New York

Guggenheim Museum Licenses Colors; Towel Bars and TP Holders Coming In 2012

guggenheim fine paints.jpgQualifying for most hilarious licensing deal of the month, The Guggenheim Museum in New York is licensing paint colors.  It's a natural, from a focus group viewpoint.  Think about it.  Museums have both paint-ings and they also paint their walls.  Sometimes in non-white colors!  So they took colors from famous/old paintings to create a fan deck that looks like, well, like most paint fan decks, except with fewer true greens and oranges. 

Guggenheim CLASSICAL colors.jpg
Don't get me wrong, I love me some creative licensing.  Frankly I don't care if it's off-mission or off-brand or off-message or whatever constructions end up limiting original thinking.  But if you're going to go off-road with your product, it should at least rock the party microphone.  These colors are very, very nice!  But are the hues really any different than just picking the same color chips from other fine paint company's existing palettes?  And are the colors really unique to Guggenheim?  If Fine Paints Of Europe (whose paints rock, by the way) did this with a Cezanne in MoMA wouldn't the end result be the same?  The product looks nice, but the branding feels flat. 

My favorite part of the press release: 

For more information about the Guggenheim Museum's licensing program:

Springs Mills Building Gets Landmarked

millikensprings1.jpgNow that the Springs Mills Building is no longer taking second seat as part of the Milliken Building, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission was able to see it in its full glory and give it Landmarked status (warning: PDF press release).  It helps that the Milliken Building got demolished last year.

Seriously, I am dying to post the design I did for this building's gorgeous floorplate 10 years ago, but copyright laws prevent such intellectual property being shared.  Let's just say that the slender hexagon of a floorplate is as sexy-awesome as it sounds to everyone who describes it.

Pop-Up Affordable Housing Storefront

Yes, the title says it all.  CUP, Tropolism's favorite NYC urban activist group, has done it again.  Their Affordable Housing pop-up storefront offers workshops on creating affordable housing, a place to get their Affordable Housing Toolkit, and a street-level visible front to what is usually an invisible topic: affordable housing.  They're at 61 Delancey (on the corner of Allen Street) in New York City.



Support our advertisers because they help keep the content free.

If you're interested in advertising, contact us.

Bike Party To Celebrate Bike Law

bring in the bikes.jpgBring In The Bikes is a party on December 8 to celebrate the passing of Local Law 52, The Bicycle Access To Buildings Bill, which went into effect this month.

The bill requires buildings with freight elevators to allow cyclists to bring their bikes into buildings, so they may securely park them in designated areas.  With miles of bike paths installed all across the 5 boroughs over the last few years, this is the next logical step: connecting all the pieces that allow people to chuck carbon-causing transportation entirely and pedal it to work.  And still having a bike at the end of the day because they didn't park it on the street.

The party is at 7WTC, another opportunity to check out this cool building, and the cost is free.  RSVP if you'd like to attend.

Curbed's Top 10 NYC Buildings For The 00's

2009_11_best_hearst.jpgCurbed asked our opinion for their Top 10 NYC Buildings for the 00's, and we pointed out that we'd already submitted our opinion on this one.

And, who needs one pull quote when you can get three?

This Is Sustainable Housing, Folks

11006.24.029-22.jpgThis is what we're talking about when we say Sustainable Housing, people. Not just technology but hooking up the right technology to the right uses, in service of creating new communities and connections.  The Eltonia is a New York City housing project that has the city's first roof-mounted wind turbines, is a 100% smoke-free environment, is New York State's first LEED Platinum building that is affordable housing, and is going to house the first ever study of green building on respiratory illness.  Talk about taking LEED for a test drive!

From the press release: "South Bronx has some of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the five New York City boroughs.  The Mt. Sinai study, which has already started with future tenants, will investigate the effect LEED standard green buildings have on respiratory health."

From us: awesome!  And check out those windmills!!

Rights Of Way: A New Politics of Movement in New York City?

Rights of Way 12Nov09 1.jpgAs you know we generally don't announce events here on the Tropolism.  However our trusty radio scanner came through with a discussion that is being led by David Smiley up at Barnard, and anyone who knows David knows his conversations are always productive.

So it's with pleasure that I invite you to Barnard College on November 12, 2009, at 6:30pm, on the 4th floor of Barnard Hall, to Rights of Way: A New Politics of Movement in New York City?  The discussion will explore the possibility of an urbanism after that of the automobile-dominated city.  In short, they are declaring the era of the auto over.  Which is nothing short of a radical conversation, even in this era of Lawn Chairs In Times Square.  Run or bike or MTA it up there.

High Line Upper Section Might Be Saved

maclean.jpg(Picture by Alex S. MacLean)

Thank the Recession!  The High Line's upper section, the portion above 30th Street that curls around the Hudson Yards, might be saved after all.  The City of New York is stepping in to acquire this section, the same step they took in 2005 which allowed the lower half to be turned into the park it's become today.  

The best part of this news is that this part of the High Line is as interesting and unique as the lower half is.  While the lower half cuts through old loft buildings downtown, and gives one a great bird's-eye tour of upper West Village and Chelsea, the upper section is quite different.  It has a small spur that sits smack in the middle of the intersection of 30th Street and Tenth Avenue, and the rest rolls to the south and west sides of the Hudson Yards, running parallel to the West Side Highway and the Hudson River Park on its last bit.  It is the one place the High Line touches the ground, too.  In short, it offers a doubling of the diversity of unique experiences that the lower half gave us. If the architects for the job need any ideas, they might check out this one!

Kudos to Friends of the High Line for pulling this off.  These folks never rest, and they've produced some amazing results.

Second Homes: Holiday Home In Asserbo

Thumbnail image for ill_2.jpg
Coming to the completion of my firm's own first holiday home, I am creating a series of some of the homes that inspire me.  

Holiday homes are the place where clients want to play a little.  There's less pressure on domestic bliss and more freedom to explore messy ways of living.  And there is almost always an automatic conversation about how the interior of the house works with the land, with nature.  Of course, the larger conversation for us all is WHY AREN'T ALL HOUSES CASUAL AND ABOUT CONTEMPLATION OF THE LAND.  I'll leave that for another time.  For now just enjoy Christensen & Co Architects holiday home in Asserbo, Denmark.  The simple shape, canted roof/ceiling, clapboard ceiling, deep overhang, and big deck.  We don't claim to be original.

Recursiveness: Drawing P.S. 340

ps340a.jpgNothing gets me more excited than seeing architectural drawing enter the realm of space itself. And lo, Daily Dose digs up Wexler Studio's <i>Drawing P.S. 340</i>, completed in 1999.  The project was commissioned as part of New York City's Percent For Art program, which provides funds for adding art to city projects.

The City In Film: Ghostbusters

GB001 - Columbia by nycscout.jpgScouting NY does a very welcome and in-depth analysis of New York City, then and now, as seen through the classic lens of Ghostbusters.

One of the pleasures of this film is that it is shot in locations I am familiar with: Columbia University, the Upper West Side, and Tribeca.  Having seen their past captured as the sets of a 1980's film makes being in them in the present that much more thrilling.  Scouting NY's two-part dissection is a bit more precise though.

I would like to take this opportunity to request NYC then-and-now analyses of the following films: The Wiz, Klute, and The Warriors.

Atlantic Yards: From Great To Good

deanbig.jpgYesterday's news that Ellerbe Becket is apparently only going to be responsible for the inner workings of the stadium we so roundly hated on a few months ago is welcome.  SHoP does great work, they love New York, and they are sports guys, so it seems like a brilliant match.  As Nicolai Ourousoff commented in yesterday's Times, SHoP has done a pretty thorough job of redesigning the stadium's urban presence.  It looks swell.  It's New York again (possibly more so than Frank Gehry's design was).  And it looks city-friendly.  But as Mr. Ourousoff notes, several large pieces of Gehry's original design are missing, meaning the stadium could be built without any of the interlaced residential components in the original plan.  That is unacceptable.  Left to the future, the supertowers will never get made, and certainly never get interlaced with the stadium building. The whale will be beached.

Nicolai Ourousoff's love letter to the New York Five a few weeks ago--where he lamented the lack of heirs to the throne of Great New York Architects--seemed like a strange missive in the era of Diller + Scofidio Renfro's two huge triumphs this year, not to mention about a hundred other architects (including SHoP!) doing great work.  Yet now it seems not so missive-like, because it is difficult to see if SHoP is merely content to completely redesign Ellerbe Becket's retarded stadium barn, or if they are going to take the next step and slap Bruce Ratner around until the whole complex gets built.  We know that the folks at SHoP easily have the chops to take this on.  Will they?  Our hopes are high.

You know what separates the great architect from the good?  It isn't amazing or even excellent design.  It is the ability to redefine the context of a project.

Video Life Of Small Urban Spaces

One of my favorite, formative books, The Social Life Of Small Urban Spaces, was of course a transcription of many written, photographic, and filmed records of how people actually use public space.  So you imagine my excitement when I saw that some of the video is now on youtube.

Giving Blood For Art

IMG_6958.JPGYesterday I did what any architect in the city would do. Worked with a structural engineer on some jobsite issues a contractor was having.  Checked in on some clients about when some new work is going to be green lit.  Finished up a long and technical reply to a building's engineer's comments about my proposed alteration.  And, gave blood in an art gallery I designed.

The piece was part of Kate Levant's piece Blood Drive.  I was the first one in as the team from New York Blood Center were setting up.  They didn't really know they were in an art gallery, and didn't know they were part of an artwork.  They didn't care; they'd done drives in art galleries before, and because they are in different spaces every single day, they never really got connected to their surroundings.  They are blood nomads, I guess, with their tackle boxes and their reclining chairs not unlike the plastic-strappy lawn chairs I reclined on in my back yard in Ohio in the late 1970s.  Already I could see what was happening.  Blood is transient.  It expires. People have to run around to collect it.  The furnishings that comprise its collection look like junk, like the installations that were hanging on Zach Feuer's walls.

There is something refreshing about having a contemporary art gallery taken over by such utilitarian concerns.  Manhattanites get a little too precious with our space and it's refreshing to see folks a little more rough and tumble come in and ignore the precious, precious whiteness of the walls.  And that the folks who had sauntered in to think about donating blood were scared and worried about it, because it will interfere with their yoga breathing or macrobiotic diet or whatnot.  People, gotta love 'em.  And, why don't we use spaces like this all the time?  Seriously, growing up in Ohio there were blood drives everywhere.  Galleries are closed or slow in August, particularly this week.  What a perfect place to set up a volunteer, life-saving organization.

The blood drive was completely devoid of political statement about the fact that gays still have to lie to give blood.  I'm thankful for that; the folks working the blood drive don't care, and it's something that needs to be handled by the FDA anyway.  But I am still conflicted for consciously lying on a form for the first time, ever.  I am hoping this admission here, THAT I LIED ABOUT NOT BEING GAY SO I COULD DONATE BLOOD YALLS, will make up for that.

Tropolism Is Moving

Tropolism is moving to a new host!  If you see us out of service, don't panic. We're simply moving to a new host.  In the coming months you'll also see T2 T2.0, as we evolve and expand.  

Tropolism has always been about the process of architecture.  You'll see us writing about that more explicitly.  

Pictured: 364 Crown Walk under construction, Fire Island Pines, New York, August 2009.

Charles Gwathmey, Dead at 71

29293642.jpgWe don't do obituaries at Tropolism, but this death is worth mentioning. Charles Gwathmey died August 3rd in Manhattan. Mr. Gwathmey was the target of derision in my very first published article, so I like to think of him as my entree into the world of writing. His work's promise is something I still think bears repeating. One key project I was unhappy with. Some other minor works seemed undercooked. But he created some triumphs (see the New York Times slideshow for this, they hit the major ones) and his hand at renovation/additions was an important first example in how to expand a famous building without either wimping out or trying to speak over the star performer. What remains, of course, is his influence.

Poster Designers, Get Ready

CUPMPPposter.jpgCUP, Tropolism's favorite NYC urban activist group, is at it again. As you may know, they publish a smart poster every few months announcing their initiatives; the poster is called Making Policy Public, or MPP. This time around, they are partnering with some innovative groups; most interesting to us is FIERCE (or Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment; yes the acronyms are fatiguing). FIERCE is probably most known for their organizing of youngsters who hang out on Christopher Street and on the Village piers, and have been harrassed by both West Village residents and the police alike. But like the piers themselves, the crowd has evolved, is better organized, and even has its own mission statement. And, now, involved in the conversation about the development of public space. My, how the children have grown.

CUP has issued a call for designers for the next MPP poster. If you were looking for a time to get directly involved in these conversations, I am here to tell you that that time has arrived.

Atlantic Yards: The First Post

missbrooklyn.jpgAtlantic Yards by Frank O. Gehry: we never liked it. It might be too big. It was a stadium for basketball, a sport we just don't care about and whose only reference point for us is "Madison" "Square" We Knocked Down Pennsylvania Station For This Pile Of Crap "Garden". It had open space on the roof that was accessible by only residents of a bunch of towers. But, it was Frank O., and it was glassy, and it was interesting. It would have densitized (densified?) a neighborhood, adding (more) life but also more traffic, congestion. It was going to amplify the city, this ever-pregnant corner of Brooklyn where it seems like something great should be built but is actually where nothing great has been built, and along with that building would be all the side effects that greatness brings: dirt, noise, change, conflict, and many messy conversations. In short, it was urban.

I took a wait and see attitude: the drawings and models looked somewhat great, but it was difficult to understand how it was going to interact with Brooklyn. Folks were up in arms about it, but these days you have to judge these things for yourself, because what with the internet and all, folks yell about everything in this town, as if every concerned citizen is a self-appointed Jane Jacobs, and every little brick repointing project a city-destroying commission by Robert Moses. Judging for yourself: it is the very purpose of Tropolism. It is what Tropolism means. Watch as the Atlantic Yards Project unfolds, better drawings come out, the project makes its way through court, and something happens, so that you can find your time to weigh in.

What happened you all know, or can easily find out: Gehry designed something awesome, the developer, Forest City Ratner, got all sorts of tax breaks and court victories, many riding on the fact that that particular design was going to be built. Then it turned out that design was too expensive, so Gehry redesigned it and it was less interesting. But OK so what, the central idea was still there, and it was still Frank O.

05gehry_600.jpgThe recent replacement of Frank Gehry as the architect of the project isn't the problem with the new Atlantic Yards design, although Nicolai Ourousoff's reaming article would imply otherwise. Ellerbe Becket doing a super simple and cheaper-design version of Gehry's design would have worked just fine, given that they followed his floor plan and massing outlines to the letter. Instead, the project has simply been redone, shorn of its residences and shops and now it's simply become one of those deadening black holes in the city, just like "Madison" "Square" "Garden". It's a classic, bald-faced bait-and-switch, which is a cute New York way of saying that Forest City Ratner are crooks. They have stolen the public's patience and benefit of the doubt in exchange for their own personal profit. The effect of which is that this part of Brooklyn will be dumb and cold and dead until 2050 when some even more stupid gyration will have to happen in order to renovate the dumb thing that might get built right now.

Atlanticeastbig.jpgThere is some crap glassy entrance so that yes 50,000 people or whatever can stream on through on their way to basketball a few nights a year, but nothing else except a huge box stadium. We get it. The roof looks like a basketball. This is the opposite of great architecture: this is cheeky architecture trying to get on our populist good side, while simultaneously sucking all the life out of our home city. There is no add here, only subtract: subtract money, subtract street life, subtract public conversation, subtract density.

And our great omission has been to not bring up, years ago, that this was a possibility all along. That the devil in Gehry's plan was that if Gehry didn't do his design, and someone did even and almost-version of his design, then the effect would be this drek. Our apologies for being quiet. It won't happen again.

U.S.A.'s Venice Biennale Pavilion Comes Home

[photos courtesy of Rain Yan Wang]

Earlier this month, the U.S. Pavilion from the 2008 Venice Biennale opened at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the New School. Into the Open: Positioning Practice attempts to realign architectural thought towards socially relevant issues. All sixteen studies ask us to “reclaim a role in shaping community and the built environment, to expand understanding of American architectural practice and its relationship to civic participation”. Highlights include Teddy Cruz’s examination of the border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana as well as Laura Kurgan’s view of incarceration through Architecture and Justice.

Upon entering the gallery, we found the exhibition’s rhythmic series of text intensive pilasters to be a bit daunting and overbearing. The models and graphic components receded into the background as they were clearly overshadowed by the bold text. However, as the evening wore on, the exhibit’s true potential emerged. Within the niches of the display’s formal structure, patrons were invited to contribute their own personal touch. A tertiary artistic endeavor superimposed itself upon the gallery. The interactive quality served the dual purpose of contextualizing the exhibit while reminding us of the continually shifting dynamics of the social order.

Posted by Saharat Surattanont.

Tropolism Films: Brooklyn DIY


Last week’s world premiere of Brooklyn DIY brought a motley crowd of artists, performers, and groupies to MoMa. Through interviews and photographs, the film documents the “creative renaissance” of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Employing an ambiguous timeline, the narrative favors subjective experience over specificity. However, the disjointed “mapping of memory” is grounded by focusing on a handful of seminal moments that defined the neighborhood.

Right this way for the full film review...

Biloxi Homes

On August 29, 2005, Katrina made landfall in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was their 9-11. In an effort to help rebuild the city, the Biloxi Model Home Program paired design professionals with families affected by the disaster. “This program approaches reconstruction that facilitates good design solutions by standardizing processes and partnership strategies as opposed to standardizing design.” Last week, Architecture for Humanity New York sponsored a happy hour honoring the volunteers who journeyed south for the “blitz build” week.

The evening’s presentation felt more like a Peace Corps event. The testimonials ranged from the hopelessness of a distressed neighborhood to the “foreignness” of the regional cuisine. The consistent sentiments were the personal bonds established between fellow volunteers. For a moment, I had forgotten that they were speaking of a US city. The stories concluded with the tale of a local resident who made a point to hug all 70 plus volunteer that came down for the week.

It became clear to me that it wasn’t just about rebuilding homes. It was about restoring a neighborhood.

Posted by roving NYC correspondent Saharat Surattanont.

Tropolism Lectures: Gentrification Begins

washmews2.jpgGentrification, suburban sprawl, homogenization----we all have our takes on it. Inflated rents, overpriced restaurants, and multiple Starbucks are the clear symptoms. At the Municipal Arts Society talk at the Urban Center on Wednesday night, Francis Morrone takes us back in time to examine the origins of gentrification in New York City. Strikingly, it may have been started by a handful of progressive and socially conscious women.

Click here to read the rest of the lecture report...

20 Peacocks Shop

We stumbled on L.E.FT's work while writing for Curbed this week. There's a lot of great work there, but innocuously filed under "Interiors" is project #137, the 20 Peacocks shop on 20 Clinton Street on the Lower East Side. We do love our stores. The shop features a set of flip-down shelves that are at once innovative, efficient, and somewhat unsettling. There's a Kafkaesque quality to the design, like entering a dream where something vaguely menacing is going to happen. The storefront study, which is nothing short of brilliant, extends this sensibility by creating a vision device that is as useful as it is unusual. For those of you who have been underwhelmed with everything retail since Adolf Loos did his best work (and who are looking for menswear!), this is your shop.

From The 24th Floor

US Airways Airbus A320 in the Hudson River, at Battery Park City, from the 24th Floor of Riverhouse.

Crazy Coney


In what must be the most bizarre, yet most refined, inventive, and weirdly beautiful collection of images yet, the Municipal Art Society has posted a flickr album with a selection of results of their Imagine Coney project. Curbed smartly whittles the results down further for those who can't be bothered to slog through the 36 images in the album. Or favorite is pictured, Historic Path.

WTC Model


The American Architectural Foundation has donated the original model of the World Trade Center to the September 11th Museum. The Museum has another name but it is ridiculously long and focus-grouped and I refuse to use it. The 7-foot-plus model wonder of the world was constructed by Minoru Yamasaki Associates and has survived because of great care.

I saw this model in 2004 when it was displayed at the Skyscraper Museum and it's a powerful thing. That museum is close to Ground Zero but a bit off the beaten path in Battery Park City. Visiting during the day I had the model to myself. It was a powerful experience: the model was my new memorial. The model is huge, a technical achievement in its own right, not just in construction but in the extreme stewardship needed to keep it in good shape. And yes, it's significant and ironic that a paper and plastic model outlived a huge building complex. It's a powerful reminder of what was lost seven and a half years ago.

