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Fiberglass Half Full

An innovative GFRP facade is a big part of the magic of the Lucas Museum
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The form of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is suggestive and shape-shifting, not unlike the popular media to which the nascent institution is dedicated. Under construction since 2018, the curvilinear 290,000-square-foot museum is beginning to animate the entire western edge of Los Angeles’s Exposition Park, a 160-acre park opposite the University of Southern California. The project, which is named after its chief benefactor, filmmaker George Lucas, joins a loosely cohered complex of cultural and recreational destinations, including the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, the California Science Center, and the Los Angeles Coliseum. In 2014, the Beijing-based firm MAD Architects prevailed in an international design competition that tasked participants with translating the lofty, future-oriented mise-en-scène of the Lucas brand into a landmark piece of architecture. After a lawsuit prompted the museum to relocate from Chicago to Los Angeles, MAD refined its winning proposal into a stunningly amorphous “creature” with nary a right angle in sight, popularly likened to a spaceship by locals and critics alike. Containing a permanent collection and rotating exhibits dedicated to narrative art, in addition to theaters, classrooms, and a research library, the sweeping structure gracefully (in renderings, at least) spans 185 feet at its center to form a new gateway to Exposition Park.
  • Facade Manufacturer Kreysler & Associates
  • Architect MAD Architects
  • Architect of Record Stantec
  • Facade Consultant Walter P Moore
  • Facade Installer Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company
  • Location Los Angeles
  • Date of Completion 2021
  • System Custom GFRP rainscreen
  • Products Custom GFRP panels
The enormous building rests on a base isolation system that will gently rock the structure in the event of an earthquake. But in order for that system to work, the design team had to be extra mindful of the weight of the outer paneling, or rainscreen. After it was discovered by the design team, which included architect-of-record Stantec and facade consultant Walter P Moore (WPM), that glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC), a composite material popular among architects of curvilinear building facades, would overburden the structural and base isolation system, the team opted for glass fiber–reinforced plastic (GFRP), a highly durable composite material a fraction of the weight of GFRC. The chief benefit of both composites is the super-smooth exterior surface they can yield, provided that panels interlock in just the right way. To that end, MAD, along with collaborators Stantec and WPM, enlisted an army of tools including Maya, Rhino, Dynamo, and Revit, each with a number of plug-ins and custom scripts. The architects sent all this modeling information over to Kreysler & Associates’ production facility on Mare Island, in Northern California, where each of the 1,500 GFRP panels is being fabricated. There, a CNC machine cuts out custom foam molds, into which a resinous mixture is injected; after the curing process, robot arms scan the panels to verify their dimensions and cut the panels to shape before honing them to a smooth finish. The panels will then be shipped to Exposition Park, where, beginning next month, they will be installed in a secondary structure of variegated trusses branching off the burly primary structure, which is made up of predominantly straight beams. At the time of writing, the museum’s superstructure is only halfway erected, the first outlines of a cinematic vision. For now, observers of the Lucas Museum will have to fill in the gaps—or scene—themselves.
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RIP

Architect and Disney-favored urban planner Jaquelin T. Robertson dies
Jaquelin “Jaque” Taylor Robertson, the Driehaus Prize-winning architect and urban planner best known for co-developing the master plan for the Walt Disney Company’s pastel-hued, theme park-adjacent community of Celebration, Florida, died on May 9 in East Hampton, New York. He was 87 and had been battling Alzheimer’s Disease. “Over the course of his long, fruitful and rich life, Jaque’s accomplishments were innumerable, extraordinary and widely varied. He had a staggering breadth of life experiences and a seemingly bottomless well of talents; always setting the bar high, holding to the highest of standards and accepting nothing short of excellence, first in himself, and in his partners and colleagues as well,” reads a statement released by New York City-based architecture and urban design firm, Cooper Robertson. Born into a considerably wealthy Virginia family, Robertson returned to his home state in 1980 to serve as dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, a role that he held until 1988 while simultaneously serving as partner alongside Peter Eisenman in the eponymous, New York City-based architectural firm. A Rhodes Scholar and graduate of the Yale School of Architecture, Robertson enjoyed a fruitful early career in municipal urban planning prior to returning to an academic setting. This included 1960s-era stints in New York City as City Planning Commissioner and inaugural director of the Mayor’s Office of Midtown Planning and Development. Per Paul Goldberger’s obituary for the New York Times, it was also during this period that Robertson founded the Urban Design Group, “a special municipal agency intended to help the mayor [John V. Lindsay] raise the level of public design in the city.” In the late 1970s, Robertson relocated to Tehran where he planned and designed major development projects in the Iranian capital city. After leaving his role at the University of Virginia—as well as his partnership with Eisenman—Robertson joined as a partner at the eponymous firm of Alex Cooper, who was also an old friend and former Yale classmate instrumental in envisioning highly regarded planned communities and reshaping numerous public spaces in New York City and beyond. (The master plan for Battery Park City is perhaps Cooper’s keystone project.) The firm, renamed Cooper Robertson & Partners (later Cooper Robertson), went on to take on several high-profile projects, including the Robins Center at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia; the Henry Moore Sculpture Garden at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri; and the Institute for the Arts & Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Robertson also designed a large number of private residencies for well-heeled clients, most of them in the Hamptons. As Goldberger noted in the Times, these commissions “were both elaborate and understated and evocative of older structures without being directly imitative of them.” In the mid-1990s, Cooper Robertson, in close collaboration with Robert A.M. Stern, developed the master plan for Celebration, a nearly 11-square-mile New Urbanist community founded by the Walt Disney Company that's located in close proximity—and directly connected—to Walt Disney World Park. (Although it served as developer, Disney divested most of its control of the town after it opened although it continues to oversee some aspects of it.) While the new town design is strictly the creation of Robertson and Stern, numerous friends and contemporaries were enlisted to design signature buildings within the community including Michael Graves, Charles Moore, César Pelli, Philip Johnson, and Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Wrote Michael Pollan for the New York Times in 1997:
The town of Celebration represents the Disney Company's ambitious answer to the perceived lack of community in American life, but it is an answer that raises a couple of difficult questions. To what extent can redesigning the physical world we inhabit -- the streets, public spaces and buildings -- foster a greater sense of community? And what exactly does ''a sense of'' mean here? -- for the word community hardly ever goes abroad in Celebration without that dubious prefix.
In addition to Celebration, Cooper Robertson also designed the master plan for Val d’Europe, a similar New Urbanist community built in conjunction with Disneyland Paris. WaterColor, on the Florida Panhandle, is another notable master-planned enclave (sans Disney associations) executed by the firm as is the golf course-centered community of New Albany, Ohio. In addition to receiving the Driehaus Prize in 2007, an award bestowed to champions of and contributors to New Classical architecture, Robertson was awarded the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture by the University of Virginia in 1998. He retired from Cooper Robertson in 2014. “Jaque mentored, and instilled certain values in, dozens of young architects over his career – many of whom are still with Cooper, Robertson, and many others who are practicing elsewhere across the globe,” concluded Cooper Robertson in its announcement. “That is, perhaps, his greatest gift to the profession and the culture; perhaps his greatest legacy. We will miss him. He will be roundly missed, and never forgotten.” Robertson is survived by his wife, Anya Sohn Robertson, and a sister, Catherine “Kitty” Robertson Claiborne, of Virginia.
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A Note From the Editor

