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Return of the 49%

Public Practice helps architects and planners in the U.K. engage the public
“Attention: The fire alarm system is about to be tested. You do not have to leave the building. When all testing is complete, you will hear a further message.” In the local council buildings in Greater London, the fire alarms are tested every Friday at 3 p.m. The seventeen associates of the independent nonprofit Public Practice have learned this by now, a few months into the nonprofit’s associates program. The participants are selected and placed at public planning offices in the region and meet up every two weeks, one hosting the rest of the group on a rotating schedule. These Fridays mean mutual exchange—of everything from recent research to the nuances of office culture. This morning they arrived at a mildly postmodern conference room at Epping Forest District Council for tea and instant coffee. Semi-rural Epping sits at the northeastern end of London’s longest tube line, six public transit zones and a brisk walk from central London. Ione Braddick, a young architect who was selected as an associate in the first Public Practice cohort a few months ago, has taken that route here every morning since. “Much of the work comes down to persuading people that a local council thinking about design is even a good thing,” she told AN. This is also the main argument behind Public Practice. It works as a broker between organizations and people. On one end are local councils, planning authorities, transportation agencies, regional actors, and publicly owned development companies, and on the other are a new generation of designers looking to work in public planning. The first cohort of seventeen associates was picked and placed in new, strategic roles in April 2018. After a year, the hope is that they have gathered unique experiences, and also have built collective knowledge and networks between planning institutions. When Public Practice was founded around a year ago by Pooja Agrawal and Finn Williams, it was on a basis of a series of clear observations: Four decades ago, 49 percent of all architects in the U.K. worked in the public sector. Today, only 0.7 percent do. Since the financial crash in 2008, local budgets for planning and development have dwindled. Planning authorities are struggling to stay relevant counterparts to strictly commercial interests. Nearly half of them have no in-house design capacity at all. Epping Forest was one such authority, until Braddick was placed here as a pioneer for the yearlong program. Some of Braddick’s new Epping workmates have joined in around the table. Veneered walls and a lavender carpet frame the conference room window, which overlooks the far end of High Street, with a Tesco Superstore, a gas station, an Indian restaurant squeezed between coffee franchises, and a gothic revival church farther down. One block away, terraced-houses line private cul-de-sacs and at the horizon sit a dozen golf courses and a royal forest. Much of what is happening here since Braddick arrived is happening for the first time. “You realize one of the things we architects are worst at is explaining why design is important,” she said. Braddick used to work at a small architecture firm and enjoyed it. She led housing schemes from sketch to the construction site, instructed on the placement of bricks and the depth of mortar joints. But she found herself thinking: “Of all the things in architecture, buildings were maybe the one I was least interested in.” She was more drawn to the ways people use the city and its structures. At her new workplace in Epping Forest’s public sector, she leads the council’s new “Implementation Team,” negotiating and reviewing larger projects, which in Epping’s case means 50 units or more. Plans for the expansion of Harlow and Gilston Garden Town are now on her table. “It’s like jumping into an entirely new career. Not only, as with any new job, trying to learn to use the printers and who everyone is and what everyone’s name is. You’re also trying to learn about whole democratic processes, decision-making and get a strategic understanding of an area that you, quite often, don’t know very well.” Public Practice’s cofounders Agrawal and Williams, who share a background at reputable architecture schools and award-winning offices, themselves left the private sector to work for local authorities a few years ago. They would like to see more architects follow suit. And, more importantly, they have noticed that the British public sector struggles to attract—and maintain—the competence and knowledge that urban planning requires. They thought they would have to work very hard to get local councils on board, but they have already received more inquiries than they can handle from all over the country. To the planning and development industry, Public Practice offers a resource pool that the field could not otherwise reach and at a lower cost than the go-to temporary consultants. For the associates, the program offers a prestigious and hands-on role with a huge potential impact alongside a tight-knit community of like-minded colleagues. The Public Practice cohort meets regularly and spends a tenth of their time on common research and development. The project is supported financially by regional and national actors, private as well as public. That the associates are placed in a wide spectrum of contexts, from Epping to the City of London and everything in between, is part of the idea. It is also a precondition for the exchange that everyone can visit each other without spending half a day traveling. Public Practice is looking to branch off to other regions with enough critical mass but, for the first cohort, London’s outer ring road is more or less the limit. For Ei-Lyn Chia, another associate in the cohort, the London metropolitan region is also as far as her design work stretches. She used to do strategic planning with a private firm working on schemes which, she points out, ended up on a shelf. “I wanted to get things done. That’s why I applied here,” she said. She is now getting used to the view from City Hall’s glass cocoon by the Thames. Her morning commute goes to Greater London Authority (GLA), run by Mayor Sadiq Khan. Braddick jokingly describes where Chia works as “the brain of London.” Chia agrees that the job deals with the city on a macro scale, but added: “Local councils are the real experts, who really understand local conditions. But ideas have to be carried through policy level and political decisions and Braddick fills in, urging for design skills to be present at every stage of planning, also, when projects are proposed, procured, reviewed, executed. That is not the case today.” Along with two other Public Practice associates, Chia spends her research days exploring how industrial intensification can coexist with things like offices and housing. “Since the topics you work within the public sector are so multifaceted, it allows you to reach out to people in different disciplines, without it being weird,” she said, adding, “We’re allowing conversations to happen between people who wouldn’t otherwise have spoken to each other.” That also applies to dialogues within, and between, the public sector’s different actors. One of the advantages of Public Practice, they have realized, is that seventeen people from different authorities regularly get together in the same room. It is a rare thing. Most of the roles in which the associates have been placed are also positioned in between two different departments of an organization—which is intentional, said Chia. “With one foot in each door, that person, in effect, allows teams to transfer information in new ways. Most of the associates have an architecture background and are at the start of their careers, with a stray example of one with 25 years of experience in local planning. Some have expertise in strategic planning, others in digital infrastructure or placemaking and public relations. What they all have in common is that they were drawn to the Public Practice model and, in tough competition with ten times as many applicants, have been placed where they can contribute the most during a year. In a similar way, the organizations they now work for also applied to be part of the network. It is not a matter of just filling vacancies. Epping Forest and the GLA both had to present a case for a new role that they saw a strategic need for and were willing to offer resources for. On an intense day last spring, two hundred applicant architects and almost forty aspiring partner organizations gathered for workshops, talks, and interviews. According to Agrawal and Williams, it is this rigorous selection and matching process that is the key to the initiative actually working. Almost all 32 London municipalities say they need more urban design and planning expertise on the payroll, but have difficulties recruiting them. That is the gap that Public Practice is aiming to address. And what they are looking for in the applications, apart from talent and training, is humility, and the capacity to listen and to learn. “Attention: All testing and engineering work on the fire alarm system is now complete. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.” “I’m hoping to stay,” Braddick said, knowing what she would like to get out of her one-year placement. To see what she can contribute takes more than twelve months. And she hopes Epping Forest District Council sees the value in making a role like hers permanent. People around her are already talking about how things are designed, not just about parking quotas, profitability, and unit ratios. “‘Does it have a sense of place?’ people would ask, out of habit,” she said. “Well yeah, somewhere really shit can have a sense of place—but we want it to be a good place, don’t we?” Already trying to define what “good” is, is a successful start, she argues, and worth the effort. Two weeks later, someone else will have the group visiting them at their workplace. The participants say it is thanks to the Friday meet-ups with their Public Practice colleagues that they had a smooth transition to a new working environment. When they see each other, they exchange new knowledge and concrete tips, but also share their experiences open heartedly. “Sometimes it’s all about leaning against someone and going, ‘Ah, what a week…I need a drink!’” Braddick and Chia said, “and the next time, it’s, ‘Something happened—it’s amazing!’” A new cohort of Public Practice Associates will be starting placements in April 2019 in London, the South East, and the East of England. In the near future, the model is set to be expanded to other UK regions—perhaps also abroad. This is a translation of an article previously published in Arkitekten, the news magazine of Architects Sweden.
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New Work for Newark

