This is the seventeenth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! The Center for Remembering and Sharing (CRS) first approached Masa Sono and Clouds Architecture Office about redesigning their studio after seeing the firm’s work at the St. Marks’s Bookstore, a 2015 AIANY Design Award winner and Archtober Building of the Day. CRS was impressed with the curved shelves of the bookstore and wanted a similar design for their space. The studio, known as the white room, was designed as a kind of multipurpose room for meditation, yoga, and relaxation. CRS wanted this space to be a room where their patrons could concentrate and almost lose themselves. Sono and Clouds completely transformed the hard-edged room to a space with a smooth, curved wall. This posed a challenge to the design team since architecture is essentially defined by edges. In curving the walls, Sono wanted to create an ambiguous relationship between the person in the space and distance. The room itself is cone shaped, with the door forming the point and the curved walls emanating from there. The curvature of the room makes the room feel larger, which becomes very apparent when one lies down, as the edges of the wall cannot be seen. Additionally, a one-inch gap between the wall and the floor acts as a horizon in the room. The floor itself is cork, which has the benefit of being soundproof and contrasts well with the stark white walls. The bench below the window doubles as storage space for the room. Clouds did not want a fixed light on the wall, so they put the lighting for the room around the windows. Since light bounces off the walls so well, only a small amount was needed to light the room. CRS originally wanted the room to appear more textured, but they were pleasantly surprised with the minimalist design Clouds came up with. They also designed the rest of the floor, which included office space and a small waiting room. CRS was not the only body impressed with the design, as Clouds won a 2016 AIANY Interiors Design Award. Join us tomorrow as head to the Museum of the City of New York! About the author: Jacob Fredi is the Public Programs and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Center for Architecture. When he’s not on Building of the Day tours, you can find him playing board games (Munchkin!) and brewing his own beer.
Posts tagged with "Archtober":
This is the sixteenth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! When Sarah Rosenblatt of Murphy Burnham & Buttrick (MBB) and Ricardo Viera of Building Conservation Associates, Inc. (BCA) say that they touched every square inch of St. Patrick’s Cathedral during its three-year restoration, they aren’t kidding. From surveying each piece of stained glass window to washing individual blocks of marble and cleaning the 7,855-pipe gallery organ, this project was nothing short of detailed—and all done without closing the cathedral for a single day. Today’s tour highlighted the comprehensive restoration of the 137-year-old cathedral and the countless hours of collaboration that it took to accomplish this massive achievement. Our tour began across the street from the cathedral’s main entrance. From the Atlas statue at Rockefeller Center, we studied the building’s south side façade. Rosenblatt and Viera explained the original design and construction process by American architect James Renwick, Jr. Thanks to a thorough cleaning job using micro-abrasion technology, from our perspective you could easily see the color and texture gradations in the various types of marble chosen through each construction phase in the mid-to-late 1800s. Once a dreary gray due to years of pollution and exposure to rainwater, the seven types of marble and three granites that make up this historic cathedral are more lustrous than ever. Not only did the exterior become significantly lighter during the restoration, but the interior was fully brightened as well. “The building really sings now,” said Rosenblatt as we entered the cathedral’s nave. Renwick’s original vision for the Gothic Revival construction featured a white, bright, and airy interior with natural light filtering in from the stained glass windows and the lay lights in the ten chapels that surround the pews. After reviewing Renwick’s archival drawings, the team discovered and revealed those lay lights, which had been covered for the last 55 years. The deteriorating interior ceiling—plaster fixed to wood lath ribs—was also inspected for repairs and then cleaned and repainted, further brightening the 397-foot space. To convince the Archdiocese to allow such a radical and time-consuming restoration on the interior, the project team first completed one small section of the north transept, unveiling a night-to-day transformation. BCA’s Viera showed before and after photos to the tour group, calling what they did a “big understatement” compared to the project’s full potential. It’s been over 70 years since the cathedral’s last major renovation in the 1940s. Overdue for a new birth of sorts, it went through 33,000 individual repairs. New fire suppression and geothermal mechanical systems were also installed to increase safety and reduce energy consumption. Our tour ended on Madison Avenue, examining the exterior detailing of Lady Chapel. After observing all the ornamentation in the interior roof bosses, on the column capitals, and the spires that top out around the building, Rosenblatt noted how much unknown embellishment they found during surveying. “There’s so much going on that you don’t see from down here on the street or in the nave,” she said. “But I guess the point is that God can see it.” About the author: Sydney Franklin is a content producer at the NYC Department of Design and Construction. She recently graduated from Syracuse University with a master’s degree in architectural journalism.
