Posts tagged with "Van Alen Institute":

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Studio Cadena’s shimmery holiday installation takes over Flatiron Plaza

Studio Cadena’s ultra-bright holiday sculpture in Flatiron Plaza made its debut during New York’s first snowfall of the season. Though it was officially unveiled last night, Happy was set up late last week and photography captured the flurry of moments when it was first discovered by the public. Happy is the winner of the fifth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Competition, a partnership between the New York Department of Transportation Art, Van Alen Institute, and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District. Its installation signals the start of programming for BID’s “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer.” The project was created by Studio Cadena, a Brooklyn-based firm that was chosen out of seven other invited design teams. Their winning proposal features a series of translucent yellow screens draped from an open frame that are meant to add a spark of joy to everyone who passes by. It also doubles as a filter for people to see the city in a different light, according to Benjamin Cadena, Studio Cadena’s founder and principal.
David van der Leer, exiting director of Van Alen Institute, noted the impact that Happy could have on people's’ daily lives during a cold and colorless time of year. “By expressing a positive emotion in a public space, Studio Cadena’s delightful installation invites people to take a moment to consider the joy of being in the big, busy city during the holiday season.” Happy was selected by a jury of experts in design and public art including the Corcoran Group’s Nick Athanail, Michael Bierut, partner at Pentagram, Emily Colasacco, event director of NYC Summer Streets, as well as V. Mitch McEwan, partner at A(n) Office, and Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny of SITU Studio. The installation will be on view through January 1, 2019.
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David van der Leer to leave Van Alen Institute, triggering search for successor

Executive director of the New York–based nonprofit Van Alen Institute, David van der Leer, has announced that he’ll be stepping down from his position effective November 21 to focus on his consultancy business. Van der Leer’s transition away from the institution he’s helped lead since 2013 will kick off a global search for Van Alen’s next executive director, although van der Leer will continue to serve in an advisory capacity through the beginning of 2019 to ease the transition. Managing director Elissa Black will serve as the interim director until van der Leer’s successor begins. Van der Leer’s tenure at the 125-year-old Institute has been marked by an outgrowth of interdisciplinary programs, design competitions, media partnerships, international outreach, and the formation of three leadership councils. Climate change has also taken center stage, as the Institute launched Keeping Current, an $850,000 design competition for mitigating sea level rise in Miami, sent their Climate Council across the country to search for urban resiliency solutions, and highlighted the issue in their Van Alen Sessions video series. “If Van Alen and New York have walked hand-in-hand for decades, David van der Leer has opened up the doors (and the minds) of the Institute to the wider world,” said Paola Antonelli, the Museum of Modern Art’s senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design. “He has initiated partnerships that have positioned Van Alen as an important node in the international network of research and debate on the future of cities.” Black said in a press release, "Through innovation and inclusivity, David inspired the vision for the important work of the organization. I and the entire staff are wholly committed to carrying our mission forward and building on the Institute's legacy of forward-thinking programs."
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Van Alen’s Climate Council takes a road trip to study climate change

The hot July sun hit the grooves of the farmland barreling past our bus windows as we approached Bowles Farming Company in Los Banos, California. Envisioning sunburns and muddy hikes through the furrows, we—the two dozen landscape design, engineering, and architecture professionals that make up the Van Alen Institute Climate Council—were about to visit the farm as part of a three-day expedition in Northern California to consider how design thinking could impact the way this farm and farms like it plan for climate change. Van Alen launched the Climate Council in 2018 as a platform for practicing design professionals and climate change aficionados to convene for twice-annual, three-day expeditions in regions across the U.S. Through tours, discussions, social gatherings, and hands-on charrettes, our trips provide members with a congenial setting for learning and reflection away from the hectic pace of everyday business. Right at the beginning of this inaugural trip, the Climate Council’s expectations contrasted dramatically with the realities of modern agriculture. Instead of weathering watermelon fields, we found ourselves in a comfortable boardroom. Farm executives welcomed us with cut melon samples and a PowerPoint presentation of the farm’s history, challenges, and technology. Over the soft hum of air-conditioning and with his adolescent son beside him, Cannon Michael, the farm’s president and CEO, shared the impressive facts of his large-scale operation: 11,000 acres, 14 crops, and six generations. Bowles has an advantage that it shares with a small group of farms in the area: Their history of utilizing water from the San Joaquin