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Marianne Amos reports for Fastcodesign.
© Karl Connolly Photography via
Photo by © Karl Connolly Photography
On the lower level of the Baltimore Design School, a city public school located in central Baltimore, there is a blown-up photo affixed to a wall. The black-and-white picture shows the interior of a building in disrepair, with pools of water on the floor. It's a stark reminder of what used to be here: an abandoned factory so decrepit that the HBO series The Wire used the building as a setting symbolic of post-industrial urban decay. But today, with a major architectural intervention--and a grant from Adobe--this building has become a state-of-the-art public school for training future designers.
Image by Ziger Snead via Image by Ziger Snead via
Photos by Ziger Snead.
Baltimore Design School--or BDS--is the first of its kind in the city, a public middle and high school dedicated to students interested in architecture, graphic design, and fashion. The school was founded a few years ago, but its permanent home in a mammoth, 110,000-square-foot former clothing factory only opened this fall after a $26.85 million overhaul. Built in 1914, the four-story structure was the machine shop for a global supplier of bottle caps before housing a clothing manufacturer. A private developer purchased the building in the 1980s and, as happened with so many industrial buildings in American cities, it was soon abandoned and left to sit empty for decades. The owner seemingly locked the place up with little notice: Coffee cups were left on tables; clothing and sewing supplies were arranged as if a worker had just stepped away for lunch. Baltimore architect Steve Ziger, whose firm Ziger/Snead provided design services for the project, believes the renovation teaches students a valuable lesson about the power of design to renew a building and, by extension, a community. “This is a building that was definitely a blight on this neighborhood," says Ziger, who is also a founding board member of the school.
© Karl Connolly Photography via
Photo by © Karl Connolly Photography
Adobe Youth Voices, the software company’s philanthropic arm, donated a lab of computers with the full Adobe Creative Suite and, in January, will train teachers on incorporating student-driven media into their instruction. This is Adobe's first such partnership with a single school--they usually partner with entire school districts--but the unique nature of BDS and its design-focused curriculum inspired the grant. “We often find that educators have a lot of challenges around finding the time to emphasize creativity in the classroom," says Patricia Cogley, senior program manager for Adobe Youth Voices. "The opportunity to work in a school where that’s the underlying philosophy was very exciting for us.” The total package, which also includes support from a partnership with the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art, is valued at more than $80,000. Students begin their school day in the main hallway with 17-foot-ceilings soaring above their heads. All around them, says Ziger, are lessons in structure, tension, proportion, and compression: Sealed concrete walls, some with old cracks still visible; tall support pillars in the middle of rooms; exposed pipes snaking along the ceilings. Tyler, a ninth-grade architecture major, says that's what he loves about the building. “All the lighting and space--it's not like a new building," he says. "There's some history to it.”
© Karl Connolly Photography via
Photo by © Karl Connolly Photography
Ziger believes exposing the building's underpinnings in this way will inspire fledgling designers. “Had we fixed every space and put in ceilings and designed it--it doesn't leave it open to the students' imaginations. Being open-ended we thought was more important in this environment.” This was also more challenging for Ziger and his team. “[This kind of project] takes more time because you have to coordinate everything, because everything's visible. It's actually a more deliberate design by being exposed. If it's concealed, anything goes. That's another lesson for the students.”
 © Karl Connolly Photography via
Photo by © Karl Connolly Photography
Just as compelling as the restoration of the building is the design of the financing that allowed this project to happen. In a city otherwise struggling to maintain even the basic infrastructure of its public schools, the multimillion dollar renovation was made possible by a unique public/private partnership involving a private developer, the BDS school board, and the Baltimore City Public Schools. It was funded through a combination of bonds, tax credits, and loans guaranteed by the school system. At the end of a 20-year lease term, the school system will take over the facility. Design is interspersed throughout the curriculum as well as the building. Students take art and design classes every day, and design thinking and creative problem-solving are interwoven into regular classes like math and social studies. Middle-schoolers get a firm grounding in art and design basics before choosing a specialization in architecture, graphic design, or fashion in high school. On a recent Friday morning, a group of ninth-graders brainstormed with Ziger about design interventions for the student art gallery, a rectangular space on the main level that's still bare of artwork or decoration. One of them, an architecture major named Victorious, said, “We could actually build things.” Exactly.  
Jose Luis Gabriel Cruz reports for Archdaily. Image courtesy of HAO ( [Courtesy of HAO] HAO, together with community group, Williamsburg Independent People, hope to save the historic Domino Sugar Factory site and halt the current masterplan by SHoP Architectswhich proposes an additional 2,200 luxury apartments along the East River waterfront inBrooklyn, New York. HAO’s counter proposal seeks to adaptively reuse the existing factory buildings, including the iconic Civil War-era Domino Sugar Refinery — which has defiantly held its ground amidst heavy redevelopment in surrounding areas. Not unlike SHoP’s proposal, HAO aims to regenerate these spaces into a “world-class cultural destination” that combines public and private programs. Image courtesy of HAO ( [Courtesy of HAO] The difference, however, is in scale. The current master plan envisions five residential towers that rise 600 feet to, according to SHoP, create “a new skyline for Brooklyn — one that relates to the height of the Williamsburg Bridge and scales down to meet the neighborhood.” Image courtesy of HAO ( [Courtesy of HAO] The counter proposal is a defiantly smaller scale — adapting to the average building heights of the surrounding area – reminiscent of Beijing’s 798 Art District with Bauhaus-inspired, sawtooth-like roof-scoops. “We explored possibilities that would open up the site and create a vibrant, mixed and cultural destination. We believe that, destinations like the 798 Art District and the Tate Modern, the Domino Sugar Factory has the potential to attract millions of visitors every year.” 5290661ee8e44ece5800024e_hao-makes-counter-proposal-to-save-sugar-factory-and-stop-luxury-apartments-in-brooklyn-s-waterfront_rendering-theater-530x313 [Courtesy of HAO] HAO’s counter proposal captures approximately 700,000 square feet of publicly accessible gallery space (surpassing even the MoMA by 70,000 square feet). The proposal divides the site into two general zones: a green energy technology center, educational, community and hotel-driven programming are located near the south; to the north, publicly accessible private museum space, exhibition and theater space. Image courtesy of HAO ( [Courtesy of HAO] For now, the counter proposal is merely an alternative. HAO and local Brooklynites, however, believe that to create a sustainable and revitalized Williamsburg, the city should reconsider caving in to mega-luxury-developments. Review SHoP’s master plan and learn more about the counter proposals at
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God in the Details

