Michael Graves: The Legend Award, new work, and a new line of products

It is somewhat fitting that someone who receives an award for lifetime achievement says he’s got more work to do. That was the sentiment expressed by the legendary architect Michael Graves as he accepted Contract’s magazine’s Legend Award last Friday at the publication’s annual design awards breakfast held at New York’s Cipriani restaurant.  No sooner than he took the stage, Graves let us in on what he has been up to, including designing a new line of products for retailer J. C. Penny that will launch early this year.

While the deal between Penny’s and Graves has long been known it wasn’t until last Friday that anyone got a peek at the new line, which includes over 300 products to be housed in ‘shops-in-shops’ in 700 J.C. Penny stores located throughout the U.S.  The always gracious Graves gave one of the products, a silver picture frame that can be positioned both horizontally or vertically, to all who attended the event.  Like much of Graves work, it is classically inspired .

In addition to the Penny’s collaboration, the energetic, 78 year young architect expressed that he has a newfound passion designing for people like himself, who are wheelchair bound or dealing with debilitating and challenging health issues.  Readers will recall that Graves’  world was turned upside down in 2003 when he developed an infection that left him paralyzed from the waist down.  But he quickly turned that tragic experience into a positive, applying his talents to such things as designing accessible housing for wounded war veterans and a new line of products for Stryker medical.    As Graves said at the event,  “I am not only an architect I am also a patient”.

It is from the perspective of a patient that Graves is approaching his work afresh and scooping high profile commissions in the healthcare market, a a sector, where prior to his injury, his voice was all but absent.  The goal says Graves is “to create a more humane and dignified environment for people dealing with challenges”.  And of course beauty is high on the list.

nARCHITECTS win adAPT NYC Competition


Courtesy Mayor's Office City of New York

Today NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the team of Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, and nARCHITECTS was selected as the winner of the adAPT NYC Competition.   The pilot program, launched in July 2012, charged competitors with the task of designing the city’s first micro-unit apartment building, which will be built on City-owned land at 335 East 27th Street in Manhattan.

The winning proposal called “My Micro NY’ will create 55 new micro-units measuring between 250-370 square feet, 40 percent of which will be affordable beyond the competitive market rents, designed to optimize space and maximize the sense of openness.  The winning scheme edged out competitors, excelling in the criteria of layout and design with desirable features like 9’-10” floor-to-ceiling heights and Juliette balconies that provide an abundance of access to light and air.  Notably, the project will also be the first multi-unit building in Manhattan to be built using modular construction, with the modules prefabricated locally by Capsys at the Brooklyn Naval Yard.

The competition was judged by an all star cast of of designers, journalists, artists and business people and drew a robust response. The winning proposal, My Micro NY and four other notable entries will be featured in a upcoming exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York called Making Room:  New Models for Housing New Yorkers.

The adAPT NYC Competition was created to introduce additional choices within New York City’s housing market to accommodate the city’s growing population of one- and two-person households. Currently New York City has 1.8 million one- and two-person households, but only one million studios and one-bedrooms. The City’s housing codes have not kept up with its changing population, and currently do not allow an entire building of micro-units. Under this pilot program, Mayor Bloomberg will waive certain zoning regulations at a City-owned site at 335 East 27TH Street to test the market for this new housing model. The adAPT NYC RFP was downloaded more than 1,600 times in hundreds of cities domestically and abroad, and generated 33 proposals by the submission deadline – making this the largest response received by HPD for a housing project. It is expected that the project will complete the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for disposition of City-owned land in the fall and break ground on construction at the end of 2013.




BUCKYBALL lights up NY’s Madison Square Park


Leo Villareal's BUCKYBALL (2012) Photo by James Ewing / Madison Square Park Conservancy

As the holiday lights come down around New York City, there is one light or rather light show that still shines on.  At least for the next month.  BuckyBall, an art installation designed by the world renowned artist Leo Villareal, just had it’s run extended due to popular demand and it will remain on view in Madison Square Park until February 15th.

Commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s Mad. Sq. Art program, the 30 foot tall light sculpture is inspired by the work of Buckminster Fuller.   Set against the dramatic backdrop of New York City with the Empire State Building visible in the distance, the work features two nested geodesic sculptural spheres comprised of 180 LED tubes arranged in a series of pentagons and hexagons referred to as a “Fullerene”.

Individual pixels located every 1.2 inches along the tubes,  each capable of displaying 16 million distinct colors and tuned by the artist’s software, create dynamic light sequences that enliven the natural landscape of the park.  The result is an exuberant random composition of varied speed, color, opacity, and scale.

Villareal’s light sculpture is surrounded by zero-gravity couches that allow viewers to recline below the artwork to take in the show.  The sculpture and the couches are inspired by and reinterpret many of the traditional elements found in the park and do so in a fresh way.



Long Island Modernism 1930-1980

I just finished writing a piece for another publication about two Frank Lloyd Wright buildings that are facing threats. One is the David Wright House in Arizona, a house Wright designed for his son that features a spiral plan, which presages the Guggenheim and is said to have influenced it.  The other, The Bachman Wilson House in New Jersey, is a wonderful example of Wright’s Usonian houses.  The David Wright house, which was facing demolition, was happily purchased by someone who plans to restore it to its original splendor.  But the Bachman Wilson house remains at risk, awaiting a buyer, which, when identified must move the house to another location as its current site is subject to recurring flooding.   All of this is leading to a point.  Those of us who are privileged to write about architecture for a living, owe a great debt to the buildings we write about.  Without them we would have little if nothing to say.  But our role is not just to report on buildings that are next the flavor of the week, icons in the making if you will. Rather it is to educate and to elevate the dialogue.  As part of this, we need to put on people’s radar buildings that are truly special and worth saving.

With Sandy behind us, I shudder to think what may have become of the marvelous collection of experimental houses that were built on Long Island in the period of  1930-1980.  That part of New York was especially hit hard by the storm and many buildings there have been reportedly wiped out.   While I don’t know what if anything has happened to these buildings,  I do take comfort in the fact that I have a record of this fabulous period of architectural production, thanks, in part, to Caroline Zaleski, who recently penned a book for Norton publishing called Long Island Modernism.

That book is a comprehensive and invaluable survey of the adventuresome architecture that sprung up on Long Island from 1930 to 1980.  It is also 333 pages of sheer inspiration and delight.   What I like about it are the fascinating tales of how these buildings came to be, the marvelous stories not only about architecture but about the risk-taking patrons who pulled out all the stops in the name of architecture.  For mid-century architecture buffs it’s a must read and a must see as the book is generously populated with photographs, many of them original, as sadly some of these structures have been insensitively altrered while others no longer exist.  Still, it was here in the sleepy seaside hamlets of Long Island, which then were largely dotted with farmland, that many of the most famous architects of the day got their start or at least did their more experimental work.

Architects working on the Island at that time include such luminaries as Wallace Harrison, Frank Lloyd Wright, Antonin Raymond, Marcel Breuer, Richard Neutra and George Nelson along with lesser known names, such as Shogo Myaida who were no less talented then their more famous colleagues.

Zaleski dug deep into the archives of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities and logged countless miles on her car traipsing Long Island to locate the buildings included and to speak with neighbors and relatives, when the original owners were not available, to compile these marvelous building biographies that unfold with such panache and clearly make the case that this was a great time for architecture!

New York gears up for a month-long architecture festival


TWA Flight Center copyright Nicolas Lemery Nantel

Next week marks the beginning of Archtober, the second annual month-long celebration of architecture with tons or activities, programs and exhibitions in New York.  This year promises not to disappoint with more than 180 architecture and design lectures, conferences and programs happening across the city, many of them free.  Guides and tickets are available at the Center for Architecture and will be distributed at the Archtober Visitor Lounge at the Center and at participating institutions during the festival.

