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Ed Mitchell began his role as the new director of the University of Cincinnati's School of Architecture and Interior Design (SAID) one year ago. Notable for its innovative century-old cooperative education platform, the school's rankings have dipped in the past decades out of the country's elite programs. In this interview, Mitchell—whose resume includes an energetic mix of professional practice and academic positions at Columbia, Pratt, Yale, IIT, and more—explains his vision for the school and the move from the east coast to the midwest. The Architect's Newspaper: At the time you took the role of SAID director, you were in charge of the post-professional program at Yale and an Associate Professor there. Ed Mitchell: There were things we were doing in studios at Yale that I thought had the mission of a "school." What I liked about the students at Yale—especially the post-professional students—was that they were international. Their perspective on issues was very different from the standard American East Coast background that Yale typically gets. We were doing studios where the problem was wide open—but it was real. It wasn't a problem of program or constructional limitations. What was important was a real evaluation of the aesthetics and formal control of architecture to other disciplines. There were physical aspects of city-making that compelled me. People would come to both of us with questions like: "We've got 1,600 acres. What should we do? We need an answer in three weeks." That was the problem. As a result, our students would get involved in the actual project—meet with state officials, local politicians, developers, fishermen, industry workers, local immigrant communities—and actually stage the city they wanted to have happen. AN: Why did you apply for the job in Cincinnati? EM: Cincinnati, if you've never come out here, is an exotic place. Everything was new here for me. It was like being in a foreign country. As an architect, this is one of the most beautiful architectural cities I've been too, bar (almost) none. Cincinnati is the westernmost eastern city, the southernmost northern city, and the northernmost southern city in the country. Nothing is resolved here! The city has an incredible history that you feel around you all the time. This is the subculture that makes a place interesting. It's the kind of place that I always gravitated to—I lived in Providence as an undergraduate. I moved to New York and San Francisco in the '80's which were both like that. If you were talented and had energy, then people would find out about you, and they might just invite you to collaborate with them. It wasn't like you had to pay dues to gain access. What's interesting about a city like Cincinnati is that it's relatively easy to get into the community to do work. The cost of the education is relatively low—when high tuition cost prohibits at a point of entry from certain economic classes that isn't right. If you are eliminating talent based on income, you're not doing anything important anymore. This was the right school with the right kind of potential. AN: What are you most excited about in your new position as director of SAID? EM: $2 beers and cheap bowling. An exciting art scene of young people in the city. Adjunct faculty who looked like they might have the kind of energy to take this to the next level. I sensed people wanted somebody to push the energy level up—to keep it up and stay positive about it. A lot of people forgot about the University of Cincinnati. On the east coast, it had a reputation as a great school. The midwestern schools safeguarded and championed the discipline of architecture for several decades. I still think of it that way, but admittedly many students are not familiar with the place and its mission. People are a little intimidated about taking risks, and this might be a risky place to be. It's not New York or L.A. or London. But it's a place where culture arises from. You have opportunities here that you wouldn't have elsewhere. This week was incredible. The first year graduate studio built a pavilion on the main campus in two and a half weeks that's pretty incredible; we have five books coming out next month after one year. We have a new dean incoming from Hong Kong who is bringing a global perspective to the college. AN: What plans do you have for the school? What's your vision for it? EM: A lot of people don't realize Cincinnati has a 100-year old co-op program where a portion of the curriculum is dedicated to students working in offices around the world. The idea of the cooperative was a radical political agenda in the midwest. It would be an exciting mission for the school to take it dead seriously. Not just as a service to professional offices—there's nothing wrong with that—but what the cooperative project really is. Whether that's questioning our urban futures, or taking a group of new students and in three weeks building a community structure to host events, or organizing the junior faculty in a three-city exhibition. There's an attitude here: an "all hands on deck" approach. Everyone pitches in to get things accomplished. I think this is fantastic—something you don't get in a lot of places. People here are competitive and want to do excellent work, but they're supportive and cooperative towards a larger cultural effort. AN: Explain the issues facing the school. EM: The school's reputation was in the accredited B.Arch program. I think we need to define what a Masters program is. The real question is what do we do different here than other schools? It's a relatively small program in size with a "down home" work ethic about what it does. However, that shouldn't stop it from being creative and original. Ohio is full of great subcultures in the arts and music from its utopian past to the birth of punk in Cleveland and Akron. We need to keep that spirit in architecture. There's too much focus on program and not enough critique of architecture. The good intentions of the students and faculty sometimes backfire: the moral is a way of dodging the physique. Some of our students travel internationally through co-op, but historically we haven't had strong enough partnerships with international academic programs. For example, our students will work in Beijing on a co-op, but they haven't actually done studio work there or looked at larger international