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Raft of Legislation

Despite almost all the talk at City Hall yesterday being dedicated to the electoral aspirations of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the City Council still managed to pass an important piece of legislation that bolsters waterfront planning efforts, along with two other new laws that create a mixed-use development in Harlem and protect a small slice of affordable housing in Chelsea.

From a planning standpoint, the first piece of legislation is the most impressive. It calls for the creation of a comprehensive waterfront plan, prepared by the Department of City Planning each decade, beginning in 2010. Back when New York’s waterfront was largely dedicated to commercial uses, it, along with the entire harbor, was overseen by the New York-New Jersey Port and Harbor Commission. Now, with the city finally returning to the waterfront with parks, projects, and follies, some two dozen agencies have taken a stake.

The key is making sure the various uses and interests on the waterfront work in concert, not opposition. “With the introduction of this legislation today, we will ensure that New York City never turns its back on the waterfront,” Christine Quinn, the council speaker, said at a press conference. “A comprehensive plan provided to the city every ten years will allow us to best assess the different ways our waterfronts can be used for leisure, employment, and industry.”

Under the legislation [text], which passed unanimously 51-0, the city’s planners must consult with affected local, state, and federal agencies, as well as the public, about their waterfront needs and how resources should be allocated to address them. For groups like the Waterfront Alliance (formerly the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance), it is an important opportunity to finally weigh in on issues that might otherwise be ignored. “One thing near and dear to our heart is a working waterfront,” Roland Lewis, the group’s president, said.

While waterfront access, parks, and development are important, Lewis said, the waterfront’s historic use cannot be ignored. As the economy struggles, the better-paying work traditionally offered near, on, and in the water must be preserved, and with a comprehensive plan in place, it will be easier for such jobs to thrive without impinging on their neighbors. And vice versa. “Nothing against IKEA,” Lewis said, “but you can put an IKEA almost anywhere. You can only do dock work on the docks.” Lewis also hopes it will spread across the river to New Jersey and up the Hudson to “sister cities,” creating “a truly comprehensive plan.”

The council also endorsed a rezoning plan for yet another piece of 125th Street in East Harlem that will create a 1.7 million-square-foot, mixed-use project on three vacant city-owned parcels. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the local representative, said it was a landmark project not only in its scope, but also because the community rejected a developer three years ago, leading the city to take the incredibly rare step of rescinding its development contract. “Since then, we have worked hard with the community to come up with a satisfactory plan, something we have now achieved,” she said.

Covering an area between 125th and 127th streets, from 2nd to 3rd avenues, the rezoning calls for a 30,000-square-foot cultural space, 850 apartment units (600 of which are affordable), a 98,000-square-foot hotel, and 250,000 square feet of office space. Also included are 500,000 square feet of retail space with an emphasis on local businesses, and a mid-block public plaza at the center of the complex.

The council also passed a bill [text] modifying the J-51 tax benefit to include Penn South, a Chelsea co-op that was at risk of losing the benefit due to rising assessment values amid skyrocketing prices in the neighborhood. “By including Penn South in the J-51 program, we are taking the important step of preserving a community that is and will remain a source of affordable housing for thousands of residents,” Quinn said.

Gerson's WTC Statement

The World Trade Center site is one of the most technically complicated modern construction projects ever undertaken: the building of five high rise towers, concomitantly, on a sixteen acre site over two train lines; issues of unprecedented toxicities and missing human remains; all in the middle of a bustling residential and business district.   The architects, engineers and workers on the ground deserve credit for the performance of a difficult task, and interruptions, unexpected technical problems and delays should have been anticipated from its inception. 

What remains inexcusable is needless political exacerbation of the difficulties rather than public sector facilitation of the complexities.  This process has been plagued by: false expectations generated by political grandstanding; delays in providing necessary funding to critical job components; the failure to create reasonable and responsible budgets for project components; the avoidance or postponement of difficult but necessary political decisions; and a lack of full transparency and accountability in all government agencies and activities.

Governor Paterson and the new Port Authority Executive Director, Christopher Ward deserve great credit for restoring governmental efficacy in the rebuilding process.  The Governor’s demand for a top-to-bottom reassessment, and the preliminary report issued by the Executive Director provide desperately needed doses of reality, transparency and accountability.  Mayor Bloomberg deserves credit for his partnership and involvement in this new expeditious and efficient approach.
      
The extraordinary economic conditions faced by Lower Manhattan, our city and the nation should accelerate work at Ground Zero. The history of recovery in past times of economic distress has involved large-scale public works projects.  Ground Zero is a great public works project, a statement of confidence and moral uplift.  It is also a desperately needed economic stimulus, more important now than ever since 9/11.
       
The Lower Manhattan Redevelopment projects on and off the World Trade Center site must also position Lower Manhattan to be ready with adequate transportation and infrastructure as well as sufficient  space to meet the future demands of the inevitable upturn in the economy as it occurs.  We owe it to the 2800 innocent people who lost their lives as they went about their work, sustaining and building our economy; to the heroes who risked or sacrificed their lives to save others; and to the community residents who rallied and remained to support each other and to rebuild their neighborhoods.  We must tell each of their stories and complete the rest of the job safely, efficiently, democratically and without delay.

Now is the time to demonstrate Lower Manhattan’s most visionary and effective public sector. I have set forth, below, seventeen specific next steps necessary to move the World Trade Center site and Lower Manhattan redevelopment projects forward.  These recommendations, which should be implemented immediately, follow from the series of hearings of the City Council’s Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment, which I chair, and from numerous conversations I have had with community members and leaders, including community board members, and the entities involved in the projects. I call on the Governor and the Mayor to provide the leadership necessary to implement these next steps. I call on Chris Ward of the Port Authority of NY/NJ  to incorporate these next steps into his plan of action, recognizing that even on those measures over which the Port does not exercise direct control, the Executive Director’s recommendations will carry great weight.

On October 6, 2008, the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee will conduct its next oversight hearing. At that time we will expect the Port Authority, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and other relevant agencies to report on their response to these recommendations, as well as to the full report issued by Christopher Ward and the ensuing timetable for Ground Zero, Fiterman Hall, and the Fulton Street Station.

17 Steps for Getting the World Trade Center Site Project Back on Track

1.  APPOINT AN AUDITOR GENERAL TO MONITOR ALL LOWER MANHATTAN REDEVELOPMENT PROJECTS.  We need one auditor general to monitor the World Trade Center site, 130 Liberty Street, Fiterman Hall and the Fulton Street Transit Hub.  All of these projects involve state agencies.  An auditor general will monitor progress and spending, keep an eye out for delays and cost overruns and present options for synergies and cost-saving measures, including cross-project efficiencies.  What has been missing from the governance of Lower Manhattan redevelopment has been one accountable official with access to all relevant information and monitoring and reporting responsibilities. 

Our governmental system is founded on checks and balances, which have been entirely missing from the Lower Manhattan redevelopment process. The independent authorities carrying out these projects are exempt from normal auditing by the State Comptroller or City Comptroller and from normal oversight by the State Legislature or City Council.  This was a mistake from the start.  It is too late to totally recreate the governance structure of the rebuilding efforts.  But the appointment of an auditor general will provide the needed check and balance moving forward.

The auditor general should serve at the governor’s pleasure, report directly to the governor and mayor, issue periodic public progress reports and appear regularly before the City Council and State Legislature. The Port Authority, the MTA, the LMDC, the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center (LMCCC) and all agencies involved in any projects must be required to open their books and plans to the auditor general. Christopher Ward, no matter how capable, serves the Board of Directors of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and thus could not be in the position to audit it and the other authorities. Many of us thought that this was part of what the LMDC was supposed to do in the first place.  The LMDC should, however, now provide funds to support the auditor general. 

2.  REAFFIRM THE 9/11/11 DEADLINE FOR PERMANENTLY OPENING THE MEMORIAL PLAZA.  Past unrealistic timetables should not be taken as an excuse for establishing no timetable.  Deadlines serve an important purpose.  We would not have reached the moon when we did if President Kennedy had not set that ten-year deadline.  By all accounts, there exist no technical or physical reasons why the Memorial Plaza cannot be completed by the tenth anniversary.  The governor and mayor must direct all agencies to work together to make this happen.

