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Today's Hotel, Tomorrow's Hospital

From parking garages to parks, these are the pop-up medical facilities of the COVID-19 pandemic
As American cities brace for a steep influx of patients suffering from or suspected to be infected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the sprint is on to make up for a woeful dearth of available hospital beds. Per American Hospital Association data, there are 924,000 staffed hospital beds in the country, and more than two-thirds of those are usually occupied. And while the total number of additional hospital required during this mounting pandemic varies day by day, place by place, the only conclusion is that an impossible amount of more beds is needed. To make up for the narrowing availability, temporary hospitals have been erected or are in the process of being erected in some unlikely places. These urgent acts of emergency-level adaptive reuse, many of them spearheaded by city agencies, intergovernmental organizations, healthcare providers, the National Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers, have taken root on fairgrounds, in football stadiums, in motels, and in Central Park. Not all of these converted spaces, however, are being used to treat COVID-19 patients, although many will. Some will provide housing to nurses and doctors, some will act as quarantine units, some will house the homeless, and others will serve as fully functional overflow hospitals dedicated to providing care to patients suffering from ailments that aren’t the coronavirus. To offer assistance in these conversions, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has even formed a special task force which will release a comprehensive report in early April to help guide decision-making. “This is a race against time for healthcare facilities to meet bed surge capacity needs” said AIA Academy of Architecture for Health president Kirsten Waltz, AIA, ACHA, EDAC, LEED, who is the director of facilities, planning, and design at Baystate Health in Springfield, Massachusetts. “This task force will help inform best practices for quickly assessing building inventory and identifying locations that are most appropriate to be adapted for this crisis.” Below are some of the different buildings and facilities being adapted across the country to serve new purposes during the coronavirus outbreak.

Convention centers

Boasting boundless and easily adaptable floor space, robust loading docks for moving in and out a high volume of equipment and gear, high-powered ventilation systems, and more than a few ADA-compliant bathrooms, convention centers are natural places to establish temporary hospitals. Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Center, normally one of the busiest convention centers in the United States, was one of the first to undergo the transformation into a sprawling, nearly 3,000-bed capacity overflow hospital operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (The Army Corps of Engineers, the New York National Guard, and a team of civilian staffers can be credited for the rapid turnaround.) A large number of other convention centers across the country are either being eyed as potential makeshift medical hubs or are currently being converted into them including the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Detroit’s TCF Center, McCormick Place in Chicago, the Baltimore Convention Center, the Los Angeles Convention Center, and the Santa Clara Convention Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

Parking garages

While many hospital parking structures are now home to drive-though coronavirus testing sites, in at least one major medical facility, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, beds are being moved into a parking garage to treat those potentially infected by the novel coronavirus at a safe distance from other patients.

Sports fields/stadiums

Originally and still largely used as a military term, field hospitals get their name from their strategic location on wide-open spaces in close proximity to sites of mass injuries and casualties such as, well, battlefields. Twenty-first-century field hospitals are now being erected on battlefields of a different kind that normally see a different sort of frenzied combat: football. CenturyLink Field, home to the Seattle Seahawks, is being converted into a large temporary treatment center by the Army and will be dedicated to treating patients with ailments not related to the coronavirus so that beds in overwhelmed Seattle area hospitals are freed up for those suffering from the deadly respiratory disease. Elsewhere in hard-hit Western Washington, another 200-bed field hospital will be erected on a turf soccer field in the Seattle suburb of Shoreline. Relatedly, football pitch-bound field makeshift hospitals are now somewhat de rigueur in countries like Brazil. A section of the famed Billie Jean King Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows, Queens–in better times, home to the U.S. Open—will also be covered into a 350-bed auxiliary medical center by New York City Emergency Management.

Decommissioned hospitals

Shuttered hospitals, many of which have never been closed in the first place, are coming back to life due to the coronavirus pandemic. A wide number of bed-equipped, recently closed medical facilities—including the old Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois, San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center, and Laurel Regional Hospital in Maryland—have already or will potentially reopen to accommodate a surge of COVID-19 patients or patients in need of other types of urgent care in overburdened areas.

Dorms/college campuses

With students at an overwhelming number of colleges and universities dismissed from attending in-person classes for the rest of the academic year, an ample amount of available real estate has suddenly opened up. As COVID-19 first began to spread across New York City, New York University pledged to make available some of its now-vacated dormitories for COVID treatment-related purposes if needed. Student housing at New York’s expansive system SUNY and CUNY public colleges could also be potentially turned into emergency medical facilities, quarantine units, and/or temporary housing for healthcare workers. While dorm rooms can be easily retrofitted into treatment spaces, college and universities are also considering converting or already have converted other on-campus facilities into field hospitals. The McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and Liacouras Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, are two examples of non-dorm collegiate spaces that will serve a new purpose during the pandemic.

Central Park

Plenty of strange, sometimes disturbing sights can be seen within Central Park. None, however, quite match the surreally sobering heights of witnessing volunteers erect a tent-based respiratory care center in the middle of New York City’s backyard. Said facility, which will have a capacity of 68 hospital beds and also include an on-site morgue, was established this past weekend in Central Park’s East Meadow by humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse in partnership with Mount Sinai Health System to “provide care for patients seriously ill with COVID-19.”

Fairgrounds

Generally only used at a very high capacity for a few weeks of the year, fairgrounds over a vast amount of space with the needed infrastructure—electricity, water, various buildings, arenas, parking lots the size of a small town—already in place. The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, California, for example, will take advantage of this advantageous arrangement and temporarily house members of the region’s sizable, highly vulnerable homeless population during the pandemic. Elsewhere in California, the Orange County Fairgrounds are being mulled as a potential site to accommodate overflow from established medical facilities in the area; it’s a similar story at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio. Outside of California, the massive Washington State Fairgrounds are being considered as an emergency medical site about 30 miles south of Seattle in the city of Puyallup. In Florida, where the virus is on the verge of exploding in certain areas, a 250-bed facility is already under construction at the Miami-Dade Fairgrounds. In several states, fairgrounds and their parking lots are already being used to host drive-up coronavirus testing sites.

