Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) is slated to transform Buffalo, New York’s old yet beloved waterfront park into a sweeping linear landscape and cultural destination along Lake Erie’s edge. The design team will reimagine the city’s 77-acre LaSalle Park as the new Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park, named after the late owner of the Buffalo Bills. The redesign is part of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s big push to improve parks and trails in Western New York and Detroit. In October, the Foundation announced a $200 million investment it would split between the two locales, which includes the build-out of a new 22-acre waterfront park in Detroit also designed by MVVA. Though the New York–based landscape architecture firm had already unveiled renderings of the Motor City’s proposed park earlier this year, no firm had been chosen for the Buffalo project. To Bob Shibley, dean of the University of Buffalo (UB) Regional Institute in the School of Architecture and Planning, who’s helping to spearhead the project, MVVA was a natural fit. The university helped form the Imagine LaSalle Focus Group, a team of 22 community stakeholders who toured successful park projects in Cincinnati, New York, and Chicago to gain inspiration for their hometown’s goals. “People were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about those projects,” said Shibley. “When the announcement was made that Micahel Van Valkenburgh would do Detroit and that both of our parks would be named after Wilson, it was obvious the parallel between the two cities was important.” This “paired park” idea isn’t an explicit design decision, said Shibley, but a nice nod to the Wilson Foundation and its commitment to improving the well-being of people living in both Buffalo and Detroit. MVVA will now take on the challenge of bringing those two separate community visions to life. Even though the parks will be sharing the same name and touch the same body of water, both are inherently different landscapes to Michael Van Valkenburgh. “The two assignments have quite different challenges about them, more contextual differences,” he said. “In some fundamental ways, they mirror each other, but topographically, they’re totally different. LaSalle is twice the size and literally grades right into Lake Erie, while the Detroit side is perched up with a sea wall. The aspirations are similar, but we’ll have to input quite different interventions on each site.” The UB Regional Institute released a comprehensive report detailing the community’s expectations for the project, which MVVA will use as a guide during the initial design phase. MVVA will have to consider how to integrate the history of the near-90-year-old parkland, its connection to the Olmsted & Vaux–designed Front Park, as well as its role as a sports and recreational space. One of the biggest challenges, according to Shibley, will be buffering noise from the adjacent I-90 highway that runs north toward Canada, as well as creating better access, points of transition, and more localized design details for the five diverse districts that surround LaSalle. While the end result will likely resemble a signature MVVA-designed parkland complete with terrain changes, innovative playscapes, and stunning vistas, Van Valkenburgh said it will retain its most important charm. “The flatness of LaSalle is very defining,” he said, “and it’s also a little relentless to me. I think we don’t want to lose that flatness because there’s a kind of wonderful, almost magical concept of playing at the edge of a lake. At the same time, we’ll likely want to add some topography the landscape to allow people to get to a higher level over the water to see Buffalo’s famous sunsets.” Renderings for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park in Buffalo have not yet been released, but a conceptual design and physical model will be presented to the public in May 2019.
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With Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles moving forward with progressive land-use and transportation reforms last week, much of the conventional thinking behind how American cities work could soon be upended. As the converging threats of climate change, housing unaffordability, and pollution continue to hamstring the country’s urban areas, cities across the country are taking matters into their own hands by enacting bold but common-sense reforms in the face of federal and state inaction. For one, a groundbreaking comprehensive plan update in Minneapolis that would eliminate the city’s single-family zones took a step forward last week after two years of public debate and negotiations. The so-called 2040 Minneapolis Plan would make the city the first in the country to upzone all of its single-family residential neighborhoods to allow up to three dwelling units per lot. Under the 2040 initiative, the city will be able to re-establish a tradition of building what’s known as “missing middle” housing, the types of naturally affordable small- to medium-scale neighborhoods that make up the backbones of most American cities built before the 1950s. The plan is designed to break down racial and income disparities between neighborhoods in the city while allowing Minneapolis to absorb expected job and population growth over coming decades. Housing activists across the country are now looking to Minneapolis to see how the experiment plays out as efforts to enact similar policies pick up across the country, especially in Seattle, where a similar effort is gaining steam. In Oregon, a plan to eradicate single-family zoning in cities with 10,000 or more residents took a step forward this week. Aside from taking on exclusionary zoning, other cities, including Buffalo, San Francisco, and San Diego, are