In architecturally crowded Hong Kong, plazas are a rare breath of open air. The luxurious Causeway Bay district, whose retail rental rates surpassed New York City’s Fifth Avenue in 2012, is home to one of these sparse open spaces, Sunning Plaza. I.M. Pei’s 27-story edifice faces a large public courtyard, a hardscape relief within the densely built area devoted to commercial shops and restaurants. But, such a luxury is always in threat of expansion. Artinfo reported that developer Hysan will soon be converting the space into additional commercial stores and offices. Pei’s 1982 building is to be demolished by the end of this year and the plaza is going with it. 31 years ago, Sunning Plaza was Pei’s first structure built in Hong Kong. The mirrored glass office tower is still only one of his two architectural projects in the city. Although visitors often make use of the building’s public court, Causeway Bay is a high traffic shopping and business district. Hysan plans the new structure as a larger, mixed-use complex. Sunning Plaza will be demolished before the end of 2013. The entire redevelopment project is expected to be complete by 2018.
Posts tagged with "Plazas":
Fulton Street, the bustling commercial strip of the Brooklyn neighborhood, Bedford Stuyvesant, has just received a much-needed makeover. The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., along with community stakeholders and city officials, gathered this morning at the new Marcy Plaza to celebrate the completion of a $20 million neighborhood revitalization project, funded by the city. The organization led efforts to revamp Restoration Plaza with the help Garrison Architects, build a new plaza along Marcy Avenue, implement public art, and overhaul a mile-long stretch along Fulton Street with expanded sidewalks, new benches, trees, plantings, bike racks, and lighting. These streetscape improvements aim to bolster local businesses and support the local residential community by creating a safer and more walkable neighborhood. "This is a perfect model of public and private partnership that led to beautiful public art," said Kyle Kimball, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, at the ribbon cutting. "[The plaza] makes the neighborhood more accessible." This project is just one piece of a larger plan to revitalize Bedford-Stuyvesant, which has also spurred $100 million in private investment dedicated to building roughly 300 mixed-income housing units and 40,000 square feet of commercial space in the neighborhood. "This neighborhood revitalization project will not only provide Bed-Stuy residents with an opportunity to enjoy the neighborhood's beauty and culture, but will also provide housing, business opportunities and shopping destinations for the people of our community and its visitors," said Colvin W. Grannum, CEO and President of Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., in a statement. At the new Marcy Plaza, a public art installation by artist Ellen Harvey, entitled "Mathematical Star," was also unveiled. This piece, funded by the Department of Cultural Affair's Percent for Art program, is a mosaic made up of different patterns inspired by photographs of iconic landmarks in Bed-Stuy.
The median of a downtown stretch of State Street is now home to the latest of Chicago’s People Spots, a series of parklets sprinkled throughout the city as part of its “Make Way for People” program. Dubbed "The Gateway," the portion of State Street between Lake Street and Wacker Drive features shaded tables and chairs in what the city is calling its first “People Plaza.” Flowerboxes, banners, and bright red and blue colors lighten up the otherwise utilitarian median. While the spot’s central location is probably its greatest asset in attracting visitors, satisfying views of downtown’s architectural gems impart some elegance to the straightforward design. Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly, and Chicago Loop Alliance Executive Director Michael Edward were on hand Friday to dedicate the space, touting business opportunities for nearby restaurants and bars. The goal of the program is to activate public space for placemaking's sake, with economic development expected for nearby retail corridors. A cleaning team will service The Gateway from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. each day through the end of September, according to a press release from the Chicago Loop Alliance. On Saturday, the city is hosting a bicycle tour of the People Spots in Andersonville and Bronzeville.