24 Hour Guggenheim


Last night at 6pm, the Guggenheim began its 24-Hour Program on the Concept of Time. Presenters included architects, artists, philosophers, writers, anthropologists, etc. Like any academic conference, lucidity and brevity comingled with pointless meandering. I suppose temporal musings may demand the non-specific thought processes that I saw last night and this morning. Below are highlights from the conference--at least the way I remembered and experienced the moments.

Continue reading and more pictures by roving New York City correspondent Saharat Surattanont.

One Jackson Square: Duly Undulating


One building that never made the Two Dozen list last year was One Jackson Square. It didn't qualify for two reasons. First, it's too big. I think. The fact checker didn't really track that part down, it just felt too big. Second, it's by a corporate firm, not a celebutante name designer-firm. KPF, they of the Baruch College catastrophe and 333 Wacker Drive (calling 1983, anyone?) do not routinely inspire. The renderings looked cool, but it's KPF. It will underwhelm in the end.

Yet the skeleton and initial touches look kind of sweet. Check out Tropolism's photo album. The curves work, and will certainly add to what was always a poorly defined, terribly dead corner of ChelseaVillage, a corner that could easily be the a powerfully alive hinge between two neighborhoods. We are in love with the scribble curves, and the fact that the bronze colored fascia will only accentuate them. And the floorplans (particularly for the 1-bedrooms, where the bedrooms are accessed by two doors, one a pocket door at the window wall) all look pretty wonderful. This one we'll keep our eyes on regardless of what lists they are on.

Less Stuff Is Better Design


I know I've been harping about this since I first got the idea for the Two Dozen list in 2004: the Roaring Two-Thousands created a lot of drek by designers because they were "designers", not because the designs were actually great. A lot of my writing has been focused on pushing designers to do better. What better opportunity for designers to really push design when all this money is sloshing around? Why not make things more efficient, more accessible, more inventively designed, and more beautiful, even if it costs a bit more? When the cycle downturns, we'll be happy to get scraps from the woodpile to make our stuff. Since September, most of us have been looking for that scrap pile.

Michael Cannell over at The Design Vote wrote a great article in the New York Times encapsulating these sentiments, looking quickly (as in long-blog-post quickly) at where product designers and architects are going to go from here. He champions sustainability in the production of goods and a good project by Lorcan O'Herlihy architects in Los Angeles that champions density over size of lawn. Welcome to the end of the decade, folks. We couldn't be more thrilled.

The High Line Construction Progress, 2008


Friends Of The High Line has sent us a year-end summary email, chock full of construction images that we hadn't seen yet. Try as we might, we were unable to find these on their website, so we have included two more after the jump. If you don't get their newsletter, stop by their website to sign up. Better yet, make a donation.

More images this way...

Flushing, Queens: Too Many Cars


Daily Dose gives us the diagram action, again, by delving into a NYC DOT study of 6 of New York's streets. The report focuses on how streets affect the character of urban areas (this is how far we've come since Jane Jacobs first put herself on the line: the DOT is sensitive to how streets affect cities). Daily Dose points out how Main Street in Flushing, Queens demonstrates the power of diagrams. In the above diagram the information is startling: for about 26 feet of sidewalk space, 100,000 people must pass from 8am-8pm. About 50,000 motorists pass in 6 lanes of one-way traffic in the same period.

Artists Subway, With Trees


The Starn Brothers, every 1989 college student's favorite artists, are back! They are finishing up construction on a large installation in the South Ferry Station of the New York City Subway called See It Split, See It Change. Their focus on unnerving closeups of nature has not changed, nor has their geeky obsession with new materials. In this case a curved, fused glass printing technique that will last a century and took a year to develop. We're gonna be the first ones there.

Tropolism Books:New York City Landmarks


One book we haven't gotten a review copy of yet is New York City Landmarks, the 4th Edition of the book put out by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. It's so new, it's not even available on Amazon yet. It's fieldbook sized, so perfect for running around town, but I'm frankly more interested in how they cover the buildings involved in some of their more controversial decisions (if at all).

Finding New York City For Film


Speaking of documenting New York City, a new weblog called Scouting NY documents the travels of a film location scout. He is dedicated to the art of actually looking at New York City, while everyone else rushes on the sidewalk to get on with their business. His business is looking, and by what is on his site so far, he appears to have some great observations.

Via Curbed!

Manhattan Street Corners


Between March and November 2006, Richard Howe photographed every street corner in Manhattan. Yes, he took pictures of all four corners too. The images are powerful because of the close cropping of the buildings on that corner: you get a generous panorama of the bank or deli on the corner (or, being 2006, construction scaffolding) and not much else.

There are roughly 11,000 street corners in Manhattan. The New-Yorke Historical Society is going to include them in their collection. As Howe alludes to in the text on his page, it is interested to see what he defines as corners. Is a corner a street intersection? For instance, where Broadway collides with 5th Avenue, just above the Flatiron Building (and now a pop-up park), there appear to be multiple pictures of the same corner, due to how he is defining corners. Hopefully they will all appear in a room together with some sort of map to document the process. However they are displayed, they are a powerful record of our messy, disruptive city life, systematically organized.

Via Materialicious.

Helvetica And The New York City Subway


Even though we are architects, we have a special hobby called typefaces. We love them. We collect them. Our favorite are the sans-serif fonts developed in the middle of last century. We collect books that heavily feature them. And so this long, in-depth, and heavily illustrated article about the story of the typeface Helvetica (and Standard!) in the New York City subway is nothing short of rapture for us.

And we're not the only ones.



Three years ago we published one of our favorite lists: the NYC Ice List. Today we are happy to announce a maybe addition to the list: the Brooklyn Bridge Park Ice Rink. You know, under the Brooklyn Bridge, where the New Brooklyn Bridge Park will someday be located, maybe. As that article says, they are starting it THIS MONTH (said on the last day of November). The rink awesomeness is designed by landscape architects dlandstudio, they of the first ever Pop-Up Park, which was located this summer just on the other side of the bridge.

Word is the ice rink is getting fundraising help from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, so perhaps we'll see this on the Ice List for real next year.


Miesian Delusions: Mystery Cabin From MoMA


Continuing our meme of Miesian Delusions (see Tropolism Newsletter 1.4 yo) we point you to Greg Allen's archeology of house by A. James Speyer, who was Mies van der Rohe's first graduate student. The house is a full on Mies country house from that era, except for a few powerful exceptions: the posts are made with tree logs. So clearly the architect has just dove off the deep end. To be fair, I proposed something like this a couple of years ago when friends bought an A-frame house that badly needed a big window wall in its giant A side. Let's just use trees!

Greg also points out that the house, mentioned in a MoMA catalogue from 1940, seems to have disappeared everywhere. It's nowhere online (no surprise there, I have a wall of books filled with projects from the 1980s that are invisible here) but it also seems to be a bit hidden from Greg's initial exploring on the subject. The guidebook includes detailed directions for visiting, so perhaps someone up in Warrensburg can help us out?

James Corner Spotlights


James Corner, he of Field Operations (warning: totally annoying website navigation ahead), gets a lot of attention over at Landscape+Architecture last week. First he got a perfectly good mash note on November 24th: "The savoir [sic]... of course is James Corner and his firm Field Operations." This was the extended illustrated commentary on an article in the New York Magazine about the Fresh Kills park. But then he shows up in Metropolis for the highline (with really awesome pictures), and gets what can only be described as a mash note that further illustrates why we should love him. Frankly, we think he deserves it. He is redefining the profession of landscape architecture: there is no hyperbole in that statement. Will his built work be a success? That remains to be seen. But his influence on my generation is unmistakable. His desire to make beautiful, workable, urban spaces keeps his solutions looking decidedly non-theoretical. Yet somehow they look new. James Corner has many imitators, but few peers, and the mark his ideas leave on New York will be unmistakable.

The High Line: Save The Spur


Anyone who's walked The High Line knows about The Spur. It's that totally awesome elevated rail thingy that is more like a rail pier than a piece of a rail line. Like an appendix to the main High Line it isn't continuous with the flow of the rails. Yet it offers a really wonderful view from all directions, and it is the most visible architectural element of the High Line when approaching from the East (as in from where the rest of Manhattan is). If you'd like to see it included as part of the High Line park as much as we do, please get over to the public forum on December 1. Details here.

Imagine Coney: First Glance

From our roving correspondant, Saharat Surattanont, we get this report on Imagine Coney:

Last night, the Municipal Art Society (MASNYC) showcased their proposal for the redevelopment of Coney Island. Underscored by the financial realities of such an endeavor, their master plan of “big ideas” outlined the process for revitalization. The stated goal was to develop a viable economic paradigm without sacrificing the authentic flavor of Coney Island.

Step right this way to read the rest of Tropolism's coverage...

Tropolism Films: Bodega Down Bronx


Today is a screening of the new film Bodega Down Bronx. From the Center for Urban Pedagogy's announcement: "This past year, students from New Settlement's Bronx Helpers and CUP teaching artist Jonathan Bogarin investigated bodegas in the Bronx. The group interviewed bodegueros, visited their suppliers, and met with congressional representatives, health professionals, and alternative Bronx food establishments. They made a documentary to pass along what they learned." Watch the trailer here.

The screening is at 5:30 at CUNY Law School Auditorium, 65-21 Main Street, Flushing, Queens, NY.

Tropolism TV: Ultimate Skyscraper


The National Geographic Channel is featuring One Bryant Park on its Man Made series. The episode airs Thursday, November 6, at 9PM ET/PT. It's a great mini-documentary on the building, and gives some great insights into how large-scale sustainable building is happening these days. What's particularly great is how articulate and passionate Richard Cook is about this way of building.

Shiny Metal Tower Joins Chelsea Wood Tower!


Our favorite wood building in New York City is about to get a neighbor! 245 Tenth Avenue is clad in (very) shiny, stamped metal panels. And surprise it's by friends from my alma mater, Della Valle Bernheimer.

More pictures after the jump, including one with Chelsea Wood Tower.

Imagine Coney: Now A Real Website


Ha ha, joke's on us. Here we thought MAS was just going to accept ideas for its Imagine Coney project through public forums and such. No, they were just hanging onto a wonderful website where you can click "Submit Idea" and it goes into their internetwork (text only, images need to be emailed in). Or, you can real-mail them something called a "CD". The website is really beautiful, too. Be sure to submit your stuff before November 12th.

PS if you still want to go rogue and send us your stuff too, we'll still publish the best ideas we receive.

Tropolism Exhibitions: to: Night


Hunter College's ambitious exhibition to: Night includes a large scale neon installation at the college's aerial walkway, Infinite Light by Laurent Grasso. We have been milling around that part of town a lot lately, and noticed it right away. However we were a little underwhelmed, after seeing what's possible, first hand, day or night, with neon walkways. But we admire its scale, and hooray for Hunter College for doing something this ambitious. More, and more often, please.

Pieces in the show we are more excited about are those from photographer Susanna Thornton (pictured), whose Nightstills series captures both the romance and fleeting nature of light at night, even in the most routine situations. We are particularly drawn to the pieces that show a little foreground, taking them out of the realm of simple out of focus beauty and into an implied narrative.

Also of interest are the illuminated (model?) trees by maquette/lightbox/installation artistDoina Kraal.

Imagine Coney Reminder


Reminder: send us your ideas for Coney Island! Tropolism means good ideas win. We are asking all our readers to send us your ideas (especially visual illustrations) for Coney Island. Anything we get we will forward to the Municipal Art Society; the best ideas we will post on Tropolism. This is open to everyone and anyone. Whether you're an architect or an admirer, t's time to fantasize again. Send whatever you can to; the deadline is November 12.

Imagine Coney


Send us your ideas for Coney Island! Tropolism means good ideas win.

The Municipal Art Society of New York today announced a new initiative to re-imagine Coney Island, called Imagine Coney. Coney Island, that land of mystery and wonder, the genesis of delusional fantasies both distant and contemporary, has been in decline for some time. New York City has taken some actions to spur its revival, but the plans that have come forth have been less than satisfactory. To that end the MAS is leading an effort that only they can lead: bringing the public and private concerns together. In addition, they are drawing upon their line of recent successful design competitions, where they solicit public input but wisely create their own design short list. Today they are announcing this effort, part of which is to solicit design ideas for their design team to look at in mid-November.

Tropolism is inspired by this public brainstorming session. We are asking all our readers to send us your ideas (especially visual illustrations) for Coney Island. Anything we get we will forward to the MAS; the best ideas we will post on Tropolism. This is open to everyone and anyone. Whether you're an architect or an admirer, t's time to fantasize again. Send whatever you can to; the deadline is November 12.

Furniture Fridays: Nightwood In Brooklyn


Nightwood in Brooklyn is a shop that revives old chairs and recycles furniture scraps, all the while maintaining a clean look. But not too clean: the furniture keeps enough of its rough edges without getting too rustic on you. Our favorites are the Dusk Plank Dining Table and the Sunrise Chair (pictured). The shapes never get too modern, which means they rely almost entirely on the character of the individual scraps to push a design into new territory, meaning this is less the work of a designer and more the work of a curator/editor. Which is awesome.

Discovered through the always-fresh Remodelista.

Switch Bays


One of our favorite articles over the summer, during our sleepy time, was Daily Dose's piece about buildings with Switch Building like facades. While we will always have a fondness for the original Switch, we admit we are swayed by SHoP's M127 facade for its more elegant assembly of a diversity of typical New York materials: brick, metal, glass, into something entirely new. But still lovely.

Zaha And Chanel Do Up Art


The Chanel Pavilion Of Contemporary Art, Seriously or whatever it's called gives you all of its formal secrets before you get it. It's swoopy. It's modular fiberglass. It's Chanel! It's hard to miss that on the outside, but the utopian aspirations are given a distinct flavor. There are creepy helpers scurrying around in their black coats and black ball caps: they only look like jackbooted fascists in a retro-sci-fi movie, even though they say they're just taking tickets. It's helpful to write about this project in three parts:

Architecture: Zaha designed a swoopy container. It's interesting, but the swoops get old fast, and the construction is still very Early-Swoop-Technology: some great fiberglass panel stuff but all the connections are held together by schmutz. And a few well placed screws where things didn't quite work out. All the ceilings are made with a terribly cheap looking stretched tent fabric material. Things that art containers need, like lighting, are relegated to black painted openings between stretch fabrics. Often the unpainted 2x4 wood blocking under the track lighting is visible. Gorgeous. But the ambition is incessant, which is why we love Zaha, and you have no choice but to accept it (otherwise just go find a rock in the park to sit on). Check out the excellent slideshow at Curbed.

Art: With few exceptions, highly derivative or too understated to stand against/work with The Container. For some reason they all have Chanel as their theme. It's meant to be a theme that ties them all together. It's not a very good idea. However there is a powerful slideshow by our favorite bondage photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, and some very disturbing photographs by David Levinthal. And a piece by Leandro Erlich called Le Trottoir (The Sidewalk) that one needs to experience for something like 50 minutes, not the 5 minutes they give you before you're shuttled away.

Narration: The Container cocoons you in many ways, notably by covering your ears with headsets and an MP3 player that you cannot touch without screwing everything up. They let you know. And so you are torn from your companions and given a decent soundtrack and narration by Jeanne Moreau (who we love). At first I thought it was Zaha. Easy mistake to make: the narration script is hilariously pretentious. The problem is that the art isn't really sequenced the way the continuous soundtrack and narration suggest, it's just a bunch of separate pieces (that vaguely relate to the space and Chanel, yes) and someone has put cinematic schmutz in the gaps between them. We applaud the idea of seeing what is mostly New Media Art this way, but it's light years behind interactive media as accessible as Call Of Duty 4. It's a way of seeing art that is under explored. The Container poses the problem, but the results are mixed.

Albert Ledner's Maritime Awesomeness


Regional Modernism, a great blog devoted to modernist buildings in the New Orleans Area, stopped by Albert Ledner's National Maritime Union while we were sleeping here at Tropolism. It sounds like some unwelcome modifications have been made to the exterior during its renovation.

Which then led us to more pictures of this freaky great building over at Alan Rosenberg's blog. Which of course led us back to good ole New York, where Ledner's other wacky building for the Union is in a preservation fight.

Madison Square Pop-Up Park 2.0: Now With 100% More Boulders And Dirt!


This is a big week for Madison Square Pop-Up Park 2.0 as it evolves from traffic control diagram to interesting for-real Pop-Up Park. Now with 100% more boulders and dirt! The boulders have already become a favorite of people looking for that previously-unavailable shot from +7' elevation of the Flatiron Building. And people who just want a boulder to sit on. Think about it: outside of Central Park, where can you really do that in this town?

Also of interest: installation images of the sand-like granulated covering. They put down an adhesive, rake the sand over it, and leaf blower it into final place. It's like a raked Japanese garden done by the DOT. Can you tell we're in heaven about this whole thing?

The topsoil (pictured in front of a truck from the installers, NYC's own Town and Gardens), is for the dozens of huge planters that are also arrayed on the park. Pictures as always in our Picasa photo album on the project.

The Madison Square Waterfall


Overlooking our first instance of Pop-Up Park 2.0 is a building (yes yes it's 200 Fifth Avenue, stunning new luxury la la la all very important) being powerwashed, as it has been for several weeks now. Complete with blue tarp and scaffolding you can walk under. I pass under this temporary structure several times a day, and always feel a little of the spray as I pass under it. The tarp glows a bright blue, and to get by it you need to jump over a little gurgling river of runoff all around the block.

Just as Pop-Up Park 2.0 is an example of public space being claimed as serendipitous proto-park (TM) the powerwashing is an example of public space being claimed as serendipitous art. Because all the elements of an Olafur Eliasson installation are there. And if you don't get the blue tarp reference, I have included a picture of Your Inverted Veto, an installation at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (a gallery I designed) in 1998.

Farther down the rabbit hole, you will see my implicit (and so far silent) appreciation for Olafur's NYC Waterfalls. I wholeheartedly agree with those who say that the falls fail as objects, or that their water is not like a real waterfall, or that the New Yorkness of New York City overwhelms these constructions. In fact, I think that accurately describes whole segments of Olafur's installations: they are uninteresting objects, and their surroundings are far more interesting. But these descriptions wildly miss the point. As serendipitous effects in the city, or in nature, they are incredibly powerful. They invert the relationship between surroundings and work. In case this point is being debated as an intention, I offer the title of this work (which I also worked with Olafur on).

I have yet to see the waterfalls up close, and do not intend to "visit" them. Instead, I have intentionally seen them unexpectedly, accidentally, without intention. On the F train crossing the Manhattan Bridge at sunset (when two were visible at once); on the approach to LGA from IAD, over Brooklyn (when all four were visible); on a taxi also over the Manhattan Bridge (when I could only see one). They are the perfect art for the vehicles of transportation infrastructure: moving, pumping, flowing, spraying, pooling. And yes, a little inadequate if you crop the picture. They make more visible (and more poetic) the intricate dance of heavy transportation engineering. The sublime nature of New York City is turned up to 11.

The Madison Square Waterfall recreates this effect. This is the first positive test of the success of Olafur's NYC Waterfalls.

See the expanded ever-experimental Tropolism Picasa Pop-Up Park 2.0 album for more waterfall pics.

Pop-Up Park, 2.0


Is this Pop-Up Park 2.0?

Since we first coined the phrase way back in ancient times, May 2008, the term has entered public consciousness. Dlandstudio has begun to own the term. But the DOT may come after them: their reorganization of the sea of asphalt just west of Madison Square Park, the place where many a tourist has risked life and limb for that oh so amazing shot of the Flatiron Building, has gone way beyond new traffic lines and asphalt paint for bike lanes. They have added a sandy granulated covering to the areas colored beige in their reorganization diagrams..

In a sense, this is 2.0 of pop-up park. Use some cheap materials (asphalt paint, sand, and some traffic cones) to see what happens when you create a little public space out of traffic re-egineering. All that is needed now is about a hundred Bryant Park tables and chairs and we'll be seeing them digging the whole thing up as a major park addition in 2011.

Check out Tropolism's highly experimental Picasa album of our walkthrough of the unfinished Pop-Up Park 2.0.

Pop-Up Park, In Action!


The Brooklyn Bridge Pop-Up Park, the very same park where we coined the term "Pop-Up Park", is suddenly open! Just in time for Olafur's Waterfall Day 2008.


Like a pop-up store, the pop-up park builds brand awareness. Except in this case, it's more like public-space-useability awareness. And nothing says public space awesomeness than the bare bones of what's there now: Lawn, benches, some plants, and a great place to get summer eats. And, refreshingly, it's all low tech, yet modern. We mean this as a compliment: it's not some overwrought construction for PS1 Warmup (SHoP, nArchitects, and Work AC's entries being the exceptions, of course). It has the feeling of a summer deck the community put together, BYO Lawnchair.