Sam Lubell reports for The Architect's Newspaper.

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[Tom Bonner] No architect in LA has mended more of the city’s historic icons than Brenda Levin. Gems in her portfolio include the Griffith Observatory, City Hall, the Wiltern Theater, the Bradbury Building, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, and Dodger Stadium, to name just a few. And still none seem quite as spectacular as the newly-renovated Wilshire Boulevard Temple. After a two-year renovation, the ornate Byzantine/Moorish/Romanesque synagogue in the city’s mid-Wilshire district sparkles. Built in 1929, the temple had never had a renovation. When much of its congregation moved to a new facility on the city’s west side in 1988 the deterioration progressed faster. Many wanted to stop investing in the temple altogether, but luckily the synagogue’s Senior Rabbi, Steven Leder, pushed hard for a new campus plan that included fixing up their original house of worship. In 2009, Levin and Associates, with a team that included Matt Construction, began the process, with construction beginning in 2011. The synagogue is still undergoing a capital campaign, which has thus far raised $123 million, to pay for the $50 million renovation and the larger master plan.
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“A lot of people think a renovation means a new coat of paint,” said Levin. Oh how wrong they are. Basically every surface in the temple was touched, she added. Detailing everything that was fixed up is like reciting a laundry list, so it’s best to observe what needed the most work. That includes the building’s suspect sheer walls, its interior plaster, its giant and spectacular coffered dome, its rose window, and its sanctuary murals by famous Hollywood artist Hugo Ballin. The interior dome’s plaster surrounds were either cleaned or replicated, then repainted, while the building’s copper outer dome was repaired. The stained glass inside the stone rosary window was removed, taken apart, cleaned, repaired, and re-leaded. The murals were painstakingly touched up, with new paint made slightly lighter to differentiate it from original work. On the building’s exterior, marble bands, which had calcified, were repaired and honed, while the marble base was replaced. Detailed cast stone and concrete was repaired and reinforced. Carbon fiber helps support the sheer walls, the columns, and the roof.
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Image from Image from
Over the course of the project the giant sanctuary was filled with a ten-story scaffold, which Levin recalls standing on top of to make sure that colors and paint were just right. “There’s never just one color,” she said. “It’s always five layers mashed together.” In addition to all the fixes, a few new elements were added, such as improved lighting and audio, located behind new grills that were designed to blend with the historic interior.  New air conditioning was installed. The temple’s bimah was lowered and extended by two feet, and a new courtyard was added to the east, where there was once a no-man’s land of mechanical equipment and parking. Many more changes are in store: Levin is leading a master plan that will include two new schools, a new banquet facility, still more public spaces, and the restoration of much of the synagogue’s existing facilities. “It’s the best room in Los Angeles,” said Levin. “It’s so welcoming and theatrical.” And thanks to her work and the perseverance of a Rabbi, what was once crumbling is now majestic.  
Jessica Dailey reports for Curbed. Image from A 1950's factory building formerly owned by the Jehovah's Witnesses has been approved for a condo conversion. The Brooklyn Eagle reports that the Landmarks Preservation Commission signed off on a design by Aufgang Architects and developer Shelly Listokin, who purchased the building at 200 Water Street, along with 173 and 177 Front Street, last year. The project will add two new floors to the building, originally a Brillo pad factory, and it will create 15 new condos. Aufgang's original plans called for reconstructing the façade with mew bricks, but the commission vetoed that idea, so the existing façade will remain largely intact. The addition will be set back to create a terrace and reduce visibility from the street. At 177 Front Street, which sits outside of the historic district, Listokin filed plans for a 12-story, 105 unit building.  
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Possible changes afoot for NYC skyline