looking to eliminate off-street parking requirements to varying extents as they work to reclaim the enormous amount of space taken up by parked cars. In 2017, Buffalo became the first municipality in the country to totally eliminate parking requirements city-wide. The effort comes as part of a new zoning initiative that will bring what is known as a “form-based code” (FBC) to the city. As the name implies, FBCs typically regulate the overall geometries of urban areas by setting particular height limits, setbacks, and other design guidelines that can be followed regardless of use. The approach runs counter to more common use-based codes that carve cities up into monofunctional areas with residential, industrial, and commercial districts. FBCs are seen both as a way of re-establishing mixed-use neighborhoods while also creating contextual and preservation-friendly zones. With the update, Buffalo joins Denver, Las Vegas, and Miami, which have also recently enacted FBCs. Over in California, as the state’s new legislature takes up a series of bold housing reforms, San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer is one step ahead with a proposal to scrap parking requirements for transit-adjacent areas. A new proposal would eliminate required parking for housing located within 1/2-mile from a transit stop, a change similar to a state-wide effort that was derailed last year. The latest effort, according to the mayor, will be geared toward lowering the cost of building housing—a single parking stall adds between $35,000 and $90,000 in costs per unit of housing in the state—while also resulting in shorter and less bulky buildings. San Francisco has taken the proposal one step further by moving to become the largest city in the country to scrap parking requirements outright. City Supervisor Jane Kim put forward a measure this month to totally eliminate the requirement city-wide in an effort to bolster the city’s climate bona fides and help reign in housing costs. But don’t call it a “parking ban,” developers will instead be allowed to build parking up to a maximum threshold if they deem it necessary. The yet-to-be-approved initiative could go into effect next year. Nearby, Sacramento is working to enact a city-wide transit-oriented development plan that would limit drive-through restaurants and gas stations and lower parking requirements within 1/2-mile from transit stops in the city. Change is afoot even in car-loving Los Angeles, where an ambitious but currently under-funded plan to build 28 large scale transit projects by the 2028 Olympic games has prompted local officials to consider so-called “congestion pricing.” No official plan has been unveiled, but the Los Angeles Metro CEO Phil Washington last week presented several ideas that could potentially fill the funding gap, including requiring drivers to pay for traveling in some of the city’s most congested areas. To boot, Curbed reported that during a presentation to the Metro Board of Directors, Washington even proposed using the fees generated from congestion pricing to make Los Angeles the first city in the United States to offer free public transportation every day of the year.
Across the country, cities are reimagining old industrial landscapes as innovative parklands and restorative ecologies as a way to connect urban dwellers with nature and protect the environment. A new design ideas competition in Buffalo, New York, aims to revitalize the city’s 1.5-mile elevated DL&W rail corridor as a multiuse urban nature trail and greenway. The project is set not only to spur economic development for Buffalo but to reshape the city, becoming a local attraction much like the Toronto’s Bentway or Atlanta’s Beltline. Organized by the Western New York Land Conservancy (WNYLC), the competition invites architects, designers, landscape architect, urban planners, and artists to submit visionary concepts of the corridor as a nature-filled connector for downtown Buffalo, its waterfront, and the surrounding historic neighborhoods. The project is backed by several major sponsors, including M&T Bank and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., Legacy Funds, a group that’s part of the late Buffalo Bills owner’s namesake foundation which, just last month, pledged to invest $200 million in both Buffalo and Detroit’s parks and trails systems. The corridor is owned by Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and has long been a focal point of potential redevelopment for residents and city officials alike. Last year, the WNYLC published a community vision for the site that will guide its future design. “After listening to the community’s hopes for the DL&W corridor, we are excited to give designers from Western New York and around the world a chance to show us how they would bring those hopes to life,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the WNYLC in a statement. “This spring we will share the designs with the community and ask the community what they think of the ideas, what they like, and what they would do differently.” The competition will be judged by a jury of architects, educators, planners, and consultants including representatives from the University of Buffalo, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, and Friends of the High Line. The proposals will be unveiled online next spring and will also be featured in several public exhibitions in Buffalo. Three winners, including the jury’s favorite as well as the community’s pick, will receive monetary awards ranging from $1,000 to $7,500. To enter the competition, participants must register for free by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on submission guidelines and the competition brief, see here. An optional site visit for applicants will be held on January 4, 2019, and submissions are due February 15.
