Abitare: 56 Leonard Tower


A Tower Like a Toy: The new luxury residential tower block designed by Herzog & de Meuron in New York’s Tribeca district, which has something vaguely reminiscent of a children’s game about it, skilfully satisfies the complex system of rules governing the city’s property market. 

Abitare, December 2017.


"From a distance, Herzog & de Meuron’s 820-foot skyscraper pronounces orthogonal shapes onto the skyline, articulating the edges of ten penthouses and 135 condos. In New York it’s known colloquially as the Jenga tower for its stacked blocks of glass teetering on top of one another. From the 52nd floor of 56 Leonard Street, commanding views of New York City accumulate in every direction: its rivers and bridges and avenues construct larger-than-life panoramas inside floor-to-ceiling windows, and low-lying buildings miniaturize into insignificant toys."

Art in America: The Collective Imagination



The Collective Imagination: Throughout Europe, youthful architecture and design collectives are taking a DIY approach to today's living and working challenges—not least, the refugee crisis. 

Art in AmericaDecember 2017.


"In the backyard garden of a family in Montreuil, a liberal suburb east of Paris, two asylum seekers from Sudan are living in a temporary relief shelter, a micro-house designed by the architecture collective Quatorze. Custom-built off-site by volunteers using burnt-wood cladding and Japanese carpentry techniques, the structure was brought to its current location on a trailer bed and connected to a composting septic system and an underground heating unit that generates surplus electricity for the hosts’ house. Called IMBY—In My Backyard, the dwelling was installed in the garden last summer by members of Quatorze. Next year, the family in Montreuil will decide whether to host a new couple, buy the house for their own use, or have it moved to another site.


A similar experiment is happening in Berlin, at an educational and social gathering place called Die G√§rtnerei (Nursery), conceived by the architecture collective Raumlabor and located on the property of a stonemason’s house set back from Hermannstrasse in Neuk√∂lln. Since the height of the refugee crisis, arts educators going by the name Schlesische27 have hosted planting, landscaping, and German classes there in an effort to build community with immigrants. Like many of the unexpected spaces created by architecture collectives in Germany and France, the Nursery exudes the optimism of a place that exists only through the efforts of the people who use it. Raumlabor, Quatorze, and other associations combine ad hoc public art with social research and architectural fabrication to create structures that alter relationships between groups of people. For the architects as much as for the communities they set out to serve, collaborative work is a means of self-determination: in a slow-growing economy with a depressed labor market, architecture collectives create their own possibilities instead of waiting for someone to hire them. Whether whimsical or utilitarian, their projects invest public space with a dynamic potential for small-scale change."

NEW YORK VALUES: PUBLIC HOUSING DESIGN STANDARDS


New York Values: NYCHA’s new guidelines for rehabilitation of public housing push for sustainability and preservation

Architect's Newspaper, May 26, 2017


“This will impact all of our capital projects,” Bruce Eisenberg said. “We have a five-year plan of scheduled projects, and so we really wanted to raise the bar of design in how we execute them. This is a roadmap to enable us to do that.” It has implications for a vast and practically unending scope of work. If fully funded, renovation of NYCHA projects, which comprise 2,500 acres in 328 complexes containing 125,000 units and serving more than 400,000 residents, would require $17 billion in current capital costs. Allocations over the next three years amount to $784.4 million from the city’s budget.

HARVARD GSD PUBLIC ART PANEL



Public Art in the City: a three-part workshop and lecture program that examines the relationship between designers and visual artists and the politics of intervening in the city.

Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, Harvard Graduate School of Design, April 19-20, 2017.

Stephen Zacks, founder and creative director of Flint Public Art Project, joins Flint's Sandra Branch, London's Assemble Studio, Geeta Pradhan of Cambridge Community Foundation, design critic Max Kuo, landscape architect Sergio Lopez-Pineiro, and Creative Time's Nato Thompson in this workshop/ lecture program at Harvard Graduate School of Design on the politics of visual artists and architects intervening in the city.

CALL FOR AN ARCHITECTS' STRIKE



An Open Letter to AIA Executive Director Robert Ivy.

Common Edge, Jan. 20, 2017.


