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February 10, 2009
by Linda G. Miller

In this issue:
· The Dutch are Coming!
· Religion Goes Green
· Kids Are Happy at the Blue School
· Coney Island Puts On the Glitz
· Performing Arts Center is Shell Shocked
· New York Designer Renews Florida Westin
· Hotel/Spa/Wine Center Flowers in Alsace


The Dutch are Coming!

New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion.

Courtesy Handel Architects

At a recent press conference with Dutch officials, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans for the Dutch-American celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York Harbor. Peter Minuit Plaza at The Battery will become the site of a new 5,000-square-foot New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion, to be designed by Dutch firm UNStudio in collaboration with Handel Architects. The site will be designed as an “outdoor living room” for spontaneous and scheduled activities as well as an intermodal transportation hub, where bicycles, buses, subway, and water transportation intersect with the cultural offerings.

Walkways will feature engraved quotations from Russell Shorto’s book The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America. A carved stone map of the Castello Plan, a circa 1660 map of Lower Manhattan, will grace the entrance. The open space will draw visitors with UNStudio-designed seating and tables. The pavilion will have an undulating roofline and curving walls intended to evoke an opening flower, and the façade will be equipped with LEDs allowing for a constantly changing light show at night. The site will also feature berms and perennial gardens, designed by NYC Parks & Recreation using the color palette of Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, who created The Battery Bosque Gardens and the Gardens of Remembrance. The project is made possible by a major grant from the government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to The Battery Conservancy as part of the NY400 celebration and in honor of the enduring relationship between New York and Holland.


Religion Goes Green

Convent for The Community of the Holy Spirit.

BKSK Architects

Out of 14 firms invited to submit proposals, BKSK Architects has been selected to design a new, 13,000-square-foot green convent for The Community of the Holy Spirit, a contemplative order of Episcopalian nuns in Morningside Heights. Design inspiration came from the nuns’ desire to connect more profoundly with the natural world and live in an environmentally friendly manner. Spaces are intended to inspire quiet contemplation, both individually and collectively. The presence of natural light and falling water are brought into sanctuaries as symbols of a divine presence. The convent will include dual rooftop gardens, rainwater collection, and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems. Also on the boards at BKSK is a green synagogue in Brooklyn.


Kids Are Happy at the Blue School

Double classroom at the Blue School.

Hudson Studio Architects

Hudson Studio Architects has completed a new preschool/kindergarten for the Blue Man Group on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The brainchild of the three original partners of the successful theater, their latest production, the Blue School, takes the approach that art and creativity are central to education. The space itself is transformed through light and sound in ways that the students can control. The school features a versatile padded space called the Wonder Room. The padding lifts up to reveal a digital interactive floor system used for learning through light, color, and movement. The space also has a climbing wall, and is used for yoga/movement sessions. Similar to the stage show, the school has talk tubes that allow the kids to communicate between rooms and the students can use UV-sensitive paint to create a mural that can be seen when the hallway lights switch from full spectrum to black light.


Coney Island Puts On the Glitz

Coney Island.

Courtesy NYC Department of City Planning

City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden, Hon. AIANY, announced the launch of a public review for a comprehensive rezoning plan that would re-establish Coney Island as a year-round destination and bring new economic opportunities to the area. The plan would foster a total of some 6.8 million square feet of new development, and the proposed 19-block zone would create an open and accessible 27-acre indoor and outdoor amusement and entertainment district. Under the proposed rezoning, an estimated 1.1 million square feet of amusement and entertainment-related uses — such as dark rides, virtual reality, water parks, IMAX theaters, circuses, and restaurants and catering facilities — and 800 hotel rooms could be developed in the district, creating year-round job opportunities. The rezoning would also catalyze redevelopment of vacant and underutilized land for mixed-income housing and neighborhood retail and services. The plan is the culmination of an interagency planning effort led by the Department of City Planning and the Economic Development Corporation.


Performing Arts Center is Shell Shocked

Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center.

Holzman Moss Architecture

Ground has been broken on the new Holzman Moss Architecture-designed $32.8 million, 68,000-square-foot Performing Arts Center at Francis Marion University (FMU) in Florence, SC. The 900-seat multipurpose hall features adjustable acoustics and staging options to accommodate a broad scope of music programs from solo performances to 80-person orchestra ensembles. A fly tower and orchestra pit also allow for music, dance, and theater productions. The firm designed a built-in, single-piece, automated orchestra shell enclosure that in minutes transforms the stage and fly loft from a tuned musical environment to an open and flexible stage house for theatrical events at the push of a button. The customized, patent-pending Actuated Stage Shell extends into the interior of the room, enveloping both the stage and audience in a single cohesive enclosure. A series of large roller wheels distribute the weight of the 20-ton shell to move easily along the surface of the stage floor. The complex also contains a 100-seat black box theater, and an academic wing for offices, classrooms, and support spaces. The facility is expected to be completed in the fall of 2010.


New York Designer Renews Florida Westin
New York-based hospitality design firm Therese Virserius Design recently completed the renovation of 120,000 square feet of hotel space for Westin Hotel and Resorts in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The resort-style hotel’s rejuvenation included the renovation of 300 guest rooms and suites, meeting facilities, common areas, ballrooms, five pre-function rooms, and boardrooms. The new look was achieved by using custom carpeting, crown molding, contemporary lighting, natural light, bold patterns, green foliage, and blue and brown hues throughout.


Hotel/Spa/Wine Center Flowers in Alsace

Loisium SAS.

Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl Architects, in collaboration with Swiss firm Rüssli Architects, has been commissioned to realize a new 100-room destination hotel, spa, and wine center for Loisium SAS in a forest overlooking vineyards in Alsace, France. The concrete frame structure sheathed in blackened wood siding is designed to emulate nearby red cliffs and the forest landscape. The design uses this concept of “arborescence” to influence the order and space of the building. Exterior spaces are divided, providing privacy for the spa while inviting the public into the restaurant. The flower-like center pavilion is made with red weathered steel, similar to the cliffs, and colored glass in different shades of red, and will house a wine gallery and a gathering space with chapel-like acoustics for concerts and special events. It can also be a place for silence and reflection, connecting the site with the adjacent 11th-century Marbach Abbey, located on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.

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