Posts tagged with "New York":

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“Operation Vandelay Industries” fake architect faces jail time after pleading guilty to charges

Dubbed a "fake architect," Paul Newman, from Troy, New York has pleaded guilty to his crime of fraudulently claiming to be an architect on more than 100 properties. Paul J. Newman, 49, and president (and sole employee) of architecture firm, Cohesion Studios, Inc. was arrested in late April this year and the story caused a stir when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office dubbed the investigation: “Operation Vandelay Industries,” a nod to George Costanza’s falsely proclaimed occupation as an architect.* During his career, Newman was paid in excess of $180,000 for his services. This included drafting architectural renderings and signing off projects for more than 100 properties in Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady counties. Some projects were even sizeable housing complexes. In addition to this, Newman submitted foundation inspections, field reports, energy compliance certificates, AIA documents, and engineer letters to a number of municipal agencies. As he did this, he falsely certified that he was a registered and licensed architect. Newman, in his trial, admitted defrauding construction firms, businesses, and local government agencies across the three aforementioned counties of more than $115,000. In total, he pleaded guilty to six felony charges and faces between two and seven years in jail. Newman submitted these architectural renderings, as well as foundation inspections, field reports, energy compliance certificates, and engineer letters to various towns and cities—falsely certifying on the documents that he was a registered and licensed architect and affixing a forged New York State Registered Architect Stamp or Professional Engineer Stamp. "Throughout the course of his fraudulent career, the defendant repeatedly demonstrated a disregard for the public safety of New Yorkers and a determination to cheat the system," said Schneiderman in a statement. "The state law is clear—no license, no architectural work for you. No one is above that standard." According to prosecutors, Newman procured the license number of a registered architect online and used this to create a fake Registered Architect Stamp that displayed the real architect's number but Newman's name. He then applied this stamp to his work (documents and letters) which he gave to state and city authorities. Newman then advertised his supposed architectural services on social media. After a complaint to the New York State Education Department, he removed any reference to “architecture” in his ads and replaced it with “design.” A statement from Schneiderman's office details the felonies of which he pleaded guilty to:
Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, in Saratoga County Court before the Honorable James A. Murphy, III. Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree in Albany County Court before the Honorable William A. Carter. Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony, and Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class E felony, in Rensselaer County Court before the Honorable Debra J. Young.
A list of the projects he fraudulently worked on was also listed:
  • The Pastures Project, Town of North Greenbush, Rensselaer, New York
  • Between 2010 and 2015, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of more than 70 townhouses, receiving in excess of $50,000 for his services.
  • The Livingston Project, City and County of Albany, New York
  • Between 2012 and 2014, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of a multi-story senior living community, receiving in excess of $40,000.
  • The Lofts Project, Town of Malta, Saratoga, New York
  • Between 2014 and 2016, Newman was the Project Architect for the construction of a 214-unit multifamily apartment community, receiving in excess of $35,000.
  • The Vistas Project, Town of Clifton Park, Saratoga, New York
  • Between 2011 and 2014, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of more than 25 townhouses, receiving in excess of $35,000.
  • The Hannoush Jewelers Project, Town of Colonie, Albany, New York
  • Between 2011 and 2012, Newman was hired as the architect on a renovation project for a jewelry store, receiving in excess of $20,000.
  • The Ballston Senior Living Project, Town of Ballston, Saratoga, New York
  • Between 2012 and 2013, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of a multi-story senior living community, receiving in excess of $8,000.
 
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President Trump taps his son’s wedding planner to run N.Y. and N.J. federal housing programs

A longtime Trump family associate will soon be responsible for administering billions of dollars in federal housing funds. Lynne Patton organized the wedding of President's son, Eric Trump, coordinated Trump golf course tournaments, served as the Eric Trump Foundation's vice president, and is a senior aide to the Trump family. News broke today that—starting July 5—she'll be leading U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey. According to the New York Daily News, Patton has a long-running relationship with the Trumps that goes back to 2009 when she started as their "event planner." However, questions have immediately arisen regarding her qualifications for her new role at HUD. Her LinkedIn page lists a J.D. from Quinnipiac University but includes a "N/A"; Yale University is also listed but with no additional information. The New York Attorney General also began "looking into" The Eric Trump Foundation after a report from Forbes appeared to expose practices that broke state laws. Patton's directorship at HUD will include block grants and rental vouchers that go toward senior citizen programs and housing inspections; The New York Daily News reports that HUD funds 100 percent of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)'s capital repair budget and 70 percent of its operational budget. The role Patton is filling has been vacant since January 20.
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New petition wants to transform New York’s commuter infrastructure

The creation of a new or renovated Pennsylvania Station for New York has become a staple for the local daily news.