Pictures from special correspondent Susannah Drake, founder of dlandstudio, designers of this episode of Pop-Up Park.

Tropolism Exclusive: Pop-Up Park Updates


The Brooklyn Bridge Pop-Up Park--our favorite platform for viewing, er, lower Manhattan and whatever else might be down there--is getting refined as it gets closer to getting built (click the above image for full-sized goodness). What you're seeing there is painted asphalt (minus the multi-colored action in the previous renderings), grassy mounds, and the tree/sandbox area on the right. It's essentially the same plan, minus the super colors. Beyond is the asphalt wasteland that where the warehouses used to be, blocking the public's access to the water.

The inside story is as interesting as the design: almost all of the materials are being donated. The paint, trees, plantings, planter boxes, hay bales, plexiglas (on the perimeter fence) and some labor is all being donated. So not only is this a pop-up park, but it's becoming more open-source too.

Milliken Definitely Being Demolished


The Milliken Building, the 1958 box by Carson + Lundin Architect, appears to be in the process of full-on demolition. Our inside correspondant is Dam Trader, who sends along two photographs from last Friday's progress. Hopefully the Springs Building isn't going down too, we love these two. Again, if anyone knows what is happening on this site, drop us a line.


Milliken Building Going Down For Hotel?


We like to post news, not ask questions, but here is one people have asked us about recently: is the work happening at the Milliken Building (pictured here in 2004) a full-on demolition, or a renovation? One person who wrote us said the building had been sold to a developer, and an alleged hotel was being constructed on the premises. But we have been unable to discover what is actually happening. Any news, please drop us a line. We'd hate to see this one go.

Tropolism Exclusive: The Waterfalls Get A Park


Olafur Eliasson's waterfalls have created a rush of art tourism. The number of ways to see the waterfall, created specifically for the waterfalls, is growing fast. One approach is the generically luxury boat cruise for only $50,000. Another is potentially coming to Brooklyn: our friends and favorites at dlandstudio have designed a temporary observation deck at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.


The 26,000sf site had a Strober Brothers Lumber warehouse on it until a week ago, and has recently been deeded by the Port Authority to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy asked dlandstudio to develop a temporary park for the waterfalls. On a Brooklyn budget! Dland's design includes wide swaths of color painted in stripes over the asphalt to create both a more comfortable walking surface for pedestrians and add color and texture. The design is like a pop-up shop for the future Brooklyn Bridge Park on the waterfront. The park includes grass mounds for lounging (the future park will be lots of mounds), a sand area retained by wood beams with umbrellas for shade, and our favorite, hay bales that get seeded and grow grass like a chia pet as the summer progresses. The pop-up park is going to invite people to use the former warehouse-blocked waterfront as a park, allowing people to discover vistas of New York that were previously blocked. Way better than a cruise.

Click Continue Reading for another exclusive image from dlandstudio.

The Glass From Terminal 8


In February the 1960 stained glass window at JFK's terminal 8 was demolished. The window was over 300 feet long and 23 feet tall; it was designed by Robert Sowers for the 1960 American Airlines terminal. Our picture is of the terminal when it opened.


What the articles at the time neglected to mention is that most of the window was salvaged by Olde Good Things in Manhattan. That link has lots of juicy demolition details. We happened to spot one of the pieces in their store window while passing by. Some of the window was destroyed before OGT jumped in and took the remaining window to their warehouse in Scranton, Pennsylvania. They numbered the sections and it is now possible to buy large sections of the window for reassembly elsewhere. So while the window did not find a permanent home, and it will undoubtedly be broken up, at least it's in good hands. And it's possible to put large swaths of it back together, if you have the spot for it.

Two-Dozen List, Tropolism Editor's Edition 2008


Two Dozen List, Tropolism Editor's Edition, 2008. Subject to change. Click Continue Reading for Full Annotated Edition.

1. 40 Mercer: Jean Nouvel
2. 40 Bond Herzog & DeMeuron
3. 100 11th Avenue: Jean Nouvel
4. 524 West 19th Street, Metal Shutter Houses: Shigeru Ban
5. 515-517 West 23rd Street, HL23: Neil Denari
6. 366 West 15th Street, The Porter House at : SHoP (aka That Stripey-Light Building)
7. 165 Charles St: Richard Meier (aka Meier3)
8. Perry Street South and North Towers: Richard Meier (aka Meier1 and Meier 2)
9. 109 Norfolk Street, Switch Building: nArchitects
10. 385 West 12th Street: FLAnk
11. 290 Mulberry Street: SHoP
12. 184 Kent Avenue: Arquitectonica (aka The Illinois Institute of Technology)
13. One Kenmare Square: Richard Gluckman (aka Gluckman Wave)
14. 48 Bond: Deborah Burke
15. 15 Central Park West: Robert A.M. Stern
16. One York: Enrique Norton
17. 497 Greenwich Street: Winka Dubbeldam (aka Winka Wave)
18. 33 Vestry Street, V33: Winka Dubbeldam
19. 330 Spring Street, Urban Glass House: Phillip Johnson
20. West 11th Street, Julian Schnabel Palazzo Chupi
21. 166 Perry Street: Asymptote
22. Lower East Side, Blue: Bernard Tschumi (aka TschumiBlu)
23. Astor Place, Sculpture for Living: Charles Gwathmey
24. Highline 519: Lindy Roy

Notes On The Two Dozen List


In 2005 I fleshed out an idea I first proposed in 2004: that a slew of midsized residential buildings would be built, all designed by celebrity architects. And so the Two Dozen List was born.

The mid 2000's in New York City have seen a unique confluence of money, skyrocketing real estate prices, hyper-demand, and cheap credit. The competition between developers, combined with a rise in interest in architectural design by the general public, has led to the hiring of our beloved celebutantes as brand novelties to distinguish one development from another. The moment is now passing: credit is tight, leading to projects down the pipeline being shut off. While the competition for buyers will certainly continue, it is likely that high-priced talent, or at least the famous names, will not be invited to create design masterpieces quite as often.

The similar size, shape, and sites give us a unique opportunity to compare these talents, and ask some great questions. How powerful were these architects in the development process? How well did they redefine what is possible in this context? How many boundaries did they push? How did they approach, and solve, the great problems of the New York Skyscraper: the slab and the curtain wall?

I will post my personal version of this list this week. Tropolism will begin to review the projects on my list that have not been reviewed to date. In addition, guest writers will post their own lists, here and elsewhere. Finally, we invite you to submit your own entries for a reader's choice list, which will of course be published here. Enjoy!

Maps Of Manhattan:


Maps Of Manhattan combines two of our obsessions: the representational power of maps and the density that is our home base. The Skyscraper Museum's Manhattan Timeformations remains one of our favorite online versions of this genre (and we will dare to date ourselves by reminding you that this project existed on paper/mylar long before it was put it into a computer).

So you might imagine our delight when we came across the online home for's physical map of Manhattan, locating all the public artworks on this fair island. What started out as (I think) an LMDC funded map to attract tourists to Lower Manhattan has blown up into an encyclopedic go-to for public art. Of course, the only way to improve upon it is to make it a searchable database, which it what gives it a place here at Tropolism.

Maki Makes Sculpture For Living


Fumihiko Maki has designed a building to replace the beige-brick Cooper Union Engineering building at 51 Astor Place. We want to see more renderings and details before commenting further. But from this picture alone we can say that this is what the Sculpture For Living should have been in the first place.

Via Curbed.

SHoP Brick Undulation


SHoP designed yet another building that may be eligible for the ever-outdated two-dozen list, once it's built: 290 Mulberry Street. Curbed gives us an overview today on the building's highlights. We would also like to point out a couple of great images from a lecture announcement last summer (given by their "Director of Design Technology and Research", I kid you not); the undulation looks like it's made out of prefabricated brick panels. We are looking forward to seeing this one in cover.

PS1 Goes Agricultural, Finally


Work Architecture won this year's PS1 Warmup Series installation with their cardboard-tube urban farm. While the New York Times gives us some back story (heavy on the Barry Bergdoll, obviously the driving force behind the change of direction), we think that Pruned says it best:

Where sightseers once splashed about in silly algorithmic frotteurism, they will be treated this summer to an $85,000 community garden, whose “rural delights” will probably not go to supplement the nutritional needs of the disenfranchised but rather will go to make bloody marys and beer for architecture students.

Seriously folks, "silly algorithmic frotteurism" pretty much says a lot about a lot these days. That, and Pruned's brilliant comparison to Wheatfield by Agnes Denes.

We see this one as the successor to PS1 Warmup Series' last successful installation, the one in 2004 by nArchitects. The intervening years can now be forgotten, just as we forgot Lindy Roy's whatever install.

UN Studio's VilLA NM Destroyed By Fire


We start off the day with sadness; UN Studio's VilLA NM was destroyed by fire during the night of February 5th. The house was completed last year. Full story at Daily Dose.

Beautiful At Barnard


Recently the P/A Awards were announced, by whatever magazine is announcing them these days. Our enthusiasm for these awards faded not because of some nostalgia for the days of Progressive Architecture magazine. It's simply that the cutting edge of architecture has gone blog viral. By the time the print media gets to it, it's old news. The newest of the new gets chewed up and tested by the internets, and the increase in chaff is easily matched by the increase in voices talking about design.

The one highlight in this year's P/A award comes from old-fashioned great building design, from Weiss/Manfredi. It's their Barnard Nexus project, at Barnard College in Manhattan. It's not just a pretty rendering: the details of the glass curtain wall, mimicking the brick and terracotta of Barnard's and adjacent Columbia University's main building cladding, is sophisticated, beautiful, and yes, progressive.

Master Disaster Architects 4


[Editor's note: Our correspondent Saharat Surattatnont had so much fun at Tuesday's Fourth Annual Master Disaster Architects duel that his post on the evening showed up last night. Enjoy!]

Click Continue Reading for Sah's complete review.

Gwathmey's Promise


I know that we started our career as a writer publicly slamming Gwathmey Siegal Associates for the Sculpture for Living, and because of that, you might think that we have something against the firm. Particularly since we basically didn't let the issue to rest for two years. Three, if you include this paragrph, which borders on apophasis.


But the core point we wish to make is that the firm does great work in non-NYC cities, at times, and the promise of Gwathmey's early work, the stuff that made him one of the New York Five, is simply unfulfilled. Projects like Whig Hall addition/renovation of 1972 shows an out-of-the-gate appreciation of the surreal tension created when Corbusian modernism stitched into American urban and rural contexts. It's a project that presages not pomo kitsch, but what happened after pomo, when 1920s modernism became just another historical meme to be played with, creating something entirely new. Or, viewed differently, that all historial memes would lose their historical significance, and everything from caves to pediments to s-curves and ship's handrails all were simply legitimate tools for the expression of architectural ideas. Some bigger projects (the addition to the Fogg at Harvard included) are extensions on this theme.


Unfortunately, until the firm stops doing these segmented curved corners out of cheap aluminum curtainwall systems, with 80s-grid spandrel panels, with another blocky volume stuck on top of the building, as they are doing at 240 Park Avenue South, we are going to have to keep waiting for Gwathmey's promise to be fulfilled.

NYC Bookstores


Awesome NYC bookstore alert: Storefront for Art and Architecture is having a micro-bookstore in the "eastern end" of the gallery. The bookstore is curated by Storefront luminaries known for their amazing book collections (ie Beatriz Colomina).

NYC has a dearth of great Architectural bookstores, at least in terms of the scale of those to be found on the west coast. Daily Dose, which pointed us to the Storefront bookstore, has also compiled a list of NYC bookshops.

Urban Age


We have long known about the conferences sponsored by Urban Age, but only recently did we discover their wonderful website. It's a handy repository of all the data generated do date from their conferences and research. Some of this work undoubtedly shows up in their new book (note to Phaidon: send us a review copy already), but it is irresistible to flip through it online.

Not only do they have pretty, if simple, comparisons of basic information of their key cities. They also have some extensive raw data from each city collected in both PDF and protected spreadsheet formats. Happy reading.

Every 15 Minutes Of Beauty


New York City's Standard Hotel, the gorgeous building going up in New York City's Meatpacking district, proudly straddling the High Line as it rises, now has a website to match the building's awesomeness. The construction photo updates every 15 minutes.

Via the ever-vigilant Curbed.

Olafur's Waterfalls Revealed


Pictures and coverage of Olafur's New York City Waterfalls were published by Bloomberg yesterday. Curbed tipped us off to this, and to a photo gallery of Olafur and the mayor doing official announcing stuff.

Our favorite part: that the waterfalls are not only powered by the river current, but they are supported by exposed scaffolding mimicking the kind used to build New York over the last century. Looks like we won't be traveling away from NYC this summer.

Eliasson Tops The Gates


Up for tomorrow: Mayor Bloomberg will announce Olafur Eliasson's city-sponsored installation "New York City Waterfalls", consisting of four waterfalls near lower Manhattan, in the East River. Until we get renderings, we will picture "Reversed Waterfall" from 1998.

Special add-on Olafur bonus for this summer: "The Parliament of Reality" at Bard College, a circular lake opening in June.

Quote Of The Week

“One should be practical and not too pious,” he told a conference of art historians some years ago. Commercialism pays the bills, he said, and museums are not churches. But “it is the mystery, the wonder, the presence of the real that is our singular distinction and that we should proudly, joyfully proclaim.”
--Phillipe de Montebello, who announced this week he is stepping down as director of the Metropolitan Museum Of Art after 30 years.

Observations On Unhelpful Architectural Writing


Architectural critics, like all art critics, are stuck between bald snap judgment and the extension of art history known as architectural history. It's a strange place to be, and the critics we admire tend to create new conversations about architecture in general, through their insightful opinions (IE Paul Goldberger) or their insightful riffing on architectural history (IE Robin Evans, RIP).

Click Continue Reading for the rest of the critique of the critics.

The New Year Opening Bang: Roosevelt Island Collapse


You might remember the Southpoint Competition a year or so ago, which proposed preserving the old asylum at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, NYC. We do: we submitted an entry for it. The former building is load bearing masonry, with stone facing, and is vaguely castle-like. For some this building represents some kind of pinnacle of Gothic Revival Architecture. We don't get that, probably because we attended a university that was designed by Cope and Stewardson. A few castellated cornices does not groundbreaking Gothic Revival make, but that is our opinion.

Anyone who has visited the asylum knows that the old building is little more than a ruin, stabilized by luck, some steel, and a lot of ivy. And some theatrical uplighting. Which made the idea of preserving it something short of silly, both from a cost standpoint and a use standpoint. It's frankly more interesting as a ruin...turning it into a building again would make it bland again.

At any rate, the old walls have tipped definitively (ouch, sorry for unintended pun) into the ruin category. It has partially collapsed. If a building collapses on Roosevelt Island, does anyone see it? Well, yes. A week later, we totally get word of it.

Via Curbed, who also has some other interesting links to follow on the subject of crumbling NYC buildings.

Bob Stern Gets Some Respect


We've made no secret about our admiration for Bob AM Stern's approach to education. The Times throws some respect his way today, too. Not enough to get mentioned in Ourousoff's article, but he probably prefers to be the sole subject of an article than to be grouped together with everyone else.

Nouvel Tower Renderings


We can't get enough of this design. And we stand by our statements after seeing the plethora of renderings at Dezeen.

Herbert Muschamp, 1947-2007


Herbert Muschamp died yesterday in New York. While we were never a fan of his writings, we have to give the guy credit: he was consistent, loud, and all over the map. Just the way we like our New Yorkers.

Shigeru Ban In Chelsea


Adding to an already impressive couple of blocks in West Chelsea, Manhattan, is Shigeru Ban's new design for The Metal Shutter Houses. That's the name for a condo with nine duplex apartments with jaw-dropping exterior features. Renderings are unveiled today in the New York Times. Simply amazing, and surely to rate high on the two-dozen list, whenever we get around to updating it with Nouvel's second apartment building, Herzog & DeMeuron's 40 Bond Street, and the like.

15 CPW: Bob Stern In Fine Form


There's nothing we love more than a good argument over Bob Stern. When we were graduate students at Columbia University in the mid-1990s, everyone avoided having him for design studio, thinking that he would make everyone design in historical pastiche. One semester, I sat adjacent his studio; low and behold his criticism was insightful, pragmatic, and informed by experience. True, he was a shade conservative, and positively curmudgeonly, but he never failed to call bullshit when contemporary architectural theory failed to produce what it said it was supposed to produce. For that, I secretly admired him. He was asking the same questions I was asking, even though the forms I chose to ask them in weren't the ones his office was producing. The students who were unlucky and got stuck in his studio mistakenly argued with Bob over simple formal machinations, without creating a concrete idea of what they were trying to produce; it was clear that Bob The Critic was formally agnostic (or perhaps omnivorous), so long as what you said you were achieving were the results you actually produced. I longed to bring him over to my desk and say "hey, I think I'm doing what you are asking for, but it looks different. What do you think?" As a wee student, I never had the courage to ask him.

And so we think that we get Bob. 15 Central Park West is case in point, Mr. Stern at his finest form, New York old money luxe created anew. When the game is to make a good apartment building, make it really, really good. Use the best materials, use layouts that work, take a stand for proportions and rooms that make all New York apartment dwellers drool, and make the developer figure out who to market it to to pay for the increased cost of the building. Of course Mr. Stern's first impulse is to use tried and true forms and details from long ago. And people are vocal about liking the building, politely admiring its historical aspects but keeping their distance, or really hating it for being a photocopy of another age (this last one we never really get, because unless it's an exact replica of another building, it's always going to be new and different. This is a debate for another time.) Guess what: the historical forms and proportions still work. In that they produce something people will buy, and be passionate about living in.

Of course, after taking the gorgeous fantasy trip through 15 CPW's apartments, motor court, classic dining rooms, and grand lobby, we are left asking: why can't it be done without using the historical cues? Can I have a not-so-dowdy bathroom vanity cabinet, and a kitchen that doesn't look like the one we have at the country manor? Can we keep the good proportions, well-designed windows, and great detailing, all the while giving us a little (or a lot) of the 20th Century's uncanny? Miss Representation perfectly encapsulates the problem:

...the failure of new housing to evoke the grandeur of a 30-foot long sitting room isn't really about limestone sheathing or how big the windows are: it's about whether or not your sitting room is 30 fucking feet long. And it isn't.

Like the students I remember in his design studio, architects doing new housing in New York make the same mistake. Some exceptions, of course, can be found in #s 1-5 at the Two Dozen list. In the majority of celebutante housing designs the design concerns are about twitchy wrappers, space-age materials, sharks with lasers, or whatever else is being used to keep one branded as cutting edge. This focus of attention is an astonishingly sophomoric failure to look at what makes living spaces great, pleasurable, desirable. Because Mr. Stern creates great living spaces, elegant entries, and uses his estimable powers as a persuader to cause developers to pony up for great materials, it's easy for him to stand out in this context. And whether you like his forms or not, you cannot deny that he has won the game he set out to play, a game we think is worth playing in every housing development the world over. We'll let you know when we see someone else step up too.

Hudson Yards Draft Strategic Framework Plan


Dear Diary,

Next time I do a master plan for anything, please be sure to run it by Lockhart Steele first. Just the other day, I was looking at Curbed, and I saw his brilliant, whithering criticism of the beyond-stupid Hudson Yards Draft Strategic Framework Plan. Of particular note: he noticed the glaring stupidity of the Plan's attempt to compare a development site with the size of the open spaces in New York, as if the entire site would be open space. What can we say, Lockhart is good.

He didn't mention one important point, but he's probably just leaving something for me to write about. That the Plan is obviously constructed so that one conclusion can be reached: building around the High Line is too expensive, and therefore it should be just knocked down. What architect can't see that this is the most interesting part of the High Line? FxFowle, we had so much faith in you up to now.

Prouve's Maison Tropicale Is In Queens


Prouve's Maison Tropicale was designed for the African climate, but for a little while, it has a new home in Queens, New York. And, it's for sale. The New York Times gives us the details on the restored house, as well as details on the other two surviving specimens. The house is open today to the public, and is located in Long Island City, on a plot just south of the Queensboro Bridge.

Update: After running over there today, I can report that the dates the house is open are May 17-June 5, 2007. No hours were posted. It was locked at 11am today.

And yes, we've been away for a while, celebrating our second anniversary.

Guggenheim 5th Avenue: Cracking


Yesterday's New York Times served up some technicolor imaging of Frank Lloyd Wright's cracking Guggenheim facade. For anyone that has seen a set of historic preservation documents, this kind of documentation is routine. However, the image from the times takes it to a whole new level of awesomeness.

