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when the jackhammers fall silent

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

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

Eight architects design 16 buildings for the Greenwich Design District in East London
Up until the turn of the millennium, Greenwich Peninsula in East London was a noxious swamp long forgotten by the capital. That all changed in 2000, however, with the coming of the Millennium Dome designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership (today Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners). Since then the peninsula has been the go-to place for architectural statement-making. After the Dome opened, the Emirates Air Line cable car from WilkinsonEyre was completed in 2012, while 2017 saw another big name—Santiago Calatrava—touted for bringing a twisting triad of towers there (though plans have since gone back to the drawing board). More recently though, a different approach is being tested; instead of opting for a starchitect to aid the peninsula’s regeneration, eight architects have been chosen to design 16 buildings for a new quarter known as the Greenwich Design District, located just a stone’s throw away from the Dome. The team comprises six London-based studios: 6a Architects; Mole; Architecture 00; HNNA; Adam Khan Architects and David Kohn Architects (DKA), as well as Spanish studios Barozzi Veiga and selgascano. All have been tasked with designing offices and workspaces for those in the fields of design, art, tech, food, fashion, craft and music. But—and here’s the kicker—neither studio was allowed to see what either one was doing and neither knew what the final use of the building was going to be with exception of one building, a food hall. (One architect told me that iPhone images of projects were, however, shared at the pub). “We wanted architects who would look at the project through a very individual lens, even though they would work from the same brief,” said Matt Dearlove, head of design at Knight Dragon, the developer behind the project. “We felt they would bring a great sense of individuality to their buildings.” “The guidance was minimal, but practical,” added Hanna Corlett, the District’s master planner and founding director of HNNA. With the exception of the food hall building, the brief to each architect was the same: Heavy workshops were to be located at the ground floor, with lofty, well-lit studio spaces on the top, and flexible studio spaces between. The responses to this brief have been varied, as one expects the developer, Knight Dragon, hoped would be the case. Each studio, however, applied a similar language to each building. This is most apparent with 6a’s two buildings, essentially twins, which both employ a sloping, diagrid facade inspired by American artist Richard Artschwager’s “precise surfaces and pop geometry.” “If you do two buildings and one is better than the other, shouldn’t you just do the better one twice?” said Tom Emerson, co-founder of 6a. With no immediate context to draw on, David Kohn instead chose the history of European guild districts. Sculptures within niches on the facades of his studio’s two buildings harken back to the guild districts in cities such as Venice and Antwerp where facades would be decorated with symbolic figures related to the organization. Both of DKA’s building facades face the street on the site’s eastern edge, so a communicative facade was in order: “The northern building would be the first thing people would see upon arriving, so the oversized colonnade on the ground floor offers a welcome visitors to the site, and a large illuminated sign on the roof continues this welcome to the wider city,” Kohn told AN. Selgascano, meanwhile, took a different approach, albeit still using its signature translucent building skin. Taking center stage in the site is a food hall, which has been shaped like a caterpillar, using a structural metal frame that facilitates the opening and closing of certain parts of the roof. Another adjacent building will provide workspaces for fast-growing businesses. The Madrid-based firm wasn’t the only one to make use of a translucent façade. Architecture 00 wrapped both of its buildings with a mesh—think the Seattle Public Library, only much smaller. The mesh, in turn, reveals both buildings’ floor plates and stairs and creates a covered sports court at the top of one building. The Design District’s predecessors, the Dome and cable car, have had mixed reviews—and that’s being generous. The Dome almost failed before it started as politicians threatened critics over bad press. Then it opened and things got worse. “You could blow it up,” suggested Boris Johnson, then editor of The Spectator. However, the Dome has since turned its fortunes around and is known today as the O2 Arena, one of the most popular music venues in the world. Such success is unlikely to come to the Design District, but it should be hope to the eight architects that good design on the peninsula does eventually reap its rewards.
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Fancy Delancey

