Recycling Finally on NYC Streets?

East, East Coast
Monday, May 10, 2010
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Council members Peter Vallone, Christine Quinn, Jessica Lappin, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Letitia James in Astoria earlier today, pushing for more recycling bins in the city. (William Alatriste)

When was the last time you found yourself on a city street, empty water bottle or given-up-on crossword in hand? Being the conscientious New Yorker you are, no doubt you looked around for a recycling bin to deposit your refuse in. Odds are, you didn’t find any nearby, as the city—so often held up as a green beacon—is woefully lacking in recycling receptacles. That could change soon, with the passage of a package of recycling-related legislation that was unveiled just before Earth Day last month. Since the launch of a public recycling pilot program in 2007, there are now 300 bins scattered across the city. The council hopes to double that number within three years of the legislation’s passage and increase it to 1,000 within a decade. But the city has a long way to go, considering there are more than 25,000 “corner baskets” located in the five boroughs. Read More

The Wright Ingredients

East, East Coast
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
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Welcome to the Wright, now approved by two dead baldmen. (Courtesy Andre Kikoski Architects)

Local boy Andre Kikoski won the James Beard Award today for his flashy new restaurant inside the Guggenheim Museum. It replaced the once dowdy cafeteria designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, for whom the award-winning eatery is named, long a vestigial space tucked in under the museum’s sweeping rotunda. Now all flashy curves and color, Kikoski’s space, which opened in January, was even considered a might bit better than the food served therein by New York food critic Adam Platt. The Wright beat out another local spot, Brooklyn’s Choice Kitchens & Bakery by Evan Douglis Studio, and Greensboro, Alabama’s PieLab, designed by Project M. Kikoski joins recent award winners Thomas Schleeser of Design Bureaux (2009) for Chicago’s Publican, Tadao Ando (2008) for Morimoto New York, Lewis Tsuramaki Lewis (2007) for New York’s (now defunct) Xing, Bentel and Bentel (2006) for the Modern… (We’re noticing a trend here, which maybe helps explain why the food in the city is so darn good.)

Spare Land-Use Change?

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 29, 2010
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Community groups and unions protest the Kingsbridge Armory, a project that died in part because of its CBA arrangements—or lack thereof. (Matt Chaban)

Yesterday, the Times ran an interesting story about the potential illegality of Community Benefit Agreements, as determined in a report by the New York City Bar Association. The report argues such agreements should not be fostered by the city, even if there is nothing that can be done to stop a developer from negotiating with local community groups—something the bar believes can lead to corruption—and, failing that, not to allow the agreements to have a bearing on land-use decisions. The Times’ article concludes with a note of resignation, though, that CBAs are here to stay, so deal with it. What a capital idea! In fact, the reason this story rang so true with us is that it sounds a lot like one of the issues that came up while working on our piece on the Charter Revision Commission. Herewith is yet more reason to take a serious look at land-use issues and not just term limits.

MoMA Gets Social

East Coast, International
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
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Quinta Monroy Housing Project, Iquique, Chile (2003-2005), by Elemental. (Photo: Tadeuz Jalocha)

AN has a first look at MoMA’s upcoming architecture exhibition, Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures for Social Engagement, which will include eleven projects from four continents. The show examines how architects working on small budgets can “bring a positive impact to social conditions,” according to curator Andres Lepik. All the included projects are exemplary for their level of community engagement, which often includes developing the skills of local people. For Lepik, this level of community engagement sets these projects apart from what he calls “charity architecture” or “parachute architecture.” While the American architects are fairly familiar, among them Michael Maltzan, the Rural Studio, and the Estudio Teddy Cruz, many of the international examples will be new to the MoMA audience. Read More

Home Movies at Tribeca

East, East Coast
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
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Susan Morris sends along her recommendations for the Tribeca Film fest, which ends Sunday, including her favorite, My Queen Karo, above.

For those interested in films that include architecture, a number of entries in the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival may be of perplexing interest. Striking, in particular, is the number of films where homes are the sights of hothouse mayhem. Here’s my guide to who did what to whom and, above all, where. Read More

Walmart? Fugedaboutit!

East Coast, National
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
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The stores of Gateway Center 1. Might the second phase include a Walmart? (Courtesy Related)

In the last Midwest issue, we recounted Walmarts struggles to infiltrate urban centers, notably in Chicago. But the world’s largest retailer and the nation’s largest employer has also been eying New York for years, and the Daily News reports that it is making a new push in Brooklyn, which has already met resistance from locals and labor without even being officially announced. The weird thing, though, is how eerily similar there approach is in East New York as with the Pullman project on Chicago’s Far South Side. Both are meant to be the anchor tenant in a larger mixed-use development that involves affordable housing (the former is part of Gateway II, the latter Pullman Park) located in the fringes of their respective cities, places that have been historically economically depressed. This puts Walmart in a better position of arguing that the area is in need of jobs, any jobs, not to mention affordable housing, so how dare politicians and unions try to stop it. Whether it works in Brooklyn or the Far South Side, only time will tell, but if Kingsbridge is any indication, it probably won’t happen in the Five Boroughs any time soon. Pullman, however, might be an entirely different story, as Mayor Daley continues to agitate for the project’s approval.