This is the fifteenth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! Today’s Building of the Day introduced us to the world of urban farming at the Edible School Yard, located at PS7 in East Harlem. As WORKac’s Sam Dufaux explained, the project began with their winning submission for MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Project six years ago. WORKac’s temporary installation, P.F.1 (Public Farm One), was a sustainable, urban garden constructed out of large, cardboard tubes. This project caught the attention of Edible School Yard NYC, who approached WORKac to install these urban gardens in various public schools throughout the city. Edible School Yard’s Annette Slonim and Miram Villamel explained that gardens are placed in schools that tend to have higher obesity rates and that are inside food deserts (i.e. neighborhoods lacking nearby grocery stores or fruit stands). The students plant, grow, harvest, and ultimately cook the vegetables grown in the gardens, thereby helping them understand what processes go into producing the food they eat. In order to make this idea a reality, PS7 needed a garden, a greenhouse, and a kitchen classroom. WORKac began by customizing planters to go in the school’s courtyard so students could grow fruits and vegetables while the school’s greenhouse was being constructed on top of the existing cafeteria. They decided to build the greenhouse on top of the existing cafeteria, which allowed WORKac to build a rooftop garden behind the greenhouse. The greenhouse can accommodate 15 to 35 students and includes benches, growing tables, heaters to help keep it warm in the winter, and fans to circulate air. The entire structure was custom built using (mainly) standardized parts and its facade is constructed of painted cement shingles arranged in a pixilated pattern to form the shapes of flowers. As Dufaux explained, this was an easy way to bring color and an identity to the Edible School Yard project. Behind the greenhouse, a garage door opens to reveal the rooftop garden, a feature that proved challenging, as it had to be light enough to go on top of the cafeteria while still providing enough soil to allow plants to grow. To accomplish this, WORKac had to reinforce the entire cafeteria structure, from the concrete slabs down to the foundation itself. The garden’s substrate is commonly used on green roofs, including the garden atop Brooklyn Grange. The school also makes its own compost. Villamel showed us the plants the school is currently growing up there—hearty greens that do well in the winter—and encouraged us to taste them. I can attest that they were quite delicious. Attached to the greenhouse, WORKac converted a regular classroom into a kitchen classroom. The space, designed to look like a kitchen in a student’s home, was a unique challenge for WORKac and the NYC Department of Education, which normally builds commercial kitchens in their schools. WORKac had to get a variance for many of its design features. Inside, we saw the utensils, bowls, and prep materials to be used in an upcoming class. Villamel and Slonim noted that the kitchen classroom is customized to include foods the students of the area might typically eat at home. WORKac and Edible School Yard NYC have come together to provide the students of PS7 a one-of–a-kind learning experience in a one-of-a-kind learning environment. Tomorrow, we venture to St. Patrick’s Cathedral! About the author: Jacob Fredi is the Public Programs and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Center for Architecture. When he’s not on Building of the Day tours, you can find him playing board games (Dominion!) and brewing his own beer.