River provides senior rights to surface water. But with that seniority comes an increased responsibility and stewardship. Their on-staff agronomist schedules crop irrigation daily with care for every drop, logging and adapting to changes in climate on the spot. Michael proudly told us of the precision and care that Bowles uses to manage its water supply amid California’s mounting water crisis. “In times of drought, farmers are often blamed for overusing water,” Michael said. “The reality is, it’s not in a farmer’s best interest to waste water, as we only want to use the exact amount that the crop needs—improper water management has a negative impact on crop production. California is an expensive place to do business, and we must carefully monitor all our inputs and costs, water being a primary one of them. It is also a fact that producing the food and fiber we all rely on every day takes water. Where these products are produced is of critical importance. Not all farms are held to high standards of environmental and ethical production—California leads the way in the world.” Bowles’s commitment to precision and innovation unraveled the Climate Council’s anticipated mission and sent us on a new track of questioning in the days that followed. After visits with a strawberry farmer, a food distribution company, a tomato processing plant, and more, we started asking: What if cities had intricate systems dedicated to tracking inputs and outputs as accurately as these farms? We had set out on our trip thinking we would consider how design could impact the future of food production and distribution, but instead, we realized that cities had at least as much to learn from modern agricultural practices. Van Alen Climate Council Twice a year, the Climate Council travels to the same region—the first visit for exploration, the second for strategizing and discussing pressing climate issues using an interdisciplinary, systems-based approach. We offer professional advice to our partners and hosts, and aim to share lessons learned with other regions, both through further council travel and via members’ professional practices. The council’s purpose is rooted in Van Alen’s mission as a design organization that seeks to understand and demonstrate how design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. The council also provides support and funding for Van Alen’s broader climate-related work. For more than a decade, we have created cross-disciplinary design and research projects that investigate issues of climate change across the country, from the sinking Lower Mississippi River Delta to the hurricane-battered eastern coasts. We are presently working in Greater Miami to help communities protect themselves from rising sea levels, using a design approach to make the region more socially equitable and economically resilient. In selecting the inaugural topic for the Climate Council to explore, co-chairs Claire Weisz and Mark Johnson commented, “We wanted to look at food as the first subject with this council. It’s all-encompassing. It’s something designers don’t get to talk about very often but that ultimately impacts us.” Even designers who work in cities have a vested interest in learning more about the role of agriculture in our society. At a panel conversation during our program, Mary Kimball, the director for the University of California, Davis’s Center for Land-Based Learning (and a partner in developing the council’s California program), reminded us that more than two-thirds of Sacramento’s regional farmland specialty crop jobs are in urban environments. Even though we typically associate agricultural jobs with rural labor, food distribution and packaging centers require resources that are almost always located in urban environments. So much of the food economy surrounds people in urban spaces every day, but we just don’t see it. Similarly, many of the challenges that farmers face in today’s economy are relevant to city dwellers. Time is of the essence On our first day in California, council members met David John, the business strategist at General Produce Company, a distribution center located 10 minutes from the central business district of Sacramento. As we walked through dozens of icy storage rooms, John told us that from the time of arrival to the time of departure, almost all of the fresh fruits and vegetables are present in the facility for less than 48 hours. The center runs 24/7, with days off only on Christmas and New Year’s. When asked about the built environment of the facility, John said that many of the workers adjust rooms or shelving as needed with changes in supply, but that it is difficult to allow for changes because they take time away from moving product. This distribution center, like a vital transit system in a big city, cannot take a day off. We surmised that systems thinking, like that used in transportation engineering, could be used to create more flexible environments in food distribution centers, along with more adaptable storage facilities. The berry farmer’s dilemma Following a brief meeting with the president of the Strawberry Commission of California near Salinas, our council climbed through coastal strawberry fields owned and operated by Tom AmRhein of Naturipe, Inc. AmRhein presented us with a pressing issue that berry farmers are facing in the area: The median home value in Salinas is more than $400,000. With minimum wage for farm laborers at $11 an hour, an enormous gap exists between the incomes of berry pickers and the supply of affordable housing in the area. As a result, AmRhein said that as many as five different families may share a home together in the valley, bringing housing density to the level of some of the nation’s biggest cities. As we downloaded