Hotels and motels

Hotels and motels are perhaps the most versatile and, due in part to low occupancy rates brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, the most readily available spaces to repurpose during a pandemic. Providing privacy, some level of comfort, and isolation, they can be used to treat non-critical patients recovering from the COVID-19-related illnesses, quarantine patients suspected to be infected, house exhausted, high-risk healthcare workers on the frontlines (in sometimes deluxe accommodations), and provide a temporary safe haven to vulnerable populations like the unsheltered. Officials in various cities including New York, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, and Oakland, California, have leased hundreds, even thousands, of hotel and motel rooms to be used in various capacities in the coming weeks, with the Army Corps of Engineers working to identify and then convert many of them into fully functional temporary medical facilities. Many, of course, have their own ideas as to which specific hotels should be used.
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when the jackhammers fall silent

New York puts freeze on all nonessential construction
Following in the cautious footsteps of cities like Boston and San Francisco, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has put the kibosh on all “nonessential” construction projects—and not just in booming New York City but also across the entire state during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “We’re closing down nonessential construction sites,” said Cuomo during one of his oddly therapeutic daily press briefings held last Friday. “Some construction is essential to keep the place running, but nonessential construction is going to stop.” Similar to citywide construction pauses, New York’s temporary statewide ban includes several exemptions that allow for work to continue or commence on affordable housing projects, hospitals and healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, emergency repairs, transit, and public infrastructure including roads and bridges. Additionally, underway projects of any kind that could be considered unsafe if abandoned will also be allowed to proceed for now. Reads updated guidance issued by the state agency Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC):
At every site, if essential or emergency non-essential construction, this includes maintaining social distance, including for purposes of elevators/meals/entry and exit. Sites that cannot maintain distance and safety best practices must close and enforcement will be provided by the state in coordination with the city/local governments. This will include fines of up to $10,000 per violation.
Under his initial PAUSE shutdown directive, Cuomo had classified all types of construction sites as being “essential” along with banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, and the like. This, in turn, meant it was largely business as usual at building sites across the state although workers were instructed to follow difficult-to-enforce social distancing practices while on the job. Cuomo, however, faced considerable pushback from construction workers and their families along with city leaders, notably City Council members Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander along with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “Anything that is not directly part of the essential work of fighting coronavirus and the essential work of keeping the city running and the state running, and any construction that is not about the public good, is going to en,” New York City Mayor de Blasio clarified on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show following Cuomo’s announcement. “So, luxury condos will not be built until this is over, you know, office buildings are not going to be built so that work's going to end immediately. We need to protect people.” The day before Cuomo ordered work to be halted on all nonessential construction projects, the New York Times published an article detailing how laborers in the city were being exposed to conditions that, although likely to raise very few eyebrows during ordinary circumstances, seemed downright perilous as a deadly, highly contagious rages through New York and beyond:
“Construction sites, even during normal times, are notoriously dirty. Workers often share a single portable toilet, which rarely has soap or hand sanitizer. Running water is not common. None of the recent safety protocols recommended by public health officials are practical at a job site, workers said. They share tools, and procedures require that they closely watch over one another. There is no social distancing. Some workers wear protective masks, which are in short supply.”
Cuomo’s directive also came after work on two infrastructure projects considered essential by the ESDC, the overhauls of LaGuardia Airport and at Moynihan Station, came grinding to a temporary halt when workers at both sites tested positive for COVID-19. Although initially not wholly supportive of a Boston-style moratorium on construction due to the so-called “devastating” economic impact, Carlo Scissura, president of trade group New York Building Congress and former president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, has since thrown his support behind Cuomo’s updated directive. “The health and safety of building industry workers and every New Yorker remain the highest priority as we continue to respond to this pandemic,” said Scissura in a statement obtained by the New York Post. “Just as the governor has outlined, we must carry on with New York’s most critical projects, from infrastructure and public works to healthcare and affordable housing. These projects are essential to our region’s future and will benefit our most vulnerable populations.” Some have pointed out a not-so-tiny loophole, however, in the ESCD’s new guidelines, specifically with regard to the construction of affordable housing. The exemption that allows for work on affordable housing projects to continue doesn't just apply to project that are strictly affordable; rather, work on residential developments with at least 20 percent affordable housing can proceed. This, in turn, means that a lion’s share of residential constructions projects in New York are essentially off the hook.
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hard corps