Riverfront Square will stitch Newark, New Jersey's tech corridor together
Could Newark, New Jersey, be the Northeast's next big tech hub? It already boasts the region's most advanced fiber-optic network and serves as home to digital giants like Audible.com, an Amazon company. No wonder it was a top contender for HQ2. Though it didn’t win the bid, one major project that’s been in planning for three years could raise the city’s status to the next level. An upcoming development in the heart of downtown Newark promises to be a vital, mixed-use community for innovative companies. Riverfront Square, envisioned by local firm Lotus Equity Group, will be built steps away from the Passaic River and feature up to 2.3 million square feet of office, residential, hospitality, cultural space, and more within the city’s burgeoning tech sector, the Broad Street Corridor. Lotus has tapped TEN Arquitectos, Michael Green Architecture, Minno & Wasko, and Practice for Architecture & Urbanism (PAU) to design individual buildings for the 12-acre site as part of a masterplan by PAU. Built out in seven phases, the project will sit atop the old Newark Bears baseball stadium, which will be demolished later this year to make way for the first housing structure, a curved linear building built over a five-story, mixed-used base clad in brick. Designed by PAU, the elongated structure will be set at the edge of Riverfront Square along the Essex Freeway.  In an interview with AN in 2017, Vishaan Chakrabarti of PAU said the city lacks a "connective tissue" to link its many cultural and educational institutions together. Riverfront Square, he said, will be a sort of "renaissance for Newark" with a focus on tech. Initial renderings reveal the first four phases of construction, which will add 1,300 workforce housing units and half-a-million square-feet of commercial office space to the site. Phase 1 of construction is set to break ground this summer. At the core of the development will be a mass timber building, touted as the tallest of its kind in the United States, by Vancouver architect Michael Green. The 12-story office structure appears in renderings to be three separate structures, but in reality, the building features a continuous floorplate connected by a full-height atrium. With 500,000 square feet of office space, it will also include ground floor retail, a café, and restaurants to help ignite what the developers want to become a 24/7 district. It will be built on the site’s southwestern corner. David Linehan, Lotus’s architect and development manager for Riverfront Square, said setting up a sustainable environment to benefit Newark (and lure people in) is a key component of the project, one that the city understands and is committed to backing. “It’s difficult to get newer products and ideas like using mass timber for large-scale projects through current codes, especially in New York,” he said. “For Newark, we’re working with the State of New Jersey to take a look at existing codes that allow timber to be used at this level. The city sees it as an opportunity to be at the forefront of what’s clearly going to be a major part of the future construction industry in the U.S.” During the second phase of construction, four rectangular towers will be raised at the southern edge of the site along Broad Street. Enrique Norten will design the buildings, which will be offset slightly from each other in order to maximize light, air, and views of New York’s skyline. They’re likely to feature a metal panel and glass facade. Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects will provide a plan for the site's green spaces, which will turn a very urban, concrete area into a nature-filled leisure and cultural retreat for residents and local workers. The landscape will aim to increase downtown's connection to the adjacent Newark Riverfront Park, an on-going landscape development that received an award-winning initial design by Lee Weintraub in 2013. James Corner Field Operations is slated to create an additional 15 acres of space for the park in the coming years. 
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A Social Network

