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Lucy on the Curb with Diamonds

Studio Gang's Solar Carve tower meets the sun with sculpted glass
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The most recent addition to an already impressive collection of architectural characters inhabiting New York City’s High Line, 40 Tenth Avenue offers a sculpted massing that will maximize its solar exposure along the public park. The project, led by Studio Gang, is situated between the Hudson River and the High Line, with a primary west-facing orientation. To minimize the afternoon shadow cast onto the park, the architects developed a uniquely inverted, stepped setback shape to the building.
  • Facade Manufacturer Focchi
  • Architect Studio Gang
  • Facade Installer Walsh Metal & Glass
  • Facade Consultant & Structural Engineer Arup
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Focchi EWT 1, EWT 2, EWT 3
  • Products Focchi Insulated Double Glaze Units Ipasol Neutral 38/23 & 70/37 coating
Clad in a high-performance curtain wall from Italian firm Focchi, the tower integrates 12 types of glass. Despite a rather complex massing, the geometry of the enclosure was refined into a canted, diamond-shaped panel, surrounded by triangulated panels set perpendicular to the slab edges. The overall effect is a faceted, three-dimensional version of the architectural corner—perhaps a recasting, or import, of the Miesian corner to one of Manhattan’s most significant public spaces. The project adds to a portfolio of high-rises designed by the Chicago-based practice (which also has offices in New York, San Francisco, and Paris) that explore “solar carving” as a formal and performative strategy. “'Solar Carving’ is one strand of a larger body of research about how we can make buildings responsive to the specific qualities if their context and climate,” said Studio Gang design principal Weston Walker. “To maximize sunlight, fresh air, and river views for the public park, we pushed the building toward the West Side Highway and carved away from its southeast and northwest corners according to the incident angles of the sun’s rays.” A growing issue for the High Line is the diminishing degree of sunlight caused by the development of Manhattan’s Far West Side. According to Walker, the city’s prevailing 1916 Zoning Resolution—legislation that mandated ziggurat-like setbacks to boost ventilation and light for city streets—did not anticipate the proliferation of midblock public spaces such as the High Line. “As-of-right zoning would have endangered rather than protected the park by allowing the tower to be built directly over the High Line.”
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Out of Season

Investors blame Isay Weinfeld’s design for the closing of the new Four Seasons Restaurant
The iconic new Four Seasons Restaurant has officially closed after reopening less than 10 months ago and following a $32 million renovation. In 2016 the original and much-venerated restaurant was forced to relocate because the owner, Aby Rosen, would not renew its lease. Now, investors are reportedly pointing fingers at design flaws as the cause of failure. The original restaurant was located in Mies van der Rohe’s New York-renowned Seagram Building. The interior, designed by Philip Johnson, remained nearly unchanged since 1959, and in 1989 it received an interior landmark designation from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Four Seasons Restaurant carries hefty, modernist roots, although, in recent years, Rosen has been caught trying to make changes to the space without prior approval from the LPC. With the guidance of architecture critic Paul Goldberger, Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld was selected to design the restaurant's new home at 42 East 49th Street. A New York Post article claims that, according to unnamed sources behind the scenes, the restaurant's well-heeled investors are blaming its failure on two private dining areas on the second floor that were supposed to attract high dollar events. The article names large columns, blocked views, "disagreeable" furniture, and construction delays as design-related issues leading up to the restaurant's demise. Meanwhile, owner Alex von Bidder mentioned to the New York Times that he, “thought the new restaurant was great, looked great and had a great team in place.” Nevertheless, investors made the decision to close. AN reached out to Isay Weinfeld for comment and received the following response: “I could not be prouder of our designs for the Four Seasons Restaurant. But I respect all opinions, including the silly ones.” The restaurant is owned by Alex von Bidder and members of the Bronfman family, and previously Julian Niccolini. In the same year that the restaurant announced its move, Niccolini pleaded guilty to sexual assault but remained a co-owner. Since the re-opening and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, critics and the public have scrutinized the restaurant for still involving Niccolini. In December 2018 he was finally forced to resign.
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Refocus, Refresh