Serra Installation At MoMA


Our Midtown sidewalk correspondant Sah Surattanont captured the wonderful moment of a Richard Serra sculpture being hoisted into place. In this case, into MoMA's courtyard. Click Continue Reading for the full filmstrip.

Rudolph Road Trip


Today's New York Times gives us a road trip to Paul Rudolph's work between here and Boston, and includes updates on the conditions of the buildings. It also divulges a lot of details about the people who inhabit them. It also includes, shockingly enough, actual addresses and directions to said buildings. Time to call the garage and have the car ready.

Ever since Modern Architecture In Europe went out of print, and the internet, er, happened, guidebooks to famous buildings have been few and far between. The AIA produces a few for major cities, but they are hardly comprehensive. Road tripping across the country means long expanses of no handheld device internet access, which means all that online information is useless, unless you print it out. Until someone finds a solution for this, we'll have to print out articles like this one.

Tropolism On Gridskipper


On Gridskipper today: an article asking writers about architecture what they think the ugliest building in New York is. Of course, we picked the Whitney, but as we make plain, ugly has never been a perjorative for us.

Photo by Hagen Steir on flickr.

Graffiti Research Lab

dripsessions.jpgOne of the reasons we love Gordon Matta-Clark is that his presence in the art world is so unique. He did things to buildings that were disruptive, in a direct, physical way. He played with the very stability of structures, as well as the psychological stability of the interiors.

Graffiti Research Lab may seem more up Coolhunting's alley, but we were turned on when a fellow architect sent along the link to The Drip Sessions, which incorporates a lot of DIY technology, from paint bottles to high-power projectors, all in service of creating light graffiti on New York City buildings (pictured). This project is our favorite, because it is one of the most beautiful. It can be interpreted as an act of defacement, or enhancement, depending on your perspective. Perhaps the best part is that the video is like an instruction video. I want a drippy paint bottle too.

Some of the other projects are more guerilla, like the brilliant and politically charged Threat Advisory Tower. Although the guy leaning over the parapet freaked us out. Life/safety, yo, we have a license for a reason. We received a more unadultered thrill watching the Light Criticism project in action, when hoodie'd artists walk up to and tape up black masks over those stupid moving billboards that endlessly repeat the same ad for television shows, and in the process create a moving work of art.

Robert A.M. Stern Is Almost Alright


Robert A.M. Stern was the critic no one wanted to have when I was a student at Columbia. If you put his studio as anything but last in your preferences, you would get him. It was a widely held belief that if you took his studio, you'd be forced to do po-mo work all the time. This was far from reality, as I learned by sitting in a studio immediately adjacent to Bob Stern's studio, and overhearing his desk crits. Mr. Stern was a pragmatic critic, holding students' feet to the fire on making their projects work, and making their product match their premises. In short, he was an unwavering demand that your proposal live up to your words about it. I secretly loved him for that: Columbia in the mid 1990s was a lot of words and renderings of clouds, and light on the discussion of how buildings work in the world.

Yet a continued disappointment is that while Mr. Stern's office tends to produce architecture that contributes to the city, and is even civic in a traditional sense (in that it is guided by having generous and appropriately grand public spaces), the materials, forms, and sequences rarely thrill. There is no bite.

Of course, in this day and age, good architecture is a category that is hard to find. There is bad architecture, poor architecture, lame architecture, tired architecture, acceptable architcture, not bad architecture, and, occasionally, Great Architecture. But good is a category underrepresented.

We file Mr. Stern's design for the Museum of African Art in the good-to-very-good category. It's an acceptably civic front that abstracts a non-19th century western architectural form, and it has a innovative (but workable!) mix of residential development and institutional functions. And, it's got the best salesman in the business behind an institution without a permanent home.



The exhibition "Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines", on view now at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, is in our world the perfect exhibition: about rare architectural publications, and curated by Beatriz Colomina. The show is only up until February 24th, so rush down. There can never be enough architectural book love.

Until you get there, you may soak up the magazine goodness at the show's excellent (and simple, yo. Take note architects!) website. Mr. Ourousoff from the Times has also reviewed the show today.

Moynihan Station: Not Dead Yet


Back when we last checked in on Moynihan Station, Madison Square Garden was all set to cross 8th Avenue and devour a second McKim, Mead, and White building. Then...silence. The proposal seemed dead as the previous governor wrapped up his administration.

An article in The New York Observer gives us an update on what's been happening since election day, when we got a new governor. The new governor is a bit more enthusiastic about these projects, and has appointed a head of the Empire State Development Corporation that is interested in not only developper good, but hey, the public good as well. At least his reaching-out has temporarily addressed concerns by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, one of the groups opposed to the developer plan B for Penn Station. The devil is always in the details, or in this case, the large, open, sunlight filled public rooms, and so we await developments with baited breath.

More Zaha Craziness


Today's New York Times reports not once but twice about a planned arts supercomplex in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The articles cover all the art hot topics of the day: the pros and cons of the development, east meets west, the Bilbao effect, art as franchise is good or bad, and art as global or home-grown activity. But the real thrill of the article is the rendering of Zaha Hadid's contribution: a crazy, snakelike performing arts center. The audacity of the rendering reminds us of the immortal Gold Lego proposal for the Louvre. The image borders on completely-surreal without edging into acid-trip (while getting oh, so close).

The Shrinking Freedom Tower


We're a bit slow on the draw on this one, but we can't let the week end without pointing it out. Rafael Viñoly, one of the architects who worked under the THINK New York banner during the WTC competition, gave a lecture at 7WTC on January 18th describing how unnecessary the Freedom Tower is. The above diagram was copied from Gothamist, who also provides a complete description on the lecture.

Stop The Presses: People Cooperating On WTC Buildings


Today's New York Times reports about the development of WTC Towers 2, 3, and 4. Employees of Foster, Maki, and Rogers are sharing a single, huge office space on the 11th Floor of 7 WTC, opened three weeks ago. The super studio also combines engineers and the lone architect of record for the project. In short, Silverstein (A master planner for the 21st Century? Urban heir to Robert Moses?) has created what no agency, competition, public comments hearing, or collaborative not-for-profit study has been able to produce: a working, collaborative effort. It's the single brilliant thing to come of the WTC site.

Because of this turn of events, our first-glance gloomy estimation of the towers' design now appears to have been hasty. We've changed our assessment to "intriguing enough to wait for more information".

Foster UES Tower: So Not Happening


The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted against the proposed development of 980 Madison Avenue, featuring the glass towers atop a low existing structure. After all the fireworks we were hoping for something a little more conciliatory. Is the LPC getting gunshy? Did the project never have a chance in hell from the get-go? Will the developer continue at this location?

Via Curbed, where they include entertaining quotes from the Commission.

VV Takes on Wolfe


One of our allergies is to argumentum ad hominem. That is, attacking the people making the argument as a way to discredit the argument. It avoids discussion of merits, thereby turning an issue of substance into an issue of morality. With regards to architecture, this is a particularly slippery slope: so much of an architect's creative abilities are personal, non-rational, idiosyncratic. It's difficult to discuss architecture without slipping into a little ad hominem from time to time. We despise it anyway.

Today's Village Voice seems to imply that author Tom Wolfe is making ad hominem arguments against the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and other supporters of 2 Columbus Circle and 980 Madison Avenue, (two projects we've taken preservation positions on). The article doesn't make the accusation directly (itself drifting into ad hominem by accusing Mr. Wolfe of launching his attack to save his career), but the implication is that his characterization of the LPC in the Times was simply an attack on the LPC's members. The Times piece in particular seems to spend a lot of time on Anthony Tung's career shifts. Our request: create an argument about what the LPC should be doing, and stick to that.

Fulton Street Station: MTA Stops Making It Suck


We'll admit: we've never mentioned the Fulton Street transit hub, connecting all of the subway lines that cross Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan because the project has been in MTA cost-cutting limbo ever since the day it was designed. We believed that the interesting building by Grimshaw would get cut and we'd end up with a grand concourse of dark underground tunnels.

Today's New York Times lets us know that the MTA board will go through with the project in its new revised form, even though they have to make up $41M from their own budget to build the project. The go ahead was given grudgingly, apparently. The Times has a preciously crusty quote from a board member against the overrun:

“We are not building cathedrals here,” said one board member, Nancy Shevell Blakeman.

Obviously, MTA isn't building cathedrals. Otherwise, all the transit infrastructure and stations built between 1920 and 1990 would be, you know, gorgeous. And, they wouldn't have let the original Pennsylvania Station be demolished. Shall we go on? Cost overruns are an issue, we agree. But don't sacrifice good public space to save a few bucks.

Bonus: the Times also posts the coolest walk-through diagram section we have ever seen. We suggest to the Times to try saving money on the architecture critics and giving David Dunlap and the renderers an expanded beat.

Tropolism Books: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces


A few months ago, my brother sent me a book from my long-forgotten Wishlist: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. The joy of receiving it was matched only by the pleasure in reading it.

Most of you know the story: William H. Whyte wrote the book in 1980, an outgrowth of his work as the director of the Street Life Project (which he founded in 1971). This group diligently recorded how people use public space. Moveable vs Fixed furniture. Placement of trees. Places to eat. Relationship of shops to open space. Sight Lines. They recorded. The book reads like a manual for making good public space, written by anthropologists of American Urban Natives.

The book isn't a scientific treatise, or an unbiased state-sponsored report, even though all of the techniques used to gather data have a long track record in the science community. Yet concealed in the trappings of scientific data, Mr. Whyte makes palpable the perceived cynicism on the part of corporate and urban architects toward the use of public space. The data is brilliantly and swiftly put to use. In addition, there is a bias against anything that would prevent people from sitting on a low ledge (spikes, bars), yet the section called "The Undesirables" seems to describe passive, friendly, capitalist ways of keeping drunks away from your nice public space. What is powerful about these biases, aside from what you may think of their merits, is that they enter the conversation about designing public space at its source. The book is about the details that make public spaces in the city thrive.

This book can be purchased at Amazon.

New York City's 50 Best Webcams


I've always said that New York is the best place on earth to experience the internet. The city is mapped online, and vice-versa. The city's life is extended online, and stuff on the internet shapes the phycial form of the city. I said that in 1998, in an article that ANY rejected. (They probably saved my writing career). I always knew I was right, but I didn't really feel vindicated until today.

It is with great pleasure that we discovered, via the ever-vigilant Curbed, NewYorkology's list of New York's 50 Best Webcams. (Are there more than 50? Is there a site that has ALL of them?) For those of you interested in progress at the WTC site: three webcams will take you downtown, without all the hassle of the financial district. Want to take a jaunt up the Hudson River Park, except from your Powermac G4? Check out the 20 Hudson River Park cams. New York, here I come.

Tropolism Magazines: PIN-UP


The second entry in our, er, two-part series about new architectural magazines we like this week is PIN-UP, giving us helvetica love from the logo through the back cover Comme des ad. Published in New York, the magazine's inaugural issue features a layout suggested by its name: clean, collage like, and powered by ideas. In the dark days of architectural publications which we now live, where great aging publications like Architecture, P/A, and The Gutter have all fallen to the wayside, it is difficult to find one that is still up and running, much less remotely interesting.

PIN-UP plays both meanings of the double entendre embedded in its title. It feels casual, easy to pick up and leaf through, with great pictures art directed for a general, design-friendly audience. It also gets behind the clothes of the architect, in many figurative and literal ways, putting architects like Jurgen Mayer H., Zaha Hadid, Winka, and Charles Renfro on display as people/props to be studied, as much as the work they produce. This is to say nothing of the brilliant, phallic, tower-porn photo series, something straight out of Dutch/Matthias Vriens from 1999. The brilliant tendency of this magazine is to collapse both sides of the double entendre into a single article, as in the article about Jurgen Mayer H., constantly pictured (they are video stills) undressing or in bed in a hotel room, next to details of his buildings and installations. It is a perfect encapsulation of how architectural design consumes the lives of architects who build, particularly those famous architects who lecture around the world. Bravo.

And, as icing on the cake, they reprint an article from Beatriz Colomina in the back, her brilliant piece about Corb raping Eileen Gray's house with a mural from the 1980s. Cred building.

BTW, Comme Des, want to advertise on Tropolism?

Via Jason Thome, our own personal cool hunter.

Save Highline, And Eat Cookies


We've always been concerned that the High Line had made a deal with the devil regarding the Rail Yards portion of the tracks. That's the portion above 30th Street. While the hoopla about a West Side Stadium was in full fur mode (way back in 2005), the Friends of the High Line were busy planning and rail banking the rest of the High Line. Of course, anyone who has worked on a design for the High Line knows that the upper 30%, which curls around the West Side Rail Yards, is what gives the High Line the ability to connect, at both ends, to the Hudson River Park, and the water. It is also the end where you can walk from street level smoothly up to High Line level. So why was FTHL giving it up?

The answer, apparently, is that they were simply biding their time. Let the big dogs tear each other to bits. Now, without a plan, direction, or powerful sponsor (or Olympic bid, for that matter) to interfere, the Rail Yards seems ripe for another fresh-faced entrant, and FTHL appears to be eager to garner political and popular support for this important piece of (potential) public space.

FTHL is holding a public gathering, where they will present possibilities for this portion of the High Line, as well as gather comments from the public. Oh, and serve their famous High Line cookies and cider. Chelsea Market Community Space, 75 Ninth Avenue, 6.30pm Thursday December 7. RSVP required, contact or 212.206.9922.

Sculpture For Living: The Dumb Never Sets


The Sculpture For Living is a gift that keeps on giving. Not to be upstaged by the questionable architectural value of the building, the open space next to the building (between Carl Fischer and It) decided to one-up the building is crapassness. We didn't think it possible, but Manhattan Offender gives us the photographic evidence (pictured). We quote:

If you are going to restrict access from the public, then you need to have access in the first place. The 'garden in question is not accessible to the residents; there is no pathway through it. Therefore you are restricting access to the public to something that doesn't have access in the first place."
Via the fellow Sculpture For Living hatahs Curbed.

Whitney Going Downtown


Eleven years and three star architects later, the Whitney Museum has made their committment to expanding downtown official. The sucking sound you hear is the sound of contemporary cultural institutions moving quickly away from the Upper East Side. Who is next? Guggenheim? The Met?

Of note is that the Whitney will also refurbish the original, gorgeously brutal Breuer building, after they've expanded downtown.

Saarinen's TWA: Looking For Life


Preservationists have been holding their breath about Saarinen's TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport, dormant since 2001, ever since JetBlue announced they were building their own terminal really, really close to it. Without doing anything to it.

The New York Times reports that the Port Authority is soliciting development proposals for the building. The high notes: Saarinen's original design and details will be restored and preserved, and you can still walk through the space ship tubes to get to the Jet Blue terminal. The low notes: what, really, does one do at an empty terminal building in the middle of an airport forever clogged with traffic? And, as Frank Sanches of the Municipal Arts Society aptly points out, how will such a huge restoration project make this an attractive development? Questions abound.

Preservationists (and Saarinen lovers, like myself) can breath out, and breath in. And hold the breath a little longer.

Arquitectonica Tries To Get On The List, In A Good Way


You thought we'd gone away, didn't you? Well, to dispel that impression, we point you to what may be the best candidate for the Two-Dozen List since we knocked Blue to the very bottom: Arquitectonica's 184 Kent Avenue, which we think is not in Manhattan. The severe knocking Arqui took from their completely lame pomo Westin Hotel (which we mention at #24 in our List, as an example of how Blue was going to look) probably gave them the inspiration to shed the garish South Beachitecture and look at other forms of inspiration. In this case, they went straight to the heart of the lion: Mies' IIT, on top of a factory roof in, er, Brooklyn (we think). We think the results are lovely, and reminiscent of SHoP's Porter House. Arqui's project lands somewhere in the middle of our list, let's say #11 or so. We are going to update the list, and include a couple of more wicked smart projects we've been holding off posting about.

Tipped off by Curbed.

Whitney: So Over UES


The New York Times reports today that the Whitney is not only mildly interested in expanding downtown near the High Line: they are totally interested.

Favorite near-sighted neighbor quote of the week:

Now the Upper East Siders who vehemently opposed the expansion in their neighborhood are celebrating. In an e-mail message last week to fellow members of the Coalition of Concerned Whitney Neighbors, Edward Klimerman wrote, “Hope springs eternal.”

Highline Vacuum To Be Filled By Rush Of Upper East Side Cultural Institutions


Tropolism is making connections.

Today's relationships in news. First, the Dia Art Foundation--caretaker of rockin' artworks like the Earth Room and Broken Kilometer, in addition to an empty building on 22nd Street, and a huge factory-become-museum in Beacon, New York (it's north of the Bronx, which is north of Manhattan)--is not going to anchor the southern end of the Highline (as shown in the rendering above). One half second later, the New York Times reports that the Whitney is looking at expanding in this location. Interesting, you say, but so what?

Second news: Norman Foster's creative expansion of a building on the Upper East Side is argued over (and mostly opposed by) at a Landmark Preservation Hearing. The New York Sun captures some of the stupidest and nonsensical opposition preservation quotes ever, proving yet again that preservationists have no logical argument, only outrage, to support their positions. Speaking in support of his design, Lord Norman cited the Guggenheim and Whitney Museums, which are totally not masonry or rectangular, and which are totally in the Upper East Side.

Which leads us back to the first article. The case for the Whitney is an example of some pretty good speculation, in that the incentives for the institution to expand elsewhere are enormous. High cost of construction on the UES, lack of community support for anything you'd want to build next to a brutal Marcel Breuer masterpiece, and an aging and not hip population for neighbors would make any cutting-edge institution look for new digs. What institution will be next to consider an expansion downtown?

Preservation: winning the battle for the neigborhood, at the expense of a culturally interesting neighborhood. West Chelsea residents of the year 2046, mulling over expansion plans for the High Line, take heed.

Public Designing Public: Gansvoort Plaza


Streetsblog has an in-depth post about a proposal to create better streets and public spaces in the area of Gansvoort Street, Manhattan. The proposal began its life in 2005 from the Project for Public Spaces, and has grown into a full-blown presentation, including artfully rendered observations about traffic flow. What is truly wonderful is that the process is being guided by the community, who are in turn getting elected officials into the action. We are anxiously awaiting what the proposed public spaces will actually look like, and hope they use the model of the High Line for their approach. Community input is great for planning public spaces, awful at designing them.

Via Curbed.

Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village: SOLD


Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock investment bank submitted a winning bid for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village: $5.4 Billion. Some quotes from the New York Times article:

Michael McKee, treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, called the sale a “dark day for affordable housing.” Translation: the sky is falling. First, Starbucks spread all over town, and now this. New York was so great when everyone was poor and apartments everywhere were cheap.

His son, Rob Speyer, a senior managing director at Tishman Speyer, also tried to reassure tenants, emphasizing, “There will be no sudden or dramatic shifts in the community’s makeup, character or charm.” Translation: we can't kick rent-controlled tenants out fast enough to cause a sudden or dramatic shift in the community's makeup, so relax. You'll either move or die of old age.

Tribeca: Contextual Architecture Hell


As regular readers of Tropolism know, we have a low regard for contextualistical architecture regulations, public design review boards, and unnecessarily stringent historic preservation guidelines. We're champions of good architecture; sometimes it "fits in", sometimes it doesn't. Mostly it doesn't. And that's what makes New York so wonderful. Can anyone imagine the High Line design if it had to be "contextual"? Ouch.

So it with a happy heart that we read a letter by Carole Ashle to the Tribeca Trib expressing similar views. On the subject of the North Moore Hotel, contextual-styled par excellance:

"Most of these creations stand out as clumsy interlopers because their concept is a fakery, and has nothing to do with architecture as an art. Nothing to do with function, either. The North Moore hotel evokes anything but Tribeca, parts of an Edward Luytens’ country house perhaps, minus the quality. A contemporary building on Hudson Street near Franklin fits better with the surrounding buildings. The “contextual” has been discredited in other countries such as Britain where it’s now rightly seen as a disaster for architecture.

We can vouch for the building she refers to on Hudson Street: it's all glass, yet somehow manages to turn the entire block of staid brick warehouses into a setting for its elegant, delicately patterened facade. Sometimes it fits in by doing not-fitting-in at the appropriate scale.

Via Curbed. Photo by Will Femia.

On Smithson's Hotel Palenque


Greg Allen posts a gorgeous piece about Robert Smithson's lecture/slideshow/fictional narrative Hotel Palenque. He includes a link to a filmed recording of the 1972 event at the University of Utah, and impressions of what it is to see this piece through the lens of a filmmaker.

Pretty Pictures Monday: Paul Rudolph House


When we were writing for the Village Voice, we did a little piece about a house Paul Rudolph developed on East 58th Street. Today, we stumbled on a lovely slideshow showing the renovated house Paul Rudolph did for himself on Beekman Place (courtesy New York Magazine), renovated by Della Valle + Bernheimer.

