Posts tagged with "Ken Smith Workshop":

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New park unveiled for controversial Williamsburg waterfront site

The development team behind Maker Park has released new renderings for an inventive green space that grows from industrial relics on the Brooklyn waterfront. With this design, and last week's announcement that the city will buy a critical strip of vacant land to complete a large riverside park, it seems the wheels are finally starting to turn on the waterfront's conversion to parkland, a process that began in response to a 2005 Williamsburg-Greenpoint rezoning that produced more luxury condos than public space. Maker Park—which its creators stress is in its ideas stage—adapts the infrastructure on an isolated slice of the East River into performance venues, gardens, and open space, an adventure playground writ large for longtime residents and visitors alike. The idea, its creators say, honors the neighborhood's creative types through a guiding ethos of exploration influenced by the city's maker scene, a technology-infused offshoot of DIY culture that stresses interdisciplinary collaboration. The park is one vision for a waterfront green space that is more than a decade in the making. Last week the city announced a deal that brings a park—Maker Park, a competing vision, or a blend of stakeholders' ideas—one step closer to completion. City officials say $160 million will be spent to acquire the last remaining parcel in a necklace of city-owned land that runs along Kent Avenue from North 14th to North 9th streets (a seven-acre state park occupies two blocks to the south on the same strip). The Maker Park vision for that 27-acre expanse—which is officially called Bushwick Inlet Park—has precedent in the citizen-led efforts that gave birth to the High Line and now spur parks like the QueensWay. A grassroots team led by three young New Yorkers—Zac Waldman, who works in advertising, Karen Zabarsky, the creative director at Kushner Companies, and Stacey Anderson, director of public programs at the Municipal Arts Society (MAS)—has partnered with a team of architects and designers to reimagine the city-owned site's otherworldly white fuel containers, the remnants of Bayside Fuel Oil Depot, as galleries, stages, reflecting pools, art galleries, and hanging gardens. In collaboration with New York–based firms STUDIO V Architecture and Ken Smith Workshop, the group officially unveiled its vision for the ruins in May. In the renderings, Maker Park would stretch from Bushwick Inlet (at North 14th Street and Kent Avenue) south to North 12th Street, right across the street from present-day Bushwick Inlet Park. "Most of the developments on the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront have made it anonymous," said Jay Valgora, founding principal of STUDIO V. "Much of the waterfront is kind of generic, and that's a shame, because the neighborhood is not. We think the park has to be as special as the community it's going to support." Initial renderings deliver on that promise. In dialogue with the cylindrical oil storage tanks, a curved boardwalk sweeps visitors over the inlet and back to shore in a terraced open lawn. The inlet would be planted with native grasses to create a wetland—and natural flood barrier, and a former Bayside building that fronts North 12th Street could be converted to green-roofed galleries or an events space. Maker Park's do-it-yourself ethos isn't meant to override community input. "These renderings are meant to inspire, not to prescribe," said Zabarsky. "The reason they're so magical and have these different elements is to bring about new ideas." Anderson added that community stakeholders have worked with the city for more than ten years to realize the park and that "this is alternate design vision for one portion of the park" grounded architecturally in adaptive reuse. Though they have detailed renderings and site plans, the team says their ideas are a stake in the ground—it is up to the neighborhood, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and other agencies to conceive and execute a final plan. To that end, Maker Park is hosting a design exhibition in Greenpoint next week to solicit ideas from neighbors on how to develop the designs moving forward (more information on the event can be found here). The group has drafted ten guiding principles—centered on transparency, public input, and the preservation of open space along the river—to follow in its work. The street-facing green space adheres to the Parks Department's Parks Without Borders, a new initiative that opens up the edge conditions of the city's many gated parks, while a soccer field on the southern edge mirrors an adjacent space in Bushwick Inlet Park. Despite their ambition, the plans should work "within a typical park budget," said Valgora, but it's ultimately up to the city to allocate funds. One component that could cost more is the reuse of the Bayside building, though he said Maker Park is doing a financial feasibility analysis right now to get a clearer idea of those costs. Outside the group, the conservation of the industrial heritage is anathema to the neighborhood's progress and public image. Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park (FBIP), an advocacy group instrumental in the creation of its namesake green space, have been vocal in their distaste for the "glorification of oil tanks." It sees Maker Park as a spiteful gesture to a community that has borne a disproportionate share of environmental hazards over the course of the city's industrial history. Not surprisingly, FBIP supports the city's open space master plan, which does not include plans to preserve the fuel tanks. The Maker Park team is keenly aware of the site's environmental challenges. One guiding principal is the safe remediation of the site's environmental hazards, and the group has recruited landscape experts to develop a mitigation strategy. The contamination on site is not unusual for waterfront development in New York, said Michael Bogin, environmental lawyer and principal at Sive, Paget & Riesel P.C. There are other ways to contain toxins—recovery wells, barrier walls, and clean-fill—besides destroying the infrastructure to ensure that mobile contaminants do not escape from the soil or water. "If you take the tanks down, then put in two feet of clean-fill material, then all you've really done is destroyed the architectural value of those tanks. You haven't created a different remedy." Landscape is crucial to the remediation strategy. Ken Smith, founding principal of Ken Smith Workshop, said that the sculpted topography of the site would be built on two to three feet of clean-fill material. Capping the site, which itself is a hundred-year-old landfill, also raises it out of "high frequency" floodzones, he said. Wetlands, planted with native grasses, would be accessible via the boardwalk and cross-hatched waterside beds, and the great lawn, a counterpoint to the contextual native flora, is encircled by trees and could host large events. Both men signed onto the pro bono project to secure the city's ever-threatened manufacturing legacy. "The East River is the heart of the city, the focal point of 21st-century New York City," Bogin said. He has worked for clients who, in his view, have degraded the historic quality of the waterfront or blocked access to the shore. "We're losing the history of the river. I don't want Brooklyn's waterfront to become Times Square. Let's save something."
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Two firms reinvent the pier typology for a gulf-side Florida city