It is often presented as an architecture issue: the need for an alternative to the seriously flawed 1968 building on the site, or a quick fix for its 21 aging rail tracks. But ReThink Studio, a transportation think tank, has a well-thought proposal that considers a future for the station as a node in a much larger regional plan. It makes the point that any proposal to transform the station is meaningless unless its relationship to a much larger area is considered and well thought out. It is not just an architectural issue, but a planning issue that needs to be addressed by all levels of government.

Today, New York’s commuter rail infrastructure is a nightmare. Fixing this starts with phase one of Amtrak’s Gateway project for two new Hudson River Tunnels. Former Vice President Joe Biden has said that all of us need to push for this effort.

You can watch a video of ReThink Studio's plans below. If you are convinced by its conclusions, there is now a way to contact our elected officials and ask them to support the plan. By signing this petition, the studio will send a letter to President Donald Trump; Senator Mitch McConnell; Representatives Paul Ryan, Bill Shuster, Rodney Frelinghuysen; and Senators Mitch McConnell, James Inhofe, and Thad Cochran.

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Limited edition items available from Storefront for Art and Architecture

For their annual Spring Benefit, Storefront for Art and Architecture has commissioned a series of limited edition "artifacts" that they will have available for purchase on May 23rd at Federal Hall in Manhattan. It is the first in a series of planned collaborations. Artist Adam McEwan, design aficionado Murray Moss, and architects LOT-EK were the first group to design for the program. See the artifacts below, and get your tickets to the benefit here. Adam McEwan's  L-Ruler From the artist: "L-ruler is an edition consisting of a representation of a 12-inch L-ruler machined in graphite, a signature material of McEwen's practice. The ruler exists at the intersection of drawing, art, and architecture. The context of Storefront's role and position, grounded in architecture and experimentation, suggests the right angle of an L-ruler, as opposed to a plain straight edge. In theory, the edition is a technically accurate ruler and could be used as such. But, the soft materiality of graphite and its willingness to roll off of itself means that with use, the ruler would soon grow distorted—dented, imperceptibly curved, worn down, made out-of-true—rendering it increasingly unreliable, deceptive, and ultimately useless." LO-TEK'S LITE-SCAPES SF From the artist: "LITE-SCAPES SF is an edition of lighting fixtures. One liter of clear colorized latex rubber is cast and threaded through with a 20" tube of LED flexible neon. The topology of each fixture derives from the packaging insert that mediates between an electric toothbrush and its shipping box. These inserts are transferred mold castings of fibrous recycled paper slurry, sprayed from a pulp pool against a metal mesh mold, to which it is adhered by a vacuum. "This recycling of recycling, a casting of a casting, represents LOT-EK's interest in upstream/downstream vectors of material culture, and in the radically adaptive reuse or upcycling of our manufactured second nature. Castings of latex, a material beloved by both epidemiologists and fetishists, have some of the resilience and warmth of flesh." Murray Moss + Lobmeyr's Marilyn From the artist: "Marilyn is a boxed set of four crystal water/wine tumblers produced by the renowned Viennese crystal maker Lobmeyr, established 1823. Each glass in the set is hand engraved by Lobmeyr's master engraver with a different pattern of a 'crack.'" "These faux fractures illustrate the extreme fragility of the glass—they are the thinnest possible barrier between the liquid and our lips. Lobmeyr's "muslin" glasses are so thin that they have the ability to modify our behavior when using them, requiring us to be more delicate in order to avoid the very "cracks" which are in this case celebrated on each glass. "Far from rendering the objects damaged, these engraved flaws make the objects even more precious, much like a beauty mark. Marilyn gracefully demonstrates our fears and trepidation concerning vulnerability. Any fear of damage is pre-empted; the crack is an embellishment that becomes the decoration. 'Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.' -Marilyn Monroe"
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How New York State’s 2018 Budget will affect the built environment

Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled the 2018 state budget this month, nine days behind schedule. State operating funds (excluding federal and capital) stood at $98.1 billion—up two percent from 2017. All in all, New York will receive $153.1 billion in funding (including federal and capital funds).