SPORTS activates an alley in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee
A bright-green installation now snakes through a formerly-dingy and disconnected alley in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. Designed by Syracuse, New York–based practice SPORTS, City Thread activates the 6,200-square-foot walk-through with 500 feet of linear steel that doubles as public seating. The project was born out of an international design competition, Passageways 2.0, in which architects were asked to envision a piece of contemporary urban infrastructure that would activate an alleyway in the Southern city’s core. Organized by River City Company, a local nonprofit economic development company, the program was the second iteration of a successful 2016 competition that imagined pop-up pieces in Chattanooga as well.  SPORTS won Passageways 2.0 last summer, and with it, the chance to build City Thread as a permanent installation in the 300-foot-long passage known Cooper’s Alley off 7th Street in downtown Chattanooga. Led by Molly Hunker and Greg Corso, the award-winning, multidisciplinary practice collaborated with NOUS Engineering and Metal Arts Foundry on the project, opening the completed, zig-zagging structure last November. It’s now being marketed as a piece of “art-as-infrastructure” and a series of “urban rooms” that support a range of social activities, formal programming, and casual hangouts. To create City Thread, SPORTS was limited to a small budget of just $100,000 and asked to design around fixed elements within the alleyway such as AC units, grease traps, doors, vehicle access lanes, and fire hose hookups. The firm circumvented these barriers by building an adaptable installation that utilized a “kit of parts system of design and construction.” With only six formal elements—straight pieces of steel and five different corners, SPORTS created a seamless volume that conforms to the specific clearances in the alley. The result of City Thread is a new kind of city block for Chattanooga, one that puts pedestrians first and gives way to informal and planned opportunities for social connection. Hunker and Corso told AN in an email that Chattanooga, a city that’s known as a rising tech hub, is keen on building urban infrastructure that encourages both digital and personal connectivity. The “Gig City” is most famous for having the first publically-owned broadband network, a move that spurred economic development and boosted job creation nearly nine years ago. City Thread almost seems like a visual, tactile model of the ultra-fast, fiber-optic internet. It’s another kind of winding network that physically connects locals to one another.   “There’s unbelievably strong support for creative projects, like this one, that bring people together,” said Hunker and Corso. “It’s been particularly exciting to see this new public space come alive with various different activities, and to see the various interpretations of the space by different people.” SPORTS was recently named AN’s 2018 Best of Design Award winner for Young Architects. Established in 2010, the firm has designed and constructed both large- and small-scale architectural installations around the country. Both Hunker and Corso currently teach architecture at Syracuse University.
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Painted Furniture

Artist Leslie Wayne reveals What's Inside her inner world
A new exhibition by New York–based artist Leslie Wayne explores everyday spaces and how, through alternative modes of representation, we can see those environments in a deeper light. What’s Inside, now on view at New York City's Jack Shainman Gallery through March 30, features Wayne’s newest collection of paintings that detail basic domestic scenes like messy closets, busy bookshelves, and broken windows. These disheveled objects evoke a German Expressionist perspective, according to the artist, and unveil Wayne’s political and personal anxieties through singular depictions of an inner world that’s “not quite right,” but can be fixed. AN spoke with Wayne via email about the layered inspiration behind What’s Inside, and how color, both in architecture and in painting, can manipulate the emotions of its viewers. She also explains why studying art that highlights buildings or interior design can ultimately strengthen a person’s appreciation for the built environment. The Architect's Newspaper: Your current collection seems to build off your previous window pieces for Free Experience. Can you explain why you decided to continue that project and how this show takes those previous themes to another level? Leslie Wayne: As an abstract artist, my whole career, I’ve been wanting to bring representation into my work, but I didn’t quite know how it would manifest itself given the idiosyncratic way I use paint. Those first window paintings gave me a way to do that. Conceptually, they allowed me to express my feelings and ideas about the world around me, about the current state of affairs, as well as my own personal life, by using domestic architectural forms as a motif and as a kind of organizing principle. I realized that my abstract paintings always kept you on a threshold—of what was visible, and what was beneath and behind the surface that you could never quite completely see or understand. Architectural thresholds can operate in much the same way. By making a painting of a doorway that is just barely cracked open, or a window that is boarded up, I’m keeping you on that threshold. So actually, I’m still exploring the same thing, only in a more pictorial way.    AN: Why did you choose to focus on normal interior objects and spaces? What draws you to imagining these details in a new way? LW: I’m drawing largely on my immediate surroundings—the armoire in my bedroom, the tool chest in my husband’s studio, and my bookshelves. While the forms as furniture are universal, their contents are autobiographical, and they tell you a lot about what makes up my life. In the beginning, the idea of creating a painting of a closet was just a response to my need to move on from an earlier body of work. But then the idea of closets became more interesting to me as types of containers. Containers, not just of clothing and everyday objects, but of things we hold dear, or secrets we want to keep. And then came the paintings of drawers and bookshelves, containers that hold evidence of your life—books you’ve read, music you listen to, materials you use for work, etc. And on a purely formal level, closets, shelves, and window frames provide an interesting platform for different kinds of architectural motifs, which as a painter is great because it’s just an endless source of visual information. AN: Your work is very colorful and tactile. What do the different colors and the way those hues bring a tangible quality to your paintings say about these mundane architectural spaces you depict? LW: Color is loaded with emotive power, much the same way that music is. It can be used to express tremendously strong feelings, but, because of that, you’re in danger of being manipulative and clichéd if you go too far. It’s tricky. You want to seduce the viewer but not knock them over the head with it! Most people, when they’re thinking about architecture they’re thinking about the facade and the overall shape of a building or an architectural detail. They’re not considering the way in which a building is a container and a shelter and how the design and the color of an interior space can determine the way you feel when you go inside of it. We were in Mexico City recently and went to the house of Luis Barragán. It was very interesting to see how he used color to visually block out certain spaces and establish an overall feeling of a room. Yellow walls made you feel warm and welcomed, pink walls gave you a sensation of joy and anticipation. I loved that. For me, when I’m painting, I try to use color to do much the same thing, to convey a sensation. AN: Why is it valuable to look at architecture and interiors through the alternative lenses of painting or photography, rather than being in the space itself? LW: I would say that it’s valuable to look at architecture and interiors through the alternative lenses of painting or photography in addition to being in the space itself. There’s no substitute for having a direct experience of an architectural space. But I think we take those spaces for granted. And those of us in dense urban environments usually have our heads down (or buried in our cell phones!) when we’re walking rather than looking up and noticing what tremendously rich details are on buildings all around us. It’s valuable to reconsider what those spaces mean to us and art can take you there through the poetry of metaphor and illusion. If you’ve ever been taken by a Fra Angelico painting for example, like The Annunciation, then perhaps next time you’re inside a space that has vaulted ceilings you’ll be reminded of the painting and become aware of the ceiling’s elegance and structural integrity. Or a Dorothea Lange photograph of a young sharecropper’s log cabin can make you really feel what it must mean to live in a structure of such simplicity. Bernd and Hilla Becher spent their lives documenting industrial architecture and brought the simplest most overlooked structures, like water towers, into the realm of the sublime. We look at these things every day, but art helps us see them more deeply. See Wayne’s new show, What’s Inside, at the Jack Shainman Gallery at 513 West 20th Street, New York, New York.
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Take a Walk