Missing the mix
In early March, I was still commuting to the office of the A&D magazine where I was working. COVID-19 had only just been detected in New York City, and I continued to hew closely to the workday habitus, albeit with some slight behavioral tweaks. I watchfully avoided the inadvertent brush with other commuters on the train, but I had not thought to wear a face mask; I gave pedestrians a wide berth on sidewalks but not in coffee queues; I washed my hands (and wrists) as though I were scrubbing into surgery, even as I continued to shake those of the people I met for interviews. Although skeptical of voluntarism as redress to social problems, I did not bristle at the public health recommendations seeking to mitigate transmission in shared spaces, nor did I flout them—at least intentionally. Perhaps I was simply not ready to give up the easy pleasures of city life, whether sitting alone and reading in a crowded park, or meeting with friends for beers after work, or pursuing any other banal activity that finds hackneyed resonance on the page or screen. These pleasures, doubtlessly worth protecting, are the right of all in name alone, a fact made obvious by the spread of COVID-19. Like pathogens, inequities are not singular events imposed or grafted onto urban landscapes, but rather reside and preponderate within the laws that structure them. For the critic and architect Michael Sorkin, cities were incubators for politics—and not just any politics, but that breed that is forged through collective struggle in space, spurred on by history. In the past year, Michael and I became close; I provided editorial assistance on a couple of book projects he and his publishing imprint, UR, had going, while he returned the (paid) favor with a spirited rap that belied his failing health. Huddled in his office, we talked in hour-and-a-half segments about book projects, his work, architecture, food, travel. I goaded him into reciting from memory my favorite of his turns of phrase, and he always complied. Michael was also a good friend of the great Bill Menking, cofounder and editor in chief of The Architect’s Newspaper. When AN was looking for an executive editor, Michael referred me to Bill; not long after, I was summoned to the Lispenard Street loft for examination. At the time, in early February, Bill was still settling back into life in the loft after spending the preceding months in the hospital. His occasional wincing telegraphed the bodily pains he was nursing. Nevertheless, he was cogent and determined to resume his daily activities, chronicling a misjudged excursion to the corner post office that resulted in a tumble down the entrance steps. The same day I started the job at AN, Michael died, owing to complications related to COVID-19. Two weeks later, in mid-April, Bill passed away after a protracted battle with cancer. Soliciting tributes from their friends and colleagues to publish on AN’s website, I found myself speaking to the same group of architects and academics back-to-back, some of us battling a feeling of numbness with welcome but uneasy stabs at humor. We at AN are moving ahead, trying our best to keep apace with events in the world and the obstacles that come our way. Like everyone else, we can’t help but tail these selfsame events; for this reason, the contents of the May 2020 issue may already seem out-of-date, or perhaps off-topic. The editorial preoccupation with Los Angeles, a thread that runs throughout the May issue, including our visit to Johnston Marklee’s Westwood studio and feature-length look at a 1.3-mile-long, open-air museum percolating in Hyde Park, was meant to coincide with the since-canceled AIA Conference on Architecture 2020. Which is not to suggest that these initiatives and projects don’t merit coverage on their own—only that our interest in them preceded the arrival of the present pandemic and economic crisis. That explanation aside, we have attended to these realities in a few places in these pages, such as in our report on the efforts of individual architects to manufacture and supply personal protective equipment, or PPE, to medical staff in hospitals. I remain stubbornly attached to my skepticism of voluntarism—we should not have to rely on the improvisatory, if meaningful, action of individual actors to fill the gaps in our healthcare system—but the experience may bequeath to architectural practice new procedures of collaboration and better coordinate the aims of the designer and the desires of the user. If nothing else, these efforts attest to the willingness (not to say eagerness) of practitioners to break outside the confines of practice and engage with the world around them. Last month, AN also launched Trading Notes, a weekly AIA-accredited conversation series that addresses the consequences the pandemic has had for the industry. So far, we have heard from architects, engineers, and construction managers about project slowdowns, the difficulty of conducting site inspections remotely, the comparatively painless move to remote working, the bunching up of material supply chains, and more. At the time of closing the May 2020 issue, AN staff had just entered the seventh week of quarantine. The novelty has worn away, and we have settled into a pattern of work that could go on for much longer. (The current timeline for the easing of stay-at-home orders appears to be early June, but who knows?) I myself have yet to visit AN’s FiDi office and have built relationships with my colleagues entirely over video chat and other messaging applications. This is a different kind of “propinquity” than what Michael advocated for, and one that cannot ever serve as its replacement. It’s perhaps more akin to the sociability Bill so exemplified, but something still less, an all-too-literal face-to-face lacking the infectious charge of shared space. At the moment, we find ourselves caught up in a mix, but deprived of the chance to mix it up. Here's hoping that we’ll be back to it soon.
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Remotely, Of Course

AN checks in with Johnston Marklee
Architecture studio Johnston Marklee is best known for designing sophisticated, site-sensitive buildings befitting the display and production of visual art. The Los Angeles–based firm has designed multiple galleries and exhibition pavilions, and its most internationally renowned work is the 2019 AN Best of Design Award-winning Menil Drawing Institute. Yet principal Sharon Johnston, who founded the firm alongside partner in business and life Mark Lee in 1998, is quick to point out that the eponymous firm has “produced a diverse body of works” that defies any strict scale or type. “Our interest is in history and working within the landscape,” said Johnston. “A key part of our practice is pushing out of bounds to look back at questions we as architects ask with a fresh lens,” Johnston continued. “A diversity of voice is something we cultivate with a lot of intentions.” That diversity is most apparent in the number of private homes that Johnston Marklee has designed in Southern California and locales farther afield, including Argentina, Hawaii, and Marfa, Texas. Each of the firm’s residential projects responds to the surrounding landscape, be it the high desert or abutting the Pacific Ocean, in subtle yet innovative ways. The homes also possess, to quote Johnston, an embedded “sense of intimacy and generosity” that can be found throughout the firm’s output, which also includes retail environments for clients such as Knoll, Aesop, and Chan Luu. “A sense of the domestic is core to all of our work,” said Johnston, who noted that the firm’s approach has benefited from working with a specific group of clients who are “looking for new frames of reference…and we like fitting into this space.” Vault House The buoyant Vault House is stretched out on a bed of piles drilled deep into a sandy beach in Oxnard, California. Comprising a series of stacked rooms inching toward the Pacific, the rectilinear home, with its vaulted ceilings, unidirectional arched windows, and curvy recesses, has a markedly narrow frontage. This is typical for Southern California’s densely settled beach communities, where the architecture can be lofty but the lots constricted. As a result, single-view oceanfront residences are often dim facing the street and flooded with light on the ocean-fronting side. To help distribute natural light equally throughout Vault House, Johnston Marklee inserted a courtyard into its midsection, neatly dividing the guest quarters from more private areas. “When you’re moving through it, it’s more like a kaleidoscope in terms of a floor plan,” Johnston explained. Menil Drawing Institute Nestled on the lush grounds of Houston’s Menil Collection, the Menil Drawing Institute is often described as Johnston Marklee’s “big break,” the firm having won the coveted commission over fellow finalists Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, David Chipperfield Architects, and SANAA. Low-slung and arranged around a trio of open-roof courtyards, the relatively compact museum building—completed in 2018, it’s the fifth to join the Menil Collection’s 30-acre campus—works carefully considered magic with natural daylighting by harnessing sun-blocking steel canopies, light-filtering plantings, and hypercalibrated window placement. The result ultimately feels more domestic than institutional. “There’s a generosity about it, an intimacy with the viewer,” said Johnston. Nicholas Hofstede, managing director at Johnston Marklee, added that the building’s cozy accessibility benefits from a design approach that’s “not so much formalist but pragmatic.” Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios Completed in 2019 for the School of Arts and Architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles, the Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios breathe new life into an old wallpaper factory in Culver City, California, without stripping the space of its historical patina. Located in a once down-and-out industrial zone known as the Hayden Tract, the project combines an adaptive reuse agenda with a 26,800-square-foot expansion in line, said Johnston, with the architects’ dual objective to find “contemporary expressions within a historic warehouse building” while “thinking about every square inch as a production space.” This approach lends the bustling complex, which includes studios, galleries, classrooms, laboratories, and an artist-in-residence loft, more of a “factory than a school sensibility.” Philadelphia Contemporary Philadelphia Contemporary, a peripatetic four-year-old nonprofit arts organization—or “curatorial institution,” as it describes itself—announced in 2018 that it had enlisted the firm to design its first permanent home following an exhaustive search. What this much-talked-about home might look like has yet to be publicly unveiled. But the project has opened a door for Johnston Marklee—a firm that’s unfailingly mindful of local context and that places such emphasis on architectural fundamentals like light and proportion of space—to “think about buildings that are more like scaffolds for programming,” Johnston suggested. “What does it mean for an itinerant arts institution to have a home?”
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Spire Ire

