Public Effect

Herzog and DeMeuron Get Tough

Fondazione Feltrinelli HdM.jpgWhile more of a concept than a realized building idea, Herzog and DeMeuron's design for the Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in Porta Volta, Milan is brutally straightforward.  In fact, the brutal finalness, the balance between grace and heaviness, the superscale and prefabricated grit had our first thought be thus: this is going to be Gino Valle's finest building ever.

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.


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.


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LEED Starts To Get Interesting

LEED isn't resting: they've just launched a Pilot Credit Library.  As you may know LEED's system allows for a limited number of innovative credits to be applied toward a building's rating.  These innovative credits establish their own criteria, and then are approved or rejected by the USGBC. The credits are then put in a database online for other architects to research and maybe replicate.

With the Pilot Credit Library, LEED is taking this to the next level.  They are formalizing the innovative credits so they are easier to find.  And, more radically, they are crowdsourcing the criteria.  It's a Wikipedia approach that may entirely negate the need for versioning their credit system: the credits simply keep getting revised by the LEED members and the USGBC review process.  It's brilliant, simple, and will make upgrades more responsive to technology and what users are interested in.  That last part is key: if people are really serious about energy efficiency, then they can think up some revolutionary awesome credit, use it as a Pilot Credit, and get it approved so that others can take the same route, without having to do all the research.  It's a chance for designers who want to push LEED in a particular direction to take action.  Have at it, folks.

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!!

Concrete Mushrooms: Transforming Paranoia

concrete-mushrooms-final-1034.jpgAlbania in the 20th Century produced 750,000 concrete bunkers, to defend the tiny country against the onslaught of the invasive Capitalist villains of the West. But ha ha we never invaded!  Leaving behind a bunker for almost everyone everywhere in this tiny country.  Who doesn't want one of those?  Except no one knows what to do with them, and no one really owns them, and they're everywhere.

Fortunately the concrete mushrooms are solid concrete and steel, making them so durable that it is not feasible to demolish them.  Or alter them except to build them out.  It is this territory that two Albanian graduate students at Politecnico di Milano are exploring in their blog and developing documentary Concrete Mushrooms.  The potential of this project comes to life in the trailer for the documentary, which includes several Albanians talking about how they have reused one of the mushrooms littering the landscape.  We'll be keeping tabs on this one.

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.

LEED Gets Serious About Energy Performance

US-Energy-Consumption_xl.jpgA few weeks ago I wrote this piece about LEED and building energy performance.  LEED buildings don't measure energy performance after a building is built, and it is no secret, except to the New York Times, that some of the buildings just don't save energy.  At all.

The USGBC, the body that oversees LEED, sent out a press release (not to me!) a few days before my post announcing a set of information gathering, idea presenting, and comment having set of conferences.  The result of these conferences is to gather input to someday create a new standard for LEED, that of measuring building performance.  They're fuzzy on the details, but this goes to the point I made before: LEED is evolving and on the right track.  If this press release came out in 2011 I would say they are dragging their heels a bit, but to have it come out now suggests they are at least committed to getting it done.  Even if they are only in the "let's totally talk about it phase".  They're punting to the future a bit by gathering input, which is probably the only way to get the building owners on board: slow it down.  We're all for careful deliberation as a way to increase buy-in, but just remember, this is the easiest way for us to cut global carbon emissions.  There is no time to dawdle.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

New Orleans Does Even More Installations


File under density: New Orleans hosts yet another installation-heavy event this week with DesCours (pronounced like the cajuns do, not the Parisian pronunciation). The New Orleans AIA presents installations by 14 architecture/design firms, spread around the Quarter and Business District. They have a handy map of all the installations and an official bike rental company for getting around, too. This being NOLA there are of course a full schedule of related music performances. Time to party, again.

Pictured is Iwamotoscott Architecture's "Voussoir Cloud".



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.


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.

Tropolism Exhibitions: Actions : What Can You Do With the City


Tropolism means taking action.

Fittingly the CCA is opening a show November 26th titled Actions: What Can You Do With the City. The exhibition explores 97 actions that "instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world". Our favorite part, however, is an online toy that generates specific actions you yourself right now can take in the city, actions that are outlined in the show, essentially putting the exhibition to work. Worrrk! Now this is Jane Jacobs for the 21st Century.

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...

The Pyramids In Today's Egypt


Today The New York Times posts a little memo from Cairo touching on the relationship of modern Egypt to its ancient past. These are issues touched on in the book we finished recently, and the article stars Zahi Hawass, the cultural minister so prominently featured in Loot.

“A man without history is a man without humor,” said Galal Amin, an economist and author who has written about Egypt’s modern decline. “A man with history is more likely to have humor, because he is more likely to see the irony in things, how things were and how they turned out to be. And patience.”

Favela Painting


Favela Painting is a project by Dutchmen Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn that creates home-grown artworks out of the density of the Rio favelas. The project has raised the cash to fund several large paintings already, creating a pretty brilliant virtuous cycle out of all the money that was flowing through the art world. Compare this to, say, that Burning Man burn out a few years ago, which talked community and sustainability, but didn't really play at this level. This is microfinancing for communities engaged in the production of neighborhood-scale art.

We invite you to support Favela Painting directly.

Via Plataforma Arquitectura.

GPS Film


Picking up where we left off in last week's newsletter, we bring you GPS Film, a new cinematic concept that attempts to integrate traveling through the city with a cinematic, authored experience. The films sense your location with your GPS-enabled smartphone. So far only one film has been produced with the system (you have to travel downtown Singapore to experience in situ), but we think this is a type of film that we're going to see a lot of in the coming years. We are imagining films hooked to every nook and cranny of the city, and an infinite chain of films to walk through.

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.

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.

Bureau Of Architects


The latest wave in social networking has finally come to architects with Bureau of Architects. It's a nifty network for everyone in the design sphere, but without the extraneous geegaws of The 'Book. What's particularly great about this micronetwork is that it turns out to be not so micro: the applications and feeds that are included are going to be stuffed full of images, competition dates, and news feeds before too long, making this a very useful meeting place for the architecture world.

Be our friend?

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.

Boulders Building


Filed under buildings we just love: Biblioteca Parque Espana by Giancarlo Mazzanti in Medellin, Colombia. The idea is brilliantly simple: create an artificial natural formation as a landmark for the city. The building is covered in a gorgeous dark stone that gives it the coloration of the surrounding mountains. There is also a wonderful public space surrounding the boulders, creating a true acropolis for this special site. The boulders frame the views, making the experience one akin to the view one gets after a long day mountain climbing.