Artist Eric N. Mack lets textiles take over the room at the Brooklyn Museum
Eric N. Mack’s paintings and sculptures assemble sundry found materials with traditional media to establish a complex dialogue between material and subject that questions existing definitions of form, function, and style. Following solo exhibitions at Albright-Knox in 2017 and Simon Lee Gallery in 2018, Mack was invited to transform the Brooklyn Museum’s Great Hall with a site-specific installation of his textile-based works. The result, Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room, invites a discussion on the fundamental components of aesthetic vision and the mercurial relationship between visual culture and everyday life. Positioned at the intersection of art, fashion, and architecture, Mack’s work reveals an array of unexpected connections and contradictions. A discussion with the artist on the installation and his practice provides a glimpse of his creative processes and wide-ranging interests. The Architect’s Newspaper: Were you responding to specific elements of the classical architecture of the Great Hall? Eric N. Mack: Yes. The space has no corners. So, I felt like I wanted to build a painting structure that would embrace this architecture, that would be contingent on the architecture, and would change the way that people engage in the space and see the space from a given vantage point. But I chose the fabric because it was slightly transparent, so it wasn't about opaqueness, or an immediate opaque gesture, but rather a gesture that deals with transparency in the space. So I was thinking about an overlay or patterns that could flatten out as a decorative point, but through their depth create some markers of distance and closeness. AN: In a lot of your past interviews and articles on your work, the authors always talk about how you grew up in Washington, D.C., and went to the National Gallery all the time because your parents worked there, and I thought it was really fascinating that your dad built vitrines and was an interior designer for the exhibitions there. Did that have any impact on your process for creating this work? EM: I mean I think there's a lot about…generous museum experiences. And how those moments really resonated with me, not necessarily just at the Brooklyn Museum but any museum experience. I'm just thinking about an exalted moment of viewing artwork. Some of the most dynamic experiences had to do with really feeling the length of the room and really understanding the impact of my body in the space as a viewer. Almost like a dream—like a way of seeing an artwork that is almost in between installation [and painting] or something like that. So you end up really focusing on this moment of engaging points of measurement or exchange between you and the artwork. AN: Yeah, that sort of leads to my next question, which is about the title; obviously it's an imperative for you to follow along the boundaries of the white, horizontal paintings, but it also sounds like a larger, more conceptual grounding for the entire installation, and maybe a specific aspect of your practice, in a way. Would you say that's a correct reading or is there another reason you felt that title was the most appropriate? EM: When I choose a title there are probably at least four different ways that point me to that place again and again. First, I wanted there to be almost a performance prompt for the viewer. But it also has this personalized position in which people have to determine whether it's about me or it's about them. And maybe it's about both of us. [It’s also about] questioning frameworks, breaking down frameworks and creating new ones that are maybe less familiar. But I also love that [the title] almost alludes to a runway show, at the base of it. The fact that there will be a personal impetus for a runway show or catwalk show. And that's something that I'm still unpacking. AN: You also have a very strong collagistic impulse. Why do you find it necessary or how would you describe it? EM: I think this show deals in collage in many ways…I think garments are naturally related—or congruent—to collage. The intention around stitching or the suture ends up being a possibility for a felt, dynamic place of legibility. It ends up being a space that is specifically about the reconstruction of form, and maybe a critical deconstruction in a way, for the moment of reconstruction. So, there are several different points that I think speak to a linked or connected language. A lot of times I feel like the properties of a work have to be turned inside out to understand what they are presently, and what they were. So, I think to be able to show that I think is a really generous end or offering to the viewer. AN: So this question may or may not be interesting, but when I went, there was a guard standing right in the middle of the installation. Do you have any thoughts or feelings about that? I assume you didn't have too much say over their presence. EM: That's awesome, I like that. I mean, I think the guards are people that are usually supposed to be invisible. I just think that all the corners are super active, so it's not a place where they could necessarily… AN: Disrupt anything. EM: Exactly. AN: But I still felt their presence still as I was moving through. EM: Me too, actually. Yeah, that's always an equation that could easily be overlooked. Even by the viewers themselves, the fact that there are people who could potentially be experts in the work besides the artist, the security guards—if they're paying attention, [and] I'm sure they are. AN: Did you use any specific elements to the large collage on the right wall specifically for this show? Or was it kind of an assemblage you already had? Kelis stands out to me. EM: Yeah, she's amazing. AN: I mean Kelis is associated with New York, but not all of the elements are. EM: Exactly. And I love that because it's really about a time and space. I mean I talked about them before as hyperlinked material images. But there's a lot of ways to read it. There's a kind of elegy to Phoebe Philo, Céline. The title is Tartan Film Strip from 1987 Till Recent. And thinking about the space of the grid as being the space of representation first and then it also being a place for points of reconnection, dislocation, or rupture, basically. AN: Yeah, which is a very painterly concept I feel like. I know you're a painter. EM: Definitely. I move forward or away from those… AN: Traditions? EM: Yeah, or that definition, all the time. But yeah, I think the narrative of the piece generally has to do with points of comparison. Somehow below the horizon line there's a lot more vintage materials. Some of the images are from Interview magazine from 1987. AN: Which is the year you were born. EM: Exactly, yeah. There are these archetypal ways that these women were being photographed, that fashion existed within the image but it was mostly about their gaze and their contact. AN: How they were presenting themselves. EM: Exactly. I mean like Janet Jackson definitely—the album called Control is very much about one's authorship in [their] control of their career, their bodies. AN: Do you ever put in personal effects? Was there a picture of you? EM: Yeah. It’s from the first time I went to Europe and I was 14. But it also sits on the opposite end [of the collage] as Isa Genzken, an image of a sculpture she made [Slot Machine, 1999–2000]. And that was kind of a point of validation for me, with her portrait—there was definitely a way and a manner to the work that I feel like could relate to Isa's work. And I didn't want to diminish that or go away from it, but perhaps use it as content. Isa's last show [Isa Genzken: Retrospective (November 2012 – March 2014) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York] was also sponsored by Céline. AN: Oh really? I didn't know that. EM: And I always loved that because I felt like they’re adjacent. Like, there's these two adjacent industries that end up supporting one another in various ways that are highly aesthetic. Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room is on view at Brooklyn Museum through July 7.
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Gavin Problems?