[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] All images courtesy TimNelson3D.com / Union Studio Architecture & Community Design Not unfamiliar with daring urban design endeavors, Providence, RI is gearing up for a $20 million transformation of Kennedy Plaza, a major transportation hub and park dating to 1848 in the city's downtown. The overhaul designed by Providence-based Union Studio Architects was announced in late April and calls for upholding the plaza’s principal position as a public-transit terminal, preserving the 2002 intermodal station. Change in the site's layout will relocate bus kiosks to the perimeter of the plaza so as to create supplementary space for public and private activities to enliven the space. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter] The new Kennedy Plaza scheme calls for building a public marketplace and new parks in area that was once dedicated to the bus transit center. By reorganizing bus access through the square, the city hopes to improve pedestrian safety and provide an easier transit experience. The plaza will also integrate more tables and chairs for an al fresco experience to complement an elegant new cafe. A skating rink described by locals as a "fortress" will be softened with diversified uses while the park area of the plaza, known as Burnside Park, will be better integrated with the overall Kennedy Plaza site. The design calls for a site imagined as a series of nine distinct spaces (see plan below) from a market square to a formal gardens to a central square. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter] Details of the new Kennedy Plaza are still being finalized and additional fundraising is taking place. Already, support has been pledged from the National Endowment for the Arts and public and private groups in Providence. If all goes as planned, the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy could begin construction this year, which a phased approach that could take five years to complete. Participating stakeholders are the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), the Providence Foundation, the Biltmore Hotel and Cornish Associates. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter]
In New York these days, pedestrian plazas keep sprouting up in different pockets around Midtown Manhattan, an area known more for its heavily trafficked avenues and streets than its pedestrian-friendly corridors. And now, The New York Times reported that business owners along West 41st Street are pushing for their block, stretching from Broadway to Bryant Park, to be transformed into a tree-lined plaza, dotted with tables and seats. The street will stay open to traffic, but parking would be eliminated to make room for the promenade connecting Bryant Park with Snøhetta's now-under-construction revamp of the Times Square pedestrian plaza. Wally Rubin, District Manager of Community Board 5, told AN that the transportation and environment committee voted last Thursday to recommend approval of the plan, dubbed “Boulevard 41,” which will then go in front of the full board for a final vote on April 11th. If the Department of Transportation then green lights the proposal, the plaza could open as soon as this summer.
Peavey Plaza, downtown Minneapolis’ celebrated modernist square completed in 1975, fell into disrepair—two of its three iconic fountains are no longer operational, and its sunken “garden rooms” have helped harbor illegal activity. Landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg’s plaza became the focus of a high-profile preservation battle two years ago, with The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) leading the charge to rehabilitate Peavey and city officials pushing for demolition. Now TCLF has announced the plaza has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The “park plaza” style Friedberg forged is evident in Peavey’s blend of hard concrete squares and American-style green spaces. It joins 88,000 sites of architectural heritage on the list, only 2,500 of which have significance in landscape architecture. Preservationists sued the city last year to contest city council’s claim that there were “no reasonable alternatives” to demolition, hoping to win protection under Minnesota’s Environmental Rights Act.
For the past eleven years, photographer Jesse David Harris has had unfettered access to two of the most architecturally significant buildings in New York: the Seagram Building and Lever House, both owned by RFR Holdings. As staff photographer for the Lever House Art Collection he began to shoot the Seagram Building with deference to Ezra Stoller. The photographer’s familiarity with the building evolved alongside technology. Last year, Harris began a time-lapse project that reflects his time with Mies van der Rohe's masterpiece. The project took ten days to shoot over the course of 8 months on a Canon 5D MarkII. Harris bounced between a 17mm and a 24mm tilt-shift lens. Three streams of bracketed exposures were edited during four months of postproduction. To achieve the stunning effects in the film, the photographer designed a time-lapse dolly with a slow servomotor that gently pushed the camera along a forty foot track. The time lapses ranged from four to 24 hours. It’s not the first time that the Seagram has received this time lapse treatment. The late urbanist William Holly Whyte used time-lapse recordings of the building's plaza to hash out theories on the use of public space for his landmark book and film, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Harris and Whyte shared the same elevated vantage point from which to observe the flurry of activity in the plaza below. Harris’s work seems to buttress Whyte’s appreciation of a “friendly kind of congestion” that forms on Seagram’s plaza. Until recently, people were often swept away from architectural photography as blemishes obscuring the masterpiece, but Harris’s film takes a kind of Satyagraha joy of people in motion. The result is a wholly public yet intimate observation that only an eleven-year photo veteran could make. “In the beginning, I was intimidated by it,” Harris said of the building. “On first look it can be standoffish, but it’s actually very soft. It sounds silly, but it’s become my friend in a way.”