Restoration work resumes at Notre Dame but spire replacement plans remain at a standstill
It’s been just over one year since a massive structural fire raged through Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, a moment that both deflated the collective spirit of France and horrified those across the world who have either visited the 850-year-old edifice or admired its emblematic beauty from afar. And despite contamination- and global pandemic-prompted work stoppages and some light Gallic sass-slinging, Notre Dame is still on track to be open to the public by 2024. One major sticking point, however, continues to be the cathedral’s toppled spire, a nearly 300-foot-tall Paris landmark that was designed in the mid-19th century by thirty-year-old architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc as a replacement for an earlier, storm-beaten spire that was removed several decades before. The contentious issue at hand is the question of whether or not the spire that will eventually replace Viollet-le-Duc’s famed flèche should be a faithful replica of the barbed original or something that embraces a reverent but more modern design. The latter route, one very much not endorsed by preservation groups and the French Senate, was initially promoted by the administration of French President Emmanuel Macron. “Since the spire wasn't part of the original cathedral, the President of the Republic hopes there will be some reflection and a contemporary architectural gesture might be envisaged,” read a statement released by the Élysée Palace shortly after the fire. Yet as reported by The Art Newspaper, plans to formally move forward with an international design competition seeking out new spire designs, which was first announced by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, have apparently stalled. “The international competition will allow us to ask the question of whether we should even re-create the spire as it was conceived by Viollet-le-Duc,” Philippe said at a press conference held two days after the tragic fire. “Or if, as is often the case in the evolution of heritage, we should endow Notre Dame with a new spire.” Or at least that’s according to acclaimed U.K.-based Flemish artist Wim Delvoye, who says church officials have “so far snubbed” his own proposed fireproof design. Per The Art Newspaper, Delvoye, known for, among other things, creating neo-gothic sculptures fabricated from laser-cut steel, announced his intention to enter the competition shortly after it was announced, and immediately set out to work on designing a first proposal with his team. Other designers and architects also quickly sprung into action with some, ahem, interesting proposals although, as hinted at by Delvoye, the competition may now be at a standstill. “The longer the French wait to decide—or to start a competition—the more they will need to rely on my technique and design [involving] laser-cut Corten steel,” he said. “They are going to discuss [the spire design] for ten years.” According to The Art Newspaper, France’s National Commission for Architecture and Heritage is not expected to furnish design recommendations for the replacement spire to the Ministry of Culture until later this year.
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Acclaim in the Time of COVID

Six emerging firms take home the 2020 Architectural League Prize
Prepare your accolades accordingly: The Architectural League of New York has released the recipients of its 39th annual Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers. Judged through a juried portfolio competition, the prize recognizes architects ten or less years out from the completion of their undergraduate or graduate degrees. This year, the competition’s theme was Value, a somewhat nebulous term encompassing everything from economic value, to measurements, to broader engagements with the world at large. In their prompt, the League asked: “In a time of political and social precariousness when all cultural value sets seem publicly permissible, this year’s Architectural League Prize competition asks how notions of value operate in your work. How are your values mediated by the processes of design? What are the discursive contexts, forms of representation, and/or spaces of action in which these values manifest themselves?” A committee of former League Prize winners, including Kutan Ayata, Mira Henry, and Kevin Hirth, developed the competition theme and selected this year’s jurors. Lucia Allais, Paul Lewis, Anna Puigjaner, and Nanako Umemoto served alongside the committee to judge the competition, and six emerging firms from across the United States and Mexico were chosen. Those include: David Eskenazi of the Los Angeles-based d.esk, founded in 2014. D.esk has worked at all scales, with an aim to “Its aim is to contribute to the history of ideas in architecture through a close look at contemporary conundrums.” Eskenazi, currently part of the design studio and visual studies faculty at SCI-Arc, has also contributed written research to a number of outlets, and at the time of writing, his work has been shown at 12 different exhibitions across the U.S. Garrett Ricciardi and Julian Rose of the Los Angeles and New York-based Formlessfinder, founded in 2010. Formlessfinder “is a laboratory for methodological experimentation oriented toward the introduction of moments of formlessness into architecture,” bridging the gaps between each stage of the architectural creation process and remixing ideas to find novel solutions. Ricciardi currently lectures at UCLA. Leslie Lok and Sasa Zivkovic of the Ithaca, New York-based HANNAH, which was founded in 2012. The duo’s work focuses heavily on robotic fabrication and digital design (Zivkovic leads Cornell’s Robotic Construction Laboratory), and their projects have intertwined material research with novel structural uses; see the recently-completed Ashen Cabin for a perfect example. Both Lok and Zivkovic are currently assistant professors at Cornell University. Isaac Michan Daniel of the Mexico City-based Michan Architecture, which was founded in 2010. The studio’s work ranges from large-scale residential projects to experimental installations, and self describes as “a laboratory of architecture, exploring possibilities within the discipline. We see architecture as a flirtation towards the built environment; a question towards the norm, a speculation of what the future can be.” Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb of New York’s New Affiliates, founded in 2016. New Affiliates, as the League noted in their press release announcing the winners, are no strangers to scavenging for ideas and materials, finding new uses for research or materials or forms uncovered during previous projects. Diamantopoulou is currently a visiting critic at Syracuse University and Kolb teaches at Columbia University GSAPP as an adjunct professor. Luis Beltrán del Río García and Andrew Sosa Martínez of Mexico City’s Vrtical, founded in 2014. Vrtical’s work focuses heavily on the public realm and self-describes as “a design workshop dedicated to the democratization of architectural service.” Accordingly, the team has a number of public-facing projects under its belt, including the Tlaxco Artisan Market in Tlaxcala, Mexico, seen at the top of the page. Del Río currently teaches at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Universidad Iberoamericana, while Sosa teaches at CENTRO in Mexico City. Each winner will receive $2,000 and the opportunity to promote their work online throughout the month of June 2020. Because New York City will be locked down for the foreseeable future because of the novel coronavirus, the League will instead launch a digital exhibition on June 22, followed by a lecture series. The schedule is as follows: June 22: Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb, Isaac Michan Daniel June 24: Leslie Lok and Sasa Zivkovic, David Eskenazi June 26: Luis Beltrán del Río García and Andrew Sosa Martínez, Garrett Ricciardi and Julian Rose
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Quayside on the Wayside