President Trump threatens to cancel California’s high-speed rail funding
Why did California Governor Gavin Newsom stir up the proverbial hornets' nest with his vague and confusing comments regarding the state’s high-speed rail (HSR) plans last week? That’s become the $920 million question many are asking themselves now as President Donald Trump has threatened to—perhaps illegally—cancel a sizable grant already allocated to the project following days of confusing debate over the future of the high-speed line. During a “state of the state” speech last week, Newsom provided unclear backing for completing the full project as approved by California voters in 2008 when they passed Proposition 1A, a ballot measure that allocated $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds for the planning and construction of an 800-mile high-speed rail system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. During his speech, Newsom said:
The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were. However, we do have the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. I know that some critics will say this is a ‘train to nowhere.’ But that’s wrong and offensive. The people of the Central Valley endure the worst air pollution in America as well as some of the longest commutes. And they have suffered too many years of neglect from policymakers here in Sacramento. They deserve better.
The comments were widely interpreted as a death knell for the L.A. and San Francisco spurs of the line, a characterization the governor disputed in the aftermath of the speech. Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click, speaking to the press, offered the following clarification: “The state will continue undertaking the broader project—completing the bookend projects and finishing the environmental review for the [San Francisco] to L.A. leg—that would allow the project to continue seeking other funding streams." But by that point, the damage had been done. Speaking via Twitter, President Trump said, “California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” adding, “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!" It only gets worse from there. The Los Angeles Times reported that an additional $2.5 billion in additional federal grant funding has been thrown into question as Trump Administration officials are “actively exploring every legal option” for taking the money back in light of slow progress as well as the governor’s statements. The funds are currently being put to use building the 119-mile route that Newsom has pledged to finish. The Times reported further that Ronald Batory, the chief of the Federal Railroad Administration who issued the grants to California in 2009 and 2010, penned a legal analysis of the situation to California High-Speed Rail Authority chief executive Brian Kelly stating that California “has materially failed to comply with the terms of the [grant] agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project.” Batory further alleged that California had failed to deliver $100 million in matching funds for the project that were due in late 2018. Batory’s missive also referenced Newsom’s speech directly, saying that the governor has instigated a “significant retreat from the state’s initial vision and commitment.” Experts disagree whether the federal government can legally take back money that has already been allocated or spent, but that has not stopped President Trump from continuing his attacks on the state’s rail plan this week. Either way, the long-held and hard-fought vision of California high-speed rail has been thrown into doubt. The uncertain news has reverberated across the state, including in San Francisco, where the structurally damaged Salesforce Transit Center sits vacant, with an entire subterranean level laying in wait for a high-speed rail line that now might never come.
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Facades+ Dallas will dive into the trends reshaping Texas's largest metro area
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Texas is adding more people per year than any other state in the country, and with nearly 8 million residents, the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is the largest urban area in the state. On March 1, The Architect's Newspaper is bringing together architecture and development firms located within the metropolitan area for Facades+ Dallas, a fast-paced dialogue focusing on the region's tremendous growth and the projects reshaping it. Participants include 5G Studio Collaborative, CallisonRTKL, Harwood International, Merriman Anderson Architects, the CDC, L.A. Fuess Partners, Ibanez Shaw, Omniplan, DSGN Associates, Buchanan Architecture, Shipley Architects, Urban Edge Developers. Lauren Cadieux, associate at 5G Studio Collaborative, and Michael Friebele, associate at CallisonRTKL, are co-chairing the conference. In the lead up to Facades+ Dallas, AN sat down with Friebele to discuss trends within Dallas and CallisonRTKL's ongoing projects in the area and across the world. The Architect's Newspaper: To begin with, what facade-led projects are CallisonRTKL up to in Dallas and Texas as a whole? Michael Friebele: We are an interesting office in that we have a long-standing local reach here in Dallas-Fort Worth but also a broad depth of work around the globe. We often find it most interesting for us to take the international experience and find ways to apply those lessons throughout our work back home and likewise in the other direction. The collaboration between offices across CallisonRTKL really makes this possible.

From a conceptual standpoint, our work on a vertical campus in Downtown Dallas took cues from many lessons we have learned abroad, from site response to contextual integration, and paired these attributes with an evolving corporate business model. Ultimately, the concept was shaped around an affordable housing project just to the east of the site, maintaining a view corridor through the gesture of a loop that ultimately became a symbol for the company’s programmatic model. It is one in a line of projects coming up in Texas that we are excited about.

