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(De) and (Re) Construction

As civilization (?) expanded westward, everything had to be built up from scratch. Developing new land, erecting new structures, creating new cities. But this era has long since passed. Even in China, where up to 20 new cities are being built every year, the bubble is about to burst. Construction is increasingly shifting from a practice of creating new built environments, to renovating , repairing, and sometimes just removing the existing structures. And what are we to do with all the existing materials? Re-using of materials has long been the mantra of our schoolchildren, and many industries have also seen the wisdom of providing for the recycling of the product in its end use. For example, in the US, 95% of “junked” cars are processed for recycling, with about 75% of the car’s manufactured content mostly metals) eventually being recycled for raw material use. One of the main reasons automobiles could be recycled was due to the nature of metals, and the ability to purify and separate out elements for re-use in their raw state. Construction is not quite so straightforward, since it involves many more materials which are intermixed within the same assembly. Possibly the “cleanest” of materials for construction reuse is concrete. The only problem has always been the removal of rebar, but one solution has been invented by a company in Ohio , who attached a magnet to the excavator bucket, which can be activated as it runs over a pile of crushed concrete to pull out the rebar. The cleaned, crushed concrete can be re-used for roadbed and rebar is fully recyclable. In some areas, this has grown to be a sizeable business, such as Recycled Materials Company, which was launched by the need to demolish and recycle the concrete at the old Stapleton Airport in Denver. More difficult is the repurposing of all the miscellaneous materials from deconstruction. Here again, there is a business opportunity. Instead of paying to have a building demolished, an owner can hire a deconstruction arm of a non-profit company (such as Habitat Re-Store) to remove the property as a donation to a material re-use store. The owner gets a tax deduction, and the store gets paid for receiving merchandise. They get paid again for selling it. Of course, the cost of removal may exceeds the removal revenue, but even then – Habitat uses volunteers! Renovation companies are growing. From my experience, the difference between a successful operation and a big junkyard is in the systematic documenting of materials, making this available on the web, and keeping good business practices. Overstuffed, cat-infested warehouses just get more material, tend to hike up their prices to overcome the low sales, and eventually go out of business. It is a business. One person who has done this well, in the re-use of industrial byproducts and waste for the use in construction and other industries is Damon Carson, of Repurposed Materials. Because the company is selective in the materials they gathers, and can provide a fairly steady supply, it is possible for entrepreneurial ventures like Luxwood to manufacture furniture with the use of reclaimed wood. The problem in developing a business model in construction which could accommodate the use of repurposed materials is the extra cost of sourcing this material and adjusting the construction process to accommodate for special installation. Such a scenario could be addressed through a “joint venture,” so to speak, with the owner as the scouting party. A scope would need to be developed for acceptable type of materials, and specifications developed to help guide owners choices. The material types might start with reliable local supplies of recycled materials. While this requires a higher degree of organization on the contractor’s part, in order to be more flexible without upsetting the core building process, I see evidence of this trend growing. Not only for homeowners, but also commercial properties – where owners are looking for more unique architecture.  
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LPC Approves Plans for Governors Island

East, Ticker | Tuesday, February 7, 2012 | . Pentagram's Welcome Wall at Soissons Landing. (Courtesey West 8) In a unanimous decision, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the first phase of plans by the Trust for Governors Island to restore and revamp the island. The vision includes a paisley-like landscape by West 8 on the terrace in front of McKim, Mead and White designed Liggett Hall. Way-finding by Pentagram and lighting by Susan Tillotson also made the cut. For a detailed breakdown of the designs click here.