Sidewalk Labs pulls the plug on its Toronto waterfront smart city
Citing “unprecedented economic uncertainty,” Daniel L. Doctoroff, chief executive of urban innovation startup and Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs, announced today that plans to move forward with the highly contentious Quayside redevelopment project on the Toronto waterfront have been nixed. Extending his gratitude to development partner Waterfront Toronto and the “countless Torontonians” who contributed to the project, Doctoroff laid out the reasoning behind the “difficult decision” in a statement published on Medium:
“For the last two-and-a-half years, we have been passionate about making Quayside happen—indeed, we have invested time, people, and resources in Toronto, including opening a 30-person office on the waterfront. But as unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed together with Waterfront Toronto to build a truly inclusive, sustainable community. And so, after a great deal of deliberation, we concluded that it no longer made sense to proceed with the Quayside project, and let Waterfront Toronto know yesterday.” “While we won’t be pursuing this particular project, the current health emergency makes us feel even more strongly about the importance of reimagining cities for the future. I believe that the ideas we have developed over the last two-and-a-half years will represent a meaningful contribution to the work of tackling big urban problems, particularly in the areas of affordability and sustainability. This is a vital societal endeavor, and Sidewalk Labs will continue our work to contribute to it.”
The project, which would have transformed a 12-acre stretch of disused former dockland on Lake Ontario just east of Toronto’s downtown core, was first initiated by Waterfront Toronto in 2017. Sidewalk Labs, an organization headed by Bloomberg alum Doctoroff and funded by Google parent company Alphabet, won the bid to take on the waterfront-revitalizing mixed-use project. While the Quayside development boasted all the hallmarks of an ambitious, forward-thinking urban redevelopment project— an agreeable amount of affordable housing, ample open public space, an overriding emphasis on green construction methods and micro-mobility, attractive design renderings furnished by firms including Heatherwick Studio and Snøhetta, and more—it was also poised to function, to significant controversy, as a living laboratory (or a Big Tech petri dish, perhaps) for a wide array of cutting-edge city tech solutions developed by Google. Sidewalk Labs itself referred to the planned neighborhood as “a testbed for emerging technologies, materials, and processes.” Despite insistence by Sidewalk Labs that it had consulted with “thousands of Torontonians” in fine-tuning the scheme, pushback against the Quayside development master plan has been sharp. A September 2019 document published by Waterfront Toronto’s independent Digital Strategy Advisory Panel (DSAP), bemoaned that the futuristic and “frustratingly abstract” project relied too heavily on showcasing “tech for tech’s sake” while sidelining the basic needs and wants of users. The DSAP “felt that the plan did not appear to put the citizen at the centre of the design process for digital innovations, as was promised in the beginning and is necessary for legitimacy.” Concerns over privacy had also been brought up time and time again although Sidewalk Labs had promised not to use facial recognition technology or harness personal information for advertising within the development. In a statement shared by CBC News, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association referred to the withdrawal of Sidewalks Labs “as a victory for privacy and democracy, clearing the way for that reset to take place.” Others opposed to the project have expressed similar elation. Another point of controversy was an attempt to widen the scope of the lakefront development from 12 acres, the size first envisioned when Sidewalk Labs was tapped by Waterfront Toronto to spearhead the project, to 190 acres. Just a couple of months after Sidewalk Labs announced the super-sizing of the high-tech utopia to 16 times larger its original planned acreage, the company agreed to scale it back down. “They had to work with us and not be adversarial if they were going to be successful,” said Stephen Diamond, chair of Waterfront Toronto, at the time. “They basically ceded to the most important threshold issues that we needed to get resolved to move forward.” The project, which Sidewalk Labs had invested $980 million in as project developer, was still a good while out from securing a full governmental go-ahead before being scrapped by the company. Waterfront Toronto was also still in the process of mulling the latest iteration of the redevelopment proposal. That decision was to come in March but then pushed back to May due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. City councilman and Waterfront Toronto board member Joe Cressy said in a statement that he was not given advance notice of Sidewalk Labs’ decision to walk away from the project, and just found out this morning. “Over the past two years, Waterfront Toronto has invested a considerable amount of work in the development of Quayside,” he said. “Legitimate concerns were raised regarding Sidewalk Labs' proposals, including concerns over data collection and digital governance.” “While this does mean that Waterfront Toronto will start again to reimagine Quayside, none of this work will go to waste," Cressy added. "The engagement and feedback we have received from residents and community organizations has given us a solid framework that will shape our work going forward.”

Diamond echos Cressy’s sentiments, emphasizing that the down-and-out swath of Toronto waterfront in question will still be home to a progressive new development in the future.

“Quayside remains an excellent opportunity to explore innovative solutions for affordable housing, improved mobility, climate change, and several other pressing urban challenges that Toronto—and cities around the world—must address in order to continue to grow and succeed,” Diamond said in a news release. “Today is not the end of Quayside, but the first day of its future. Waterfront Toronto will continue to seek public and expert input as we make a next generation community at Quayside a reality.”

A similar sense of optimism has also been expressed by some of those tapped by Sidewalk Labs to contribute to its vision for Quayside. Michael Green, principal of the eponymous Vancouver-headquartered architecture firm famed for its record-setting mass timber buildings, provided a statement to AN that puts a positive spin on today’s development:

“COVID has given us personally and professionally time to reflect. The economics of all of our businesses are changing. Sidewalk’s decision should also create a time for reflection. Are we a country of Process or a country of Progress? Sidewalk was buried in process that perhaps impacted their decision. Is that ok?  Maybe not. Maybe we should reflect. Progress is exactly what COVID is challenging us to think about. Are we going to address climate and affordability or are we going to bog down in talking about it and not innovating and taking action. As policy changed to close roads for bikes and pedestrians or open outdoor seating for restaurants to help with social distance we are seeing cities transform before our eyes. The opportunity is to not let these temporary policy changes go backwards.”
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Movies to Mammoths

