Mary Miss's WaterMarks Milwaukee for Metropolis

Milwaukee’s WaterMarks Initiative Builds a Community Connection to Water: New York-based environmental artist Mary Miss, conceived of WaterMarks: An Atlas of Water for the City of Milwaukee to help tell the city’s water story., Dec. 21, 2023. 

This fall, Mary Miss launched a citywide public art project in Milwaukee, a series of beacons announcing a new era for the city’s municipal water system.

A pioneer of earth art since the 1960s, Miss’s early installations began as minimalist environmental sculptures constructed on the grounds of museums, parks, universities, and urban developments like Battery Park City. Made of rough industrial materials influenced by manufacturing and production facilities, the structures heightened the immediacy of spatial experience in relation to their surrounding natural environments. Several of these works are currently on display in Groundswell: Women of Land Art at Dallas’s Nasher Sculpture Center, on view through January 7, 2024.

In 2008, Miss established the nonprofit City as Living Laboratory (CALL) in collaboration with founding director Olivia Georgia as a way to build capacity to realize complex science, art, and advocacy-based projects that engage diverse stakeholders, community organizations, government agencies, and development partners. Meanwhile, Miss’s ideas were expanding to larger-scale initiatives tied to the urgency of climate change.

Over the last three decades, Milwaukee has almost completely eliminated the harmful release of sewage through a combination of gray and green infrastructure projects like deep retention tunnels and restored wetlands, putting it far ahead of cities like Boston, Houston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York City—many of them under court order to comply with provisions of the 1972 Clean Water Act requiring cities to prevent pollution of waterways during heavy rains.

Studio Rex's Perelman Performing Arts Center in Abitare


Geometries of Light: Studio Rex's Perelman Performing Arts Center has a set of theaters using cutting edge technology. Abitare 629, Nov. 2023. 


The glowing cube of the World Trade Center’s Perelman Performing Arts Center hovers at an acute angle opposite the 9/11 Memorial, as if solemnly looking away. Its abstract form defers to the horrific event that took thousands of lives, left a gaping hole in the city, and plunged the U.S. into two decades of war. Backlit like a film strip by silver LED pendants that wash its marble-and-glass-paneled walls from the inside, an intense pattern of dark gray veins animates the building’s surface, tinted orange as light filters through thin slices of stone.

Like a minimalist Agnes Martin painting, each marble-and-glass panel constitutes a single brush stroke of the facade’s composition, repeated on all four sides of the volume. To reduce the aleatory chance of random patterns produced by quarrying enough marble to cover a block-long five-story cube, REX adopted a strategy of biaxial symmetry to plot out repeating patterns of veins. As a result, each face needed only four stones with matching striations, and 16 pieces altogether to make the composition radiate an equivalent pattern on each side.

The venue is a rare cultural attraction within the World Trade Center area after dark, when the office towers close and disaster tourism grinds to a halt. Its geometry recalls Daniel Libeskind’s 2002 masterplan, which anticipated a rudimentary polygon in the future performance space’s lot. Its design—led by principal Joshua Ramus of REX, founded as OMA’s New York office and bought out by Ramus in 2006—also vaguely hints toward the 1960s geometric sculptures of artists like Peter Forakis, Frosty Myers, and Marc di Suvero who once ran Park Place Gallery in a nearby loft demolished for the towers’ construction.

Viewed from Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus, the 9/11 Memorial, and One World Trade Center, the cuboid adds a contrasting figure that resolves some of the site’s contradictions. Neither a void, a supertower, nor a biomorphic form, it leaves the plaza open while offering a kind of stoop for pedestrians to linger.

OMA's AKG Buffalo Art Museum in Abitare


Neo-Deco: The extension of Buffalo's art museum, the Gundlach Building designed by OMA partner Shohei Shigematscu, is a brightly lit polyhedral pavilion inspired by the glass structures of the turn of the 19th century. Its attractive form conveys a sense of openness and inclusiveness. Abitare 628, Oct. 2023. 

