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Dennis Sharp, 1933-2010
In part because he helped popularize the architect with a 1992 show, Sharp served as executive architect on many of Santiago Calatrava's projects in Britain, including the Trinity Bridge in Manchester.
Bonifacio Barrio Hijosa

Dennis Sharp, who died of cancer on May 6 at age 76, was one of the most globally-minded figures in British architecture, with a ready internationalism that expanded the profession’s horizons. Whether working as an architect, editor, historian, or curator, his gregarious outlook both defined and enriched a remarkable period of postwar modernism in England and beyond.


Sharp.
 

Trained originally as an architect at the Architectural Association in London, which continued to hold a special place in his heart, Dennis went on to study architectural history at the University of Liverpool in the late 1950s before teaching there and at other schools. He returned to the AA in 1968, where among other duties he was general editor for publications until 1982 and served as founding editor of AA Quarterly. His links with America began with a visiting professorship at Columbia University in 1980, followed by his involvement in the Graham Foundation Lecture Awards.

Exhibitions were another of Dennis’ specialties, and again his open-minded, catholic tastes came to the fore. Dennis organized shows on Oscar Niemeyer and Kisho Kurokawa, among others, and his blockbuster exhibition on Santiago Calatrava in 1992 helped establish the architect’s global reputation while triggering the formation of the Architecture Centre at the Royal Institute of British Architects. Around this time, Dennis was appointed RIBA vice president for a two-year stint.

It is as an architectural historian of modernism that Dennis will be best remembered. His book Sources of Modern Architecture: A Critical Bibliography (1981) went into several editions, as did Modern Architecture and Expressionism (1966). In 2008, he brought out his magnum opus on the practice of Connell Ward & Lucas (written with Sally Rendel), a fitting topic in that the firm both designed the first truly modernist house in Britain—High & Over, near Amersham, in 1930—and was a combination of New Zealand and British architects.

Dennis was executive editor of the journal World Architecture for many years, as well as a nominator for the Aga Khan Awards. He was awarded the prestigious Médaille d’Argent by the French Academy of Architecture, and also the UIA’s Jean Tschumi Prize. Dennis loved the architecture of all countries, not least the U.S. In 1984, he mounted a bold exhibition about Alfred Bossom, a British architect who had run a commercial practice in Manhattan before returning home in the 1920s to become a Conservative politician (and the butt of Winston Churchill’s jokes).

As a natural enthusiast with seemingly boundless energy, Dennis was devoted to modernist architecture in all its guises. This passion drew his own practice into designing award-winning and ultra-modern buildings, as well as restoring modernist gems in Britain. He served for countless years as a lynchpin of DOCOMOMO UK, the modernist conservation group. In practice, Dennis worked closely with his partner, Yasmin Shariff, whom he had met at the AA.

Dennis celebrated the turning of the millennium in the Grand Canyon, and he was a long-term supporter of Paolo Soleri’s utopian desert experiment at Arcosanti, writing a major book about it with Jeff Cook. Just prior to his death, Dennis was writing a new book on Frank Lloyd Wright in Britain, one we sadly won’t get to read.

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JFK Burns Out On Jet Age Terminals
SOM is designing an expanded Terminal 4 at JFK, which will include nine new gates for Delta Airlines.
Courtesy Delta

JFK airport is entering a new jet age—one without many of the iconic terminals that defined the previous one and established the cool, hyper-modern look of flying for generations of travelers. To that end, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced an agreement today with Delta Airlines for a $1.2 billion expansion of Terminal 4 that will lead to the subsequent demolition of Terminal 3, the former Pan Am Worldport.

Designed by Tippetts-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton, the 1960 Terminal 3 is famous for its flying saucer–like shape and rooftop parking, and for receiving the Beatles for their historic arrival in America, though a 1972 expansion has marred its original character and led to numerous complaints about it being the worst of JFK’s eight terminals. The Port Authority and Delta insist the building is beyond repair, arguing that its replacement with taxiways and plane parking will improve efficiency at JFK, by some measures the most congested airport in the world.

The original Terminal 3 was considered revolutionary when it opened, but it soon became outmoded due to larger planes and a later expansion that destroyed much of its charm.

“There are always people who want to preserve our heritage and I sympathize with that,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a City Hall press conference, where the new plans were unveiled today. “But you can’t preserve everything. You have to strike the right balance and make room for new airports, new parks, new development.”

Even if there were room for Terminal 3, Delta CEO Richard Anderson said the Worldport would not be worth keeping. “The terminal is fully depreciated,” he said. “It’s not an asset you can recover at this point. We put a lot of money into it to keep it going, and we will for three more years, but we can’t put anything more into it.”

Top to Bottom: Terminals 2, 3, and 4 today.

When the project is finished, Terminal 4's Concourse B will expand by 9 gates, a connector will extend to Terminal 2, and Terminal 3 will be replaced by plane parking and taxiways.

