Posts tagged with "Chinatown":

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Rikers replacement plan moves forward with reduced jail tower heights

Last week on October 17 the New York City Council voted to approve a controversial plan to build four borough-based local jails to replace Rikers Island by 2026. The decision came after the city announced it would reduce the maximum height for the new facilities from 450 feet to 295 feet.  The $8.7 billion proposal passed 36-13 and was backed by all four council members who represent the neighborhoods where the new high-rise jails will be located. Council member Margaret Chin of District 1 in Manhattan publically defended her choice to bring the tallest of the jails to Chinatown, saying the 155-foot height drop on the White Street tower “will [now] not be out of scale with the neighborhood.” Likely to now stand 29 stories tall, the facility will be significantly shorter than some of the recently-built and planned skyscrapers around the Lower East Side, but locals, prison-reform activists, and some architects still oppose it Each community board overseeing the proposed sites actively disapproved of the plan when it came before them, and just two weeks ago, over 1,000 people marched through Chinatown in an effort to change Chin’s mind. The Neighbors United Below Canal (N.U.B.C.) has already announced it will sue the city for its decision, citing an unlawful approval process as its main defense. According to the Tribeca Tribune, the group’s founders believe the public should have been allowed to review the changes to the Manhattan location and that the environmental impact report, finalized in August, lacked significant details. So far, no one knows what these jails will look like, which is one piece of critical information opponents say should have been included in the too-vague proposal. N.U.B.C. also asked where all the much-needed services will go now that so many floors have been cut off from the high-rise towers. “How within months could you take away hundreds of feet?” said organizer Jan Lee in an interview with Curbed New York. “So does anyone really know what we’re designing here? I don’t think so.”  Until AECOM, the lead design-build firm on the project, reveals initial visuals of each structure, it’s unclear just how these buildings will accommodate the incarcerated. For now, all that’s known are the heights of each facility: in Brooklyn, the 275 Atlantic Avenue site will be 295 feet; in Queens, the 126-02 82nd Street will be 195 feet; and in the Bronx, located at 320 Concord Avenue, the jail tower will be 195 feet. City officials explained that the new heights are based on the new estimated number of detainees in New York by 2026. The de Blasio administration expects the city's population will be halved by the time the jails open, to 3,300 people. Based on this, each facility will hold less than 1,000 people. Mayor De Blasio has said that he will sign off on the proposal when it arrives at his desk.
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Proposed Chinatown sculpture stirs controversy in New York

A sculpture proposed for a traffic triangle in New York’s Chinatown neighborhood is being criticized by some members of the community for its "stack of tin can"-like appearance. The art piece is a product of the Gateways to Chinatown project, a collaborative effort by the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), local development corporation Chinatown Partnership, and the Van Alen Institute to “engender pride of place, foster connectivity, and reinforce cultural and social identity within Manhattan’s Chinatown.” Focusing on the plaza where Canal Street forks and Walker Street begins, organizers oversaw an open competition to select which artist would work with the project’s $1 million budget.

While the primary purpose of the project was, according to director of communications at Van Alen Alisha Levin, to “foster connectivity and better enable way-finding with a new public landmark,” selectors also sought a proposal that “responded to the site’s history and context.” Out of 80 total submissions, an installation by Chinese-Australian artist Lindy Lee was ultimately chosen. Lee partnered with two New York-based companies—architecture firm Levenbetts and public art fabrication studio UAP (Urban Art Projects)—to facilitate the structural design and installation of the project.

As renderings released last month indicate, the piece consists of a series of perforated cylinders stacked irregularly above the sidewalk. Inspired by traditional Chinese drum towers, the form of each component is reflective of both drums and the cylindrical rooftop water towers that have come to represent New York City. Titled The Dragon’s Roar, the proposal maintains a level of flexibility through its minimal impact on the traffic triangle’s ground plane. Even with the sculpture installed, the space would still be able to accommodate a small kiosk or seating for social gatherings.

