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Posted by on Monday, April 30, 2012 · 1 Comment
The City Council is holding a public hearing at on Wednesday, May 2 at 10am at 250 Broadway to contemplate 11 bills which, if passed, will greatly change the workings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in some very damaging ways. The first batch of bills are ones which were previously proposed and have been sitting in committee for a number of years. They are as follows: Intro 20 (CM Mendez, lead sponsor) – which empowers LPC to intercede in cases where unused Buildings permits are still active on Landmark buildings.  HDC supports this bill. Intro 80 (CM Koppell, lead sponsor) – requiring better monitoring of construction near landmark buildings.  HDC supports this bill. Intro 220 (CM Lappin, lead sponsor) – requiring the LPC to maintain a survey department. HDC questions if this bill is especially necessary, as many of the departments within LPC are not mandated by law and there is no funding necessarily attached to it. Intro 357 (Public Advocate De Blasio, lead sponsor) – allowing more flexibility about “green” rooftop mechanicals on landmark buildings.  HDC does not support this bill since we feel that all rooftop mechanicals on landmark buildings should be positioned to be as minimally visible as possible.   Then there are four bills which together seek to impose a strict timeline on the LPC’s deliberation of potential landmarks and historic districts. Intro 222A (CM Lappin, lead sponsor)– requires LPC to respond to Requests for Evaluation within a maximum of 180 days (6 months). Intro 532A (CM Garodnik, lead sponsor) – mandates a publicly accessible online database of RFEs and dictates language for LPC’s responses to requests Intro 849 (CM Lander, lead sponsor) – creates an appeals process for denied RFEs Intro 850 (CM Lander, lead sponsor) – creates a 21/33 month maximum timeline for landmark and historic district designations.   These bills would seem to answer the longtime community complaints about lack of attention to community requests.  In truth,  if these bills are adopted in tandem as written, they would risk overwhelming the LPC scant resources and could result in thousands of potential buildings in dozens of historic districts being rejected out of hand. Currently, there are literally thousands of buildings in potential historic districts across the city including:
Bainbridge Avenue Kew Gardens
Bedford Stuyvesant  Madison Square North
Boerum Hill  Morningside Heights
Broadway Flushing Moshulu Parkway
Bruckner Boulevard Mount Morris
Carroll Gardens  Murray Hill
City Island  Park Slope
Clinton Hill  Parkway Village
Crow Hill Richmond Hill
Crown Heights North Ridgewood
Far Rockaway  Riverdale
Fort Greene the Bowery
 Fort Hill the Grand Concourse
Greenpoint the Upper East Side
Greenwich Village  the Upper West Side
 Inwood Victorian Flatbush
Jackson Heights Wave Hill
 Jamaica Estates Westerleigh
to name only the ones which spring immediately to mind.  Imagine if the LPC HAD to make decisions and designate all those districts in 33 months.  They couldn’t even if they wanted to – and that would result in thousands of buildings being permanently prevented from becoming landmarks based on a mandated schedule rather than merit. Please also note that there is no funding guaranteed to actually provide for the staff necessary to enact this scheme. This plan is almost ensured to create paralysis at the agency. If this timeline was currently in place, one could easily imagine that Crown Heights North,  the Park Slope Extension, the Grand Concourse, Douglaston Hill, Murray Hill NoHo,  and Dumbo would have never been designated since all of those designations took longer than 33 months to complete. This is clearly a case of an attempt to legislate around a concern where the cure is much more damaging than the problem. For a full timeline of what we think this will look like, see here. Finally, there are two bills which seek to inhibit LPC’s powers to designate or regulate properties. Intro 845 (CM Comrie, lead sponsor) – allows for replacement materials on landmark buildings to be those present at time of designation. Intro 846 (CM Comrie, lead sponsor) – mandates City Planning Commission to analyze economic impact of designation on the development potential of proposed landmark and instructs City Council to strongly regard this analysis in their deliberations.  The bill also requires the LPC to issue very detailed draft designation reports  early in the public hearing process and promulgate rules for historic districts immediately after designation. These bills are aimed at making the LPC ineffectual and providing faulty intellectual rationales for the Council to reject designations at the behest of developers. Intro 845, the Replacement Materials Bill, undermines the basic benefit of LPC oversight in helping to gradually return areas to a more historically-appropriate condition.  With the advent of new material technologies and the growth in skilled building artisans, it is easier and cheaper than ever before to replace failing building materials with appropriate replacements of high quality.  What this bill would result in would be the endless replacement of white vinyl windows in designated historic districts with more of the same. Intro 846, the Economic Argument Bill, deliberately misconstrues the economic value of landmark designation by emphasizing the false value of “property strictly as development ”. By enabling the sole criteria of economic value to be the highest use of a site,  the bill strives to denigrate the economic value of landmark designation to property value. The most highly valued and most desirable property in New York City falls within historic districts. There are a number of factors why these areas are so successful and one of them is their landmark protection.  