The latest news on New York architecture.


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Hana R. Alberts reports for Curbed. Tribeca Citizen has spotted the rendering of Morris Adjmi's cast-iron inversion design posted on the construction plywood at 83 Walker Street. The design was unveiled back in 2011, but the site has appeared to be pretty much stalled since then. Its design, by the way, is unique because " Instead of columns curving out from the building, they are indented into it. The windows, typically recessed, jut out from façade." The nine-story condo (which will have nine units, according to DOB permits) got a thumbs up from the Landmarks Preservation Commission over two years ago, and construction was slated to begin nine months from then. Well, that didn't happen, but maybe the posting of the rendering means more action is on the way. We've reached out to Adjmi's reps for more information on the project.  
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Raising Joyful Hell

Nicole Anderson reports for The Architect's Newspaper. Last week, The Flea Theater, the off-off Broadway downtown hub for experimental work, broke ground on its new home in Tribeca. An existing three-story building will be retrofitted by Architecture Research Office (ARO) to accommodate a variety of productions and creative uses, establishing a permanent home to carry on the theater’s mission to raise “joyful hell in a small space.” “Their whole ethos is based on off-off Broadway and to support young actors and actresses of every age level, playwrights of any age level, and emerging talent as well as very established talent,” said Kim Yao, partner and founder of ARO. “So part of the challenge for us was to balance the performing spaces with really solid back of house spaces in a very tight building.”
  ARO will overhaul the mid-century structure, which sits on the former site of New York Hospital, and plans on maintaining the original 200-year-old brick walls and arches in the basement where a small performance space will be situated. “The Flea likes idiosyncratic spaces,” said Stephen Cassell, partner at ARO. “Everything is designed for flexibility.” The structure will consist of three different theaters, each outfitted with moveable seating. On the top floor, a 1,850 square foot concert theater, dubbed “The Sam” after theater agent Sam Cohn, will host a range of programming from acrobatic performances to large-scale plays. Below, on the ground floor, “The Pete” theater, which takes its name from a play by A.R. Gurney, will be a multi-purpose interior space that can extend out onto an adjacent garden to allow for a number of viewing options and uses. In the basement, the brick black box theater, “The Siggy,” named after actress and Flea co-founder Sigourney Weaver, will provide a smaller space for new work, especially geared towards the resident acting troupe known as “The Bats.” “The idea behind the project with the Flea was always to embrace the existing structure, and the significant adaptive reuse is very much I think in keeping with the character of the organization,” said Yao. “And so what we are really doing is restructuring some areas, replacing others, and increasing volume.” In addition to the three theaters, the building will include four dressing rooms, costume shops, two lobbies, and back of house space. The street façade, made of brick and a black steel awning, will rise up to shield the mechanicals on the rooftop. Yao said that the structure, wedged between a tall residential building, an AT&T switching building, and a FDNY Fire Station, will create “a great new presence on a very quiet street.” The theater is anticipated to open its doors by spring of 2015  
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed. In order to be able to build its store in Gowanus, Whole Foods agreed to preserve and repair the landmarked Coignet building, which sits on the corner of the lot. But locals are claiming that the construction of the supermarket has created a huge crack in the historic structure - possibly the first concrete building in the city - and that Whole Foods doesn't even care. Whole Foods, for its part, is claiming that the building was just like that when they got it, telling Brooklyn Paper, "Nothing that occurred in relations to building our building for the store affected what's happening to that building. I don't think anything caused that crack. The building is a bit weathered." Although the supermarket chain is still promising that it will eventually fix up the Coignet's façade, this is not likely to help out the building's short-term sale prospects, as it was put on the market back in January. Other locals have different concerns about the Whole Foods, set to open next Tuesday. "Whole Foods is one more example of stores catering to the affluent newcomers," said one resident, referring to the planned 700-unit Lightstone Group development. Another said it reminded her of a "suburban strip mall." Welcome to the neighborhood, Whole Foods!  