From a facade standpoint, our hospitality group is working on a Grand Hyatt Hotel in Kuwait that is currently under construction. The facade concept of self-shading finds a balance between the harsh climate of the region and the demand for expansive views. The pitch results in the natural placement of photovoltaics with the underside of the bay providing a highly transparent opening with minimal direct solar heat gain. The same team recently completed the core and shell of the Maike Business Center and Grand Hyatt in Xi’an. Here, two towers were linked by a belt truss to limit lateral loads while serving as a critical program link between the hotel and office towers. The facade was a simple extruded, serrated form linked in the middle by a vertical screen that emphasizes the composition.

I am working currently on the design of two China-based projects with quite a range of scale between them. OCT Chengdu is on the larger side with a dominant facade facing a key convergence of traffic in the city. The facade plays into that movement with a series of fins that peel upward to reveal the activity of the mall behind, thus activating what is traditionally a hard face. We have been working further to optimize this system. This project is currently under construction and should be complete in a few years. On the other side of scale, we recently began work on an Audubon Center in Zhengzhou. The concept is about tying program and landscape together underneath an observation ring. We have been working with Thornton Tomasetti on realizing the ring as a completely unsupported element over the waterfront with full height curved glazing that reveals the public behind, as if the visitor were a part of the facade experience. The Zhengzhou project will start in construction in a few months and be complete by the middle of next year.

AN: What unique opportunities and challenges are present for architects and designers in Dallas?

MF: Mark Lamster summed it up well in a Dallas Morning News article from April of 2016, "Dallas Architecture is a joke (but it doesn't have to be)."

In my opinion, the potential in Dallas is to be proactive rather than reactive toward challenging and evolving typologies but with that comes a certain degree of investment and risk. We can take lessons from two organizations that I believe have had the most impact upon the city in BC Workshop and Better Block. Both groups have been recognized for their innovative approaches to typologies and community engagement. The Cottages at Hickory Crossing is a noted example on the city’s south side.

An engagement of our value as architects and designers to all parties involved in a project, from developer to community, is key, but change will also depend upon us stepping out and trying something without permission. As Dallas further evolves, there is no better place to test and experiment, but we have yet to really commit to that, beyond few examples. In all, it is really getting back to our fundamentals of why we practice this profession and to search for its meaning once again.

AN: Which ongoing Dallas developments do you perceive to be the most exciting in terms of facade innovation and overall impact on the city?

MF: There have been some noted transformations in Downtown Dallas, from work by Architexas on the Joule Hotel, to Merriman Anderson’s work on the Statler Hilton, all the way to more recent conversions of 400 Record by Gensler. Each of these, among others, have defined in many respects the process of historical rehabilitation in Texas, but also have transformed the program in all cases. Almost overnight, there is a developed rhythm toward respecting the past and redefining the urban realm. The Statler and 1401 Elm represent the largest and most challenging cases of preservation in the city. Statler was many years in the making. Historical innovations during the 1950s proved quite challenging in the rehab of the building. The results of maintaining such a celebrated form and period in the rehab are nothing short of a feat. 1401 Elm is currently undergoing its makeover, with the marble currently off-site for rehab. It has stalled a few times during recent years but hopefully, it will become a major contributor once again.

Both projects are a glimpse into a city that is continually working to value its history more and more by the day. With our first panel, we hope to shed further light on this discussion.

Further information regarding Facades+ Dallas may be found here.
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RIP

New York architect Warren Gran dies at age 85
Warren Gran, a New York City architect, died Sunday at age 85 in Los Angeles. Gran practiced in New York City for over 45 years and was known for his commitment to making social change through architecture. Gran specialized in public and non-profit projects with an emphasis on affordable housing, sustainability, and social responsibility, including supportive housing for the homeless and those suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems. He worked on many projects with the New York Public Schools, producing innovative spaces to help children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Prominent projects include: PS/IS 395, PS/IS 78Q Robert F. Wagner School in Long Island City, PS/IS 109 in Brooklyn, multiple projects for the Bank Street College of Education, and Brooklyn Family Court. His renovation of and addition to PS 14 won an AIA New York Design Award. Gran was also awarded the Boston Society of Architects/AIA Award for his work on the Lighthouse Charter School in the Bronx. One of his most visible projects was the conversion of a large Brooklyn courthouse on Adams Street into two high schools. A rooftop addition provided gyms and a signature look with red cylinders facing the street. On Morris Avenue in the Bronx, his 1974 housing development built with then-partner Irv Weiner, Melrose D-1 (a.k.a. the Michelangelo Apartments), has been described as an overlooked, pioneering, humane answer to housing problems that still plague the city today. “Why look at Melrose D-1 today? Because it acknowledges housing as a banal, repetitive, highly cost-driven design problem, and makes a virtue out of it,” wrote Susanne Schindler in The Avery Review in 2012. The complex is praised for its innovative floor plan, with access to three courtyards landscaped by Henry Arnold. Gran also worked in historic preservation. Among the prominent projects he worked on were the renovation of the dome at Manhattan Surrogate Court, the Manhattan Appellate Court, Queens Supreme Court, and a restoration of the Pratt Institute Library in collaboration with Giorgio Cavaglieri. Gran also worked as a residential architect designing homes in New Jersey, Connecticut, the Hamptons, and upstate New York that were often inspired by vernacular rural architecture, and balanced humanism and modernist ideals. These include the Weininger Residence in the Hudson Valley and his own weekend home in Ghent, New York, where he and his wife Suzanne vacationed. Gran’s career started while working in the office of the great Edward Larrabee Barnes. From 1967 to 2003 he taught architecture and urban design at Pratt Institute, also serving as the chairperson of the graduate program in urban design, the acting dean of the school of architecture, and teaching seminars at Yale, CUNY, Cooper Union, and NYU. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture at Penn State and his Masters in Planning from Pratt. Students have always said he was incredibly tough—but that they appreciated that toughness, and what he taught them launched their careers. He was a member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Urban Design Committee of AIA’s New York chapter. Gran was an officer in the navy in the late ‘50s, on the aircraft carrier the USS Ticonderoga. During these years he kept an apartment on Fillmore Street in San Francisco that was memorialized in Herb Caen’s San Francisco Chronicle column: Apparently, Gran and his Navy buddies’ parties were so loud the nightclub downstairs had to complain. Suzanne of Kansas City, Missouri, worked at The New Yorker magazine throughout the 1960s. Suzanne died in July of 2017. They are survived by two daughters, designer Eliza Gran and novelist Sara Gran, who went to Saint Ann’s and now live in Los Angeles. Warren is also survived by three grandchildren, Violet Phillips, 19, Ruby Phillips, 17, and Charles Wolf Phillips, 14.
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Belmont University

