Posts tagged with "LPC":

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Moderne Twist Update

It's been few months since Morris Adjmi presented plans for his twisted tower at 837 Washington to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. He returned on Tuesday with a scaled-down version of the original design. The architect brought two 3-D models to better illustrate the before and after versions. The body of the exoskeletal steel structure still pivots clockwise atop a 1938 art moderne market building, but now it does so at a reduced height of 84 feet, instead of 113. Still, lopping off two of the seven stories from the original design may not be enough to satisfy commissioners who seem to be scratching their heads over how to address the major mood changes in Gansevoort Market Historic District, which sits within the ever expanding design glow of the High Line. For some commissioners the historic district's line of demarcation remains sacred and even renderings showing views of the new building from the perspective of the park strikes them as misleading. Nevertheless, the building does sit beside the Highline and several commissioners argued that park's influence should be embraced.  Commissioner Michael Goldblum suggested that while the commission's objective was to preserve the district, they were participating in a dialogue with the surrounding area. To that end, he said, the building worked fine, as though the building were saying, "I'm not of the period; I'm sitting in it." Embracing the Highline was a cornerstone of William Higgins's segment of the presentation. Higgins, a consultant for preservation issues, was blunt. "The Highline is very much a part of this site," he told the commissioners, adding that the railroad park provides the diagonal from which the structure's twist spins off of. Later, Commissioner Pablo Vengoechea concurred that the newly added green elements respond to the spontaneous greening of the former railroad. But Commissioner Robert Tierney concluded that it didn't yet look like the board had enough votes to move the project forward. He sent the architect back to the drawing board with a few words of encouragement. The original building "reads legibly", he said, but the addition was still slightly out of scale. He then warned the architect not to over-restore the original building. It would seem that there's still room for meat hooks and grit in the district.
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Quick Clicks> Gondolas, Landmarks, Main Streets, Paris

Shifting Skyline. London's famed skyline may be getting an addition, and it's not a new building. The Architect's Journal tells us that Mayor Boris Johnson recently approved a plan by architects Wilkinson Eyre and Expedition Engineering for a proposed cable car system designed to link two key 2012 Olympic venues, the O2 Stadium and the Excel Exhibition Hall. NYC's Youngest Landmark. The New York Times City Room blog reports that NYC has four new landmarks: the Engineer's Club, the Neighborhood Playhouse, Greyston Gatehouse and the Japan Society, which having been completed in 1971, makes it the youngest of the city's historic landmarked structures. Red Hook North. Meanwhile NYT Magazine reports that Red Hook developer Greg O’Connell hopes to do for tiny Mt. Morris, NY what he did for a slice of once-decrepit Brooklyn waterfront. Will the former NYPD detective's progressive form of gentrification and downtown revitalization work in an ailing upstate town? Onion domes in Paris. Inhabitat shares the news that the Russians are coming to Paris, in the form of a new domed church and cultural center. Situated near the Eiffel Tower, this new structure is the result of bi-national collaboration from the architects at Arch-Group and Sade Sa.  
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Manufacturers Trust Gets Yellow Light

"Sometimes the best way to restore a historic structure is to reuse it." The comment came from Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Robert Tierney at the conclusion of Tuesday's landmarks hearing on revisions proposed by Vornado Realty for interiors of the recently landmarked Manufacturers Trust Building on Fifth Avenue. The statement summed up the mood of the commission with regard to changes in the space, originally designed by Gordon Bunschaft, which include dividing the first floor to make space for two retail tenants. Most of the commission picked apart the specifics while maintaining that the architects from SOM overseeing the renovation were generally on the right track. The crisp, well-paced presentation from SOM's Frank Mahan delved into several controversial changes, including destroying all of the black granite wall and interiors that sit behind the Henry Dreyfuss-designed safe door, shifting the escalators from north-south to east-west orientation, and losing the 43rd Street entrance, which would be replaced with two entrances on Fifth. The removal of the granite wall allows for the construction of a partition wall that will separate the space into two retail units.  The partition wall will run east to west the length of the 9000-square foot space, dividing it into a 4000-square foot southern section, where the safe and granite wall once stood, and a 5000-square foot space in the northeast corner of the building. Only eleven feet tall, the partition wall is topped by seven-foot high glass panels that stretch to the ceiling. The famous paneled ceiling and its fluorescent glow spans most of the ground floor space and now will continue on through the area once occupied by the safe. In addition to moving the escalators, the retailer proposes to crisscross them. Instead of a twin sculptural mass (the double escalators were once clad in perforated bronze) two new glass-clad escalators split the traffic to go in different directions. From 43rd Street the profile will form a large "X" shape. No one on the commission responded favorably to the configuration and, needless to say, the preservationists didn't go for it either. One aspect that Meredith Kane, representing Vornado, said would not be negotiable was the positioning of the doors, stating that the new retail use necessitated a Fifth Avenue entrance. "The entrance on the side was sort of a discrete hiding of wealth, which is not appropriate for retail," she said, implying that without shifting the entrances, finding tenants would be difficult and put the project in jeopardy. "Without entrances on Fifth Avenue we won't be able to do any of the other [restoration] work," said Kane. The Canadian fashion retailer Joe Fresh will take the larger retail space at street level plus the entire 9000 square feet above. The smaller space does not have a tenant yet. The SOM proposal also includes a new screen inspired by the Bertoia screen that was removed by the building's former owner, Chase, when they vacated the building. A new screen made of anodized aluminum references its predecessor but cleans up its organic qualities with sharper lines and flat panels. Still, the proposed efforts to restore and revamp the space did not satisfy everyone. "Adaptive reuse is not a one way street. In some cases the user needs to adapt to the character of the landmark," said Christabel Gough, secretary for the Society for the Architecture of the City. "Moving the escalators and demolishing the vault would be equivalent, because of the [building's] transparency, to demolishing the Fifth Avenue facade of a traditionally composed building."
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Turrets, Trumpets, and Baseball Greats