Much of this money will be spent on infrastructure. The Greater Rochester International Airport will receive an initial $39.8 million to kick-start its transformation, with overall project costs estimated at $53.7 million. JFK too is in line for major—and much-needed—changes. The Kew Gardens Interchange will receive $564 million to aid the reconstruction of and expand capacity along the Van Wyck, improving access to the airport. Most of the changes to JFK Airport itself will come from a $7 billion private investment that will modernize terminals and accommodate a projected increase in passengers.

However, Governor Cuomo’s statement also burned bridges. The 77-year-old Kosciuszko Bridge, to be specific, will be demolished (a celebration party is being held on July 11). In its wake, two new state-of-the-art bridges, one Queens-bound and one Brooklyn-bound are to be constructed with a dedicated $270 million.

Meanwhile, $15 million will supplement a new Amtrak Station in Schenectady. Improved parking, lighting, and landscaping will fall under this allotted budget as will new walkways leading to the bus and rapid transit areas on State Street and the new parking area on Liberty Street.

But what about housing? Governor Cuomo’s “Vital Brooklyn” plan, which targets health, violence, and poverty in low-income communities around Brownsville, East New York, Flatbush, Crown Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant will receive $700 million.

Initially outlined (albeit vaguely) in early March, the $1.4 billion plan asserts itself as a “national paradigm.” It calls for more than 3,000 new multifamily units to be built on six state-owned sites, with options for supportive housing, public green space, and a home-ownership plan.

As part of Governor Cuomo’s “Affordable New YorkHousing Program, developers of new residential projects with 300 units or more in certain areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens will be eligible for a full property tax abatement for 35 years. This is, however, if the project creates a specific number of affordable rental units and meets newly established minimum construction wage requirements and the units remain affordable for four decades. Governor Cuomo estimates that the program will create roughly 2,500 new units of affordable housing each year.

Governor Cuomo also outlined plans to fund state parks and protect the environment. As per the $900 million New York Parks’ 2020 initiative, $120 million from the budget will further the “transformation of the state’s flagship parks” and “strategically leverage private funding to improve New York State Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation facilities and services.”

Moreover, Governor Cuomo disclosed $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund, the most the state has ever pledged toward this. Within this sum, $41 million will be for solid waste programs, $86 million for parks and recreation, $154 million for open space programs, and $19 million for the climate change mitigation and adaptation programs.

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Update: Renovation of Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center nears completion

Since early 2016, when images surfaced showing the skeletal condition of Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, construction has continued at a fast pace in the Village of Goshen, New York to renovate and expand the iconic Brutalist building. New pictures reveal the scope and scale of the renovations. This saga began in 2011 when the municipal occupants vacated the complex citing damages from Hurricane Irene and began the process of planning its remodeling. After Boston-based designLAB withdrew its proposal because of ethical concerns over the project’s scope, Rochester, New York–based Clark Patterson Lee took on the renovations. Against the almost united outcry of architects and preservationists, the county government ultimately decided to demolish roughly one-third of the complex and replace it with a new architectural appendage. The new wing cuts off access to the central courtyard from the outermost corners of the site and leveled much of the exterior site design, dramatically changing the building's relationship to the ground. Additionally, the corrugated concrete blocks from the facade were stripped from the reinforced concrete frame and replaced only after the interior walls and windows were gutted. The video below, from early April, shows construction in progress: In a meeting with the Orange County Building Committee in March of this year, Clark Patterson Lee presented a full set of floor plans. They show an extensive revision of the interior organization of space, favoring conventional double loaded hallways instead of Rudolph's more organic layout. The plans also indicate a subdued sectional profile that eliminates many of the dynamic elevational changes found in Rudolph's seminal sectional perspective drawing of the building. County officials were not immediately available for comment regarding their motivations for the interior refiguring or decision to demolish part of the historic structure. However, a recent report from The Warwick Advertiser does cite a county official who stated that the project would be done “on time and on budget.” For others though, discontent with the project persists. Liz Waytkus, executive director of Docomomo US, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of modern architecture, recently visited the site, calling the renovations a “cultural crime.” She also highlighted the precarious future for Rudolph's other buildings around the country, including Government Civic Center in Boston. As construction comes to an end, loyal disciples of the Brutalist style may elegize the Orange County Government Center such as Rudolph designed it; however, architects may yet find value in the final building as a cautionary case study for how to strategize future preservation efforts.
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Fake architect faces jail time after practicing without a license

