Water tower sculptures arrive at Madison Square Park

Images courtesy Thelma Garcia

Three water tower sculptures, designed by the Brooklyn-based Chilean artist Ivan Navarro have been installed in New York’s Madison Square Park.  Measuring seven feet in diameter and standing on eight-foot-high supports, visitors can walk beneath the towers and look inside to see neon reflections that repeat infinitely.     Titled “This Land is Your Land” after a Woody Guthrie song, they allude to the freedoms offered in this country to its growing immigrant population.  The interior of one tower features the word “me” and “we”, another features the word “bed” and a third will display the image of a ladder all of which is composed of neon light.  An internal arrangement of mirrors will enable each word or image to repeat perpetually through a seemingly endless vertical space.   The exhibition, courtesy the Madison Square Park, is on view from February 20 – April 13, 2014.

Campbell Sports Center named Best Building in NY

 

Campbell Sports Center courtesy Steven Holl Architects

The Municipal Arts Society has named the winners of its 2013 MASterworks Awards.  The Best Building honor went to Steven Holl Architects’ Campbell Sports Center at Columbia University.   Also honored was Weiss/Manfredi’s Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center in Brooklyn, which scooped the Best Urban Amenity Award; Rogers Marvel’s McCarren Pool and Bathhouse, which took The Best Renovation prize; and SHoP Architects’ Barclay’s Center, which won the Best Neighborhood Catalyst Award.

The awards, which recognize innovation in architecture and urban design, was judged by a panel comprised of Pedro Gadanho (Curator of Contemporary Architecture, Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA), Gabriel Calatrava (Principal, Calatrava), Toni Griffin (Professor of Architecture and Director, J. Max Bond Center, Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York, CUNY), and Mimi Hoang (Partner, nArchitects).

Said Municipal Art Society president, Vin Cipolla, “From an environmentally sustainable visitors center in Brooklyn to a state-of-the-art athletics facility in Upper Manhattan, the 2013 MASterworks winners are design assets to our city that contribute greatly to the urban landscape. MAS congratulates all of the winning design teams for their visionary ideas and commitment excellence, and we thank them for enhancing New York City, one building at a time.”

The 2013 MASterworks Awards will be presented later this week in a private ceremony held at the WTC sponsored by Silverstein Properties.

 

 

AIANY President Jill Lerner aims to change Gold Medal rule

It’s been a bit of an AIANY week on WAN’s New York Metroblog. But a piece of news in today’s Architectural Record about AIANY’s President Jill Lerner spearheading an effort to change the rules by which the Gold Medal is awarded is worthy of a post.

As our readers know, the Gold Medal is the highest honor that the American Institute of Architects can bestow on an individual in recognition of a significant body of work of lasting influence.   But the rules state that the award can only go to an individual.  As Cathleen McGuigan, Arch Record’s editor-in-chief, points out, that individual doesn’t have to be an architect, an American or even living.  Lerner wants to change the rule so that “two or more individuals practicing together” could be awarded the Gold Medal in the future “but only if their collaborative efforts over time are recognized as having created a singular body of distinguished work.”

Needless to say such a change would mirror the current practice of the Pritzker Foundation to give its distinguished architecture prize to more than one person.  Lerner, along with former AIANY President George Miller, introduced the proposal Tuesday at a luncheon honoring Denise Scott Brown.  According to McGuigan, Brown said that she and her husband collaborator, Robert Venturi, had submitted for the Gold Medal on four different occasions but each time the submissions were returned because they were for both of them.

The initiative to rewrite the Gold Medal rules is timely and long overdue.  Lerner’s more inclusive proposal is on fast track and could be considered by AIA’s national board of directors as early as June 18th, when the board next meets at the AIA National Convention.

AIANY takes to the public policy stage

Courtesy AIANY

The American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY) has long played an advisory role to Mayoral administrations, agencies, and the City Council.  Now the organization will intensive its efforts to shape public policy beginning with the current major effort, a 30 point “Platform for the Future of the City to be considered by candidates running for office in New York this year.

“For our city to maintain its global competitiveness in attracting and retaining talent and business opportunities elected leaders must envision the shape of the 21st-century metropolis.  Quality design of buildings and the public spaces between them increase property values and propels the desire to be here,” said Jill N. Lerner, 2013 AIANY chapter president.   “New York City needs the values, principles, practical knowledge, and professional expertise of the architect.”

