Thursday, December 29, 2005

WTC Site Planning (Or Today's Installment of Breathtaking Inanity)

When I first proposed "breathtaking inanity" as the new "irrational exuberance," I knew the phrase would come in handy, but I had only an inkling of just how handy. Today's installment comes from a great Times article by David Dunlap about how a draft of the design guidelines for the World Trade Center site have been circulating for two years with no finalization in sight while building designs have been thrown at the wall like spaghetti just to see what sticks:

In that time, the Freedom Tower has been designed and redesigned, partly following the draft guidelines and partly ignoring them. The transportation hub has been designed in a form quite unlike that contemplated in the 2003 draft. Ditto, the memorial. Ditto, the cultural building.

Now, the architect Norman Foster ... has been chosen by Larry A. Silverstein to design the second largest office tower on the site...

And there are still no guidelines.

In a recent piece I wrote about the Transbay Terminal (or the "Grand Central of the West") in San Francisco, my favorite line got cut from the piece (for good reason, I will readily admit), but I so wanted to indirectly point out the right way to plan a site. The final line in this graph, alas, did not appear in print:

The [Transbay Terminal and accompanying tower] competition, guided by conceptual designs unveiled on Dec. 19, is a result of … the adoption of a high-density master plan, devised by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, to redevelop the surrounding 40 acres and provide much of the financing for the terminal and tower. In other words, years of planning, coalition building, and financial structuring were done before the public’s imagination was dazzled by star-studded architecture.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Lounging, Not Just for the Homeless Anymore

The Times has a great little piece today about lounge chairs popping up in public spaces around New York City, and rightly notes that we've come a long way (baby) from a time when people walked around parks trying to avoid getting mugged rather than into them to take a little snooze.

Above photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times of a park in Queens that encourages sunbathing (weather permitting) and skyline gazing.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Suburban Dystopia

No matter how many American downtowns get redeveloped and revitalized, there remains an unmistakable obsession with the suburbs. To wit: "Sprawl: A Concise History," a new book by Robert Bruegmann, an urban planning egghead at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He makes a contrarian argument in favor of suburbia on a populist soap box; namely, it is the liberal elites who oppose sprawl even though, were it not for the suburbs, many people would not be able to partake in the good life that the liberal elites so enjoy. And I will admit there's enough truth to this argument to entice me to actually read the book. But from what I've read about the book, the author neglects to address what happens to a city when there is sprawl without population growth, which is the cause of death for essentially the entire middle section of the country, save for Chicago, where he just so happens to live (i.e. there's an important distinction between "surburia" and "sprawl").

More interestingly, a recent article in the Times asked, "What is the future of suburbia in America?" The article notes the life cycle of suburbia and how Long Island is at the crisis point: "local taxes are among the nation's highest, gangs, traffic jams, pockets of poverty and decay, dwindling open space, insufficient mass transit, segregation, blighted strip malls, an influx of immigrants, sprawl and a lack of focal points for community life." In other words, it's the inner-ring suburb syndrome writ large.

Long Island needs to reinvent itself, and lo-and-behold, one of the more promsing options is to urbanize, especially by applying urban revitalization techniques that have revived downtowns from Providence to Albuquerque. What's more: "Some call for radical transformation, even a startling new look. A couple of miles from Levittown, in Uniondale, Charles B. Wang proposed something never before contemplated on Long Island: the Great Lighthouse, with a luxury hotel and condominiums, topped by an observation deck and a large shiny ball visible for miles" (pictured above, inset).

Suburbia, of course, is not going away and nor should it. I don't hear liberal elites (or even E.Villagers for that matter), walking around complaining about the horrors of suburbia ... that's so '80s. All we are saying is, give density a chance.

P.S. I've been alerted by Starts and Fits that Wong has dropped his plans to build a tower on Long Island. I can't say I was crazy about that idea to begin with, but that doesn't mean that certain parts of Long Island shouldn't densify to revitalize itself.

