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Folk Art Fiasco

Sharon McHugh reports for World Architecture News. The architectural industry reacts to MoMA's decision to demolish the American Folk Art Museum to accommodate its expansion. As we all now know, MoMA has decided to tear down Tod Williams + Billie Tsein's American Folk Art Museum, a building widely acknowledged for its exceptional craft and its folded Tombasil skin, which, among its many accolades, received the RIBA's World Architecture magazine's ‘Best Building in the World' award in 2002. As the American correspondent for World Architecture News, I remember well the stiff competition there was for this award and the resounding unanimity on the jury's part to premiate the building the top spot. The building bested 300 entrants from 45 countries including buildings by Toyo Ito, Richard Rogers,  and Dominique Perrault, and was chosen for the top prize by a jury that included Peter Wilson of Bolles + Wilson, Benedetta Tagliabue of EMBT, Chris Wilkinson of Wilkinson Eyre, and John Patkau of Patkau Architects.  In addition to scooping the Best Building in the World Award, the building also won in the categories of Best North American Building and Best Public/Cultural Building. Whilst jurors don't always get it right, clearly this trio of honors given on a world stage says something special about the building.  Kieran Long, the Deputy Editor of World Architecture and now Senior Curator of Architecture and Design at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Critic for the Evening Standard, declared the Folk Art Museum "New York's best building since Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim." World Architecture's editor Naomi Stungo questioned whether good architecture could be built in New York, especially after 9/11 which had just marked its first anniversary, and concluded that whilst "it is not easy to push for inspirational architecture in such a charged setting"...Williams and Tsien did just that. I, like many in our community, am deeply saddened that MoMA has elected to raze this jewel-box-of-a building to make way for a 40,000 sq ft expansion designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.   In the hope there is still time to influence MoMA's decision before the wrecking ball befalls the building, we have gathered here the thoughts of architects, writers, critics, and architecture fans from around the globe on this disappointing turn of events. We welcome hearing from you on the matter and urge you to take to your favorite social media platform if you believe the building is worth saving. "MoMA appears to believe it is impervious to criticism - or at least that fallout of the kind it is now facing won't seriously damage its standing as a cultural institution in New York. Based on the early reaction from art and architecture critics and architects in New York and elsewhere, it may have seriously miscalculated. The museum, already known for the corporate leadership style of its director, Glenn Lowry, and the connections of its board to the real estate industry, is in danger of permanently scarring its reputation." Christopher Hawthorne Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic "The idea that a museum would acquire and then demolish an important piece of contemporary architecture is unfathomable to many artists and architects in New York. While I admire the building, I don't think the Folk Art Museum is the masterpiece some of my colleagues believe it to be; its interior is mannered and overdesigned, its dark and contorted façade presenting a kind of barricade along the streetscape. There is also the complicating factor that Williams and Tsien are the architects of the new Barnes Foundation building in Philadelphia. By choosing to take that commission they helped guarantee that the original Barnes, in suburban Merion, Pennsylvania, would be stripped of its art and reduced to a sad architectural shell. Having endorsed the desertion of that building, their complaints about the fate of the Folk Art Museum ring somewhat hollow. Christopher Hawthorne Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic "I'm very disappointed," said Robert A. M. Stern, the dean of Yale's School of Architecture. "Justice has not been served." Robert Stern as quoted in the New York Times "In an architectural version of the battlefield paradox, DS+R would have had to destroy the building in order to save it. But that hesitancy shows in the provisional design for the next phase. The client is bent on art-world domination; the architects seem half-hearted. Instead of healing the scar left by the Folk Art Museum, they have left a gleaming gap. A triple-height ‘art bay', ample enough to accommodate house-size sculptures and outfitted with a glass wall that can be raised like a portcullis, opens directly onto the street. (No tickets needed.) Above