Terminal 3 will not be demolished until 2013, when the expansion of Terminal 4 is due to be completed. That project is being designed by SOM, who designed the rest of Terminal 4, and will include nine new gates for Delta, for a total of 25, 16 of which will be used by Delta for its international flights. A connection will be built with Terminal 2, which will continue to serve Delta’s domestic passengers, and security and baggage handling facilities will be expanded to accommodate the additional passengers. Otherwise the terminal will look much as it did when it opened in 2001.

Port Authority executive director Chris Ward said there will be no interruption in service due to the project, nor would the expanded terminal cause additional delays at the busy airport. “If anything, it will improve it, providing Delta with a more efficient operation,” Ward said. This is because the elimination of Terminal 3 will allow for double taxiways for both Terminal 2 and 4, and parking for planes so they may move between the gates, runway, and hangar more readily.

A new connector between Delta's Terminal 2 and the expanded Terminal 4.

The announcement has still given preservationists some pause. “Perhaps the Port Authority should have some preservation plan of action,” said Nina Rappaport, chair of Docomomo-New York/Tristate. “And not just for airports but all their properties. Because transportation involves so much modern technology and architecture, perhaps they need to look more closely at preservation.” As for the Port Authority and Delta’s contention that it would be a hindrance, financially and functionally, to keep even part of the building, she replied: “It just takes foresight.”

Rappaport said her larger concern remains the preservation of I.M. Pei’s Terminal 6, which is slated for demolition next year to make way for another expansion of JetBlue’s facilities. Susan Baer, who was named the Port Authority’s director of aviation last fall, said that neither has been deemed worthy of retaining. “In the environmental review, all our experts said that Terminal 6 could come down but that we should save Saarinen, the significant one,” Baer said. She added that the $20 million renovation of Terminal 5 is nearly complete, though a Port Authority spokesperson said an opening date has not yet been set.

Security facilities will be expanded to cope with more passengers as well as new measures implimented since the terminal opened in 2001.

John Morris Dixon, the former editor of Progressive Architecture, said he remembers Pan Am’s Terminal 3 fondly, from when he wrote about it for the magazine when it first opened. “You had this great statement, this canopy, with the planes nuzzling in beneath it,” he said. “But it was outdated almost immediately” due to the trend toward ever larger planes. He agrees that the 1972 addition has made the terminal “miserable,” akin to what Robert Moses did to Penn Station, and noted that mounting a case for its salvation will be difficult.

“It’s such a great idea, and so unique,” Dixon said. “I don’t know if there’s another circular terminal like it. But I just think it’s damned anyway. I don’t know if any amount of preservation lobbying would make a difference, and I don’t know what the argument would be. What are they going to do with another structure there with no assigned use? They’ve already got that with TWA.”

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I.M. Pei’s JFK in Terminal Trouble
I.M. Pei's Terminal 6 could soon be gone.
Courtesy Amiaga Studios

Preservationists have been trying for years to obtain a landmark designation for the 1970 I. M. Pei–designed Terminal 6 at JFK Airport, but they may have run out of time. On April 29, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced its intention to demolish the terminal, calling it “obsolete,” and arguing that maintaining it was not a prudent use of resources. “This came as quite a surprise to us, and a great disappointment,” said Pei Cobb Freed partner George Miller.


The building was one of the first to use glass mullions. (Click to zoom)
George Cserna
 
 

The terminal, which originally housed National Airlines and later JetBlue, is due to be razed, along with six cargo buildings and hangars, at a cost of $42.3 million, yielding estimated savings of $1.7 million each year thereafter. Although no precise date for the demolition has been set, the Port Authority predicts it will happen next year, after which time JetBlue will use the space to build an expansion for their growing international operations.

Terminal 6 sits next to another pedigreed building at JFK, the 1962 Eero Saarinen–designed Terminal 5, which the Port Authority agreed to preserve largely intact after heavy lobbying from the public and preservationists several years ago. However, without the landmark designation that Saarinen’s building enjoys, Terminal 6 will have a more difficult time obtaining a stay of execution. “The Saarinen building has historic status. The I. M. Pei building does not,” said Port Authority spokesperson Ron Marsico.

Pei Cobb Freed, along with preservationists like New York Tristate DOCOMOMO, disagree. They cite the terminal’s expansive, clear-span pavilion space, a style that set a precedent for later I. M. Pei buildings such as the Louvre Museum’s pyramid and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Its all-glass facade was created with an unprecedented use of glass mullions in place of the typical metal ones, above which hangs a series of glass panels, one of the first suspended glazing systems built in the United States.

To add to the terminal’s airy feel, Pei’s team devised an innovative drainage system that feeds into the terminal’s exterior concrete columns, to avoid having to extend a vertical column of ductwork down from the ceiling. “The transparency of the glass and the uninterrupted ceiling are what give the building its character,” said Pei Cobb Freed partner Michael Flynn.

