Times Square now has double the public space

April 20, 2017 by  
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The most visited destination in the United States now has double the public space—an amazing feat unimaginable just ten years ago. When New York City temporarily closed part of Broadway Street at Times Square to traffic and created a pedestrian plaza in 2009, many dismissed the experiment as foolish. But the removal of cars in favor of public space proved an incredible success and with the pilot project turned permanent, Times Square was forever reinvented. Today, the city announced the official completion of their reconstruction project: a 2.5-acre permanent pedestrian-only public plaza on Broadway designed by architecture firm Snøhetta. With an average of 45 million visitors each year—many of who look up at the billboards instead of the path in front—Times Square is notorious for its pedestrian traffic. Before the addition of pedestrian plazas, the exposure to vehicular traffic, slow-moving pedestrians , and small sidewalks made visiting Times Square an unpleasant, polluted, and sometimes unsafe experience. However, with the re-direction of vehicular traffic and the return of public space to pedestrians, Times Square dramatically transformed into a welcoming civic space. Pedestrian injuries decreased by 40 percent and crime in the overall area decreased by 20 percent. Air pollution has even fallen by as much as 60 percent. This week marks the official opening of the completed Times Square reconstruction project, designed by Snøhetta and completed in 2016. Together with the NYC Department of Transportation , Department of Design and Construction, and the Times Square Alliance, the architecture firm carved 2.5 acres of pedestrian space out of a project site known as the “Bowtie” in the heart of the Times Square Theater District, bounded by Broadway and 7th Avenue between 42nd and 47th streets. The first phase of the pedestrian street opened to the public in spring 2014. An overwhelming majority of New Yorkers and visitors agreed that the plaza has enhanced Times Square and made it a more pleasant place. Related: Snøhetta Selected to Design A New Car-Free Times Square “Conceived as a project whose success would be measured not only by its new aesthetic but also the long-term physical, psychological and economic benefits on its community, the reinvention of Times Square stands as a model for how the design of our urban landscapes can improve health and well-being of its users while providing an important stage for public gathering,” said Craig Dykers, Architect and Founding Partner of Snøhetta. The Bowtie is designed to accommodate multiple speeds of pedestrian circulation—330,000 people move through Times Square on average every day—using subtle design cues. Street furniture and other design elements also create a welcoming space to linger. Conceived as “an outdoor room right in the heart of Manhattan,” the plaza includes ten fifty-foot-long granite benches plugged into the city’s power grid and connected to 400-amp, 200-amp, and 20-amp power sources. The reconstruction project also allowed for major overhaul of outdated infrastructure, including the sewer lines below. + Snøhetta Images © Michael Grimm

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Times Square now has double the public space

NYC community gardens may wither under Trump’s proposed budget cuts

April 3, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts could mean the kiss of death for New York City’s community gardens . More than 500 of the communal spaces across all five boroughs depend on a program called GreenThumb , which is administered by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation . Initiated in the wake of the 1970s fiscal crisis, which resulted in the widespread abandonment of both private and public land, GreenThumb has turned hundreds of derelict lots into tillage. Most of its funding comes from federal Community Development Block Grants—the same ones the budget blueprint seeks to eliminate. Should the budget pass, GreenThumb risks losing $1 million a year out of a $2.4 million budget, according to WNYC . Related: Detroit nonprofit seeks crowdfunding for new East Side community garden “It would be devastating to GreenThumb, it would mean laying off a dozen workers or more, and it would be less money for supplies, for bulbs, for tools,” said New York City Councilman Mark Levine, who chairs the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee. Levine, WNYC adds, is working on securing more money for community gardens, as well as the restoration of jobs for 150 Parks department gardeners and maintenance workers. Via WNYC Photos by Unsplash

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Zaha Hadid’s Kushner tower reimagined as the Eye of Sauron

