Posts tagged with "Peterson Rich Office":

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New York's public housing is in crisis. Can architects design the way out?

The Regional Plan Association (RPA) has selected architects Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich of Peterson Rich Office (PRO) to dream up housing and maintenance strategies for New York City’s deteriorating public housing for the nonprofit planning think tank’s newly-funded chair of urban design. The joint appointment will give the pair the opportunity to build on past work that reimagined the New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) developments. It’s a tall order to step into a project that’s supposed to help NYCHA, the landlord for 400,000 New Yorkers, though it’s not necessarily the number of tenants that poses a challenge. The authority has been strangled by decades of under-investment, hobbled by long-running scandals, and faces an estimated $45 million backlog for repairs and capital projects. A December 2018 RPA report stated that maintaining the status quo of broken-down buildings could cost the city an additional $700 million every year that maintenance is deferred. The funding options for public housing are scarce, but nascent development plans aim to fill the gap created by missing funds at the federal level. Over the past five years, PRO has delivered concepts for building out the roofs of NYCHA high-rises and the transforming parking lots that surround the towers into units that scale to the size of two contiguous parking spaces. This time, PRO will have more financial resources and access to RPA experts at their disposal, allowing them to explore housing provision and maintenance in-depth.  While Peterson and Rich have a year to develop a book of scalable public housing concepts, RPA—not NYCHA—is PRO’s primary client. Moses Gates, RPA's vice president for Housing and Neighborhood Development, confirmed that NYCHA is not a partner on the project. He added that the no-NYCHA approach aligns with the organization’s usual M.O. of giving experts free rein to explore ideas that might not be feasible within an agency’s framework. Richard Kaplan, the architect who endowed the chair at RPA, gave the organization the funds so it could focus some of its efforts on urban design. Gates emphasized that here, and with subsequent Kaplan chairs, the architects' ideas are springboards for future action, not prescriptions. For inspiration, Rich told The Architect's Newspaper that they’re looking to London, where public (social) housing is similar in age and design to many NYCHA projects and has similarly struggled with disinvestment. But, unlike centralized NYCHA, London social housing is delivered on a borough-by-borough basis. Borough councils may act as developers, borrowing money against the value of their assets to build market-rate housing that subsidizes the upkeep of social housing units. That approach fits in with an emerging strategy in New York, where the city is entertaining plans to sell air rights and underutilized developable land in certain NYCHA projects to generate revenue for the cash-strapped agency. In a press release, the RPA stated that PRO’s mandate is to deliver ideas that will “bring NYCHA into financial solvency, while better integrating NYCHA into the surrounding communities.” Housing projects in New York are islands, separated spatially—and often socially—from their surroundings, especially in neighborhoods that are whiter and wealthier. From Chelsea to Canarsie, NYCHA stewards the largest portfolio of affordable housing within the five boroughs: If NYCHA residents had their own city, it would be larger than New Orleans, Cleveland, or Pittsburg. However, chronic mismanagement has impaired the agency’s ability to provide safe affordable housing. Last year, the New York Times reported that NYCHA officials routinely disputed the results of lead paint tests in its apartments and exposed children to the dangerous heavy metal. Elsewhere, thousands of families contend with vermin infestations and repair requests that go unanswered. The shameful conditions in the developments, as well as the opportunity to rework the modernist tower-in-the-park paradigm, make NYCHA housing a prime target for architects and planners looking for a do-good project. Most white-collar urbanists, however, have never lived in public housing, nor do they have personal connections to the projects beyond observing them from the sidewalk or reading about them in the paper. Designers also have to contend with a real fear on the part of some NYCHA residents that new development will catalyze displacement and spur neighborhood-wide gentrification. Under these conditions, how can a firm that’s best known for designing art galleries and high-end homes effectively design with, or for New Yorkers who live in public housing? First and foremost, Rich said, PRO intends to address immediate needs, like the mold that afflicts tenants in some developments and heating systems that fail in the dead of winter. This will be the firm’s first go at spearheading a community consultation, so they intend to collaborate with RPA-affiliates to help organize and guide the process.  “It’s just crucial that residents have buy-in during the process and into the project,” said Peterson. “We’re thinking about phasing, how to create a process that sets a project up for success.” RPA has a relationship with Community Voices Heard, a social justice organization primarily led by low-income women and people of color, and together they will work to facilitate connections with NYCHA residents.  NYCHA did not respond to multiple requests for comment on how it regards design proposals from outside the agency. Peterson and Rich first became interested in NYCHA after a 2014 fellowship with the Institute for Public Architecture (IPA) where they, along with urban designer Sagi Golan, thought through public housing in 9x18, a project that would infill development on NYCHA parking lots. The goal now, said Rich, is to think about incremental changes instead of jumping straight from an idea to a construction proposal. "NYCHA is a source of fascination for people in design and planning because it’s a city in a city; it’s just so big," Peterson said. "What we’re trying to do here is focus on actionable ideas."
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Galerie Perrotin opens downtown after a five-story renovation by Peterson Rich Office