Courtesy AIANY

Developed with the specialized knowledge of AIANY’s program committees, “A Platform for the Future of the City” addresses issues at four scales – our buildings, our neighbourhoods, our city and our world. The platform identifies the 30 most pressing challenges facing New York’s built environment ranging from streamlining the city government approvals and creating affordable housing for an ever growing population to maintaining global competitiveness and promoting design internationally as we grow business at home.  Some specific policy solutions proposed include creating a new Deputy Mayor post, building at least 100,000 units of housing, utilizing zoning and incentives to continue to grow the tech sector, promoting active design and making simple changes to support an aging population.

For more information about AIANY’s 30 point Platform for the Future of the City and the accompanying exhibition running from 11 May to 29 June titled “Future of the City”.  presented as part of NYCxDesign and now on view in the galleries of AIANY’s Center for Architecture go to  http://cfa.aiany.org.

Hudson Yards on View

 

Courtesy Related Cos.

Few projects come along in ones lifetime that are truly game changers.  In New York two such projects come to mind:  The redevelopment of Ground Zero and Hudson Yards.  Whilst Ground Zero has failed to deliver on its inspirational and aspirational promise, Hudson Yards has so far lived up to its vision.  When completed in 2025, the 26-acre mixed-use development project will redefine New York’s Far West Side and set the tone for future large scale development projects of its type in New York and beyond. While all eyes are on Hudson Yards, the construction site, the best place to see the project up close and personal is at the Center for Architecture in Greenwich Village where, for the next two months, the public can take in an exhibition on the project and hear from the many players bringing it to fruition.

 

Courtesy Related Cos.

Running now through 30 June, Design (in) The New Heart of New York details the making of Hudson Yards. An exhibition at the Center for Architecture’s breakthrough galleries puts on view never-seen-before elements of the design process and the evolution of this unprecedented project.

 

Courtesy Related Cos.

Complimenting the exhibition is an eight week speaker series featuring the key players involved in the project including David Childs, FAIA, of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; Liz Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro; Howard Elkus, FAIA, RIBA, of Elkus Manfredi Architects; David Rockwell, AIA or the Rockwell Group; and Thomas Woltz of Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects.  As part of the series, Bill Pederson will present his designs for the two anchor towers at the project and speak of the overall vision and planning process behind Hudson Yards.  More details can be found at www.aiany.org.

Israel and the Architectural Narrative

Old City of Jerusalem as seen from the rooftop of the Mamilla Hotel

Just arrived in Israel today for a week long architectural bloggers tour courtesy Vibe Israel.   Tonight’s dinner conversation held at the rooftop restaurant of the Mamilla Hotel overlooking the Old City of Jerusaelm, kept circling back to architecture and how it tells a storey.  A colleague from ArchDaily commented on how the Holocaust Museum in Berlin by Daniel Libeskind and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem by Moshe Safdie have completely different narratives.  And indeed they do.  This week we’ll be touring various architectural sites in Israel, mainly in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to uncover that narrative.  Tomorrow and the next day,  we’ll be visiting the Old City of Jerusalem, including getting an exclusive tour of Yad Vashem led by insider and long time Moshe Safdie Associate Irit Kochavi and attending the Wolf Prize Ceremony at the Israeli Parliament, where Portuguese architect Eduardo Soto de Mora will be awarded the 2013 Wolf Prize in Architecture and join a prestigious group of laureates in the field including Frank Gehry, Jorn Utzon Denys Lasdun, Frei Otto, Aldo Van Eyck, Alvaro Siza,  Jean Nouvel, David Chipperfield, Peter Eisenmann, Fumihiko Maki, Giancarlo De Carlo, and Ralph Erskine.

Mayor Bloomberg’s ‘electrifying’ State of the City address

Now in his third and final term as mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg delivered what will be his last state of the city address to New Yorkers.  The take away was to further green the city, with more recycling plans and similar such initiatives,  but the big news was the mayor’s sweeping endorsement of electric cars, with plans to make taxis all electric and to add electric car charging parking spaces throughout the boroughs.

“We’ll work with the City Council to amend the Building Code so that up to 20 percent of all new public parking spaces in private developments will be wired and ready for electric vehicles, creating up to 10,000 parking spots for electric vehicles over the next seven years, said Bloomberg.   The goal is aspirational and, if implemented as envisioned,  New York City will have the most progressive programme in the country for electric vehicles.