Buffalo, New York’s main art museum originally reflected the city at its height of power and importance as the late 19th century grain shipment capital of the world, connected by the Erie Canal to vast productive farmlands in the middle of the United States. The second biggest city in New York state, after New York City, culturally, Buffalo has the feeling of a medium-size midwestern Rust Belt town, its local culture amplified by a major university, the vitality of new immigrant groups, and a long legacy of experimental art scenes. With the opening of the Gundlach Building, a $195 million expansion by OMA-NY principle and co-director Shohei Shigematsu, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum has added an energetic irregular marble-and-glass polyhedron inspired by turn of the century bridge engineering to the museum’s historical archive of buildings. 

The addition, along with a new sculptural pavilion by Olafur Eliasson and renovation of its 1962 modernist addition by SOM principal Gordon Bunshaft, is meant to signal inclusiveness and openness and put more of its permanent collection on display. Wrapped in triangular panels of prismatic green-hued glass, the new structure adds a stylish yet restrained contemporary image to Buffalo, offering visitors a heightened aesthetic and spatial experience that recalls the vitrined world expo palaces and trains halls of the late 19th century. 

Shigematsu studied how the volume of galleries could be made transparent to give a sense of openness from the street and provide a promontory view of the vast greenery of Delaware Park, a 1.4 km landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1868. The demand for low-light conditions to protect artworks in museums tends to produce relatively inscrutable buildings. By adding exterior circulation corridors and a sculpture terrace around the perimeter of the galleries, which are then sheathed in glass to accommodate the cold Buffalo climate, Shigematsu imagined an unusually transparent facade. The steel mullions also serve as infrastructural support for the galleries, carrying sprinklers, track lighting, art hanging capacity, and shading. 

The Shigematsu-designed structure is just one part of an expansive campus masterplan, initiated in 2012 by Snøhetta and overseen since 2016 by OMA-NY. One of the more spectacular pieces opening this summer is a new sculptural commission by Berlin-based Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, Common Sky, a spiraling funnel of reflective and transparent glass that is partly open to the sky and partly refracts back into the space. It doubles as a pavilion replacing an underused exterior courtyard, easing circulation between the buildings. It will undoubtedly be a popular Instagram-friendly artwork attracting a wide audience. 

The redevelopment accomplishes a large number of goals for the institution. It removes a surface parking lot and restores the grand staircase and great lawn of the original 1905 neoclassical building by Edward B. Green. The 1962 addition by Bunshaft has been converted into a public building for educational programs with five classroom studios and a cafe. The copper rooftop and facade of the Greek Revival building needed restoration, and they substituted wood for cracked marble floors throughout its galleries. Shigematsu also designed a mirrored glass connective corridor between the old and new buildings, which snakes through a preserved grove of oak trees. Apart from that, the project replaced the mechanical systems of the entire campus and installed an underground parking lot.

The irony is that, like every other museum, the AKG campus renovation to make it more inclusive was funded in large part by a $43 million donation by Jeffrey Gundlach, a Buffalo native who made a fortune as an investment banker in Los Angeles betting against municipal bonds. It’s merely stating the obvious—but it really must be stated, though it’s not at all exclusive to this particular museum—that the way to actually make the culture inclusive is to adequately tax wealth and write public policy to make the society itself more equitable.

Community-Led Development in The State of Housing Design 2023

Community-Led Development, The State of Housing Design 2023, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, 2023.

Video of the release event, Fri., Nov. 17, 2023, Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Design

What is the state of housing design in the US and how are architects of new single- and multi-family housing responding to issues such as the warming climate, affordability, increasing regulations and construction costs, and the demand for new unit types that better reflect today's demographic realities? These questions will be the focus of a half-day event marking the release of The State of Housing Design 2023, a new book that examines themes in housing design, explored through over 100 recent buildings in the US.