3. MODIFY PATH TRAIN MEZZANINE TO ACHIEVE SIMPLE ELEGANCE WITH COLUMNS.  Utilizing columns to support the #1 train, rather than the more complex suspension system under consideration, would save money and time.  We estimate the savings in the millions of dollars.  The columns will also expedite utility work under Greenwich Street and thus assure timely progress.  This will save money and help assure progress on the memorial and other ground zero sectors.  It will also allow for the setting of a timetable for the rebuilding and remapping of Greenwich Street, which will be critical for access to the Memorial. Grandiosity has its place, including within this site, but the PATH station achieves sufficient grandiosity in the Eagle structure and the main hall.  What is essentially a passageway for commuters rushing to and from their trains and pedestrians rushing between the World Financial Center and Church Street can be built elegantly with columns and with less expense

4. WITHIN 90 DAYS THE MTA MUST RE-ISSUE BID SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE FULTON STREET TRANSIT HUB—WITH SPECIFICATION CHANGES AIMED AT LOWERING COSTS BY AT LEAST $200 MILLION.   At a hearing of the City Council’s committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment held in April, 2008, the MTA pledged to reissue bid specifications within 30 days.  This has not happened.  Further delay is inexcusable.  The MTA testified that it planned to divide the work and issue separate bid requests for each of the major discrete parts of the project in order to optimize efficiency and expertise and to minimize costs.  That still makes sense, as the best subterranean contractor is not necessarily the best aboveground structural contractor. 

The Fulton Street Transit Hub is a critical component of Lower Manhattan’s future.  Its transit connections are needed to optimize downtown’s accessibility.  Its retail and street level presence, including the promised replacement of the scores of retail cleared out for this project, will anchor the future of a thriving Fulton Street corridor. 

The longer we wait, the more expensive this project will get.  The basic contours of the project, including the design for the transit hub, should remain the same. It is clear however, that fewer internal flourishes and excesses, with the aim of simple elegance in method and outcome, could save the project millions of dollars. 

In addition, the Corbin building’s restoration can be deferred without detracting from the train station or the main entrance. Indeed, the Corbin building should not be part of the transit hub.  It should be sold, restored and turned into office space.  To integrate a historic building into a transit center is overly complex.  To remove the Corbin building from the site could save hundreds of millions of dollars.

5.  FULLY FUND FITERMAN HALL’S RECONSTRUCTION IMMEDIATELY.  Fiterman Hall provided critical classroom space for the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC).  Over 21,000 degree students from all over the City are enrolled at BMCC this semester, making it by far the largest community college in all of New York City.  The necessary funds must be allocated now in order to avoid another hole in the ground in Lower Manhattan and to mitigate spiraling costs.  New York’s Dormitory Authority will not allow City University of New York (CUNY) to contract for reconstruction until full funding is allocated. CUNY officials anticipate that the remediation process (the cleaning of Fiterman Hall) will be completed by the end of January 2009 and that demolition will be completed by summer 2009.  The contracting process is such that it needs to begin imminently, requiring full funding, in order for construction to begin immediately upon deconstruction. 

Delay in Fiterman Hall’s reconstruction will retard overall downtown development, including the ability of Silverstein Properties to rent office space at 7 World Trade Center, which is opposite Fiterman Hall.  Eventually, Fiterman Hall will have to be rebuilt.  The longer we wait, the more it will cost taxpayers.

With classes scheduled in the daytime, evening and weekends, and additional adult and continuing education programs in high demand from the community, we must do everything within our power to expedite the process of demolishing and building a new Fiterman Hall. 

6. REAFFIRM THE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (PAC) AT THE PROPOSED LOCATION, WITH THE 1,000-SEAT THEATER IN A GEHRY DESIGNED BUILDING, WITH THE JOYCE THEATER AS THE ANCHOR TENANT. Specifically the LMDC must do the following: establish the 501(c)(3) entity that will raise funds for the project, along with a strong board of directors and dynamic leadership and allow fundraising to begin. The LMDC must reaffirm the previous commitment of $50 million to the site.  There must be a recommitment to building a Gehry-designed, 1000-seat theater.  There must also be a reaffirming of the Joyce Theater as the anchor tenant of the PAC.

The LMDC and Port Authority must jointly make it clear to the world that the Performing Arts Center will be built.  The 1,000-seat theater remains important to serve a gap of that theater size in our city’s cultural infrastructure. The Joyce remains the most viable and appropriate anchor tenant.  The center is important to the community’s future, as well as to the spirit of the site.  All governmental entities involved in reconstructing the World Trade Center site must remain faithful to the entire original concept for the site:  the Memorial, to commemorate the infinite worth and stories of the lives lost; the commercial to carry on the work of those lives; and the cultural, to celebrate life itself.

7. THE PORT AUTHORITY MUST ISSUE A TIMELINE FOR THE TURNOVER OF TOWER 2 TO SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES IMMEDIATELY AND ISSUE A STATUS REPORT AND TIMETABLE, WITH BENCHMARKS FOR THE COMPLETION OF ANY OUTSTANDING INFRASTRUCTURE WORK ON THE SITES FOR TOWERS 2,  3 AND 4  The timetable must project when site 2 will be turned over to Silverstein Properties and when all infrastructure work on  sites 3 and 4 (which have already been turned over) will be completed.  Until then, the Port must issue periodic reports on the status of the timeline, with explanations of any extensions.  Obviously, unfolding economic events may impact the programming of the site, but the infrastructure will be required for any future development to take place.

8. IMMEDIATELY CONVENE A MEMORIAL ACCESS PLANNING GROUP.  This group should combine site designers, architects, the NYPD, and other security agencies on the site and community representatives, with the goal of achieving the most open and easy access that prudent security will allow.  The group should develop plans for interim access to the Memorial for the tenth anniversary and permanent access upon completion of the entire site.  Important security and design details need to be addressed now because of their relevance to infrastructure construction.  Delaying this process could delay or impede the Memorial’s opening.  It makes no sense to open the Memorial Plaza if it cannot be accessed.

9.  THE LMDC MUST RELEASE DESIGN SPECIFICATIONS. A number of years ago, the LMDC drafted design specifications for the World Trade Center site that were never released.  These site design specifications cover criteria for planting, pavement type, street and sidewalk furniture, lighting and light poles, curb cuts, and façade appearance and other material pertaining to the streetscape, grounds, and building fronts of the site.  These design specifications could affect infrastructure now under construction as well as security measures.  Finalizing the specifications forthwith could avoid needless costs and extra work.  The LMDC should release its draft specifications and then proceed swiftly to a public hearing and ultimate adoption of the specifications.

10.  NYPD AND FDNY MUST CONDUCT AND RELEASE A FULL SECURITY AND FIRE SAFETY AUDIT OF PLANS FOR THE UNDERGROUND MUSEUM.  A full, joint security review by NYPD and FDNY, based on all applicable New York City codes, as well as other governmental regulations and state-of-the-art measures, should be completed and certified by the agencies. We cannot once more complete plans only to have security agencies send them back to the drawing board.  Several family groups have raised questions about security measures, entrances, exits, ramps, and other aspects of security precautions planned for the underground museum. They may be right or wrong, in whole or in part, but these family groups and the public deserve to know definitively.

11. PRODUCE A LOWER MANHATTAN BUS PLAN WITHIN NINE MONTHS.  This could be done in-house or by retained experts in consultation with the community.  The Memorial tour buses are coming, but no one knows where they will lay over, where they will drop off and pick up passengers and what routes they will take. Lower Manhattan already faces a bus invasion, with more long-distance bus passengers than the midtown Port Authority bus terminal, according to police statistics.  Combine this with tour buses, commuter buses, casino buses and all manner of charter buses. We need a plan to protect the area’s quality of life and the ambience of the Memorial, which will be a major destination. The different buses share many of the same streets, routes, stops, and might most efficiently share the same parking facilities. The report must therefore lay out options for all bus categories for all of downtown from at least south of Ninth Street. Again, this needs to be worked out now because it could have an impact on the underground parking facility and related infrastructure presently under construction at the World Trade Center site. 

12.  THE LMDC MUST IMMEDIATELY ISSUE A DETAILED STATUS REPORT AND TIMETABLE ON 130 LIBERTY STREET AND PROVIDE REGULAR UPDATES.  The LMCCC should continue to play an active oversight role at 130 Liberty Street.  However, we are reluctant to recommend a governance overhaul for fear that this could only generate further delay.  This project’s delay stems from past mistakes, including ignoring sound practices demanded by community groups and elected officials.  However, the LMDC’s current administration has it right with the decoupling of decontamination and demolition, and ongoing safety measures.  In order to prevent further delay, the LMDC must provide a timetable and detailed monthly progress reports, including explanations for any failures to meet the timetable.  Much of this is now being done verbally at periodic task force meetings.  Given the past history of this project, these reports need to be formalized in writing, with as much detail as possible.