This is the fourteenth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! Picture this: a spacious and inviting apartment snug in the heart of Chelsea. Its crisp, white walls and warm ash wood flooring provides an impeccably balanced sense of trendiness and coziness. West-facing windows offer a glimpse of sunsets on the Hudson River from the 15th floor of the historic co-op, located at 201 West 16th Street. The only catch? It’s 400 square feet, the legal minimum size for a Chelsea apartment. “Spacious” and “400 square feet” may sound oxymoronic, but Architecture Workshop’s Robert Garneau, AIA, LEEP AP, made it work. And the “Pivot apartment,” as it is called, ended up working for him in return: His Brooklyn-based firm won an AIANY Honor Award for Interior Architecture this year. Owners Paul and Billie Andersson had two design parameters that Garneau had to meet: The apartment should sleep up to six adults and provide enough space to comfortably seat 10 to 12 guests for Thanksgiving. What Garneau created easily met those demands and then went the extra mile. The Pivot apartment is so named for its pièce de résistance: a moveable wall in the living room that reveals an expansive but intimate bedroom space when opened. The room includes a queen-sized murphy bed and an expandable couch that can accommodate up to four adults, as well as a TV and generously sized closet. And there’s still room to walk to the kitchen for a midnight snack. The interior wall, which doubles as the closet, is fabricated with the same ash wood as the floor, creating a functionally sound-proof space. A sliding door in the kitchen can fully enclose the bedroom, making it light-proof as well. “I wanted to create a cottage or cabin feeling for the bedroom,” explained Garneau, an impressive feat in a metropolis like Manhattan. That warm, homey feeling is carried over into the bathroom, which is tiled with travertine, illuminated by recessed ceiling LEDs, and separated from the rest of the apartment by a mahogany door. The bathroom can accommodate up to two people through the inclusion of a glass pane that pivots out from the wall—essentially a European-style shower. The floor is imperceptibly pitched to allow water to run into the floor drain and mirrored dark wood cabinetry provides more than enough storage space in this diminutive bathroom. The living room and kitchen radiate a trendy feel with white walls, gray kitchen cabinetry, and stainless steel fixtures. The kitchen is another marvel of ingenuity, with a discrete fridge and freezer tucked in underneath the counter top and a kitchen table that can be raised to double as additional counter space. “You’ve got to know a few things about this apartment to live here,” said Andersson, referring to the multiplicity of movable parts and hidden storage spaces that make up this compact home. But those little innovative surprises are ultimately what make Pivot such a delight. “It’s like a big toy,” said Garneau. “This project was so much fun to make.” About the author: Anna Gibertini is a freelance journalist based in the New York metropolitan area. She contributes regularly to The ArtBlog, a Philadelphia-based arts and culture publication, and has had work published in Charleston, South Carolina’s Post & Courier and Syracuse, New York’s The Post Standard. She recently graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s in arts journalism.
This is the thirteenth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! We’re at the halfway point of Archtober and today’s Building of the Day tour brought us to Brooklyn to tour Marvel Architects’ AIANY Design Award-winning St. Ann’s Warehouse. We met our tour guides, Lissa So, AIA and Zachary Griffin, RA, in the Max Family Garden adjacent to St. Ann’s Warehouse where they gave the group some historical context for the building. The original structure was built in 1886 and consisted of five stories. In the 1940s, the building was lowered to two stories and was later abandoned. The Silman Group was brought in in 2000 to strengthen the existing brick walls, but the structure stood as a shell until Marvel started construction in 2013. So and Griffin told us how their primary design goals were to respect the existing historic brick walls while giving St. Ann’s a wide open floor plan for their activities. Upon entering the lobby, you immediately notice how the walls are primarily unfinished plywood. This was entirely intentional as Marvel wanted to use as little paint as possible in order to play the new walls off the old brick walls. It gives it an old, industrial look which works well in the space. Inside, the designers wanted the lobby and main floor space to feel continuous, so there are no doors separating the main lobby area from the performance area. This really allows patrons to grasp the scale of the building. Perhaps the most noticeable feature of St. Ann’s is the glass brick wall atop the historic brick walls. The existing walls are 24 feet tall and Marvel needed an additional seven feet to accommodate new mechanical areas. So and Griffin decided to use glass bricks after trying out almost every other material since that gave them the best acoustics in the space while also nicely complimenting while not explicitly imitating the existing brick. Being directly under the Brooklyn Bridge meant that acoustics were an extremely challenging feature to deal with. The glass brick also allows ample natural light into the space, a nice change from other theaters. The main staging space is very flexible by design. Seating can be added or removed as needed and the floor is Masonite which allows St. Ann’s to paint and replace them. Working with Charcoalblue, Marvel built a very intricate catwalk in the newly added space above where they hid the electrical, lighting, and HVAC systems. Marvel began construction shortly after Sandy, so there was a concerted effort to put mechanical systems up above in case of another catastrophic weather event. One of the more interesting parts of the building is the bathroom adjacent to the lobby. Marvel originally wanted a unisex bathroom in the space, but the Department of Buildings would not allow that to happen. As a compromise, Marvel built a common area with sinks and mirrors. The unique lighting fixtures from David Weeks Studio and infinity mirrors go a long way in making the bathrooms a quirky, fun part of St. Ann’s. We’re taking off the next two days to allow everyone to enjoy the amazing selection of buildings offered by Open House New York Weekend. We’ll be back Monday for our visit to Pivot! About the author: Jacob Fredi is the Public Programs and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Center for Architecture. When he’s not on Building of the Day tours, you can find him playing board games (Settlers of Catan!) and brewing his own beer.