In an investigation dubbed "Operation Vandelay Industries," Paul Newman, from Troy, New York, has been arrested for practicing architecture without a license with his firm "Cohesion Studios." Newman, 49, faces up to 15 years in prison. The New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office referenced Seinfeld in the operation name—a nod to George Costanza's falsely proclaimed occupation as an architect.* Newman also shares his name with another character on the comedy, however, the joking stops there. Unlike Costanza, Newman will be facing the consequences of illegally signing off plans on more than 100 projects. "I'm indicting alleged fake architect Paul Newman on 58 counts as a result of our 'Operation Vandelay Industries,'" Schneiderman said in a tweet linked to a video from the 1992 episode of Seinfeld he was referencing. https://twitter.com/AGSchneiderman/status/855071505293733893 Newman is facing charges in three counties and has been accused of defrauding construction firms, businesses, and municipalities over the course of seven years. The projects he illegally worked on, pretending to be registered and licensed, were mostly housing, ranging from townhouses to senior living communities. Schneiderman's two-year investigation found that Newman had been practicing illegally since 2010. In the process, Newman had been paid almost $200,000 for his fraudulent services. ($200,000 over seven years: testament that crime does not pay, in this case at least.) The Attorney General Office's review of the Livingston Project—a 50-unit senior housing complex—turned up instances where Newman had forged certification stamps used for permit applications when he approved that the building had been constructed according to his plans. Even though Newman was breaking the law, Robert Magee, Albany's director of building and regulatory compliance, said the Livingston Project was "all done up to code." "Our inspectors had eyes on the project as it was happening," he told the Daily Gazette. "We didn't find a reason to revoke the certificate of occupancy we had issued." “For over seven years the defendant has pretended to be a registered architect, deceiving hundreds of New Yorkers—including families and senior citizens—with the sole goal of enriching himself,” Schneiderman, meanwhile, said in a statement. “By allegedly falsifying building plans, code compliance inspections, and field reports, the defendant jeopardized the safety of those who resided in and frequented the buildings he was contracted to work on.” As Nicholas Korody of Archinect notes: In just Rensselaer County, Newman, 49, faces the following charges: Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, nine counts of Forgery in the Second Degree, one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, three counts of Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, and thirteen counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. All are felonies. *For the Seinfeld aficionado's out there, you are not mistaken: Vandelay Industries is not George Constanza's company when he is an architect. Art Vandelay is, in fact, that firm. Vandelay Industries, however, is the company Costanza uses to sell latex.
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Port Authority Bus Terminal to get total reset and other breaking news from annual RPA conference

