New York

NYC Ice List

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(above: skating at Rock Center, 1941

I'm an architect. And I make lists. Welcome to my world.

I'll let you in on a secret: I've not visited this list for years. But today's news, that Bryant Park is going to install an ice rink, is welcome news. First, because Bryant Park is a case study on how to create more density in a city, and have it pay for the improvements in a public park. Bravo! Second, because I studied this idea for a former employer while working on our own new-park proposal. We got the job in part because of our Ice Idea.

List of Ice Rinks In New York City

Manhattan

-Wollman Rink in Central Park

-Lasker Rink in Central Park

-Rockefeller Center

-Bryant Park

-Chelsea Piers Sky Rink

-Madison Square Garden

Brooklyn

-Abe Stark at Coney Island

-Kate Wollman in Prospect Park

Queens

-World's Fair Rink

Staten Island

-Staten Island War Memorial Ice Skating Rink

2 Columbus Circle Underway

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Are we the only ones who are wondering why everyone suddenly loves this building? Where were the ├ętudes before someone suggested they make the building, like, useable. I understand the argument about the "turning point in Modernism", but I am left with an unshakeable feeling that this is the same kind of reactionary preservationist talk that's resisting tearing down a mundane 1920's parking garage on West Charles Street.

The earlier versions of this project left us uninspired. However, the rendering above gives us hope that the building will be a better object at the intersection of Broadway, West 59th Street, and Central Park West than the lollipop building is. And Mr. Cloepfil appears to be taking more design risks as the project moves forward, a startling contrast to WTC, which is becoming more safe and annoyingly boring as the project continues.

Curbed is all over this story.

Switch Building: Not Not Real

nA_PERS_north_below.jpg Tropolism means be clear about what you know you don't know. In this case, I disclosed that I didn't know something about several buildings on my incomplete list, including nArchitects' Switch Building.

After the jump, construction photos from a photo-correspondant, the diligent and thorough Mr Salmon, who was very clear that Switcheroo was not not-real...

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Freedom, Schmeedom

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"It's funny that this all arises over freedom," said Mr. Burke, who lost his brother in the attack. "Isn't it a bit of a seismic anomaly that the exercise of freedom has a segment of the very families who paid the cost of freedom up in arms?"

One Kenmare Square

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Our friends at Curbed have adequately documented the history of the weirdness of creating an address like "One Kenmare Square" on a street that is clearly labeled "Lafayette". They also picked up a few of the typical reactions from around the Lower Kenmare Square 'hood. Behold the genius of off-the-cuff remarks from people who complain for a living: The project is too modern! Why doesn't it fit in more?! The neighborhood has red/brown brick, but they used black. Like, totally yuk!

(What is tiresome about on-the-street reactions is that they are just reactive, and as such generally sound like someone talking to the camera on the latest reality TV show, especially when they are about buildings, for which there are only two stock reactions from almost everyone on earth. Why is it so modern? Why doesn't it fit in more? Luckily, you have people like us who occasionally make up something new. New, not necessarily interesting. You be the judge!)

Sculpture for Intimacy

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I don't like the Sculpture for Living. But please, don't take my word for it. Our friend and reader Renee Turman, Interior Designer, comments on the latest advertisement for Sculpture for Living, showing a rendering of unit 16A, after the jump:

Ground Zero: Back To Zero

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I've been saying this all along, whenever someone asks me for my professional opinion about the Ground Zero Memorial Master Plan, or whatever it's called: that the Master Plan is of almost no significance. The buildings will show up whenever they do, with whatever architect gets in good with whatever decisionmaker shows up to do the job. It's happened before (United Nations, Rock Center, Lincoln Center), why not now?

Mr. Ourousoff's entry yesterday is one of his best so far. I particularly enjoy being reminded how BBB's plan looked, and how it's just like what the site is shaping up to actually be.

High Line To Get Luxury Housing, Waaay Before Highline Park Is Complete

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The ever-consice Curbed did a wonderful pr├ęcis about all the development in the Meatline district of Manhattan. Between this and Calatrava's vertical High Line, how is a managing director of Goldman Sachs supposed to make a choice?

The Pleasures of West 28th Street

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West 28th Street, between 7th and 6th Avenues (I always work eastward in my mental map, especially in Manhattan. Mad props to the West Side, yo.), between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., between april and october, transforms into a greened street where the potted trees, bushes, sedges, perennials, grasses, and annuals threaten to evict pedestrians and automobiles. It is not for quick passage, which is why I either intentionally take or avoid it. My office is only one block away, and so I have the luxury of seeing this particular block at all hours.

Early morning: where are all the sidewalk plants? (the cut flower shops are almost all sold out by the time I'm up, and I get to the office by 8.30am)

Late morning: huge unpacking job, tons of deliveries.

Middle afternoon: shoppers collide with old people taking a stroll with me, trying to get to a meeting and typing a blackberry message.

Early evening: all the annuals are inside again, but the trees and sedges and grasses are all outside still. Weirdly empty sidewalk around 6pm. It's like someone just decided to stack all these plants outside, the way we've stacked little buildings next to each other in this city, and that they somehow serve a purpose through their presence.

Night: the sidewalk smells like flowers. There are no flowers anywhere. That's right, the garbage smells gorgeous.

Tropolism Means

Tropolism means taking the entire end of the week off from blogging when the city releases a watered-down design and they try to sell it as a feature, because you are pouty and just don't feel like it.

Tropolism means keeping out of the fray when there is nothing constructive to say.

Tropolism also means proposing new alternatives.

I propose the freedom tower design is changed to something that is reminiscent of nothing in this city. No vague design references to classic towers in New York or anywhere else, including the Twin Towers. No constructed meanings, symbols, or metaphors.