that is a white-walled exhibition cube that, with a little deft stagecraft, converts to a black-box theater. These are neat tricks that will foster MoMA's deepening commitment to performance art, and activate 53rd Street, but they still replace an important work of recent architecture with a pair of stacked glass boxes. It's a disappointing trade-off, a Pyrrhic triumph of expansionist logic over irrational affection." Justin Davidson Architecture Critic, New York Magazine "The Folk Museum, ironically, may be the best building on the MoMA campus. (The museum purchased the building when the Folk folks were no longer capable of maintaining it, with an eye to expansion.) It was built in the wake of 9/11, as a mark of a new kind of sobriety in museum design, and it fast became a symbol of pride for the city - a rare work of idiosyncrasy in midtown. It would be a shame to lose it, and for such limited gain." Mark Lamster Architecture Critic, the Dallas Morning News "How will it all end? Around or after 2019, what you'll get in place of the Folk Art Museum will be two 2,000-sq-ft double-storey glass boxes. They look like glass squash courts, one atop the other, and the front can be opened to the sidewalk. Don't even think about MoMA's permanent collection hanging on the walls here; nothing can. The slide I saw of the ground floor space showed Charles Ray's Firetruck installed with its front end extending onto West 53rd Street - a weird choice, given that MoMA doesn't own this work. DS+R call the space an ‘art bay’, I guess because that sounds better than ‘gallery’ or ‘room’. It most closely resembles a Chelsea megagallery with a glass garage door that rolls up on warm days. My eyes are tearing up again as I write this." Jerry Saltz Senior Art Critic and Columnist New York Magazine "This was a good work, but New York City is ever changing. Not everything lasts forever, and sometimes you have to let go." Richard Meier as quoted in the New York Times Many architects said they feel badly for Mr. Williams and Ms. Tsien, whose folk art building was a breakout project that raised the husband-and-wife team's profile. "It's devastating to them," the architect Frank Gehry said. "It's like tearing down my house in Santa Monica. It's their kind of beginning. We all loved it when it was done; it was a major piece of architecture on the street," he added. "I think Billie [Tsien] and Tod [Williams] deserve a major project in New York City, and let's get it for them and get on with it. That will get them their dignity back." Frank Gehry as quoted in the New York Times "It's not for lack of trying that we find ourselves at the same pass....We can't find a way to save the building." Elizabeth Diller as quoted in the New York Times  
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Comment> History Lesson.

Dana M. Cohen and Kevin L. Poulin. The Architect's Newspaper. Two structural engineers explain what they learned while preserving historic masonry. Although New York City is continually evolving, its architecture remains a testament to its rich history. For example, townhouses built from the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties evoke lavish lifestyles of luxury. Moreover, ornate terra-cotta façades are a tribute to the Renaissance Revival style, inspired by the Italian Renaissance and characterized by classical details; these façades are the by-products of advancements in travel and technology that allowed architects to see Italian architecture first-hand and document it using photography to replicate later. As structural engineers, we are often asked to upgrade or repair historic buildings while minimizing alterations to the façade. Balancing these competing interests, we recently completed retrofits of several historic masonry buildings in New York City. This article presents four lessons learned from our experiences that can help you with similar projects. Although it is not a comprehensive checklist for masonry façade renovation work, this article provides guidance based on our experiences. Make Conservative Assumptions Material testing allows us to quantify the strength of existing masonry. However, often this testing is too costly, too time-consuming, or too invasive. If testing is not feasible, design professionals should assume that façade masonry has limited strength based on age, type, and condition, as determined from a visual survey. As a point of reference, standard practice assumes that early-twentieth-century brick masonry in New York City in fair-to-good condition has an allowable compressive strength of 225 psi to 250 psi, and an allowable flexural tensile strength of 1 psi to 5 psi (normal to bed joints). The allowable compressive strength roughly corresponds to a relatively low compressive strength for the masonry assembly (brick and mortar) of 1,000 psi. The allowable flexural tensile strength is a nominal value