Photographs, above and inset, by Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Steeeee-rike Three: "Breathtaking Inanity"

My thought for the day: "breathtaking inanity" will come to define the current era the same way "irrational exuburance" once defined the bubble years. Like any defining catchphrase, it applies to so many current circumstance and has a great cadence. The two-thousand-oughts: Breathtaking Inanity. Pass it on.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Steeeee-rike Two

Day two of the transit strike ... and like any fairweather New Yorker, I'm outta here. Wish me luck getting to the airport.

In the meantime, Miss Representation has some wonderful musings about the strike, offering his usual ill humor towards the media and politicians, sprinkled with some positive thoughts for good measure:

With lots of air time to fill, we’ve been subjected to mostly the uninteresting stuff, even though this is actually a rather rich story, from end to end: a militant union that is perhaps rife with an internal conflict that is the driving force in the walkout, a intellectually bankrupt governor who set the stage by cravenly handing out ill-advised benefits (with the rousing approval of a state legislature -- heavily funded by that same union -- eclipsed only by Maoist-era China in its intransigence and seeming permanence), and the seeming inability to manage (stocked with appointees from that dimwit governor) the long-term health of one of the largest, best, and most effective public transit system in the world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Steeeee-rike One

It seems there's some kind of strike happening here in New Yorkistan. Not sure about the details since I work at home and rarely ever see daylight. But hop on over to Gothamist to find out what the brouhaha is about, and then enter their "most inconvenient commute" contest. The winner's prize? An unlimited monthly Metrocard, of course!

P.S. When I told my lovely mother, who lives in Cleveland, that the transit strike might cause me a problem getting to the airport tomorrow, she replied, "Well, can't you just get a cab?" As if the other 8 million people trying to get around New York wouldn't also be vying for a cab. Ah, the blissful ignorance of living where no one else does.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

This is What I'm Talking About

I don't know about you, but I'm getting really freakin' tired of luxury condo this, luxury condo that, especially when they're as uninspired as the Astor Place Sculpture for Living, which still infuriates me on a regular basis as I walk about the East Village (read Paul Goldberger's take-down, titled Green Monster, in the New Yorker here). I mean, if I can't afford to live in it, at least make it nice for me to look at.

But I digress. The fact is, there's a housing crisis in New York that the luxury condo glut is not going to fix because, no matter how bad the market gets, they'll let 'em sit empty before they rent 2000 square foot high-rise lofts to people making$75,000 a year (i.e. while the filtering effect is undoubtedly real, there is surely a limit). What we need to be erecting are fantastic and innovative buildings like this, discovered (belatedly) on one of my new favorite architecture and design blogs, Inhabitat:

A company in the UK has developed a high rise apartment concept ... Abito ... a testament to the wonders of technology and the huge potential of small spaces. The template is a 347-sq-ft apartment with a central pod that serves all the functions that are traditionally distributed among a number of rooms.

One side of the pod contains a bathroom behind double doors; another has a cupboard with washer/dryer hookups. A third side contains a his and hers wardrobe and a utility console, and the fourth contains a kitchen unit featuring integrated fridge/freezer, a two-burner range, an oven/microwave/grill combo, and a waste sorter. Opposite the wardrobe is a bedroom wall with a fold-up bed. Atop the pod is space for an extra bed or additional storage.... And every Abito apartment has a private balcony.

My favorite part is the two-burner range complimented by the oven/microwave/grill combo. Brilliant! What urban cook uses more than two burners at once? Several of these uber-efficient buildings are planned throughout the UK. Read and see more images here.

New York Times Real Estate Blog

The Times has officially unveiled its real estate blog (although it wasn't password protected during development) called The Walk-Through. It will focus on residential real estate and related topics aimed at a national audience. I will be contributing, so please send me blog ideas for the site. Check it out here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

New Museum Digs

The New Museum of Contemporary Art held a groundbreaking ceremony a couple of months ago (as noted here on Polis in early Oct.), but the actual digging for its new building didn't get underway until earlier this week. The new building, on Bowery, will be the first museum built in downtown Manhattan in more than 100 years, and will liven up the area with some very modern architecture.