“The design of homes and apartments well tailored to the specific needs of diverse community types and user groups has the potential to transform the policy debate surrounding public financing and subsidizing of affordable housing, creating the possibility of a crucial expansion of affordable housing in the US. With its sensitivity to the habits, belief systems, lifeways, needs, and desires of constituencies throughout the country, along with its efficient construction and effective maintenance, community-led housing should rebut arguments that have long precluded an adequate supply
of homes to a substantial portion of the population ill served by the market. Twentieth-century supply-side economists traditionally saw the role of government in offering housing in the narrowest of terms, arguing that rather than directly fund supportive, affordable, social, or public housing, the government should simply lower taxes, decrease regulation, and spur the private market to produce housing based on consumer demand. By 1999, the Faircloth Amendment fully adopted this principle into national policy by making it illegal for the federal government to increase the US public housing supply. Real estate developers argued that public housing would “crowd out” the private marketplace, suppressing demand for their output. The opposite happened: a private market serving less than half the population crowded out access to capital for projects serving the rest of the public.”

Tom Lee Park Mixes It Up in Memphis: Located on the Mississippi River waterfront, the park is part of a plan to help different classes, communities, and histories commingle, Metropolis, Oct. 18, 2023.

A few blocks from the famous strip of Delta blues clubs on Beale Street, a stretch of shoreline redesigned as an alluring civic space for downtown Memphis opened this September. Embedded with multitudes of attractive features to draw residents from all parts of the city and its suburbs, as well as pollinator gardens to support wildlife, it’s the first built project to be directly helmed and developed by Carol Coletta, a formidable decades-long advocate for reinvestment, placemaking, and the civic commons. 

“I want to make cities successful, particularly those that get counted out,” says Coletta, a Memphis native who has steered hundreds of millions of dollars to art and design projects aimed at reviving American cities. “I’m big on people and places that have been roughed up. I think I can relate to it because I was counted out.” 


If all that was needed were to add basketball courts and picnic tables, you would not need Studio Gang. But the architects and Coletta argue emphatically that to create great civic places attracting people from all the city’s demographics, these functions need to be elevated, made alluring, using the backdrop of the Mississippi River and its bridges to Arkansas as highlights. “You’ve got to provide hope and a vision of what can be in an alluring way,” Coletta says. “You’ve got to provide allure.” 

“The design is still very important because that’s what draws people to a place,” Gang says. “You need that spark too. A lot of times urban plans sit on the shelf, and if there isn’t something that makes people feel like ‘I really want to have that in my neighborhood,’ or something new and exciting, then it doesn’t seem like it takes.” 


The goal, ultimately, is to make the park into one of those “third places” outside of the home and office where, in a society stratified more than ever by income levels and political ideology, social mixing happens across differences. “That is the goal: to break down the divides that are inherent in places like Chicago and other cities, where there are areas where you don’t feel welcome,” Gang says. “In a city like Memphis that is not used to using the waterfront as a place to go, there’s a huge hurdle to get over.”

Art & Architecture Writers Demand Fair Pay, Common Edge


Art & Architecture Writers Demand Fair Pay, Common Edge, Aug. 13, 2023. 

Art and design publications devalue the essential work of writing. Low pay rates and flat-fee payments amount to freelance writers generously subsidizing publishers, who in the worst cases compensate writers less than a minimum wage for work. Art and design writers demand pay rate increases and improved editorial practices that compensate them for all of the time required to produce content for well-established publications.

Art, architecture, and design magazines often cover labor issues in these fields—most recently, unionization efforts at SHoP, Bernheimer, and Snohetta, striking graduate students, and advocacy projects of the Architecture Lobby. They cover abusive working conditions within the industry, exploitative hours at boutique firms, abuse of internships for free labor. Increasingly, they concern themselves with equity, racial discrimination, disability, inclusion, and predatory sexual abuse. We believe the exploitative labor practices of the architecture and design magazines themselves need to be made public, creating a mandate for increased pay rates and minimum assignment fees, late payment charges, and making publishers aware of the actual costs of the labor they ask us to do for free, so they will budget these costs into assignment rates. 

Current industry standards are unsustainable and punitive for writers. The lack of consideration shown for working hours, last-minute requests, additional services with no additional pay, lack of timely payments of contracts, invoices, and fees, and lack of responses to pitches all amount to abusive practices. We recognize that many magazines operate on narrow margins and cannot pay at the same rate as commercial trade publishers. We all do pro-bono advocacy work at times, donate time to support emerging publications, or collaborate with publishers who offer editorial help and visibility to developing projects. But after a few years, even non-profit and emerging magazines need to raise money to adequately pay writers. 

