Archi-Spring Has Sprung: AN Takes in Three Events Across New York

East
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
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The model of the winning AIDS Memorial by studio a+i.

The model of the winning AIDS Memorial by studio a+i at the Center for Architecture (AN/Stoelker)

It was a busy archi-spring night last night. The Municipal Arts Society held their debate on NYU’s 2031 expansion plan, the AIDS Memorial exhibit opened at the Center for Architecture, and Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century opened at the newly re-dubbed Walker Tower on West 18th Street. Read on for highlights of the MAS debate and to view few photos from the Center and Walker Tower…

The MAS panel debated NYU's 2031 proposal: from left, John Alschuler, Ron Shifman, Brad Hollyman, Gary Hack, and Hilary Ballon.

The MAS panel debated NYU's 2031 proposal: from left, John Alschuler, Ron Shiffman, Brad Hoylman, Gary Hack, and Hilary Ballon.

The MAS debate was the most sober event of the evening with a panel packed with academic all stars. The NYU opponents applauding statements they found to their liking lent the debate the air of a souped-up community board meeting. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to hear ideas cleanly teased out by moderator John Alschuler, of HR&A, the real estate/economic advisory firm.  The community had an informed voice on stage in CB2 Chair Brad Hoylman. His point of view was largely backed up by Pratt’s Ron Shiffman, while NYU’s Hilary Ballon and Penn’s Gary Hack tipped the balance back in favor of NYU.

Alschuler got the ball rolling by stating “nobody loves the Coles Gymnasium,” the bland brick bunker on the corner of Houston and Mercer, and that “some level of change is going to come there,” partly in the form of a hotel in the so-called Zipper Building. This immediately spurred Schifman to respond that there is little need for a hotel on the campus as NYC has plenty already. “People can get on the subway, why are we protecting them,” he said of the NYU visitors. “That’s a formula for disaster.” Hack argued that at Penn they began their expansion with a hotel, because that’s what visiting academics need most—a place to stay on campus. While Ballon, who is based at NYU Abu Dhabi, said the university’s international franchises mean they need a hotel more than ever.

In the end, the southern super block with its two towers was the source of less tension, as opposed to the proposed Boomerang Buildings on the northern superblock. Schiffman went so far as to say that he likes the Kimmelman plan, which would keep the below grade space but nix the above grade structures. But Hack said the new proposal, including the buildings, would open the superblock up and provide better circulation. He added that the additional space would give students a place to gather instead of meeting at “third place haunts” like Starbucks. Hoylman said the north block proposal would more likely become a student thoroughfare, not a neighborhood square. “This is about NYU solving an identity crisis; they get their quad,” he said.

The winning entry will inform the design of a smaller memorial at the parks westernmost corner.

The winning entry will inform the design of a smaller memorial at Triangle Park's westernmost corner.

The crowd at the Center with studio a+i's model in foreground.

The crowd at the Center with studio a+i's model in foreground.

The Ralph Walker exhibition was based on research from Katherine E. Holliday's forthcoming book on the architect. (Courtesy Curbed)

The Ralph Walker exhibition was steeped in research from Kathryn E. Holliday's forthcoming book about the architect to be released by Rizzoli this fall. (Courtesy Curbed)

The exhibit features models of built and unbuilt works by Walker. The plexi towers (left) were from an unbuilt waterfall, while the lightning bolt (right) was from the 1939 Worlds Fair.

The exhibit features models of built and unbuilt works by Walker. The clear acrylic towers (left) were from an unbuilt waterfall, while the lightning bolt (right) was from the 1939 Worlds Fair. (Courtesy Bonnie Burke)

A steel and LED small scale reproduction of Walker's sculpture for the GE pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair sits at the center of the exhibition.

A steel and LED reproduction of Walker's bolt sculpture for the GE pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair sits at the center of the exhibition. (Stoelker)

One Response to “Archi-Spring Has Sprung: AN Takes in Three Events Across New York”

  1. Martin Greenstein says:

    Yes, the NYU panel discussion was quite the intellectual exercise with self important experts that had no concern or mention of human life. My hope was that these wonderfully bright people would understand that architecture has the ability to have positive impact on human life not just an opportunity for another award to impress their peers with. Both Hilary Ballon and Gary Hack were understandably brought in to balance the discussion but they were sadly uninformed as to the specifics of NYU 2031. I would have expected that at least Ms. Ballon would have had more information at hand but as I said this was just an intellectual exercise, not an opportunity for a meaningful discussion of the issues.

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