Tropolism excerpts a recent interview with the Japan-based architects for the new building, SANAA:

what are you afraid regarding the future?

s: I am always afraid of the future but at the same time I’m looking forward to it. we want to be able to contribute to it.

Well, okay. The future of The New Museum, which will relocate from Chelsea, gets underway about 2007. Unfortunatley, one of the best museum bargains in town ($6 general admission) will likely go way up in order to pay for this:

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Political Pirrocide

I generally stay away from politics here on Polis, with the one exception of watching Jeanine Pirro go down in flames. I predicted here that she wouldn't even make it through the primary in her bid to challenge Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sure enough, after running a comletely hapless campaign, starting with her fumbled announcement, New York Republican leaders are now asking her to step aside and she's refusing! Is this woman completely tone deaf or what? I hereby call out all political commentators and pundits who said she would be a good candidate to "rough up" Hillary. Please.

Previous Polis Post: Can Anyone Say Flyspeck?
New York Times article: Republican Leaders Tell Pirro to End Senate Bid

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Happy Holidays from the East Village

The Alamo at Astor Square, aka The Cube, a long-time symbol of the neighborhood, was recently reinstalled after a refurbishment, disappointing E.Vil. conspiracy theorists who were sure it was taken away at the behest of yuppie condo dwellers. Note the hanging wreaths just behind The Cube. Kinda cheers the place up, no? (Click to enlarge the photo and get a good view of this man's happy face.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

New Yorker Hotel Sign

Last night the New Yorker Hotel sign was relit for the first time since the 1960s. The hotel had a party and, in addition to hotel workers and other guests, invited some decedents of the hotel's historic luminaries to watch the relighting via closed circuit camera. Using an original elevator control handle that was still in use as late as 1994, the general manager of the hotel, Kevin Smith, pulled the lever and after a pregnant pause, the red letters were alight. The sign refurbishment is part of a major renovation. It was built in 1929 and -- despite opening shortly after the stock market crash -- became one of the hottest spots in New York City. But the hotel declined and finally closed in the 1970s. It was partially reopened in 1994 and has been operating as a modest mixed-use commercial and hotel building, a far cry from its glory days of yore. Photo courtesy of Joe Kinney, the hotel's fascilities manager and keeper of all things Hotel New Yorker. For a Times article about the renovation, click here.

Another shot from Mr. Kinney:

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Glass House Part II

I was at the topping off party for the Urban Glass House, Philip Johnson's very last building. (The Urban Glass House, a discreet, twelve-story glass and steel structure, is being built at 330 Spring Street at Washington. It will have 40 residences designed to evoke his famous “pared-down but modernist luxury” Glass House in New Canaan, CT.). According to the sales office, 25 percent of the building is in contract after only two weeks. Because the building isn't heavily loaded with amenities that no one will ever use, the price per square foot is less than other starchitect designed luxury condo buildings (about $1500/square foot). Read more about the Urban Glass House here. Apologies for the pics below, taken with my camera phone.

Back On Top

I've wrapped up the book proposal and am back in the saddle here at Polis. I'd like to get restarted with a fun story I did for the Times today about the old New Yorker Hotel that is about to undertake a major renovation, starting with the relighting of its historic sign. The letters on top of the building are 20 feet high and are visible from the west side of Manhattan during the day, but will be lighted later this month and visible at night for the first time since 1967. The hotel itself is just chock full of great history, collected by the building's facilities manager Joe Kinney. One of my favorite stories is about a fully grown bellhop at the hotel named Johnny Roventini, who lived in Brooklyn and stood less than five feet tall. He became something of a minor celebrity and a spokeman for Philip Morris. If he were around today, he would have become a recuring character on Seinfeld. (Read the Johnny Roventini story here.) As part of the hotel's renovation, it is also going to bring back the original logo design of a doorman (see below). The above photo provided by Joe Kinney.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Beautiful Fall Morning at Tompkins Square Park

I went for a quick walk in the park yesterday morning (Nov. 3) and then immediately ran back home to grab my camera when I saw how gorgeous the light was. The diversity and beauty of this park on a random fall morning is just amazing. It's hard to believe this was the epicenter of anti-gentrification riots fifteen years ago.