People want to live where there is certainty and protection.  Under this bill, the recent Park Slope extension could be found to have an negative economic effect on the neighborhood because it could potentially affect the FAR of rowhouse blocks, whereas commonsense and actual real world data will show the opposite to be true. This is a deliberate attack on the Landmarks Law , which was intended by its drafters to “stabilize and improve property value; protect and enhance the city’s attractions to tourists and visitors and the support and stimulus to business and industry thereby provided; and strengthen the economy of the city”.  This is how Landmark designation worked in 1965, and it’s how Landmark designation works today. That the City Council is hearing all these bills with almost no notice is very disturbing.  That each speaker is only going to have THREE MINUTES to comment on 11 bills is outright appalling. Regardless of the merit of these bills, the concerned public of New York City’s neighborhoods deserves a real opportunity to discuss the issues raised by these bills.  Under these circumstances, any germ of good policy in these bills simply cannot have a fair hearing or thoughtful discussion whereas the bad ideas risk slipping through unchallenged. HDC urges you to come to 250 Broadway on Wednesday, May 2 at 10am and tell the City Council firmly – this is bad public policy, bad for preservation and bad for New York! Written testimony is also permitted and should be brought to the hearing or sent to CM Comrie and Speaker Christine Quinn at 250 Broadway, New York, NY 10007. You can contact Speaker Quinn on the Council website at http://council.nyc.gov/d3/html/members/home.shtml or send your testimony to gbenjamin(at)council.nyc.gov
The lion's heads that once graced the cornice of 4195 Broadway. (Courtesy Trish Mayo) The lion's heads that once graced the cornice of 4195 Broadway, now in a dumpster. (Courtesy Trish Mayo) When the attention of real estate speculators diverts, sometimes old neighborhoods have time to acquire a majestic patina. The Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan has been neglected for some time, but is now getting a fair share of spillover interest from Columbia’s Manhattanville project and the university’s nearby hospital campus. In 2009, the Audubon Park Historic District was created to protect the area just behind Audubon Terrace, home to the Hispanic Society and the Academy of Arts and Letters. But just north of the district, years of landlord neglect has unwittingly preserved row after row of early 20th century apartment buildings festooned with ornate cornices. But the cornices are now in danger of disappearing.  
The decorative cornices of Washington Heights are dissapearing. Most of the decorative cornice at 4181 Broadway (right) was replaced with concrete, and the cornice at 4195 was replaced entirely with corrugated metal.
Provided you look up, there are still vistas in Washington Heights that recall the area’s heyday. In the early part of the last century a striving middle class made up of German Jews, Irish, and Greeks walked beneath striped fabric awnings perched at apartment windows, all topped with fanciful cornices.
More dumpster lions.
Most know that when Robert Moses plowed through the Bronx to build the Cross Bronx Expressway, neighborhoods were severed and died a slow death. But little attention is paid to the Cross Bronx’s connection to the George Washington Bridge, which severed Washington Heights too, providing easy access for suburbanites to swoop in and out of the neighborhood to buy drugs. Eventually, like the South Bronx, the area regained its footing. Now, the Pier Luigi Nervi-designed Port Authority Bus Terminal at the base of the bridge is set to undergo a $285 million restoration. And Starbucks, the ever present harbinger of gentrification, is just a few blocks north.
Planned renovation of the Nevi-designed GW Bridge Bus Terminal. (Courtesy STV Inc.)Planned renovation of the Nervi-designed GW Bridge Bus Terminal. (Courtesy STV Inc.)
But just as Washington Heights begins its reemergence, several building owners are stripping away the architectural features that make the area unique. Just next door to the bus terminal sits 4195 Broadway at the corner of 178th Street. Two weeks ago, the decorative lion heads that once reigned atop the 1920 edifice were stripped, thrown into a dumpster and replaced with corrugated metal. It’s indicative of a neighborhood trend. Over the past several years the cornices of Washington Heights are finally getting much needed maintenance attention. But instead of restoring them, many building owners are ripping them off and replacing them with steel, aluminum, and concrete.
The metal replacement. The metal replacement.
Photographer Trish Mayo noticed the latest affront on a bus ride home from the library. The shapes in a dumpster registered as something familiar to her. She got off the bus to investigate. Mayo said the dumpster was almost full with terracotta lion heads taken from 4195. The dumpster has since been carted away. “I think that after so many years of neglect the decorative details have become a safety hazarded and it’s just cheaper to destroy all the beauty that’s in these buildings,” she said.
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Preservation Nation