Tipped off (long ago) by Eikonographia.

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.

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.

New Orleans Rebuilding: Lots Of Local Modern


Life Without Buildings does a rundown on this year's New Orleans AIA winners, four of which are modern architects doing significant projects in the region. After the blowup of the regional plan, and hte plethora of urban plans and space buildings from non-local whiz kids, we were afraid the reactionary pendulum would swing far, far away from modern design. But the local modern architects seem to have saved the day. Pictured is the temporary Rebuild Center at St. Joseph Church by Wayne Troyer Architects.

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!

Shelby Farms Park Winners Announced


Pruned points us to a sophisticated set of designs for Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tennessee. We tend to see these as iterations in designs that started with Fresh Kills Park, made a big splash at Orange County Great Park, and have now continued to the Midwest/South. American landscape design is finally asking the big questions about the function of large parks in cities and suburbs, and we're happy to see the ideas keep flowing.

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.

Koolhaas Has Officially Lost It


Koolhaas and OMA have officially lost their marbles. One of them found its way into the new design for Dubai, as a Death Star like 44-story sphere floating on the water. This kind of lunacy we can respect. Mr. Ourousoff gives us the details.

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.

Water Cube Beijing Opens!


The state-sponsored craziness that we wrote about two years ago is now open! And it looks just like the rendering! The Beijing Water Cube, the National Swimming Center constructed for the Olympic Games, next to a nearly complete Herzog & DeMeuron Bird's Nest Stadium. We think it's stunningly beautiful. Except we're not sure what's crazier, the interior or the exterior.

Via Daily Dose, who has more pictures and links.

Arbre de Flonville


From Lausanne: a steel and wood tree furniture/architecture piece designed by Samuel Wilkinson & Oloom. Interior design for outdoor rooms. Via architechnophilia.

City Colors


One of the things we like to celebrate is color. Certain design professions have more sophisticated approaches and dialogues about color than architects: interior designers and graphic designers, to name two. The latter category, in the person of Todd Falkowsky, has created a series of color strips for each of Canada's provincial and territorial capitals. The result is interesting, particularly the observation about how intuition informs the process. What we'd like to see is a whole color pallette, not just a test strip of three, for each urban area. Huge samples that would represent each city.

Via Brand Avenue.

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.

Gerhard Richter's Cologne Cathedral Window


There have been many articles and images of Gehard Richter's design for the stained glass window in Cologne Cathedral since it was unveiled last August. Our favorite was pointed out by Greg Allen: it's by Ralf Stockmann.

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.

Nouvel Redefines Towers In NYC


It's difficult to believe, but after Jean Nouvel's sensitive-yet-stunning 40 Mercer, his sparkly-yet-stunning 100 Eleventh Avenue, Jean Nouvel comes through with another groundbreaking design for Manhattan. This time it's for a mixed-use tower next to MoMA. The height will rival the Chrysler Building, and with its open lattice structural top, it may rival the old bird's iconic status as well.

Also of note is Ourousoff's article on the building, which calls attention to the most important issues the building addresses. How private developers are doing more daring architecture than MoMA itself commissioned only a few years back. How this will hopefully correct MoMA's craptacular gallery situation. How an architect can produce a design for a tower while playing with the essential elements of towers that up until now felt played out (the structural system, the curtainwall, the profile), yet all the while creating something new, of our time, and dazzlingly buildable.

Our favorite part is that the developer has chosen to build what others might consider unsellable floors: the penthouse apartment with a huge elevator/stair core. It is brilliantly described as "the pied-a-terre at the top of the Eiffel Tower from which Gustave Eiffel used to survey his handiwork below."

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.

Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen Serpentine Gallery Pavilion


From Future Feeder:

0lll’s exhaustive photo diary of the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion 2007 by Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen

Brilliant as ever.

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.

Abu Dhabi Update: Louvre Signs On


The Louvre is going franchise. For $520 million, Abu Dhabi has licensed the Louvre name for its previously-titled "classical museum". Read all about it in the New York Times today. While the article is full of details like art exchanges, price tags, and a cursory overview of the financial and political relationship between France and the United Arab Emirates, what really interests us is the new rendering of the underside of Nouvels' dome (pictured), previously reported on here. For us, the global branding of art, a result of the commoditization of art, is of little interest. We want that amazing building to be real.

Abu Dhabi Update Part 2: Zaha and Nouvel


This Abu Dhabi wonderland update we are showing off pictures of the models for the designs by Jean Nouvel (pictured) and Zaha Hadid.

Nouvel's scheme for a "classical museum" (possibly a branch of the Louvre) features a huge, flattened dome over an open-air arrangement of smaller buildings. It's like a village, shaded with a space dome. We think it's gorgeous.

Click Continue Reading to see a close-up of the Nouvel dome, and to experience the Zaha model goodness.

Abu Dhabi Update Part 1: Overview, Ando, and Gehry


A few weeks ago we mentioned a new design by Zaha Hadid for a planned arts supercomplex in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. A special UAE correspondant has provided us with photographs of the exhibition. We weren't prepared for the amount of detail and vigor that went into the models and design of each proposal, and for our correspondant's wonderful close-up photography.

Click Continue Reading for amazing pictures with the Tadao Ando and Frank Gehry proposals.

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.

Cardboard Monday Part 2: Melbourne


It's cardboard from the other side of the globe: the Australian design firm DireTribe constructed a full-size replica of a classic Parisian apartment in cardboard. Then, they let kids with crayons take over, imagining what it would be like to live on the other side of the globe. You can read more about the project on their website. Click on the cardboard chair, marked "Pen Plan Paris" when you mouse over it.

What we want to know is does anyone have crayons in São Paolo?

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".

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.

Skin + Bones: Fashion and Architecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles


Happy opening night crowds hovering around Greg Lynn’s bubble wall for the Slavin House.

When a colleague mentioned the title of the “Skin + Bones” exhibition to me a few months ago, I had to repress the impulse to vomit. It’s rare that I have such episodes without a heavy night of drinking, but the thought of pinning such an obvious title to such a tired topic evokes turmoil in even the most solid of stomachs.

