Tag Archives: manhattan

Ini Ani Espresso Bar

Ini Ani Espresso Bar in New York, NY by LTL Architects, .

Occupying a 350 s.f. storefront on Stanton Street in Manhattan's increasingly-trendy Lower East Side, the Ini Ani Espresso Bar posed an interesting design problem to architects Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis. With only $40,000 for the budget (approx. $115 per s.f.) and three months for design and construction, the local three-person firm designed and built all of the finishes, including "the cardboard and cast plaster walls, lights, curtains, door handles, cor-ten door and window frames, front sign and all the furniture," according to the firm's web page.

Like most coffee shops, Ini Ani caters to both "for here" and "to go" customers. The architects split the space into two via a framed opening to accommodate the two realms. From the entry, a wall of almost 500 cast plaster, coffee cup lids leads the customer to the counter, from where they can receive their coffee and depart Ini Ani or walk through the framed opening to the warm-toned seating area.

In the seating area, the predominant material is cardboard, stacked with exposed ends in steel framing of various heights and widths above stained wood bench seats. Along with the lids, the cardboard strips are a visual play on the popularity of coffee and its current means of containment. Openings break up the sound-absorbent, cardboard walls, as do projected boxes used as shelves for plants. Suspended lights, wood tables, chairs, and magazine racks finish out the intimate space.

The architect's web page features a time-lapse construction slideshow (link no longer available) that illustrates the constraints of the project; its size, budget and duration. As we watch the architects themselves transform the space - once a fortune teller's apartment and shop - we see the imaginative layering of the small space through simple and economic materials, as well as the many late nights put into finish the project.

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Symphony Space

Symphony Space in New York, NY by Polshek Partnership, 2002.

Symphony Space, a community-based arts institution in New York City, was founded in 1978 in an abandoned movie theater. Now called Peter Norton Symphony Space, its new facility, situated around the corner from its newly renovated Leonard Nimoy Thalia at 95th and Broadway, is the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, both by the Polshek Partnership of New York. The extensive project includes "a new cafe, new entrances, lobbies and box offices, a broadcast room, dressing rooms, offices, an elevator and stairway to connect all three levels of the complex, and new building infrastructure, including plumbing, electrical, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning."

From its new entry it is obvious that the public spaces are a mix of architecture and text, combined to give the organization an identity on the Upper West Side. The dramatic, aluminum-clad cantilever and asymmetrical composition, along with the large, backlit text, are relating to Symphony Space's unconventional programming and the space's incorporation into a new residential development. While a small portion of the development externally, the entrance is composed in a way that helps it to stand out, recalling the De Stijl movement of the early 1900's.

As witnessed in the image at left, the entrance's presence is even stronger at night as the text leaps from the surface in a composition as asymmetrical as the architecture. Designed by multi-disciplinary firm Pentagram, the use of lower-case, sans-serif text connected by borders with rounded corners relates to Symphony Space's broad range of programs and appeal.

Both the early Modernist architectural vocabulary and the use of text continues to the interior public spaces, helping to unify the two theaters that are now linked. Keeping the in the De Stijl vein, it seems like text and light have replaced color as a means to articulate different surfaces, appropriate at a time when information is so widespread and valued.

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Chelsea Court Apartments

Chelsea Court Apartments in New York, NY by Louise Braverman Architect, 2003.

The following images and text are courtesy Louise Braverman for her design of the Chelsea Court Apartments in New York City.

In the early 1990's Chelsea Court, a SRO on the brink of collapse, was used as a crack den. Over time, the neighborhood grew weary of the street crime which goes hand in hand with a neglected building. Frustrated with the city's lack of response to the problem, Block Association members finally called former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on his weekly radio show. That call turned the tide and the city took possession of the building, mandating that the property be developed into affordable housing for New York City's disadvantaged residents. The 17th Street Block Association invited Palladia (then Project Return Foundation) to develop the building into supportive permanent housing for previously homeless and low-income tenants.

The design of Chelsea Court, an affordable housing project specifically planned for 18 previously homeless and low-income New York City tenants, is a tribute to the belief that aesthetic environments enhance the lives of all people, rich or poor. Community facilities including a lounge, conference room, laundry and offices complement the layout of studio apartments (click for drawings). Today after a total gut renovation where every square inch has been designed with an economy of means, Chelsea Court is an environment where tenants can live comfortably and seamlessly become part of their new neighborhood.

The lives of the inhabitants are open to the street, the internal garden and to the community around them. The "blue ribbon" of translucent glass on the streetfront travels inside the skewed public corridor in the form of metallic blue display niches, past a cubic metallic blue and green security desk and up the chromatically sequenced glazed concrete masonry blocks of the stairwells. Indoors and outdoors merge; the roof garden is part of the apartments and the street is part of the office. An art wall displaying a 2'x 25' photomural of an outdoor image of Coney Island runs through the interior public corridor.

