After much backlash from New York City Councilmember Brad Lander and several community members in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Lightstone Group has decided to abandon its proposed “minor modification” in favor of keeping the as-of-right design for its Gowanus Canal-side development that is in compliance with the rezoning passed in 2009.
Today the New York City Department of City Planning gave Lightstone the greenlight to move ahead with its 700-unit residential development on the Gowanus. The “Minor Modification” would have used a waiver to extend the depth in the rear yard. And while the design initially won the community board’s support, the damage and flooding from Hurricane Sandy in the area generated concern and protest among some residents.
Right as the New York City Housing Authority goes public with its controversial plan to allow developers to build high rises in the middle of public housing developments, the Brooklyn Public Library is taking a similar approach with the hope of mitigating its ongoing financial struggles. The New York Times reports that the library plans on selling off the land beneath two of its branches—The Brooklyn Heights Library at Cadman Plaza and the Pacific Library on Fourth Avenue—to developers who will then tear down the buildings and carve out space for them on the ground floor of their new residential towers.
Look out Google Maps, there’s a new super-slick mapping program out there, simply called Here. Nokia launched the mapping service late last year, and it includes a 3D pan-and-tilt feature that allows the viewer to fly through dramatic cityscapes or terrains, and it avoids some of the crazy infrastructure we’ve seen in the past. Videographer Paul Wex stumbled across the website and decided to make a video showcasing major cities around the world, and the results are stunning. Take a look above, or try it out yourself at Here.com. (Or if you have red-and-blue 3D glasses laying around, test it out in “3D Glasses Mode.”)
WXY architecture + urban design has been adding to Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park over the years, designing concession stands, a variety of benches, and a fountain, but their latest addition is adding a twist on the usual urban carousel. AN began watching the ocean-themed SeaGlass carousel back in 2006 when it was announced and the Battery Conservancy will be hosting a topping off ceremony for the structure on April 18. The carousel’s frame is made of stainless steel, evoking the spiral of a giant sea shell or the ornate ceiling of a cathedral.
WXY principal Claire Weisz said the part of the facade now covered in plywood sheathing will be clad in metal panels while other portions will include “smart glass” that can change from transparent to a dark blue tint. The solid areas serve as projection surfaces on the interior where underwater scenes will add to the enchanted effect of riding atop larger-than-life sea creatures like dolphins, clown fish, and turtles. Watch Weisz and co-principal Mark Yoes describe the carousel and other WXY projects in their Emerging Voices address from March 16, 2011. SeaGlass is the the latest in a line of high design carousels in New York, joining Jean Nouvel’s Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The contaminated waters of the Gowanus Canal—nor the threat of flooding from future storms like Hurricane Sandy—are deterring developers from building right up on the canal’s edge. In fact, a new swanky boutique hotel is about to wash up on the shores of the Gowanus Canal. This comes at a time when several new hotels are in the works for Brooklyn over the next few years, including the Rockwell Place Hotel in the Brooklyn Downtown Cultural District and Selldorf Architect’s revival of the Bossert Hotel in Brooklyn Heights.
Just a few weeks before the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, the New Yorker published a profile by Jon Lee Anderson (“Letter from Caracas: Slumlord”). The subject of the profile was less Chavez and more a Chavez-era phenomenon, the so-called Tower of David in downtown Caracas. “It embodies the urban policy of this regime, which can be defined by confiscation, expropriation, governmental incapacity, and the use of violence,” Guillermo Barrios, dean of architecture at the Universidad Central in Caracas, told Anderson.
Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s
Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
Through March 31
Designing Tomorrow presents relics from six depression-era expositions that brought new visions of progress and prosperity to a struggling nation. Tens of millions of Americans flocked to fairs in Chicago (1933/34), San Diego (1935/36), Dallas (1936), Cleveland (1936/37), San Francisco (1939/40), and New York (1939/40) to catch a glimpse of the futurist oracles that would soon become post-war realities—from glass skyscrapers, superhighways, and the spread of suburbia, to electronic home goods and nylon hosiery. The fairs helped America to look forward to an era of opulence and innovation, spreading from the metropolis to the living room. Modernist furniture, streamlined appliances, vintage film reels, and visionary renderings drawn from the museum’s collection are presented together.
Here at AN we have been hearing from the many fans of GA Global Architecture about the passing of its founder and creative force Yukio Futagawa. His long career as a publsiher had many highlights but it was as a architectural photographer that many feel he was most distinguished. William Stout Books, the great San Francisco architecture bookstore, has posted a tribute to Futagawa who worked with the store for many years. The store staff—a group that gets to see all the best architecture books—writes that he along with Julius Shulman were the two great “masters” of the craft of photographing buildings, particularly in black and white. They point out that the “quality of light in his work was truly unique because of his use of natural light,” particularly in his older books; The Essential Japanese House + Wooden Houses + Japanese Temples: Sculpture, Painting, Gardens and Architecture. The contrast in the black and white photos is really stunning,” they believe, and not unlike that of Aaron Siskind.
Developer Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management Co. stood up in front of a packed house at a community forum in Williamsburg last night to discuss his ambitious new redevelopment plans for the Domino Sugar Factory Refinery. Citing his family’s history in DUMBO, Walentas told the beer-sipping, tattooed crowd that his intention is to “build an extension of the neighborhood” that is “socially contextual.” The new plan incorporates significantly more commercial and office space, which Walentas says won’t financially benefit Two Trees, but speaks to his company’s philosophy and intent to draw from and embrace the historic and cultural fabric of Williamsburg.
A new bill before the U.S. House of Representatives is seeking to build consensus to junk Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial on the National Mall. The bill, known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Completion Act, was proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). It cites concerns over the controversial nature of the design and its escalating costs (currently estimated at well over $100 million) and seeks to “facilitate the completion of an appropriate national memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
Opposition to Gehry’s proposal has been brewing for some time. The antagonists include members of Eisenhower’s family and the National Civic Art Society, which published a 153-page report that called Gehry’s scheme a “travesty” and a “Happy McMonument.”
The AIA feels differently. The association released a statement opposing Rep. Bishop’s bill. The statement does not express an opinion about the value of Gehry’s design, but rather disapproves of the “arbitrary nature” of this exercise of “governmental authority.” Lodge your feelings about the bill and/or Gehry’s design in the comments section of this post.