Destruction and Transformation: Vernacular Photography and the Built Environment at New York City’s Walther Collection, an art space featuring historical and contemporary photography, looks at what happens when buildings disappear. The exhibition will showcase 16 photographic series ranging from 1876 to 2000 that focus on building demolition, with a focus on two sites in particular: the Appalachian coalfields, where natural resource extraction has decimated the local landscape and ecology; and New York City, an urban environment dominated by cycles of cash-fueled construction and destruction. Although the exhibition will center on demolition, Destruction and Transformation will force visitors to confront the drastic and often harsh effects of modernization and urban expansion that come often at the expense of nature, history, and native populations. Rather than focus on a single photographer, the exhibition displays numerous documentary images taken in New York City over the course of a century, including Harvey F. Dutcher’s 1939 series depicting the gradual destruction of the Sixth Avenue Elevated Railroad, as well as an anonymous photographer’s meticulous survey of stores along Sixth Avenue, many of which have since disappeared. Destruction and Transformation will also include panoramic photos of evolving landscapes, including images of the construction of San Francisco, the famous Viaur Viaduct in Southern France, and the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Destruction and Transformation: Vernacular Photography and the Built Environment February 8–May 25, 2019 Walther Collection 526 West 26th Street, Suite 718 New York, N.Y. 10001
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New York’s Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) is still alive and inching toward realization. Today the de Blasio administration awarded a $7.25 million contract to national land-use and transportation planning consultants VHB to oversee the waterfront streetcar project’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS). Questions over the $2.7 billion streetcar route’s feasibility have plagued the light rail project since the beginning. Officials still haven't released the exact route or said how the city would recoup the money needed for construction. Last August, Mayor de Blasio admitted that at least $1 billion would be needed from the federal government and that using the “value-capture” model (collecting increased tax revenue as the BQX boosted property values along its route) wasn’t wholly feasible. The route was shortened to 26 stops along 11 miles, from Astoria in Queens to Gowanus in Brooklyn, cutting out Sunset Park farther south, and the opening date got pushed back from 2024 to 2029. All had gone quiet since then, but speculation flared that Amazon could potentially chip in for the system after the tech giant announced that it would be building a second headquarters in Long Island City. That seems to have been confirmed by Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who pointed to the boom in investment along the Queens-Brooklyn waterfront as proof that new modes of public transport across the two boroughs were needed. The city expects that the BQX will accommodate 50,000 daily riders when it first opens and 60,000-to-90,000 riders by 2050. ”For some reason, everybody thinks we are not serious but we have always been serious,” Glen told the Wall Street Journal. “The mayor wouldn’t have re-endorsed and announced we were moving forward if we weren’t moving forward.” The nonprofit group Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector lauded the contract award as well, calling it a clear commitment on the part of the de Blasio administration to moving the project through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). With the EIS on track for completion in 2020, the BQX project will move to the next stage of the ULURP by the end of 2021. The city hopes that the project will begin construction by 2024.