In 2003 Louise Braverman, Architect received an AIA New York State Design Award for the design of Chelsea Court. It is also the only low-income housing project from the New York metropolitan area to be included among the 18 projects selected to be in the Affordable Housing: Designing an American Asset exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington DC. The show will run from February 28 to August 8, 2004.

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New Museum of Contemporary Art

New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, NY by SANAA, 2003.

In May 2003, Japanese architects SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa) were announced as the winner of a limited competition to design the New Museum of Contemporary Art's new home on the Bowery in New York City. Located at 235 Bowery opposite the terminus of Prince Street, the structure will be the Museum's first freestanding building (it currently occupies three floors in the historic Astor Building in Soho) and downtown's first art museum in recent history, upon its completion in Spring 2006.

Founded in 1977, the New Museum has grown to become one of the leading contemporary art institutions in the city (if not the United States). Since its inception it has changed exhibitions spaces numerous times, each time gaining additional square-footage and exposure. In its current location, on Broadway between Houston and Prince Streets, the Museum's gallery spaces do not allow large-scale works to be presented, and its presence behind an historic facade does not give it a unique identity in the city. Its new home will double its size to 60,000 s.f. and, through SANAA's innovative design and minimal aesthetic, give the Museum its sought-after identity.

The New Museum's move to Broadway in 1983 coincided with the peak of the gallery scene in Soho, though since the artistic center of the city has moved to Chelsea. The recent competition for Eyebeam reinforces this center, but rather than following the crowd the New Museum is attempting to invigorate the Bowery, a zone bordering Chinatown, Nolita, the Lower East Side, the East Village and other neighborhoods along its length. Not necessarily part of any of these neighborhoods, the Bowery's reputation as a nexus for the homeless is evident by the Bowery Mission, two doors down from the site. Over time the Bowery has remained a relative constant in the ever-changing fabric of the surrounding neighborhoods, so the influence of the Museum is not a given but something to watch over time.

Currently surface parking, the Museum will occupy a 80-foot wide by 100-deep lot with two floors below grade and seven floors above (click the last image for lower-level plans). The transparent first floor facade will invite visitors to the lobby, bookshop and cafe on the first floor. A small gallery will be located at the rear of the site, naturally lit by a skylight above. Visitors can descend the open stairs to the media lounge and theater below (mechanical space and storage occupy the lowest floor) or take an elevator to the three exhibition floors located above the office space in the center of the building. Above the galleries is a learning center on the sixth floor and a multipurpose room on the seventh floor with wraparound balconies for views of Manhattan 150' above street level (click for plans).

SANAA designed the building from the inside out, providing column-free, flexible exhibition space for the Museum, though this concern does not fully explain the unique exterior. To incorporate skylights to each gallery and the contextualize with the lower building of the Bowery, the architects shifted each floor in one of the cardinal directions to achieve these ends. With differing floor heights for the galleries (the 23'-high 4th floor will allow large-scale artwork) and other functions, the stacked boxes take on a random quality that energizes the building, appropriate to its location (click for section). The silvery galvanized, zinc-plated steel of the exterior will help the building stand out and give identity to the Museum, while also aging well so their presence on the Bowery will be lasting.

Although the design is brutal both in its mainly windowless exterior and its height - suited more to the Museum's program than its context - the architects excel at detailing their building in a way that gives them a lightness and transparency. How this method translates in New York City remains to be seen, but if the shimmering beauty of the new Dior Store in Tokyo is any example, the New Museum will be a beacon for art in a city known as much for its art museums as the art that they contain.

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First Step Housing

First Step Housing in New York, NY by Forsythe + MacAllen Design Associates, 2003.

Common Ground Community is a non-profit organization devoted to solving homelessness through innovation in housing and community development. In the summer of 2003 they co-hosted (with the Architectural League of New York) an open competition to find new forms for prefabricated dwelling units for individuals. One winner of the First Step Housing Design Competition is Vancouver, British Columbia's Forsythe + MacAllen Design Associates with their entry "Soft House".

Based on New York's historic lodging houses, First Step Housing attempts to bridge the gap between homeless and permanent housing situations, providing residents their own affordable units that are clean and safe. Common Ground purchased a lodging house in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City that became the site of the competition, Andrews House. Competitors were asked to provide 19 prefabricated dwelling units on one floor of the house without altering the building's structure, walls, or systems. Besides these criteria the submissions needed to meet City codes and national accessibility standards.