Elie reports for Bowery Boogie. 75-essex-street-2013 Fueled by two notable landmarking victories in recent months – Bialystoker Nursing Home and 339 Grand Street – the Friends of the Lower East Side are retraining the crosshairs on another one-of-a-kind building. One we’ve covered at length – 75 Essex Street. As revealed here last month, 75 Essex is back on the market for $21 million. With the new Essex Crossing development soon to redefine SPURA, no abutting property is safe from destruction and/or alteration. Not even one as historically rich as this. Hence, the action. The Friends sent a “Request for Evaluation” to the Landmarks Preservation Commission last January, which was acknowledged by the city three months later. Due to the crickets from that end, the grassroots organization is turning up the heat by imploring folks to submit letters to Chairman Robert Tierney. “Due to the endangered status of this important building in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, Friends of the Lower East Side has embarked on a campaign to save the Good Samaritan/Eastern District Dispensary building,” said Mitchell Grubler, a founding member of the grassroots organization founded in 2011 and dedicated to preserving the architectural and cultural heritage of this historic center of immigrant life. The freestanding 75 Essex was erected in 1890 to house the Eastern Dispensary (aka Good Samaritan Dispensary), established in 1832 to provide the sick and poor with a place to receive aide and medicine.  It initially opened on Grand Street during a massive cholera epidemic “that claimed the lives of more than 3,500 people, mainly destitute Irish immigrants crammed into filthy hovels in the fourth and sixth slum wards of downtown Manhattan.” Today, it’s owned by the family behind ground-level occupant Eisner Brothers, a business that will likely fold once the address is in new hands. An excerpt from their letter to Chairman Tierney:
As stated in our Request for Evaluation, submitted on January 14, 2013, the building is surrounded by Site 1 of the Essex Crossing/Seward Park Mixed-Use Development (see attachment for text and photos). While the building is not on the site, it is vulnerable to damage by work conducted around it or it could be diminished by inappropriate development surrounding it. The dispensary is eligible for the National Register and is noted in the Environmental Impact Statement for the development. Rose & Stone designed Eastern District Dispensary in the style of a freestanding Italianate palazzo. The four-story building is clad in orange brick on the first story and tan brick above, laid in Flemish bond. A rhythmic series of five round-arched openings are set within the first story of the eastern façade along Essex Street. Projecting belt courses, giving the effect of rustication, radiate from the central entrance and four flanking windows. Under the belt courses, now coated with cementitious parging and painted reddish brown, is brownstone of a similar color. Above the arches is a row of nine vertical sash windows, surrounded by moulded brick, repeated at the third story, and nine arched windows at the fourth story.
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Midtown Rezoning Bites the Dust

Nicole Anderson reports for The Architect's Newspaper. With the support of incoming mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council has squashed the Bloomberg administration’s plan to allow for the development of taller buildings in East Midtown. The decision marks the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s 12-year term, leaving behind a legacy that will likely be remembered for reshaping the cityscape with large-scale development. “We are obviously disappointed in this decision. This plan would have created tens of thousands of good paying jobs for New Yorkers in every borough and resulted in tens of millions of dollars in private sector funding for public infrastructure,” said Steven Spinola, president of The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). The proposal, ambitious in both scope and scale, pushed for the rezoning of the 73-block swathe around Grand Central Terminal with the intention of spurring the construction of new office towers that would ultimately replace the existing outdated building stock. This move, Bloomberg argued, would be critical in sustaining and growing the area into a robust business hub and attracting the right corporate tenants to keep this slice of midtown competitive with other global cities. City Council, however, said that the plan didn’t garner enough votes, and would ultimately be shot down by members, prompting Bloomberg to withdraw the application for the proposal. “We should rezone East Midtown, but only when we can do so properly. After extensive negotiations, we have been unable to reach agreement on a number of issues in the proposed plan,” said speaker Christine Quinn and council member Dan Garodnick in a joint statement. The duo pinpointed the Council’s specific issues with the plan, including the process, price, and timing of the air rights, the funding required for infrastructure improvements, and the feasibility of the public realm improvements suggested. In a statement, Bloomberg said that a financing agreement had been reached to allocate $100 million in funding to transit and public realm improvements, but it was contingent upon the development piece of the plan moving forward. “We are withdrawing the application for the rezoning of East Midtown. This will unfortunately cost the area hundreds of millions of dollars in badly needed subway and street improvements and $1 billion in additional tax revenue—as well as tens of thousands of new jobs that would have been created,” said Bloomberg in a statement. Throughout the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, critics and community members expressed concern that larger development would bring more people to midtown, putting a strain on the area’s infrastructure. The plan will likely be revisited. Mayor-elect de Blasio has spoken in favor of City Council’s decision, but said that he plans to eventually pursue the rezoning of midtown. “I applaud the City Council for pressing the pause button in order to ensure these concerns are adequately addressed,” he said in a statement. “We must continue this process in earnest upon taking office, and I commit to presenting a revised rezoning plan for the area by the end of 2014.”  