This is the twelfth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! This afternoon, Andrea Steele, principal of TEN Arquitectos, led the thirteenth Archtober Building of the Day tour, an informative visit to the New York Public 53rd Street Library branch. Designed by her firm and completed in June, the new facility opposite the Museum of Modern Art occupies the site of the former Donnell Library Center, which it shares with the new 50-story Baccarat Hotel & Residences designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. While the location is excellent, the space presented many challenges. The library occupies three levels, one at street level and two below grade, with only fifty feet of street frontage. The majority of the library lies below the new tower and, as a result, it had to be planned around a massive sheer wall and a large elevator core. In certain locations the floor slabs are sloped, penetrated and pulled back, thereby creating multi-story spaces and openings to introduce natural light to the lower levels and diminish the perception of being subterranean. Architect and client sought to make the library as open and inviting to the public as possible and to encourage dialogue with the city. Public engagement was one of the main objectives of the design and remains an important goal of the library’s programming, which has already included after-hours concerts, opera performances, and presidential debate screenings. To draw people in, the building’s facade is extremely open and transparent, offering views to the stepped Main Hall, a multi-use space that connects the street level with the Central level below. Responsible for interior design as well as architecture, TEN Arquitectos have created a lively and engaging space. Materials such as exposed architectural concrete, corrugated perforated metal, wood floors, felt, and ceilings of metal grating were selected to express, in Steele’s words, “the tectonics of the city.” Sleek contemporary furnishings recall designs of Prouve and Aalto. Bold environmental graphics were provided by 2x4, who also created a playful mural in the children’s area referencing New York landmarks. About the author: John Shreve Arbuckle, Assoc. AIA guides the AIANY Around Manhattan Architecture boat tours, and organizes and guides tours through Arbuckle Architecture Tours, LLC. He is the President of DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State, a local chapter of an international organization devoted to documenting and preserving Modern architecture.
This is the eleventh in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! Horizon Media 75 Varick Street New York, NY This afternoon, we set our sights on Horizon Media, the fastest growing, privately owned media company in the United States. In 2010, it began construction on what is now a stunning, progressive workspace that unites over 1,000 employees in a single office building in downtown Manhattan. A+I’s Phil Ward and Kate Thatcher took us into the 250,000-square-foot- space, leading us through what felt like the most sunlit, well-connected office maze I’ve ever seen. The company covers three floors at 75 Varick Street. A+I is currently collaborating with them on the fifth phase of the project that will expand the office across the 11th and 12th floors. Though the office is inside a landmarked art deco structure, Horizon’s space looks anything but its real age. From the visitor’s entrance on the 16th floor, a giant LED screen guides visitors into an open space full of natural light. To the left, an internal open staircase is cut out diagonally, connecting three floors of the office. Visitors will immediately see that giant windows line each floor, providing sweeping views of the Hudson, Tribeca, and Soho. It’s clear that access to daylight, along with an emphasis on wood paneling, polished concrete, live plantings, and orange accents, are incorporated into every detail of the office's design. Designer Phil Ward described the building as a dream subject for renovation. Once a pre-war printing press, its sturdy concrete skeleton was able to hold the weight of their creative construction. At one point during the tour, Kate Thatcher asked the group: “What does a modern office space need in a building built 100 years ago?” The answer is technological mobility and connectivity. Horizon operates on transparency and accessibility in a 21st-century media world and their office space reflects that. A+I used the industrial feel of the space to their advantage by creating a clean, seamless office that utilizes glass encasings, white cubicles, and techy conference rooms to suggest openness and creative collaboration amongst employees. While there are individual desks, people can also make calls in phone booths, bring their laptops to small couches, meet in groups on the outdoor terrace, or in even in “the dunes,” a multi-purpose space on the bottom floor with extra seating and a pantry area. Horizon also boasts a game room, a company gym, a theater and a giant fish tank (a special request by CEO Bill Koenigsberg). The new office design has inspired major change in the company culture, according to leadership. Not only are employees encouraged to get up and move throughout the work day—I don’t recall a single elevator outside of the visitor’s entrance—but Horizon also strongly promotes the democratization of office amenities and a flexible workspace. While all the employees are not literally seated on the same floor, the company as a whole aims to be on the same level. About the author: Sydney Franklin is a content producer at the NYC Department of Design and Construction. She recently graduated from Syracuse University with a master’s degree in architectural journalism.