Photo: © Jorge Salcedo
The leafy streets of Boston’s landmarked Back Bay neighborhood.

Is landmarking a shield or a sword in the fight against overdevelopment?

By Ben Adler
Among urbanists in America, the advent of landmark-preservation laws in the 1960s is usually viewed as an inspiring time in urban planning: Concerned communities, academics, and fans of architecture banded together to protect beloved old buildings from the grand plans of rich developers and powerful politicians. And, remarkably enough, the Davids usually defeated the Goliaths. But have they acquired too much power? So say a growing contingent of critics who believe preservation has gotten out of hand. They include left-leaning economic policy wonks, architects, and architectural critics. Landmarking is under attack on two fronts: architectural and economic. Critics in the first category are not opposed to landmarking, but worry that architecturally undistinguished buildings and neighborhoods are winning landmark status for political or sentimental reasons. The result, they say, is a public that embraces architectural nostalgia rather than innovation. At the same time, some economists and policy experts maintain that cities are limiting their economic potential by constraining the supply of new housing and commercial development through too much landmarking. The outcome: Most desirable cities are too expensive for middle-class families. This past year, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, in his book Triumph of the City, attacked landmarking, along with such restrictions as zoning that limits density or requires parking lots. Glaeser points to the case of a proposed 30-story addition, designed by Norman Foster, at 980 Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, that was rejected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission even though it would have kept the original 1950 limestone gallery building as well. “The cost of restricted development is that protected areas become more expensive and exclusive,” writes Glaeser. Legions of urban policy bloggers around the country agree. The aesthetic critique of landmarking is also gaining currency. Rem Koolhaas mounted an exhibition at New York’s New Museum last spring that was a broadside against landmarking. “[Koolhaas] paints a picture of an army of well-meaning but clueless preservationists who, in their zeal to protect the world’s architectural legacies, end up debasing them by creating tasteful scenery for docile consumers while airbrushing out the most difficult chapters of history,” reported the New York Times. These issues may be most extreme in New York, where the razing of McKim, Mead & White’s Pennsylvania Station in 1963 still stings. But similar controversies have erupted in older cities across the country. What the Washington City Paper calls “the weaponization of preservation” includes the efforts of the Tenleytown Historical Society to prevent American University from expanding its campus by pushing landmark status for an entire block to protect the fairly banal 1904 Immaculata Seminary. In Boston, tradition often trumps the new. “The South End is very restrictive about what you can do to your buildings, in many cases with very good reason,” says architect and preservation expert David Fixler. Yet people can be prevented from making changes just “to keep things the way they are.” Sometimes officials require new construction be designed in an architecturally contextual manner, even when the building is an inherently modern structure. In San Francisco, on the other hand, the Historic Preservation Commission has responded to criticism that Modernism is underappreciated by seeking protection of such undistinguished modern buildings as the 1959 North Beach Branch Library. Critics and defenders of landmarking tend to agree on one key point: that the drive to landmark buildings of questionable significance is caused by a larger problem of communities feeling powerless to stop unwanted development. “Preservation has become an all-functioning tool for all sorts of operations,” says Sarah Williams Goldhagen, architecture critic for The New Republic. “It’s being used to prevent or to determine the direction of development because city planners are so disempowered, rather than because these buildings or districts are by any objective standards worth preserving.” Yet preserving historic buildings is important for cultural and even economic reasons. In the 1980s, New York City theater owners near Times Square were tempted to sell their buildings to developers who would put up office towers in their place. An economist like Glaeser might applaud such market efficiency. But New York’s historic theaters are part of the city’s identity. When the city landmarked the theaters, it allowed owners to sell development rights to adjacent parcels. Today, Times Square has tall office buildings as well as a vibrant theater district. “Tens of millions of dollars go into Broadway, and it’s a major economic engine for the city,” notes Simeon Bankoff of New York’s Historic Districts Council. “They’re only there because they’re landmarked.” Preservationists believe that central cities are economically successful because of landmark laws, not in spite of then. What Glaeser and others fail to appreciate is that there is excess demand to live in Manhattan or San Francisco precisely because of the architectural quality of the built environment. Ben Adler is a contributing writer for The Nation.
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Restoration Redux

