Sharon is an architect, planner and design educator. Based in Princeton, N.J. and New York, she divides her time between professional design pursuits and writing about architecture. She currently serves as the US Correspondent for World Architecture News and is a regular contributor to Competitions magazine and Abitare. Sharon holds degrees in City Planning and Historic Preservation (Architecture) from the University of Pennsylvania and has received numerous awards for her work including an AIA Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture (2004) for a pavilion for Cornell West, an AIA Smart Growth Award (2005), and an AIA NJ Design Award (1991). Email:email@example.com Twitter page - click here to follow Facebook page - click here
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The halls of Apple just got a bit bigger. Last Friday, the tech giant opened a new 23,000 square foot store in New York’s Grand Central Terminal said to be one of company’s largest retail outlets in the world. With five stores now open in Manhattan, it is as if New Yorkers can’t get enough of all things Apple.
The new store is located on the East Balcony of the historic Beaux Arts building overlooking the majestic Grand Concourse, where it enjoys good visibility. Like the other Apple stores, this one has an open plan, glass paneling, and features the trademark wooden tables and stools. But unlike the other locations, this one is uniquely geared to commuters. A new feature introduced here is Express Pick-Up, which allows customers to make purchases before arriving at the Terminal using a fee app, thus avoiding long lines and waits. Also new are the 15-minute Express Workshops with ‘Geniuses’ that offer tips and tricks in a streamlined fashion for commuters on a tight schedule. While these services will no doubt appeal to commuters-on-the-go, Apple is hoping the new location will play well residents and toursits too!
The new store will be open from 7:00a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, and 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Less than a month ago, the New York Times published an article about the future of a plot of land known as the Triangle located outside St. Vincent’s Hospital in the West Village, which is now closed and in the process of being transformed into luxury apartments. One idea for the land’s reuse, which was floated by the Queer History Alliance (now AIDS Memorial Park Coalition), spearheaded by Chris Tepper and Paul Kelterborn, was to create an AIDS Memorial Park. As St. Vincent’s was “Ground Zero for the AIDS epidemic on the East Coast” and as there is no significant memorial in the city recognizing the more than 100,000 New Yorkers who lost their lives to AIDS, it seemed a good idea and apparently others think so too!
On November 29, organizers and sponsors, which inlcude Architizer and Architectural Record, launched an open, international competition to design an AIDS Memorial Park and assembled an impressive jury that is headed by Michael Arad, designer of the National September 11 Memorial, and includes Kurt Anderson, Barry Bergdoll, Elizabeth Diller, Robert Hammond, Richard Meier, Ken Smith, Suzanne Stephens, Bill Jones of New York Live Arts, and Dr. Marjorie Hill, CEO of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Entries are due Janurary 21st, 2011. For complete details follow the link to the competition website provided http://bit.ly/rQSArX .
The New York Historical Society opened its doors to the public last month after a three-year, $70 million renovation of its Central Park West Building. Originally designed in 1903 by York and Sawyer, who trained with McKim Mead and White, the renovations were undertaken by Platt Byard Dovell White Architects, whose principal Sam White is the great-grandson of Stanford White and the firm an expert at renovating buildings of this ilk, which is described in the AIA Guide to New York City as “ a Beaux Arts treasure reminiscent of a Parisian bibliotheque”.
While the renovation dutifully addresses the client’s directive to make the museum a more democratic place, by opening up the fortress-like structure, adding more glass and a creating a more open plan, one has to wonder if it will achieve this end or if populism will trump respectability in an effort to get more people in. For years now, the museum has tried unsuccessfully to expand its facility, at one time proposing a controversial 23-story residential tower next to its West 76TH street building. This time around, it has taken a subtler, less intrusive approach all the while insisting that the changes were necessary for its survival.
Many things about the renovation project are on point. On the exterior, there is a wider main staircase and an expanded main entrance on Central Park West; better sightlines into the building from the street have been created; and a wholly redesigned entrance on 77TH Street offers improved access for school groups and visitors with disabilities. But some aspects are less successful, such as the enlargement of the windows flanking the main entrance to create doors. Given the rigorous symmetry of the building, these openings will not appeal to preservation purists.
Inside, a new gallery was added on the ground floor, improvements were made to the auditorium, and new amenity spaces were added including a new destination restaurant that will stay open after hours. A new children’s museum, designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, was added in the lower level. In the admissions area, a ceiling from Keith Haring’s original Pop Shop was incorporated to give the Museum a more contemporary feel and to attract a wider audience, particularly a younger crowd.
