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Archtober Building of the Day #31: SculptureCenter Renovation and Expansion

Posted on October 31, 2015

Archtober Building of the Day #31
SculptureCenter Renovation and Expansion
44-19 Purves Street
Queens

Andrew Berman Architect

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© Julia Cohen

An enthusiastic group of Archtoberites came out today to bid adieu to this year’s Building of the Day series. Cloistered away on a dead-end street in Long Island City, SculptureCenter offers underrepresented and emerging artists an opportunity to develop site-specific works in this former trolley repair shop. This is, of course, a neighborhood that has gone through a tremendous amount of change in recent years. When the project began, the surrounding block held a chop shop and not much else. Now, brand new apartment buildings line the street.

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© Julia Cohen

In this renovation of the SculptureCenter, Andrew Berman, FAIA, strove to honor the character of the original building and neighborhood without competing with it. The addition is “sympathetic to the original, not vying for attention,” he explained.

The project was born from an RFP for a new stairwell, but Berman decided to take it a step further, with Executive Director Mary Ceruti’s go-ahead. His goal was to make a space that was flexible, not in the sense of moving parts, but one that would create exhibition spaces with just the right feel for all of the artists who would come to inhabit the building.

Between exhibitions, the solid door to the forecourt swings shut, presenting a wall of weathered steel to passersby. According to Ben Whine, associate director of the SculptureCenter, it is always quite a show when the building reopens. It is during the weeks of installation that the institution returns to its roots as a studio space for artists who create site-specific pieces to show in the industrial space.

 

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© Julia Cohen

Downstairs, we entered what appeared to be a functional hallway. A low, whirring sound could be heard in the background as Berman and Whine spoke, but it wasn’t until an “exit sign” had wended its way halfway down the hall that I realized it was part of a show. Gabriel Sierra, an artist interested in architecture, design, institutional critique, and structural interventions, had installed this simulacrum of an exit sign that was slowly making its way across the space. Because of the nature of Sierra’s work, I found myself constantly searching for additional interventions, to the point that I no longer trusted my ability to discern the functional elements of the building from the installation within.

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© Julia Cohen

Berman seemed most proud of the masonry wall that had been cut with a circular saw to reveal its cross-section, marking the transition between the original building and the addition. This cut is “all but invisible, but here to be discovered,” he explained. Also true of the SculptureCenter, a gem of an organization tucked away on a narrow street, but just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Manhattan.

IMG_0842_editedJulia Cohen is the Archtober Coordinator at the Center for Architecture.

Archtober Building of the Day #30: Chilewich Store

Posted on October 30, 2015

Archtober Building of the Day #30
Chilewich Store
23 East 20th Street
Manhattan
De-Spec

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© Julia Cohen

This is the project that every architect dreams of (or should, at least). With designers as clients and visually striking product, Tom Shea and Farnaz Mansuri, Assoc. AIA, of De-Spec were able to develop a concept for Chilewich from the ground up.

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© Julia Cohen

The close collaboration between Chilewich and De-Spec began with the De-Spec-designed artisanal chocolate shop XOCOLATTI, a previous Building of the Day and 2012 AIANY Design Award winner. The shop caught Sandy Chilewich’s eye as she walked past its SoHo storefront a couple of years ago. She and her husband/business partner Joe Sultan got in touch with the firm, asking it to develop a concept for what would become their first brick-and-mortar store – and a 2015 AIANY Design Award winner.

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© Julia Cohen

A matrix of moveable pegs displays the merchandise as a network of points and lines. Brightly-colored tablecloths, runners, and rugs pop against a matte-black MDF surface. The simultaneously soft and fractured surface of a long wall running behind the register contrasts with the adjacent grids, and keeps the store from appearing cluttered. Any display space that is lost is more than made up for by a similarly well-organized basement.

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© Julia Cohen

De-Spec also designed the store’s furniture, which is rearranged every few months to show off new products. A pair of pentagonal tables visible from the street offers an intentionally awkward canvas for place settings, and lends a touch of quirkiness to the display.

Although the peg system is not changed all that often, it’s nice to know that it can be tinkered with. Because the designers came up with the concept before the site was selected, they know that its bones can be replicated in new spaces if the company decides to expand its collection of retail stores.

Fun fact: The Ramones’ first performance, with tickets at $2, took place here. Something to think about the next time you’re shopping for table linens.

Julia Cohen is the Archtober Coordinator at the Center for Architecture.

table setting
© Cynthia Kracauer

When it came time for our first post-merger Center for Architecture Board dinner earlier this year, I trolled the aisles of the MoMA store for just the right table items to create a fine dining experience. I wanted to express the contemporary and practical mission of the newly-reorganized Center. The Chilewich placemats – square, white, with an irregular splash of silver – fit the bill perfectly. The only problem? MoMA only had six. What a wonderful excuse to head to the Chilewich store. Schedule complexity kept me from coming out today, but I wanted to put a good word in for Tom Shea and Farnaz Mansuri, Assoc. AIA.

Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA, is the Managing Director of the Center for Architecture and the festival director for Archtober:  Architecture and Design Month NYC.  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. ckracauer@aiany.org 

Join us tomorrow for this year’s final Building of the Day: SculptureCenter in Long Island City.

Archtober Building of the Day #29: The Musket Room

Posted on October 29, 2015

Archtober Building of the Day #29
The Musket Room
265 Elizabeth Street
Manhattan
Shadow Architects

signage
© Suzanne Mecs

If we visit Michelin star restaurants Next Archtober, we’ve got to make a deal for the meal. The meal’s the thing here. The Musket Room moved into the old Rialto space, a long-gone hangout for architects working in the nearby Puck Building.

Its got a gun over the bar.

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© Cynthia Kracauer

Larry Cohn, RA, of architect-of-record Shadow Architects, prepared the filing documents that wended their way through the post-Sandy building department. The warm woods and teal leather banquettes specified by London-based Alexander Waterworth Interiors, have replaced the bright red plastic ones that lined the brick side walls of the not-forgotten Rialto. A nice chap, Larry, took us through the restaurant, and showed us the spanking clean basement kitchen with its array of chemical lab experiments called food. Frank Hanes, the sous chef, explained the polyethylene-encased meats that were being cooked sous-vide: venison leg fillets, a specialty of the house on the menu as “New Zealand red deer/flavors of gin,” which includes licorice and fennel – and maybe a juniper berry or two.

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© Suzanne Mecs

You can tell I’m not a foodie.

It was nice to see nasturtiums growing in the raised beds in the back that serve as an herb garden for the chef, New Zealander Mack Lambert, who conjures a nasturtium vinaigrette that might appear somewhere in the early courses of our future meal. We could top it off with Pig’s blood/berries/rhubarb/herbs for dessert.

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© Suzanne Mecs

author

Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA, is the Managing Director of the Center for Architecture and the festival director for Archtober:  Architecture and Design Month NYC.  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. ckracauer@aiany.org