Katherine Clarke reports for The Real Deal. Ponte Gadea Group, the U.S. investment arm for Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega, has acquired a 56,000-square-foot office and retail building at 414 West 14th Street for $94 million, according to public records filed with the city today. The group purchased the property from a partnership between the Carlyle Group and Sitt Asset Management, which acquired it for $70 million six years ago. With a reported net worth of some $57 billion, Ortega is the world’s third richest man, per Forbes magazine’s most recent ranking, and is the head of Inditex fashion group, which owns the retail chain Zara. Ponte Gadea has developed properties in other cosmopolitan cities including Miami, where it was a partner on the development of the Epic Residences & Hotel at 200 Biscayne Boulevard. Commercial brokerage Studley brokered the deal on 14th Street. A representative for the company was not immediately available for comment. Both Carlyle and Ponte Gadea declined comment. Sitt Asset could not be reached. Carlyle and Sitt Asset snapped up the six-story property in 2007 and redeveloped it into a modern office building with state-of-the-art amenities, including a roof deck for events. It has 38,583 square feet of office space and 16,587 square feet of retail, according to PropertyShark. The retail space is currently leased to tenants such as the outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia, which inked a deal for 7,500 square feet last year, and Levi’s, which signed its lease in 2010 and has the space through 2020, according to data from CoStar. The property is across the street from 401 West 14th Street, a stake in which just hit the market, The Real Deal previously reported. The stake is owned by Clarion Partners and is being marketed by Eastdil Secured.  
Mark Maurer reports for The Real Deal. Tribeca-centric developer Colonnade Group wants to convert the landmarked former warehouse for the Pearl Paint home-improvement and craft store into a mixed-use building. The developer paid $9.2 million for the five-story building at 42-46 Lispenard Street, between Church Street and Broadway, in October. Plans call for the red 13,216-square-foot building to gain ground-floor retail. Four full-floor apartments will have ceilings of at least 12 feet, with 24-foot ceilings for the penthouse. The project is set to break ground early next year, according to BuzzBuzzHome. Colonnade is at work on a three-unit residential conversion at 174 Duane Street, which would add one story to the four-story building, as previously reported.  
Reuven Blau reports for NY Daily News. Outgoing Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has touted a plan to redevelop the vacant Childs building into an amphitheater that can seat 5,000 and host 40 concerts a year. The historic, now-vacant Childs Restaurant building on the Coney Island Boardwalk is being eyed for redevelopment as a 5,000-seat concert amphitheater. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s signature effort to convert the historic Childs Restaurant into a massive amphitheater is coming down to the wire — and it’s anyone’s guess whether the outgoing captain of Kings will complete his much-desired coup de grace. The City Council is expected to hold a hearing on the complicated proposal to renovate the boardwalk building on Dec. 16. City lawmakers will likely vote on it three days later, when the council holds its last full meeting of the session. “I’m hopeful that the city council will approve it,” said Markowitz. Any delay beyond Jan. 1, however, could doom the project. In September, the Coney Island community board voted against it, arguing that the approximately $35 million in public funds earmarked for the theater and a small park nearby would be better used to help repair infrastructure that was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. And the district’s incoming councilman agrees. “Coney Island cannot become a year-round destination, with jobs and economic opportunity for its residents, without infrastructure and transportation improvements,” said Mark Treyger. Critics have also argued that public money should not be going towards private development of a concert hall. Markowitz defended the plan, noting the building has sat empty for years. “It shouldn’t be held up. There’s no reason to oppose it at that location,” Markowitz said. He’s worked hard to ensure it passes. Markowitz said Monday that he talked to Council Speaker Christine Quinn  about the theater plan before he endorsed her last April — a move in which he  turned his back on then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who hails from Park  Slope. “Any major project that I have championed needs the approval of the City Council,” he said. “So would I have spoken to her? You bet!” The unusual $53 million plan calls for the city to buy the Childs building — along with an adjoining lot between W. 21 St and W. 22nd St. — from iStar Financial, the real estate investment company that acquired the historic structure from a developer after the economy tanked in 2008.According to plans, the amphitheater will seat 5,000 people with room for another 2,000 on a lawn behind it. The performance space could play host to as many as 40 concerts between May and October. Space will also be leased year-round to a yet-to-be-selected proprietor, to operate a restaurant inside the building. This is not the first time Markowitz’s hope of finding a permanent home for  his seaside concerts has faced opposition. Public protests in 2009 blocked a planned amphitheater inside Asser Levy  Park in Brighton Beach.  
