Update 7/12/17: The article was updated to clarify the resolution the commissioners voted on yesterday afternoon. On Tuesday the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) debated how to preserve a Manhattan synagogue gutted by fire earlier this year. Instead of approving the owner's request to demolish the building entirely, the commission agreed that important parts of the structure should be salvaged, where possible. The building in question is the Beth Hamerdash Hagodol, at 60 Norfolk Street on the Lower East Side. The modified Gothic Revival–style structure was built in 1850 as a Baptist church and converted to a synagogue in 1885. Home to a Russian Jewish Orthodox congregation for more than a century but vacant since 2007, it was one of the first structures added to New York’s landmark list, in 1967. In May, the building was destroyed by a blaze that was later characterized as arson; it's missing its roof and most of the interior is filled with rubble. Given the extensive damage, the hearing focused on whether the building has enough integrity to remain an individual landmark, and if so, how its structure should be preserved. In testimony to the commission, Bryan Chester, an engineer from Howard L. Zimmerman Architects, detailed the shul's precarious structural integrity. The wooden roof trusses are "beyond repair," while the masonry bearing walls are unstable and severely deteriorated. Of the two towers that flanked the main (west) entrance, the northern one is in bad shape, but the south and east facades, though unstable, are in slightly better condition. The building had no fire insurance, and the extent of the damages put restoration out of the question—any materials above the window sills would probably be unsalvageable, Chester said. On the whole, those who testified before the commission advocated against demolition and for preservation in some form. Simeon Bankoff, executive director of preservation group Historic Districts Council, said the group "strenuously objects" to demolition, while noting that the owner's negligence over the years shouldn't be rewarded with a tear-down. The synagogue is on a prime lot on the Lower East Side, a district that by some measures is one of Manhattan's most gentrified. Speaking for Friends of the Lower East Side, a group that preserves the architectural and cultural heritage of the neighborhood, Joyce Mendelsohn said the group was in "total opposition" to demolition. Andrea Goldman of the New York Landmarks Conservancy agreed, noting that years before the fire, the preservation advocacy group had worked with the congregation to come up with an action plan for the building, which was in poor repair. (Right before the blaze, the synagogue had almost reached a deal with the Chinese American Planning Council, a nonprofit that owns two neighboring sites, to restore the building and erect affordable housing.) Considering the state of the structure, demolition seemed a done deal, but the LPC commissioners were hesitant to okay the applicant's request in light of the building's cultural significance. Scaffolding surrounds the ruins; right now, there's little danger the remaining structure could topple, but Chester said that in a few more months the situation could be more dangerous. So what could be salvaged, and how should the building's heritage honored? Landmarks hired engineers at Superstructures to independently evaluate the site. The firm concurred with the Zimmerman team that the south and east facades, though unstable, were repairable. The demolition team would deploy tall machines to take the synagogue apart from the top down, a process Chester likened to dinosaurs chomping on trees. But commissioners had questions: What if the crew destroys more of the remains than necessary? What if the building could be preserved and appreciated like Roman or Mayan ruins, or the Carmo Convent in Lisbon? "I'm unconvinced of the absolute necessity for demolition," said Commissioner Michael Devonshire, even when taking into account the building's unstable walls. Fellow Commissioner Frederick Bland added that the group needed to "see what's left and re-assess" after the structure has been stabilized. At the meeting, the commissioners decided to preserve, where feasible, the building's most important elements, but did not vote up/down on the owner's demolition bid. Instead, LPC general council Mark Silberman was asked to draft a resolution on the project that modified the owner's request. The resolution states that parts of the building need to be removed for safety reasons, especially around the north, south, and west facades, while retaining as much material as possible, with significant architectural features salvaged. The whole process will be overseen on-site by the LPC's engineers. It was approved yesterday afternoon. Edward Gunts contributed reporting.
Posts tagged with "Fires":
[UPDATE: Officials now say candles were likely the cause] Late Sunday night, the landmarked Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava on West 25th Street in Nomad was engulfed in a four-alarm fire, hours after parishioners wrapped up Easter services. The St. Sava Church, where writer Edith Wharton was married, is an English Gothic Revival structure designed by Richard Upjohn and built in 1855. On Twitter, reactions to the fire were as swift as the blaze itself: https://twitter.com/TedGrunewald/status/727210957827629058 The church, local preservation activist Theodore Grunewald noted, had one of New York City's largest hammerbeam roofs: https://twitter.com/TedGrunewald/status/726982205952659456 https://twitter.com/Angelina_Sje/status/727288125081407488 https://twitter.com/SerbianWorld/status/727271444586094593 The aftermath shows a burned-out shell, the timber roof reduced to char on the church floor. As locals mourned the destruction of the historic site, some, including city council member Cory Johnson, suspected foul play. Developers have had their eyes on the site's air rights. WNYC initially reported that the FDNY has deemed the fire suspicious, partially due to the large volume of smoke billowing from the site when firefighters arrived on the scene around 7 P.M., although later reports posit that the fire was caused by an unattended box of candles.