March 30, 2017 by  
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When the family of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and China’s Anbang Insurance Group announced plans to redevelop a Zaha Hadid -designed skyscraper at Manhattan’s 666 Fifth Avenue, just about everyone, from lawmakers to government ethicists, balked. Although the deal would have helped transform the Kushners’ struggling office-and-retail property into a 1,400-foot mixed-use tower with retail space, high-end condominiums, and an 11-story hotel, negotiations eventually buckled under public pressure. Still, we’ll always have the renderings—and the Photoshopped artwork, one of which reimagines the monolith-like edifice as Barad-dûr . Designed by Hadid before her death last year, the $7.5 billion project, renamed 660 Fifth Avenue, would have involved gutting the 60-year-old building to its steel bones and adding 40 or more floors. Anbang’s withdrawal from negotiations has thrown the future of the property into question, although a spokesman says that the Kushner Companies is in active discussions with other investors to keep the project on life support. @PeterGrantwsj Here's the final concept. pic.twitter.com/AOIe9YHH7F — Grok (@Groked) March 21, 2017 Related: Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Infinitus Plaza focuses on environmental sustainability Meanwhile, the Twittersphere has been having a field day with a rendering of the proposed citadel, with one adroit user Photoshopping it into the Tower of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings . Whether this is in reference to the Mark of the Beast, the Kushners’ Trump-adjacency, or the fact that the building is a mite four blocks south of Trump Tower , is up for debate. The Kushners purchased 666 Fifth Avenue on Jared’s birthday in January 2007 for $1.8 billion. Although Jared, who is married to First Daughter Ivanka Trump, divested his stake in the building after taking a job in the White House, he sold it to his family, raising not just concerns about Anbang’s links to the Chinese government but also conflicts of interest. In fact, five Democratic members of Congress wrote to a White House lawyer last week about the would-be deal, which they called “unusually favorable for the Kushners.” Anbang would have invested $400 million in the project, as well as taken out a $4 billion construction loan for renovations, according to reports. Via Artnet

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Icelands geothermal Blue Lagoon is getting an amazing new hotel this year

March 30, 2017 by  
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Travelers have been drawn to Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon for decades, eager to take a dip in the steamy, mineral-rich water nestled in the heart of a lava field. Hundreds of thousands of visitors make the journey every year to experience the magical, intensely blue pools for themselves. Now, the spa is making plans to expand into a full-fledged resort with the 62-room Moss Hotel, a new Moss Restaurant, and a new spa called Lava Cove. The man-made lagoon is filled with the waste seawater released from a nearby geothermal power station. While the water is perfectly safe for visitors to take a dip in, the high mineral content makes it unsuitable for recycling and it must be filtered through the porous rock of the lava field before it can be returned to the landscape. The lagoon gets its trademark milky blue shade from the silica, sulfur, and other minerals infused in the water, which is said to aid relaxation and heal skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema. Related: Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is an Incredible Hot Spring Spouting from the Runoff of a Geothermal Power Plant The new hotel will offer visitors stunning views with floor-to-ceiling windows and terraces leading directly to the geothermal waters. For a broader view, guests can visit the hotel’s balconies to see the stunning scenery of the lava field. The goal of the new resort is to make its connection to nature as seamless as possible. The subterranean Lava Cove spa takes advantage of the natural landscape, offering visitors the chance to explore lava corridors, waterfalls, and other geological features while they rest and relax. The new Moss Restaurant will serve up fresh, local, seasonal ingredients inspired by Icelandic cuisine, along with stunning views of the resort. The new resort is currently under construction and set to open in Autumn of 2017. + Blue Lagoon Hotel Via CNN

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Icelands geothermal Blue Lagoon is getting an amazing new hotel this year

Former concrete factory begins anew as an alternative high school with no curriculum

March 30, 2017 by  
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A former concrete factory west of Copenhagen has taken its first steps towards transformation into an experimental Danish folk high school. Designed by MVRDV and Cobe , the Roskilde Festival Folk High School that’s broken ground will include a 3,000-square-meter learning center for art, music, leadership, and activism, as well as 2,600 square meters of student housing. The former industrial appearance of the factory will be largely preserved wherever possible. Inspired by the ideals of the Roskilde festival and by Danish author and teacher N.F.S.Grundtvig’s beliefs on education, the Roskilde Festival Folk High School will differ in many ways from the typical high school and will be the first newly-established folk high school of its kind in Denmark in 45 years. The alternative school has neither curriculum nor exams, and both students and teachers will live on campus during the school year. Education will usually be focused on creative and humanistic topics, as well as on common life at school. Designed to accommodate around 150 students, the Roskilde Festival Folk High School will be organized into three main learning zones: the Mind, which caters to writing, debate, and leadership training; the Body, for dance and music education; and the Hand, with facilities and classrooms for the visual arts, architecture, and design. These zones will be housed within boxes inserted into the renovated factory. One of the boxes will include a 150-person auditorium. Students will be encouraged to decorate the industrial interiors with their art. Related: MVRDV and COBE to Transform Danish Concrete Factory Into Rock and Roll Museum The folk high school is part of the 11,000-square-meter ROCKmagneten masterplan that will transform the on-site cement factories into a district for “rock music, creativity and youth culture.” The Roskilde Festival Folk High School is slated for completion in fall 2018. + MVRDV + COBE Images via MVRDV

