Search results for "east new york"

Placeholder Alt Text

Vert En Vertical
Courtesy Atelier Jean Nouvel

On February 8th French architect Jean Nouvel unveiled plans for a 45-story luxury tower in Los Angeles’ Century City, just on its border with Beverly Hills. The building, 10000 Santa Monica Boulevard, is being developed by Irvine-based developer SunCal. 

Nouvel referred to the tower, expected to be submitted for entitlements this week, as the “green blade.” And for good reason. The “blade” will have an extremely thin 50-foot depth, permitting north and south glazing for all of its 177 units. Each unit will also be wrapped outside with plants, resting on projecting podiums, giving the building an organic aesthetic and lending living spaces a combination of light, calm, and privacy, a rare combination for this type of building. Nouvel says his firm is investigating two types of irrigation systems for plants: a hydroponic, soil-less system using mineral-rich nutrient solutions (he may work with artist Patrick Blanc, with whom he recently collaborated on a green wall for his Musée du Quai Branly in Paris), or a more conventional soil system. Reflecting the landscapes of Southern California, the north side of the building will be planted with lush greenery and the south side will be planted with desert vegetation. 

“This is the idea of the green city,” explained Nouvel, who noted that the building will reflect LA’s context of “beautiful homes surrounded by greenness.” 

The concrete-framed building will sit close to Santa Monica Boulevard to its north, to engage with the street and to leave room for a 40,000-square-foot garden to its south, which is being landscaped by local firm Rios Clementi Hale. That firm recently completed a study for the Century City Chamber of Commerce called “Greening of Century City,” which suggested more green spaces, a better pedestrian experience, and more sustainable projects. Local councilman Jack Weiss pointed out at the press conference that projects like the new tower are aimed at undoing the original scheme for Century City, which focused on offices, cars, and concrete. The developers hope the building will achieve at least a LEED Silver rating. 

This is definitely not affordable housing. Prices have not been determined, said SunCal, but units will range from about 3,400 square feet to 9,500 square feet, and penthouses will have two stories. The building marks SunCal’s first foray into urban infill. The developer is known mostly for its gated communities and sprawling suburban developments throughout the state. 

“We’ve decided to get in the urban business,” explained Frank Faye, SunCal’s chief operating officer. 

Nouvel’s commission comes shortly after his unveiling of a new 75-story residential tower in Manhattan, adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art. That building’s exposed structure, intricate patterning, and varied morphology makes it one of the most promising new buildings in New York. 

This will be Nouvel’s first project in Los Angeles. The executive architect will be local firm House & Robertson Architects, which has worked in a similar role on projects with OMA, Allied Works, Koning Eizenberg, and Philippe Starck. French architect Olivier Touraine, of Venice-based Touraine Richmond Architects, is also working with Nouvel on the tower. Once the project is approved, construction is estimated to take 37 to 40 months, said SunCal. 


Jean Nouvel

Jean Nouvel  10000 Santa Monica Boulevard

Placeholder Alt Text

You’re the Tops

 General Contractor


Michaels Residence, Tolkin Architecture, Winters-Schram Associates 
PETER MAUSS/ESTO


One Window House, Touraine Richmond Architects, Brown Osvaldsson Builders
BENNY CHAN / FOTOWORKS 


Brown Osvaldsson Builders really listen to what we are trying to do. They understand it, and come in with solutions and original ways to deal with problems.They are really respectful of the design and try to match the architectural expectations.”
Olivier Tourraine 
Touraine Richmond ARchitects


“Robert Vairo of Vairo Construction is like a saint. On Skid Row, he’s seen like an angel.”
Michael Lehrer
Lehrer Architects
 



JFR House, Fougeron Architecture, Thomas George Construction 

BBI Construction
1155 Third St., Oakland, CA; 
510-286-8200
www.bbiconstruction.com

Bernard Brothers
1402 W. Fern Dr.,
Fullerton, CA; 
714-671-0465

Brown Osvaldsson Builders
1333 Pine St., 
Santa Monica, CA; 
310-392-8899
www.bob-inc.com

Bonomo Development
1523 Linda Ct., 
Simi Valley, CA;
805-407-0578

CW Driver
468 North Rosemead Blvd., 
Pasadena, CA;
626-351-8800
www.cwdriver.com

Hawkins Construction
4177 Yale Ave., 
La Mesa, CA ; 
619-463-1222

Matarozzi/Pelsinger
1060 Capp St., 
San Francisco; 
415-285-6930
www.matpelbuilders.com

Matt Construction
9814 Norwalk Blvd.,
Santa Fe Springs, CA; 
562-903-2277
www.mattconstruction.com

McCarthy
20401 S. W. Birch St.,
Newport Beach, CA; 
949-851-8383 
www.mccarthy.com

Roman Janczak Construction
942 South Harlan Ave., 
Compton, CA;
310-637-8765

Shaw & Sons Construction
829 W. 17th St.,
Costa Mesa, CA; 
949-642-0660

Thomas George Construction
8716 Carmel Valley Rd., 
Carmel, CA;
831-624-7315

Thompson Suskind
415-699-5274
www.thompsonsuskind.com

Vairo Construction
1913 Balboa Blvd., 
Newport Beach, CA; 
949-673-2010

Winters-Schram Associates
11777 Miss Ave., 
Los Angeles; 
310-473-8490

Young & Burton
345 Hartz Ave., 
Danville, CA; 
925-820-4953
www.youngandburton.com 

Engineers


Cancer Center at UMC North, CO ARchitects, John A. Martin


Lou Ruvo Alzheimer’s Institute, Gehry Partners, WSP Cantor Seinuk


Gilsanz Murray Steficek are really flexible, and react quickly. We called them the day before yesterday about a project detail and they were able to turn it around in a day. It’s a small detail, but with other firms it could take much longer.”
Paul Zajfen 
CO Architects


IBE are mechanical engineers who have the same sort of sensibilities as architects. They’re very concerned about sustainability and look at engineering from a global perspective; problem-solving at a large-scale level. And they’re very interested in exploring new ideas.”
Paul Zajfen 
CO Architects


“With principal Mike Ishler, you can really have a collaborative design experience. If you want to push your design technologically and structurally, he’s your guy.”
Barbara Bestor
Barbara Bestor Architecture

Arup
12777 West Jefferson Blvd., 
Los Angeles;
310-578-4182
www.arup.com

Buro Happold
9601 Jefferson Blvd.,
Culver City, CA;
310-945-4800

WSP Cantor Seinuk
5301 Beethoven St.,
Los Angeles;
310-578-0500
www.cantorseinuk.com

Davidovich & Associates
6059 Bristol Pkwy.,
Culver City, CA;
310-348-5101
www.davidovich.com

DeSimone Consulting Engineers
160 Sansome St., 
San Francisco; 
415-398-5740
www.de-simone.com

Dewhurst MacFarlane
2404 Wilshire Blvd.,
Los Angeles;
323-788-7038
www.dewmac.com

Flack+Kurtz
405 Howard St.,
San Francisco;
415-398-3833
www.flackandkurtz.com

GMS 
(Gilsanz Murray Steficek)

29 West 27th St.,
New York, NY; 
212-254-0030
www.gmsllp.com

IBE
14130 Riverside Dr., 
Sherman Oaks, CA; 
818-377-8220
www.ibece.com

John Labib & Associates
900 Wilshire Blvd., 
Los Angeles; 
213-239-9600
www.labibse.com

John A. Martin
950 South Grand Ave., 
Los Angeles; 
213-483-6490
www.johnmartin.com

Gordon L. Polon 
Consulting Engineers 
310-998-5611

Thornton Tomassetti
6151 W. Century Blvd.,
Los Angeles; 
310-665-0010
www.thorntontomasetti.com

Christian T. Williamson Engineers
3400 Airport Ave.,
Santa Monica, CA; 
310-482-3909

Yu Strandberg Engineering
155 Filbert St., 
Oakland, CA; 
510-763-0475
www.yusengineering.com