Inside the terminal.
George Cserna

The design is also notable for its approach to managing congestion, which in 1970 was just beginning to be a major pressure at airports. “We were designing just as there was this colossal expansion in the capacity of planes,” Flynn said. Rather than placing the arriving and departing passenger traffic in the same location at the front of the building as was the norm, Pei separated the main terminal from the airline gates with a raised walkway, creating space behind the building for arrivals and leaving the front of the building exclusively for departures. An innovative approach then, separation is now standard.

DOCOMOMO is now in talks with other local organizations to band together in support of Terminal 6, and is calling for public support for preservation or reuse. “It would be a total waste of energy and money and resources to demolish a building of this scale,” said DOCOMOMO-New York chair Nina Rappaport. JetBlue did respond to calls for comment.

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U.N., Me, and Everyone We Know
One might think that the $1.9 billion overhaul of the United Nations Headquarters would be a multiple-stakeholder quagmire of Ground Zero proportions. However, as Michael Adlerstein, executive director of the U.N. Capital Master Plan, put it in a fascinating April 27 presentation, the consensus-based organization actually made it easier to push major decisions through, since the “joint stepping on of many toes” allowed various U.N. members to at least feel that they were being inconvenienced equally. And to alleviate the hefty price tag, the long-overdue renovations will be an object lesson in historical reuse, with 50 percent of interior fixtures and 95 percent of non-window exterior elements being refurbished. First to be renovated is the Secretariat, which according to project curtain-wall consultant Robert Heintges was the first true curtain-wall tower in the U.S. Because the weight of the originally-specified insulating glass was too much for the sash mechanism of the double-hung windows within the unitized wall system, it had to be substituted with monolithic glass of such low performance that a reflective film was soon necessary, destroying the intended effect of transparency. Heintges’ new wall will restore this transparency, and to give the glass a historically accurate, monolithic appearance, a simple gray substrate is used instead of a double-skin facade. Because the new wall is also pressure-equalized and insulated, its performance will be boosted significantly. Although the old curtain wall had to be almost completely replaced, the other quintessentially modern materials in the building (besides asbestos) will be restored: Vermont white marble, checkered terrazzo, brushed stainless steel, Naugahyde, and Formica. The original typical floor plan, with toilets perversely placed in the middle of the long west facade, blocking circulation and hogging the best views, will be adjusted to create a circulation loop around the core. To ensure that daylight is not blocked by walled private offices, open-plan workstations fill most of the area along the windows, with zones of walled offices placed at wide intervals. The other major interior adjustment described by John Gering, managing partner in charge for HLW International, involves punching holes in the robust structural beams to run mechanical, plumbing, and data services through, thus allowing a substantially higher ceiling and making room for a (previously missing) sprinkler system. The presentation, organized by the Skyscraper Museum in partnership with the Architectural League and DOCOMOMO-New York/Tristate, covered other performance upgrades, as outlined by mechanical engineer Keith Fitzpatrick of Syska Hennessy Group. These include the use of CO2 sensors to control fresh air intake, rainwater harvesting, and other features that will reduce water and energy use by over 30 percent. According to the U.N. master plan, all renovations are scheduled to be completed by 2013. In the meantime, staff have been moved to 1 million square feet of rented space in 10 separate buildings nearby, with the most important people and functions being relocated to a temporary structure on the North Lawn. When all is said and done, the oldest modern skyscraper in New York will also be one of the best-performing—proof that time can often redeem techno-utopianism’s heady ambitions.
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No Alternative
The hospital's proposed 299-foot-tall tower would rise above 7th Avenue on the site of the iconic National Maritime Union, now known as the O'Toole Building.
Courtesy Pei Cobb Fried

In October, when members of the Landmarks Preservation Commission made what they called the hardest choice of their landmarking careers—whether or not to grant St. Vincent’s Hospital the right to demolish Albert C. Ledner’s iconic National Maritime Union in Greenwich Village and build a 300-foot-tall hospital tower on the site—the commissioners made two things clear. First, any votes in favor of the hospital’s right to build were not an endorsement of its designs for the new tower, which several commissioners deemed out of scale and character with one of the city’s oldest historic districts. And second, St. Vincent’s should do everything in its power to explore alternative proposals that could mitigate its impact on the neighborhood.

So when the hospital and development partner Rudin Management returned to the commission with their latest plans on December 16, some commissioners expressed shock and surprise when presented with essentially the same proposal unveiled in May. “For the better part of a year, we’ve been looking at this project, and I think it is as inappropriate as when we started,” commissioner Stephen Byrns told the applicant. “I cannot even begin to comment on the architecture given its out-of-scale bulk.” Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan even poked fun at the design. “Ever since you presented us with your designs, there has been talk about how the tower disappears from its base,” she said. “I think it needs to disappear entirely.”

Thus began round two in the saga of St. Vincent’s and the O’Toole Building, a project that is all but certain to drastically reshape its West Village neighborhood. Indeed, an alternative design presented for the tower caused almost as much anger as it was meant to assuage, though it also prompted several commissioners to offer their support for the hospital’s original plans.