Thousands of Buffalo, New York, residents are calling for an 8-foot-tall bronze bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to be replaced with a more accurate portrayal of the civil rights leader. The Buffalo News reported that activists Samuel A. Herbert and Sylvester Herald have collected over 6,000 signatures since January for a petition to remove the gargantuan sculpture from Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in the Kingsley neighborhood of the upstate city. Created by renowned African-American artist John Woodrow Wilson in 1983, the sculpture hovers over a stone ledge inside the 50-acre park, which was designed by Olmsted and Vaux in the 19th century. Upon installation decades ago, the statue wasn’t widely praised for its likeness, but Wilson reportedly sketched the bust not to entirely resemble Dr. King, but rather, to look like an “everyman” that young black men and others could see themselves in. While the sentiment is still relevant today, locals want to honor Dr. King in the 21st century with a statue the mirrors his face and demeanor.
Herbert and Herald aim to collect 4,000 more signatures before presenting the petition to local and state officials, and word is spreading fast. The pair’s goal is to begin fundraising and install a new bust as early as 2020. The movement to remove and replace Wilson’s sculpture coincides with Boston’s effort to build a memorial dedicated to Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. The top five finalists for that memorial have already been chosen.
An activist wants to change the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Buffalo's MLK Jr. Park to one that looks more like the civil rights leader. They've collected 6,000 signatures out of a 10,000 goal. pic.twitter.com/nDHCSHaHWe— AJ+ (@ajplus) October 23, 2018
As Detroit and Buffalo get set to take on two transformative park projects along their respective waterfronts, both cities have been generously backed by a philanthropic organization aiming to enhance green space and bolster community engagement. Today, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced its pledge to invest over $1.2 billion in the cities by 2035 in honor of its founder, the Buffalo Bills’ late owner, and his centennial birthday. The Foundation is making a sizable donation to Western New York and Southeast Michigan—the two areas Wilson loved most—by committing a combined $200 million for upgraded parks and 250 miles of trails in the regions. A large chunk of that change will go directly to revitalizing LaSalle Park in Buffalo and West Riverfront Park in Detroit. With a design already envisioned by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) and David Adjaye, the latter parkland will give Michiganites long-desired, tangible access to the Detroit River. Though the 77-acre LaSalle Park has stretched across Lake Erie’s edge since the 1930s, it’s massive potential for further beautification and elevated programming could increase the quality of life for Buffalo residents and beyond. Dave Enger, president of the Foundation, stressed that community involvement is the key to taking on these monumental landscape goals. “Foundations don’t build parks, communities do,” he said. “Our vision is really to support these wonderful projects and the people that have the vision.” The design process is well underway for West Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit. Situated atop a former industrial piece of land, the 22-acre parkland will be a year-round destination for fishing, skating or swimming, sports, entertainment, and family gatherings. MVVA’s proposal was chosen over 80 other submissions in an international design competition to reimagine the park, which was transferred from private ownership to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy in 2014. Since their master plan was selected earlier this spring, MVVA has worked alongside the Conservancy and the Detroit Mayor’s office to garner feedback from locals and find out their personal ambitions for the park. The firm’s principal, Michael Van Valkenburgh, said his team especially loved talking to people aged 60 and older about their childhoods in Detroit—the places they loved and why. For many, the secluded Belle Isle was the only locale they could go to enjoy green space and the river at the same time. But that’s about to change thanks to these new ideas for downtown. “Not every place in Detroit has what New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park offers—a way to touch the water and put your toes in,” said Van Valkenburgh. “Because Detroit is so vast horizontally, we knew needed to add shock and awe to the design to get Detroiters who were far away to come to the water. Michiganders feel defined by and proud that the state is surrounded on three sides by the Great Lakes. We thought giving access to the water, through this cove and beach creation, would be a big draw.” A construction start date hasn’t yet been announced for West Riverfront Park, but officials estimate it will be complete by 2022. Van Valkenburgh is sure the master plan will go through many design iterations before ground is broken and he’s excited about more community input. “I’ve been going to public meetings since 1990,” he said. “These have been the most uplifting public meetings I’ve ever been a part of. People come with a real sense that this park is going to be a big lift for the city. They really want it.” At the other end of Lake Erie is LaSalle Park in Buffalo. Though it’s a long-loved and well-utilized community treasure, city stakeholders agree that it could use significant improvements. In 1998, the city conducted a planning review to overhaul the expansive parkland and identify priorities for a new design and upgraded programming. That vision was never realized until the Regional Institute at the University of Buffalo began researching its history and surveying people through a project called Imagine LaSalle. A focus group even spent this summer exploring the park and visiting other famous green spaces in Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York for inspiration. “The feedback has been tremendous so far,” said Brendan Mehaffey, executive director for the city’s Office of Strategic Planning. “Part of the mayoral administration’s core values is inclusion so we’ve talked to people from all backgrounds including low-income individuals, young professionals, business owners, and more.” Community engagement is at the heart