New New Museum Going Up


The New Museum's new building, designed by SANAA, is going up. See for yourself: The New Museum has a pretty-much-live webcam on the construction.

Via Curbed.

Rem Koolhaas: Back In The USA


For those of you, like us, who thought that the spinoff series T-REX was to replace The OMA's time slot, then you were wrong! Oops, wait, this is architecture, not television. For those of you who thought that REX was going to take all the USA projects, and OMA would settle for the rest of planet Earth, think again. Today, Mr. Koolhaas appears in two New York Times announcements for projects close to NYC.

First is Millstein Hall 3.0 (pictured), the project that Steven Holl (v1.0) and Barkow Leibinger Architects (v2.0) have both lost. Koolhaas returns back to his twisted-Mies beginnings for his design by creating what appears to be an even more surreal Farnsworth House. Which we think is a brilliant move. The Farnsworth House is an important work that plays a large part in architectural histories we teach students...Koolhaas' proposal is like a building architects would invent while in R.E.M. sleep.

Second he was hired for a residential mixed-used complex of 1.3m square feet (larger than the "Freedom" Tower, yo) in Jersey City. City officials are giving him the wink-nudge with this golden nugget: "How much of the building Mr. Koolhaas will preserve is unclear. The settlement drawn up by the city requires that the facade be preserved, but officials here said that they would be open to any changes Mr. Koolhaas might propose." In short, if you don't want to preserve the facade, it's totally fine, just let us know, 'kay? Whatever the preservation arguments, we're glad to see OMA doing a project close to NYC, particularly if it will improve the New Jersey skyline.

Panoramic Map of Manhattan


You may have noticed that we at Tropolism love maps. And lists. And maps.

Curbedhart points us to a unique addition to our maps of Manhattan, a circa 1940 panoramic, posted by eightface.

Architecture Returns To The Hamptons


It's been a while since original architectural ideas settled in the Hamptons. The days of Peter Blake and his gorgeous (and simple, and small, and brilliant, and uncompromisingly modern) Pin Wheel House (1954) seemed long gone, until we stumbled upon this press release. The Parrish Art Museum, in Water Mill, New York, out on Long Island's east end, has announced a design by the tirelessly inventive Herzog & deMeuron.

The building is organized around a few central permanent galleries modelled after artists' studios in the Hamptons. From there radiate more boxes are strewn around a field. The museum is organized around north-facing skylights. Also brilliant: the approach. Visitors park in a sunken parking lot, and emerge into a meadow planted with native plants, meandering along paths and gardens until they arrive at the musuem. Most striking is the understated view from Montauk Highway, pictured above.

Pictures of an illustrative model of the project are here.

High Waters In New York (And Elsewhere)


There are recent articles in several places about global warming (like last week's survey in The Economist) and all of them vaguely refer to the fact that a rise is ocean levels would be devastating to urban areas near water, like New York or London. Future Feeder points us to a great Google Maps mashup that describes, exactly, what your neck of the woods would look like with a little rise in ocean levels. Great for disaster fanatics and long-term real estate investors.

Governor's Island: Back To Planning


Polis has the news on the development of Governor's Island: all the development plans have been trashed. They were awful anyway, but since no one ever goes to Governor's Island anyway, it didn't seem important to mention it (except tangentially). I bring it up now because Lisa has some particularly good insight into the process:

"’s actually a good thing that the bids were scrapped because they were all terrible and too expensive. The problem, much like the even more disastrous WTC site, is that a master plan was never completed before the bids were solicited, allowing developers, like the WTC site, to throw designs and ideas at the wall like spaghetti to see what sticks. Fortunately, in the case of Gov’s Island, nothing stuck, and now a master plan is actually going to be completed."

WTC Tower Review


Nicolai Ouroussoff writes a balanced critique of the three building designs announced for the World Trade Center site in today's New York Times. He makes an important point about the Maki/Rogers corridor on Cortlandt Street as being an important approach to the Memorial (if it is going to be lined with a vertical mall). And he slams Foster's building too:

"A vertical notch cut into each of its facades creates deep, brooding shadows; the top is sliced at a sharp diagonal that tilts toward the memorial pools below. One assumes that this is intended to imbue the structure with a quasi-mystical significance, but it’s a cheap gesture."

Daily Dose Double, Part 1: 40 Bond Street Mockup


Daily Dose has posted a couple of wonderful posts lately. First of all, the completely-unreported-by-New-York-blogs news that the Herzog and DeMeuron designed 40 Bond Street, here in Manhattan, had put up some kind of construction mockup of the glass trim. The speculation from the photographs is well-documented by DD. We add that the original press on this was for a "cast glass" exterior, not a curved float glass element; the mockup looks like the prismatic effect of cast glass is lost by having curved glass. Perhaps this was just a test of an option under consideration.

WTC Small Towers Unveiled


Today, Larry Silverstein, the developer of the World Trade Center, announced the designs for the smaller towers at Ground Zero. The designs are by Lord Foster, Richard Rogers, and Fumihiko Maki.

We'll tell you a secret: even though we always knew the "Freedom" Tower was going to be a snorefest, we thought that Foster, Rogers, and Maki (particularly Maki) would come in through the side door and kick up the architectural refinement on The Site. We were wrong. Click on Continue Reading for our comparisons and comments.

Alessi Disaster


From our Los Angeles correspondant, John Southern:

Last week when I was in NYC I stopped by to see the new Alessi Shop in SoHo only to find it was still under construction. I stepped inside, pretending to be "the guy from the architects office", only to find myself in the middle of a small crisis that was unfolding. A guy who was probably the PM was getting schooled by another gent, whom I took to be the superintendent (or a building inspector). The gist of the argument, from what I could gather, was that the super was going to shut the job down for work violations. Scuttlebutt aside, for those of you who haven't been there yet, the opening is scheduled for the end of August...I'd say it's going to be a little longer. The fat guy blocking my shot is the superintendent, who oddly enough, closely resembles FOG from the rear. The PM was behind me in the street sobbing into his cell phone. It was all tragically beautiful.

Tropolism does not condone deception to get access to a jobsite.

Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village: FOR SALE


Metropolitan Life dropped this bombshell right before the Labor Day news cycle (Curbed is on vacation this week, nuff said right there): Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are up for sale. All 80 acres of prime Manhattan real estate, all 110 apartment buildings, all 11,000 apartments: yours for $5 billion. While we're sure the bulldozers won't be coming in anytime soon (the lawsuits alone are going to keep the neighborhood as is for years), we are counting on approximately 2 architectural competitions, 135 developer-requested housing schemes, 1 tasteful exhibition at the AIA Center For Architecture, several dozen symposia at New York University, one tasteful symposium at Columbia University, 580 posts on Curbed, and 23,820 comments on said posts.

And don't forget: there will be one large new shiny development, probably with no restored street grid (easier to keep in the 'luxury' ethos), definitely with some new buildings, and definitely priced as cutting edge-luxury. In short, New York will never be the same.

The housing complexes were the brainchild of Robert Moses, built in 1947 for returning WWII veterans, and served as a model of public housing throughout the city. The idea: get the insurance companies and banks involved in slum clearance! The project is also entered into architectural history books as an example of housing projects that "worked".

One question we pose to our readers: will the developper make a quick return on this? The New York luxe housing market has cooled in the last year, and with all the new luxury apartments still coming to market, I wonder if this is the kind of investment that looks good in 2006, but looks like a colossal mistake in 2007. We'll keep an eye on it.

High Line Construction Progress: Phase 1 Section 1 Completed


We usually don't like reposting press releases, but this one from the High Line is unusually detailed.

The first phase of construction, removal of debris and nonstructural concrete, has been completed for Section 1, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street. This phase included removal and storage of all the original rail tracks, which were tagged and mapped so that some can be integrated into the design of the new High Line landscape.

The contract for the next phase of construction has been awarded, through a public bidding process, and work is set to begin in September. The scope of work for this phase will include lead paint abatement, repainting of the structure, concrete and steel repair, and the installation of drainage systems and pigeon deterrents on the underside of the High Line. During the lead paint abatement process, the construction team will use a mobile containment structure to protect surrounding areas while sandblasting.

This phase of construction is expected to continue into summer 2007, after which the next phase, construction of access points and the public landscape atop the structure, will begin. The first section of the High Line is scheduled to open in 2008.

Richard Meier's First House: Pictures!


The owner of Richard Meier's first house has kindly sent us pictures of the house in its current state, as well as notes on their pending restoration:

The original Meier house was largely a glass rectangle,the bottom half of the pictured house.There were four indented corners of the house, front and back. The porch indentation in the current photo is the only remaining original design. The center portion of the rectangle (oceanfront) was not windowed, but a walled internal utility area (showers/tubs washing machines ). Definitely a waste of prime real estate.

In a 1960's picture( Vanity Fair 2005), Mel Brooks is seen writing "The Producers" on one of these porches.

The expand their space, the Brooks eliminated three porches by popping the outer walls to the eaves. In this way they converted the design to a four bedroom house. The upstairs was their large balconied bedroom. They adding a pitched roof and shingle siding.It is apparent that Richard Meier did not participate in this decision. The current owners are restoring vertical siding to the structure while trying to maximize the extraordinary siting and unique vistas envisioned by Meier. The comment about Anne not having it both ways, "Meier and shingles" is relevant to the design issues.

Click Continue Reading for a second photograph.

Dear Owner: Tropolism thanks you. You have made our summer.

Richard Meier's First House: The Owner Writes

Amongst a busy week here at Tropolism, a reader, who happens to own Richard Meier's first building, writes us some notes on the structure:

My husband and I own Richard Meier's first house that he built in Lonelyville,Fire Island. It was named the Lambert house after Saul Lambert, an illustrator. The house was owned for 40 years by Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. We were friends with them and knew the house well as our sons grew up with their son on Fire Island. The original design (1962) was a prefabricated two bedroom house built in two weeks by six workmen. There are pictures of the house and floor plans in Richard Meier's newest biography. The Brooks added a second floor and shingled siding and turned the house into a four bedroom structure.

As a friend said to me upon reading this: "I hate to speak ill of the dead, but Anne Bancroft can't have it both ways, a Richard Meier AND a shingle style...". This is the world we live in, people.

Would anyone care to send us pictures from said book?

LMDC Closing Its Doors


It's not every day we see a public agency declare its mission accomplished. Of course, in this day and age, we declare mission accomplished after the first bombs have been dropped, but no sooner, and so it should probably come as no suprise that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has declared they have done what they said they would do.

By some measures, they have many accomplishments. The organization spearheaded the WTC Memorial competition, the WTC "Master Plan", the Fulton Street Corridor Master Plan (a great idea, connecting Lower Manhattan's coasts with a revitalized Fulton Street), several other parks, and allocation of a couple of billion of dollars in grants.

There are many pieces of unfinished business, and while we could list them, we also recognize that the LMDC has been toothless for a long time; and from the beginning unable to powerfully influence the actual building of anything downtown. We're still looking for that leadership; this announcement simply makes it painfully clear that there's still a vacuum at Ground Zero.

Eyes On The Street Totally Not Looking At The Right Stuff


Lisa at Polis is probably the only sharp-eyed eye on the street in the East Village, because the folks in the all-glass, all-undulating (allundulating?) Sculpture for Living totally missed someone spray painting the newly restored Astor Place cube. At least when the losers with drugs put graffiti on the cube, it was with chalk.

This is not a wholesale disregard for street art and graffiti. In fact, we adore graffiti. Just not on nice sculptures or good buildings.

Frank Gehry Adds To West Chelsea Skins


We seem to remember telling you how much we love lists. Another addition to the List Of Interesting Curtain Wall Experiments In West Chelsea, Manhattan, New York City is the InterActiveCorp building Frank Gehry designed for Barry Diller's company, between 18th and 19th Streets on the West Side Highway.

The building continues Gehry's technical innovations in panelized buildings where each panel has a unique shape. However the building carries the innovation to a level that surpasses even the American Center in Paris, where each block of limestone carried a unique curvature, or to an extent the curved brick at Case Western. The IAC building's panels are curved glass curtain wall units; has he done this before?

Click Continue Reading for more observations and a picture show...



Over the holiday a friend pointed us to the interesting StreetsBlog, a production of the Open Planning Project (itself a great locus of open-planning processes and public effect via the internet).

Our favorite entry so far: a piece on the Defeat of the Mt. Hood Freeway, a proposed freeway in Portland, Oregon, planned by NYC's very own Robert Moses.

BLUE: So Totally Ouch


Our coverage of The Case Study In Average continues: BLUE has been photoblogged by Test Of Will. One word: ouch. Or thud, take your pick. Tropolism means taking your pick.

Curbed rounds out the morning by linking to the rest of the current talk.

Pod Living, The Old School


In Manhattan's overheated and soon-to-be-totally-over celebrity real estate moment, apparently all that is required to sell some apartments is the inclusion of a few pieces of unique furniture in the renderings. Greg Allen writes a brilliant comparison of old skool pod living and the overhyped and underdesigned Jade by Jagger. Nuf said.

Freedom Tower 3.1, Beta


David Childs announced a Freedom Tower "update" today. The update: a few new renderings, and a material choice for the exterior: prismatic glass covering the concrete bunker that is really surrounding the "Freedom" Tower's base. Glass covering concrete, transparency disguising bombproof, will the irony never cease? We here at Tropolism classify this as "no news is good news". We think.

The part of the design that seems to be unremarked upon, but is in the forefront of all the renderings, is the hideous public plaza on the exterior. First of all, the entry to the tower appears to be a couple dozen steps above the sidewalk on West Street. What are those bleacher-like concrete jersey barriers rammed up against the pretty glass prism camouflage? Will security really let you sit there? The one think that I think would be obviously improved upon over the World Trade Center's design would be the end of bland, stepped, program-free plazas.

Continue reading my captions for the released renderings after the jump...

Chelsea Arts Tower Gets Black Metal-like Skin


Continuing Tropolism's theme of Towers in West Chelsea With Interesting Skin Systems, the Chelsea Arts Tower is finally getting its non-glass cladding: a gorgeous black panel system, with what appears to be a variation of gloss finishes, creating a subtle texture to the side of the building. While we were holding out for a brutalist all-concrete finish, we're happy to see something just as severe: Black Monolith. More pictures to come as work progresses.

Closeup pictures after the jump.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that the skin is plastic, is "metallic looking", and made by Trespa. Which product? Anyone who knows, just email us. West Chelsea: land of new cladding systems.



MoMA has named Barry Bergdoll the next Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design. Mr. Bergdoll will take his post January 1, 2007; until then, Paola Antonelli will continue as interim curator.

The speculation about who would succeed Terrence Riley had us preemptively dejected about this position. However, this choice puts us squarely in the "interested" column, because it brings some weight and academic rigor back into the crazy dialogue of New York's architecture world. We had Mr. Bergdoll as an instructor in Architectural History I about ten years ago. He was the only professor who wasn't from Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation: he was from the Art History department. As such, his historical constructions were based on things that actually happened, not current theoretical speculation. Yet his views were always refreshing, particularly when applied to subjects I was just being introduced to. We're happy to see him elevated to a prestigious position. We hope MoMA can handle it.

Alerted by The Architect's Newspaper.

WTC Memorial Design Revision: Cheapskates


Construction Engineer Frank Sciame announced the value engineered World Trade Center Memorial today. It all sounds so reasonable: it's only $510 million! The sound of the waterfalls will totally make up for victim's names being next to the West Side Highway! The mayor and governor agree on it!

In its typical copy-paste-the-press-release fashion, the New York Times then casually mentions that $510 million doesn't include the $178 million in Port Authority site infrastructure that was taking the project over $1 billion in the first place. The project actually costs $700 million. And the waterfalls, from below, without their parapets, look like a visit to Sea World, minus aquatic life. All to save $300 million dollars (half of which was Port Authority infrastructure anyway). So the memorial was pared down by $162 million dollars. I know that's a lot of money, but it seems like peanuts given the project went from thrilling to tame.

Lame new renderings, side-by-side with interesting earlier renderings, are available at the LMDC website.

Moving Madison Square Garden


While we still have concerns about how, exactly, a stadium is going to sit upon and be accessed through a former post office and future rail station, we were shocked to discover in today's Times that the current plan for Moynihan Station will only take care of 20% of the current riders flowing through Penn Station. The idea of accessing Moynihan Station through the center of the block current occupied by Madison Square Garden is also intriguing. But we're still left with the question: MSG killed one McKim, Mead, and White building; is it going to squish a second one?

BLUE: Not Really Last Anymore


It's been a frightfully long time since we here at Tropolismo! have looked at The Two Dozen List. The same List that put BLUE, Bernard Tschumi's, er, blue curtain wall building on the Lower East Side, dead last. Even below Sculpture for Living and whatever Lindy Roy was working on. That's really last.

However, we are always willing to change our minds, and be pleasantly suprised. In this case, Curbed's fascination with floorplan porn tipped us to some interior renderings of the pixellated space. And behold, what do we see? A generic apartment with so many windows there's no place to hang any art. And an annoying slanted wall. While it's not really exciting, it's not quite as crap-ass as place #24 would seem to suggest, given that the two previous mentions are on that list. So, we're moving BLUE up, to place #20. Gwathmey gets pushed to #23, Lindy #24.

Look for a full Two-Dozen list update next week. In the meantime, send suggestions for additions (I already have a place for Herzog & De Meuron's project), and any construction photos you think would be helpful.

Sciame: Engineer?


As licensed professionals ourselves, we feel compelled to point out that despite what the Downtown Express may say, our fact-checker, who is in from his long coffee break this afternoon, looked up Frank Sciame on New York State's Online Verification of licensed professional, and there is no one with the last name "Sciame" licensed as an engineer in New York State. But perhaps the profession "construction engineer", as quoted from the above-referenced article, does not require a license for someone to legally practice it?

But then again, with no license, how does one get professional liability insurance?

Thanks to Curbed for pointing us to the error-ridden article.

All The Right Moves At Lincoln Center


Tropolism readers might remember our less than enthusiastic reception to the facelift of Julliard school by Diller Scofidio+Renfro. Interesting, but kind of whacked off the face of our third favorite building in New York.

The firm seems to have chilled out a bit, probably after having to face the realities of a stodgy donor pool, as today's New York Times article about the Lincoln Center Promenade Project seems to suggest. What's beautiful about their tenacity, of course, is that it seems to be directed at the crapass bombastic parts of Lincoln Center (such as the Jersey barriers at the top of the travertine stairs after 11 lanes of traffic), and not the bling-bling bombastic parts (the crazy fountain). They've set out preserving the character of Lincoln Center, without being afraid to alter it. Does this mean they won't whack off part of Julliard now?

WTC Memorial's Price Chopper


Miss Representation calls it like it is, mostly, about the choice to let a contractor lead the value engineering (read: redesign) team for the World Trade Center Memorial. It needs little comment.

Zaha/Diva: Reprise


Our Zaha/Diva entry got several replies. Most of them were speculation, or unsupported hearsay, so we decline to publish those comments. However, we do point out an anecdote that we suppose someone else saw at the press conference prior to the press preview of the Guggenheim show.

Liberty Park: Thriller In The Dark

060602 030.jpg

File under "Light-up Parks In Lower Manhattan": A Test Of Will turns it out with a spread of night-shots of the new Liberty Park. Thriller set, indeed. We'll be dancing down there soon. Even though it is weirdly called "Zucotti Park".

Via Curbed, the best architecture weblog NYC has to offer.



Does Zaha Hadid ever get tired of being called a Diva? As in "just because I'm a famous female architect and I'm plus sized and I'm a little older than the rest doesn't automatically make me a diva"? Just curious.

WTC Memorial Foundation Leader Quits


Last Friday, hours before the end of business on Memorial Day weekend, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation president and chief executive, Gretchen Dykstra, resigned. We totally didn't see that one coming, particularly after every public official in the state gave the Foundation such a hiding over the cost estimate that had "reached" one billion dollars.

Mayor Bloomberg, in an unusual display of horses gone, close barn door activity, said that "I don't know that her leaving is going to solve any problems. Quite the contrary, it just makes it more complex because you don't have her." Thanks Mayor, that totally helped. Why don't you do what all great New York mayors do: put a contractor in charge. Just appoint Frank Sciame of Sciame Construction to head the Foundation? Will totally streamline the process.

