Posts tagged with "Van Alen Institute":

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New Design Trends and Policies Help City Dwellers Touch Water

An interesting trend to hit landscape architecture in recent years is borderless fountains, where water flows flush with the pavement. If so inclined, visitors can kick off their shoes and stroll though damp pavers. Such fountains can be found by Field Operations with Diller, Scofidio + Renfro on the High Line, Digsau’s Sister Cities Park in Philly, and Field Operations’ recently completed plaza fronting New York by Gehry. The trend seems to speak to city dwellers need to touch water. But borderless access is hardly limited to pocket parks and plazas. Several of New York’s riverfront parks are beginning to incorporate high tide into their design. SHoP’s design with Ken Smith for the East River Waterfront Esplanade use “getdowns” to the water, where the East River gently spills onto the bottom of a series of steps. But the most “radical” design comes from Michael Van Valkenburgh for Brooklyn Bridge Park where rip rap pavers gently follow snakelike access to the actual river. Yes, you can walk down into the river! The designs speak to water access issues that will be among many topics explored this fall at the Van Alen Institute to compliment River City: Waterfront Design for Civic Life, a series of exhibitions and public programs. The first exhibition, Immensity and Intimacy: Brooklyn Bridge Park, explores the convergence of new development with recreation. An October 4th debate between Fred Kent (Project for Public Spaces) and Michael Van Valkenburgh will be moderated by the soon-to-be-former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. The debate promises to be an all-out brawl on the public versus private control over the riverfront. The fact that folks want to touch the water shouldn’t surprise anyone in mid-August, and somehow all the aforementioned designs manage to astonish. But what’s really astonishing is that access to the water is such an oddity at all. “The whole thing is a miraculous joke, considering we’re on an island,” said Roger Meyer, chair of ConservancyNorth, a nonprofit public advocacy group in Northern Manhattan. Meyer navigated the treacherous waters of Northern Manhattan’s waterfront access during debates spurred by development at Columbia University’s Baker Field. As part of the deal to build their new Steven Holl-designed athletic building, the university promised a marshland park designed by (surprise!) Field Operations with waterfront access at Manhattan's northernmost tip. Nearby, a city-owned boathouse and dock in Inwood completed in 2006 sit unused, in part because the dock was placed in a marsh that becomes a mud flat twice a day during low tide. Whether the public will be able to use the boathouse for the new park is anyone's guess. Meanwhile, Council Member Robert Jackson's office confirmed that his office has allocated $350,000 toward $700,000 Eco Dock. The balance will come from Borough President Scott Stringer’s office and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance will receive the money to build the pier. Both of the planned access points in Inwood do not yet have community programming plan in place.In the rush to fulfill recreation goals of Vision 2020, the city’s comprehensive waterfront plan, few have thought about the upland programming needed to support the new docks and waterfront access.  “The whole idea is to have an authentic use of the waterfront, genuine activity touching the water,” said Meyer. “It’s useless if you don’t have upland infrastructure, access is just a fraction of the picture.” It wouldn't be the first time that Parks has built before programming was in place. Nevertheless, access is coming and upland programming sounds like good fodder for further debate. For more on Van Alen's "River City" programing click here.
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Kazi Leaving Van Alen

Olympia Kazi has resigned as executive director of the Van Alen Institute one year and a day since the opening of Van Alen Books, possibly her most visible contribution to the 100-year-old organization known for its engagement with pressing urban issues through competitions, exhibitions, research, and public programs. Van Alen Books has given the Chelsea institution a lively storefront presence on 22nd street where its acid yellow interior with stadium-step seating designed by Lot-EK architects never fail to attract curious passers-by in addition to avid attendees to the frequent lectures and lively panel exchanges that have been the hallmark of Kazi’s direction, while completing the "Gateway: Visions for an Urban National Park" competition and book initiated in collaboration with the National Parks Service in 2007. Kazi came to the Van Alen in January 2010 from the Institute for Urban Design that she directed since 2007 organizing its inaugural “Urban Design Week” with an award from the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2009 Cultural Innovation Fund. Trained as an architect at the University of Florence, Kazi has worked as a critic and curator of architecture in Milan and New York. Before moving to New York, she served as a junior curator at the Milan Triennale and as an editor of Wound magazine. Stepping in as Interim Executive Director will be Jeff Byles, most recently the Van Alen’s director of research. “I want to thank Olympia for her leadership in making Van Alen a vibrant platform for research and debate about the public realm,” said Stephen Cassell, Chair of the Institute’s Board of Trustees.
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Wednesday! The Institute as the Women Saw It