The International Center of Photography settles into its new home at Essex Crossing
At the end of January, the International Center of Photography (ICP) opened its new integrated center at the rapidly constructed Essex Crossing mega-development on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The new center, a three-story, 40,000-square-foot arts center designed by Gensler, is the ICP’s third home and the first to house both its educational facilities and curatorial spaces. Essex Crossing is a six-and-a-half acre site located on the southern border of Delancey Street master-planned by SHoP Architects and was built on land formerly razed for urban renewal efforts and left vacant for half a century. The bulk of the redevelopment consists of mixed-use towers—ICP is located at the podium level of one of the projects—but is studded with several publicly accessible venues such as the new home of the Essex Street Market. Gensler’s design runs through the entire block, with a glazed facade on the east elevation and one of patterned aluminum for the service entrance to the west (the western facade covers a blank wall, lending the illusion of a brise-soleil and breaking up a monolithic street presence). The ground floor houses a cafe and largely serves as a point of circulation for the galleries, library, and the school above. The ICP’s new central gallery is a double-height space defined by a concrete-and-metal material palette and is flooded with natural light from the eastern glazed facade. The entire exhibition room is ringed by a catwalk which provides a top-down viewing perspective of the hall while simultaneously lined with smaller works. A multimedia gallery located on the third-floor functions as both a curatorial and event space. As an educational institution, the ICP hosts programs, courses, and workshops for over 3,500 students annually. Facilities include darkrooms, shooting studios, digital media labs, amongst others. The focal point of the educational amenities is a double-height library of metal-and-wood framing accessible to both members and guests. The COVID-19 outbreak has, unfortunately, also led to the temporary closure of the ICP and its inaugural exhibitions; Tyler Mitchell:I Can Make You Feel Good; CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop; James Coupe: WarriorsThe Lower East Side, and Selections from the ICP Collection. While the Center will be closed for the foreseeable future, thousands of images and interviews from its collection have been made available to the general public online.
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Glaze Waves

Elkus Manfredi Architects’ Pier 4 joins Boston’s Seaport with undulating massing
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Boston’s Seaport District is no stranger to development; the 23-acre site lies east of the Fort Point Channel on the Inner Harbor, and over the last two decades has transformed from a largely barren deindustrialized waterfront to an effective extension of the city's core. Pier 4, a 400,000-square-foot mixed-use project designed by local firm Elkus Manfredi Architects, is an exemplar of this trend and proposes an alternative to boxy glassed massing with staggered floors and eye-catching soffits of aluminum composite panels. The project is located immediately adjacent to the HarborWalk and the Institute of Contemporary Art and is prominent from both an urban and visual standpoint. Considering its location, the city dictated that the bulk of the building’s ground floor be dedicated for public use—the lobby can be passed through by pedestrians and features a range of retail spaces. In keeping with the project's public-facing manifesto, the primary entrance, in a particular flourish, is surrounded by a prismatic display of polished and reflective aluminum. From this base, the tower rises to a height of 13 stories.
  • Facade Manufacturer AGC Interpane Alucobond Ferguson Neudorf Glass
  • Architect Elkus Manfredi Architects
  • Facade Installer Ferguson Neudorf Glass Turner Construction (general contractor)
  • Facade Consultant Heintges
  • Location Boston
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Custom unitized curtain wall system
  • Products AGC Interpane Ipasol Platin 52/36 Alucobond aluminum composite panels
For the design team, there were two primary views that dictated the tower's massing; that towards downtown Boston and the other facing the harbor. “The west facade, facing downtown Boston, has a more subdued gesture with a trapezoidal cut-out terrace,” said Elkus Manfredi Architects vice president Christian Galvao. “The east facade, facing Boston Harbor, has two-story undulating triangular moves that shift and slide between each other, creating a constant movement that changes throughout the day.” Clad in high-end solar control 1 1/4" insulated glass units produced by AGC Interpane, the project follows the standard erection and installation techniques of a unitized system. Each floor-to-floor unitized panel measure 5' by 12'8" and are divided by mullions and horizontal ‘kiss mullions’ at the slab edge. Ferguson Neudorf Glass handled the installation and fabrication of the facade, including the 1/8" thick aluminum composite plates found at the soffit of each floor plate which are held by a custom-designed system of cantilevered beams. According to Elkus Manfredi Architects, one of the greatest challenges of the project was ensuring its timely and seamless construction and completion. “The unitized curtain wall system could have no major delays during the erection of the pre-fabricated glazing panels and in-field waterproofing installations,” continued Christian Galvao. “The amount of detailing in the advance construction documents, shop drawing reviews, and performance mock-up testing were crucial to its success.”  
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Hooray for hollywood

