We have a number of exciting events coming up at the Center for Architecture. On 04.23.14, we will be celebrating design excellence at the 2014 Honors and Awards Luncheon in Cipriani Wall Street. Don’t miss your chance to hear a keynote address from Hon. Shaun Donovan, Hon. AIANY, and to celebrate the AIA New York Design Awards and our honorees: Susan S. Szenasy, Hon. AIANY, David Burney, FAIA, Denise Scott Brown, RIBA, Int. FRIBA, and Robert Venturi, FAIA, Int. FRIBA. If you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please contact Nicole Pesce, Interim Development Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “2014 Design Awards” exhibition will be opening the day after the Luncheon, on 04.24.14. The 35 winning projects will be on view at the Center for Architecture through 06.17.14.
We are also excited to announce the launch of “Barcelona-New York City Urban Bridge 2014 (BCN-NYC): A Year of Catalan Architecture in New York.” Throughout 2014, three major New York institutions – the AIA New York Chapter | Center for Architecture, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College – will be hosting exhibitions and programs that will celebrate Catalan architecture in New York City. Please visit www.bcnnyc.org to find out more and see a full list of events.
Conversations with Dr. Joan Clos, the executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), started and ended my visit to Medellín. I was presenting at the World Urban Forum 7 (WUF) with the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU), an emerging non-governmental organization (NGO) that was formalized in 2008. CSU is co-chaired by James McCullar, FAIA, past AIANY president, and Aliye Celik; other board members include Margaret Castillo, FAIA, past AIANY president, and myself. The CSU partners with and is sponsored by the AIANY, NJIT, and CCNY/CUNY, among others. Detailed information can be found on its website at www.consortiumforsustainableurbanization.org, and information on the UN Habitat World Urban Forum can be found at wuf7.unhabitat.org.
”With sessions held every two years, the World Urban Forum examines rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, and policies. This year’s session of the Forum, with the theme ‘Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life,’ drew more than 22,000 participants from more than 140 countries representing governments, UN agencies, NGOs, urban professionals, local authorities, and academics. The WUF, convened by UN-Habitat, is a non-legislative technical forum.” So starts the UN Summary of the WUF7 event. In large part, the activities were in service of formulating the agenda for HABITAT III, to be held in 2016, when the previous agenda from the last Habitat meeting in Istanbul 20 years ago will be assessed, and new goals will be set for our common global future. Read More
Mayor Bill de Blasio came to the Great Hall of Cooper Union’s landmark Foundation Building on Thursday, 04.10.14, to deliver a speech that catalogued some of the specific initiatives of his first 100 days in office, and which anticipated the path that his administration will pursue. Particular areas of focus of his speech were education, affordable housing, pedestrian safety, and equal opportunity. The broader theme was a description of the attributes of a progressive city. New York, the mayor asserted, has been a model for other cities across the nation and can be so again. What follows are excerpts transcribed in place that may be of particular interest to architects and others in the design community. In the superb setting of the Great Hall, with its history and volumetric quality, it was hard not to be impressed, as well, by the speechwriting skill and oratory of our new mayor. Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Robert Kennedy, and James Russell Lowell (“fate loves the fearless”), Mayor de Blasio’s central theme – “the Progressive City” – in many ways resonated with Lowell’s new world Voyage to Vinland, from which the famous line was taken:
Strong from self-helping;
Eyes for the present
Bring them as eagles’,
Blind to the Past.
They shall make over
Creed, law, and custom…
Fate loves the fearless;
Fools, when their roof-tree
Falls think it doomsday;
Firm stands the sky.
Over the ruin
See I the promise.
(from Voyage to Vinland; started 1851, completed 1869)
Mayor de Blasio’s remarks:
“I would like to thank all of the friends who are with us today as we mark this special occasion. We have a lot to celebrate, a lot to be thankful for. I want to thank everyone here at Cooper Union, this extraordinary treasure. This stage is renowned for over a century and a half as a place where people come together to think and to dream. An extraordinary education is offered here. Curious minds have come here over the generations, people seeking truth. It is the perfect setting to discuss all that our city is capable of. Abraham Lincoln said right here on this stage, ‘Let us have faith that right makes might.’ Read More
On Thursday, 04.10.14, the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) held a demonstration on the steps of City Hall calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio, on his 100th day in office, to focus on sustainability and resiliency efforts in his next 100 days. The press conference announced three suggested steps that, if implemented, will better prepare New York City for future climate change and weather-related events. NYLCV President Marcia Bystryn gave the opening remarks and outlined the three milestones that emphasize long-term planning in a post-Sandy New York City:
- The de Blasio Administration has set 05.01.14 as the deadline to announce its plan to add and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units. These units should be built sustainably and resiliently. They should also include access to transit and parks.
- The official start of the next hurricane season is 06.01.14. The mayor should initiate a comprehensive plan to ensure that New York is prepared for the next storm and the changing climate.
