "intersectional architecture"

Andrés Jaque is the founder of the New York and Madrid–based Office for Political Innovation. By exploring the expanded potential of architecture through both speculative and realized designs, the firm has received numerous accolades, including the 2015 MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program and the 2016 Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts. In 2014, Jaque’s SALES ODDITY: Milano 2 and the Politics of Direct-to-Home TV Urbanism garnered a 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale Silver Lion award. The 2011 IKEA Disobedients was the first “architectural performance” piece to enter the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. In this project, local residents were invited to hack IKEA furniture, and in doing so publicly perform their everyday private talents and determine their own lifestyles. The project suggests that not all people necessarily abide by the same normative principles or architectural dictates. Jaque is also the director of the Columbia University GSAPP postgraduate Advanced Architectural Design program.

As a member of this year’s AN Best of Design Awards jury, Jaque spoke to The Architect’s Newspaper contributor Adrian Madlener about the current state of architecture. 

The Architect’s Newspaper: What roles do architecture and urbanism play in addressing today’s global challenges?

Andrés Jaque: Architecture and urbanism have a responsibility to mediate some of the most pressing topics reshaping contemporary life: environmental degradation, mounting geopolitical tensions, and the articulation of physical and virtual worlds. There are three unavoidable facts facing society today: Climate change is forcing humanity to redefine how we engage with nature; technology is becoming increasingly autonomous, making it impossible for humanity to maintain control over its impact; and the evolving interaction society has with the offline and the online realms is blurring the distinction between what is real and what is virtual.

Attempting to set clear boundaries between these two realities requires a greater effort. Architecture plays an important role in all these issues. The field has a great capacity and responsibility in the making of facts catering to the collective sense of truth that all forces in society should now—more than ever—respect. Architecture is in the best disciplinary position it has ever been to shape the present and propose potential scenarios for the future.

AN: How can the discipline look to the past to inform the present?

AJ: As architects, we have to reflect on our practice, but also on our legacy. On one hand, we need to develop new ways to operate and respond to changing societal and environmental paradigms. On the other hand, we need to reconsider how we view our predecessors, how we understand and learn from architectural history. Just a few years ago, figures like Cedric Price, Lina Bo Bardi, the Ant Farm collective, and Frederick Kiesler were seen as marginal. Today, these unsung innovators are proving to be the best sources of information for tackling the field’s evolutionary challenges.

AN: You often say that architecture needs to incorporate knowledge from other disciplines. What are the benefits of this interdisciplinary approach?   

AJ: Architecture has the unique capacity to express different perspectives, materialities, temporalities, and scales in interventions charged with multiplicity. Whatever priorities we’re going to address, our response needs to be informed by different realities. Architecture is not an isolated practice. We have to consult other fields: science, art, technology, etcetera. In that way, the discourse around our discipline is becoming more intersectional. It’s important to understand that the design of a building or environment cannot just be accomplished with form and aesthetics alone. Different political, social, economic, and ecological implications need to be considered if a design is to be relevant. 

I defend the concept of intersectional architecture in my capacity as a practitioner and educator. My goal is to develop methodologies that can shift architecture’s interdependence on different realities into an opportunity to engage criticality and to intervene in many areas of contemporary life that are currently being disputed.

AN: Do any of your current projects exemplify the concept of intersectional architecture?

AJ: At Office for Political Innovation, we’re currently designing an experimental school. The project obliges us to simultaneously consider the daily life of its students, but also the larger context that they will occupy. On a larger scale, we’re actually structuring an ecosystem that addresses its own consumption. This aspect will also become an important resource when teaching the students about sustainability. 

We’re also currently designing a house on one of the outer islands near Corpus Christi, Texas. Our proposal offers solutions on different levels. On one hand, it’ll serve as a getaway for a Dallas-based family; on the other, it’ll collect fresh rainfall to irrigate the surrounding mangrove—an important line of defense that can combat erosion and rising sea levels. The house can accommodate the owner’s almost hedonistic desires while still ensuring the survival of its surroundings. What we’re realizing in our practice is that architecture needs to simultaneously cater to different realities within a single response. A design has the ability to address often disparate elements and perspectives.

AN: From your experience as a cocurator of 2018’s Manifesta 12 biennial in Palermo, Italy, how do you think art practice influences the way we imagine and/or create cities?

AJ: Palermo is not a city but rather a hub for the stratified relationships that tie it to distant places like sub-Saharan West Africa, Bangladesh, and the United States. These connections occur through the flow of capital and investment—that dispute the future of the city’s built environment—but also the nearby military base that foreign powers use to strike the Middle East and northern Africa. Palermo’s architecture, the dialectic between its role on a local and global level, has proved to be ineffectual in dealing with these transnational interactions.