The new proposal, presented by Ian Bader, a principal at Pei Cobb Freed, which is designing the hospital for St. Vincent’s, offered a rectilinear shape in contrast to the previous lenticular design. With its sheer facade rising from the street wall, the alternative would shave just 36 feet off its taller sibling, the maximum height the developers argued they could possibly trim.

“Pretty significant square footage has been taken out of the hospital already,” Lou Meilink, a principal and health care planning expert at Ballinger, told the commission. “We just couldn’t make any more cuts and still have a functioning level-one trauma center.”
 

In the hospital's original proposal, The tower's lenticular volume rises at an angle to 7th Avenue, 
 

An alternate plan presented to the landmarks commission gives the tower a rectilinear volume, with sheer walls rising from the street. Despite the reconfiguration, it is only 36 feet shorter than its 299-foot sibling.
Photographs by Matt Chaban
 

But commissioner Margery Perlmutter said that the lackluster alternative—like one other mid-block strategy that had been presented over the summer—did not show appropriate deference to the commission or the necessary due diligence to consider all possibilities for a new hospital. “It’s a little bit frustrating when every time we ask for alternatives, we get an off-handed response that lacks the quality, details, and attention of the original proposal,” she said.

Instead, like a number of her colleagues, she endorsed a proposal put forward by Byrns that would either bridge or build over a section of West 12th Street, thus allowing the hospital to incorporate a 15,000-square-foot triangular lot that is planned to serve as a loading dock. The commissioners believe this could greatly reduce the height of the building, but the developer said that between the complexity of demapping the street and the parameters of making the hospital function properly, such an approach would be nearly impossible. “It’s like a Swiss clock,” said Shelly Friedman, the applicants’ counsel.

Furthermore, the developer believes it may already have the support it needs on the commission to pass its primary proposal. “We heard several supportive comments today,” Friedman told AN after the meeting. “Unless we hear otherwise, that is how we would expect the rest of the discussion to go, making the lenticular design a success for the commission.” Indeed several commissioners said that the alternative proposal obviously did not work, and that they favored the lenticular design. Commissioner Fred Bland called it “ingenious,” and commissioner Christopher Moore said, “I am inclined to support it.” And, perhaps most importantly, commission chair Robert Tierney seems to back the lenticular plan. “My sense is it’s headed in the right direction,” he said.

Michael White, a land-use attorney, blogger, and commission gadfly, said he had his own theory for why the hospital was fighting so hard to maintain the height of its tower. “At its heart, this is a real estate deal,” he said. “They want to bulk up as much here as they can so they can bulk up as much as they can on the Rudin site.” He was referring to the site of the old hospital building across 7th Avenue, which St. Vincent’s is selling to the Rudin family for $300 million to help fund hospital construction. The Rudins then hope to build an FXFowle-designed 20-story condominium tower on the site. White believes the developer will use the comparatively taller new hospital tower to defend the massive-by-Village-standards height of its new building.
 


development plans call for the current hospital (left) to be replaced by a condo tower and converted residential structures along 12th Street (right).
 
Courtesy St. Vincent's
 
 
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Saarinen Spared in NJ
Ezra Stoller/ESTO

In 2006, the Eero Saarinen-designed Bell Telephone Laboratories was in imminent danger of demolition by would-be developer, Preferred Real Estate Investments of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, who planned to replace it with smaller office buildings and housing units on the site’s pastoral 472 acres. Now, two years later, Somerset Development, a Lakewood, New Jersey, firm, has signed a contract with Alcatel-Lucent, the property owner. If redevelopment proceeds as planned, the 1.9-million-square-foot, six-story building, named to Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered Historic Sites” list in 2007, and recently declared eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, will be spared the wrecking ball.

In a statement made via email, Somerset president Ralph Zucker wrote that the firm does “not plan on demolishing any of the existing structures,” and is “approaching this with a preservationist attitude.” Somerset is still in the early planning stages, but feels the building lends itself to a mix of uses. Zucker, a proponent of New Urbanism, wrote that his vision is “a downtown-style, mixed-use environment created at [the] building.”

A three-day charrette, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects’ New Jersey chapter, Preservation NJ, the Docomomo-NY Tristate chapter, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, held in April, addressed problems surrounding the sustainable reuse and retention of the building, which was completed in 1962 and expanded in1985. Participants found the “building to be quite flexible,” said Michael Calafati, chair of the AIA-NJ chapter and a lead organizer of the event.

When asked about Somerset’s proposed redevelopment plan, Calafati cautioned that the devil is in the details. He questions whether Somerset’s plans to add buildings to the site will “maintain the monumentality of the Saarinen building,” an element charrette participants identified as central to the character of the building, along with its fully mirrored facade, its atria and corridors, and its relationship to the surrounding landscape, designed by Hideo Sasaki.


