Sidewalk at the Center Update


A sunny afternoon on the sidewalk at 536 LaGuardia Place

A meeting moved to the sidewalk outside the Center, perhaps inspired by a recent New York Times article featuring member and friend of the Center Calvin Tsao, FAIA, . On the right side of the photo is a new bike rack designed by David Byrne in a recent competition sponsored by the New York City Department of Transportation. The rack will be up for one year and we are proud to host it; it combines good design with the promotion of a Fit City.


Buildings Commissioner Qualifications Update

In a disappointing turn of events, the City Council voted this afternoon to pass Intro 755-A. Representatives from the AIA NY Chapter, the American Council of Engineering Companies, the State Society for Professional Engineers, the Architects Council, the New York Building Congress, and others, gave eloquent testimony arguing against this bill for reasons of public safety and industry consistency. We’re glad to note that 12 Council members voted against the bill. The Chapter’s testimony will be on the News page shortly.


Buildings Commissioner Qualifications: Hearing Tomorrow

As noted in the blog before, the AIA NY Chapter has been following the progress of Intro 755 and 755-A, which would remove from the City Charter the requirement that the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings be a licensed architect or professional engineer. We continue to feel and advocate the position that the head (and not just the deputy commissioner) of such an important department must be a licensed professional. With safety concerns paramount and the rate of new construction extremely high in New York, now is not the time to relax the professional qualifications needed for this difficult job.

Tomorrow there will be a public hearing on this topic by the Government Operations Committee of the City Council. If you are a design professional and feel strongly about this topic, please consider attending the hearing, or letting your Council Member know that you are still opposed to the bill. The hearing is at City Hall at 10:15 am.


Taking the ARE

In the effort to encourage and help young professionals to become licensed, the AIA NY Chapter has advocated that the New York State Board of Education permit interns to take the ARE following graduation from a NAAB accredited degree program and concurrent with enrollment in the Intern Development Program. The Board will vote on this issue next month, and we urge members and readers to write letters in support.

AIA New York, AIA National, and NCARB, support “IDP-ARE concurrency” because it makes sense in today’s complex and diverse practice environments. Candidates for licensure should have the flexibility to take the different parts of the exam when they feel most familiar with the material based on their practices and acquisition of skills, not just at the end of their internship period. In the words of the AIA National policy position, “Allowing interns the ability to take any and all divisions of the ARE concurrent with enrollment in IDP will mitigate an impediment to obtaining licensure and further enable the kind of individualized career development for which the IDP was intended.”

Click here for contact information for the New York State Board of Education.


516 Fifth Avenue at Landmarks

Today the AIA NY Chapter delivered testimony on a complex “74-711″ application before the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The proposed building, 516 Fifth Avenue, will take advantage of a provision of the landmarks law that allows waiver of certain bulk and use requirements in exchange for the funding of a “continued maintenance” program for a nearby landmark. The criteria for approval was the quality of the proposed maintenance program and a “harmonious” relation to the benefiting landmark.

516 Fifth Avenue rendering

A rendering of the proposed building at 516 Fifth Avenue

Source: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

This application, submitted by developer Hines/RFR and architect Pelli Clarke Pelli, will allow the new building to have a greater proportion of hotel space with its residential and retail space. The benefiting landmark is the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen building on 44th Street. The Chapter’s testimony lauds this application of the Landmarks Law, which will not only aid a new building to have more “public” space in the form of hotel rooms, but also preserve a beautiful landmark whose endowment is modest. The architects have clearly given thought to the scale and design of the podium of the proposed building, which is in close proximity to several landmark buildings.

“As the project proceeds,” reads the testimony, “we recommend that equivalent attention will be given to the detailing and proportions of the tower, perhaps with more articulation of the top of the tower, given the setback differentiation of a Sullivanian base-middle-top division that reflects the different program uses.” The Commission approved the application unananimously.


Plans for the Seaport Go Public

You’ve seen the ENYA ideas competition exhibition at the Center about the “South Street Seaport: Re-Envisioning the Urban Edge”; now you can also see a free exhibition about site owner General Growth Properties’ plans for this important historic waterfront site.

GGP Seaport Rendering

Rendering of the South Street Seaport from above

Source: General Growth Properties, www.thenewseaport.com

The developer is working with the City to proposed a new mixed-use area with 400,000 square feet of retail, two hotels, several spacious public plazas, and some residential units. The buildings and public spaces will be designed by SHoP Architects. The project team hopes this development will appeal to a wider range of visitors, including the growing residential community in Lower Manhattan.

According to this article, the exhibition is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 191 Front Street. Go see it, and report back: would this vision for the Seaport draw you to the East River?

Center Staff

The Center Staff Goes Offshore

This post was written by Tara Pyle, AIA NY Marketing and Events Manager, who organized our staff retreat.

AIA New York Chapter staff had a wonderful outing to Governors Island yesterday. We held our biannual Staff Retreat in Pershing Hall, one of many historic buildings on the island. AIANY has an ongoing relationship with the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) and the National Park Service, who share responsibility for the island. The Center for Architecture hosted an exhibition last year of five visions for Governors Island’s open space; since then, one of the schemes (by the design team West 8/Rogers Marvel Architects/Diller, Scofidio + Renfro/Quennell Rothschild/SMWM) has been chosen and work is beginning on the construction of the park. A New York State agency, GIPEC manages this and many other interesting programs, events, and exhibitions on the island. The National Park Service also protects and offers tours of the historic buildings.


The staff prepares to board the ferry home to the “big island,” Manhattan.

