Manhattan Community Board 2 unanimously voted against the NYU expansion plan in Greenwich Village last night citing the impact its scale would have on the neighborhood. Grimshaw with Toshiko Mori designed four of the proposed towers and Michael Van Valkenburgh designed the landscape for the 2.4 million square foot expansion. The plans were set within two superblocks that sprang from Robert Moses-era urban renewal projects that featured buildings by I.M. Pei, Paul Lester Weiner, and a garden by Hideo Sasaki.
Shortly after the Landmarks Preservation Commission declared a section of the Grand Concourse an historic district on Tuesday, New York Times columnist Constance Rosenblum received a call with the news. Walking down Montague Street near her home in Brooklyn Heights, the usually unflappable writer burst into tears. When it comes to the Concourse, Rosenblum wrote the book. Her 2010 chronicle of the corridor, Boulevard of Dreams (NYU Press, $20), played a significant role in calling attention to the plight and promise of the neighborhood. “It was notable day,” she said in a phone interview in reference to the announcement. “It wasn’t easy for the Bronx, and the stigmas will remain for a long time.”
Though a bit more sedate then the previous night’s party, where copious amounts of caipirinhas were consumed, the New Practices Sao Paolo panel discussion on July 15 was not without its own fireworks. Toshiko Mori and José Armenio de Brito Cruz moderated the panel which was preceded by presentations from the ten winners. A strictly enforced ten-minute time limit made presentations feel like the Oscars when the orchestra music begins to swell. Though each presenter struck an distinct note, one could pick up on a few common threads. I certainly wouldn’t call it anti-green, but a few presenters markedly pointed out that there are other immediate matters in Brazil that compete with sustainability. “We didn’t want to create a green building,” said Triptyques’ Carolina Bueno, when describing her building, which, oddly enough, included “pores” in the facade for plants to grow. More to the point, Arkiz’s Rafael Brych questioned whether “green demagogical discourse” shaping the architectural discourse fully represented what was needed in Brazil.
On December 2, Werner Sobek, IIT professor and founder of Werner Sobek Engineering and Design, delivered the third annual Franzen Lecture for Architecture and the Environment at the Cooper Union. Sobek, who is also head of the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart, discussed experiments at the institute to develop an inflatable-fabric-structural-envelope-system-prototype, or “sausage” to be economical. Our eyewitness reports that after much exposition about inflatable fabric membranes, New York architect Toshiko Mori, who moderated the discussion, offered that she had sat on Werner’s inflatable sausage, because he wanted her to test the resistive properties to make sure it could withstand the pressure. Tittering spread through the audience, said our witness, who admitted that he lost track of the discussion. Yes, folks, this is what passes for randy double entendre in the academy.