My recent posts at World-Architects

      

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Ecological Living Module at the UN

This morning I visited the United Nations to see the Ecological Living Unit. The "tiny house," which was designed to be "efficient, multi-functional and engineered to operate independently," is a collaboration between UN Environment, Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture, and Gray Organschi Architecture. Below is a quick tour of the ELM with my photos.

Ecological Living Module
The west-facing facade is covered in a "Microfarming Wall" that is irrigated by rainwater that hits the angled planters but also by rainwater collected on the roof.


Ecological Living Module
Ecological Living Module
These two photos show the solar panels on the sloped roof and the sliding glass wall at the narrow, south-facing porch with its shallow overhang.


Ecological Living Module
Another sliding glass wall opens on the east side to aid in passive ventilation.


Ecological Living Module
A peek inside reveals shadow patterns from the skylight, a wood-lined interior, built-in seating, and a ladder up to the sleeping loft.


Ecological Living Module
The skylight doubles as an Integrated Concentrating Solar Facade (ICSF), which produces electricity and captures solar energy "as heat for domestic hot water, space heating, and solar cooling," per the ELM handout available at the UN.


Ecological Living Module
The north end of the sleeping loft features a translucent clerestory above an Indoor Purification Plant Wall that is meant to improve indoor air quality.


Ecological Living Module
Behind the first-floor kitchen and sleeping loft on the north side of the building is the ELM's data and systems nerve center.


Ecological Living Module
Here, the various power, water, and computer controls are efficiently packed into a small closet accessed from outside.


Ecological Living Module
The construction is primarily wood, with locally sourced plywood, LVL, CLT, framing, furring, and siding – even wood fiber insulation is used in the walls, floor, and roof.


Ecological Living Module
Ecological Living Module

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: Downward Spiral

Downward Spiral: El Helicoide's Descent from Mall to Prison edited by Celeste Olalquiaga and Lisa Blackmore
UR (Urban Research), 2018
Paperback, 268 pages



If any decade could be called "the driving decade" it would definitely be the 1950s. Domestically, it encompassed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which saw the federal government pay for thousands of miles of highways, many barreling through cities. In turn, buildings downtown had to be designed and reconfigured for the automobile. One bold example, which was proposed in 1959 and built five years later, was William Tabler's "Motor-Pool Hilton" in San Francisco, which wrapped a hotel around a parking garage; people could drive up the ramp and park right next to their room. But a look at the building disappoints, since the automotive aspect driving the design -- turning it into a hybrid between a hotel and a motor lodge -- is hidden. To see a true auto-architecture around the same time, one would have had to travel to Caracas, Venezuela, to see El Helicoide de la Roca Tarpeya, a spiraling mall carved from a hilltop, where shoppers drove up the ramp to the shop they wanted to patronize.


[El Helicoide de la Roca Tarpeya, 1965. Photo: Paolo Gasparini]

I learned about El Helicoide last year when the Center for Architecture displayed the small, one-room exhibition El Helicoide: From Mall to Prison. I wrote about the exhibition for World-Architects after attending a tour given by curator Celeste Olalquiaga. My piece traces the evolution of the project designed by Venezuelan architect Jorge Romero Gutiérrez in the late 1950s, so I won't go into too much detail here on the project's history. But suffice to say, what started as an optimistic mixed-use building -- with shops plus offices, a hotel, and a geodesic dome on the roof, all accessed by the system of ramps that made up the project's expression -- turned into its antithesis, a building occupied by the police and used as a prison housing political dissidents. The exhibition and book focus on the gestation of the building -- one of the most unique in the period but also one of the most underappreciated -- as well as its design and the larger context in which it fits, while also exploring how the project devolved in the decades following its near-completion.



With more than twenty essays in five sections -- Lost in Time, Geometric Detours, Informal Topographies, Cursed Towers, and Living Ruins -- Downward Spiral is the definitive cultural history of El Helicoide. The spiraling building was devoid of such in-depth treatment until Celeste Olalquiaga, Lisa Blackmore and others at Proyecto Helicoide devoted their energies to "promoting the architectural, cultural and social value of El Helicoide ... a global icon of the contradictions of modernity." If the exhibition's period photos, drawings, and other artifacts painted a visual portrait of El Helicoide (thankfully, many of them are published in the book), Downward Spiral enables scholars from Venezuela and elsewhere to provide depth on a building that should be known to a wider audience, both for its architectural ambition and its eventual misappropriation.


[Michael Sorkin, publisher of Urban Research, and Celeste Olalquiaga at the launch for Downward Spiral at the Center for Architecture in January. Bad low-res photo by John Hill.]