Civil/Environmental Consultants
Atelier Ten
19 Perseverance Works, 
38 Kingsland Rd., 
London; 
+44 (0) 20 7749 5950
www.atelierten.com

Cosentini Associates
Two Penn Plaza, New York;
212-615-3600
www.consentini.com

Converse Consultants
222 E. Huntington Dr., 
Monrovia, CA;
626-930-1200
www.converseconsultants.com

Transolar
145 Hudson St., New York; 
212-219-2255
www.transsolar.com

Zinner Consultants
528 21st Pl., 
Santa Monica, CA; 
310-319-1131
www.zinnerconsultants.com 

Lighting 


BENNY CHAN / FOTOWORKS

"Plug Lighting has a great selection, a high level of professionalism, and they have lights that work with our work. That’s important to me because it’s very difficult to find good lighting.”
Lorcan O’Herlihy
LOHA

 

Designers
Dodt-plc
2027 Oakdale Ave., 
San Francisco;
415-821-6307

Fox and Fox
134 Main St., 
Seal Beach, CA;
562-799-8488

Horton Lees Brogden
8580 Washington Blvd., 
Culver City, CA; 
310-837-0929
www.hlblighting.com

KGM Lighting
10351 Santa Monica Blvd., 
Los Angeles; 
310-552-2191
www.kgmlighting.com

Lightvision
1213 South Ogden Dr.,
Los Angeles;
323-932-0700
www.lightvision.net

Lam Partners 
84 Sherman St., 
Cambridge, MA; 
617-354-4502
www.lampartners.com

Lighting Design Alliance
1234 East Burnett St., 
Signal Hill, CA; 
562-989-3843 

Vortex Lighting
1510 N. Las Palmas Ave.,
Hollywood; 
323-962-6031
www.vortexlighting.com

Fixtures
Artemide
www.artemide.us

Bega
www.bega-us.com

Flos
www.flos.com

Gardco
www.sitelighting.com

Hess
www.hessamerica.com

Hubbell Lighting
www.hubbelllighting.com

Ivalo
www.ivalolighting.com

Lutron
www.lutron.com

Louis Poulsen
www.louispoulsen.com

Showrooms
City Lights Showroom
1585 Folsom St.,
San Francisco; 
415-863-2020

Plug Lighting
8017 Melrose Ave.,
Los Angeles;
323-653-5635
www.pluglighting.com

Revolver Design
1177 San Pablo Ave., 
Berkeley, CA; 
510-558-4080
www.revolverdesign.com
 

Materials


Felkner Residence, Jennifer Luce, Bendheim Glass


“JU Construction did fantastically good work. They’ll try anything.” “The intimate success of our projects is this idea that there’s a balance between material and texture. The fact that we can have that conversation with Basil Studio and play with that balance together makes the collaboration really strong.” 
Jennifer Luce
Luce et Studio

Deglas’s Heatstop is amazing. It’s twice the R value of insulated glass at half the cost. And it comes in 24-foot-long sheets that you can cut on site.”
Whitney Sander Sander Architects

Benchmark Scenery have a lot of expertise in making very complicated things very quickly.” 
Peter Zellner 
Zellner + Architects





Hyde Park Library Hodgetts + Fung JU Construction


JU Construction did fantastically good work. They’ll try anything.” 
Craig Hodgetts 
Hodgetts & Fung

Glass
Bendheim Glass
3675 Alameda Ave.,
Oakland, CA;
800-900-3499
www.bendheim.com

Giroux Glass
850 West Washington Blvd., 
Los Angeles; 
213-747-7406
www.girouxglass.com

JS Glass
12211 Garvey Ave.,
El Monte, CA;
626-443-2688
www.jsglass.com

Pilkington
500 East Louise Ave.,
Lathrop, CA; 
209-858-5151
www.pilkington.com

Schott
www.schott.com

Supreme Glass
1661 20th St.,
Oakland, CA;
510-625-8995
www.supremeglass.net

Viracon
800 Park Dr.,
Owatonna, MN;
800-533-2080
www.viracon.com

Metal Fabricators
Scott Ange
310-562-3573

Basil Studio
1805 Newton Ave., 
San Diego, CA; 
619-234-2400
www.basilstudio.com

Dennis Leuedman
3420 Helen St., 
Oakland, CA; 
510-658-9435

Plastics
3Form
2300 South West, 
Salt Lake City, Utah; 
801-649-2500
www.3-form.com

Gavrieli Plastics 
11733 Sherman Way,
North Hollywood;
818-982-0000 
www.gavrieli.com

Deglas
888-2 DEGLAS

Extech
200 Bridge St., 
Pittsburgh, PA;
800-500-8083
www.extech-voegele.com

Panelite
5835 Adams Blvd.,
Culver City, CA;
www.e-panelite.com

Polygal
265 Meridian Ave.,
San Jose, CA; 
408-287-6006
www.polygal.com

Tiles
Daltile Ceramic Tile
www.daltileproducts.com

Flor Carpet and Tile
1343 4th St.,
Santa Monica, CA;
310-451-4191
www.flor.com

SpecCeramics
1021 E. Lacy Ave.,
Anaheim, CA; 
714-808-0139

Stone Source
9500 A Jefferson Blvd., 
Culver City, CA; 
213-880-1155
www.stonesource.com

Vetter Stone
23894 3rd Ave., 
Mankato, MN;
507-345-4568
www.vetterstone.com

Woodworkers
Benchmark Scenery
1757 Standard Ave.,
Glendale, CA; 
818-507-1351
info@benchmarkscenery.com

Dewey Ambrosino
www.deweya.com

Michael Yglesias
323-712-0645
www.yglesiaswoodwork.com

Jacobs Woodworks
3403 Hancock St.,
San Diego, CA; 
619-293-3702

JU Construction
1442 Chico Ave., 
South El Monte, CA; 
626-579-5996

 

Kitchen and Bath 


K2, Norbert Wangen for Boffi
 

Boffi
1344 4th St.,
Santa Monica, CA; 
310-458-9300
www.boffi-la.com

Brizo Faucets
www.brizo.com

Bulthaup
153 South Robertson Blvd.
Los Angeles; 
310-288-3875
www.bulthaup.com

California Kitchens Showroom
2305 W. Alameda Ave., 
Burbank, CA; 
818-841-7222
www.californiakitchens.com

Jack London Kitchen 
and Bath Gallery

2500 Embarcadero St., 
Oakland, CA; 
510-832-2284
www.jlkbg.com 

Dornbracht
16760 Stagg St., 
Van Nuys, CA; 
818-304-7300
www.dornbracht.com

Duravit bathroom furniture and accessories
www.duravit.com

Gaggeneau kitchen appliances
www.gaggenau.com

Grohe bathroom and kitchen fittings
www.grohe.com

Kohler bathroom furniture
www.kohler.com

Miele appliances
www.mieleusa.com

Thermador appliances
www.thermador.com

Vola fixtures
www.vola.dk

Waterworks
www.waterworks.com

Wet Style
16760 Stagg St.,
Van Nuys, CA; 
818-304-7300
www.wetstyle.ca 

Landscape Design 


Lengau Lodge, Dry Design UNDINE PROHL


Bestor House, Barbar Bestor Architects, SB Garden Design 
ANDREW TAKEUCHI 


Stephanie Bartron’s background is sculpture, and I think she brings a more artistic perspective and architectural edge to landscapes.” 
Barbar Bestor 
Barbara Bestor Architecture

Burton Studio
307 South Cedros Ave., 
Solana Beach, CA; 
858-794-7204
www.burton-studio.com

Dirt Studio 
700 Harris St.,
Charlottesville, VA; 
434-295-1336
www.dirtstudio.com

Dry Design
5727 Venice Blvd., 
Los Angeles; 
323-954-9084
www.drydesign.com

Elysian Landscapes
2340 W. Third St., 
Los Angeles; 
213-380-3185
www.elysianlandscapes.com