New York's 200-year-old National Academy of Design won't ever reopen
America’s oldest artist-advocacy organization, the National Academy of Design, has decided to permanently close its museum operations. The Beaux-Arts mansion at 1083 Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side has been sold, and the institution is reinventing itself with an endowment. Run by artists for artists since 1825, the Academy is comprised of invite-only members, a whos-who list of many of the biggest names in American art. For most of the institution’s history, each member was also required to donate to the Academy’s collection, meaning that the NAD has pieces by American greats like Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Thomas Eakins. This collection made for groundbreaking shows that produced world-class art historical scholarship. But what about the living members?  Previously, the academy had been aligned with both its own museum as well as a well-respected art school, but now the NAD has now cut ties with both. “The museum and school were draining all the resources," Walter Chatham told the Art Newspaper. An architect who has served as co-chair of the Board of Governors since 2014, Chatham added, "There wasn’t any money for the programs that would actually improve the academicians’ lives. Eventually we want to get back into education and exhibitions, but I don’t think we’re going to have a museum again.”  The museum debate came to a head with the sale of two Hudson River School masterpieces, prompting condemnations and sanctions from national museum organizations like the Association of Art Museum Directions and the American Alliance of Museums. Brian T. Allen, an art historian writing for the National Review, said, “I was a member of both and supported the sanctions. My museum wouldn’t lend work to NAD shows. In retrospect, I think the penalties did the NAD a disservice.” Unlike the sale of the paintings, the sale of the Academy’s three Upper East Side buildings leaves them with an enduring source of income—a legally restricted $66 million endowment to put towards operations that will prioritize the current academicians and living artists as the center of the Academy’s mission. The refreshed focus will hopefully help the institution that has long grappled with the "existential" question of its inherent museum-ness. The "class" of 2018 includes artists Mel Chin, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and Vik Muniz, who will join the over 400 other living members. Refocusing their efforts on the class of living artists isn't the only initiative for the "new" NAD, as the academy has also begun publication of an online journal, NAD Now, which features fresh writing focused on the art and scholarship of members both past and present. The National Academy of Design is a storied and historic institution that is emerging once again for the 21st century, and, following in the footsteps of many other renowned arts institutions making the move out of increasingly expensive Manhattan. For example, take SculptureCenter, which sold its longtime home on the Upper East Side in order to “reinvent” itself in Long Island City, Queens, and continues to thrive. These changes are difficult for a time-honored institution’s legacy. However, in the words of Allen, “I say ‘Welcome back,’ and hope my colleagues in the American art world will do the same.”
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A Taste of Tsukimi

The Japanese tradition of moon-viewing lights up Tsukimi in the East Village
An assuming brick building in New York’s East Village houses an elegant and warm Japanese restaurant on its first floor that’s been designed as an ode to the mid-autumn full moon. Tsukimi, located at 228 East 10 St., recently opened under the tutelage of renowned chef Takanori Akiyama and was inspired by the festival tradition of tsukimi, or “moon viewing,” which happens at the start of fall harvest each year. Designed by Brooklyn-based firm Studio Tack, the modest space “aids in slowing the mind down” and utilizes both expressive and simple patterns to focus guests on intentional eating and community. White oak is the primary material found throughout the restaurant and is visible in everything from the two communal tables that face each other, to the shelves underneath, and the tambour wall paneling behind. The soft tones of the wood and its various textures are mixed to produce a comforting and relaxed feel. The design team further honed in on the tsukimi symbolism by enveloping the interior with a pleasant glow, one that also extends to the street via the corduroy glass on the windows. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com. 
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Go Long