our findings from Tom, the council considered what kind of affordable housing solutions could designers, working with migrant communities, dream up for rural laborers and their families. Moreover, with climate change making weather patterns and farming yields more unpredictable than ever, what kind of housing solutions would provide stronger, more stable, and adaptable shelters in this harsh environment? What’s next? When asked about innovation in agriculture, our program collaborator Kyeema Zerbe, deputy director of the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food & Health (IIFH), said, “The IIFH prides itself on making uncommon interdisciplinary connections to catalyze innovation across food, agriculture, and health. Collaborations like those with Van Alen help facilitate exploration of systemic issues and view prevailing challenges from new local and regional perspectives. By delving into the intersections between design, agriculture, and innovation, we can begin to imagine a safer, more sustainable and secure food system.” Van Alen believes that climate change is an all-encompassing phenomenon. In such politically divided times, the organization seeks opportunities where designers can work under the partisan radar to generate true collaboration between cities and their surrounding regions, inviting professionals from all backgrounds to innovate. The Climate Council’s experience in Sacramento is an example of how nontraditional collaboration and open-mindedness can lead to enlightened discovery. And it’s just the beginning. On its third day in California, Climate Council members huddled pensively around drafting tables at the UC Davis Department of Landscape Architecture. Over the hours of charrette that followed, they revisited the issues that arose during this trip: How could farm feedback loops inform urban design? What role does governance play in the lack of balance of inputs and outputs in major cities? How can interdisciplinary design professionals enhance the security and resilience of existing rural communities that support our farm industry? Together, we started envisioning answers to these and other questions and made plans to return to Sacramento in early 2019 with design concepts to address them. When we go back, we intend to continue our conversations with local farmers, community members, and other stakeholders. We know there are opportunities for collaboration and implementation; we just need time together. We are onto something.
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Studio Cadena’s Happy wins Van Alen’s Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday competition

A shimmering yellow sculpture will pop against Manhattan's Flatiron building as its backdrop this holiday season, courtesy of Studio Cadena. As winners of the fifth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design competition, Happy will be on display for visitors to enjoy in the North Flatiron Public Plaza starting November 19th. According to the architects, this temporary project is a “warm embrace” for the city in the colder winter months and is meant to make people smile. “Happy is both a figure and a place,” writes Studio Cadena. “In our otherwise bleak social and political context, this architectural installation aspires to carve a small yet more positive urban space.” Happy is shaped by 24 transparent vinyl screens hung from an open frame. Throughout the day it’s set to shimmer and reflect the light in the surrounding neighborhood. Towards the end of the day, it’s designed to cast colored shadows on the plaza sidewalk.  Studio Cadena’s design was one of seven other finalists chosen to submit proposals for an invite-only competition. Hosted each year by the Van Alen Institute and Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, the projects are aimed to spread cheer and enliven the plaza. Other finalists include Agency—Agency, Brandt : Haferd, MODU, N H M D, Office III, P.R.O., and Wolfgang & Hite. Last year’s winner, Future Expansion, designed a semi-enclosure of metal tubes resembling a public pipe organ.
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Van Alen Institute’s Climate Council looks at designing for the future of food

Covering more than 300 miles to visit 12 sites over three days, the 22 members of Van Alen Institute’s new Climate Council visited the Central Valley area of California earlier this month to explore the impact of climate change on food production. The environmentally minded architects, engineers, designers, and other professionals who compose the council met each other for the first time in the bright light of Sacramento. They exchanged ideas and shared meals during a trip curated by Van Alen in collaboration with the University of California Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health. They visited small urban gardens in Sacramento and giant farms in the countryside. They toured the largest tomato processing facility in the state and a third-generation produce distribution company. They met with land experts and innovators in food production and transportation and learned about water management and worker housing challenges. On the last day, Van Alen teamed council members with University of California professors and students for a workshop on Designing for a Future of Food. The inter-disciplinary teams explored how designers and the farming community could work together to tackle regional problems and inefficiencies brought about by climate change. Workshop results are providing the foundation for the council’s next trip early next year. In AN's September issue, read more about Van Alen’s Climate Council and what they learned about water, labor, and land and designing for the future of food.