EPT Design
844 East Green St.,
Pasadena, CA; 
626-795-2008
www.eptdesign.com

Mia Lehrer + Associates
3780 Wilshire Blvd., 
Los Angeles; 
213-384-3844
www.mlagreen.com

Nancy Goslee 
Power & Associates
1660 Stanford St., 
Santa Monica, CA; 
310-264-0266
www.nancypower.com

Pamela Burton & Company
1430 Olympic Blvd., 
Santa Monica, CA; 
310-828-6373
www.pamelaburtonco.com

Spurlock Poirier
2122 Hancock St.,
San Diego, CA; 
619-681-0090
www.sp-land.com

SB Garden Design
2801 Clearwater St., 
Los Angeles; 
323-660-1034
www.sbgardendesign.com 

 

Consultants, Services & Suppliers


Mills Center for the Arts, Competition Entry, Pugh + Scarpa, Mike Amaya


Mike Amaya listens to you. He’s not fixated on a certain way of doing things. Hisrenderings have life, but they don’t try to duplicate what reality would be. We’re more interested in capturing the spirit of the place.”
Larry Scarpa
Pugh + Scarpa Architects
 
 

Audio/Visual
A’kustiks
11 North Main St., 
South Norwalk, CT;
203-299-1904
www.akustiks.net

Cost Estimating
Davis Langdon
301 Arizona Ave., 
Santa Monica, CA; 
310-393-9411
www.davislangdon.com/USA

Expediter
McCarty Company
725 S. Figueroa St.,
Los Angeles; 
213-614-0960

Renderers
Mike Amaya
310-592-6693
www.mikeamaya.com

Robert DeRosa
1549 Columbia Dr., 
Glendale, CA; 
818-243-1357

Tech Support
Ideate
44 Montgomery St., 
San Francisco; 
888-662-7238
www.ideate.com

Microdesk
633 West Fifth St.,
Los Angeles, CA;

Waterproofing
SC Consulting Group 
6 Morgan St., Irvine, CA; 
949-206-9624

Window & Door 
Manufacturer 

Fleetwood Windows & Doors 
395 Smitty Way, 
Corona, CA; 
800-736-7363 
www.fleetwoodusa.com

Goldbrecht Windows
1434 Sixth St., 
Santa Monica, CA; 
310-393-5540
www.goldbrechtusa.com

Metal Window Corporation
501 South Isis Ave., 
Inglewood, CA;
310-665-0490
www.metalwindowcorp.com

Construction Suppliers
Anderson Plywood
4020 Sepulveda Blvd., 
Culver City, CA; 
310-397-8229
www.andersonplywood.com

Beronio Lumber
2525 Marin St., 
San Francisco; 
415-824-4300
www.beronio.com

Cut and Dried Hardwood
241 S. Cedros Ave., 
Solana Beach, CA; 
858-481-0442
www.cutanddriedhardwood.com

Taylor Brothers 
2934 Riverside Dr.,
Los Angeles; 
323-805-0200
www.taybros.com 
 

Placeholder Alt Text

Villa NM Destroyed by Fire

The Villa NM, a stunning hilltop house in the Catskills designed by UNStudio, burnt down on Febraury 5.

Michele Haskell / Courtesy Times Herald-Record

It had been called this generation’s Glass House, a modern marvel of materials, machinery, and magic. But less than a year after its completion, the Villa NM lays shattered in the Catskills, destroyed by a fire on February 5. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Sullivan County Fire Coordinator Richard Martinkovic, who oversaw the rescue effort, said he expects to know more within a week or two.

The house, which sits on a small rise in Sullivan County about 115 miles northeast of New York City, enjoyed expansive views of the verdant, hilly landscape, which the architect Ben van Berkel of UNStudio in Amsterdam embraced in his design. In October, he told AN how this approach influenced the design:

  Integrating the villa fully into its surroundings was a challenging aspect of this project. The house is designed in such a way that it does not dominate its environs, but rather fits seamlessly into its context. The curves in the form follow the sloping landscape, whilst the color of the exterior is based on the surrounding earth. Windows mirror the environment, providing privacy but not limiting views. This means that at times the house can almost disappear into the landscape, then re-emerge from a different viewpoint. Also, through the use of large window elements, and differing levels, the experience inside the villa is one of truly living within this landscape.

Martinkovic said that a number of issues conspired against the house on the night of the fire, beginning with the fact that it was not reported until it was “a glow in the sky.” “It’s not very busy out there,” Martinkovic explained. “It wasn’t like someone smelled some smoke in the house and called us. It’s what we would call a ‘full-working fire.’” The Times Herald-Record, the local newspaper that first reported the blaze, described it as “a roaring, smoky fire with blue and orange flames.”

Martinkovic said other problems confronting first responders were an ice storm that night, which made the house harder to access, and its construction materials, which made it more susceptible to fire. “There wasn’t a lot left for the fire department to save,” he said. Contacted by AN, the owner declined to comment.

As the first U.S. project for UNStudio, the house has received lavish attention in the architectural press, and beyond. Aaron Betsky, director of Cincinnati Art Museum who has also written extensively about the firm, called the loss of the Villa NM a tragedy.

“It was especially innovative in the way it traced the cycles of daily life as it looped through space, like a domesticated version of the turbine twist at their Mercedes Benz headquarters,” Betsky said fondly. “It’s very sad and responded so well to the site like Frank Lloyd Wright crowning the brow of the hill but twisting to take in even more.”

TROUBLED CONTRACTOR STILL SWINGING IN CITY

Little has changed since deadly accident at Trump Soho
Despite complaints for months of an errant crane and other unsafe work conditions at the Trump Soho construction site; despite biweekly inspections by the city’s Department of Buildings; despite a previous tragedy on another of the general contractor’s worksites; despite all these warnings and precautions, it was not until the death of Yuriy Vanchytskyy, a construction worker from Greenpoint who fell 40 stories when a portion of the 42nd floor collapsed on January 12, that Bovis Lend Lease’s crane fell silent on the 46-story project. But they are still at large throughout the city. Construction accidents are nothing new. And though their numbers had fallen in the city in recent years, last year they shot up by 83 percent. Tony Avella, chair of the city council’s zoning and franchise subcommittee and an outspoken critic of the Department of Buildings, sees this as the result of two factors. On the one hand, Avella said, there are so many projects underway that talented contractors are spread thin and hard to come by, and on the other hand, there is such pressure to complete these projects before the market grows worse that the breakneck pace has created an untenably dangerous work environment. “When will this city learn?” he asked. “When will this city learn to put safety before money?” It is not just small projects but major ones as well, including incidents at the New York Times Building, One Bryant Park, and the new Goldman Sachs headquarters in Battery Park City. The city’s Department of Buildings is still trying to determine the exact cause of the collapse at the Trump Soho at the corner of Spring and Varrick streets. If numerous reports are correct— it is still not official that it was the project’s crane carrying a massive concrete hamper that caused the accident—it would not be the first issue with the crane. Since the project began rising in July, there have been complaints to the department at least once a month since September and as recently as January 5, a week before the accident, that the crane was erratic, either hitting nearby buildings or dropping debris. At least eight previous violations had been filed concerning the crane by the department, though it was allowed to continue “once the contractor [had] a preventative plan in place,” spokesperson Kate Lindquist explained. Lindquist said they had been placed under increased scrutiny but appeared to be in compliance. “Buildings has been and will continue to step up enforcement at the site,” she said. Despite the department’s redoubled efforts, Lindquist could not explain how the accident happened with inspectors on the watch. Bovis Lend Lease was also the contractor at 130 Liberty Street, the former Deutsche Bank Building that was heavily damaged on 9/11. When a fire broke out there (“Many Question in Ground Zero Fire,” AN 14_09.05.2007), two died in part because a faulty standpipe robbed them of necessary water to combat the blaze. The standpipe was missed during a routine inspection. Calls for comment to the Trump Organization and Bovis Lend Lease were not returned. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and one of the loudest critics of the Trump Soho, said the city has long been complicit in the disastrous handling of the project. He decries the deal cut by the city council and mayor that allows the condominium project to masquerade as a hotel by restricting the number of days it can be occupied to 100. Adding insult to injury, while a lawsuit filed by the Soho Alliance and a claim to the Board of Standards and Appeals wend their way through the city’s bureaucracy, the project has hurtled ahead at a pace of two stories a week, which many believe contributed to the dangers on the site. The further along the project is, the harder it becomes to defeat or overturn. As Berman wrote in an open letter, “This building was already a monument to greed and hubris; now, sadly, it will be a monument to tragedy as well.” Ali, a hot dog vendor who has worked for years at the corner of Broome and Varick streets, heard but did not witness the collapse firsthand. But he has seen other accidents, such as the flight of a half-dozen plywood panels off the top of the building, which damaged several cars nearby. He has a simple explanation for the troubles plaguing the project: “I think people jinxed the building. They didn’t want it in the first place.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Protest: John Parman
Pelli's Transbay Tower.
Courtesy Pelli Clarke Pelli/TJPA

