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e-Oculus: Eye on New York Architecture and Calendar of Events
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Editor-in-Chief Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP
Contributing Editors Murrye Bernard, LEED AP
Linda G. Miller
Online Support Ahmad Shairzay • Kevin Skoglund


Editor's Note

11.24.09 Editor’s Note: Did you attend “Energy Code Changes: What the design team needs to know” at the Center for Architecture? If so, let us know what you thought. Click here to add your comment.

Also, save the date for the following annual events:
12.03-05.09 Procrastinators’ Days
12.08.09 AIANY Board Inaugural

- Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

Note: Be sure to follow Tweets from e-Oculus and the Center for Architecture.

OCULUS Note: Corrections: In the Summer ‘09 issue of Oculus, the names Rahul Mehrotra and Peter Chermayeff, FAIA, should be transposed in the caption under the Design Awards jury photo on page 9, and in the Projects jury caption on page 13. The Fall ‘09 issue’s “Interior Motives,” on the development of Skanska USA Building’s new office in the Empire State Building, should have credited BBG/Brennan Beer Gorman’s graphics group, ThirdMark Studios, rather than the parent company.

OCULUS Editor’s Note: Specific questions about the Department of Buildings’ green roof program noted in the Fall ‘09 issue’s “What’s Your Green Roof Worth?” can be addressed to: GreenRoofandSolar@buildings.nyc.gov.

Reports from the Field

In this issue:
· Transatlantic Views of the Durable City
· Advocates Love Their Landmarks
· Ratensky Lecture Honors Legacy of Joan Goody, FAIA (1935-2009)
· Marketers, Principals Strategize for Recession
· Thom Mayne Talks 41 Cooper Square
· Three Buildings Make the Grade

Reports from the Field

Transatlantic Views of the Durable City

Event: Paris/New York: Two Metropoles in Flux
Locations: “The Metropolis as Urban and Social Space,” Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, New Academic Building, Cooper Union, 11.16.2009; “Planning the Metropolis for Sustainability and Diversity,” Center for Architecture, 11.17.2009
Speakers: (11.16.2009) Anthony Vidler, Assoc. AIA — Dean & Professor, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, Cooper Union (introduction); Kareen Rispal — Cultural Counselor, French Embassy (introduction); Jean-Louis Cohen — Professor, New York University Institute of Fine Arts; Mireille Ferri — Vice President, Conseil Régional d’Ile de France; Amanda Burden, FAICP, Hon. AIA – Director, NYC Department of City Planning & Chair, NYC City Planning Commission; Pierre Mansat — Deputy Mayor in charge of the Paris Metropole project, Mairie de Paris; Christian de Portzamparc, Hon. FAIA — President, Groupement International des Architectes pour le Grand Paris; Sherida Paulsen, FAIA — 2009 AIANY President & Partner, PKSB
(11.17.2009) Sherida Paulsen, FAIA (introduction); Alexandre Chemetoff — Urbanist & Architect, Alexandre Chemetoff et Associés (opening keynote); Barbara Chénot Camus — Urban Planner; Emeline Bailly — Project Chief & Urban Planner, Mairie de Paris; Catherine Barbé — General Director, Sustainable Cities Institute; Djamel Klouche — Architect, l’AUC, & Participant, Grand Paris; David Mangin — Architect, Seura, & Participant, Grand Paris; Rick Bell, FAIA — Executive Director, AIANY (moderator); Rohit Aggarwala, Ph.D. — Director, NYC Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability; Adrian Benepe — Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation; David Burney, FAIA — Commissioner, NYC Department of Design and Construction; Thomas Wright — Executive Director, Regional Plan Association; Alexander Garvin — Professor, Yale University (closing keynote)
Organizers: French Cultural Services; AIANY; La Maison Française of New York University; AIANY Global Dialogues Committee; Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University; The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and the Department of Architecture and Design; Museum of Modern Art


New York City (left) and Paris.

Courtesy Google Earth

“Great cities learn from each other,” as Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe suggested, and a pair of cities that are great in markedly different ways can each learn quite a bit from structured dialogue. New York and Paris have followed sharply contrasting historical paths, reflecting different values, geographic conditions, and political traditions, yet they now face common problems, and in certain respects they are converging on solutions of mutual interest. In Paris, questions of density, mobility, social justice, center-periphery relations, economic incentives, and quality of life evoke responses relying more on planning and central governance; New York, like the U.S. generally, has relegated more (though by no means all) authority over these decisions to market forces and local entities, with little direct federal guidance or assistance.

Yet the two cities do offer certain parallel or overlapping strategies. French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Grand Paris plan calls for expansion and unification to eliminate disparities between the central city and its troubled banlieues (outskirts), while Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, as Rohit Aggarwala emphasized, responds to urgent demographic and ecological realities through targeted growth (zoning to steer new residents toward density and transit) and accelerating green-design approaches. Despite differing emphases, both cities’ leaders recognize sustainable urbanism on a fully metropolitan or even regional scale as an imperative — ideally, with increasing citizen engagement in design processes, despite the persistence of what Pierre Mansat called “the peculiar situation of Paris, secluded in an administrative straitjacket,” the corresponding forms of organizational sclerosis here, and the social imbalances found in both cities. The French term for sustainability, durabilité, carries connotations of broad long-range thinking that deserve to cross the language barrier.

The proceedings were in no way a competition, but the most attention-getting physical projects (at least in New York eyes) were presented by the French visitors. Christian de Portzamparc, Hon. FAIA, used the symbolism of the hearth-goddess Hestia and the messenger-god Hermes to analyze Paris’s developmental epochs and the evolving relations of place and movement. Alexandre Chemetoff’s evolutionary and participatory scheme (he disdains the term “master plan”) for redevelopment on the Île de Nantes, incorporating the forms and memories of the island’s rough industrial past, offered a series of case studies that New York developers might usefully study. His project’s guide maps, tellingly, present both existing and projected plans; “the map,” he said, “is the relationship between the two.”