Thursday Is New York City As Sculpture Day


(photo via Curbed, by plemeljr)

Today, Thursday is New York City As Sculpture Day. I missed the memo:

1. Miss Representation comes back from a quiet spell to chat about the progress at Ground Zero. And to comment on 7WTC, which we like too. And to give us this golden, priceless bit of blogging: "Every once in a while I want to feel the strange mixture of dystopian social evolution and sexual awakening that was Logan’s Run, and now I have a place to go (though, unfortunately, Jenny Argutter won’t turn up in a pelt)."

2. Lisa at Polis gives us a bit of irony, and seredipity, worthy of a great Situationist.

3. Greg Allen remixed Curbed today to create, what else, a meta sculpture about a sculpture and something people mistook as sculpture.

"Throwing Good Money After Arad"


Greg Allen is on a roll this week. Commentary on the article about Michael Arad and the WTC Memorial fiasco, as appearing in something called "New York Magazine".

Our favorite line: "that Organ Grinder's Monkey For Freedom himself, Daniel Libeskind"

Joshua Prince-Ramus Leaving OMA


We are admitted fans of Joshua Prince-Ramus. So it is with interest that we read about his taking the entire New York City OMA office and turning it, shazaam!, into Ramus Ella Architects, or REX. (Architects' current naming philosophy: when in doubt, create a new acronym?)

The New York Times does an even more half-assed job in reporting than usual. The glow of being admitted into Rem Koolhaas' presence is all over the article, making it painfully obvious it is all orchestrated. Robin Pogrebin asks us the tough questions ("Can such partings be entirely amicable? Can a protégé ever really leave with his mentor's blessing? How do a senior and junior architect manage the division of clients?") but don't go looking to the article for answers from OMA/REX. The big unanswered question: why isn't OMA suing the living daylights out of REX for taking their clients?

See for more on this.

Talking About Gehry's Brooklyn


While we were skeptical at first about the proposed Ratner Development in Brooklyn, designed by Frank Gehry (the initial models were just not helpful), the second round of images is much more interesting to us. The buildings are huge, but have interesting skins and massing. The streetscape is developed, and super-retail'd, but could work. The view down Flatbush Avenue is striking, but hardly out of character. If one must develop lots of blocks at the same time in an American city, this is a solution that holds promise. Of course, there are a hundred questions to be answered (is the brick going to be as dull as Battery Park City's over-bricked guidelines?), but at least it's a place to begin. Just to be clear, we see "Develop, Don't Destroy" as reactionary thinking, not a place to begin

Do You Want Some Coffee?, center of all architecture lectures everywhere, posts about tomorrow's discussion called "Garden, Don't Destroy Brooklyn" [editor's note: whatev], 9am—6pm, at 205 Berkeley Place (Between 7th and 8th Avenue, Park Slope). We also point you to Curbed's non-stop coverage of this development.

WTC Survivor Stairway: Endangered?


Okay. Tropolism will not be all-WTC, all-the-time. But some interesting stuff has been happening lately. Today, we learn that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has put the "Survivors Stairway" on its list of most endangered historical places.

As Ground Zero gets caught up in the Mayor/Governors/Port Authority/Silverstein/Families cagefight, stuff is happening down there. Crews are working anyway. An artifact like this could easily be swept away; it would take a couple of guys, a Bobcat, a six pack, and one Sicilian pie to get the job done in an afternoon. And, if the stair is a historical place, it would be all too easy to have it taken away without some kind of consideration. We're happy to see the Trust step into this; we're not sure there is anyone else looking out for the artifacts.

WTC Memorial Estimate: Fishy Business


The New York Times reports that the new estimate for the WTC Memorial is now nearly one billion dollars. What a big surprise! I'm sure some of the complaining architecture sites out there already are calling it an exposé and Phillip Noble has his next Metropolis complaint complete.

Aside from some obvious political bumbling by the Foundation's leaders (they got an estimate for $494 million at one point, and have only raised $130 million toward its construction), it appears that the governor and mayor are simply using the revised estimate as a way to get the project out of the Foundation's hands and into their own. In short, fishy business. The clue, buried on page 3:

The ensuing debate over costs and potential design changes may also raise once again the possibility that the Port Authority would take over construction of the memorial from the foundation. Last fall, both Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg seemed to endorse the idea. State officials in the last week have expressed a lack of confidence in the foundation’s ability to build the memorial complex.

Also of interest is the items included in this new estimate. $300 million for site preparation, $71 million for a chiller plant, and $25 million for insurance (why is an operating expense in here?). Essentially, Bovis Lend Lease added everything and the kitchen sink in an effort to create a headline of "OMG WTC MEM AT $1B" for the Post, probably at the wink-nod of the governor. But the items enumerated are arguably things the state should provide to the foundation: a buildable site, heating and cooling infrastructure, etc. It isn't a commercial tenant trying to develop valuable real estate in Lower Manhattan. It's a memorial, something that should be the focal point for our healing. Apparently it's also another field for playing power-ball.

Olafur Eliasson at Tanya Bonakdar

Your negotiable panorama 1.jpg

In case you missed last Friday's opening, Olafur Eliasson is the inaugural installation at Tanya Bonakdar's expanded gallery on 21st Street, Chelsea, Manhattan, New York. The show is stunning, even by OE standards. My favorite piece is the compass piece. To describe any more would kill it.

For some interesting observations on Olafur's work, and Olafur as an author, read Greg Allen's What He Really Wants To Do Is Not Direct.

A Few More Words On Jane Jacobs


We here at Tropolism believe in being very clear, so we'd like to say a little more about our admiration of Jane Jacobs, just so others don't get the wrong idea.

In her time, in her context, we have unqualified admiration for her work. She was able to mobilize people to get involved in choices about urban development. She created a public appetite for good city planning. She wrote a book that captured the city in the way the urban theories of the time did not, and created an appetite for living in the city.

But a regular reader of Tropolism will know that we do not believe Death and Life is a guidebook by which New York, or any other city, should be beholden. We see it as a piece of a constellation of ideas. In fact, our one and only mention of Baby Jane up to her death was in the context of a radical interpretation of her ideas, that diversity in our cities goes way beyond far West Village townhouses. We also recognize that the problem of where to put a rapidly growing population are never really satisfied by this small-scale approach, either. We love density, brutalism, tree-lined streets, art deco, Memphis style, Modern Style, Any Style and everything else inbetween. And we still don't like the Sculpture for Living.

And so we found ourselves agreeing with Mr. Ouroussoff about how New York has outgrown JJ, both in physical size, size of population, and in the complexity of problems we face. We don't see Lincoln Center or the old WTC plaza as the best possible examples of a new kind of super-diversity, but that's the shortcoming of Mr. O. We prefer to think of glass towers by starchitects with only 24 units as an example of this, because it signals a culture with the ability to blur public and private boundaries, a culture that loves density in all its forms.

Landing Lights Park, Borough of Queens


I found this one in the Paper version of WIRED Magazine. The Borough of Queens is looking to redevelop Landing Lights Park, a half mile strip of land adjacent to LaGuardia Airport. Side stepping a more traditional approach, the Borough decided to import the park in the Second Life; the online community, and asked the residents to redesign it. The elements whether it be benches, swings, jogging paths will then be implemented into the physical park. What ever the result, this is a great experiment in how we can use technology to open public space decision making to more people.

Do Tanks,Democracy Island is the group, and place, organizing this and several other "County Fair" type meetings online in Second Life. Democracy Island takes on a kind of Science Fair format where presenters can set up booths and hold meetings. participants can then moved from one meeting or booth the the next.

Contributed by Colin Peeples.

Jane Jacobs Gathering

In rememberance of Jane Jacobs, Lisa at Polis proposes a gathering at 555 Hudson Street in the West Village between Perry and W. 11th, where she lived and created The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Drop Lisa a line if you're interested.

Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006


Jane Jacobs died this morning in Toronto.

Tropolism has mentioned her only once, but in one of our favorite entries. So much has been written about her, it seemed hardly necessary to mention her hovering over everything we do. Yet it goes without saying that a movement like Tropolismo would not have been possible without her brilliant contribution of intellectualism and urban activism. She not only changed the course of New York City's development, she inspired us to love urban life.

Where To Put More New York


Robert Yaro, produces a lovely piece on what New York might do to add the million to million and a half new New Yorkers expected over the next twenty-five years. Because many parts of New York CIty are already at capacity, or over capacity, he looks for what other cities have done to grow in a way that creates a livable city. Intriguing are suggestions on what places like Chicago have done (although he should be shot for using "regional visioning process" in a sentence). It reads like an internal email at City Planning, but it probably qualifies as the most useful internal email for 2006.

From the Gotham Gazette.

Ground Zero Deal Proposed


We like to stay away from Ground Zero news, because it's just really depressing. 7WTC, we like. News, no. What a complicated city we live in. Who would have thought that a terrorist attack would result in a decade of bickering over who may redevelop what was left over? They finished the Pentagon already, yo.

However, this appears to be some form of breakthrough: the mayor, the governor, the other governor, and everyone else who can be involved has proposed a financial plan that would give Larry Silverstein, who has a bit part in the next Halle Barry movie, the right to build three buildings, while ceding the Freedom Tower and one other to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Read all about it in the New York Times.

High Line Groundbreaking


We attended the High Line groundbreaking today. Unfortunately for our readers, our invitation was only for the proletariat groundbreaking on the ground. The real groundbreaking, with Senators and our Mayor, you'll have to read about at Curbed.

After the jump, check out the junior high band, the tent with food, the muddy hay everywhere (totally not getting that part) and the green hard hats of people who were, you know, actually on the High Line. Special add-on bonus picture of the new Gehry building.

Tropolism Buildings: 7WTC


The main reason for my attendance at the awards ceremony for the MASterwork award for 55 Water Street was to, of course, see 7WTC. No, it wasn't to hear Larry Silverstein sell us on the latest Halle Barry movie. And so my little photo tour follows. The building contains lots of well-crafted details. Also, the building's empty floorplates are evocative of a future New York: floor-to-ceiling glass, wraparound skylines, and a sense of solitude. Being in such a large commercial structure, pristine yet devoid of any occupation, was quieting.

Click the continue reading link to see the photo tour.

Shakespeare Brings Out The Stars


Leave it to the ever-brilliant Choire Sicha to collapse Tropolism's categories in a single article. New York, Celebutantes, Public Effect, Theaters, and Writing Architecture. All we need is a location: Governor's Island. Mr. Sicha does a fascinating comparison of the roles celebrities (real celebrities, not architect celebrities) are playing in cutting-edge public space projects (High Line and Globe Theater on Governor's Island) in New York City. In an era when singularities like Robert Moses are long gone, and the Governor of the State or the Mayor of the City cannot get a single building built at Ground Zero, we appear to be left with one political/architectural force: movie stars!

55 Water Street: MASterwork


The park at 55 Water Street, designed by Rogers Marvel Architects and Ken Smith Workshop, will receive a MASterwork award from The Municipal Arts Society of New York Tuesday, April 4, at 7 WTC (also receiving an award). The event is limited to people who worked on the projects, so yours truly will be admitted as a designer. But yo, I'm totally there for reporting to Tropolism. If you'd like to see a particular picture of 7WTC, do drop us a line.

High Line Groundbreaking: RSVP


In case you missed the press release, the Friends of the High Line are having a reservations-only groundbreaking on Monday, April 10, 2006, from 12:00 noon - 1:30 PM. Light refreshments will be available at Little West 12th Street between 9th Avenue & Washington Street. And, my favorite caviat from the release "Rain or shine." These are my people.

RSVP to or (212) 206-9922.

2 Columbus Circle Has A Tenant


You are not going to believe this, but 2 Columbus Circle, the much-argued-about renovation (or preservation! depending on who you ask) project designed by Allied Works, is happening because there is a tenant who bought the building and needs the space! We were stunned. But it appears in the New York Times yesterday (sorry, two drawing sets due this week) and includes a rendering of the lobby.

About that. After creating such a lovely exterior, we are wondering which intern or rendering staff person created the generic furniture, ceiling, and off-the-shelf glass doors for this project?

Special add-on bonus: Curbed links to the hilariously killed ShameCam. Robert AM Stern's new art deco building gets in the way. See? Contextualism always wins.



Our friends at LVHRD are hosting Architect Duel II. This time around it is Arquitectonica versus Grzywinski Pons Architects. While our experience shows us that sometimes inspired moments in architectural design come late in the design process, after months or years of thinking and sketching, we're delighted to see two architects design head-to-head in a public forum, opening up the process to the public and demystifying what it is that architects are actually trained to do. Let the games begin.

Madison Square Garden: Episode VI


Sorry, we skipped an episode of the Madison Square Garden Relocation series. We left you at Episode IV. For those of you that missed it, Episode V included a memorandum of understanding being signed by Cablevision (owner of MSG), and Vornado and Related, all but sealing the deal to move the Garden to be part of the former Post Office but soon-to-be 21st Century rail hub. The lights dimmed as everyone cackled.

This week's installment includes a heady dénoument: the memorandum was NONBINDING. And so there are now two to five celebrity architects involved, two real estate companies, one stadium-owning company, and probably about a dozen state and federal government agencys who will duke it out to see what gets built and who will design it.

Tipped off by the even more annoyed Curbed. One thing we aren't annoyed about: even though we still aren't convinced of the MSG as part of the rail station idea (does anyone else have a big HUH? around this), we would love to see them tear down the existing MSG. We've totally gotten thrilled about that part.

The Pleasures of West 28th Street, NO MORE


Sad news, one of our favorite places in Manhattan (and inspiration for Your Hidden City will soon be no more: The Flower District, AKA 28th Street between 7th and 6th Avenues, just got served eviction notices. En masse, apparently. MUG has the whole story.

What's truly sad is that the flower businesses haven't agreed on a new location. So the integrity of the group is imperiled, and we may not have a new flower district to look forward to.

[update bonus: sounds like there was a lot of conversation about the flower market businesses moving to Bronx Terminal Market. Can anyone confirm this? Send us a note, svp.]

Tropolism Buildings: Stephen Gaynor School and The Ballet Hispanico


Rogers Marvel Architects has been hard at work on their first building. Lucky for us, no one has seen it. Lucky for me, I used to work there (though never on this project), and Rob Rogers was generous enough to give me a sneak peek. Read the whole article, complete with luscious photos, after the jump...

Tropolism Books: LIC In Context


Title: LIC In Context: An Unorthodox Guide to Long Island City

Author: Paul Parkhill and Katherine Gray

Publication Date: 2005

Publisher: Furnace Press, Brooklyn, New York

ISBN: 0-9772742-0-9

Continuing with our month-long theme of Your Hidden City, we came across LIC In Context: An Unorthodox Guide to Long Island City. The book is a collaborative project of Place In History, an organization devoted to a deeper understanding of the city, so as to effect better urban design. The book is one of the infinite possible mappings of New York City, in this case with the sometimes-beloved but rarely cozy 'hood called Long Island City, in Queens.

LIC includes a short forward by Paul Parkhill explaining how the project is intent on "evoking what is compelling and unusual about the neighborhood." He explains that the book is not an encyclopedia about Long Island City; in fact, the impossibility of such a project is implied. Some of the buildings and places catalogued have been demolished or never built. Some, like the Terra Cotta Building, are facing radical and immanent changes. Also of interest is the collection of information from people's memories. Because industrial areas tend to be a little light on historiographers, this seems as suitable a method as poring over maps in the New York Public Library's Map Room for collecting vital information about what was there, and why what is there is there.

The introduction to the book is a four-page essay telling a brief history of Long Island City. The essay focuses almost entirely on the 19th century, with everything after 1930 being wrapped up in the last two paragraphs. The introduction betrays a bias: that the actual neighborhood documentation speaks for itself, and so recent history can be reduced to a few notations in the larger essay. The rest of the book is devoted to expanding these notations: 54 sites are brought to our inspection, with notes, photographs, illustrations, and sketchbook drawings. They are a wonderful walking tour of this sprawling neighborhood, without all the long distances or tiresome walking. They are also a valuable snapshot of LIC before its denoument as another center of residential and commercial density in New York.

Madison Square Garden: Episode IV


One of the admirable qualities of New Yorkers is that they aren't afraid to look outlandish, ambitious, aggressive, or foolish to get ahead. Unfortunately, this is sometimes played out at such a large scale, with such poor taste and timing, that only the leaders don't get the irony. A great example of this is the chilling and---how shall we put this?--totally unnacceptable conversation about moving Madison Square Garden to a portion of the McKim, Mead, and White building they didn't wipe out the first time around. We don't get how they will preserve the integrity of a post office building with a stadium. Don't. Lockhart over at Curbed (our favorite architecture blogger) calls this better than we will.

When we calm down, we will undoubtedly be tempted by the exciting idea that the existing crapfest MSG, a horrible urban object I must endure on a daily basis, will be demolished. And, the possibility that the players involved in the new Moynihan station will force the MSG folks to play nice. Real nice.

High Line Progress: Construction Begins


Contractors will be erecting protective scaffolding on Section 1 of the High Line, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street this month. No date is given. This, from the Friends of The High Line press release, for the twenty seven people who didn't receive it:

Following these preparations, construction of Section 1 will include two separate scopes of work: site preparation (2006-2007), followed by construction of the access systems and public landscape (2007-2008). Site preparation will include removal and storage of railroad tracks; removal of gravel ballast; steel and concrete repair; abatement and painting of steel; repairs to the drainage system; and pigeon mitigation.

My assistant was reading between the lines and noted that FOHL reminds everyone to take their pictures by February 15th. He thinks that this means scaffolding goes up around then. Send pictures our way, and Tropolism will post them.

Architecture That Defies Death


Much like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the artist-itect couple Arakawa and Madelaine Gins never seem to fade away. They just build bigger and more outrageous projects. This we can respect.

Brand Avenue points us to an interesting article in the Japan Times interviewing Arakawa about a crazy gerbil-city of apartments he designed in Tokyo. He and his partner's work is obsessed with architecture that "defies death", in the sense of defying expectations, therefore bringing back to life original, direct sensory perception. In this case, it means hanging all your clothes from hooks on the ceiling (accessible by non-moveable ladder), light switches at your ankles, and bright colors. It really opens the place up, don't you think?

Their website has more hidden gems, including the weird-yet-in-East-Hampton Bioscleave House, and the weird-yet-great-website park called Site of Reversible Destiny (pictured above). The latter seems like a more suitable ground for this kind of exploration. It's like a jungle gym for adults. The living spaces, while interesting exercises, seem to dominate the inhabitants with the artist's idea of what constitutes living. Tropolism means taking pleasure in Habit.

SANAA Scores


Mr. Ourousoff's review of the design for the New Museum of Contemporary Art, by SANAA, appears today in the New York Times. Unlike his previous love letters (to Zaha, for example), he is back to his articulate and fact-supporting self, without giving up his enthusiasm for the possibility the building presents.

When I was directing the competition for Eyebeam for my former office, we discussed at length how a building can be a laboratory for art, something that creates, educates, and exhibits artwork, reflecting the volatile world of contemporary art (and in Eyebeam's case, 'new media art'). Buildings like PS1 were a great inspiration: build a structure that is not sacred. I share Mr. Ourousoff's enthusiasm for this building, and the future it can live up to.

Wood Clad Frenzy In San Francisco


Despite the complaining we read on other websites, we here at Tropolism say "Tropolism means imitation is the highest form of flattery." In this case it is both the entry we are linking to and the content of that entry (sorry to go meta on you). The entry: our entry about a new Manhattan residential building clad in wood has inspired Treough Blog to tell us about a San Francisco residential building clad in wood, too! The building: while it's difficult to see the two as inspiring each other, since they were probably designed around the same time to zero publicity, we are unable to refrain commenting on the West Coast entry. The comment: read what Treough wrote.

Fashion Exhibitions Duet


New York is home to not one but two fashion shows that are not at the Costume Institute at The Met. Special Correspondant Barrett Feldman gives us her take:

"I went to two thoughtfully curated shows on Fashion: The Fashion of Architecture: Constructing The Architecture of Fashion at the Center for Architecture and Fashion in Colors at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. It was interesting to go to both fashion shows back to back. The show at the Center for Architecture had a few pieces by Lucy Orta's which challenges us to rethink the boundary between body and city. The show uptown at the Cooper Hewitt was categorized primarily according to color, such that each room had designs from the 1820s to 2005. I learned that in the 1700s red pigment was made from beetle juice and tumeric! The clothing in both shows had a level of complexity in which each stitch, pleat and hem worked not only to clad the body but to create an exterior layer which is well-crafted, surprising, and the interface layer with the world. It reminded me that architecture emerges as much from its relationship to the body as it does from its relationship to site."

What My Dog Saw On His Walk This Morning, 19th Street Edition


Wrapping up our Curbed-inspired "Chelsea Condo Fridays" theme today, we bring you pictures of the startlingly lovely Chelsea House under construction on 19th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues (please note typo in the title of their webpage). Designed by GKV Architects, the same architects who did the elegant, neo-bushhammered concrete Luminaria, located somewhere east of 5th Avenue.