In this scenario, architecture and art are the only disciplines that can bring heterogeneous situations together. Whether it’s the migration crisis or a personal struggle, these realities simultaneously develop on different scales. Architecture and art can mediate the evolution of these realities by introducing the values of urbanity, new forms of citizenship, and the aesthetics of inclusivity. This can only happen if such interventions take stock of what is already in place and grasp the full scope of complexity that the context might contain. To be truly impactful, the initiatives must cater to all parts rather than just the most powerful elements. An open cultural platform like the Manifesta art biennial offers architects and artists the space to test out independent action that the urgency of commercial commissions rarely provides. 

AN: How is architecture education changing?

AJ: Within the Advanced Architectural Design Program that I direct at Columbia University, students—who already have significant experience with design as a critical medium—explore new forms of practice in different contexts. They gain an analytical understanding that will allow them to intervene and apply architecture as a contemporary methodology. Various speculative exercises allow them to test out how the field could have a wider scope of influence in the future. They don’t learn a predetermined set of skills, but rather work together and with faculty to reinvent architecture as a discipline that can respond to the world’s greatest problems. 

It is crucial that they are able to translate this discursive approach when entering or reentering the profession. In our program, we’re trying to change architectural education by introducing an experimental pedagogy. Students are given the time and space to develop situated projects that address specific, real-world briefs. With its many firms, experts, advocacy agencies, and organizations, New York offers the perfect context for these investigations.

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Can't-ilevering

Morphosis unveils a claw-like hotel to replace a legendary L.A. nightclub
The Viper Room, the legendary Los Angeles nightclub cofounded by Johnny Depp (and where River Phoenix overdosed) is set to get an architecturally ambitious replacement courtesy of Morphosis Architects. After developer Silver Creek Development Co. picked up the parcel in West Hollywood for $80 million in July of this year, it was announced that a 15-story hotel would go up on the site. Last week the public was given its first look at the replacement, which features a vise-like volume “clamping” down on a more traditional, loggia-adorned tower. The proposal also sports glassy ground-level retail bordered by V-shaped concrete columns. The 200-foot-tall hotel will feature 115 hotel rooms, 31 condo units, 10 affordable units, a gym, a spa, restaurants, a pool, and a new home for the Viper Room. It’s somewhat hard to see in the rendering, but the developer wants to include an 820-square-foot digital billboard on the Sunset Boulevard–facing facade. The project’s initial reveal came at a community meeting on December 11, where Silver Creek sought to solicit community feedback and refine the design. The hotel will move next to the West Hollywood Planning Commission’s Design Review Subcommittee, and then the Planning Commission proper. No construction timeline has been given as of yet.
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Thanks for all the Flames

