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Archtober Building of the Day #30: The Battery

Posted on October 30, 2016

The Battery
Battery Place and State Street
New York, NY
Quennell Rothschild & Partners

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

On today’s Building of the Day tour, Beth Franz, RLA of Quennell Rothschild & Partners walked us through the past, present, and future of The Battery. The Battery is built of the site of what was once Fort Amsterdam, later renamed Fort George once the British took over. One of the first things Franz pointed out to us is an original stone placed at what was the corner of the fort. During the redesign – a collaboration between QRP, Starr Whitehouse and WXY architecture + urban design with the Battery Conservancy and the Parks Department as clients – QRP decided to completely expose the stone, which made it vulnerable to damage, but it enabled visitors to the park to have a connection to the old fort.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

We then walked to Castle Clinton, passing by The Battery Oval. The two-acre site acts as a connection from the main entrance to the park at Battery Place and State Street to Castle Clinton. During the Robert Moses era, this portion of the park was a two-lane pathway, mostly devoid of greenery. The oval is mounded, which helps it to act as an amphitheater and inside the oval, there are 300 blue plastic chairs, which have proven to be very popular with visitors. So popular in fact that they are being mass produced for anyone to buy.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

Franz then led us to the waterfront promenade, where she explained to us the different design phases of The Battery. After dire financial times of the 1970s and 1980s when New York’s parks were suffering from neglect, The Battery Conservancy was established to ensure the park was kept in good shape for all New Yorkers to use and enjoy. In 1982, Philip Winslow led the first major redesign of the park with the goal of putting the landscape first and getting rid of the broken landscapes designed during the Moses era.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

The park is outlined with enormous 7,000-pound granite blocks, which serve as a demarcating line between the busy public streets and the quiet garden-like atmosphere of the park. Along the perimeter are various monuments to different people and events. QRP restored these monuments to their original design and placed them at the end of streets that terminate at The Battery. These are designed to help bring visitors into the park and capture their attention.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

Walking along the bike path, Franz told us how integral it was in the design process. With safety for bikers and pedestrians in mind, QRP added visual cues for pedestrians that they are entering the bike path and wanted cyclists to be aware of those who might be in the path. There is granite striping on the paths and rumble strips to alert cyclists as well. Additionally, the path gets quite narrow in portions, which forces cyclists to slow down and be aware of their surroundings.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

Along the bike path is The Battery woodland, which consists almost entirely of native grasses and plants. The vision is that this will resemble a meadow that Europeans might have found on Manhattan Island when they first arrived. This area does not need to be mowed and it does not use fertilizers or chemicals to maintain the trees and grasses.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

We ended our tour at the Tiffany Gardens. These gardens also consist of native plants and are mounded, much like the oval. The mounding serves two valuable purposes. Firstly, since the subway tunnels are just inches below the park, the mounds provide enough soil for the plants to take root. Secondly, Franz explained that they create something called “conceal and reveal.” If the landscape is totally flat, a viewer can see the entire park and not be as enticed to enter. If a mound is partially blocking their view, they become interested in what lies beyond and enter to explore the area. The new SeaGlass Carousel designed by WXY is next to the Tiffany Gardens and across from the carousel is the last unfinished part of the park, which will be a playground, meant to encourage imaginative play for children of all ages. Amongst the hustle and bustle of the Financial District, The Battery offers a wonderful respite and it truly is one of New York’s most beautiful parks.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

img_0762Jacob Fredi is the Public Programs and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Center for Architecture. When he’s not on Building of the Day tours, you can find him playing board games (Class Struggle!) and brewing his own beer.

Archtober Building of the Day #29: Japan Society

Posted on October 29, 2016

Japan Society
333 West 47th Street
New York, NY
Junzo Yoshimura in association with Gruzen and Partners

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

During an Archtober Building of the Day tour of the Japan Society, visitors learned how the building’s architecture echoes the organization’s mission to deepen the cultural dialogue between the US and Japan.