I winced when I saw the Times’ headline, “Next to MoMA, Reaching for the Stars.” Jean Nouvel’s new 75-story tower alongside the Museum of Modern Art reached back to Lyonel Feininger for inspiration, finally realizing his vision of an expressionist tower. It’s hard to imagine a stronger contrast to Cesar Pelli’s safely office-like MoMA housing or Yoshio Taniguchi’s recent, buttoned-down expansion. “To its credit, the Modern pressed for a talented architect,” Times’ critic Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote, but he went on to praise Hines, the tower’s “remarkably astute” developer. “Hines asked Nouvel to come up with two possible designs… and made the bolder choice.” That’s Hines in New York.

This fall, Hines also won the right to develop the Transbay Tower in downtown San Francisco. Pelli’s proposal for the transit hub component of the project is well done, but the tower is a version of his International Financial Center mega-tower in Hong Kong. As usual for Hines—they really are “remarkably astute”—Pelli was a smart choice. The Airport Express station that serves Hong Kong’s financial district anchors the twin-tower IFC complex. From a credentials standpoint, that’s valuable experience. Plus a tower that’s up-and-running is easier to price, even with differences in construction, than one-offs like Richard Rogers and SOM’s competing finalists. Armed with that knowledge, Hines played its trump card, offering up to $350 million for the land—more than twice what the other two developers were prepared to pay. That’s Hines in San Francisco.

Hines is Hines—the same smart operators, east and west. Given what they’re proposing for New York, blame for San Francisco’s less-than-stellar tower falls somewhere else. 

Jokingly called Dean Macris’ last erection, the Transbay Tower benefited from the recently-departed planning czar’s determination to fulfill his long-time vision of a city skyline marked by three accentuated “hills”—two real and one manmade. This is the same vision that gave us One Rincon Hill, the first in a two-tower wonder by Chicago’s Solomon Cordwell Buenz. Compared to it, Pelli’s proposal is definite progress. 

A lot of people have questioned the logic of Macris’ idée fixe, but that’s another article. The question here is how a competition that was advertised as being all about design proved to be all about money. Not that this is surprising, but—in light of promises made—it feels like a bait and switch. And if I feel this way, imagine how SOM feels!

I wasn’t privy to the jury’s deliberations, but a few things stuck out along the way. In the initial interviews, Norman Foster failed to appear and his team was eliminated. While architect no-shows don't go over well (confirming Woody Allen’s maxim that “85 percent of life is showing up”), their reaction struck me as a surefire sign of provinciality. Another sign of that was the dearth of interesting architects in the mix.

Again, I didn’t make the rules, but at roughly the same time that the Transbay schemes were being unveiled, Thom Mayne won a competition for a new tower at La Défense in Paris that clearly breaks new ground. This was another reason to wince, since a second major work by Mayne might finally put San Francisco on the architectural map.

Of course, Calatrava made the cut, only to have a falling out with his developer. Perhaps he was chosen, like Icarus, to exemplify the dangers of the creative edge. That left SOM, whose tower—while drawing on a Chinese precedent—alone showed the originality that the competition promised. With its blend of structure and sustainability, it presented a credible future for tall buildings in the earthquake-prone west coast. Plus, it was new, and that seemed to be what was wanted. (Unlike SOM’s, Richard Rogers’ peculiar tower was a throwback to his high-tech, frame-and-infill days, but vastly toned down with no real gain in use value, especially as office space.) SOM’s tower fit the bill, if the object had been to build a tower in San Francisco that broke the mold. In retrospect, no such luck.

The Transbay Tower reminds me of the new east span of the Bay Bridge, a chance squandered to do something on a par with the Golden Gate. San Francisco rises to its own occasions with about the same frequency as its earthquakes—maybe less frequently. In that sense, there’s no real mystery about the latest outcome. Still, it makes me wince.

Placeholder Alt Text

Westward Ho!


COURTESY WEST 8/ROGERS MARVEL, ET AL.

On December 19, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Governor Eliot Spitzer announced that the team of West 8 / Rogers Marvel Architects / Diller Scofidio + Renfro / Quennell Rothschild / SMWM will design the 90 acres of open space on Governors Island. The design will begin the island’s transformation from a disused harbor site to a recreational magnet between the booming Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts. Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said that once complete, the public spaces will lure visitors from “across the water to experiences [they] could not have anywhere else in the world.” 

West 8, a Dutch firm that has completed similar restoration jobs in Toronto, Utrecht, and Madrid, beat four finalists to create a grand waterfront promenade and trio of public parks on the stretch of the island closest to Manhattan. Field Operations, Hargreaves Associates, REX’s New York office, and WRT led other bids; the REX bid, which proposed a grid of developable lots, drew buzz for its unsentimental take on the broad economic challenges facing the island’s transformation. 

The West 8 scheme focuses on converting the midrise barracks currently on the site into a hilly landscape of rubble and on creating what principal Adriaan Geuze called a “warm enclosure” of 90 acres with a botanic garden behind a 2.2-mile promenade. Geuze drew some notoriety by arriving at a public design presentation this past summer astride a wooden bicycle, but the team’s original idea of providing 2,000 similar bikes for free use by visitors has slipped off the agenda. 

So, for now, have questions about how the improved landscape will encourage private investment for a fuller restoration of the island. The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) issued a Request For Proposals for large-scale development plans in February 2006, but after considering the submissions, deemed them financially unfeasible and decided to go forth with the public spaces first (AN 04_03.08.2006, “A Lift for Governors Island”). The New York Harbor School, a public high school currently in Bushwick, was the sole proposal GIPEC approved; it will relocate to the island in fall 2008 or 2009. 

At the announcement, officials talked all about beauty and recreation: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan, praised the selection for promising green space to an area where “recreation is in short supply.” Both Doctoroff and Lieutenant Governor David Paterson said the public space could match legendary urban parks in Luxembourg, Sweden, and Singapore. 

“As beautiful and expansive as [those parks] are,” said Doctoroff, “Governors Island has the potential to outshine them. If you don’t believe me, walk up to the top of one of those buildings that will be demolished and turned into hills and see the 360-degree views.” 

For the next two years, such views will remain accessible only via scheduled summertime visits while the team prepares a design and GIPEC oversees an environmental impact study. Any eventual full-scale development would follow a Request For Proposals to academic, research, and philanthropic organizations. 

Officials hope the park planning will fix Governors Island in New Yorkers’ consciousness and provide a focus for what Doctoroff calls an emerging “Harbor District” linking Hudson River Park, the planned South Street esplanade and pier playgrounds, the East River Park, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. (Gregg Pasquarelli, whose firm SHoP Architects is masterplanning both the public East River work and the South Street Seaport, served as a juror for GIPEC.) Doctoroff promised that GIPEC, whose chairmanship he will soon cede to Lower Manhattan Development Corporation chief Avi Schick, would reach out to “community residents and other stakeholders” for input on modifications to the design. 