Friday, July 13, 2018

Today's archidose #1008

Here's a photo of the Amager Resource Center (2017) in Copenhagen, Denmark, by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group. The photo, by Jeff Reuben, is looking toward the waste-to-energy plant from Christiania. Although the plant is obviously functioning, the ski slope – Copenhill – that sits atop it won't be complete until later this year.

Amager Landscape

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Rosario Candela, Sutton Place, and 'Elegance in the Sky'

Elegance in the Sky
[All photos by John Hill, unless noted otherwise]

Although the 57th Street tour I've given in recent years focuses on the tall towers of "Billionaire's Row," my walk goes all the way from river to river, starting at a small plaza overlooking the East River and ending at 12th Avenue near the Hudson River. Extending the tour to 2.5 miles enabled it to embrace such projects as BIG's VIA 57 West overlooking the Hudson and to historically contextualize the supertall residential towers that have sprung up this century in the blocks of 57th Street between Park Avenue and Broadway. In the case of the latter, Sutton Place (named for the north-south avenue that intersects 57th Street just shy of the East River) is a quiet residential neighborhood with townhouses and apartment buildings from the early 1900s. A couple apartment buildings in Sutton Place were designed by Rosario Candela, a prolific residential architect at the time and the subject of Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela, a small exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York.

Elegance in the Sky

Candela's most important contribution to Sutton Place was 1 Sutton Place South, located on the southeast corner of 57th Street and Sutton Place. As depicted in the photos from the exhibition above, 1 Sutton Place South and its porte-cochere faced Sutton Place, while the rear of the apartment building and its private garden overlooked the East River. In the 1930s, the double-decker FDR Drive was built in the area of Sutton Place, leading to the construction of small parks at the end of 56th, 57th, and 58th Streets – a swap for the land the city was taking away. (The 58th Street park is the location of the famous shot of the Queensboro Bridge from Woody Allen's Manhattan.) This century, a chunk of the private garden at 1 Sutton Place South is being taken for a new park area that will link the parks at 56th and 57th Streets.


[Site plan from NYC Parks]

On the north side of 57th Street between Sutton Place and 1st Avenue is another Candela building, 447 East 57th Street. It also had a private garden, as the ad below illustrates, but it was located on an infill lot to the west of the building, next to a townhouse. This garden ensured light and air to the corner units on the west side of the building. The garden was accessible by the three-story unit at the base of the building. Most famously it was occupied by Tina Brown, the former editor of New Yorker and Vogue, who used it to entertain VIPs and sold it just last month for nearly $7 million.


[Advertisement for 447 East 57th Street in the New York Times, scanned from Sutton Place: Uncommon Community by the River by Christopher Gray]

Brown and other tenants of 447 East 57th Street tried – unsuccessfully, as the photo below attests – to stop the demolition of the neighboring townhouse and subsequent erection of a 15-story glassy building designed and developed by Flank. The sliver of space between 441 and 447 is apparent in the photo below, though we can only imagine the views back and forth between the residences in these contrasting through equally expensive buildings. Any bitterness between the residents of the Candela and Flank buildings surely subsided in recent years, though, as the Sutton Place community banded together to halt construction of an 800-foot-tall tower on the lot directly north of 441 East 57th Street. As of last month, Sutton 58 will move forward and, barring any successful appeals, will bring skinny supertalls to Sutton Place, more than four blocks east of Rafael Viñoly's 432 Park Avenue.



So even as the land around these two Rosario Candela buildings in Sutton Place is seeing both slight (park) and dramatic (supertall) changes, the appeal of his early 20th century apartment buildings is lasting. No surprise then that he is the subject of an exhibition, albeit a small one, at the Museum of the City of New York. Elegance in the Sky, on display until October 28, "revisits the setback terraces and neo-Georgian and Art Deco ornament of Candela-designed high-rise apartments." Fittingly, the exhibition is curated by MCNY's own Donald Albrecht and was designed by the traditionally minded Peter Pennoyer Architects.

Elegance in the Sky

I liked learning a little bit on the Sutton Place apartment buildings in the exhibition, though I was disappointed by one detail that seems to have gotten past Albrecht and Pennoyer. Most of the buildings detailed in the exhibition (a small fraction of his roughly 75 buildings) have floor plans accompanying the photographs of the building exteriors and interiors. But many of the apartments are duplexes, and with only one plan per building any dissection of the plans (fun for any architect) is incomplete; either living or bedroom levels are presented, never both. So, like the gap between 441 and 447 East 57th Street, we're left to imagine the other halves of the apartments in these small but significant voids in the exhibition.

