Public Effect

Eyes On The Street Totally Not Looking At The Right Stuff


Lisa at Polis is probably the only sharp-eyed eye on the street in the East Village, because the folks in the all-glass, all-undulating (allundulating?) Sculpture for Living totally missed someone spray painting the newly restored Astor Place cube. At least when the losers with drugs put graffiti on the cube, it was with chalk.

This is not a wholesale disregard for street art and graffiti. In fact, we adore graffiti. Just not on nice sculptures or good buildings.

NOLA Competition Open To Voting!


Global Green (and the ever-present Brad Pitt) sponsored a competition to promote sustainable design in the rebuilding of New Orleans, and the six finalists selected are now posted. The competition finalists are open to voting; we encourage you to vote and be heard, particularly because all of the entries mix modern design, sustainable design, and vernacular practicality without resorting to overt historicist pastiche. They didn't invite any of the New Urbanistas to the jury.

Our favorites were split between the submission by Metrostudio (no URL) in New Orleans, pictured above, and an entry by Workshop APD. Click Continue Reading for more images and observations...



Over the holiday a friend pointed us to the interesting StreetsBlog, a production of the Open Planning Project (itself a great locus of open-planning processes and public effect via the internet).

Our favorite entry so far: a piece on the Defeat of the Mt. Hood Freeway, a proposed freeway in Portland, Oregon, planned by NYC's very own Robert Moses.

Freedom Tower 3.1, Beta


David Childs announced a Freedom Tower "update" today. The update: a few new renderings, and a material choice for the exterior: prismatic glass covering the concrete bunker that is really surrounding the "Freedom" Tower's base. Glass covering concrete, transparency disguising bombproof, will the irony never cease? We here at Tropolism classify this as "no news is good news". We think.

The part of the design that seems to be unremarked upon, but is in the forefront of all the renderings, is the hideous public plaza on the exterior. First of all, the entry to the tower appears to be a couple dozen steps above the sidewalk on West Street. What are those bleacher-like concrete jersey barriers rammed up against the pretty glass prism camouflage? Will security really let you sit there? The one think that I think would be obviously improved upon over the World Trade Center's design would be the end of bland, stepped, program-free plazas.

Continue reading my captions for the released renderings after the jump...

Rural Studio Develops $20,000 House


Rural Studio is at it again. Journalist Oliver Schwaner-Albright tips us off to an article he wrote for the FT weekend edition. The studio is designing a prototype for a house that will be built for $20,000, including labor and materials, so that they can take advantage of a federal loan for the rural poor. The idea is to build decent housing that a person living on public assistance could actually own -- a $20,000 mortgage is met with $64 monthly payments. Brilliant.

WTC Memorial Design Revision: Cheapskates


Construction Engineer Frank Sciame announced the value engineered World Trade Center Memorial today. It all sounds so reasonable: it's only $510 million! The sound of the waterfalls will totally make up for victim's names being next to the West Side Highway! The mayor and governor agree on it!

In its typical copy-paste-the-press-release fashion, the New York Times then casually mentions that $510 million doesn't include the $178 million in Port Authority site infrastructure that was taking the project over $1 billion in the first place. The project actually costs $700 million. And the waterfalls, from below, without their parapets, look like a visit to Sea World, minus aquatic life. All to save $300 million dollars (half of which was Port Authority infrastructure anyway). So the memorial was pared down by $162 million dollars. I know that's a lot of money, but it seems like peanuts given the project went from thrilling to tame.

Lame new renderings, side-by-side with interesting earlier renderings, are available at the LMDC website.

Moving Madison Square Garden


While we still have concerns about how, exactly, a stadium is going to sit upon and be accessed through a former post office and future rail station, we were shocked to discover in today's Times that the current plan for Moynihan Station will only take care of 20% of the current riders flowing through Penn Station. The idea of accessing Moynihan Station through the center of the block current occupied by Madison Square Garden is also intriguing. But we're still left with the question: MSG killed one McKim, Mead, and White building; is it going to squish a second one?

New Orleans Masterplan: Erased, But Funded

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New Orleans must have 'New York disaster area political trainwreck' envy. In January, we noted, with enthusiasm, how progressive they were in New Orleans in generating a preliminary master plan for the entire city only four months after the hurricaine took out most of the city. Of course, there were some fluffy parts (like a light rail) but it was a beginning. It was sunk by a spineless mayor and locals who insist on reviving neighborhoods built on floodplains.

Since then, that mayor has been re-elected, and no one seems to know what is next. The federal government is set to begin sending rebuilding money to the City, except there is no Plan. In fact, if you read the New York Times' article on the subject, there is nothing but confusion. Mayor speaking off the cuff about planning issues, perhaps with an intention to let communities take the first step before painful choices are made. Who knows? What's certain is that if New Orleans had a plan, and the political support behind it, it could be making rebuilding progress right now.

Tropolism Exhibitions: New Blood In the Water


Left to right: Throw a rock, hit an architect. Does anyone smell fire? The A+D's new home.

I’ve had the pleasure of surviving several parties associated with the recent AIA Convention here in Los Angeles last week, but none were so fascinating as the one held on Friday, June 9th in honor of the New Blood: Next Gen exhibition at the A+D (or Architecture + Design for those not in the know) Museum. I’d had a similar, far more intoxicated viewing of the show a week prior when it unveiled itself to L.A. The redux could not have been better.

For one thing the drinks at the bar were weak to the point of water (to keep those visiting architects from points afar under control no doubt), and to top that off, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was opening its David Hockney: Portraits show across the street. Perhaps it would have been fitting to have visited LACMA first and absorbed those famous works of celebs and lovers gone by. However, this was impossible. Due to lack of operating budget, or fear of being overrun by all of those rabid visiting architects, the museum closed early, ejecting everyone across Wilshire Blvd. and into the brightly illuminated A+D Museum.