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15 great events to attend during the AIA Conference in New York City

The AIA Conference on Architecture is just around the corner, from June 21 to 23 at the Javits Center in New York City. To add to the excitement, the city will be bustling with architecture events and exhibits, including at MoMA PS1, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and the Van Alen Institute. Here are our editors' highlights for the week. 1) MoMA PS1 
Young Architects Program Museum of Modern Art 11 West 53rd St. (Midtown) June 18 6:00–8:00 pm. Free. RSVPs required* www.momaps1.org Exhibition reception for 2018 Young Architects Program, featuring finalists LeCAVALIER R+D, FreelandBuck, BairBalliet, and OFICINAA. The winning scheme Hide & Seek by Dream The Combine (Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers), opens to the public June 26. Opening reception, limited space. 2) Night at the Museums Various locations June 19 4:00–8:00 pm. Free. NightattheMuseums.org Fourteen Lower Manhattan museums open their
 doors, free of charge, as part of this annual event. Visit the Skyscraper Museum, African Burial Ground, Museum of Jewish Heritage, South Street Seaport Museum, National 9/11 Memorial, and others. 3) Architecture Books Opening Reception Storefront for Art and Architecture 97 Kenmare St. (SoHo) June 19 7:00–9:00 pm. Free. Storefrontnews.org Now on display at the legendary Steven Holl and Vito Acconci–designed gallery, selection of 100 fundamental books, selected by a jury, based on Storefront’s Global Survey of Architecture Books. On June 26, Storefront will host a conference at the New York Public Library Main Branch (6:30–8:30 pm, free), featuring prominent architects. 4) Solstice: 24x24x24 Storefront for Art and Architecture 97 Kenmare St. (SoHo) June 20–June 21 Storefrontnews.org Making the most of the longest day of the year, 24x24x24 brings together 24 designers to shape a day of programming and contribute a seat for a collective gathering during the summer solstice. From dawn until dusk, 24x24x24 is an experiment in collective production in design, action, and thinking. 24x24x24 is collectively organized and curated by a group of architects who will be taking over Storefront for Art and Architecture from 7pm on June 20 to 7pm on June 21. 5) Mind the Gap: Improving Urban Mobility Through Science and Design Van Alen Institute 30 West 22nd St. (Flatiron) June 20 6:30–8:30 pm. Free. VanAlen.org An examination of how populations move through cities, using tools and methods from neuroscience and behavioral psychology. Organized by the Van Alen Institute. AN’s very own Assistant Editor Jonathan Hilburg will moderate the discussion. 6) Summer Solstice Aperitivo
 Vitra 100 Gansevoort St. (Meatpacking District) June 21 4:00-8:00 pm. Free with RSVP* aiany.org Toast the summer solstice with Vitra and Skyline Design. Aperitivi, live DJ, and special exhibitions. 7) Architecture League Prize 2018: Night 1 Sheila C. Johnson
 Design Center Parsons School of Design 66 Fifth Ave. (Greenwich Village) June 21 7:00–9:00 pm. $10 for non-members. RSVP required* ArchLeague.org Lectures by the winners of the Architectural League’s prestigious annual prize, recognizing the nation’s top young architects: Gabriel Cueller & Athar Mufreh, Coryn Kempster, and Bryony Roberts. Followed by reception 8) Modulightor Building Open House 246 East 58th St. (Midtown) June 22 6:00–9:00 pm. $15. RSVP required* modulightor.com Tour Paul Rudolph’s stunning four-story glass townhouse.
