The Greatest Grid:
The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811–2011
Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
Through April 6, 2012
In 1807, to head off health threats and a growing lack of habitable space, New York City’s Common Council commissioned a three-year project to organize massive land development north of Houston Street. The Museum of the City of New York presents The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811–2011 in honor of the bicentennial of the 1811 Commissioners’ Plan for New York, which established the iconic street grid from Houston to 155th Street. Along with the original, hand-drawn map of New York’s grid plan, other historic documents demonstrate the city’s physical development due to the grid’s application and evolution over time. Co-presented by the Museum of the City of New York, the New York Public Library, and The Architectural League of New York, and sponsored by the Office of the Manhattan Borough President, The Greatest Grid will be on display until April 6.
Just a stone’s throw from the British Museum, Renzo Piano‘s Central Saint Giles complex seems to have been overshadowed by the excitement around his Shard of Glass rising in the Southwark section of London. But as the Shard pierces the skyline, the year old St. Giles has begun to find its own footing. Last month, the 500,000 square foot complex brought a bit of bossa nova to this West End outpost. Cabana, a restaurant designed by Alex Michaelis of Michaelis Boyd, plays well with Piano’s citrus colored facades and brings a dash Brazilian spice to the quiet courtyard.
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A folded canopy reinvents a former loading dock in the city’s historic Depot District
Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum chose its new home in the city’s Depot District carefully. Located in a former produce warehouse, the project calls attention to the city’s history of railroad transportation and red brick architecture while emphasizing its commitment to sustainability and adaptive reuse. Led by Brooks + Scarpa Architects, the project included renovation of the existing 21,000-square-foot structure and the addition of a 900-square-foot entry pavilion. The glass-enclosed lobby reinterprets the location of the original building’s loading dock with an expanded and folded canopy that announces the building’s new purpose and balances the effect of daylight on its interiors.
It was the opening shot heard ’round the Village–and the East Village, and SoHo. An overflow crowd gathered at the Center for Architecture last night to rally the troops opposing NYU’s twenty year expansion plan. It certainly wasn’t the usual black-clad crowd found at the Center. No, these were some good old fashioned Village rabble rousers.
The event was organized by the Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who assured the crowd that the NYU Core plan is “not a done deal.” On Tuesday, the university certified proposals with City Planning, thus kicking off the ULURP process for what is likely to become one of the most contentious development debates of 2012. The proposal is, after all, in the heart of Jane Jacobs country.
Just across the street from the Center are the remains of Robert Moses’ failed attempt to build the Lower Manhattan Expressway through SoHo after Jacobs and Co. put a halt to the plan. Parcels of land assembled by the Department of Transportation to accommodate the failed highway are now parkland commonly known as the DOT strips. A substantial portion of the 1.3 million square feet NYU wants to build in the area would be placed beneath the strips. The university has proposed designating the strips as parkland after the construction is complete, with the new green space designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.
No matter the promises, this was not a crowd that trusts the university. The term “Midtown Zoning” got thrown about with on-message regularity. As did square footage metaphors, such as “bigger than the Waldorf-Astoria,” “the size of the Empire State Building,” and “three Jacob Javits Convention Centers.”
Council Member Margaret Chin was on hand to listen, but not to state her pro or con position–despite pressure from the crowd.
This month’s Community Board 2 subcommittee meetings will no doubt be unusually crowded as they’re all dealing with the proposal. If you want to see some New York zoning theater in action, here’s a selected breakdown:
Land Use: Mon., 1/9 6PM at The Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Pl.
Traffic and Transportation: Tues., 1/10 @ 6:30 NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Pl. room 520
Parks: Thurs., 1/12 @ 6:30PM at NYU Silver Bldg. 32 Waverly Pl. room 520
Full Board: Thurs., 1/19 @ 6:00PM 116 West 11th Street, Auditorium
Anne Tyng, the Philadelphia architect and design professor, passed away on December 27. Born in 1920, Tyng was best known as a close collaborator—and even muse—of Louis Kahn, but she herself was an extraordinary figure. She established her career with theoretical writings that reflected a deep interest in mathematics and design, themes that she explored in Simultaneousness, Randomness and Order, her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania, and pursued throughout her professional life.
Anne Tyng: Inhabiting Geometry, an exhibition that opened last year at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, was an elegant summation of her theoretical research on design and of her professional and academic career. Several of Tyng’s geometric designs from the ICA show were later exhibited at the Graham Foundation in Chicago, a longtime supporter of her work.
The Architect’s Newspaper will publish a more extensive obituary written by Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss in our next issue.