Barry Bergdoll showcases a new wave of modern architecture on Long Island
The “North Fork” of Long Island, from the town of Riverhead to Orient Point at the eastern tip, is one of the most varied and beautiful landscapes in the New York region. A peninsula jutting out into Long Island Sound, it is the last place where one can still find open space devoted to farming, alongside fresh and saltwater inlets, bays, and ponds in the state. It also has a unique regional style of cedar shingled “Cape” homes and handsome pine potato barns that date back to the 18th century. But North Fork is also home to a handful of modernist post-World War II summer homes, that have remained largely unknown in comparison to those in the Hamptons, it’s more glamorous neighbor across the Peconic Bay. Now, thanks to Columbia Art History Professor and ex-MoMA architecture curator Barry Bergdoll, the story of modern architecture on the peninsula will be better known. Somehow Bergdoll found the time last year to stage A New Wave of Modern Architecture, a small but alluring exhibition on the region’s post-war modern architectural history. Now, the exhibit has moved six miles east to the Oysterponds Historical Society in Orient, New York, and Bergdoll has added to the show’s survey of contemporary housing and expanded our understanding of the region’s architectural uniqueness. He begins with the area’s fascinating early history of artists who gathered around the legendary art dealer, Betty Parsons, who came to the area in the 1950s. Parsons commissioned the architect-slash-sculptor Tony Smith to build a guest house and studio above the Long Island Sound. He designed a pavilion fronting the sound out of large railroad ties. He then designed and built a house for Abstract Expressionist painter Theodoros Stamos in 1951. For Stamos, Bergdoll writes, “Smith designed a dramatically innovative variant on the American timber frame house, elevating a single-story space sandwiched between two trusses, one upside down to create a large open floor plan. Elevated off the ground, the house’s living space afforded sweeping views over Long Island Sound from its bluff-top site.” Finally, he points to the double pavilion house Charles Moore designed for Simone Swan in 1975, a few houses away from Parson’s home, as an influence to newer designs. This second exhibition highlights a number of new houses, including a modest but beautiful wood-shingled Peconic bayside house by Toshiko Mori, and a TTC passive house designed by Wayne Turett on a back lot in Greenport, New York. But Bergdoll’s most insightful addition to the show is his description of what makes the area’s modern houses unique. He points to the North Fork’s environmentally sensitive farm and wetland landscape as an influence in the innovative new houses being constructed “with structural openness” and elevated platforms capable of capturing views of the landscape. This modest little show identifies a singular new style evolving just a few hours east of New York. The exhibit is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm, as well as Saturdays from 11:00 am through 5:00 pm. Admission is free.
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Walls of Air maps the myriad divisions that mark contemporary Brazil

In the post-truth age, the effective and public display of meticulously researched data is a welcome change. The Americas Society's Walls of Air exhibition is an instructive and concise mapping of the trends of urbanism, environmentalism, and economic relations, amongst many other subjects. Four Brazilian and Mexican architects curated the exhibition: Sol Camacho, Laura González Fierro, Marcello Maia Rosa, and Gabriel Kozlowski. The Americas Society’s gallery is located on the ground floor of McKim, Mead & White’s Neo-Federal 680 Park Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The gallery, in contrast to the grandeur of the turn-of-the-century mansion, is relatively stark and divided into three rectilinear spaces. The show's curatorial medium du jour are large format, ten-foot-by-ten-foot UV prints on aluminum composite material, mounted on aluminum frames. The panels are supplemented with video interviews with project researchers. The exhibition was originally displayed in 2018 at the Brazilian Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale and began as a research project to examine and discuss the visible and non-visible walls or barriers that make up contemporary Brazil.   It is immediately apparent from viewing the cartographic drawings the exhaustive level of research undertaken to produce them. The curators partnered with a multidisciplinary team with particular expertise on the subject matter for each panel. In total, over 200 professionals, ranging from the fields of social sciences to the visual arts, aided in the project's collaborative research. This data, in some circumstances Excel sheets with over a million entries, was then visualized with a broad toolbox of software including GIS, Rhino, and Illustrator. Visually, the Brazil displayed throughout the exhibition is not bounded by national frontiers, but placed amid a fluid web of global and regional forces. Deforestation, a trend reshaping the Amazon basin, is presented as a continental issue stretching from the Andes to the river deltas on the coast of the Atlantic. Land stripped bare to the west effectively reduces the level of humidity and rainfall in other places, such as northeastern Brazil—in effect, the policies of one locality catastrophically spin outwards across the ecosystem and impact the surrounding region. A particularly well-documented aspect in Walls of Air is the mapping of commodity flows, immigrant migration, and the geography of the country's real estate market. Lines of increasing width are color-coded to specify the material harvested—bearing a fair resemblance to Charles Minard's map of Napoleon's Russian Campaign—and drive from the Brazilian hinterland to the primary trade ports in the country's southeast. The destination of each type of commodity, its monetary value, and the nation's imports are neatly placed on the side margins of the print. When juxtaposed with the concentration of real estate value in the country's southeast and the destination of immigrant groups within the primary economic centers, one can tease out the prevailing socioeconomic contours of Brazil and the geographic inequalities therein. Walls of Air concludes with an analysis of the Brazilian city in history and the present day. Beginning with Portuguese colonization in the 16th century, the curators mark every single city founded within the country since and the maritime routes that fed them. The subject is expanded upon further with the analysis of post-war urban planning, maps of manmade modifications to metropolitan topography, and data focused on acts of insurrection.

