Posts tagged with "Columbia":

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Enrique Peñalosa plans to give Bogotá the best transit system in the developing world

An economist who once advised Colombian President Virgilio Barco, Enrique Peñalosa is now a revered urban planner in the city of Bogotá. Having once served as Bogotá mayor from 1997 to 2001, Peñalosa is now back for his second stint and pledges to provide his city with the best public transportation system in the developing world. In his first term as mayor, Peñalosa was responsible for widespread changes in infrastructure and public space in Bogotá. These included a 40 percent reduction in vehicle usage within the city; replacing parking spaces with green sidewalks and street furniture; developing the TransMilenio bus rapid transit systems; building a major public library alongside two others in low-income areas; and creating expansive green spaces. Peñalosa also pioneered regulation on social housing that included a minimum square footage on new builds. Dario Hidalgo of CityFix sings the new mayors praises, citing how the bus rapid transit system (BRT) is "one of the world’s most heavily used", with over 2 million passengers a day using the service. Like any good economist, Peñalosa is a strong supporter of efficiency and growth. Now, with his self-laid foundations,Bogotá can begin to move forward again. Not dwelling on the past, he has plans to upgrade the BRT system, merging it with the rail network as well implementing more bus lanes. On top of this, Peñalosa plans on doubling bicycle usage in Bogotá. Naturally, when a such changes are proposed, the issue of financing these changes surfaces. An estimated $13-20 billion is required with the state being left to cough up $7.1 billion after accounting for all government revenue streams. The solution? Peñalosa is seeking to implement fees for personal automobile travel into the city, similar to the congestion charge in London (which has generated $1.42 billion since 2003). Despite these possible methods of financing, it is very possible that the new Mayor will turn to the private sector to secure further funding in order to secure the implementation of the new services.
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Amale Andraos named dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation

Amale Andraos, principal of New York–based architecture firm WORKac, has been named dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), succeeding Mark Wigley. Currently on faculty at GSAPP, she has also taught at Princeton, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and the American University in Beirut. "Columbia is just an incredibly exciting place that's always been on the forefront of the profession," Andraos told AN. "It's an incredibly diverse and experimental place. I want to maintain and expand its role as a think tank for global practice." “An inspiring teacher, a respected colleague, and a pioneering practitioner whose innovative commissions in cities around the world have earned widespread admiration, Amale is a new leader among a rising generation of creative architects and designers of our physical environment,” said Columbia president Lee Bollinger in a statement. “She is just the kind of person who can further expand the role of the School as a center of interdisciplinary thinking across Columbia about how to develop a more just and sustainable society.” While Wigley was best known as a theorist, Andraos has balanced both teaching and practice. "We think of ourselves as a design research firm. For us teaching and practice inform one another," she said. WORKac has completed numerous projects including the Blaffer Museum in Houston, the Children's Museum of Arts in Manhattan, and the Edible School Yard project at P.S. 216 in Brooklyn. They won the MoMA P.S. 1 Young Architects Program in 2008. The firm is currently working on a conference center in Libreville, Gabon and they recently completed a master plan for seven new university campuses in China. In a profession that is still plagued by diversity issues and gender disparities, Andraos is one of an increasing number of women deans and directors. Running a school as prominent as Columbia, though, she will arguably be one of the most influential women in American architecture.
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Architects and Scientists Debate How to Prepare a Post-Sandy New York Region

