The latest news on New York architecture.

  • A New Day for the New York State Pavilion?

    Henry Melcher reports for The Architect's Newspaper.
    Queens Borough President striving to save Philip Johnson folly. There is a conspicuous and almost haunting irony to what’s left of the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Queens' Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The Philip Johnson–designed New York State Pavilion, with its “Astro-View Observation Towers” and “Tent of Tomorrow,” was about more than showing off New York to the world. It was about looking into the future. But today, nearly 50 years after the fairgrounds opened its gates, it’s clear that “The Future” has not been kind to the pavilion. What remains standing in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is a crumbling, gated-off relic. But things may be looking up for this rusty ruin. In early February, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz led a walking-tour of the Pavilion to drum-up support for saving the structures. She was joined by elected officials, representatives from city agencies, and “People for the Pavilion”—an organization fighting to save the site. The Tent of Tomorrow's once-colorful roof is now a web of rusted cables. Much of the floor, which displayed an intricate map of New York State, has been eaten away by the elements. The metal on the adjacent Observation Towers is rusted and the concrete is chipped. Yet despite its current condition, the abandoned Pavilion retains its iconic stature and its space-age beauty. According to a recent study by the NYC Parks Department, it would cost $14 million to knock it all down, roughly $52 million to return it to its World’s Fair conditions, and upwards of $70 million to give it new use. The tour started in the Queens Theatre, an ideal spot to make the adaptive reuse case. The theater – first called “The Theaterama” – is original to the Pavilion; during the fair, it offered “360-degree panoramic film,” and works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein hung on its facade. Katz believes that 2014 offers a unique opportunity to save the Pavilion. “This is fifty years,” she said. “We need to do something about this. Otherwise, if we don’t do it now, what’s the impetus for accomplishing our goals?" While she doesn’t yet know “where the endgame is," she’s urging people at federal, state, city and local levels to work together to find a way forward. After so many decades of decay, there seems to be new momentum. The New York City Parks Department recently held listening meetings and posted an online survey to hear communities’ hopes for the Pavilion. And Katz has promised to start a task force to find options for the Pavilion’s future. “I think we all know the right direction; the right direction is to preserve this, to save this for generations to come,” said Katz.” To make it a useful part of the park, and to make sure it doesn’t fall down on people around it.”

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  • The Living Wins at MoMA PS1

    Alan G. Brake reports for The Architect's Newspaper. Experimental firm to construct low carbon, self-building pavilion for 2014 Young Architects Program. The Living, an experimental New York–based practice lead by David Benjamin, has been selected to design and build the 15th edition of MoMA PS 1’s Young Architects Program (YAP). Known for using advanced technology to mimic biological structures or respond to atmospheric conditions, The Living’s proposal, called Hy-Fi, represents a new direction for the annual pavilion program. According to Benjamin’s proposal, Hy-Fi will use pioneering, self-building technology, and will be completely recyclable and nearly carbon neutral. Using innovative organic bricks invented by Ecovative and brick molds covered reflective film, developed by 3M, the circular structure will be strong, lightweight, and have extremely low embodied carbon. The organic bricks, which are placed at the bottom of the structure in a loose and porous way, are made from corn stalks and living root structures that give them strength. “We like that it uses agricultural byproducts, rather than high value agricultural products,” said David Benjamin. “This is the first load-bearing application of this material.” Organic dyes will be added to the bricks to give them vibrant, natural colors. The reflective brick molds function as growing trays for the organic bricks, and are incorporated into the top of the structure, reflecting daylight down into the pavilion. The circular forms will act as cooling towers, and after the summer ends it will be deconstructed and the organic bricks will be composted in Queens and the reflective bricks will be returned to 3M for additional research. “This proposal was the one that connected incredible research—really out of the box thinking about sustainability—with the architectural needs of the program,” Pedro Gadnho, the MoMA architecture curator in charge of the YAP, told AN. For the museum, Hy-Fi will act as a visual beacon, a trio of a multicolored and reflective towers extending above the concrete walls of the courtyard. The other finalists for this year’s MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program were LAMAS (Wei-Han Vivian Lee and James Macgillivray), Pita + Bloom (Florencia Pita and Jackilin Hah Bloom), Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (Cristina Goberna and Urtzi Grau), Collective-LOK (Michael Kubo, Jon Lott, and William O’Brien). In it’s 15 editions, the YAP has become one the leading showcases for architectural talent in the US. “People keep coming up with new things,” Gadanho said. “It’s pretty amazing, the new possibilities, and it is a testament of the importance of showing new architectural talent.” Previous winners have included SHoP, CODA, Interboro Partners, and Ball-Nogues, among others. The pavilion serves as a shade structure and platform for the annual summer “Warm Up” concert and performance series. Hy-Fi is expected to open in late June or early July.  

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