The National Writers Union represents freelance journalists of all types, including stringers, feature writers, and editors, for both print and the web, organizing national initiatives to raise standards. But freelancers may be prevented from setting common rates by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which treats price coordination among independent contractors as an illegal antitrust activity. Yet we can join together to make demands for minimum standards, inflation-based rate increases, prompt payment of invoices, contracts, and fees, and improved labor practices, and if necessary, to daylight bad actors. 

We acknowledge the pressure that’s been put on publications over the last 15 years from lost advertising to the internet. But without writers, there’s no magazine. The response to pushback from writers about uncompensated labor cannot be to cut off assignments. As an industry, we are obliged to figure out a business model that doesn’t systematically exploit people.

Signed (listed alphabetically),

Jared Brey, Lisa Chamberlain, Eva Díaz, Billy Fleming, Deborah Gans, Sean Hemmerle Studio, Cathy Lang Ho, Aaron King, Elizabeth Harrison Kubany, Karen Kubey, Mark Lamster, Jeff Link, Bart Lootsma, Sam Lubell, Carlo McCormick, Samuel Medina, Bill Millard, Zach Mortice, Jess Myers, Enrique Ramirez, Timothy A. Schuler, Matt Shaw, Natalia Torija, Lisa Owens Viani, Ian Volner, Kate Wagner, Jenny Xie, Stephen Zacks, and Mimi Zeiger.


Designing Public Schools in New York City for Oculus

Designing Schools, Building Communities: Building schools to meet New York City’s booming student population pushes the limits of project-delivery capabilities as construction costs continue to multiply. Amid logistical challenges, architects and officials still reach for the intangible, delivering spaces designed to last for years and provide a sense of community for children and neighborsOculus, Summer 2023.

The School Construction Authority (SCA) maintains 1,400 public school buildings serving more than one million students in the five boroughs of New York City. It analyzes the flow of students into multitudes of neighborhood and borough-wide schools, and it repairs, expands, and builds new structures—quickly—as demand changes. Currently, the SCA anticipates needing more than 6,200 new seats in Queens high schools alone by 2026. Its budget, fortunately, is appropriately enormous: $2.13 billion for 29 extensions and new buildings in Queens, adding more than 18,000 seats, and $19.4 billion to manage the herculean task of building and maintaining schools citywide from 2020 to 2024.

Thus, on a busy section of Northern Boulevard at the crossroads of Woodside, Astoria, Sunnyside Gardens, and Jackson Heights, between the Home Depot and a row of car dealerships, a new $178.85 million high school designed and built by SCA’s in-house staff of 170 architects and engineers is expected to serve more than 3,079 teenagers. It’s the biggest project in the SCA’s history, and its bylaws dictate that 40% of the scoping, design, and construction support work be done in-house, with the rest contracted to consultants. “They go to the in-house staff because they know we can handle challenging projects that are tight in construction schedule,” says Jahae Koo, director of the SCA’s architecture and engineering department.

At the moment, the Northern Boulevard structure is raw. So far, its fire-retardant-coated six-story steel shell has pre-cast concrete panels on a few sides, which will mitigate the sound from the busy four-lane road and Amtrak trains running behind and achieve an extremely high level of energy performance. Flatbed trucks roll up with more of the panels embedded with four-inch rigid insulation, which crews lift on cranes and attach to the structure. This school must open by September 2025, but it doesn’t yet have a principal, teachers, staff—or walls. “Understand, this has been going on for months!” shouts a construction manager behind a closed door, as we meet in the construction office trailers parked on the building site.

