[Editor’s Note: This letter is in response to an op-ed from the City Club of New York. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. ] There is a pressing need for new public open space and programming along the Lower Manhattan waterfront. When Hudson River Park’s Pier 54 closed in 2011, New York City lost vital parkland that had served both local community and citywide residents. The problem was that there was never enough public funding to support a new pier at that site. Pier55 will revitalize that waterfront space with nearly three acres of new public parkland, a unique design and new arts, educational and community programming. A public-private partnership between the Diller - von Furstenberg family and the Hudson River Park Trust will ensure Pier55 will remain sustainable for generations to come. As former City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has written, this use of a public-private partnership follows a long tradition that has supported other public parks across New York City, such as the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park, as well as public arts spaces like Central Park’s Naumberg Bandshell and the Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. That is all part of why Pier55 has received an overwhelmingly positive response from local families and park advocates who are excited about the future of the Hudson River Park. The project has also been through a rigorous and transparent environmental review process and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has already determined that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required. Unfortunately, the City Club of New York disagrees. Instead of engaging the community — as the Hudson River Park Trust and Pier55, Inc. have done over the past year — the City Club continues to make false claims about Pier55 and its public process. The fact is that Pier55 underwent a comprehensive Environmental Assessment which found that the park would have no significantly adverse impact on fish and other aquatic wildlife. The Environmental Assessment remains publicly posted on the HRPT website to this day, and it was distributed publicly for a two-month comment period that went well beyond what is required by state law. Additionally, it has already been stated that pile driving for Pier55 will not occur between November and April, when wildlife like winter flounder and striped bass are found in higher densities in the area. The City Club has provided no actual evidence refuting the Environmental Assessment or proving why any further environmental review would be required. Pier55 will provide a diverse array of programming, but it should be noted that boating activities are already found at numerous other piers along Hudson River Park. Contrary to opposition claims, as determined by the United States Coastguard, Pier55 will not obstruct navigation in the Hudson River because that particular area has never been used for boating activities. Pier55’s commitment to public programming is also based on a commitment to public access. The park will remain open to the public all year round and the vast majority of events at Pier55 will be offered for free or at low cost. It must also be noted that Pier55’s 2.7-acre size is within the scope of what is allowed based on a 2013 law amending the state’s Hudson River Park Act. This amendment, crafted based on input from the local community board and other stakeholders, allowed HRPT to rebuild the former pier outside its original footprint. Aside from all that, it is odd to see the City Club argue that Pier55 — one pier among many at Hudson River Park — will block views of the river. The pier will provide park visitors with new and unique views of the Hudson River, and it will replace a fenced-off site that currently provides no public benefit. Overall, Pier55 is a public benefit that is being funded by necessity through a public-private partnership. Pier55, Inc. is not a corporation — it is a nonprofit organization. It will not reap profits from any events held at Pier55, and all programming revenue will go back into funding the park and serving the public. As New Yorkers for Parks and other supporters have noted, this public-private model will ensure that the new pier remains sustainable for generations, even in the absence of public funding. The City Club’s arguments against Pier55 may be numerous, but they are without merit and do not reflect the overwhelming community support for the project, which has only grown as more local residents hear what the new park will provide for their neighborhood. We look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders on making Pier55 a success for the community and the city. We hope the City Club will reconsider its inaccurate claims and join us in that effort. —Pier55 Development Team
Posts tagged with "Controversy":
Deafening Silence: Morphosis designs a skyscraper in the Alps next to Peter Zumthor's famous Therme Vals spa
Can a 1,250-foot-tall skyscraper qualify as "a minimalist object” under any circumstances? It depends on who you ask—particularly if the building in question, the 7132 Tower hotel designed by Los Angeles–based architecture firm Morphosis for a site in Vals, Switzerland, would go up next to Peter Zumthor’s understated Therme Vals spa. Morphosis’ Thom Mayne said yes, calling the slender, reflective high-rise “a minimalist act that reiterates the site and offers to the viewer a mirrored, refracted perspective of the landscape.” The project’s critics, meanwhile, accuse Morphosis and client 7132 Limited of disrespecting the hotel’s surroundings, both natural and built. Zumthor, who completed the quartzite-walled Therme Vals spa in 1996, appears to be taking the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” approach. BD Online quoted a firm spokesperson as saying, “He doesn’t want to comment on this hotel.” The tower—which would top Renzo Piano’s Shard by over 200 feet to become the tallest in the European Union—is still a long way from being built, requiring planning permission and a public vote prior to construction. Among the marks against it are the manner by which Morphosis received the commission. What began as a competition ended in February with a unilateral decision by 7132 Limited to narrow the three-firm shortlist down to one, over the jury’s objection. On the plus side, Mayne’s concept has garnered a vote of confidence from Tadao Ando, whose nearby Valser Path park is expected to be finished by 2017. “I believe it will harmonize in the beautiful landscape and will attract and impress various guests and visitors from all over the world,” said Ando.