Preservationists and Saarinen enthusiasts hope Bell Labs’ mirrored facade will be maintained. 
EZRA STOLLER/ESTO

In its final report to the Holmdel Township Committee submitted on July 24, the Citizens Advisory Committee, a non-partisan group charged by the township to evaluate and make recommendations about the redevelopment of the property, cited several factors that could impact Somerset’s plans, the most important of which is the New Jersey Council of Affordable Housing’s (COAH) affordable housing requirement. “The COAH situation is very complex,” said Ralph Blumenthal, co-chair of the advisory committee. The third round COAH regulations were recently revised and are currently being challenged.

According to Blumenthal, before the rules were changed, if developers reused an existing building, the township bore no new obligation for additional affordable housing. If this changes, the “township’s affordable housing obligation due to the redevelopment” could increase “by hundreds of units,” which would change the finances of the Bell Labs project, and in all likelihood, influence its final form.

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Rudolph Routed Again?
Ezra Stoller/Esto/Courtesy Sarasota Architectural Foundation

The long-running battle to save Paul Rudolph’s Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida, is fast approaching what may be its final stand. On June 17, the Sarasota County School Board is set to decide the fate of the 1958 school, Rudolph’s largest Florida commission and a widely admired work by the well-known modern architect.

School authorities, which are spending $135 million to build a new high school on the 42-acre campus, have long wanted to demolish the structure to make way for a parking lot. In short, despite an outpouring of sympathy from Rudolph fans—and the school’s listing on the 2008 World Monuments Fund watch list—county officials have called for the preservationist camp to put its money where its mouth is. 


COURTESY SARASOTA ARCHITECTURAL FOUNDATION


DIANE LEWIS ARCHITECT

The RUDOLPH building (top) has been marred by alterations, but could be rehabilitated under a plan for a new musical arts center (above).
 

“We have hundreds of letters of support, but what we really need is money,” said Lenore Suttle, a member of the Riverview committee of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, which has helped spearhead the battle to save the structure. Specifically, the foundation has said it needs $200,000 by tomorrow’s school board meeting to cover legal expenses, as well as filing and professional fees associated with an alternative plan that Rudolph advocates have put forward for the site.

That plan, created by New York architect Diane Lewis, in association with RMJM Hiller, Beckelman + Capalino, and Atelier Ten, calls for the school to be incorporated into the Riverview Music Quadrangle, a multi-purpose space that has received broad support among Sarasota’s large musical arts community. Advocates say the plan would not affect the new high school’s construction and would provide a dynamic new use for a venerable work of architecture.

All parties acknowledge that the Rudolph complex has suffered from a dire lack of maintenance, tacky additions, and its plain unsuitability as a school for 2,900 students. Still, a relatively small infusion of cash at this stage in the preservation effort could well turn the tide, advocates say.

“We very strongly support the preservation of the building,” said Theodore Prudon, president of DOCOMOMO US, the modern-movement preservation group. “We’ve all written letters to the superintendent. But it’s something of an end-game.” While Rudolph’s architecture has received much more attention in recent years—including his 1963 Art & Architecture Building on the Yale campus, which is now undergoing a sensitive renovation and addition by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates—the nation’s building boom has put Rudolph’s lesser-known works in peril, Prudon said. “He’s very much in everybody’s mind, but somehow the outcome of all of that has not been very happy.”

Donations can be forwarded via the Sarasota Architectural Foundation. However, pledges larger than $2,000 should be faxed to the attention of Craig P. Colburn of Kirk Pinkerton, 50 Central Avenue, Suite 700, Sarasota, FL 34236 (fax 941-364-2490; tel. 941-364-2400).

Update June 18 and 19:

Dealing a setback to Rudolph supporters, the Sarasota County School Board has voted 3-2 to raze the Riverview High School, contending that preservationists could not come up with enough funding for their alternative plan. 

"The time to show me the money was today," said board member Shirley Brown, according to a Herald-Tribune report. "I'm sorry."

Despite raising $100,000 in pledges, advocates could not persuade board members to continue working toward the building's salvation. Fearing that the project cost of $15 to $25 million would never be raised, board members pulled the plug after a four-hour-long meeting, refusing to put taxpayer funds toward preservation.

Backers of the Rudolph plan, however, said that they are still fundraising and exploring alternatives, including a review of legal options. Suttle said that students will remain in the Rudolph building for another year, postponing any imminent demolition and giving advocates time to regroup. "Let's just say it's not over," she said.

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Door Has Closed on Aalto Rooms
ALEX HERRERA

The fate of Alvar Aalto’s Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Center on the 12th floor in 809 United Nations Plaza remains in limbo nearly seven years after it was proposed as an interior landmark before the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Designed in 1964 for the Institute of International Education (IIE), the 4,500- square-foot modern space is one of only two interiors designed by the great Finnish architect in the United States, the other being the Woodberry Poetry Room of Harvard’s Lamont Library. “This is one of the city’s great rooms and not enough people know,” said Alex Herrera, director of technical services at the New York Landmarks Conservancy, who worked with the IIE to research and supervise the restoration of the space in 2003. With its undulating plaster ceiling, ash-paneled walls, blue porcelain tiles, and bentwood wall sculpture, the space is typical of Aalto’s work. The original Aalto-designed lighting fixtures and furniture, including black leather and birch chairs and a rolling bar, are still intact.