Cate reports for Brownstoner. Brooklyn_Historical_Society_WTM3_Gnarly_0207 In preparation for its 150th anniversary, the Brooklyn Historical Society pursued a vision of bringing the interiors of its attractively preserved building on Pierrepont Street into the 21st century, while still respecting the past. Working with Christoff: Finio Architecture, BHS created an airy, high-tech event space, dynamic new galleries, a reconceived shop supporting Brooklyn makers, and classroom space for student and community activities. Renovations, which lasted eighteen months and finished this past October, aimed to increase BHS’s ability to serve a wide public, and offer an expanded roster of public events and education programs. The goal was to connect the past to the present and to engage the community at large. Only the first floor and basement were altered. The amazing main staircase and upper floor rooms are untouched. “After having an opportunity to carefully see how the building is used by our 21st-century audiences, understanding what we needed and wanted in order to serve our public well, we were fortunate, with the support of the City of New York, to be able to pay for a rethinking of our public space,” stated BHS President Deborah Schwartz. “We like to think we have created a perfect blend of learning and pleasure for our visitors.” A large part of this entailed rethinking and revamping the Great Hall as a contemporary auditorium for guest speakers and panels, film screenings and receptions. Before the renovation, this large room had been cut up into smaller rooms and the walls had been painted a deep maroon. This may have been historically accurate at one point but was dark when viewed from the sidewalk. The decision to paint the walls and columns white expressed the wish to modernize as well as brighten the space. Christoff: Finio’s design called for bringing back the full dimension of the Great Hall. “[The room] had been parceled up in such a way that you couldn’t appreciate the scale of the space and the rhythm of its columns and windows,” said architect Martin Finio. “The ceiling was there, but much of it was obscured by hanging ductwork and heavy lighting grids. Our impulse was to pull away as much as we could, and to put light where it hadn’t been before.” Christoff: Finio placed large rotating display boxes at each window to double as interior exhibition wall as well as vitrines announcing BHS programs to the street, giving BHS a public presence it has never had before. The design for the main gallery in the front of the building, divided from the Great Hall by an insert housing the HVAC system, AV equipment, and storage, grew out of a variation on this ambition. “We wanted to add a contemporary layer to the space that would serve 21st-century ideas about exhibition and curation, while still responding to the character and quality of the room,” Finio explained. The new gallery wall not only floats in front of the original walls and openings of the entry hall, thus preserving it, but it also provides the opportunity to run ductwork for the HVAC system. Now, cool air can be dropped down from above in warmer months — in the Great Hall, the air descends through porthole-like openings in the insert — and warm air can be fed from below during the winter. This method saves room for valuable stretches of exhibition wall and saves energy by not trying to heat and cool to the full 20-foot ceiling height. A side gallery created under the arch separating the Great Hall from the main exhibition space offers an up-close encounter with the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln. The document, one of the gems of BHS’ collection, shares a birth year with the Brooklyn Historical Society itself. On the opposite wall, a carved-wood installation brings voices from the past alive, documenting the public’s reaction to the Proclamation. Connected openly to both the galleries and Great Hall is the newly refurbished Museum Store, which now sells items made by Brooklyn artisans along with both fiction and nonfiction books, catalogues and gifts. Downstairs, the architects transformed the basement into fully functioning areas. They preserved the brick, granite, and cast iron columns that form the foundation throughout the new rooms, which include a second gallery space and a classroom where students can participate in programs as well as eat lunch. The downstairs gallery currently houses the exhibit “Landmarks of New York” by Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel. The classroom provides activity space and a lunchroom for school children who tour BHS, with cubbies for their backpacks and a useful sink and counter top. “We were always very aware of the ways in which the building itself might serve in the didactic expression of Brooklyn history,” Finio said. “We wanted the building to remain authentic not only to its past, but also to its present and its future.” Brooklyn-based design group ETC (Everything Type Company) masterminded new signage throughout the interiors, including amusing silhouettes for the restrooms. The men’s and women’s rooms have been marked with figures dressed in different period attire from the various eras of BHS’s lifetime. In January, BHS will open its first major, long-term exhibit in the main gallery: “Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom,” part of a groundbreaking public history project featuring new research in partnership with Weeksville Heritage Center and the Irondale Ensemble Project. The launch signifies the culmination of so many visions: architectural, historical and curatorial. Check the Design Brooklyn blog in January for images of the finished main gallery.  