It takes a brave firm—and in St. Petersburg, Florida, two brave firms—to work on a project from which West 8, BIG, and Michael Maltzan were roundly rejected.

For almost a century, the City of St. Petersburg’s pier, in various incarnations, has attracted residents and tourists to Tampa Bay. Once a fishing pier, amenities were added over time: An inverted pyramid-cum-restaurant from the 1970s, reviled at first, later became a local icon. By the late 2000s, however, the pier was deemed structurally unsound and the city moved to demolish and replace the structure via a national competition.

The competition jury originally selected Los Angeles–based Michael Maltzan to redesign the pier in 2012. His bid followed the program of the original pier closely, with an event space at the terminus that referenced the iconic pyramid. Then, a group of residents organized a public referendum against the plan, claiming it did not meet the needs of the city. A little over a year and $5 million in, the city withdrew its invitation to the firm.

The setback exposed deeper questions about the relationship between the city and its beloved pier. City architect Raul Quintana praised Maltzan’s practice and noted that the plan was “ahead of its time.” The city, though, had to reckon with its heritage before it could embrace other possibilities for the pier. Quintana clarified that, even when presented with broader programs, the community still read the pier as a linear typology, though he felt that the consensus to build a quality public space was emerging. “The values today have changed. Think about what a pier could be for the 21st century. It was very, very difficult at first to get people to change their thinking.”

In 2015 New York–based architecture firm Rogers Partners won a reissued competition with its proposal for a 13-acre armature that nixes the cool-object-far-from-shore model of the old pier in favor of the pier as a premier public space and natural extension of the waterfront. “The idea of a major public expenditure to build a site for a retail destination is not really how you think about the public realm in the 21st century,” Rob Rogers, founding principal, explained. “The underpinning of our idea is that the city’s waterfront, including the pier, is all public park space.”