Hancock Park may become Los Angeles’s first true urban microcosm
“Tip the world over on its side,” Frank Lloyd Wright once quipped, “and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” As a fresh L.A. transplant in the early 1920s, Wright clearly had trouble finding his bearings, yet nearly a century on, his testimony remains remarkably apt: To the uninitiated, the “fabric” of Los Angeles’s cityscape can feel improvisatory, a game board consisting of extravagantly mismatched pieces. The very same observation can easily be applied to Hancock Park, which counts geological excavations, fiberglass mammoths, contemporary art, and, soon, Hollywood cinema among its many oddities and enticements. No fewer than three cultural institutions are currently situated on the park’s 34 acres, but they are an atomized bunch, existing together in relative isolation. However, plans are afoot that promise to join together these disparate pieces into a museological collection unparalleled in the western United States. The prime mover is unquestionably the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which became Hancock Park’s first cultural institution when it opened in 1965. William Pereira’s palatial yet restrained campus—originally a composition of three buildings (the Ahmanson Building, the Bing Center, and the Lytton Gallery) surrounded by reflecting pools—attempted to cast Los Angeles in the role of art-world magnet even as critics placed it at the margins. As the city expanded its influence in this arena, so, too, did LACMA expand within Hancock Park, with the museum adding buildings by Bruce Goff, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, and Renzo Piano. More recently, outdoor artworks by Chris Burden, Michael Heizer, and Robert Irwin have signposted the institution’s desire for outward growth at the expense of a defined center. The La Brea Tar Pits, a group of asphalt lakes from which paleontologists have exhumed the fossilized remains of Ice Age-era Mammalia for more than a century, occupy 13 acres of the park’s eastern half. In 1967, the sculptor Howard Ball created a fiberglass family of woolly mammoths along Lake Pit, the largest tar pit on the property, that dramatically raised the unusual site’s profile. A decade later, the George C. Page Museum, a quietly monumental museum and paleontological research facility designed by Willis Fagan and Frank Thornton to study and display the fossils, took up residence at the northeastern corner of the pits—as far from the LACMA campus as physically possible. For nearly half a century, LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits seemed entirely indifferent to one another, even as they remained cheek by jowl. Both offer as many outdoor attractions as they do interior exhibitions, which has the potential to blur user groups, if not visitor experiences. But the parkland stretching between the two campuses has never done much to smooth the jarring transition from art to paleontology. This strained dynamic was brought into question in 2014, when construction began on the 300,000-square-foot Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at Hancock Park’s southwestern corner. Operated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the museum plans to split its programming between two buildings: the former May Company Building, a department store designed in a streamlined moderne style by Albert C. Martin in 1939 (and once briefly owned by LACMA), and the Sphere, a striking high-tech belvedere designed by Renzo Piano and featuring a 1,000-seat theater. When it opens this December, the complex will be America’s largest dedicated to the art and science of filmmaking, a craft that turned the orange groves of Los Angeles into a city of global recognition. With this third player in the mix, LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits independently saw opportunities to reinvent themselves and, perhaps, finally unify Hancock Park and its aggregate cultural and recreational offerings. In August 2019, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC), which manages the La Brea Tar Pits, announced it had selected three firms to develop master plans that would take stock of the site’s invaluable contents while updating its outdated visitor experience. A few months later, after staging a public exhibit of the projects, NHMLAC elected to push ahead with multidisciplinary firm WEISS/MANFREDI’s master plan. The design calls for the preservation of the site’s most locally beloved elements, including Lake Pit and the original Page Museum, and ties them together with a 3,200-foot-long looping pedestrian path. Calling the Page “introverted,” architect Michael Manfredi summarized the scheme’s intention to pull back the curtain on the museum’s ongoing paleontological research: “Because Hancock Park is a public space, and not a nine-to-five destination, our master plan hopes to stretch the hours of engagement by revealing the hidden life of the museum to the public without [visitors] ever stepping inside; to make the science more visible, and make [the displays] a more active element of the park rather than mere inert objects.” Manfredi conceded that the scheme is still in development, and his team expects to incorporate more public input in the next design rounds; so far, the joint effort has collected more than 2,100 survey responses from the local community. Meanwhile, LACMA’s own redevelopment plan has been met repeatedly with public and critical scorn. Since assuming the museum’s directorship in 2006, Michael Govan has been emphatic about his desire to make his mark with a grand new building. In 2013, he unveiled plans to replace Pereira’s midcentury pavilions and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer’s mid-1980s Art of the Americas building with a tabletop design spanning Wilshire Boulevard by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. Only Piano’s 2008 Broad Contemporary Art Museum and 2010 Resnick Pavilion—a campus in themselves—would be spared. Though there have been a handful of public meetings following each successive plan (the project has undergone drastic revisions since first being unveiled), local groups contend they have been purposefully left out of the decision-making process by the parties in charge—namely LACMA, Zumthor’s office, and the county’s Board of Supervisors. Among the most prominent of these is the nonprofit Save LACMA, whose mission statement touts the “enormous pool of goodwill, sentiment and investment” it has accrued in its drive to protect the museum’s beleaguered buildings. Like its ally the Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA, Save LACMA has decried recent cost estimates putting Govan and Zumthor’s project at $750 million, with $125 million coming from the County of Los Angeles. Rubbing salt in the wound, another report alleged that the new LACMA would contain 10,000 square feet less exhibition space than did its predecessor. Summing up the brouhaha in the Los Angeles Times, art critic Christopher Knight (who just won a Pulitzer for his take on the LACMA controversy) needled the expansion and dubbed it the “Incredible Shrinking Museum.” LACMA fanned the critical flames when, in early April, after stay-at-home orders had been issued to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, it began dismantling the Bing Center. Later that month, as if capitalizing on the controversy, the Citizens’ Brigade unveiled alternative proposals to the Zumthor design, which varied in tone (though nearly all were wistful) and feasibility (with more than one barely-there provocation). None were as audacious as Zumthor’s parti, which is nonetheless poised to improve on LACMA’s current campus. As grand as the Pereira buildings may have been in their day, they formed a visual barrier across Hancock Park’s southern perimeter and created an inelegant walking path along the campus’s expanding east-west axis. From the west, visitors had to scale the Ahmanson Building’s pompously wide stairs before stumbling onto the main plaza, later blocked from Wilshire with the addition of the Arts of the Americas building. Zumthor’s decision to lift all the exhibition spaces and other museum functions into the air (and over Wilshire) grants visitors unfettered access to the central axis of the park. At LACMA in February, Govan quipped that visitors to the future Hancock Park will be able to go from “movies to mammoths” without paying an admission fee. It’s striking that this consequence of Zumthor’s planning has survived all the project’s alterations; clearly, critic Christopher Hawthorne was correct in saying, all the way back in 2013, that the design was less aloof than his peers made it out to be. A composite site plan of all three ongoing projects reveals a Hancock Park that bears little resemblance to its present self: A flock of Piano-designed structures congregates in its western half, absorbed in their own symmetries; Zumthor’s spaceshiplike LACMA retreats from the park’s center and straddles Wilshire Boulevard to the south, touching down on a one-acre park (currently a parking lot owned by the museum); and, while still subject to change, the pedestrian loop winding through WEISS/MANFREDI’s La Brea Tar Pits master plan echoes LACMA’s curves, as if the two entities were at last ready to tango after decades of bumping elbows. This gradual movement toward greater cohesion tracks with two other L.A. projects currently in the works. The first is the addition of seven new stations to the Metro’s D Line along Wilshire Boulevard, representing a major improvement to the city’s underdeveloped public transportation infrastructure. The Wilshire/Fairfax station, sited directly across the street from Hancock Park, is slated to be completed in 2023, three years after the Academy Museum and one year before LACMA (though a construction timeline for the La Brea Tar Pits master plan is still in the works, one may expect that it will attempt to align with its neighboring developments). According to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, LACMA has indicated it would finance a second station entrance on its campus, which would connect the block to the city at large more seamlessly than ever before. Yet even Metro has felt the pressure to accelerate its construction timeline in response to a second, even larger citywide goal: the 2028 Summer Olympics, the third time in the event’s modern history that the games will be held in Los Angeles. As if impelled to replicate the success of the previous iteration in 1984—considered the only profitable games in modern Olympic history—Los Angeles is currently abuzz with construction on large-scale developments, including the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (see page 30), SoFi Stadium, and the renovation of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Against this backdrop, the transformation of Hancock Park into a single, coherent block of art, film, and prehistory in time for the Olympics would be a major boon for the city’s title as a cultural capital. (Such a consolidation might even compel Angelenos to finally call the park by its official name, which it shares with a well-heeled residential cluster to its east.) At the time of this writing, Hancock Park is not much to look at. Some elements are dulled by years of neglect, others too shiny for lack of occupation, and others still scarred by the recent violence of demolition. Yet a little patience will likely yield an outsize reward: a true microcosm of a city possibly too large in size and cultural importance to take in by any other means.
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Charm City Transformation