New York’s Javits Center completes transformation into 1,200 bed emergency hospital
A 1,200-bed field hospital, established in response to the dire need for additional hospital beds as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) overwhelms New York City’s existing medical infrastructure, opened today at the Jacob K. Javits Center. The Army Corps of Engineers, along with civilian staff and members of the New York National Guard, executed the dramatic transformation of the Javits Center from a normally bustling venue for trade shows and conventions to a fully equipped overflow medical facility in just one week. If needed, the makeshift hospital at the Javits Center can be expanded to accommodate 2,910 beds. This would make it one of the largest hospitals in America, regardless of ephemerality, according to ABC News. By comparison, New York-Presbyterian, the city’s largest hospital, has a 2,600-bed capacity. First floated as a potential field hospital earlier this month, the Javits Center, a vast green-roofed, glass-encased complex on Manhattan's far West Side designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, is the first of several Army Corps-identified facilities across the five boroughs to be adapted into a temporary medical hub. Late last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Army Corps, pending approval from the White House, will also convert four other facilities with considerable square footage into field hospitals: The Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, the New York Expo Center in Bronx, CUNY Staten Island, and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook. These four facilities will have the capacity for a combined 4,000 additional hospital beds as even more sites, including the Brooklyn Center Nursing Home and a Marriott hotel in downtown Brooklyn, are considered by state health officials as having overflow-need potential according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Cuomo has also stressed the need for temporary hospitals in New York City-adjacent counties including Westchester, Suffolk, Nassau, and Rockland. As of this writing, 59,742 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in New York, the most of any state. Nearly 800 people have perished from the virus in New York City alone. Over the weekend, a non-Army Corps-initiated field hospital also began to take shape in Central Park’s East Meadow. Designed specifically as a respiratory care unit, the 68-bed Central Park tent hospital is being constructed by volunteers enlisted by the faith-based humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse in partnership with Mount Sinai Health System. Unlike the field hospital at the Javits Center, which will only provide care to those suffering from a range of health issues that aren’t coronavirus in order to take the mounting burden off of established hospitals grappling with New Yorkers stricken with the highly contagious viral disease, the Central Park facility is dedicated to treating “patients seriously ill with COVID-19,” per a statement released by Mount Sinai Hospital to BuzzFeed News. Back at the Javits Center, the transformation of the 1.8-million-square foot building’s cavernous exhibition halls into a Federal Emergency Management Agency-operated medical facility has been met with a positive response. And for those skeptical that the United States was capable of speedy, China-style turnaround in creating makeshift hospitals, the swift transformation of the Javits Center has proven that the Army Corps, when called upon, can get things done and get them done in an expeditious manner. (New York’s urgent need for ventilators and other supplies, however, is a whole other story.) All things considered, the temporary hospital at the Javits Center appears clean and comfortable. Individual beds contained within semi-enclosed “rooms” are shielded by three temporary walls and a curtained entrance made from seemingly the same materials formerly used to host booths in the space, while floor lamps, folding chairs, medical supplies, and side tables topped with (faux) potted plants complement the spaces. While the transformation doesn't appear to allow for individual treatment areas to include private plumbed fixtures, some online commentators have pointed out that a deficit of toilets at the Javits Center shouldn’t be a problem. “The Javits Center is an amazing facility,” ABC News reported Gen. Todd Semonite, head of the Army Corps of Engineers, as telling reporters at a press conference held last week. “Every 10 feet there's a great big steel door in the floor, you open it up in there is all the electrical; there's cold water, there's hot water and there's a place for sewers, so you can actually do things like sinks, right in the middle of a convention center to be able to make that happen.” Outside of New York City, the Los Angeles Convention Center, which was due to host the AIA Conference on Architecture 2020 in May, is in the process of being converted by the National Guard into a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-run field hospital as demand for hospital beds in the greater L.A. area begin to surge. Hard-hit Santa Clara County, in the San Francisco Bay area, is also turning a large convention center into a temporary treatment center for COVID-19 patients presenting on-life threatening symptoms. Similar efforts are also planned or already underway at convention centers in Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, and elsewhere. To help with this unprecedented effort, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has launched a special task force to inform and offer guidance to public officials, architects, and healthcare facility operators as they convert existing buildings into temporary medical hubs at a pace never experienced before. The task force, according to a press statement, will develop a COVID-19 Rapid Response Safety Space Assessment for AIA members that includes “considerations for the suitability of buildings, spaces, and other sites for patient care. The assessment will be developed by architects with a wide range of expertise, including healthcare facility design, urban design, public health and disaster assistance.” “On a daily basis, I am hearing from our architects who feel a deep sense of moral duty to support our healthcare providers on the frontlines of this pandemic,” said AIA 2020 president Jane Frederick, FAIA. “As our communities assess buildings to address growing surge capacity, we hope this task force will be a resource to ensure buildings are appropriately and safely adapted for our doctors and nurses.”
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Takin' it to the streets