Archtober guide Michael Chagnon, PhD, Curator of Exhibition Interpretation at the Japan Society, delved into the history of the organization and its current location. Founded in 1907, the Japan Society shut down its operations during World War II and was revived by John D. Rockefeller III, an avid Asian art collector. When the organization outgrew the home it originally shared with the Asia Society, Rockefeller secured the land in Turtle Bay and commissioned Tokyo-based modernist architect Junzo Yoshimura to design the Japan Society a new home.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

In his design, Yoshimura, a student of Antonin Raymond (a Frank Lloyd Wright disciple), masterfully blends traditional Japanese residential language with the bold, almost Brutalist lines and reinforced concrete of American Modernism. Chagnon pointed out several elements on the building’s façade traditionally found in Japanese homes – the low-slung diagonal fence, typical of Kyoto’s Edo period; the elegantly rhythmic vertical storm window grates, or amado; and surare, horizontal screens, usually of bamboo, and here rendered in steel.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

These references continue in the Japan Society’s lobby, where the ceiling’s exposed concrete combines with delicate wood slats of Japanese cypress, known for releasing a lemon-scented aroma when heated.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

According to Chagnon, although Yoshimura intended for visitors to have a full sensorial experience upon entering the building, the New York City Fire Department demanded that the slats be coated in flame retardant. A bamboo pond at the end of the garden, once still and serene, now bubbles with the addition of a waterfall.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

A few other elements of Yoshimura’s original design have also changed, particularly after a renovation in the 1990’s by Beyer Blinder Belle. As the organization, which hosts everything from Noh theaters, to exhibitions on Japanese prints and anime and lectures on sake, continued to expand, its space needed to grow accordingly. Beyer Blinder Belle added two floors, which more than doubled the available gallery space.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

And while sacrifices have been made in the name of the organization, we can rest assured that the building, the first in New York City built by a Japanese modernist architect, will remain. In 2011, at the age of 40, it became the youngest landmark building by the State’s Landmark Preservation Committee.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

img_8280Camila Schaulsohn is the Communications Director and Editor-in-Chief of the AIA New York Newsletter

Archtober Building of the Day #28: Hudson Yards

Posted on October 28, 2016

Hudson Yards
10 Hudson Yards
New York, NY
Multiple Architects

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

When approaching Hudson Yards from Pennsylvania Station, seeing parked buses and queues of travelers along 31st Street, it’s difficult to imagine that this 28-acre campus could shed its transitory reputation to become a final destination point for more than just Long Island Railroad cars. But by reclaiming square-footage currently lost to train exhaust, the architects and developers believe Hudson Yards will quickly emerge as a major retail and cultural hub in Manhattan.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

Today’s tour started on the 41st floor of 10 Hudson Yards (also known as the Coach Building for its primary tenant), and was led by Mark Boekenheide, AIA, and Sherry Tobak of Related Companies, Marianne Kwok of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), and Serena Nelson of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. Designed by KPF, the 895 foot-tall concrete tower boasts 1.8 million square-feet of office and retail space currently home to a number of high-profile tenants. According to Boekenheide, concrete was an unusual material to use for a project of this size in New York City, but was chosen in order to meet Coach’s timeline for move-in. He also noted that many tenants in the building are now opting to keep the material exposed to add a loft-like atmosphere their offices.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

10 Hudson Yards and its twin still under construction across the way carry the tradition of twin office towers that stretch down Manhattan avenues ending at the World Trade Center. Although the towers are not identical, Kwok said, both are oriented in such a way to direct energy down to the 14-acres of public space below, reinforcing the complex’s relationship to the city as a whole. Once 30 Hudson Yards is completed in 2018, visitors will be able to take in views of Manhattan from the tallest open air observatory deck.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

Half of the Hudson Yards’ acreage will remain open space, and will support the creation of interlocking green spaces intended to draw tenants and visitors into the campus. When designing the elliptical gardens, Nelson said, accounting for the heat generated by the trains parked below on the west campus was a unique challenge; on a summer day, when the trains are stalled with their ACs running, temperatures could rise up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and would effectively scorch much of the existing plant life.

© Center for Architecture

© Center for Architecture

However, gardens will soon grow at Hudson Yards thanks to the design of a glycol cooling system suspended within concrete beneath the soil. As confirmed by a 360-virtual reality rendering of the 5-orbital gardens, the Trafalgar Square-like space will serve as an exceptional northern terminus to the High Line once completed.

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© Center for Architecture

Kelly Felsberg is the Program Committees Coordinator at AIA New York.img_0618