that reflects the minimal tensile capacity of the existing assembly. These values contrast with the corresponding minimum values for new brick masonry, which has an allowable compressive strength of 625 psi and an allowable flexural tensile strength of 20 psi to 30 psi, as specified in the 2011 Building Code Requirements and Specification for Masonry Structures. Existing building codes, including the New York City building code, typically provide little-to-no guidance on allowable stresses for old masonry. Usually, design assumptions are based on the engineer’s experience, and therefore it is important to engage an engineer that has a good working knowledge of the subject of masonry. The properties of masonry are dependent on the locally available materials and, therefore, can vary by region. Thus, the engineer should have experience not only with the type of masonry used (brick, terra-cotta, etc.), but also experience with the local varieties of the specific masonry type used. Furthermore, the engineer should have experience assessing the condition of existing masonry construction. Field-Test Masonry Anchors Anchor strengths in the field can vary significantly from the manufacturer’s published values. Whereas the manufacturer’s values are based on installations into new masonry in a laboratory setting, field strengths are highly dependent on the quality of the installation and the substrate. A discrepancy between published and field-strength values occurred on one of our recent townhouse projects, in which field-testing showed tensile strengths into 80-year-old brick at approximately 25 percent of the published ultimate values. Although allowable values typically include a safety factor of four to five, on our project this safety factor was not enough to offset the effects of poor installation and a poor substrate. Thus, field-testing of anchors is critical, as emphasized by the recent New York City mandate to test a representative sampling of each size and type of post-installed masonry anchor installed on a project. The current industry standard is to only perform pull tests in the field. This is because shear testing is logistically more difficult to perform. The New York City mandate, referenced above, requires that post-installed masonry anchors be pull-tested to twice the allowable load listed in the applicable evaluation reports, such as those by the International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES). While shear strength cannot be correlated with tensile strength, good tensile strength is typically an indicator of quality workmanship and a sound substrate, and by extension good shear strength. Field-testing of masonry anchors is neither time-consuming nor expensive; it can be completed in a day and is often performed free of charge by the manufacturer. However, testing must be discussed early on with the contractor so that he can accommodate it in the schedule and can complete it before the anchor design is finalized. Lastly, a statistically significant sample of each size and type of anchor must be tested to ensure that the data is meaningful. Replacement in Kind? Replacement in kind is common when existing masonry is damaged to a degree that it cannot be repaired. Even with extensive mock-ups, it is difficult to create a seamless transition between new and existing masonry. This is especially true for old brick when the original brick is no longer produced, either because the manufacturer no longer exists or because the clay source is gone. The design team must be cognizant of the potential for variations in color and texture, even when reusing old brick or creating terra-cotta replicas. The aesthetic impact of these potential variations must be conveyed to the owner, and ownership and the design team must collectively define permissible tolerances. On one of our recent façade-restoration projects, the owner was willing to accept larger discrepancies in the color and texture of the terra-cotta blocks at locations higher on the building where the blocks were less visible. We worked with the owner to identify these locations, and we used all new masonry at the most visible areas to ensure consistency. In areas where salvaged terra-cotta blocks were to be reinstalled, we specified an extensive cleaning procedure for the salvaged blocks. By cleaning the blocks, we were able to mute some of the existing staining and make the block coloring more even. Matching the color of the terra-cotta replicas to the even coloring of the cleaned blocks proved to be much easier than matching the original, splotchy coloring of the weathered blocks. Verify in Field Field verification is crucial when working with existing buildings. Multiple renovations can render the original design drawings ineffectual. Moreover, original drawings are often not available. Unfortunately, contractors often submit shop drawings without