The Regional Plan Association (RPA)'s Assembly conference in New York City, which focuses on urban planning, infrastructure, and transportation, was marked by an acute sense of crises and challenge. "You need to start shouting about how bad things are, how irresponsible" we've been as a nation, former Vice President Joe Biden told the audience. He bellowed how the U.S.'s infrastructure released a D+ rating. Biden was on hand to receive the RPA's John Zuccotti Award. In addition to being a longtime advocate for Amtrack, the noted train enthusiast Biden administered the infrastructure-heavy American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It's an "easy message to deliver," he said, "that our infrastructure is crumbling and making America less competitive." Challenges associated with major projects like the Gateway Program (which promises new rail tunnels under the Hudson, among other improvements), the Second Avenue Subway, and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal loomed large as the conference started off. In the Assembly's large morning panel, Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), highlighted how the region's "accountability and governance model" needs to be reviewed. If government officials have clear ownership, it's better, she said, citing Governor Cuomo's intervention into the Second Avenue Subway. Rohit Aggarwala, chief policy officer of Sidewalk Labs and co-chair of the RPA's Fourth Regional Plan, gave a preview of what the RPA would propose when the Plan comes out later this year. "What has happened to these institutions?" he asked, arguing that it wasn't politics, ineptitude, nor lack of funding that was causing major regional transportation projects to falter and slow. It's the "very shape and structure of these agencies" that were the cause, he said, adding that they're "deeply flawed" in how they're organized, funded, and how responsibilities are divided. He discussed how other global cities, such as London, Honk Kong, and Los Angeles, have all restructured their transportation agencies in the last 20 or so years, consolidating power on a more local level or finding new arrangements more reflective of their needs. "It is time for reinvention," he concluded, saying the Fourth Plan would address these issues head-on. (He gave no concrete hints about the Plan itself, though in one example of dysfunction, he cited how commuter rail authorities are divided by the Hudson.)
There were major project updates at the "Crossing the Hudson" panel, which sought to address the fundamental challenge of improving transportation across (and under) the Hudson to connect New York and New Jersey. Tom Wright, president of the RPA, kicked off the panel by showing how New Jersey added 65,000 new cross-Hudson commuters from 1990 to 2010 and stood to add another 75,000 from 2010 to 2040. (By another estimate, it would be 110,000 by 2040 if you include New Jersey commuters going to all five boroughs.) Forty-three percent of current commutes happen via bus and a new Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) is desperately needed. Additionally, if one track is lost on the current 106-year-old rail tunnel under the Hudson, Penn Station can only handle six trains during a peak hour (as compared to 24 otherwise).
Put simply, "New Jersey transit systems are in a state of crises," said panel member and New Jersey State Senator Robert Gordon. While PATH is in decent shape funding-wise (thanks to PANYNJ tolls), the rest of the state's transit system is severely underfunded. John Porcari, interim executive director of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, framed the challenge a little differently: 10 percent of the country's GDP is in the New York metro area, but crossing the Hudson via rail its "single point of failure." A new rail bridge, dubbed the Portal Bridge and located over the Hackensack River, is ready for construction but is awaiting federal funding. The new rail tunnel's environmental impact statement should be released in 60 days, Pocari added, and a financing plan is also in the works. Those two projects (the new bridge and tunnel) constitute phase one of the Gateway Program; phase two includes a new Penn Station. Biden called the tunnel "literally the single most important project in the country." A new PABT is also essential to the trans-Hudson transportation question; the current station will require replacement in 15 to 20 years due to structural deterioration, said Andrew Lynn, director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ)'s Planning and Regional Development Department. (Lynn sometimes holds meetings with local officials and stakeholders in the PABT, using the shaking walls to drive home his point.) The PANYNJ has about $3.5 billion set aside for the terminal, but despite numerous attempts to formulate a plan over the years, none have been successful. The PANYNJ is effectively "pushing the reset button" on the project, and while the group will learn from past failures, "we're really starting over," he said. (Gordon suggested expanding the current PABT upwards by building off the current structure. This would expand capacity while minimzing local impact.) However, Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), countered that "global cities are not building big bus terminals"; rail is much more efficient. "One enormous bus terminal" is not the solution, she said, citing the failings of Robert Moses and how "we don't think that way now." Lastly, the panel touched on the replacement and expansion of Penn Station. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of Practice for Architecture Urbanism, who has put forward a plan to adapt the existing structure, explained his plan to move Madison Square Garden to the back of the old Farley Building, allowing the adaptive reuse of the current Garden's superstructure for a new train station that would make the neighborhood a "world-class address." (ReThink Studio, who was also present at the Assembly, has critiqued aspects of this plan.) Chakrabarti also sounded the alarm that office space might be built in the back of the Farley Building to fund Amtrack's construction of a new Amtrack platforms on the rails that run under the Farley Building. Those platforms, he added, would only serve Amtrack and exclude regional rail. He also warned that the current Penn Station was a safety hazard awaiting disaster: with such low ceilings, for instance, a smoke event would be disastrous in the already-overcapacity space. In sum, the panel portrayed a moment of crises but also a potential reconsideration of the current status quo. Once the current crises have been averted, panelists agreed it would make the most sense for New Jersey to emphasize trains over buses for a trans-Hudson commute, as rail is overall far more efficient (albeit also more expensive) a system for moving people. After this, an afternoon panel, "Planning for the Transportation Revolution," sought to address how ride sharing and autonomous vehicle could reshape the urban landscape. Bruce Schaller, principal at Schaller Consulting (which specializes in urban transportation policy), and Matt Wing, corporate communications lead at Uber, both highlighted how Transportation Network Companies (TNCs, such as Uber and Lyft) have filled in gaps created by public transportation. Forty percent of Uber's New York City rides are in the outer boroughs and never touch Manhattan, which serves as little surprise given only one subway line (the G) doesn't pass through Manhattan. TNCs, Wing explained, are also serving as critical links in the "last mile" problem of getting people to mass transit stations. (See AN's transportation feature on Miami for more on this.) Jessica Robinson, director of city solutions at Ford Smart Mobility, revealed that Ford aimed to have a production-ready Level 4 self-driving car by 2021. (Level 4 means no steering wheel, gas pedal, or anything else drivers must operate.) Given their cost, said Robinson, such cars will almost certainly be owned and operated by ride-sharing companies. Seeking to stay at the forefront of mobility solutions, Ford also bought Chariot, a TNC that operates 14-passenger ride-sharing vehicles and aims to reinvent mass transit. It was Robin Chase, the co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, who gave the most impassioned presentation. "Cities are in a one-time position of power," she said, to dictate the terms of how autonomous vehicles should operate before they're legally allowed in major cities. She's currently organizing a global coalition of mayor to negotiate with large companies. Her top priorities include: ensuring all vehicles are electric, creating a level playing field for competition among ride-sharing companies, and negotiating new forms of ride sharing taxation based on distance traveled, curb rights, fuel type, and other factors. Conventional taxation based on registration fees, gasoline tax, and tolls may not be an option when autonomous vehicles hit the road. Overall, the panel argued that anything less than all-electronic fleets of competing ride share companies would be a major loss for cities. In that scenario, there are fewer and much cleaner cars on the road, and vast amounts of parking and curbside space would be made available for public use.
For more on major transportations plans, don't miss the upcoming Plan 2050 at the Cooper Union, this May 9!
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Get ahead and stay ahead at this year’s Tech+ Expo in New York City