Sharon McHugh reports for World Architecture News. Image Ted via Flickr ( [Image: Ted via Flickr] Two decisions came down last week that may affect New York City’s skyline.  One was the defeat of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to densify development in east mid-town Manhattan. The other was Governor Mario Cuomo’s signing of legislation that will permit the cash-starved Hudson River Park Trust to sell air rights to developers within a block of the five mile long park, which borders the Hudson River. The midtown east plan called for a 72-block rezoning of the area near Grand Central Station that would have brought signature Class A office buildings to the business heart of Manhattan, where most of the buildings in the area date to World War II.  The sale of air rights there also would have generated an estimated $500m for transit upgrades in the area. Building owners in the neighborhood were generally in favor of the rezoning plan as they have been clamoring to make upgrades to their buildings or replace them altogether with gleaming new towers (which they are prohibited from doing under the current zoning) rather than run the risk of losing tenants to newer office buildings in other parts of town, like Hudson Yards on the Far West Side and the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. The plan, while dead for now, may be revived when Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio takes office in 2014.  But don’t expect it to be the sweeping, visionary, state-of-the-art plan put forth by the Bloomberg Administration. Councilman Daniel Garodnick, whose district includes midtown east, told Crains: “The public realm plan is aspirational and it is unclear at this point whether some of its most visionary improvements can even be executed.” In his campaign speeches, De Blasio made it clear that he thinks ‘developers have gotten a pass under the Bloomberg Administration’ and that the upper rungs of New York’s Society have been the key beneficiaries.  Only time will tell if De Blasio will use such initiatives as rezoning midtown east to build affordable housing in the city, which is sorely needed and is a cause high on his agenda. On the West Side of Manhattan, the Hudson River Park Trust was given a lifeline from New York Governor Mario Cuomo, with the signing of legislation last week that will allow the Trust to sell its air rights.  Those air rights, which the Trust estimates  to total 1.6 million sq ft, could bring substantial monies to its coffers and allow it to make the estimated $118m of basic repairs to Pier 40, a roughly 15-acre area with ball fields, sports facilities, a 775,000 sq ft building used as offices and a parking garage.  Without the needed repairs Pier 40 might have to close, said Trust’s president, Madlyn Wils. While the legislation bodes well for the Trust’s rescue, the larger question is whether the sale of its air rights - which may result in towers along the Hudson River - is good for the neighborhood or practicable from an environmental standpoint. The area targeted for the air rights sale includes Greenwich Village, which is comprised mostly of four- and five-storey buildings.  Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, is concerned that new high rise towers would be out character for the neighborhood and would block views of the Hudson River. The area in question is ranked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as one of the most vulnerable and future storm-prone areas in the country.  Making note of that fact, Laura Haight, a senior environmental associate with New York Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), told Crains: “Governor Cuomo has rightly called for plans to ensure that the State of New York is better prepared for and more resilient to future severe storms. It would foolhardy to encourage development in such a storm-vulnerable location.”  
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed. Earlier designs for a triangular building at 19 East Houston Street drew the ire of the both the community and the Landmarks Commission, so Perkins Eastman made significant changes before bringing the plans back this morning. While the original design had called for a primarily glass façade, the new one features a contextual brick façade at Crosby Street and a completely separate façade of staggered glass and recessed metal panels at East Houston, addressing commissioners' concerns that the building would appear thin and flimsy. Another concern was the amount of signage that would visible through the glass. The architects took away the option of introducing a huge LED billboard by removing the large, open space where it would have gone and also limited the retail signage by having the ground level appear to be single-height, although it will remain double-height on the interior. All of the commissioners found the new plans approvable except for commissioner Michael Devonshire, who took issue with the windows Crosby Street façade, and commissioner Michael Goldblum, who said that the "overall impression is still one of a flat building" and that the design was "not taking cognizance of the special space in which it finds itself." In the end, though, it was approved with only one opposed.
Mireya Navarro reports for The New York Times. Image from Acting on the recommendations of a task force convened after Hurricane Sandy, the City Council on Thursday approved new requirements that were expected to make buildings more sustaining during emergencies and prevent some of the hardships that New Yorkers endured after the storm last year. One change requires residential buildings five stories or higher to add faucets in common areas like laundry rooms so that residents on higher floors have some access to water for drinking, flushing toilets and other uses. Upper floors lose water when electric pumps stop working during blackouts, a problem that worsened conditions and forced many people out of their buildings after the hurricane. The requirement applies immediately to new residential construction, while existing buildings have eight years to add the fixtures. “It will make it much more possible to stay in a large building for an extended period without power,” said Russell Unger, chairman of the task force of more than 200 building experts, property owners and city officials that proposed the changes. Another piece of legislation requires new and existing hospitals and nursing homes in flood zones to install hookups that would enable quick connection to temporary generators and boilers so that such facilities can maintain electricity and heating when the power is out. The law requiring the hookups is effective immediately for new buildings, but gives existing buildings 20 years to comply. Another new law makes it easier to install backup generators and generators that run on natural gas, which is considered a cleaner and more reliable source of power than diesel fuel. And a fourth law allows temporary flood barriers on sidewalks. Despite the costs to comply with the new requirements — a 20-story co-op could spend $16,000 for the required one-common-area faucet per 100 residents — property owners have been generally supportive because of the losses suffered during the storm. “It’d help get buildings up and running faster,” Angela Pinsky, a senior vice president for the Real Estate Board of New York, said of some of the measures.  

