Most Lexingtonians don’t know it, but the porous limestone landscape under their feet—called karst—created their bluegrass identity. The basic water that flows through karst reportedly makes their grass grow green, their racehorses grow strong, and their bourbon taste smooth. So when downtown Lexington held a competition to revitalize and re-pedestrianize the concrete, car-driven downtown, New York–based SCAPE Landscape Architecture chose to reveal and celebrate its geology. As SCAPE founder and partner Kate Orff said, the Town Branch Commons Corridor project is “a reinterpretation, a transformation of the karst landscape into public space.”
The ambitious project, which just received a major $14.1 million funding boost from the U.S. Department of Transportation, will carve pedestrian and bike paths through the heart of Lexington, creating new green spaces and linking with regional trails at both ends. To create freshwater pools—SCAPE calls them “karst windows,” in reference to similar naturally occurring formations—the design will tap old culverts (essentially large pipes) that previously kept Lexington’s karst water out of sight.
The trail will be narrow in some areas, but wide for the Karst Commons, a new public plaza and park at the project’s northern end that will feature multiple “habitat rooms,” an amphitheater, and recreation areas. The park can flood safely in a deluge. “There’s no site here, it’s a hybrid project,” said Orff. “Sidewalk here, empty lot there, parking lot there… The thread of water means each entity has to somehow come in contact with it and embrace it.”
The road to realizing the project—now in schematic design—has been long. After winning the 2013 competition, SCAPE worked with the University of Kentucky and the Lexington Downtown Development Authority to foster public support. They created a large model of the city’s hidden Town Branch Creek, paired with self-guided podcast tours, that generated excitement and helped propel the project. The karst, citizens realized, was part of the bluegrass identity they hold dear (and market to tourists). “Here it’s all about finding a unique identity framed around a cultural and geological history of a place,” said Gena Wirth, SCAPE design principal. “What’s replicable is the multipurpose infrastructure that unites the city, its story, and its systems.”
On Friday, Rebuild By Design (RBD) hosted a conference at NYU to check in on the progress on the region's ten coastal resiliency projects. Landscape architects, engineers, architects, and government officials representing the six initial winners and four finalists spoke on behalf of their team's ideas.
Although each project is different in scale and scope (factors which correlate, not surprisingly, to the level of funding that each received), and all are at different phases of implementation, projects from Bridgeport, CT to Hoboken, NJ reflect a desire to build back, but better: Plans enhanced oceanfronts, baysides, riverbeds, and low-lying areas with graywater remediation, waterside parks, berms with bicycle paths, and oyster beds, and other amenities to enhance both resiliency and waterside quality of life.
Consistent challenges emerged, too. Foremost was the challenge of implementing projects that require input and approval from multiple government agencies with varying jurisdictions and priorities. Community engagement is key to each project, with many teams noting that initial designs were modified in accordance with the input of property owners, business leaders, and residents. Construction on the first phase of the projects is expected to be complete by 2022.
Although each project will undoubtedly make its area more resistant against 100-year floods, the most ambitious projects were the buffer of berms and floodwalls on Manhattan's shoreline that stretches from East 25th Street around the southern tip of the island, and Living Breakwaters, a series of wave-breaking rock-and-oyster-colony formations placed off the south shore of Staten Island.
Carrie Grassi, deputy director for planning at the NYC Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency spoke first about the Manhattan-based project. (formerly known as the BIG U). The project has two phases: Firstly, the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR), whose team is led by AKRF with design and planning input from ONE, (RBD competition winners) BIG, and Mathews Nielsen. Secondly, the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project, or Two Bridges, led by AECOM and Dewberry, with design and planning by ONE and BIG. Grassi noted that the team wanted to make phase one, 2.5 miles of waterfront, and waterfront-adjacent space, primarily for people to enjoy: "We want to create something that we can live with for the 99 percent of the time that we aren’t flooding."
