New York: The Latest Architecture and News
550 Madison Avenue (née the AT&T Building, more recently Sony Plaza) is among the more recognizable figures on New York’s skyline. Designed by architect-provocateur Philip Johnson, the 37-story skyscraper stands out thanks to its curious headgear: a classical pediment broken by a circular notch, inviting frequent comparisons to the top of a Chippendale grandfather clock. A singular, if largely inoffensive presence on today’s icon-heavy streetscape, the design was positively shocking on its debut in 1979, when Johnson himself appeared on the cover of Time holding a model of the project, then still four years from completion. The image heralded the arrival of something new in American architecture: the fading of the flat-crowned Modernist towers of the midcentury and the onset of the Postmodernist wave.
“Superstorm Sandy in 2012 was a wake-up call for NYC and made the city realize it needed to better prepare for climate change,” said Adrian Smith, FASLA, vice president at ASLA and team leader of Staten Island capital projects with NYC Parks. Due to storm surges from Sandy, “several people in Staten Island perished, and millions in property damage were sustained.”
On the 10th anniversary of Sandy, Smith, along with Pippa Brashear, ASLA, principal at SCAPE, and Donna Walcavage, FASLA, principal at Stantec, explained how designing with nature can lead to more resilient shoreline communities. During Climate Week NYC, they walked an online crowd of hundreds through two interconnected projects on the southwestern end of the island: Living Breakwaters and its companion on land — the Tottenville Shoreline Protection Project.
New York-based firm Marvel revealed schematic designs for The Bronx Museum's new multi-story entrance and lobby, as part of the museum's revamp for its 50th anniversary. With a budget of USD $26 million and slated for completion in 2025, the renovation will relocate the access on the Grand Concourse Street, one of the most iconic The Bronx boulevards, and focus on the cohesion of the multiple sections for a fully accessible route through all of the galleries. Coinciding with this announcement, the Museum reinvented its brand identity and website for the first time in over two decades to reflect its ethos as a vital space at the intersection of art and social justice in New York City.
The Constant Future: A Century of the Regional Plan, an October exhibit at Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal is a succinct yet gripping display of civic dreams selected from the imagination of the Regional Plan Association (RPA), an independent non-profit that conducts research on the environment, land use, and good governance with the intention of promoting ideas that improve economic health, environmental resiliency, and quality of life in the New York metropolitan area. The occasion is the organization’s centennial, and the show is a testament to its powerful role in developing the tri-state region. Not all of its ideas have been good, but the city owes a debt to the group’s long-term view.
Cities have been, and will always be multi-faceted, elastic sites. They are settlements in continuous evolution, molded by proximity to natural resources, by migrating populations, and by capital. Despite the diversity in the urban character of disparate cities, it has been said that cities look alike now more than ever before, a uniformity that means a glass-and-steel tower in Singapore would not look out of place in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex.
The Transportation Alternatives and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have initiated a new digital tool, Spatial Equity NYC, to help users understand how space is distributed and restricted across the neighborhoods of New York City. The tool asses the use of streets, sidewalks, and public spaces, as they are key factors that influence data such as pollution, traffic fatalities, accessibility, or air quality. The data collected shows a direct correlation between neighborhoods with low-income communities and communities of color and the detrimental ways in which public space is used, leading to health and mobility issues in those communities.
The scene is almost identical, no matter which borough of New York City you’re in. Narrow sidewalks are lined by mountains of trash bags and other large objects, waiting for their turn to be taken away by the fleet of sanitary workers and trucks who will dispose of them. Large rodents seek shelter in their temporary plastic homes, feeding on discarded scraps, becoming a regular sighting for New York City residents. The City That Never Sleeps has a bigger problem than the flashing lights and noisy streets- it’s all of the trash that’s left to sit out on the sidewalks.
Most architects design projects in the comfort of their offices, sitting behind their desks, making decisions by looking at their flatscreens, never visiting a construction site, and managing everything remotely. This attitude may lead to a design of a sleek and even objectively beautiful building. But such a solution can’t be anywhere near a genuine response to what any given site may require. How do you even find out? Is it possible to build something new as if it were an extension of what is already there in the most innate, consequential, yet original form? The only way to find out is to start from the site itself, says Vinu Daniel, the founder of Wallmakers, an award-winning architectural practice in Trivandrum, the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala.
Whether you live in an urban, suburban, or rural area, there’s a good chance that using a sidewalk, in some capacity, is part of your everyday routine. Whether crossing over a sidewalk to get to your car in a parking lot or walking several blocks on your commute to your office downtown, sidewalks are critical for creating safe places for pedestrians away from the streets. But what happens when cities don’t take ownership over sidewalk maintenance, and they’re left to be protected by the people who just use them?
The first and only formal architecture union in the American private sector was just formed by Bernheimer Architecture's employees after two years of the union campaign. The Union aims to reframe the discipline and profession and create an established sector of better labor rights standards and work conditions. The BA Union will be associated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to reshape the industry at a large scale and work on Industrywide problems like long hours and low pay.