The Institute for Public Architecture has just finished its third biannual summer residency fellowship, Panorama of Possibilities: Queens, with final presentations having been held on August 22 at the Queens Museum in New York City. The 13 fellows, all mid-career architects and designers, have worked in seven groups to propose futures for a democratically-developed Flushing, Corona, and Willets Point. The night’s presentations began with a focus on sociological and interpersonal experiences of people’s homes and daily commutes. By the end, the presentations had moved towards a community-wide, cultural reworking of the public as an active stakeholder in its own parks, neighborhoods, and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). The first group examined accessory dwelling units as a way to increase access to affordable housing by reimagining a structure that is already ubiquitous in Queens. The second group responded to the prompt, “I am willing to share ____ with ____,” to explore and question our understanding of the home and ways of introducing new models of multi-generational housing. The third group sought to challenge normative ways of urban design and created an interactive board game that allowed individuals to voice the changes they would like to see in their own neighborhoods. Another looked at the effects of development on specific opportunity zones and on children growing up in these communities. One fellow considered ways in which Flushing Meadows-Corona Park could be made more accessible and be better integrated into the community. Yet another investigated possible futures for Willets Point's automotive industry. Lastly, a group proposed a new vision for BIDs that would support multifaceted “cultural commerce” rather than just retail in order to support social service providers and small business owners of all kinds. There was an amazing turnout of architects, designers, community members, family, and friends in the audience. Those who had seen previous preliminary presentations remarked on the rigor and scope of each project and their tremendous development over the course of the six-week fellowship.
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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, Michael Graves Architecture & Design (MGA&D) teamed up with Landscape Forms to redesign the courtside furniture that takes center stage during the upcoming two-week tournament. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) unveiled its sleek new “courtscape” earlier this week at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, Queens. The new furniture, a collection featuring seating for the players, umpires, and line judges, as well as a “cooler corral,” is part of the US Open’s major rebranding effort. Not only were the designs created to maximize ease of use for those on the court, they speak to the organization’s goal of making a modern, iconic look for the tournament and its New York location. Before crafting the collection, MGA&D met with everyone involved in the US Open from players to officials, fans, sponsors, broadcast partners, and tech crews. Through their research, the design team concluded that the furniture must address three primary goals: visibility, usability, and functionality. As inspiration for the design, they took nods from the landscape of New York City such as its park benches (seen in the player’s seating) and the cantilevered balconies found on buildings (seen on the umpire stand). MGA&D used virtual reality technology to help USTA stakeholders realize their vision. The team then worked with Michigan-based Landscape Forms, who specializes in high-design site furniture and advanced LED lighting, on the engineering and manufacturing of the collection. The group’s custom division, Studio 431, created seating products with thin profiles and graceful curves using perforated steel and aluminum surfaces as the primary materials. These lightweight but durable products are now prominently featured on four of the show courts at the tennis center in Queens. Donald Strum, MGA&D principal of product design, helped lead the project. He said this unique opportunity to create a courtscape for the USTA was one of the most satisfying projects he’s ever worked on. “Seating should express utility, be comfortable, and carry a beautiful personality as well,” said Strum in a statement. “The various performance requirements of this collection made the project endlessly fascinating.” All the courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will be outfitted with the new furniture next year ahead of the 2019 championship.
Join this 2-hour walking tour throughout Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, site of the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs. Following the map plan of both original fairgrounds, the tour will include such sights as the Queens Museum (formerly NYC Pavilion), Philip Johnson’s NY State Pavilion, the Unisphere (exact site of the Trylon and Perisphere), Port Authority Heliport, the Westinghouse Time Capsule, and the Hall of Science. Join guide Lloyd Trufelman for a tour of these sites, along with assorted statues, fountains, former pavilion locations and various other fragments.