problems that they'll probably be involved in within offices. So I'm trying to find a way that we can do research-based work within the school. Not only as a studio imperative but as an extended research project in a developing post-doc program or the existing doctoral programs. These projects can become longer-term sustained revisitation of a series of problems. In this way, international studies become less episodic and more engaged with a broader mission statement. AN: Since you were at Eisenman's office in the mid-'90s during the design of the school addition, what insights can you share about the building? Can you tell us how it operates? EM: The building has a legacy as one of the last buildings during the peak of a critical, theoretical approach in formalism. When I got out of school, I thought this was the only thing architecture would be left to do. It's an important legacy to retain, but not one to continually emulate to the point of exhaustion. It's like a medieval city—you have to learn it's internal routes. There are ways of moving about the building that inspire conspiracies, gang organizations, and new collectives. The main space in the building exists as a great gallery of work. SAID tends to occupy this space as much as it can. You can sit there, eat a sandwich, roll around on the floor, look at your work. People are in discussions there. It's a really active space and didactive for our students and faculty. AN: While SAID is one of four broader schools within DAAP, it contains two disciplines: architecture and interior design. Culturally, these programs feel like two different worlds, each with their own academic agendas and representational toolsets. EM: I'd like for the two disciplines to interplay more. There are things that each does better. Something is fascinating about how, in the 18th century, things like color couldn't be described scientifically. Issues like color and shape that weren't normative or relative to a platonic solid fell out of the discourse of architecture because they couldn't be documented, written, and transcribed. Interiors, as a discipline, didn't really emerge until the 19th century when "identity" became an issue. This led to a wide range of proto-formations of architecture and spatial matrices. Cincinnati is full of that because it emerged as a great city during this time of a shifting cultural spectrum. The result is that it's a place where you can invent stuff—there is great high modernism here, there's incredible Victorian architecture, and the landscape and river have its own unique presence. I think you can tap into that variety of circumstances, ecologies, and histories.
Missed some of our articles, tweets, or Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! D.C.’s newest museum goes underground to explore the American police system The new National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C., opened to the public in mid-October and teaches civilians what it's like to be police officer. Florida residents demand border wall around Habitat for Humanity housing Habitat for Humanity announced that an upcoming affordable housing development in East Naples, Florida, will have to be built with a concrete border wall. Amazon to split HQ2 between New York and Virginia, but can they handle it? News of a Crystal City Amazon headquarters may have been premature; it now seems the tech giant is looking at Long Island City as well. What did the 2018 midterms mean for East Coast architects? Let out a sigh of relief; the 2018 midterm elections are over, and voters passed judgment up and down the Eastern Seaboard on a wave of measures. West Coast sees big wins (and losses) in architecture and urbanism ballot initiatives As Democratic voters retook the House of Representatives and key gubernatorial seats, a series of initiatives saw mixed results in western states. That's all. See you Monday.
Earlier this year, when architect Dong-Ping Wong branched out to start his own firm, he found himself going through name after name but none seemed to have the right ring. Finally, the word “food” occurred to him. Ridiculous at first, it wouldn’t leave his head, and so it stuck. Food, the firm, was born. Food, said Wong, is “something that everyone has an association with and a relationship to.” It is something people “can come together around.” Food as an architecture firm name, he points out, is unfortunately also very hard to Google. But that hasn't stopped them from working on projects for clients ranging from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to Kanye and Kim Kardashian West. But it's their most recent project, Office Hours, where the name's magnanimous universalism really shines through. For Office Hours, Food has taken over a storefront on East Broadway in New York’s Chinatown for three weeks of programming centered around an online radio station (to be distributed in more permanent format later) as well as various community projects and events. All manner of creative people, like chef Angela Dimayuga, artist Jon Wang, designers Chen Chen and Kai Williams, SO-IL partner Jing Liu, DJ Venus X, and creative director Heron Preston have come through and spoken on the air. As the website for Office Hours notes, the events, like actual office hours, also serve as an “open invitation.” People can come in and listen, and youth are particularly encouraged. In fact, Food members have stopped by the public library on more than one occasion to invite kids and teens in and people have come in off the street to do work or check out the "reading room." Office Hours is committed to promoting people of color and those who live in the largely-immigrant neighborhood. As the project description notes, “In New York City, one in four Asian Americans live below the poverty line…Unsurprisingly, many young people that grow up in this environment self-limit what they see themselves being able to do.” The purpose of Office Hours, in part, is to expand this range of vision and imagination by introducing youth to the whole array of future possibilities for themselves. The space, which is laid out with some wiggly custom-made gray plywood tables held up by Ikea desk legs, has hosted happenings for all ages—from drawing lessons to impromptu happy hours. Office Hours continues through November 16 and all are invited to intend. The schedule and the live stream are available on Food's website.