Tropolism means buildings have no meaning, they are just there, doing something or not doing something. The Twin Towers were the apotheosis of this, and their replacement should be nothing more.

Eulogy For Garbage Truck Parking Triangle Where Canal Park Used To Be (1920-2005)

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Tropolism means occasionally not sitting at your desk and hoofing it for material.

On yesterday's flaneur-tour, the first stop was one I've been anticipating for a long time: the re-opening of Canal Park. It's going to reopen in the next week or two, I would imagine. There's only a little sand to put between a few of the paving stones, one man-day of work, which should take public authority contractors about seven business days to accomplish.

The park was forgotten in 1920, re-buried by Robert Moses in 1930, and rediscovered in 1999 by neighborhood residents. And you thought progress on WTC was slow. The neighborhood groups sued, and brought it back! And now, it's like it never left: the new park replicates the 1888 Calvert Vaux and Samuel Parsons Jr. design that first gave the public access to this ancient city square (the title was deeded to the city in 1686 by a king! I so totally didn't think we went back that far). Please, don't take my word for it. There are other people doing the real reporting while I go out to take pictures and soak up a little of la joie de vivre.

It's like the Bermuda Triangle of the NYC Parks department. After 85 years, Canal Triangle re-emerges exactly as it was in 1920. The railings, stone curbs, pathways, and plantings are as they were when the park disappeared from our radar, and it's suddenly popped back into being, waiting for people to pay attention to it again. The surreal effect is aided by the combination of absolutely new construction and its 19th century design.

Time to unforget: if you visit, you can make fun of the crawling traffic of Canal Street that surrounds it. The park has also grown a bit, preventing motorists on Washington Street from crossing Canal, and hopefully granting pedestrians this end of Canal Street less risk of motorcide.

PS: mad props to the star-supported Canal Park Conservancy for helping with park maintenance. Who says luxury condo owners don't care? The only way Parks can keep these little slivers open is with help with the maintenance, so in a way, the real reason this park re-exists is because of the new Conservancy.

Cartilage: Kowsky Plaza

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No one really believes anymore that the city is like a human body, with every component represented. Particularly in New York, despite the fact that Central Park was created out of the idea that New York needed lungs.

Yet the metaphor may have some life left in it yet. I cannot believe I just wrote that.

Yesterday I toured two projects with Mark Yoes, designed by he and his partner Claire Weisz. Both projects are connective tissue in the city, in two very different ways.

First is Kowsky Plaza, a public space wedged between the walkway at the southern edge of Battery Park City's marina and Gateway Plaza, the one complex of concrete towers built before Polshek Partnership's multibrick decoration guidelines took over. The plaza is above what used to be the river water cooling pumps for the Twin Towers. The pumps are still operational, awaiting new buildings before possible reactivation.

Milliken And Springs Buildings: Not The Same!

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Two of my favorite buildings are pictured here, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 39th/40th Streets. For the longest time I thought they were both the Milliken Building. Yet I let the fact checker loose and they turn out to be not the same building.

At Least They Did Modernism-Style

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A servicable but uninspired building: the new Alvin Ailey Dance Theater building in Hell's Kitchen. I used to live around the corner from this, and I watched the site slowly develop from an old theater to a pit to a building. The project took a long time to build, so it disappoints me that the project is so boring. It's an example of Modernism-styled buildings. Why can't they just make it modern? There seems to be a decorative game going on with the tricky mullions, the brick volumes vs glass volumes, and the wavy street awning (get it? it's like bodies in motion! and it's a DANCE THEATER!!). At least they didn't go all-decorative, like muted brick patterns and almost-cornices, mimicking the older buildings next to it.

But no, I'm tired of settling for this "at least it's Modern style" stuff. It's possible to do a budget building and still have the detailing, siting, and overall form be powerful, to have some kind of effect on the city.

For instance, why is there a dead glass corner on the corner of 55th and 9th? The corner is left to fend for itself, while the lobby is discreetly tucked farther down 55th street. If the wavy awning wasn't there, you wouldn't know the entry was there at all.

For instance, why brick at all?

For instance, why not a super-simple, super-taut glass screen, instead of this patterned wall?

For instance, what is up with the cylindrical columns, which only appear on the ground floor and as some featureless material (again, suspiciously decorative)?

For instance, why not complete the disjunctive nature of Modern buildings by making the glass a less almost-see-through color, and turning the glass box into a sculptural glass object, one that can be seen for blocks as something uncanny and perfect?

The End of Freedom Center As We Know It?

Just when you thought the WTC site could not get less interesting, more bloated by rhetoric, more misguided by people enthralled by arcane sentimentality and not memoriality (is that a word?), this happens:

Ms. Burlingame, who attended yesterday's board meeting, said both the Freedom Center and Drawing Center should be removed from the memorial area, though she endorsed the Snohetta building if it can be "redesigned to be filled with the story of 9/11."

"The magnitude of that story would fill several Snohetta buildings," she added

Tropolism cannot see how this means anything except a full Imax experience. Is this really the kind of memorial she's suggesting?

During the development of the master plan for this site, the relatives of victims of that day played an important political role: they were people who had lost people, and they were struggling against turning WTC into a huge office park, by claiming space for a memorial. Yet suddenly it's easy to feel as if they have become holy-people, and their ideas, which threaten to turn the entire WTC site into a staid memorial (the least urban of all public spaces), complete with controlled programming, are unopposable. As a New Yorker, I can safely say this, because it's the right time: give me a break, lady. You're not the only person who lost something that day. I lost a piece of my city. Stay away from free speech in the public realm.

Old Bookmarks: Mr. Beller's Neighborhood

Also from y2000: Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. When I bookmarked it, it was an idea. Now, it's a whole library of writing, a written version of NYC.