Page/Park Architects selected to rebuild Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s legendary fire-destroyed art nouveau Glasgow library
Glasgow, Scotland–based architecture practice Page/Park wowed judges in an international competition for the restoration of the Glasgow School of Art, whose legendary art nouveau library was consumed by a fire in May last year. While all 259 rooms were affected by the fire, with the bulk of the damage attributed to smoke, the flames demolished Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s library beyond recognition. Page/Park’s Piece by Piece submission comprised a room-by-room dissection of the building, a culmination of closely studying photographs and literature “from various periods and from every possible angle” to visually reassemble the library in its heyday. From there, 21st-century amenities can be integrated such as replacements for the vintage lighting and cabling—first installed when the building was completed in 1909. “The first job is to understand how it was originally constructed and secondly to understand the how it was changed over the last century, and on the basis of that if we know how it’s made we can make the decision how it’s going to be renewed if necessary or repaired for the most part,” David Page, head of architecture at Page/Parks, told The Guardian. Having worked on a number of Mackintosh-conceived projects, including converting the former Glasgow Herald offices into the Lighthouse Centre for Design and Architecture, the firm showed superlative insight into the Scottish architect’s oeuvre. In crafting its proposal, Page/Parks zeroed in on a single bay and post of the balcony—two elements repeated throughout the building—to recreate the library within the remains of its still-standing masonry shell. “Our knowledge has been supplemented by what was revealed by the fire—elements of the construction that were not possible to examine in full when the Library was intact,” the firm writes in Piece by Piece. Profiled rails, balcony pendants and scalloped balusters painted red, white, blue and green inform the interior’s art nouveau signature, but the proposal does not elaborate on whether these archaic fixtures will stay or go. Work is slated to commence in April next year, with the renovation being expected to conclude in 2018.
As AN recently reported, a fire that destroyed a warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has rekindled questions about a long-promised waterfront park. Back in 2005, Michael Bloomberg rezoned much of Williamsburg and Greenpoint leading to a surge in glassy towers. With those towers was supposed to come Bushwick Inlet Park, a 28-acre green space along the East River. But in the decade since, only parts of the park have been completed. That is partly because when the city rezoned the waterfront, it didn't purchase the 11-acre Citistorage property that sits in the middle of the planned park. Now, with one of the warehouses destroyed, local residents and elected officials are urging the de Blasio administration to finally acquire the lot and deliver more green space. But with the property reportedly valued between $75 million and $100 million, the de Blasio administration says it has no plans to do so. In spite of that, over the weekend protesters used "light graffiti" to urge the administration to change course. Gothamist reported that images were projected on the side of a storage facility next to the charred site that read: "The city mapped it, designed it, and promised it and we need it more than ever," "Hey de Blasio Where's Our Park?" and "This Right Here is Supposed to be a Park." There were also details displayed about an upcoming rally planned outside City Hall on Thursday. The event in Williamsburg brings us back to 2011 when Occupy Wall Street protesters projected so-called "bat signals" on the side of the Verizon Building next to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Getting the blessing of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission can be a tricky thing. Typically, your best bet is to go contextual: stick with historic materials and keep the modern ornamentation to a minimum. That is clearly not the approach that SYSTEMarchitects' Jeremy Edmiston took for a parametrically designed Tribeca townhouse in search of facelift. The existing two-story structure 187 Franklin is not historically significant, but since it sits within a historic district, Edmiston didn't have carte blanche for the owners requested two story addition and setback penthouse. While the architect nods to Tribeca’s history with a primarily brick facade, he doesn’t try to replicate the building’s neighbors. At all. Instead, he assembles a new facade in such a way that it makes the new townhouse appear as if it is entirely engulfed in flames. Home-y? Maybe not. Interesting? Undeniably. Landmark Preservation Commission approved? Unanimously. That approval came back in 2011 and now the Tribeca Citizen is reporting that the project "is back." Edminston told AN that construction is already underway and that the project is slated to be completed in December. The structure’s parametric facade frees bricks from their expected pattern and weaves them into what appear as dancing flames. Between these “flames” are angled windows intended to bring in light while preserving privacy for the family of four. Each floor also gets a steel, mesh-like balcony.
