May 28, 2008
by: Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

(Continued from above)

New Yorkers Design for the Public Realm

The GSA is not the only one urban centers with civic architecture. New York State, NYC, and NY-based firms moving to improve the public realm as well. Einhorn, Yaffee, Prescott A/E is doing much of that at the United Nations, as discussed during the The United Nations in the 21st Century panel. While trying to maintain the spirit of Le Corbusier’s design, the architecture/engineering team is also attempting to bring the building up to code, provide necessary health, safety, and welfare provisions, and introduce sustainable design. The renovations will reportedly reduce the building’s energy consumption by 30% by introducing an improved curtain wall, water re-use, and efficient mechanical systems. Ultimately, the goal is to imperceptibly surgically enhance the building, explained Anthony Cohn, AIA, of Einhorn, Yaffee, Prescott.

Although NYC is inherently green due to its density, extensive mass transit, strategically located parks such as Central Park, and community activism, Mayor’s PlaNYC brings sustainability to the forefront of civic planning. Thirty-two percent of NYC is covered with buildings and efficient development is costly, not to mention that developers often resist doing work for the public good, according to Jessica Strauss, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, co-chair of the AIANY Committee on the Environment (COTE) at the Organizing Professional Response to the Mayor’s Plan NYC 2030 discussion. Robert Eisenstat, AIA, chief principal architect of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, stressed the importance of implementing PlaNYC initiatives after the mayor’s term ends this year. Outreach through education and advocacy, acting as a watchdog within the profession, and directly taking action to encourage sustainable design are architects’ responsibilities to achieve a reduced carbon footprint.

The New Housing New York Legacy Project panel discussed Via Verde, an affordable housing development that aims to improve a local community in the Bronx. Phipps Houses with architecture firms Dattner Architects and Grimshaw are bringing sustainable design and mixed-income housing to the forefront of its design. A community health center, exercise facility, food co-op, and roof gardens with linked paths aim to promote healthy living throughout the neighborhood.

Although private, The New York Times building, designed by FXFOWLE Architects/Renzo Piano Building Workshop with interiors by Gensler, takes up the public realm through its open lobby, as discussed during The New York Times Building: Vision, Collaboration, and Innovation. With an ongoing exhibition and central courtyard, passersby are encouraged to enter. The transparent design displays the activity within, mimicking the hustle-and-bustle of people on the street.

Even AIA chapters are improving the public realm by providing centers for architecture. By creating the Center for Architecture, AIANY, following Chicago’s lead, has developed a space for the architecture/landscape/planning/design community to gather, hold lectures and events, host exhibitions, and educate the public about the built environment. It has also become a center to advocate for good government practices. While each city to set up a center has a slightly different mission tailored to the needs of the local community, “design centers bring people together,” remarked Rick Bell, AIANY Executive Director, at The Value of Architecture Centers discussion. Other cities are seeing their value, and soon new centers will open in Dallas and San Francisco (one hopes in time for next year’s AIA Convention).


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