Courtesy Author House Publishing Wednesday night at Van Alen Institute, AN’s own Julie Iovine will moderate a panel discussion on the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies. The IAUS, at first affiliated with the MoMA and Cornell University, was dedicated to research, education, and discourse on architecture and urbanism. Artists, architects, and historians collaborated on projects that would shape architectural discourse for decades—Koolhaas’ Delirious New York was born out of his time at the Institute. The discussion will center on Suzanne Frank’s new book IAUS: An Insider's Memoir, with fellow Institute alumni Diana Agrest, Suzanne Stephens, and Frederieke Taylor.
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SHFT+ALT+DEL: January 27

Stephen Cassell, principal of Architecture Research Office, has been elected Chair of the Van Alen Institute Board of Trustees. Cassell takes the reins from Abby Hamlin, president of the real estate development company Hamlin Ventures. Gretchen Bank, who currently serves as the Marketing & PR Committee Co-Chair at AIA New York, steps into the position of Director of Business Development & Marketing at Cosentini Associates, effective February 6. Architect and New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) alumnus Peter J. Romano has joined NYIT's Board of Trustees. With his wife, Jane, Romano established an endowed scholarship fund for students attending NYIT’s School of Architecture and Design. The bathroom fixtures company Duravit has appointed Frank Richter to succeed Franz Kook as  Management Board Chairman; Kook has retired after 41 years with the company.  Have news on career moves in the architecture & design universe for SHFT+ALT+DEL? Send your tips to people@archpaper.com!
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Zaha the Lioness

It felt a bit like the Decoration & Design Building at the Architecture and Design Film Festival last night for the U.S. premiere of Lioness Among Lions: The Architect Zaha Hadid, thanks in part to a smattering of East Side stylings in the crowd at the Tribeca Cinemas and the clever addition of Potterton Books to the festival. Waiting for the theater doors to open, we swigged wine provided by event sponsor Resource Furniture and perused shelves filled with a fantastic collection  of both old and new books; Loos and Gio Ponti pressed up against Studio Gang. As we raved about Van Alen's new bookstore, Potterton's book buyer Beth Daugherty admitted she still mourns the loss of Urban Center Books. Once inside the theater, a sexy little short by photographer Dave Burk cast Studio Gang's new Columbia College Media Production Center in Chicago in soft light and perfectly realized cross-fades. And so it was a bit of disappointment to see the feature film's production values were slightly less than the opener. But the problem with Lioness, which was released in Germany last year, isn't entirely the production. The buildings are handsomely handled by director Horst Brandenburg, though they're not choreographed in a manner that makes one truly feel the flow. No, the main problem is in the fawning tenor of a voiceover that sounds like it's intended for the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." The oversimplified narration will make architecture fans understand what historians must feel watching the History Channel. The saving grace, not surprisingly, is when Hadid weighs in. Only then does the film delve slightly into the technology and offer any deep analysis. But here the editing keeps the focus on the fabulous: Here's Zaha fanning herself in Spain with a Spanish fan; here she is in Hong Kong at a Chanel opening wearing Prada, there she is in ripped jeans... you get the picture. Of course, it's understood that the film is for a general audience, but general audiences dig details, too. Throw in a foundry, a glass manufacturer, and a computer program for good measure. Explain how the buildings work in layman's terms. Only then will the audience understand why she's fabulous.
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Competition Winners Imagine Life at the Speed of Rail