Virginia Overton’s site-specific work at Socrates Sculpture Park rethinks raw construction materials
Sculptor Virginia Overton often transforms chunky construction materials into dynamic pieces of art. In her latest show, Built, she uses steel and wood to explore issues of labor, economics, and the land in contemporary society. Now on view at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, the exhibition punctuates the waterfront site with large-scale artworks that evoke the industrial past and creative potential of the site. The show’s curator, Socrates’s Director of Exhibitions Jess Wilcox, said Overton’s display not only unveils the artist’s ability to rethink and iterate ordinary objects, it showcases her pragmatic and collaborative relationship to the setting in which she works. “She was interested in working in metal and engaging with the history of metalworking here in the park,” said Wilcox. “She’s site-responsive rather than site-specific in her work because she’s willing to have her ideas evolve when pieces and materials move in an organic way.” As the first female artist to exhibit a solo collection at Socrates, the Williamsburg-based sculptor spent several months riding the ferry to Astoria to study the park and see how visitors interacted with the objects scattered throughout. For her own exhibition, which opened in May, Overton created each piece on site and situated them strategically in the green space to reveal unique perspectives of the Queens waterfront and the Manhattan skyline. Many of the sculptures contain circular forms that act as unexpected viewfinders and feature nature-inspired elements that contrast with the overall industrial aesthetic. Overton took a silver-sprayed Dodge Ram and placed an elegant aquatic feature and fountain in its elongated truck bed. She also suspended an unfinished wooden beam from steel trusses and turned it into an old-fashioned swing set. An upright rectangular structure outlined in steel displays the shapes and colors of various brass, aluminum, and copper steel pipes. The largest piece on site, a 40-by-18-foot, crystal-shaped sculpture, took the longest to configure and was built from architectural truss systems and angle irons. Dubbed 'The Gem', its seemingly heavy form cantilevers over the ground at an effortless slant, giving viewers framed views of the park through its faceted core. Pieces like this offer a new role to the support structures that often go unseen within a building’s construction. According to Wilcox, Overton’s site-responsive sculptures most importantly tie into the greater role Socrates Sculpture Park plays in New York as a former industrial site-turned-recreational space. They speak to the park as part of two larger ecosystems—its function as the physical land adjacent to the East River Estuary and its social component as an alternative arts institution in Queens. The Nashville-native’s work often conveys undertones of her rural upbringing, which easily translates to places like this that have undergone significant evolution since the industrial era. With Built, Overton not only nods to the evolution of these geographic locations, but also the way in which her iterated objects can evolve and be redefined with time. “I think architects will notice more than other viewers how she takes the basic elements of building blocks of construction and reorients them to create something totally new,” said Wilcox. “Seeing the world through Virginia’s eyes is like having your eyes being reoriented towards the world.” Built is on view through September 3 at Socrates Sculpture Park at 32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, Queens. Admission is free and open to the public.
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is known for making work filled with circular motifs, and her upcoming site-specific installation titled Narcissus Garden is no exception. The installation of silver spheres will be on view from July 1- September 3 at Fort Tilden, a former United States Army base on the coast in Queens. The exhibition is presented by MoMA PS1 as the third iteration of Rockaway!, an art festival that commemorates the Rockaway Peninsula’s ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy. First presented in 1966 at the 33rd Venice Biennale, Narcissus Garden is comprised of 1,500 spheres made of mirrored stainless steel. The artistic intervention will transform the interior of the former coastal artillery installation with mirrored surfaces. The region’s military past and the building’s post-Hurricane Sandy state will be highlighted in the reflections of the sculpture. During the first presentation of Narcissus Garden in 1966, Kusama, dressed in a gold kimono, threw the spheres around and attempted to sell them to passerby on the lawn outside the Italian Pavilion. The performance was interpreted as “self-promotion and a critique on the commercialization of contemporary art,” according to a statement from the MoMA PS1. The art piece played an important role in marking Kusama’s career as a performance artist in the sixties. Iterations of Narcissus Garden have since been presented in New York City parks and different venues worldwide. The first iteration of Rockaway! in 2014 featured Patti Smith, Adrián Villar Rojas and Janet Cardiff, while the second iteration in 2016 featured Katharina Grosse. The series is co-organized by Rockaway Artists Alliance, a local non-profit art organization, and National Park Service. For details please check out this link.