13.  CLOSE VESEY STREET BETWEEN CHURCH STREET AND WEST BROADWAY, BUT ONLY IF THE PORT AUTHORITY MEETS THE BURDEN OF DEMONSTRATING THAT TO DO SO WOULD MATERIALLY SAVE TIME OR PROVIDE FOR GREATER SAFETY The imperative to avoid delay at the World Trade Center site appears to far outweigh the inconvenience of the temporary street closure.  The Vesey Street block that would be closed does not have residences or businesses needing to access the street.  However, the Port Authority must put in place means to compensate for the closure, such as widened sidewalks on adjoining streets, additional signage, additional traffic enforcement agents, and shuttle buses, including a shuttle bus connection with Battery Park City.  Vesey Street should not be closed any longer than is absolutely necessary.  The Port Authority should regularly update the community as to the progress of the work performed and whether there is a continuing need to keep that section of Vesey Street closed. Local Law 24 must be followed in letter and spirit, to ensure proper community input and notification.

14.  CONTINUE THE STEERING COMMITTEE RECENTLY ESTABLISHED BY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR WARD.  By all accounts, the steering committee established by Chris Ward has provided improved coordination among the public and private entities working on or regulating the World Trade Center site.  Representation by the Mayor’s office on the steering committee should include the NYPD in order to assure full interagency coordination and to avoid the delays due to lack of such coordination, which have occurred in the past.

15. CONTINUE THE PORT AUTHORITY  BRIEFINGS FOR FAMILY MEMBERS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS IN LOWER MANHATTAN.  By all accounts, the direct meetings between high-ranking Port Authority figures and representatives of family groups and local community representatives have not only reduced tensions but provided valuable input. These briefings should take place on a regular basis. They should be expanded to include the Memorial Museum and the MTA.  In addition, we urge the Port Authority to continue to hold monthly open meetings of its board of directors focused exclusively on the World Trade Center.  These board meetings must be held at a location in Lower Manhattan to maximize the number of community members who may wish to attend.  We suggest the Conference Center of the New York Academy of Sciences at 7 World Trade Center, overlooking the site, reminding us all of the progress that can be made.

16. INTEGRATE THE TRIBUTE CENTER PERMANENTLY INTO THE MUSEUM ENTRANCE BUILDING.  This building is supposed to provide orientation exhibitions as well as security and ticketing functions.  The Tribute Center has provided orientation admirably since it opened.  Lee Ielpi and his team stepped up to provide this critical service when no one else did.  They have done a remarkable job.  The Tribute Center they created has received approximately 715,000 visitors to date.  It exists in temporary leased space, but it deserves to become permanent in order to continue to enhance the education for site visitors.  The entrance building of the museum would be the logical place and would avoid redundancy and waste in resources. At the very least, a discussion between the Tribute Center and the Memorial Museum should take place, and take place now so that the entrance building’s layout and size could still be adjusted to accommodate the Center.  In the past we have questioned the need for a separate entrance building at all.  The Museum’s entrance could be created through the oversized Calatrava building.  However, if we are going to have an additional building, it should be as meaningful as possible.  We cannot imagine anything more meaningful than the Tribute Center.

17.  CREATE A MECHANISM TO STRENGTHEN CONSTRUCTION SITE SAFETY AND LOWER MANHATTAN’S LIVABILITY. Situations will undoubtedly increase as work at or above ground level accelerates and authorities charged with the work seek variances, or the equivalent, to meet or exceed schedules.  We cannot sacrifice the health, well-being or livability of area workers or residents to get the work done.  That would fly in the face of the value of upholding the importance and sanctity of every human being, which the site and downtown’s rebirth are supposed to reflect.  Next month, this office will release a follow-up report and series of recommendations to improve construction site safety and construction area livability for Lower Manhattan and the city at large.  We call on all levels and leaders of government to work together to achieve the goal of reconstruction within the timeframe, but not at the expense of safety and livability.

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Glass Dynamics
Jim Brady

In the Clear: Taking Advantage of Glass’ Two-Way Street

By Aaron Seward

The great pursuit in glass architecture, and thus the technology that feeds it, is and has been for energy efficiency. More specifically, it is the elusive quest to design the most transparent building possible while at the same time mitigating heat gain and glare delivered by the sun. The failure thus far to achieve a balance between fulfilling this architectural ideal and creating an environmentally responsible and comfortable built environment was aptly illustrated by the recent backlash against glass condos. The Wall Street Journal ran an article this August chronicling a spate of horror stories from residents who didn’t anticipate what it means to live in a glass house at the beginning of the new millennium. The harrowing details included faded furniture, the impossibility of watching television during the day, peeping Toms ogling daughters, Windex sizzling to an impossible-to-remove gunk, and cooling systems unable to compensate for the unfettered glory of the sun.

Aside from these issues of individual comfort and livability, it seems clear that, when looking at how we might reduce our overall carbon footprint, glass (our most ubiquitous contemporary building material) is a good place to start. A study issued by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, estimates that windows are responsible for 2.15 quadrillion BTUs of heating energy consumption and 1.48 quadrillion BTUs of cooling energy consumption within the United States annually, or 30 percent of building electrical loads nationwide. The same study estimates that an overnight replacement of the nation’s window stock with existing high-insulating glass technologies, such as low-emittance coatings and multi-pane units, would result in energy savings of approximately 1.2 quadrillion BTUs, while a similar upgrade to future technologies, currently under research and development at LBNL, could save a potential 3.9 quadrillion BTUs.

Oddly enough, these future technologies seek to improve energy ratings by taking advantage of the very quality that seems to be glass’ greatest weakness: its transmissiveness. “Glass is one of the few building materials out there that allows energy to flow both ways at the same time,” said Chris Barry, technical director at glass manufacturer Pilkington. “In the summer that can be beneficial by allowing heat to escape the interior, while in the winter it lets in the sun’s warmth.”

Ever since the oil embargo of the 1970s, when energy costs went through the roof, the industry has been trying to make glass walls behave more like brick walls in terms of insulation values. This has been successful to the point that today people who have installed low-e solutions in their homes are complaining that when they sit in their breakfast nook in the morning they feel cold. The alternative to this approach is what is commonly known as “smart glass” or “switchable glazing,” in other words, a glass unit whose opacity or reflectiveness can be altered to deflect or transmit more or less of the sun’s energy, thus creating a dynamic barrier that can be optimally tailored to environmental conditions as they change throughout the day or the year.

Smart glass has been developed in a number of varieties, including polymer dispersed liquid crystal, suspended particle, and electrochromic devices. Liquid crystal glass has become popular for privacy screening (it was famously used inRem Koolhaas’Prada stores), but it has no energy-saving benefits. Basically, two layers of glass sandwich transparent electrical conductors enveloping a thin layer of liquid crystal droplets. When in the “off” position, the liquid crystals scatter light, giving the unit a milky white appearance, but when an electrical current is applied the crystals align according to the electric field and assume a transparent state. The change between these two states is instantaneous and there is no middle ground between them.

Suspended particle glass is almost identical in its assembly, except that microscopic rod-like particles, rather than liquid crystals, float in a fluid between the conducting and glass layers. Without an electrical current, the rods fall into random organizations and tend to absorb light, whereas when a current is applied they align to allow light to pass through. Unlike liquid crystal, suspended particle devices can be dimmed to allow more or less light and heat to pass through. Both of these systems require a small but constant electrical current to remain transparent, while the third system, electrochromic, requires a current to affect the change in transparency, but once that change takes place the current is no longer needed. This system is currently the focus of most smart glass research at LBNL. The system works by passing a burst charge through several microscopically thin layers on the glass surface, activating a layer of tungsten oxide and causing it to turn from clear to dark. The reverse change takes place when the charge is passed the opposite way. A mirror system has also been developed that transitions from clear to reflective. Electrochromic systems remain transparent across their switching range—between approximately five and 80 percent transmittance—and can be modulated to any intermediate state.

According to Eleanor Lee, a building technology expert at LBNL, electrochromic glass is on the cusp of being ready for large-scale use, but there are still several impediments. “It’s an emerging technology,” said Lee, “people don’t know about it, it costs more than available systems, and there are many unknowns.” The building industry is notoriously sheepish about using new materials, as the cost of a major failure could be ruinous, but what the technology needs to get off the ground is exactly the type of investment that a large project would provide. Lee pointed out the New York Times Building, which significantly boosted the research and development of external and motorized shading systems. “Manufacturers are willing to do a big project,” she said. “That amount of money would give them the start up cost to bring in the people to engineer the product.”

Another sticking point, of course, lies with the architectural leadership, who will have to decide whether or not they’re willing to allow the external aspect of their buildings to be tossed about willy-nilly by the whimsy of occupants and the demands of the passing sun.

Aaron Seward is an associate editor at AN.

 


  


David Franck

 

Trumpf Gatehouse
Ditzingen, Germany
Barkow Leibinger Architects with Werner Sobek

 Trumpf, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of machine and laser tools, won’t open its 90,000-square-foot expansion in Ditzingen, Germany until mid-2009, but one can get a sense of what’s to come from the spectacular Gatehouse, which was designed by Barkow Leibinger Architects of Berlin and opened on the Trumpf campus in late 2007.