Had I known that the exhibition would be so well produced, so perfectly in sync with the thesis of mixing fashion with architecture, I might have saved myself the gastronomic discontent. In fact, I think that even the most cynical of mind will find this show a delight to the eye, and a moderate mental work out to the mind. It’s certainly “theory-lite”, but it fulfills the need to simultaneously educate the public about something they tend to take for granted: Fashion + Architecture.

Click Continue Reading for the rest of the review.

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.

OMA Fun Palace In Beijing


The New York Times is nothing if not consistent. Another article on OMA/Rem Koolhaas? Send in Robin Pogrebin for more softball pitches. The article on the MoMA show about OMA's new buildings in Beijing does give us a sense of what to expect with the show, but as usual provides little illumination on the building beyond what the architects practiced to say about it. Apparently, when an architect says they are building a fun palace, you just put it in quotes and hope someone else gets the reference. If it's a reference.

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.

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.

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 2: Holy Rosary Church Complex


Daily Dose points out the Holy Rosary Church Complex by Trahan Architects. More astounding that such a gorgeous example of religious modern architecture is found outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is that the complex is almost entirely out of concrete and glass. More on brywhit's Flickr stream., who is also the author of the picture to the left.

Uchronia, So Totally Not At PS1


Greg Allen calls it out: Uchronia, a Burning Man structure designed by Jan Kriekels and Arne Quinze, of Belgium, and built by a bunch of volunteers in the desert, is so totally not like anything at PS1 in the last few years. Hippies.

Via Archinect.

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.

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.

NOLA Competition Open To Voting!


Global Green (and the ever-present Brad Pitt) sponsored a competition to promote sustainable design in the rebuilding of New Orleans, and the six finalists selected are now posted. The competition finalists are open to voting; we encourage you to vote and be heard, particularly because all of the entries mix modern design, sustainable design, and vernacular practicality without resorting to overt historicist pastiche. They didn't invite any of the New Urbanistas to the jury.

Our favorites were split between the submission by Metrostudio (no URL) in New Orleans, pictured above, and an entry by Workshop APD. Click Continue Reading for more images and observations...



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.

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...

Rural Studio Develops $20,000 House


Rural Studio is at it again. Journalist Oliver Schwaner-Albright tips us off to an article he wrote for the FT weekend edition. The studio is designing a prototype for a house that will be built for $20,000, including labor and materials, so that they can take advantage of a federal loan for the rural poor. The idea is to build decent housing that a person living on public assistance could actually own -- a $20,000 mortgage is met with $64 monthly payments. Brilliant.

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?

New Orleans Masterplan: Erased, But Funded

nola redevelopment.jpg

New Orleans must have 'New York disaster area political trainwreck' envy. In January, we noted, with enthusiasm, how progressive they were in New Orleans in generating a preliminary master plan for the entire city only four months after the hurricaine took out most of the city. Of course, there were some fluffy parts (like a light rail) but it was a beginning. It was sunk by a spineless mayor and locals who insist on reviving neighborhoods built on floodplains.

Since then, that mayor has been re-elected, and no one seems to know what is next. The federal government is set to begin sending rebuilding money to the City, except there is no Plan. In fact, if you read the New York Times' article on the subject, there is nothing but confusion. Mayor speaking off the cuff about planning issues, perhaps with an intention to let communities take the first step before painful choices are made. Who knows? What's certain is that if New Orleans had a plan, and the political support behind it, it could be making rebuilding progress right now.

Tropolism Exhibitions: New Blood In the Water


Left to right: Throw a rock, hit an architect. Does anyone smell fire? The A+D's new home.

I’ve had the pleasure of surviving several parties associated with the recent AIA Convention here in Los Angeles last week, but none were so fascinating as the one held on Friday, June 9th in honor of the New Blood: Next Gen exhibition at the A+D (or Architecture + Design for those not in the know) Museum. I’d had a similar, far more intoxicated viewing of the show a week prior when it unveiled itself to L.A. The redux could not have been better.

For one thing the drinks at the bar were weak to the point of water (to keep those visiting architects from points afar under control no doubt), and to top that off, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was opening its David Hockney: Portraits show across the street. Perhaps it would have been fitting to have visited LACMA first and absorbed those famous works of celebs and lovers gone by. However, this was impossible. Due to lack of operating budget, or fear of being overrun by all of those rabid visiting architects, the museum closed early, ejecting everyone across Wilshire Blvd. and into the brightly illuminated A+D Museum.

Where they probably wished the drinks were stronger.

To read the rest of the review, click Continue Reading...

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.

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.

Toronto Waterfront Gets West8


The Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation has announced that West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, based in Rotterdam, has won the Innovative Design Competition for Toronto’s Central Waterfront. We're not sure what's going on with the maple leaf, but the rest of it is pretty fierce. Makes the lovely Hudson River Park look really safe and, well, boring.

Via Archinect.

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.

Berlin's Central Railway Station Now Open


Something new to report from Gemany's capital:

On May 26, after ten years of construction, and a whooping 950 Million dollars later, the "traffic cathedral", Berlin's new central railway station will be opened to the public, just in time for the opeing of the world soccer championship in June.

From then on, 1,100 daily trains will approach the new station from all directions, carrying an expected 300,000 travellers: a 1000-ft long east-west commuter train station crosses the 500-ft long station for the long-distance railway, which cuts through the city from north to south. Two office buildings, approx. 140ft tall, arch over the commuter rail station. Also part of the project were a new subway line and station, a road tunnel and the need to divert the nearby river Spree to make room for the new buildings.

Throughout the entire construction, commuter traffic was not interrupted (the long-distance rail line is new). The parts of the building arching over the railroad tracks were originally build vertically, on the sides, and then slowly lowered into position, similar to a draw bridge.

For a full-blown information site with history, facts, architectural details and progress reports - all in English language, click here. Also, a nice spread of pictures of the project.

Translation of the texts from the German picture site:

1 - Harry Anzer, construction site manager. The construction job brought him a heart attack - he then quit smoking.

2 - A model of the station: Roughly $950M are estimated to be spent on the construction, Deutsche Bahn has not yet published the exact cost. Plans were made in the heyday of the post-reunification frenzy. Nobody would have guessed that Berlin, instead of growing, would shrink to 3.4 million inhabitants.

3 - A model of the arch buildings. In order to not interrupt the commuter trains for months, the parts were built vertically and then lowered like a draw bridge.

4 - six meters per hour - the speed with which the steel constructions, 1,250 tons each, were lowered.