Two Bridges to Nowhere
The Dubaification of New York
The residents of the Two Bridges neighborhood in the Lower East Side find themselves in a predicament. Throughout the city, developers have targeted expired urban renewal areas originally governed by land-use controls that have ensured housing affordability for decades. The Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Development is one such target. Exploiting the site’s underlying high-bulk zoning allowances, a group of developers is proposing to build four new predominantly market-rate skyscrapers, ranging in height from 62 to 80 stories—four gleaming luxury megatowers that portend a storm of gentrification and displacement. The proposal needs approval by the city administration. Many argue that the development requires a “Special Permit,” which would call for a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). In 2016, Carl Weisbrod, then Chair of the City Planning Commission, declared the project a “Minor Modification” requiring no ULURP. After public outcry, the Department of City Planning requested the developers to undertake an unprecedented joint Environmental Review. On October 17, 2018, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing regarding the proposal’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The room was packed. About 100 people testified. The vast majority (myself included) raised serious objections to the project and the approval process. Only five were in favor: two members of a union advocating for 50 permanent building service jobs promised for the site; an advocate for the disabled, who supports all projects that add elevators to subway stops; the current Two Bridges commercial tenant, who is promised a long-term lease in the new complex; and the executive director of Settlement Housing Fund, who is selling air rights to the 80-story tower. At the public hearing, questions about the appropriateness of the project’s scale were addressed by Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP, the firm responsible for the 80-story tower, who showed examples of recent large-scale waterfront projects and said that the city has consistently approved this kind of development. In his presentation, Pasquarelli glossed over substantive issues of urban context. The audience was baffled if not offended. When Pasquarelli claimed that the project “will create a vibrant, beautiful, equitable, and appropriate skyline for the city and its residents,” the room actually burst into laughter. Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin pointed out that the projects of “tremendous scale” that Pasquarelli used to make his case were in manufacturing areas transitioning to a new use, while this expired urban renewal area was planned for, and still is, a low- and moderate-income residential development. Pasquarelli, showing what was at best was ignorance and at worst callousness, did not really respond and brought up the example of the American Copper Buildings, a SHoP-designed 800-unit residential development in an already affluent neighborhood, with nowhere close to the same risks of gentrification and displacement impending at Two Bridges. Laughter also greeted Pasquarelli’s closing sentence: “the city is in a housing crisis, and this provides a huge amount of affordable housing for the neighborhood.” Indeed, a quarter of the new apartments (694 out of 2,775 units) will have a degree of affordability. But for whom? Surely not the current residents of Two Bridges, whose households’ median income ($30K) is below the threshold for renting in the new ‘affordable’ units ($37K). City-wide trends and the advent of Essex Crossing have already resulted in the loss of rent-regulated units as well as higher eviction rates in the area. The influx of 2,081 market-rate apartments cannot but exacerbate the situation and lead to residential and business displacement. Whose neighborhood will this be once bodegas are replaced by cafés selling five-dollar lattes? The Environmental Review was meant to identify any adverse impact from the proposed development in 19 areas of analysis as defined by the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) Technical Manual guidelines. The review found negative impact in five areas—Transportation, Shadows, Open Space, Construction, and Community Facilities & Services—for which the developers are proposing some mitigation. No adverse impact was found in 14 areas, among them Socioeconomic Conditions and Neighborhood Character. How is this possible? The CEQR guidelines are notoriously flawed. For instance, per the guidelines, no resident of a building with even one rent-regulated unit is vulnerable to indirect displacement. Even more troubling: the guidelines call for a “No Action” scenario to be used as a comparison when evaluating indirect displacement. The DEIS defines “No Action” as a condition “in which projects are expected to continue the trend towards market-rate development and rising residential rents in the study area. In accordance with the CEQR Technical Manual guidelines, since the vast majority of the study area has already experienced a readily observable trend toward increasing rents and new market rate development, further analysis is not necessary.” The “No Action” scenario is one of several critical factors that make possible and seemingly inevitable what we might call the ‘dubaification’ of New York City. It is not a loophole: the developers and their compliant architects are going by the book, following the law to the letter. The problem is written in the law itself: once you accept the premise that the market is already conquering the city—that increasing rents and luxury developments are already the norm—no new project, no matter how big or in which urban context, can ever be held responsible for negatively affecting the socio-economic fabric of any area. The question, in assessing this proposal as well as the spate of massive developments popping up all over the city, is not solely about scale. To be sure, height is a major concern. (I find it ironic that the tallest of the existing six housing complexes at Two Bridges is a 21-story building that everyone calls “The Tower.”) But what these megatowers portend is something more ominous: an ever more homogeneous and generic skyline; the disappearance of neighborhoods and their communities; apartments becoming phantom residencies for absentee investors; dwelling valued only as an investment, a commodity; a city of resplendent buildings towering over dead streets. There is still time to do the right thing for Two Bridges. The City Planning Commission will be voting as early as November 14 on the “Minor Modification.” They must deny it. A ULURP must be granted, to allow the public and elected officials to negotiate for more significant community benefits, including greater and deeper affordability as well as height caps to truly tackle the adverse impact of the megatowers. More important, the Two Bridges debate is an opportunity to start imagining alternative visions for our city. The City administration must close zoning loopholes and fix the CEQR guidelines. Let’s build a city in which housing is not treated as a commodity but as a fundamental right.