And broader realities, from the city’s crowded political agenda to the complexity of upgrading the island’s infrastructure and transit links, may challenge the whimsy that design jurors praised. But Geuze seems serious about the patience and political savvy his job will require, which means that the wooden bikes may be back. “We need an iconic element to stay in people’s minds in the first years,” he told AN. “It could be a festival that people remember, but maybe bikes could be the draw. It’s simple and pragmatic.” 

Hoist Me Up

At the Engineering Transparency conference at Columbia University in September, Laurie Hawkinson, of Smith-Miller+Hawkinson Architects, quipped that with all the glass we are using these days, how will we ever clean it? Her discussion of window washing began and ended there, but the comment revealed an issue that is a growing concern for architects around the world. As buildings use more glazing and become more complex in form, the systems for accessing their facades—not just for cleaning, but also for repair—have had to keep pace. Not that there have been any major revolutions in access technologies, but architects, one hopes, are taking facade access into consideration much earlier in the design process: If you can build that bravely curved or drastically angled envelope, you had better know how to get up there to keep it looking handsome (in an economically feasible way) throughout the life of the building.

Facade access technology has remained basically the same for the past 40 or 50 years. As was done in the time of the Seagram Building, you still hang a basket over the edge of the parapet, drop it down on ropes, and haul it back up. But two things have changed. For one, never-before-seen building profiles and rooftops crowded with mechanical systems have challenged facade access engineers to fit their machines within tighter spaces while pushing them to attain spans of over 100 feet and drops in excess of 1,000 feet. And secondly, this pushing of the envelope (along with code changes) has brought about a convergence of the systems used in the United States and those employed in other countries.

As with many aspects of the building industry, facade access technology developed along different lines in the United States than it did in Europe. This divergence in approach centered on one essential point: Where to put the hoist that raises and lowers the basket? In Europe they favored mounting the hoist on the roof of the building and powering descent and lift from there, whereas here, with our love of individualism and need to be in control, we decided to put the hoist right in the basket.

Both methods have their virtues, of course, and are suitable for a variety of applications. The machinery for self-powered baskets, for example, is quite a bit cheaper than its roof-mounted counterpart. But roof-mounted systems have become more sophisticated and versatile—employing cranes with telescoping booms and articulating heads—capable of reaching 100 percent of a building’s envelope no matter how curvaceous it may be. This factor alone has made these systems a necessity for much of today’s architecture. A quick glance around the recently completed high-profile buildings in New York, including the Hearst Tower, InterActive Corp’s headquarters, and The New York Times Building, will reveal a spate of these European devices. The roof-mounted systems are also more suitable for tall buildings since they store all excess rope, wire, or other necessary tools on the roof. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) code states that rope cannot dangle beneath the window cleaning platform, meaning that self-powered systems must hold all excess rope on the basket. And when an elevation is very high, the amount of rope it will take to reach all the way down can begin to outweigh the lifting capacity of standard hoists.

Someone very recently noticed this problem and, despite the grumblings of the penny-pinching American building market, decided to do something about it. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) A120.1-2006 Revised Standard demands that buildings in excess of 490 feet use a system where the hoist is anchored on the rooftop. Of course, the vast majority of buildings going up across the country are well under 490 feet, and the codes that govern facade access, like most codes in the building industry, are self-enforcing and loosely policed. Furthermore, where there is one code that demands you do the utmost, there is another that allows you to put forth the least amount of effort, not to mention upfront capital cost. The International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) I-14 Safety Standard allows buildings under 300 feet tall to employ boatswain’s, or bosun’s, chairs—basically a plank dangling from a rope on which a window washer sits.

In fairness, the IWCA standard was targeted at building owners who were not equipping their roofs with any system, an all too common phenomenon that led to workers tying off to vent pipes and then falling to their deaths. Liability concerns aside, facade access consultants, as a rule, do not recommend bosun’s chairs. “Facade access isn’t just about window washing, but about building maintenance,” said Keenan Potter of Lerch Bates, one of the country’s largest facade access consulting firms. “In bosun’s chairs you can’t replace glass, just wash windows.” His point is an important one for those who think about the life cycle of buildings. While expensive, the price of sophisticated facade access systems is nominal when compared to overall building costs. And they get even cheaper when you consider that in 15 to 20 years, when your mullions begin to leak, you won’t have to cover your building in scaffolding just to patch it up.

Eavesdrop: Anne Guiney

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC CRITICISM
We are mere footmen in the hallowed halls where architecture criticism is practiced, but this has never stopped us from grumbling about the generally ho-hum nature of so much of what we read. Where’s the fire, the brimstone? To the ramparts, mes amis! Épatez les blowhards! We were thus delighted to see that the magic circle has opened just enough to admit none other than David Byrne, he of the Talking Heads and King of Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade. Welcome, dear sir! On the very day that the New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff gave readers an ambivalent walk-through of his employer’s shiny new tower, Byrne did the same on his blog journal.davidbyrne.com, but from the flaneur’s street-level view. His entry shows that the citizen-critic is off to a roaring start, and is underwhelmed, to say the least: “The Gray Lady gets a punk haircut, is how I would characterize it.” He proceeds to ponder the changing nature of news (hurrah, Wikipedia!) and writes, “I can’t help but look at this new skyscraper and think, ‘They sure are optimistic ‘bout print journalism.’” Meanwhile in Midtown…

ALL THE CLICHÉ THAT'S FIT TO PRINT
As we idled our way through the Sunday paper a few weeks ago, we stumbled on a 16-page advertorial section devoted to the glories of, you guessed it, the New York Times building! As we read storylets with snazzy titles like “West Side Story,” “Taking Care of Business,” and “The Media is the Message,” we grew ever more puzzled. We’re all for tooting our own horn, but who was this supposed to convince? And what, exactly, were they selling? Newspapers are great? The Times is forward-thinking? Midtown is cool? Overwhelmed by these questions, we quickly took refuge in the Sunday Styles section, where all was right in the world: Ivy Leaguers still marry Ivy Leaguers, and expensive handbags are still really, really important.

GUTTER, WE HARDLY KNEW YE…
In other non-news, our dearly departed, always self-satisfied, and often impolitic ally in innuendo, the Gutter, made a brief return! Readers of the real estate blog Curbed were treated to a rambling walk through Red Hook, complete with a garden of flowery language. Very little in the way of gossip, but a sight for sore eyes nonetheless. Aaah, Gutter, we are lonely without you.
 

Send blogs, bloviating notes, and scandal to EDITOR@archpaper.com

Placeholder Alt Text

Naval Battle Along East River
Courtesy SHOP Architects

When SHoP Architects unveiled schematic plans for the East River Esplanade at a meeting of the waterfront committee of Community Board 1 on October 22, the designs became the latest component of the battle over the future of the city’s waterfront. After years of dereliction and neglect, the city has finally cleaned up its rivers, and both people and fish are returning, thanks in part to a string of parks that now ring the city. While most people seem pleased with this, the city’s maritime community is not. For them, SHoP’s plans are just the latest slight in an ongoing fight over the soul of the city’s rivers.

It would be hard for anyone to deny that SHoP’s proposal is a vast improvement over what it will replace. Running for two miles underneath FDR Drive from the Battery north to East River Park, the East River Esplanade will replace a wasteland of worn-down bricks and asphalt strewn with broken glass. It will provide restored views of the waterfront and pavilions for public space. The question for the city’s mariners, though, is whether or not it will be inviting for boats.

