Building of the Day #22: The High Line

Building of the Day #22: The High Line
Gansevoort Street and 10th Avenue
New York, NY

© Laura Ann Trimble/Center for Architecture 

The High Life: an Autumn Saturday on the High Line

It was a glorious fall day for a stroll on the High Line, on a tour led by Kim Cooper of James Corner Field Operations. Tourists and locals alike were out and about – boots, tweed, flannel and scarves were signs of fall in full glory. The air was crisp but perfectly warm under bursts of sunshine. For the length of our visit, the High Line buzzed non-stop with throngs of happy visitors of all ages. The turnout alone is reflective of the success of the transformation of a derelict elevated rail line turned urban park. The story of the High Line’s design is one of sustainability, politics and economics. The former rail line was built in the 1930s when the dangerous commerce of the street prompted the need for an elevated freight rail line. The construction of the West Side Highway in the 1950s led to the transition of goods transported by truck. The last train delivered frozen turkeys in 1980 just before Thanksgiving. The abandoned track became an eyesore and the shady spaces below became a problem.

The elevated track would have been torn down save for the efforts of Friends of the High Line, founded in 1999. A 2004 international competition selected landscape architects James Corner Field Operations to lead the project in collaboration with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro. The strategy was to “keep it slow, and keep it wild.”  Unlike the fast paced flow of bikes and runners in Hudson River Park, with the more constrained widths of space at the High Line, the tree lined paths encourage a more leisure paced walk reminiscent of the leisure stroll of the 1900s, where one went out to “see and be seen.” Today is no different.

© Laura Ann Trimble/Center for Architecture  

© Laura Ann Trimble/Center for Architecture

With the support and coordination of public/private partnerships, ground broke in 2006. Section one opened in 2009, and section two opened in June of 2011. Having visited the High Line before and since the opening of phase two, the added length of the park seems to be an added bonus to the grand promenade nature of a visit there. Parts one and two are seamlessly weaved together, with shared elements of paving. A system of paths and benches reminiscent of rail lines creates consistency, but also allows for variety. The trees in section one have grown significantly, and the lush vegetation throughout remains inspired by the original plant life of the site.



© Laura Ann Trimble/Center for Architecture

Although the path is very narrow at times, it is punctuated with spaces for planned and impromptu gatherings. I was struck with the variety of events, from a social soup experiment, to a family pumpkin patch painting activity, and even a wedding photo shoot. The High Line has become a destination that tourists want to visit, and that New Yorkers continue to return to, either to appreciate the change of seasons in the landscape, or new buildings, billboards, or public art on the horizon. It’s no wonder Friends of the High Line founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond have joined the company of actresses and rock stars in a current subway advertising campaign. With some perseverance and great design, the High Line has become a chic landmark jewel of New York. With the shoulder to shoulder crowds today, one can hardly await the development of section three. Now if only the park allowed dogs.


© Laura Ann Trimble 

Laura Ann Trimble is the Partnership Programs Coordinator at the AIANY/Center for Architecture. A native of Indianapolis, she moved to New York upon graduation from Princeton with a degree in art history (AB 2007). Previously she worked for Richard Meier & Partners. As an artist she draws and paints architectural scenes of daily life. She is part of the team initiating Archtober: Architecture and Design Month NYC. ltrimble@aiany.org

© Brian Elbogen

Building of the Day #21: Toni Stabile Student Center, Columbia University School of Journalism

Building of the Day #21: Toni Stabile Student Center
Columbia University, School of Journalism
New York, NY


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

Our latest building of the day brings us to Columbia University. McKim, Mead & White’s Morningside Heights campus is an icon. Moreover, many of its buildings are New York City landmarks, if not by law, then by sheer architectural significance. So while not a stranger to new construction—Bernard Tschumi’s Lerner Hall (1999), Rafael Moneo’s interdisciplinary science building at Broadway and W. 120th Street (2010), and Weiss/Manfredi's Diana Center for Barnard College (2010)—the campus is pretty much set in stone. It’s the occasional infill and renovation that keeps the campus vital and contemporary, and the Toni Stabile Student Center is such a project.


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

The architects Scott Marble, AIA, and Karen Fairbanks, AIA, founding partners of Marble Fairbanks Architects, partially enclosed a seldom-used exterior plaza between the School of Journalism building and Furnald Hall, and completely renovated two floors (9,000 square feet) in Journalism. The 1,000-square-foot enclosure houses a popular café, and affords students the option of having easy access to coffee and sandwiches (no more trekking out to Broadway or Butler Library for caffeine!). And although I am often wary of enclosing historic building façades—a professor of mine once called this “an emasculation”—the café’s giant double-hung window of a façade moves up and down in under four minutes, successfully bridging inside and outside without making the enclosure a dead-space atrium.