A honeycombed membrane of stainless steel cantilevers 60 feet over and floats above a 400-square-foot rectangular glass box that houses a reception and waiting area. The roof is a pattern of triangles that compress based on the changing structural forces over its surface. The roof, which was fabricated in-house at Trumpf, is an interesting formal experiment and a celebration of Trumpf’s advanced laser technology, but it is the Miesian glass box beneath that endows the sizeable overhang with its dramatic effect.

With engineering consultant Werner Sobek and manufacturer Glaszentrum Schweikert, Barkow Leibinger developed a 12-inch double non-bearing facade of two layers of low-emission float glass that gives the impression that the planar roof hovers in thin air. However, as Frank Barkow explains, the dynamic roof sits on a core of four columns inside the box while connected to the glass facade by an accordion-shaped rubber gasket that was developed by the team of engineers and architects specifically for this pavilion. Between the two glass surfaces of the facade, the architects stacked Plexiglas tubes of varying diameter, which provide subtle shading to the interiors. The team developed a custom detail of dark Plexiglas structural posts that run vertically between the glass sandwich panels, which are stronger than glass and make the whole facade read as a transparent plane. The interior glass panel is operable to allow for the occasional cleaning of the tubes, which are glued together for easy access. Together, the double facade, the tubes, and the screens lower the cooling costs of the pavilion. It is at night, when the honeycomb roof is lit by LED lights and when the Plexiglas tubes trap the light from the interiors between the layers of glass in an eerie-looking blurry effect, that the Gatehouse appears ready to drift off in a world of its own.

David van der Leer is a frequent contributor to AN.

 


  


Courtesy Simone Giostra/Arup/Ruogu

 

Xicui Entertainment Complex
Beijing, China
Simone Giostra & Partners with Arup

The buildings designed for the Beijing Olympics hardly lacked in spectacle, but New York architect Simone Giostra created one that is aimed more toward the gallery crowd than gym-goers. The 24,000-square-foot media wall called Greenpix, which covers the entire facade of the six-story Xicui Entertainment Complex, is an all-glass facade that collects solar energy during the day and gives off tantalizing patterns of vibrant colors at night. Unlike many similar (though smaller) media walls, typically used for display advertising, this one was created to showcase video works. For its opening, Greenpix’s lead curator Luis Gui worked with Shanghai-based curator Defne Ayas, who commissioned pieces by artists Aaaijao and Shi Chieh Huang of China, and Varara Shavrova of Russia.

However inspiring it may be from an aesthetic perspective, it is the system’s sustainability that is of most interest to Giostra, who developed the wall in collaboration with Arup. Together with two German glass manufacturers, Schueco and Sunways, they created a technology to laminate polycrystalline solar cells into glass panels. “It is the most radical example of photovoltaic technology applied to an entire building envelope,” said Giostra. The solar panels have been embedded in the glass panels, some of which are set at an angle, in a pattern of varying density that depends on the nature of the spaces inside and their requirements for daylight. These solar cells provide energy to the roughly 2,300 LED light points, which are intentionally distributed at a lower resolution than generally used for media walls, contributing to the wall’s special abstract quality.

The standard media wall is designed to have an even light intensity throughout the course of a day, but the brightness of Greenpix’s diodes depends on the weather. After a gray day the facade glows subtly at night, whereas a sunny day results in a feast of color. Arup tested over 200 different full-scale prototypes on site in Beijing for more than a year to see what combinations of interlayer, treatments, thickness, solar cells, and textures provided the highest possible performance. The combination they finally installed is projected to maintain 80 percent of its nominal efficiency for the next two decades, during which the wall is expected to become a platform for site specific works made by future generations of video artists.  DVDL

 


 


Scott Frances

 

1099 New York Avenue
Washington, D.C.
Thomas Phifer and Partners

With its strict height limits and bevy of bureaucratic institutions, the District of Columbia has long favored architectural harmony and conformity over innovative design. How refreshing, then, to see a commonplace glass-box office building raise the bar for design in the Capital without disrupting the city’s intended uniformity.

Designed by New York-based Thomas Phifer and Partners, 1099 New York Avenue is an eleven-story, 173,000-square-foot office building, developed by Tishman Speyer, with a crystalline facade that expresses its materiality and, thanks to meticulous detailing, offers what Phifer calls a subtle “sense of surprise.” “Jerry Speyer wanted a special building with a unique skin,” said Phifer, “and he wanted to do it in D.C.” On first glance 1099 might look like a particularly well wrought version of the ultra-glassy office building— at times perfectly transparent, at others so reflective as to nearly disappear—such as SOM’s World Trade Center Seven. As you get closer, however, you see that rather than striving for a pure planar surface, Phifer has created something, literally, more multifaceted.

Rather than using a curtain wall system, Phifer opted for a custom window wall over the building’s thin concrete frame (Washington’s height limits make ultra thin floor plates a must). Each pane of glass is tilted six inches in both plan and section, giving the building a sense of depth and shimmer. “We wanted it to be a detail, rather than a gesture,” Pfifer said. “If it had been a big gesture, that would give away the sense of surprise.” A cast stainless steel clip, visible from below, supports the pane. “The clip expresses the weight of the panes.” The five-inch deep by eight-inch long clips also add to the texture of the facades.

The large twelve-and-a-half-feet long by five-and-a-half-feet wide low-emission Viracon panes function like shingles, allowing water to run down and drip off the facades during storms. At ground level, an installation by artist Matthew Ritchie helps enliven the streetscape. The building, which follows the contour of the lot where the Washington grid is bisected by a diagonal avenue, responds to its site, respecting its context while showing that even a small speculative office building, with the right attention to detailing, can reflect higher ambitions.

Alan G. Brake is an associate editor at AN.

 


 

  
M. Moulinet/Polkop/Courtesy Rolinet & Associes

 

Chapelle des Diaconesses
Versailles, France
Rolinet & Associés

In Versailles, in a park dotted with trees, sits the Chapelle des Diaconesses, a cocoon of superimposed pine wood strips inside a triangular glass structure. The small chapel, which opened to the public in 2007, replaced a large cloth tent that the Protestant Community of the Deaconesses used over a period of 20 years for its largest ceremonies. French architect Marc Rolinet’s modern interpretation of religious architecture subtly refers to this former place of worship. The sisters of the parish requested a chapel that would be firmly rooted in the 21st century, and that “offers modern people an interior that combines beauty, intimacy, and celebration, and that invites them to reflect and find peace.”

Rolinet set out to design a lightweight glass structure that follows the hilly topography of the site and provides an arcade between the wood and glass that is now used for quiet reflection. The envelope, made out of laminated safety glass with a structural interlayer by DuPont and manufactured by Saint-Gobain, protects the wooden chapel from the weather and forms an optimal acoustic barrier to the railroad station close by. Stronger than conventional laminating materials, the interlayers help create safety glass that protects against bigger storms, larger impacts, and more powerful blasts. The layers become an engineered component within the glass, holding more weight, so the glass can serve as a more active structural element in the building envelope. And they do all this while increasing framing system design freedom and improving long-term weather resistance. Marc Rolinet stated, “The structural calculations performed by DuPont and Saint-Gobain Glass enabled us to reduce the glass thickness, increase the pitch, and lighten the supporting structure.” Without the structural interlayer, the glass would have been thicker—and therefore more expensive. It also allowed for a direct integration of the fixing devices into the laminated inner glass layers. The structure spans a large distance, and allows for a minimal number of steel girders. But in the end it was the mirror-like effect that convinced Rolinet to use this material instead of conventional laminated glass—an effect that now at certain points of the day allows for a spectacular reflection of the charming park surrounding the chapel.   DVDL

 


  


Jim Brady

 

LOFTS @ 655 6th
San Diego
Public

Lofts @ 655 6th, a seven-story, mixed-use project that opened last December on the edge of San Diego’s East Village and Gaslamp districts, uses an innovative glass system to distinguish what is a fairly simple structure from the city’s many other new residential buildings.

The project is one of the few new rental properties in a city awash in high-end condos. In order to save money, maximize space, and create a more authentic loft-like ambience than the traditional configurations that are dressed up to look like lofts, and which are so common today in San Diego, local firm Public built a huge concrete box at the core of the 106-unit building. The 100,000-square-foot structure then steps down to the east to address the neighborhood.

The infill glazing system cladding the core is made up of a varied pattern of small and large glazed squares. All are very transparent, but highly energy-efficient, with a U-value of .41. To further animate the facade, Public hung an irregularly spaced clear tempered glass screen system over the project’s west-facing balconies. The screen is fitted with a perforated vinyl film—similar to the films used to create many billboards—that displays a sepia-toned photo-abstraction of live oak trees, created by photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann. Not only does the screen add complexity to the building, but its shading helped the building pass its state-mandated requirements for solar gain.