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Reports from the Field

Advocates Love Their Landmarks

Event: Preservation in Context: Communities and their Landmarked Districts
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.18.09
Speakers: Simeon Bankoff — Executive Director, Historic Districts Council; Lo van der Valk — President, Carnegie Hill Neighbors; Julia Schoeck — President, Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society; Thomas van den Bout, AIA — President, Brooklyn Heights Association; Sean Sweeney — Director, SoHo Alliance
Moderator: Sherida Paulsen, FAIA — 2009 AIANY President
Organizers: AIANY; NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission; Center for Architecture Foundation; in partnership with the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation, as a program of the Context\Contrast: New Architecture in Historic Districts, 1967-2009 exhibition, on view at the Center for Architecture through January 23, 2010.
Sponsors: Benjamin Moore & Co.; Buro Happold Consulting Engineers; Studio Daniel Libeskind; Syska Hennessy Group; Trespa


The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and former Andrew Carnegie Museum.

Courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

“What are we doing as a city and as a commission to preserve these districts?” asked Sherida Paulsen, FAIA, 2009 AIANY president, in regard to New York City’s oldest neighborhoods. When it comes to preservation in the city, community organizations advocate for the best interest of their historically landmarked communities. At a recent discussion, representatives from some of these communities discussed how development is affecting their districts and the steps they are taking to uphold their communities’ historic integrity.

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) was founded in 1971 by the Municipal Art Society as a coalition of community groups from the city’s designated historic districts. The advocacy process, according to Simeon Bankoff, executive director for the HDC, includes people who are trying to come to a conclusion of what is “appropriate.” It’s based on both the public and the owners to make the decision. The problems and solutions are very different for each district.

In Brooklyn Heights, most new development consists of fine-grain changes, such as changes to slopes and cornices. Occasionally a building will be torn down in an “insensitive way,” stated Thomas van den Bout, AIA, president of the Brooklyn Heights Association, but most construction is “undoing things that were bad to begin with.”

Advocates of the Upper East Side worry about drastic and expensive additions to historic buildings. Referring to Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects’ addition to the Guggenheim, Lo van der Valk, president of Carnegie Hill Neighbors, said that someone should have told Frank Lloyd Wright, “If you don’t fill your lot, someone else will.”

Dealing with the new development in the historic districts is a case-by-case practice. Some districts, such as the South Street Seaport, don’t have community advocacies. But if a violation is made in a district that does, anything from warnings to stop orders may be issued. However, the number of people who argue against the “appropriateness” of a project is very small, said Julia Schoek, president or the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society. Ultimately, according to Paulsen, it comes down to the fact that “people care about the buildings and they care about the architecture.”

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Reports from the Field

Ratensky Lecture Honors Legacy of Joan Goody, FAIA (1935-2009)

Event: 2009 Ratensky Lecture Honoring Joan Goody FAIA (1935-2009), with David Dixon FAIA
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.12.09
Speakers: Joan Goody, FAIA – Ex-Partner, Goody Clancy; David Dixon, FAIA — Principal-in-Charge of Planning and Urban Design, Goody Clancy
Moderator: Wids DeLaCour, AIA, Co-Chair, AIA New York Housing Committee
Introduction: Theodore Liebman, FAIA — Principal, Perkins Eastman
Organizer: AIANY Housing Committee
Sponsors: AIANY Planning & Urban Design Committee; with support by The George Lewis Fund


Harbor Point (left) and the Barker Center for the Humanities at Harvard.

Courtesy Goody Clancy

David Dixon, FAIA, principal-in-charge of planning and urban design at Boston-based Goody Clancy, delivered the 2009 Ratensky Lecture — an annual series that honors individuals who have made significant lifetime contributions to the advancement of housing and community design — in honor of his long-time business partner, Joan Goody, FAIA, who passed away several months ago. He was among Goody’s friends, colleagues, and admirers who came to share their memories of her as a mentor, architect, planner, and public advocate. She was the former chair of the Boston Civic Design Commission, president of Boston’s Saturday Club, and recipient of the 2005 Boston Society of Architects Award of Honor for lifetime achievement. “She served the community as well as her profession,” said Dixon.

Goody was the senior member of a firm of more than 100 architects, preservationists, planners, and urban designers. She took the lead on many projects, but once told the Boston Globe in 1986, “There is no single genius in the firm. If someone has a better idea, we use it. We’re more collaborative than most. We try to bring up the next generation.” Her projects include the Barker Center for the Humanities at Harvard, which Dixon said was her “most controversial, but maybe her best.” The project restored and transformed McKim Mead & White’s 1901 Georgia-style Union Building, including a dining area and multi-level cluster of common spaces surrounding a skylit “great stair hall” at the heart of the building. The controversy sparked heated debates about historic preservation versus adaptive reuse, the latter winning out in the end.

What endeared her most to this audience was her belief that people are the building blocks for cities, more than the buildings she and others designed. This is particularly reflected in her urban housing projects. Some notable projects include Harbor Point, where she turned a Boston public housing project into a mixed-income neighborhood for 1,283 families living in new townhouses and mid-rises with renovated three- and seven-story existing buildings. Another project was born out of neighborhood activists protesting the loss of their homes to redevelopment in 1968. The firm worked closely with community groups to design a new mixed-income development for 1,200 people. The firm has been, and is currently, working on the recovery and revitalization of downtown New Orleans and other central neighborhoods covering approximately 20 square miles of the city. Plan elements include replacing public housing and parking lots with a mixed-income, mixed-use community of more than 5,000 people, roughly doubling the district’s pre-Katrina population.

In his introduction to the program, Theodore Leibman, FAIA, principal at Perkins Eastman, called her “an exemplary architect, tireless messenger, and a woman who crashed through the glass drawing table.” According to Dixon, she did not dwell on the fact she was a pioneer, but she certainly was. When she began her career, women practicing architecture was a rarity. In 1970, she helped found an advocacy group called WALAP — Women Architects, Landscape Architects, and Planners. Amie Gross, AIA, of Amie Gross Architects, who was in the audience, recalled vivid memories of interviewing Goody after architecture school in 1975. “I seriously doubted whether I could make it in the profession as a woman and if there would ever be opportunities to practice her firm’s type of architecture. The ease and pride she had as she showed me the work of the firm was my first professional exposure to the architecture of housing which has since been my passion.”