Until a month ago the conference center, comprising meeting rooms, a lecture hall, and elevator lobby, was available to the public as rental space for functions and events. Faced with a shortage of space, the IIE has closed its doors and will use the meeting rooms as “temporary office space,” said Derrick Wilson, the IIE’s telecommunications manager. There is no foreseeable date for when the space will be available for rent again, said Wilson.

The issue of public accessibility has been the crux of arguments both for and against designating the conference rooms as a New York City interior landmark. According to the city’s Landmarks Law, only building interiors that are “customarily open or accessible to the public” can be designated interior landmarks.

In a New York Times article published after an LPC designation hearing in September 2002, the IIE said that access to rooms was restricted because of security concerns at the building, which is located across the street from the United Nations and is also home to the UN’s missions of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Preservationists, however, have said that the rooms have been accessible to the public since their opening. The rooms have had a special connection to the United Nations, and have been the site of countless Fulbright Scholar programs, which the IIE administers. “Clearly it was Edgar J. Kaufmann’s intention to make the work of Aalto better appreciated in this country by having the rooms always open to the public. It’s unfortunate that an institution whose goal is education is removing the rooms from the public access,” said Theo Prudon, president of DOCOMOMO US.

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council (HDC), agrees and sees the closing of the space as a pushback against landmark designation. “By fighting landmarks designation, it makes one very concerned about the space,” said Bankoff. In response to these concerns, HDC has reestablished communication with the LPC and has circulated a petition that calls for the designation of the space as an interior landmark.

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St. Vincent’s Hail Mary
An aerial view, with the hospital at left and the development at center right.
Courtesy St. Vincent's

“If O’Toole had to go, this is a much better option,” Gil Horowitz said. The former member of Community Board 2 and Greenwich Village resident of more than 50 years was referring to St. Vincent’s Hospital’s revised plans to build a new 21-story hospital tower at the western corner of 7th Avenue and 12th Street, demolishing the distinctive, saw-toothed landmark O’Toole Building in the process.

St. Vincent’s, along with its development partner the Rudin family, presented the new plans to a board committee last night, where many community members and preservationists seemed to agree with Horowitz. “They really listened to us and took our suggestions and criticisms, as well as those of Landmarks, to heart,” Horowitz said.

It was a stark turnaround from two weeks earlier, when the Landmarks Preservation Commission said that it could not support the plans as designed, and the development team insisted there were no alternatives.

In addition to the hospital, those plans involved the sale and demolition of eight buildings on the eastern side of the hospital campus, to be replaced by the Rudins with a condo tower and townhouses designed by FXFowle. The $310 million sale would pay debt service on the campus and help finance the $835 million hospital, which is designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

The new plans call for restoring and adaptively reusing four of the easterly buildings for residential use. (The commission recommended retaining five of the eight buildings,  which, along with the O’Toole Building, lie within the Greenwich Village Historic District.) The condo tower will shrink in height by 30 feet and in width by 60 feet, and the number of townhouses will be reduced. “This really locks back into the architecture of the neighborhood,” FXFowle partner Dan Kaplan said.

The hospital will lose two stories, falling from 329 to 299 feet, as well as a 53-foot prow that was proposed for its southwestern corner. “This should really open up the sky on the west side,” Ian Bader, the project architect for Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, said. The bulk will remain the same, however, by raising the five-story podium base to six and expanding the elliptical tower by four feet on each side.

Some in the audience were vexed by the hospital’s quick trip back to the drawing board, though they were generally happy with the results. “You should be congratulated for coming up with a plan so quickly after you told us last time you couldn’t reuse any of the buildings,” said Carol Greitzer, a member of the board’s Omnibus St. Vincent’s Hospital Committee, which was expressly created to oversee the hospital’s expansion for the board. “But there is no doubt the result is a better contribution to the streetscape.”

While they shared the optimism of the community, preservationists remained cautious. “It’s amazing how much better it looks with the buildings still present,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “But there may still be some major concerns.”

“I’m not yet sure what to think,” added Nadezhda Williams, a preservation associate at the Historic Districts Council. “There’s a lot to digest.” Meanwhile, roughly a dozen hospital workers and unionists showed up, waving signs that declared, “Lives Not Buildings.”

The plans now return to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a new round of public review on June 3. Though the appropriateness of the designs will be vetted as usual, the focus will likely be St. Vincent’s hardship application.

Last invoked in 1993, this provision of the city’s landmarks law allows landlords hamstrung by the commission’s findings—in this case, the determination of historical importance for the O’Toole Building, one of Albert Ledner’s four 1960s buildings for the Maritime Union in the city—to argue that they cannot maintain the landmark and either turn a profit or, in the case of a nonprofit like Saint Vincent’s, serve its charitable purpose.