One of the challenges of implementing the ESCR was establishing an unprecedented joint task force between Community Boards 3 and 6. At public input sessions, residents asked that designs focus incorporating the berms into bridges, like at the Delancy Street pedestrian bridge, near where the Williamsburg Bridge touches down in Manhattan. Plans also called for kiosks and vendors under the FDR Drive overpass near Stuyvesant Cove; residents were worried that the darkened area would be uninviting during the winter months, so the design was modified. “All of these conversations were about tradeoffs," Grassi explained. "[We considered] the community's priorities and what was needed to advance the project and make decisions.”
The draft scope of work is out, and a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is being developed. Next steps include "drilling down on the design," and the environmental and land use review, although the design leaves the opportunity for additional bridges to be constructed at a later date. $335 million of the project's funding comes from HUD's Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program and $170 million in capital funds from the city. Construction is expected to begin in June 2017. The Two Bridges portion is being financed with an additional $176 million (CDBG-NDR) and $27 million from the city.
Alex Zablocki, a senior program manager at the NYS Governor's Office of Storm Recovery and Pippa Brashear, director of planning and resilience at SCAPE/Landscape Architecture, closed the presentations with updates on Living Breakwaters, a stormproofing plan for the South Shore of Staten Island. SCAPE's design calls for network of submerged and partially-submerged concrete-and-recycled-glass breakwaters that will be planted with oysters. Living Breakwaters, Brashear explained, creates double resiliency by both mitigating the impact of shore-bound waves and "enhancing ecology" through natural water filtration (the project is partnering with the Billion Oyster Project, an initiative to re-seed oyster beds in the New York Harbor). To SCAPE, the strategy was not about keeping water out through walls and barriers, but about reducing the impact of flooding in the vulnerable Tottenville neighborhood.
Plans call for a rocky habitat shoreside with semi-enclosures for kayaking. The video above, from 2014, explains the coastal interventions in-depth. Between winning the RBD competition in 2014 and now, SCAPE has surveyed the coastline—above and underwater—extensively, and construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2017.
Thor Equities has released renderings of a Foster + Partners–designed waterside office complex in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The four-story, timber frame buildings will host 600,000 square feet of workspace divided over open-plan, 100,000-square-foot floor plates, plus 23,000 square feet for restaurants and retail. The 7.7-acre development will offer the public waterfront access via an esplanade and courtyard, and harbor views from rooftop terraces. New York–based SCAPE/Landscape Architecture is executing the landscape plan.
The project, says Thor, is designed to meet the needs of TAMI (technology, advertising, media and information) tenants. It's a somewhat nebulous definition, but according to a 2014 report by real estate services company Cushman & Wakefield, the sector is the strongest force behind activity in New York, ahead of even the financial sector.
One of the neighborhood's challenges, though, is the lack of subway service: The F/G at Smith-9th Street is about 13 blocks away. The developers anticipate that workers will arrive by foot, water taxi, or bike, and that tenants will offer employees alternative transit accommodations, like shuttle bus service to the subway.
Melissa Gliatta, Thor's chief operating officer, was bullish on other options. Gliatta trumpeted the transit potential of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a proposed streetcar that would run through Red Hook and could begin service in 2023, although the contentious, developer-driven project is still in its nascent, public input phase. Thor's press release for the development assumes a done deal: "A planned Brooklyn-Queens streetcar will also serve the neighborhood." (Dang, well, so much for that stakeholder consensus.)
Academics like Adam Friedman, the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development at Pratt Institute, voiced concerns about this, and similar developments taking shape in the borough. Speaking with Bloomberg News, Friedman noted that developers need to "pace themselves," lest new properties sit vacant. "Every developer thinks that theirs is the one that is going to be successful. That’s just the nature of the culture.”
Construction is set to begin this summer. Not cost estimate is available as of yet.
The saga of the MAD Architects–designed Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts (LMNA) continues as a federal judge denies the City of Chicago’s motion to allow construction to begin.
Judge John W. Darrah has decided to maintain the injunction which is delaying the start of construction of the $400 million museum on Chicago’s lakefront while there is still a case against the project.