Famed mega-gallery Galerie Perrotin made the move downtown from the Upper East Side last April to the Beckenstein Building, an industrial space dating from the 1880s. Fourteen months after construction began, the gallery has finally unveiled all three floors of their new Lower East Side home. Brooklyn-based Peterson Rich Office (PRO) oversaw the 25,000-square-foot, five-story renovation of the building, which includes not only three floors of public exhibition space, but also storage, office and private exhibition space, as well as a street-level shop featuring art books and affordable small editions. While both Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich, the principals of PRO, have developed art spaces with previous firms and have collaborated with galleries like Luhring Augustine to create exhibition displays, this is the first commercial gallery designed by the office. And they hardly started small. By far the largest gallery on the Lower East Side, it is also perhaps the most pronounced. From the outside, a sleek black steel and glass entryway that conforms with Perrotin’s signature look contrasts with the colorful signage overhead—original painting from the fabric manufacturer and wholesaler that historically occupied the building, updated with Perrotin-specific accents. Edged by a black steel stairwell that connects the three floors of exhibition space, each floor is punctuated by its own desk space and entryway, providing a break and lending rhythm to the experience of moving through the galleries. The second-floor gallery, which for its inaugural show displays the work of Brooklyn-based artist Artie Vierkant, is smaller, which principal Nathan Rich suggests is ideal for staging more experimental exhibitions with younger artists.   At the top floor, just beyond the landing, one emerges into a vast, light-filled space, where rippling arches are punctuated by the pyramid of a skylight. The dramatic room, with its 20-foot ceilings, required major structural interventions to make it possible. The building originally had a central courtyard, which the architects filled in to create the exhibition space. Since residences still exist above the gallery, this was no simple matter of just knocking down some walls. Besides the obvious engineering challenges, noise disturbance was a concern. To dampen the noise of the falling walls, builders laid a matrix of tires in the center of the space for bricks to fall into. The white columns that remain in the space are the remnants of these original outside walls.   Luckily, thanks to its manufacturing past, the building’s floors can withstand tremendous weight for heftier sculptures and installations. Not content to place heavy art low to the ground, PRO developed hidden tracks in the ceilings designed to support substantial projects of up to 3,000 pounds. This load-bearing ability is ideal since the inaugural exhibition of French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel features heavy hanging helixes of glass and metal. Integrating the necessary functional infrastructure, like the hanging tracks, is part of what Peterson refers to as “the ballet of designing an art exhibition space,” where so much has to be made to look like so little, and a great deal of effort goes into making it all seem effortless. PRO’s new Perrotin deftly performs this architectural ballet for a cohesive, and even meditative, experience.
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Emerging New York firms design 15 calming spaces for city high schools

For most teens, high school is an angsty time. This year, though, students at select New York City public high schools can de-stress in meditation and yoga rooms designed by emerging local firms. Today First Lady Chirlane McCray, students, and their teachers gathered at a Brooklyn school to announce the completion of 15 "wellness spaces" in public high schools across the five boroughs. The student-driven pilot program paired teenagers with faculty, architects, and graphic designers to transform underused spaces, indoors and outside, into peaceful areas that foster mental health. In all, the wellness rooms will serve almost 10,000 students. Six emerging firms designed the spaces, nine of which are indoors. Though every room is different, the spaces feature hydroponic gardens, recording booths, meditation areas, and restorative justice rooms. (The open-air classrooms share much of the same programming but also feature outdoor gardens.) The grant-funded projects are part of Mental Health by Design (MHxD), a program that's run through ThriveNYC, McCray's mental health initiative. MHxD asked Karen Kubey, an urbanist specializing in architecture and health, to match architects to the chosen schools. Kubey reached out to young New York firms, connecting them with projects in nine schools across four boroughs. The rooms were done on a tight budget in a short timeframe. Kubey paired Brooklyn's Peterson Rich Office (PRO) with two Bronx institutions, The Academy for Career and Living Skills (ACLS) and International School for Liberal Arts (ISLA). With $10,000 and less than four months to complete their work, the firm transformed a large unused classroom at ACLS into a Mindfulness Space, complete with hanging plants, Yogibo teardrop beanbags, cubby shelving, and a bold felt-and-paint mural, pictured above. At the ISLA, students and architects brightened their Safe Space, a former classroom, with new curtains, lighting, and seating from Knoll. The fixtures, paint, and furnishings were mostly donated or bought at a discount. In the South Bronx, Daniel Kidd, founder of DEMO Architecture and a professional musician, collaborated with students at Longwood Preparatory High School to build an audio booth so students could record and share music. The studio connects students to neighborhood's musical heritage—the South Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop—and gives them an outlet to bond over music. In addition to PRO and DEMO Architecture, Kubey worked with ATTN-ATTN, Common Bond Design, Creative Art Works, and Homepolish on MHxD wellness rooms at other high schools. At all sites, graphic designers at Hyperakt partnered with two students from each school to brand the spaces, with students designing posters to promote their new facilities and increase mental health awareness.
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An expansive bronze-colored rainscreen covers Peterson Rich Office's latest Lower East Side project

Ten years ago, around 60 art galleries populated the Lower East Side. Today, that number has increased five-fold. Two architects, Nathan Rich and Miriam Peterson, have witnessed the area’s cultural shift and are now working on two significant projects in the area under their firm, Peterson Rich Office (PRO), which they cofounded in 2011.