We've learned from Curbed LA that Frank Gehry is designing a large mixed-use development on LA's Sunset Strip called 8150 Sunset. Located on Sunset and Crescent Heights Boulevards, the project will be located on the site of an old estate nicknamed the "Garden of Allah." (The lot now contains a strip mall.) According to its Draft Environmental Impact Report (PDF), the new complex, consisting of two buildings sitting on a raised podium, will include 249 apartments, about 100,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, and a large central plaza. Updated plans and renderings are set to be released this spring, according to developer Townscape Partners. A group called Save Sunset Boulevard is fighting to block the project, calling it a "hideous monstrosity," and attacking its EIR. Among other things the association, which is represented by anti-development lawyer Robert Silverstein, called out the project's potential to add to congestion, dwarf local historic buildings, block views, and waste water and other resources. The glitzy Sunset Strip has become an architect magnet, drawing Lorcan O'Herlihy and SOM (Sunset La Cienega), Ian Schrager, CIM, and several more. It's also been a graveyard of sorts, felling projects by Eric Owen Moss, Hodgetts + Fung, Kanner Architects, and others in recent years.
Speaking of controversy, Zaha Hadid can’t catch a break! Since her stadium design for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was unveiled, complaints have arisen about the scale and height of the project. Then two of Japan’s biggest architects—Toyo Ito and Fumihiko Maki—signed on to a petition calling for a revised design. As of press time more than 26,500 people have signed on to protest the design. Is someone’s star beginning to dim?
Despite earlier indications of progress, Frank Gehry's design for a planned Eisenhower Memorial continues to encounter stumbling blocks. In November the US Commission of Fine Arts asked Mr. Gehry to make eight revisions to the proposal, a request that was then echoed and amplified in January when Congress turned down the Eisenhower Memorial Commission's request for $51 million in funding, a denial that was accompanied by a message imploring the architect "to work with all constituencies—including Congress and the Eisenhower family—as partners in the planning and design process.” The plan's most prominent feature, large metallic tapestries depicting the landscape scenes from the former president's childhood Kansas upbringing, has also proved to be its greatest sticking point. Some have suggested that the modern and outsize screens, coupled with the overall scale of the site, are not in keeping with Ike's humble and traditional image. The design has produced enough indignation in some circles that the National Civic Art Society launched a new competition for the commission courting more classically conceived memorials. Others have responded negatively to the narrative painted by the memorial, suggesting that the emphasis on the man's childhood found in the tapestries and many of the accompanying relief sculptures draw attention away from his later achievements as a public figure. Many of Eisenhower's family-members have been particularly vocal in their opposition to Gehry's vision. The closed process involved in the architect's initial selection for the project has come under fire for being undemocratic. The budget attached to the design has done little to assuage doubters, and Congress' leaves the Memorial Commission with $30 million in the bank for a structure estimated to cost over four times that amount. Though Gehry is to have responded to the CFA's request for adjustments, Congress was not impressed with the re-designs that bear a very close resemblance to their controversial predecessors. Some see more than a hint of ego in Gehry's stubbornness; an unnamed official affiliated with the Memorial claimed the largely unchanged plans reflected "tremendous arrogance." Responding to the latest development Representative Rob Bishop of Utah, chairman of the subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation said, “To me this is very disappointing. It looks like tweaks here and there. It still means Gehry has not done what Congress asked him to do—to work with all the constituents, Congress, and the family.”
Liz Diller faced down a hostile crowd at the recent “MoMA Expansion Conversation,” hosted by the Architectural League, the Municipal Art Society, and AIA New York. Apparently she’s had some practice. One elder statesman of the New York architecture community reports that Diller made a series of phone calls to prominent architects prior to the public release of MoMA’s plans asking for their advice and support. This gray eminence apparently told her the firm should resign from the commission. At which point Ric Scofidio apparently chimed in, saying, succinctly, “Never!” An editor from another publication reports rumors of dissent within Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Apparently some associates in the firm have asked not to work on the project, fearing a Scarlet Letter on their resumes.