Because of the accelerated schedule, the project had to be conceived, designed, and built based on the SCA’s tried-and-true ideas of spatial organization and understanding of how to incorporate flexibility for the school’s future administrators. The structure will accommodate 96 classrooms, including six art rooms, three music rooms, and six science labs, along with three exercise rooms, a two-story competition-size gym, changing rooms and showers, two cafeterias, a 550-seat auditorium, bike storage, and outdoor handball and basketball courts. Fifteen special education classrooms will be contained in their own school within the same building—there will be multiple principals running several distinct schools with their own administrative offices within groups of floors in the two wings of the structure. The special education classrooms will have bathrooms and a dedicated second-floor courtyard open to the sky, offering students a place to play and find calm within the commotion of a high school the combined size of three city schools.

“That’s one of the challenges: How do you design a high school community for such a large number and still have an impact?” asks Koo. “It’s important that our building façade design embraces and opens to the community.” The scalloped entry plaza sits back from the street to create open space for play areas and socializing. Two six-story wings on either side of the entrance can be subdivided and administered by multiple principals to manage the huge population. The large number of science labs at upper levels anticipates the educational interests of young people who were still in elementary school when architects developed the program.

In terms of sourcing of materials, energy efficiency, building envelope, water conservation, and storage of stormwater, the Northern Boulevard building meets the latest updated codes. Its R40 roof and R25 walls, energy use index of 28, 270 rooftop solar panels, plumbing that uses 35% less water than normal fixtures, and regional sourcing of steel and pre-cast panels meet the SCA equivalent of LEED standards. All city school buildings now undergo a blower test for air tightness. Rainwater is collected in detention tanks below the plaza area.

Full story at link


Review of Shared Space—Collective Practices at Art Omi in The Architect's Newspaper

Documenting Activist Design: Art Omi revisited urban interventions with a display of work from four architecture collaboratives. The Architect's Newspaper, Jul. 20, 2023.

A show on the community-engaged projects of four architecture collaboratives based in the U.S., Central America, and England, Shared Space—Collective Practices, was on view at outdoor sculpture park Art Omi in the Hudson Valley for the first half of 2023. Organized by Art Omi architecture curator Julia van den Hout, the exhibition within in the Newmark Gallery revisited a form of social activist design work known as urban interventions that emerged in the mid-to-late 2000s: a way of organizing small-scale projects to activate vacant spaces, advocate for social and political issues, and serve historically discriminated-against and economically disadvantaged groups.

Featuring a selection of projects by WIP Collaborative, FUNdaMENTAL Design Build Initiative, Colloqate Design, and Assemble, the show exhibited photos and videos documenting the four practices in the gallery of Art Omi’s stone-and-glass-walled visitor’s center, designed in 2008 by Ghent, New York–based FT Architecture & Interiors. A series of sloping, multicolored platforms with varying surface textures designed by WIP is the center point of the gallery. The colorful platforms are being reused after the show in the organization’s education pavilion.

The four collaboratives share a style familiar to many community-oriented design initiatives: ad hoc, colorful, joyful, and often temporary, they react to the unique situation of a place and engender a sense of belonging among residents normally ignored by government programs and private finance-led redevelopment. They create places of identification and inspiration that signal intangible, unseen possibilities. While the scale of these projects can often seem inadequate in the face of larger-scale systemic and institutional failures, the work has a self-evident value. They serve as pilots, models, examples, and inspirations, change agents stimulating others to act, and opportunities to expand the imagination for people with little exposure to art and design. They can have substantial results when adequately funded and expanded into policymaking regimes. And the collaborations with community members can be incredibly fun, meaningful, and rewarding.

Full story at link

Grand Junction Park by Land Collective and HWKN in The Architect's Newspaper

Grand Junction Glow-Up: Land Collective and HWKN complete a park in Westfield, Indiana, that supports the lives of residents. The Architect's Newspaper, Jun. 30, 2023.

Above the start of Grassy Branch of Cool Creek in the small city of Westfield, Indiana, a wooden boardwalk snakes through a renaturalized streambed where pedestrians can hop over the stream or get their feet wet in the flowing water. Nearby, the new park, the Grand Junction Park & Plaza, accommodates dedicated spaces for open-air performances; a glass-walled cafe with a cascading, stepped Indiana limestone facade; and a Great Lawn for lounging. Park users can picnic and play, ice-skate in the winter, or enjoy the many comfortable wooden benches from which they can peacefully observe the resurgence of wildlife.