Restoration Redux Photo © Christian Richters At the Neues Museum in Berlin, David Chipperfield and Julian Harrap saw history as a series of layers, both old and new.

Top architects are tackling historic buildings in surprising ways.

By Jorge Otero-Pailos Preservation has returned to the center of architectural theory and practice, after languishing in the margins for over half a century. Just a decade ago, it would have been impossible to think that the stakes of the field would be set by projects like David Chipperfield and Julian Harrap's restoration of the Neues Museum in Berlin, Diller Scofidio + Renfro's subtle morphing of Lincoln Center and the High Line in New York, Rem Koolhaas's forensic preservation of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, or Herzog & de Meuron's adaptation of the Park Avenue Armory in New York. Back then, such figures rarely involved themselves in preservation—not simply because they had defined their careers through new construction, but because they saw it as rather unimaginative work. Now these architects approach preservation projects with anxious care. It is as if preservation were the hardest move, the piked double Arabian with full twist, of architectural gymnastics. If so, then a profound reordering of the criteria for judging architectural excellence is taking place. What makes the Neues Museum shocking is the level of restraint the architects demonstrated, at a time when it was common to hire world-class designers precisely to intimidate preservation commissions into allowing egregious “adaptations” of historic buildings into contemporary “icons.” Against the grain of the grand gesture, Chipperfield and Harrap opted for the precision of discreet interventions. Their design consisted mostly of removing historically insignificant elements. When they did add, they did so to enhance what was there, as one adds salt to bring out the flavor of a dish instead of covering it with sauce. For instance, they added subtle tints to the lacunae in decorative patterns to reintegrate the losses into a complete image. Even the most emphatically new elements, like the grand staircase, echo the form of the lost original. This echoing approach to situating architecture is a key departure from previous models. An echo is by definition not a facsimile of the original voice, and therefore not a “restoration” in the traditional sense. It is the return of that voice from the future, transformed by the time that separates it from the original. An echo cannot return the original in its pure form. It returns a cleft original, bearing the dividing mark of a split temporality that cannot be easily located as part of the present. The Neues Museum was brought back deceptively intact, but in fact profoundly changed. Prior to the High Line, “adaptive reuse” was invariably understood to mean the process whereby an old building suffered changes for the satisfaction of new uses according to a fixed logic of contemporary architecture. With the High Line, the meaning of the term began to shift to signify the mutual adaptation of contemporary architecture and old buildings to each other. The shift is subtle but important because it implies a revision of one of our discipline's foundational ideas: that contemporary architecture comes into existence through its confrontation with building. We had taken it as a given that the word “building” stood for new construction. Now it is clear that contemporary architecture can also emerge by adapting an old construction. The old criterion that new architecture was only possible through a new building is dead. Koolhaas's master plan to update the Hermitage Museum, in time for its 250th anniversary in 2014, is another example of producing contemporary architecture through (as opposed to next to, or on top of) old buildings. Koolhaas claims to avoid “declarative architectural interventions,” and turns to preservation for a new form of expression. His strategy is to forensically retain all traces of the old buildings, even the dusty showcases, but to relocate every object, leaving some rooms empty in anticipation of what the future may bring. So he expresses contemporary architecture as an ephemeral process more than a permanent object, a way of opening (old) buildings to new meanings. The Hermitage signals another important new direction, away from the past as history and toward questions of temporality. In the wake of Postmodernism, we are more aware and critical of the way the past is constructed. Yet we are beyond the Postmodernist antics of simply denouncing the artificiality of the past, or reproducing it ironically. The past is never delivered pure, but always comes as reconstructed evidence. We know that our answer to what makes architecture emerge within a building will be incomplete. The last word will be delivered retroactively from the future. This circumspect attitude toward the past makes contemporary architecture not just more open to what the future might bring, but more concerned with temporality, rather than the “imageability” of space and form. The challenge is that our architectural understanding of the temporal is not as sophisticated (yet) as that of the spatial and formal dimensions of building. We are only beginning to develop the critical tools to understand the aesthetic expression of architectural temporality in political, cultural, and ethical terms. So far, time has been explored mostly as a “natural” aspect of buildings, manifested in weathering and other