Walls of Air: The Brazilian Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale Americas Society 680 Park Avenue New York, New York Through August 3, 2019

 
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Montauk Musings

Robert McKinley curates a shoppable bungalow in Montauk
Planning to join the herds of New Yorkers that'll head "out east" this summer. You might want to opt out of the standard sharehouse and book a stay at this thoughtful-designed beach bungalow instead. Located at the end of Long Island's South Fork, beyond the pricey Hamptons, this Montauk residence was just recently renovated and outfitted by celebrated interior design firm Studio Robert McKinley, to serve as both a weekend getaway and integrated showhome. The light, lime-washed white-wall, four-bedroom, ranch-style home features a carefully curated selection of furnishings, fixtures, finishes, and accessories that are all for purchase. The overall scheme reflects McKinley's sensibility while also paying homage to the locale's coastline and evoking the aesthetics of renowned seaside resorts in Europe. This Montauk home can be rented as of today. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.    
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The Bigger Picture

Mapping Community unveils how public buildings get built in NYC
A new exhibition now on view at the Center for Architecture explains how money moves across New York’s public building sector. It’s a complex system that, if you’re not directly involved in it, can seem unnecessarily confusing and slow. Mapping Community: Public Investment in NYC demystifies how things like libraries, schools, and parks pop up, as well as the players behind them. Curated by Faith Rose, former executive director of the NYC Public Design Commission, and David Burney, professor of urban placemaking management at the Pratt Institute, the showcase walks viewers step-by-step through the process of capital planning. It’s spread out over two floors and utilizes a very clear and graphic layout so that the information is distilled to the audience in a digestible yet still visually distinctive manner.  “No one entity is responsible for the entire process, and even people deeply involved in one part aren’t always aware what the other pieces entail,” said Rose in a statement. “I don’t believe there has ever been an exhibition that tracks the mechanisms of capital planning from start to finish.”  There probably hasn’t.  That’s likely because New York City boasts one of the largest local government systems in the United States and its beast-of-a-procurement-process is less than transparent. But things are changing and this big-picture view of the “ecosystem of agencies” involved reveals the work it takes to make tangible improvements to the city. This knowledge, for better or for worse, arguably gives a viewer (or in this case, a local resident), the agency to insert themselves into the planning process and help shape their own neighborhood.  To communicate the complexity of the subject, the curators pieced together an in-depth look into one public project per borough, separated by typology, and detailed the planning process at the community level. One of those case studies centers on Essex Crossing, the massive, mixed-use development on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A contentious construction project from the start, it was once an empty six-acre lot but now houses everything from luxury condos by SHoP Architects, to an affordable housing complex by Beyer Blinder Belle, a senior living community by Dattner Architects, and the newly-opened Essex Market.  This part of the exhibition tells the story of how Manhattan Community Board 3 and other local organizations fought over a series of negotiations with the NYC Economic Development Corporation, as well as the site’s developer, to get a new K-8 school in the program. Here, it explains why the Department of Education has currently decided not to move forward with building a new school. It also reveals how local needs in other areas can affect capital projects.  Whether it was the right thing to do or not, garnering this information allows locals and exhibition audiences to better understand how the 1.9-million-square-foot Essex Crossing has come to be, what its future may look like, and how they can have a say in that. According to Hayes Slade, 2019 AIANY President and principal of Slade Architecture, that’s the key to improving the city. “New Yorkers should feel empowered to be part of community-building,” she said, “and that is only possible if they are knowledgeable of the process.” Mapping Community will be on view through August 31. 
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Off With His Head