“At the end of the day, the O’Toole building is the only site St. Vincent’s can move into,” Shelly Friedman, counsel to the hospital, said. In the end, that will likely be the case: Only three of 15 hardship applications have been denied.

Matt Chaban

The O'Toole Building will be torn down to make way for a new hospital tower, assuming the Landmarks Preservation Commission allows it.
Matt Chaban
 
The height of the hospital has been reduced by 30 feet and a 53-foot prow has been removed. The previous building envelope is outlined in red.
All images courtesy St. vincent's
 
As the renderings, which look north up seventh Avenue, show, the changes greatly open the building's western side to the sky.
 
The current hospital will be replaced by a condo tower while the historic buildings that line 12th Street will be repurposed as residences.
 
north Elevation of the current and previous plans and the existing condition.
 
West eleveation of the current and previous plans and the existing condition.
 
South elevation of the current and previous plans and the existing condition.
 
 

Next Big Thing

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is designing San Francisco’s largest new development, the 393-acre Treasure Island. As if that weren’t enough, the firm’s San Francisco office is now also working on a blockbuster on the other side of the city: a transformation of Park Merced. If approved, the scheme for the World War II-era housing development will add about 5,700 new units to the 115-acre site, now renamed Parkmerced, tripling the number of apartments there today. Like Treasure Island, the project’s cost is estimated at $1.2 billion. In January, Parkmerced’s owners, Texas-based Stellar Management, filed an environmental evaluation application, effectively starting the planning process and giving rise to vocal opponents from the community and beyond.

The original Park Merced, composed of simple, modernist towers and town houses arranged around varied green spaces, was designed by Leonard Schultze and Associates and built by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which also put up similar complexes like Park La Brea in Los Angeles and Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan. Completed in the early 1950s, it was intended for moderate-income families, many of them from the military. Most agree that its most notable feature was the relationship of its buildings to its landscaping, with its intricate internal courtyards and interrelated terraced patios largely designed by Thomas Dolliver Church, who also oversaw the master planning of UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, and the Mayo Clinic.

Stellar Management bought Park Merced in 2005 and has already begun a $130 million renovation. The development’s four-phase plan will retain the largest towers and replace its two-story buildings with four-story units. The plan will also add retail and slightly reconfigure Park Merced’s street grid, create more intimate green spaces, and stagger new buildings to minimize cold winds coming off the waterfront, said SOM partner Craig Hartman, who likens its current feel to a retirement home. He points out that the new buildings will be designed by several architecture firms (as yet, unselected) in a style “that reflects our contemporary culture.”

Hartman also hopes to bring the entire development off the grid and reduce energy consumption by about 60 percent using wind power, solar power, high-efficiency fixtures, water recycling, improved insulation, and co-generation (using existing power sources to generate energy on-site). The new plan will connect the park to public transportation by moving an existing MUNI stop, adding a new one, and providing low-emissions shuttles to BART.

But the intensive scheme, which would radically change this once-sleepy development, has its opponents. Aaron Goodman, an architect at San Francisco’s Studios Architecture and vice president of the Park Merced Residents Organization, the area’s recognized tenant group, complains that the new plans will be unaffordable and will disturb the area’s neighborly atmosphere. 

“The character of the site will be lost,” said Goodman. “I wouldn’t call it charming, but it’s very effective.” Goodman is one of the leaders in an effort to landmark the property, and has filed documents with the city’s Landmark Preservation Advisory Board. Docomomo (International Working Party for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement) is working together with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the California Preservation Foundation, San Francisco Architectural Heritage, and the Cultural Landscape Foundation to get Park Merced placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s highly significant,” said Andrew Wolfram, president of Docomomo’s Northern California chapter, who pointed out that Park Fairfax, also built by Metropolitan Life, is already on the National Register. “We’re not saying it needs to be frozen in time, but its important elements should be preserved.”

Stellar Management spokesperson P.J. Johnston points out that the scheme has been through 63 community meetings, and that many of the buildings on the property are too degraded to save: “It’s a property that’s well beyond its use-by date. It needs to be revitalized and rebuilt.”

Where Past Meets Present

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NOW BOARDING: DESTINATION, JFK

Destination Unknown

Eero Saarinen's last work, the TWA Terminal at JFK, will soon enjoy a second, temporary life as a Kunsthalle. And after thattwho knows? As Cathy Lang Ho reports, the future of the modernist masterpiece is as open as the sky.
Photography by Dean Kaufman.

 

Long before Santiago Calatrava unveiled his architectural allegory for flight that will become the downtown PATH station, Eero Saarinen gave New York City a symbol that captured the grace and excitement of the jet age by mimicking the shape of a soaring bird. Since its completion in 1962, the TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport has served as an icon of both modern air travel and modern design. But its daring gull-winged constructionna reinforced concrete sculpture that tested the limits of its material and of what modernism could beewas the source of its distinction as well as downfall. The building's stand-alone, sinewy form made it difficult to adapt it to the rapidly modernizing airline industry. Larger airplanes, increased passenger flow and automobile traffic, computerized ticketing, handicapped accessibility, and security screening are just a few of the challenges that Terminal 5 (as it's officially known) could not meet without serious alteration. When the terminal closed in 2001 (in the wake of TWA's demise in 1999), no other airline stepped up to take over the space.