Paul Gunther writes on Architizer.

Image via The Daily Beast (

Grand Central Terminal. Image via The Daily Beast.

Just days ago, New York Senator Chuck Schumer characterized preservationists as “those people [who] would see the city die a slow death.” With an eye on the shifts under way in New York politics, it is time to put to rest this false dichotomy between landmark preservation and economic progress. The Forum for Urban Design recently published an amalgam of alternative public policy ideas entitled "Next New York" (a handy must-read for any civic-minded design professional or associated gadfly). One of the included essays calls for the elimination of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, placing its duties under the umbrella of the City Planning Commission. This argument is based on the idea that the City Planning Commission makes objective, politics-free decisions, while the decision-making process of the Landmarks Planning Commission is "opaque" and "capricious." The essay cautions against "landmarking" away the economic vitality of New York City."

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The Landmarks Preservation Commission has recently given permission to SHoP Architects to build a 1,350-foot residential tower at 107 West 57th Street in Manhattan.

In light of these criticisms, it is necessary to check the facts. For better or worse, the tension between Planning and Landmarks has evolved as the best defense against the huge scale developments that seem most often to replace rather than complement. Change is, and always will be, an aspect of any vibrant and healthy city, but today that reality seems to translate directly to vast height and increased density; until “new” can include greater contextual deference, this tension will—and should—endure. A healthy city is not a monoculture. Preservation, development, and prosperity have always been natural bedfellows: without the fabled landscapes of Central Park and the Upper East and West Sides, one could not sell $100 million apartments along 57th Street. Even in the absence of design excellence, the property can rely on views, proximity and a historic address. “Landmarking” raises the worth of surrounding areas exponentially—the numbers don’t lie.  It's ironic that those who sought to destroy Grand Central Terminal 40 years ago, calling its preservation an impediment to progress, are being quoted anew, when in fact the preservation of Grand Central may be the foremost force behind the push for increased density.