Where they probably wished the drinks were stronger.

To read the rest of the review, click Continue Reading...

Sciame: Engineer?


As licensed professionals ourselves, we feel compelled to point out that despite what the Downtown Express may say, our fact-checker, who is in from his long coffee break this afternoon, looked up Frank Sciame on New York State's Online Verification of licensed professional, and there is no one with the last name "Sciame" licensed as an engineer in New York State. But perhaps the profession "construction engineer", as quoted from the above-referenced article, does not require a license for someone to legally practice it?

But then again, with no license, how does one get professional liability insurance?

Thanks to Curbed for pointing us to the error-ridden article.

WTC Memorial's Price Chopper


Miss Representation calls it like it is, mostly, about the choice to let a contractor lead the value engineering (read: redesign) team for the World Trade Center Memorial. It needs little comment.

Toronto Waterfront Gets West8


The Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation has announced that West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, based in Rotterdam, has won the Innovative Design Competition for Toronto’s Central Waterfront. We're not sure what's going on with the maple leaf, but the rest of it is pretty fierce. Makes the lovely Hudson River Park look really safe and, well, boring.

Via Archinect.

Liberty Park: Thriller In The Dark

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File under "Light-up Parks In Lower Manhattan": A Test Of Will turns it out with a spread of night-shots of the new Liberty Park. Thriller set, indeed. We'll be dancing down there soon. Even though it is weirdly called "Zucotti Park".

Via Curbed, the best architecture weblog NYC has to offer.

Berlin's Central Railway Station Now Open


Something new to report from Gemany's capital:

On May 26, after ten years of construction, and a whooping 950 Million dollars later, the "traffic cathedral", Berlin's new central railway station will be opened to the public, just in time for the opeing of the world soccer championship in June.

From then on, 1,100 daily trains will approach the new station from all directions, carrying an expected 300,000 travellers: a 1000-ft long east-west commuter train station crosses the 500-ft long station for the long-distance railway, which cuts through the city from north to south. Two office buildings, approx. 140ft tall, arch over the commuter rail station. Also part of the project were a new subway line and station, a road tunnel and the need to divert the nearby river Spree to make room for the new buildings.

Throughout the entire construction, commuter traffic was not interrupted (the long-distance rail line is new). The parts of the building arching over the railroad tracks were originally build vertically, on the sides, and then slowly lowered into position, similar to a draw bridge.

For a full-blown information site with history, facts, architectural details and progress reports - all in English language, click here. Also, a nice spread of pictures of the project.

Translation of the texts from the German picture site:

1 - Harry Anzer, construction site manager. The construction job brought him a heart attack - he then quit smoking.

2 - A model of the station: Roughly $950M are estimated to be spent on the construction, Deutsche Bahn has not yet published the exact cost. Plans were made in the heyday of the post-reunification frenzy. Nobody would have guessed that Berlin, instead of growing, would shrink to 3.4 million inhabitants.

3 - A model of the arch buildings. In order to not interrupt the commuter trains for months, the parts were built vertically and then lowered like a draw bridge.

4 - six meters per hour - the speed with which the steel constructions, 1,250 tons each, were lowered.

5 - The construction area in July 2005: Site Manager Anzer considered it the largest challenge of his life.

6 - In the background is the Reichstag, Germany's parliament building. Also visible: Deutsche Bahn's headquarter.

7 - The Entrance, shortly before the May 26 opening. All boxes and paint buckets should be removed by then.

8 - A Berliner just relaxing. Locals are already used to the glorious view.

9 - Commuter track. Approx. 1,100 trains per day are expected to stop at the station once it is completed. Deutsche Bahn is expecting some 300,000 travellers per day.

10 - Workers cleaning the glass roof: A machine for the cleaning job is being developed. Until it is completed, the 9,100 windows have to be polished manually.

Update Bonus Add-On pictures: Laser Light Show (Lichtspektakel) at the opening!

Contributed by Berlin correspondant Georg von Braunschweig.

WTC Memorial Foundation Leader Quits


Last Friday, hours before the end of business on Memorial Day weekend, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation president and chief executive, Gretchen Dykstra, resigned. We totally didn't see that one coming, particularly after every public official in the state gave the Foundation such a hiding over the cost estimate that had "reached" one billion dollars.

Mayor Bloomberg, in an unusual display of horses gone, close barn door activity, said that "I don't know that her leaving is going to solve any problems. Quite the contrary, it just makes it more complex because you don't have her." Thanks Mayor, that totally helped. Why don't you do what all great New York mayors do: put a contractor in charge. Just appoint Frank Sciame of Sciame Construction to head the Foundation? Will totally streamline the process.

Thursday Is New York City As Sculpture Day


(photo via Curbed, by plemeljr)

Today, Thursday is New York City As Sculpture Day. I missed the memo:

1. Miss Representation comes back from a quiet spell to chat about the progress at Ground Zero. And to comment on 7WTC, which we like too. And to give us this golden, priceless bit of blogging: "Every once in a while I want to feel the strange mixture of dystopian social evolution and sexual awakening that was Logan’s Run, and now I have a place to go (though, unfortunately, Jenny Argutter won’t turn up in a pelt)."

2. Lisa at Polis gives us a bit of irony, and seredipity, worthy of a great Situationist.

3. Greg Allen remixed Curbed today to create, what else, a meta sculpture about a sculpture and something people mistook as sculpture.