DS+R and Rockwell Group's The Shed opens its massive guillotine doors
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Opened in April 2019, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s (DS+R) and Rockwell Group's The Shed is an eight-level, 200,000-square-foot art center located on the southern, 30th Street flank of Hudson Yards. The project has received acclaim for its operable features, notably its gliding ETFE-clad shell and multi-ton doors.
  • Facade Manufacturer Cimolai S.p.A BGT Bischoff Glastechnik AG Bator Industries
  • Architect Diller Scofidio + Renfro (Lead Architect) Rockwell Group (Collaborating Architect)
  • Main Contractor Sciame
  • Facade Installer Cimolai S.p.A Cimolai Technology CS Facades
  • Facade Consultant Thornton Tomasetti
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion April 2019
  • System Kinetic lifting system
  • Products Custom steel frame and aluminum glass panels
The large operable doors, dubbed “guillotine doors,” are located on the north and east elevations of the structure. When lifted, they allow the central performance space, or the McCourt, to effectively function as an open-air pavilion. The structural steel for the doors was fabricated with predrilled mounting for the glass facade and was assembled on site with kinetic components that facilitate proper guidance and alignment. Coordinating with kinetics contractors and fabricators proved a challenging aspect of the project. “Typically, kinetics contractors are quite independent of other construction elements,” said Charles Berman, associate principal of DS+R. “We had the opportunity to work with these trades in early engagement, design-build processes which ultimately led to the best path to success.” Along the north elevation, the door measures 25 feet wide and 32 feet tall, while along the east it is 33 feet wide and 32 feet tall. Each door weighs approximately 30 tons and is lifted by a pair of electric drum winches that pull braided stainless steel wired cables through a series of roller bearings. The system is also integrated with brakes and lockout assemblies to allow for variegated opening heights. In total, raising the doors to their maximum height of 32 feet takes nearly two and a half minutes. The Shed adjoins DS+R and the Rockwell Groups adjacent 15 Hudson Yards along a seam of polished steelwork. Many of the mechanical components of the performance space are embedded within the podium of the tower, ventilated by parametrically designed glass-and-louver modules.
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Erasing History

National Trust for Historic Preservation names 2019's most endangered places
The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) released its annual list of the U.S.'s most endangered places on May 30, highlighting an often surprising group of places and spaces threatened by forces like climate change and aggressive developer schemes across the country. While a listing signals a building’s realistic peril, a listing can also aid in reviving a building, as the NTHP brings national attention to the spaces, which can help spark awareness and action. The list has been published for 32 years, and has highlighted over 300 places. In that same time period, only five percent of the listings were actually lost. Katherine Malone-France, the interim chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation said in a statement, “We know that this year’s list will inspire people to speak out for the cherished places in their own communities that define our nation’s past.” The tides of taste often bring buildings in styles like postmodernism and brutalism to the list. The youngest building selected this year is the Thompson Center in Chicago, a spaceship-shaped building of glass and steel known for its soaring 13-floor atrium. In 1985, the design was meant to allude to a new, more transparent government. However, like many of the listed buildings, the Thompson Center is in danger due to neglect and financial troubles. Often developers see these historic buildings as opportunities for more profitable high rises or denser floor plans, and swoop in on economically imperiled lots. Nashville's Music Row, a historic district listed this year, is threatened by a tantalizing proximity to the city's downtown core and its relatively low density. Developers are itching to knock down the 19th-century homes and set plans in motion for high rises and corporate office spaces, much more profitable footprints that would erase much of the music-making history of the city. Aside from development, climate change and social justice histories also play a large role in the 2019 selections; the iconic National Mall Tidal Basin is under threat from rising sea levels and unstable sea walls. Small establishments, like the Excelsior Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, an African-American social club dating from 1944, that trace the history of race relations in America, have far less attention and protection.  The eleven design landmarks that make up the 2019 list are not only aesthetically appealing, but they are also vital chapters of the American cultural, historical, and artistic stories, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to help inspire their rescue. The eleven places listed in 2019 are: Tenth Street Historic District Dallas, Texas Nashville's Music Row Nashville, Tennessee Hacienda Los Torres Lares, Puerto Rico Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah Southeast Utah James R. Thompson Center Chicago, Illinois Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge Bismarck, North Dakota Industrial Trust Company Building Providence, Rhode Island The Excelsior Club Charlotte, North Carolina National Mall Tidal Basin Washington, D.C. Willert Park Courts Buffalo, New York Mount Vernon Arsenal and Searcy Hospital Mount Vernon, Alabama
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50/50 Chance