“Most of the current galleries only come to between 13 and 18 feet wide,” explained Rich, discussing the gallery and residential block due to be built on Grand Street between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets. “What’s interesting about this new building is that there is going to be a gallery space that’s about 45 feet wide. Spatially it is more akin to what you see in Chelsea.”

Rich and Peterson agreed that this gallery-residential building at 282 Grand Street—and their work on the forthcoming location of Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin—are a response to rising costs in Chelsea, where many galleries are being forced to relocate.

PRO secured work in the Lower East Side after bumping into project partners Vito Errico and gallerist Marc Straus—the latter having a long family history of building ownership in the area. Not able to afford Straus’s artwork, the pair offered its services instead.

“Because of Straus’s history in the neighborhood, it was very important to us to do something that is conceptually contiguous to that history,” said Rich. PRO conceptualized the building as a new tenement, retaining the proportional vernacular of 19th and 20th century tenement buildings common in the vicinity.

Covering approximately 20,000 square feet, the building will house 20 condos within seven stories, climbing to 80 feet. Aside from two penthouse apartments on the roof, the dwellings will all be one-bedrooms with around 550 square feet of space.

“The spaces are highly efficient, much like the original tenement buildings were,” said Rich. “Efficiency was the driving concept. They’re efficient, both spatially and environmentally.” The tenement typology is further referenced through a perforated aluminum rain-screen facade system, which doubles-up as a shading device and louvered panel for air exchange. According to the architects, the facade will be coated with a bronze colored Kynar paint, emulating the surrounding yellow and red street signage.

Rich continued: “The screen became a way to achieve this environmental efficiency. There’s also a language of sheet metal and cast iron used for awnings and fire escapes on traditional buildings that we wanted to reference with something that was much more contemporary.”

“By using windows as opposed to a curtain wall and trying to relate the scale of those windows and openings to the adjacent building, we’re trying to create something that’s part of the existing fabric but that is also new.”

Peterson, meanwhile, discussed why PRO proposed a full build-out of the site, which is currently occupied by a low-rise 19th century building housing a Chinese grocery store. “We basically found that the existing building was not suitable for renovation,” she said. “After looking into the project we found tenants had been removing masonry walls without properly replacing them structurally. We said to ourselves, ‘This is no longer made to last.’”

PRO also wants to set an example for future development in the Lower East Side—a movement that has already began. “Developers are not, as a blanket, known for always doing sensitive design or building things that have consideration beyond the status-quo,” Peterson said. “We are hopeful that working with architects such as ourselves to design a building that everybody is proud of will also inspire the next wave of development to abide by those principles.”

The building, due to break ground this spring, is slated to be complete in fall 2018. PRO’s new relocation of Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin on 130 Orchard Street is set to open fall this year.

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P.R.O. Public Practice exhibit at the NYIT Old Westbury campus closes this weekend

For design and architecture enthusiasts in the New York City area and Long Island, it’s your last chance to see the architecture exhibition Public Practice at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) Old Westbury campus before it closes after May 1. The solo show features models and drawings by Brooklyn-based architecture firm, Peterson Rich Office, also known as P.R.O. The exhibit is hosted in the NYIT architecture gallery and holds six P.R.O. conceptual projects that the firm created over the past four years. P.R.O. co-founders Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich are visiting professors at the university. The school invited them to produce both an exhibit as well as a lecture under the theme of public practice. The projects address design in the context of small public spaces and propose temporary and adaptable installations for parks, sidewalks, plazas, and more. The concepts are “experiments in public space: quick, small-scale design exercises that engage issues related to the public realm in and around New York City,” explained Nathan Rich. “Each proposal is adaptable to multiple sites, and intended to generate dialogue about public space within its built context. They address specific urban conditions, but could be installed in a wide variety of spaces.” The six P.R.O. projects all feature two renderings as well as a ¼ scale 3D printed model. The models rest on mirrored tables “that reflect the public space around our designs, inviting viewers to consider how they might be a part of the work,” said Rich. There’s Stoop (2016) that considers the stoop as means of transition between public and private space along New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) fences. “The stoop, a common space for interaction, is precisely the mediator between the public and private realms that is lacking in NYCHA campus planning,” Rich said. “At a time when affordable housing is very much in the public discourse, we decided to use this familiar form to think about how we can chip away at the edges of public housing superblocks, and start to think about integrating them back into the urban fabric.” There’s also Brooklyn Cloud (2012), conceived as a temporary traveling exhibit for downtown Brooklyn spaces that cannot be developed. “As a reaction against the static, sculptural designs that are more typical of architectural installations in public spaces, we conceived of this installation as a series of white air dancers: nylon tubes powered by high velocity fans.”