The park, which officially opened last year, was designed by David Rubin of Land Collective with architecture by Matthias Hollwich of HWKN in collaboration with RATIO Architects and signage and wayfinding by Bruce Mau Design, along with an extended team of civil engineers and riparian-corridor specialists. While the end result is impressive, the effort began as a more limited project focused on flood control.

“All of these assets became possible because there was a social overlay to infrastructure,” Rubin said. “It was that marriage that made this all possible. We came up with this vision for the park that resolved the climate crisis issues and the riparian-corridor reparation issues that then had this social overlay that would create a new central park around which development could happen.” The creek at the downtown crossroads of Westfield had overflowed throughout its history. After the Swamp and Overflowed Lands Act of 1850, the Army Corps of Engineers fixed the problem in the rough- and-tumble way of early American settlements: It channelized Cool Creek to keep water from destroying productive farmlands, inserting a pipe through which the normal flow of water could pass. But in the last 20 years, regular 100-year storms began to repeatedly overtop the levee, overwhelming the pipe and flooding the area.

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Reinventing Dealey Plaza by Mark Lamster, Stoss, and MPdL Studio in The Architect's Newspaper

Reinventing Dealey Plaza: Mark Lamster, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, and MPdL Studio offer a new public terrain for downtown Dallas that addresses its violent past. The Architect's Newspaper, Jun. 28, 2023.

Settled in 1841 by Tennessee-born trader John Neely Bryan, who opened a general store, post office, and ferry on the banks of the Trinity River, Dallas is now a major destination within Texas and the country at large. Yet like many cities, traces of a violent past remain underacknowledged in its terrain.

In July 1860, a fire destroyed the city’s business district. At the time Dallas was a town of fewer than 700 people, including 97 African Americans. The fire, occurring not long before the outbreak of the Civil War, sparked accusations of arson against abolitionist and Black leaders, culminating in the lynching of three Black men.

A widely circulated 1910 postcard picturing a massive crowd of whites lynching a Black man at the center of Dallas offers another window into its hidden history of racial terror. In 1963, the city dedicated Martyrs Park to the victims, but the site remains isolated from pedestrian access beneath the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad yards—the so-called Triple Underpass—with an uncomfortably narrow and dark walkway before Elm Street emerges and descends to the river.

This history is overshadowed by another incident of violence: Dealey Plaza is just on the other side of the Triple Underpass. Many Americans know it as the site of one of the country’s most shocking and calamitous events: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy—a figure of enormous hope and aspiration for a generation of young people—as his motorcade drove through Dallas on November 22, 1963, the streets lined by throngs of supporters. The event, captured on film by an amateur photographer, was followed by an uncanny series of improbable incidents, among them the killing of the oddball assassin by an equally oddball nightclub owner—also photographed in the act. The graphic and incongruous official account of events spawned innumerable government investigations, conspiracy theories, Hollywood movies, and deathbed confessions.

Dealey Plaza became a place of shame and embarrassment for Dallas’s elected officials, who tried to ignore it, placing only an informational plaque at the site until, in 1970, the city commissioned Philip Johnson to design a memorial several blocks away. The unfortunate result is a grim, Brutalist artifact. Work proceeded slowly to fully and properly tell the story of the event. In 1989, the Dallas County Historical Foundation dedicated a museum to commemorate the assassination, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, located inside the Texas School Book Depository building from which the assassin fired the fatal shots.

In the meantime, Dealey Plaza attracted hucksters and conspiracy theorists, who regularly marked the locations where bullets were found with spray-painted x’s on the pavement. Rather than taking the situation as an excuse for grandstanding and the reprimand of city leaders, Mark Lamster, architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News, decried the sad state of this part of downtown. “It is a deplorable state of affairs,” he wrote last October, “but also a great opportunity; a chance to transform this site into a space of civic memory and understanding that embraces the past and points to the future.”