Jared Kushner's scaled-down plans for an addition to top of the landmarked SoHo building finally gets the thumbs up from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

It looks like five times is the charm for Jared Kushner of Kushner Cos. and his plans to make additions to SoHo's landmarked Puck Building. The city Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved a scaled-back version of the developer's plan to build atop the 203,000-square-foot, mixed-use building at 295-309 Lafayette St., at East Houston Street, on Tuesday. The approved additions are 20 feet shorter than the previous plan, courtesy of reduced ceiling heights. Meanwhile, the size has been scaled back by approximately 1,500 square feet, and the materials were changed from glass and metal to predominantly masonry and brick in order to match the existing building. The proposal also includes a restoration of the 10-story Romanesque revival-style building's original parapet and crenellations. Mr. Kushner's architects presented the original proposals three months ago. All the commissioners were pleased with how far the project has come since they first saw it in September, and three subsequent times after that, according to a spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission. “I am very pleased with the results. We got an extension approved that allows us to go forward with a special project,” said Mr. Kushner, in a statement. “The additions to the building will further enhance one of the most iconic buildings in the world.” “They've reached the target of minimalism in terms of massing,” said Landmarks Commissioner Michael Devonshire, an architectural conservator, in a statement. Landmarks Commissioner Michael Goldblum added that Mr. Kushner showed, with this version, “a tremendous willingness to exercise modesty and restraint.” Even the local preservationists seemed pleased with the revised plans, at least for now. “We are very glad that the Landmarks Preservation Commission listened to calls from New Yorkers to reject prior versions of this proposal, which would have overwhelmed and fundamentally changed one of our city's most beloved landmarks,” said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, in a statement. “Only time will tell if the final, scaled–back version approved by Landmarks today is truly worthy of this great New York landmark.”   Read more: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20111220/REAL_ESTATE/111229981#ixzz1jpUUJHEv  Puck Building Jared Kusher
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The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved Jared Kushner's plan to build atop the Puck Building.
Read more: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20111220/REAL_ESTATE/111229981#ixzz1jpZPRj8K
NEW YORK CITY LANDMARKS PRESERVATION COMMISSION Robert B. Tierney Chairman FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011 No. 11-12 GRAND CONCOURSE HISTORIC DISTRICT AND FOUR INDIVIDUAL LANDMARKS PROTECTED Another noteworthy building from the earlier stage of the district’s development is the Concourse Plaza Hotel at 900 Grand Concourse between East 161st and 162nd streets. Built in 1923, the same year as nearby Yankee Stadium, the 11-story Colonial Revival style hotel drew such distinguished guests and visitors as Yankees greats Babe Ruth, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle and presidential candidates Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. “The buildings in the district were so solidly built that they emerged from a period of neglect largely unscathed, and still retain many of the fine architectural details that first attracted residents to the Grand Concourse in the 1920s and 1930s,” said Chairman Tierney. “This is a great day for the Bronx.” Union League Club, 38 East 37th Street at Park Avenue The nine-story, brick-faced clubhouse, located at the southwest corner of 37th Street and Park Avenue, was completed in 1931 and combines elements of the 18th century Federal and Georgian styles of architecture. It was designed by (Benjamin Wistar) Morris & (Robert Barnard) O’Connor. Prior to establishing the firm, Morris received a number of significant commissions, including the annex to the Morgan Library, the Cunard Building and the Bank of New York & Trust Company building at 48 Wall St. Originally located in a former residence on the north side of Union Square in Manhattan, the Union League Club was founded in 1863 to support the United States and the Republican Party. During the Civil War, the club organized the first black regiment in New York State and its members later played a significant role in establishing the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It also was one of the first social clubs in New York City to welcome women. The club’s current site was assembled by prominent Murray Hill families who wanted to maintain neighborhood’s residential character, and sold the property with restrictions dictating the size of buildings could be constructed there. The 37th Street façade of the club incorporates a curved, double height entrance pavilion and oversized Palladian style windows, and a central pediment that frames a cartouche with club’s initials. A lintel decorated with four female faces surmounts the wood doors of a second entrance on Park Avenue. Women gained full membership privileges in 1988, and Democrats were permitted to join in 1937. “After 80 years, the Union League Club remains a stately gem on a tranquil corner of Murray Hill,” said Chairman Tierney.

Governor Cuomo recently revealed the future of JFK Airport's iconic TWA Flight Center designed by Eero Saarinen. This terminal has sat vacant for 14 years. Although it's been known that the terminal would house a hotel, who would make develop this idea was a mystery until last week. MCR Development has a plant to turn the historic structure into The TWA Flight Center Hotel, a facility with 505 hotel rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, six to eight dining establishments, and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck.