Barriers or freshwater wetlands? New building codes? What about porous pavements or floating city blocks? These were just a few of the ideas batted around at AIANY’s discussion and fundraiser, “Designing the City after Superstorm Sandy,” at the Center for Architecture last Thursday evening. The panel, moderated by Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for The New York Times, consisted of the city’s leading designers, architects, scientists, and government officials. While each panelist came to the conversation with a different approach and set of strategies, all agreed that change is necessary and new solutions urgent. “There’s a certain consensus about taking steps in the long-run,” said Kimmelman. The participants on the panel included Cynthia Barton, Housing Recovery Plan Manager at the NYC Office of Emergency Management; Howard Slatkin, Director of Sustainability and Deputy Director of Strategic Planning for the city; Dr. Klaus Jacob, a geophysicist and Special Research Scientist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; Stephen Cassell, principal architect at ARO; Donna Walcavage, landscape architect and urban designer; and Robert M. Rogers, partner of Rogers Marvel Architects. The design solutions are part of a larger and more complex issue that call for us to “re-frame the ways we engage with the water,” said Cassell whose ideas helped to spearhead the Rising Currents exhibit at MoMA in 2010.  And as Kimmelman pointed out in his introduction, will force us to decide, “what parts of the city are necessary to change, salvage and develop and what parts we cannot.” Cassell and Walcavage advocate for what they term “soft solutions” such as freshwater wetlands and upland parks that won’t disrupt the balance of the ecosystem as oppose to the much talked about barriers. Dr. Jacob referred to himself as a “barrier skeptic.” He hasn’t completely ruled them out, but believes that other preventive measures should be considered, including regulations and large-scale regional planning with New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York. The solutions were at once specific and lofty, and Kimmelman challenged the panelists during the Q&A session when he asked: “Who will legislate and have authority? Why will something change now?” Many of the participants argued that Hurricane Sandy is a turning point, and there’s simply too much at stake. Rogers pointed out that New York City is a “grid of real estate” and the significant investment in waterfront property will prompt developers and the city to be pro-active whether that means implementing new codes and regulations or altering the landscape by creating saltwater marshes to act as buffers against rising sea levels and storms. A few panelists suggested that an improved version of Robert Moses would lead the way or joked that perhaps a benevolent god would appear. Even though Kimmelman remained ambivalent and questioned why strong and cohesive leadership would emerge now to help facilitate change, it looks like the city is already taking action. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has asked the Urban Green Council to launch a Building Resiliency Task Force, which will consist of leading professionals in New York City real estate. In an announcement last week, Urban Green said that the Task Force’s main objective is “to take an in-depth look at how to better prepare our buildings for future storms and infrastructure failures.” A list of recommendations will be released in summer of 2013.
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One Word: Plastics

Plastics was the key word at the recent Columbia conference "Permanent Change: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering," which featured some of the best architects working with polymers today. On opening night, Greg Lynn did away with traditional tectonics in favor of total composite design from recycled toys to beautiful racing boats. Several pieces were on display in the lobby, including a beautiful backlit ribbed column cover designed by Columbia associate professor Yoshiko Sato (assisted by Shuning Zhao and John Hooper). Sato, who's known for her NASA design research and space course at Columbia, also designed the two over-sized plastic inflatable flowers suspended from the lobby ceiling, as shown above. The composite designs will be up and on view at the Morningside Heights campus at least another week.    
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Quick Clicks> Piano, Plazas, Babbling, Budget Cuts

Manhattanville's Piano. While tallying who is the biggest landlord in New York (it's still the church by a hair), The Observer uncovered a few new views of Renzo Piano's Jerome L. Green Science Center at Columbia's Manhattanville campus, seen here next to a train viaduct. Pedestrianizing New York. The remaking of New York's public spaces continues its forward march. Brownstoner has details on the planned pedestrian plaza on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn and StreetsBlog highlights DOT's plans to create a permanent block-long Plaza de las Americas in Washington Heights. Archi-babble. Witold Rybczynski talkes issue with architecture's professional jargon in Slate, including a beginner's guide to commonly used words from assemblage to gesamtkunstwerk. What's your favorite word from the language of architecture? Subway Squeeze. We're not talking about your crowded commute, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to trim $100 million from transit. Transportation Nation and StreetsBlog have the details and implications for getting around New York.
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Last Columbia Hold Out Hung Out to Dry by Top Court

Nick Sprayregen, the last remaining holdout in the way of Columbia University's Manhattanville expansion project, has just had his fortunes reversed—quite literally, as now it appears the school has a good chance of taking Sprayregen's land through eminent domain to make way for its new 17-acre campus. Last December, Sprayregen won an unexpected court decision, which was overturned today in a unanimous decision by the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court. The Observer astutely points out that even justice Robert Smith, the lone dissenter in the major Atlantic Yards case, sided with the majority this time out. At issue was whether the Empire State Development Corporation has the right to take private land and convey it to Columbia, which the lower appellate court found it did not, as in the judges view there was no clear public purpose. In today's reversal, the justices found that the agency made a clear and compelling case for the project, and it was not the place of the judiciary to overule them:
ESDC considered a wide range of factors including the physical, economic, engineering and environmental conditions at the Project site. Its decision was not based on any one of these factors, but on the Project site conditions as a whole. Accordingly, since there is record support — "extensively documented photographically and otherwise on a lot-by-lot basis" (id. at 526) — for ESDC's determination that the Project site was blighted, the Appellate Division plurality erred when it substituted its view for that of the legislatively designated agency.
Sprayregen has vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, whose ruling five years ago on the notorious Kelo case largely set the stage for such private-to-private-for-public-transfers as this. It remains anyone's guess how they might hold this time around. (Or even if they will.) Meanwhile, construction on the southern part of campus continues apace.
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Archi-Tron