The Architecture League of New York has released a video of the discussion convened last week to discuss to MoMA's planned expansion. The move, which entails the demolition of the adjacent American Folk Art Museum, is a contentious one and has sparked much debate within the architectural community. Tuesday's conversation included contributions from the Museum's director, Glenn Lowry, Elizabeth Diller (principal of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, who is overseeing the project), and a slew of other architects, journalists, and theorists who all questioned MoMA's decision to do away with their Tod Williams Billie Tsien-designed neighbor.
Fifty-four years after Frank Lloyd Wright’s death, the village of Wraxall, England just killed plans to build one of the architect’s designs. Last August, Dr. Hugh Pratt, a local parish councillor, petitioned the planning board to build a Wright-inspired house on greenbelt land. Some area residents argued that the building would elevate the community’s aesthetics, but others worried that the house would set a precedent for further intrusions into the greenbelt. Opponents also expressed concern that Wright’s design is out of keeping with present-day sensibilities. “A design from the 1940s is not what a contemporary and innovative eco-friendly architect would propose. Even with some modern refinements, it’s a museum piece,” one commenter wrote online in response to Pratt’s planning application, which rejected in December 2013, according to the Bristol Post. Wraxall representative Bob Cook took offense at the the proposal and Wright's legacy, according to the Post. "I do not see why we should allow this odd American-designed house in our countryside," he told the newspaper. "Outside of the USA and Japan there is not one Frank Lloyd Wright–designed house. He can't be that influential if the rest of the world doesn't want them. It would be so wrong to allow this house to be built in our beautiful green belt." Like many of Wright’s houses, the Dr. Hugh & Mrs. Judith Pratt Residence is long and low, with horizontal courses of rough-hewn stone dominating the north elevation. The south side of the house is primarily glass. Drawings show the structure nestled into hillocks surrounding an artificial lake. In plan, the house is a series of overlapping circles. The largest circle embraces the building’s forecourt and main entry, plus a carport, an oblong living/dining space, and the circular kitchen. A semi-circular study projects off the end of the living/dining area closest to the kitchen. Off the opposite end of the open-plan space is a circular library. A hallway adjacent to the library leads to the private wing of the house, with three smaller bedrooms and, at the far end, a circular master suite. The Pratt Residence is unusual in several respects. The design on which it’s based, the House for Dr. & Mrs. O’Keeffe, was intended for a site in Santa Barbara, California—seemingly a far cry from Wraxall, England. If Pratt had been successful in securing permission to build, the house would have been the last of Wright’s posthumous works to be built with the blessing of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The Foundation program through which Pratt acquired the rights to the design—as well as the assistance of a member of the Taliesin Fellowship—was discontinued in June 2010, over growing concerns about the program’s impact on Wright’s legacy. Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation President and CEO Sean Malone argued that the shift in site from Santa Barbara to England was not as radical as it seemed. Malone’s noted that Stephen Nemtin, the Wright-trained architect charged with transforming O’Keefe House into the Pratt Residence, was satisfied that Wraxall and the original site shared many key characteristics. “Stephen visited the proposed site at Tyntesfield Springs personally to assess if the site is suitable for this design,” Malone said. “He determined that the site has the desirable balance of water, mature trees, and open views which are essential for this design—and concluded that the site is entirely appropriate and will provide the right landscape setting for the building.” (Nemtin died in August 2013, after completing a full set of drawings for the Pratt Residence.) According to the Bristol Post, Dr. Pratt is considering an appeal to the decision. But no additional unbuilt projects will follow in the wake of the Pratt Residence, in part because the cutting edge of architecture today hardly resembles that of sixty years ago. “We believe projects built during Wright’s time maintain his legacy, but projects constructed after his death are different. They have to be different to meet contemporary building codes and in using contemporary materials and technologies,” Malone said. “Moreover, they are different because they can’t possibly reflect what Wright might have done during the important phase of taking the project from initial design to execution.” Wright’s first drafts were famously conceptual. With the pool of surviving Wright apprentices dwindling, predicting how the master architect would have completed a project becomes more a matter of guesswork than informed artistic interpretation. In addition, Malone said, the certification of designs as Wright-inspired can lead to misunderstanding. “We don’t want to suggest there are ‘new’ Frank Lloyd Wright buildings,” he explained. “It seems pretty obvious, but there can be confusion. So moving forward, we do not authorize, support, sponsor, or in any way encourage construction of unbuilt projects.”