Pokemon Go to the Polls
What did the 2018 midterms mean for East Coast architects?
Let out a sigh of relief (or keep holding your breath); the 2018 midterm elections are over, and voters passed judgment up and down the Eastern Seaboard on a wave of politicians and ballot measures that will impact architects, construction workers, and transportation enthusiasts. Climate change policy was also, though not as explicitly, up for a vote alongside more concrete measures. Although the dust is still settling, AN has put together a primer on what the election results mean from Miami to Maine. New York Democrats now control all three branches of government in New York State and are poised to rewrite the state’s rent stabilization laws…assuming Governor Andrew Cuomo lets them. As Gothamist noted, the 1971 Urstadt Law prevents New York City from usurping Albany’s authority and passing more stringent rent control laws than those at the state level, even as the city spirals deeper into its affordable housing crisis. The new year will bring a vote on all of the laws that oversee the city’s affordable housing stock, meaning that the newly inaugurated state legislators will be in prime position to demand stronger tenant protections. The real estate industry in New York City has historically donated to campaigning Republicans and the reelection of the industry-friendly Cuomo, however, so it’s unclear how far the governor will acquiesce. As the NYPost broke down, tenant activists are amped up at the possibility of tamping down annual rent increases and ending the ability of landlords to raise rents after investing in capital improvements. Cuomo’s reelection also likely locks in the decision to place Amazon’s HQ2 (or 2.5) in Long Island City. The governor had been a huge booster for NYC’s bid for the tech hub, promising hundreds of millions in state subsidies. On the national front, the election of a number of “climate hawks,” including New York 14th District representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the 19th District’s Antonio Delgado, will bring a group of climate-action hardliners to Washington. It’s expected the new crop of progressive voices will press the House on plans to transition toward sustainable energy and curb America’s dependence on fossil fuels. More importantly, 16 Republican House members—more than half—on the 90-person bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus were voted out. On its surface, the collapse of the caucus sounds like a bad thing for environmentalists, but as Earther notes, the group was known for advancing milquetoast, business-friendly proposals that ultimately went nowhere. Although any climate action coming from the House needs to pass the Senate and would land on the President’s desk, where it would presumably wilt, the momentum for change is slowly building. Any climate change–confronting action will likely have an outsized impact on zoning codes in New York and beyond and would require construction teams and architects to implement steeper resiliency measures into their projects. Maine In Maine, voters overwhelmingly passed Question 3 by a measure of 2-to-1, ensuring that the state would issue $106 million in general bonds for transportation projects. Of that, $80 million will be used for roadway and bridge infrastructure construction and repair, $20 million for upgrading airports, ports, harbors, and railroads, and $5 million for upgrading stream-facing drainpipes to lessen the impact on local wildlife. One million will also be spent to improve the pier at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. Florida Ron DeSantis is the new governor and Rick Scott is likely to move up to become a senator. During his tenure as governor, Scott, although presiding over a state uniquely vulnerable to flooding and coastal storms, was a staunch climate change denier and banned the phrase from all state documents and discussions. DeSantis appears to be cut from the same cloth, telling crowds during a campaign stop over the summer that climate change, if it exists, can’t be mitigated at the state level. What this likely means will be a continued lack of action to mitigate climate change and its effects on a state level. Soccer lovers can rejoice, though, as 60 percent of voters endorsed allowing David Beckham’s Freedom Park to build on the Melreese Country Culb. The $1 billion Arquitectonica-designed soccer stadium, hotel, “soccer village,” and office, retail, and commercial space will span 73 acres. Michigan Gerrymandering looks like it’s on its way out in Michigan after a 60-40 vote to redraw the state’s districts. Over several decades, the state legislature had used its redistricting power to cram Democrat or Republican constituents (depending on who was in power at the time) into congressional districts where their impact would be marginalized. Now, after the passage of Proposal 2 and the subsequent amending of Michigan’s constitution, a 13-person, bipartisan panel will be established to redraw the state’s internal boundaries. Four Republicans, four Democrats, and five non-party identifying individuals will make up the commission. Barring a court challenge, money for the initiative, including pay for its members, will be allocated from the state budget come December 1, 2019. After that, the commission will draw up the new districts for the 2022 election using data from the 2020 census. The panel will convene every 10 years, in time with the census, and can only be disbanded after the legal challenges to its decisions are completed. Any Michigan citizen who hasn’t held political office in the last six years can apply to become a commissioner.
Look on the Sunnyside
Amazon to split HQ2 between New York and Virginia, but can they handle it?