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Reports from the Field

Marketers, Principals Strategize for Recession

Event: SMPS-NY’s MARKETING IN A RECESSION: Lessons Learned and the Impact on the Future of the A/E/C Industry
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.05.09
Keynote Speakers: Mike Reilly — Reilly Communications; Connie Mugno — Mugno Consulting
Speakers: James Cooke — Chairman, James Cooke Consultants; Clifford Selbert — Partner, Selbert Perkins Design Collaborative; Nancy Ruddy — Principal, Cetra/Ruddy; Yeng Wu — Principal, ZGF Architects; Gary H. Pomerantz, PE, LEED AP — Executive Vice President, WSP Flack+Kurtz; Stephen DeSimone, PE, LEED AP — President/Chief Executive, DeSimone Consulting Engineers; Peter Marchetto — President, Construction Operations, Tishman Construction Corporation; Eric McGovern — President & CEO, Pavarini McGovern
Moderator: David Koren, CPSM, Assoc. AIA — Director of Marketing & Associate Principal, Perkins Eastman
Organizers: SMPS-NY in collaboration with AIANY Marketing & PR Committee
Sponsors: Handel Architects; Service Point

While both marketing professionals and firm principals struggle with conflicting expectations when it comes to marketing strategies, current economic conditions magnify the fact that marketing is a firm-wide responsibility. Michael Reilly of Reilly Communications believes that now is the time for firms to recast themselves. There are five steps for firms to reinvent themselves, according to Connie Mugno of Mugno Consulting: don’t go for everything that comes your way; reevaluate your firm’s vision and then identify its core strengths; avoid engaging in a long-term strategic planning process; instead, develop a brief, two-to-three page, action-oriented plan; and finally, communicate this plan to everyone in your firm by making it visible.

Mugno suggested that marketing professionals take a proactive approach by serving as strategists for their firms. Firm principals should use down time to update computing systems and train employees in BIM, which is no longer a competitive advantage but rather a service that clients expect. She also recommended that firms build cost-cutting options into proposals, and even help clients get construction loans.

Some firms have creatively adapted to the changing economic climate, Reilly said. One of his clients had specialized in theater and performance spaces, but now completes case studies for much-needed rehearsal spaces at colleges and universities. A geotechnical firm researched opportunities to work with stimulus money. Another firm switched its focus entirely to healthcare projects, a specialty that will always be in demand. In each case, he pointed out, the leadership came from the firms’ marketing directors. While many firms have cut their marketing budgets, Reilly said those that have focused on staying visible have been more successful at getting new work. He also emphasized that social media is an important tool to attract press and, more importantly, new clients.

In small discussion groups, attendees expressed that fear is the most common barrier to progress, with staff simply not knowing what to do to help market a firm. Some marketing professionals expressed difficultly communicating with firm principals. Others expressed frustration with staff members for not following up on proposals in a timely manner or providing the marketing department with the information they need. Reilly suggested that marketers should not only promote the firm, but also promote themselves and their contributions within the firm.

At the Principal’s Panel, it was agreed that marketing practices of previous years are no longer valid. Moderator David Koren, CPSM, Assoc. AIA, director of marketing and associate principal at Perkins Eastman, asked the panelists how they have prepared staff for this changing landscape. Many admitted to diversifying their portfolios, but Nancy Ruddy, principal of Cetra/Ruddy, said that even though it is challenging firms can examine their previous experience and core strengths and adapt accordingly. For example, if a firm specialized in housing pre-recession, then they might go for dormitory projects now.

The principals agreed that face-to-face interaction with existing and future clients is a must. “Cold calling and answering RFPs, that’s not business,” said Stephen DeSimone, PE, LEED AP, president of DeSimone Consulting Engineers. Sometimes previous clients don’t realize that firms are willing to do smaller-scale projects, and Ruddy believes that principals shouldn’t be afraid to ask. However, firms can still be selective in this economy, stated Yeng Wu, principal of ZGF Architects. Unless a project aligns with her firm’s core values, she is willing to pass it up.

Many RFPs elicit hundreds of responses, but this panel agreed it’s not worth getting caught up in the panic. Gary H. Pomerantz, PE, LEED AP, executive vice president of WSP Flack+Kurtz, suggested going for projects with better odds. Marketing departments are being asked to do more with fewer resources and are under tremendous pressure to bring in work. Similarly, principals are busy keeping current clients happy and working their own connections. “Don’t keep your ideas to yourself, think out of the box. PUSH,” Ruddy emphasized.

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Reports from the Field

Thom Mayne Talks 41 Cooper Square

Event: New Buildings New York: Tour of the Cooper Union’s New Academic Building
Location: 41 Cooper Square, 11.10.09
Tour Leaders: Thom Mayne, FAIA — Founder, Morphosis; Jean Oei, Job Captian and Project Designer for 41 Cooper Square
Organizer: Center for Architecture Foundation


Thom Mayne, FAIA, points down the central atrium at 41 Cooper Square.

Michael Toolan (www.michaeltoolan.com)

Although a passing Cooper Union student literally gasped at his presence, Thom Mayne, FAIA, principal of Morphosis, is soft-spoken and not as intimidating as his stature might convey — physically and professionally. Casually dressed in jeans and hipster-approved Converse sneakers, on a recent tour he talked about his design intentions for 41 Cooper Square, conveying his passion for shaping spaces as well as his hands-on attention to detail.

The new academic building consolidates the college’s three schools — art, architecture, and engineering — which were previously housed in separate buildings. Aiming for a LEED Platinum rating, 41 Cooper Square will be the first LEED-certified academic laboratory building in NYC. While Morphosis is known for creating dynamic forms, Mayne explained that by the time the design team, which included Gruzen Samton, was chosen by Cooper Union, the building’s size and shape were already set based on community and programmatic parameters. Within this envelope, he defined a building that is both tough and permeable. “I think the neighborhood gets its rough exterior,” he said of the double skin, comprised of an outer layer of perforated stainless steel panels and a glass-and-aluminum window wall.