5 - The construction area in July 2005: Site Manager Anzer considered it the largest challenge of his life.

6 - In the background is the Reichstag, Germany's parliament building. Also visible: Deutsche Bahn's headquarter.

7 - The Entrance, shortly before the May 26 opening. All boxes and paint buckets should be removed by then.

8 - A Berliner just relaxing. Locals are already used to the glorious view.

9 - Commuter track. Approx. 1,100 trains per day are expected to stop at the station once it is completed. Deutsche Bahn is expecting some 300,000 travellers per day.

10 - Workers cleaning the glass roof: A machine for the cleaning job is being developed. Until it is completed, the 9,100 windows have to be polished manually.

Update Bonus Add-On pictures: Laser Light Show (Lichtspektakel) at the opening!

Contributed by Berlin correspondant Georg von Braunschweig.

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"

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.

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.

Street Ballet Contest


In honor of Jane Jacobs, our friends at PolisCurbed (Lisackhart?) have joined forces to create the Street Ballet Contest. The intention is to "celebrate the street ballet of your favorite block", and to elicit your own spin on Jane Jacobs' neighborhood ideas.

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.

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.

OMA At Serpentine Gallery


Given my time at Columbia University's graduate school in the middle 1990s, when buildings rendered as clouds were de rigueur, I tend to skip over news that OMAKoolhaas designed a bubble for the 2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. I skipped over Diller+Scofidio's cloud building, too.

However, the folks over at We Make Money Not Art have provided some very interesting precedents for this project, and it makes me think that a floating bubble in a London park would be rather wonderful.

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.

Here There Be Monsters, Part 2


Our post about the new installation at Materials and Applications inspired a friend at Drowninginculture to send in his gorgeous snaps of the bamboo piece. Click "Continue Reading" so see a more Gilligans Island version (complete with LA hippie and child). Except Gilligans Isle with shopping across the street. And DJ booth in the water.

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.

Farewell, Not A Cornfield


The Los Angeles Times is reporting on an open competition for the cornfield site east of Downtown Los Angeles. Historically a train yard, and most recently an installation by Lauren Bon called Not A Cornfield which, of course, was planted with corn. The open competition will close April 17th, and the 32 acres will become known as Los Angeles Historic Park. The site is in between two busy streets, with the hills of Chinatown on one side, and a warehouse no-mans land on the other. To add to the drama The Metro Goldline runs along side the park joining a twist of bridges and over passes at one end. For a city that has been maligned for it's dependance on automobiles, Freeways and the resulting sprawl. This park more than those modeled after traditional city parks, seems it can become a solution that is solidly about and for Los Angeles.

Contributed by our Los Angeles correspondant, Colin Peeples.

Inspiration From Tijuana


The New York Times' architecture critic, Nicolai Ourosoff, has diverged from his building profile in his latest article: he interviews an architect. And, one of our favorite architects, Teddy Cruz, who we first learned about when we heard him give a brilliant lecture at the Architecture League in 2001 when he was selected to be a Young Architect. At the time, his lecture, though brilliantly researched, seemed hopelessly idealistic. Did he know that he'd have to have the building codes changed to accomplish what he was proposing? Apparently, he did:

The San Diego City Council approved the development plan last year, and Mr. Cruz expects the zoning changes to go through this fall. Planners hope to begin construction next year.

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.]

Your Hidden City Grows


Your Hidden City, the world's first open-source architectural contest, is only open for submissions for one more week! On March 10, at 5pm, we will close the Flickr pool and the jury will begin deliberating. Check out the full details at our announcement a couple of weeks ago.

If you place your entry right now, you will join 551 556 560 entries from 156 158 160 entrants. The pool is growing. The jury has its work cut out for it already, we hope you will add to the collection. Be sure to include your caption on why this is part of Your Hidden City.

Responses to Katrina


Reed Kroloff, dean of Tulane University’s School of Architecture, and Aaron Betsky, the director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, have selected and introduced some architectural responses, published in the latest Artforum. Proposals came from MVRDV, UN Studio, Huff + Gooden, Morphosis, West 8, and Hargreaves Associates. We hope this is merely the beginning.

Slice der Republik


Okay, last post about Eastern Block projects for a while, I promise.

Slice der Republik is an interesting little website about a student project to re-use the Palast der Republik, with a Gordon Matta-Clark-inspired cutting that would do two things: cut the building into useable chunks, while opening it up to the urban fabric. And, of course, "the angled cut expresses the violence the building has experienced in the years since its closure".

Palast der Republik


The folks at Brand Avenue have done a little more digging on the Palast der Republik, that gimongous building in East Berlin that opened in 1976 to house the East German parliament and a totally coked out disco scene. They've got some juicy photographs (one reproduced above) and a lot of links and articles about this building, whose future is, for now, demolition (as reported here a month ago). We're sorry to see it go; we were rooting for an imaginative reuse.

Detroit Demolition Disneyland


Land+Living has an extensive piece on Detroit Demolition Disneyland, an Anonymous group who has begun covering abandoned structures in gallons of orange paint. The great thing about the action taken on these buildings is that is allows us to see what we normally would not: that the status quo in Detroit is decay. It seems to me that this public action can bring so much more weight and meaning to the problems in Detroit, rather than constantly repeating the words Sprawl and Revitalization. Over the course of one night these Orange buildings become a place again, instead of a place that used to be. DDD's work reminds me of Group operating in Los Angeles under the name Heavy Trash. They also have an affinity for the color orange, and are helping us see what normally we would not.

I highly recommend checking out Google Earth for Detroit. The extent of urban decay visible from the sky is almost unbelievable.

Contributed by Colin Peeples.

Omotesando Hills: Opening Reports


Omotesando Hills, the Tadao Ando-designed shopping mall/old folks home complex, opened this week. Two reviews have popped up that are of interest. The first, from the New York Times', er, shopping critic, seems to think it's a quiet respite from the loud and flashy stuff that happens on Omotesando Avenue. We think that's a bit generous, but granted, we only saw it under construction.

The second is by our favorite not-Japanese-but-in-Japan blogger Jean Snow, contributing to Gridskipper as well as his own site. Jean doesn't have many good things to say about it, but he seems to be more unimpressed than anything else. His great Flickr set says a lot.

From both accounts it's clear that the building is a mall with a bunch of mall shops you will find anywhere. The part not being talked about is the rooftop garden (which is not accessable by the public), and the back side (pictured above), where the old folks live, bordering the quieter (and much cooler) hood behind Omotesando Avenue.