In a statement, CEO Tyler Morse says the development "will celebrate and preserve" the building, "returning the landmark to its original glory and reopening it to the public. [...] Whether staying the night or simply exploring, international visitors and New Yorkers alike will be able to experience the magic of the Jet Age in this extraordinary mid-century icon."

 

 
A rendering shows a low rise building peeking out from behind Saarinen's swooping beauty, and a press release says that the new building will "set back from the terminal, designed to defer to the landmark," which will become the hotel's lobby. The new building and any changes to the Flight Center, which is an interior and exterior landmark, will have to be approved by go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
 
[UPDATE: While the LPC will have a say in the process, the project is actually not under the commission's jurisdiction since it is owned by the Port Authority, which is not bound by LPC decisions.]
 
The developer also has a "plan to include innovative museum focusing on New York as the birthplace of the Jet Age, the storied history of TWA Airlines, and the Midcentury Modern design movement." The redevelopment is a public-private partnership between MCR Development, JetBlue, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but it will be privately funded. MCR converted the old General Theological Seminary into the High Line Hotel, so they know a thing or two about working with historic buildings. Governor Cuomo said that officials are currently working on a masterplan for the entirety of JFK Airport, which should be unveiled within 12 months. Work on the TWA Flight Center Hotel is expected to break ground next year, and open in 2018.
 
And now, just for fun, some photos inside the glorious building:
 
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New Whitney Museum

They say the building is "not about the architecture but the art", but passing it the other day it was hard not to appreciate this modern beauty. If you are NYC and have some free time make sure to give it a visit. http://www.npr.org/2015/05/12/406228505/whitney-museums-new-building-opens-doors-and-walls-to-outside-world The Whitney Museum of American Art has never stayed in one place for long. It has had four different homes in its 84-year history — the latest a $422 million glass-and-steel construction that recently opened in Manhattan's Meatpacking District — and each of those homes speaks to a particular moment in the evolution of American art and museum culture.

 

 
 
The new building has several terraces, part of a design that some critics say distract from the art. Nic Lehoux/Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art
 

The museum's first home was established by its founder — a woman who was born into one of the country's wealthiest families, and then married into another. Her name was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and she was a big supporter of the so-called Ashcan School and artists like George Bellows and Edward Hopper, who painted the gritty reality of life in the city. And according to Bruce Altshuler, director of the museum studies program at New York University, Whitney was also a working sculptor. "She was not just a patron," he says, "but actually a member of an artist community." Altshuler is standing inside the Whitney Museum's first home, which consists of several converted row houses that today house the New York Studio School. He says Whitney moved here in the 1910s. She lived upstairs, kept a sculpture studio downstairs and started organizing shows by American artists. "She amassed a quite substantial collection of artworks which, in 1929, she offered to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a gift," he says. "They turned it down and she decided to open her own museum."

 
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Restitching the Bronx

City agencies advocate removal of the reviled Moses-era Sheridan Expressway.
 
 
The proposal would improve connection and increase waterfront access in the Bronx.
 
Courtesy DCP
 
Only a few weeks before administrations changed hands at the mayor’s office, New York City released a comprehensive inter-agency report seeking to overhaul the Sheridan Expressway, the short but divisive freeway that cuts through the southern Bronx. This new study, which solidifies a number of recommendations introduced last spring, is part of a larger effort to reinvigorate a part of the borough that has been split apart by the unsightly expressway, creating perilous pedestrian crossings and exposing residents to hazardous air pollution. The scope of this report is more far-reaching than simply the revamping of the Sheridan. It also calls for rezoning to allow for mixed-use development, which the agency says will lead to an increase in jobs.
 
Plan showing the segment of the Sheridan proposed to become a boulevard.
 
City Planning (DCP) worked collaboratively with the New York City Department of Transportation, the Economic Development Corporation, and Housing Preservation and Development to put this study together, officially titled, "The Sheridan Expressway Study: Reconnecting the Neighborhoods Around the Sheridan Expressway and Improving Access to Hunts Point." “We always knew this was a long-term plan and would span many administrations,” said Carol Samol, City Planning Bronx Director at DCP. “There are some things we can get quickly, and others that will take more time and require more major steps such as an environmental review and a public review process.”
 