This is the tenth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! For today’s Building of the Day tour, we visited the 2016 AIANY Design Award Winner, Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 Garage and Salt Shed. The Garage and Salt Shed are two separate buildings with specific purposes for the Department of Sanitation. The 425,000 square-foot LEED Gold Certified garage opened in 2015 and houses sanitation trucks from three Manhattan sanitation districts, serving 300,000 residents. Dattner Architects and WXY architecture + urban design worked very closely with the Department of Sanitation, the Public Design Commission, the Department of City Planning, and the Department of Design and Construction to design a building that was functional yet would fit in well with the cityscape. The facade of the building is double skinned, with the interior facade made of glass to allow natural light into the building while the outer façade is composed of 2,600 “fins” made of perforated aluminum. These fins move throughout the day, following the sun to reduce glare inside and keep the temperature pleasant. They also serve the purpose of blocking the headlights and view of the trucks in the garage, which was very important to the neighbors of the garage. Self-sufficiency was a major theme of the construction of the building according to Gia Mainiero, AIA of Dattner Architects. To that effect, the garage has a green roof, the largest in New York City, which helps with energy conservation in the entire building. The plants that comprise the green roof are desert succulents, which require little care and no additional watering. The roof also plays a role in the water conservation of the building. Rainwater from the roof and water created from the Con Ed steam system is collected in a 20,000 gallon tank used to both wash the trucks and supply the building’s sewer system. While the placement of the building was at first controversial, residents are reportedly very pleased with the design of the structure and happy with the fact that it helps keep garbage trucks off the crowded streets. Across the street from the garage is the Salt Shed, which holds 5,000 tons of salt used to keep New York’s streets clear in the winter. It is one of 36 facilities throughout New York City meant to hold de-icing salt. The building is designed to resemble a lump of crystallized salt, with a 32-degree angle on the roof—salt’s natural angle of repose. Salt in the Salt Shed reaches a height of roughly 45 feet and is refilled by trucks as needed in the winter. The structure is currently a grayish-white color, but slag mixed into the concrete means that it will change colors as the building ages. At night, architectural lighting lights the building in a magnificent way and it has become akin to a sculpture of the neighborhood. In fact, as we were on the tour, there was a photoshoot in front—not the first according to our guides. Quite a creative use for a building filled with tons and tons of salt. Tomorrow, we head to Horizon Media. About the author: Julia Christie is the Office Manager at AIANY / Center for Architecture.
This is the ninth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! Schermerhorn Row is a complex of buildings that many of us have walked by or perhaps been inside on a shopping expedition to the South Street Seaport. One may recognize the silhouette of the building and sailing ship in the South Street Seaport Museum’s iconic logo, designed by Chermayeff and Geismar. According to William Roka, historian for the Seaport Museum, the buildings built between 1810 to 1812 comprised of a row of speculative counting houses built by Peter Schermerhorn, a descendant of an important Dutch family instrumental in founding New Amsterdam. Roka provided an interesting and thorough historical context to what he describes as one of New York’s most important building. How is it that this significant landmark, hidden in plain sight, is not more familiar to New Yorkers and their guests alike? Schermerhorn Row has been described as New York’s first world trade center. Peter Schermerhorn was at the right place at the right time to develop a water lot by extending landfill into the East River. He built a warehouse of sorts adjacent to the burgeoning maritime trade just prior to the establishment of a market and ferry named after Robert Fulton. Considered a large building in its day, it served merchants who would handle cargo and account for the taxes and tariffs ascribed to goods moving in and out of the port. The merchant class of New York City nurtured their wealth here and moved to places like Washington Square to live a peaceful life at the edge of a bustling port town. The tour brought us to the upper floors of one of the counting houses where a display of hundred of tools spoke immediately to the human hand in every aspect of labor—on ships and in buildings like Schermerhorn Row. Brute force and rudimentary use of mechanical advantage lessened the burden of lifting, pulling, hauling. In an adjoining counting house, an array of architectural artifacts and archaeological remains suggest a story of simple materials use practically, underscoring the hand-crafted (early nails and bricks were made by hand and used in the building of Schermerhorn Row) nature of architecture in the early days of the nineteenth century. There are few examples of this mercantile typology and hand-wrought technology left in New York City. The highlight of the tour was learning about New York’s early venture into adaptive reuse: Walking the halls of a counting house-turned-hotel where one witnesses airless and lightless rooms that seem cruel and unusual to our modern standards of space and cleanliness. Roca walked us through the rise and fall of the port and Schermerhorn Row. Thankfully, the New Jersey portion of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey nixed the idea of developing the new World Trade Center on a gigantic parcel of land from Wall Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. Grassroots movements and the newly established Landmarks Preservation Commission helped declare 12 blocks surrounding Schermerhorn Row as the South Street Seaport Historic District in 1977. Stay tuned for upcoming tours of Schermerhorn Row as the Seaport Museum brings more of its collection into public view. About the author: Tim Hayduk is the Lead Design Educator at the Center for Architecture. He began teaching about the built environment at South Street Seaport nearly 15 years ago. Tim has a strong affection for the Seaport District and the history that is told through its bricks, mortar, streetscapes, vessels, and people.