His decision came a day after city lawyers filed a motion to allow the start of construction and expedite the case brought by Friends of the Parks. Earlier this month Judge Darrah agreed to allow the case to move forward after the city presented a motion to completely dismiss it.
This latest decision is being seen as a sign that the case is one step closer to going to trial.
The lawyers for the City of Chicago argue that the court’s decision to hear the case “in no way establishes that they are entitled to the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction.” The city also noted in the motion that it believed that the case was not a matter for a federal court to hear in the first place, as it is a city and state-law issue.
The City also argues that the preliminary injunction was instituted before the Chicago Park District voted to approve the lease for the land, the Chicago Plan Commission voted to approve the project, and before the City Council approved the amendment to change zoning for the site. Now that the project has been approved by all the necessary city offices, the City wants the injunction lifted, allowing for the project to move forward while the case is settled.
The case brought by Friends of the Parks was filed in November 2014. It claims that the negotiations between the Parks District and the Lucas Museum regarding the use of the public land would violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, was ultra vires (beyond their legal power) under Illinois law, and violated the Illinois Public Trust Doctrine.
The lakefront has long been the site of discussion and litigation concerning its use and public access. Most notably stated by Daniel Burnham in regards to his 1909 Plan of the City, “First in importance is the shore of Lake Michigan. It should be treated as park space to the greatest possible extent. The lakefront by right belongs to the people… not a foot of its shores should be appropriated to the exclusion of the people.”
Also in the City motion was a warning that Chicago was at risk of losing the museum to another city. Similar issues concerning the use of park land were the initial reason for the museum leaving San Francisco for Chicago.
The motion points out, “The preliminary injunction thus threatens the very public interest it is bound to protect: the loss of the LMNA would deprive the City of a world-class museum and all the attendant educational, cultural, and economic benefits, as well as depriving the City of a more beneficial use for the museum site than the current asphalt parking lot.” The “current asphalt parking lot” refers to the surface lot used for the Chicago Bears’s Soldier Field football stadium on the site.
Judge Darrah stated that he would have a decision regarding lifting the injunction so that construction could start by mid-April.
Beijing-based MAD Architects is working with architect of record VOA Studio from Chicago, and Studio Gang Architects and SCAPE/Landscape Architects for the landscape design.
Chicago-based Studio Gang is designing a modern fire station for the Brownsville community in Brooklyn. The two-story, precast concrete structure, to be built on a vacant lot at 1815 Sterling Place, includes bright red accents as the facade pulls away from the street plane.
The so-called Fire Rescue 2 facility "is intended to become a tool for training, enabling FDNY Company 2, an elite force of firefighters and specialized rescue workers serving the people of New York for nearly a century, to stage and simulate a wide range of emergency conditions in, on, and around the building," according to a project description from Studio Gang.
This training program inspired Jeanne Gang, the firm's principal, in designing the building. "During emergencies, the Company must often utilize voids in buildings," the firm stated, "whether creating them to let heat and smoke out of a structure or locating them as a means of escape." The structure's design responds with its own voids demarcated in red that reveal windows, staircases, and a second-floor terrace.
The facade of the 19,000-square-foot structure will be built of precast concrete and red glazed terracotta tiles. The 46-foot-tall structure is meant to respond to the scale of neighborhood buildings.
Gang organized the fire house around a central interior that "enables the team to practice rescue scenarios that mimic conditions common to the city." The space is a sort of modern recreation of balconies, bridges, doorways, ladders, and stairs that the firefighters might encounter in the city. The void dually allows air and light to penetrate deep into the structure, enhancing the living quarters for the firefighters.
While the facade's jagged geometry and bright color conveys the structure's purpose and sense of urgency, the interiors are designed to help firefighters cool off. Inside, a kitchen forms the hub of social life for the firefighters, adding another layer of heat to the project's design.
Plenty of green space, including a backyard and open-air porches, allows the firefighters to cool off when not on duty. Studio Gang is working with SCAPE / Landscape Architecture on the project.
The building also includes several sustainable gestures such as a green roof, geothermal HVAC system, and a solar hot-water system.