P.S. I didn't realize I was shooting in black and white until I dropped the film off to be developed, and what a pleasant surprise, especially since I thought I was capturing beautiful fall colors.

For the slide show, click here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

32nd Annual Village Halloween Parade

I haven't been posting here on Polis because I've (ostensibly) been working on a book proposal. But I just had to put up a slide show from last night's Halloween parade. It was led by a ten year old trumpet player from New Orleans, and I marched with a group called The Hungry March Band (and they were damn good!). Our theme was a mock funeral for New Orleans Jazz. Despite the depressing theme, it was a total blast. Check out the slide show here. I will put a permanent link under My Photo Essays shortly.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Will It Float?*

I'm temporarily breaking my fast here on P0lis (see below) to note an article in the Times about floating architecture, which I've already posted about a couple of times. I was also at the inaugural gathering of the Forum for Urban Design last night, hosted by Paul Goldberger, which was a discussion about rebuilding New Orleans, and amphibious housing came up there, too. (The Forum is so new it doesn't have a website yet, but I'll link to it when its up.) Anyway, this amphibious neighborhood idea is obviously getting some traction.

There's also a good slide show accompanying the article.

*Apologies to David Letterman.

Monday, October 24, 2005

On Book (Proposal) Leave

Polis is in a state of suspended animation while I hammer out a book proposal. Will return in a week or so. In the meantime, peruse some of my photo essays (no more than six slides each, very painless) or read some of my favorite Polis posts, both are linked at right. Cheers.

P.S. At least a month ago, I started posting here on Polis about how Mayor Bloomberg needs to take over plans at Ground Zero, and it's looking like he's laying the groundwork to do just that.

Mayor Seeking Major Changes at Ground Zero {NYTIMES}
Mr. Mayor, Do the Right Thing {Polis}

Idling at Zero {Polis}

Thursday, October 20, 2005

New York, Then and Now

A really cool photography piece in The Morning News juxtaposes historic photos from the 1930s with more recent ones taken from the same vantage point by Douglas Levere, which are collected in a book entitled New York Changing. The Morning News excerpts some of these photos, and it’s really fascinating to see what’s changed for the better, for the worse, or not hardly at all. There’s also a show at the Museum of the City of New York.

Click here to see the photographs.

Click here for a short interview with the photographer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

All Over But the Shoutin'

It seems that Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner has a proposal for a new arena and big mixed use development project on the edge of downtown Brooklyn, which has drawn some criticism, apparently. Who knew? All I know is, the shouting has drowned out MY very important story in today's Times about all the other stuff that's going on in downtown Brooklyn ... projects that don't get people's dander up.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Nostalgia Tripping

Curbed has been tripping for weeks on the redo of the LES into a '60s psychedelic wonderland, and it seems we might finally be about to peak:

It's almost time for the Lower East Side's pyschedelic closeup as shooting day for Julie Taymor's Across the Universe draws neigh. ... With less than 24 hours until shooting begins, the crazed squad of neighborhood refurbishers are hard at work this morning turning the Clinton/Rivington nexus into even more of an Haight-Ashbury wonderland.