of both efforts in Buffalo and Detroit. Much like Imagine LaSalle, MVVA also transported a busload of teenagers to visit their Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, and other groups went to New York and Philadelphia. Mehaffey sees the connection between the two waterfront park projects, and the two cities in general, as vital to their respective successes. “The Detroit team is much further into the design process than we are, so we’re delving into their research to try and discover best practices for building our own LaSalle Park,” he said. “I think that commonality between us is part of what the Wilson Foundation’s statement is going to make to the country.” Enger also believes the two cities are inextricably important to one another—that’s why his organization has zeroed in on their combined futures. He emphasized that spurring economic development through green space is a key way to democratize the municipalities on a greater level. “Where else in the United States are you going to find world-class parks in post-industrial cities that overlook international border crossings and feature some of the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets?" he said. "We think the total leverage of this project will be far greater than what our investment will bring.”
After a $2-million total restoration, the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed George and Delta Barton House in Buffalo, New York, is once again open for visitors. The Barton House, built in 1903–1905 as one of six interconnected buildings on the Darwin D. Martin House residential compound, was Wright’s first East Coast commission and introduced the Prairie School to the public. The Barton House, a commission by millionaire Darwin D. Martin for his sister Delta Barton and her husband George, was a bit of a test-case for Wright; Martin was so impressed that he tapped Wright to later design the rest of the complex, including the larger Martin House. “The restoration of the Barton House not only invites visitors to enjoy and understand its significance as an icon of Wright’s Prairie style but also provides a window into the role of patronage in architecture,” said Martin House executive director Mary Roberts. “With his offering of the Barton House project, Martin gave Wright an opportunity to explore his strengths and creativity free from financial restraints, and its success sparked a long-lasting patron-artist relationship that resulted in some of Wright’s most important built and unbuilt works.” The Barton House restoration was some twenty years in the making and began with the founding of the Martin House Restoration Corporation (MHRC) in 1992. Renovations on the site began in 1996, and restoration of the Barton House proper began in September 2017 based on the research and plans produced by Buffalo’s HHL Architects. Only three of the six Martin House buildings currently remain standing. The Barton House, while an earlier piece of Wright’s portfolio, exhibits the unmistakable low-slung proportions, large, overhanging roof, and ribbon windows associated with the Prairie School style. The design of the house and use of gold-tinted brick in the fireplace and terracotta roof tiles share similar beats with Wright’s J.J. Walser Jr. House in Chicago, which opened the same year. The Martin House compound is open to public guided tours, but private tours are also available, and the Barton House is available to rent for private events.
For the third year in a row, manufacturer Boston Valley Terra Cotta (BVTC) and the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning (UB/a+p) in upstate New York hosted the Architectural Ceramics Assemblies Workshop (ACAW). The weeklong event is a gathering of architects, engineers, and artists and offers a fast-paced opportunity for attendees to get their hands dirty physically testing the capabilities of terra-cotta design. Other sponsors of the gathering include Western New York’s Alfred University, an institution with expertise in glass and ceramics, and Rigidized Metals Corporation, a producer of deep-textured metal for exterior and interior cladding, among other products. “Architects designing with industrially produced ceramic components may have little material understanding of clay for large-scale production, while most artists trained in ceramics may have few opportunities to explore the medium at a scale beyond the individual object,” said Bill Pottle, BVTC’s Director of Business Development and organizer of the gathering. “At ACAW, architects, engineers, and educators collaborate with designers and manufacturers in order to deepen their understanding of designing with architectural terra-cotta.” BVTC was founded in 1889 as Boston Valley Pottery, a brick and clay pot manufacturing facility located on the outskirts of Buffalo, New York. The Krouse family purchased the facility in 1981 and transformed it into a cutting-edge architectural terra-cotta factory with a global footprint. Currently, projects range from the restoration of New York’s Woolworth Building to the cladding of Morris Adjmi Architect’s 363 Broadway and Kohn Peterson Fox’s One Vanderbilt. Keynote speakers, many of them workshop attendees, included Anne Currier, a clay sculptor and professor; Dr. William M. Carty, a ceramics professor at Alfred University; Christine Jetten, a ceramics and glazing consultant; Gerd Hoenicke, Director of Pre-Construction Services at Schüco; Matthew Krissel, partner at KieranTimberlake; Craig Copeland, associate partner at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects; and Christopher Sharples, principal at SHoP Architects. This year, over 60 attendees participated in the workshop, which emphasized the role of pre-design and research at the early stages of a design project. Both the number of attendees and the overarching objectives of the workshop have evolved since its 2016 inauguration. The first event was largely a sandbox tutorial, featuring 20 attendees learning the basics of terra-cotta production. In its second year, ACAW and its 40 attendees focused on the bioclimatic function of terra-cotta in contemporary design and the retrofitting of structures. This year, building upon their experience at previous workshops, the attendees, divided into six teams, began researching and developing their prototypes in March. Designs were submitted to BVTC prior to the conference for prefabrication. Throughout the week, the teams received technical support from both BVTC and UB/a+p.