Stalled California housing bill could give architects chance to redesign the state’s cities
California needs 3.5 million housing units. That’s more housing units than currently exist in most states. This shortage—California ranks 49th in housing units per capita, ahead of only Utah—developed slowly but has metastasized into a true crisis, with housing costs rising to untenable levels for all but the most well-off Californians. In considering how and where to add a volume equivalent to all of Virginia, a key question is, what state—or, rather, what city—will those new units look like? Will they look like the tract homes of Phoenix? The row houses of Philadelphia? The high-rise apartments of New York City? The triple-deckers of Boston? The genteel mansions of Richmond? Or, perhaps worst of all, the mid-rises of Hollywood? The answers depend in large part on where new housing gets built. A recent bill in the California legislature almost provided the answer—almost. Senate Bill 50, sponsored by San Francisco–based State Senator Scott Wiener, would have mandated increased housing densities around major public transit lines and “jobs rich” areas throughout the state by requiring cities to permit multifamily buildings of up to five stories by right. Wiener contended that California needs more housing and that the best locations are those that enable residents to minimize commuting by personal automobiles. A relatively late amendment would have eliminated single-family zoning, permitting homeowners to build up to four units on any single-family lot, and limited the high-density provisions to counties of over 600,000 residents. California has always maintained a tense relationship with density, often failing to plan for it while suffering its ill effects all the same. SB 50 could be the catalyst to help the state abandon its suburban fetishes once and for all. An updated version of a bill that Wiener sponsored last year, SB 50 nearly made it out of the State Senate until Appropriations Committee Chair Anthony Portantino scuttled it with a procedural tactic, refusing to bring it to a vote in committee. The move put an abrupt end to what had arguably been the most heated debates over land-use legislation in state history. SB 50, like many other recent controversies related to development and housing in California, did not inspire neat loyalties. While its core support came from the increasingly influential YIMBY movements and core opposition came from homeowners, the politics were messy at best. Conservatives could love its relaxation of regulations but hate its emphasis on dense urbanism. Liberals were more intensely fractured. SB 50 appealed to values of inclusion and of progressivism, be they socioeconomic or aesthetic. For some, the bill served the cause of equity simply by potentially creating more housing. Other liberals saw it differently. Advocates of social justice feared SB 50 would empower capitalist developers while displacing and disenfranchising vulnerable populations through eviction and demolition. Older liberal activists, especially in suburban areas, put their economic interests first, recoiling from the prospect that increased housing supply might depress their property values. Many of them protested SB 50’s potential to interfere with “neighborhood character.” (Wiener’s antagonist Portantino represents La Cañada Flintridge, a comfortable suburb north of downtown Los Angeles.) Institutionally, the League of California Cities and many city councils statewide condemned SB 50 for trampling on “local control,” asserting that land use decisions have always belonged to municipalities and municipalities alone. Many mayors, however, including those of Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, praised SB 50 for giving cities a new opportunity to ease their housing crisis—and to do so equitably statewide, forcing housing-phobic cities to approve their fair share of housing rather than ignore demand and dodge their obligations in the name of municipal sovereignty. By some accounts, a full 97 percent of California cities failed to meet their state-mandated housing goals in 2018. The California chapter of the American Planning Association controversially opposed SB 50, citing concerns about technical aspects of the bill’s language, even though many of its more progressive members favored it. Chapters of the American Institute of Architects did not take a position on it. Design rarely factored into these discussions explicitly, but its influence cannot be overlooked. Fears about changes to “neighborhood character” often accompany prejudices about “undesirable” racial or socioeconomic groups. They also refer to lousy design. Many homeowners recoiled against SB 50 out of fear that modest cottages might be overshadowed by a new triplex next door or crowded by the addition of an accessory dwelling unit. Urban activists took aim at even bigger targets. Opponents of growth in Los Angeles in particular have long railed against what they consider oversized, ugly, and excessively capitalistic apartment buildings. Such enormities often occupy full city blocks and rise five or six stories, with wood framing above one-story concrete bases. They have been the mainstay of Hollywood’s decade-long growth spurt and have arisen in many other moderately dense neighborhoods around the state. Revulsion is, often, completely justified. Large but underwhelming, and expensive but unrefined, such developments have poor detailing, clunky dimensions, and, often, antagonistic relationships with the street. They have neither humor nor grace nor character, and they succeed at one thing and one thing only: housing many people. Typically, those people are well off—or at least are pretending to be. While California’s housing crisis has many causes, it’s not unreasonable to say that lousy design is one of them, and it’s not unreasonable for opponents of SB 50 to make apocalyptic predictions about aesthetics. This is the backdrop against which architects should contemplate the revival of SB 50. Wiener has pledged to bring it back next year, and the appetite for major housing legislation remains fierce—before long, some version of SB 50 will pass, and the opportunities for architects and architecture will be profound. The quality of design that follows the passage of the next version of SB 50 will, without exaggeration, determine the look, feel, and function of California cities for at least the next generation. Many opponents of SB 50 criticize it as a "giveaway" to capitalist developers. If architects are to support the next version of SB 50, they should want to be seen as stewards, not opportunists. Upzoning around transit stops will create entirely new transit-oriented neighborhoods. Places that currently consist of park-and-ride lots and single-family homes will rise to five and six stories, with less parking than most zoning codes currently mandate. That’s like taking a cookie cutter to San Francisco’s Mission District or Los Angeles’s Koreatown and depositing the result in bedroom communities and office parks. Of course, California has hundreds of major transit stops and jobs centers (over 200 light- and heavy-rail stations alone), and the whole point of SB 50 is to distribute development statewide so that neighborhoods grow gradually. Even so, some places will be transformed sooner rather than later. In a state where many residents are mortally afraid of density, the choices that architects make will determine whether the new urban California is a dream or a nightmare—they can stumble into the latest versions of capitalist postmodern, or they can reflect on everything we have learned about the benefits of density. Designs have to be thoughtful, attractive, and socially conscious. They have to celebrate density, enhance the public realm, and give California cities a sense of style and character that they have lacked for decades. (Likewise, cities’ design guidelines and review boards will have to get savvier.) If SB 50’s single-family home provision survives (which seems unlikely), it will create a bonanza for residential architects. They will get to re-learn the art of the duplex, triplex, and quadplex—typologies that used to be common in California but have been all but extinct since the Truman administration. But new homes must not realize neighbors’ worst nightmares. They must not loom over their predecessors. They must not be large for largeness’s sake. In short, they must treat neighbors as clients. Whatever lawmakers intend for SB 50, the public will render its final judgment according to how architects seize the moment. Whether they like it or not, architects bear the final responsibility to fulfill the public trust. Of course, the real beauty of SB 50—if it comes to pass and if it works as intended—will be invisible. That will be the opportunity to craft affordable and humane housing for hundreds of thousands Californians.
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Second Home for Second Home