Now on the good stuff.   Open House New York (OHNY) will host a weekend event beginning Friday October 5th that is chock-filled with an impressive line up of building tours including many buildings that are closed to the public.  Among the buildings on this year’s tour are The Pershing Square Signature Theatre (Gehry Partner with H3 hardy Collaboration Architecture), Philip Johnson’s Four Season restaurant in the Seagrams building, which has been magnificently restored by Belmont Freeman, Lakeside at Prospect Park (Todd Williams Billie Tsien Architects with landscape architect Christian Zimmerman), and hard hat tours of structures underway, like the New School: University Center by SOM.

More private residences than ever before will be on view, such as One Museum Mile by Robert A.M Stern Architects with interiors by Andre Kikoski, and Paul Rudolph’s Modulightor Building.  Last but not least and a definite must see is Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center, which is back by popular demand.  Check out the many things going on in the city in October at the Center for Architecture and at other places around New York at the following web sites. www.archtober.org and www.ohny.org.


Area architects honored with 2012 American Architecture Award

McGee Art Pavilion, New York College of Ceramics courtesy ikon.5 architects

Over 20 projects located in or designed by firms in the New York Metropolitan region have received a 2012 American Architecture Award.  The annual awards program, organized by the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, recognizes the best new design in America.   Selected by the Korean Federation of Architects, there were a total of 87 projects recognized from around the globe.  

Local winners include four projects by Ennead Architects, The New York City Center, The William H. Neukom Building Stanford Law School, The Gateway Center Westchester Community College, and the Natural History Museum of Utah; The Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems by Toshiko Mori Architect; two projects by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, The Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University and the High Line (Phase II); two projects by Rafael Vinoly Architects,  The Milennium Science Complex, Pennsylvania State University and The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building, University of California San Francisco; The National September 11 Memorial, Handel Architects, Michael Arad lead designer; The Sagaponack Barns, Christoff: Finio Architecture;  HL23 by Neil Denari; The National World War II Museum Phase 1, Voorsanger Architects;  Village Health Works Staff Residence in Burundi by Louise Braverman, Architect; NASCAR Hall of Fame, Yvonne Szeta/Pei Cobb Freed & Partners;  Cite de L’Ocean et du Surf, Steven Holl Architects with Solange Fabiao;  McGee Art Pavilion School of Art and Design at New York State College of Ceramics, ikon.5 architects; East Hampton Town Hall, Minneapolis, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP; Master Plan for Central Delaware, Cooper, Robertson & Partners;  Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library District of Columbia, Davis Brody Bond Aedas;  W24 Loft, Desai Chia Architecture;  Hunters Point South Waterfront Park,WEISS/MANFREDI with Thomas Balsey Associates; and the Clyfford Still Museum, Allied Works Architecture, Brad Cloepfil lead designer.   

Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP with offices in New York and around the globe was recognized for four projects, the HongQiao Central Business District, Shanghai, The San Diego Superior Courthouse, Midway Loop, Chicago, and the China World Trade Center Tower Phase III, Beijing.

Congratulations to all!

On View: Selections from AIA NY’s Emerging Architects Competition

First Pize Winner- The Harlem Edge
First Prize: Sym-bio-pia by Ting Chin and Yan Wang

Winners and selected entries of The Harlem Edge design challenge sponsored by the Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) Committee of the AIA NY Chapter are now on view at the Center for Architecture in New York. The biennial design ideas competition now in its fifth year asked emerging professionals including students with less than ten years experience to propose creative solutions for a multi modal transit hub and food and nutrition education center at a site in Harlem on West 135th street and the Hudson River, which formerly served as a marine transfer station. Nourishing USA, a non-profit community food program that serves communities nationwide and endeavors to reverse the strong correlation between low income and poor dietary health, served as the client.  The exhibition runs from July-October 2012 at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, New York, NY.