When the film needs to be replaced in about five years, the firm hopes the developer will hold a call for entries to find a new artist, thus ensuring a new look for the building. “Our only agreement with the city is that the new image not be distasteful or commercial,” said firm principal James Gates. The building has been a hit, and is fully leased, despite being completed just prior to the recent economic doldrums. “We’re very proud of what we were able to get for the money,” said Gates.

Sam Lubell is AN’s California editor.

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Glass Dynamics
Scott Frances

In the Clear: Taking Advantage of Glass’ Two-Way Street

By Aaron Seward

The great pursuit in glass architecture, and thus the technology that feeds it, is and has been for energy efficiency. More specifically, it is the elusive quest to design the most transparent building possible while at the same time mitigating heat gain and glare delivered by the sun. The failure thus far to achieve a balance between fulfilling this architectural ideal and creating an environmentally responsible and comfortable built environment was aptly illustrated by the recent backlash against glass condos. The Wall Street Journal ran an article this August chronicling a spate of horror stories from residents who didn’t anticipate what it means to live in a glass house at the beginning of the new millennium. The harrowing details included faded furniture, the impossibility of watching television during the day, peeping Toms ogling daughters, Windex sizzling to an impossible-to-remove gunk, and cooling systems unable to compensate for the unfettered glory of the sun.

Aside from these issues of individual comfort and livability, it seems clear that, when looking at how we might reduce our overall carbon footprint, glass (our most ubiquitous contemporary building material) is a good place to start. A study issued by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, estimates that windows are responsible for 2.15 quadrillion BTUs of heating energy consumption and 1.48 quadrillion BTUs of cooling energy consumption within the United States annually, or 30 percent of building electrical loads nationwide. The same study estimates that an overnight replacement of the nation’s window stock with existing high-insulating glass technologies, such as low-emittance coatings and multi-pane units, would result in energy savings of approximately 1.2 quadrillion BTUs, while a similar upgrade to future technologies, currently under research and development at LBNL, could save a potential 3.9 quadrillion BTUs.

Oddly enough, these future technologies seek to improve energy ratings by taking advantage of the very quality that seems to be glass’ greatest weakness: its transmissiveness. “Glass is one of the few building materials out there that allows energy to flow both ways at the same time,” said Chris Barry, technical director at glass manufacturer Pilkington. “In the summer that can be beneficial by allowing heat to escape the interior, while in the winter it lets in the sun’s warmth.”

Ever since the oil embargo of the 1970s, when energy costs went through the roof, the industry has been trying to make glass walls behave more like brick walls in terms of insulation values. This has been successful to the point that today people who have installed low-e solutions in their homes are complaining that when they sit in their breakfast nook in the morning they feel cold. The alternative to this approach is what is commonly known as “smart glass” or “switchable glazing,” in other words, a glass unit whose opacity or reflectiveness can be altered to deflect or transmit more or less of the sun’s energy, thus creating a dynamic barrier that can be optimally tailored to environmental conditions as they change throughout the day or the year.


  

 

Trumpf Gatehouse
Ditzingen, Germany
Barkow Leibinger Architects with Werner Sobek

 Trumpf, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of machine and laser tools, won’t open its 90,000-square-foot expansion in Ditzingen, Germany until mid-2009, but one can get a sense of what’s to come from the spectacular Gatehouse, which was designed by Barkow Leibinger Architects of Berlin and opened on the Trumpf campus in late 2007.

A honeycombed membrane of stainless steel cantilevers 60 feet over and floats above a 400-square-foot rectangular glass box that houses a reception and waiting area. The roof is a pattern of triangles that compress based on the changing structural forces over its surface. The roof, which was fabricated in-house at Trumpf, is an interesting formal experiment and a celebration of Trumpf’s advanced laser technology, but it is the Miesian glass box beneath that endows the sizeable overhang with its dramatic effect.

With engineering consultant Werner Sobek and manufacturer Glaszentrum Schweikert, Barkow Leibinger developed a 12-inch double non-bearing facade of two layers of low-emission float glass that gives the impression that the planar roof hovers in thin air. However, as Frank Barkow explains, the dynamic roof sits on a core of four columns inside the box while connected to the glass facade by an accordion-shaped rubber gasket that was developed by the team of engineers and architects specifically for this pavilion. Between the two glass surfaces of the facade, the architects stacked Plexiglas tubes of varying diameter, which provide subtle shading to the interiors. The team developed a custom detail of dark Plexiglas structural posts that run vertically between the glass sandwich panels, which are stronger than glass and make the whole facade read as a transparent plane. The interior glass panel is operable to allow for the occasional cleaning of the tubes, which are glued together for easy access. Together, the double facade, the tubes, and the screens lower the cooling costs of the pavilion. It is at night, when the honeycomb roof is lit by LED lights and when the Plexiglas tubes trap the light from the interiors between the layers of glass in an eerie-looking blurry effect, that the Gatehouse appears ready to drift off in a world of its own.

David van der Leer is a frequent contributor to AN.

 


  

Xicui Entertainment Complex
Beijing, China
Simone Giostra & Partners with Arup

The buildings designed for the Beijing Olympics hardly lacked in spectacle, but New York architect Simone Giostra created one that is aimed more toward the gallery crowd than gym-goers. The 24,000-square-foot media wall called Greenpix, which covers the entire facade of the six-story Xicui Entertainment Complex, is an all-glass facade that collects solar energy during the day and gives off tantalizing patterns of vibrant colors at night. Unlike many similar (though smaller) media walls, typically used for display advertising, this one was created to showcase video works. For its opening, Greenpix’s lead curator Luis Gui worked with Shanghai-based curator Defne Ayas, who commissioned pieces by artists Aaaijao and Shi Chieh Huang of China, and Varara Shavrova of Russia.

However inspiring it may be from an aesthetic perspective, it is the system’s sustainability that is of most interest to Giostra, who developed the wall in collaboration with Arup. Together with two German glass manufacturers, Schueco and Sunways, they created a technology to laminate polycrystalline solar cells into glass panels. “It is the most radical example of photovoltaic technology applied to an entire building envelope,” said Giostra. The solar panels have been embedded in the glass panels, some of which are set at an angle, in a pattern of varying density that depends on the nature of the spaces inside and their requirements for daylight. These solar cells provide energy to the roughly 2,300 LED light points, which are intentionally distributed at a lower resolution than generally used for media walls, contributing to the wall’s special abstract quality.

The standard media wall is designed to have an even light intensity throughout the course of a day, but the brightness of Greenpix’s diodes depends on the weather. After a gray day the facade glows subtly at night, whereas a sunny day results in a feast of color. Arup tested over 200 different full-scale prototypes on site in Beijing for more than a year to see what combinations of interlayer, treatments, thickness, solar cells, and textures provided the highest possible performance. The combination they finally installed is projected to maintain 80 percent of its nominal efficiency for the next two decades, during which the wall is expected to become a platform for site specific works made by future generations of video artists.  DVDL

 


 

 

1099 New York Avenue
Washington, D.C.
Thomas Phifer and Partners

With its strict height limits and bevy of bureaucratic institutions, the District of Columbia has long favored architectural harmony and conformity over innovative design. How refreshing, then, to see a commonplace glass-box office building raise the bar for design in the Capital without disrupting the city’s intended uniformity.

Designed by New York-based Thomas Phifer and Partners, 1099 New York Avenue is an eleven-story, 173,000-square-foot office building, developed by Tishman Speyer, with a crystalline facade that expresses its materiality and, thanks to meticulous detailing, offers what Phifer calls a subtle “sense of surprise.” “Jerry Speyer wanted a special building with a unique skin,” said Phifer, “and he wanted to do it in D.C.” On first glance 1099 might look like a particularly well wrought version of the ultra-glassy office building— at times perfectly transparent, at others so reflective as to nearly disappear—such as SOM’s World Trade Center Seven. As you get closer, however, you see that rather than striving for a pure planar surface, Phifer has created something, literally, more multifaceted.

Rather than using a curtain wall system, Phifer opted for a custom window wall over the building’s thin concrete frame (Washington’s height limits make ultra thin floor plates a must). Each pane of glass is tilted six inches in both plan and section, giving the building a sense of depth and shimmer. “We wanted it to be a detail, rather than a gesture,” Pfifer said. “If it had been a big gesture, that would give away the sense of surprise.” A cast stainless steel clip, visible from below, supports the pane. “The clip expresses the weight of the panes.” The five-inch deep by eight-inch long clips also add to the texture of the facades.

The large twelve-and-a-half-feet long by five-and-a-half-feet wide low-emission Viracon panes function like shingles, allowing water to run down and drip off the facades during storms. At ground level, an installation by artist Matthew Ritchie helps enliven the streetscape. The building, which follows the contour of the lot where the Washington grid is bisected by a diagonal avenue, responds to its site, respecting its context while showing that even a small speculative office building, with the right attention to detailing, can reflect higher ambitions.