As Lamster wrote in his article last year presenting the concept, Dealey Plaza has become “perilous to navigate, marked by tawdry vandalism and utterly inadequate to both its historical gravity and to the functional demands of the city.” Its pedestrianization would be a fitting way to honor the place, an imperative for the safety of visitors, and an opportunity for Dallas, he argued.

“I think our first and most significant move was to shut down Elm Street, one of the three roads that are moving through [Dealey Plaza],” Lamster told AN. “That’s the road that Kennedy was shot on. And just to say, we will no longer have traffic on this road, that having moving vehicles going quite fast over the site was not appropriate. Shutting that down, making it a pedestrian space—making it a safe space—was really important.”

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Review of Mass Support at CCNY for The Architect's Newspaper

Manufacturing Home: At CCNY, Mass Support documented the work of SAR, led by John Habraken, and displayed alternate forms of housing. The Architect's Newspaper, May 30, 2023.

A uniquely American mania has taken hold in the area of housing reform. For the last few years, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and regional newspapers across the U.S., along with architects, planners, and real estate experts, have proffered the misguided idea that reformation or elimination of zoning would allow the free market to somehow produce an adequate supply of affordably priced dwellings. According to the going logic, if regulations were eased, real estate developers and homebuilders would flood the market with inexpensive units that they would sell at below market rates for mysterious reasons and then donate their potential profits for the benefit of society. Advocates also mistakenly believe that bankers would willfully loan money for this cause at subprime interest rates and, presumably, excuse developers who sell units at less than their offering plan.

Zoning-reform activists may not have been paying attention in 2008 during the subprime mortgage–backed securities crisis. The federal government opted to shore up the banks and allow them to take away the homes of hundreds of thousands of families rather than sacrifice the difference between their declining market value and mortgages. The same thing happened recently, when three banks collapsed in the second-largest incident in American history. The ideology of regulators is to protect bankers, who have no interest in giving away potential profits. No one is giving a break to buyers unless forced to do so. Given this trajectory, the idea that zoning reform by itself, without other regulatory mandates, will have more than a marginal effect on the price of housing is madness. The free market will not save us.

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Paris apartment facing Père Lachaise by Atelier Varenne in Dwell

Before & After: Elegant Arches and Curves Shape Up a Fusty Paris Flat: The apartment had potential with windows looking over the city’s biggest green space, so a young couple traded out its old rugs, wallpaper, and tight floor plan. Dwell, May 23, 2023.

Paris apartments with open views are hard to come by, so when Pierre Vérité and Allira Swick found one with three rooms of south-facing windows overlooking the verdant landscape of Père Lachaise cemetery, what also serves as the city’s largest green space, they knew they’d found something special. And there was more to love: antique chandeliers, plaster medallions, and wood paneling. Yet the apartment had not been updated since 1963 by its most recent inhabitant, a woman in her ’90s.

Pierre and Allira wanted to preserve some of its antique charms while making it their own. "We wanted the apartment to reflect Pierre and I, our tastes, and also how different we are as people and see how that could marry together, with me being Australian and him being French," said Allira. As a native of Western Australia, Allira gravitated toward earthy, matte, porous finishes that hearkened to a warm outdoor climate. Pierre envisioned a clean modern vibe animated by historic details.

Interior architect Asma Florençon of Atelier Varenne took cues from their different sensibilities, iterating the flat’s finishes and adding new ones to create something that felt whole. "It was a matter of putting different things together in a way that brought out the best features of the space, but with an added layer of what the couple were bringing to it with the next chapter of their lives," Florençon says.

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Michael Sorkin Reading Room in The Architect's Newspaper

Sorkin’s Stacks: The Spitzer School of Architecture preserves the library of Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform Urban Research in the Sorkin Reading Room. The Architect's Newspaper, May 22, 2023.

Beyond the main library within the City College of New York’s Rafael Viñoly Architects–designed Spitzer School of Architecture building, a cobbled-together space composed of a former storage area and the visual resources room has become the Sorkin Reading Room. Windows overlooking the landscape have vinyl letters that read: “Fish are symmetrical but only until they wiggle. Our effort is to measure the space between the fish and the wiggle. This is the study of a lifetime.”