field-verified dimensions, with the intent to finalize dimensions during construction. However, for a successful project the design team, the contractor, and ownership must be active participants. The contractor must verify dimensions during the shop drawing process, and the design team must enforce this requirement. In addition, the design team must react to unforeseen field conditions quickly so as not to affect the project schedule. Sometimes there are bumps in the road. We have had projects in which the contractor did not field-verify critical façade dimensions when developing shop drawings. These oversights resulted in misaligned structural elements. On one recent project, we designed a new moment frame to provide additional lateral support for the rear masonry façade of an existing townhouse building. Because existing obstructions were not investigated during the layout of the moment frame, the locations of the frame and the supporting concrete piers/foundations were offset by several inches, requiring a rapid redesign during construction. On another project, we designed new steel supports for a terra-cotta cornice consisting of flat channels hung from tube steel outriggers; the cornice was to be hung by threaded rods from the channels. The cornice was not properly dimensioned by the contractor prior to fabrication and installation of the support steel. Consequently the installed channels were too short to support the last cornice block. Moreover, some of the threaded rods were not fabricated long enough to extend through the channels. Resolving these issues required the respective contractors to remove previously-installed work and necessitated some redesign effort, which was costly and time-consuming in all cases. The impacts of unverified dimensions are not always this severe, but it is vital to emphasize to ownership that the contractor must field-verify dimensions prior to fabrication and construction. Conclusion A masonry façade is long-lasting and durable, and is therefore an excellent medium for preserving a piece of the local history from the time the façade was constructed. But like any building component exposed to weather, these façades deteriorate over time. It is our responsibility to restore them in order to continue preserving the history that they embody. With the guidance provided above, we hope to make this a little less of a daunting task.   Dana M. Cohen is a Senior Staff II engineer at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger. Kevin C. Poulin is an associate principal at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger.
Jose Luis Gabriel Cruz reports for Archdaily. New York City’s Times Square has concluded the first redevelopment phase of a permanent pedestrian plaza just in time for last week’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. Snøhetta’s $55 million redesign — bounded by Broadway and 7th Avenue between 42nd and 47th streets — creates an uninterrupted and cohesive surface, reinforcing the square’s iconic role as an outdoor stage for entertainment, culture and urban life. Pre-cast concrete pavers and granite benches replace the temporary street paint, chairs and tables originally put in place by the NYC Department of Transportation for the ‘Green Light for Midtown’ pilot project in 2009. The repurposing of congested, vehicle-laden streets into pedestrian-only public spaces was hugely successful, leading to dramatic increases in foot traffic, revenues for local stores and a decrease in traffic related injuries. “There were seventy pedestrians for every ten cars in Times Square,” mentions DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in an interview with Esquire, “but cars were louder and more catered to […]. The balance was in the wrong direction. But now revenues from businesses in Times Square have risen 71 percent! That’s the biggest increase in history!” As a result, the DOT hired Snøhetta to permanently redefine Times Square, seeking to: upgrade crucial utility infrastructure, provide event infrastructure for new and expanded public events, and make permanent the temporary improvements that the city piloted in 2009. “Our goal,” explains Snøhetta principal Craig Dykers, “is to improve the quality and atmosphere of this historic site for tourists and locals, pedestrians and bicyclists, while reducing the traffic impediments so the ‘Crossroads of the World’ will retain its edge while refining its floor.” Two-toned custom pavers embedded with nickel-sized steel disks capture the neon glow from the signs above, playfully scattering the shimmer across the paving surface. Benches are the infrastructural spine for events that act as magnets, orienting visitors around the defined pedestrian zones. The next redevelopment phase is expected to be complete by the end of 2015. For more, watch Janette Sadik-Khan’s TED Talk on the transformation of New York City streets.  