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Philip Johnson, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bess Myerson, and former Mayor Ed Koch on Jan. 30, 1975 as they leave New York's Grand Central after holding a news conference for the "Committee to Save Grand Central Station."

Image via Municipal Art Society.

Additionally, landmarks rank as the top driver of what is by far the biggest growth engine in New York: tourism. According to Crain’s New York, in the last decade, the tourism sector has expanded by 41.5%, outpacing all other categories and “more than compensating for job losses elsewhere including manufacturing.” These jobs require a wide variety of skills, making them a perfect match for modern urban demographics. Plus, positive perceptions of a travel destination can mean an increase in design and construction opportunities—in just the last 5 years, hotel space in New York City increased by 23.7%. (Even as hotel room inventory increased, rooms stayed full—in May of 2013, 91.9% of NYC hotel rooms were in use.)

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The High Line, a new tourist attraction, and the adjacent Standard Hotel.

What visitors seek, above all, are landmarks. Of the top 10 New York City tourist destinations, for example, nine are landmarks; tourists come for the city that is, its image bright in the collective imagination. Any who see preservation as a threat to the city's momentum should take a cold hard look at the economic facts. Some may describe such reliance on the past as doomed to decline, but it is undeniable that the endurance of beloved landmarks leads directly to economic well-being. If the dollars and jobs generated by tourism are judged as inferior to those generated by new construction, then New York risks becoming a Shanghai wannabe, a hub of 9-to-5 banality. The Chinese are now reconsidering the abnegation of their cultural past; New York must never follow suit. Preservation does not obviate construction or development; a mere five percent of the five boroughs’ real estate falls under Landmarks' protection. That translates into a minute 27,000 properties, including historic districts. While the incoming mayor and his senior staff should reform the designation and enforcement processes of the Landmarks Preservation Commission by increasing transparency, fairness, client ease, and efficiency, the robust preservation movement of New York City must continue for the sake of prosperity, strong communities, and regional identity—an identity visitors pay to experience.  

Hana R. Alberts reports for Curbed. hl1 [Renderings via James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, courtesy of the City of New York.] Friends of the High Line just unveiled one special design element for Phase 3, the part that curls west and then north into the Hudson Yards area. Where it curves to the west, at 10th Avenue and West 30th Street, is a particularly wide point of the span dubbed the Spur, and an enormous bowl-shaped feature is planned for that juncture. First spotted by DNAinfo, the bowl serves as an oval amphitheater-slash-chill out space, with seating for visitors that is encircled in broad-leaf woodland grasses, perennials, and ferns, as well as Snakebark maple and black tupelo trees. FotHL says it's "an extraordinary, sheltered, and vegetated interior room that one discovers through various openings and entries." And, somehow, they're fitting public bathrooms in there. Functional! Phase 3 is currently under construction and is set to open in late 2014. 1-spur-aerial-looking-west BowlfromOutside InsideSpur FallSpur context-map-1 context-map-2
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed. Developer DDG and architect Peter Guthrie presented their design for an eight-story, ten-unit condo building at 100 Franklin Street to the Landmarks Commission today amid fervent public opposition. For the most part, the Commission came down on the side of the neighbors, remarking that the design, which features a façade of recovered brick layered over by a glass screen as well as a mansard roof with a large bulkhead, was too "attention-calling" at the top and that, overall, it "just seems muddled and trying to do a lot of things." Multiple commissioners thought that the brick starting at the second floor gave the impression that the building was floating in midair. However, they were not opposed, in principle, to the use of glass in the Tribeca East Historic District, and did think that elements of the design could be saved going forward. The Tribeca residents who showed up to give testimony were, of course, far less reserved in their criticism. "Reused brick is contextual in a pizza store in Queens. It's not contextual here," said architect Walter Melvin, who also called the top of the building a "glass spaceship that has crashed on the roof." Another gentleman announced that the design, if approved, would create an "international scandal". Reps for DDG have claimed that the outcry against the project has been orchestrated by the residents of neighboring 17 White Street, who are worried about losing their lot-line windows. There were residents of that building in attendance, although they did not make up the majority of the opposition. They were either savvy enough not to mention anything about windows, or really did believe that the building would be a blight on the neighborhood, as their testimony suggested.DDG, who does have experience getting new buildings with inventive designs (41 Bond Street and 325 West Broadway) past the Landmarks Commission, will return with revised plans at a later date.