Rory Scott reports for Archdaily. 529737c5e8e44e5c50000061_leed-v4-better-than-the-leeds-that-came-before-_1266941867-citycenter-overall-view-at-night-1000x604 At the annual Greenbuild International Conference in Philadelphia last week, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) finally announced the latest version of LEED. Aiming to make a larger forward step than previous versions, LEED v4 is described by Rick Fedrizzi, the CEO and president of USGBC as a “quantum leap”. But what are the key changes in the new LEED criteria, and what effect will they have? Furthermore, what problems have they yet to address? Read on to find out. 37c6e8e44e3dd2000064_leed-v4-better-than-the-leeds-that-came-before-_1322166814-office-tower-warsaw-schmidt-hammer-lassen-architects-rendering-001-1000x750 [Office tower in Warsaw. Image © Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects] Material Transparency The most widely recognized change to the LEED system is material transparency, requiring a better understanding of the products being used in a building and where they have come from. As Beth Heider, USGBC’s 2012 chair, puts it: “if you create a really tight, energy-efficient building and fill it full of noxious materials, you’ve created the perfect gas chamber.” In the field of healthcare, material transparency is definitely seen as a positive step, but it will come with an increased workload for everyone involved: according to Healthcare Design Magazine “the process of developing environmental product declarations (EPD), healthy product declarations (HPD), and lifecycle assessments (LCA) will be challenging and time-consuming… very few products have EPDs, fewer have HPDs, and no one really knows how to do a comprehensive LCA.” Although somewhat counter-intuitively, in an attempt to make these changes easier to adjust to, LEED v4 awards credits simply for reporting the LCA of a design, rather than what that report shows. In other words, if a submitted LCA shows that a building is environmentally unfriendly, that building will still get LEED credits. Combating ‘Greenwashing’ In previous iterations of LEED, it was possible to focus on easy, cheap credits to obtain LEED status for a building, while ignoring credits that might have more impact but were hard to achieve. This led some to accuse LEED of enabling greenwashing, projects that claimed to be green when really they were doing the minimum possible to become LEED certified. In LEED v4, the USGBC has gone some way to combat this by introducing new prerequisites such as metering and recording the building’s energy and water use. These factors of building performance can no longer be ignored as difficult, time-consuming credits to achieve – they must be included to achieve LEED status. Beth Heider also adds that “while LEED 2009 weighted points to encourage projects to do less harm, LEED v4 is aspirational in weighting and developing credits to encourage projects to do more good.” Integrated design LEED v4 contains a new credit for bringing together the full construction team at an early stage in the design process. In recognition of the idea that green designs tend to be better thought through when they are designed collaboratively by people with expertise in different areas, design teams will now be rewarded for working together from the very start of the process. New Market Sectors In a bid to make LEED available to an ever-wider portion of the construction industry, they have expanded their system to include data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, existing schools, existing retail and mid-rise residential projects. Improved Support Aware that for many projects (particularly small ones), LEED certification is a complex and expensive task, the USGBC is moving to simplify LEED credit submittal requirements, provide descriptive step-by-step reference guide materials with videos and tutorials, and is also offering a more intuitive technology platform. What Still Needs to Change? As we’ve mentioned before, the LEED system certainly isn’t perfect, and there are still criticisms that haven’t been addressed by LEED v4. One thing that certainly hasn’t changed is LEED v3, which (thanks to fears that v4 is too big a change) is still available until June 2015. Considering the fact that LEED has always been criticized for being too easy to ‘game the system’, offering two completely different systems for developers to choose between seems a retroactive step. And, perhaps most critically, LEED v4 still seems to have nothing which encourages true innovation in green building – preferring instead to emphasize their cut-and-paste rules for how to be green.