9) Infrastructure: The Architecture Lobby National Think-In Javits Center 655 W 34th St, New York June 22 7:00 am–7:00 pm Prime Produce 424 W 54th St (between 9th and 10th aves) June 23 10:00 am – 7:00pm This Think-In is divided into two parts over two days: active engagement with relevant sessions at the AIA National convention to ensure substantive dialogues on professional issues on Friday, June 22; and Think-In panel discussions on Saturday, June 23 at Prime Produce that examine the theme of Infrastructure. Infrastructure is the network of systems necessary for an organization to function. When those systems are degraded enough, the defining functions of the organization fail. The Architecture Lobby has selected this theme for its first National Think-In to generate a way forward and rebuild our discipline’s infrastructure. 10) Architecture League Prize 2018: Night 2 Sheila C. Johnson
 Design Center Parsons School of Design 66 Fifth Ave. (Greenwich Village) June 22 7:00–9:00 pm. $10 for non-members. RSVP required* ArchLeague.org Lectures by winners of the Architectural League’s prize: Anya Sirota, Alison Von Glinow & Lap Chi Kwong, and Dan Spiegel. 11) A’18 Community Service Day Various locations Check-in: Center for Architecture 536 LaGuardia Place 7:30 am–6:00 pm; reception 6:00–8:00 pm aiany.org/a18 Looking for a meaningful way to spend the last day of conference? AIANY encourages you to volunteer for a half or full day of work that will benefit local nonprofits. Roll
 up your sleeps and pitch in on projects that range from upgrading a church kitchen, fixing a shelter’s community room, working a mobile farmer’s market in an underserved community, and installing infrastructure at a school’s educational outdoor garden. Volunteers will have the chance to make a real difference for these organizations and the people they serve, and
 see parts of New York City that they might not otherwise visit. Collaborating firms include: Cannon Design and Stalco Construction, James Wagman Architect, Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects, FXCollaborative, Perkins Eastman, and 1100 Architect. Participants must sign up in advance. 12) Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers
 Arnold and Sheila
 Aronson Galleries Parsons School of Design 66 Fifth Ave.
(Greenwich Village) June 22–23 12:00–6:00 pm. Free. ArchLeague.org Exhibition featuring the 2018 winners of this prestigious prize program. This year’s theme, Objective, asked entrants to consider objectivity and criteria by which architecture might be judged today. 13) Panorama of the City of New York
 Queens Museum Flushing Meadows Corona Park Ongoing QueensMuseum.org Conceived by urban mastermind and World’s Fair President Robert Moses for the 1964 Fair, the Panorama is a 1:1200 scale model of New York City, covering 469 acres and including hundreds of thousands individually crafted buildings. In 1992, the original modelmaker updated the Panorama while the museum underwent its expansion, designed by Rafael Viñoly. 14) New York at Its Core: 400 Years of NYC History Museum of the City
 of New York 1220 Fifth Ave.
(Upper East Side) Ongoing MCNY.org What made New York New York? Follow the story of the city’s rise from a striving Dutch village to today’s “Capital of the World.” Framed around themes of money, density, diversity, and creativity, the city delves into its past and invites visitors to propose visions for its future. 15) Designing Waste: Strategies for a Zero Waste City Center for Architecture 536 La Guardia Place (Greenwich village) Through September 1 CenterforArchitecture.org Waste is a design problem. This show presents strategies for architects, designers, and building professionals to help divert waste from landfills. Curator Andrew Blum will lead tours of the exhibition on Friday, June 22, 10:00–11:00 am, and Saturday, June 23, 11:00 am–12:00 pm. This exhibition is based on the Zero Waste Design Guidelines and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. Text by AIA City Guide, Storefront for Art and Architecture and AN.
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Van Alen Institute’s spring festival focuses on getting around New York City

New York City subways and buses serve eight million riders per weekday. However, the transit system that many New Yorkers rely on encounters frequent delays and suspensions. As a response, New York-based Van Alen Institute will bring together city planners and participants to imagine new approaches towards seeing, navigating, and moving through the urban environment, with a series of events ranging from bus and bike tours to a flash design competition, from June 17 to June 23. The Van Alen-organized spring festival, "FLOW! Getting Around the Changing City" seeks to rethink the consequences of the 15-month-long L-train shutdown, among other transit issues in New York City. They will host “The Williamsburg Challenge,” where participants will test out what it’s like to travel from Union Square to Williamsburg without using the L train. The institute has also invited professional teams to propose creative solutions to solve the over-ground congestion created by the L train shutdown, in a one-night-only design competition. On June 20, AN’s very own Assistant Editor Jonathan Hilburg will moderate the talk, “Mind the Gap: Improving Urban Mobility through Science and Design." Participants include author Susan Magsamen, Perkins + Wills Associate Principal Gerald Tierney, Gehl Studio Associate Julia Day, and Multimer Strategy Associate Taylor Nakagawa. Other events include an East Village-to-Harlem bus tour led by sociologist and author Garnette Cadogan, a four-hour Brooklyn bicycle tour, a screening of the William Holly Whyte-produced The Social Life of Small Urban Space, and an interactive Urban Mobility Variety Show at Figment NYC featuring dance, music and other performances. Check out this link for a full schedule and tickets.