SelgasCano designs coworking jungle for Los Angeles
Second Home, the London-based workspace company, is designing a Los Angeles offshoot with longtime architectural partner SelgasCano. The new-ish startup is poised to open in September and compete with other big names like Soho House and WeWork by nature of its cultural programming and wellness focuses. All cultural events will be open to the public, and the space will even allow local charities and neighborhood groups to use conference rooms free of charge. These inclusivity measures have the potential to breathe fresh air into the elitist luxury workspace arena—the website has a tab labeled “social impact”—not only culturally, but also physically. The spaces will be surrounded with thousands of plants and trees. Entrepreneurial duo Sam Aldenton and Rohan Silva opened their first space in East London in 2014. Their unconventional ideas about design—from hanging hats from the ceiling for muffling sound to large swaths of colored glass fittings—attract eccentric creative types from all sorts of industries. Second Home Hollywood will be more than just a workspace of colorful couches and succulents, as SelgasCano plans to integrate an outpost of the acclaimed Libreria bookstore within it, as well as an auditorium, cafe, and restaurant. All these amenities will be open to the public, giving more and more individuals and companies access to “sneak peaks” of the new 90,000-square-foot urban campus. SelgasCano has designed all but one of the Second Home campuses, but this one is specific to the Los Angeles architectural vernacular in ways that depart strictly from the more high-rise, corporate-leaning designs that can be seen at Second Home Clerkenwell, for example. The L.A. campus is inspired by the city’s iconic 20th-century bungalow court residences, with the 60 one-story oval buildings of the campus, called studios, fitting in with the horizontality of the surrounding environment off Sunset Boulevard in East Hollywood. All of the structures are connected by a continuous yellow roof plane, and the gardens surrounding the campus are lush and colorful, taking advantage of the Southern California climate, and open to views with wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows. Second Home is also bringing a new architectural trophy to its new city—SelgasCano’s 2015 Serpentine Pavilion, which will be used as an events space. The Madrid-based practice also has many other accolades under its belt, including a residency at MIT and exhibitions at the Guggenheim and MoMA in New York, the Venice Biennale, and the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin. Its work is acclaimed for embracing environmentally conscious materials and technologies, abundant color, and social impact priorities—all facets that can be seen in its work alongside Second Home. As workspaces continue to skyrocket in popularity (and price—a resident membership at Second Home starts at £450, or around $572) smart wellness decisions and cultural collaboration are rising to the forefront of design decisions. How the next generation of creatives and entrepreneurs will work, socialize, and network is being tinkered and reconfigured as the workspace industry continues to grow around the world.