So who is Julie Taymor and what is Across the Universe, you ask? Julie Taymor is a babyboomer theater actress and a "puppet artist." If that wasn't enough to kill any interest I might have in this flick, here's the clincher:

Across the Universe is a romantic musical told mainly through numerous Beatles songs performed by the characters. A young man from Liverpool comes to America during the Vietnam War to find his father. He winds up in Greenwich Village, where he falls in love with an American girl who has grown up sheltered in the suburbs. Together they experience the sweeping changes of America in the late 60's.

Puppets on a psychedelic trip, singing Beatles songs -- now that I would go see.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Gutter Takes on "RoPog"

The Gutter, an architecture blog, in a typical snarky piece, slams Times reporter Robin Pogrebin:

It has long been whispered that Robin Pogrebin, the New York Times' "architecture reporter", doesn't have a whiffof an idea what she's talking about. Now, the whispers can stop: we've got proof. This weekend there was a design charrette in Biloxi... RoPog manages to get through the story without once using the term "New Urbanism," pointing out that Andres Duany lui meme was there preparing the way for a thousand Seasides...

Usually I find The Gutter's take-downs a little underhanded, and this is no exception. But I have to agree with one point: How do you write a story about a design charrette organized by Andres Duany and not say a word about New Urbanism, even if just in passing? I doubt it's because she hasn't heard of it or didn't get that's what the charrette was all about. Nonetheless, it does seem like an odd omission.

I don't know if Mr. Duany keeps up with things here on Polis, but my suggestion is to forget the white picket fence crapola and rebuild the Gulf Coast with amphibious neighborhoods. Now that's some New New Urbanism. See pic below and read more about it here.


I'm still getting familiar with all the "photo urbanologists" out there, and there are a lot of great ones. I just discovered Cornershots (via Brownstoner), which has some really beautiful pics of NYC, a lot of them taken at night. This was taken of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge recently. I'm adding links at right as I find these sites.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Duck, Schmuck

New York just isn't complete until we can offer tourists the ability to cruise around in a tour bus that also doubles as a float. The Times reports:

Unlike Boston, Philadelphia, London and dozens of other cities around the world, New York City does not offer tourists the pleasure of paying around $25 to cruise the streets in an amphibious bus, known as a duck, that ends its journey by splashing into the nearest body of water.

I heard a stat recently that 1 out of 4 Americans have visited New York since 9/11, an amazing number if true. Does it seem like they were lamenting that we don't have an amiphibious bus? After 40 days and 40 nights of rain, I'm thinking it's New Yorkers who need them to navigate the city's streets not the waterways.

Photo by Robert Spencer for the Times.

Mr. Mayor, Do the Right Thing

The Times has a piece about Mayor Bloomberg promising to be more involved with the World Trade Center site if he’s re-elected. I had a post on Polis not too long ago that Mayor Bloomberg – whose re-election is all but assured – should not just “be more involved” in the WTC site, but should:

  • Instruct Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff to revive his land swap idea in order to take full control of the WTC site (read more about that here)
  • If that fails, go the state when Pataki is out of there and demand that the land be condemned for public use.

To quote Paul Goldberger from his book, Up From Zero:

After all that happened in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and the destruction of the most powerful symbol of the American skyline, it is hard to believe that the public would have objected to the decision to take over these sixteen acres of land for public purpose …

As I said before, Mayor Bloomberg has a golden opportunity to create a lasting legacy far more meaningful than a football stadium. With Pataki out of there, Bloomberg could and should assert himself as the dominant force at Ground Zero, even if the Governor has more power on paper. Without directly insulting Pataki, he could quietly but forcefully redirect the planning process, which I'm quite sure would garner a lot of public support. From previous statements, Blooomberg has demonstrated that he has the right instincts about what needs to happen there, which is to create a lively neighborhood that also respects the lives that were lost. And with sixteen acres to work with, this is entirely doable, so long as absurdly unnecessary office and retail space isn’t forced into what has the potential to become the most inspiring rebuilding effort the world has ever seen.