Critics of the plan say it is too much too soon, pointing out that the plan assumes everyone will want an electric vehicle and be able to afford it.  Also questioned is the long term future investment in electric cars, which is now in the nascent stage.   Many electric vehicles can travel only 70 miles or so before needing to be charged.   So unless major improvements are made on this end, the program most assuredly favours in town travel rather than long distance trips which, for many New Yorkers, is the main reason to keep a car in the city.

Help the Rockaways: MoMA’s call for ideas

MoMA is asking artists, architects, designers and urban planners to present ideas for creating social spaces, new housing models, urban interventions and other ideas related to rebuilding and protecting the shoreline of the Rockaways, an area devastated by Superstorm Sandy.

Submissions, which are due by 15 March,  will judged by a jury led by MoMA director Klaus Bisenbach and including Barry Bergdoll, Peter Eleey, Pedro Gadanho, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Niklas Maak, and others.  25 entries will be selected and presented in April 2013 in the geodesic dome MoMA is building in the Rockaways to serve as a site for culture and community gathering.

All information, including submission details and an impressive filmic portrayal of the Rockaways and the effects of Sandy can be found here: http://momaps1.org/news/view/89

Architecture’s Future

David Benjamin of the Living. AIA NY New Practices New York 2012

Practice makes perfect as they say.  But for those starting out in architecture,  practice isn’t so much about perfection as it is about transformative ideas.  That was the message of the young architects premiated in this year’s AIA NY’s New Practices New York progamme, which recognizes emerging talent and, in doing so, gives us all a lot to think about with regards the practice of architecture in the future.

Courtesy Dan Fox AIA NY

Last week at Axor’s New York headquarters in the Meatpacking District, the last in the series of talks from this year’s NPNY winners was presented to a room packed crowd of architects and interested others.  The speakers were David Benjamin of the Living and Jonathan Lee of Google.  Benjamin presented four projects that illustrated how an individual project might connect to collaborators.  Benjamin, who also teaches at Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning, is interested in the intersection of new digital technologies and information.  One project he presented, which looks at air quality, engages digital facade technologies to convey real time information about temperature and air quality in a city by district.  Passersby can look at a building facade and determine what the air quality is today, relative to what it was yesterday and whether it has improved or worsened and how their neighborhood fares relative to other neighborhoods.   The project is intended to illustrate the possibilities of digital facades to convey important information to a large group of people that was previously invisible to the human eye.

Benjamin did much the same for water quality with a project that puts sensors deep in the Hudson River that light up in different colors at the surface level, with each color representing a different type and level of pollutant as well as indicating the presence of fish.   It was one interesting and inspiring evening that left us all clamoring for more and Benjamin did not disappoint as he told the crowd about a project he was working on now involving living bacteria and forecast that new building materials, like light weight and flexible concrete, that is sheet thin and stronger than an ox, could be made in a petrie dish in the future.

We got more of same out of the box thinking from Jonathan Lee, the second act of this dynamic duo.  In addition to talking about his collaborations with Benjamin,  Lee briefed us on Google products and what was in the offing.  He spoke to the future of smartphones and other devices saying that digital devices will work more effortlessly in the future so users won’t  have to think so much about what it is they want their devices to do but rather have smarter devices that can anticipate our every move and needs for information.    Lee is currently working on Google Project Glass which you may have seen on You Tube but if you missed it here it is for your viewing pleasure.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4.

Kudos to AIANY and the Center for Architecture for the good work it does bringing inspiring and thoughtful voices like Benjamin and the six others honoured in the NPNY programme into public view.

Un ‘Pei’ D Services

Pei Partnership

Pei Partnership

New York architect Pei Partnership is suing the developer of Celebrate Virgina for $6 million in unpaid fees for its design of The National Slavery Museum, a project spearheaded by former Virginia Governor, Doug Wilder, that is mired in financial difficulties.  The project is as yet built and the slavery museum organization now owes the city of Fredericksburg $300,000 in delinquent taxes.  The city plans to sell the 38 acre parcel on which the museum was to sit and the architect is hoping the sale will lead to its getting paid.  One has to wonder how the firm got so far out in its billings and why it continued to work when it was not being paid.   This is one for the lawyers but it seems to me there was a lapse in the common sense department at the Pei firm.