The New York Post says the city's plans for the new entrance to Coney Island are just "beachy" and "spectacular" while Gothamist tells readers to "behold ...a grand beachfront entrance fit for pharaohs." The plan replaces the sixty-year-old Eighth Street Bridge with a sweeping new plaza at Tenth Street. The change may be welcome compared to the decayed structure that greets visitors now, but does it have anything to do with the Coney of 'ol New York? The entrance at Eighth Street may not be pedestrian friendly, but the new design is merely pedestrian. Bike racks and ADA ramps are welcome improvements, but historicist lampposts of no discernible period and smooth blue pavement don't portray whimsy. And the deco-ish gestures of the steps and planters look like Moses-era-WPA-knockoffs, a very suburban approach to one of the most deliciously honky-tonk resorts in America. Where's the fun? Perhaps the battle weary Community Board 13 doesn't have the energy to fight this $11 million "improvement" after the Design Commission allowed the plastic to pass for wood on the boardwalk two weeks ago. It might help if the designers did a bit of research on Coney's outré heritage...
Brooklyn's grandest public space at the top of Prospect Park has always been a work in progress. Grand Army Plaza, an oval-shaped public space composed of monuments ringed by an inner and an outer roadway, was built as the main entrance to the park in 1866, serving as a buffer between nature and city and happened to be the confluence of some of Brooklyn's busiest avenues. Over the years, a monumental archway was added, fountains came and went, and eventually the roads were widened until the lush plaza was effectively cut off from the surrounding Prospect Heights and Park Slope neighborhoods. Last week, however, after months of construction to tame the out-of-control roadways, a group of civic leaders and officials gathered in what was once a busy street to celebrate the newly reclaimed plaza. NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan praised the transformation of the intersection into a real multi-modal space. She said the changes to Grand Army Plaza are "an incredible invitation into the plaza to appreciate a landmark in a new way." The transformation is not just a boon for pedestrians and cyclists, she continued, but for motorists as well, noting that automobile behaviors have been streamlined and simplified through the oval by new medians and pedestrian islands to reduce merging conflicts. Similar to interventions across the city that shave off unused or excess pavement from roadways to be reallocated to pedestrians, the NYC Department of Transportation has created 71,000 square feet—or about 1.5 acres—of new pedestrian space at Grand Army Plaza. New landscaped pedestrian islands at the plaza's north side (above) help to route traffic more efficiently while shortening the distance pedestrians must cross to get to the park. At the south side (below), a vast swath of asphalt between the Soldier's and Sailor's Arch and the rest of the plaza has been paved with a light-colored gravel and lined with white granite boulders to officially keep traffic out. A similar treatment was put in place at the gates of Prospect Park where weekend Greenmarkets traditionally take place. New pedestrian islands, a large new crosswalk leading directly into the park, and a dedicated bike lane folllowing the Plaza Street loop complete the picture. Grand Army Plaza has been notoriously dangerous. In the late 1920s the plaza featured a large billboard called the "Death-o-Meter" (below) displaying the traffic injuries and fatalities in Brooklyn to promote safer driving in the area. Grassroots efforts to transform Grand Army Plaza into a pedestrian-friendly environment began in 2006 with the formation of the Grand Army Plaza Coalition (GAPCo) comprised of concerned citizens and organizations including the Project for Public Spaces. The coalition gathered widespread community input on how to improve the space producing a design by architect Jan Gehl in 2006 and eventually working with DOT to make their plans reality. In 2008, a design competition with the Design Trust for Public Space garnered inspiring proposals on how to rethink the urban tangle, with most results calling for a radical overhaul of the traffic circle. Plans were finalized during the contentious battle over the nearby Prospect Park West bike lane, but Sadik-Khan told AN the controversy did not affect the designs at Grand Army Plaza. Still, one component—a two-directional protected bike lane along Plaza Street, which creates the outer oval, that was approved in 2010 by community boards 6 and 8—was withheld from plans presented the spring. StreetsBlog pointed out at the time that the lane wasn't fully eliminated, but delayed after some residents were concerned about traffic. "I'm happy with the way the project evolved," said Sadik-Khan. "Adding 1.5 acres of new public space at the crossroads of Brooklyn is an incredible asset." "Over the past 50 years, the plaza has tipped to more street. We tipped it back to pedestrians," said Robert Witherwax, coordinator of GAPCo. "In terms of getting pedestrians into the plaza, it's genius, simple, elegant, and it works." The changes represent NYCDOT's budget approach to creating new public space quickly. A coat of gravel and paint is much more affordable than a completely new streetscape and can be fulfilled much faster. Witherwax said the next step is to program the new space, which could include new events and outfitting the plaza with furniture. "We have a treasury of ideas," he said. "We're making a part of the park useful that wasn't before."