Sooner or later, aerodynamic trains will be zipping across the farm fields of the heartland and the Van Alen Institute wondered what cultural, environmental, and economic implications such a novel technology would bring. After revealing ten winners of its Life at the Speed of Rail ideas competition, it appears that high speed rail could one day mean larger-than-life mechanical farm animals roaming around the countryside. At least that's the vision of Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer of Urbana, IL whose project, Animal Farmatures, reimagines farm implements as entertainment for passing riders. Winners were announced today at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. and soon, the Van Alen will be taking Life at the Speed of Rail on the road (although unfortunately not yet by train). Stops include St. Louis' Museum of Contemporary Art at 7:00p.m. on June 28, Houston's James Baker III Institute at Rice University at 6:00p.m. on July 7, and Los Angeles' Caltrans District 7 Headquarters at 4:00p.m. on July 12. Animal Farmatures Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer (Design With Company) / Urbana, IL From the project statement:
As a human/machine/animal hybrid, the “iron horse” locomotive captured the imagination of Americans during the middle of the 19th century by subjugating the pastoral landscape to the ingenuity of human invention. In addition to “conquering space and time,” the train was a new viewing mechanism that transformed the environment into a moving picture show through isolation, speed and framing. Today we have come full circle. Threading high-speed rail through the fabric of the American Midwest stands to recover the demand for mixing humans, commerce, technology and the rural landscape in new spectacular combinations. Which poses the question: what are the techno-natural hybrids that will capture the imagination of today’s rail riders?
What Will You Do? Rael San Fratello Architects / Oakland, CA From the project statement:
LA to San Francisco in 160 minutes—GREAT! But ironically, as the size of cities and the speed in which we are able to travel great distances increases, we are increasingly more sedentary. In fact, we are sitting down more than ever before—9.3 hours per day, which is more time than we spend sleeping. And the amount of time we spend sitting today increases the risks of death up to 40 percent. Instead of sitting for 160 minutes, why not create a high-speed rail that allows us to choreograph a set of experiences that make us productive, healthy and social individuals. Exercise, dance, shop, tan, eat, do laundry, play, take art classes and even sleep (ok, sometimes we need a break too!).
parallelogrammic HOU(S)TATION SEUNGTEAK + MIJUNG / Brooklyn, NY From the project statement:
HOU(S)TATION confronts the negative impact of 20th-century suburbia issues driven by automobile, such as heavy highway interchanges, traffic, parking spaces and sharply increasing CO2 emission. This project looks for a new housing or town type driven by high-speed rail as an alternative which addresses these issues as well as combines benefits from city life and suburbia. HOU(S)TATION is located in the middle of two major cities within one-hour distance by high-speed rail. Thus residences have opportunities to commute and experience both cities.
The Beacon MANIFESTO Architecture P.C. / New York, NY From the project statement:
Compared to 20th-century infrastructure, the new high-speed rail network will allow people to travel far greater distances in a greatly reduced amount of time. This phenomenon can be described as an expansion of the realm of daily life, or rather, a shrinkage of the perceived scale of the entire Midwest region. In effect, through the new rail networks urban nodes will be pulled closer together, and industries, commerce, and most importantly, people will be connected more intimately than ever before. The Beacon, a proposal for a renovation of Chicago’s Union Station will be at the center of this new age, and our design proposal symbolically represents this new paradigm.
Permeable Response Annie Kurtin and Laura Stedman / Tucson, AZ and San Francisco, CA From the project statement:
The Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta located east of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, has long been an important resource providing agricultural and recreational uses, wildlife habitat, infrastructure pathways, and water supply services throughout the state. This delta region is currently in crisis, with weakening levee structures and a deteriorating ecosystem due to rapidly increasing pollution levels. Our proposal for a high-speed rail network in the region will rethink how architecture can become better integrated with large-scale infrastructure to improve the environment and people’s lives.
Check out the other five projects as well at Life at the Speed of Rail's web site: ChiLand Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative / Cleveland, OH The Effect of High-Speed Rail on Six Lives Drew Bly, Brandon Souba, and Steven Vance / Chicago, IL The Expanded Civic Center Rebecca Sibley / Houston, TX Switch Space Karen Lewis / Columbus, OH VPL Rustam Mehta and Thom Moran / New Haven, CT and Ann Arbor, MI
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Quick Clicks> Architecture in Store, Meier is Gilt-y, Clean Air Square, and Suburban Slums