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Flatiron holiday installation provides festive respite from the city

If you’re craving holiday cheer in Manhattan, Brooklyn-based Future Expansion’s festive seasonal installation in the Flatiron is now open. Urbanist nonprofit and installation co-sponsor Van Alen Institute unveiled the winning design in October, and it recently released images of Flatiron Reflection, the final design by winner Future Expansion, comprised of shimmering semi enclosure of metal tubes and sited across from the Flatiron building. The installation resembles a public pipe organ, with a white base that floats above the ground. Niches on the outside are meant for close huddles, while the interior allows for quieter contemplation of the busy 23rd Street intersection near Madison Square Park. “We’re excited to be working with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute to temporarily transform this spectacular site,” said Deirdre and Nicholas McDermott, principals of Future Expansion, in prepared remarks. “The installation is designed for three scales of experience: The deeply creased exterior makes spaces for individuals; the interior room offers an intimate panorama for small groups; and the north-facing wedge presents a platform toward the plaza. We hope that the installation opens new possibilities for interaction and experiences while reinforcing the pure public essence of the site.” Future Expansion’s installation is the fourth in the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition, an annual event produced in collaboration with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, the neighborhood’s Business Improvement District (BID). The project is permitted through New York City Department of Transportation’s DOT Art program, and is free and open to the public daily through January 1, 2018, weather permitting.
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Van Alen competition on Miami’s sea level rise comes with $850,000 budget

Recognizing how vulnerable southern Florida is in the face of climate change, the Van Alen Institute has launched Keeping Current: A Sea-Level Rise Challenge for Greater Miami. Targeting the Greater Miami Area, Keeping Current is a multi-disciplinary design challenge that is not only looking for answers about how to build a more resilient coastal city, but also offers sites ready to turn the winning plans into reality, with an $850,000 budget to implement them. Hurricane Irma’s near-miss this past summer only served to underscore just how vulnerable Miami really is, in a city already under threat from rising sea levels, where saltwater bubbles up through the porous limestone bedrock below. Recognizing the problem’s urgency, Van Alen has teamed up with the Greater Miami Area municipalities’ resilience, procurement, and budget teams to evaluate resilient infrastructure projects that both adapt to climate change as well as safeguard the investment that local municipalities will put into the project. The contest itself is spread out over three challenges across two sites, scheduled for the winter, spring and fall of 2018. Working with local elected officials, stakeholders, academics and business leaders, design teams will propose resilient solutions for a variety of sites facing different climate change-related problems. Winning entries will focus on addressing “economy, ecology and equity” or balancing budget concerns with community input, and will be given a total of $850,000 to realize their designs in real life. Ultimately, the goal is that the winning designs be scalable and replicable across all of Florida. Keeping Current is about more than safeguarding existing infrastructure. What Van Alen and the municipalities want from this contest is to turn Miami into a leader in urban coastal resilience, while encouraging growth in an area that would be devastated by only a three-foot rise in sea levels. With everything from drinking water, to agriculture, to billions of dollars’ worth of residential and commercial buildings at risk, interdisciplanary solutions are needed now more than ever. Keeping Current is sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, The Miami Foundation, and Target. The full design and community engagement guides will be made available by the Van Alen Institute in February of 2018.