As with most contemporary art that is proposed for urban public space, The Dragon’s Roar has received plenty of criticism from some members of the community. Certain residents have argued that its overall form, which makes only abstract reference to Chinese culture, has nothing to do with the local neighborhood and its heritage. Others have compared the drum-like cylinders to tin cans, complaining that the installation is unsightly and should not become a neighborhood landmark. While organizers of this year’s competition did engage with local community members at various stages in the process to determine what should be placed on the traffic triangle, many insist that outreach efforts were inadequate. The controversy is reminiscent of a similar incident from one year earlier, when residents of Chinese descent called a "Dog-Man" sculpture proposed for Chatham Square demonic and whitewashed. Protests over that piece eventually forced the city to relocate it to Foley Square.

As for The Dragon’s Roar, Levin told AN that Van Alen will “take all feedback in earnest” and will continue working with DOT, community boards, and neighborhood stakeholders to make certain that the final product reflects its cultural and social context. Before Community Board 3 weighs whether to approve the sculpture in September, detractors have promised to make their voices heard.

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Food Radio's conversations about succeeding in creative fields are now online

This past fall, Dong-Ping Wong of Food took over a storefront near his firm’s Chinatown office to launch a radical pop-up educational and hangout space he called Office Hours. Along with workshops and other programming, Wong led an audio livestream, Food Radio, where he invited over 50 guests—artists, architects, designers, musicians publishers, and more—for nearly 40 conversations. Now, all the broadcasts have been archived and are ready to be listened to anytime on Food’s website. Office Hours’ mission from the get-go was about inclusion, education, and action across race, class, and age facilitated by an open door policy, workshops throughout the day, and Food designers going out to round up local kids and teens at the library. Hardly recorded in a isolated soundproof room, the Food Radio conversations took place in the back of the pop-up's narrow storefront space, and during the broadcasts you can hear Wong and his guests chatting with people coming in and out who might’ve come to say hi or listen live, or just to see what this new space on the street was all about. By bringing together a broad swath of architects, curators, politicians, and others, Wong wanted to show people, especially younger generations, that making a career out of creative work was possible and to highlight the experiences of creative people who local children might identify with. As New York state assembly member Yuh-Line Niou told Wong, she believes it's necessary to “tell young people not to self-select out,” that just because they haven’t seen people of their background—children of immigrants, people of color, people of various class origins—yet in fields that they might find interesting, or this is “the first time they’re seeing it,” that it remains possible for them to follow these paths, and, perhaps more importantly, make their own. Many of these guests really got their starts by daring to do something that no one else had done, Wong explained. “We've seen a lot of our guests using a lack of familiar model as a springboard to do something totally unique," Wong said. "Sometimes you just have to make stuff when nobody asked you to.” The expansive and radical proposition of Food is to make new possibilities for others. While all of the conversations were original and informative, some standouts include those with architects Toshiko Mori and Tei Carpenter of Agency—Agency, mother and daughter (though with their own, separate firms), for their first family interview; creative director Heron Preston, who has collaborated with Kanye West (Wong has, too) and Virgil Abloh; SO-IL co-founder and principal Jing Liu; Oana Stanescu, who ran Family with Wong; and Christopher Leong and Dominic Leong of Leong Leong. Many of the conversations were both seriously casual and casually serious, much like the whole project. Mori and Carpenter, for example, explored a range of topics: what they did that week; how they each got their start; how to learn from one another as architects across generations; how they’re approaching their careers differently; being Asian women in the field; the responsibility of architects to engage and communicate across disciplinary and political lines; the field’s need for a “diversification of moral practice;" and that perennially impossible problem many of us face: knowing when to say no. Since Office Hours has gone off the street and there’s no chance to drop in any more, these recordings offer an opportunity to connect, listen, and share across disciplines, time, and geography and are an imperative intervention to shift the conversation on architectural practice and, simply, remind everyone to believe in their own power and creative drive.
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New York architect launches guerrilla radio station about community uplift and food