The Albright-Knox Art Gallery released its latest schematic designs in the AK360 expansion project, revealing a new direction from the previous controversial design concept. The new plan, which was developed in coordination with local, state, and national preservationists, was approved unanimously on Monday night by the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, the board that oversees the gallery, according to Buffalo News. Under the new iteration of the AK360 Campus Development and Expansion plan developed by OMA and firm partner Shohei Shigematsu, a freestanding building will be added to the north side of the historic campus that houses the gallery in Buffalo, New York. The new building adds 29,000 square feet of space for displaying special exhibitions and the museum’s permanent collection, allowing the number of artworks that can be displayed to increase dramatically. The extension is also planned to have a double-height wraparound promenade as well as a translucent facade to connect the interior of the building to the site, a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed landscape. This ensures the preservation of the existing Gordon Bunshaft building built in 1962, which was an addition to the original Beaux-Arts museum that was built in 1905. OMA still plans to add improvements to the 1962 building taken from the first design concept. Changes include adding a new education wing in the lower level, transforming the surface level parking lot into a green landscape, and adding a new point of entry into the east façade. The open-air courtyard in the 1962 building will be covered to serve as an “indoor town square” and open the space up for year-round activities. A “scenic bridge” will connect the new north building to the original 1905 building, weaving through the Olmsted Park. Previous expansion plans included drastically transforming the Bunshaft building, rattling preservationists and igniting controversy. OMA/Shohei Shigematsu was first chosen as the lead designer for the expansion in June 2016 and released their first design concept in 2017, which proposed building two architectural volumes—one that would hover above the sculpture garden of the Bunshaft building and one that would be constructed underground along the original gallery. Opposition to that plan halted it from moving forward, until now. Fundraising for the project is almost complete—approximately $125 million is raised for the $155 million project. More refined plans for the expansion will emerge over the next months during the design development phase, which is expected to continue into 2019. Construction is aimed for fall 2019 with an expected opening in 2021.