 

 

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) did, however, receive dozens of expressions of interest from sources ranging from the Finnish government to the Municipal Art Society to the Partnership for New York City. We expected to hear from preservationists, cultural organizations, and business people, but what surprised us was the number of requests we got from the general publiccregular people, travelersswho are just deeply interested in this building,, said Ralph Tragale, manager of government and community relations for the Port Authority. One of the requests came from Rachel K. Ward, an independent curator who worked previously with the theme of tourism and the cross influences of global travel and global art in an exhibition in Switzerland. Her particular interest in tourist sites and destinations was the basis of an idea to stage a series of installations that respond to and are situated within the arch-symbol of commercial travel itself. The result, Terminal 5, presents site-specific works by 18 artists, as well as a series of lectures, events, and additional temporary installations (see sidebar), on view from October 1 to January 31. The building is such a potent symbol, representing so many thingssair travel, the 1960s, transitions, globalism,, said Ward. Each artist had a unique response.. First lady of text messaging Jenny Holzer has, naturally, staked out the arrivals and departures board, while Ryoji Ikeda has created a series of light and sound installations for one of the tunnels. In mid-September, Vanessa Beecroft filmed a live performance piece in the terminallher first since 20011 which will be screened in the space. Toland Grinnell, known for his penchant for luggage, will make use of the baggage claim area. What's exciting to me is that the artists are using the building's forms to create works that will only exist in this space,, said Ward. Organizers are trying to arrange a shuttle service from Manhattan, and encourage the use of the new AirTrain.

Ward's timing was an important reason why the PA accepted her proposal. The exhibition's run precedes a long period of construction that will not end until 2008. The exhibition is a great opportunity to let the public enjoy the space,, said Tragale, and to show other potential uses for it.. Plans for Terminal 5's future have been contentious, with a battle played out publicly last year between the PA and preservationists who objected to a new terminal design concept that would have engulfed the landmark. Critics blasted the inital plan's intent to cut off Terminal 5's views of the runway, which motivated the design's floor-to-ceiling windows. They also objected to the idea that it would no longer be used as a functioning terminal. At that time, Kent Barwick, the president of the Municipal Art Society, said, By eliminating use of the terminal, you're condemning the building to a slow death.. Even Philip Johnson, who knew Saarinen, weighed in, telling The Los Angeles Times earlier this year, This building represents a new idea in 20th-century architecture, and yet we are willing to strangle it by enclosing it within another building. If you're going to strangle a building to death, you may as well tear it down..

In October 2003 Jet Blue entered an agreement with the PA to expand its presence at JFK. The upstart domestic airlineethe busiest at JFK, accounting for 7 million of the airport's 30 million passengers yearlyy was initially interested in the possibility of actively using the Saarinen structure but found that the cost to retrofit the relic exceeded that of building an entirely new terminal. Jet Blue commissioned Gensler and Associates to design a new terminal adjacent to Terminal 5, which, though still in concept phase, was released last month. The $850 million, 625,000-square-foot terminal is much smaller and more respectful of its site than the initial concept that so riled preservationists last year. The sheer reduction in size makes it better, but we're still concerned about the terminal being an active space,, said Theodore Prudon, president of DOCOMOMO-US. If it becomes just a left-over space, it's a disservice to the building. Also, it's more vulnerable if it's economically unviable.. Terminal 5 will be used, but the question is how intensely,, said Bill Hooper, senior principal in charge of the project at Gensler. We're still in design development now, trying to figure out how to make as much of the original terminal work.. Gensler's design begins with the renovation of the two tunnels that extend from the terminal to connect to waiting airplanes, known as Flight Wing Tube #1, which was part of Saarinen's original design, and Flight Wing Tube #2, which was designed in the late 1960s by Roche Dinkeloo to support 747s that did not exist when the terminal was first built. A new plaza will occupy the space between the two terminals, allowing visitors a view, until now unseen, toward Terminal 5's backside.

 
   

Beyer Blinder Belle will oversee the structure's restoration to its 1962 state. The process will involve undoing four decades' worth of alterations and additions, such as new baggage rooms and a sun canopy that was attached to the faaade. For its part, Jet Blue has expressed its desire to integrate the Saarinen building into its corporate image. As a result, Gensler's design is low profile, which reflects both its placement behind Terminal 5 and the way Jet Blue does business,, said Hooper. Jet Blue has also made the Terminal 5 exhibition possible, signing on as a major sponsor. After the exhibition closes, the PA will issue an RFP for the structure's adaptive reuse. We've heard ideas for a museum, a restaurant, a conference center,, said Tragale. We're open to what the business community has to offer..
Cathy Lang Ho is an editor at AN.