Cities open up streets to pedestrians as parks overcrowd
For those living in heavily impacted urban areas, life during the novel coronavirus pandemic has been spent largely confined indoors, housebound and isolated, disconnected from the typical physical places where city-dwellers tend to congregate en masse when not working. Bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, and on have all been closed. Outdoor public space, on the other hand, is considered “safe” but with one key caveat: the concept of social distancing has to also be closely observed on city sidewalks, parks, beaches, and the like to help curb the spread of the virus. Otherwise, heading outside for some fresh and exercise as the weather improves—a much-needed balm for corona cabin fever—is rendered moot if it’s spent in close proximity to hundreds of others. To help prevent overcrowding in popular parks, trails, and recreational areas (a major issue in places like Los Angeles and New York), some cities are embracing new approaches that enable residents to enjoy the outdoors but at more of a safe distance from the madding, potentially infected crowds. Philadelphia has prohibited vehicular access along a four-mile stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, a generally busy riverside road within West Fairmount Park that, under normal circumstances, is closed to vehicles only during limited hours on weekends. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s office said in a press release that pedestrianizing the street full-time is “in the interest of facilitating social distancing among trail users.” Kenney’s office went on to note that the city “strongly encourages residents to stay indoors as much as possible” but “recognizes that physical activity is important to well being.” In San Francisco, pedestrian advocacy groups are pressing the city to close off certain streets to vehicular traffic, already dramatically reduced in numerous on-lockdown cities, so that pedestrians can exercise and get around while at a remove from their fellow fresh air-seekers. The idea has garnered support from local officials although no plans have been formalized. As reported by the San Francisco Examiner, safe streets advocate Patrick Traughber has even crowd-sourced a number of streets—Divisadero Street, Valencia Street, John. F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, and Haight Street among them—that would particularly benefit from 24/7 traffic closures during the pandemic. “You absolutely have to walk in the street to pass people,” said Traughber. “Since the streets have car traffic, it’s a dangerous situation. It feels like we could convert some of the road capacity to walk while the car traffic is down.” Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced a four-day street closure test-run in Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. The shuttered streets, totaling 1.6 miles of over 6,000 miles of roadway in the city, include Park Avenue between East 28th and East 34th streets in Midtown Manhattan; Bushwick Avenue from Johnson Avenue to Flushing Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 34th Avenue from 73rd Street to 80th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens; and Grand Concourse between East Burnside and 184th Streets in the Fordham Heights section of the Bronx. Staten Island has been excluded from the pilot. “Everyone wants to make sure there are spaces for folks to get their exercise, to get fresh air, there must be enforcement,” said de Blasio. “It has to be places the NYPD and other agencies can enforce effectively.” While limiting vehicular traffic on New York City streets—even if just limited stretches of them—is the long-held dream of safe street advocates, de Blasio’s plan has been greeted with a mixed reception. Some have criticized the limited nature of the scheme and the fact that it will only be enforced nine hours a day from 10:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. Because the number of street sections being closed off to traffic is minuscule compared to the total amount of roadway in the city that could potentially be made off-limits to cars during the duration of the pandemic while not interfering with the movement of emergency vehicles, there are concerns that the sheer number of people congregating in the sparse car-free streets could devolve into an out-of-control health hazard. Simply put, some think de Blasio, who also has temporarily banned contact sports like basketball at city parks and threatened to shut down playgrounds, should have thought much, much bigger. Outside of streets closing off to traffic, other outdoor venues are making themselves more available to cooped-up residents who want to be outside but are wary of the overcrowding seen in parks large and small. Brooklyn’s sprawling, stunning Green-Wood Cemetery, for example, plans to extend its public hours starting in April in order to accommodate an influx of visitors. The historic 500-acre cemetery, located not too far from Prospect Park, hopes that its strict existing rules prohibiting activities like dog-walking, bicycling, and jogging will make it a more attractive destination to social distance-observing New Yorkers simply looking to enjoy long, quiet solo walks. “Green-Wood was designed to be a different kind of experience,” Lisa Alpert, Green Wood’s vice president of development and programming, told the New York Times. “It’s a more contemplative, less recreational one, intended to connect people with nature, and we are especially happy now to serve as a green space for people to get away.” As Sara Bronin, an attorney, architect, and advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote in a recent op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, now is the time for urban green spaces—specifically spacious urban green spaces that aren’t as easily prone to overcrowding—to shine. After all, many of America’s great historic city parks and rural cemeteries like Green-Wood were expressly created in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries as places for city dwellers to escape cramped residential neighborhoods and the rampant infectious diseases such as tuberculosis that spread through them. “The scale of these carefully-designed grand parks, and the ambitions of their designers, far surpass the vision behind the small-minded ‘pocket parks’ local leaders seem to favor today,” opined Bronin. “Other communities should restore the grand historic parks that are getting us through the current crisis and will serve as vibrant places of social cohesion long after COVID-19 is conquered,” continued Bronin, singling out Philadelphia and Hartford, Connecticut, as two cities dedicated to preserving its historic park infrastructure. “Special attention should be paid to equity and ensuring that investments are spread fairly across neighborhoods. Let’s do what we can to renew our commitment to those places that are giving so much right now to our bodies, hearts, and spirits.”
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Empty Galleries, Empty Wallets

Museums and other vital cultural institutions feel the coronavirus squeeze
Esteemed museums and cultural institutions across Asia including Shanghai’s Power Station of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, and South Korea’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art are in the process of gradually reopening their doors following an aggressive lockdown period meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The reopening of museums in particularly hard-hit countries is a sign that there’s a light at the end of an unknowingly long, dark tunnel. In the United States, however, it’s not yet clear when some of the country’s most beloved and highly trafficked museums will reopen, if at all. Some have optimistically posted reopening dates but these, of course, are tentative as not even leading health experts are certain what the coming days and weeks will bring. Already, some museums are indicating that when they do eventually reopen, operations might be permanently impacted. It’s not yet clear how this might take shape, although limited operating hours, altered admission charges, reduced programming, and hiring freezes are all likely for institutions big and small. And if the SOS signals being sent out by New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, a formidable institution with seemingly vast financial resources, are any indication, America’s cultural landscape will forever be altered in the post-coronavirus era. “This is an extraordinarily challenging time for us all,” wrote Daniel H. Weiss, president and chief executive of the Met, and Max Hollein, the museum’s director in a letter recent letter. “As staff members of The Met we all have a profound responsibility to protect and preserve the treasured institution we inherited.” As recently reported by The Art Newspaper, the Met, which will remain shuttered until at least July 1, is anticipating a $100 million shortfall as a direct result of the pandemic. In 2018-2019, the Met, facing a mounting deficit problem, enjoyed a healthy surge of revenue from a new ticketing scheme that abandoned an across-the-board “pay what you wish” donation model in favor of charging non-New Yorkers $25 a head for admission. While controversial, the Met experienced record attendance during the 2018 fiscal year with the new admissions policy in place, bringing in $8 to $11 million in additional revenue. The museum’s fiscal budget for 2018 was $320 million with 16 percent, or $48 million, coming from ticket sales. The following fiscal year was even stronger with upped admissions ($55 million in revenue), a dramatic bump in endowment support, and increased retail sales. Even if it lasts just a few months, the coronavirus shutdown could undo more than two years of financial progress made by the immensely well-funded Met. And this, as the New York Times, points out, is a troubling sign for other cultural institutions in New York and beyond:
The Met is an important canary in the coal mine for arts institutions all over the country; when the museum announced on March 12 that it was closing, others followed close behind. If even a behemoth like the Met—with an operating budget of $320 million and an endowment of $3.6 billion—is anticipating such a steep financial hit, smaller institutions may not be able to survive at all.
It’s worth noting that the Met doesn't plan to dip into its sizable endowment­—which has since shrunk as the stock market declines—as a resource and that a hefty portion of the loss incurred during and after the closure won’t come from ticket sales but from the normally deep wallets of wealthy donors becoming a bit more constrained. The Met has not yet parted ways with any employees but furloughs, layoffs, and voluntarily retirements will be evaluated at the beginning of April. And provided it reopens as planned in July, it will do so “with a reduced program and lower cost structure that anticipates lower attendance for at least the next year due to reduced global and domestic tourism and spending,” reads the letter from Weiss and Hollein. Laura Lott, president and chief executive of the nonprofit American Alliance of Museums, relayed to the Times that museums and other cultural institutions that aren’t the Met may never reopen at all. She noted that three-quarters of museums in the U.S. are now temporarily shuttered and that one-third of them will never reopen once the pandemic eventually passes. “This situation is by far more dire than anything I have experienced in my 25 years of being an arts finance professional,” said Lott. A recent national survey released by Americans for the Arts estimated financial losses in the nonprofit arts sector to be roughly $3.2 billion in total to date, a sum that includes both income from admissions and non-admissions revenue sources like gift shop sales, sponsorships, and the like. As COVID-19 bears down on the U.S., Americans for the Arts and other organizations have lobbied Congress for much-needed help in the form of $4 billion in aid that would be part of the $2 trillion economic stimulus package meant to jump-start the flailing American economy and help families and workers. As of now, that package includes $25 million earmarked for the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and $75 million for the National Endowment of the Arts, a vital federal program already made vulnerable by the Trump administration.
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Losing Our Marbles