Fire Rescue 2 is programmed to include office space, dormitories for firefighters, a kitchen, exercise rooms, training space, and storage.
"With its adaptable spaces, environmental approach, and civic scale, the new Rescue 2 firehouse is both a neighborhood fixture and important piece of infrastructure, supporting a highly trained corps who safeguard those who call New York home," Studio Gang stated.
Permits for the project were filed in October 2015, according to real estate watch-blog New York YIMBY. The project is estimated to be complete in 2017.
In July 2015, the design was honored with an Award for Excellence in Design from the New York City Public Design Commission. Elsewhere in New York, Studio Gang is working on a major expansion to the American Museum of National History and an embattled condo tower along the High Line called the Solar Carve. The firm has opened a New York office to handle the increased workload. Also, don't miss AN's exclusive interview with Jeanne Gang while kayaking the Chicago River here.
On Friday, December 4th—while hundreds of officials gathered in Paris for the COP21 UN climate change conference—scholars, historians, scientists, architects, and designers came to Columbia GSAPP’s Avery Hall for a similarly urgent conference, “Climate Change and the Scales of Environment.”
The urgency lies in the fact that buildings are accountable for approximately half of energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the United States today. At the December 4 conference, the range of experts discussed this issue across multiple scales—ranging from a single molecule to the planet as a whole. At what scale should architects engage? And how do the different scales tie together?
Dean Amale Andraos explained to AN that using these disciplinary questions of scale to enter a cross-disciplinary discussion on climate-change kept the conversation focused.
The first topic of the day, History, was moderated by Reinhold Martin (Columbia GSAPP) and included presentations from Daniel A. Barber (University of Pennsylvania, Architecture), Deborah R. Coen (Barnard College, History), Gregg Mitman (University of Wisconsin, History), and Eyal Weizman (Goldsmiths, University of London, Visual Cultures). Addressing different moments in history, the speakers collectively unveiled how ecological understandings dictate societal development.
The second topic, Politics, was moderated by Laura Kurgan (Columbia GSAPP) and included talks from Michael B. Gerrard (Columbia University, Earth Institute and School of Law), Saskia Sassen (Columbia University, Sociology), Richard Seager (Columbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory), and Christian Parenti (New York University, Liberal Studies). Each presentation addressed environmental failures, which Kurgan called “sobering,” and the related risks facing architects, planners, and builders. Before heading to COP21 to represent the Marshall Islands, Gerrard told the audience in Wood Auditorium, “Architects might be legally liable for failure to design for foreseeable climate change.”
Jesse M. Keenan (Columbia GSAPP and CURE) moderated Uncertainty, which included talks from Radley Horton (Columbia University, Earth Institute and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies), Adrian Lahoud (Royal College of Art, London, Architecture), and Kate Orff (Columbia GSAPP and SCAPE). The presentations unveiled each profession’s individual roles and how they overlap. Horton works with quantitative climate science; Lahoud uses the qualitative method of narrative; and Orff works in both realms. Keenan concluded, “Architects and planners are mediators. They are helping make that translation to define values and vulnerabilities and to weigh what that really means.”
The final section, Visualization, was moderated by Mark Wasiuta (Columbia GSAPP) and included presentations from Heather Davis (Pennsylvania State University, Institute for the Arts and Humanities), Laura Kurgan, Emily Eliza Scott (ETH Zurich, Architecture), and Neyran Turan (Rice University, Architecture). Again, the presentations covered a wide spectrum of curation, ranging from Davis’s discussion of subject-object relationships to Kurgan’s video visualization of climate change data, EXIT, currently on display at COP21. Wasiuta, said in the panel discussion, “Laura’s work produces a different type of knowing, or knowability. Fascinating, the idea of curating a dataset: curating as the construction of a political form.”
The day’s presentations ended with keynote speaker Dipesh Chakrabarty (University of Chicago, History). Chakrabarty’s talk, “The Human Significance of the Anthropocene” was a fitting way to pull together the wide-ranging but interrelated disciplines contributing to the conference.
Videos of the conference will appear on Columbia GSAPP’s YouTube channel in the coming weeks.