 
The proposal not only requires inter-agency teamwork, but also necessitates extensive coordination between city and state. Since the highways are operated by the state, these recommendations must be vetted and ultimately carried out by the New York State Department of Transportation. The 1.5-mile Sheridan Expressway—a remnant of Robert Moses’ failed plan to create a link between the Triborough Bridge and the New England Thruway—generally operates substantially below capacity but is often used by trucks. To relieve congestion and enhance the connection to the Greenway and Starlight and Concrete Plant parks for pedestrians, the city recommends rehabilitating the northern half of the expressway and turning it into a boulevard. The plan entails three new crossings to establish a direct path to the waterfront and also adding ramps to enable trucks to reach the industrial corridor at Hunts Point more easily.
 
 
The city hopes that these improvements will set the ground work for the rezoning of the waterfront and attract new development, drawing more people back to the Bronx and righting a wrong from one of Moses’ most fractious urban renewal plans. “This study gave us a chance to be visionary about the neighborhood, but to also look at small changes that when all combined will have a powerful effect,” said Samol. “The South Bronx will be a better place.”
Nicole Anderson
 
   
Left to right: Map showing portion of the Sheridan Expressway affected by the report; Moses-era map showing portion of the highway that was never built; map showing proposed changes.
 
 
 
 
 

Rory Scott reports for Archdaily.

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[Image Courtesy of Architecture Research Office]

In this article on Fast Company, seven leading architects in the field of designing for disaster – including Peter Gluck, Michael Manfredi, and principals of James Corner Field Operations and Snøhetta – give their take on what lessons Hurricane Sandy, one year on, has taught us. Their responses raise a number of issues, but above all share one common theme: urgency. Aside from denouncing what he sees as “architects being ambulance chasers,” Peter Gluck, Head of Gluck+, advocates designing buildings with disaster in mind, for example raising a building of the ground or placing less important functions on the ground floor, so that the damage by a flood is restricted. Advocating multiple systems to deal with problems like flooding, Michael Manfredi of Weiss/Manfredi describes their Olympia Fields project, where they built water retention into the design. Much of Weiss/Manfredi’s work makes use of ‘soft infrastructure’ which absorbs water and energy to reduce the impact of storms. However, Lisa Switkin, associate principal at James Corner Field Operations seems to be in support of a combination of this green infrastructure and traditional storm protection, arguing that wetlands, beaches, dunes and parklands should be used “in addition to raising key infrastructure and utilities.” Principal of Snøhetta Craig Dykers brings in an interesting spin, mentioning not just design, but the education of residents, who could be given incentives to design their homes and gardens in a way that minimize storm impact. He supports small scale solutions in general, saying that “grand and sometimes epic conceptual thinking is useful, but it should be balanced with immediacy.” This thought is echoed by Diana Balmori of Balmori Associates, who advocates “nature based systems” that can be implemented quickly and cheaply, and also by the founder of publicinterestdesign.org John Cary. Cary criticizes “the proliferation of design competitions and contests” that appear after these disasters, saying they “don’t address or engage with the real needs on the ground.” Once again, realistic and immediate solutions are the order of the day. Stephen Cassell, a principal at Architecture Research Office believes architects need to think more often and more practically about how their buildings perform in disasters. Elements such as opening windows and escape routes are all small things that can help occupants in a storm. All seven responses see the design of these systems as an urgent problem, presenting realistic, realizable solutions over expensive or outlandish proposals. You can read the original Fast Company article here.

Sara Polsky reports for Curbed. CO|FXFOWLE took a…flexible approach to the competition rules in coming up with this design. The competition brief called for a three-story, 65,000-square-foot building. The firm suggested that a seven-story building taking up a smaller portion of the site would be more energy-efficient and less costly to construct. The approach was a winning one, and construction on the building should begin in late 2014.
   
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To Raze or Not? MoMA Rethinks Plan

 
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
The American Folk Art Museum.
Published: May 9, 2013 134 Comments
 
AFTER impassioned protests from prominent architects, preservationists and design critics, the Museum of Modern Art said on Thursday that it would reconsider its decision to demolish its next-door neighbor, the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, to make room for an expansion.
 

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