Yesterday morning, after a bevy of Modernist aficionados crowded into the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing room to tout the merits of Bunshaft's interiors at the  Manufacturers Hanover Trust, the commission turned their focus to two historic African American neighborhoods: Sandy Ground in Staten Island and Addisleigh Park in Queens. The unanimous vote for the landmarks designations passed on the first day of Black History Month. While the three building designations in Sandy Ground may have appeared a bit piecemeal to an outsider, the historically inclined might have been able to knit together the original fabric of the historic black community on Staten Island. The designations included the Rev. Isaac Coleman and Rebecca Gray Coleman House, the Rossville A.M.E. Zion Church, and two wood frame houses on Bloomingdale Road. The real blockbuster designation went to Addisleigh Park Historic District. The new redistricting includes more than 400 homes, putting the area firmly in the historic camp with Sugar Hill in Harlem, though its English Tudor, Colonial and Mediterranean Revival suburban homes make it look more like Ardsley or Bronxville in Westchester. The land, purchased at the end of the 19th century, saw its first homes in the 1910s and 1920s. Originally an exclusive white neighborhood that prohibited blacks from moving in through restrictive covenants, the area became a legal battleground when white neighbors took to the courts to keep blacks out during the 1940s. But by that time the area was already home to 48 black families, including Lena Horne, Count Basie, and Fats Waller. "The very people who had to fight to preserve it had to fight to get in it," noted one of the commissioners. After the Supreme Court ruled against racially restrictive covenants in 1948, the area blossomed as a middle class black community. Horne, Basie and Waller were joined by baseball greats Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella. Bassist Milt Hinton and Ella Fitzgerald moved in. For Rene Hill, a member of the United Coalition of Veterans and Community Rights (UCVCR), the designation was bittersweet because it did not include the 55 acres of the Community Living Center run by the Veterans Administration. Nearly half the site has been proposed for a housing development by St. Albans Village, LLC. Resident Yvonne Jackson nodded her head in agreement, but said the day was still worth celebrating. Jackson  grew up walking through Addisleigh Park on her way to school and bought her  home in the neighborhood after retiring in 2001. She said, "I always told my friends, when I grow up I have to move there."
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Bunshaft Deconstructed?

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has put the Gordon Bunshaft-designed Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company Building onto its Public Meeting/Public Hearing agenda for tomorrow morning at 9:30AM. Up for discussion will be the building’s first and second floor interiors, including the entrance lobby, escalators, teller counters, and floor and ceiling surfaces. The iconic vault designed by Henry Dreyfuss, which is visible from Fifth Avenue, and Harry Bertoia’s multifaceted metallic screen both made it on to the agenda. But according to Theodore Grunewald of the Coalition to Save MHT, the Bertoia has already been removed by Chase Bank, the sculpture's owner. "Chase still has the sculpture, but they have not said where it is,” said Grunewald. AN’s Jennifer K. Gorsche joined a chorus of alarmed bloggers back in October and turned up renderings of a proposal for a teen clothing store, Forever 21. “It’s more than world class building, it’s a world monument,” said Grunewald. “People come from all over the world to see this building.” The building also happens to be the subject of several Ezra Stoller photos, two of which shown here, are now on view at the Yossi Millo Gallery through February 12. The gallery is closed on Mondays, but if you need a Stoller-fix stat, there will be lecture tonight on Stoller at the Center for Architecture called Mid-Century Modernism: as seen through the master's lens. Architectural historian Kenneth Frampton will be joined 
by John Morris Dixon, Brook Mason, and 
Erica Stoller.
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The Straw That Broke the Silver Towers’ Back

