by Linda G. Miller
A Chiseled New Profile on the Upper West Side: Snøhetta designs UWS tower
Snøhetta is leading the design of new 127-unit condo residential tower at 50 West 66th Street. The through-block site, located between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, is just outside the bounds of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District. At 755 feet, upon completion it will most likely be the tallest tower in the UWS. At street level, the building’s podium is sheathed in hand-set and textured limestone with bronze and glass storefronts that complement the material palette of the neighborhood. At its base, the building has two different entrances, one on the north side for the residences, and another on the 65th Street side that leads to a synagogue to replace one razed to make way for the development. On the second floor, the building steps back. The design is achieved through a series of sculptural excavations, evocative of the chiseled stone of Manhattan island and its outcroppings in Central Park. As the building rises, its bulk is carved away, splitting the tower volume into two. Chamfered corners refine its silhouette and form a shared amenity terrace on the 16th floor. Above the terrace, the building becomes slenderer as it reaches its full height. The opposing corners of the building are sliced away to create balconies. Angled facets evoke this chiseled vocabulary, revealing the same gleaming bronze found at the building’s base. Construction is expected to begin in Spring 2018.
The Colors of a Medical Humanitarian Organization: SHA and Rüssli Architekten win design competition for Doctors Without Borders Operational Center
Steven Holl Architects in collaboration with Lucerne, Switzerland-based Rüssli Architekten, has won the international design competition for the new Geneva Operational Center for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders, an international and independent medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, and natural disasters. The close-to-108,000-square-foot center will provide workstations, meeting rooms, classrooms, and social spaces for more than 250 MSF staff who support the activities of more than 6,500 field staff covering missions in 23 countries. The design, entitled Colors of Humanity, has a cubic geometry that reveals its open-ended flexibility, allowing for more space to be added on in the future. The building features walls of green-, blue-, and red-tinted glass that integrate photovoltaic panels; these are expected to meet a large proportion of the building’s energy requirements. The colored glazing, coupled with the building’s stacked-block formation, express the internal layout. The interior has criss-crossing passages that are lined with casual seating alcoves and other small-scale social gathering spaces. The center will also house MSF’s international secretariat, which includes activities related to the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines and various international projects piloted from Geneva, now occupying about 100 employees. The Geneva Operational Center will be located adjacent to the new Institute of Higher International Studies and Development, designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates and the Terra and Casa Foundation housing for expatriates, designed by Bonnard Woeffray Architectes. The start of the project is planned for spring 2019.
Sweet Revisions for the Refinery Building: PAU design for Domino Sugar Refinery approved by LPC
The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission approved Practice for Architecture and Urbanism’s (PAU) revised design for the landmarked Domino Sugar Refinery. The building is the centerpiece of the Domino Sugar Factory redevelopment site, located along the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn and vacant since 2004. The new plan utilizes the same total volume of approximately 400,000 square feet. The structure was originally built to consolidate three functions—the filtering, panning, and finishing of sugar—that required the use of enormous equipment housed in cavernous multi-story spaces. As a result, the refinery presents major challenges for reuse. The façade was essentially propped up by the massive amount of equipment inside, as there were no traditional floors, so any renovation requires hollowing out the building. Though the building has windows to give the impression of being a single structure, they are misaligned across the four façades and don’t easily line up with office floors. Thus, the interior of the building suffers from a severe lack of light and air. The approved plan addresses these challenges. The new interior is pulled back from the façade, inhabiting the landmark as an armature, allowing light and air to pass between the new office building and the existing brick structure. The boxy glass top is replaced by a crystalline barrel-vaulted structure that resonates with the American Round Arch Style of the original building. The openings on the southern face of the building are maintained, along with the structure’s overall industrial character and patina. An open-air courtyard creates an east-west public axis from Kent Street under the smokestack and onto a new waterfront plaza. The ground floor will be infused with halls, shops, eateries, and services to engage the public, particularly during periods of inclement weather. Two Trees Management acquired the Domino property in 2012 and commissioned SHoP Architects to design the master plan for the entire site.
Renovations Continue on a Beaux-Arts Beauty: Mecanoo and BBB NYPL master plan unveiled
The New York Public Library (NYPL) unveiled a master plan for the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Developed by Delft, Netherlands-based Mecanoo, and Beyer Blinder Belle, the plan calls for two phases beginning in 2018 and continuing through 2021. Specific elements include the transformation of long-underutilized historic spaces into public spaces for research, exhibitions, and educational programs, including the new Lenox and Astor Room; a much-needed entrance on 40th Street with a plaza and new elevator bank; an improved patron experience with new bathrooms and modernized infrastructure, including a café and expanded shop; a new Center for Research and Learning to introduce high school and university students to the array of collections and uses of the research library; and a permanent but rotating exhibition of NYPL treasures in the library’s Gottesman Hall. While the master plan does not include a definitive solution for the central stacks—seven floors of shelving built in 1911—the NYPL also announced that it has commissioned the design team to perform a study examining possibilities for the 175,000-square-foot space. The stacks are currently housing circulating books while Mid-Manhattan Library is closed for renovation, but are no longer fit to hold research materials as originally intended because the space does not meet acceptable standards for temperature, humidity, and fire safety. The team is also leading the renovation of the Mid-Manhattan Library, the NYPL’s largest circulating branch, located across Fifth Avenue. It is scheduled to reopen as the completely renovated Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in early 2020.
Make It Grand!: FXFOWLE, !melk, and Arup team up for Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station Plaza concept
Amtrak unveiled the preferred 30th Street Station Plaza concept, a grand civic space encompassing approximately 446,000 square feet. Designed by FXFOWLE, !melk, and Arup, the public spaces will surround Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, the city’s main railway station designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White and opened in 1934. The plan for the plaza was influenced by community and customer feedback on how to address the needs of Amtrak’s third busiest station with connections to other rail services, subways, buses, and trolleys. The plan offers solutions to customer parking and drop-off locations, improves pedestrian flow around the station, enhances lighting for better security and visibility, and provides safer walking and driving conditions. Building on the success of the temporary installation along one side of the station called “The Porch,” the concept design for the plaza offers a dramatic increase in pedestrian space and a range of experiences and activities, from lively retail to intimate shaded seating, a lawn area, and an amphitheater. The plan reorganizes pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular circulation into rational and efficient routes that minimize conflicts. Raised planting areas, trees, fountains, public art, new lighting, and a unified paving pattern help create a space that is varied and welcoming. The project, tied to the ambitious 30th Street Station District plan, aims to transform the area into a pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically pleasing civic space.
Hope for the Homeless: Framlab proposes new housing for the homeless
The architectural designers at Framlab, a creative agency, have proposed a new type of temporary housing designed to provide a year-round home for its resident. Called Homed, the project explores using the blank sidewalls of buildings; in aggregate, they potentially make up hundreds of acres of available space. Partly 3D-printed hexagonal pods will be suspended from the windowless building facades via scaffolding. While the exterior structure of steel and oxidized reflects the wear and tear of the city, the interior of the pods are clad with wood laminate to create a warm and friendly living environment. The interiors are 3D printed from recyclable bioplastics, offering a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective assembly. Equipment, lighting, storage, and furniture, as well as a host of sensors, can be embedded into the module. The units can also be easily customized for different uses and transported from site to site, giving new life to building walls throughout the city.