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Van Alen Institute reveals winner of Flatiron holiday installation contest

The Van Alen Institute has announced the winner of its annual competition to design a festive holiday folly in the Flatiron. This year the architecture nonprofit, in collaboration with a local BID, tapped Brooklyn's Future Expansion to design a temporary installation on a traffic island right off of Madison Square Park. This year's installation is shiny. For Flatiron Reflection, Future Expansion used bright tubes to create closed spaces for quiet contemplation, with a central stage that opens out onto the plaza. The interior massing freezes the famous Flatiron Building in a romantic tableaux. Flatiron Reflection is fourth iteration of the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition, a seasonal initiative sponsored by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID). The project is sanctioned by NYC DOT Art, and will remain on view through January 1, 2018. “We’re excited to be working with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute to temporarily transform this spectacular site,” said Deirdre and Nicholas McDermott, principals of Future Expansion, in a prepared statement. “The installation is designed for three scales of experience: the deeply creased exterior makes spaces for individuals; the interior room offers an intimate panorama for small groups; and the north-facing wedge presents a platform toward the plaza. We hope that the installation opens new possibilities for interaction and experiences while reinforcing the pure public essence of the site.” When the competition opened this summer, Van Alen invited ten firms—Future ExpansionHive Public SpaceKyle May, ArchitectPracticeSchaum/Shieh; The Principals; and BAS; FIRM a.d. with Marman and Borins—to submit proposals for the installation. Last year, LOT illuminated the same plaza with bright white arches. There were hammocks for lounging, too. Planning a visit? Van Alen and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership are encouraging visitors to tag their Twitter and Instagram posts with #FlatironReflection to win prizes from area businesses.
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Sweden comes to New York for a series on democratic architecture

From October 24 to 28, the Center for Architecture and Van Alen Institute will host Swedish Design Moves New York, a program exploring Swedish innovation in architecture and design. In addition to a series of public panels, an exhibition of Swedish architecture projects called Aiming for Democratic Architecture will be on view at the Van Alen Institute from October 26 to 28, curated by Architects Sweden and the Swedish Institute. This program is part of the Center for Architecture's Archtober 2017. The program, curated by an international nonprofit called STHLMNYC, will focus on the concept of democratic architecture using Sweden as a progressive touchpoint. According to the series' press release, "Sweden's egalitarian society and intimate relation to nature have generated great examples of balanced architectural solutions that accommodate both community and environmental needs." Through multidisciplinary panels that bring together architects, planners, and designers from the U.S. and Sweden, Swedish Design Moves will look at the application of these principles worldwide. Previous iterations have been hosted in Stockholm, Milan, London, and Paris. The four-day program will open with The Process of Democratic Architecture, a panel that will include Christer Larsson from the Department of City Planning in Malmö, Sweden, Alexandra Hagen from White Arkitekter, Per Franson from the KTH School of Architecture, David Burney from Pratt Institute, Claudia Herasme from the New York Department of City Planning, and Chris Sharples from SHoP Architects. The series will also include a conversation on nature and well-being with panelists from Wingårdhs, Urbio, Marge, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, and RAAD STUDIO, a conversation on culture and people with panelists from GoDown Arts Centre, White Arkitekter, Mandaworks, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and a conversation on innovative solutions with panelists from CFMoller, Färgfabriken, Stockholm City, ORE Design, and HPD Architecture. Along with the panels, several workshops will also offer an in-depth look at questions of a "new urban agenda" and the potential of self-built housing. Equity in design will be a central topic at each panel. "One of the largest challenges we face when it comes to the built environment is affordability," said Chris Sharples, Principal at SHoP Architects. "Our role as architects and planners is to come up with new material systems and design/building processes that allow us to address the cost constraints." Swedish Design Moves New York was organized through a partnership between Visit Sweden, STHLMNYC, Architects Sweden, The Swedish Institute, and the Consulate General of Sweden in New York. The full program for Swedish Design Moves New York (October 24 - 28) at the Center for Architecture and Van Alen Institute is available here.