I.M. Pei speaks and NYU listens. The university announced this week that plans for a Grimshaw-designed residential highrise planned for Pei's landmarked Silver Towers block will be scrapped after the architect expressed disapproval over the project. The proposed 400-foot tower set amid three original concrete structures had been a point of conflict between NYU and its neighbors. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, led an effort to landmark Pei's Silver Towers site and has been vocal in his opposition to the proposed fourth tower. "This arrangement of three towers in a pinwheel fashion, with one side left open around a central space, was a motif you see throughout [Pei's] works,” Berman told AN earlier this month. “It was not an accident or an incomplete design awaiting a fourth element.” While neighbors in Greenwich Village repeatedly battled the fourth tower, the final blow came from Pei himself.  “From the beginning, we sought a design for the Silver Towers block that was most respectful of Mr. Pei’s vision. Some people disagreed with our proposed approach; others agreed. We believed that among those who agreed was Mr. Pei himself, who expressed no opposition to the concept of a tower on the landmarked site when we spoke with him directly in 2008,” said Lynne Brown, NYU’s Senior Vice President, in a release. “Mr. Pei has now had a change of heart. The clarity Mr. Pei has now provided--that the Morton Williams site is ‘preferable’--is helpful to us in understanding how to proceed with our ULURP proposal.” Now, plans call for a return to the adjacent original building site where a Morton Williams grocery sits. That location had been passed over in favor of the Silver Towers site to preserve sight lines, the University said at the time. Berman has also expressed concern about the Morton Williams site.  “The fact that building on the supermarket site would also be bad doesn’t make building on the landmark site any less terrible,” Berman said earlier in November. He suggested at the time that NYU explore building opportunities in the financial district, where community boards have actively invited such development. New York University has begun preparing a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application for submission next year to build on the Morton Williams site. New plans must undergo full review before construction can take place.
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Rudolph’s New York Home Passes Landmark Test

The latest Upper East Side landmark isn't another of its signature rowhouses, but rather what's atop one of those brownstones.  Yesterday, the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved landmark status for mid-century architect Paul Rudolph's less-than-context-sensitive home at 23 Beekman Place. Rudolph moved into the 4-story on which the addition sits in 1961 and added his three-story design in 1977, modifying the house throughout his life.  Located between East 50th and 51st Street, 23 Beekman Place has been moving through the landmark process for over a year, and its approval marks an emerging phase in historic preservation. Now that many examples of modern architecture are getting older, they are becoming fair game for landmark protection, a notion the New York Observer says can sometimes be full of contradiction:
And yet there remains a certain alienness to a building like 23 Beekman. In a way, it is an oxymoron, a cancer atop a truly "historic building." The very idea of a modern landmark is itself a contradiction in terms because modernism sought to wipe away history. Consider Robert Moses, Le Corbusier, even Rudolph, all trying to eradicate history, to defeat nature, end poverty and blight, addressing all of the world's ills through their work. Where better to recognize this tension than a building with such a clearly split personality? And yet all of that Utopian zeal failed as much as it succeeded, so much so that many of the buildings it left behind are now unloved, even hated. This makes modernist preservation all the more essential and immediate. Not only have these buildings-beyond-time themselves aged (some quite severely), but they have become examples of architectural idealism, experimentation, and failure. Thus they are something to be saved, even as they sought to wipe out their forebears.
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Historic District Struts Its Stuff on Manhattan’s West End Avenue

As we reported a few weeks ago, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is gearing up to create a huge new historic district on the Upper West Side. Last night, the commission held a meet-and-greet with the neighbors, at which the tentative boundaries for the new district—technically five contiguous extensions to five existing districts—were unveiled. As the map shows, it's quite a lot of real estate, and though smaller than the extant Upper West Side historic district (2,000+ versus 745) it will become, should it be approved, one of the largest in the city. What's most interesting, though, is how much of the Upper West Side will now be under the commission's purview. It will be interesting to see how the development community reacts.
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Three New Landmarks for Manhattan’s Lower East Side