Last week, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to approve a memorial dedicated to the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. Reframing the Sky, designed by architects Uri Wegman and Richard Joon Yoo, will debut next year if supporters can raise $850,000 to cover long-term maintenance costs. The commission’s approval is the latest step in what’s been a six-year-long process to install the project in commemoration of the tragedy. Gina Pollara, a consultant with the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, said now is the perfect time to get it done due to heightened awareness on labor rights issues in the United States. “Given the current political climate, I’m hoping this project begins to really open up the conversation about the importance of unions, workplace safety, and how we can address certain social justice issues today,” said Pollara. “For all of their imperfections, unions still perform a vital duty and are an important piece of the American labor force.” The factory’s infamous fire, now 108 years ago, set off a series of historic legislative reforms to protect workers’ safety. The employees who died there, many of which were young immigrant women, were trapped on locked floors of the multi-level facility at 29 Washington Place. Today, the structure, known as the Brown Building, is owned by New York University and though it’s a local and national landmark, many people don’t know its history. The coalition seeks to change that through a public memorial that shines a light on the tragedy and details its significance for blue-collar workers in the 21st century. According to the project statement, the future memorial will mimic the mourning ribbons that were traditionally draped on building facades as outward expressions of a community’s collective sorrow. It will feature horizontal stainless-steel bands that wrap the southeast corner of the building and a textured panel that lines its vertical edge. The names of the victims will be laser cut into the elongated panels where daylight will shine and reflect the letters off a highly-polished, steel surface placed at hip level. Through this, visitors will be able to see the names reflected in the sky. The project has already received widespread support since its announcement in 2013. Three years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a $1.5 million grant for its design and construction, but money is still needed to maintain it. The coalition is organizing a two-day upcoming event in collaboration with the Fashion Institute of Technology to raise awareness of the project and offer people the chance to contribute to its design. Anyone interested will be able to bring an individual piece of fabric that will be used to create a large ribbon that the designers will cast in metal and mount onto the building for the textured vertical panel. “The public engagement piece of this memorial is the most important part to us,” said Pollara, “because the legislation that came from this tragedy has affected us all personally whether we know it or not. The design features a very subtle thread of stitching the past and present together.” A public event, A Collective Ribbon — Weaving Stories of the Triangle Fire, will take place on March 16 and 17 at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Those who are unable to attend can send in personal pieces of ribbon to the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition at PO Box 1822, New York, New York 10113. Donors of $25,000 or more will have their names inscribed on the memorial.
Off I-95 in the northern Bronx, just past the swamps at the mouth of the Hutchinson River and the paved paradise at Bay Plaza mall, arise 35 massive, brick and concrete tower blocks. Most residences nearby are single-family, but Co-op City's 24-story towers shoot out of the ground like sore, red-brick thumbs. But, as out of place as they seem, there are many similar complexes all around New York City and the rest of the country: Stuyvesant Town by the East Village, Riverton Square in Harlem, and the gone-but-never-forgotten Pruitt-Igoe projects of St. Louis. According to Adam Tanaka, a New York–based urbanist who studied these Bronx housing blocks for his Harvard graduate dissertation, Co-op City is the country's largest and most successful cooperative living facility. Many of its 35,000 residents have been living in them since they opened 50 years ago. In a mini-documentary published with CityLab, entitled "City in a City," Tanaka interviewed residents, building managers, representatives, and others involved in the conception of the towers to understand what makes these buildings so successful compared to other projects. On top of interviews and historical analysis, documentary footage shows what life at Co-op City is like. During most weekends of fair weather, tenants and local merchants buy and sell art and food, local musicians perform while residents dance, and children play on the swing sets. Wildlife even has a large presence there: residents have reported seeing deer. What is so special about Co-op City that allows for beautiful scenes like this to be the norm? Tanaka suggests the towers owe their success not to the City of New