Related Times link: Mood Darkens on Rebuilding, Poll of Lower Manhattan Says

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hitherto Unknown Benefits of Good Urban Planning: Cruising Potential

Thank god for Curbed, or whomever slogs through a nearly 3300-word New York Observer piece about public cruising spots in New York, for digging out this fun tidbit:

High Line Architect: Get Your Cruise On

Yes, New York's recently ratcheted-up love affair with urban planning is producing a raft of mostly bland public spaces. But what does it mean for the gays? In this week's Observer, Choire Sicha speculates.

Read the whole thing, if only so you'll never look at the High Line quite the same way again—especially after this quote from architect Charles Renfro: "While it may sponsor gay cruising, I think it will also sponsor straight cruising and a general sense of pleasure that few public spaces in New York provide at this moment."
· The Great Gay Outdoors [Observer]

Note to Observer editors: Just make a bullet point list of the cruising spots with the funny supporting quotes, the way Time Out would, and maybe someone other than a Curbed intern will read the paper.

P.S. Is it just me, or does that illustration look more like stalking than cruising?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Urban Ruins

Gothamist found some great photos of the boat graveyard on Staten Island on Opacity, a photography website about urban ruins that the artist has explored. The guy who runs the site lives in Brooklyn, so I presume a lot of the places he has explored are in and around New York City. Here's an excerpt about his fascination with urban ruins:

This is a lonesome alien world whose dark corners and peeling walls have gotten a hold of me and many others; this affinity for derelict structures and often dangerous excitement is the core essence of urban exploring....

The boat graveyard is but one of many cool and creepy places Opacity has been photographing since 2000, including abandoned state hospitals (click to enlarge the two pics below). Click here for main page. There are more than a 1,000 photos on this website, so you can click here to scroll through the photographer's faves.

Monday, October 10, 2005

How to Build a Skyscraper

For those of you interested in the intricacies of how to build a world class skyscraper, New York Times VP David Thurm spells it out in the Harvard Business Review. Lesson Numero Uno: educate yourself and become the co-project manager. Lesson Numero Dos: Don’t fall for BS like “value engineering.” Lesson Numero Tres: Get manufacturers to make cool shit just for you on the cheap because you’re the Times. Lesson Numero Catorce (oops, I mean Cuatro): Involve the underlings in a meaningful way.

In all seriousness, if the Times builds its building the way Mr. Thurm says it is, Renzo Piano's tower will become an icon in the New York skyline in a way that none of the Times' previous buildings have.

Irreverent Commentary for Sale

East Harlem artist De La Vega, as I mentioned in a previous post, opened a store on St. Marks Place that sells his original artwork, as well as t-shirts and post cards with sayings like, "I just bought real estate in your mind." I dig his sense of humor. This pic was taken in front of his store over the weekend (apologies about the quality, it was taken with my cheap camera phone).

The Real Bilbao Effect

Architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff had a piece in yesterday’s Times about New Orleans, and it is a piece everyone should read, because its not just about New Orleans, but about America’s failure to invest in its cities. Just as urbanism is making a resurgence, we have neglected the very foundations on which cities exist. Meanwhile, countries in Europe and Asia have been investing in major public works projects the way America used to. Ouroussoff points out that Bilbao didn't just build a museum, but a brand new high-tech subway system. Meanwhile, in New York City, we can’t even finish a section of the subway line that was started four decades ago. Worse, what infrastructure we do have is slowly rotting before our eyes … actually, it’s not before our eyes, and that’s part of the problem. If we were confronted on a regular basis with our rotting infrastructure, we might be a little more inclined to insist that our government do something about it. The only real exception to this lack of investment that I know of is Chicago, where five-term mayor, Richard M. Daley, has invested a huge amount of time and money into mundane infrastructure improvements like rebuilding the waste water system, saving the city millions of gallons of water lost from leaks. Most mayor’s don’t have that kind of time or political capital to invest in such unsexy projects because they don’t exactly make headline news, and when it comes to putting city money up for big projects, when you’re dealing with limited resources, most all politicians will opt for the splashy project over the mundane but necessary one. I recall historian Mike Wallace calling for a New Deal for New York a few years ago and thinking, “How quaint. Nice try, but not gonna happen.” Now I think, not just for New York, but for America. The time is right for people to start demanding it.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