A Star is Born…Wendy Opens at MoMA PS1

Courtesy MoMA and HWKN

Big, blue and green describes MoMA PS1’s newest acquisition dubbed Wendy. Designed by New York architect HWKN, led by Matthias Hollwich and Mark Kushner, Wendy is the winning entry in this year’s MoMA/MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program, which provides emerging architects the opportunity to design and build a temporary installation in the courtyard of MoMA PS1 that will place host to its popular summer music program, Warm-Up while also providing seating, shade and water.  The installation is built on the cheap, which makes such amazing designs like Wendy and past winners all the more amazing.  And, it is sustainable, too. The blue nylon fabric is treated with a titania nanoparticle spay that will clean the air.  It is estimated that the cleaning effect will be the equivelant of taking 260 cars off the road over the course of Wendy’s run, which opens Sunday and closes on September 8.

Three New York practices make “firms to watch” list

To mark its fifteenth anniversary, Residential Architect (RA) magazine put together a list of 15 young design firms to watch.  Those firms, which were globally drawn, were selected on the quality of their work and their business model.  “We chose firms that did strong residential work and ones we thought would be around for the long haul”, said Meghan Dreuding, a Senior Editor at Residential Architect, of the firms that made the cut.  “Some were drawn from our research, some were firms we knew about, and we also spoke with more established firms”, she said.

The three New York practices that made the list are Workshop/apd, Made, and Grzywinski + pons.  While considered “young” practices, all have been in business for a while, proving that architecture is indeed a profession that takes time to master.   Based in Brooklyn, Made has been in business for a decade. While initially led by three friends who met at Yale’s School of Architecture, two exited in 2011 leaving co-founder Ben Bischoff to carry on.  Made’s primary focus is custom design build residential work, which has grown over the years in size and complexity.  This year, Made is completing its first ‘ground up’ residential project in Westchester County, New York and it has landed its first large-scale commercial project. http://made-nyc.com

Workshop/apd with offices in Manhattan and Nantucket, Massachusetts is a press favorite, grabbing headlines for its work in trade journals and shelter magazines too numerous to mention here. Founded in 1999 by Andrew Kotchen and Matthew Berman, both graduates of Lehigh University, workshop/apd broke onto the scene with their award winning housing work in New Orleans.  Berman believes as do I “that design is inextricably linked to our happiness”. http:// www.workshopapd.com.

Nolitan Hotel courtesy Grzywinski + Pons Archtiects

Last and by no means least is New York practice Grzywinski + Pons, led by Mathew Grzwinski and Amador Pons.  They met 13 years ago when Grzywinski was at the Rhode Island School of Design and Pons was at Syracuse University.  Grzywinski + Pons has made more than one “firms to watch” list, having been featured in Archrecord2’s ongoing series on emerging architects.  Their signature project is the Nolitan Hotel, which among other things, has been named the best boutique hotel in New York for its über-chic design.  http://gp-arch.com.

‘Itileian’ Piazza

This year’s winner in Ceramics of Italy’s annual competition to design a trade show booth that will showcase its products is “Piazza Ceramica” by emerging New York architect e+i Studio.   

Unveiled at Coverings, the premier tile and stone show in the U.S., the pavilion is based on the idea of an Italian piazza. It features a central gathering space around which are two tile-clad mounds in a gradient of colors that provide seating and programming space.  To cap it off, and in true Italian style, the underside of one the mounds becomes a café where one can grab an afternoon espresso while liaising with the tile representatives or negotiating the rest of the show.  The pavilion is designed to be flat packed for ease of transport and it can be reconstructed in different configurations.

Since 1991, prominent architecture studios –from Bernard Tschumi and Arquitectonica to Aldo Rossi and Gaetano Pesce- have created a unique space that is intended not only to inspire but also to serve the functions of reception, info point, café, and trattoria.