A star-studded jury has selected the winners of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' 2015 architecture prizes. Elizabeth Diller (chairman), Henry N. Cobb, Peter Eisenman, Kenneth Frampton, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, Laurie Olin, Cesar Pelli, Billie Tsien, and Tod Williams chose the awardees from among 41 nominations.
Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey of Dublin's O'Donnell + Tuomey took home the $20,000 Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize, for which any architect "who has made a significant contribution to architecture as an art" is eligible. O'Donnell and Tuomey, who also received the 2015 Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects, are the creative team behind projects including the Sean O'Casey Community Centre (Dublin, 2008) and Belfast's Lyric Theatre (2011).
The jury also awarded four Arts and Letters Awards in Architecture of $10,000 each. Yolanda Daniels and Sunil Bald, and Kate Orff won the first two awards, reserved for American practitioners "whose work is characterized by a strong personal direction." Of Daniels and Bald's work, which they undertake in New York as Studio SUMO, juror Billie Tsien observed, "There is always a sense of the weight of materials in what they do." Kate Orff founded New York landscape architecture firm SCAPE to combine research and practice on the urban landscape. Her recent projects include Oyster-Tecture for the 2010 MoMA exhibition Rising Currents, and Living Breakwaters for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, ongoing since 2014.
Kurt W. Forster and Rosalie Genevro secured the second category, for an American "who explores ideas in architecture through any medium of expression." Forster, an architectural historian and founding director of the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, is currently an emeritus visiting professor at Yale. Genevro heads the Architectural League of New York. "Quiet wisdom as well as consistent and powerful leadership are hallmarks of Rosalie's 30 years as executive director," said juror Tod Williams.
Select work by the winners, who will receive their awards at the Academy's annual Ceremonial and may, will be on display in the Academy's galleries on Audubon Terrace from May 21-June 14.
Living Breakwaters—SCAPE's proposal to protect to the South Shore of Staten Island with a reef of living oysters—has picked up another accolade. First, the plan scored federal funds in the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Rebuild By Design competition, and now it has won the 2014 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. The competition was launched in 2007 to honor ideas from architects, engineers, scientists, designers, activists, planners, and entrepreneurs that addresses "humanity’s most pressing problems."
In a statement, Kate Orff, the founder of SCAPE, said "Living Breakwaters hopefully represents a paradigm shift in how we collectively address climate risks, by focusing on regenerating waterfront communities and social systems, and enhancing threatened ecosystems." A $100,000 grant is provided to help develop and implement the winning proposal.
For more on SCAPE's design, and to learn about what's next for Rebuild By Design, see AN's coverage of the competition.
[h/t The Dirt.]
In early April, the ten finalists in the Rebuild By Design competition unveiled their proposals to protect the Tri-state region from the next Sandy. And in the near future, a jury will select a winner—or winners—to receive federal funding to pursue their plans. But before that final announcement is made, AN is taking a closer look at each of the final ten proposals. Here’s SCAPE's plan for Staten Island's South Shore.
Team SCAPE proposes a series of living breakwaters to protect Staten Island's South Shore, which was absolutely pummeled during Hurricane Sandy. The breakwaters—made partially from oysters—can clean water, reduce storm-surge, provide new habitats, and protect against coastal erosion.
The use of oysters would not only protect the South Shore, it would pay homage to the region's history. As Kate Orff of SCAPE noted, the town of Tottenville, which is located in Phase One of her team's project, was once known as "the town the oyster built."
This plan would also create a "learning hub" in Tottenville to teach local communities about the benefits of oysters. "This new, layered infrastructure will clean and slow the water, catalyze the regrowth of protected ecosystems, and create an amazing textured environment for marine life, as well as shore-based communities to thrive in," said Orff.
The team includes SCAPE/Landscape Architecture with Parsons Brinckerhoff, Dr. Philip Orton / Stevens Institute of Technology, Ocean & Coastal Consultants, SeArc Ecological Consulting, LOT-EK, MTWTF, The Harbor School and Paul Greenberg.