2 Good 2 Be 4 Gotten

When I saw that the AIA was kicking off the 3rd Annual Architecture Week in New York City with the first public presentation of plans to revamp 2 Columbus circle, I predicted here on Polis that shit would hit the fan. And sure enough, The Real Estate was there and took photos:

…today’s event at the Center for Architecture presented an up close battle of ideas over what to do with Edward Durrell Stone’s iconic structure. Sign-waving, brown-bag protestors paced the sidewalk, while in a sleek, downstairs auditorium, architect Brad Cloepfil gave the first public presentation of the much-debated 2 Columbus Circle design. Rick Bell restated the position of the A.I.A., that the case should not be brought before the Landmarks Commission.

The Lollipop building has been the subject of eight lawsuits brought by Landmarks West trying to stop the Museum of Art and Design from changing the façade. I’m kind of agnostic on this fight, but I have to disagree with Tropolism who 1. equates preservationist efforts to save the building with earlier efforts to save a parking garage on Charles St., and 2. chastises the preservationists by reminding them that 2 Columbus Circle sat empty and derelict for years. If that was our standard for preservation, how many treasures – that are now fully restored and put to good use – would have been leveled? Too many to count.

Rendering of new façade, left, as is, right.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Truth Hurts

It's no secret that the International Freedom Center at the World Trade Center site, like Rafael Vinoly's THINK team lactice work towers, was single-handedly nixed by Gov. George Pataki. If rebuilding Ground Zero fails, the blame will fall directly on him. In today's Times, Richard J. Tofel, a principal in the defunct International Freedom Center, doesn't pull any punches:

"You're not going to have a living memorial in any sense of the word," he says of the revised memorial quadrant, where a 9/11 museum will replace the Freedom Center. "When it opens, everyone will come," he adds ... "but I think the real question is, will anyone not personally connected with it come twice? How will what is going to be put there stand the test of time? I don't think it will."

Me, neither.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The New New Museum

The New Museum of Contemporary Art, currently located in far west Chelsea, has been planning a move to The Bowery for some time now. Just the announcement several years ago to erect the first new museum building in downtown Manhattan in over a century drew a smattering of galleries to the nabe, causing some to speculate that The Bowery will become the alternative art gallery destination (for more on that, click here). Today The New Museum announced a ground-breaking ceremony on Oct. 11 for their new building at 235 Bowery (between Stanton and Rivington), designed by Tokyo-based architecture firm Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA. With all the scary condo buildings going up around there, this promises to be a lovely antidote. Rooftop terraces (and the rest of the museum) should be open in time for their 30th anniversary in 2007. Rendering of interior lobby and bookstore below (click to enlarge).

Photo by Christoper Dawson, drawings by Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

In New Orleans, Let's Try New New Urbanism, Not Old New Urbanism

Another Floating House post from my new favorite arch-blog, Tropolism. As Chad Smith points out, this one is Dutch (as opposed to German, click here) and not only is the above image a real model, but some homes have already been built using this technology.

There are 37 houses strung along this branch of the Maas like a row of beads. At first glance, they seem quite unremarkable. Two storeys high, semicircular metal roofs and yellow, green or blue facades - hardly any clues let on that these are The Netherlands' first amphibious houses. The cellar, in this case, is not built into the earth. Instead, it is on a platform - and is much more than a mere storage room. The hollow foundation of each house works in the same way as the hull of a ship, buoying the structure up above water. To prevent the swimming houses from floating away, they slide up two broad steel posts - and as the water level sinks, so they sink back down again.