"For all its humanistic aspirations, architecture is usually perceived as having a particularly needy subservience to power and capital. Architects depend on access to capital to build. The American Institute of Architects seemed to meekly surrender to this condition in its quick post-election conciliatory statement, pledging that its 89,000 members would work with what promises to be an exceptionally corrupt and damaging presidency. The reaction of its members was equally swift, followed by letters of apology and resignation of the media relations director. Some members have called for your resignation, but there is a much better solution. As a professional association dedicated to advancement of the practice through standards, education, and advocacy, the AIA is not a traditional guild or union, otherwise it would be more conscious of its members’ power to collectively withhold their services in order to force change and represent its interests."

DISPARATE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE



Sink or Swim? Climate change displacement is becoming the new gentrification—here’s how to stop it

The Architect's Newspaper, Dec. 6, 2016.


"In contrast to the oblivious political climate change “debate,” local governments have already learned from recent extreme weather events that they need to act to improve their planning capacity and infrastructure. Federal agencies are also acting, putting limited resources into protecting against climate change-related disasters. Highly engineered solutions are possible, but they’re unwise as a long-term strategy in the absence of a leveling off of global temperatures and will be cost-prohibitive for low-income communities. Unless the next Congress is prepared to fund a national infrastructure program, the best way to equitably protect low-income residents will be to downzone vulnerable areas and build new public housing on higher ground. Otherwise, we’ll need to accept the fact that our celebrated revitalized waterfront is mainly for the rich."

BLACK MOUNTAIN REVIVAL



Mountain Men: A group of artists and architects revisit the famed Black Mountain College

The Architect's Newspaper, Sep. 27, 2016.


"A famous experimental college flourished in Black Mountain, North Carolina, from 1933 until it closed in 1957. Josef Albers taught there for 17 years, while Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer designed one of their first U.S. commissions and Buckminster Fuller attempted his first dome structure at the college. Last October, at its Lake Eden campus, Adam Void and Chelsea Ragan—artists who had settled in western North Carolina—invited a group of 18 colleagues to join them in planning a school inspired by Black Mountain College. Less than a year later, with guidance from the group, Void and Ragan launched a call for faculty, organized a curriculum, gathered tuition from students, and rented a building for a month-long experiment in community and education."

OAKLAND DIY SPACES


Can Oakland’s underground spaces survive a rising real-estate tide?

Mic, Sep. 16, 2016



"Compared to previous generations, particularly in New York City, that mobilized rent strikes and artists' unions to advocate for their collective interests, DIY-show organizers express little motivation to join groups like the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition, formed last June to protect art and cultural spaces against the same threat of displacement facing low-income residents generally. Rather, they seem resigned to the inevitability of commercial real estate inflation.

"Arguably, for the last couple of decades, the robust underground arts-and-music scene located in commercial spaces thrived on civic disrepair," Lefebvre says. "As more money comes into historically neglected areas, it's just kind of bad news for the scene."

But whether it's in Oakland or other cities where rapidly climbing rents challenge cultural producers to find ad hoc solutions, underground venues continue to take root and create musical happenings in unlikely places. That's what gives them a special allure: None of them were supposed to exist in the first place."

A FREER LIBERTY PARK




Give Me Liberty: Liberty Park successfully fills a critical role in the World Trade Center site 

The Architect's Newspaper, Aug. 24, 2016.


"It may be fitting that this odd park cropped on top of a security building achieves what’s missing from the intensely programmed whole. As a leftover space, the designers were unencumbered by the duties of solemn remembrance, architectural spectacle, real estate bravado, and tourism. It anticipates the day when the World Trade Center is reborn as a part of the city, which could be a greater honor than any designated monument."

FLOATING BRIDGE TO BROOKLYN



Floating an Idea: Kickstarter campaign for a floating bridge from Brooklyn’s Red Hook to Governors Island

The Architect's Newspaper, Apr. 26, 2016


"The Citizen Bridge will allow New Yorkers to walk on water over a leisurely six-block span from the piers of Red Hook to Governors Island. Think of it as an engineered version of the sandbar by which Brooklyn farmers once walked their cattle across Buttermilk Channel at low tide. A four-year adventure now in its seventh prototype, the floating pedestrian bridge is designed in its latest iteration from angular blocks of Styrofoam planked with plywood, fastened together and anchored at regular intervals for stability. The last prototype, the Superblock, withstood its first experiments in not plunging its inventor into the river."