York, nor to any federally-funded programs, but to their fellow resident, architects, and the coalition of labor unions responsible for the towers’ development. The documentary highlights several of the complex's relatively unique features: a ban on market-rate apartment resale, permanent rent control (which was established in the early '70s after the state tried to increase rents for Co-op City’s tenants), affordable down payments, an elected representative board, self-funded maintenance, and a racially, culturally, and financially diverse group of tenants. But architectural features like larger-than-average apartments with grand windows and ample living and storage space, as well as multiple communal parks and green spaces—all of which was designed by architect Herman J. Jessor, inspired by Le Corbusier’s Villes Radieuse and Contemporain—play major roles, as well. In the documentary, Alena Powell, a resident of Co-op City since 1973, said a friend from the Upper East Side “was amazed because [Powell’s] living room could hold her [friend's] living room and kitchen all together.” Powell also “likes the fact that [she’s] not on top of other people as if [she] was living in Manhattan.” Other residents remark about how “spacious” the apartments are, and how they love the consistent natural light. Pleasing as they may be for many who live there, the Co-op City buildings were (and are) not without criticism. According to an article in Curbed by historian James Nevius, the Co-op City buildings stand as a testament to the ethics of erasing "slums," and to the power of the infamous Robert Moses, whose "bulldoze it" approach to entire neighborhoods is a highly-debated matter, to say the least. During construction in the early 1970s, many rallied against the design and construction of the towers, citing the cheap and unpleasing exterior. Nevius cites Jane Jacobs, who stated they were “truly marvels of dullness and regimentation, sealed against any buoyancy or vitality of city life.” Nevius also references criticisms by the AIA: "Similarly, the American Institute of Architects complained that 'the spirits of the tenants' at Co-op City 'would be dampened and deadened by the paucity of their environment.'" However, many in Tanaka's documentary do not share those opinions and come to the towers' defense. Ken Wray, former executive director of the United Housing Federation, says “the aesthetic was ‘Why waste money on the outside of the building?’ You don’t live on the outside of the building…People driving by might think it’s ugly but people who live there know what [the apartments] look like.” Often overlooked, too, is a sprawling meadow laced among the buildings. According to Nevius, over 80 percent of Co-op City's footprint is dedicated to landscaping: grass and trees with play structures, courts, benches, and market stands on the perimeter. For the people who use these daily, these are helpful amenities that similar developments do not have. Co-op City raises questions about the emphasis on policy or architecture, about interior design versus exterior, about the house and the outdoors, and about ownership and citizenship. Regardless of where one lands on these issues, there's something to be learned from these 35 towers in the Bronx.
A James Turrell installation in Queens, New York, faces an unclear future after visitors began to notice its skyspace has been interrupted by the neighborhood’s newest high-rise. Meeting is a part of the MoMA PS1 campus and was designed by Turrell between 1980 and 1986 with the goal of creating a meditative place where guests would be able to gaze at the sky away from the ebb and flow of the outside world. The piece is a purely white room with a square hole in the ceiling, drawing guests to look up to the deep blue. A series of LED lights undulating in color changes the ways people perceive both the room they are in and the sky above. However, for those who enjoy visiting the piece and watching the New York sky without the interruptions of gentrification on the skyline, this experience may have just come to an end. Last week, visitors to Meeting began taking photos of what appears to be a series of bars and pipes at the lower edge of the piece, and PS1 has temporarily closed the room, according to The New York Times. James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space. He recently told Gothamist any disruptions of the sky “will ruin [the effect]. It won’t work properly if there’s a building with lights up that’s visible.” Fans have also taken to Twitter to express their fears for the exhibit (and their city) by photoshopping the original picture to now depict a sky interrupted by countless advertisements and drones, as well as by some familiar buildings, such as One Times Square, and the infamous 432 Park Avenue and 56 Leonard. The same developer in charge of the intruding high-rise, Jerry Wolkoff, was also responsible for building another luxury residential tower on top of the famous and widely-loved 5pointz, a fortress for graffiti artists whose works lined the walls before they were whitewashed and erased forever in 2013. In 2016, a federal judge ruled Wolkoff pay 21 artists at 5pointz $6.7 million for the damages of the lost art.