A decade after the 9/11 attacks, the public will soon be able to visit the site, much of which has been fully transformed into the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. While many were dispirited by the years of revisions to and deviations from the Libeskind master plan (which itself had many detractors), AN's recent visit to the plaza, crowded with workers laboring toward the anniversary opening, revealed a vast, contemplative space that we predict will function well as both a memorial and a public space. Next week AN will take a look at the design and offer a preview of the what the public can expect from the space, but, first, a look at how the highly engineered plaza works. With transit tunnels, mechanical systems, and much of the memorial museum located below the surface, the plaza itself could only be approximately six feet thick. Unlike the original World Trade Center Plaza, which many found to be barren and scorching or windswept, the Memorial Plaza is conceived of as an abstracted forest of Swamp White Oaks surrounding two monumental pools outlining the footprints of the original towers. Designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker Partners, with Aedas, the plaza will include approximately 400 trees, 215 of which will be in place for the opening. About one third of the plaza has yet to be constructed, while the Santiago Calatrava designed PATH station is being completed. Plaza plantings are arranged in bands, alternating between bands of pavers and bands of trees, grass, and ground cover. This creates both a unifying visual language for the large plaza and a highly rational system for organizing the mechanical and irrigation systems on the site. Between the planting bands, accessible utility corridors house electrical and security equipment. Drainage troughs divide the planting bands from the utility corridors. The whole plaza acts as a vast stormwater collection tray. The plaza is very carefully graded to channel stormwater into the drainage troughs. Rainwater is collected in cisterns below and recirculated in the plaza's drip irrigation system as well as funnelled into the memorial fountain. The trees grow in a lightweight mixture of sand, shale, and worm casings. Growing and installing the plaza's oaks has been a long process. Given the pace of slow construction, the trees, which have been cultivated at a nursery in New Jersey, are much larger now, most standing around 25 feet tall. Trees were hauled onto the site with cranes and then placed in the planting beds with a specially designed lift. Tree roots will spread laterally, filling in the planting bands, and designers believe they will eventually reach 60 to 80 feet in height. The roots are anchored with bracing under the stone pavers. While the PATH station is being completed, the remaining unfinished plaza is still an uncovered construction site, inaccessible to the public. According to Matthew Donham, a partner at Peter Walker, the construction of that portion of the plaza will be even thinner in depth. Aside from an expansion joint, there will be no visible difference between the two sides.
While it was nearly hot enough to fry in egg in Times Square Tuesday, things have since cooled off a bit, and not simply because the temperature dropped back into double digits. Today the city's Department of Transportation began installing in the public plazas Molly Dilworth's 18-month installation, "Cool Water, Hot Island," which will not only prettify the eight newish plazas with an abstracted heat map of the city but also reflect some sunlight, making for a more comfortable experience. Meanwhile, DOT along with the Department of Design and Construction announced that it had selected Nordic knockouts Snøhetta as the lead designer for the long-term transformation of the square. The selection of Snøhetta is not exactly a surprise, as it is one of the eight firms in the city's Design + Construction Excellence program, from which DOT had already said it would make its choice because it streamlines the design process as the firms are prequalified. Yet it was Snøhetta's experience outside the city that helped win it the commission. “It is a classic New York story that reconstruction of the ‘Crossroads of the World’ will be led by a firm with an international reputation for creative vision and excellence,” DDC commissioner David Burney said in a statement. Snøhetta's preference for public art, landscape design, and sustainability may have played a role in its winning the commission. Still, the nature of the project is rather new to the firm, most of its successes having come through buildings such as the Library of Alexandria and Oslo Opera House, though both are incredibly public in their nature, so Snøhetta should prove a good, and certainly interesting fit, as its work at Ground Zero has shown. Joining the Oslo- and New York-based firm on the design team are WXY Architecture and Design, Weidlinger Associates (engineers), Mathews Nielsen (landscape), Billings Jackson Design (industrial), and Bexel (audio-visual), all of whom are Excellence program participants. The design work is just beginning, with no time line or budget yet set for its unveiling, according to a DOT spokesperson, though the plan remains to begin construction in 2012. The firms will be responsible for improving the pedestrian experience in the plazas as well as the infrastructure for the various events held in Times Square throughout the year. "Our goal is to improve the quality and atmosphere of this historic site for pedestrians and bicyclists while also allowing for efficient transportation flow for the betterment of the city,” said Craig Dykers, head of Snohetta's New York office and its co-founder. And in more Molly Dilworth news, online art gallery Art We Love is selling a series of seven prints for 15 bucks a pop.