A timber-topped terraced office tower could be coming to the heart of Hollywood
Plans have been unveiled for a rather snazzy 14-story Hollywood office tower designed by Gensler that will take shape on a 1.7-acre Sunset Boulevard site currently populated by a Staples and a smattering of surface parking lots. Dubbed Sunset + Wilcox, the commercial high-rise would include of 445,158 square feet of office space, with 2,141 square feet carved out for a ground-level restaurant and retail space as well as a substantial amount of space dedicated to parking, some of it subterranean. Compared to a decidedly humdrum 1968 Maxwell Starkman-designed high-rise located directly across Wilcox Avenue at 6430 Sunset Boulevard that’s home to CNN’s West Coast headquarters, Sunset + Wilcox will provide, literally, a breath of architectural fresh air. Each floor of the tower will include outdoor space, with the sixth floor featuring a lushly landscaped outdoor “Campus Commons” spread out over 10,000 square feet. Starting on the seventh floor and moving up, a series of stepped terraces, all connected by an exterior staircase, will provide additional open air space. A mass timber crown—a unique addition to the surrounding skyline—will encase the “penthouse” levels of the building. This largely workaday stretch of Sunset east of Highland Avenue has been on the up-and-up in recent years as the demand for both housing and entertainment industry-earmarked office space in Hollywood proper grows. “With the majority of this underutilized site being surface parking, Sunset + Wilcox provides a tremendous opportunity to further Hollywood’s ongoing transformation into a true live-work neighborhood,” said Mario Palumbo, managing director of Seward Partners, an affiliate of infill-centric developer MP Los Angeles, in a press statement. “Hollywood is world-renowned for its association with the entertainment industry, and the demand for new creative office space in the area is substantial.” Other major projects in the immediate area include a mixed-use megaproject designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and RCH Studios surrounding the Crossroads of the World site, an iconic 1936 outdoor shopping center-turned-office complex encircling a Streamline Moderne building shaped an ocean liner. Once complete, the $1 billion Crossroads Hollywood project, which has been opposed by preservationists since its inception, will include over 900 new housing units, a large hotel, and over 190,000 square feet of commercial space spread across nine new buildings. Most of the original Crossroads of the World complex and the neighboring Hollywood Reporter Building, a Regency Moderne landmark declared as a Historic-Cultural Monument in 2017, will not be razed and instead be incorporated into the new development. Further east along Sunset, is the future home a 26-story residential tower that will replace beloved indie record store Amoeba Music, which has been a fixture on Sunset Boulevard since 2001. The redevelopment scheme has been highly contentious although just last month Amoeba formally announced it will reopen in a new location, also in Hollywood, later this year. Not far from the Sunset + Wilcox site and also developed by MP Los Angeles is Hollywood Center, a “mixed-use vertical community” with a substantial amount of affordable housing. It too has been met with controversy. As Sunset + Wilcox enters the planning stages (per the Real Deal the city will need to green-light several zoning changes before the project commences), it doesn't seem that many objections will be made about demolition work at the site when compared to these other redevelopment projects in the immediate area. “Our goal is to retain existing Hollywood businesses and attract new businesses that have to-date overlooked the area because of a lack of supply,” said Palumbo. “With this large site, we see an opportunity to create a truly exceptional creative office experience in the heart of Hollywood.”
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Takin' it to the streets

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

Blaine Brownell appointed as University of North Carolina’s new director of the School of Architecture
Last week, the University of North Carolina College of Arts + Architecture announced that Blaine Brownell will become the next director of the UNC Charlotte School of Architecture. Brownell will be coming to the school following his position as the director of graduate studies and interim director of the Master of Science in Architecture–Sustainable Design Program at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. As an architect, former Fulbright scholar, and recently added member to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows, Brownell has extensively written and taught classes on contemporary materials in relation to current sustainability initiatives. A Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and a Certificate in East Asian Studies from Princeton University provided Brownell an initial and longstanding interest in both fields. According to his academic biography, Brownell’s research “considers emergent materials and applications with three particular areas of focus: technology, sustainability, and East Asia, with an emphasis on Japanese architecture and design.” One of the first books he authored, Matter in the Floating World(2011), compiled his conversations on contemporary material practices with leading Japanese architects and designers that include Tadao Ando, Shigeru Ban, Kazuyo Sejima, and Kengo Kuma. His most recently authored book, Transmaterial Next: A Catalog of Materials that Redefine Our Future (2017), mines the revolutionary building materials of the past to predict which might be next to transform the building industry.  “We enthusiastically welcome Blaine Brownell as next director of the School of Architecture,” said Brook Muller, dean of the College of Arts + Architecture, in a press statement. “Professor Brownell is a nationally recognized leader in sustainable design research and education, having published extensively on advances in building materials that will have revolutionary impacts on the profession and industry. He brings significant experience with consensus-based curriculum redesign and a deep understanding of the social and cultural context of sustainable design imperatives.”
Brownell’s appointment will become effective July 1, at which point Dr. José L.S. Gamez will step down as interim director.
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Empty Galleries, Empty Wallets