The Architectural League of New York has announced the winners of its 37th annual Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers, meant to highlight and foster up-and-coming architectural and design talent. This year’s theme, Objective, asked entrants to examine the role of objectivity in today’s society when the notion is simultaneously elevated as well as undermined by technology, science, and politics. If we truly do live in a post-truth world, what does objectivity mean for architecture? The 2018 winners, decided through a portfolio competition, are as follows: Anya Sirota of Akoaki, Detroit Akoaki was cofounded by Sirota and Jean Louis Farges in 2008. The Detroit-based architecture and design studio explores reviving urban spaces in their home city through the use of eye-catching temporary installations that encourage public participation. Some of their more otherworldly designs include a frost generator and a trompe l’oeil “red carpet” in Los Angeles. Sirota is an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Bryony Roberts of Bryony Roberts Studio, New York Bryony Roberts is a New York-based research and design firm founded in 2011 that actively combines, art, architecture, and preservation. Bryony Roberts actively works to reinvigorate historical places with new life, and the firm has worked on everything from a series of marble tile studies to choreographing dancers in Rome. Roberts herself is an adjunct professor of architecture and preservation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Gabriel Cuéllar and Athar Mufreh of Cadaster, Brooklyn The Brooklyn-based Cadaster, founded in 2016 by Cuéllar and Mufreh, is an architecture studio whose work explores the cross-section between architecture and territory. Their most recent work includes the research project Subversive Real Estate: The Landholding Patterns of American Black Churches, and Upstate Ecologies: Regional Vision for the New York Canal System, the firm’s entry into the international planning competition for the future of New York State’s canal systems. Coryn Kempster of Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, Buffalo Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster, cofounded by Kempster and Julia Jamrozik in 2014, focuses on the roles that experience and memory play in architecture. The Buffalo-based firm has built abstract play fields and super-efficient single family homes, but the same attention to detail and user interaction is found throughout their portfolio. Kempster is an adjunct assistant professor of architecture at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong of Kwong Von Glinow, Chicago Kwong Von Glinow was founded in 2017 by Von Glinow and Kwong and operates out of Chicago. While still young, the architecture studio has already won plenty of recognition for its radical reinterpretation of forms, including its plans for a modular apartment tower in New York and community-centered apartment high-rises in Hong Kong. Kwong teaches as an adjunct professor of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Von Glinow is a part-time professor of architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dan Spiegel of SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop, San Francisco SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop, co-founded in 2011 by Spiegel and Megumi Aihara, works at the intersection between architecture and urban design. Their portfolio spans everything from the front desk of the Casper office to a try-on truck for lingerie startup True & Co. SAW was also recently recognized with an AN 2017 Best of Design Awards for Young Architects. Spiegel currently teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and California College of the Arts. The jury for this year’s prize was composed of 2018 Young Architects + Designers Committee, as well as Tatiana Bilbao, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Georgeen Theodore, and Claire Weisz. From June 21 through August 4, an exhibition featuring an installation from each of the winners will be installed at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the Parsons School of Design / The New School, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, 66 Fifth Avenue. On June 21 at 7:00 PM, Gabriel Cuéllar and Athar Mufreh, Coryn Kempster, and Bryony Roberts will be giving lectures in the exhibition space. On June 22 at 7:00 PM, Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong, Anya Sirota, and Dan Spiegel will be giving their lectures in the same location. The Architectural League has also announced the publication of Young Architects 18: (im)permanence, a collection of projects from the 2016 League Prize Winners.
The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series highlights individuals and firms with distinct design “voices,” singling out those with the potential to go on to even greater heights. 2018 saw two rounds of judging; first by a panel of past Emerging Voices winners, and a second to pick the winners. The first-round jury included Virginia San Fratello, Sebastian Schmaling, Wonne Ickx, Lola Sheppard, Marcelo Spina, Carlos Jimenez, and Marlon Blackwell, as well as members of the second-round jury, Sunil Bald, Lisa Gray, Stella Betts, Jing Liu, Paul Makovsky, Tom Phifer, Chris Reed, and Billie Tsien. AN profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Davidson Rafailidis founders Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis will deliver their lecture on March 15, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Spatial planning is king at Davidson Rafailidis. It has to be, because the small husband-and wife-run studio is focused on designing tight projects with equally tight budgets that can be adapted for long-term use. Both founding partners, Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis, teach in the nearby State University of New York at Buffalo’s architecture department and frequently integrate more academic theory into their built projects than a traditional studio. It’s a natural progression, as the couple originally met while they were students at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, in London. “In the end, the realized projects are very similar to essays,” explained Davidson. “When the project is inhabited and really comes alive, we always try to keep tabs, even on private projects, to see how they’re used and what changes and what needs to be adapted. We see that as ongoing research, to see how people respond to our ongoing spatial interventions.” Nowhere is this approach more evident than in the studio’s 2015 transformation of a formerly vacant corner store in Buffalo into the vibrant Cafe Fargo (now under the name, Tipico Coffee). The coffee shop strips the monolithic brick building back to its raw materials and introduces colored tiles throughout to delineate the new space from the old. Working under serious budget constraints, Davidson Rafailidis was forced to “make machinery itself the architecture,” according to Rafailidis. Instead of using a bulky HVAC system, the studio installed large operable windows and a skylight, for passive cooling, and a wood-burning "kachelofen" hearth, clad in tile, that provides ambient heat. Most tellingly, Rafailidis said that guests often don’t realize that the heater is a new addition to the space. The cafe has grown to host pop-up events and public gatherings, reinforcing the building’s continually evolving relationship with its users. The 2016 project He, She & It, a tripartite studio space in Buffalo for a creative couple, unifies a painter’s studio (He), ceramic and silver-working area (She), and greenhouse (It) under one umbrella. While each space has a vastly different use, all of them use a mono-pitched roof with a long overhang to funnel rainwater into a garden at the building’s base. Each space relies on passive heating and cooling, as well as natural overhead lighting, and the greenhouse can be opened up to share its solar gain with the working spaces in colder months. He, She & It has won its fair share of acclaim in the last year—though if this recognition has made Davidson and Rafailidis’s lives more hectic, they can’t tell. “It’s really a challenge with our small size. Even to go to see a building someone wants to show us can take half of our workday,” said Davidson. “Both of us are on AutoCAD, and on Rhino, and making models, and also going to meetings; it’s a big challenge. It doesn’t feel like it’s more work, because we’ve become accustomed to this crazy schedule.”