Forsyth + MacAllen's unique solution literally is a "Soft House", using polyethylene fiber sheets in an elastic honeycomb matrix to create a unit that can contract and expand at the occupant's will. Each unit consists of an integral bed, lounger, storage niches, pullout desk, storage cabinet, and a sliding door built in to a face panel which is the hard surface that allows the user to change his or her interior environment. Not only does the occupant affect their unit but the corridor is always different based on the location and angle of each unit. This pleasant byproduct of the design is almost a lesson in civility as the residents learn that individual change also affects their environment and the people around them.

While the "Soft" concept may have unintentional theoretical consequences, it primarily serves to allow varying configurations of social interaction in the shared corridor between the units. It is one thing to take a step from being homeless to having a home, but it is another to become a part of society, a difficult task for those shunned by that same society. If (hopefully) built, this shared space would become a lively, ever-change place, as soft and comforting as the units themselves. Which brings up one dilemma First Step Housing may have: some residents may not want to leave!

High Line Competition

High Line Competition in New York, NY by Hariri & Hariri, 2003.

Starting at the Hudson Rail Yards, the High Line rail structure rises up and through the art galleries of West Chelsea toward the Gansevoort Meat Packing District, traversing 22 city blocks and traveling through two buildings at an average of 30 feet above street level. Built in the early 1930's to carry freight to the factories and warehouses in the West Side, the High Line's main intention was the elimination of over 100 dangerous street-level rail crossings. Closed in 1980, the rail structures has been demolished in sections to its present 1.5-mile length.

Interest in the High Line's history and potential has led to support by the Mayor and New York's Department of City Planning for its reuse. An important factor in gaining the city's support was the competition, "Designing the High Line", held in Spring 2003 and sponsored by Friends of the High Line, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and reuse of the elevated rail structure on the West Side of Manhattan. An honorable mention, featured here, is the entry by Gisue Hariri of New York's Hariri and Hariri, that envisions the High Line's role in the city's bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Hariri's proposal recommends a zoning change, so private property owners adjacent to the High Line can build mixed-use structures up to 400 feet. Their buildings, most likely residential, would provide an easement above the tracks for cultural and commercial uses, helping to provide access to the elevated structure, a primary concern of the competition. These towers would stretch from an Olympic Park built over the Hudson Rail Yards to 17th Street, where the High Line would terminate (it now extends to 14th Street) and a pedestrian bridge would link the development to a new gateway pier in the Hudson River (click for river elevation).

While her entry seems to use the High Line towards another goal, the towers attempt to relate to the rail's history, as the tracks penetrated buildings in order to deliver goods. This purely functional aspect of the rail's use is transformed into an - albeit elegant - aesthetic role. Nevertheless, these organically-shaped openings become the focus of the project, since they are the intersection of horizontal and vertical, of the former's movement and the latter's weight, or apparent lack thereof. And while the proposal's renderings are limited to speed skaters and other Olympic athletes, it is easy to imagine the High Line's use afterward for recreation, culture and commerce.

Max Mara Soho

Max Mara Soho in New York, NY by Duccio Grassi Architects, 2001.

New York City's Soho district has evolved over time from industrial and manufacturing uses to artists' lofts and galleries to its most recent incarnation as a fashionable area, primarily littered with retail and restaurants. The change from industrial to commercial has not drastically changed the fabric of Soho, since most new uses have primarily renovated existing buildings. Max Mara, on West Broadway, is an exception with two levels of new construction containing the fashion company's signature women's clothing.

Rather than continuing the lot-line storefronts of adjacent buildings, the architects, Italy's Duccio Grassi Architects, cut back the entry at an angle to the street. Horizontal wood slats extend over a display space cut at another angle, returning to the sidewalk. Inside, the first floor extends back in an "L"-shape (click here for plan), exposed wood bow trusses and skylights giving an open feel to the space. The visitor can walk down concrete stairs to the lower level, a partially double-height space equally full of light from the skylights and portions of glass floor.

The small store has many qualities, including light, geometry - the combination of street grid and angle of the structure and facade - and texture. The last quality is evident in the variety of concrete work - smooth floors and rough, undulating precast panels - and their contrast with wood slats, both inside and outside, and a parallelogram-shaped wood drawer wall.

Duccio Grassi Architects have created an environment that contrasts the clothing it contains. While the environment is rough and imperfect, the clothes are smooth and precise. This contrast extends to the stores existence in Soho. As Max Mara embodies the evolution of the area, it breaks out of the loft mold and becomes its own object.

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Vertical House

Vertical House

Vertical House in New York, NY by Marble Fairbanks, 2000.

The following text and images are by Marble Fairbanks for their Vertical House completed in New York City in 2000.

This project required designing a highly flexible live/work space with areas that could have both domestic and work functions. The client had a philosophical interest in spatial and managerial organizations which allowed multiple patterns of activities, both social and work, to form based on smaller individual tasks rather than singular bureaucratic demands.