Coronavirus-related slowdowns poised to pummel construction supply chain
While different cities grapple with how major construction projects should forge ahead—if at all—during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the shipping and sourcing of the raw materials used in said projects has slowed to a trickle. As the New York Times recently pointed out, real estate development is a wholly international affair when you consider that the disparate elements that comprise a single construction or renovation project come from, well, everywhere. A decent number of building materials such as concrete and lumber can be domestically sourced, but countries like Italy and China, both of which have been profoundly impacted by the pandemic, are major players in this normally robust global supply chain. In addition to items like Italian marble, Chinese copper, and ceramic tile from Brazil, Turkey, Spain, and elsewhere, a slew of materials and equipment­ sourced from across the globe—paving stones, lighting, electrical equipment, elevators, and so on—have become scarce or are at risk of becoming scarce stateside due to shipping delays, travel bans, shuttered factories, and decimated workforces. As noted by The Real Deal, imports, including construction materials, arriving at the Port of Los Angeles from China were down 23 percent in February when compared to the same period the previous year. Per the Times, these delays, however, have not prompted widespread layoffs within the construction industry itself—or at least not yet. “It’s not like when you build a house and can just go down to a Home Depot and get a different light fixture when you’re short,” Chris Heger, vice president of Seattle-based construction management firm OAC Services, told the Times. “This stuff is all designed and planned years in advance. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.” In-development projects have also been impacted by supply chain concerns, as lenders become increasingly uneasy about the unfolding situation and the overall viability of major developments that could potentially be halted mid-construction. “Lenders want to make sure they’re not going to be stuck with a half-completed project,” Frank J. Sciame Jr., chairman of New York-based builder Sciame Construction, told the Times. Many American builders already have the materials they need on-hand and, in turn, can commence with projects as planned (provided that the powers that be in some cities have deemed the project as being “essential”) according to The Real Deal. A number of importers have also stockpiled enough materials to keep the supply chain moving, albeit at a slowed pace, for a good while. But for exactly how long “a good while” and how large the impact ultimately is on the construction industry both remain uneasy, unanswered questions. “Have people experienced the impact yet? Probably not,” Mike Haller, president of Detroit-based builder Walbridge Aldinger Co., explained to Crain’s Detroit. “But will be impact come? Probably so. There’s regular building materials that come from China, for instance. There’s tiles that come from Italy. There’s stone that comes from Spain. There's curtain wall systems that come from Europe... It's gonna be impactful. How impactful, no one knows.”
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Sanitizer for All

California scrambles to protect its homeless population amidst coronavirus outbreak
With a pandemic sweeping across many of America’s largest population centers, phrases like “shelter-in-place,” “self-quarantine,”  “stay at home” “social distancing,” and “hand sanitizer shortage”  have become fundamental parts of our shared daily language. Yet for thousands of Americans, particularly in cities experiencing high levels of homelessness, these phrases are largely meaningless. For those living on the streets and in shelters, taking refuge from a deadly and highly contagious virus that requires the population to practice vigilance by isolating themselves indoors is, simply, impossible. As reported by Reuters, California Governor Gavin Newsom has warned that up to 60,000 homeless Californians could fall ill with the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the coming weeks. A sharp influx of unsheltered people infected with the virus could put further strain on California’s hospitals as medical workers grapple to care for other vulnerable segments of the population including the elderly and those with preexisting conditions. “Over the next eight-week period, we have modeled that of the 108,000 unsheltered Californians that are out on the streets, if you had an attack rate of about 56 percent, you’re looking at 60-plus thousand individuals that may have COVID-19,” said Newsom in a Facebook-streamed statement. “That creates a deep point of anxiety for the existing population but moreover for our healthcare delivery system, our capacity to move people in and out of the shelters safely without contacting other people and putting them at risk as well.” While much attention has been placed on the Seattle and greater Puget Sound region, where the virus first appeared stateside and where the fatality rate remains the highest, and on ultra-dense, hospital bed-strapped New York City, California has also been heavily affected by COVID-19. As of this writing, there are 906 confirmed cases in the state and 18 deaths. (Nationwide, there are 10,755 confirmed cases and 154 deaths.) As health and emergency officials scramble to curb the spread of the virus and care for those already sickened by it, there are growing local efforts to specifically shield the unsheltered population. In Los Angeles, Reuters reports that Mayor Eric Garcetti has launched a sweeping effort to identify the most vulnerable—this includes the elderly and those with underlying health problems— of the city’s unhoused population and provide shelter to over 6,000 of them in 42 makeshift shelters set up in recreational centers spread across the city. Those who test positive for the virus would be isolated in emergency trailers. Per LAist, the move was activated through the Disaster Service Worker Program, which enables Garcetti to redeploy city employees to “combat a crisis, including to house the homeless.” LAist also reported that the initiative, which will be paid for through a mix of state and federal funds, is being rolled out in phases, with over 1,300 beds expected to be set-up in 13 rec centers by the top of the week. The Red Cross is providing the beds and the city’s Homeless Services Authority will do the work in locating those in greatest need. A rule that previously stipulated that homeless people must dissemble their tents during the daylight hours has been scrapped to promote social distancing and slow the spread of the virus. Yahoo News reported that city officials are also mulling converting vacant motels and hotels to house homeless individuals as the outbreak spreads. “This is an immense undertaking logistically and it’s never been done this quickly in a city, anywhere,” said Garcetti in a statement. “If we don’t get folks off the street, they will become the main spreaders or among the main spreaders of COVID-19 and a threat to themselves.” To date, no unsheltered person in Los Angeles has tested positive for the coronavirus. Outside of Los Angeles, a homeless man in the Santa Clara Valley died earlier this week from COVID-19 in the first known instance of an unsheltered individual succumbing to the virus. There are, as of March 17, 138 cases in ultra-wealthy Santa Clara County and 297 across the greater San Francisco Bay Area. San Jose, California’s third most populous city, has installed hand-washing stations, portable toilets, and showers near established homeless encampments to promote improved hygiene, as reported by Bay Area CBS affiliate KPIX. In the wake of the reported death, however, homeless advocates are urging officials to enact greater, more urgent measures a la Los Angeles. “We’re accelerating efforts to identify motels and other locations where we can move folks as soon as the testing indicates we need to get them out and away from others,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in a statement. In San Francisco, plans to provide emergency shelters to its homeless population are also coming together. Trent Rhorer, head of the city’s Human Services Agency, is currently in the process of securing large facilities that could accommodate, in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle, “at least 3,500 people who are either unsheltered or who live in congregant settings where they have to share bathrooms and kitchens and cannot self-quarantine.” Shuttered college campuses and churches are being considered by Rhorer and other city officials as are vacant hotels and motels. As the Chronicle reports, Rhorer has already secured 500 hotel rooms for the express purpose of housing the homeless. Across the Bay in Oakland, the state government has also secured two hotels with nearly 400 rooms between them in a bid to shield the unhoused from the virus. However, one not-so-insignificant issue remains: how does the city staff these temporary facilities with case managers, drug counselors, and other workers that would normally be on-hand at a non-ephemeral homeless shelter? Rhorer is confident that it can happen. “It’s not like just setting up an emergency shelter in an earthquake,” he told the Chronicle. “But we can do this. We don’t have a cash flow issue in this city, so we can move fast. You brace for the worst and hope for the best.”
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Not Again!?