Alan G. Brake is an associate editor at AN.

 


 

  

 

Chapelle des Diaconesses
Versailles, France
Rolinet & Associés

In Versailles, in a park dotted with trees, sits the Chapelle des Diaconesses, a cocoon of superimposed pine wood strips inside a triangular glass structure. The small chapel, which opened to the public in 2007, replaced a large cloth tent that the Protestant Community of the Deaconesses used over a period of 20 years for its largest ceremonies. French architect Marc Rolinet’s modern interpretation of religious architecture subtly refers to this former place of worship. The sisters of the parish requested a chapel that would be firmly rooted in the 21st century, and that “offers modern people an interior that combines beauty, intimacy, and celebration, and that invites them to reflect and find peace.”

Rolinet set out to design a lightweight glass structure that follows the hilly topography of the site and provides an arcade between the wood and glass that is now used for quiet reflection. The envelope, made out of laminated safety glass with a structural interlayer by DuPont and manufactured by Saint-Gobain, protects the wooden chapel from the weather and forms an optimal acoustic barrier to the railroad station close by. Stronger than conventional laminating materials, the interlayers help create safety glass that protects against bigger storms, larger impacts, and more powerful blasts. The layers become an engineered component within the glass, holding more weight, so the glass can serve as a more active structural element in the building envelope. And they do all this while increasing framing system design freedom and improving long-term weather resistance. Marc Rolinet stated, “The structural calculations performed by DuPont and Saint-Gobain Glass enabled us to reduce the glass thickness, increase the pitch, and lighten the supporting structure.” Without the structural interlayer, the glass would have been thicker—and therefore more expensive. It also allowed for a direct integration of the fixing devices into the laminated inner glass layers. The structure spans a large distance, and allows for a minimal number of steel girders. But in the end it was the mirror-like effect that convinced Rolinet to use this material instead of conventional laminated glass—an effect that now at certain points of the day allows for a spectacular reflection of the charming park surrounding the chapel.   DVDL

 


  

 

LOFTS @ 655 6th
San Diego
Public

Lofts @ 655 6th, a seven-story, mixed-use project that opened last December on the edge of San Diego’s East Village and Gaslamp districts, uses an innovative glass system to distinguish what is a fairly simple structure from the city’s many other new residential buildings.

The project is one of the few new rental properties in a city awash in high-end condos. In order to save money, maximize space, and create a more authentic loft-like ambience than the traditional configurations that are dressed up to look like lofts, and which are so common today in San Diego, local firm Public built a huge concrete box at the core of the 106-unit building. The 100,000-square-foot structure then steps down to the east to address the neighborhood.

The infill glazing system cladding the core is made up of a varied pattern of small and large glazed squares. All are very transparent, but highly energy-efficient, with a U-value of .41. To further animate the facade, Public hung an irregularly spaced clear tempered glass screen system over the project’s west-facing balconies. The screen is fitted with a perforated vinyl film—similar to the films used to create many billboards—that displays a sepia-toned photo-abstraction of live oak trees, created by photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann. Not only does the screen add complexity to the building, but its shading helped the building pass its state-mandated requirements for solar gain.

When the film needs to be replaced in about five years, the firm hopes the developer will hold a call for entries to find a new artist, thus ensuring a new look for the building. “Our only agreement with the city is that the new image not be distasteful or commercial,” said firm principal James Gates. The building has been a hit, and is fully leased, despite being completed just prior to the recent economic doldrums. “We’re very proud of what we were able to get for the money,” said Gates.

Sam Lubell is AN’s California editor.

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Paying Tribute
About 100 onlookers gather at the MAS viewing of the Tribute in Light.
Paul Soulellis/Courtesy MAS

With the possible exception of Las Vegas, New York City could easily claim title to the country’s brightest city. Maybe it is simply the kinetic energy of the City that Never Sleeps, but there is little question that as the sun sets, the city comes most alive. From Times Square to Coney Island, from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty, from candlelit bistros to strobe-lit night clubs, New York is a city of lights.

It is fitting, then, that on the darkest day of the year, New York should turn to two towering beacons of light to remember the people, and the landmarks, lost on September 11, 2001.

“You don’t need someone like me to tell you what these are,” Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society, said from a lectern on the roof the Battery Parking Garage last night, where the MAS had staged the Tribute in Light for its seventh, and perhaps final, year. “Everyone sees something different, and that is the beauty of this project.”


An Apparitional Barwick speaks to the crowd.
All Photos BY Paul SoulEllis / Courtesy MAS

The MAS was hosting a semi-private viewing of the memorial last night, attended by the group’s staff and members, the project’s designers, lots of photographers, and a few volunteers from the local Audubon Society—it being migrating season, the birds can become disoriented by the lights—along with some light refreshments. Despite the somber occasion, there was a certain air of awe and even joviality in the crowd owing to the sheer magnitude of the array—88 lights arranged in two 20-foot squares throwing off 7,000 watts each.

The lights had been visible at times throughout the past week while they were being tested, but only last night did they burn from dusk until dawn. At first invisible, the beams quietly materialized like solemn apparitions, standing watch until the new sun rose, and with it, another day in the city. When dust blew threw the beams, happening often on such a blustery night, many onlookers spoke of ghosts or angels.

Massimo Moratti, the lead technician for Space Cannon, the Italian search light company that fabricated the special lamps, told the crowd it was such an honor to be here on behalf of his family. “My daughters, they start school,” he said. “They say, ‘My father go to New York, strike the light for memory, for the Twin Towers.’ Everyone is so proud.” Moratti has made the journey from Italy every year to oversee the “striking” of the lights.

“This quest,” he added, “is very important to remember. Remember every time."

After the remarks, the hundred or so onlookers made their way quietly and carefully around the rooftop, their necks craned skyward. Between laughter and tears, a calm overtook the roof. “I can’t even talk about it,” Richard Gould, one of the consulting architects, said with a pause. “Words don’t suffice.”


Visitors take in the meMorial.

As with anything involving 9/11, everyone had their stories. Aditya Shah had moved to America to study architecture at Penn shortly before the terrorist attack. With a month free before school began, he came to visit New York, including a stop at the World Trade Center on September 8. “I remember getting off the subway and looking up and thinking, Do these things ever end?” he recalled. “Now, standing up here next to the lights, I feel the same thing. Do these lights have an ending? It feels very much the same but also different. It has a very calming effect.”

Shah had brought his new wife, Neha, a recent arrival to the States, who said that the memorial reminded her of American perseverance. “It just gives a great idea of the spirit of the city, the way people have gone about remembering 9/11,” she said. “I think it is just brilliant the way the city has bounced back.”

For others who had grown up with the towers, it was good to have them back, if only for a night. Gustavo Bonevardi, one of four designers who conceived the memorial, grew up in Greenwich Village where “these things were the backdrop to my childhood. We’ve even got home movies full of them.” Within hours of the attacks, Bonevardi said the idea for the memorial was already forming. “There was just something about the sky being violated,” he said. “Being an architect, there was this need to repair the skyline. It was all I could think about.”

The idea for the project was initially rebuffed by Mayor Rudolph Giulliani, but even when his successor, Michael Bloomberg, approved, there was a great deal of concern it would not be well-received by the city. Frank Sanchis, the senior vice-president at MAS and man who spearheaded the memorial, said that the response has been so overwhelming, the group is committed to keep it going at least until the permanent memorial opens, which was the original mandate. With that project incomplete, Sanchis hopes to persevere.

“It really has taken a hold, in New York and beyond” he told AN. “They’re really aware of it around the world. The lights are something America can really be proud of, and in a non-political way.” Down on the street, Sanchis' dream had come true. Firefighters and Chasidim clutched beers hand-in-hand outside pubs. Mourners gathered around impromptu memorials. Tourists, speaking a babble of languages, mobbed Ground Zero. But all, from time to time, silently craned their necks skyward.

Matt Chaban

 

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Ground Zero Pavilion Unveiled
Squared Design Lab

On September 9, Governor David Paterson vowed that a memorial to the events of September 11, 2001 must open before other planned commercial development at the World Trade Center complex. Which left architect Craig Dykers of Snøhetta with a delicate task: create a beacon, located between three proposed towers and the memorial itself, that commemorates a tragedy while tying together an obstacle course of a site—all in a 47,500-square-foot, three-story building.

In that context, Dykers presented a brave face at a press conference later that day to unveil the most recent designs for a Ground Zero museum pavilion. His $80 million building, a gem-like, glass-and-steel volume composed of tilted planes, is to open in 2012 as the only above-grade portion of the memorial museum. And his remarks subtly referred to the jousting that made the pavilion so modest. “As important as any event in the past may be, people of the present and the future will connect with this place,” Dykers said. “Our design should speak to what this place will be. So the design tries to balance the initial Libeskind scheme and recent commercial planning.”