While it appears that Los Angeles' famed Norms restaurant is safe, at least for the moment, another local dining landmark is in trouble: Hof's Hut, in Long Beach, which recently suffered "significant damage" due to multiple fires, according to the LA Times. Designed by mid-century architect Edward Killingsworth, the restaurant's exposed post and beam structure and massive windows (now partially hidden by ugly awnings) helped make it a classic for more than half a century. Inspectors are still attempting to determine the cause of the back-to-back fires. To this point the restaurant has not released plans on rebuilding, but in a statement said, “We are devastated by the fire and loss of our Long Beach Blvd. restaurant." There are three other Hof's Huts remaining in Southern California.
If you drive in Los Angeles, you probably noticed the blaze Sunday night that many have compared to witnessing the apocalypse. That would have been controversial LA developer Geoffrey Palmer's Da Vinci— a residential project on the western edge of the 110 Freeway in Downtown— going up in smoke. But Palmer, whose fortress-like, faux-Italian, fountain-embellished, wood-framed, and stucco-clad empire also includes huge downtown residences like the Orsini, the Medici, the Piero, and the Visconti, has vowed to continue with the scheme. "Though we have temporarily lost Building B, we will be opening Building A across the street at the end of January to those families looking forward to occupying their new homes," he said in a statement. In case you're wondering what Palmer and his architect, Alan Boivin, have created in Downtown LA (yes, this is Downtown), here's a look. Brace yourself. According to the LA Times, Palmer, one of the pioneers of development in the area (he started here over 15 years ago) has 3,500 residential units completed in the greater downtown area and more than 2,500 planned or under construction. “The Italians actually settled LA before the Spanish and Chinese,” Palmer told Los Angeles Magazine.
Photoengraved concrete connects past and present in Montreal student housing.Though the site on which KANVA's Edison Residence was recently constructed stood vacant for at least 50 years, its emptiness belied a more complicated history. Located on University Street just north of McGill University's Milton gates, the student apartment building lies within one of Montreal's oldest neighborhoods. Photographs dating to the mid-19th century show a stone house on the lot, but by 1960 the building "had disappeared; it was erased," said founding partner Rami Bebawi. Excavation revealed that the original house had burned to the ground. Prompted by the site's history, as well as an interest in exploring cutting-edge concrete technology, the architects delivered a unique solution to the challenge of combining old and new: a photoengraved concrete facade featuring stills from Thomas Edison's 1901 film of Montreal firefighters. Knowing that Edison Residence would be subject to heavy use by its student occupants, KANVA chose concrete—featured on the interior as well as the building envelope—for its durability and sustainability. But the architects were not interested in sticking to tried-and-true building methods. "Being right in front of a university, we took it upon ourselves to say, 'We're going to push concrete technology,'" explained Bebawi. "We wanted the building itself to be a laboratory to experiment with concrete, and to make this innovation public and accessible to all." Because they also hoped to use the facade to tell a story, they turned to photoengraving, a technique developed by the German firm Reckli. Reckli translates black and white images into grooves of different depths and widths that offer a total of 256 shades of grey. "It brings the building to life, just like cinematography brings photos to life," said Bebawi, noting that the images may appear and disappear according to one's viewpoint. "It's not a stain. We're looking at something that is permanent, yet dynamic." Choosing the content of the photoengraved panels proved more difficult. "Here's a tool that's powerful, but very scary," said Bebawi. "It's like a billboard in Times Square, but it doesn't change every 30 seconds. You have this kind of social responsibility [to make an appropriate choice]." Thinking about photoengraving's capacity to animate a building led KANVA to early moving pictures, or "tableaux mouvants," and in turn to Edison's role in developing film technology. When they discovered his Montreal Fire Department on Runners, filmed just blocks away from the Edison Residence site, they knew they had it. "All of sudden we closed the loop," recalled Bebawi. "Fires transformed the city." The architects extracted twenty images from the film and sent them to Germany, where Reckli manufactured rubber liners for use during the pouring of the precast panels. Local prefabricated concrete company Saramac fabricated and installed the panels back in Montreal. For continuity, all of the street facade's glazing (manufactured and installed by Groupe Lessard) features additional screen-printed stills from Edison's film. Depending on the position of the sun, the film sequence becomes more or less visible. Variations in the facade depth form a base and cornice, and add to the effect. "When the sun's not at the right angle, the grooves make it look like it's simply an inserted masonry building," said Bebawi. "At other times, it comes to life." Other aspects of the building, including the prominent porte-cochère, nod to local architectural traditions. Yellow metal accents offer additional animation "by sort of an urban signal," said Bebawi. "This yellow is screaming out. It pulls you into the porte-cochère entrance and is expressed on lateral and rear facades." The remainder of the building is unornamented concrete, in keeping with the quarter's environmental code. "It had to be a masonry building according to the heritage standards," said Bebawi. "Obviously, we played with that: 'I can fit your rules, but speak in terms of 2014.' It was a great collaboration with municipal and provincial authorities." Edison Residence embodies a third way to reconcile new construction with history. "When you think about our relationship to the past in terms of architecture, you can demolish it, imitate it, or contrast it," said Bebawi. "This building takes a different position. Depending on the way you place yourself, sometimes the past appears, and sometimes it doesn't."