“You probably mentioned planters 60 times, boats never, and ships twice,” Lee Gruzen, chair of SeaportSpeaks, told SHoP’s Gregg Pasquarelli at the committee meeting. “For 350 years there has been a kind of excitement on the waterfront. This makes us couch potatoes. I want to do something new you can’t do anywhere else.” The biggest concern is a rebuilt Pier 15, which has two levels, one for watercraft and one for recreation. SHoP sought to carve out pieces of the pier to expose its foundational structure. The pier in part resembles a fractured hill, covered in jagged slopes and topped with trees that will no doubt startle those driving by on the FDR. Julie Nadel, chair of the waterfront committee and a member of the Hudson River Park, called the designs more of the same. “They forgot to do the part where the boats dock,” she told AN. “It’s a very good, fanciful design, but it doesn’t do what it was asked to do, which is provide a place to dock a boat. Until it does, the plan is a failure.”

Pasquarelli insists these fears are unfounded. “They’re just staking out their position,” he said. “It’s a schematic design, and you can’t make judgments based on that. Just because I haven’t specified the cleats yet doesn’t mean there won’t be sufficient access.”

“Boating is one of our top priorities,” he added. “They’ve got 50 percent of the site, they just don’t realize it yet.”

While nautical access may still be in dispute, there is no question the plan vastly improves connections to the water from the land. This begins with the “calming of South Street,” Pasquarelli said. “It will become a typical New York City side street.” There will be one-lane in each direction with the remaining pavement given over to a 12-foot bicycle lane separated from the street by a planted berm.

Cyclists are set apart from the promenade by the FDR’s concrete pylons. Beneath the overpass stand glassed-in pavilions that serve a range of potential public uses, from shops and cafes to dojos and galleries. Beyond that is a 60- to 120-foot boardwalk edged by 30 to 40 feet of landscaping and a final 20 feet of boardwalk. A sinuous railing provides protection and, at its widest points, a table complete with bar stools. At night, these features are illuminated by light reflected off the FDR’s girders.

Most of these features disappear at the cross streets, where SHoP has devised what Pasquarelli called “get downs.” Part step, part aquatic amphitheater, their true purpose is to provide unblocked views of the water down the area’s historic slips. “It reminds you that this is a place where ships used to come right up into the city,” he said.

Placeholder Alt Text

Subcompact Hybrids
Designed by Openshop|Studio, this compact structure contains the family bedrooms and a futon that can slide out the side for guests.
craig mccormick

Architect Adam Hayes often refers to one recent project as “the thing.” Indeed, it’s hard to put a name to the faceted structure he and his firm, Openshop|Studio, designed as part of an extensive interior renovation of a Brooklyn loft. A sculptural-looking, perforated form, it resembles some sort of alien pod or perhaps a rough gemstone.

It may look wild, but the structure is intensely practical. CNC-milled plywood ribs provide structural support for the orientedstrand-board-clad facets, which contain a tight configuration of rooms, including a study, kid’s room, master bedroom, bathroom, and myriad storage nooks. Outside the pod lies a conventional loft space, its airy quality and sight lines only minimally disturbed by the blobby form in the corner. (Hayes compares the overall effect to a blimp in a hangar.) The efficient use of space and inexpensive materials helped them meet a budget of $109 per square foot in the 1,200-square-foot space.

The renovation is just one of a number of New York residential projects making creative use of limited resources. In this expensive, overcrowded city, many clients are asking architects to be ever more ingenious in planning living spaces; in effect, they want something out of nothing, or at least not much. Openshop|Studio and several other young firms are helping their clients tackle both problems by designing unconventional but highly efficient, flexible hybrid spaces.

Not long ago, John Hartmann of Freecell Architecture did some design work for a client who isn’t much of a cook and loathes clutter. As a result, the client decided he’d be just as happy with a part-time kitchen in his 450-square-foot Manhattan studio. Freecell designed a giant, piano-hinged door-cum-cabinet that swings closed when that kitchen area isn’t in use. Though Hartmann says the unit rolls easily enough, even he is still a bit incredulous at the concept. “Most people would say, ‘What is this? I have to roll a 200-pound door to get to my refrigerator? This is insane!’“ he says.

Movable parts were also the name of the game in a more ambitious project by workshop/apd. Within the spacious confines of a 2,400-square-foot Midtown loft, the firm designed a smaller cube in which all of the living functions interlock. It contains a study; two bathrooms; and a kitchen, which features a sliding door that offers division from the adjacent living area as needed, as well as a table that can slide out from a slot under the countertop to create an informal breakfast nook. Nearby, two bedrooms can be easily converted to three, by pulling apart a central pair of wheeled doors in opposite directions. The entire effect could be described as “a kind of an interactive box,” says principal Matt Berman. “You’re pushing and pulling on this thing from each side and interacting with it in different ways.” Designing such a flexible space was strategic, since the architects designed the space for a developer on spec, without knowing who the eventual inhabitants would be. The strategy paid off, since the loft sold quickly, says Andrew Kotchen, another principal at the firm.

“A lot of our projects deal with this idea with collapsing activity programming into more efficient spaces, and it’s clearly stemmed from doing a lot of New York interior renovations, because space is so finite,” Kotchen says. “The more efficient we can be in the way we use and configure our space, the more sustainable that environment will be,” he adds. “It’s more compact, uses fewer materials, costs less, and so on.”

For architecture- and furniture-design firm 4-pli, one innovative project stemmed from a client’s complaints about her husband’s clutter taking over their open loft. “She wanted to literally contain his mess; to give him a space where she didn’t have to see it so they didn’t have to fight about it,” says partner Jeffrey Taras.

Using Baltic birch plywood to help keep within a $20,000 budget, the firm crafted dividers that double as storage spaces for books and other materials. The husband’s office pod has a striking curve that’s smooth on the outside but lined with shelves to help contain his clutter. The 1⁄8-inch-thick plywood doesn’t provide much sound insulation, but it did let the architects bend the wood into graceful, organic-looking shapes. A ladder leads up the outside of the office to a guests’ sleeping berth on top, which doubles as the wife’s writing area. Another wavy divider features shelves on the living room side and a smooth surface on the master bedroom side. A matching wardrobe in the bedroom offers yet more storage space. Naturally, highly customized projects such as this one and Openshop|Studio’s carry their share of headaches. Openshop|Studio’s faceted form required more than one hundred individually cut pieces for the geometrically irregular surfaces. Likewise, the varying forms of the structural ribs had to be custom milled on a CNC cutter. 4-pli’s design was an experiment in how much 1⁄8-inch thick plywood can bend. In the end, the design for one of the panels in the office pod had to be redone because the wood wasn’t pliant enough for the original design’s double curvature, says Bill Mowat, another of 4-pli’s four partners.

“I think, in a way, this project was our most intensely experimental project,” says Taras. “For the most part, it worked out…but we learned a lesson; we wouldn’t experiment this much in a single project now.” The project was a learning experience that led them to launch a fabrication branch, Associated Fabrication. For their Odd Couple clients, it was a step toward peace and quiet.

Placeholder Alt Text

Delirious Newark
Downtown Newark
Courtesy Regional Plan Association

When two poodles sauntered from a freshly converted apartment house in downtown Newark this summer, it made the news. No, the dogs weren’t in any trouble, they were merely tethered to a well-heeled woman out for a stroll: a perfect specimen of that species beloved to real estate brokers, the highrise urban dweller. For New Jersey Business magazine, which reported the incident, they are a sign of better things to come.

As Mayor Cory A. Booker swept into office in 2006 on a platform of radical reform, he vowed to make Newark a “national standard for urban transformation.” And in June, he took a big step forward by appointing Toni Griffin as director of community development, charged with rebuilding the planning machine of New Jersey’s largest metropolis nearly from the ground up.

To many New Yorkers, this city of about 280,000 on the Passaic River has long been a tattered way station, glimpsed from passing Amtrak trains or en route to Newark Liberty Airport. But beyond the image of shells of buildings and broken windows is what planners call a robust urban infrastructure primed for a new half-century of growth. Though Newark’s population had dwindled dramatically from its peak of more than 440,000 in the 1930s, a boomlet since 2000 made it the fastest-growing major city in the Northeast. With commuter-friendly transit links to New York, dormant development capacity, and ample urban amenities waiting to be tapped, the Booker camp is betting hard on Newark’s future.