Alicia Glen, New York’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, and Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia, announced at a media briefing yesterday that master planning for Sunnyside Yard in western Queens would begin summer of 2018. A steering committee made up of local stakeholders and technical experts will be guiding the process, while Vishaan Chakrabarti’s PAU will be leading the master planning team (confirming a leak from late March). PAU’s team and the steering committee will utilize the results of the feasibility study commissioned in February of 2017 as a starting point in planning for the future of the 180-acre active rail yard. Over the next 18 months, the steering committee and planning team will establish long-term plans for how to best develop the site, and what the most feasible first steps will be. Regular check-ins with the community will also be scheduled, as the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Amtrak want to keep the process forward-facing. Co-chaired by the city and Amtrak, the 35-person steering committee includes several members of Sunnyside’s Community Board 2; President of the Regional Plan Association Tom Wright; President of LaGuardia Community College Gail Meadow; and representatives from developers, construction associations, Amtrak, NYCHA, and other groups with a vested interest in the project. Also of note was the appointment of Cali Williams, a long time NYCEDC employee as the Director of Sunnyside Yard. Any of the resulting plans will involve decking over an extensive portion of the rail yard while keeping it running for the Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and New Jersey Transit trains running below. To that end, the actual master plan consultant team is something a who's-who of New York firms. Thornton Tomasetti will be handling the structural engineering, Sam Schwartz Engineering will be responsible for the mobility planning and engineering, and Nelson Byrd Woltz has been tapped as the landscape architect. The Italian firm Carlo Ratti Associati has also been selected as the project’s “futurist”, to help guide expand the team’s thinking about what’s possible. The initial NYCEDC feasibility study determined that decking over 80 to 85 percent of the site was possible, with the potential to build out up to 24,000 residential units, 19 schools, and 52 acres of parkland, at a cost of $19 billion. While monetary considerations weren’t raised explicitly at the May 2nd meeting, it was pointed out that this project would be a significant investment to Western Queens. Right now, the steering committee will be dedicated first and foremost to deciding how to advance what the community wants most out of the development. The steering committee’s formation comes at a critical time for the yard, as the MTA will also be working at the site to bring the East Side Access project online (allowing LIRR trains to reach Grand Central). Governor Cuomo has promised that that particular project will be ready by 2022.
Kaufman Astoria Studios, a film and TV studio that’s been a fixture in Astoria, Queens since its opening in 1921, is expanding in a big way. Local firm GLUCK+ has shared renderings of the forthcoming four-story film and production building, which comes on the heels of Kaufman Astoria opening the city’s first backlot (used to stage outdoor scenes) in 2014. Besides adding several floors of office space, the new building will hold production offices, dressing rooms, prop storage areas, and two stages, increasing the campus's stage space by 25 percent. Once completed, the new building will represent a sizable increase for the studio’s overall campus, which currently stands at 500,000 feet, and includes nine stages and a restaurant. The project, sited at 35-71 34th Avenue, is down the street from the Museum of the Moving Image. From the renderings, it seems that the studio will also be returning a perforated gate at the northern edge of 34th Avenue that was removed in 2014; the same year a new entrance gate and spiral staircase were added to the campus’s south edge. The exterior of the 100,000-square-foot addition will be clad in vertical panels, and the overall scheme fits comfortably into GLUCK+’s design canon. The 84-foot-tall film and production building will hold 68,000 square feet of open office space across the top half, which should be well-lit due to the numerous, narrow vertical punch windows that break up the facade. According to YIMBY, Kaufman Astoria employees can expect 14-foot-tall ceilings and seven balconies. Kaufman Astoria will also be gaining two stages inside of the building’s heftier bottom half, directly below the offices, as well as 134 parking spaces. Kaufman Astoria Studios has been hugely influential in New York's film and television history, and everything from silent movies to TV shows like Sesame Street and Orange is the New Black in more recent years has been filmed there. Construction on the office project began in February 2017, and no completion date has been announced as of yet.
New York’s LaGuardia Airport (long the butt of snarky comments) will soon be getting a bit more hospitable. Announced earlier this month by the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA), the QCA ArtPort Residency will give four artists 3-month residencies at the airport’s Marine Air Terminal (A), with the first starting in mid-April. The opportunity is open to any Queens-based visual artist who can commit to the 3-month period. The lucky artists will be given a $3,000 stipend and access to 110 square feet of public studio space in the terminal’s rotunda, in what was formerly a Hudson News stand. The residency will take place entirely within view of the public, in a highly-trafficked area that receives thousands of visitors a day. Of course, any artist seeking to win a residency will need to abide by the rules set by the New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, which funds the QCA, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The list of prohibited materials is long and excludes anything toxic, and certain themes have been precluded; works can’t be too obscene or political. The space will serve as a gateway to cultural life in Queens, much as the airport welcomes visitors to the city. “Queens is often overlooked for many reasons, and being that almost everybody who comes into the city comes through Queens, we want them to experience a flavor of Queens,” QCA’s Grants & Resource Director Lynn Lobell told Hyperallergic. “As an arts council, we also wanted the general public to be able to experience art in unexpected places and to see how the artist process works.” The residency program within Terminal A will take place under Flight by James Brooks, a large, wraparound mural created as part of the Works Progress Administration program. The landmarked Marine Air Terminal itself, a squat, art deco building defined by its two-story rotunda, has taken on higher traffic than normal as construction continues around the airport. If the residency proves successful, QCA will look into expanding the program to LaGuardia’s Terminal B, once it’s completed in 2021. Interested artists have until Tuesday, April 5 to apply.