The New York City Privately Owned Public Space (POPS) Logo Design Competition is being held to solicit a design for a new POPS logo that may be featured on signage at over 550 POPS located across the city. A new POPS logo would be seen by millions of residents, workers, and visitors on any given day and encourage the public to take full advantage of these valuable, but sometimes unknown, public spaces. The new logo will create a recognizable identity for the city’s wide variety of POPS, and by being included on POPS signage, will communicate that these spaces are open to the public. The Competition accepts submissions from around the world. Participants must submit their submissions online on the Competition website by Friday, March 15, 2019. There is no fee to participate. Submissions will be posted online and displayed at a public exhibit in March 2019, inviting the public to view all submissions and vote for its favorite logos. A seven-person panel, along with the public vote, will select up to three awardees, each of whom will receive $2,000 and be honored at a public event. From these selected logos, DCP’s Director Lago may choose one to become the official New York City POPS logo, and that awardee will receive an additional $2,000. Awards are provided through a gift by Knoll. Awardees and the City’s choice for the official New York City POPS logo will be announced online on Monday, May 20, 2019. POPS are the result of City zoning regulations aimed at ensuring that the densest areas of the city offer outdoor and indoor places that are usable by the public without charge. The POPS program has produced nearly 3.8 million square feet of additional public space in the City – equivalent to roughly nine Bryant Parks, 24 Union Squares, or roughly 10% of Central Park. POPS are spaces dedicated to public use and enjoyment. They are owned and maintained by private property owners. POPS come in many shapes and sizes, located both outdoors and indoors. POPS are now required to include public space signage, informing New Yorkers and visitors about hours of access, required amenities such as seating, and to report any complaints to 311. The seven members of the panel who, along with the public vote, will select Awardees are:
- Jerold S. Kayden, Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard University and President, Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space (Presiding Panelist)
- Glen Cummings, Creative Director, MTWTF
- Katherine Farley, Chair, Lincoln Center Board of Directors
- Elizabeth Goldstein, President, The Municipal Art Society of New York
- Marisa Lago, Chair, New York City Planning Commission and Director, New York City Department of City Planning
- Kim Mathews, Principal Emerita, MNLA
- Justin Garrett Moore, Executive Director, New York City Public Design Commission
Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations, especially in New York City, home to some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. While construction accidents are commonplace, statistics collected over the past ten years demonstrate that construction tops the charts as New York City’s most lethal industry, with more injuries reported last year than any other year following the post-recession building boom, as reported in the Commercial Observer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of construction-related deaths in New York City has remained steadily high over the past few years, with a slight decrease from 21 to 20 annual deaths in 2017. The most recent construction fatality, according to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), occurred in November 2018, when a worker was crushed by a forklift on the site of a six-story residential condo in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. One month prior, a worker repairing the facade of a 20-story co-op in Kips Bay, Manhattan, died after a fragment of the building collapsed on top of him. Despite these gruesome accounts, there are still incidents that have yet to be reported, as the DOB only tracks deaths related to a violation of the city’s construction code, rather than tracking all work-related injuries on the job site. There are at least a half-dozen more fatalities that occurred in 2018 than the 12 cases reported by the DOB, bringing the actual number closer to 20. Although the annual death toll has remained constant in recent years, construction accidents surged significantly in 2018. According to the DOB, 761 construction workers were injured last year, which is a 13 percent increase from the 671 incidents that were reported in 2017. Due to the elevated injury rates, the City Council has implemented a number of measures aimed at protecting construction workers and reduce accidents and deaths on job sites. Among them was a law passed in September 2017 mandating construction workers to attend at least 40 hours of safety training by September 2020. The rise in construction-related accidents since then may indicate that employers are not taking these safety precautions seriously, and that the city is not doing enough to protect construction workers from deadly mishaps.