According to Bird to the North, an enormous urban design charrette for New Olreans is being organized by New Urbanists Andres Duany and John Norquist. I say, why don't we try some NEW new urbanist urban planning, something say, like floating neighborhoods. I'm serious. Read the full article here.

The Tortoise and the Hare

Redevelopment plans for the southern section of the East River Park to Lower Manhattan has commanded most of the media’s attention. The seemingly ubiquitous Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP architects is involved, after all. But a little further north is a long-delayed and more pedestrian restoration project that has finally gotten underway. The waterfront walkway from 14th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge was closed off in 2001 due to dangerously unstable bulkheads. An eight-foot chain link fence went up and, well, you know the rest. But Gotham Gazette reports that recent activity has been spotted to restore waterfront access to the lowly people of the East Village and Lower East Side:

Some $54 million is going to the bulkhead construction. The actual building of the promenade with benches, plantings, and lights will cost $13 to $15 million. That part of the project is currently being sent out for bids.

Of course, no one expects the poor folks and the last of the bohemians on the East Side to get anything remotely like Hudson River Park. But a little waterfront access sure would be nice. Completion date is loosely estimated to be 2007 or 2008, but I guarantee it’ll be done sooner than the fancy-pants Lower Manhattan section (see image below).

Photo: Gotham Gazette, above; rendering of East River Park below by SHoP Architects.

Shop NYC

I stumbled across Emerge NYC several weeks ago and was surprised to find that this “mini-boutique mall” – featuring upscale hand-crafted clothes, bags, jewelry and accessories by up-and-coming designers – hadn’t garnered a huge amount of ink since it opened in early August. The people behind Emerge NYC – while smart and creative – aren’t exactly Barbara Corcoran-like publicity machines. But as soon as I walked into the Bleecker Street un-mall, I could tell this was a new and interesting retail concept. So I wrote a story about it for the Times. You can read the whole thing here.

Photo of Heidi O'Donnell, a clothing designer, at Emerge NYC in NoHo by Hiroko Masuike for the New York Times.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Trader Joe's, Better Late Than Never

I don't know how I missed the news that Trader Joe's -- after much speculation -- finally inked a deal to occupy the ground floor of NYU's Palladium building just off Union Square, especially since I reported the damn story myself for the Times when lease negotiations were still underway. But apparently, this has been a done deal since mid-September, according to NYU's own publication. Not familiar with SoCal grocery store chain Trader Joe's yet? As food writer and lovely individual Joanna Pruess told me for the Times piece: "You have the crunchy granola types and the foodies merging at Trader Joe's." I'm freakin psyched.

Addendum: Curbed has a way of posting items shortly after I've posted on the very same topic, and usually they have better info than I do (which happened twice yesterday, first with 2 Columbus Circle, then with my new favorite arch-blog Tropolism). So, for better, funnier, hipper, more complete info on Trader Joe's, click here.

Home Solutions for Global Warming

First the Loft Cube, then the Space Box, and now the Floating Home. From my newly discovered favorite arch-blog, Tropolism (blogger Chad Smith is a fellow Ohioan), we learn about the German company’s designs for Floating Homes: “They claim to have created a unique maritime structure that is neither house nor ship. Neither fowl, nor fish.” Tropolism also points out that the configurations can create some interesting water spaces, like a natural front yard pool. I'll refrain from making a snide crack about Katrina ... Hey, maybe the federal government can spend billions of dollars in New Orleans building these rather than warehousing the poor in no-bid mobile homes destined to become permanent slums. Seems like a better bang for the buck.



I’m a huge fan of the Times’ audio slide shows, and this one is not to be missed. Accompanying an article about Bronx photographer Joe Conzo, Jr., who captured hip-hop’s early days in New York City, is a fab audio slide show of his pics set to “Weekend” by the Cold Crush Brothers. Keep your cursor poised on the “pause” button so you can savor some of the photos.

Photo of Joe Conzo Jr. at his Bronx apartment by Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times