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This design team has ideas for a better, more humane jail system

Rikers Island, New York City's notorious jail complex, is set to close within the next decade. For some activists, the pace of change is too slow, but, if the city is taken at its word, ten years is a solid chunk of time to rethink justice in 21st century New York. A design team, convened by Van Alen in collaboration with NADAAA, has set out to do exactly that. Justice in Design, a new report from the Van Alen Institute, a design advocacy organization, gives broad guidelines on how New York's criminal justice system should look, feel, and function. Notably, it centers the urban condition but aims to enhance life for those behind bars, as well as those outside the justice system, by elevating both the city and the jail's livability with public programming, dense service networks, and lots of light and greenery. The project was deeply collaborative. To produce Justice in Design, Van Alen partnered with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the legal experts, politicians, developers, and prison reform advocates she convened last year to address the Rikers closure. That group, sometimes called the Lippman Commission but known formally as the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, issued its recommendations this past March: Closing Rikers Island, it said, is a "moral imperative," and it advocated for reducing the city's overall jail population and creating a network of neighborhood-based jails. To that end, Van Alen convened architects, environmental psychologists, prison reformers, and nonprofit leaders for the project team. Dan Gallagher and Nader Tehrani, principals at New York– and Boston-based NADAAA, partnered with urbanist Karen Kubey; Susan Opotow and Jayne Mooney, a psychologist and associate professor of sociology, respectively, who work at both John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate Center, CUNY; as well as Susan Gottesfeld of the Osborne Association, a nonprofit that works with justice-involved individuals and their families. (The team is credited in the commission's report with providing "additional support" to the study.) The group hosted workshops in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens with law enforcement, reformers, academics, and formerly incarcerated individuals to get an idea of what jail is like inside, and after. The workshops, Gallagher said, helped the designers better understand both day-to-day life in Rikers and incarceration's impact on housing choice, employment, and mental health long after release. From there, the team developed its design guidelines. Instead of producing a strictly carceral space, the designers envisioned a networked jail system spread throughout the city and meant to serve the wider community, not just prisoners. Called Justice Hubs, the mini-neighborhoods are intended to confront re-entry dilemmas—despite new rules, for example, many industries still discriminate against people with backgrounds—while addressing day-to-day challenges faced by those who work in the criminal justice system. In the Brooklyn forum, residents said they weren't concerned about safety if a jail were to open in their neighborhood. Instead, Gahllager said, people were worried the building would be ugly: a grey concrete Hulk surrounded by razor wire. That prompted the team to think not only about the design of the jail itself, but its relationship to the city and its people. "The building has to become more than a big wall with something else going on inside," said Gallagher, a partner at NADAAA. "It has to be an active tool of civic engagement." NADAAA's conceptual designs try to make life on the inside as normal ("more conventional," per Gallagher) as possible. The report emphasizes access to natural light and ventilation not only in outdoor areas, but in visitor rooms, activity spaces, and (especially) cells. Instead of monolithic cinder blocks and concrete finished, the architects advocated for softer, natural finishes to add visual variety and reduce background noise, a significant stressor in close quarters. The layout is supposed to make it easier to move within the jail, and the facilities would be placed near courts and social services. There would be ample but unobtrusive parking for corrections officers, too. The team didn't want to reproduce the spatial segregation that Rikers—a literal island in the East River, near Laguardia Airport—embodied. As a result, community facilities like public outdoor space, gardens, art studios, and libraries are part of the program and are open to detainee's friends and family, as well as residents who have no personal involvement with the jail. This is the first time NADAAA has done a project like this. Van Alen approached the firm both for their design sense and for their ability to analyze and rethink troubled systems. "It was one of those situations where we said, 'okay let's jump in with both feet,'" Gallagher explained. He gave full credit to the team's non-architects, whose research and work experience brought a local and highly international perspective to the project. They read up on Denmark, for example, which lets inmates wear street clothing and cook with sharp knives (but even their relatively progressive prison system is far from perfect). The design team's role going forward is unclear, Gallagher and Van Alen confirmed, but both parties want to stay involved. The general recommendations, summarized on the last few pages of the report, are just that. The concepts don't specify designs, as Justice Hubs will adjust to local zoning: A 200-bed facility in densely developed Downtown Brooklyn might look very different from a similar-sized jail in St. George, Staten Island. With a mandate to envision a system that at its core features many jails, there wasn't much room for questioning the fundamentals of the carceral state or challenging the culture of surveillance. But the guidelines are a cautious step in the right direction to end a traumatic system where detainees suffer degrading and abusive treatment, visitors lose hours on the bus to see family, and guards are hurt by inmates who themselves may struggle with poor mental health. Although Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the closing of Rikers, he hasn't been totally clear on whether he supports community-based jails. Given how quickly NIMBYs mobilized against the mayor's new homeless shelters, it's unclear how residents may react to neighborhood jails. Still, the design team is optimistic about the recommendations. "As a society we have a responsibility to facilitate best outcomes," said David van der Leer, Van Alen's executive director. And architects, he hopes, will keep a seat at the table.