10 Policies to Make Rent Affordable in Oculus

Housing, Not Including: 10 Policies to Make Rent Affordable for Low- to Middle-Income Households, Oculus, Summer 2019. 

New York is experiencing an extreme housing market and policy failure, with the majority of residents fundamentally housing insecure. Almost 63% of New Yorkers are renters, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the highest proportion are under 50 years old. The median income for an individual in the city is nearly $58,000, meaning half of New York City adults make less. Few apartments are available for under $1,500 in the open market, yet to rent a $1,500 studio, leaseholders are expected to be earning $60,000, based on the traditional metric of income being 40 times the monthly rent. By this measure, the market is failing to meet the needs of more than half of individual wage earners.

The Shed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in Abitare

A Shed for Everybody, Abitare, June 2019. 

A STORM OF GRIEVANCES HAS BEEN GATHERING AROUND HUDSON YARDS, the $25 billion mega-development on the West Side of Manhattan, threatening to engulf the much-anticipated cultural facility designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group in controversy. Launched in early April on the edge of the High Line, the Shed is a metallic silvery eight-story, 18,500 square-meter, multidisciplinary arts venue sheathed in a rolling steel-and-translucent plastic shell that unfurls in five minutes to effectively double the footprint of the venue. Conceived as a center for interdisciplinary artistic collaboration, the building and its deployable shell have the capacity to host exhibitions of painting, sculpture, and digital media, large-scale multimedia performances of dance, music, and theatre, and, especially, amalgams of all of the above. If it manages to captivate a public beyond the billionaires that funded it, the Shed could be the saving grace of a massive real estate development that has been harshly criticized – perhaps exaggeratedly – as a gated community for the rich.

Passive House in Mount Tremper by IdSR Architects in Dwell

Woodland Skills: A pair of eco-minded architects build a house on a platform in the Catkills watershed, Dwell, May/ June 2019. 

Their goal to preserve as many trees as possible while leaving the land and water flows undisturbed was coupled with their desire to build a house that consumed minimal energy—perhaps even giving back to the grid. After surveying the land and constructing a small studio on the site, they chose a plot toward the top of the slope, away from the streams, where they could place the septic field. They cleared a spot with a preponderance of ash trees, which were already threatened by an infestation of emerald ash borers in the state, and reluctantly sacrificed a large white pine that was in danger of toppling.

Disrupting Anomie: Toward a cell phone etiquette for public space

Disrupting Anomie: Toward a cell phone etiquette for public space: The development of commonly accepted, socially sanctioned mores for use of smartphones in public is needed to liberate public space from the attention merchants, Roca Gallery, June 4, 2019.

...for the purposes of recovering the social, interactive nature of public space, the most disruptive tool—small, yet powerful—would be a commonly accepted social sanction against walking past another person while staring at a smartphone. Doing so needs to be regarded as the height of rudeness, worthy of a physical nudge, a whistle, a side comment. Distracted walking should be treated as a shocking violation of each other’s personal space, treating public space as if it were one’s private realm, as if there were no need to acknowledge the presence of others or blocking each other’s path while delving into one’s personal data. We can reinforce social rules that call out these incidences in order to heighten our self-awareness.

Design for Dignity: How Architects Are Addressing Homelessness in Oculus

A landmark class-action lawsuit on behalf of homeless men in New York City established the right to shelter in the city in 1981—soon expanded to women and families. At the time, the homeless crisis was a highly visible malaise, present everywhere on the streets, under bridges, in homeless encampments, in public parks. Since that lawsuit, resolved by what is known as the Callahan consent decree, the city has been court ordered to find beds for every person presenting themselves to a shelter facility. In the following decades, it spurred the creation of an extensive infrastructure of nearly 500 facilities for overnight and longer-term shelter, hidden throughout the corners of the five boroughs. The Department of Homeless Services now oversees a shelter system for more than 61,000 New York City residents currently in need of emergency housing every night. 

“If you look at the homeless population chart as a graph, you’ll observe that the spikes in population align with periods of prosperity in the city more broadly,” said David Piscuskis of 1100 Architects. “What happens in simple terms is that landlords can take a piece of housing stock and put it into the public realm—the more market-based realm—when times are good.” 

Resilient Waterfront Landscapes of New York for Abitare

Resilient New York: Sea levels are rising and the American metropolis is one of the most at risk. Through works already in place and projects for the future, we look at how the landscape of the coast is changing as its interface with the water is softened and it returns to some extent to its origins, leaving room for marshes, perennial plants and a new and varied fauna. Abitare, January, 2019.

ONE THING IS OVERWHELMINGLY CLEAR FROM LISTENING TO LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS advising New York City on planning and building for rising seas. Water will flow through the city. It always has, but there will be much more of it, overwhelming infrastructure systems. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy served as a warning, inundating low-lying areas along the 52 miles of waterfront. In the future, we would do better letting it flow, controlling it less, giving it gentler and a greater variety of ways to be absorbed by the city. Across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, the city is spending $20 billion on its OneNYC resiliency program. The future is all about wetlands, tidal landscapes, soft edges, and water retaining swales. This is true even where dense, booming condo developments install thousands of units of new housing on the shore. Water will roll up graded slopes to the foot of towers until it pushes back into the sea and be absorbed by parks, community gardens, parklets, tree plantings, and softened streetscapes.

Notes on Brooklyn Real Estate for Brownstoner

Daily posts on real estate listings for Brownstoner, a magazine and web site covering development and renovation in Brooklyn, with a commitment to preservation of historic architecture. Follow recent postings 

Let’s be honest: Say you’re a single person making $55,000 a year, optimistically, doing OK, statistically, essentially what qualifies as the margins of low-to-moderate income in New York City. According to the traditional rent-to-income calculation, you don’t even qualify for this studio apartment at 2164 Caton Avenue in a neighborhood “safe to people with a reasonable amount of street smarts,” per the Google Brooklyn safety map.

That means the landlord is going to ask you for a War and Peace-size file with all of your income, taxes, and reams of private information, then likely reject you as too poor for probably the lowest price apartment you can find within an hour’s subway ride of the places essential for your work and life. And you’re one of the people supposedly gentrifying the place. Oh, and by the way, for maintaining the 40 units in this building, the rentier landlord is bringing in a tidy $900,000 profit, according to PropertyShark. Blame the artists!

Posthumanism in Contemporary Art and Architecture

Other Voices, Other Worlds: Prompted by the dire ecological effects of business as usual, a number of artists and architects now embrace a “posthuman” worldview, crafting projects based on a decentralized, nonhierarchical unity of all species. Art in America, Dec. 2018. 

...most (if not all) the efforts of artists, activists, and scholars engaging with posthumanism confront the problem of incommensurability. These projects are not entirely reconcilable within existing legal and political frameworks. Yet it might make sense to see them, as Haraway does, as generative gestures that are not delegitimized by their contradictions. They are, for now, fitting projects for aesthetics: uses of the imagination to create more beautiful worlds.

Does this park on the Red Square reshape Russia’s public space?

Does this park on the Red Square reshape Russia’s public space? AC Architectural Creation, Oct. 23, 2018.

My article "Soft Power in Moscow" was translated by Yayun Dong of the landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Associates, then used as a reference text for a new article, reedited, reframed, and published in the Chinese online magazine AC Architectural Creation under the title "Does this park on the Red Square reshape Russia’s public space?" It covers Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Zaryadye Park and other Moscow urban design projects reflecting a view of Russia's government as a system that despite its faults is able to be influenced by public opinion and professional design work.