Peter Gisolfi’s oeuvre is diverse enough to merit five separate categories in his new book Finding the Place of Architecture in the Landscape: townscape, campus, landscapes and buildings, gardens and houses, and transformation. But as Gisolfi presented the book to a crowd at the Center for Architecture on April 15, what stood out were the commonalities in his approaches to those various projects, not their differences. In particular, he is attuned to the nuances of the figure-ground relationship and how the placement of buildings shapes the spaces between them. Adding a single new building becomes a form of spatial acupuncture: At the Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, MO, the addition of an Early Childhood Center transformed the campus’s nebulous blob of negative space into two coherent, well-defined quadrangles. In Peekskill, NY, Gisolfi’s team built a new middle school perpendicular to the existing community center, creating a strong corner that formed the edge of a new town green. One of his favorite ways to deal with the figure-ground dichotomy is to blur it. In a private residence in Englewood, NJ, a series of outdoor rooms morph seamlessly into building and back again, from mostly open (a lawn bordered by a wall and a fence), to enclosed but open-air (a rose garden), to sheltered and partially open (a veranda), to sheltered and entirely open (an arcade and porte-cochere). In a resort on the Guadalupe river in Texas, that interweaving of inside and outside happens vertically: A masonry wall forms the spine of a staircase that leads visitors from a glassy pavilion overhanging the water down to a terrace 30 feet below, via a series of alternately sheltered and open spaces. Blurring the inside-outside distinction even more, the structure is designed to allow the river to flow through it when the water level rises. Orienting a building in the landscape also means thinking beyond its immediate surroundings, Gisolfi said, asking rhetorically: “Where’s the sun, where’s the street, what’s the difference between north and south?” The orientation of the new Peekskill Middle school, for instance, is dictated by the nearby Hudson river, creating stunning river views from all the hallways and public spaces in the building. And in his large-scale housing developments, Gisolfi draws inspiration from the Pueblos who designed their houses to respond to the sun, orienting them towards the south and angling them to capture the sun’s low-slanting rays in winter and fend off its high rays in summer. Those constraints imposed by a project’s setting are what make it great, Gisolfi emphasized. “The inspiration for me comes from defining the boundaries of the problem,” he said. In a competition to design a 300-unit housing complex in Eagle Ridge, CO, those boundaries included a steeply sloping site, a main road that snaked through it, and the need to orient all the buildings to the south to capture solar energy. That in turn defined the central design challenge, how to create logical, legible spaces among the buildings within those parameters. Gisolfi’s not the only one whose creativity thrives under constraints. A former music theory and composition student at Yale, he closed his presentation with a quote from the composer Igor Stravinsky: “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.”
Posts tagged with "Planning":
Today AIA/LA's Director of Government & Public Affairs, Will Wright, testified to LA's planning commission regarding a revised sign ordinance controlling the erection of billboards in the city. A moratorium on all new signs was passed by LA's city council in December, while the city's original sign ordinance—considered by many to be ineffective— was passed in 1986. Wright requested that the commission delay a vote and consider a revised ordinance "until comprehensive visual analysis of the proposed regulations is completed." A vote on the revised ordinance is expected in the next few weeks. In a letter to the Commission AIA/LA also recommended that the planning department convene a panel of outside experts or a consultant team with design expertise to work with City staff to review, illustrate, and contribute to the refinement of the draft sign code. "No substantive visual analysis has been completed to date. This is a design issue that impacts the environmental quality, indeed brand, of Los Angeles and nobody knows what it looks like," said AIA/LA President John Kaliski in the letter.
Yesterday afternoon in Denver, Colorado, President Obama signed the stimulus bill into law. The process of doling out the spoils begins, as we wait, and hope, for the desired economic recovery. One piece of good news for urbanites and green transportation advocates, the bill includes $8 billion for high-speed rail, according to Politico. Additional funding is expected at $1 billion annually for the next five years, through the normal budgetary stream. This represents a major increase in high speed rail funding. Last year, President Bush authorized $1.5 billion in high speed rail funding through 2013. Reportedly, Transportation Secretary Lahood has 60 days to plan how and where the funds will be spent. The rail funding is a special priority for President Obama, according to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. “I put it in there for the president,” Emanuel told Politico. “The president wanted to have a signature issue in the bill, his commitment for the future.” The rail-heavy Northeast and the planned California high-speed corridor seem like obvious recipients. Doubtless some in Chicago, and the down state Illinois district Lahood previously represented, will push for a Midwest hub and spoke-shaped system centered in Chicago. While architects do not typically design rail corridors, they do design stations, like this Calatrava-designed TGV station in Lyon, and transit oriented developments. Wouldn't it be nice to buy your Acela tickets in surroundings like this? UPDATE: The Huffington Post has a link to a 2002 Federal Railroad Administration map showing possible high-speed corridors. Which lines will make the cut?