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission continued its efforts to preserve what have been, at least historically, unlikely landmarks. There is focus on the not-so-outer boroughs and modernist masterpieces and on the scruffy, increasingly tony "Lower East Side," one of the oldest, yet long-neglected parts of the city. This is of course not the small neighborhood that had been sequestered by real estate agents, but the real LES, as defined by historians and historic maps, from 14th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, with the Bowery as its eastern bounds. In 2007 and 2008, the commission surveyed more than 2,300 properties and has been bolstering the landmarks rolls ever since, from Webster Hall to Wheatsworth Bakery. Yesterday, three more were added. You may never have noticed 97 Bowery Street before, unless maybe you were looking for karaoke in Chinatown, because that's what occupies the first two floors of this unassuming cast iron beauty. The Loew's Canal Street Theatre makes a little more sense, given the name, though it, too, is all but hidden behind the garish storefronts that are de rigueur, er, 典型 (typical) in Chinatown. The gorgeous terracotta cornice is still visible behind grime from the Manhattan Bridge if you look closely, though. The Eleventh Street Methodist Episcopal Chapel (now the Father’s Heart Church) is perhaps the most obvious landmark based simply on looks. But on the Lower East Side, it's not just about the looks. “These buildings collectively speak to many aspects of the immigrant experience in the East Village and on the Lower East Side in the 19th and early 20th centuries,” Commission Chair Bob Tierney said in a release. Consider the chapel. The evangelical Methodists to foster outreach to the city's burgeoning immigrant community. Ironically, they eventually took it over, when in 1930 and reopened 11 years later as a Slavik Eastern Orthodox church. But as much as saving these previously overlooked buildings, the commission is also preserving them from the rampant overdevelopment that has seized the neighborhood in the past few decades, and particularly during the boom. Commission spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon wouldn't say that this was the explicit purpose of the renewed focus on the LES. "But it certainly doesn't hurt," she said. The real interesting question is what will happen to all those gaudy signs when gentrification finally gets to them, and renovations no doubt ensue, as they have in Tribeca, Soho, and elsewhere. Will they be grandfathered in? Or will the commission fight hard for a full restoration?
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Crocs Treads Lightly with Soho Flagship

When shoe retailer Crocs set its sights on Soho, the blogosphere didn’t hesitate grouching about the rubber clog emporium’s arrival at the corner of Spring and Wooster streets. What was feared as an assault of global branding, however, has become an unlikely symbol of a sea change for New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which pushed for a modern, glassy volume in the heart of the historic cast-iron district. The project began in 2006, when Crocs signed a 20-year lease for 4,800 square feet for its New York flagship. At that time, the three-story corner house was in bad shape. Built in 1818 as a single-family residence, it had undergone six renovations and most recently housed a Tennessee Mountain restaurant. Because of its age and location, any alterations of the Federal-era building needed LPC approval, and thus began a year-long saga with five public hearings that resulted in the unusually contemporary structure in the center of Soho. Heading up design work for both building exteriors, New York architect William J. Rockwell proposed a restoration for the old townhouse based on a photograph from the 1920s. The first twist Rockwell encountered concerned a three-story, 1925 garage attached to the old house, which had undergone many alterations and was set to be demolished. To replace the structure, Rockwell suggested a simple building that resembled the old garage­­. But to his surprise, LPC preferred a modern transitional glass piece instead. The idea was that the townhouse would be better expressed if accompanied by an almost invisible structure, which at the same time could reinforce the street wall along Wooster. “The fact that it could be more transparent and modern was very exciting,” said Rockwell. “In the ten last ten years, Landmarks has been more and more interested in different expressions if it can serve the purpose of representing history,” he added. “And in this case it does.” The first order of business was to shore up the historic house. Working with ELAN General Contracting, the team re-bricked the south face of the old corner building, salvaging some of the original brick, and replaced dilapidated brownstone lintels and sills with cast stone that resembled the originals. The adjacent facade was covered in new cedar shingles over a wood frame, a typical Federal 1920s design. Replacement wooden clapboards were used on the west and north facades, new multi-pane windows inserted, and the original gambrel roof lifted to its present configuration. A wood-and-glass storefront flanking a chamfered entrance was also kept, having been the house’s first transformation. Its original columns were saved, but stainless steel replaced the storefront’s wooden frame as a more modern and durable alternative. The Wooster Street addition is a much bolder story. Here, a structural system in finned glass and zinc-coated panels was designed to reveal most of the original house’s features. The flat roof was pushed back, while panels of 18-inch-deep structural glass and metal spring plates hold up the walls. At the north wall, the glass was put into a metal channel inserted from floor to ceiling in the old building. The palette of zinc and coated copper was picked to correspond with the weathered steel in the area. With taller buildings nearby, the new glass structure could theoretically have been made six stories high. This, however, wasn’t something either LPC or Crocs desired. From Crocs’ point of view, additional floor plates were not seen as viable for commercial or residential use, given a plate area of only 1,000 square feet. LPC, on the other hand, did not want the old structure to be obscured. “In New York, you always want to maximize square footage, but because of the old building, it is very hard to make use of that area,” said Rockwell. Inside the store, which opened in May, a ceiling height of almost 30 feet creates a spacious feeling. An elevated mezzanine surrounds the space, a remnant from the 1970s, when the building was a sushi restaurant. Salvaged hand-hewn trusses and an exposed brick wall contrast with the modern retail interior, designed by the Crocs team with architect Donald W. Laukka of L&M Associates, who helped plan interior improvements and mechanical systems. Up the new curved staircase, the transparent addition allows a view over the vibrant street below, as well as a closer look at the restored northern facade of the old townhouse. “When a lot of people think of restoration, they think of historical accuracy,” concluded Rockwell. “But in New York City, there is some flexibility, and that is why we have buildings like this.”