Just Architecture. The Van Alen Institute announced that NYC is about to welcome its first bookstore and reading room singularly devoted to architecture, Van Alen Books, located on 30 West 22nd Street. Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects (and one of the two candidates for the next PennDesign Architecture Dean) and architectural historian Anthony Vidler will be presenting their latest books at the opening party scheduled for next Thursday, April 21. Flash Sale Curator. Curbed shows today that there is no boundary for what architects can do. A popular flash sale venue, Gilt Groupe, is having a home products sale today at noon, curated by an architect, Richard Meier. Items up for sale include "a signed copy of Taschen's Meier, a mezuzah he designed for The Jewish Museum of New York, and his Architectonic Menorah," normally sold for $1K! Breathing Times. According to Streetsblog, New York's Times Square, visited by 250,000 pedestrians each day, has become much more breathable since the 2009 installation of pedestrian plazas (find out why Bill Clinton is a fan) on Broadway. Concentrations of two traffic-related air pollutants, nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide, have gone down by 63% and 41%, respectively! Suburban Slumification. Business Insider identifies 18 cities (including a less-than-expected Minneapolis) where suburbs are rapidly turning into slums. In the past, cities suffered crimes and poverty during recessions, while the rich stayed away in their safe suburban havens. But not anymore. Suburban slums are growing five times faster than cities.
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Quick Clicks> Boardwalk, High-Speed, Archives 2.0, the Street

Boardwalk Empire. The Brooklyn Paper reports that Coney Island will not be getting a concrete boardwalk, at least not if Community Board 13 has a say in the matter. The board members recently voted down a proposal from the Parks Department that would cement over parts of the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk while covering some of the famed seaside path with recycled plastic lumber.

Express Train. The Van Alen Institute wants to know what you think of the future of high-speed rail in the United States. Check out its call for design ideas here.

Digital Architectural History. The Chicago Tribune's Blair Kamen brings news that the good folks at the Ryerson and Burnham Archives at the Art Institute of Chicago have digitized 5,000 images from Archpaper's late 19th century predecessor, the Inland Architect and News Record, offering up photos and drawings from a pivotal period in US architectural history. Sharing is Caring. New York's Municipal Art Society kicked off its second annual "Streets Month" with a program about the city's new and innovative place-making efforts, including a presentation by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Check out a recap and analysis from MAS over here.  
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Partying for the World Architectural Festival

The 2011 World Architecture Festival was in town beating the drum for their international competition at the Van Alen Institute last night. Paul Finch, the festival's program director, was joined by AN Editor-in-Chief William Menking and Van Alen Chair Abbey Hamlin in hosting the star-studded event. The frigid weather did not deter a distinguished crowd—white maned Richard Meier, red scarved Bernard Tschumi, man of the hour Thomas Leeser, Parks Commish Adrian Benepe—from celebrating what promises to be a hot ticket this November in Barcelona. With his English lilt Finch thanked the crowd for coming and promised his remarks would steer clear of Ricky Gervais territory. He briefly outlined some of the goals for this year's program, which included a bigger tent to incorporate interior architecture as well. While no hat was passed, Finch did say that the organization would be happy to take donations in any denomination. Jan Berman of MechoShade promptly offered to make a donation in lira.
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Matchmaker, Matchmaker

The popularity of speed dating is proof positive: people enjoy the sweaty-palmed feeling of being sized-up by a stranger so much that they figure, Why limit myself to only once in a night? Following that logic, the Van Alen Institute is offering young designers the same opportunity to offer themselves up to a critical appraisal multiple times in a row: Their second round of Design Speed Dating is scheduled for Saturday, September 11. Accepted applicants will rotate around a series of professional designers and critics, spending a half hour with each one and receiving constructive feedback on their portfolios. Interested? The Van Alen Institute is seeking emerging talents through an open call. Submit your digital portfolio in PDF format, no larger than 5MB, and no longer than 10 8.5”x11” single-sided pages, to vai@vanalen.org.
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Five Years After Katrina, How Are the Levees Holding?

We are coming up on the Fifth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina next week, and while such milestones are as manufactured as they are macabre, at least in this case it provides a helpful moment for reflection. Half-a-decade out, we seemed to have reached a great enough critical distance for a serious appraisal of what has and hasn't worked in terms of reconstructing the Crescent City. Documentarians and journalists are already weighing in, so why not the planners? The Brookings Institution released its 25th New Orleans Index earlier this month, the most comprehensive one yet, looking at everything from a rise in community engagement to a continued lack of medial care. There is an especially good essay, entitled "No More Surprises," about how the storm has actually brought a semblance of critical planning to the city. The Urban Land Institute recently held a conference to explore the progress of its plan and others for the city, where it parachuted in shortly after to begin mapping out a rebuilding process, and the Van Alen Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund are holding a similar round table, Project Eco Delta, next week at the Venice Biennale. We're sure there's bound to be more discussion, and we'd like to start one of our own, so share your tips and experiences in the comments below.