As architecture grows more technical and technologically dependent, it can become harder for designers to navigate the sea of new programs and computer code. Columbia University GSAPP professor David Benjamin is here to help, offering a panel discussion Monday night about the future of computing and design, “Post Parametric 2: Demo.” The program is the second event in a series that brings expert programmers and researchers together, providing a unique opportunity for architects to learn from people outside their profession. “The first event last fall, "Post Parametric 1: Data," focused on how our new era of massive data might affect computing and design,” Benjamin said in an email. “Monday’s event involves five innovators demonstrating new technologies and speculating on the future directions for computing and design.” The event, which is co-sponsored by the Columbia Department of Computer Science, aims to enliven dialogue about the relationship between computation and design. Benjamin believes that by creating a sustained discussion about issues of technology, a complex, insightful dialogue will develop. The subject matter of the discussion will address current technologies but will primarily look to the future by bringing upcoming innovations to the table. “By future, I mean near future,” Benjamin said. “The series addresses how we might be designing in architecture in ten years.”
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Manhattanville Ho!

Last month's court victory for opponents of Columbia University's new campus in Manhattanville was not necessarily a defeat for the school's planned 17-acre expansion, and not only because appeals remain. With roughly 94 percent of the area under its control, Columbia has said it plans to continue work on the campus, despite its insistence that it cannot be completed as planned without full control of all buildings therein. Last night, Columbia officials outlined their current approach to Manhattanville for the first time since the ruling at a hearing in Harlem on the future of eminent domain in the state (more on that in Issue 1!). After an hour-and-a-half of grilling the ESDC—the state agency responsible for pursuing eminent domain on Columbia's behalf— State Senator Bill Perkins, in whose district the project lies, set his sights on Marcello Valez, the head of construction for the Manhattanville project at Columbia, and Maxine Griffith, a former planner who is now in-charge of government affairs at the school. The pair were evasive on many issues surrounding eminent domain and the court case—technically, they are responsible for neither—but they outlined their utility, demolition, and construction work that has been ongoing for a few months now. Most notably, 3229 Broadway continues to come down. It was the former building of Ann Whitman, one of the last remaining hold outs who eventually sold to the school in 2008 because she said she could no longer afford to fight. Her plot and an adjacent gas station will soon become home to the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, a major neuroscience project that, at the corner of 129th Street and Broadway, is supposed to be one of the new campus' centerpieces. Work will also soon commence on an art building also on the block and, perhaps most importantly, the entry to the subterranean "bathtub," that, World Trade Center-style, will house most of the campus' infrastructure. The bathtub remains a crucial piece of the Manhattanville puzzle because it is part of the justification for seizing the remaining properties. "If the basement can't connect, it would be difficult to see how the project could move forward," Griffith said, arguing the campus would be much less pedestrian friendly and community accessible with trucks idling on the street and HVAC spewing into the air. (A member of the Coalition to Preserve Community, a local opposition group, argued it was all a planning ruse, with the school fully able to build around the holdouts.) As for timing, Valez said that, despite the court case, everything remains on time, which is part of the reason construction work must continue on those properties controlled by Columbia. (That and the donors are old and would like to see something built while they're still alive, Griffith admitted somewhat cheekily.) As for architecture, Renzo Piano is nearing completion on final designs for these two buildings according to Victoria Benitez, a university spokesperson in attendance last night, though no renderings are yet available. She declined to say whether the Genoan architect would be designing the rest of the buildings on campus or whether some might go to other firms.
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Man of Metal