Earlier this year, when architect Dong-Ping Wong branched out to start his own firm, he found himself going through name after name but none seemed to have the right ring. Finally, the word “food” occurred to him. Ridiculous at first, it wouldn’t leave his head, and so it stuck. Food, the firm, was born. Food, said Wong, is “something that everyone has an association with and a relationship to.” It is something people “can come together around.” Food as an architecture firm name, he points out, is unfortunately also very hard to Google. But that hasn't stopped them from working on projects for clients ranging from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to Kanye and Kim Kardashian West. But it's their most recent project, Office Hours, where the name's magnanimous universalism really shines through. For Office Hours, Food has taken over a storefront on East Broadway in New York’s Chinatown for three weeks of programming centered around an online radio station (to be distributed in more permanent format later) as well as various community projects and events. All manner of creative people, like chef Angela Dimayuga, artist Jon Wang, designers Chen Chen and Kai Williams, SO-IL partner Jing Liu, DJ Venus X, and creative director Heron Preston have come through and spoken on the air. As the website for Office Hours notes, the events, like actual office hours, also serve as an “open invitation.” People can come in and listen, and youth are particularly encouraged. In fact, Food members have stopped by the public library on more than one occasion to invite kids and teens in and people have come in off the street to do work or check out the "reading room." Office Hours is committed to promoting people of color and those who live in the largely-immigrant neighborhood. As the project description notes, “In New York City, one in four Asian Americans live below the poverty line…Unsurprisingly, many young people that grow up in this environment self-limit what they see themselves being able to do.” The purpose of Office Hours, in part, is to expand this range of vision and imagination by introducing youth to the whole array of future possibilities for themselves. The space, which is laid out with some wiggly custom-made gray plywood tables held up by Ikea desk legs, has hosted happenings for all ages—from drawing lessons to impromptu happy hours. Office Hours continues through November 16 and all are invited to intend. The schedule and the live stream are available on Food's website.
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Five gathering spaces announced for Chicago's lakefront

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Park District ,and the Field Museum of Natural History have revealed five designs that will be implemented along a stretch of South Side lakefront as part of the Field Museum’s “Roots and Routes” initiative. The five “gathering spaces” were the result of an RFP issued by the Park District and the Field Museum to artist and community organizations. Located in the 100-acre ribbon of The Burnham Wildlife Corridor (BWC), the spaces will be integrated into a series of paths which will connect neighboring communities to Lake Michigan through the largest stretch of natural landscape along Chicago’s lakefront. “These gathering spaces along the south lakefront are part of our effort to give children and residents in every neighborhood the opportunity to learn about nature and to enjoy and experience nature right in their own backyard,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “These unique gathering spaces will add to the vibrancy of Chicago’s south lakefront while helping to inspire the next generation to preserve and protect Chicago’s natural wonders.” The BWC extends from the McCormick Bird Sanctuary, just south of the McCormick Place convention center to the Burnham Sanctuary near 49th Street. “The objective of the Burnham Wildlife Corridor is to create healthy, vibrant and native habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife; and to meaningfully connect visitors, especially those from neighboring communities, to a revitalized public green space in ways that inspire exploration, enjoyment, and stewardship of the area,” said Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO Mike Kelly. “We are pleased to partner with these organizations to create spaces where community members can gather and take advantage of nature in this bustling city.” The teams involved with the projects include local artists and community organizations, with ties to the Bronzeville, Chinatown, and Pilsen neighborhoods. The organizations include the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago, Bronzeville Community Development Partnership, the South Side Community Art Center, and Pilsen-based Contratiempo and Casa Michoacán. The gathering spaces are also one part of the Mayor’s "Building on Burnham" initiative, a comprehensive plan to invest in the Lakefront, the Chicago River, and recreational areas in neighborhoods throughout city.
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Flux Factory revives a "threat to the motoring public" with the first Fung Wah Biennial