Only a 7 minute ferry ride from the Battery Maritime Building, Governors Island is a verdant and peaceful getaway. The island is perfectly sized for an afternoon of bike exploration. After our retreat session, we rented bicycles (even one tandem!) and set off to explore the 172-acre island. The sights are varied, ranging from deserted Coast Guard barracks, to historic Fort Jay, and a very close view of the Statue of Liberty! After we turned in our bikes and headed to the ferry, the consensus was that we all wanted to return on a weekend.

Governors Island is open to the public every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday all summer until October 12th. Free ferries leave frequently from the Battery Maritime Building. Rent a bike, bring a picnic, and take in the sights of the closest national park to Manhattan!


Testimony at NYC Landmarks Commission on O’Toole Building

Event: Testimony at the New York City Landmarks Commission, 07.15.08
Speakers: Frederic Schwartz (speaker) and Albert Ledner

Rendering of an alternative to demolishing the O’Toole Building.

Courtesy Frederic Schwartz, FAIA and Albert Ledner

I am here because Albert Ledner the architect of the O’Toole building called me to help out. My name is Frederic Schwartz, I am here, as a concerned New York architect, to speak to the merits of the O’Toole Building, and to the architectural feasibility of preserving and adapting this structure for use as the base for a tower for a 21st century hospital for St. Vincent’s. I do this because I believe in the architectural and cultural importance of the O’Toole Building and its contribution to the history and diversity of Greenwich Village. I am not here to speak directly about hardship but we do need our hospitals and we need one here.

Albert (Bronx born and a student of Frank Lloyd Wright) called me last week from New Orleans where I am restoring and converting Edward Durell Stone’s 30-story World Trade Center. I have the honor of collaborating with him on an alternative design that preserves his O’Toole Building and configures the volumetric form of the tower to his original design for the twin circle glass block base.

Albert’s very first priority is to restore his building. His second priority (if a hospital tower is required by need or necessity) is to design the tower as a twin intersecting circular glass block extrusion with operable strip windows like the circular glass block volume at the ground floor and to retain the existing building as its base. The floor plates, stacking of functions and the height of floors are the same as the Pei Cobb Freed. Essentially the only difference is in the form which would I believe makes it easier to preserve the O’Toole building from a structural point of view. The glass block tower by the nature of its material and scale will offer an ephemeral and light appearance.
Read the rest of this entry »


What is the AIA NY Policy Board?

This post was co-authored by Rick Bell, Executive Director of AIA NY, and Laura Manville.

Some of our readers may be wondering how or why the Chapter testifies on design issues such as 980 Madison Avenue, St. Vincent’s, and Silver Towers. Some years ago, a “Policy Board” was formed to advocate on behalf of excellence in design and planning in New York City. This Board consists of the members of the Executive Committee of the AIA NY Chapter Board, who are elected each year by the Nominating Committee, who is elected by the membership. The popularly-elected Nominating Committee, somewhat like the federal government’s Electoral College, assures diversity of representation and participation. Consequently the Policy Board is empowered to speak on behalf of the membership of the AIA New York Chapter.

The purpose of the Policy Board is to “to promote effective dialogue with regard to design and planning issues in the New York Metropolitan region,” through the formulation of policy statements that are then distributed to elected officials, regulatory agencies such as the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the City Planning Commission, or other stakeholders. Chapter staff, including the Executive Director and Policy Coordinator, as well as Board Members and Committee Chairs, often go to the relevant public hearings to testify in person, speaking on behalf of the Policy Board and membership. You can see all of the Chapter’s testimony on the News webpage, which is updated often.

The Policy Board limits its scope to those issues of citywide importance that affect the quality of the built environment through design and planning. Anyone can request that the Chapter provide input on a project, as long as the request conforms to the above criteria. The Board takes positions based on conversations with Committee Chairs, AIA members with relevant expertise, project architects, clients, and community leaders.

This blog was formed to bring a new dimension of input to the AIA NY’s policy statements, as well to inform our membership in a timely manner about these positions. For those who disagree (or agree) with positions taken by the Chapter, get involved! Join Committees, post comments, make your voice heard. The strength of our organization is its diversity and openness to competing ideas.


Last Chance: Fly’s Eye Dome

This post was written by Sara Romanoski, AIA NY Programs Coordinator. The photos are of the installation of the dome three weeks ago.

The Fly’s Eye dome that grew in front of Former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia last month will only be on view for one more week! The “Monohex,” as termed by its inventor Buckminster Fuller, was the last iteration in his series of geodesic structures. The dome standing in LaGuardia Park is the only one of its size and will soon return to Max Protetch: Sculpture Beacon.

dome installation

The dome in its early stages of installation, June 20th, 2008

Credit: Barbie Steffen, AIA NY Communications Coordinator

Fuller sought to develop “autonomous dwelling units” that were easy to transport and assemble through his geodesic designs. He achieved efficiency of production and mobility by experimenting with “21st Century materials,” represented here by fiberglass. The pieces of the Fly’s Eye dome neatly nestle for compact packaging.

dome install

Dome installation, June 20, 2008

Credit: Barbie Steffen, AIA NY Communications Coordinator

Stop by the park (LaGuardia Place between Bleecker and West Thirds Streets) on Friday, July 18th between 8am and 2pm to learn more about the mechanics of Fuller’s dome geometry by watching the crew disassemble this structure!

If you miss the dome de-installation or want more information, please visit the Dymaxion Study Center across the street at the Center for Architecture. The study center contains hundreds of volumes of books by and about Buckminster Fuller, as well as selections from Fuller’s “live book squad” of influential texts, a Dymaxion timeline, outlining the evolution of Fuller’s geodesic designs in the context of their co-evolution with the Dymaxion map. (Hours: M-Sa 9-5pm through September 14)