A new downtown festival launching tomorrow celebrates the “grit, greatness and renewal” of Chicago by paying tribute its greatest tragedy. In a move reminiscent of Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain, The Chicago Fire Festival will float some theatrical pyrotechnics down the Chicago River on Saturday evening. Chicago's most infamous disaster has long been less a symbol of destruction than rebirth. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 killed hundreds of people and leveled several square miles of the still young city. That cleared the way for the birth of modern Chicago, a bittersweet legacy celebrated to this day by a star on the city's flag, as well as in the names of its major league soccer team and its downtown tech business incubator. The city tasked local Redmoon Theater with organizing the inaugural Chicago Fire Festival, corralling corporate sponsors and non-profit foundations to produce the event. “The Great Chicago Fire basically birthed our great cultural export: architecture,” Redmoon's director Jim Lasko told Chicago Magazine. The festival will be a culmination of Redmoon's previous effort, a three-month series of free events throughout dozens of Chicago neighborhoods that asked residents about challenges they've overcome and successes they celebrate. Many of their answers will be projected on floating barges in the river between State Street and Columbus Drive on Saturday night. If the festival is a success, organizers hope it will become an annual fixture of public art in Chicago. If not, it will burn away with the models of Victorian homes and period-specific Chicago architecture that Redmoon is offering up in the name of The Great Chicago Fire Festival.
Fire hydrants are as necessary as they are historically significant. The first fire hydrant was proposed sometime during the early 19th century. No one knows the exact date as the records of its creation and use were, ironically, destroyed in a fire. The design of modern fire hydrants hasn't changed for decades, but today, a veteran firefighter has proposed a new design that could make fighting fires much easier. Fire hydrant manufacturer Sigelock Systems is advocating the use of the Sigelock SPARTAN hydrant, designed to improve the quality of these important fire hydrants and to preserve the lives of thousands of people. Led by firefighter George Sigelakis, Sigelock has innovated a fire hydrant that provides an answer to the major problems surrounding typical fire hydrants. The SPARTAN hydrant consumes less water, does not easily rust, and is much harder to tamper with in comparison to conventional fire hydrants. The new design has been slow to catch on, however. Only 150 SPARTAN hydrants are currently in use in 11 states. The main obstacle to the distribution of this invention appears to be the cost, which is 20 percent more than a regular fire hydrant. The designers noted, however, that reduced maintenance on the new hydrant along with significant water savings can offset this cost difference.
[Editor's Note: Following a devastating fire at the Glasgow School of Art on Friday, May 23, the university has launched a fundraising campaign to assist with restoration and rebuilding efforts. To support the fund, donate online here. Work has been ongoing to assess the damage and salvage what remains. This article originally appeared on Witold Rybczynski's blog, On Culture and Architecture. It appears here with permission of the author. ] The tragic fire at the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, raises anew the question: How to rebuild? In a thoughtful blog, George Cairns of Melbourne’s RMIT, who has studied the building in detail, points out that many undocumented changes were made during the building’s construction, so it will be impossible to recreate what was there. In addition, the inevitable demands of modern fire security will likely alter the original design. Rather than try to rebuild Mackintosh’s design, Cairns argues for “great architects to be invited to design a worthy intervention that will breathe new life into the school.” I’m not so sure. When the fifteenth-century canal facade of the Doge’s Palace was destroyed by fire in 1577, Palladio proposed rebuilding it in a Classical style, but he was over-ridden, and the original Venetian Gothic was restored. When John Soane’s Dulwych Picture Gallery was hit by a V-1 rocket during WWII, it was rebuilt exactly as it had been. In fact, the building had been altered several times since Soane’s death. Buildings are not works of art, time changes them, alterations regularly take place, life has its way. What’s wrong with repairing damage? Even if it is not exactly as it was, it could be almost as it was, and a hundred years from now, the difference will not matter. Surely that is better than a “worthy intervention”?