In the spirit of the institution’s dedication to “free, open, and accessible education,” the building is simultaneously inviting to the public. The glazed ground floor offers a glimpse of the creative frenzy within, including a voyeuristic view into a below-grade gallery. To foster social interaction and inter-disciplinary collaboration, a central atrium draws in light, creates pockets for spontaneous conversation, and encourages physical movement. A 20-foot-wide, pre-cast concrete grand staircase was envisioned as a continuation of the street and platform for social encounters — so many students were milling about on the stairs that the tour group was in the way.

Higher in the atrium, the stairs tighten and students circulate via skywalks with rails constructed as a continuous crystalline light box. While the detailing was complicated, Mayne said that the contractors were excited by the challenge to build it, proving that his hands-on attitude during the construction process pays off. He also discussed the covering for the white sculptural latticework that defines the space. While its effect is futuristic, Mayne explained that the hand-applied glass fiber reinforced gypsum (GFRG) covering is economical and “very low-tech. It’s the same type of covering used on columns in casinos in Las Vegas.”

The building incorporates a skip-stop elevator system, which stops at floors one, five, and eight. Most students have to climb at least one flight of stairs to reach their classrooms. While there has been a backlash against this design, Mayne dismisses the dissenters by saying “too bad.” The students don’t seem to mind, and surely it helps combat the freshman 15 (the estimated weight gain of students during their freshman year).

Though the building is new, students have already begun to make their mark. Prints and scuff marks are appearing on the pristine white surfaces, which are also plastered with flyers. However, Mayne has achieved his goal to create a vibrant, interactive space within the city’s vertical confines.

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Reports from the Field

Three Buildings Make the Grade

Event: From Kindergarten to College: Three Recent Projects that Show the Way
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.03.09
Speakers: Daniel Heuberger, AIA, LEED AP — Partner, Dattner Architects; Susan T. Rodriguez, FAIA — Polshek Partnership Architects; Jean Oei — Project Designer, Morphosis
Introduction: Bruce Barrett — Vice President of Architecture and Engineering, NYC School Construction Authority
Organizer: AIANY Architecture for Education Committee


41 Cooper Square.

Jessica Sheridan

The NYC School Construction Authority (SCA) has the task of building new public schools and managing the design, construction, and renovation of capital projects in New York City’s more than 1,200 public schools. As the SCA’s vice president of architecture and engineering, Bruce Barrett has shepherded many projects, two of which, P.S./I.S. 276 in Battery Park City, currently under construction, and the recently completed Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens. The third project in the program, Cooper Union’s new academic building, hardly needs an introduction as it has been a source of wonderment since it began construction catty-corner to the school’s Foundation Building.

The steady influx of young families to lower Manhattan prompted the city and the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) to fund a new school for approximately 950 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The eight-story, 125,000-square-foot building will occupy the last parcel of vacant land in Battery Park City. Designed by Dattner Architects, who co-authored the SCA’s Green Schools Guide in 2007 with the SCA’s architecture and engineering technical standards and support studio, the school will be one of the first in the city to be built under the green guidelines. It will also incorporate the goals of AIANY and NYC Department of Health’s Fit City program, while conforming to the BPCA’s design standards.

The high-rise’s curved profile and exterior will be clad in brick. A 10,000-square-foot outdoor playroof will be built on the third floor, and an outdoor multi-purpose room will be created on the eighth floor. To make the building more environmentally sound, all classrooms will be well lit with natural light to reduce the need for overhead lighting. Combined with extra insulation, solar panels, high-efficiency boilers, and other equipment, the school is anticipated to reduce its energy costs by more than 25%. Roof-mounted photovoltaic cells alone will generate 50 kilowatts of energy — roughly one-third of the energy needed to light the school. High-efficiency plumbing will also let the school use 40% less potable water, and 80% of the building’s construction waste will be recycled. According to Daniel Heuberger, AIA, LEED AP, a partner at Dattner, the design will also teach sustainability. For example, a planted green wall and a weather station will be adjacent to the science room. The school will also embark on a “My School, My Planet” signage campaign, based on LEED principles.

At the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, “the building is doing a performance,” said its designer Susan T. Rodriguez, FAIA, of Polshek Partnership Architects. Another public/private initiative to create a model NYC public high school for the arts, developed by the SCA in partnership with Exploring the Arts, this new public high school is located in Astoria. Formally, spatially, and experientially, the design of the 147,000-square-foot building celebrates the visual and performing arts, creating opportunities for interdisciplinary interchange, and connecting the building with the surrounding film/TV production facilities, museums, and the community itself. The focal point of the school is the 800-seat Tony Bennett Concert Hall, whose curved form is visible from the street through a double-height lobby. Day-lit classrooms line the perimeter, and studios open onto the central atrium on each floor. The school also has two black box theaters, a roof terrace, and pianos on every floor. A list of influential artists in the city is engraved in a fret pattern on glass that can be read from the interior, reminding students that they, too, can follow in their footsteps.

Morphosis, in collaboration with Gruzen Samton, were commissioned in 2003 to design 41 Cooper Square for the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Making up for 14,000 square feet lost when one of the school’s buildings was demolished, the building is home to the school of engineering and a support space for the art and architecture school. A vertical piazza forms the social and virtual heart of the new building. A full-height atrium enables unique circulation for building occupants, improves the airflow, and provides increased interior day lighting. Undulating latticework envelopes a 20-foot-wide grand stair. The lattice system is part of the guardrail system and gives shape to the space. A “skip-stop” circulation strategy allows for both increased physical activity and for more impromptu meeting opportunities. An operable building skin made of perforated stainless steel panels offsets from a glass-and-aluminum window wall. The panels reduce the impact of heat radiation during the summer and insulate interior spaces during the winter. Radiant heating and cooling ceiling panels will boost energy efficiency. The building also features a green roof and a cogeneration plant. Built to LEED Gold standards and likely to achieve a Platinum rating, 41 Cooper Square will be the first LEED-certified academic laboratory building in NYC.