In 1849, Joseph Monier, a Frenchman, invented reinforced concrete. He didn't do much with it at the time, aside from making a few robust plant pots. Eighteen years later he finally showed off his radical technological innovation at the Paris Exposition of 1867. That year, Monier patented his creation and eight years and four more patents later, he designed the world's first iron-reinforced concrete bridge at the Castle of Chazelet. Thankfully today, the world is a great deal more connected than it was back in the 19th Century. Industry leaders can share their ideas instead of dithering around with flowerpots for decades. The Tech+ Expo is that forum. A hotbed of technological innovation, Tech+ is where you can find the latest advancements in virtual reality, rapid prototyping, smart materials, intelligent building systems, mobile apps, and software platforms. This year, The Architect’s Newspaper and Microsol Resources’ TechPerspectives have combined forces to present a full day program of industry leaders on the innovation stage at Tech+.Ten speakers will be presenting their thoughts and insight on various facets of technology and its role in architecture at Tech+ on May 23 in New York. A list of speakers can be found below:
  • Keynote Presenter: Hao Ko, Principal at Gensler
  • Zachary Aarons, Co-Founder MetaProp NYC
  • Daniel Diez, EVP, Chief Marketing Officer, R/GA
  • Cindy McLaughlin, CEO, Envelope
  • Kerenza Harris, Morphosis Architects
  • Jerrod Kennard, Architectural Designer at KPF
  • Alexandra Pollock, Director of Design Technology at FXFOWLE
  • Robert Otani, Principal at CORE Studio, Thornton Tomasetti
  • Joseph Romano, VP Surveying & Mapping, Langan Engineering
  • Jonathan Schwartz, Co-Founder + CPO Voodoo Manufacturing
  • Zoltan Toth, BIM Implementation Consultant, GRAPHISOFT
  • Luc Wilson, Associate Principal and Director at KPF Urban Interface
More speakers are due to be announced. Tech+ will be at Metropolitan West on 639 West 46th Street in Manhattan on May 23. To register and find out more, visit techplusexpo.com.
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The unknown story of New York City’s brutalist playgrounds, as told by artist Julia Jacquette

