The latest news on New York architecture.

  • The Bronx General Post Office continues its path towards retail and commercial conversion

    Evan Bindelglass reports for Curbed: Bronx Post Office Nears Its Future As a Dining and Retail Mecca.

    The Bronx General Post Office is close to getting the go-ahead for rebirth. The grand 1937-built building on, well, the Grand Concourse, was designated an individual landmark in 1976. Its lobby, with 13 lovely New Deal-era murals, was designated an interior landmark in 2013.

    In 2014, Young Woo & Associates paid $19 million to the U.S. Postal Service for the site, and yesterday the developer brought his plan—which includes a total revamp of use including office space, shops, restaurants, and a rooftop terrace—before the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The commissioners were mostly supportive of his ideas, but concerns did arise: chiefly, what will go on the roof, some of the signage, and proposed new stairwells near what is currently the loading dock. The Young Woo gameplan is to convert the now largely vacant building into retail and commercial space.

    There would be a market with an entrance on the ground floor (which perhaps should be dubbed the basement, due to the topographic features of the Grand Concourse) as well as accessibility from the main floor. The main floor would also be home to new retail space, and room would be allocated for a small postal facility. The second floor and penthouse floor would be commercial office space. A new rooftop addition would have a restaurant (possibly a beer garden) with a terrace complete with retractable roof. The plan was designed by Jay Valgora of Studio V Architecture along with Cas Stachelberg of the preservation firm Higgins Quasebarth & Partners.

    Because it's a landmark, drastic changes to the exterior wouldn't really fly. But there would be restorations for the exterior as well as the landmarked lobby, including its 13 murals. Originally, the lobby was entered through one of three vestibules. Over the years, those were removed and two of the swing doors were replaced with revolving doors. The proposal would have the revolving doors replaced with swing doors and the center vestibule would be restored. Also, three of the windows (every other one) would be extended down to create new entrance ways along 149th Street.

     
    On the main floor, there is a plinth that extends around the building. The proposal, which seeks to have more people using the plinth overall, is for a small section of it to be connected by a stone staircase to the sloping sidewalk on 149th Street. Additionally, there would be two glass-and-steel staircasesconnecting the plinth to the existing loading dock area (which would mostly morph into an entrance for the new offices) along Anthony J. Griffin Place. Both the remaining loading dock doors and office entrance doors would have roll-down gates to protect them. The canopy would be retained, with signage and an extension away from the building added. The cobblestone would also be retained.
     
    There would be new signs placed around the building, some of it freestanding, Commissioners deemed most of it acceptable, except for two pieces, both on the Anthony J. Griffin Place side of the building. One big sign would be near the top of the building and some felt it was just too big and was possibly unnecessary. The other sign at issue would be the one over the loading dock and office entrance. Rendered as "BRONX GENERAL POST OFFICE," it was centered over the office entrance, not centered on the canopy. Some of the commissioners felt it should be centered on the canopy. Worth noting is that the wording of that signage is not final.
     
    T

    here was no objection to the new stairs being carved into the plinth to connect it to the sidewalk. The new steel-and-glass stairs down to Anthony J. Griffin place, however, were seen be several commissioners as unnecessary, given existing easy access to the different parts of the building.

    Finally, there was the situation on the roof. The commissioners, who technically can't make any decisions based on use, liked the idea of a restaurant, but were concerned about the mass of such a structure. Since some of it will be visible by passers-by no matter what, it was hoped that it could be of a more uniform nature rather than a patchwork one. Simultaneously, the commissioners asked the applicant to see if it would be possible to reduce the height and increase the setback of the mechanical units. There was only one piece of public testimony delivered. A staffer delivered a statement of support from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

    Bronx Community Board 4 also supports the project. What happens now? The applicant will tweak his proposal and return to the LPC. At points during the two-hour-long hearing, it seemed like a decision would be made yesterday—but then chair Meenakshi Srinivasan asked the applicant to come back. In fact, she described it as a "really great project" and Commissioner Michael Goldblum, who represents the Bronx on the LPC, used the word "fantastic." Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said she had to "commend the work" and Commissioner Michael Devonshire called the proposal "admirable." So it's extremely likely the revised approval gets a thumbs up next time around. For the the full presentation to Landmarks click here.  

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  • These five teams will put forward their proposals to restore the Charles Rennie Mackintosh library

    James Taylor-Foster reports for Archdaily: Five Teams Shortlisted To Restore Mackintosh’s Glasgow School Of Art.

    It has been announced that five teams are the running to restore Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s celebrated school of art in Glasgow. UK based John McAslan + Partners (who restored Mackintosh’s last major commission), Scottish practice Page \ Park, and London and Hong-Kong based architects Purcell are all in the frame to lead the restoration of the Mackintosh Building amid a debate over how best to approach the rebuilding of the library and the areas of the building that were devastated by fire in May of last year.

    The selection of Avanti Architects and LDN Architects complete the rostra. Fourteen practices, from over one hundred initial expressions of interest, formally submitted documents in the first round of the tender. The five successful bidders now have nine weeks to put forward more detailed proposals and specific costings. The brief, which emphasises the GSA’s wish to use this opportunity to create an art school which is fit for the 21st century whilst still ackowleding and respecting the original listed building, allows the practices to decide whether or not to “pursue detailed reconstruction or a more creative response.” A spokeswoman talking to BDOnline asked: “do they turn the clock back to May 2014 when the fire broke out, to 1909 when Mackintosh signed it off, or a third way?”

    According to Liz Davidson, Mackintosh Restoration Project Director at the GSA, “all of the shortlisted practices have a strong record in undertaking major restoration and work in historic buildings together with an impressive commitment to the use of new technology and the finest craftsmanship. They each bring the level of experience and expertise that is vital to the restoration of Mackintosh’s masterpiece. We are now looking forward to hearing more about their proposed approaches.” The final proposals will be put to a panel of GSA staff and external specialists in March. It is expected that the winner will be announced towards the end of March.  

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