Bucky Comes to Town

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 22, 2010
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The Union Tank Car Dome stood 384 feet wide, the largest structure of its kind when it was completed. (Courtesy theWarrenReport.com)

If you couldn’t make it down to D.C. last month for the Environmental Film Fest, it’s still not too late to catch one of the entries, A Necessary Ruin. The movie tells the story of the untimely destruction of Buckminster Fuller’s Union Tank Car Dome, a piece of railroad infrastructure that was the largest clear-span structure when it was completed in 1958 before being summarily destroyed three years ago. Its epic story will be told tomorrow night next Friday at the Center for Architecture, followed by a lively discussion with Jonathan Marvel, all part of the current show, Modernism at Risk. You can watch the trailer after the jump. Read More

Lean and Green

East, East Coast
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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New York continues to "go green." (Courtesy Rickshaw Diaries)

Vice President Joe Biden announced nearly half-a-billion dollars in stimulus funding today to promote green retrofits nationwide, and the biggest winner, according to a Bloomberg administration release, is New York State, which took home $40 million of the $452 million pot. The money will go to two programs, the PACE loan program and Green Jobs-Green New York. The former provides low- or no-interest loans to property owners who buy energy efficient building materials, including insulation, solar panels, and geo-thermal systems, which are then paid back through taxes and utility payments, though the retrofits average out to 20 to 30 percent on energy usage over the life of the product. And Green Jobs-Green New York provides funding to launch training programs so there are capable workers who can build, install, and maintain this new wave of high-tech devices.

He Fought the Good Fight

East, East Coast
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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Daniel Goldstein, DDDB spokesman and spiritual leader, at a press conference in front of Freddy's last November. (threecee/Flickr)

It appears this is the end of one of the greatest real estate battles since Jane Jacobs took on Robert Moses. But just as Penn Station was demolished and replaced by Madison Square Garden, Daniel Goldstein’s apartment building will soon go, replaced by the Barclays Center. We just received an unusual release from Forest City Ratner saying simply that the company “today reached an agreement with the remaining resident residing in the project’s footprint” and would not comment further. Goldstein’s name was not even mentioned, and while we’re waiting to hear back ourselves, the Times confirms it, along with the rather astounding fact that he was paid $3 million for his condo. The unit was originally bought in 2003 for $590,000, though the state notoriously offered only $510,000 last year, citing neighborhood blight. This comes on the heels of news yesterday that deals had been struck with the remaining 7 holdouts, including Freddy’s Bar, which now hopes to move to somewhere near 4th and Union avenues, not too far from its current home.

Mainstreaming Modernist Landmarks

East, East Coast
Friday, April 16, 2010
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The Spring Mills Building in 1963, the year of its completion. (Courtesy Abramowitz, Kingsland & Schiff)

On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission named the former Spring Mills headquarters at 104 West 40th Street the newest New York City landmark—arguably the most important designation of the year so far. What makes Spring Mills so special is, well, that it’s not exactly special. Unlike notable predecessors—Lever House, the Guggenheim, the Ford Foundation—Spring Mills was preserved less for its architectural pedigree than its historical significance. Designed by skyscraper savants Harrison & Abramowitz, and completed in 1963, it is less the 21 stories of green glass on a slender facade that sets this building apart—though that is important, too—than its serving as a marker for the 1960s arrival of the Garment District in Midtown from its former Tribeca home. This makes Spring Mills more in line with, say, West-Park Presbyterian Church, a cultural and community icon, than Chase Manhattan Plaza, an architectural standout for being the first of its kind downtown. In other words, modernist landmarks have reached a point where they are akin to their brick-and-mortar predecessors, becoming simply another architectural style or era to be grappled with on its own merits. Read More

Figment Island

East, East Coast
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
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Ann Ha and Behrang Behin's winning Figment entry, "Living Pavilion," was lauded for its sustainabile simplicity. (Courtesy Figment)

After nearly a year of waiting, we’ve now seen the new designs coming to Governors Island sometime in the future. But there is also some exciting architecture, art, and, most importantly, mini golf coming to the island this summer, part of the fourth annual Figment arts program that has been populating the island with exciting activities and edifices since the park first opened. On Friday, Figment announced the winners of its call for entries for the aforementioned projects, namely an architecture pavilion, 17 sculptures, and a 10-hole mini golf course. Eschewing the flashy forms of the three finalists they beat out, Ann Ha and Behrang Behin took a creative yet affordable approach with their winning Living Pavilion, tethering together milk crates to create planters for a garden that proceed to fold in on themselves, forming a wave-like tunnel sodded with grass. Check out the architecture finalists plus a few of the winning sculptures after the jump. Read More

Taming Governors Island

East, East Coast
Monday, April 12, 2010
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The new Governors Island, as envisioned by West 8 and Co. CLICK TO ZOOM (Courtesy GIPEC)

Even with last week’s heat wave making it feel like July in the city, it will still be seven weeks before that oasis in New York Harbor, Governor’s Island, opens for the season on June 5. But there’s still plenty of reason to celebrate like summer’s here, as the city reached its anticipated deal with the state for control of the 172-acre island yesterday. The city will now be responsible for the development and operation of all but 22 acres of the former Coast Guard base purchased for $1 from the federal government in 2003, whose National Parks Service remains responsible for a small historic district on the northern section of the island. This paved the way for the rather quiet unveiling today of the 87-acre final master plan designed by West 8, Rogers Marvel, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Mathews Nielsen, and Urban Design+, which had been under lock in key since last spring, when the proposal was completed but held up by all the fighting over the island’s, uh, governance. Read More

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