As temperatures continue to plummet in New York, it may not be a total surprise that a giant iceberg has found its way onto the city's streets. Last week, the Garment District Alliance bared its latest interactive art installation, Iceberg, which can be found at the Broadway pedestrian plazas between 37th and 38th Streets. The installation, composed of jagged metallic arches that illuminate and make noises evocative of melting ice as visitors walk through them, was created by ATOMIC3 and Appareil Architecture in collaboration with Jean-Sébastien Côté and Philippe Jean. The work was inspired by actual icebergs and is intended to chronicle the life cycle of a floe, from when it first breaks off the edge of a glacier to when it ultimately melts due to climate change. Part of the motive behind creating the installation was to acknowledge the significance of climate change and global warming, and how they will continue to worsen if people don't make more environmentally-conscious changes to their lifestyles. “This is an astonishing installation that transforms Broadway into a gleaming, interactive experience for pedestrians, while reinforcing an important environmental message,” said Garment District Alliance president Barbara Blair in a statement. Despite the serious message that the piece tries to convey, it appears to be a fun addition to the streetscape, where visitors can playfully interact with the structure, as well as pose for a photo-op. Aside from the arches flashing different colors and emitting loud “drip” noises as people pass under them, the arches make thunderous crashing sounds every so often to indicate an iceberg calving. The energetic spectacle draws in large crowds to the already bustling Garment District, just a few blocks south of Times Square. This isn’t the first time the sculpture has been unveiled to the public; it made its first debut at the 2012 Luminothérapie festival in Montreal. The installation is part of the year-round public art program, “Garment District on the Plazas,” and it will be on view through February 24.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday his support for a tax on vacant storefronts. The measure would be a response to the unusually high storefront vacancy rates across Manhattan. The New York Post reported that in an appearance on WNYC and at a subsequent press conference the mayor called vacant storefronts "a blight on neighborhoods." The mayor and proponents of such a tax argue that landlords are choosing to let storefronts sit empty for months and sometimes years at a time rather than rent the spaces to tenants at a lower rate. The Post has previously reported that many landlords would rather hold out and wait for a high-end tenant rather than lock in a cheaper tenant on a long-term lease. The result is that thriving parts of the city like Soho and the Upper West Side have storefront vacancy rates of 20 percent or more, well over the standard 5 percent. Proponents of the tax argue that landlords of vacant storefronts are hurting small local businesses that can't afford the extremely high rates that owners are demanding. After a first term with its fair share of ups and downs, de Blasio was reelected in 2017 with the promise to continue pushing for a progressive vision for the city. Many have criticized the mayor for spending too little time focused on city issues and spending too much time trying to raise a national profile with visits to Iowa and other trips. His turbulent and often unproductive relationship with New York State governor Andrew Cuomo, an ostensible ally in the Democratic party who is also competing for national attention, has not helped his standing in the eyes of New Yorkers eager for substantive improvements on local issues like city housing and transit. De Blasio's recent State of the City address announced progressive initiatives on many of those issues wrapped up in a campaign to make the city the #FairestBigCity in the country. While it remains to be seen whether or not de Blasio will join the 2020 presidential race, such moves may help burnish his reputation as a progressive government executive.
New York’s famed Chrysler Building is up for sale for the first time in over 20 years. According to the Wall Street Journal, the art deco office tower’s current owners, city developer Tishman Speyer and the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, which owns 90 percent of the property, officially placed it on the market this week. An exact number on the building’s value has yet to be announced, but experts say its unlikely that the piece of prime real estate will attract more than its asking price before the recession. Tishman Speyer bought the Chrysler Building back in 1997, spending over $100 million in facility upgrades on the historic structure as well as two other buildings. The Abu Dhabi government group claimed a stake in the property in 2008 for a whopping $800 million. Since then, such foreign investment and supposed stability in the property have sparked interest from new tenants, such as Creative Arts Agency, LinkedIn, Expedia, and Shutterstock. Despite securing leases with these companies, the prewar building faces many challenges in maintenance and upkeep. WSJ estimated that this will affect the overall sales price of the structure, along with the increasingly expensive lease it holds through the Cooper Union School, which owns the land beneath it. On top of that, the 90-year-old building has to now compete with the slew of starchitect-designed commercial skyscrapers that have popped in the last decade. Though it’s still an essential part of the New York skyline, some fear the Chrysler Building may not be as wanted as these newer, more sustainable structures designed to accommodate the modern worker. But who knows? Maybe a new owner will drop money on a major retrofit. When it opened in 1930, the Chrysler Building held the title as the world’s tallest building. It shocked the city and the nation at 77 stories tall with a 185-foot spire, designed by architect William Van Alen. The Empire State Building soon surpassed the height of the 1,046-foot structure by 204 feet.