Landmark Willi Smith exhibition (almost) opens at Cooper Hewitt
In what might be one of the darkest ironies of the COVID-19 saga in New York City, the Cooper Hewitt has been forced to close the Willi Smith: Street Couture retrospective before it opens, the first museum exhibition of the influential American designer Willi Smith (1948–1987), whose career was cut short when he was killed by the AIDS crisis in 1987. Smith, who in 1976 founded WilliWear with partner Laurie Mallet, is often credited as a pioneer—if not the creator of—streetwear, which today is nearly ubiquitous, uniting economic and social classes with a blend of high fashion and everyday-inspired clothing. Through collaborations with artists, designers and performers, such as Juan Downey, Dan Friedman, Keith Haring, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Les Levine, Dianne McIntyre, and Nam June Paik, Smith captured the creativity and spirit of the cities where culture was being formed. It is this marrying of the avant-garde and the world-at-large that brought together Smith with James Wines and Alison Sky of the art and architecture collaborative Sculpture in the Environment (SITE) built a series of showrooms that served as the backdrop for the gesamtkunstwerk of WilliWear. After seeing a window display at the Rizzoli bookstore designed by SITE, Willi enlisted the group to design a series of showrooms from 1982 to 1987, using found objects from around the streets of Manhattan. As members of the Environmental Art movement, SITE specialized in bringing art into places where you would least expect it, and retail stores were one of their specialties, most famously the BEST department stores. The exhibition, curated by Alexandra Cunningham was designed by Wines along with Sam Chermayeff Architects, who built a modified version of the original stores. The communication designers poly-mode have also contributed a very clear and fresh graphic solution to the display. The show was originally scheduled to be on until Sunday, October 25 2020, but the situation remains fluid. Note: Effective March 14, the Cooper Hewitt is temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
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Quirky AF

Architecture AF restores a distinctive mid-century Andrew Geller home
The Antler House, a delightfully quirky vacation home designed by the midcentury architect Andrew Geller in the East Hamptons, has been almost irreparably modified since it was first completed in 1968. While previous occupants have replaced original, handmade details with catalog materials and modern appliances more times than one can count, the current owners, Chris Fisher and Blair Moritz, sought to restore the minuscule space back to its original charm after purchasing it in 2014. The clients commissioned the Brooklyn- and Richmond, Virginia-based firm Architecture AF to pour through original documents to return the home to its heyday while carefully adding 21st comforts. The team began by stripping away the subsequent additions and restoring the original cedar cladding, the texture of which now nearly steals the spotlight in every one of the home’s oddly-shaped rooms. All of the original gypsum board has been replaced with fragrant #2 cedar, while midcentury and midcentury-inspired furniture has been added to the space to further the home’s design origins. “In a neighborhood replete with trophy homes,” the architects write on their website, “we are proud and gracious to have had the opportunity to restore a mid-century work of art that another owner may have razed.” The firm’s major design contribution comes in the form of a raised deck accessible via a boldly triangular staircase that compliments the overall geometry of the original building. They were careful, however, to keep the vast majority of the surrounding landscape untouched. “A conservationist at heart,” they explain, “Geller believed that no house should occupy more than 20 [percent] of the site.” The Antler House is just one of many vacation homes Geller designed along the East Coast, all of which are similarly eccentric and creatively low budget. The architect, a relatively unsung design figure, has been behind some of the most significant projects of modern design and political history, including the interiors of SOM’s Lever House in Manhattan and, according to the New York Times, the “typical American house” that shaped the background of the infamous Kitchen Debate between then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev.
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Beantown Lockdown

Boston imposes citywide moratorium on construction

Boston has suspended construction activity throughout the city as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Monday that the moratorium on construction work would go into effect on Tuesday, March 17, and construction sites need to be secured by March 23.