changes in their appearance. Yet it is also the enabling element of “cultural” aspects of buildings. Consider that the role buildings can play in collective practices of remembrance and identity formation is a function of their longevity. Preservation involves designing and formalizing such practices, and as such, it helps people use buildings to imagine themselves as part of local communities, and even larger societies. Perhaps this is partly why contemporary architects have turned with new urgency to preservation, precisely in this historical moment of crisis, when the ethical bankruptcy of banking and the dysfunctionality of politics strain the social contract to the breaking point. Preservation is our repository of over two centuries of experiments in how to think about the temporal dimension of architecture in political, cultural, and ethical terms. Think of Ruskin's romantic defense of architectural “time-stains,” the patterns of dust deposited on old building stones according to the chisel marks of ancient stone carvers. His championed aesthetic cannot be dissociated from his left-leaning politics, for he saw every modernizing effort to resurface old buildings as an attempt to deny working-class craftsmen their rightful place in the history of architecture. Ruskin's lineage ran through the Arts and Crafts movement, but inverted its political inflection in the American hands of Louis Comfort Tiffany, famous for opulently patterned interiors. Herzog & de Meuron's attention to pattern is perhaps the closest that any contemporary architect may comfortably come to Tiffany. In restoring the interiors of the Armory, they deftly adapted their architecture to the old building, in an effort to open it to new political interpretations. The Armory's original, refined aesthetic reinforced social segmentation within the military, by making uneducated servicemen feel unwelcome. As the army democratized, the interiors were remodeled accordingly. Rather than recreating Tiffany, or imposing a new architectural language, the architects created a contemporary architectural aesthetic by overlaying traces of the pedestrian elements they removed as ghosted outlines, such that their erasure seems incomplete. By keeping the ghosted layers of kitsch added by less refined middle-class officers, they both return the Tiffany originals and change their political charge to reflect the military's long (and imperfect) pursuit of social equity through meritocracy. Herzog & de Meuron return an echo of Tiffany in a palimpsest. Through preservation, they achieve an expression of architectural temporality that attends to the political ramifications of culture more than they have in any of their other works. Architects' shift from the pursuit of signature styles to a creative exploration of preservation enables them to deepen the significance of form and space through sharper expressions of temporality. In the process, architects are becoming more critically engaged in the inherited cultural, political, and ethical issues that define our moment, without feeling the need to celebrate or deny them. Our profession's current commitment to preservation will most likely not last long. Its impact on how we think about architecture and how we articulate our commitments through design, however, may well find echoes in the future. Jorge Otero-Pailos is an architect, artist, and associate professor of historic preservation at Columbia.
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A Jewel Box for Translucent Treasures

A Jewel Box for Translucent Treasures
Michael Bodycomb/The Frick Collection
White Gold: Highlights From the Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain is the inaugural exhibition in the Frick Collection's newly enclosed Portico Gallery.
By KEN JOHNSON Published: December 15, 2011
In light of the glass-box atrium plugged into the J. P. Morgan Library & Museum a few years ago, New York cultural custodians might have been understandably alarmed to learn of plans for architectural intervention at another great institution of Gilded Age ancestry. They need not have worried. The Frick Collection’s transformation of an outdoor colonnade into an indoor exhibition space, now called the Portico Gallery, is as subtly noninvasive as the Morgan’s addition is conspicuously anachronistic. This is admittedly an unfair comparison: the Frick’s new gallery is not a central thoroughfare but a lateral cul-de-sac that will be used for rotating displays of decorative arts and sculpture. From the outside the only visible change to the portico, which faces south over the Fifth Avenue Garden, are floor-to-ceiling windows, minimally framed in bronze, inserted between the columns. Though just 815 square feet, the space feels much more expansive and airy than it really is. French doors closing in the small rotunda at the end of the portico look as if they had always been there, and so does a life-size statue of a nude Diana, frozen in midstride on one foot, beautifully modeled in terra cotta between 1776 and 1795 by the French neo-Classical sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. She has recently been cleaned and is back on view after a three-year absence. Elevated on a waist-high pedestal, she seems to gaze over the traffic on Fifth Avenue with divine disregard for mere human reality. All this was designed and carried out by the architecture firm Davis Brody Bond. Read more
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In Detail> Frick Portico Gallery