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

The Center also features cutting-edge ceiling panels designed by digital modeling and scripting processes: the café’s corrugated ceiling provides optimal sun shading and the interior space’s acoustic paneling modulates sound very well. Not only are the panels effective, they create visually rich surfaces that set each space apart.

Daniel B.F. Fox is on staff at the Center for Architecture.

Building of the Day #20: 41 Cooper Square, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Building of the Day #20: 41 Cooper Square
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
New York, NY


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

Often “stats” and awards are known well before the public appreciates a new building’s urban role. Cooper Union’s 41 Cooper Square, designed by Thom Mayne, FAIA, of Morphosis Architects with Gruzen Samton as Associate Architect, is more than a volume for a multi-disciplinary academic building with a co-generation plant, cooling and heating ceiling panels, low or V.O.C. materials, green terraces, and “Fit-City”-worthy vertical circulation. While these stats did help the client claim the first LEED Platinum-certified academic laboratory building, Cooper has also revived a former traffic triangle and extended its identity southwards along the new Bowery. At a time when both NYU and Columbia’s building goals face sharp scrutiny, it pays to have a tough skin. Make that a gritty double skin!


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

The west façade’s projected outer skin is so dynamic in section that I only recently understood (via Mayne on YouTube) that it is also gently convex in plan. An eye-catching event along the city’s grid at the start of Third Avenue also reintroduces us to Peter Cooper Park. After 150 years, the short (south) façade of Frederick A. Peterson’s Foundation Building has a worthy urban partner with which to share this public space and the 1897 Peter Cooper Monument (Augustus Saint-Gaudens with a Stanford White base).


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

The Foundation Building employed innovations such as wrought iron framing, ventilation at the below-grade Great Hall and a round elevator shaft. Mayne’s primary elevators skip stops to encourage use of the central open and luminous stair. This void is the heart of 41 Cooper Square, with its walls inflected by labs and studios. The façade gash opens this “heart” to the city and, in return, the city to it.

Arthur vdG. Platt, AIA, is Co-chair of AIA New York’s Architectural Tourism Committee and a Partner at Fink & Platt Architects.

Building of the Day #19: East Harlem School

Building of the Day #19: East Harlem School
309 East 103rd Street
New York, NY


© Cynthia Kracauer/Center for Architecture

A rainy day couldn’t dampen the spirits of the fourth graders that we met playing hoops in the bright gym. It looks to me that there are two geniuses behind this wonderful building: Peter Gluck, the acerbic and seasoned architect/builder, and Ivan M. Hageman, Co-founder and Head of School.


© Cynthia Kracauer/Center for Architecture


© Cynthia Kracauer/Center for Architecture

Gluck led the tour, but Hageman was ever-present—leading an appreciation of the chef and servers in the cafeteria, and in the reception area meeting with parents. He welcomed us into his office, which is perched at the east end of the building with a clear-glass, open view up East 103rd Street to the Public School embedded in the nearby housing project: Jane Jacobs’s “eyes on the street.” 


© Cynthia Kracauer/Center for Architecture

The East Harlem School is an independent school—think Collegiate School or Dalton. It doesn’t have to play by any rules handed down from political higher ups, construction authorities, or educational commissions. Come to think of it, the school seems to play by rules from higher powers. Its mission is to rescue middle schoolers from their circumstance with a nine-hour school day and an 11-month school year. Stressing moral integrity, courtesy, and academic excellence, and providing the students with an unshakable commitment to their future, this small (130 students) school is having a significant impact on their young lives. Surrounded by high quality materials, nice furniture, well proportioned lively spaces, good acoustics, and strong discipline, they go on to fancy high schools, and eventually to major colleges. We hope some come back as teachers. The four eighth-grade girls I met were poised, comfortable shaking hands, engaged, and eager to hear about the architecture—I mentioned that ladies can be architects, too.


© Cynthia Kracauer/Center for Architecture

The building is Gluck’s manifestation of Hageman’s vision. The black, white, and grey Trespa façade evokes the diversity of the student body and founders; the interior provides pedagogical flexibility. The school is supported by a bold-face name board of worthies, who have enabled the construction of the new 27,800-square-foot facility, as well as its ongoing support of staff and students. The interior is lively and coherent with accent colors in expensive rubber flooring that was affordable because the building was both designed by Gluck the architect and built by Gluck’s construction arm. Gluck is carving out a space for the master-builder/architect of days gone by—and he’s messianic about it. Just ask him.

Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA, is the Managing Director of the Center for Architecture. She was previously a partner at Butler Rogers Baskett, and from 1989-2005 at Swanke Hayden Connell. After graduating from Princeton (AB 1975, M.Arch 1979) she worked for Philip Johnson, held faculty appointments at the University of Virginia, NJIT, and her alma mater. She is spearheading Archtober: Architecture and Design Month NYC. ckracauer@aiany.org

© Laura Trimble/Center for Architecture

Building of the Day #18: 200 Fifth Avenue

Building of the Day #18: 200 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY


© Cynthia Kracauer/Center for Architecture

Beautiful weather continues to make Archtober the best month ever to enjoy great architecture. Madison Square, where 200 Fifth Avenue is located, is a palimpsest of the northward expansion of commerce and civilization in Manhattan. A public space since 1686, it first became a park in 1847. With the construction of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, (Griffith Thomas with William Washburn Architects, 1859) on the site of the current 200 Fifth, the area became the social, cultural, and political hub of elite New York in the years after the Civil War—think Edith Wharton. And it has the monuments to prove it.


© Cynthia Kracauer/Center for Architecture

The swank hotel gave way in 1909 to a 14-story office building, by architects Maynicke & Franke, designers of more than 100 New York City buildings, many in the near-by Ladies Mile Historic District. It is this structure (formerly the Toy Center) that STUDIOS Architecture addressed in its LEED Gold restoration and renovation. That old Toy Center building cleaned up real nice! All of the seediness of the 1990s decline has vanished both in the surrounding buildings and in the park as well. The repositioning miracle has drawn a cadre of high style tenants, and I was lucky today to get a personal tour of the Grey offices, also designed by STUDIOS Architecture and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.


© Cynthia Kracauer/Center for Architecture

The Grey offices are sparkling with light from generous perimeter windows, replaced in the restoration, and from the enormous central courtyard with white reflecting paving and terracotta cladding. It functions as a center around which the hipster creatives can lounge, chat, or spiff up Don Draper-style for the next big pitch. For the company that brought us the talking E*Trade baby, I was pleasantly surprised to find none of the Sesame Place silliness of current interiors for other media and information technology companies. There’s good art, good furniture, beautiful Persian rugs, and an atmosphere that is both collaborative and individuated at the same time. Plenty of nooks and crannies for quiet creative thinking. Nice open planning and firm-wide assembly areas. No kitsch in their kitchens either. Nice job!

Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA, is the Managing Director of the Center for Architecture. She was previously a partner at Butler Rogers Baskett, and from 1989-2005 at Swanke Hayden Connell. After graduating from Princeton (AB 1975, M.Arch 1979) she worked for Philip Johnson, held faculty appointments at the University of Virginia, NJIT, and her alma mater. She is spearheading Archtober: Architecture and Design Month NYC. ckracauer@aiany.org

© Center for Architecture

Building of the Day #17: Switch Building

Building of the Day #17: Switch Building
109 Norfolk Street
New York, NY


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

Take the F train from West 4th Street and check out the New York New Work exhibition that is currently dominating the sloping vomitories at the West 3rd Street end. Head Eastbound to Delancey Street and pop up right at Norfolk Street. You’ll know it because you’ll see Bernard Tschumi’s “Blue” on the corner. In its shadow is the Switch Building by nARCHITECTS.


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

The “Switch” is the orientation of the bands of façade that rock back and forth like fancy toggle plates. That makes the “n” a variable?

A contrapuntal system of vertical slats conceals the air conditioning units. Looks like the algorithm for the slats might have involved an “n” or two as well. Unfortunately, there is no tenant in the now vacant gallery space on the ground floor, but you can peer through the slats of the roll-down shutter to see the hint of light and a stair to a lower level in the rear. According to the real estate listing it has “Neptune Zen” bathtubs… sounds a bit like a mixed metaphor: the Greek god of the sea chilling out with a little architectural navel gazing? I couldn’t judge for myself, since there wasn’t a willing tenant offering a closer look.

Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA, is the Managing Director of the Center for Architecture. She was previously a partner at Butler Rogers Baskett, and from 1989-2005 at Swanke Hayden Connell. After graduating from Princeton (AB 1975, M.Arch 1979) she worked for Philip Johnson, held faculty appointments at the University of Virginia, NJIT, and her alma mater. She is spearheading Archtober: Architecture and Design Month NYC. ckracauer@aiany.org

© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

Building of the Day #16: The Visionaire

Building of the Day #16: The Visionaire
55 Battery Place
New York, NY


© Center for Architecture

With its 4,500 square feet of integrated photovoltaic-paneled curtain wall chugging out 48 kilowatts of power, a terracotta rain-screen curtain wall with an R-value of 20 reducing  energy usage by 30%, potable water use reduced through storm water harvesting for toilets….and so many more integrated sustainable features, it is no wonder that the handsome Visionaire received LEED Platinum, the highest rating of the U.S. Green Building Council. The most glamorous of the three Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects-designed residential towers—sisters Solaire and Verdesian—the Visionaire is distinguished by its sleek curving southwest wall that has a shapely kinship to 200 West Street on the New Jersey facing skyline.


© Cynthia Kracauer/Center for Architecture


© Cynthia Kracauer/Center for Architecture

Landscaped roof areas make the building feel like a spa, as does the crisp, fresh filtered air within. I’ve lived in a pre-war co-op for 20-something years, and have lost touch with the current standards in apartment living amenities. There’s a pool, an organic and locally grown food market, bicycle storage (now wait a minute…isn’t that what your front hall is for?), and underground parking complete with electric car recharging stations. Whew!…I feel like I may be stuck in the 20th century. Not so at the aptly-named Visionaire. There’s a view and a vision of a sustainable future and community living that is enlivening Battery Park City.

Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA, is the Managing Director of the Center for Architecture. She was previously a partner at Butler Rogers Baskett, and from 1989-2005 at Swanke Hayden Connell. After graduating from Princeton (AB 1975, M.Arch 1979) she worked for Philip Johnson, held faculty appointments at the University of Virginia, NJIT, and her alma mater. She is spearheading Archtober: Architecture and Design Month NYC. ckracauer@aiany.org

© Center for Architecture

Building of the Day #15: Lincoln Center Public Spaces

Building of the Day #15: Lincoln Center Public Spaces
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, West 62nd to West 66th Streets
New York, NY


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

It's an exciting time for public space in New York. Zucotti Park, a gift from U.S. Steel for One Liberty Plaza's height bonus, has been at the center of a very public debate on democracy and class strife. It would be hard to imagine, though, the hurly burly happening downtown (and lately across from the Center for Architecture!) taking place at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the travertine-clad performing arts mecca on the Upper West Side.

The crown jewel of John D. Rockefeller and Robert Moses’s Lincoln Square Renewal Project, the 16-acre campus was designed by modern architecture’s pantheon: architects Max Abromovitz, Pietro Belluschi, Gordon Bunshaft, Wallace K. Harrison, Philip Johnson, Eero Saarinen, and landscape architect Dan Kiley. After 50 years of service, the Center was modernized and revitalized by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, FXFOWLE, and Beyer Blinder Belle.


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

Apart from the private interior performing arts spaces, the general public has certainly traded up from the streets of San Juan Hill (the demolished tenement neighborhood Lincoln Center was built on) and high Modernism’s subsequent grand plazas, to a contemporary revision of Modernism's public slights; or as described by the AIANY Design Awards jury: “big infrastructure meets small, delicate moves.”


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

Indeed, the pantheon’s grand modern gestures – the gloomy pedestrian bridge over W. 65th Street, for instance – have been sliced, diced, and redistributed to form a more inviting public space (according to the New York Times, the city-owned land includes the fountain plaza, the perimeter sidewalks and Damrosch Park, the square of green between the Metropolitan Opera and the David H. Koch Theater, which is home to the New York City Ballet; New York City Opera departed the Koch Theater earlier this year).

The south-east corner of Alice Tully Hall was cut out like a wedge of pie, shaped into a hyperbolic paraboloid, and placed on the plaza between the Lincoln Center Theater, Avery Fisher Hall, and the now-demolished pedestrian bridge. The removal of this bridge is perhaps the project’s greatest triumph, although a new one is apparently under construction. In addition, the Julliard School building was expanded and cantilevered; the newly-open space was transformed into a sunken plaza.


© Daniel B.F. Fox/Center for Architecture

Judging from this plaza and other new publicly-accessible spaces (the High Line; the TKTS Booth in Times Square), we all apparently want to sit on bleacher-style steps and gaze out at the passing city. Although it seems like we’re trapped in an undergraduate art history class covering Charles Baudelaire’s flâneur for the thousandth time, when I visited the “Credit Suisse Information Grandstand,” as this particular bleacher is called, it was beginning to fill with people enjoying Illy espresso samples. The adjacent below-grade plaza was sloughing off pedestrians and those taking a break from the Avon Breast Cancer Walk.