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Rhetorically Speaking

Beekman Rises


(L-R): Bruce Ratner, Frank Gehry, FAIA, and Gary LaBarbera; Joanne M. Minieri and MaryAnne Gilmartin; Frank Gehry, FAIA, and Bruce Ratner; and the Beekman Tower.

Rick Bell

“I’ve paid attention to the body language of NYC skyscrapers — this is a building that could only be built in New York,” said Frank Gehry, FAIA, at last Thursday’s topping-off ceremony for the 76-story Beekman Tower, located between Spruce, William, Beekman, and Nassau Streets in Lower Manhattan. The new building is the first residential tower designed in NYC by Gehry, who especially thanked “the workmen and the many hands that worked together to make this happen,” adding that “when I design a building, I think of all of the thousands of people who are involved” in its construction.

In construction, “topping off” refers to the ceremony held when the last beam, or in this case a 10-ton bucket of concrete, is placed at the building’s top. Since the dark days of the Great Depression, there has never been as much attention paid to issues of skyscraper form, design excellence, and the need for jobs in the construction and design industries.

As master of ceremonies and the project’s developer, Bruce Ratner, Chairman & CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, proudly proclaimed that “Beekman has 2,500 union jobs — we build through recessions,” and that the design “is something else.” The stainless-steel residential tower has 1.1 million square feet and rises almost 900 feet above a six-story brick podium that will house the first NYC public school ever built on private land. The 100,000-square-foot school, designed by Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, will accommodate 630 students. The fact that a good part of the equity for the project came from union pension funds was not lost on the crowd of more than 200 civic and labor leaders, including NYC Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri, Forest City Ratner’s President & COO Joanne M. Minieri, and Executive Vice President MaryAnne Gilmartin. Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council spoke of how the project team was “committed to success, even under the most difficult economic circumstances in decades.” He exclaimed, “The spirit of NYC made this happen — this is the greatest city in the world!”

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Editor's Soapbox

Precautionary List Emphasizes Health Benefits of Sustinability

As firms make an effort to find new avenues in their work, some are making strides in research and development that is proving to be a valuable resource for the profession as a whole. Recently, Perkins + Will launched a Precautionary List of harmful building products that aims to be a “catalyst for marketplace change.” The firm is already a leader in green design, and with this database, one can see the evidence behind the harmful effects of certain materials. The argument for sustainable products becomes broader than environmentally-conscious building; it becomes a necessity for survival.

Chemicals are searchable by category, specification divisions and sections, alphabetical, and by health effects. When a product is selected, information includes: the origin and source of the chemical; a health impact summary; building products where the chemical is commonly found; alternative materials that can be used in its place; known and suspected health effects; regulatory jurisdiction; a rating according to the Green Building Rating System; and general reference links.

The research that went into the list is thorough, and I do not think there is a similar list out there that is so clear and created specifically for architects and professionals in the building industry. When selecting products, this is the website to consult before decisions are made.

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In The News

In this issue:
· Lincoln Squared: Koch Theater Opens, David Rubenstein Atrium Awaits Debut
· Architects, Engineers Fight Rising Currents
· A New Light Fantastic Crowns Fifth Avenue
· Healthcare Gets an Upgrade in New Jersey
· Dallas Unveils Bush Presidential Center

Lincoln Squared: Koch Theater Opens, David Rubenstein Atrium Awaits Debut


The David H. Koch Theater (left) by JCJ Architecture, and the David Rubenstein Atrium by Tod Williams Billie Tsien.

New York City Opera; dBox

The David H. Koch Theater, formerly known as the New York State Theater, the shared home of the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center, has completed a $107 million renovation. Originally designed by Philip Johnson Associates in 1964, JCJ Architecture has now renovated the building to add comfort and accessibility. New side aisles were carved out of the orchestra maintaining the integrity of the theater’s original seating plan and retaining 40-inch legroom and unobstructed sightlines. Acoustical enhancements include the enlargement of the orchestra pit — now on a mechanical lift, and modification of the stage apron, allowing the pit to rest at any depth. Other acoustical interventions include the removal of carpet in the auditorium and the addition of new acoustic sidewalls near the proscenium. A complete onsite media suite captures and distributes high-definition images and digital sound. The theater itself is now outfitted with robotic remote-controlled cameras, as well as approximately 60 broadcast service plates. The renovated theater has a total capacity of 2,586, including new prime spaces for patrons with disabilities.

The David Rubenstein Atrium, a new gateway to the Lincoln Center campus at Broadway, between 62nd and 63rd Streets, designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien, is still in previews. When it opens on December 17 it will offer a range of programs such as free weekly performances, a café, information and ticket desk, restrooms, and free Wi-Fi access. The new 7,000-square-foot space respects the materials used throughout Lincoln Center and achieves an open and accessible environment, an essential goal of the 16-acre campus redevelopment. Highlights include: two vertical gardens surrounded by stone benches and alcove seating; a floor-to-ceiling fountain incorporating streams of water surrounded by Pietra Luna stone benches; a media wall that displays performance information and a canvas for video presentations; a felt wall art installation of 114 panels by Dutch textile artist Claudy Jungsta; and 16 architecturally distinctive oculi lighting fixtures that bring natural light and state-of-the-art illumination into the atrium’s interior.

Architects, Engineers Fight Rising Currents


(L-R): Zone 1 — subway car reefs, oyster farms, and wind turbines at Statues of Liberty Island; Zone 2 — wetlands near Staten Island; Zone 3 — slip in Sunset Park, Brooklyn; Zone 4 — offshore wind turbines among oyster racks.

Palisade Bay Team: Guy Nordenson and Associates, Catherine Seavitt Studio, Architecture Research Office

The Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center have initiated Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront, an eight-month project bringing together teams of architects, engineers, and landscape designers to address and create infrastructure solutions in response to rising water levels. Organized by Barry Bergdoll, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA, the project is based largely on preliminary findings of the Latrobe Team, a multi-disciplinary Princeton University-affiliated group funded by the Fellows of the AIA and led by structural engineer Guy Nordenson.