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.

OMA OMG: Kentucky Edition


The Office for Metropolitan Architecture is coming full circle with its Museum Plaza skyscraper in Louisville, Kentucky. You can read the local news report, some fascinating OMA archive recycleing analysis, and a link to some great process models and a video.

As usual for OMA, the building is a brilliant organization of a complex program, which ends up as an unorthodox form. Yet there's what appears to be a huge plinth/plaza in the project, and it isn't clear what the edges are like. Has OMA a brilliant solution to the plinth, too? The one part of the video that gives us a little urban chill is the one that says "Connect To Context", and a couple of stair towers appear. Uh, we tried that in the 60s and it didn't work: elevated plazas not continuous with the street level get no foot traffic. Perhaps the reality of OMA's plinth just doesn't show up on the video. We'll be looking for more.

Tropolism Contest: Your Hidden City


After a week of very subtle buildup, Tropolism is pleased to announce the first open-sourced architectural contest, Your Hidden City.

The contest is simple: post your photos (with a caption) to our public Flickr pool (or email them to us for posting), and our jury will select their favorites in five categories. The winners will be posted to Tropolism.

The theme of the contest is uncovering the Hidden City, your Hidden City, the one you see every day. It may be in plain sight of everyone else, but it is your eye that finds the extraordinariness in a particular street corner, a unique stair, a crazy intersection, a visually arresting approach, or a particular tree in the city. The photographs can be of a beautiful (and perhaps unpublished) park, or as simple as the sun hitting a particular building at a particular time of day. Please include a caption, or a Flickr annotation, about what makes it extraordinary to you. The entries should have one thing in common: they demonstrate, to you, the pleasure of living in the city.

The jury is a set of bloggers who write about architecture, urbanism, and landscape design. They are:

Lisa Chamberlain of Polis and who also covers real estate for the New York Times
David Cuthbert of architechnophilia
Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG
Shawn Micallef of Toronto Psychogeography Society Blog
Miss Representation
Jimmy Stamp of Life Without Buildings

The 5 Categories are:

Best Hidden Place
Best Density
Best Natural/Urban Overlap
Best Unofficial Landmark
Best Building

We will keep the contest open until March 10, 2006, and post winners the week of March 20. Good Luck!

Center For Land Use Interpretation Website


We here at Tropolism tend to avoid following the crowd. Perhaps it's the aura of Coolhunting, our publisher's website, or perhaps it's the vindication we received by not seeing Dances With Wolves when everyone else was raving about it. We still haven't seen it. Mostly, this keeps us thinking fresh, different, better.

But sometimes this tactic goes horribly wrong. For instance, on the sidebar of lotsa lotsa websites we have seen the Center For Land Use Interpretation, and never bothered to actually visit it. Well, a few months ago we did just that, and came across a database we never get tired of visiting: the Land Use Database, which is an index of "unusual and exemplary sites" in the United States that they have collected. Original photography of gems like the original site for Robert Smithson's Partially Buried Woodshed stand next to the problem-prone David Besse Nuclear Power Plant in Toledo. The agnosticism inspires us. The collective imagination, on a particular theme, inspires us as well. Do you see where we're going with this?

From Park To River


The LA Times is reporting on another park opening in Los Angeles this past weekend. The scale is minute compared to the great park in Orange County, but the shift in thinking is gigantic. Los Angeles is cutting a new network of parks and wetlands into the existing concrete drain we call the LA river. While the river winds its way through several neighborhoods in the Los Angeles, it is dramatically apparent in the industrial neighborhoods of South LA. The park is not only improvement of the quality of life, and environment it is pointing to a shift in urban thinking and living in Los Angeles

Contributed by Colin Peeples.

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.

Another Gold Scrim

kettingstraat scherm (14)_large.jpg

Continuing Tropolism's theme of, er, shiny gold buildings: 8 woningen Kettingstraat in The Hague, by the Dutch architecture office Archipelontwerpers. A shimmery, totally-doing-the-Gehry-thang scrim at a revitalized section of the historic urban fabric. What is of more interest to us, however, is the rest of the project: behind eight historical restored facades are eight modern houses. We love this kind of hybrid.

Via we make money not art.

Toyo Ito's Structural Awesomeness


The good folks at Architechnophilia have reported on yet another Zaha Hadid design that did not win a high profile international competition. Until she does another gold-brick-lego building, we're over reporting that stuff.

Of interest to us was the actual winner of the competition: Toyo Ito. Ever since his Mediatheque building in Sendai, with its airy structural tube framework, we've been thinking about how to hold up our own structures in more innovative ways. His office cranked out yet another design, this time for the Taichung Metropolitan Opera House. We're not sure what all the blobby forms do, because the house translator is still on vacation. However, it looks like another fantastic, yet buildable, structure.

Ken Smith: Master


Our friends at Archinect report that Ken Smith has been awarded the title (prize?) of Master Designer of the Orange County Great Park. His takeover of Manhattan, now complete, he has skipped to the other coast to begin a bi-coastal strategy of national takeover. Next stop: the Heartland!

Of interest is the two-part PDF of his team's entry. It is densely packed with great information, and represents how his quirky imagination is supported by a deep respect for great public space in America. It's worth a read.

Steven Holl In Kansas City


Speaking of Luminarias, our friends at Archidose gives us some wonderful in-progress photos of the Nelson-Atkins Museum expansion by Steven Holl, now named the Bloch Building. The building continues on the glass channel system theme, seen in his Helsinki Kiasma building and at Pratt Institute Higgins Hall, but at a scale that lets the glass channel system look elegant, fluid, landscape-like.

New Orleans Plan Revised, Unleashed

nola redevelopment.jpg

After revising the really dumb parts of their resettlement plan, the commission charged with doing the master plan for New Orleans has released their plan. The New York Times reports on it, and as bonus visual we have a PDF from the Times-Picayune (in exile at, as well as a much more thorough, albeit ambling, accounting of what's going on down there. What we get from the articles is imaginative thinking and a sense of teamwork on the commission.

There was a hurricane about four months ago, and they already have a master plan to rebuild their city. And, it's one designed to account for the political protests that always surround such massive rebuilding efforts. Even though the situations are entirely different, and a compmarison can create the illusion that they are similar: it's difficult to believe that the master plan developed for the World Trade Center took longer, because it was moving office space and a few blocks of street grid.