Brought to you with support fromModular construction is gaining steam in New York City, with the technique being utilized for new projects ranging from affordable housing to academic facilities. In September 2018, modular technology reached a new height with the tallest modular hotel in the United States, the 21-story citizenM New York Bowery located in Manhattan. For the modular units, Concrete Architectural Associates, Stephen B. Jacobs Group Architects and Planners, and DeSimone Consulting Engineers reached out to Polish manufacturers Polcom Modular, and Aluprof S.A. The units, which measure 48 feet by 8 feet by 9 feet and incorporate two hotel rooms and a central corridor (following a pattern of guestroom-corridor-guestroom), were specifically designed to navigate the street width of New York City. Each module was assembled with the street-facing facade included.
Red Hook Terminal. From Brooklyn, a convoy of flatbed trucks transported the units across the East River to the construction site. The project began with the construction of a four-story concrete base, topped with a 36-inch-thick slab that spans up to 38 feet. This podium, which houses larger amenity spaces below, serves as a transfer slab to support the modular pods above. While the bulk of the citizenM New York Bowery hotel is composed of modular units, there are certain structural elements that span the building’s height. Prior to the craning in of prefabricated components, the construction team poured a full-height concrete structural core along the sites southwest corner and a sheer wall to the north. These concrete structural elements are the primary lateral system for the tower, with the sheer wall largely preventing the modular units from twisting. "Diagonal strap bracing on the module ceiling acted as the floor diaphragm to transfer the floor lateral loads back to the sheer walls," said DeSimone Consulting Engineers Managing Principal Borys Hayda, "the sheer wall's steel connection plates were bolted into the module ceilings and the female end of a Halfen stud embedded into the concrete structure." Once on site, the modules were lifted by crane and stacked module-to-module, each tied to the one directly below by bolted connections. According to DeSimone Engineers, "countersunk bolts were typically used for the diaphragm connections to prevent boltheads from interfering with the bearing of the module above." During construction, the prefabricated units were effectively cocooned within a watertight membrane, with the central portion later being cut out for the hotel’s corridors. After a brief learning curve at the start of the project, the construction team was capable of installing one floor of modular units per week. The top two floors of the tower are framed by structural steel, allowing for larger amenity spaces.Following fabrication, the 210 modular units were transported hundreds of miles from the manufacturing facilities in Goleszów, Poland to the northern port city of Gdańsk where they began the second leg of their trip to New York’s
Last week, the Ronald O. Perelman Center for the Performing Arts, which is currently under construction at the World Trade Center site, was awarded an $89 million grant by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The long-awaited funding brought the project 82 percent of the way toward meeting its total construction costs. “We are grateful to the LMDC for their support to help realize the dream of creating a performing arts center in Lower Manhattan that will serve the local community, New Yorkers from all five boroughs, New Jersey residents, and visitors from around the nation and the world," said Maggie Boepple, President of the Perelman Center. Designed by New York–based firm REX Architecture, the 90,000-square-foot, 138-foot-tall cube-like structure will hold three open and flexible performance spaces that can fit up to 1,200 people. Its bold exterior, which is clad in marble on all four sides, will stand out from the sea of skyscrapers that surround it. The site will also hold various public meeting spaces and an open plaza. At night, the exterior facade will be illuminated with a warm glow. Since construction commenced in June 2017, the main building’s steel skeleton has risen at a relatively monotonous pace, as the majority of construction has taken place below street level at the soon-to-be Vehicle Security Center. Its main entrance is situated beneath the Financial District’s Liberty Park. As of now, an intricate web of concrete pours and steel beams supports the underground garage floors that compose the lower section of the site. Now that funding has been received, the Performing Arts Center should top out by the end of next year and is scheduled to be fully completed in 2021.