Just weeks after LA City Planning Commission President Jane Usher resigned, Southern California is down another major planner: The LA Times has reported that LA County's chief planner Bruce McClendon (pictured) was just fired by County Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka. McClendon told the Times that he believed the firing was likely in retaliation for becoming a whistle-blower against the Board of Supervisors. He said he had told Fujioka that supervisors' aides often tried influencing hearing officers' decisions on whether to permit development plans. "It was illegal, and they can go to jail for doing it," McClendon told the Times. McClendon arrived in LA two years ago from Orange County, Fla., where he was a planner. He is a past president of the American Planning Association. He is the author of five books on planning and in Los Angeles worked to update the county's master planning document, which had been basically unchanged for 35 years. In our third California issue ever, we sat down with the commish a few months after he took the job. While we're happy McClendon took a stand on an important issue, we're also sorry to see a capable planner let go.
So it comes to this. Later tonight--6:30 to be exact--the Municipal Art Society will hold its final meeting on Coney Island, where it will take comments from the community, present the work of its charrette team, and, finally, present their recommendations to the city, a copy of which AN has received. The group's timing couldn't be better because we have also learned that the city is to certify its own long-simmering plans for Coney on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the entire neighborhood has gone (further) to pot. Though the MAS has received more than 300 recommendations through its ImagineConey website--which it kicked off with a Will Alsop-led charrette in November--the heart of its recommendations come from a report prepared by "amusement developer" David Malmuth and real estate advisory company Robert Charles Lesser & Co. Though the group probably has other ideas in store, there are four in particular it would like to see the city take up. First is the purchase of any land to be utilized as an amusement park so as to prevent future problems akin to those the city and local businesses are facing with developer Joe Sitt. Second, the MAS believes any master plan should be shaped by locals, and especially amusement operators and vendors, and that it should include a singular iconic ride that can come to symbolize the new Coney. Third, the city should require, instead of recommend, entertainment- and amusement-related uses for Coney West and Coney North. (The current plan only requires amusements in the main park area, Coney East.) One of two major departures for the MAS from the city is the demand that some interim short-term programming be implemented to keep the neighborhood vibrant and viable as the new rezoning is worked out and new amusements are built, a process that could take decades. The other, and most damning, point is that, in order to be viable, the new amusement area must cover 25 acres. The city's most recent numbers call for only 9 acres of amusement park, which was reduced from 15 acres initially proposed last February, when the rezoning was announced. According to Malmuth's report, that is the level required to attract and support 3.5 million visitors per year, which he says is the critical mass needed to make Coney truly stable and protect it from the sort of market fluctuations and development pressures that have led it astray in the past. Still, even if the MAS has come to some firm conclusions already about what it wants to see from the city, the community proposals are certainly worth checking out. With submissions from the likes of Fred Schwartz and countless architecture students, they're pretty trippy, even garnering a particularly vicious and snarky perusal from Curbed blogger Robert Guskind. And yet, over at his main blog, Gowanus Lounge, Bob gives a thoughtful analysis of the MAS approach:
We respect our friends at the Municipal Art Society and their ImagineConey effort. They have been one of the most vocal groups insisting that the city come up with a interim plan to keep Coney Island viable. Yet, we’re also concerned that as latecomers to the debate–which has been ongoing now for nearly three years–some of what they are bringing to the table is more of a distraction than a help. [...] Mayor Bloomberg, Amanda Burden, Purnima Kapur, Lynn Kelly and all the CIDC Board members, Joe Sitt, Kent Barwick–we’re talking to you and about you. Let’s cut out the meaningless twaddle and get down to the real work of making sure the summers of 2009 and 2010 are not the Summers of Horror in Coney Island. And, if that means sacrificing vision and slowing down bureaucratic process, so be it.Much as we wish that Bob's wishes would come true, something tells us neither MAS's proposals nor Tuesday's all-but-certain certification will deliver.