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Former concrete factory begins anew as an alternative high school with no curriculum

Philip Johnson’s secret brick and glass home in Manhattan, NYC

March 24, 2017 by  
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You’d never guess a Modernist paradise lies behind the unassuming brick and glass facade of Philip Johnson’s sole private residence in Manhattan . The Rockefeller Guest House sits snugly between two rather typical apartment buildings, but inside is a secret glass house that was the architect’s only New York City residential commission – built near the beginning of Johnson’s career between 1949 and 1950. Johnson is renowned for marvels from his Connecticut Glass House to NYC skyscrapers. But hidden in Manhattan is a work often overlooked: a guest house built for Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller III, to show off her modern art collection and host gatherings. The house that sits on a 25 by 100 foot plot is a designated historical landmark today, but often goes unnoticed. Related: Prefab Glass House lets you bring home the spirit of Philip Johnson’s masterpiece Behind the brick and glass facade is a modernist haven. Separate structures are bridged by a courtyard and pond accessible by a series of large stones. Little has been altered in this home, from the ground floor’s white vinyl tiles to the framing. The long eastern wall is unbroken. The space feels clean and open. The small home was designed to display art, but as New York Times writer Sadie Stein said, it is itself a work of art. Rockefeller donated the house to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1958, which used it as an event space for a time before reselling it. Johnson and his partner David Whitney actually lived in the house for eight years starting in 1971; they leased it from Mrs. Lee Sherrod. In 2000, an undisclosed buyer purchased the home for a staggering $11.16 million – the highest price per square foot in New York history. The New York Times Style Magazine features more photographs and a video you can view here . Via The New York Times and Curbed Images via screenshot and Christian Newton on Flickr

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New York City’s "floating food forest" returns next month

March 22, 2017 by  
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If you missed it the last time around, Swale New York’s “floating food forest” will be giving visitors another chance to check out its vegetative bounty starting next month. Housed on an 80-foot-long barge, the 130-by-40-foot community garden will be making calls at Hudson River Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Bronx’s Concrete Plant Park from April 20 through November 15. The garden is free to tour—and free to harvest. Guests will be able to help themselves to a share of the mini farm’s crops, which in past iterations have included perennial favorites like cauliflower, broccoli, squash, peppers, kale, bok choy, ramps, zucchini, radicchio, and scallions. You may even find boughs laden with persimmons, bushes plump with blueberries, or trees hanging with bananas. Part farm, part art project, Swale is a response to laws that prohibit foraging for food on public lands. By taking to the water, however, the garden is bound by a different set of rules. Related: Come eat free food from this floating edible forest before it sets sail again 70 percent of the plants grown on the barge are edible. The others are to attract pollinators—including the bees that live in a repurposed piano—or keep pests away. Mary Mattingly, the artist who spearheaded the project, says that Swale brings us “one step closer to transforming our city from dependence on large-scale supply chains with little accountability.” Related: NYC’s first floating food forest to hit the Hudson River this summer She describes Swale as a “call to action” and a vision of New York City’s potential future. “By bringing together groups from varying backgrounds, we will create an environment that works together to find new ideas and answers to food security,” she said. Visitors are welcome to contribute to the garden with their own plants and seeds. It’s a joint effort, after all. “Together, we are re-imagining our city,” Mattingly added. + Swale New York

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NYC’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral goes green with new geothermal plant