This is the eighth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! Today’s very wet Building of the Day tour brought us up to the Bronx where Jay Valgora, AIA, of Studio V Architecture, described the ongoing construction and design of the Bronx Post Office. The post office was originally constructed in 1937 on the Grand Concourse, a thoroughfare that helped to develop the Bronx into the dense urban area it is today. The post office is, as Valgora told us, classical, yet also modern in its style. The structure occupies an entire city block, its symmetrical entrances are framed with white marble that features very fine, precise edges. Despite its enormous size, only the front lobby was accessible to the public, as the rest of the post office was used for postal functions. When the post office was sold in 2014 and Studio V brought in to give the building new life, Valgora found himself facing numerous challenges from various fronts. Firstly, the building and the interior of the lobby are both New York City landmarks and on the National Register of Historic Places. This meant that he had to work closely with the Landmarks Commission to have every change approved. Additionally, local leaders wanted to ensure that the new building served the needs of the community, which meant keeping a portion of the building as a working post office. Studio V has totally restored the landmarked lobby, with the goal of making it completely accessible to the public once again. Murals painted by Ben Shahn during the Works Progress Administration-era are being restored to their original 1930s brilliance. Studio V plans to build a supermarket in the basement and turn the ground floor into a marketplace for different foodstuffs. Valgora explained that this was important for the area as the post office is in one of New York City’s “food deserts” and the addition of a grocery store will greatly help the local population. The second floor will be classroom spaces for Hostos Community College, located right down the street. The third floor will be turned into small, leasable commercial spaces for small businesses. The local community board and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. hope that this space will help in the ongoing resurgence of the Bronx. Studio V plans to add another space on the roof of the post office, which will serve as a restaurant space and open garden. The firm decided to use polycarbonate for this new floor because Valgora did not want the new space to completely imitate the original brick and marble. To that extent, Valgora believes the polycarbonate will serve to complement the original building materials. The restaurant will have glass walls, giving patrons a full view of the Bronx’s skyline. Behind the building, the post office’s original loading dock will serve as the new main entrance to the marketplace on the ground floor. This area is very industrial in character and Studio V decided to use a mesh ceiling in this area as a complement to the original look of this part of the structure. Overall, the Bronx Post Office will integrate itself seamlessly into the area while offering new services crucial for a 21st-century neighborhood. Tomorrow, we venture to the original World Trade Center of New York City: Schermerhorn Row at the South Street Seaport! About the author: Jacob Fredi is the Public Programs and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Center for Architecture. When he’s not on Building of the Day tours, you can find him playing board games (Carcassonne!) and brewing his own beer.