Four team leaders were selected to focus on a specific geographic waterfront area. A team led by Paul Lewis, AIA, Marc Tsurumaki, AIA, and David Lewis of LTL Architects will work on the Northwest Palisade Bay/Hudson River area, which includes parts of New Jersey, Liberty Park/Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty and waters; Matthew Baird, AIA, of Matthew Baird Architects will focus his team on the Southwest Palisade Bay/Kill van Kull area, which includes Bayonne, NJ, Bayonne Piers, and northern Staten Island and waters; Eric Bunge, AIA, and Mimi Hoang of nARCHITECTS and their team are assigned the South Palisade Bay/Verrazano Narrows area, including eastern Staten Island, and Bay Ridge and Sunset Park in Brooklyn, and waters; and Kate Orff, ASLA, of SCAPE Studio, and team will concentrate on the Northeast Palisade Bay/Buttermilk Channel and Gowanus Canal area, including Governors Island, and the Red Hook area in Brooklyn. The brainstorming workshops will conclude in early January, and in March the second phase of the project, an exhibition of the proposed projects developed by the teams, will be exhibited at MoMA.

A New Light Fantastic Crowns Fifth Avenue


400 Fifth Avenue.

Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects

The Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects-designed 60-story tower at 400 Fifth Avenue recently topped out. The project will contain a five star hotel with 214 hotel rooms, including 157 guestrooms, and 57 hotel/suite apartments, in addition to 190 luxury residential condos and amenities including a restaurant, bar, spa, and ground level retail. The limestone-clad building consists of a tower set back from the street atop a 10-story podium, which, in terms of scale, rhythm, and materiality, relates to surrounding buildings such as Tiffany, Gorham, and 404 Fifth Avenue. The tower is composed of vertical masonry bands and windows capped by a metallic crown. Capping the tower are inclined planes of linen-finished stainless steel inserted between the masonry columns and designed to conceal mechanical equipment. When lit they act as large-scale reflectors to form a luminous crown. Developed by Bizzi & Partners Development, the project is expected to be completed in fall 2010.

Healthcare Gets an Upgrade in New Jersey


St. Joseph’s Healthcare System.

Francis Cauffman Architects

The St. Joseph’s Healthcare System recently broke ground on a new, $100-million, 230,000-square-foot critical care building, launching the expansion and renovation of its regional medical center in downtown Paterson, NJ. The master plan and the new building, both designed by Francis Cauffman Architects, will upgrade the hospital’s services and focus on revitalizing the city’s economic health. In contrast to the angular forms of the existing brick campus buildings, the facility is composed of two interlocking elliptical forms raised on a plinth clad in horizontal metal panels. The upper floors are comprised of glass of varying translucencies to provide patient privacy and form patterns intended to scale down the large volume of the building. When completed in 2012, the ground floor will house an expanded emergency room designed to accommodate 125,000 visits annually, with separate entrances for the pediatric and adult emergency departments, and a 50,000-square-foot addition to the level two regional trauma center. The upper level will have 12 operating rooms and two levels of cardiac, surgical, and critical and intensive care units.

Dallas Unveils Bush Presidential Center


George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Robert A.M. Stern Architects recently unveiled the design for the George W. Bush Presidential Center located on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The modern brick and limestone structure is designed to complement the American Georgian character of the campus and evoke both Texas and Washington, D.C. It will house an archive, museum, and policy institute. Visitors will enter through Freedom Hall, a large, light-filled open space that will tie the different aspects of the museum experience together. On one side of the hall, visitors will tour a replica of the Oval Office as it was during President Bush’s tenure, complete with an outdoor Texas Rose Garden that mimics the White House Rose Garden. The opposite side of the hall will contain a temporary exhibit space, ceremonial courtyard, and a café. The institute portion will include a conference center with a 364-seat auditorium with simultaneous translation and broadcast capabilities, offices for scholars, and a presidential suite for receptions.

The landscape, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, will have large tree-shaded lawns, numerous gardens and courtyards, tall prairie grass with seasonal wildflowers, and savannah and woodland clearings that provide a range of native habitats for butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. In addition, the landscape will function as an urban park, providing numerous spaces for events and gatherings, including performances in the outdoor amphitheater and intramural sports on the west lawn.

Around the AIA + Center for Architecture

In this issue:
· AIA Proposes Big Changes for Commercial Buildings in IECC
· How Green Is It? The Industry Offers Tools to Tell
· Export Alliance Construction Provides Opportunities North of the Border
· Call for designers/exhibition designers

AIA Proposes Big Changes for Commercial Buildings in IECC
With the 2010 International Energy Conservation Code’s public comment session open, environmental advocates, including the AIA’s sustainability team, have been working hard to have their voices heard in defense of greener, more energy efficient buildings. In early 2010 the International Code Council will finalize the code. Changes include a major revision of the code’s chapter on commercial buildings, requiring them to be more energy efficient. The proposed revision also includes changes to the code’s mechanical system requirements, and improvements to fenestration and opaque walls. The IECC committee narrowly approved these changes, and AIA is readying itself for the final action hearings. The deadline for public comments is February 2010, and the first action hearings will be next May, in Dallas. Visit the ICC’s website for more details.

How Green Is It? The Industry Offers Tools to Tell

A recent AIArchitect article offered a rundown of the different means of evaluating green building products. Because it is hard to tell how well a product actually performs from manufacturer’s label alone (many of those manufacture-determined ratings can be found at ecoScorecard), Building Green, an industry leader in the effort to sift through products has developed a subscription service, the GreenSpec directory. Building Green is far from the only resource in the pack. Check out The Construction Specifications Institute’s GreenFormat product rating tool, the ICC’s Sustainable Attributes Evaluation and Verification (SAVE) program, the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program, and two resources from the Underwriters Laboratories (UL): the Environmental Claims Validation program and the Database of Validated and Certified Products.