The idea of concrete being the dominant material for a children's play area seems bizarre today. What about the grazed elbows and knees and scratched palms? What if, God forbid, someone hits their head?! In 1970s New York, however, it worked: Artist Julia Jacquette recalls the concrete playscapes built during one of the city's most socially turbulent eras in her new book, Playground of My Mind. A combination of personal memoir, playground design guide, graphic novel, and story of New York's modernist architectural scene, laced with snippets of feminist ambition, Playground of My Mind is narrated retrospectively by Jacquette, who illustrated the book with her own distinctive graphic style. It starts by plunging you into the depths of Columbus Park Towers, a confusingly named, singular high-rise apartment block on West 94th Street. It's here, in the tower block's basement, where Jacquette's interested in playgrounds started. Described as a "city within a city," Jacquette uses the now-demolished play area, designed by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg, as a springboard to illustrate the egalitarian principles found in modernist architecture and recount how such design influenced her. Another example is the Adventure Playground, found in Central Park and designed by architect Richard Dattner. Emphatically, Jacquette states: "Much of the Adventure Playground was made with poured concrete aggregate: CONCRETE WITH PEBBLES IN IT." Jacquette touches on more design details as she chronicles her experiences, which include playgrounds by Aldo van Eyck in Amsterdam, where her childhood is also rooted. She portrays these play areas as a reaction to the out-dated, one-dimensional curated fun prescribed by former NYC Parks Commissioner and Chairman, Robert Moses. In Moses's parks, objects encouraged limited means of interaction, and were, as critic Phineas Harper described, "modeled on Victorian notions of character-building gymnastic exertion." Swings were for swinging in, see-saws were essentially the same (just more wooden in every sense of the word), and you slid down slides. Jacquette's account of these play areas may be useful today as Harper described contemporary playgrounds as "totally prescriptive," citing researcher David Ball who found that the commonly deployed rubber "safety surfacing" has a negligible impact on children's' safety. Instead, Jacquette prefers playgrounds that encourage inventive ways of using and navigating them; places where fun is free to be had and above all interpretive: A hollowed, spiraling mound could be a mountain, volcano, castle or river, while at the same time referencing ancient architecture such as Roman amphitheaters and Egyptian pyramids. The author's illustrations complement this personal narrative, playing with scale in a similar fashion to the featured playgrounds. This is supplemented by text design and layout consultant, Cathleen Owens's meandering arrangement of text that weaves through the book, working its way around the axonometric, plan and graphic drawings that fill every page. Her father an architect and mother a stylish librarian, Jacquette ascribes the unified aesthetic vocabulary that played a big part in her childhood to her making today, drawing on memories such as: the clothing worn by her mother who confidently strode around gritty New York; Manhattan movie theaters; playgrounds in the Netherlands and parks designed by her father. Today, Columbus Park Tower sits atop a cleaners, cafe, boutique, cobblers, bar and two restaurants and is engulfed by residential high-rises lining Columbus avenue. It's cream colored (originally white) balconies which Jacquette mentions protrude out and contrast against its aged (but not damaged) brickwork. They amplify the linear orderliness of the facade—an aesthetic retained today. Look north and there are newer, modern, high-end apartments. The area is a far cry from the rough-and-tumble neighborhood that Jacquette grew up in, but the bold spirit of the place evidently lives on in her work. Playground of My Mind was published by Prestel in conjunction with the Wellin Museum of Art, where a mid-survey exhibition of Jacquette is currently on show, located on the campus of Hamilton College. Julia Jacquette: Unrequited and Acts of Play looks at the theme of identity through the nostalgic lens used in Playground of My Mind. The exhibition is on view through July 2, 2017, and an abridged version of the show will travel to the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit, New Jersey, where it will be on view from September 24, 2017, through January 14, 2018. Playground of My Mind Prestel, $49.95
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New York’s angled icon, the Citicorp Center, in line for a 200,000 square foot renovation

601 Lexington Avenue, widely known by its former title as the Citicorp Center, may be the subject of a revamp totaling 200,000 square feet, courtesy the New York office of global architecture firm Gensler. The recently landmarked building (designated in December) could see a new exterior plaza and array of terraces added if the design is approved by the Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC) next week. Further changes include an atrium located inside (and thus exempt from LPC endorsement) that will house a coterie of retail outlets and dining facilities. Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper, a spokesperson for Gensler clarified that the plaza is indeed "being redesigned" as renderings suggest. 601 Lexington Avenue was designed by Hugh A. Stubbins & Associates in 1977 and completed the following year. The resultant angular apex created a silhouette that has become an icon of the Manhattan skyline and was a feature that led the building's landmark designation last year. It's at the other end of the building, at Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street, however, where the changes will be made. Critic Paul Goldberger was complimentary of the existing ground-level features at the time of Stubbins's death in 2006: “[It is] probably the most important skyscraper built in New York in the 1970s because of its elegant and memorable shape, but also because of its engagement with the city at the base," he said. According to Gensler, the building's owners, Boston Properties is "focused not on increasing rents, but on increasing the value of the entire neighborhood by making a distinctive plaza and atrium space." The firm continued: "To this end, the new outdoor plaza and terraces make room for more dining and retail options, while enlivening the staid office component. The resulting 200,000-square-foot redevelopment transforms an internally focused space into a bustling urban oasis for Manhattan’s Midtown East neighborhood." 601 Lexington (c) Gensler_4 Changes date back to as recently as 2010 when a new office lobby was installed. Twenty years ago, the existing atrium and open-air concourse were renovated. The LPC hearing for the changes will be on Tuesday, March 21.
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Find out one reason why this year’s Armory Show had record-breaking attendance

The result of seven month’s work, involving copious amounts of organizing, planning, scheduling, revising, assembling, testing and eleventh-hour tweaking, culminated in a five-day art frenzy: The Armory Show 2017. Held on Piers 92 and 94 in New York City, this year's fair hosted 200 galleries from 30 different countries—a significant reduction from the previous year's showing (230). However, Bade Stageberg Cox Architects (BSC) designed the layout of the show and the New York firm was on hand to remind visitors how effective the Miesian principle, "less is more" can be.