“With the coming of the Booker administration and changes in the region, Newark is in quite a different position than it was a few years ago,” observed Max Bond, partner at Davis Brody Bond. “As housing in New York gets more expensive, more and more people are looking at the possibility of living in Newark. In the regional context, there really are terrific opportunities.”

Shortly after the 38-year-old Booker came to office, he delighted planners by sitting down with the Regional Plan Association (RPA) and volunteers like Bond to draft a vision plan that would knit together the 100-odd neighborhood studies, urban renewal plans, and sundry agendas that had been moldering in City Hall file cabinets. This remarkable document, the product of dozens of planners, architects, city and state officials, and faculty of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, sprang from a three-day charette in 2006. With groups brainstorming about specific projects—from airport economic growth to the new downtown arena—a focused plan emerged: Revamp the 17-year-old masterplan. Overhaul the 1960s zoning ordinance. Ban sky bridges. Establish rapid-transit bus routes. Make mixed-use a mantra. At public meetings presenting the report, administration officials got an earful from residents keen to put Newark’s plans into practice.

Enter Griffin, who grew up in Chicago and studied architecture at Notre Dame, as well as at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (where she is now a visiting design critic). Launching her career at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Chicago office, she gravitated to planning and was hired to direct planning and tourism development for New York’s Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation. She then moved to Washington, D.C., where she oversaw large-scale redevelopment for the city’s planning office, taking charge of downtown, waterfront, and commercial corridors. She later served as vice president and director of design for the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, helping to make 2,000 acres along the Anacostia River corridor into a model for rebuilding inner cities. She is known for hitting the ground running.

"As an architect,” Griffin said, “my training is in problem-solving and in building. I see planning in the same way. I’m not interested in doing plans that sit on the shelves.”

Digging in on the first phase of Newark’s masterplan, Griffin convened a team including SMWM, Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates, Justice and Sustainability Associates, and Chan Krieger Sieniewicz to define a vision that will lead to a more proactive and transparent planning process. Staff will also draw on the RPA’s draft vision plan and local design firms with the aim of revising the master plan and zoning ordinance for the 24-square-mile city, a task expected to be a multi-phase, multi-year effort. To build a central planning department out of what had been, in the James era, splintered among varied boards and offices, Griffin also aims to beef up her own staff, now home to four planners. “I want to hire a mix of planners with design backgrounds, designers with planning backgrounds, and economists,” she said.

Shifting to more immediate goals, the Booker team has targeted downtown residential development as a priority, citing 1180 Raymond Boulevard, a long-vacant Art Deco office tower in the heart of downtown. Recently converted into 317 rental units, it is rapidly filling with, yes, the aforementioned poodles—and just the commuters the city hopes to attract. (Eighty percent of the tower’s occupants work in New York.) “We’re aiming to build upon the trend started by premier new residential buildings like 1180 Raymond Boulevard,” said Stefan Pryor, Newark’s deputy mayor for economic development. Pryor, who led the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation through its forced quiescence before arriving as a high-profile hire for the Booker administration, is actively working on projects that have been thwarted by Newark’s outmoded regulations. He cites the city’s incoherent zoning rules as a persistent problem for developers who want to convert commercial buildings into housing. “There are side yard requirements and backyard requirements and onerous parking requirements,” he said. “We are going to eliminate those.”

Bringing momentum downtown is New Jersey Transit’s mile-long light-rail link between the city’s two major transit hubs, Newark Penn Station and Broad Street Station. Opened in 2006 at a cost of $207 million, the line connects New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, PATH trains, and the city’s subway. It will hopefully extend residential and retail growth north across I-280, and to the two gemlike Mies van der Rohe towers known as the Pavilion Apartments. Opened in 1960, along with a third Mies apartment building near Branch Brook Park called the Colonnade, the towers today look lonely amid Colonial-style townhouses built on the site of the Christopher Columbus Homes public housing project, which were razed in 1994 after becoming a symbol of neglect and poverty.

Back near Broad Street, which Griffin sees a as focal point for the 45,000 college students who attend Newark’s five colleges and universities, there’s the Barton Myers-designed New Jersey Performing Arts Center, widely hailed as the project that put Newark back on the map when it opened in 1997. “It’s an area that can help to change the whole image of the city and brand it as a waterfront downtown,” Griffin said. Work has slowly progressed on the Joseph G. Minish Passaic River Waterfront Park, which would stretch north from the dominantly Portuguese and Brazilian Ironbound district (and its swinging tapas bars) to the downtown core. Griffin looks toward a teeming, two-sided waterfront along both banks of the Passaic; plans are already progressing across the river in Harrison, where the first phase of a development with 1,800 residential units, a soccer stadium, and a riverfront park is under way.

For many watching Newark’s redevelopment, the most bothersome legacy of the James administration may be Prudential Center, the city’s new downtown arena. Branded a boondoggle by Newarkers who questioned its $375 million price tag and prospects (it is home to the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils), the arena was nonetheless under construction by the time James left office. Mayor Booker, who once denounced the project as a “betrayal of the public trust,” has determined to embrace the squat, brick-and-glass behemoth, which opens this month with a ten-night stand by Bon Jovi. Ever the optimist, Griffin thinks the arena could catalyze restaurant and retail development just as the MCI Center (now Verizon Center) did for Washington.


The city’s hottest vehicle of change, however, is less likely to be Bon Jovi than the Port of Newark, because it has one thing Newark needs most: jobs. The city is closely studying how to redevelop land and capture job opportunities at the port, which employs relatively few locals. A similar strategy is taking shape around the airport, which Griffin suggests could be groomed as an “aerotropolis,” surrounded by efficient business and residential nodes. “Cities like Dallas are looking at neighborhoods around airports,” she explained, “and developing them as attractive places to live.”

Newark’s real estate boom has had unintended effects. As the market revived in former no-go neighborhoods, suburban-minded builders found a cheap formula to fill empty blocks: the Bayonne Box. A source of consternation to Newark planners, the narrow, three-story house has deep setbacks, vast curb cuts, and car-forward frontage (“a machine for parking,” growled one planner). The now-ubiquitous Bayonne Box is anathema to a rich and lively public realm, and Griffin’s team is looking to tweak zoning regulations to reduce curb cuts, hide vehicles, and create greener front yards. Her office has also drafted guidelines for new housing typologies, and will be hiring architects to test those concepts throughout the city. A similar program is under way to check the growth of car-centric shopping hubs. “We want to look at guidelines for how mixed-use town centers can fit back into the fabric of Newark,” she said.

Community groups, long inured to promises, are guardedly optimistic about their city’s future.

“So far Ms. Griffin has been sensitive and responsive to what we see as critical issues,” said Richard Cammarieri, chair of the master plan working group for the New Community Corporation, a network of citizen groups. “The biggest challenge is going to be ensuring that the planning process is in fact internalized for the entire city government. Everyone really has to buy into this.”

Longtime Newarkers have an endearing knack for looking at the bright side. “At least we have a planning department now,” Cammarieri dryly noted, “which we’ve never had before.”

Placeholder Alt Text

Of Photography and Fame
Weston, Byles & Rugolph's Roberts Residence, Malibu, California (1953)
Julius Shulman/Courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust

In the realm of architectural photography two figures stand alone in terms of their impact on how we view, consider, and consume images of modern design and architecture. Ezra Stoller on the East Coast and Julius Shulman on the West Coast are the acknowledged masters of their discipline, influencing a generation of younger photographers, including myself. Shulman, who will turn 97 in October, continues to produce and occasionally still accepts the odd commission.