Water Cube: Beijing


Wacky in a way only state-sponsored architecture can be is the National Swimming Center in Beijing, going up right next to another of H&DM's stadiums (no, not this one). The center is enclosed by what appears to be a wall whose structure is an irregular spaceframe (made to resemble the cellular pattern of soap bubbles) and is clad in what appears to be a frosted or patterened glass. All of this from a wonderful photo gallery at Structurae. The building was conceived by Australian-based PTW Architects. Structural design by Arup, of course.

Tipped off by We Make Money, Not Art.

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)

Big Thinking For Rebuilding New Orleans


Ask, and Tropolism shall receive. A big government solution: create financial infrastructure to support the redevelopment of neighborhoods, covered by the New York Times. Our favorite part: "the federal corporation would have nothing to do with the redevelopment of the land; those plans would be drawn up by local authorities and developers."

The Word On Rem In Dallas


Tropolism means no gossip. Speculation and behind-the-scenes opinions, however, are very welcome. Which is why we enjoy reading Do You Want Some Coffee?: they stay full of wonder while balancing academic conversation, critical conversation, conversations about the personalities in the world of the celebutantes, and, best illuminated by this piece on Rem Koolhaas's presentation for a theater in Dallas, conversations about brilliant moments of architects speaking.

Interstate 10 Over Lake Pontchartrain: Almost There


We here at Tropolism loves us some highways. Engineered beauty! So it's with great delight, yet without much surprise, that we discovered our first news item of the day: the New York Times reporting that the repairs to the causewaaaay for Interstate 10, over Lake Pontchartrain, are nearly complete. It's simplistic to believe that rebuilding neighborhoods could be this easy, because roads are engineered projects, and they have a large and efficient impact the economy; rebuilding 50,000 privately and separately owned residences, each with individual needs and character, is a completely different matter. But what if we could rebuild, say, 25% of the homes like we rebuilt I-10?

Rural Studio Driving Tour


The New York Times produces an exceptionally useful piece related to works of architecture by calling the Travel section. They tour the work of Rural Studio, Sam Mockbee's legacy in western Alabama, and its ongoing work. Of most interest, besides the helpful who-to-talk-to and where-to-stay, is the fact that Rural Studio has expanded into public work. Growing up in rural Ohio, I would have given my eyeteeth to work with something like Rural. Now, I can simply visit a different state.

HdM Kicks for Goal: Update


Waaaay before we launched we were fascinated by this underpublished soccer stadium by Herzog & de Meuron. The good folks at Interactive Architecture and Information Aesthetics (those are two different websites) have posted pictures of the new stadium in action. All we can say is SCORE.

Playing With Blocks


When we were little, we played almost exclusively with Legos. In fact, our best childhood fantasy was that we could construct the whole world out of a perfect and infinitely variable system of interlocking, and brightly colored, blocks. Go figure. Now, we must settle for java-based "psycho-social building experiences". But we'll manage.

Via Future Feeder.

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.

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.

Christmas Humor, New Orleans Style

Lakeside Mall XMAS Village 3.jpg

Tropolism means having a sense of humor. It means also a sense of civic pride. One of the reasons I'm so attached to NOLA is that its citizens often combine these two in a way which is effortless, and makes sense. Not unlike New Yorkers, although the character of our satire has a different flavor.

Above and after the jump: exclusive photographs from special architect correspondant Tatiana, of the annual and beloved Christmas toy train display at Lakeside Mall in Metairie. The talent of Frank Evans, an obsessive railroad-toy display designer, comes through with spraypainted X's on the houses, collapsed roofs, and a comment on the evacuated Broussard Pump Station #1. Read all about it in today's Times-Picayune, tipped off by our friend and diligent NOLA describer, Sturtle. You'll note that the people interviewed all had an appreciation of the depth of humor, the civic pride, and the craftsmanship that went into the display. The perfect architectural moment.

And, more pictures after the jump.

Banlieue, We Hardly Knew Ye


Tropolism means creative ideas for new housing. Everywhere. This article suggests some really brilliant ideas by the Dutch, particularly this one:

In the old days, the argument runs, a person with a working-class identity could live in "working-class housing." But today people have housing careers that vary as much as their professional ones. When they are young and not terribly bothered by noise, they might choose small, functional places close to cultural attractions and nightlife. They can move to larger, quieter ones when they have families and then trade space for comfort when their children leave home.

Props to the author for touching on Le Corbusier's revolutionary uniformity, while handily avoiding the 'the building made them do it' crap. We think Le Corbusier's credit is long overdue. The problem wasn't what he came up with. The problem is that no one came up with a variety of other stuff to mix with his towers-in-the-green to make them messy (urban). Shame on us.

Attention USA suburban developers: can we please, please, please have some variety and density?

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.

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.

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.

Weekend Reading: Omotesando Hills Debate


While we here in New York talk about really important stuff, our peers in Tokyo are having an interesting, and elevated, debate about preservation on Omotedando. The editor of Tokyo's Metropolis told us how he really feels, while iMomus contributes a much more nuanced piece on the matter.

Omotesando Hills is another of Minuro Mori's Developments designed, of course, by Tadao Ando. The building is not yet completed. It was a hole in the ground a year ago, when I was there.

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...

How To Rebuild 50,000 Homes, Part 1


The challenge is clear: how to rebuild between 30,000 to 50,000 (or is it 80,000?) homes after they've been scraped away from the worst-hit parts of New Orleans.

What is heartening is that there is an active community watching the process closely. Of particular cause for hope is that their message seems to have reached at least a couple of politicians' ears, because they've raised public awareness about the historic house stock.

What I find not as helpful is Mr. Ourousoff's assessment of the situation. His argument never seems to rise above 'don't just do historicist houses', which is simply the opposite of 'rebuild New Orleans in a historic style'. No new solutions have been suggested here. We here are looking for some good ideas ourselves, as you can see. Anyone care to send more our way?

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!

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...

Tropolism Shopping: P&C In Cologne


Our Cologne correspondant tells us that the P&C (Peek & Cloppenburg in case you didn't know) Department Store is open for business. Renzo Piano's website well-documents the building, and includes some gorgeous photos.

The most interesting retail projects are in Japan and Europe, hands down, because they take as a given that they are defacto public space (even when they aren't really public space). They take pleasure in density and spectacle. And shopping. Ka-ching.