Egads! Here are the top architecture scandals and controversies of 2018
2018 is nearly over, and the world of architecture wasn’t immune from the deluge of drama that swept over politics and pop culture. Take a look back at the wildest stories of the year, and relive some of the outrage as the New Year rolls in. Richard Meier accused of sexual assault After a stunning New York Times expose in March where multiple women detailed four decades of harassment at the hands of Richard Meier, the architect announced that he would be taking a six-month leave of absence from Richard Meier & Partners Architects. The backlash was swift, and the AIANY announced that they would be stripping the 2018 Design Awards from Meier as well as Peter Marino, who was facing his own set of sexual harassment allegations. After Meier’s leave of absence ended in October, he announced that he would “step back from day-to-day activities” at the firm he founded in 1963. However, how involved Meier remains with the firm is still a matter of debate, as the studio announced that he “will remain available to colleagues and clients who seek his vast experience and counsel.” #MeToo rocks the architecture world After the revelations about Richard Meier went public, a debate over harassment and discrimination in the design world blew up. A Shitty Architecture Men list went live and detailed anonymous complaints about some of the biggest names on the architecture scene—before Google pulled the plug on the list over legal concerns. Still, the conversation around the gendered power dynamics typically present in architecture’s educational and professional track boiled over, and the AIA contiuned to address the topics at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018. Asbestos makes a comeback In AN’s most outrage-inducing story of 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that asbestos was back on the menu for use in products on a case-by-case basis. The agency issued a SNUR (Significant New Use Rule) that meant the impacts of asbestos on the air and water no longer needed to be considered in its risk assessment (asbestos is a friable material and easily crumbles into carcinogenic fibers when broken). After a significant uproar online, including from Chelsea Clinton, the AIA called for a blanket ban on the material’s use. Kanye’s summer of meltdowns Kanye West had an interesting summer. After returning to Twitter with a vengeance, ostensibly to promote his new album, West hung out with conservative commentators, took a trip to SCI-Arc’s Spring Show, declared that he would be launching an architecture studio called “Yeezy Home,” and revealed a collaboration with interior designer Axel Vervoordt. AN’s readers weren’t exactly thrilled at the news, but West did manage to at least release renderings of the studio’s first affordable housing prototypes. Unfortunately, West later deleted all of his past tweets and the fate of Yeezy Home, and the social housing project, is currently unknown. The sunset of 270 Park When it was announced that Chase wanted to tear down and replace the 52-story former Union Carbide headquarters, questions abounded about when, why, and how. The 57-year-old tower was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), but much of the credit goes to SOM partner Natalie Griffin de Blois, and the news prompted a debate about her legacy in what was then a predominantly male field. Debate erupted online over whether the tower should be demolished and replaced with a Foster + Partners-designed alternative, and AN’s senior editor, Matt Shaw, penned an op-ed asking that New York not stymie progress for buildings that weren’t worth it. The trials and tribulations of the AT&T Building The saga of Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s postmodern Midtown skyscraper took yet another turn this year. In January, the lobby of the AT&T Building (or 550 Madison) was stealthily demolished. Then, in July, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to landmark the building’s exterior, a definitive blow to the Snøhetta-designed renovation that would have glassed over the 110-foot-tall arch at the granite tower’s base. Unfortunately, owing to the work done earlier in the year, the lobby was no longer eligible for the same such protection. Then, ahead of the next round of LPC hearings, Snøhetta went back to the drawing board and released a much more sensitive scheme for restoring the tower that kept the arch, and the building’s imposing columns, intact. The AIA speaks out against rolling back license requirements Readers had an intense reaction to the AIA’s first Where We Stand statement of 2018. As the institute came out against an increasing trend of states rolling back license requirements for architects, readers were split. Would decreasing the barrier to entry increase competition, as the states claimed? Do architects really need to study for years and spend thousands of dollars in test materials to claim their certification? On the other hand, we expect doctors, lawyers, and practitioners in other highly-specialized fields to require licensing, so why should architecture be any different? Patrik Schumacher takes Zaha Hadid’s fellow trustees to court Patrik Schumacher drew scorn from the public after taking to London’s High Court in a bid to strip the other three executors of Dame Zaha Hadid's will from her $90 million estate. Zaha’s niece, Rana Hadid, artist and friend Brian Clarke, and developer and current Pritzker Prize jury chairman Lord Peter Palumbo, released a joint statement decrying the move. Before Hadid’s death, she had chosen the four to disperse her estate through the Zaha Hadid Foundation, and the non-Schumacher executors claimed that Schumacher's suit was for his personal financial gain. Schumacher responded, lamenting that his former friends and colleagues should have spoken with him first before going public with their grievances. Amazon takes Queens After a year of speculating, Amazon declared that it would be splitting up its HQ2 into two separate headquarters, dropping one in Long Island City, Queens, and the other in Crystal City, a suburb of Arlington, Virginia. The backlash against dropping a sprawling campus for 25,000 employees in New York’s already-overburdened waterfront neighborhood was swift, as city politicians and local residents criticized the $3 billion in subsidies the tech giant would receive, as well as the impact on the neighborhood. Foster + Partners’ London Tulip pierces the skyline The not-so-innocuously phallic Tulip tower in Central London made waves across the internet when it was revealed in November. Commentators and critics alike decried the 1,000-foot-tall observation tower, which balances a glass observation atrium atop a hollow concrete stem and would spring up next to the Gherkin. The icing on the cake is that the rotating pods on the outside of the glass bulb could be disruptive to the London City Airport’s radar system, meaning construction may have to wait until a full study is completed. Venturi Scott Brown-designed house suffers secret demolition When the purple-and-green, sunrise-evoking house designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, went on sale in June, it was hoped that a preservationist would save the building. The two-bed, two-and-a-half bath Abrams House was built in 1979 and was in great condition, but it soon came to light that the new owner only purchased the home so that he could tear it down. The buyer, Bill Snyder, also owns the Richard Meier-designed Giovannitti House next door and began a secret interior demolition which he claimed was necessary to preserve the landscape around the Meier building. After the news came to light, preservationists and colleagues of Venturi and Scott Brown rallied for the house’s protection.