Planes Trains & Automobiles
Make No Small Plans
Terminal 3 at JFK International Airport is incontinent. At 52, such problems are understandable. Still, they are nonetheless embarrassing, especially for one of the main international entry points for still (arguably, hopefully) the capital of the world.
Hanging from Terminal 3’s massive flying saucer roof are two dozen diapers, the actual technical term for the no-longer white tarps, 10-by-10 or larger, affixed to the concrete ceiling by steel cables. Running out the middle of each is a clear garden hose. Why not something opaque is a mystery as baffling as the fact that this terminal, with its crumbling roof, still stands. At least a dark hose would hide the effluent passing through the cracks of time, the drippings of decades of decay and neglect, where none of it would be exposed for all the world to see.
Hello Istanbul, greetings Sao Paolo, cheerio London. Welcome to New York. Hope your 12-hour flight was O.K. Please ignore the colostomy bags hanging overhead.
An Arena Grows in Brooklyn
Last year, a not-entirely outrageous proposal by urban theorist and Columbia professor Vishaan Chakrabarti was put forward to use landfill to connect Governors Island to Lower Manhattan, creating an entirely new Battery Park City South of sorts. Compared to landfill efforts in Tokyo and other parts of China, the idea is actually incredibly modest. And here is how it could be done.
Last week, The Observer looked at Bruce Ratner’s plans for a prefabricated Atlantic Yards project—whether he was serious about the project and whether he could achieve the steep 20 percent savings he claimed for the modular building process. A number of real estate professionals were skeptical on both counts, but they all pointed to the developers out-sized investment in prefab technology as an indicator of his seriousness. Now we know just how much of an investment that has been.
Design Within Reach?
To the general public, architecture simply means buildings, maybe the occasional shiny rendering displayed on a blog such as this one or inside the sales pamphlet for an as-yet-unbuilt condo. It might be some Frank Lloyd Wrigh models lining the rotunda of his Guggenheim Museum. For Tina DiCarlo, architecture is so much more.
“The fact of the matter is the general public equates architecture with buildings, so if you talk to them about an architect, let’s say Rem’s Exodus drawings from 1972, if you say that’s architecture, somebody would say, “Well, how, it’s on paper? It doesn’t make sense.” How is a book architecture? How is text architecture? How are Tschumi’s Manhattan Transcripts architecture? It’s just a drawing.”
Ms. DiCarlo hopes to broaden the public’s understanding of What Is Architecture through the creation of The Archive of Spatial Aesthetics and Praxis, or ASAP. Built out of a collection of different architectural materials, from models to manifestos, blueprints to blog posts, she and co-curator Danielle Rago hope to transform the dialogue not only about what constitutes architecture but where it fits into the greater realm of society and culture.
Mr. Ross' Neighborhood
Last month, Mayor Bloomberg stood in a shiny white conference room inside Department of Buildings headquarters on lower Broadway, two blocks from City Hall. He was surrounded by some of his top deputies and a giant flatscreen monitor mounted on the wall. Welcome to the Hub, a new high-tech system that allows the city’s architects and engineers for the first time to interface with plan examiners at the 17 different departments with oversight of their projects simultaneously.
“We all heard horror stories about delays in the approval process that cost time and money,” Mayor Bloomberg told reporters.
Standing at the podium beside the buildings commissioner and landmarks chair, closer to the mayor than the reps for the Real Estate Board and developer the Related Companies, was a striking woman in a black tweed dress and gray cardigan.
Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, along with her members at the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, where she is currently serving as president, have told the city more of these horror stories than anyone else, and it was through their advocacy, their lobbying, that encouraged the mayor and the Department of Buildings to create the Hub.
The Neverending Story
Despite the anticipation surrounding Hudson Yards—a new neighborhood cut from whole cloth, full of open space and affordable housing and not a few shiny new offices, and the jobs that come with it all—the truth was, it wasn’t much to look at. Even the decade-old and not-much-to-look-at-unless-you’re-in-on-the-architectural-joke Time Warner Center was flashy by compare. Then, Related’s Steve Ross decided he could do better. It is rare for a developer to have such a change of heart, but it appears the city is better off for it.
One of the enduring challenges at the World Trade Center—besides who will lease up the offices—has been what the base of Tower 1 would look like. Fears persisted that the 185-foot concrete shell demanded by the N.Y.P.D. would look like exactly that, a giant bunker. The solution, arrived at by a harried team of architects in less than a month back in 2005, was waves of crenelated glass that would turn the entire structure into a giant crystal.
The only problem was, that approach proved almost impossible to produce when the fabricators began creating mock-ups of the structure earlier this year. The glass would shatter too easily, a major issue for a high-traffic tower that could be susceptible to another attack. The architects at SOM returned to the drawing board and created a solution that is at once very similar to and totally different from their original proposal, a new plan that was approved yesterday by the board of the Port Authority.
The main goal was achieving an aesthetic solution to this ongoing challenge, though it turns out the biggest different between the two plans is economic—the new curtain wall will cost less than half the price of the original one, $37.2 million.
Last week, the 19th annual CANstruction competition kicked off, with teams of architects and engineers spending a night building sculptures out of canned food, which will be donated to City Harvest. Mixing art and design, the pieces must be visually compelling but also structurally sound. The cans are on view at the World Financial Center through November 21, and on Monday, the winners were announced at a big gala. Take a look at the top six entries as well as the rest—hopefully they’ll help get you hungry for dinner.
Much as we have been enjoying the work of Michael Kimmelman lately, no one stokes the critical fires like Ada Louise Huxtable. The grand dame of the business, Ms. Huxtable writes all too infrequently for The Journal—only six times a year, but not because that is all the paper will give here but instead it is all she will offer them.
Today Ada Louise offers an especially intriguing look at the Empire State Building and its resurrection, an assessment really only she could offer as few others have the same lens through which to view it, having seen both its grandeur and its decay.
The Observer was beginning to suffer withdrawal. It had been more than two weeks since Michael Kimmelman filed his last piece for The Times Art Section, after a run of nearly one architecture review a week. We should have seen his latest one coming, but The Observer must admit that we did not.
It is not simply because defining bike lanes as architecture could be a subject open for debate, at least under Mr. Kimmelman’s starchiest-loving predecessor (to be fair, he did write about the Time Square pedestrian plazas) but also because the Gray Lady has not exactly been a friend to the cycling movement, consistently criticizing the godhead Janette Sadik-Khan.
But for Mr. Kimmelman, recently returned from Europe, cycling is almost a perfect conveyance.