Foster + Partners likes to think of itself as a high-design firm with glamorous projects all over the world. But the banal rendering accompanying this week's announcement of a new 19-story, "luxury" residential tower, 551 West 21 Street, belies their design skills. Could it be that they have a two-tier design strategy in their office where glamorous cultural institutions get "Sir Norman" and commercial towers get, well, something less? The building's press release states that it "marries the timeless elegance… of classic Park Avenue apartment buildings with the excitement and energy of West Chelsea" and "has a robust, cast-concrete exterior that frames expansive windows with warm metal surrounds." It goes on about luxury finishes and unimaginable penthouse views, but really, the client, SR Capital, needs to spend some more time with Sir Norman. Only one rendering showing a facade detail has been released, but Foster + Partners is expected to reveal more soon. The building is expected to be complete in summer of 2015.
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Norman Foster is expected to design a new skyscraper in downtown Philadelphia, according to sources cited by the Philly Inquirer. Media company Comcast has outgrown its current home in the city's tallest building—Robert A.M. Stern's 975-foot-tall Comcast Center. Details of the planned tower are being guarded, but architecture critic Inga Saffron reported that Comcast is exploring plans to build a "vertical campus" including several new towers, potentially beginning with a new structure on a 1.5-acre vacant lot at the corner of 18th and Arch streets (indicated above). The site was previously approved for a 1,500-foot-tall tower in 2008 but Saffron said the new tower would likely be shorter. Developer John Gattuso of Liberty Property Trust told the Inquirer, "The tower will be as big as it needs to be."
Moscow’s Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts expansion project, one of Russia's most prominent and contentious building schemes, has spiraled into disarray. Since Foster + Partners’ winning plans to expand and modernize the 101-year-old institution were originally approved in 2009, the development has been confronted with a series of delays including disputes between officials and preservationists. Now, to cap it off, the firm has officially resigned from the project. Recently, Pushkin's chief architect Sergei Kuznetsov publicly proposed that Norman Foster take a more hands-on role and demonstrate his commitment to the $670 million project by traveling to the Russian capital within a month. Kuznetsov’s ultimatum specified that “if Sir Foster, for one reason or another, refuses to participate further in the work, then, most likely, a competition will be held to choose another team, possibly of Western architects.” In response, Foster + Partners issued a statement revealing that the firm had already sent a resignation letter in June to former museum director Irina Antonova, who stepped down in July after running the museum for more than 50 years. The statement claimed that the museum has not involved the firm in the development of the project over the last three years, despite several attempts to continue working with the institution. In a statement sent to The Art Newspaper, the firm said that it had "formally resigned from the Pushkin Museum project and stipulated that their name could not be used in conjunction with the project.” Scheduled for completion in 2018, Foster’s design involved forming a museum complex encompassing the Pushkin Museum and overhauling twelve neighboring mansions. The “Museum Town,” first envisioned by Antonova in 2006, would incorporate a concert hall, a library, and underground facilities. Antonova had asked Foster to design a high quality, 21st century facility.
New York Public Library (NYPL) president Anthony Marx has commissioned a third-party review of the projected $300 million cost to implement Norman Foster’s redesign of its central branch. To pay for this costly renovation, dubbed The Central Library Plan, the library will use $150 million allocated by the city for this specific project and raise an additional $200 million from the sale of the Mid-Manhattan and the Science, Industry, and Business Libraries. NYPL says consolidation will save it $7.5 million a year. Critics of the plan advocate preserving the central branch’s stacks and renovating the Mid-Manhattan Library instead. Marx said to the New York Times, “we know there is skepticism about our numbers. We understand that there needs to be an independent cost estimate and will provide one as soon as we have a design.” Marx also mentioned that both the estimated cost and Foster’s design are subject to change. More specifics will be released in the fall, but for now Foster’s design would swap the stacks for a circulating library overlooking Bryant Park that features a four-level atrium with bookshelves, sitting areas and desks. Critics argue against removing the stacks and are skeptical of the financial estimates NYPL president Marx has put forward. State Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner, chairman of the Committee on Libraries and Education Technology, questions why the NYPL has applied for and been granted building permits without a detailed design and specific cost. Construction has been announced to start this summer and to be completed by 2018.