Remember the Fung Wah Bus? Posing an "imminently hazardous and potentially deadly risk for its own drivers, passengers and for the motoring public," the Chinatown bus provided fast, dirt cheap service between New York and Boston before the company shuttered in 2015. Now, thanks to New York–based arts nonprofit Flux Factory, eager riders can re-live the experience: For three Saturdays in March, the arts group is commissioning 24 artists for the first Fung Wah Biennial. The daylong, site-specific exhibitions will take place on trips from New York to Baltimore, Boston, and Philadelphia, three of the most popular Chinatown bus routes. (Although Fung Wah ran buses on one route only, Flux uses "Fung Wah" as metonymy for the network of buses that ferries passengers from Chinatown to Chinatown in the northeastern U.S.) On the ride, artists will share sound installations, video projections, performances, and other pieces that "tease out the nuanced politics of transit." Commissioned pieces explore the loneliness, isolation, and fun of travel; travel and migration; and the history and infrastructure of Chinatown buses. Tickets, priced from $36.87 to $47.12, are a far reach from Fung Wah's $10 fares, but there's art! Most passengers will be ticketed Biennial-goers, although those just trying to get from point A to B are in for a real surprise. The idea for the biennial, curated By Sally Szwed, Matthias Borello, and Will Owen, arose from conversations around the high cost of living and studio space is forcing artists out to other cities; travel for leisure, work, or necessity; and a comment on the network of privately operated, affordable transportation between Chinatowns. Below are participating artists and their designated routes:

BOSTON: Marco Castro, Eric Doeringer, Fan Letters (Alex Nathanson + Dylan Neely), Sunita Prasad, Joshua Caleb Wiebley, Ariel Abrahams + Rony Efrat, Magali Duzant, Keith Hartwig + Daniel Newman, Seth Timothy Larson + Abigail Entsminger, Manuel Molina Martagon, Kristoffer Ørum, Ruth Patir, Pines / Palms (Emily Ensminger + Sophie Trauberman), Jonah Levy, Roopa Vasudevan, Tereza Szwanda

PHILADELPHIA: Michael Barraco, Chloë Bass, Adam Milner, Marjan Verstappen + Jessica Valentin, Meg Wiessner, Joshua Caleb Wiebley, Ariel Abrahams + Rony Efrat, Magali Duzant, Keith Hartwig + Daniel Newman, Seth Timothy Larson + Abigail Entsminger, Manuel Molina Martagon, Kristoffer Ørum Ruth Patir, Pines / Palms (Emily Ensminger + Sophie Trauberman), Jonah Levy, Roopa Vasudevan, Tereza Szwanda

BALTIMORE: Dillon De Give, Ursula Nistrup, Kristoffer Ørum, Ariel Abrahams + Rony Efrat, Fan Letters ( Alex Nathanson + Dylan Neely), Magali Duzant, Keith Hartwig + Daniel Newman, Seth Timothy Larson + Abigail Entsminger, Manuel Molina Martagon, Ruth Patir, Pines / Palms (Emily Ensminger + Sophie Trauberman), Kristoffer Ørum, Jonah Levy, Roopa Vasudevan, Tereza Szwanda

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More Mergers> NAC Architecture and Osborn joining forces

It's no AECOM and URS, but NAC Architecture, which has offices in Spokane, WA, Seattle, Denver, and Los Angeles has merged with Southern California firm Osborn, and are moving their LA operations into new offices in the city's Chinatown neighborhood. NAC's 13,000 square foot LA office, to be located on the third floor of a historic building at 837 North Spring Street, will consist of 40 people, including all of Osborn and NAC's current LA staffs. Unlike huge firms swallowing little ones, this deal is about a "partnership with a simpatico firm" and "leveraging common culture, design ethic, and purpose," explained Osborn principal Michael Pinto. The merger widens both offices specialties to include architecture, landscape architecture, graphic design, environmental graphics, interior design, master planning, sustainability, engineering, historic restoration, and project delivery.
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Winning Combination: Dumplings and Design

What do we love more than Dim Sum? Not much... But how about design and biking and Dim Sum? This Saturday LA arts incubator De Lab (Design East of La Brea) put together this genius combination, with a bike tour that left from LA's Highland Park neighborhood and wound up in Chinatown. Highlights along the way included cool architecture studio Fung + Blatt, a scenic ride through historic Lincoln Heights; a tour of LOC's ingenious Chun King Loft; and a look at Chinatown's Fifth Floor Gallery, with its hot new furniture collection designed by local architects. Who knew Chinatown was so cool? The road ended at dim sum specialist Ocean Seafood, where the hungry bikers went to town on dumplings galore. A great photo tour of the trip is available here.