Only hours after the news leaked that Amazon was considering Crystal City, a suburb in Arlington, Virginia, that bounds D.C. for the site of its second headquarters, sources are reporting that two cities will actually be taking home a shiny new HQ2. Long Island City in Queens and Crystal City in Northern Virginia will both be getting a mini-HQ2 of sorts and the accompanying 25,000 employees, raising concerns that both neighborhoods will soon face an influx of wealthier residents that will further strain already stressed housing and transportation systems. Although the Chicago Tribune noted that Amazon’s decision to split up its headquarters may have been to head off criticism that it would overburden any city that HQ2 landed in (echoing complaints of Seattle residents), it may not be enough. Over the last year, 1,436 new residential units were built in Long Island City during a time when New York is already struggling—and using increasingly novel means—to hit affordable housing goals. The decision appears to have been weeks, if not months, in the making. Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have met with representatives of Amazon in the past few weeks, with the mayor’s office leading tours of the Queens neighborhood.
Just last week, the city announced that it would be infusing the waterfront neighborhood with $180 million in investments toward improving schools, infrastructure, transportation, and open space; it now appears that the announcement’s timing was more than coincidental. The city may also be banking on the future development of Sunnyside Yard, the 180-acre active rail yard situated between Long Island City and Sunnyside, to soak up some of the expected influx of new residents. Although Long Island City, directly across the East River from Midtown Manhattan, is served by eight subway lines, the Long Island Railroad, and easy connections to both John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, New York’s subway and bus systems are already in the middle of a crisis. Sky-high ridership in recent years, overcrowding, cascading mechanical failures, and struggles to find the funding necessary to fix the subways’ most pressing issues have all contributed to a decrease in the quality of New York’s transportation network. Governor Cuomo, for his part, has been quiet on whether the incentives offered to Amazon include money to improve, or at least fortify, the subway system, though to this point, the administration has already pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives. Yesterday, the governor joked that he’d go as far as to “change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that's what it takes." We’ll see if he follows through.
I don't know exactly where in LIC Amzon HQ2 will be, but the majority of LIC is categorized as opportunity zones. If HQ2 is built in an opportunity zone, Amazon will not pay taxes on land. In New York City. pic.twitter.com/IwTpYDK5Rt— Lena Afridi (@lpafridi) November 6, 2018
The Future of Retail?
Amazon is bringing its seamless automated grocery store to New York
Imagine a world where artificial intelligence tracks your every movement. A world where buildings have minds of their own, learning your behaviors, and collecting data from you as you come and go. While existing technology has not yet reached sci-fi levels, a visit to an Amazon Go grocery store can offer you a peek into this possible future of retail design. This week Amazon announced its plans to open a new store in New York, the first of its kind on the East Coast, before opening nearly 3,000 more nationwide by 2021. The company has already built out six Amazon Go stores in Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco. The cutting-edge stores, as shown within its first locations, are characterized by visual simplicity, clarity, and hyper-functionality. Through the stores' structural elements, including minimalistic facades, geometric configurations, and exposed raw materials, such as wood veneer and polished concrete, the interiors assume an industrial feel. They feature muted colors and black merchandise racks that give the stores a clean appearance as well. Meanwhile, ceiling cameras monitor shoppers as they wander through the aisles. The stores are unique in that they are void of cashiers, cash registers, and self-service checkout stands. Customers only need to walk in, take what they need, and leave. As they swing through the turnstiles on their way out, Amazon automatically bills their credit cards. Within minutes, a receipt is sent to the Amazon app, giving customers a summary of what they bought, what they paid, and the exact amount of time they spent in the store. The stores, which depend on highly sophisticated image recognition software and artificial intelligence to function, are expected to drastically transform the retail experience in unexpected ways. Amazon began working on retail stores five years ago with the goal of eliminating consumer criticisms and complaints, such as struggling to find products and waiting in long lines. Since the first Amazon Go store opened last January in Seattle, it has received tremendous praise and success. According to CNN, highly automated retail stores like Amazon Go are expected to become the norm within as little as 10 to 15 years. Research has shown that up to 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of automation in the next decade, which will save retailers money on labor, as well as boost profits, but obviously cost retail workers their livelihood. Automated stores can facilitate the ordering and restocking process as cameras and AI track inventory in real-time. The removal of cash registers provides more space for inventory. Customer data can also be uploaded to the servers of each building, where retailers can present them with personalized discounts, offers, and other incentives. While Amazon has confirmed plans to open an Amazon Go store in New York, its location has yet to be determined.