Elegance in the Sky

Monday, July 09, 2018

Today's archidose #1007

Here are some photos of the SWEETS hotel Wiegbrug (2017) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, by Space&Matter. The larger SWEETS hotel project consists of the conversion of 28 obsolete bridge control buildings into hotel suites. (Photos: Ken Lee)

SWEETS hotel Wiegbrug, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
SWEETS hotel Wiegbrug, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
SWEETS hotel Wiegbrug, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
SWEETS hotel Wiegbrug, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
SWEETS hotel Wiegbrug, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Thursday, July 05, 2018

Hard Hat Tour: The Forum

Set to open in September, The Forum is third building to open on Columbia University's Manhattanville Campus. Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the 56,000-sf building follows the Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the Lenfest Center for the Arts, both of which opened in 2017 and were also designed by RPBW. Last week, Columbia held a press tour of The Forum with architects from RPBW; below are my photos and a tour through the building.

The Forum
The Forum is located on the northeast corner of Broadway and 125th Street, on a triangular lot formed by the angle of 125th Street. At this location the concrete-and-glass Forum acts as a gateway to the Manhattanville Campus.


The Forum
The Forum sits south of the Greene and Lenfest buildings, on the left in the photo above, and just west of the 125th Street subway station, which runs as a viaduct due to the low topography along 125th Street.


The Forum
With the triangular site and position next to the subway, the large auditorium is located behind precast concrete walls on the east, while the meeting rooms, offices, and other spaces are found in the tapered glassy prow on the west.


The Forum
The narrow end, seen from inside the construction fence, is articulated as planes of concrete and glass with exposed structural steel outside the building.


The Forum
The rooms inside the prow are graced with a view of the Riverside Drive Viaduct.


The Forum
As in the other buildings on the Manhattanville Campus, both built and planned, the ground floor is open to the public, set back from the street, and glassy. This stems from a six- or seven-story service basement that will spread across the whole campus once it's completed, thereby removing loading docks and other service pieces from the ground floors of the buildings.


The Forum
The visual transparency of the ground floor is evident here, a future retail/cafe space facing the corner of 125th Street and Broadway.


The Forum
The tapered end of the ground floor, set to be the campus's information center, has more glass, including a canopy -- its framing is just visible to the left of the glass storefront.


The Forum
The main entrance is in the middle of the south-facing frontage on 125th Street. Once inside, visitors will see a security desk straight ahead. From here, the information center is to the left and retail is to the right, while security turnstiles provide restricted access to the elevators (one is just visible on the left) and the two upper floors.


The Forum
The west end of the second and third floor are full of office spaces behind glass walls.


The Forum
Offices such as this one look out to the Greene Science Center across 129th Street.


The Forum
Circulation to the auditorium receives natural light through narrow windows set into the precast concrete panels.


The Forum
The windows at the chamfered southeast corner frame narrow views of the 125th Street viaduct.


The Forum
Although these photos make it seem like The Forum is all whites and grays, there is some selective splashes of color throughout: flooring, casework, elevators, as well as the seats and surfaces in the auditorium. (Protective covers during construction left most of the color out of sight during our visit.) This large space is insulated from the sound of passing trains by masonry walls. Combined with the precast concrete on the exterior, the box within a box construction is sufficient for acoustics, per RPBW.


The Forum
The zone between the concrete east end and glassy west end is turned into a terrace on the third floor; it is positioned two floors above the main entrance on the south frontage of 125th Street.


The Forum
I don't foresee this being a quiet terrace for Columbia employees or conference attendees, though, given the large air handling units positioned directly above the terrace.


The Forum
Following the tour was a reception in Lenfest's top-floor Lantern, which provides a view of The Forum's glassy prow just past the corner of the Greene Science Center.


The Forum
An outdoor terrace on one of Lenfest's lower floors looks on to the construction of the Business School, a pair of buildings designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro for the block north of 130th Street. In between the buildings will be a large square designed by James Corner Field Operations, and below it will sit a 17-berth loading dock that will serve the entire campus via its below-grade service levels. A sense of the campus's scale of construction is evident in the concrete "bathtub" that forms the massive yet invisible basement that enables the glassy buildings above it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Today's archidose #1006

Here are some photos of the Lunder Center at Stone Hill (2008) at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, by Tadao Ando. (Photos: Hassan Bagheri)

Lunder Center at Stone Hill
Lunder Center at Stone Hill
Lunder Center at Stone Hill
Lunder Center at Stone Hill
Lunder Center at Stone Hill
Lunder Center at Stone Hill

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