In collaboration with New York–based landscape architecture firm Ken Smith Workshop, the firm looked to Chicago’s Navy and L.A.’s Santa Monica piers for design and program ideas, but created opportunities in St. Petersburg for engaging with the bay-scape with programming that exceeds that of a traditional fishing or amusement pier: A one-acre coastal thicket, “a tray of landscape over the water,” provides shade and slopes close to the bay, while an outdoor educational space adjacent to a 300-foot artificial reef and naturalized beach brings people in contact with native aquatic flora and fauna. Boating and fishing facilities, hemmed by floating docks, flank traditional wide promenades, and a shallow saltwater pool next to the signature end-of-pier restaurant lets patrons cool their feet while drinking cocktails. A sloping grass lawn can accommodate between four and five thousand people for concerts, while a trolley and bike paths offer easy access to the mainland. Tampa–based ASD is the executive architect on the project.

It was crucial, Rogers elaborated, that programming created an array of nonlinear nodes, so that someone’s fifth or fiftieth visit to the pier would prove as exciting as the first. This  time, the community is on board: At the most recent public meeting, the organization that opposed Maltzan’s pier plan came out in strong support of the new design.

Just as Athens’s acropolis is graced by propylaea, the St. Petersburg pier is nothing without its “pier approach.” W Architecture & Landscape Architecture entered the same competition as Rogers Partners, but didn’t get the initial commission. Several months later, founding principal Barbara Wilks explained, the city sent a second RFP to the firm that asked for the “pier approach,” a design for the upland section and the infill spit that leads up to the new pier. Part of the reason for the split, city development director Chris Ballestra elaborated, was that the city hadn’t secured the money for the approach when they hired Rogers. Although W’s work builds on a previous masterplan by AECOM, W is collaborating with Rogers to unify the material palette and to knit the two plans closely with downtown St. Petersburg.

W’s concept phase wraps next month and the project will move onto design, while Rogers Partners’ pier is in design development. Construction on the pier and the approach is expected to be complete by 2018.

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Inflatable medallion by landscape architect Ken Smith deters evil spirits from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

An unmissable flower-power medallion on a gold chain now fronts the otherwise plain-though-historic facade of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum facing the Boston Fens. Featuring a whorl of psychedelic colors spiraling dizzyingly, the pop art–style inflatable installation riffs on the museum’s large wheel window, which forms a transect line between the museum and the installation. The work of internationally acclaimed landscape architect and designer Ken Smith, the piece is allegedly rife with symbolic meaning of deities as protectors of the physical and spiritual realm, inspired by the intermingling of East and West. The artist’s Asian forays and visits to Buddhist temples formed the artwork’s muse. Its symbolic/iconographic gestalt purportedly protects the museum from evil spirits and promotes environmental renewal, health and happiness. “What I really like about the Gardner collection is the eclectic mix of East and West in the selection of art. It’s that mixing of East and West that is at the heart of what the deity is about,” Smith said in a statement. “The deity is an Eastern idea that we are using in a Western way.” Smith’s installation is part of a larger landscaping scheme on the museum’s part to rejuvenate underutilized or overlooked venues within its grounds. “Ken Smith’s Fenway Deity promises to reanimate discussion of museum’s relationship to the public realm of the Back Bay Fens by installing a work of conceptual public art from the Gardner Museum’s historic facade,” said Charles Wadheim, the Garder Museum’s Ruettger Curator of Landscape.
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SHoP and Ken Smith Unveil Another Piece of the East River Esplanade

Connecting two existing waterfronts—Battery Park and East River Park—the rehabilitation of the East River Esplanade has been a catalyst of renewal along Manhattan's East River. The latest phase of the plan—by SHoP Architects and Ken Smith Workshop—extends the current three-block-long Esplanade north, adding recreational amenities and addresses the challenges of building a new landscape beneath an elevated highway between Catherine Slip and Pike Slip in Lower Manhattan.. The so-called "Package 4" aims to create a "front porch" for the Lower East Side by introducing new street furniture such as conversation benches, bar stools, lounge chairs, picnic tables, and swing sets hanging from the FDR highway overpass. The new plan also includes the prospective installation of amenities such as elevated exercise platforms, a skate park, games tables, a synthetic turf field, waterfront fishing docks, and multiple bike paths. The project’s designers wish to integrate a significant amount of perspective and dimension on the site by conserving already-existing open lawns, installing light fixtures under the FDR highway overpass, building multi-leveled seating and benches, and planting a diversity of foliage. Pending approval from the New York City Council and City Planning, the project should be complete by Spring 2015.