Islands in the Stream
Freeman Plaza West creates islands of green amid torrents of New York traffic
Hugging the looped entrance to the Holland Tunnel on Broome Street, Freeman Plaza West is a “found” public space in Manhattan that’s been reimagined as a peaceful parkland for area workers to remove themselves from the car-ridden bustle of the surrounding streetscape. The two-acre green space is the talk of the surrounding Hudson Square, and not just because its the newest non-desk place to eat lunch in the post-industrial Manhattan neighborhood. The project was conceived by the Hudson Square Business Improvement District (BID) and designed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA). Freeman Plaza is spread out over three adjacent landscapes—a west, east, and north plaza (the former two are finished). The spaces feature simple interventions such as tables, chairs, decking, solar-powered charging stations, turf lawn, book lending kiosks, public art, and programming, all input gradually over a period of several years. Because of the plaza’s close connection to the Holland Tunnel, where 12 lanes of traffic merge into two, the architects aimed to make a quiet place where congestion and noise were nearly imperceptible. Signe Nielsen, MNLA’s founding principal, said the firm was led by the question: “How can we make a true public space in the middle of 45,000 cars?” “It has truly been an adventure in tactical urbanism,” Nielsen said. “Although this is a somewhat overwrought term, we’ve been implementing opportune interventions on a fairly unlikely site slowly and steadily, and at low-cost.”
Over 40,000 people work in Hudson Square. The majority of them, due to the types of companies the area attracts, are young, mobile workers under 35 who are tech-savvy, transient, and seek time away from the office during the day. Freeman Plaza, Nielsen said, isn’t in a typical location for a park, but it offers the same respite a park might, while being somewhat of a shock to the local population—simply because it’s an actual green space with already mature trees in a non-green area. “Most people don’t think of Freeman Plaza as a destination; it’s a surprise,” Nielsen said. “We virtually created a complete buffer from the outside world so psychologically it feels like you’re not in the middle of traffic.” Freeman Plaza is the third “found” space in Hudson Square, identified as part of an initiative to amplify public space and rebrand the district. Hudson Square BID and MNLA released an award-winning masterplan in 2012 called “Hudson Square is Now” that gave way to a more sustainable streetscape with 250 newly-planted or retrofitted trees and a stormwater management system. Nielsen sees this type of casual, gradual landscape design as a way to help beautify and reclaim urban spaces in any city, especially areas that are walkable but also dependent on cars. She notes that observing the city with an eagle eye is key when siting underutilized areas located directly off of major pieces of transportation infrastructure. “You’ve got to look around in a very greedy kind of way,” she said. “Ask, where can I grab land for people? What would it take to allow the public into this space? Sometimes the most unlikely places appear.” Freeman Plaza West opened to the public earlier this spring, following the initial build-out of Freeman Plaza East in 2014. MNLA’s design for the new Spring Street Park, located one block from Freeman Plaza, unofficially opened to the public last month.View this post on Instagram
Alberta-born, New York–based artist Elaine Cameron-Weir has made a name for herself with her sculptures in all variety of scale, shape, and material. Most recently, she was commissioned by Storm King Art Center as part of their now annual Outlooks series, which invites an emerging or mid-career artist to devise a temporary site-specific installation for the art park. AN sat down with Cameron-Weir to talk about her new sculpture, the problem of design, and, naturally, the apocalypse. Architect's Newspaper: Can you remind me of the title of your installation at Storm King; it's quite a title. Elaine Cameron-Weir: It’s A toothless grin. A STAR EXPANSION! GLOBE OF DEATH A graveyard orbit. “A toothless grin” is kind of like a play on a colloquial saying, something about missing teeth and death—with connotations of something unsettling, like decay. And then “A STAR EXPANSION!” comes from this fastener company that the people who started Storm King had, the Star Expansion Industries Corporation. I thought that was a beautiful name. The “GLOBE OF DEATH” is what this spherical cage is called that stunt motorcyclists ride around in during shows. And then ‘A graveyard orbit’ is a phrase for the orbit of a satellite that extends beyond its useful orbit; when the satellite is no longer to be used, they send it into a graveyard orbit. It just keeps circling the earth as space junk. AN: The shelter is a found piece; is the globe also found? ECW: No, the globe was fabricated specifically for the piece, but it's based on objects that already exist. So it’s about the same dimensions as the globes of death that are generally the ones that travel to county fairs and other venues. AN: What was it like working in that sort of scale, at a scale that's not intended to be experienced in a room but in a landscape? ECW: The absence of surrounding architecture for art is really strange. I didn't expect it to be so…it wasn't difficult, and I wouldn't say it was easy. It was just there was the removal of the constraints of a room. There's such a specific way that people behave in an art space. I've done projects where it's been in an environment that's not specific to looking at art, like abandoned buildings, but you're still dealing with something that's around you. And the scale is really different. Something huge does not necessarily look huge outside. And you have to think about the weather and transparency; if the piece itself is partially transparent and if you look at it from a certain angle, it disappears into the trees behind it, whereas in a clean white space, nothing disappears in the same way. It was interesting and I'm really glad I got the chance to do that. Because those things are so obvious after the fact, but until you do something like that, you don’t think about it the same way. AN: You don’t realize that you were designing objects for a room the whole time. ECW: Or you do realize it, but then that relationship is removed