Allah Architecture Causes Controversies Worldwide

It looks like New York isn't the only city with a controversial mosque on the horizon—and in the case of Marseilles, that's quite literally where it's going. Archinect points us to a BBC report about the Grand Mosque, a huge new complex atop one of the city's northern hills. As the video above shows, the complaints are akin to those surrounding the proposed mosque around the corner from the World Trade Center site—concerns about culture, paternalism, terrorism, and community, though in France the concerns are obviously less direct. In a favorable sign for the NYC mosque, the local community board voted against landmarking the former Burlington Coat Factory ahead of a binding review at the commission next Tuesday. The vote is non-binding but tends to carry some wait, though we're curious to see what actually happens, as this should be one of the more interesting commission meetings in recent memory. Do check back for a full report.
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Mainstreaming Modernist Landmarks

On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission named the former Spring Mills headquarters at 104 West 40th Street the newest New York City landmark—arguably the most important designation of the year so far. What makes Spring Mills so special is, well, that it's not exactly special. Unlike notable predecessors—Lever House, the Guggenheim, the Ford Foundation—Spring Mills was preserved less for its architectural pedigree than its historical significance. Designed by skyscraper savants Harrison & Abramowitz, and completed in 1963, it is less the 21 stories of green glass on a slender facade that sets this building apart—though that is important, too—than its serving as a marker for the 1960s arrival of the Garment District in Midtown from its former Tribeca home. This makes Spring Mills more in line with, say, West-Park Presbyterian Church, a cultural and community icon, than Chase Manhattan Plaza, an architectural standout for being the first of its kind downtown. In other words, modernist landmarks have reached a point where they are akin to their brick-and-mortar predecessors, becoming simply another architectural style or era to be grappled with on its own merits. Last year, the commission nominated more than 1,000 landmarks. A vast majority of those were in the newly created Prospect Heights Historic District, as well as smaller districts created across the city plus 32 individual landmarks. None of them, however, were modernist structures, showing a continued deference for pre-modernist design. This is not a knock against the commission. Often times these buildings can be hard to love, and many of the good ones have already been given protection—buildings like Lincoln Center and 2 Columbus Circle, which have yet to be designated, demonstrate the risks and rewards of such non-preservation. Still, there is progress being made. Eight modernist buildings have been given landmarks protection since 2003, part of the commission's renewed efforts to recognize this important architectural era in the city's development. While such buildings account for only a few dozen of the 26,000 spread out across the city, Spring Mills is a sign of the continued mainstreaming of such structures. “This is very important to us—it’s a continuation of our interest in and action on modernism,” commission chair Robert Tierney told us last fall, when the commission had a hearing on Spring Mills, once the largest sheet and pillow-case maker in the country. That same day, it also considered the Look Building, famous as much for the magazine it once housed as its layer cake facade that transformed Madison Avenue. Paul Rudolph's former home on Beekman Place was also vetted, a building that would horrify many traditionalists. As the commission continues to grapple with such skyline-shaping buildings (Johnson's Sony and Lipstick buildings, Stubbin's Citigroup Center, Stone's GM Building all seem prime candidates) it is refreshing to know they will increasingly be considered like any other, and as such, maybe many more of them will be getting the landmarks treatment soon.