A Beaux-Arts porch transforms into an light-filled exhibition space.
Davis Brody Bond created a climate-controlled gallery from one of the Frick mansion's open air loggias.
Paul Rivera
Davis Brody Bond Architects & Planners with Renfro design Group Balanced on a pedestal at the end of the Frick Collection’s newest gallery, Diana, goddess of the chase, appears to have just leaped back across Fifth Avenue after a little hunting in Central Park. That this late-18th-century statue by Jean-Antoine Houdon was allowed to emerge from storage and strike a pose against an appropriately sylvan backdrop is one of the highlights of a thoughtful renovation led by Davis Brody Bond (DBB). The Portico Gallery for Decorative Arts and Sculpture, the museum’s first new exhibition space in 35 years, was created from a south-facing loggia running along the Frick mansion’s ample front yard. The project came about when a donor’s gift (an extensive collection of porcelain) required additional display space. DBB and former Frick director Anne Poulet decided to take a cue from the 1914 building’s original architect, Thomas Hastings of the firm Carrère and Hastings, who, just after completing Henry Frick’s main house, immediately began sketching up a proposal for a sculpture gallery addition.
   
Left to Right: Thomas hastings' 1916 drawing for a proposed sculpture gallery at The Frick mansion; a plan of the New Gallery with ITS Bluestone Floor; and a section showing DAvis Brody Bond's new glass curtain wall and ventilation system.  (right).
Courtesy the frick collection/DBB
 
Hastings’ scheme went on hold once the United States entered World War I in 1917 and never came to pass due to Frick’s death in 1919. But almost a century later, that plan to create a sculpture gallery connected to the main house led DBB to consider the disused colonnaded loggia, whose decorative limestone relief carving has been fading due to exposure to corrosive exhaust fumes from Fifth Avenue traffic. Part of the original house, the long and narrow 815-square-foot loggia was accessible from the library, but had long been closed to museum goers. The new gallery’s southern orientation means copious amounts of sunlight, an issue for paintings but less so for sculpture and ceramics. “We wanted to maintain the character of an outdoor space,” said DBB partner Carl Krebs, whose team specified low-iron glass panels to fill the spaces between the columns. The panels, some of the largest in production at approximately 14 feet by 7 feet by 2 inches, are cantilevered from below, resting in shoes secured 16 inches below the floor. Framed in bronze and set slightly back from the outmost edge of the loggia’s floor, the glass panels defer to the limestone columns, allowing the space to retain its original appearance both from the interior and the exterior.
   
LEFT TO RIGHT: Illuminated at night, the Gallery becomes a vitrine for sculpture and ceramics; the modernist Curtain Wall defers to the Loggia's Beaux arts Colonnade; from the Rotunda, Houdon's Diana The Huntress (1776-1795) overlooks the 815-Square-foot gallery.
Paul Rivera
 
The loggia’s stone paving was too damaged to be saved, but removing it allowed DBB to install power lines and a radiant heating system below for finely tuned climate control. Ventilation of the space was made easy thanks to a series of existing grates running along the floor of the interior wall, where the gallery’s main display cases are mounted. The grates originally allowed air into servant’s quarters in the basement, and DBB took advantage of the subterranean space to install new air ducts. Lantern-style custom lighting fixtures modeled on those found elsewhere in the house hang from the ceiling of a newly insulated roof; a striking bluestone floor replicates the pattern of the early 20th-century paving, running the length of the gallery and culminating in Diana’s oval rotunda.
Molly Heintz
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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.