Demolition work kicks off at Baltimore’s Lexington Market
Following an official groundbreaking ceremony in February, exterior demolition kicked off last week at Baltimore’s Lexington Market, a quintessential Charm City institution that’s been around since 1782—a feat that makes it the oldest continuously operating public market in the United States. The razing of the early 1980s-era arcade to make way for a “walkable, urban plaza perfect for farmers’ markets and public gathering” marked the first major visible step in the $40 million Transform Lexington redevelopment scheme headed by Seawall Development. There’s hope that the project, slated for completion in the second half of 2021, will revive the pulse of this 238-year-old mainstay on Baltimore’s downtown west side where, to quote the Baltimore Business Journal, “faded signage, dirty white subway tile walls, shuttered vendor booths, and burned-out neon” serve as evidence of a steady decline. Or, as the Baltimore Sun put it more diplomatically, Lexington Market, once heralded as the “gastronomic capital of the world” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is “showing its age.” In addition to replacing the Arcade with a public plaza, a new 61,000-square-foot South Market building, which will be home to a mix of 50- to-60 new and existing vendors, will be built on an adjacent surface parking lot. Built in 1952, the East Market building is now home to all current vendors, including longtime market fixtures such as the famed, family-owned jumbo lump crab cake and raccoon purveyor Faidley Seafood, an anchor business that’s been in operation since 1886 when Lexington Market was an open-air establishment. The East Market, which will be redeveloped as part of a second phase once the South Market building is complete, was to remain open to the public during construction but has since been closed due to coronavirus-related shutdowns. Compared to the labyrinthine, brick-faced East Market building, the new South Market structure will be a spacious two-story affair with massive windows, skylights, and a metallic pitched roof that, as Baltimore Fishbowl has noted, harkens back to the sheds of yore that once housed vendors. In addition to vendor stalls, the new building will have ample room for public gatherings, events, and, of course, sitting down to scarf local delicacies like lake trout and Berger Cookies. Funding for the project comes from a mix of bank loans, city and state grants, New Markets Tax Credit incentives, and the market itself. Along with the vendor application process being delayed, the deadline for redevelopment proposals for the East Market building has been pushed back due to the pandemic. The fate of a second, largely vacant existing structure, the West Market building, also remains up in the air. Despite these uncertainties, construction work at Lexington Market, which is the flagship operation of the city-owned nonprofit Baltimore Public Markets Corp., will continue as planned during the coronavirus crisis with additional safeguards in place per the Sun. “The redevelopment construction schedule hasn’t changed at this point,” elaborated Jon Constable, a principal at Seawall Development who previously referred to the project as “the ultimate positive opportunity for Baltimore.” Such opportunities, of course, come equipped with sunny hopes that the redevelopment will spur further investment in the surrounding area. This has raised concerns about gentrification, and if a new and shiny Lexington Market will serve as the catalyst for that. Some, however, are skeptical that the desired investment in the area is even possible. “I’m not optimistic about this project producing a turnaround,” Stephen J.K Walters of the Maryland Public Policy Institute told the Sun, noting that concerns about public safety serve as a formidable hurdle. “If it doesn’t make sense to invest, proximity to a subsidized project doesn’t change that fundamental and unfortunate fact.” As for the market itself, Seawall Development undertook an extensive public engagement process including town halls and listening tours in order to glean input from the community on how the new market should look and feel, and most important, what types of vendors should be greeting customers on opening day (Faidley’s is one vendor that will be enthusiastically returning). Seawall, which has said that priority will be given to new vendors accepting SNAP benefits, also stressed that Lexington Market is not at risk of emerging from construction as a trendy food hall similar to R. House, a venue in the north Baltimore neighborhood of Remington that was also developed by the company:
“Lexington Market has always been a public market that meets the needs of any and all Baltimorean, and it will remain that way even after the transformation project is complete. The Market is publicly owned and will continue to prioritize accessible food and retail options that can meet the needs of all types of customer. When selecting any new vendors for the market, implementing community programming, and designing gathering spaces within the market, every effort will be made to seek the input and advice of Market customers who will help ensure it remains a welcoming place for all.”
Whatever the impact of the new Lexington Market on surrounding real estate might be and whatever toll the coronavirus could take on vendors, that market’s status as an enduring and distinctly Baltimorean institution will—unlike the product behind the city’s famous clock tower—never fizzle away.
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Can You Hear Me Now?

A schoolyard fence proposal for Greenwich Village raises questions about creeping privatization

To screen or not to screen?

That was the question before New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on April 28, when panel members reviewed a seemingly innocuous proposal to permanently alter a chain-link fence surrounding a schoolyard in Greenwich Village.

Their review turned into a larger, Jane Jacobsean-discussion about urban playgrounds in general and how a property owner’s push for privacy could end up taking life and vitality off city streets. It raised important questions about the creeping privatization of open spaces in the public realm while also, perhaps ironically, pointing out the difficulty of holding public hearings on Zoom.

The panel was asked to allow the property owner, the Church of St. Luke in the Fields and St. Luke’s School at 487 Hudson Street in the West Village, to cover an existing chain link fence with a faux-ivy vinyl screen that would block views of children playing in a schoolyard.

The commission last year gave St. Luke’s a temporary permit to put up the screen, and now the church and school want to make it permanent.  Besides blocking views into the schoolyard, the screen blocks views toward the campus of St. Luke’s, which includes a church dating back to 1821, a rowhouse dating from 1825, and a school built in 1955. Preservation commission approval is required because the property is in the Greenwich Village Historic District.

The request to “alter a fence,” though it appeared to be a minor item on the commissions’ agenda, triggered a lengthy debate over the need for and wisdom of screening playgrounds that traditionally have been open to view, and if so, how best to do so. The commissioners said they were troubled both by the ivy-themed graphic and the very idea of screening the schoolyard.

“I was not aware of this situation and I’m finding myself to be kind of appalled by it,” said vice chairman Frederick Bland, whose remarks set the tone for the discussion. “Not the design per se, although I’m not a fan of the ivy necessarily. But the whole idea of visual privacy of playgrounds. Is this something that’s occurring all over the city?“

Bland, the managing partner of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners, said his office used to be near the schoolyard of Grace Church on Broadway, “which was lovely and open, and it was wonderful at noontime to see all the kids out playing. I just don’t understand why we’re doing this and, if so, is this a precedent that then everybody’s going to hide and protect their kids playing in playgrounds? I can’t imagine a city like this.”

“My heart is just leaping forward and saying this is a terrible precedent,” he concluded.

Chain link fencing is a very common material for New York City school playgrounds, but “it’s always open and it always allows people to see” in, said commissioner Michael Goldblum. “That’s part of the street life of New York City. It’s part of the street life of Greenwich Village…Seeing that activity is part of the life of the street. So I would not think that any kind of material that blocked that would be appropriate.”

Other commissioners objected to the ivy pattern on the screen.

“The graphic is so dominant. It’s so powerful,” said commissioner Everardo Jefferson.  “Maybe there’s a graphic pattern that’s softer, not so dominant.”