Architectural photography, often brilliant in technique, can be staid in concept. Most architects who commission photographs are not looking for individual expression, but rather a well-crafted document of the subject building. Julius Shulman’s images defy this formula and although he will forever be identified with West Coast pioneers in architecture such as Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and the architects of the Case Study Houses in Los Angeles, his iconic photographs have burned themselves into the popular imagination, transcending their subject to become objects in themselves, independent of the buildings they depict. -Richard Barnes

Richard Barnes: How did you get started on a career in architectural photography, at a time when there was really no established field of work in photographing architecture?

Julius Shulman: My architectural work began when I met Richard Neutra by chance in March 1936. I had been going to UCLA for five years and spent two more years up in Berkeley when I realized this wasn’t what I wanted to do. Here, I had spent several years walking through the campus and going to lectures without any direction in my life. I was living with a friend in a two-bedroom apartment—$25 a month, by the way—when one morning I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and the thought entered my mind, ‘Julius, you better go home.’ It was a signal.

But I did have a little Vest Pocket Kodak from my parents. Then by chance this young man, an apprentice in Neutra’s office, said he wanted to show me a house that had just been completed by Neutra. I said, ‘Who’s Neutra?’ I had never met an architect before but I went to the house—it was the Kun House—and took six snapshots with my little Kodak, made some 8x10 prints, and gave them to him. Immediately after that, this fellow called me up and said, ‘Mr. Neutra loved the photographs and he’d like to meet you this coming Saturday.’

I went down to the studio in Silver Lake. I met Neutra who said he’d never seen such photographs and he wanted extra copies. He asked who I was and was I studying architecture or photography? When I told him I was at the university doing nothing, he said, ‘Would you like to take more photographs for me?’ Boom! So on March 5, 1936, I became a photographer.

Were there other architects you met and worked with at the time?


Well, that same day Neutra told me about another apprentice, named [Raphael] Soriano, who’d just done his first house up in the hills above Silver Lake. So I drove up there and met him the same day. We hit it off beautifully; he was sitting on the floor eating a sandwich. He gave me a sandwich; I sat down on the rug and we talked for about two hours. ‘Now that you’ve met Neutra,’ he said, ‘would you like to photograph this house, too?’ And that was Soriano’s Lipetz House with the curved wall looking out over the lake and a grand piano in the middle of the floor because the lady was a pianist. Soriano became famous from the very beginning, and so
my photographs were immediately published.

I went on to meet all the young architects [Gregory] Ain, [Rudolf] Schindler, Pierre Koenig. We were all in the same boat, young people beginning our work. And in 1947 when I bought some property, two acres up in the Hollywood Hills, I hired Soriano who was a good friend by then.

Why would you hire Soriano, and not Neutra?


Soriano was so wonderfully friendly and warm. Neutra was fine, but he wasn’t my kind of person. I did work with him from 1936 until he died and it was through Neutra that I was destined to become a ‘world famous’ photographer. No question about that.

Do you think your images also helped to make him a ‘world famous’ architect?

(Laugh) It takes two, I guess. But I think it was just destiny that I became an architectural photographer. Before I met Neutra, I had no idea, no indication, no inkling of what I was going to do with my life.

But at the time there was no such thing as an architectural photographer. Maybe there were photographers who did commercial work, but you really carved out a whole new field.


Maybe. But in the course of my work I started seeing work published in magazines. Ezra Stoller came a little later, true, in the late 1930s to early 1940s, but up in San Francisco there was Roger Sturtevant—we became good friends— and Ulrich Meisel in Dallas. Then, of course, there was Hedrich Blessing in Chicago; and then, Maynard Parker who was a commercial photographer in Los Angeles. In those days, magazines called commercial photographers. Elizabeth Gordon of House Beautiful called Parker to do her house and he was really good. But, really, there was just a handful of us.

Did you have a sense as you took them that some of your images transcended the documents you were producing for the architects—the view of the two women at Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #22 comes instantly to mind? Or was it something about LA the city itself that shaped your approach?

No, I’ll tell you what happened. From that very first photograph that I took of the Kun House, I found I could just catch things on film that we—the architect and myself—didn’t see ourselves or didn’t even realize existed. Benedikt Taschen [publisher of the new book] says I extract the essence of a place.

What about Los Angeles? What was it like when you arrived?

It was a really particular moment. LA had become a mecca for people from all over the world. Everyone wanted to come. Even my father who had a small clothing business and a 75-acre orange grove wrote to his friend, ‘Max! You’ve got to come. The streets are paved in gold’—he meant the orange grove. But back then in 1920 when we came to California from New York, the population in Los Angeles was about 576,000. It was a small town.

If you had stayed out East and, instead of working for Neutra, Ain, Koenig, and the rest, you worked for Saarinen, Gropius, and Mies (although they were later, after the war). But let’s say you’d lived on the East Coast, how would your work have been different?

I wouldn’t have become a photographer! I wouldn’t have been taking those snapshots while I was wandering around Berkeley. I did have a friend who was a writer and he had a nice little office in Rockefeller Center in the 1940s. He said I should open an office in New York. Without any hesitation, I said, ‘I love New York!’ You see, I was born in Brooklyn. But I was already established in Los Angeles and all the architects jumped at me because there was no other photographer who did architecture.

At that level.

At any level.

How did you get along with the individual architects? Did you consider them friends. Did you learn anything from them?


I established close friendships with them all. I seemed to speak their language, not only with my camera. With Gregory Ain, there was something about his architecture that I liked, and my liking the work made me respect it, and as a result I was able to create these great compositions. I could transcend or transfigure or translate what the architect saw in his own work. Something just came through. They didn’t know how I did it; they’d just shake their heads. Even Frank Lloyd Wright wrote me a letter about my photographs of Taliesin West: ‘How did you ever achieve such beautiful photographs?’ Doesn’t matter: the point is, it’s a gift. I was raised close to nature, maybe that’s part of it. My spirit is close to nature.

Regarding your technique, you have a great facility with lighting and also for using people in your photographs. You used color film early on and your images have this naturalness to them which is also, and I realize this is contradictory, strangely theatrical, without seeming forced or over the top.

Can you talk about that?

As a matter of fact, it came home to me just recently when Paul Goldberger wrote in the New Yorker that if I hadn’t become a photographer, I might have been a good lighting expert. And it’s true that one of my innate qualities is knowing how to use lighting. I don’t use it to dramatize but to express what the architect wants. When I line up something, you never see the source of the light, but you do know it’s there.
Most photographers today rely on Polaroids, or computers, to test for composition and lighting before committing the scene to film. You couldn’t do all that and yet you still achieved these amazing results.

Most photographers I knew did not use flash bulbs before the days of strobe lighting. I would use flood lights then put flash lights in to balance the indoor and outdoor lighting intensity. As a result my lighting appeared very natural and balanced. And then I used people—not abundantly but more than most—to occupy the space, not posing, but doing something the space was designed for. Neutra didn’t like it when I started putting in people. He did not want them. He didn’t want anything to attract attention away from his architecture.

I read somewhere that in one of your most iconic and famous images of all—the Kaufman House in Palm Springs—you used people and Neutra wasn’t happy about it. But what makes that photograph really work for me is the figure in the foreground. Were you using her as a “gobo” [go between] to block the light?

Yes! That’s Mrs. Kaufman. And what happened is this: It was a very complex composition and that one photograph took me 45 minutes. I was supposed to be doing the interiors. But when I went out there I saw how beautiful the twilight was, and I knew it wouldn’t last long. Mr. Neutra grabbed my elbow and said we had a lot more interiors to do, but I tore away from his grasp and ran outside to set up the camera. I knew exactly where I wanted to stand.

Inside, the floor lamps and the table lamps were all burning. Outside the sky was beautiful and I asked Mr. Kaufman, who was standing there with Mrs. Kaufman and Neutra, to turn on the pool light. But the light was too intense and it was facing in the direction of the camera so I laid down a mat and asked Mrs. Kaufman to please lie down a moment so her head blocked the pool light. She asked me not to take too long because it was hard propping herself up on her elbow.
I counted the three seconds.

One. Two. Three.

Did Neutra know what you were trying to do?


Not ‘til later.