"We're always playing with scale," said Jane Stageberg, a principle at BSC who showed The Architect's Newspaper around. "The art is big, so the space must be big!" One way to get more space is to have fewer galleries, argued Stageberg, who added that on the flip side, this afforded galleries more floor space to work with themselves. The result was a more fluid and dynamic experience of The Armory Show.

In 2016, Pier 94 had three aisles of circulation, whereas this year two were employed, facilitating a much smoother and more logical route up and down the pier. This also allowed BSC to create what Stageberg called "town squares." For an experience that had the potential to feel like a head-spinning cavalcade of art, the open spaces offered visual relief and acted as convenient meeting points. They also housed "big" public art, making them handy tools for way-finding. Saying "meet by the red and white polka-dotted mushrooms" (or to the more sophisticated "Yayoi Kusama's 2016 work, Guidepost to the New World") made for an easy-to-find reference point. Or, if that didn't take your fancy: the champagne bar by the hanging piano (Sebastian Errazuriz's 2017 piece, The awareness of uncertainty).

"Our goal was to open up the plan and create sight-lines, carving away corners to create diagonal views," Stageberg explained. "The galleries realized that this was good for them too as it meant more exposure. Their goal is to sell art and that's our goal too." The risk paid off, though, as galleries did well. “We sold an enormous amount,” said Sean Kelly, whose Chelsea gallery can be found on 475 10th Avenue.

Additionally, Stageberg said that the bones (especially the roof) of Pier 94 itself were also exposed to acknowledge the site's industrial past. In a refined environment predominantly comprised of white gallery walls, the juxtaposition of evident decay seen on the roof and odd bits of wall was a welcome sight.

On Pier 92, this was less the case, but the inclusion of generous amounts of daylight made possible by numerous windows, supplemented the sense of place BSC strove for. Around these areas of fenestration was more "public space." (This year, public space made up more than a third of the square footage allocated to galleries.) In a setting where square footage and wall space are prime real estate for galleries, the decision to do so was justified as visitors came in record numbers (65,000 over five days—the most ever). In addition to this, the show's busiest days over the weekend were gloriously sunny. Light shimmered off the Hudson and the pier—which is roughly 30 feet narrower than its neighbor—felt open and breathable.

Another advantage of this was simply being able to see where you were in the scope of the city. Be it views of BIG's Via 57 or simply Pier 94, the windows aided orientation and provided a pleasing change of focus. This was particularly the case in the VIP Lounge on Pier 92 where a large window punched through the end of the pier was the highlight of the show’s premium venue.

BSC has been working The Armory Show since 2011 when the firm began designing the 2012 edition of the fair. Between then and now, two directors (Paul Morris and Noah Horowitz) have come and gone, but this year marked the second year BSC had been working with its current director, Ben Genocchio.

For the 2017 show, Genocchio wanted Piers 92 and 94 to be in greater unison. Curatorial programming at previous shows had created a disconnect between the two piers, a phenomenon amplified further due to their differences in elevation (Pier 92 is almost one story higher than its neighbor) resulting in tricky circulation. To challenge this, both modern and contemporary galleries could be found on the two piers and emphasis was placed on the corridor that linked them.

It wasn't all smooth sailing on the water, however. While an oversized floating concrete block (Drifter, by Studio Drift) did well to draw visitors to the connecting stairwell, traveling between the two piers was still awkward. This problem, though, may be impossible to solve. Stageberg was disappointed in the food outlet "Mile End" at the end of Pier 94. "It felt like a dead-end space," she said. Likewise, it's hard to see how such an issue will be resolved without sacrificing more gallery space.

Stageberg, though, took this as a positive. "We're learning what we can do next year," she said. “We’re very pleased with how the public spaces in general turned out, they were really needed.” In the end, it's the piers' quirks that make The Armory Show what it is. There are few, if any, places where you can gaze over millions of dollars worth of art amid expertly organized chaos, all under one, slowly dying roof in the middle of New York.