and you realize that you were operating in a system that’s actually largely invisible to you until you don't have it, even though you were addressing it. AN: Part of what you engage with is not just the space in its physicality but also the history of that physical site. Could you give a bit of background of this? ECW: Con Ed was trying to build a power plant in Storm King Mountain from the early 1960s to 1980, which would’ve totally altered it. There were all these protests and it went to court and eventually, the environmentalists won. It’s not super related to the piece in the end, but I was researching some materials about it: the court documents, reading the transcripts of the people testifying against the project. Basically, they're just giving these apocalyptic scenarios of what would happen if the power plant were built. It totally reads like science fiction, a hyperbolic vision of the future. I found that really important because I write a lot surrounding my work. It's kind of like sketching; a way to keep track of ideas. The fact that these documents alluded so much to the future that it became science fiction, that's kind of what connected this mountain to the project. AN: There’s an element of fictionalization in the piece, as well, in that you’ve totally detached these objects from their original context. You’re imagining these possible reuses. But it also is a bit apocalyptic. For example, there’s, of course, a repurposed bomb shelter. How do you get things from the military? ECW: I bought it from some guy in the Midwest on the internet. I didn't really ask how he got it. But a lot of times people, like resellers, will buy stuff like this at auction in lots. And they'll resell it to people like me or to people that are making doomsday preparations. Generally, in fictionalized versions of the future, people just get their hands on this kind of equipment somehow because the government’s been destroyed or something and it’s anarchy. There’s a feeling of that kind of future projection in the work for sure. AN: It's a bit of a harsh object in some ways. It's not, like, a pretty thing. I don't want to harp on the apocalyptic, but are you interested in violence? It is, after all, literally a military object. ECW: I am a nonviolent person when it comes to confrontation. But I think that most people are interested in violence. And by interested, it doesn't mean you’re… AN: Going to go on a killing spree or anything. ECW: Yeah. It just means you are perhaps terrified by it or you are curious about it, you've been a victim of it, you've inflicted it. And I don’t think it’s all a bad thing; there are people who are very much devoted to the application of the potential of violence in measured instances. I’m thinking of things like BDSM, or even skydiving. It's a force of human life, for better or for worse. And I think that what I'm interested in more is the latency of that and the potential. The piece for me is more about potential energy, and I think that there could be a certain amount of violence inherent in potential energy because it's something that is yet to happen. But I don't think that my stance with the piece would be that it’s a warning about aggression or that it's aggressive. I think the violent feeling comes in part from it being human-sized. AN: Which is actually what I was about to ask you about, the relation to the body and personal scale. ECW: One way to make something, at least how I’m working right now, is to make it body-sized or relatable in scale, and things that are designed to protect the body also carry a suggestion of violence because they're preventing harm. If you suggest protection, you suggest violence. And that has to do with the fact that we're physical animals and we have a body that's susceptible to all sorts of things. AN: You just used the word “designed.” You recently spoke on the issue of design and its separation from art proper in Art Forum, saying about the work that “It’s almost like designing. That’s a dirty word, maybe. But my work is related to design.” Of course, you went on to say “Personally, I don’t think design is a dirty word. It really just means making something work.” How do design and architecture intersect with your practice, or diverge from it? ECW: Some people still don't love when art and design sit next to each other. It could be seen as disparaging just to say, "Oh, that piece of art looks like design.” I meant it was a dirty word if you look at it from this narrow-minded perspective of thinking that design means shiny plastic objects in a store and maybe an Eames chair. Basically, believing that the need for function kind of upsets the “purity” of our art, which I disagree with. I think that when something has a function or requires a function a lot of interesting things can happen. But it's not that you need parameters to do something interesting. Earlier we were talking about not having architecture around me to respond to at Storm King. That absence of architecture didn’t make way for some kind of purity, it was just replaced with another set of parameters involved with working outside. With design, things also change. I'm not an architect and I'm not a designer, but I could imagine that making something with a function you would be solving so many different problems all the time. I find that there still could be so much potential for freedom in that. Outlooks: Elaine Cameron-Weir Storm King Art Center 1 Museum Road, New Windsor, New York Through November 25
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo last week announced a $13-billion plan to transform John F. Kennedy International Airport into a modern 21st-century facility anchored by two new world-class international terminal complexes on the airport's north and south sides. This record investment, which includes $12 billion in private funding, will advance Cuomo’s vision for a unified and interconnected airport system with best-in-class passenger amenities, centralized ground transportation options, and vastly improved roadways that collectively will increase the airport's capacity by at least 15 million passengers a year. The governor's Vision Plan, initially unveiled in January 2017 and based on the recommendations from the governor's Airport Advisory Panel, calls for an overhaul of JFK’s eight disparate terminals into one unified airport. The plan also calls for increasing the number and size of gates, improving parking availability, adding an array of