 “They should just grow English ivy on it and have the real thing,” suggested commissioner John Gustafsson. “This is just awful.”

St. Luke’s operates a coed Episcopal day school for grades JK (Junior Kindergarten) to 8, divided into a lower school and an upper school. The chain-link fence in question is roughly nine feet high and stretches for a block along Christopher Street, between Hudson and Greenwich streets.  On the school’s side of the fence is a playground with a half-basketball court in the middle.

Commissioners were told the chain link fence has been in place for years and is “grandfathered in,” meaning it’s allowed to stay and not up for discussion. Last year, commission staffers say. St. Luke’s sought and received a temporary permit to make one 40-foot-long section of the fence three feet higher, with the expectation that a higher fence would help prevent errant basketballs from ending up in the street.

Besides asking to increase the fence’s height in the section corresponding to the basketball court, St. Luke’s last year asked for and received temporary permission to cover the entire length of the fence with a vinyl screen that would block views into the schoolyard from Christopher Street. By the fall of 2019, the faux ivy screen was in place. At this meeting, the property owners were seeking a “certificate of appropriateness” that would make permanent modifications that started out being temporary.

No one from St. Luke’s spoke at the hearing. Instead, St. Luke’s was represented by its design consultant, Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. No one from the general public asked to testify about the St. Luke’s item but Manhattan Community Board 2, an advisory group that had reviewed the proposal, sent a resolution recommending denial of the application.

To complicate matters, the April 28 meeting was a virtual hearing held via Zoom. It was just the second time the commission has had a virtual public hearing while its offices and hearing room at 1 Centre Street have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nielsen had already submitted the drawings and photos required to support her application. But when it came time for her to begin her presentation to the commissioners, she had trouble with her computer connection and was unable to communicate with them in any intelligible way.

After many Hellos, Director of Preservation Cory Herrala asked staff preservationist James Russiello to start outlining the proposal to the panel. Eventually, with the help of the staff, Nielsen resolved her audio problems and was able to “join” the meeting and address the commission.

At the start of the presentation, commissioner Jefferson asked why St. Luke’s wanted a screen on the fence. “Why not see the playground?”

He was told the owner wanted the screen for privacy reasons. “The purpose of the covering is so that you can’t see into the playground from the street. It’s solid,” Russiello said.

“This is a fence that’s fronting a playground with children of different ages,” Herrala said. “I think there’s been an attempt to provide privacy from people walking by for some time.”

In recent years communities around the country have seen students killed in school shootings, and they’ve taken various steps to increase both security and privacy.  Sarah Carroll, the commission chair, told the panel this isn’t the first time administrators of a school in New York City have sought to screen a playground. “I think that many schools do try to create some security and privacy for children playing. It’s not unusual and not the first time we’ve seen a request for privacy for areas that children will be.”

Commissioners also asked why the designers went with the fake ivy pattern.

Nielsen, able to respond at that point, said the ivy was considered more palatable than other options under consideration.

“We had picked ivy because it was neutral, cheerful and far preferable” to alternate choices, she said. “There was some suggestion for whether this vinyl print should be a replication of a brick wall. We did not respond to that, but that was one of the suggestions that had been made by the community board.”

Carroll, who previously served as the commission’s executive director, said she thought the ivy pattern was intended to evoke the “garden nature” of the space between buildings on the St. Luke’s campus.

During the discussion phase of the hearing, a few of the commissioners said they could accept the proposal to keep one section of the fence higher if it would prevent $50 basketballs from going into the street. But no one liked the ivy screen. Some said they would be open to the idea of a more translucent, mesh-like material, like many tennis courts have. Others said they didn’t want a screen at all, or at least a lower screen.

Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron stressed that there is a difference between a fence and a wall.

“What I object to is that this is no longer a fence at all. Nothing about it is screen-like or fence-like. It’s an opaque, solid wall,” she said. “So the point is that we would be approving a solid wall and the proposal here is for it to be made even taller.”

Shamir-Baron said she would be willing to consider a screen that’s translucent or perforated in some way.  “It needs to have transparency,” she said. “It’s not the image that I find problematic but its opacity.”

Commissioner Diana Chapin expressed doubt that the material would age well. “I don’t think it’s going to hold up and look good even if we wanted to have this wall-like effect,” she said.

“If they need some kind of semi-privacy,” said panelist Michael Devonshire, “they could get a neutral mesh and mount it on the inside of the chain-link fence.”

At the end of its discussion period, the panel typically votes to determine whether an application gets approved. In this case, Carroll didn’t let it come to that. She told the panel she thought that because Nielsen had so much technical difficulty at the start of the meeting and wasn’t able to participate fully, the panel ought to take no action and give Nielsen and her clients time to digest their comments and schedule another meeting. It was a polite way of suggesting that they go back to the drawing board.

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Coloring Through It

Keep architects- and designers-in-training busy with these online workshops and activities
The bad news: In many cities, classrooms are officially shuttered for the rest of the school year due to the novel coronavirus crisis—and the status of summer camps isn’t looking too hot either. The better news: While certainly no substitute for in-person experiences, many cultural institutions, museums, and even individual architecture firms are now offering architecture- and design-focused online educational opportunities—from Zoom-based workshops to downloadable coloring e-books to amusing, family-friendly video series—that cater to stuck-at-home kids and the parents and caretakers. And because creativity (and coloring as a de-stressing tool) knows no age limit, many of these opportunities hold strong appeal to listless big kids, too. Check out just a few of these online activities and workshops below. Many are free and some require advance registration.

CAC@Home and CAC for the Family

The Chicago Architecture Center has retooled its upcoming calendar of family-and youth-oriented programming to accommodate for virtual learning while in-person events are on pause. Debuting in conjunction with each weekly edition of the CAC@Home newsletter, offerings include a remote iteration of the Girls Build! program, three new video series (Architecture Essentials, Neighborhood Strollers, and Storytime with CAC), and more. “Schools may be out of session and museums are closed, but the CAC is working to keep children, parents and teachers learning about architecture and design, including the buildings around them, while practicing spatial distancing at home in their own neighborhoods,” said Nicole Kowrach, the Center's vice president for education and audience engagement, in a statement.

Center for Architecture 

In partnership with the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, the Center for Architecture has launched #ArchitectureAtHome, a series of fun, family-oriented activities to engage, inspire, and pass the time. They include drawing activities, Google Map-based scavenger hunts, and tutorials on how to make pop-up buildings out of paper bags.

Foster + Partners #Architecturefromhome

Sympathetic to frazzled parents in need of new distractions for restless broods, London-based mega-firm Fosters + Partners recently launched a robust at-home educational initiative dubbed #Architecturefromhome that includes “drawing, making, playing, thinking, reading, watching, and other activities to keep them [out of school kids] entertained—for at least a few hours!” Templates for activities, including “Paper skyscraper,” “Create your own city,” and “Drawing trees,” are available to download through the #Architecturefromhome micro-site. The firm encourages participants young and old to share their completed creations on social media.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Classroom and Virtual Summer Camp

Through May 20, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s education department is hosting a virtual classroom for K-12 students with new lessons and corresponding videos being introduced each week. Says the Foundation of the free educational initiative, which is based on a curriculum developed in collaboration with the Paradise Valley School District: “The Virtual Classroom combines fun, real-world lessons with Wright’s famed principles of organic architecture and solutions-based design, each STEAM-focused lesson will offer students its own variation of hands-on activities that encourage them to think critically and creatively.” Although the six-week series is now in week three of lessons, it’s never too late to join in. Upcoming lessons include “Circles” and “The Impact of Color.” Normally held at the Taliesin West campus in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Foundation’s popular Summer Art and Architecture Summer Camp is also going virtual, and for the first time, is also free. Virtual campers enrolled in the program will meet via Zoom for an hour every weekday during three two-week sessions kicking off on June 1.