Chelsea House caught my puppy's attention because of the cast-in-place textured columns, as well as the Borromini-oratorio-esque divot in the center of the building, giving what would otherwise be a Late International Style frame a Late Brutalist touch, by adding a bit of spatial relief to the face of the building. After the jump, more pictures, including the wonderful corner detail, worthy of a Mies student doing Corb: simple. Tropolism means gorgeous, well-detailed background buildings.

What My Dog Saw On His Walk This Morning, 21st Street Edition

One of the two huge construction cranes on 21st Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, has been busy since yesterday with steel erection for the penthouses at the O'Neill Building (warning: annoying flash intro with music). No gold-leafed onion domes yet, but as I walk my dog each morning, I'll be sure to take pictures of relevant updates.

One of the things I really like about this conversion is the color they have painted the O'Neill Building. And, all the back apartments face the old cemetery, which you cannot see in my photograph because it's behind the massive red crane.

That's not all my puppy saw this morning. More on this.

NY Times Trifecta: Future, Present, Past


Newspapers are such wonderful organizations. They are like huge mechanical writing machines, that create sets of articles with unintended synchronicities. Take, for example, this week-end's fare, neatly summarized by the staff here at Tropolism as Future, Present, Past:

(click continue reading for more)

Center for Urban Pedagogy


With a name destined for ridicule, the Center for Urban Pedagogy could have been a one-exhibition wonder. But no. They are Involved. The are Policital. And, most of all, they are Productive. No complaining, only solutions. This, we can respect.

Folksongs For The Fivepoints


Continuing our theme of ways people map the city, we discovered, through BoingBoing, the Folksongs for the Fivepoints project. You can remix the sample sounds of the Lower East Side and create your own folk song. A glorious noise.

Manhattan Tower Clad In Wood

residentialwood1.jpg I've been looking forward to writing about this building. The sidewalk protection went down a week or so ago, making close-up pictures possible.

The tower is on Tenth Avenue at 24th Street. What has caught my eye, since they clad it, is its warm, copper-colored hue. It almost appears to be wood. Upon closer inspection, it is wood! Finally, someone in the USA used one of those European exterior-grade plywood panel systems I've been looking at for years.

More pictures after the jump...

The AIA NY No Longer Blows


Hell. Also known as a full day of continuing education credits.

Props to the AIA for a great Center for Architecture and offering two days of continuing ed credits, for those of us who got zero over the year. Unfortunately, the presenter from the light-gauge steel framing company had a laptop that couldn't get the aspect ratio correct, wasting about 200 man-hours of licensed New York Architect's time. Just add it to Microsoft's 2035 Information Crimes Trial list of charges.

Choosing not to look at a vendor's XP laptop in high-resolution projection, I instead strolled around looking at the exhibition for NYC AIA's 2005 awards. New York has a lot of gorgeous projects, interiors, and buildings to be very proud of. Many of them have appeared on these pages. Some have not. Some will

The second thing I did was survey my fellow classmates. First impression: I see white people! Mostly guys in their 50s. A healthy mix of women, but no more than 25%. Minorities, mostly of asian descent, composed about 10% of the room.

The quality of the curation is wonderful. Budget, but with a superb graphic sensibility.

Banlieue: Gowanas Canal Edition


The crack reporting staff at Curbed (which is our favorite architecture site, yo) uncovered this nugget about the next Banlieue, here in our own back yard. Or, to be precise, the former sewage canal in the woods behind our backyard.

Apparently, the architect, Mr. Enrique Norton's studio, was so inspired by their trip to the crowded mess around Shinjuku Station, complete with trees precariously wedged between roadway and side of building, meaningless lawns, and gray surfaces of indeterminate material everywhere, that they chose to design an entire development to look like it. Unfortunately for the Gowanas Canal, there is nothing like the 3.22 million people per day going through this station, so be ready to have all those glass street-level patios turned into lifeless and locked surfaces. AKA: Battery Park City for the 00's.

Olafur Eliasson and Peter Zumthor, In Conversation


I'm sure many of you knew about the dialogue between Peter Zumthor and Olafur Eliasson last Monday. And, given your hectic holiday party schedule, you knew about it and missed it anyway. Like us.

Fear not, Tropolism Special Correspondant Saharat Surattanont was there to capture the goods. His copious notes, after the jump. It promised to be a lively exchange, given Olafur's massive and gorgous reworking of Zumthor's Kunsthaus Bregenz in 2001. According to Sah, it was, except not in the synergetic way we all thought. Olafur apparently lumped Zumthor in to the category every other architect is in (including me, yo), that is, someone who mediates reality. And Olafur wants to undo that. Read on...

Breaking: High Line Railbanked, Construction Begins 2006


The High Line has been donated by CSX to New York, clearing the way for construction to begin in 2006, and the first sections to be open in 2008. Click here for the breaking Press Release.

More Pretty Pictures


Speaking of pretty pictures, the building we starting loving in our first week blogging (way back in April, yo) is beginning to receive some photo-love. After last month's distraction (picked up by other websites, yo), we are ready for some wicked-good reflection images.

Via ever-pretty Curbed.

Sculpture For Living: Still No Drapes


Our ever-diligent friend and resident interior designer Renee Turman has given us yet another picture of the Sculpture for Living in New York Magazine, this time from the November 7th issue. Her running commentary is too good to keep to myself:

"Wow. She's still naked. Still scared. And still got no drapes!"
And still got that horrible segmented-curve curtain wall.

Janette Kim Vocal


We've mentioned before how much we admire Janette Kim. Now's your chance to catch up on what she's up to: she has a show and a lecture at Barnard (it's above 23rd street). Her talk is November 28, 6.30, Barnard Hall room 304.

Julliard Gets The Knife


We've all known about Diller Scofidio+Renfro's Lincoln Center sliding and dicing for a while now. And the idea of cutting into our second favorite NYC building, Pietro Belluschi's gorgeously brutalist travertine wonder, The Julliard School, has presented the question of the limits of preservation. After all, we have an emotional attachment to a building that looks great, and functions like an iceberg in a public pool.

What this new puff piece from the NY Times gives up is what the plans are for the interior of Alice Tully Hall, our second-favorite concert space in New York. Of course, there are resin panels that light up. What else? While we will be a little sad to see the wood and bushhammered concerete interior get trashed, we are intrigued by a glowing wood concert hall. Yet another example of how a radical transformation of a historical building can make for a better city. Cough.

2 Columbus Circle Camera


2 Columbus Circle now has its own webcam. Except they're trying to create shame. Of course, I see it as a wonderfully useful tool to check the progress on a great renovation, so it just goes to show that public protest works both ways: to reinforce arguments on both sides. Here's a snippet of a hugely persuasive argument from the people-without-an-alternative-solution:

"Welcome to the 2 Columbus Circle SHAME CAM, a live webstream keeping a round-the-clock eye on this world-famous, imminently endangered building designed by Edward Durell Stone and completed in 1964."

Useless adjectives abound. This side of a run-on. No thought. Save it all!

Via Curbed.

So Totally Not The Switch Building

322 hicks front.jpg

For possible inclusion into the Two Dozen List of starchitect designed midrise residential buildings: 322 Hicks in Brooklyn. Smith-Miller+Hawkinson has given us an almost-Switch building. Check out the pictures on the Corcoran website. There are some lovely moments, and some developer kitchens. Tread carefully, and be prepared to avert your eyes.

Parsons Students Take Out Corporate Space


Parsons Students, true to form, have taken on the LMCC's Swing Space program with brilliant ease. The LMCC program is designed to use underutilized real estate in Lower Manhattan. It's gentrification with a built-in obselesence: the LMCC secures temporary space and they get someone to put art in it for a while. Hey, whatever works! In this case, the early 90s bank lobby at the Equitable Building has been brutally appropriated with a system of heavy conduit designed for flexibile exhibitions. It definitely has the hand of David Lewis of LTL behind it, and it's gorgeous anyway.

WTC Memorial Chat


Peter Walker, the landscape architect working with Michael Arad on the World Trade Center Memorial, will chat live with visitors to website next Tuesday, November 8th at 12pm EST.

Tipped off by the evergreen Pruned. We're with them: where's Arad?

Ground Zero Museum Workshop


While travelling toward a meeting last week, in a speeding cab, I glanced over to the building that houses Friends of The High Line. A new sign was up, for the Ground Zero Museum Workshop. It is a space devoted to a single photographer, Gary Marlon Suson, with unique access to Ground Zero: he was the Official Photographer at Ground Zero for the Uniformed Firefighters Association (FDNY). He became friendly with many of the people working down there, and his photographs reflect that.

With the master planning process at WTC 2.0 gone, perhaps it is time for us to create our own, makeshift memorials again, throughout the city.

Tropolism Voting: Foster Inspiration Winner


Tropolism's graphic editor was out for a bit, and so we're just now posting this. By a whopping 1 vote margin, my diligent readers have voted for the Louis Kahn tower, and not the obscure (but totally rockin!) MoMA sculpture from 1962. Please note that about one third of voters chose to send alternate sources of inspiration (a testament to the wealth of visual similarities in the artistic world) instead of choosing from our simplifications. Also note that because of our stringent rules of integrity around here, I was not allowed to cast a vote in favor of either scheme. But you already know what I think. Thanks for sharing!

Here's a secret: we're preparing another little competition. It will be a little more involved than just voting, however. But we cannot say more without violating our non-disclosure agreement.

Pretty Lights at 55 Water Street, Part 2


Jim Conti let us behind the Beacon (I so did not type that) a bit.

Click for many more pictures and the inside story...

Tropolism Voting: What Was Foster's Inspiration?


We love a good meme. We love a good rhyme. We also love a really good joke, of which there are so desperately few in my profession.

However, never let it be said that we don't know our Louis Kahn (om) back projects. (Actually: we don't care). I went to Washington University for architecture, you don't think that the first thing I learned was that Kahn competed (and lost) for a project there? A project that is not unlike the proto-metabolist aspirations you see above, before he saw Light As A Material (om).

And, the Kahn monograph is unfortunately so large it's difficult not to open it occasionally, if only to take the dust off the cover. Sometimes while dusting, it flops to the page showing his diagonally gridded structure. One of the difficulties of my profession (both as an architect and a writer) is having Kahn enthusiasts bring him up like no one else has ever heard of him. Lovely how this meme leads us into a witch hunt: Commies everywhere!

In my view, the tower wasn't visually as similar to Foster's building as the triangular grid in the sculpture I mentioned, so i don't see it as a precedent. Also, my experience with Foster leads me to believe that his inspiration would come from a sculpture, not a klunky Kahn. But that's my opinion, not a fact. And so, we're jumping full-force into the first Tropolism Voting Project. Readers, please vote: which of the two potential sources of inspirations do you believe more closely resembles Foster's Hearst Building (right)? The Kahn project (far left for the non-architect demographic) or the Francisco Sobrino sculpture (middle) I mentioned in my earlier post. You have until Friday 9am to write us with your opinion!. We will duly post when the public has finished deliberating.

Pretty Lights at 55 Water Street, Part 1


Tropolism isn't all about hard-hitting journalism. We like pretty lights as much as the next blogger. We also like talking to our friends. This is why when Jim Conti, the lighting designer for 55 Water Street, told us that there were different programs to the LED lights at The Beacon, we asked him to tell us more.

Part one after the jump...

Canal Park: Open For People Caught In Traffic At The Holland Tunnel


We've had a long love affair with this park-to-be. Today was the dedication. It's New Park Week in Manhattan. New parks are like new land, and we love them.

55 Water Street: Open For Administrative Assistant Lunches!


The new park at 55 Water Street was dedicated last night, and declared open.

Read on, and with pics!

Progress on "Progress"

Update Bonus Add-On Sidebar to the 55 Water Street Beacon "of Progress":

A person very close to the project says the owner, Retirement Systems of Alabama, chose to give The Beacon the appendix "of Progress". I only hope that surgery isn't required to remove the appendix before it ruptures.

55 Is Alive


Waay back in 2002, I directed the design of a competition for 55 Water Street at Rogers Marvel Architects. I'm sure I've said that before. The real heros are the people at The Muncipal Arts Society, who educated the owners of 55 Water Street in good public space, and the building owners, who have pledged to sponsor at least 12 public events, year round, to keep the park alive. We spent a lot of time studying Bryant Park. Tropolism means addicted to density.

So it is not without a little pride that I see this pop up on the ever-seeing, ever-knowing Curbed. Of course, I've known and calendared the dedication ceremony for a few weeks now, but I had no idea such a press junket had emerged. Ken Smith never sleeps.

Here is your opportunity to see a crappy brick plaza, hidden from view, be transformed into a lovely park. It is also an opportunity to compare all our renderings with what actually got built. Budget cutting will do that to you. See you at 55 Water Street at 5pm.

Two end notes. First, we wanted to add to my list of ice rinks with this project. Second, I have no idea how "The Beacon" became "The Beacon of Progress". Progress toward what?

Update bonus add-on: Another (gorgeous) picture of "The Beacon..." after the jump.

Party High, Sweet Chariot


Friday, a friend invited me to go to Creative Time's latest event, an opening for a show inspired by the High Line, after we supped, and I said yes. It was only an 80% yes, these things often turn out to be hideous: a hundred people occupancy but the event-throwers invite 10,000 to see it, creating a fight at the door. Still, the promise to see the one Matta-Clark film I haven't seen yet was exciting enough to get me walking in the rain.

Read about the show by clicking for more...

NYC Ice List


(above: skating at Rock Center, 1941

I'm an architect. And I make lists. Welcome to my world.

I'll let you in on a secret: I've not visited this list for years. But today's news, that Bryant Park is going to install an ice rink, is welcome news. First, because Bryant Park is a case study on how to create more density in a city, and have it pay for the improvements in a public park. Bravo! Second, because I studied this idea for a former employer while working on our own new-park proposal. We got the job in part because of our Ice Idea.

List of Ice Rinks In New York City


-Wollman Rink in Central Park

-Lasker Rink in Central Park

-Rockefeller Center

-Bryant Park

-Chelsea Piers Sky Rink

-Madison Square Garden


-Abe Stark at Coney Island

-Kate Wollman in Prospect Park


-World's Fair Rink

Staten Island

-Staten Island War Memorial Ice Skating Rink

2 Columbus Circle Underway


Are we the only ones who are wondering why everyone suddenly loves this building? Where were the études before someone suggested they make the building, like, useable. I understand the argument about the "turning point in Modernism", but I am left with an unshakeable feeling that this is the same kind of reactionary preservationist talk that's resisting tearing down a mundane 1920's parking garage on West Charles Street.

The earlier versions of this project left us uninspired. However, the rendering above gives us hope that the building will be a better object at the intersection of Broadway, West 59th Street, and Central Park West than the lollipop building is. And Mr. Cloepfil appears to be taking more design risks as the project moves forward, a startling contrast to WTC, which is becoming more safe and annoyingly boring as the project continues.

Curbed is all over this story.

Switch Building: Not Not Real

nA_PERS_north_below.jpg Tropolism means be clear about what you know you don't know. In this case, I disclosed that I didn't know something about several buildings on my incomplete list, including nArchitects' Switch Building.

After the jump, construction photos from a photo-correspondant, the diligent and thorough Mr Salmon, who was very clear that Switcheroo was not not-real...

Freedom, Schmeedom


"It's funny that this all arises over freedom," said Mr. Burke, who lost his brother in the attack. "Isn't it a bit of a seismic anomaly that the exercise of freedom has a segment of the very families who paid the cost of freedom up in arms?"

One Kenmare Square


Our friends at Curbed have adequately documented the history of the weirdness of creating an address like "One Kenmare Square" on a street that is clearly labeled "Lafayette". They also picked up a few of the typical reactions from around the Lower Kenmare Square 'hood. Behold the genius of off-the-cuff remarks from people who complain for a living: The project is too modern! Why doesn't it fit in more?! The neighborhood has red/brown brick, but they used black. Like, totally yuk!

(What is tiresome about on-the-street reactions is that they are just reactive, and as such generally sound like someone talking to the camera on the latest reality TV show, especially when they are about buildings, for which there are only two stock reactions from almost everyone on earth. Why is it so modern? Why doesn't it fit in more? Luckily, you have people like us who occasionally make up something new. New, not necessarily interesting. You be the judge!)

Sculpture for Intimacy


I don't like the Sculpture for Living. But please, don't take my word for it. Our friend and reader Renee Turman, Interior Designer, comments on the latest advertisement for Sculpture for Living, showing a rendering of unit 16A, after the jump:

Ground Zero: Back To Zero


I've been saying this all along, whenever someone asks me for my professional opinion about the Ground Zero Memorial Master Plan, or whatever it's called: that the Master Plan is of almost no significance. The buildings will show up whenever they do, with whatever architect gets in good with whatever decisionmaker shows up to do the job. It's happened before (United Nations, Rock Center, Lincoln Center), why not now?

Mr. Ourousoff's entry yesterday is one of his best so far. I particularly enjoy being reminded how BBB's plan looked, and how it's just like what the site is shaping up to actually be.

High Line To Get Luxury Housing, Waaay Before Highline Park Is Complete


The ever-consice Curbed did a wonderful précis about all the development in the Meatline district of Manhattan. Between this and Calatrava's vertical High Line, how is a managing director of Goldman Sachs supposed to make a choice?

The Pleasures of West 28th Street


West 28th Street, between 7th and 6th Avenues (I always work eastward in my mental map, especially in Manhattan. Mad props to the West Side, yo.), between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., between april and october, transforms into a greened street where the potted trees, bushes, sedges, perennials, grasses, and annuals threaten to evict pedestrians and automobiles. It is not for quick passage, which is why I either intentionally take or avoid it. My office is only one block away, and so I have the luxury of seeing this particular block at all hours.

Early morning:

where are all the sidewalk plants? (the cut flower shops are almost all sold out by the time I'm up, and I get to the office by 8.30am)

Late morning:

huge unpacking job, tons of deliveries.

Middle afternoon:

shoppers collide with old people taking a stroll with me, trying to get to a meeting and typing a blackberry message.

Early evening:

all the annuals are inside again, but the trees and sedges and grasses are all outside still. Weirdly empty sidewalk around 6pm. It's like someone just decided to stack all these plants outside, the way we've stacked little buildings next to each other in this city, and that they somehow serve a purpose through their presence.


the sidewalk smells like flowers. There are no flowers anywhere. That's right, the garbage smells gorgeous.

Tropolism Means

Tropolism means taking the entire end of the week off from blogging when the city releases a watered-down design and they try to sell it as a feature, because you are pouty and just don't feel like it.

Tropolism means keeping out of the fray when there is nothing constructive to say.

Tropolism also means proposing new alternatives.

I propose the freedom tower design is changed to something that is reminiscent of nothing in this city. No vague design references to classic towers in New York or anywhere else, including the Twin Towers. No constructed meanings, symbols, or metaphors.

Tropolism means buildings have no meaning, they are just there, doing something or not doing something. The Twin Towers were the apotheosis of this, and their replacement should be nothing more.

Eulogy For Garbage Truck Parking Triangle Where Canal Park Used To Be (1920-2005)


Tropolism means occasionally not sitting at your desk and hoofing it for material.

On yesterday's flaneur-tour, the first stop was one I've been anticipating for a long time: the re-opening of Canal Park. It's going to reopen in the next week or two, I would imagine. There's only a little sand to put between a few of the paving stones, one man-day of work, which should take public authority contractors about seven business days to accomplish.

The park was forgotten in 1920, re-buried by Robert Moses in 1930, and rediscovered in 1999 by neighborhood residents. And you thought progress on WTC was slow. The neighborhood groups sued, and brought it back! And now, it's like it never left: the new park replicates the 1888 Calvert Vaux and Samuel Parsons Jr. design that first gave the public access to this ancient city square (the title was deeded to the city in 1686 by a king! I so totally didn't think we went back that far). Please, don't take my word for it. There are other people doing the real reporting while I go out to take pictures and soak up a little of la joie de vivre.

It's like the Bermuda Triangle of the NYC Parks department. After 85 years, Canal Triangle re-emerges exactly as it was in 1920. The railings, stone curbs, pathways, and plantings are as they were when the park disappeared from our radar, and it's suddenly popped back into being, waiting for people to pay attention to it again. The surreal effect is aided by the combination of absolutely new construction and its 19th century design.

Time to unforget: if you visit, you can make fun of the crawling traffic of Canal Street that surrounds it. The park has also grown a bit, preventing motorists on Washington Street from crossing Canal, and hopefully granting pedestrians this end of Canal Street less risk of motorcide.