The original scheme for the site included a 220,000-square-foot cultural center fronting the sunken footprints of the World Trade Center towers. Former governor George Pataki rejected one of the site’s designated tenants, the International Freedom Center, and subsequent negotiations reworked the zone as part of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, honoring victims of all terrorist acts. It’s that museum, which one will enter underground, to which Dykers’ angled building opens through a stand of 50-foot-tall trees. The pavilion will also face three proposed office towers, each with double-height retail at street level, designed by international stars Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Fumihiko Maki. (The Freedom Tower, to the north, is still due to open in 2011.)


Squared Design Lab

Two columns from Minoru Yamasaki's original trade center towers will stand as the pavilion's centerpiece.
 

Searching for a connective language, Dykers and his team looked to the street-facing pediments of the lost World Trade Center. Since some had called the famous Y-shaped columns of the center’s lobby “tree trunks,” Snøhetta borrowed the metaphor to make a gesture with its roof. “We wanted the atrium to be a web structure, so that as much light as possible comes in,” Dykers said at the presentation. The roof, a trapezoid with carats on top, follows the vein-like pattern of a leaf. This motif relates the building to Santiago Calatrava’s birdlike PATH station, planned for Fulton Street on the east, and the trellises of Battery Park City on the west.

But as site leaseholder Larry Silverstein reiterated after Dykers’ talk, other projects are on hold until the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey “delivers infrastructure” to the entire, 16-acre site. And that process won’t begin in earnest until the agency releases a report on September 30 that presents a defensible construction schedule. Even after construction begins, it’s not clear that Silverstein can get financing or tenants for the other proposed towers.

Perhaps to preempt the Port Authority’s report, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on September 10 for the city to take over site management. And if that were to happen, Dykers and his client could get fast-tracked. Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber emphasized after Dykers’ talk that the city’s chief priority remains opening the memorial by September 11, 2011. The memorial should be completed before infrastructure and office development, Lieber told AN, “because of what it is.”

Lieber’s view reflects sound economic logic. Unlike the office towers, the memorial has a committed occupant, and can draw tourists while making good on a civic promise to victims’ families. And while that logic places a heavy burden on a small building, Dykers welcomed the challenge.

“Being small in a place like this sets you apart,” he told AN. “In New York, smaller spaces, like pocket parks in the Village or a small club, can be more memorable.” Of course, other Ground Zero elements have been getting scaled back, notably among them Calatrava’s station. In that spirit, Dykers’ closing words to the press corps had a poignant ring. “Your memory of this place will be not a physical object,” he said, “but an experience.”

Alec Appelbaum

 
All images: Squared Design Lab
With its entry along Greenwich street, The pavilion connects the calatrava-designed transportation hub and planned commercial towers with the memorial and museum spaces.

 

The project's angular footprint of 15,000 square feet points visitors to an oak-tree grove at the center of the plaza, near both the north and south memorial pools. 

 
A large, glazed atrium allows views into the museum, where remnants from the twin towers will be displayed. 

 

The pavilion will provide general site orientation, ticketing services for museum exhibitions and programs, and security screening.
 
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Eve of Biennale

It only took a few hours—and espressos—to catch the jitters going around Venice the day before press opening. Since I was in tow with the Commissioner of the US Pavilion, our own Bill Menking, and crew it was a privileged view, but no less insane as architect elves, ie support staff, scurried around town trying to find that last minute acetate binder, glue gun, 6-color color printer etc etc. The big guns don’t arrive til later today or even tomorrow if they were not invited to Zaha Hadid’s super-dinner at Palladio’s Malcontenta, a powerbroking hour away, at least. (We heard that Thomas Krens was planning to rechannel some back canal in order to take a shortcut there).

Aaron Betsky, the curator of the whole to-do, was troubleshooting from his post on a low wall outside the Italian Pavilion in the Giardini across a gravel path from the Dutch Pavilion, his old haunts. Ole Bauman, the current director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, was nearby wondering if Rem Koolhaas might show up to see the Dutch Pavilion’s “Archiphoenix,” a research project as only the Dutch can do research projects on the educational implications for architecture on the fire that recently wiped out the Faculty of Architetcure in Delft University. (Hint: He’s won’t. Rem is headed for New York to unveil the design on Thursday for 23 E 22, his luxury high-concept carbuncle condo attached to One Madison Park). Bauman was hosting a kind of hallow’s eve party for all the worker bees from all the national pavilions (there are 32 of them) fueled by kegs of peach juice and prosecco, hummus, and pasta made by an imported organic Dutch chef. Benjamin Ball of Ball Norgues of Los Angeles was on hand happy and hyper about his string installation at the Italian Pavilion whose theme features 50 experimenters and 4 master iconoclasts. Betsksy was explaining what exactly that meant when a staffer whispered in his ear that some Gehry drawings weren’t fitting their frames and he dashed off….

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Paul Byard, 1939-2008


COURTESY PBDW
 
 

Paul Spencer Byard leaves a remarkable legacy as both designer and defender of public-spirited architecture. As a young lawyer for the New York State Urban Development Corporation, from 1969 to 1974, he helped develop 30,000 units of low- and moderate-income housing. Later, as an architect, he artfully shaped some of the city’s newest landmarks and revived its old ones—first at James Stewart Polshek & Partners, and then as partner at Platt Byard Dovell White. And as director of Columbia University’s graduate preservation program, he showed a new generation how to learn from the past. Three colleagues spoke to AN about this eloquent and spirited advocate for architecture, who died at his Brooklyn home, at age 68, on July 15.

Charles A. Platt, partner
Platt Byard Dovell White Architects
My first partnership, Smotrich & Platt, designed the offices of Edward Logue and the Urban Development Corporation. There was on the staff a bright, cheerful young lawyer, with a handkerchief flopping out of his breast pocket, who took me aside and asked if I would design a special window in his office wall. Which I did, sneaking it by the very watchful Ed Logue and his entire architectural staff, and we got it built. So not only was I Paul’s partner, but I was also his architect.

Paul had left the firm Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts to work for the UDC, which was an amazingly hopeful organization. I can’t tell you how hopeful we were for the architectural and social expectations of the UDC. And that was one of the ideals in Paul’s later life: that the profession would return to those optimistic days and purposes. He was very ambitious for architecture.

I was on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission beginning in 1979. Jim Polshek practiced before the commission, and was often importantly represented by Paul. I remember one project in the Village, which was a little postmodern and forward-thinking for its time. Paul was the partner responsible for the project, which was not approved instantaneously. He came to me for advice—something architects before the commission apparently aren’t allowed to do any more—and that was when we began to talk architecture to each other again.

Preservation with a capital P didn’t exist in those early days. I think Paul felt very strongly, even as a lawyer at UDC, that the preservation of buildings of value was terribly important. Like many of us who had lived through the age of urban renewal, Paul learned from the mistakes of the past. He felt preservation played an exemplary role in our lives, that it profoundly affected our understanding of our society.

Gregg Pasquarelli, principal
SHoP Architects
Paul Byard was my first studio professor at Columbia’s GSAPP, in the fall of 1990. I had decided to pursue a joint degree in preservation and architecture, and Paul assigned three projects in the South Street Seaport. As anyone who has gone to architecture school knows, the first semester of studio is both exhilarating and terrifying, and as a student who had recently left a job on Wall Street to venture into the world of design, it was more the latter for me. Paul patiently guided me through everything from installing a Mayline to complex ideas about context, zoning, and aesthetics. 

A week or two before our final review, I was very much doubting myself. Paul said to me, “Gregg, if I could change my life and leave law at 37, you can change your life and leave banking at 26. And in fact, I think you should consider leaving preservation to focus on architecture,” he added. “Your job will be to try to make buildings that people will want to preserve someday in the future.” Those words, and his encouragement, have never left me.

Rosalie Genevro, executive director
Architectural League of New York
Paul Byard loved the art of architecture, the creativity and complexity inherent in the act of making. “The reason we have our art is like the reason we have hands, to take hold of pieces of our world and make them meet our needs,” he wrote in an introduction to the Architectural League’s catalogue for its exhibition on the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

For many, Paul’s public persona was so tied to his exquisite facility with language that his affinity for the making of architecture could be surprising. But it was an essential part of his view of the world; it manifested itself not only in his professional work but playfully in projects like his shading devices made of sails, and a table made of extruded aluminum, built for his house in Maine.

Paul’s insistence on understanding the art of architecture in all its fullness and significance—as the most characteristic and meaningful activity of homo faber—will reverberate in the League’s programs and with all those he came in contact with for a long time to come.

Eavesdrop: Anne Guiney

IT’S THE CRITIC’S COZY CORNER!