Nashville to start its first undergraduate architecture program
Nashville, Tennessee's Belmont University just announced it’s creating a five-year Bachelor of Architecture program. It will be the first of its kind in Middle Tennessee and only the second in the state. Why is this big news? Currently, Nashville is home to about 600 architects, which isn’t a lot compared to similarly-sized cities like Austin, Texas (1,010) and Charlotte, North Carolina (1,190), according to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, and the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization estimates that the Cumberland Region surrounding Nashville, which covers 10 counties, will add another million people by 2035. Previously, there were no undergraduate architecture programs located within 150 miles of the city. The only other in the state is at the University of Tennesee—Knoxville, which also offers a master's degree—The University of Memphis only has a graduate program in architecture. In fifteen years, future Belmont architecture graduates could be getting their licenses. The Christian liberal arts school said it will begin offering courses in the fall of 2020 through its newly acquired O’More College of Design. Belmont’s Provost Dr. Thomas Burns told AN in an email that over the years, many local community members, from students, architects, and business leaders, have lamented the lack of such a program in Nashville. “Nashville has always been an extremely creative community where the importance of the development of a designer’s or artist’s craft found seamless purchase with the heart of the community,” Burns said, “so the marriage of an architecture program with Belmont’s focus on creating citizens ready to contribute to our city was a natural choice.” Though Belmont boasts a small population of just over 8,300 students, its global reach is large. More than 36 countries are represented in its current study body as well as people from every state in the U.S. It offers over 90 areas of undergraduate study (music and music business are two of its biggest attractions—Brad Paisley is an alumnus), as well as 25 master's programs, and five doctoral degrees. With the addition of an architecture program, future students could steer Nashville through a massive building boom. The Music City is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the South—over $13 billion have been poured into the region in recent years. Provost Burns noted the announcement, though just a few days old, has already sparked excitement in the community. “Nashville has been ready for an architecture program for years, but there wasn’t an educational institution where they could focus their energy,” he said. “We’ve had a great deal of interest from local architects wanting to develop and support the program and our students.” Over the next year, the school will work with the local leaders to develop the architecture program’s initial curriculum, which, according to Provost Burns, is aimed at producing graduates “who see themselves contributing and supporting their community through good work and good citizenship.”
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What a Traversty

New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission approves resurfacing of modernist 140 Broadway plaza
The third time’s the charm for engineers NV5 and preservation consultants at Higgins Quasebarth & Partners. On February 5, the team, this time joined by stone conservation expert George Wheeler, successfully argued before New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for permission to swap the stone out at the Manhattan plaza of the landmarked 140 Broadway building. The former Marine Midland Building, an international-style office tower designed by Gordon Bunshaft and SOM in 1967, is distinctive for how its imposing black massing “floats” above a plaza of what was originally travertine surrounding Isamu Noguchi’s distinctive Red Cube. The travertine pavers were replaced with pink granite in a 1999 renovation, and the project team went before the LPC to propose a new shade of granite closer to the original stone. That drew the ire of preservationists and some of the commissioners, who asked why travertine wasn’t being used instead. Much of the presentation (available here) from 140 Broadway’s ownership and project team dealt with that question. The pitch was that granite, with a compressive strength of nearly three times that of travertine, would be a much more durable replacement. Travertine’s pockmarked nature also renders it particularly vulnerable to freeze-thaw cracking and salt blooms because water easily impregnates the porous stone. The team maintained that five-inch-thick travertine pavers would be needed to meet all of their aesthetic and safety concerns, and that because of the voids under the plaza, the pavers can only be two-inches thick. While Bunshaft had chosen travertine to evoke the feeling of a Roman plaza, the presentation made it clear that New York’s climate was much harsher than Rome’s. The comprehensive analysis was done after the ownership team’s prior two LPC presentations in March and November of 2018. Commissioners had previously declined to vote on the proposed granite replacements and suggested that NV5 and Higgins Quasebarth look further into travertine. As preservationist Theodore Grunewald noted, the reason 140 Broadway’s plaza was before the LPC was that the granite installed in 1999 was also failing and that there was no guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again. Travertine plazas are still in use at Manhattan’s W.R. Grace Building and Solow Tower Building, both designed by Bunshaft, but the project team noted that the drainage systems and sloped “skirt” at the base of each tower helped facilitate the quick movement of water off of the vulnerable stone beneath. Ultimately the commissioners voted to approve the use of Tudor Gold Granite, although there were some concerns about the need to choose a color closer to the original travertine. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron, the only nay vote at the hearing, noted that the commission’s role was to preserve moments in time, regardless of viability, and not just upgrade the city’s properties with "space-age materials."
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The co-ops are alright