This is the seventh in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! Today’s Building of the Day brought us to the Weeksville Heritage Center for our first Brooklyn building. There, Anita Warren, the director of operations and administration at Weeksville, led us on a tour of the site. From the beginning, Warren made it clear that the design process for Weeksville was a balancing act between old and new, between past and present. James Weeks, a former slave, founded Weeksville in 1831 as a refuge for recently freed slaves living in New York City. The self-sustaining community flourished and eventually grew to 525 families occupying a roughly 30-block area in today’s Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy neighborhoods. The modern structure is LEED Gold certified and was designed by Caples Jefferson Architects to complement the three intact houses that were once a part of Weeksville. To that effect, the building is L-shaped and the inside wall is glass, which allows visitors to see the houses without actually leaving the building. The structure is designed such that the entrance of the building acts as a continuation of Hunterfly Road, the original main street of Weeksville. The height of the building is also quite low so as to not overwhelm the original houses. Caples Jefferson’s design of the modern structure includes many West African design elements, including the fritting pattern on the glass and the cut wood panels in the performance space. The bamboo floors in the performance space are designed to accommodate any events the Center may have, from dance performances to lectures. Warren explained that natural light was very important in the design process, which is why the building is so open and airy. That made designing the main art gallery space a little tricky, but Caples Jefferson accommodated that by installing movable panels in the ceiling that can allow more natural light in or block it, depending on the needs of the exhibition on view. Outside, the landscape, designed by Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architect, also compliments the houses and the original purpose of Weeksville. The meadow harkens back to Weeksville’s past—it is neither flowery nor perfectly manicured. Instead, it looks how it might have looked in the 19th century. A bridge connects the modern building to the houses and serves, as Warren mentioned, as a metaphorical and literal bridge between past and present. The houses themselves are curated to show different time periods of Weeksville. In Warren’s own words, they depict “average people doing average things.” Walking through the modern building, the grounds, and the houses, one can’t help but think about the people who originally inhabited Weeksville and how they really truly made it their own. Join us tomorrow as we venture up to the Bronx to visit the Bronx Post Office! About the author: Jacob Fredi is the Public Programs and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Center for Architecture. When he’s not on Building of the Day tours, you can find him playing board games (Five Tribes!) and brewing his own beer.
This is the sixth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! As it stands today, the New York State Pavilion looks like it belongs in outer space—a little out of place but powerful in its presence. Anyone new to town who is driving on the Long Island Expressway or riding the train to Citi Field probably doesn’t give much thought to the oddly shaped structure, its historic significance, or the fact that it sits in the largest park in the borough. But as a huge fan of old buildings, when I first saw it just over a year ago, I was curious to know what this carnivalesque piece of architecture was doing in the middle of—what felt like, at the time—nowhere. By now I’ve educated myself on Queens history and have finally taken a tour of the famous fairgrounds with a crowd of Archtober enthusiasts. My initial observations about it were close: The New York State Pavilion is reminiscent of a big top circus; it was built for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. Originally designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson, the Pavilion is one of the city’s most iconic midcentury relics and a defining feature of the Queens skyline. It can be seen from the window of a plane on its way to LaGuardia Airport or from the numerous highways that encircle Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The Pavilion is a concrete and steel structure made up of three distinct parts: a theater, a 226-foot tower with three observation decks, and a 100-foot high, spiky, bright yellow, open-air elliptical ring. These constructions were once known as the Theaterama, the Astro-View Towers, and the Tent of Tomorrow. Today’s tour was led by five passionate members of the New York State Pavilion Project: Jim Brown, John Piro, Gary Miller, Mitch Silverstein, and Stephanie Bohn. Their grassroots effort is dedicated to restoring and repainting the structures, as well as bringing awareness towards the Pavilion’s future—an idea that’s received a lot of attention lately thanks to the support of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. While these gatekeepers regularly host open houses at the Pavilion, today’s sneak peek inside the stately structure felt more intimate. As we stood inside the ring, clearly deteriorating due to weather overexposure, I felt a sense of energy inside the place. Though now empty, I could imagine over 50 million people flooding the fairground in the early 1960s. Some fellow tour-goers had actually been to the Fair themselves and could recall personal memories inside the Tent of Tomorrow, like walking over the giant Texaco map of New York State or staring up at the stained glass ceiling. The Pavilion even game me serious New York State pride, and I’m from Kentucky. According to our guides, Philip Johnson once said that he loved the Pavilion more as a stand-alone, derelict structure than when it was at the height of its heyday. And much like it was in 1964, the building is the main attraction. Based on today’s tour, the people who are dedicated to preserving this national treasure seem to feel the same. About the author: Sydney Franklin is a content producer at the NYC Department of Design and Construction. She recently graduated from Syracuse University with a master’s degree in architectural journalism.