Linkie, Clickie

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Since launching two weeks ago, Tropolism has been fortunate to receive lots of loving praise and pointers here and there to websites we have begun to love. Three we find fascinating:

The Bottom Drawer wins for most provocative name. Uncovering the hidden city of London.

Also Available, an Italian group working on...lots of interesting projects. We're not sure what's going to be built or not, but we cannot resist the humor. "Also Available on...FOAM". See photo above.

Bird to the North is a fellow traveller of public space, with a laser-like focus on what makes cities inhabitable. We are all ears.

Save It All!


Miss Rep works the preservation balancing act this afternoon. Including collating valid exceptions taken by Polis about us. And points to a helpful discussion at the AIA tonight at 6.

The Hidden City


As you know, Tropolism means making the hidden city visible.

Yesterday, the local paper ran an article about Open House New York, which had tours of hidden, inaccessable, or just plain private spaces for any New Yorker who got the press release. We did not. However, we are totally on top of the next one.

In related news, they linked Forgotton NY, a website I've had bookmarked for years that is an ever-expanding resource for hidden, forgotten, buried New York. My favorite: whatever happened to disappeared streets? Again, a great example of how the internet is yet another way of mapping, viewing, and discovering cities.

Further into the old-bookmark territory was Infiltration; however, their online resources for NYC are gone, exploded into a myriad of websites for cities around the world.

I invite you to write us here at the olden weblogge and tell us about your Open House New York journeys. Or to anywhere hidden.

Door To Action, Continued

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The Door to Action continues. Tropolism is happy to announce a competition to rebuild Louisiana, sponsored by the School of Architecture and Design at University of Louisiana, in Lafayette. The school is the closest functioning architecture school to New Orleans (Tulane students are displaced this semester), and so particularly suited to be the locus for this kind of conversation. Submissions are due via downloadable PDF on November 1, so do not dawdle!

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.

Freedom Conversation: Cancelled


Bad: Pataki Cancels Freedom Center. I mean, who saw that coming? I'm outraged that the discussion of international freedom, and the context of terrorism, is being removed from the Trade Center site.

Worse:AIA discussion of the role the Freedom Center would play at WTC is cancelled. (yes, you have to scroll down to 1pm today). I'm surprised that a public post-mortem wasn't even subsituted as a topic. Are we going to stand for this idea, or just let it exist at the whim of the Governor? At least the roundtable on starting an Architecture firm is still happening tonight. Bonus: you can ask Greg P all about why he was so fussy about the whole Zaha non-scandal.

The Door To Action


Tropolism means appreciating urbanism wherever it is, in whatever form, even though it may not be suited to our taste. We prefer super-dense cities like New York and Tokyo and London to quasi-dense second-tier urban patches like Chicago and Atlanta and San Francisco.

(For instance, my brother, sister-in-law, and my two nieces absolutely love the 50,000 house development called "South Riding, Virginia", even though I have yet to determine if this is the name of a town nearby, or if that is only the name of the super-development. I think it's boring and uninteresting, but it's a form of urbanism, of density. Low-density, for me, the New Yorker, is simply low-interest.)


But there's one city that is small, compared to New York, yet has a cultural power to rival NYC. It's New Orleans, the abandoned city, the evacuated city, the city under water. America's dream of Venice. As Mr. Koolhaas pointed out in 1976, we here in the USA always dream in terms of disaster scenarios.

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.

The USA's Tallest Building


Chicago can always rely on its single-minded devotion to Modernism, as it was in 1972, to pull it through. In many instances, this is a perjorative. At other times, it is exciting.

The history of New York Skyscrapers vs. Chicago Skyscrapers, since 1950, might be characterized as so:

New York = design leads to money
Chicago = money leads to design leads to money

Tropolism means, well, we're not sure in this case. Sometimes, I would champion that the New York developer's approach, and the culture that supports it, leads to a more direct urban and architectural experience, one less encumbered by architectural theory. On the other hand, the Chicago developer's approach, and the culture that supports it, leads to purer buildings, which are nicer to look at.

What Office Workers Think


The Guardian has published a fascinating piece on what office life is like on people who work in famous buildings in England.

Tropolism means calling attention to both what works and what doesn't work.

Monday Morning Urbanism

From Friday's Economist

"The tighter security that has been in place in London since September 11th may have contributed to that. No city, however, can stop terrorists altogether. What can be said, though, is that terrorists are unable to stop cities, either. Perhaps an army, launching wave after wave of attacks, might succeed in doing so, especially if it were to deploy biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. Short of that, cities will always bounce back quickly, after the initial shock. They are resilient organisms, with powerful social and economic reasons to shrug off terrorism. New York and Madrid both show that, triumphantly."

We have observed two American terrorist events, and one in Europe, that supports this claim:

  1. Florence 1993. I arrived and went to my hotel. A bomb went off at the Uffizi a few hours later. I awoke to a crowded city of Florentines holding banners, signs, and buttons telling the terrorists to kiss off (sorry, Tropolism's translator is unavailable at the moment)
  2. Atlanta 1996. Evening, and I'd just flown into the city. My flight was late. My Atlantean friend picked me up. He asked if I wanted to go to the concert that night. I said no, I was too tired. The next morning, we woke up and heard that the concert we had skipped was the with the bomb. I expected all the midwesterners and southerners, non-urbane all, to stay at home. Instead, one after one, the folk interviewed said the same thing: this is our Olympics, our city, f*** off terrorists.
  3. September 11, 2001, NYC. People stopped what they were doing for days, weeks, and months on end, looking for a way to help out. And, of course, letting everyone know that this town was still ours, and we were all still here, living.

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.

Libeskind: Eternal Optimist

JMcK-10-03-2004-Libeskind-smiling.jpgJust when I was starting to believe the media carping about him, I read something that inspires me:

"The most important quality an architect can possess is optimism."

I'm still annoyed at the Cincinnati condo, though. And I'm not saying I was ever enthralled by the symbols created for the site. It is the idea of eternal optimism I'm inspired by.

I like to say that architects must be their buildings before they are built. No one else knows them better, until construction begins. The architect must build a community around his project, which will bring the building into being. Otherwise, it's just a design you made up. In short, you must always believe in the possibility of the building, and never believe what people are complaining about.

I have intentionally left hyperlinks to complaining out of this post, as much as they may satisfy my tendency for cattiness. They are too numerous to list, anyway.