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

Steven Holl Architects-designed Loisium Alsace Hotel finally approved for construction
Over 11 years ago, AN unveiled Steven Holl Architects’ design for Loisium Alsace Hotel, a sprawling resort building on the edge of a vineyard in the eastern French town of Colmar. Following several years of awaiting local permit approval, construction on the project began this January and is expected to be complete in October of next year. Designed in collaboration with the Switzerland-based firm Rüssli Architekten, the project combines a 100-room hotel with a spa and wine center totaling over 105,000 square feet. The design team was inspired by the red cliff of a former stone quarry on the site, as well as a millennia-old road that crosses the site that was once part of the pilgrim path to Santiago de Compostela. The concrete frame structure will be clad in blackened wood siding to blend into its natural and ancient context. From above, the project resembles the branches of a tree that resemble the surrounding vineyards and, according to the architects in a press statement, “gives a unique order and space to this building as it gently merges with the landscape’s slope.” The arborescent site plan also establishes several enclosed outdoor spaces, while the single-loaded corridors provide framed views of the surrounding landscape. The red-weathered steel of the event center pavilion, reminiscent of the red stone cliff in the distance, is the most prominent feature of the design. Its windows are made of “wine-colored glass” that will glow in several shades of red over the course of the day. The pavilion’s ground level will contain a wine gallery with a direct connection to the hotel restaurant, and its top floor will hold a gathering space with chapel-like acoustics to host chamber music, yet that can also be used as a place of silence and reflection, with views of the nearby monastery and abbey. Watercolors produced by Holl indicate that the event center pavilion was inspired by the concept of a pointed flower sprouting from a branch.
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Singapore Slopes

Kengo Kuma & Associates chosen to design Founders’ Memorial in Singapore
A competition to design the Founders’ Memorial, a multi-acre gallery and garden complex commemorating Singapore’s path to independence and historic accomplishments in its nation-building process, first launched in January 2019 and received 193 submissions from around the world. This month, the Jury Panel of the Founders’ Memorial Committee unanimously selected the design proposed by Japanese firm Kengo Kuma & Associates, in collaboration with Singapore-based firm K2LD Architects. “The winning design is sensitive and functional,” said Lee Tzu Yang, chairman of the Founders’ Memorial Committee, in a press release, “and embodies the spirit and values of Singapore’s founding team of leaders. It is a unique design, incorporating landscape and architecture, that brings visitors on a journey of discovery.” The jury also felt that the design meaningfully connected the site to public transportation nodes and other sites of local significance. The memorial’s organic rooflines will intentionally frame Bay East Garden, an adjacent waterfront whose pavilions and green spaces have quickly become a point of civic pride. The design team sought to emphasize Singapore’s global standing as a "City in a Garden" by creating a grouping of buildings that appears to rise from the landscape. In the process, they created a memorial that would allow for future growth. “Our design concept for the Founders’ Memorial originates from the idea of a path—a journey tracing the legacy of Singapore’s founding leaders,” said Kengo Kuma in a statement. “It simultaneously honors the past, and inspires the present and future. The design aims to be a ‘living memorial’, to be owned by each new generation of Singaporeans. There will be ample spaces for the celebration of milestone events, all set against the changing skyline of Singapore.” Renderings show amphitheater spaces, landscaped rooftops, large shaded areas, and other open facilities intended to benefit the public.  Now in its second stage of development, the Founders’ Memorial will be reviewed and modified in a series of community workshops, through which a more refined set of programs can be established. Construction is expected to begin in 2022 and be completed by 2027.
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Losing Our Marbles

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