Shannon Ayala reports for Curbed. Hudson Yards gets the lion's share of attention on the west side, but just one block away, another megaproject is shaping up. It's been nearly a year since we heard anything about Brookfield's Manhattan West, but at a public meeting last night, the developer outlined plans for the project's public space. Brookfield wants to create nearly twice as much open space than what is required by the city, expanding it from the mandated 1.3 acres (49,400 square feet) to 2.11 acres (91,725 square feet). The plan, approved by the Manhattan community board 4 land use committee, involves connecting 33rd and 31st Streets by a pedestrian strip through the length of the site and fattening a required plaza above the exposed rail yards between Dyre and Ninth Avenues. The plan would also add a leg of walkway in the southeast corner and a passageway from Dyre Avenue to Tenth Avenue along 31st Street. "We think it makes for a more interesting and desirable place for everyone involved," said Sabrina Kanner, Brookfield's senior vice president of design and construction. Manhattan West will have two 65-story office towers and a 60-story residential tower a block east of the Hudson Yards project. The path over Dyre Avenue would connect the site with Brookfield's 450 West 33rd Street, a flattened pyramid-like building housing the Associated Press. Brookfield already started work on a deck over the exposed Amtrak railways but wants to expand the floor over Dyre to 450 West 33rd Street, which the company plans to start renovating this summer. CB4 will revisit the proposal as a full board under the condition that several concerns will be addressed. The details on affordable housing at the site made the list, as well as a few concerns about the look of the public spaces. "This is Sixth Avenue," said committee chair Jean-Daniel Noland, making a comparison to "corporate, easily maintained, pedestrian" plazas in Midtown. "Surely we could do better." Another board member compared the planned space to Bryant Park. Indeed, renderings include a Casablanca-showing movie screen at an area designated as an event space. Another section might be used by a vendor, something the board wants a firm decision on (and made clear that a Papaya Dog probably won't do). The Joie de Vivre statue at Zuccotti Park was thrown into an image as a placeholder for a possible statue. And the space requires a set number of chairs, tables and trees, all of which would be multiplied if the proposal passes.  
Vanessa Quirk reports for Archdaily. In a statement released last night, Glenn Lowry, the director of the MoMA, confirmed that the American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects, will be demolished in order to make way for a re-design and expansion spearheaded by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). In his message Glenn Lowry states: “The plans approved today are the result of a recommendation from the architects [Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the renowned interdisciplinary studio based in New York City], after a diligent and thoughtful six-month study and design process that explored all options for the site. The analysis that we undertook was lengthy and rigorous, and ultimately led us to the determination that creating a new building on the site of the former American Folk Art Museum is the only way to achieve a fully integrated campus.” The new design, which should add about 40,000 square feet of new galleries and public areas and address MoMA’s considerable congestion problem, will integrate the current building with two sites to the west of the Museum: three floors of a residential tower, designed by Jean Nouvel, at 53 West 53rd Street, as well as the site of the former American Folk Art Museum. The new design by DS+R features an expanded first floor and Sculpture Garden, which will both be open to the public for free; an upper floor that will contain more galleries and space for performance art; as well as many new access points and passageways to improve traffic flow. Critics, however, although generally understanding of the MoMA’s need for space, as well as Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s analysis of the site, remain decidedly critical of the MoMA’s decision for two major reasons: (1) the expansion still remains insufficient in terms of space (meaning much of the collection will still remain in storage); and (2) the demolition of the 3-year-old Folk Art Museum, an architectural gem for New York City, would be deplorable in any circumstances – at the hands of a reputed cultural institution such as the MoMA, it is almost unfathomable. Jerry Saltz, writing for Vulture, writes a heart-felt condemnation of MoMA – not so much for the demolition of the Folk Art Museum – but for the shortsighted and commercial nature of the expansion: “It’s a lot like the last expansion plan. Only this one is even more snazzy, with a lot more glass — sorry, “transparency to the street “— and spaces designed primarily so people can look at other people looking at other people looking at people. [...] All this avoids MoMA’s basic problem, which I’ve written about before: that the museum needs to triple the amount of space for showing its permanent collection of art made before 1980. It didn’t in 2004, and it isn’t now. [...] It kills me to write this, because I’ll be visiting MoMA for the rest of my life, but I [...] will never get to see its incredible collection shown properly. Good-bye, MoMA. I loved you.” Justin Davidson, also writing for Vulture, empathizes with DS+R’s ethical and architectural conundrum (what’s worse: to demolish Folk Art or scar it forever?); however, he contends that the resulting design remains “halfhearted”: “By the time the architects were done tinkering with their old friends’ creation, it would have been so bastardized that there was little point in keeping the remains. In an architectural version of the battlefield paradox, DS+R would have had to destroy the building in order to save it. But that hesitancy shows in the provisional design for the next phase. The client is bent on art-world domination; the architects seem halfhearted. Instead of healing the scar left by the Folk Art Museum, they have left a gleaming gap. [...] It’s possible that as the architects refine their work, MoMA will receive a similarly rejuvenating spa treatment. Maybe seeing the Picassos will get more pleasant, and the whole complex will shed its cold, corporate air. But for now the design feels less like an optimistic hosanna than a mournful chorus of compromises.” Paul Goldberger of Vanity Fair, in a characteristically eloquent article, focuses on the tragedy of losing the Folk Art Museum – not just for MoMA, but for New York City as a whole: “Lowry envisions the expansion as a way of creating much needed breathing space. ‘We are a victim of our own success,’ he told me. Fair enough. But this argument, however much it responds to a real problem, reminds me a bit of the highway engineer’s practice of solving traffic problems by building more freeways. As we have learned the hard way, more roads generally bring more traffic, perpetuating, rather than fixing, the problem. Yes, MoMA lacks the space to show enough of its great collections, and yes, it long ago lost the domestic scale that made it, once, the most beloved of all of New York’s major museums. Is there a way to fix the first problem without making the second one even worse? [...] The brooding, somber façade of the folk-art museum, made of folded planes of hammered bronze, combines monumental dignity with the image of delicate handcrafting, and it is a majestic, if physically small, architectural achievement. A city that allows such a work to disappear after barely a dozen years is a city with a flawed architectural heart. A large cultural institution that cannot find a suitable use for such a building is an institution with a flawed architectural imagination. The Williams and Tsien building is also the last remnant of something approaching reasonable scale on West 53rd Street, a block that seems ever bigger, ever more corporate, ever less diverse. Tearing down the folk-art museum may make sense by MoMA’s measure of things, but it is hard to see how it makes New York a better place.” Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times took to Twitter to express his disappointment. American Folk Art Museum, by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.  
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Stemming the tide

Editorial for World Architecture News. The New York Restoration Project recently announced that architecture firm Bade Stageberg Cox (BSC) had won its EDGEucation Pavilion Design Competition to create a state-of-the-art flood-resistant outdoor recreation and learning centre at Sherman Creek Park on the Harlem River shoreline in New York. With sustainable design and layout and porous building materials that complement the natural environment, BSC's winning vision, entitled Edge Portals, outfits the flood plain with permeable landscaping and learning stations. NYRP educators will expand programming with interactive curriculum that encompasses ecological field study with local youth. The Pavilion will increase access to the waterfront, promote environmental stewardship and education and revive recreational rowing, once vibrant in this part of the Harlem River. The Pavilion's site, currently known as the "Former Boat Club Site," is a flood plain zone frequently inundated by storms and tides. BSC's winning design incorporates flooding as an integral part of the life cycle of the architecture. It consists of two buildings, an open classroom and a boat storage building, situated along the site's newly constructed shoreline. The layout places the buildings on twin peninsulas at the water's edge and orients the structures towards the water, creating a direct connection with the river. "We chose to site the buildings on the peninsulas where the land interlocks with the river, directly engaging the waterfront and highlighting the relationship between the city and the river," said Tim Bade, Principal at Bade Stageberg Cox. "Together, the classroom and boathouse form a threshold between land and water," he added. To address flooding, the classroom and boat storage building are