Well, well, well, it seems that the summer sun shines hotter on the lofty peaks where architecture critics reside, since we have to wonder what a few of them were thinking: In a piece on Lebbeus Woods, Nicolai Ouroussoff seems to pine for the pure old days when nobody ever built anything. You tell ‘em Nic—making buildings is bad, bad, bad! Epater les Constructeurs! … Speaking of tsk, tsk, tsk, one young writer chose the latest issue of Elle to muse in great detail about his personal life, specifically the demise of his marriage and a subsequent relationship. We are of the starchy New England school—“Shut it, sister!”—and were duly shocked at the lurid revelations, but the ensuing uproar turned out to be, well, uproarious: Blog commenters went for blood, and “narcissistic navel-gazing douchebag” may be the kindest thing he was called. Like we said, we don’t go in for scandal, so he shall remain unnamed (but it’s the issue with Jessica Simpson on the cover).… When we read about Robert A. M. Stern’s 15 Central Park West, we, too, believe that the rich are indeed different from you and we—they’re insane! Well, at least the subset willing to shell out $80 million for an apartment. But we digress. Paul Goldberger has examined that phenomenon not once but twice—once for the New Yorker, and a second time for Vanity Fair. It is rather important, we know, but really? Twice? Someone call the Condé Nast accounting department, stat! You cut two checks for the same story! And didn’t Mr. Stern design a house for Mr. Goldberger, way back in the day? … And finally, which newspaper staff is ditching work for a week to jaunt off to Venice for the Biennale? Not so hard, actually: We are! When we return, a full report on whether the prosecco was better at the dinner hosted by Aaron Betsky and David Rockwell or at the one held by Zaha Hadid.

Send gossip of the ink-stained-wretch variety to eavesdrop@archpaper.com.

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Fitful Sleep
Introductory panel to Episode 3: The Tower (The Fall), 1980, Bernard Tschumi.
Courtesy MoMA

Dreamland: Architectural Experiments Since the 1970s
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
Through March 2, 2009

After viewing Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling at MoMA, do not overlook Dreamland: Architectural Experiments Since the 1970s, on exhibit a couple of flights down in the architecture and design galleries. Drawn primarily from the permanent collection, the show focuses on visionary architecture from the seventies that reckoned with New York, including works by Rem Koolhaas, Steven Holl, Raimund Abraham, Superstudio, and others, and culminates with contemporary works influenced or inflected by these visionary ideas.

Many of the early works are large, meticulously rendered drawings of the city altered by radical architectural interventions, which, though some are iconic, such as Superstudio’s Continuous Monument (1969), seem remarkably fresh. Most involve superstructures inserted into a dense and chaotic urban fabric. For all these works’ radicalism, a nostalgic atmosphere pervades much of the 1970s work: Koolhaas’ Plan of Dreamland, Coney Island, New York, New York (1977), for which the show is named, is a plan for the historic amusement park, a place filled with real and invented memories.


 
 

COURTESY MoMA
 
Plan of Dreamland, 1977, Rem Koolhaas (top); Church of Solitude, transverse section, 1974-1977, Gaetano Pesce (above).
 
 

This somewhat paradoxical backward-looking atmosphere is underscored by the old-timey music playing in the gallery tracked to Madelon Vriesendorp, Teri When-Damisch, and Jean-Pierre Jacquet’s animated film Caught in the Act (1979), depicting the seduction of the Chrysler Building by the Empire State Building. Stills from the film, which until recently was thought to be lost, illustrate Koolhaas’ book Delirious New York, which curator Andres Lepik uses as the intellectual frame for the show.

“Many Europeans were coming to New York, seeing it as a field for experimentation,” Lepik told AN while walking through the exhibition. The city was then in a period of decline and crisis, so perhaps these architects saw their visions as redemptive forces, or at least saw the city’s degraded condition as rife with potential. Gaetano Pesce’s astonishing Church of Solitude, New York, New York, transverse section (1974–77) project includes tiny classical ruins at the mouth of his enormous church, hollowed out of the ground like a geometric cave. Interestingly, much of the 1970s work seems to reject a tabula rasa approach, signaling that though these architects were still thinking big, they had internalized the problems of large-scale urban renewal without lapsing into historicist recreations or capitalist capitulations—there isn’t a festival marketplace in sight.

The show loses steam as it moves toward the present and as its geographic range widens. Non-Cartesian formal investigation becomes a stand-in for the visionary. A large table of models fills the center of the room, and while they are a joy to see, many also feel like filler (Steven Holl’s Bridge Houses Project, Melbourne Australia [1979–82] is a notable exception). Most of the contemporary projects are houses, which Lepik argues are expressions of the persistent architectural fantasy of bringing urbanity to the countryside. But is Lindy Roy’s Sagaponack House really all that visionary? Many of the recent specimens included seem more like fashion, vestiges of the previous chief curator’s enthusiasms.

New York, it seems, is no longer the petri dish of architectural experimentation it once was. But though China and the Middle East may hold out the promise of endless possibility, a tabula rasa view of urbanism also seems to have returned to the work of many practitioners, including some included in the first part of the exhibition. Though absent from the show, these locales are hinted at, perhaps inadvertently. A model of Peter Eisenman’s Max Reinhardt House, Berlin (1992–93), prescient of the CCTV Tower with its contorted loop form, sits in the center of the room, prompting the question: Has Koolhaas’ dreamland evolved into a contemporary nightmare?

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After Industry
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Border Crossing
Rob Wellington Quigley's model house at Terra Sur.
Ramona D'Viola/Ilumus Photography

The resorts that dot the coast of Baja, Mexico are famous for their stunning Pacific vistas and all-you-can-eat lobster feasts, but they’re definitely not known for their architecture. In a groundbreaking collaboration, six architects from the United States and Mexico plan to change that. Terra Sur, located between Tijuana and Rosarito, is a new luxury development of 119 beachfront houses on seven acres that aims to reinvent the northern Baja coastline with a new form of Mexican vernacular design. It also marks the first time that Mexican and American architects have worked together on such a large-scale residential project. The initial phase, which includes seven single-family cliff-side houses, is underway, with the first house complete and serving as a model and sales office.

The U.S. firms include Rob Wellington Quigley, Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects, Safdie Rabines Architects, Ocean Pacific Design, and Studio E Architects. From Baja comes REDI Design and the developer and lead architect Guillermo Martinez de Castro, known to many in the Mexican design industry simply as “Mannix.”

The 3,300-square-foot show house Casa Agua, designed by Quigley and REDI Design, contains many of the design cues that will guide the entire development: an indoor-outdoor floor plan, site-sensitive elevations, and the use of natural materials. Additionally, the house is filled with regional details by local craftsmen like pebbled walkways, artisanally-built doors, and wrought ironwork. “These architects and engineers have the best of both worlds,” said Mannix, who held weekend workshops in his Baja office for all the architects. “They have all the amenities of high-tech construction, but they also have access to Mexico’s hand-crafted brick and stonework, as well as carpenters.” Three future phases will include 112 units in the form of villas, townhouses, and two mid-rise condo towers; a spa and fitness facility; and a restaurant. With units ranging from $350,000 to $2 million each, the developers hope to lure a mix of second homeowners and permanent residents from both the U.S. and Mexico.

Terra Sur is just ten miles south of the Mexican border, making its residents perfectly positioned for a “bi-national” lifestyle, said Mannix, who was raised and educated in both countries. An upcoming redesign of border facilities will allow residents to make the border crossing in 15 minutes, he added, making it possible for them to commute easily for work or leisure to San Diego.

Quigley, who also designed the development’s master plan, said he enjoyed the freedom of working in a Mexican design culture, which he described as more intuitive than American architecture. “There’s much more respect for your expertise,” said Quigley. “You’re not expected to put every 3-D detail onto a 2-D sheet of paper. It’s expected that as you build, you change and improvise and adjust as needed.” Quigley was also interested in creating a modern aesthetic that is region-specific, with nods to Mexico’s architectural legacy. “Mexico has been successful at adapting the modern sentiment. There’s a unique local style you can see in their major civic buildings,” he said. “This is a chance to create some high-quality architecture in the residential arena, which has usually not been so good.”

Although this part of Mexico hasn’t seen much luxury development, it seems the area could soon be a thriving community of vacationers and residents. Donald Trump’s Ocean Resort—a 525-unit, three-tower designed by Guerin Glass of New York and HOK in Mexico City—is underway a quarter-mile to the north, and many private houses are also being built in the area. With coastal land diminishing throughout Los Angeles, and San Diego prices five to ten times higher than in Mexico, Mannix thinks this is an obvious area for growth. “With less buildable space available [elsewhere],” he said, “this will become a natural extension of Southern California. People will move here to live full-time so they can have a higher quality of life.” He also noted that, for better or for worse, chains like Starbucks, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot are locating nearby, which might help make some Americans feel like they never even left home.