airside taxiway improvements to allow for bigger planes and reduced gate congestion, upgrading the AirTrain JFK system to handle increased passenger capacity, and enhancing roadways on and off the airport. The announcement followed the selection last September of a master planning team for the redevelopment of the airport, led by Mott MacDonald and Grimshaw Architects. Grimshaw's portfolio of prior master planning and redevelopment projects includes airports around the world. The proposed new $7-billion, 2.9-million-square-foot terminal on the airport's south side will be developed by the Terminal One Group, which is a consortium of four international airlines: Lufthansa, Air France, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air Lines. The plan calls for replacing JFK's Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, as well as the area left vacant when Terminal 3 was demolished in 2014. When completed, the terminal will yield a net increase of over 2 million square feet from the existing terminals and provide 23 international gates, 22 of which will be designed to accommodate larger, wide-body aircraft. The complex will be operated by Munich Airport International and also be connected to the existing Terminal 4, which initially opened in 2001 and has been expanded twice since then, most recently in 2013. On the airport's north side, the proposed new $3-billion, 1.2-million-square-foot terminal will be developed by JetBlue. JetBlue plans to demolish Terminal 7 and combine it with the vacant space where Terminal 6 was demolished in 2011 to create a world-class international terminal complex that would be connected to the airline's existing Terminal 5 and be occupied by the airline and its various partners currently spread throughout the airport. The plans for the two terminals announced yesterday will now be submitted to the Port Authority's Board of Commissioners. Once lease terms are finalized, the leases will be subject to final board approval. Construction is expected to begin in 2020, with the first new gates opening in 2023 and substantial completion expected in 2025. The Port Authority also will seek proposals to develop the new Kennedy Central hub, issuing a request for information in coming months.
Manhattan's East River Park is expected to receive a massive facelift—and sooner than expected. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration announced an update to nearly 70 percent of the design for the long-awaited East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR). The new $1.45-billion-plan will not only speed up the construction process and shift heavy construction work away from residential areas and closer to the waterline, it will also improve access to East River Park while transforming it into a world-class parkland. According to a press release, the purpose of the redesign is to allow flood protection to begin one year ahead of schedule. In addition, the entire project is now slated to be completed six months earlier than previously determined. By pushing back the flood walls from FDR Drive toward the East River along the water's edge, there will be fewer barriers between East River Park and the local community, giving the 40-acre green space a more open and welcoming appearance. The flood walls will be directly integrated with the bulkhead and esplanade. Plans are also underway to create a spacious entry plaza at Houston Street with a direct passageway to the water, where pedestrians can stumble upon views of the East River with ease. The new plan will also add 12 tennis courts, eight baseball fields, four basketball courts, three soccer fields, a multipurpose field, and a running track to Lower Manhattan’s largest park. The ESCR is a $335-million proposal to construct flood barriers along the coast of Manhattan, from Midtown East to the Lower East Side. Bjarke Ingels Group and One Architecture & Urbanism conceived the idea in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2013. ESCR is only the first of three stages of Ingels’ vision for the Big U, which in total comprises a 10-mile-long flood barrier that doubles as public space, extending from West 57th Street to East 43rd Street, curving around the southern tip of the Financial District and Battery Park. The radical plan for flood-prevention will protect the most vulnerable, low-lying areas of Manhattan, while also providing residents with public spaces to relax, socialize, and sightsee. Construction on ESCR is expected to begin in spring 2020.
West Side Wonderland
New renderings revealed for western expansion of Hudson Yards park
Finally, we have a visual of what the rest of the rail yards at New York City's Hudson Yards will become. CityRealty reported that new renderings have been revealed of the expansion of the 17-million-square-foot megaproject, detailing how the development will take over the entirety of the Amtrak railyard. Phase two of construction on Hudson Yards’ intertwining parkland will add winding stone paths, a lush open lawn, food kiosks, and a bright children’s playground overlooking the Hudson River next to the High Line. Manhattan-based landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz (NBWLA)—which also designed the currently-under-construction Public Square and Gardens at Hudson Yards—will bring more, much-needed green space to the West Side enclave that’s recently gotten flack for its record-breaking price tag. The expansion also includes the final build-out of Michael Van Valkenburgh (MVVA)’s Hudson Boulevard Park that runs directly through the site from 33rd to 36th Streets. Once complete, the extension will bring it up to 39th Street. MVVA finished the first phase of the elongated greenway in 2015, which included the MTA’s 7 train extension in what’s known as Eastern Yards. Together with the boulevard and far West Side parkland, the long-awaited landscape at Hudson Yards will cover a total of 12 acres. NBWLA’s renderings show that the park will sit on the same level as the adjacent High Line, meaning the team will likely use the same engineering to construct a ventilation cover for the rail yard below and a deck to support the landscape. Officials say groundbreaking on the second phase of parkland at Hudson Yards will begin in late 2020 and is slated to open in winter 2023. Once complete, Hudson Yards Development Corporation, which is building out the plan, will transfer care of the parkland over to the city’s parks and transportation departments.