PS: mad props to the star-supported Canal Park Conservancy for helping with park maintenance. Who says luxury condo owners don't care? The only way Parks can keep these little slivers open is with help with the maintenance, so in a way, the real reason this park re-exists is because of the new Conservancy.

Cartilage: Kowsky Plaza


No one really believes anymore that the city is like a human body, with every component represented. Particularly in New York, despite the fact that Central Park was created out of the idea that New York needed lungs.

Yet the metaphor may have some life left in it yet. I cannot believe I just wrote that.

Yesterday I toured two projects with Mark Yoes, designed by he and his partner Claire Weisz. Both projects are connective tissue in the city, in two very different ways.

First is Kowsky Plaza, a public space wedged between the walkway at the southern edge of Battery Park City's marina and Gateway Plaza, the one complex of concrete towers built before Polshek Partnership's multibrick decoration guidelines took over. The plaza is above what used to be the river water cooling pumps for the Twin Towers. The pumps are still operational, awaiting new buildings before possible reactivation.

Milliken And Springs Buildings: Not The Same!

Two of my favorite buildings are pictured here, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 39th/40th Streets. For the longest time I thought they were both the Milliken Building. Yet I let the fact checker loose and they turn out to be not the same building.

At Least They Did Modernism-Style


A servicable but uninspired building: the new Alvin Ailey Dance Theater building in Hell's Kitchen. I used to live around the corner from this, and I watched the site slowly develop from an old theater to a pit to a building. The project took a long time to build, so it disappoints me that the project is so boring. It's an example of Modernism-styled buildings. Why can't they just make it modern? There seems to be a decorative game going on with the tricky mullions, the brick volumes vs glass volumes, and the wavy street awning (get it? it's like bodies in motion! and it's a DANCE THEATER!!). At least they didn't go all-decorative, like muted brick patterns and almost-cornices, mimicking the older buildings next to it.

But no, I'm tired of settling for this "at least it's Modern style" stuff. It's possible to do a budget building and still have the detailing, siting, and overall form be powerful, to have some kind of effect on the city.

For instance, why is there a dead glass corner on the corner of 55th and 9th? The corner is left to fend for itself, while the lobby is discreetly tucked farther down 55th street. If the wavy awning wasn't there, you wouldn't know the entry was there at all.

For instance, why brick at all?

For instance, why not a super-simple, super-taut glass screen, instead of this patterned wall?

For instance, what is up with the cylindrical columns, which only appear on the ground floor and as some featureless material (again, suspiciously decorative)?

For instance, why not complete the disjunctive nature of Modern buildings by making the glass a less almost-see-through color, and turning the glass box into a sculptural glass object, one that can be seen for blocks as something uncanny and perfect?

The End of Freedom Center As We Know It?

Just when you thought the WTC site could not get less interesting, more bloated by rhetoric, more misguided by people enthralled by arcane sentimentality and not memoriality (is that a word?), this happens:

Ms. Burlingame, who attended yesterday's board meeting, said both the Freedom Center and Drawing Center should be removed from the memorial area, though she endorsed the Snohetta building if it can be "redesigned to be filled with the story of 9/11."

"The magnitude of that story would fill several Snohetta buildings," she added

Tropolism cannot see how this means anything except a full Imax experience. Is this really the kind of memorial she's suggesting?

During the development of the master plan for this site, the relatives of victims of that day played an important political role: they were people who had lost people, and they were struggling against turning WTC into a huge office park, by claiming space for a memorial. Yet suddenly it's easy to feel as if they have become holy-people, and their ideas, which threaten to turn the entire WTC site into a staid memorial (the least urban of all public spaces), complete with controlled programming, are unopposable. As a New Yorker, I can safely say this, because it's the right time: give me a break, lady. You're not the only person who lost something that day. I lost a piece of my city. Stay away from free speech in the public realm.

Old Bookmarks: Mr. Beller's Neighborhood

Also from y2000: Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. When I bookmarked it, it was an idea. Now, it's a whole library of writing, a written version of NYC.

Old Bookmarks: Wisdom of the World


I'm a sucker for projects like this one. The New York Times sponsored this, and sometime in '99-00 I bookmarked it.

I know it's incredibly sappy, and that there are a zillion other projects like this. I like all zillion, the same way I like all the zillion of stories people have all around town. Tropolism means no sentimentality, but Tropolism also means finding interest in subtle variations of people's details.

New York, Las Vegas, Nevada

It's always a joy to read Curbed's reporting of news with interest to us architects. Today they point us to the utterly freaky rendition of Lower Manhattan's perpetually exciting neighborhoods: The East Village, The Meatpacking District, and Greenwich Village. Done as an outdoor mall, of course, with parking for a trillion automobiles at the perimeter.

Tropolism means largely ignoring the simulacra as anything approaching urbanism. We see it as simply a more refined form of decoration, therby avoiding years of internal architectural debate.

Sorkin Does Stadiums

Michael Sorkin has done some great work here, but we are a little concerned by his conclusions at the bottom of the page.

West Side Stadium is most certainly subway-positive (even if they don't extend the #7, you can just walk from Times Square/34th Street, you know?), not-too-far to Amtrak (like, walk from the station already), highway access can be achieved (like traffic on the BQE is going to be any worse with the addition of a stadium), and it may be a positive addition to the neighborhood (depending on who's talking). So it goes from Mr. Sorkin's score of 3 to a 5 or 6 right off the bat.

HOK did an urban design study for a new Yankee stadium in the early 90s. I read it about 10 years ago. Lots of hard data about traffic, effect on neighborhoods, environmental impact, etc. Three sites were studied, one in industrial Queens, one in the Bronx, and one on the West Side highway. Replacing the existing Yankee Stadium was the first choice, followed closely by West Side Highway. Industrial site in Queens was the last choice, by a long shot. Great highways, but awful neighborhood effect.

We here at Tropolism don't know everything, and are certainly not experts at urban design, but we do request that architects are clear about what they want and what they are studying. It's exciting to hear what Mr. Sorkin would propose, if he were in charge. It's dreadful to read through a proposal masquerading as a study. We're not yet sure where this article falls.

Trapezoids and the WTC


Greg Allen's roving architectural eye catches a few threads while ruminating over Phillip Noble's book. He captures a bit of the WTC misery I've been feeling the last few days. Check it out.

Take the FG to the BKLYN

Even though N.O. is weirdly enthralled by this plan, Tropolism can't see what all the fuss is about. Looks like they dropped a megaproject on a sleepy several blocks in Brooklyn. The pictures we've been able to find show no sense of neighborhood connection (the Borough President said it would knit two neighborhoods together on the telly last night), and the garish signage seems more like a commercial district than something you'd like to live above.

But Tropolism means getting your facts straight before you pee all over it.

FT 3.0


Safe. Sorry.

I Told You So: PS1 Warmup Edition


Look, I'm happy you all don't have to sit on cheese graters.

But I think this is crap. Not materially interesting or even well-resolved. The form is not interesting, just some random wave shit flowing around. No new social connections are created. All of this visible from the first rendering, so I have absolutely no pity on the PS1 jury. Particularly after last year's stunning canopy. Or even SHoP's version, that big teak dune.

Ken Smith's Takeover Foiled By Nicholai Ouroussoff!

Clearly, there is no reason to describe, in depth, the landscape architect's contribution to this project. N.O. to Ken Smith: you shall not pass!

N.O. describes the landscape, but not in terms of who did it. Frankly, this is the way we'd like to see things described: Tropolism means worrying less about authorship, and more about results. Yet SHoPP (two Ps for big Gregg, who is the only one mentioned by name) and Richard Rogers are described as authors of specific pieces of the project, and the landscape is just accent, a necessary furnishing for occupation. I could care less about the landscape/architect divide, because it's a false distinction, but I do find it interesting that this article describes some of the project as just designed, and some of it as the genius from the masters at work.

How To Build A Better Skyscraper

I was in the elevator. It was as the first tower was falling. I stepped off and saw what appeared to be a perfectly vertical column of smoke, as if the first tower was engulfed in flames, and you couldn't see it. I had to ask a friend, who was in the room when it fell, what had happened, because I didn't realize the building wasn't there anymore. He looked at me and just put his hand out. A few seconds later the smoke cleared enough for me to see no-building.

I trawled the internet for the next week trying to verify whether the Port Authority's assertion that the Twin Towers could withstand the impact of a 707. I could find none.

Now, we know:

The trade center was built by the Port Authority, which is not subject to any building codes. Despite promises by the Port Authority to "meet or exceed" the New York City code, the federal investigation found that the trade center had fewer exit staircases than required and that the Port Authority never tested the fire resistance of the floors. It also found no evidence that a rigorous engineering study supported the authority's repeated public assertion that the towers could stand up to the impact of a fully loaded commercial airliner.

Another event from September 11, 2001: some undereducated newscaster asked a professional structural engineer, on camera, "is there any way to build a building like this so it can repel an airplane?". The answer, of course, is a simple NO. You can build a pile of concrete that a nuclear bomb, or a space-based particle weapon, cannot penetrate, but I'd hardly call it a building. The structural engineer was painfully not ready for the camera's spotlight, because he gave a long geeky answer about how it was "possible" but that it would be too expensive. Technically true, but not the kind of confidence-building comment people were looking for. The reporter was looking for an opening to blame the architect, and the structural engineer, for the collapse.

Now, we know:

That research found no flaw in the design of the towers that was a critical factor in the collapse, Dr. Sunder said.

High Line Progress


While I'm sure that our friends observing New York development will find something to complain about here, or at least downplay the significance, I'm relaxing. Amanda Burden is on the job. She will get the job done. Park will be created. New Yorkers will use it.

"This is one of the most unique open spaces in the world," said Amanda M. Burden, chairwoman of the New York City Planning Commission and an outspoken advocate of the High Line project. "You will be able to walk 22 blocks in the city of New York without ever coming in contact with a vehicle. People will see the city from a completely unique perspective."

Friday New York Links


It's Friday, which means after you've creeped out to your Hamptons/Fire Island time share, you can enjoy the tall buildings of New York (all the ones you don't have a second to look at during your lunch break at Pax) from the beach. Or Brooklyn.

New York Skyscrapers!

Daniel's Manhattan Architecture Page

NYC Architecture

(I'm a sucker for home-made pages about buildings, because it's an easy and gratifying example of the intersection of being online and being incity)

Building Big In New York City

"New York was always singular for the dynamism with which the Brooklyn Bridge went up and skyscrapers went up and roads were built," he said. "Then, in the 1970's, civic reputation began to be acquired by people who prevented things from happening. There are some things you shouldn't do, but many things now get stopped for no reason."

A little reminder from our dear departed good-force ghost, Patrick Moynihan.

I propose a new possibility: that criticism must be backed up with a proposal. The ground rule is no complaints without ways of moving forward. In short, nothing stops. This is, after all, New York.

The Highs And Lows of PS1


I'd rather not put my ass on an expanded aluminum cheese grater while I'm sweating and waiting for a beer. Can we have our lovely bamboo canopy back, please?


(I thought nArchitects' construction last year was a brilliant way of combining computer-generated forms with a cheap, gorgeous, and natural material.)

East River Waterfront Is Latest Part Of Ken Smith Takeover Plan


When the LMDC announced the plan it commissioned for the East River Waterfront, the images looked very familiar. They are almost identical in shape and character to the images I developped at Rogers Marvel Architects for the 55 Water Street Park (which we won, yo, and is being built, double YO, which is a yo-yo).

I also led the RMA charge to get the East River project. We didn't get it, needless to say (so no yo, yo), but we were happy to see that really good architects had beat us out.

The plan is safe, yet good. It provides a basic infrastructure for public life on this portion of the East River, without any pandering to historicism. And what plants!

Ken Smith's landscape will flow from the new elevated park at 55 Water Street up the East River, and down to the Battery. You gotta give this guy credit: his first full-on profile in the New York Times (House and Home, or whatever they're calling it these days) was about how he had one table and plastic flowers in his apartment, and no public projects with living plants built. But he is as tireless in his pursuit of good public space as he is for good press. Which is a compliment, silly reader.

New York's Secret Maps

I present for your inspection NY Songlines. The title is rarified, and there are no graphics. It feels like the site should be on an Apple G4 Cube, which is running system 9, for an exhibition called "Websites Before Flash Messed It All Up". But this is no museum piece. This is hard data on the City, and it is growing.

Think of it as SuperFuture for New York. Except without any graphics. Or color sense. I adore everything about it.

I have long propounded that New York City is the best place in the world to use the internet. (I have since amended this to include any City). The information, ideas, content, and schlock that one finds online forms a powerful parallel to urban life. It's often mapped by the turn of a corner, a sequence of smells, or a particular sign, rather than an orthogonal geometry. And when the two connect, the possibilities for Knowing more than you know create new connections, both IRL and with URLs. This is city living, and the essence of public space.

My favorite part: I found it by googling the street I live on.

High Line at MoMA


MoMA has an exhibition on 3 of Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's winning entry for the High Line competition of last year. Please note that I led the competition entry for one of the seven firms invited to compete for this commission.

When we found out that we didn't win, I was immensely disappointed. Now, I am very happy that the project is in good hands.

The design has gone from a strange cartoon to a lush vision of a possible future for the High Line. It is irresistable, even for this critic of images. I looked at the illustrations and model the way I approached my first Star Wars film: with wonder.

The illustrations were dense with information, combining real data about the city, about how people occupy parks, about the technical requirements of the project (10" of concrete), with intutive moves and observations about city life. The project accomodates all of this information with ease, without ever feeling like it's a lame resultant of all the information thrown into the hopper. The project is a sythensis of a lot of information, yet never feels overwrought or overgestured. The project requires a lot of technical information, and I'm sure the amount of problems they will uncover during construction will cause years of headaches, but the view from above is of effortless flow and blending.


I am a particular fan of the linear planking system, the grain of which reminds me of the repetition of the long, parallel heavy steel girders below. The planks melt into areas for trees and grasses.

High Line Project Gets Boost From Dia

The Times reports that the Dia Center is going to move into The High Line. It solves the problem of one end of the High Line: it gives the tracks an end, and a reason to go to that end.

You'll note that your editor's own contribution to this design process was also concerned about the ends. Either hyper-programmed (as in Dia) or hyper-landscape (like an artificial hill) were my thoughts. It's always a pleasure being right. Or Theoretically Right. Or Whatever.

Of course, there's a stadium dragging down the other end. So art addicts and West Villagers get on at Gansvoort, and by the time they're up to 33rd street, they're outraged. Not sure how this is supposed to look.

Surprise On The Drive Back From Fire Island


One of the pleasures of the drive to and from Fire Island is the piece of the Hecksher Parkway the Richard Meier's United States Courthouse and Federal Building is on, in Islip, New York. At the almost-end of a long journey from the city comes a bend in the parkway which reveals the white building, orange from the evening sun, set above a hedge of budding trees. The approach from the opposite direction is much the same, as if the building were sited to have this surprise be symmetrical for travelers like me.

Another surprise is that GSA let Meier design such a completely uncompromising building. It's a pleasant surprise.

The building is also visible from The Great South Bay. Meier's whiteness is the perfect color for this part of Long Island: it appears bleached, like the shingled houses on my little resort sandbar. On a clear day, from the ferry, it appears less like a building, and more as a magnificent white mountain. Few contemporary federal buildings can be described as magnificent, but I submit this one for consideration.

WTC Redesign Wrapup, 2002-2005


I have so little to say about the WTC Master Plan and Building Designs that this will probably be my only post about it.

2002-2005: Daniel Liebeskind does some stuff, which turns out to be completely bogus, because he didn't use any verified facts, including sun angles or security information. In the meantime, he designs some truly hideous buildings to prove he can do it too. David Childs takes over the design of the Freedom Tower so that it can actually get done and be beautiful, and there's some noise about whether it's Liebeskind's design or his. The Master Plan gets really average about the time they unveil the Memorial design, meaning we're approaching urbanism that is less interesting or original than the first WTC. Then security stuff shows up, bizarrely after the project should be in ground, and the tower is going to be redesigned.

Philip Noble, Nicholai Oursoff, and our friends at Curbed seem to be documenting it all rather well. I am particularly drawn to Oursoff's look toward the possibilities in the current breakdown.

But really, who cares about the latest redesign hub-bub? The tower is very average anyway, attempting to be tall and amazing, even though in photos like the one above, you can clearly see that it's a cop-out. It's a phantom building. A symbol of our courage: an outline, a drawing in the air, but nothing we're actually willing to rent space in.

Does anyone remember the New York agency-sponsored urban planning exercises of the last 50 years? Let's take, for instance, the United Nations competition. A star architect's design won it. There was a period of uncertainty, in which time the star architect was completely out of the picture, replaced by a local who did good but not-groundbreaking (but totally buildable, yo) work. And we ended up with the UN, an outline of a Le Corbusier project, but with none of Corbusier inside it. We're lucky to have the UN complex. I'm not saying Liebeskind is anywhere near as talented as Corbusier: an outline of a Liebeskind project will just look dumb.

What I'm saying is that from day one, I never expected anything from the master plan, the one that won or any of the others. Even when I organized a design charette for the WTC site and wrote RFQs for the Master Plan, I knew that this was the game I was playing. I knew that three years later, I'd be looking at a local architect who was really running the show, and waiting for the whole thing to get stirred up with local politics until at some point someone built something, whatever that may be.

Pratt Architecture School Nearly Done Nine Years After Fire


Nine years after a fire destroyed Pratt Institute's Architecture School (because someone propped open the fire doors), it's nearing completion. Higgins Hall, which houses the Architecture Department at Pratt, is becoming rejoined again by the Central Wing, designed by Steven Holl in 1997. The project is being executed with Rogers Marvel Architects (where I worked from 1997-2004) as the architect-of-record.

I was at Pratt monday for architecture reviews. What astounded me was that none of the critics had toured it, even though it's been under construction for at least a year. The building appears small, crafted, and beautiful. They're rumored to be done in the fall, but no one was clear on "fall" as in "before the fall semester" (aka August) or "sometime before the end of November". Because there aren't a great deal of interior finishes (budget and the program both dictate this) it's entirely possible a late August move-in date is possible. Until then, you'll have to enjoy the renderings and progress photos.

Steven Holl Architects

Rogers Marvel Architects

What Happens When One Flies In From Tokyo To New York And Visits A Museum By A Japanese Architect

A week after coming back from Japan, I was invited by a friend to visit MOMA. It was the Wednesday of the week of opening parties, invitation only. I strode onto 53rd Street it as if I knew where I was going. Once I turned the corner, and approached the building, I realized that I did not know where the entrance was. The entire block had been transformed. Even the original Durrell Stone building had been transformed: it was glowing with its original translucent facade. Everywhere on the block were black cars, women in furs, men in furs, and security guards directing people to their respective lines. It was a big, New York block party.

There were people on the street. Some had tickets. Some were watching. Some did not need tickets. Some were protesting the cost of admission. Everyone wanted in. I did not have a ticket, but Greg did. We didn't need them: we were let in by some friends of some friends. A Rockefeller. The entry cuts through the block, traversing 53rd street to 54th street. One turns off this axis to enter the museum, views the sculpture garden, and then ascends the stair. In short, the sculpture garden has become linked to the public space of the city.

There is always someone in the world who knows the location of the place you're seeking. (I remind you that "place" includes state-of-being.) You may not be close to these people at all. Yet if you find them, an incredibly intimate thing happens when they point you in the direction you wanted. In a way, they show you the future you asked for. It is a succinct demonstration of the situational power people have in each other's lives.

Hearst Tower Revives Interest In Diagonal Living

The Hearst Tower, Norman Foster's only building in Manhattan, is getting its curtain wall. (I'm not counting the fabulous Asprey store, gorgeous but interior). What struck me on the afternoon I took this was how the glass origami crystal candy building appeared like a fantastically alien construction, contrasting brutally with the brown brickness all around it.

The surrounding buildings is a little architectural history microcosm of New York. Below, 19th century brick. It is nice. Therefore, goes 'contextual' architectural thinking, Brick equals Nice. Fast forward through the period of real modernism, of which only a few buildings made it into New York anyway. To the west, late 1960s brick, where one attempts to create a Seagram Building, only...Brick! They demolished the nearby CCC, another white-brick modernist compromise, so we know how that is going to end. To the north, 1980s Multi-Brick, also known as Po-Mo Brick, where one attempts to create a 19th Century Brick building, only using brick (or in this case, metal panels, same diff, yo) in a lot of non-brick like colors and patterns, thus creating a recognizable extension of context for the building,'s completely flat, like a billboard. It's like irony, without the irony.