These improvements make for a more dynamic museum experience, says the museum. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New York Historical Society, describes the transformation thusly….”It is as if at entry level, we are going from being a beautiful treasure house to a great showplace of the American experience.”
The continuing trend on the part of cultural institutions to treat their treasure houses as populist places by dumbing down their contents to appeal to the masses and expanding amenity space, is concerning for those seeking a more authentic experience. Making collections relevant to a broader audience, as was done here with an expanded focus on children and the incorporation of new technologies that bring materials to life in ways not previously imagined, is a good thing. But when such measures serve to obscure history rather than illuminate it, as the New York Times writer Edward Rothstein said of the Museum’s opening exhibition, ‘Revolution!’, history itself is the loser.
Hopefully in time the New York Historical Society will hit its stride and its exhibitions will not fall victim to the very technologies that were put in place to share its collections with new audiences.
Last month Japanese retailer, Uniqlo, known for its budget-conscious clothes, opened two new stores in Manhattan, an 89,000 square foot store on Fifth Avenue and a 64,000 square foot store on 34TH Street just around the corner from the Empire State Building. Both are airy and contemporary with neutral finishes that allow ithe brand’s brightly colored clothes to pop. Taking a page out of the Prada Epicenter playbook, the stores are “experience-focused” selling more a lifestyle, which in turn generates desire for its goods, much like Nike did for its brand with its “Be Like Mike” campaign. Uniqlo cultivates interest in its brand by enlisting interesting people to promote its goods, like actress Susan Sarandon who was on hand for store’s opening; through partnerships with high-fashion designers like Jil Sander, who produce limited collections for the brand that give it an upscale cache, and through the design of the stores themselves, which incorporate innovative merchandising concepts to lure shoppers in and keep them interested.
Designed by Wonderwall with Gensler, the stores start “selling” at the street incorporating facades that have a high degree of transparency and blur the boundary between public and private space. With spinning mannequins visible through its storefronts and more than 300 LED screens dancing across its façades, the experience is a bit like street theatre and is at times dizzying. Despite the gimmickrey, there are some notable features at each store. At the Fifth Avenue location, the big design move there is the 60-ft escalators that soar from the first to third level and are flanked by grand stairs lit with neon risers. All of this is intended to create a modern shopping experience that is effortless, fun and service-focused. Whether such details translate into sales remains to be seen.
While its far too early to tell if Uniqlo is here to stay or if it will quickly disappear again as it did in the early 2000s when it opened its first US stores in suburban New Jersey malls, one thing is for sure. With the opening of these stores, the company is making a big play for the US market in one of the worst economies ever. For this it is gutsy, if nothing else.
The on again off again plans to build a skyscraper above the Port Authority Bus Terminal hit a major snag today. The tower’s developer, Vornado Trust, told Bloomberg News that it is would not proceed with the project. The reason given was the loss of development partner Chinese investor, Soho China Ltd, which planned to put $600 million into the project. With Vorando out of the picture, the Port must go back to the drawing board and decide what it’s going to do, whether it will seek another investor for the project or scuttle plans altogether. One thing is for certain the terminal badly needs renovating and in its current condition it is not a source of civic pride for those New Yorkers and visitors who journey through its doors each day.
In a press conference held today, Patrick Foye, the Port’s director, gave no timetable for reassessing the project. He said only that the “transaction (referring to the cancelled deal) was important as it would provide desperately needed capital to rebuild and expand the bus terminal as well as generate tax revenue for the city and region, and create jobs.”
The project, which is called 20 Times Square and was designed by London-based Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, was cancelled once before and postponed on another occasion due to the economy. Vornado and Soho China Ltd were selected in 2000 by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to develop the 1.3 million-square-foot office tower above the terminal, which is located on Eighth Avenue between West 40th and West 42nd streets.
The third time’s a charm for architect Robert A. M. Stern, whose firm was tapped this month to design Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution. Stern was selected twice before to design the museum but both projects were cancelled when the National Park Service could not reach an agreement with the Center on a site. Now, in what amounts to a land swap, the Center will give the Park Service a 78-acre site across from Valley Forge in exchange for a site next to historic Independence Hall to build the museum.
“At last, the long-cherished dream of very many – a fixed place to celebrate and interpret the American Revolution – will be realized on a terrific site a stone’s throw from Independence Hall,” said Robert A.M. Stern. “Our intention is to portray the institution we are asked to serve, to find an architectural expression that will foster and facilitate an important conversation across time, mirroring the ideals of the Revolution that have inspired us for more than two centuries.” The $150 million project is slated to open in 2015. MFM Design will be responsible for the exhibits.