Four residents of New Jersey and two public interest groups have pledged to appeal the court ruling upholding the grant of a variance to allow LG Electronics USA to build an 8-story headquarters in Englewood, NJ. If built, the HOK-designed office complex (pictured) will rise above the tree-line and forever change the view of the Palisades from the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's outpost in northern Manhattan, that sits along the Hudson River facing New Jersey. “We have reviewed the decision and believe that it is erroneous. We plan to appeal,” said Angelo Morresi, attorney for the public interests groups, in a statement. (Rendering: Courtesy HOK)
A new bill before the U.S. House of Representatives is seeking to build consensus to junk Frank Gehry's design for the Eisenhower Memorial on the National Mall. The bill, known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Completion Act, was proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). It cites concerns over the controversial nature of the design and its escalating costs (currently estimated at well over $100 million) and seeks to "facilitate the completion of an appropriate national memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower." Opposition to Gehry's proposal has been brewing for some time. The antagonists include members of Eisenhower's family and the National Civic Art Society, which published a 153-page report that called Gehry's scheme a "travesty" and a "Happy McMonument." The AIA feels differently. The association released a statement opposing Rep. Bishop's bill. The statement does not express an opinion about the value of Gehry's design, but rather disapproves of the "arbitrary nature" of this exercise of "governmental authority." Lodge your feelings about the bill and/or Gehry's design in the comments section of this post.
Houses of Worship damaged by Hurricane Sandy were initially excluded from receiving federal aid based on the constitutional separation of church and state. But in an interesting turn of events, the House of Representatives has approved a bill that would provide grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to rebuild synagogues, mosques, and churches. The New York Times reported that FEMA has stipulated that, according to its rules and regulations, it can only allocate federal money to "repair and replace 'furnishings and equipment,'” which puts into question what items “are eligible.” It comes as no surprise that the American Civil Liberties Union and Congressman Jerrold Nadler oppose this legislation, calling it unconstitutional. (Photo: Loozrboy/Flickr)
A group of prominent architecture editors and critics, including AN's William Menking, have written a letter to the New York Public Library (NYPL) protesting the proposed renovation by Foster + Partners, under the banner of the "Huxtable Initiative." The letters requests that the NYPL's Board of Trustees reconsider the current plan to remove the library's massive iron and steel stacks for a new atrium and reading room "before such an irreversible decision is made." Letter to the Board of Trustees of the New York Public Library February 4, 2013 The late Ada Louise Huxtable’s last essay (Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2012) criticized the New York Public Library’s plan to remove its seven stories of stacks in the main branch at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue to make room for a circulating library designed by Foster + Partners. While she had not been able to convince the library to show her Foster’s scheme by that date, Huxtable contended that the 19th-century iron and steel stacks were an important engineering feat and should be preserved. Now Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic for the New York Times, argues on the front page of the newspaper (January 30, 2013) that the schematic design Norman Foster presented on December 20, 2012 has “the elegance and distinction of a suburban mall,” and is an “awkward, cramped, banal pastiche of tiers facing claustrophobia-inducing windows.” He further questions a plan where the budget of $300 million keeps rising, and asserts that the trade-off in square feet simply does not make a strong case for proceeding. We architecture writers, editors, critics, and historians urge the trustees of the New York Public Library to reconsider their plans for the 42nd Street building. The library’s lack of transparency in involving the public in its planning process angered Huxtable, as it has us. We, like Kimmelman, are convinced the proposed intervention would do much to damage the architectural character and experience of Carrère and Hasting’s magnificent Beaux Arts landmark. The scholars among us do not object to the public or to teenagers sharing this space. But considering all the trade-offs, the library should seriously reconsider renovating the 40th Street branch for a circulating library where Foster’s talents could be used more appropriately. Why is the board of the New York Public Library in such a rush that it remains deaf to the well-publicized misgivings of so many in the community? Before such an irreversible decision is made, we ask the board to stop and open the proposal affecting such a significant public institution to significant public discussion. Thomas Bender Mosette Broderick Rosemarie Bletter Elisabeth Broome Martin Filler Joseph Giovannini Carol Krinsky Mark Lamster Paul Makovsky Cathleen McGuigan Mary McLeod William Menking David Morton Victoria Newhouse Joan Ockman Clifford Pearson Mildred Schmertz Suzanne Stephens Carol Willis Gwendolyn Wright