Although upscale and donor-heavy (Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Lawn; Paul Milstein Pool and Terrace; Hearst Plaza; Barclays Capital Grove, etc. etc.), the public wins in this tasteful redo of an important modern landmark.

Daniel B.F. Fox is on staff at the AIA New York Chapter/Center for Architecture. After graduating with an M.S. in Historic Preservation from Columbia University, he was Rafael Viñoly's archivist for two years. He holds a B.A. in American Studies from Wesleyan University. dfox@aiany.org

Building of the Day #14: W. 57th POP (Privately Owned Public) Space

Building of the Day #14: W. 57th POP (Privately Owned Public) Space
142 West 57th Street
New York, NY


© Edith Bellinghausen/Center for Architecture

The Metropolitan Tower is the wedge-shaped, Darth Vader-like all black glass monolith next to Carnegie Hall. Rising a tidy 716 feet in 77 stories of offices in the low-rise portion and residences in the high rise, the AIA Guide to New York City tells us that its developer Harry Macklowe claimed to have designed it himself. Not true! Schuman, Lichtenstein, Claman & Efron (now SLCE Architects) get the credit for the 1987 tower.

Rogers Marvel Architects took a second look at the passarelle connecting 56th and 57th Streets. Sticking with the black theme, they switched from glass to shiny black aluminum panels for the walls. The reception desk was glowing blue when I passed through, and ESPN was twinkling on the 200-foot-long digital display strip. I was a bit unhappy because I couldn’t get the money shot with my metallic blue flower shoes (see Day 3).

But outside I did much better with the Christian de Portzamparc extravaganza going up right across the street. I’ve done some hanging out there producing the Heritage Ball video of honoree Gary Barnett, the founder of Extell Development Company. One57, as the tower is now called, will be the tallest residential building in the city. The now visible undulating concrete structure hints at the shape of things to come. On my morning dog walks, from Central Park’s Great Lawn, I can just see it peeking out from behind the Essex House. I can’t wait to see more!

Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA, is the Managing Director of the Center for Architecture. She was previously a partner at Butler Rogers Baskett, and from 1989-2005 at Swanke Hayden Connell. After graduating from Princeton (AB 1975, M.Arch 1979) she worked for Philip Johnson, held faculty appointments at the University of Virginia, NJIT, and her alma mater. She is spearheading Archtober: Architecture and Design Month NYC. ckracauer@aiany.org

© Ben Kracauer

Building of the Day #13: Francis Martin Branch, New York Public Library

Building of the Day #13: Francis Martin Branch, New York Public Library
2150 University Avenue (at 181st St.)
Bronx, NY


© Ben Kracauer


© Ben Kracauer

We are up in the Bronx again today, this time further north in the Morris Heights neighborhood. The Francis Martin Library, named after the first district attorney from the Bronx and designed by Harvey Wiley Corbett and completed in 1957, sits atop a hill on a prominent corner of University Avenue. The University is Bronx Community College, now housed in what was originally the McKim Mead & White Heights Campus for New York University. Be sure to check out the original Hall of Fame there. 1100 Architect has made its own Hall of Fame for the kids' library. Stanley Kubrick, Chaim Potok, Herman Wouk, Colin Powell, and even Fiorello LaGuardia are part of a graphic game on the warm white walls that undulate around the core of the children’s library renovation on the second floor.


© Ben Kracauer

With an astonishing economy, separate areas for age groups are created by the magic of a swerving and swooping stretched glossy fabric ceiling. The Barrisol product (think Anish Kapoor) is used to modulate the ceiling height into two main areas, and to create a specular white surface that swims with distorted reflections, taking on the bright colors of the casework, furnishings, and carpets. I asked David Piscuskas, FAIA, the 1100 Architect partner-in-charge, what his favorite aspect of the project was: “Realizing such a significant transformation for an oft under-served community at modest cost.” Sweet reading time for the Bronx kiddies is the result.

Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA, is the Managing Director of the Center for Architecture. She was previously a partner at Butler Rogers Baskett, and from 1989-2005 at Swanke Hayden Connell. After graduating from Princeton (AB 1975, M.Arch 1979) she worked for Philip Johnson, held faculty appointments at the University of Virginia, NJIT, and her alma mater. She is spearheading Archtober: Architecture and Design Month NYC. ckracauer@aiany.org

© Laura Trimble/Center for Architecture

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