Gensler Amazing Cities coloring books

The Texas-based offices of global architecture firm Gensler have banded together to release two coloring books, Amazing Cities and Amazing Cities Kids, geared toward housebound families looking for a fun, architecture-centric distraction. The free downloadable coloring books together span over 200 pages and feature a slew of Gensler-designed buildings across the Lone Star State including in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and Austin. “In the wake of recent COVID-19 events, we’ve been channeling our creative energy into finding a way to educate and inspire people of all ages during these challenging times,” Gerardo Gandy, an associate at Gensler who conceived the series, told D magazine. “We hope this series allows the public, especially young minds, to use their creativity and imagination, and that it extends the spirit of our firm and the passion that we share for our practice to our friends, clients, and community.”

The Guggenheim Museum: Sketch With Jeff 

Every Wednesday and Saturday at 3 p.m. during the month of May, Jeff Hopkins, teaching artist at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, will tell stories about the history of the Guggenheim's iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Manhattan home through a series of sketches. Each sketch is followed by a prompt meant to inspire young viewers to create their own sketches at home. Participants are encouraged to share their finished work on Instagram or on Twitter with the hashtag #SketchWithJeff.

The Glass House presents Josef Albers Color Workshop

On May 22, the Glass House, in participation with the New Canaan Library, is hosting an hour-long, hands-on color workshop led by Fritz Horstman, director of education at The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. “Working from Josef Albers’s book Interaction of Color, we will experiment with colors that you may already have around your home. We will try our hands at exercises that Albers invented in his time teaching at the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and Yale, such as One-Color-Becomes-Two, Reversed Grounds, and Afterimage,” explains the event page. No prior artistic experience is required to participate although those registered must have a list of necessary materials on hand before the workshop begins. Self-directed, video-driven color workshops specifically for kids are also available through the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

Museum of Design Atlanta: Young Designers Online

MODA’s calendar of upcoming online workshops for pint-sized design aficionados is impressive: A three-part series in skatepark design, an intro to using Minecraft as a CAD tool, and ongoing educational sessions for aspiring architects and designers ages eight through 15.

The National Building Museum

Although the National Building Museum has canceled all public programming through the end of September (and doesn't list any upcoming virtual events on its calendar), the museum’s website has a rich resource of at-home learning opportunities (Newspaper forts! Bell pepper architectural drawings! Building surveys!) for cooped-up families including the nifty, recently launched Neighborhood Exploration series.

New Museum Kids Menu

While the New Museum’s First Saturdays For Families programming has been canceled, the New Museum Kids Menu series is continuing to “provide families with activities to learn about contemporary art and ideas at home.” Past family-friendly activities include “At Home With Portraiture: Jordan Casteel” and “The Faces of Places: Jordan Casteel.” Keep abreast of upcoming activities here.
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A SITE for Sore Eyes

Virtual SITE exhibition inserts contemporary art into Detroit’s architectural landmarks
  Detroit fine art gallery Library Street Collective has launched a new online exhibition that grants virtual visitors access to the city’s most prized—and in some cases, forgotten—examples of historic architecture while showcasing a range of works by an exciting and diverse coterie of contemporary artists. SITE: Art and Architecture in the Digital Space, in the words of Library Street Collective, fosters “a unique digital connection between the visual arts and the built environment, incorporating aspects of storytelling, architectural history and an artist’s unique perspective.” Key in bringing SITE to life was architectural photographer James Haefner, whose evocative photographs of Detroit landmarks serve as a backdrop for the aforementioned artworks to be inserted. As Library Street Collective emphasized in a statement, the exhibition is wholly digital, meaning that the “art displayed is skillfully and seamlessly rendered into its environment” without any on-site installation work. The gallery also noted that this type of virtual exhibition is ultimately a more environmentally friendly one when compared to conventional, site-specific events as it removes carbon-intensive “exhibition transit from the equation.” The inaugural itineration of SITE kicked off last week within the walls of McKim, Mead & White’s State Savings Bank, a downtown neoclassical gem also known as the Savoyard Centre that was completed in 1900. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, the building, much like Detroit’s sizable stable of historic structures, fell into an advanced state of disrepair during the latter half of the 20th century. Used as a bank for most of its existence, the 72,000-square-foot structure (a seamless Donaldson and Meier-designed addition was completed in 1915) was acquired by office supply company Silvers Inc. in 1980 and used as a showroom. Silvers decamped from the century-old building in 1994, which led to a nearly 25-year stretch of abandonment. Following an extensive renovation spearheaded by Bedrock Detroit, the State Savings Bank reopened its doors in 2018 for Doug Aitken’s site-specific installation Mirage Detroit, presented by Library Street Collective. “The State Savings Bank is reflective of a number of historic structures in Detroit, built at the height of the city’s cultural and industrial peak in the early 20th Century,” said Library Street Collective. “These structures were representative of unprecedented prosperity at the time of their conception, but fell into disuse after decades of the economic, racial and social inequality that was widespread across America, but particularly exploitative and polarizing within Detroit.” Future SITE exhibitions will take place in “buildings designed by notable architects such as Minoru Yamasaki and Albert Kahn, to those that once housed the automotive industrialists of Detroit’s past,” per Library Street Collective. “They will include some of the most significant and historically important structures in the Detroit area, each with a unique story to tell.” Back at the State Savings Bank, the artists showing as part of the maiden SITE exhibition are: Daniel Arsham, Kadar Brock, Greg Fadell, Simphiwe Ndzube, José Parlá, Rachel Rossin, Phillip K. Smith III, and Kennedy Yanko. You can view each of the artists’ contributions to SITE above, while the exhibition website includes artist statements and additional works for sale by each individual artist. Ten percent of the sales from the first iteration of SITE will be donated to the Ruth Ellis Center, a Detroit-based nonprofit that provides essential services and support to homeless and at-risk LGBTQ youths and young adults of color in southeast Michigan. “The whole idea of the SITE exhibition is that it is non-physical, but it is still emotional; we still have a response to it,” said California-based Phillip K. Smith III, whose light-based work Portal 8 is now digitally on display at the State Savings Bank. “We’re curious about it and ask questions about what we’re looking at—typical questions we would have when looking at an exhibition—yet it’s beginning to push the idea of how work can be assembled in the digital space while dealing with very true physical objects.” Despite the fact that its physical space in downtown Detroit has been temporarily shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic, Library Street Collective has been busy in recent weeks. In addition to launching SITE, the gallery garnered headlines in March for a two-week-long initiative in which it provided nutritious dinners-to-go to local school kids. Each meal was accompanied by a coloring book—and colored pencils and a sharpener—featuring line drawings by the likes of KAWS, Nick Cave, Shepard Fairey, Virgil Abloh, Doug Aitken, and others including several Detroit-based artists. Library Street Collective’s WE ALL RISE coloring books are now also available to download as e-books or can be purchased in print form with all proceeds benefitting Forgotten Harvest.