constructed with a metal skin made of expanded weathered steel panels, with slotted openings that allow water to flow in and out freely. In addition, a cistern will store and reuse storm water for garden irrigation, and a rock garden at the site’s lowest elevation will collect storm water and run-off. An opportunity for learning As well as its resilience to storms, the Pavilion also allows NYRP’s education team to embrace the natural environment and storm events as learning opportunities. The open classroom will have sustainable features that complement and interact with the natural environment, such as a rainwater skylight to provide natural light within the space and act as a rainfall gauge, and water tables at which children can conduct water testing and analyze microbial samples with microscopes. The design incorporates a ‘science cove', a waterside classroom for educational programming and active engagement with the river. This cove is created by passageways leading from the peninsulas to a floating dock. It will host a variety of activities, including seining, wildlife observation, oyster gardening, and boating instruction protected from boat wakes and river turbulence. The site will also feature benches that also act as 100-year flood markers, ‘tidal mirrors’ that capture water and mark high and low tides and a solar garden with photovoltaic panels that will power path and building lighting. Together, the buildings and landscape offer rich opportunities for boating, recreation, and the exploration of nature and science. With goals to secure funding for the project, estimated at approximately $1 million, the new site will harbor a vibrant waterfront culture that has been absent from this region for decades. NYRP launched the competition in July to ensure storm and social resilience along the Harlem River shoreline at Sherman Creek Park, which is located in a traditionally under-resourced region of New York City. In response to Mayor Bloomberg’s proposition to increase resilience of infrastructure citywide, NYRP invited eight emerging NYC-based architecture firms to participate. In September, NYRP shortlisted BSC along with three other finalists, Desai/Chia Architecture, Urban Data + Design, and WORKac. The eight firms that participated in the competition will showcase their work at an upcoming exhibition about storm-resilient design at the American Institute for Architects’ Center for Architecture starting on February 6. “We’re thrilled to see such innovative and creative proposals responding to our call for storm-resistant architecture on the banks of the Harlem River,” said Amy Freitag, NYRP Executive Director. “BSC’s thoughtful approach to providing access to the water's edge directly responds to the city's call for resilient design, making Sherman Creek Park a spectacular destination for local residents, students, rowers and anyone who seeks to discover the Northern Manhattan waterfront park,” she added. The New York Restoration Project (NYRP), founded by actor Bette Midler in 1995, is a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming open space in under-resourced communities to create a greener, more sustainable New York City.  
Tobias Salinger reports for Curbed. A new pedestrian plaza will connect Jay Street in Historic Dumbo to the larger network of development-funded waterfront parks along the East River. Representatives for Brooklyn Bridge Park presented their proposal to the Landmarks Preservation Commission Tuesday morning for a community space composed of salvaged cobblestones, large granite seats, bike racks and a 15-foot wide concrete bridge over the water to the adjacent piers. The commission approved the project for the now-vacant intersection of Jay and John Streets, putting it on track for completion by the end of the year. The development will be paid for through discretionary funds from Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin. A picture of the existing intersection replete with bikes not attached to racks and an uninviting dead end provoked an audible groan from the commissioners, and they were impressed to learn that cobblestones and railroad tracks from the area's industrial past will be incorporated into the design by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. "I see very little to object to in this proposal and lots to be excited about," said Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan. New shrubbery and evergreen trees will add greenery to the site's edges, along with metal railings to keep children and dogs from falling into the river. "We're hoping to construct all of these spaces at once in this year," said the park's senior project manager, Leigh Trucks. Speakers from the Dumbo Business Improvement District and the Historic Districts Council also spoke in support of the plan, though Nadezhda Williams of the council said she's worried that the potential trees might block views of the water. Who needs trees in a park anyway? The context of the site in the historic district. This map show how the site connects to the rest of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Nicole Anderson reports for The Architect's Newspaper.