Foster + Partners has released concept renderings for the proposed Albert Einstein Museum in Jerusalem. Part of Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus Campus, the museum will serve as a motivational learning center that reflects Einstein’s scientific and cultural impact on the world. The design concept is open and airy and emphasizes light at every bend, including an amphitheater covered in mirrors to illuminate the space. The idea behind the Museum is to “shine a light” on Einstein’s accomplishments. Foster's design accentuates light through the use of a spherical volume at the core of the structure that functions as an amphitheater. The gallery incorporates gyroscopic mirrors that rotate and bounce sunlight onto a dark screen, which creates shows to produce the effect of a star shining above the building. The mirrored surfaces form a canopy over the exhibition courtyard. Other techniques brighten the exhibition spaces inside the Museum. Einstein’s various scientific theories are luminously showcased throughout the design. The structure’s skeleton is composed of profiled stone ribs that expose the image of the German-born scientist’s face when viewed from particular angles. A model of the design is on display at London's Royal Academy Summer Exhibition this year. The project is expected to begin construction in 2015 with completion scheduled for 2017.
Apple's spaceship-like campus plans, designed by Foster and Partners, have been criticized for—among other other things— a lack of pedestrian friendly design. It appears the company has listened. New documents presented to the city of Cupertino show extended bike paths, winding walkways and private roads both circling the grounds and running through the center of the campus. The bike lanes would have buffer lanes to protect them from cars, pedestrian walkways would have increased lighting, a transit center would be the focal point for buses, and the plans also make room for public art projects. Not all the changes are eco/pedestrian friendly. The new design calls for an increase in parking spaces from 10,500 to 10,980. Slated for completion in 2016, the campus has also been in the news for budget overruns and delays, with Bloomberg Businessweek reporting its cost ballooning from $3 billion to $5 billion. The first phase of the campus is scheduled to be complete by 2016.The original date was 2015.
Norman Foster has hoisted a slender sheet of mirror-polished stainless steel above a plaza on the edge of Marseille's historic harbor, creating a new pavilion that reflects the activity of the bustling public space overhead. Foster + Partners' "Vieux Port" pavilion officially opened over the weekend in the French city. The pavilion roof measures 150 feet by 72 feet, tapering at its perimeter to create the illusion of impossible thinness and is is supported by eight thin stainless steel columns inset from the pavilion's edge. The project also enlarged the pedestrian area around the harbor and calls for traffic reductions in the area to improve pedestrian safety and restore connections with the surrounding city. Foster worked with landscape architect Michel Desvigne to create the surrounding plaza, paved in a light-colored granite that match the site's original limestone cobbles. Small wooden pavilions are placed around the plaza's edge and can be used for special events or markets. "I know the harbour at Marseille well and it is a truly grand space. This project is a great opportunity to enhance it using very simple means, to improve it with a large pavilion for events, for markets, for special occasions," Foster said in a statement. "Our approach has been to work with the climate, to create shade, but at the same time to respect the space of the harbour – just making it better."
Preservationists who have waged a battle against Foster + Partners' planned renovations of the New York Public Library received bad news Tuesday: The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the library’s application for changes to its Beaux-Arts exterior, mostly on the side facing Bryant Park, in a six-to-two vote. The $300 million renovation calls for removing seven floors of stacks beneath the famous Rose Main Reading Room to accommodate a large workspace and the collections from the Mid-Manhattan and the Innovative Science, Industry, and Business Libraries. This might be a major step forward for the library, but the approval process is not yet over. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Landmarks Commission can only vote on changes proposed to the landmarked exterior—the decision about the stacks is out of their hands.
Last week, AN reported on Norman Foster's newly-rendered plans to transform the landmark New York Public Library at Bryant Park. Foster's $300 million plan will, most dramatically, gut the off-limits-to-the-public book stacks and replace them with a light-filled atrium and reading space. The NYPL has now released a video fly-through of the project, above. Enjoy!
New Yorkers, not to mention architecture critics, have been waiting with bated breath to see the plans for the controversial $300 million overhaul of the New York Public Library's historic flagship branch on Fifth Avenue. And today, the designs by Foster + Partners, were finally unveiled. The renovation of the Beaux Arts-style library, completed in 1911 by Carrère and Hastings, will remove seven floors of stacks under the grand Rose Main Reading Room to make way for a 300-person workspace with an expansive atrium, balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, bookshelves, and new areas devoted to classrooms and computer labs. As of now, interior finishes will include a combination of bronze, wood, and stone. The plan is to transfer approximately 3 million books to new storage spaces beneath Bryant Park, and then send the remaining 1.2 million books to an off-site location in New Jersey. The newly renovated NYPL building on 42nd would then house the collections from the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Innovative Science, Industry, and Business Library. “We are reasserting the library’s main axis and its very special sequence of spaces, from the main Fifth Avenue entrance and the Astor Hall, through the Gottesman Hall, into the dramatic volume of the new circulating library, with views through to the park,” Foster said in a statement on the firm’s website. “Our design does not seek to alter the character of the building, which will remain unmistakably a library in its feel, in its details, materials, and lighting. It will remain a wonderful place to study. The parts that are currently inaccessible will be opened up, inviting the whole of the community—it is a strategy that reflects the principles of a free institution upon which the library was first founded.”