An Open Email To City Planning

Ms. Burden:
I am an architect who lives in the far West Village. As both designer and resident, I have a dual interest in the development future of the far West Village.
I am writing to tell you of my support of the West Village zoning plan being proposed by your department. I support your efforts to preserve the scale and character of my neighborhood, and as always am impressed by the level of commitment that you have shown to good public space in New York. I have encountered your sound, balanced decisions many times: I was an associate at Rogers Marvel Architects for seven years, until I left last August to start Chad Smith Architect. We had a brief introduction after our presentation for the High Line competition.
At RMA it was clear to us that City Planning, directed by yourself, was committed to the transformation of New York's public realm into the finest public space possible. What was particularly encouraging was that your department treated development as a powerful partner in the creation of good public space. I have since moved on to become an advocate for good public space in my own right through my office, through a weblog at the soon-to-be launched, and through my writing for the Village Voice.
I was urged by a co-tenant to write in opposition of the zoning exclusion of the Whitehall Storage site. I declined to do that. Instead, I was inspired to write in support of keeping this site, and others like it, eligible for development. The neighborhood gains nothing by keeping the 1950s parking garages and 1930s storage buildings. In addition, I think encouraging limited development in this area has had some bright spots: Richard Meier's third tower, at 168 Charles Street, is one of the best buildings in Manhattan. The market finally delivers a gem.
To that end, I have proposed in my writing (I have devoted several recent entries to this zoning topic) that development in the far West Village be vetted by your office, or just you, to ensure it is of the finest architectural quality. There is no need to impose a historicist character to anything, and the limited number of sites available will ensure the Village stays the Village. The fringe sites are the perfect places for inspired design, both of buildings and the public spaces they create. In short, encourage buildings like Meier #3, discourage Morton Square. I invite you to take action on this proposal.
Feel free to contact me at any time, through phone or email. Thank you for your time.
Chad Smith

Stadium Wrapup

Dr. N.O. has conveniently put together a few interesting stadiums for your review. As an enemy to completists, nothing can compare to print journalism.

I invite you to search this site for some more, too. I wasn't saying weblogs were a completist's friend, yo.

Stupid Preservation Tricks, coda

And when I got home Friday afternoon, my building had distributed a letter-writing campaign to fight the development I referred to in Friday's entry. Brought to you by the guy on the 19th floor, who also owns the 20th floor and the 21st floor. To fight the 20 story building on the next block. From our 22 story building built in 1989, under huge protest from the entire West Village. Irony never rests, ever.

Stupid Preservation Tricks

One of the preservactivists leading this effort, the one who contacted me about a letter-writing campaign, lives on the 19th floor of the tallest building in the West Village. He is trying to stop the new 17-story residential tower from being built on the next block, which would involve knocking over the oldene timey historick Whitehall Mini-Storage Building.

Our building was constructed in 1989. No one liked it when it was built. The lack of recognition of the irony (and hypocrisy, how the two are twinned in our culture these days!) of this situation is appalling.

The stupidest trick: including parking garages built in the 1950s in a historic district plan to prevent new residential buildings from being built. It's the same prevarication as allowing the gays who got married in Massachusetts to stay married, but banning all future gays from getting married.

I submit that Meier's buildings, which stand in stark contrast to the historic character of the West Village, are prime examples of exactly what to do with fringe sites like this: get inventive. A little contrast is what makes our cities interesting. This is more in the spirit of Jane Jacobs than any reactionary don't-change-a-single-blade-of-grass-in-my-backyard preservation. I propose that the design get vetted by someone like Amanda Burden, someone with design taste. Pass on the cost of celebrity design to the developpers, who will pass it on to wealthy people buying apartments. Invest in the neighborhood.

Please note that none of this defense of creative neighborhood architecture applies to any Charles Gwathmey work since 1979.

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."

Highline Passes Federal Milestone


From the press release I e-got a second ago:

On Monday, June 13, the Surface Transportation Board, the federal regulator with oversight of all rail lines, approved the City of New York's request for a Certificate of Interim Trail Use, or CITU, for the High Line.

Thank the stars they didn't have to ask Assemblyman Sheldon Silver about it. The public project in his disctrict, the one he so valiantly fought for by killing the stadium, isn't faring so well.

(On the other hand, now that the Stadium is caput, perhaps the HL can have back the northern tail of the old rail, which was the most interesting part. It curls around the rail yards and is adjacent to the West Side Highway for three blocks. I always felt the potential connection to Hudson River Park, across the highway, was irresistible).

The High Line is a rare public project: one that has emerged from public discourse, and has been sustained by a mix of focused public support and favorable policy decisions, like today's. Along the way, it has become a more interesting, rich, and diverse project. The vision has emerged and strengthened, and hasn't succumbed to the signal degradation most public projects get. Like the third sibling in a family, the one that the parents aren't paying attention to, it quietly succeeds, and builds its own world of hope, while everyone else is fighting.

Shepherding the sheep are Friends of The High Line. My direct experience with them has given me the impression that we are being guided by savvy and connected smart people.

Stadium team: take notes. WTC team: take notes.

Wednesday is an opportunity for you to get involved in this discourse. At 9.30am, at City Hall, Manhattan, New York City, the City Council hears testimony regarding the rezoning of West Chelsea, which is another piece of the puzzle to getting the High Line Park or Whatever It Is Called. People are invited to come, and to speak if they are so inspired.

Another aspect, which may be of interest to websites like, oh, Cool Hunting, is that they've had great support from Pentagram, and Paula Sher, who painted one of her lovely maps, this time of the Chelsea neighborhood for FHL. FHL has the best graphic identity of any public effort I've ever seen.

NYC2012, please take note. (although their website intro is kiki.)

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.

Scottish Parliament Wins, Period


Anyone who reads this little column long enough will discern a bias towards Enric Miralles' work. If you were looking for objective news, there's always CNN.

Our friends at Archinect have reported that EMBT's Scottish Parliament building, which opened last year, won two Scottish Design Awards, including the top prize (called the Architecture Grand Prix.) I suppose everyone has their own "Architecture Grand Prix Award", like the New York City AIA, The New York State AIA, every chapter of the AIA ever, and every country on earth too. It already one Spain's top prize. Okay, so the profession is covering its ass. But after a long hoo-ha about the building's cost overruns, receipt of a local award may be confirmation that someone, somewhere in the building's local environs is satisfied.

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.