Co-op City celebrates 50 years of affordable housing in the Bronx
Off I-95 in the northern Bronx, just past the swamps at the mouth of the Hutchinson River and the paved paradise at Bay Plaza mall, arise 35 massive, brick and concrete tower blocks. Most residences nearby are single-family, but Co-op City's 24-story towers shoot out of the ground like sore, red-brick thumbs. But, as out of place as they seem, there are many similar complexes all around New York City and the rest of the country: Stuyvesant Town by the East Village, Riverton Square in Harlem, and the gone-but-never-forgotten Pruitt-Igoe projects of St. Louis. According to Adam Tanaka, a New York–based urbanist who studied these Bronx housing blocks for his Harvard graduate dissertation, Co-op City is the country's largest and most successful cooperative living facility. Many of its 35,000 residents have been living in them since they opened 50 years ago. In a mini-documentary published with CityLab, entitled "City in a City," Tanaka interviewed residents, building managers, representatives, and others involved in the conception of the towers to understand what makes these buildings so successful compared to other projects. On top of interviews and historical analysis, documentary footage shows what life at Co-op City is like. During most weekends of fair weather, tenants and local merchants buy and sell art and food, local musicians perform while residents dance, and children play on the swing sets. Wildlife even has a large presence there: residents have reported seeing deer. What is so special about Co-op City that allows for beautiful scenes like this to be the norm? Tanaka suggests the towers owe their success not to the City of New York, nor to any federally-funded programs, but to their fellow resident, architects, and the coalition of labor unions responsible for the towers’ development. The documentary highlights several of the complex's relatively unique features: a ban on market-rate apartment resale, permanent rent control (which was established in the early '70s after the state tried to increase rents for Co-op City’s tenants), affordable down payments, an elected representative board, self-funded maintenance, and a racially, culturally, and financially diverse group of tenants. But architectural features like larger-than-average apartments with grand windows and ample living and storage space, as well as multiple communal parks and green spaces—all of which was designed by architect Herman J. Jessor, inspired by Le Corbusier’s Villes Radieuse and Contemporain—play major roles, as well. In the documentary, Alena Powell, a resident of Co-op City since 1973, said a friend from the Upper East Side “was amazed because [Powell’s] living room could hold her [friend's] living room and kitchen all together.” Powell also “likes the fact that [she’s] not on top of other people as if [she] was living in Manhattan.” Other residents remark about how “spacious” the apartments are, and how they love the consistent natural light. Pleasing as they may be for many who live there, the Co-op City buildings were (and are) not without criticism. According to an article in Curbed by historian James Nevius, the Co-op City buildings stand as a testament to the ethics of erasing "slums," and to the power of the infamous Robert Moses, whose "bulldoze it" approach to entire neighborhoods is a highly-debated matter, to say the least. During construction in the early 1970s, many rallied against the design and construction of the towers, citing the cheap and unpleasing exterior. Nevius cites Jane Jacobs, who stated they were “truly marvels of dullness and regimentation, sealed against any buoyancy or vitality of city life.” Nevius also references criticisms by the AIA: "Similarly, the American Institute of Architects complained that 'the spirits of the tenants' at Co-op City 'would be dampened and deadened by the paucity of their environment.'" However, many in Tanaka's documentary do not share those opinions and come to the towers' defense. Ken Wray, former executive director of the United Housing Federation, says “the aesthetic was ‘Why waste money on the outside of the building?’ You don’t live on the outside of the building…People driving by might think it’s ugly but people who live there know what [the apartments] look like.” Often overlooked, too, is a sprawling meadow laced among the buildings. According to Nevius, over 80 percent of Co-op City's footprint is dedicated to landscaping: grass and trees with play structures, courts, benches, and market stands on the perimeter. For the people who use these daily, these are helpful amenities that similar developments do not have. Co-op City raises questions about the emphasis on policy or architecture, about interior design versus exterior, about the house and the outdoors, and about ownership and citizenship. Regardless of where one lands on these issues, there's something to be learned from these 35 towers in the Bronx.
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Rocks, Sun, and Art

Desert X to bring art, a symposium, and a podcast to California’s Coachella Valley
The organizers behind Desert X, an art and architecture–focused biennial that takes place in the Coachella Valley east of Los Angeles, have unveiled this year's participating artists. For its 2019 run, the festival will highlight a who’s-who of rising international creatives, including Venezuelan-born artist Iván Argote, Mexican artist Pia Camil, Irish artist John Gerrard, American photographer Cara Romero, American artist Jenny Holzer, Egyptian-born artist Iman Issa, and the Danish art collective Superflex, among others. In addition to highlighting evocative works of landscape-based installations and sculpture, the organizers have expanded the scope of the exhibition to include film and performance-based projects, according to a press release. This expanded scope will apply to the geographic range of the exhibitions, as well. This year, the organizers have embraced a wide terrain for the works that extends south from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea and the U.S.-Mexico Border. The Desert X 2019 program is led by Desert X artistic director Neville Wakefield and curators Amanda Hunt and Matthew Schum. A goal for the 2019 program is to “embrace a range of ecological, environmental, and social issues that have been driving conversations about our role in the anthropocene,” according to Wakefield. To facilitate this conversation, the organizers plan to hold a symposium titled Desert, Why? at the Palm Springs Art Museum (PSAM). The event takes place between March 1 and 3 and is billed as a “celebration of art and the environment.” The three-day event will highlight Unsettled, a sweeping exhibition of contemporary art from across the Americas that is currently on view at PSAM. Associated performances, panel discussions, and other events will also happen during the symposium across various locations. A podcast hosted by Frances Anderton is set to “explore the environmental, ecological, and social themes in the 2019 Desert X exhibition,” as well. Anderton is the host of DnA: Design and Architecture, a weekly radio show on L.A.’s KCRW radio station. The podcast will be developed in collaboration with Avishay Artsy, a producer for DnA. Desert X kicks off February 9 and runs through April 21, 2019.