- The deadline for a finalized city budget is 06.30.14. Sustainability and resiliency planning must be included in the capital plan, in addition to vital infrastructure repairs. Read More
The Google map of Aix-en-Provence shows curving lines merging in concentric circles that look not all that different from regular streets. On the ground, however, the medieval streets are almost impassable: traffic moves very slowly through a tangle of pedestrians and cyclists. This brings to light the issue of how old European cities remake themselves to suit the current demands of their denizens to be greener and more habitable. Sometimes, as they move from ancient to updated, they also have to revise modern botches that have left voids, areas that divide the city, or spaces that ignore diversity or natural resources.
The Center for Architecture’s opening of “Polis: 7 Lessons from the European Prize for Public Urban Space [2000-2012]” celebrates these transformations, these applications of the democratic conception of the city. The prize has gathered 1,300 projects from cities across Europe, and the Center’s exhibition highlights 35 works from the first seven editions of the prize. The exhibition, of course, derives its name, polis, from the idealized Greek city-state, reminding us that the city is ours to take ownership over and shape to our will. As grandiose and bold as this goal is, “Polis” shows how the remaking of public space occurs in nested moments as easily as through large-scale moves. The show is organized around seven precepts that dynamically embody the AIANY President Lance Jay Brown’s, FAIA, theme for this year, “Civic Spirit: Civic Vision.” Read More
The line of people that stretched down LaGuardia Place to attend “Cities by Water: Solutions from Copenhagen and New York” on 04.08.14 was a testament to the fact that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers have become acutely aware of the threat that climate change poses to their city. The program, related to the “Copenhagen Solutions” exhibition currently on view at the Center for Architecture, compared and contrasted approaches to the water-related challenges facing New York and Copenhagen.
Bjarke Ingels, founder of the Copenhagen- and New York-based architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and Tina Saaby, City Architect of Copenhagen, fielded the first questions posed by AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, who guided the evening’s discussion. Bell asked Ingels and Saaby to comment on the extent to which political leadership, policy, and the relationship between the public and private sectors determines what is possible in Copenhagen. Saaby explained that in Copenhagen there is both a top-down and bottom-up approach implemented simultaneously, resulting in long-term visions for city planning coupled with short-term actions. Read More
Charles Montgomery’s book, Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), is essentially a mind mapping of the current issues, policies, and conundrums of the North American urban design landscape. Montgomery deftly balances the likes of Socrates, Aristotle, a variety of sociologists, politicians, psychologists, and a hand full of architects and urban designers to gauge and assess the city via various forms of happiness data. He uses a dizzying array of personal anecdotes, and takes the reader through city after exurb after cul-de-sac to illustrate the dire straits that Americans, in particular, are in. While I admire the stylistic attempt to weave together these many disciplines, the result feels confusing and a bit too polite. Read More
The average New Yorker probably doesn’t know there’s such a thing as the 125th Street Fault – or that in an earthquake, running out of one’s building is the wrong thing to do. (Staying inside is wiser, preferably close to something load-bearing and away from anything loose.) Yet neither earthquakes nor the technologies for dealing with them are unknown to New York, noted Giovanni Gioia, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, of Dattner Architects, in introducing the speakers on this panel, the latest in the series accompanying the “Considering the Quake” exhibition. The chief challenge, he continued, is applying what’s known before a quake occurs, not after, as with Superstorm Sandy. A contrasting tone appeared in remarks by curator Dr. Effie Bouras, inspired by Carl Sagan’s thoughts on scientific skepticism: “We haven’t found the truth with this exhibit. Our only humble expectancy is to raise questions.” The principles of rational inquiry (gradual, partial, aware of how marginal our knowledge inevitably is) and practical applications of that knowledge (inevitably a matter of urgency) created a useful dialectic as seismic and design specialists explored strategies for preparation and mitigation. Read More
“Do we see a street as somewhere we belong to? Does the area where I live have sufficient services and diversity? Does the public network consider my needs?” These are only a few of the questions posed at the breakfast leadership event with Zaida Muxi Martinez, coordinator of the Masters Program in 21st Century Sustainable Housing at the Barcelona School of Architecture. These questions reevaluate public space, facilities, and mobility through the lens of a woman and her needs, and the topic of gender-based planning. Take, for example, this question: “Can I walk to my day-to-day needs?” I’m asking about the security of the area for a woman day and night, pedestrian-friendly traffic, and the crossing speed at a stoplight for a woman with a stroller and toddlers. All of us experience public spaces, such as parks, sidewalks, and street crossings. Often, we take the public places where we are most comfortable for granted. When we are not at ease we are more observant. We become aware that the sidewalk is too narrow, the park is too dark to traverse alone, the street crossing is very wide with very little time to cross. Read More
Weeksville, Brooklyn, and the Weeksville Heritage Center both have relatively long histories. James Weeks, a free African American, established the Brooklyn community in 1838; and the Center, designed by Caples Jefferson Architects, started in 2002. Fifty years after its “rediscovery” in the late 1960s by Pratt professor and amateur helicopter pilot James Hurley, the neighborhood received a new $26-million home for rotating exhibitions, performances, lectures, classrooms, research, and offices to administer the cultural organization’s programming – green markets, after-school programs, outdoor concerts – and, most importantly, the historic Hunterfly Road Houses. Read More