Export Alliance Construction Provides Opportunities North of the Border
American architects and general contractors are invited to participate in the “Export Alliance Construction” annual trade event for Canadian product and manufacturing companies. Next year’s conference will meet in Montreal, Canada, 01.31-02.01.10. Export Alliance Construction, which is organized by a number of Canadian partners including the Ministry for Economic Development, the World Trade Centre of Montreal, and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Commission of Canada, gives Americans the opportunity to meet with Canadian manufacturers (see a list of manufacturers here). Through the Ministry of Economic Development, a number of U.S. participants will be able to attend the conference, expenses paid. To apply for this opportunity, contact Laurent Waessa at the Quebec Government Office in New York, at 212-843-0973 or laurent.waessa@mri.gouv.qc.ca. The registration deadline to be considered for funding is 12.11.09.

Call for Graphic & Exhibition Designers
The Center for Architecture is excited to be creating two new “shortlists” for designers. The call for exhibition designers is in its second iteration, after a successful 2009 Not Business as Usual Exhibition Designer Shortlist, which generated three of this year’s exhibition designs: A Space Within: The National September 11th Memorial and Museum (Incorporated Architecture & Design); New Practices San Francisco (Matter Practice); and Context\Contrast: New Architecture in Historic Districts, 1967-2009 (Moorhead & Moorhead). This year, the Center for Architecture is also launching a graphic designer shortlist, for individuals who will work with the Center staff to generate print and electronic materials. In both cases it’s a priority for the Center to highlight the work of AIANY Chapter members. Current members are invited to apply, and AIANY encourages non-members to submit and join. New members will receive member benefits for 2009 and all of 2010.

To have your work considered, submit an expression of interest, qualifications, and a PDF portfolio (max 10 pages) to Jonah Stern, Exhibitions Coordinator (jstern@aiany.org) by Monday, 12.21.09. Late submissions will not be accepted. The 2010 Shortlist will be announced in January, and selected firms will be included in a library exhibition in February 2010.

At the Center for Architecture Foundation

Children Attach Magnets to SoHo Cast Iron Façades


Participants explore cast iron architecture around town and at the Center.

Inge Hoonte, Patrick Candalla

On 11.14.09 a group of 72 children and adults transformed the streets of SoHo into an architectural playground. Participants of the Center for Architecture Foundation’s Family Day, “Cast Iron Architecture in SoHo,” followed Design Educator Catherine Teegarden from LaGuardia Place to Houston St., Greene St., Prince St., and West Broadway. Along the way, children tried to stick magnets to façades to identify prefabricated cast iron plates.

Attendees learned about the general history and usage of iron in the local architectural landscape of the late 1900s. Teegarden pointed out that glass embedded in iron grates in the sidewalk allow light into basements that historically would otherwise have been dark. Children practiced reading a building by looking at the common rhythm of repeating columns and beams as well as decorative details, which the kids compared to sprinkles on a cupcake.

Upon returning to the Center participants used their newfound knowledge from the street to construct paper façades. They started with a base of horizontal and vertical strips of colored paper echoing the columns and beams that had just observed, then used beads, wooden dots, and fabric rosettes for ornament. One participant drew furniture behind a pop-up screen. Another added narrow strips of bright paper onto a darker shade to replicate a column’s shadow.

The Center for Architecture Foundation presents Family Day programs on the second Saturday of each month. These workshops are designed for children ages five to 13 and their adult companions to work together on a hands-on activity. The next Family Day will explore the role of light in architecture and design. Participants will investigate the traditions of cultures from around the world that celebrate light as well as innovative lighting design strategies. Families will then create their own light fixture to take home. This annual event is sponsored by the Illuminating Engineering Society of NY (IESNY).

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The Measure

Did you attend the recent 5-part series at the Center about the energy code?
View Results

Have you listened to one of the new AIANY podcasts?
View Results

Of Interest

What Might Have Been


Courtesy Museum of the Phantom City

Every architect has at least one project that never came to be. Instead, it is memorialized forever on the drawing boards. But wait — now there’s an app for you. In honor of NYC projects that were never built, the Museum of the Phantom City is hosting a public art project in the form of an iPhone application by Cheng+Snyder. Once downloaded to your phone, it allows you to walk the city and see images of projects imagined but never realized along with notes on what the designers intended. Download it for free.

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Names in the News

The Sam Fox School announced the winners of the 2009 Skandalaris Awards:
Rick Lowe, the founder of Project Row Houses won the Award for Excellence in Art + Architecture; Anna Rubbo, founder of Global Studio, and John Bielenberg, founder of Project M won Awards for Entrepreneurship in Design & Visual Arts…

The Shanghai World Financial Center, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, garnered three MIPIM Asia 2009 awards, including Best Chinese Project and Best Mixed-Use Building, while also earning the “Participants’ Choice” award…

The award winners of CANstruction NY 2009 include Feed the Bank (Piggy Bank) by Arianna Braun Architects, Juror’s Favorite; A Fungus to Feed Us by Platt Byard Dovell White Architects, Best Structural Ingenuity; Basic Goodness by HLW International LLP/Turner Construction, Best Meal; We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends by Ted Moudis Associates, Best Use of Labels; and Honorable Mentions The (Not So) Very Hungry Caterpillar by Polshek Partnership Architects, and Lend a Helping CAN by Dattner Architects

McGraw-Hill Construction announced that Norbert Young, FAIA, who served as president, has left the company… Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. discontinued the publication of Metropolitan Home magazine, ending with the December issue…

Artist Jeanne-Claude, who worked alongside and under the name of her husband, Christo, has died at the age of 74…

Spector Group announced the opening of its first office in Abu Dhabi, and has also established its presence in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in collaboration with a small consortium of international professional engineers…

HDR CUH2A announced that Randle Pollock has joined the firm as Central Regional Business Development Director..


11.17.09: The architects and engineers who competed in CANstruction NY 2009 used 100,693 food products (mostly canned goods) to build 30 diverse and whimsical canstructures. The event was sponsored by the Society For Design Administration (SDA), AIANY, and arts>World Financial Center.