A team headed by Vishaan Chakrabarti has been chosen by the de Blasio administration to create a master plan for Western Queens’ Sunnyside Yard rail pit, according to Crain’s New York. While nothing has been officially announced, Chakrabarti and his firm, Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) will be responsible for envisioning how to deck over the 180-acre yard and support parks, retail, commercial, and thousands of residential units. The idea to deck over the still actively-in-use train yard with housing has been kicking around since 2015, when Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned a feasibility study from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). Released in February of 2017, the report found that it would be feasible to deck over anywhere from 80 to 85 percent of the site, and up to 24,000 residential units could be built for around $19 billion (about the cost of Hudson Yards). Each of the three schemes in the feasibility report offsets the mixture of residential units with space for cultural centers, schools, retail, and office space, though it’s unclear what PAU will focus on. Sunnyside Yard, which is so large that it stretches across the triangle of Astoria-Long Island City-Sunnyside neighborhoods, is still in active use by Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, and any plan would need to allow for its continued use. Because of the difficulty involved in building over an active train yard, the master plan will help inform Amtrak’s decision to upgrade its facilities in the future. PAU’s selection comes on the heels of a Request For Qualifications released by the NYCEDC in September of last year, though neither party were willing to confirm the choice to Crain’s. Assuming the report's sources were correct, PAU will draw up a vision for the rail yard and create a specific development plan for the megaproject, a process city officials estimate could take up to two years. “We remain on track with the original schedule for this project,” a spokesman for the NYCEDC told Crain’s. “We continue to work closely with Amtrak, and we will also engage community stakeholders before beginning any master-planning process.”
The first renderings for the Handel Architects-designed skyscraper developed by the Durst Organization at 29-37 41st Avenue in Queens have been revealed. While the tower falls short of its 915-foot-tall predecessor by SLCE, Handel’s 751-foot-tall building will still dwarf the clock tower at its base. The renderings, first obtained by CityRealty, show a massive concave tower, sheathed in a glass curtain wall, set back from the rear of the 90-year-old landmarked Clock Tower. Crowned Queens Plaza Park by prior developers Property Markets Group and the Hakim Organization (before Durst snatched up the site for $175 million in 2016), the 978,000-square-foot development will hold office space, retail, and 958 residential rental units. According to the project’s website, 300 of the units will be affordable, and Selldorf Architects will be handling the tower’s interiors and amenity spaces, complete with an outdoor pool, 20,000-square-foot gym, library, co-working spaces and a demonstration kitchen. A half-acre public park will also sit in front of the residential entrance. Construction on the 70-story skyscraper is already underway, and CityRealty recently visited the site to photograph the cleared area around the base of the Clock Tower. Additionally, the locations of the ground-floor retail and the sharp, almost bat symbol-like shape of the building’s crown have been released thanks to the axonometric zoning diagrams released by the New York City Department of Buildings. The project’s central concave curve, the tower’s defining feature, should span nearly 200 feet from end-to-end once completed. The 11-story, neo-gothic Clock Tower was built in 1927 and housed the former Bank of Manhattan, and Durst has promised to restore the building as part of the redevelopment. While the tower was previously a notable standout in an area increasingly inundated with glass facades, the Handel-designed addition should blend into the surrounding urban fabric a bit more, even if the Clock Tower itself will remain distinct from the tower. There’s also the concern that the skyscraper’s curved form could trigger a Walkie-Talkie-esque fiasco, in which the reflective properties of that building ignited fires, but hopefully Handel has learned from Rafael Viñoly’s mistakes. If finished before the 984-foot-tall City View Tower, also in Long Island City and slated for a 2019 completion, Queens Plaza Park would take the distinction of Queens' tallest building.