The site consisted of two units of a townhouse on the upper west side of Manhattan which combined to form a three story space with a roof terrace.

The design evolved from the multiple program demands, often conflicting, that were placed on each space. The three levels are connected by open tread steel stairs which are cantilevered from a party wall and placed adjacent to a clear glass floor creating a strong sense of vertical continuity between floors. When desired, this continuity can be altered by an operable door which intersect the stairs and fabric screens which diffuse the view through the glass floor. These alternations allow the lower level to function as either a private living or more public working space.

A New World Trade Center

A New World Trade Center

A New World Trade Center: Design Proposals in New York, NY by various architects, 2002.

Organized by Max Protetch, the exhibit "A New World Trade Center: Design Proposals" is featured at the Max Protetch Gallery in New York City through February 16. Included here are five submissions included in the exhibit.

Above is "Floating Memorial/Folded Street" by Steven Holl, with Makram El-Kadi and Ziad Jameleddine.

Next is "Zero Zones" by Raimund Abraham which features three buildings situated so sunlight pierces slats in the buildings each day at the exact times the planes hit the WTC Towers.

Above is "Oblique WTC" by Lars Spuybroek of Nox Architects:

"Elevators form a highly complex structure of diagonals where at some platforms more than five or six different cores come together to form larger public areas."

Next is Protech's favorite by Zaha Hadid, which the architect describes as, "a city compressed into a large building."

Last is the submission of New York's Hariri & Hariri, featuring 11 towers.

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American Folk Art Museum

American Folk Art Museum

American Folk Art Museum in New York, NY by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Associates, 2001.

The previous dose featured the design for the American Folk Art Museum, designed by New York's Tod Williams Billie Tsien Associates, in their words and images. Here we present images from the completed building (opened on Dec. 11, 2001, next to the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan) and my critique of the museum.

Only 40 feet wide, the Folk Art Museum has one primary facade, facing 53rd Street. The architects opted to design a facade that is simple in its composition yet complex in detail, as each tombasil panel that comprises the facade differs from the others through variations in pouring methods (some molds were smooth steel, some irregular concrete). An overcast sky greeted me as I visited the museum, effectively muting the panels into a flat, subdued facade. With the facade facing south, it is apparent the effect would be dramatically different on a sunny day, or any condition in between. More importantly the panels present the visitor with a handcrafted, yet industrious method, indicative of the inside, of both the architecture and the artwork.

The main entry, like the narrow windows created by the folding of the tombasil panels, is perpendicular to the street, hidden behind the facade. A 23-foot high lobby confronts the visitor, natural light filtered from the skylight at the top of the building, down through narrow openings at each floor. Immediately the visitor is given a means of orientation through the building, a frame of reference. A mezzanine spatially separates the lobby from the tall first floor gallery beyond, hinting at the voyeuristic aspects of the building as eyes above meet the gaze of visitors entering the museum. After purchasing tickets, one is immediately faced with multiple possibilities for moving through the building: take the elevator to the fifth floor and walk down, or walk up the stairs adjacent to the first floor gallery. Once upstairs it is apparent the museum was thought of as a house for art, both in its intimate scale and its circulation, the latter modeled on a house with main and ancillary vertical circulation. The analogy of a house for art is appropriate in a museum devoted to folk art, an art form suited to notions of comfort and domesticity.

Walking through the galleries, three main themes are evident in the layout of spaces and elements: scale, variety and views. Notions of scale were briefly touched upon, in the analogy of the museum as a house for art, where the scale of the spaces is similar to a house. Also, the spaces are scaled to the size of the artwork, which tends towards the small in the gallery spaces but large in the circulation below the skylight at the center of the building. Under this skylight an aspect of the second theme is apparent, in the variety of locating art objects. Typically segregated to gallery spaces, here the artwork is integrated into the rest of the museum. Variety is also present in the different stairs provided for vertical movement, which allow for multiple means to view the collection. The last theme is easily the most impressive; the provision for views through and across spaces. Walking through the four floors of gallery spaces I found myself peering through openings in walls and displays at other visitors, more than I gazed at the artwork on display. These distractions are obviously intentional, adding to the richness of experience.

The first "ground up" museum building in New York City since the Whitney Museum more than 30 years ago, hopefully the American Museum of Folk Art will not be overshadowed by the Museum of Modern Art expansion which is currently under construction on two sides of the small museum. The rich interior spaces should make up for its petite size, a situation addressed by the architects in the design of the facade: an opaque wall, folded to address its context. And as MOMA grows to surround the Folk Art Museum, the facade will be the only exterior trace, a hint of the wonders that it cloaks.

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