Just before New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, moved into city hall, City Planning took steps to implement lasting changes to the land use process, leaving a final stamp on the city it has drastically reshaped over the last 12 years under Mayor Bloomberg’s governance. This updated process is designed to accelerate the time it takes for applicants seeking approval for new developments. The agency’s new rules target the period when a project is first introduced to City Planning, leading up to an applicant’s certification to enter the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. This phase, often delayed by redundancies, has historically been vague and unstructured, putting a strain on both the developers carrying the projects and on the architects trying to solidify designs. “Before we had formal standards, you would get one piece of advice and then it would shift in the next application. Now that we have formal standards, we know what we’re aiming for: transparency of where they are in the process. What will happen next and what we will have to do next to move the project forward. Not just call up a planner,” said Carol Samol, director of BluePrint and City Planning Bronx Borough Office. Before instituting these changes, the agency conducted a voluntary pilot program with 90 applicants over 16 months to test out the new rules of reviewing land use and environmental review applications. “The regulatory process in New York was traditionally and until recently the most complicated in the nation. It is a combination of things—which comes from both the nature of individual agency and the successive reviews from agencies,” said Rick Bell, Executive Director of the American Institute of Architects New York. “We have been trying to concentrate our efforts in the AIA on the cumbersome nature of the process.” Bell, among other stakeholders and practitioners, was asked by City Planning to provide their feedback on the review process. To simplify and speed up the pre-certification process, City Planning has launched a formal tracking system to follow an applicant from the “moment an applicant walks in the door” to make sure all requirements are being met. There is also a set of new standards to create reasonable time frames to help guide the projects along. For instance, a new rule stipulates that if the agency fails to act at a certain point, the project is allowed to proceed to the next stage with the application. “The worst possible scenario for an architect is to realize that something isn’t possible,” said Bell. “How early in the game can you get a sense of the general shape and form the building will take? The idea is that you don’t wait until the end of the process to find out what you’re doing.”  
Jose Luis Gabriel Cruz reports for Archdaily. Seven months after the New York City Council approved Cornell University’s two million square foot technology campus in Roosevelt Island, new information has been released — along with a series of new renders. Envisioned as “a campus built for the next century,” Cornell Tech’s first set of buildings has tapped into the talent of some of the most respected architecture firms in the city: Morphosis‘ Pritzker Prize-winning Thom Mayne, Weiss/Manfredi Architecture, Handel Architects, and Skidmore Owings & Merrill. Three buildings have undergone design development since the approval of SOM’s original master plan: the First Academic Building (Morphosis), the Colocation Building (Weiss/Manfredi Architecture), and the 350-unit residential tower (Handel Architects). These facilities will be connected by a quarter-mile-long ‘tech walk’, designed by James Corner’s Field Operations, which serves as a spine that weaves together the ensemble of buildings whilst functioning as a public pedestrian space that spans the campus’ twelve acres. The First Academic Building Sustainable practices are core design principles for the new campus, with design schemes aiming to generate enough energy to run the First Academic Building. Per the latest images, the academic and co-location building’s roofs will both feature solar cells. “It’s literally a lily pad and the building is under this thing,” describes Mayne. In attempts to create a visual axial connection to the existing Manhattan grid, the First Academic Building’s entry aligns with 57th street from across the East River. “The lack of privacy,” Mayne adds, “is a radical promotion of transparency.” During a December city council meeting, officials from Cornell, along with all of the architects, discussed the topic of flexibility. The exponential advances in technology and engineering have left many laboratories obsolete, thus requiring building interiors to become easily adaptable. The Co-Location Building “This particular building,” explains Marion Weiss, “is an invention,” designed to be a concentrated hothouse of academia and industry. By splitting the building in two and allowing the exterior landscape to seamlessly spill into its core, students and entrepreneurs will share spaces meant to foster interaction with the larger, more public tech community. The Residential Tower Handel Architects — the latest recruitment in the roster of architects — is still in the process of designing the residential tower, projected to house students, faculty and staff in a mixture of micro-units, one-, two- and three-bedroom suites. Planned amenities include a gym, bike room, lounge, roof deck, multi-purpose collaboration and media rooms. The images depicting the residential towers do not represent the current or final design.    
Rebecca reports for Brownstoner. Two Trees’ Domino proposal has cleared another level of the land use review process. On the last day of the year, Tuesday, outgoing Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz approved the plan along with a few minor modifications, such as variances for zoning, commercial space and affordable housing. “We are extremely grateful for Borough President Markowitz’s support for the Domino Sugar project over the past year and approval of our plans this week,” said Two Trees’ Jed Walentas in an emailed statement. “We look forward to working with new Borough President Eric Adams and Brooklyn leaders over the next few years to bring more affordable housing, local jobs, and much needed public open space to South Williamsburg.” Next up, Domino will need approval from the City Planning Commission and the City Council to get full ULURP certification.