Juror’s Favorite: Feed the Bank (Piggy Bank) by Arianna Braun Architects, PLLC.

Jessica Sheridan


Best Structural Ingenuity: A Fungus to Feed Us by Platt Byard Dovell White Architects.

Jessica Sheridan

Canstruction 044

Canstruction Jurors (L-R): E Bruce Barrett; Burt Roslyn; Charles Baskett, AIA; Sherida Paulsen, FAIA; Louis Dubin; Mark Goetz; John Gidding; and Adriana Trigiani.

Rick Bell

New Deadlines

2010 Oculus Editorial Calendar
Coming soon!

11.30.09 Call for Submissions/Proposals: desigNYC: NYC Non-Profits Needing Pro-Bono Design Services

12.04.09 Call for entries/Request for Qualifications (RFQ): Conceptual plan for the enhancement of Lower Kinnear Park, Seattle

12.15.09 Late Registration Deadline: HB:BX Building Cultural Infrastructure International Ideas Competition

12.18.09 Request for Proposals: Barangaroo Headland Park and Public Domain, Australia

12.21.09 Call for Exhibition Designers: Center for Architecture 2010 Exhibition Designer Shortlist

12.21.09 Call for Graphic Designers: Center for Architecture 2010 Graphic Designer Shortlist

12.31.09 Call for Entries: FreeGreen.com: Who’s Next?

12.31.09 Call for Proposals: Michael Kalil Endowment for Smart Design

02.12.10 Call for Entries: 2010 ASLA Awards

01.08.10 Call for Expression of Interest/EOI: St. Lawrence Market North Building Design Competition

01.29.09 Call for Projects: public space european prize 2010

At the Center for Architecture

Center for Architecture Gallery Hours and Location
Monday-Friday: 9:00am-8:00pm, Saturday: 11:00am-5:00pm, Sunday: CLOSED
536 LaGuardia Place, Between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets in Greenwich Village, NYC, 212-683-0023


Context\Contrast: New Architecture in Historic Districts, 1967-2009

On view October 6, 2009 — January 23, 2010.

Building Connections 2009


On view September 17, 2009 — January 9, 2010.

Arch Schools: Visions of the Future

On view September 17 — December 12, 2009.

About Town

Through 12.04.09
Re-Imagining Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil


This floating Ecopolis has a double objective: to extend the sustainable territory of the most developed countries, and to house the climatic refugees of less-developed, at-risk marine territories (such as the Polynesian atolls).

Vincent Callebaut

Innovative ideas, projects, initiatives, and policies from around the globe that can help us re-think how we inhabit urban areas are on view. From car sharing to citywide environmental initiatives to futuristic floating cities, the projects displayed show a spectrum of possibilities.

Municipal Art Society
457 Madison Avenue, NYC

Through 12.04.09
Bits ‘n Pieces



This interactive traveling exhibition features work by an international group of designers, architects, computer scientists, and material and technology researchers that anticipates the next phase of materiality in the digital revolution.

Material ConneXion
60 Madison Avenue, 2nd Floor, NYC

Through 12.11.09
Flatiron High and Low


Flatiron (originally Fuller) Building by D.H. Burnham & Co., constructed 1901-1903.

Photo by Charles L. Ritzman / Library of Congress

An exhibition of photographs, architects’ renderings, vintage views, and film footage spotlights two centuries of building culture in the Flatiron district.

Van Alen Institute
30 West 22nd Street, NYC


eCalendar includes an interactive listing of architectural events around NYC. Click the link to go to to eCalendar on the Web.


The Public Information Exchange (PIE) is an AIANY initiative designed to create an archive of NYC projects, proposals, programs, and exhibitions presented or discussed at the Center for Architecture. It is a forum for public discussion, both general and professional, that includes continuous commentary from users and participants. Click the link to take part.


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Reports from the Field

Transatlantic Views of the Durable City (continued)

Paris, David Mangin noted, is the natural home of “make no little plans.” The 10-architect Grand Paris endeavor is the latest in a long series of sweeping civic renovations, some implemented (Baron Haussmann’s), some partially built (Henri Prost’s 1930s scheme for radioconcentric highways), and some remaining unrealized (Corbusier’s Plan Voisin and Ville Radieuse). Since New York has a roughly similar area and density, as Catherine Barbé illustrated, and is also organized around a center built in pre-automotive times, the question logically arises why our region has been relatively short on comprehensive public visions. Even influential ones like the Regional Plan Association’s original 1929 plan, executive director Thomas Wright allowed, haven’t overcome the American “history of ceding planning to the private sector” (including the private RPA). Today’s challenges of sprawl, mobility, and environmental repair, Wright and others argued, make this tradition obsolete. Badly needed public works like the Second Avenue subway, the Access to the Region’s Core transit tunnel, the East Side Access project, and particularly Moynihan Station remain vulnerable to a political culture that Wright called “checks and balances on steroids.”

Alexander Garvin’s summation illuminated aspects of the respective influences of Haussmann and Robert Moses that require nuanced appreciation. Received wisdom associates Haussmann’s boulevards primarily with geometric rationalism, military strategy, and social control, forgetting not only the grim conditions (hygienic and epidemiologic) that made them necessary, but the fact that during Paris’s bouts of social upheaval, “you can shoot in both directions” through a long straight space. “It’s impossible to think of Paris without cafés,” Garvin added, “and those cafés would be impossible without Haussmann.” Likewise, outrage at Moses’s motoristic assaults on urban neighborhoods rings hollow outside the context of his remarkable record of projects, including dozens substantially benefiting the underprivileged. While paying respect to these achievements, Garvin cautioned that grand projets, linear cities, and regional subcenters, ideas recurrent in both Parisian and New York history, have less effect on daily life than the kind of local incremental measures we are already seeing. “Both Paris and New York are in the change business, all the time,” Garvin concluded, “but it’s not initiated by architects. Those changes are initiated by people working hard on improving the public realm, the streets, and parks. That’s where change occurs, not by rethinking the city.”

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