The renovation of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens continues apace, with a recently announced renewal of the World’s Fair fountains surrounding the iconic Unisphere. Landscape architecture firm Quennell Rothschild & Partners (QRP) has been selected to spearhead a $5 million renovation of the Fountain of the Fairs within the park, and will link the neglected fountains with an interactive “fog garden”. The Fountain of the Fairs, an axis of long, rectangular pools designed by Robert Moses for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, connects the Unisphere to the Fountain of the Planets to the east. Instead of returning the three fountains to their original conditions, QRP will be updating each of them to allow community access as well as save water. In the first phase of the plan, the western pool in front of the Unisphere will be filled in with Art Deco-inspired pavers and converted into a fog garden. The walkway’s fog will be generated by a series of 500 hidden sprinklers, and NYC park officials can either create a four-foot-tall fog wall or release the mist in waves to improve the visibility. As the children play in the garden, parents will be able to watch from the new concrete benches lining the play area. Phase II will see the middle fountain converted into a sunken amphitheater, and the final phase will create a children’s water park in what is currently the easternmost fountain. QRP will also be replacing the massed Yew trees along the fog garden area with maple trees, short evergreen plants, and grasses to improve the views across the park. The new sightlines will also allow food trucks to park in the newly softened plaza in front of the Fountain of the Planets. The renovation is a welcome respite for the Fountain of the Fairs. Although all three fountains were repaired and flowing after a renovation in 2000, the pools have been dry since 2012 due to flood damage from superstorm Sandy. Any visitor to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park might spot children cooling off in the fountain below the Unisphere, although the basin is meant to be purely decorative. “It’s a decorative fountain, it’s not supposed to be used for water play,” Janice Melnick, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park administrator, told amNewYork. “People try to climb up on the Unisphere base; the jets are powerful.” The fountain plans comes on the heels of the revitalization of the Philip Johnson and Richard Foster-designed Tent of Tomorrow, which was restored to its original color in 2015, and which recently won $14 million for structural upgrades. Construction on the first phase of the fountain conversion will begin in the fall of this year.
The on-again-off-again redevelopment of Willets Point in Queens is finally moving ahead, after an injunction early last year seemed to have doomed the project. As first reported in the New York Times, Mayor Bill de Blasio has struck a deal with the project’s original developers, and 1,100 units of affordable housing are now set to rise on the parcel. First announced in 2011 under former mayor Michael Bloomberg, the original Willets Point project would have repurposed 23 acres on the site of the former Shea Stadium in Flushing-Corona. Queens Development Group, a city collaboration with developers Sterling Equities and The Related Companies, would have built out 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development with 2,500 units of housing, 500,000 square feet of office space, 900,000 square feet of retail. The most contentious portion of the original redevelopment was Willets West, a one-million-square-foot-plus mega-mall that would have pulled land from the nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park. After a state court ruled in 2015 that the city couldn’t legally parcel up the park, Willets Point seemed dead in the water. With the announcement of a new plan for the Iron Triangle (as the neighborhood is known for the high number of auto repair shops), de Blasio has skirted around the state’s concerns by dropping the mall entirely. Instead, the Queens Development Group will now build 1,100 affordable housing units on the six acres that the city already owns, in addition to a 450-seat elementary school and front-facing neighborhood retail. 100 apartments will be set-aside for formerly homeless families, and another 220 will go to seniors. Other than the increased number of affordable units, 1,100 units versus the original 875, the city will retain control of the land instead of selling it to the developers as originally promised. Related and Sterling will also be responsible for remediating beneath the project site before construction on the residential buildings can begin; Willets Point has been used for manufacturing for a century. Most of the immigrant-owned auto shops and scrap yards are now gone, after the city seized the land under eminent domain in preparation for the redevelopment. The site clean up is expected to finish in 2020, with 500 of the 1,100 units to be completed in 2022. The plan for the remaining 17 acres is up in the air at this point, and Mayor de Blasio has convened a task force with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Member Francisco Moya to come up with further development plans. “Willets Point has been 12 years of bad politics and broken promises. With this deal, we can look to providing some great housing relief for a lot of people who need it. By securing school seats, deep affordability, and senior housing we have accomplished something none of the previous iterations have been able to,” said Moya.