I had a post here at Polis last fall about a Times story noting all the architecture schools in NYC that were hiring big names to design new, flashy buildings, including Steven Holl at Pratt in Brooklyn, Lyn Rise at Parsons downtown, Rafael Vinoly at City College in Harlem, and Thom Mayne at Cooper Union in the E.Vil.
I then noted that Avery Hall at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture was badly in need of an overhaul ... which is now in the works. I happened to be in the architecture library yesterday and spotted Stephen Cassell who, along with Adam Yarinsky, are the founders of ARO, one of my favorite architecture firms. It seems the firm will be undertaking the Avery Hall rehab.
They are not starchitects but smarchitects, intent on -- hold on to your socks now -- designing buildings while keeping in mind 1. the people who will use them, and 2. the surrounding environment. They are a whole lot less focused on developing a signature style that shouts, "ARO!" the way a ten year-old can now spot a Gehry building (ARO stands for Architecture Research Offices ... so obviously, they're not too concerned with branding their own names, either).
Just to make the point about how they brilliantly design for the surrounding environment, here are two very different projects: The Army recruiting station in Times Square (above) and home in Telluride, CO (below). Some of the firm's other NYC projects include rehabbing the currently underutilized building at the north end of Union Square Park, working with landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburg on Brooklyn Bridge Park, as well as other commerical and residential projects around the city (and the rest of the country).