After today's announcement of Norman Fosters next project in New York, a luxury condo tower at the United Nations, we just can't get enough of the British starchitect. Luckily, a stash of video renderings and presentations from the firms behind the planned 425 Park tower can provide just the fix. It wasn't too long ago that the starchitect-filled competition for the new Park Avenue tower selected Foster + Partners as its winner. Now after the design presentations at the recent MAS Summit and the release of photo renderings from all players—including runners up Richard Rogers, Rem Koolhaas, and Zaha Hadid—we can indulge in the virtual demonstrations of their designs. For more videos of the MAS summit presentations, click here.
The neighborhood around Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal is about to undergo monumental change as the Bloomberg administration pushes to upzone areas around Park and Madison avenues. Already, Norman Foster recently unveiled his plans for a new 425 Park tower, viewed as a precursor to what's bound to be a taller neighborhood and the NYC Department of Transportation announced intentions to close Vanderbilt Avenue to automobile traffic to help with already-overflowing sidewalks. But in anticipation of Warren and Wetmore's Grand Central celebrating its centennial next year, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) asked three firms—SOM, WXY, and Foster+Partners—to re-envision the Beaux-Arts masterpiece and its surrounding midtown neighborhood with an eye toward the train station's next 100 years. The results of the Grand Central…The Next 100 project were unveiled at this year's MAS Summit for New York City, which wrapped up on Friday and included both down-to-earth and fanciful visions for the future of Manhattan. Each of the three firms used the existing Grand Central as a springboard to create infrastructure that stimulates and interacts with the public realm, connecting the terminal to the street and larger neighborhood. These connections are vital considering the terminal handles up to a million visitors on peak days. Foster & Partners put it succinctly in a statement:
The result is acute overcrowding; connections to the rail and subway lines beneath the concourse are inadequate; and the arrival and departure experience is poor. Added to that, the surrounding streets are choked with traffic and pedestrians are marginalised. The rapid growth of tall buildings in the vicinity has all but consumed the Terminal.All three proposals recognize the importance of the pedestrian realm and push for expanded public space, not only along Vanderbilt Avenue, but also along the terraced Park Avenue weaving around the terminal and along diagonal corridors carved through surrounding buildings. The three teams also proposed different ideas of layering spaces, connecting the street level with a terraced viaduct surrounding the terminal and connections to the activity happening underground. WXY peeled away portions of Vanderbilt Avenue to reveal the subterranean infrastructure that makes Grand Central tick, providing both interesting view corridors and easier access to the train station. The new pedestrian plaza is bookended by an proposed new super-tall tower at its southern terminus and a reimagined MetLife building planted with trees and repurposed as residential, office, and hotel uses with an ambitious cultural anchor at its base. The Park Avenue viaduct has been divided to provide separate automobile and pedestrian / bike access. In addition to turning Vanderbilt Avenue over to pedestrians, Foster reimagined the streets surrounding Grand Central as shared spaces where pedestrians, cyclists, and automobiles share space in a slow-moving environment with faster traffic bypassing the area through an underpass. Through a series of small-scale interventions, Foster sought to provide "breathing room" around the terminal that allows visitors to linger and experience that place rather than simply rush through, accomplished in part through a series of cuts in the pedestrian plaza leading to retail zones. SOM similarly addresses the ground plane with more nuanced pedestrian space, also turning over the entire Park Avenue viaduct to pedestrian use. Their plans turned monumental with several large towers proposed flanking Grand Central with a moveable ring connecting the two floating over the station. SOM also reached out into midtown with a series of POPS, privately owned public spaces, forming diagonal pedestrian streets modeled after the recently opened Holly Whyte Way that connect to surrounding landmarks like the New York Public Library. As a major transportation hub, a historic building, and a commercial space, Grand Central is among the most important anchors in all of Manhattan, and MAS President Vin Cipolla emphasized the need to acknowledge the public experience in the midst of the ongoing rezoning initiatives. Foster added that MAS’s focus on the next century of Grand Central “represents an important and welcome debate that will help shape the future form of the city. The quality of a city’s public realm reflects the level of civic pride and has a direct impact on the quality of everyday life.” The results of The Next 100 will help the MAS is compiling its forthcoming report,The Future of Midtown.