Last night Rafael Moneo, Madrid-based architect and Harvard Graduate School of Design professor, kicked off Columbia’s third annual conference on architecture, engineering, and materials with a keynote lecture on his Northwest Corner Building, a new interdisciplinary science facility between Chandler and Pupin halls. This year’s conference is titled Post Ductility: Metals in Architecture and Engineering, and though Moneo’s building isn’t scheduled to be completed until the fall of next year, there may not have been a better time to discuss its materials or its contribution to the campus. Unfinished, the building can be seen as the engineering marvel that it is, with 300 tons of structural trusses enabling it to float above the gym beneath it. (Here's a video we posted of them being installed.) Fitting neatly with the conference’s theme, Moneo’s discussion of interpreting what McKim, Mead, and White would have wanted for a New York campus in this century presented the building as less of a departure and more of an entrance. To critics who would say the building doesn’t meld with the university’s architecture, he cautioned, “Use of a material doesn’t guarantee the true continuity you are looking for.” The Post Ductility conference runs through Friday and will conclude with a discussion by GSAPP dean Mark Wigley, and Werner Sobek, Steven Holl, and Matthias Schuler. Next year's conference theme is slated to be Polymers: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering.

In Turner We Truss

My In Detail article in the current issue covers Rafael Moneo's Northwest Corner Building at Columbia University. In addition to filling the final vacancy in the 1890 McKim, Mead & White master plan, the building had to bridge a subterranean recreation center with a 120-foot clear span. In answer, Moneo—along with executive architect Davis Brody Bond Aedas and structural engineer Arup—designed the building's steel framing system as one big truss, with diagonal members bolstering the perimeter moment frame. The majority of the gravity loads, however, are supported by three gargantuan trusses that run the length of the building four levels above the street. These trusses are so big and heavy that Turner Construction had to assemble them on site, on a shed built above the sidewalk, and then slide them into place. The above stop-action video was also assembled by the construction manager, documenting its elegant solution to this seriously heavy erection.

Sachs on Sustainability

Jeffrey Sachs, the charismatic director of the Columbia University Earth Institute, gave a moving speech last night at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation on the environmental problems that are unique to our time. Sachs, free-market economist turned green evangelist and a special adviser to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, spoke on the objectives of the Institute: ending extreme poverty, maintaining the health of the ecosystem, promoting peace and shared prosperity, and advancing humanist aesthetics. Personally, it made me feel like we are at a point where each of our actions counts, especially in our role as architects, designers, and planners. Technology has allowed us to sew great damage, but it may also enable us to heal the planet. Much of Sachs’s talk dealt with what he calls “eco-tectonics,” that is the changing economic plates. The rise of Asia, or the “rise of the rest” as Fareed Zakaria calls it in The Post-American World, enabled by the new technological capacity of developing countries, is not only accelerating the human impact on the environment, but filling in power gaps. Using the current financial crisis as an example, Sachs explained how everything can go wrong in a world in which we don’t fully comprehend the interactions of the different mechanisms at play, were interconnectedness is playing a stronger role than ever, and chain reactions make local problems global. When he pointed out that the presidential campaign was focused on Middle Class voters, who were decisive to win the election, and poverty issues were hardly tackled, I couldn’t help but translate it to our profession: Architecture, like politics, is focused on those able to make the commissions, and not on those who really need of clever and groundbreaking ideas delivered on a low budget. In a profession that is crowded by battles of egos, and where formally adventurous buildings compete to stand out, there is a need for deeper thought and less aimless aesthetics. We are living in a time in which technology and communications make it possible for a designer in New York to extrude a nearly ready made skyscraper in the middle of Beijing, disregarding any possible impact that it may have not only to the immediate surroundings, but also on the environment. It is a time in which the architectural profession needs to re-examine how it applies global solutions to regional contexts, and in the same way be mindful about the local affecting the big picture. What does building green truly mean? Sustainability is not just about adding solar panels to old designs and using solvent-free paints. Truly green design requires understanding the intricate social, economical and political interactions as well as the physical conditions of our cities to prepare them for the overpopulation of the future. Even though we have learned from the disasters of tabula rasa projects of the 60s and 70s, it is not a matter of romanticizing existing conditions, which is often are unacceptable, but a question of sensitive political, cultural, and aesthetic action and interaction as an essential part of responsible practice.