Related Companies will begin construction of a 51-story skyscraper on Manhattan’s Hudson Yards site by mid-2012. The stalled project got a major shot in the arm early this month when luxury goods maker, Coach, committed to taking 600,000 square feet of space in the building. Coach will occupy the lower third of the tower where it will create a vertical campus and a vast atrium that that will serve as an anchor for the High Line. Designed by Kohn Pederson Fox, the tower is part of a 26-acre mixed use development on Manhattan’s far west side that will transform the former train yard near the Hudson River into a 5.5 million square foot “superblock building complex”. When it is complete, the “Coach” tower will be the largest commercial office building in New York City.
As skyscrapers go, One Madison Park was billed as a “second coming” of sorts. The kind of building that has not graced Manhattan’s skyline since the Chrysler and Empire State buildings were built. But as reported last week in the New York Times, the 50-story residential tower has not lived up to its hype, at least not yet. The building is plagued with scores of problems that have shuttered sales and left the few in residency there to fend for themselves. Related Properties, a heavy hitter in the luxury residential market, is reportedly poised to take over the building, deal with the outstanding debt, and put the property on the market again. Help couldn’t come too soon as this award-winning giant is hanging on by threads.
When it comes to real estate development, Manhattan is not for the risk adverse. At the same time, it is not for fools with money. What happened here shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows real estate development in New York. The two guys behind the project, one a former bond trader the other an employee in his family’s real estate business, were destined to make their mark in the Big Apple. As the Times reported, they did many things right, including hiring the best consultants to shepherd the project from design to construction. But in the end, the nascent developers let the building slide into bankruptcy blaming a changing real estate market and to a lesser extent one another for their failure.
The most surprising revelation of it all was that these guys from the neighboring suburbs had no experience building in Manhattan, let alone a building of this scale and complexity. Should we really be surprised then that the building is in the predicament it’s in? With regards Madison Square Park, hubris might have won out initially but experience will have the last word here.
Footnote: On October 24, a Delaware bankruptcy court judge approved a settlement of outstanding claims against the building. Related Companies and HFZ Capital will likely take ownership of One Madison Park barring a successful alternative bid when the project hits the auction block in December. When they do, it is anticipated that the building’s amenity spaces will be built next year and that sales will resume for the remaining apartments in the 69-unit tower.
While the economic outlook for many architects remains grim, some firms are thriving. One of those is the Danish architecture firm BIG. Just as architecture in the city was celebrated this October with a month-long bash chock full of activities, Ingels and his eponymous firm BIG had an busy month both making news and anticipating some of its own. At the close of September, BIG got word that it was short-listed along with AECOM, Hargreaves Associates, James Corner Field Operations, OLIN Partnership and Thomas Balsey Associates for a 27-acre bay front park in Corpus Christi, Texas, which we just learned was awarded to Hargreaves.
On October 1, Ingels was on hand to celebrate the launch of a new, New York-based architecture magazine, CLOG, the premiere issue of which focuses on his firm. Then on October 3, it was off to Cornell’s architecture school to deliver a lecture. Soon after came the announcement in Women’s Wear Daily that Ingles was among the winners of the Wall Street Journal’s magazine’s first ever awards program (to be celebrated next Thursday at MoMA) that honors “Innovators of the Year”. And, this past weekend, BIG threw a bash of its own in West Chelsea to celebrate, among other things, the official opening of its New York office.
The stalled competition winning design for a new $340 million tower for the United Nations reportedly has been green-lighted. According to the New York Observer, city and State authorities have reached an agreement for a land swap on Manhattan’s East side that will make the project a reality. Under the deal, the UN Development Corporation will gain development rights to Robert Moses Park, a narrow slice of land on 1st Street, in exchange for building an Esplanade on the East River between 41st and 48th Street. The Esplanade is part of the Bloomberg Administration’s long-range vision plan to make the city’s waterfronts accessible.
In 2004, Maki won an competition open to Pritzker Prize winners to design a 34-story office tower for the UN. Now that a deal for the land swap has been struck the project is expected to quickly move ahead. Maki and local partner, FXFowle, plan to revisit the original design, “make some tweaks”, and quickly move toward construction. The goal is to have final designs by 2012 and to begin construction in 2013. Commenting on the news that the project is moving forward, Dan Kaplan, a Principal at FXFowle, told the Observer, “It takes a long time for things to happen suddenly.” Not everyone will be pleased by the news. It is anticipated that the project will draw opposition from residents of the Tudor City neighborhood who stand to lose a much-loved park and views of the East River if the project moves ahead.