Walsh’s action comes after he declared a public health emergency in Boston, postponed the Boston Marathon, and canceled the St Patrick’s Day Parade over infection concerns. It makes Boston one of the first cities or districts in the U. S., other than those in complete lockdown or quarantine, to ban construction activity as a way of fighting the coronavirus. The move comes at a time when the city and region are booming with construction activity, from affordable housing to high-rise office buildings. Walsh did not say how long work will be suspended, but he indicated it’s likely to be at least 14 days.

“Effective tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, we are suspending all regular activity on construction sites in the city of Boston,” Walsh said in a briefing yesterday. “The only work that we are anticipating right now moving forward in the city will be emergency work” approved by the city’s Inspectional Services Department.

“These decisions that we make are not easy, but they’re out of an abundance of caution,” he added. “It’s about protecting the worker and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is a critical time for us right now… I think if we can prevent the spread from happening and try and level the virus off, we’ll be in a better position long term.”

The mayor said he didn’t have an exact figure for how many construction projects are affected by his order, but he knows it is substantial.

“It’s massive, massive,” he said at the briefing. “I don’t have a number. It’s tens of thousands. We’re in the middle of a boom right now, and…today is a difficult decision to make… Construction is at the core of our economy here in Boston. I come out of the trades. I was a construction worker myself. This is something that is very personal to me and to a lot of us.”

Mayor Walsh added that city officials will monitor the situation closely to determine when the moratorium can be lifted.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we ‘re looking at 14 days potentially, and then we’ll revisit it and hopefully they can be the first workers back to work.”

The moratorium is “something that we’re going to be monitoring literally week to week,” he said at another point. “Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be able to change the policy. But right now, out of an abundance of caution for the workers on the job site and to prevent spreading the virus, we want to make sure those workers are safe.”

According to a statement posted on the city’s website, the city is instructing employers to “maintain necessary crews to keep their sites safe and secure, keep any materials from blowing away, and prevent trespassing. This work needs to be completed in the next week, by Monday, March 23, 2020.” Once sites have been secured, the message said, skeleton crews will be permitted on site “for the remainder of the suspension” to ensure safety, but no construction activity can take place.

Walsh said Boston has 33 confirmed cases of Boston residents with COVID-19 as of Monday, March 16, and the construction moratorium is part of a multifaceted effort to address the spread of coronavirus.

“The coronavirus is one of the greatest public health challenges that our city has ever faced,” he said at a press briefing. “Our primary objective right now is to slow the spread and flatten out the curve so that our medical centers don’t get overwhelmed. This strategy is crucial to helping our most vulnerable residents and make sure that we can rebound from this as soon as possible.”

According to Walsh’s order, the only exceptions to the construction ban are: “emergency utility, road or building work,” such as repairing gas leaks, water leaks and sinkholes; new utility connections to occupied buildings, mandated building or utility work; work that “ensures the reliability of the transportation network,” work on facilities that support “vulnerable populations,” and work needed to make occupied buildings “fully habitable.”

Walsh said the city may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for “essential” projects that “support increased public health and safety.” But he said new projects cannot be started after March 17, unless approved by the city. In his briefing, Walsh said he hopes employers don’t fire their employees as a result of his action.

“I want to remind Boston employers that we’re in a robust construction market,” he said. “Boston is home to a talented, hard-working construction workforce and when we get back to work as usual, employers need to bring these workers back and the right thing that we need to do right now is to lay them off and not fire them.”

Meanwhile, one state away, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he wants to increase construction of at least one type of building, medical facilities, and he wants the federal government to do it.

“Let’s bring in the Army Corps of Engineers and let’s start building temporary medical facilities because we know we’re going to need them,” Cuomo told CNN. “As many as we produce, if we started today, as many as we can produce, we would need twice.”

Cuomo said he has confidence in the Army Corps of Engineers to move quickly and complete projects that individual states need but don’t have the resources to take on. New York State has one of the highest volume of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, more than 600 people.

“The Army Corps of Engineers builds. I used to be in the federal government. I worked with the Army Corps of Engineers. They build bridges. They build airports. They’re builders. They’re engineers… They build. Let them come in, build with me.”

Cuomo also said he can identify state-owned properties that can be retrofitted to accommodate coronavirus patients. “I’ll find an old dormitory, an old nursing home. Let’s convert it to a hospital and let’s do it quickly so we have some backup space when the wave crashes on the health care system.”

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Wouldn't Be Open Now Anyways

Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall closes for first time for renovations
Like many great cultural institutions the world over, the Sydney Opera House is currently closed to the public as the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) brings life in major population centers to a standstill. The closure of the iconic Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall, however, was a pre-planned and long-awaited maneuver to accommodate a much-needed rehabilitation of the acoustically challenged, accessibility-plagued venue. Renovation work first kicked off in February, marking the first time in its history that the Concert Hall has gone dark for an extended period. Per the New York Times, the gall and the surrounding Opera House complex are normally open to the public 363 days a year. A January 31 performance by Solange was the last held there for at least the next two years. Pending any delays, the 2,500-seat venue is expected to reopen in mid-2021, ahead of the Opera House’s 50th anniversary in 2023. (Other performances and gatherings held in other venues at the concrete sail-topped Opera House complex that were to remain open during the revamp have since been postponed as a proactive measure against the spread of COVID-19.) Sporting a price tag of $200 million that’s being covered by the New South Wales government, the Concert Hall refurbishment is a major endeavor that, after years of planning, will correct numerous shortcomings of the famous—and famously flawed—venue. The upgrades will tackle not-so-insignificant issues with sound quality, performance logistics, and guest accessibility that have vexed Opera House officials, performers, and the general public alike for decades. As the Times and others have noted, the UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed structure is one of the world’s most distinctive and instantly recognizable works of modern architecture. But its construction was a notoriously troubled one, complete with ballooning costs, scheduling overruns, technical missteps, bureaucratic in-fighting, a workers’ strike, and the resignation of its architect, Jørn Utzon, long before it was completed. While the interiors are visually ravishing thanks in large part to Utzon’s successor, Australian architect Peter Hall, the Concert Hall has long been regarded as subpar when it comes to its aural qualities—kind of important for a world-renowned concert venue. Writes The Guardian:
“The actor John Malkovich once said the acoustics in the Concert Hall ‘would do an aeroplane hangar a disservice.’ Members of the resident Sydney Symphony Orchestra have long complained that they cannot hear their fellow musicians on stage. And the rise of the rock concert has further challenged the venue, with amplified music and electronic sets being precisely the opposite of what the hall’s infrastructure was built to accommodate.”
As The Guardian explains, these issues largely arise from the fact that the Concert Hall was initially designed to be more of a multipurpose space complete with overhead theatrical rigging that could accommodate opera and plays. But following Utzon’s departure, these types of performances were reassigned to a more intimate venue at the Opera House, the Joan Sutherland Theatre, and the grand hall was redesigned to exclusively accommodate classical music performances. While symphonies continue to dominate the space, it’s also now heavily—and imperfectly—used for rock, pop, and dance acts as well. In addition to issues of bad acoustics, “more basic matters,” as the Times puts it, have long begged for fixing. This includes replacing antiquated electrical wiring and modernizing a rather inconvenient HVAC system. “The air conditioning system is hopeless,” Rory Jeffes, the leader of Opera Australia and former managing director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, told the Times.“It blows out of cannon ports up above, and then falls onto the stage, and very often turns the pages of the musicians as they play.” Improving accessibility for the million-plus visitors that the Opera House receives every year is also a top priority. While it's a pressing matter today, how patrons with mobility issues traversed the sprawling, stair-heavy space wasn’t a main concern in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the building was being designed and constructed. Opening up the space to visitors of all ages and physical abilities has been a challenge, however, considering its designation as a historic landmark. A major aspect of improving accessibility at the Concert Hall tasked to ARM Architecture, the Melbourne- and Sydney-based firm overseeing the project, has been installing elevators, something that didn’t exist before. In addition to elevators and code-compliant accessibility tweaks, other upgrades include: a new acoustic ceiling, specially designed acoustic reflectors, new acoustic panels to be placed over the stage and elsewhere, an automatic drape system, automatic stage risers, a modernized theatrical grid system, revamped backstage areas, and more. Explains ARM:
“The number and diversity of shows being staged in the Concert Hall, as well as their performance requirements, have increased enormously over the decades since the building first opened. It is vital the Opera House invests in new technology and systems to ensure the venue continues to meet orchestral and contemporary performance needs and the expectations of staff, resident companies, performers, and audiences now and in the future.”
In executing the overhaul, ARM is working closely alongside a team of acousticians as well as engineering firms Arup and Steensen Varming to better “understand the building’s existing structural condition” before carrying out more complex aspects of the renovation.  All upgrades and refurbishments are being carried out in accordance with the Opera House’s Conservation Management Plan and will respect Utzon’s original design principles. “We need to not only maintain our fabulous heritage but we need to be as prepared as we possibly can be for the next 50 years,” Louise Herron, chief executive of the Sydney Opera House, told The Guardian. “What is it that audiences of now and the future are going to want and how can we best prepare the Concert Hall for that? That’s been the driving force behind our approach.”
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1927 - 2020

Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti dies of coronavirus at 92
Vittorio Gregotti, the Italian urban planner, writer, and architect behind the Barcelona Olympic Stadium died today, Sunday, March 15, of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. He had developed pneumonia and passed aged 92 away in the San Giuseppe hospital in Milan, where his wife Marina Mazza is also being treated. Gregotti was born in Novara, east of Milan, in 1927. After graduating from the Politecnico di Milano in 1952 he worked for Italian architecture magazine Casabella, first as an editor from 1953-1955, then as editor-in-chief until 1963. Later he founded Gregotti Associati International in 1974, going on to design the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon alongside architect Manuel Salgado, the Grand Theater of Provence in France, the Arcimboldi Opera Theater in Milan, and numerous stadia including the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. As an urban planner, his studio worked on the Bicocca district of Milan and Pujiang New Town in Shanghai, China. Outside the world of design, Gregotti was a major cultural figure in the Italian Communist Party. Some of his most notable work, however, was a curator. In 1975 he curated Regarding the Stucky Mill (A proposito del Mulino Stucky) which explored options for abandoned granary mills on Venice's Giudecca, being hosted in the Magazzini del Sale alle Zattere. The exhibition focused on land art and architecture and signaled the first steps to be taken by La Biennale di Venezia towards an exhibition on architecture, being a precursor for the Venice Architecture Biennal, established in 1980. “I don’t really know why [they asked an architect to curate the Biennale]—it was very strange,” Gregotti told AN's editor-in-chief William Menking in 2010. “I agreed to do it only if we also had a small first exhibition of architecture. That was the condition because if not, well, I wasn’t going to do it. The biennale had never had an architecture section, so this would be the first one.” In 1976 Gregotti was appointed as Director of the Visual Arts Section of the Biennale and he titled that year’s Art Biennale Werkbund 1907. He expanded the festival to include the visual arts and architecture, hosting exhibitions in seven venues across Venice, with five being dedicated to architecture and design. Gregotti was also Director for the 1978 Biennale, Utopia and the Crisis of Anti-Nature: Architectural Intentions in Italy. “In 1976 we started a different approach to exhibiting architecture,” said Gregotti. “One part was a historical exhibition, and the other was an exhibition of modern architecture featuring a group of Europeans and Americans in order to compare the two different positions. It was the 23 time of the New York Five, and in Europe there were two or three different positions, such as Oswald Mathias Ungers in Germany, James Stirling in England, Serge Chermayeff and a few others.” In response to Gregotti’s death, fellow Italian architect Stefano Boeri in a post on Facebook described a “master of international architecture” who “created the story of our culture.” Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage also added: “With deep sadness I learn of the disappearance of Professor Vittorio Gregotti. A great Italian architect and urban planner who has given prestige to our country in the world. I cling to the family on this sad day.”