Demolition of the Paul Rudolph-designed Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo, New York, has accelerated, and the full destruction of the housing complex is being stalled by a single tenant. John Schmidt has refused to leave his unit in what remains of the brutalist buildings, despite having received an eviction notice, over what he feels are strong-arm tactics from developer Norstar Development Corporation. Finished in 1974, the waterfront development held 426 affordable units and was part of Paul Rudolph’s unrealized master plan for a revitalized Buffalo waterfront. Featuring sharp angles made of concrete and mono-pitched roofs made of heavy, serrated metal, the complex’s design was unmistakably Rudolph’s. Norstar, a private company, purchased the site with the intention of demolishing the state-built homes and overhauling the complex. The first phase of demolition and redevelopment began in 2015, and has already replaced five of Rudolph’s cascading buildings with seven townhouses and a short apartment block, for a total of 48 new affordable housing units. While the final phase of the project was slated to begin this spring, Schmidt’s unwillingness to leave has held up the rest of the process. His defiance is understandable, as Norstar had previously promised Shoreline residents that they would have time to relocate, before advancing the demolition timetable without warning. While Schmidt is now the last resident in what remains of his 300-unit complex, his reason for staying isn’t driven entirely by preservation. Schmidt is demanding an apology from Norstar for displacing the 222 families who have been forced to relocate, as they were told that the buildings had fallen into an unlivable condition. The local community has disagreed, and argues that the apartments are still structurally sound. Norstar has dismissed these claims, and reiterated that no one has been forced to move under false pretenses. “We are pleased that we can bring people very nice, new affordable housing in the downtown business corridor. We do have to relocate these people to rebuild housing, people will be able to come back, but they do have to qualify under that state's section 42 low income housing regulations. But at this point, all of our residents are income qualified,” Norstar representatives said in a statement. Many of Rudolph’s buildings have met ignoble ends in recent years, despite outcry from preservationists and architects. Earlier last year, one third of Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center was partially demolished and replaced with a more modern-styled annex. Judging from the type of buildings that have emerged from the first phase of the Shoreline’s replacement, the same process is repeating itself in Buffalo.
The New York Power Authority and the New York State Canal Corporation launched a competition seeking ideas to shape the future of the New York State Canal System, a 524-mile network composed of the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, and the Champlain Canal. Selected ideas will be awarded a total of $2.5 million toward their implementation. The New York State Canal System is one of the most transformative public works projects in American history. The entire system was listed as a National Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2017 for its role in shaping the American economy and urban development. Despite its past success, vessel traffic on the Canal System has steadily declined over the last century. Deindustrialization and competition from rail, pipelines, roadways and the St. Lawrence Seaway, put the Canals at a disadvantage in transporting freight. Pleasure boating activity levels have likewise fallen and are today only half what they once were. In contrast to the decreasing maritime activity on the Canal System, recreational uses along it – from hiking and bicycling in spring, summer, and fall to cross-country skiing and ice fishing in winter – have grown in popularity. The 750-mile Empire State Trail, which will run from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo, is expected to be completed in 2020. It will further enhance opportunities for recreation along portions of the Canal System. To date, however, much of the Canal System’s potential to stimulate tourism and economic activity in the communities along its corridor remains untapped. To address the challenges and opportunities facing the Canal System, the Competition seeks visionary ideas for physical infrastructure projects as well as programming initiatives that promote:
- the Canal System as a tourist destination and recreational asset
- sustainable economic development along the canals and beyond
- the heritage and historic values of the Canal System
- the long-term financial sustainability of the Canal System