Designed by Elisabetta Terragni with red-carpeted floors and a long seminar table alongside KEEP bookshelves designed by Keller Easterling, the Sorkin Reading Room houses the book collection of architect, critic, urban theorist, and author Michael Sorkin, who died in late March 2020 due to COVID-19. Had he survived, the pandemic would be the type of crisis about which Sorkin would have much to say. Given the spatial, economic, and political dimensions of the crisis, which continues to impact us today, the milieu would have become material for a compelling argument about how to better organize social and political space.

The library embodies the thick history of this form of thinking. Terragni painstakingly documented the arrangement of the books in the studio to preserve their order. The shelves are stocked with an extensive collection of titles under headings like Utopia, Green Cities, Suburbia, Green Eco-Ecology, Globalism/Imperialism, and an international array of regional urbanisms. Terragni will eventually fully restore the studio’s books in the order Sorkin left them.

“I knew Michael very well in his work, but to go through all the books helped me to understand how these books were the tools for him to write and to think,” Terragni told AN. “If you flip through any of the books, you can find notes, letters. The work I did is just the beginning. Now they’re there to open up for research and studies, because there are a lot of clichés about Michael. He was a talented writer, he was an agitator, he was all of these things, but it’s high time to go deeper and to start to talk seriously about his work.” 

Full story at link.

Modern New Orleans Renovation by Nathan Fell Architecture in Dwell

Budget Breakdown: Hate Your Gable-Sided Home? Shield It: A strategic renovation with a striated facade helps a New Orleans homeowner meld his modern ambitions with his more historic home. Dwell, May 9, 2023.

Eric Roland doesn’t mind being a little contrarian. "People love historic New Orleans charm, and I’m not saying I hate it," says the longtime resident of the city. "But it’s not my favorite." That was clear back in 2021, when he was on the hunt for a two-family home that he could turn into an owner-occupied house with a rental apartment. He found a two-story, two-unit brick building just a block and a half from streetcar-lined St. Charles Avenue and the stately Garden District. The gable-sided home with a half-moon attic window had been a characteristically neglected rental owned by an absentee landlord. The structure was perfect, but the style? "I’m on the younger spectrum, so it’s kind of the old school/new school divide going on," Eric says. "I like clean lines. I don’t like anything circular. I even hated the gable roof."

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La MaMa renovation by Beyer Blinder Belle in The Architect's Newspaper

A Resonant Retrofit: Beyer Blinder Belle builds a contemporary theater behind a historic facade for La MaMa Experimental Theatre ClubThe Architect's Newspaper, Apr. 4, 2023.

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club has reopened behind its original landmarked red brick facade, spiffing up its Renaissance Revival and Neo-Grec cast-iron decorative details. Inside, the brick walls are nearly all that remains of the original 1873 structure. Renovated and restored by Beyer Blinder Belle, led by architect Chris Cowan, working with theater and acoustic consultants Charcoalblue and theater consultant Jean Guy Lecat, the project transplants a new interior into the guts of La MaMa, resituating its raked, brick-lined theater club from the ground level to a newly inserted, expanded second level. Above, the club and new programming and amenity spaces in the lobby and third and fourth levels are hoisted on earthquake-safe and sound-isolating steel beams, brackets, and floor plates.

The $24 million renovation maintains a close spiritual connection to the intentions of La MaMa founder Ellen Stewart, the African American Saks Fifth Avenue porter-turned-fashion designer-turned-theater impresario, dearly departed in 2011, who rented a basement theater on East 9th Street in 1961 to create a venue for her brother, playwright Frederick Lights. Stewart stumbled onto the 4th Street building looking for expanded performance space in 1967, guided by her intuitive feeling about people and places—what she called her “beeps.”

“That’s how she programmed shows,” Mary Fulham, managing director of La MaMa, told AN. “If she met you and she felt her beeps, she would give you a show. She was totally intuitive in that way. It was about the artist. Who are you? Do you need the space? What do you want to do? If it resonated with her, she called it her beeps.”

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