March 17, 2017 by  
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When St. Patrick’s Day revelers parade past St. Patrick’s Cathedral on NYC’s 5th Avenue today, they will be celebrating not just the patron saint of Ireland, but also a renewable energy future for the famous landmark. Last month, the Archdiocese of New York announced that the historic Saint Patrick’s cathedral activated a new geothermal heating and cooling system that will reduce the building’s energy consumption by more than 30 percent and reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 94,000 kilograms – an impressive feat for the largest Catholic Gothic cathedral in the United States. St. Patrick’s geothermal plant is part of the final phase of a four-year, $177 million renovation that has been overseen by the cathedral’s architectural design team of Murphy, Burnham, & Buttrick working in partnership with Landmark Facilities Group and PW Grosser. It is the institution’s first restoration in more than 70 years (it was dedicated in 1879). Related: Futuristic power plant complex generates clean power through wind, solar and geothermal energy The geothermal heating and cooling system consists of 10 wells in terraces flanking the north and south sides of the cathedral drilled through dense Manhattan schist (a coarse-grained metamorphic rock) to a depth of up to 2,250 feet. When fully activated, the plant will be able to generate 2.9 million BTUs per hour of air conditioning and 3.2 million BTUs per hour of heating through 76,000 square feet of space. While wind and solar grab a bigger share of the renewables market and garner more media attention, the potential for both geothermal electricity and heating is huge. The global geothermal power market is projected to more than double operating capacity to 32 gigawatts by the early 2030s, according to the US and Global Geothermal Power Production Report from the US Geothermal Energy Association. Currently only 6 to 7 percent of the world’s estimated geothermal potential is being harnessed. Related: Pope’s official encyclical: “a bold cultural revolution” can halt climate change The Archdiocese of New York and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are not as interested in tapping the geothermal market as they are in heeding the call of Pope Francis to protect the planet and conserve God’s creation as written in his 2015 encyclical on the environment , Laudato Si. “A consistent ethic of life does not compartmentalize these issues. It prioritizes life and the preservation of life at every level,” said Cathedral Rector Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie. “One of the most basic ways in which we are called to do so is through responsible stewardship of our natural resources.” Images via St. Patrick’s Cathedral , MBB and Local 3 IBEW

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Dubai-based firm to construct world’s first 3D-printed skyscraper

March 17, 2017 by  
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3D printing could soar to new heights with the construction of the first 3D-printed skyscraper in the world. Dubai -based firm Cazza recently announced they aim to print the high-rise in the United Arab Emirates . They will draw on a novel construction technique known as crane printing. To print their ambitious skyscraper, Cazza will draw on cranes with added units designed for constructing 3D-printed buildings higher than 262 feet. It’s not yet known how tall the skyscraper will be. The company’s CEO Chris Kelsey said when they started their company, they focused on 3D-printing low-rise structures or houses, but developers kept asking about skyscrapers, so they decided to adapt their technology to reach higher. Related: Three-mile-high futuristic skyscraper has a smog-eating, self-cleaning coating The crane printing process includes all the major structural components needed by towering buildings, according to Construction Week Online. Current construction methods will complete the rest of the building. Mechanical engineer Xavier Hernand said there are vast possibilities for what kind of materials they could use, including steel or concrete . Cazza Chief Operating Officer Fernando De Los Rios said, “The crane printing system can be easily adopted with existing cranes which means we don’t have to build cranes from scratch. We are adding new features to make it adaptable to high wind speeds along with the use of our layer smoothing system that creates completely flat surfaces. You won’t know it’s 3D printed.” Cazza gained notice for blending mobile 3D printing robots with existing building methods to speed up construction processes and make them more cost effective and environmentally friendly. Kelsey said, “Through our technologies, we will be able to build architecturally complex buildings at never-before-seen speeds. It is all about economies of scale where the initial high technology costs will reduce as we enter the mass production phase.” The company has not yet announced a start date for the skyscraper construction. + Cazza Via Construction Week Online Images via Pexels and Good Free Photos

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Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave’ inspires beautiful home design in California

March 16, 2017 by  
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California-based architect Mario Romano ‘s motto “live in art” is clearly visible in his design of the stunning Preston House, inspired by Hokusai’s “The Great Wave.” The home’s exterior was clad with layers of brushed aluminum to create a “rolling” volume that reflects the varying tones and colors of the sky. Although the 5,700 square-foot home is certainly unique in its artful aesthetic, it also has various eco-friendly features incorporated throughout the design. The home’s sculpture-like volume was meant to mimic the blowing winds, detailed brush strokes and the “solitude of barreled water” found in Hokusai’s famous print. However, the unique materials were not only chosen for their art-inspired aesthetics. The aluminum facade sits one inch above the building’s waterproof skin, strategically allowing it to breathe. This feature pulls double duty as a rain screen system that allows air to flow into the layers, essentially stopping any moisture from growing into mold. It also helps ventilate the home by pushing rising hot air outwards and upwards, away from the main volume. Related: Philip Johnson’s Wiley House hits the market for $12 million The home’s interior is a luxurious space comprised of six bedrooms and five baths and a number of common areas, each with its own distinct design. The architect used his own product line, M.R. Walls and Floors, which are resistant to bacteria and water, to cover much of the walls and flooring. Using customized digital tools and CNC technology, the surfaces convert  eco-friendly materials into bold design patterns inspired by nature. For example, the interior flooring on the second floor appears to be wooden planks, but it’s actually an innovative material called SIMOWOOD, which is made of recycled rice husk. + Mario Romano

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