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Monday, August 29, 2016

Queens Builds: Kew Gardens Hills Library

The last of the five buildings in Queens that I drove by a couple weeks ago is the Kew Gardens Hill Library, which was part of a "Queens Builds" blog post back in 2009. Seven years later, it is a construction site:


What the building, designed by WORKac, should look like when done:

[Rendering via WORKac]

The project is part renovation, part expansion, with an L-shaped volume of space wrapping around the existing library's rectangular plan. As can be glimpsed in the below photo, the existing has basically been gutted and turned into an open plan.


WORKac's design is all about the rippling GFRC facade that is "lifted" at the corners for views into and out of the library. The facade is "dog-eared" to create a small awning at the entrance (visible below and in the rendering). The dip at the entrance promises to give a good look of the green roof once it's in place.


The lifted facade ensures the small branch makes a strong neighborhood statement with a minimal means.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Queens Builds: Elmhurst Branch Library

The fourth of the five buildings I drove by in Queens last week is the Elmhurst Branch Library by Marpillero Pollak Architects. The library -- referred to as the second busiest branch in the Queens Library system -- is located at the intersection of Broadway and 51st Avenue in a bustling section of the Elmhurst neighborhood.



The project was not without some controversy. The fairly large design replaces a more than 100-year-old Carnegie library -- one of a then handful in Queens -- that was demolished in 2012. The new library more than doubles the square footage of the old one. Further, the library was expected to open in 2014 after breaking ground in 2012, but a number of delays pushed the completion into the fall of 2016; though no opening date is set. Setting aside the orange construction fencing, the library looks done from the outside, even down to the landscaping. It's so done-looking, there's a hand-painted "Closed" sign in front of the entrance doors (photo above).



The architects assert that the library "provides state-of-the-art technology and inviting, comfortable spaces with careful attention to material qualities, durability, and acoustics." Articles on the library echo these sentiments, so it seems like a visit to the library after it opens is in order, to determine just how state-of-the-art and such a branch library can be. So stay tuned for another post on the Elmhurst Branch Library once I make another visit.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Today's archidose #918

Here are some of my photos of a new Columbarium at Center Cemetery in Norfolk, Connecticut, by RKLA | Robin Key Landscape Architecture with stone artist Dan Snow. The 100-foot-long dry stone wall with 50 columbarium niches weaves between four mature trees at the far end of the 250-year-old cemetery.

Center Cemetery Columbarium
Center Cemetery Columbarium
Center Cemetery Columbarium
Center Cemetery Columbarium

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Today's archidose #917

Here are some photos of Coffee Shop at West Bund, Shanghai, by Scenic Architecture Office. (Photos: LC_YIP)

Coffee Shop at West Bund, Shanghai
Coffee Shop at West Bund, Shanghai
Coffee Shop at West Bund, Shanghai
Coffee Shop at West Bund, Shanghai
Coffee Shop at West Bund, Shanghai
Coffee Shop at West Bund, Shanghai
Coffee Shop at West Bund, Shanghai

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Queens Builds: Glen Oaks Branch Library

Three of the buildings in Queens I drove by last week are libraries, with only one of them completed and occupied: the Glen Oaks branch near the borough's eastern edge. Designed by Marble Fairbanks (which has a thorough and informative journal on the project), the library was voted Building of the Year at American-Architects in 2013, they year it opened. Although I curated that feature and found the project to deserve its winning status, last week was the first time I had the chance to visit the library, even though I live in the borough.



The building is located on the south side of busy Union Turnpike, and the library's north-facing elevation is all glass and signage. There are actually two signs: one geared to pedestrians and one to motorists; the latter is the word "SEARCH" written in light across the upper panes of glass. The effect is created by a parapet with the back surface etched with the word on a layer of film; the sun projects the word onto the curtain wall in front. Since the letters are "written" by the sun, the effect is ever-changing, though on the day I visited there were only a few clouds so the letters were crisp (although the back surface could be glimpsed from across the street, creating a light-shadow of sorts).


The signage at top intrigues passersby, while the subtle signage across the top of the storefront makes it clear that this is a branch of the Queens Library.


The glass storefront curves inward toward the doors, inviting people into the building. The glass surfaces are covered with a pattern that includes variations of the word "SEARCH" in many languages, echoing the multi-ethnic character of Queens.


The checkout and a young adult area occupy the first floor, but an opening by the stair lures people to the lower floor, where the adult area is located. (Children's books and a multipurpose room are on the second floor.)


The stairs angle upon descent to deliver people into the middle of the space.


Although a cellar, the adult area is open and filled with light.


Much of the daylight comes from the opening next to the stair, where south-facing windows (with operable shades) are found.


There are also windows on the east next to a small plaza (more on that later).


Note the low ceiling with light-green paint in the photo above. Some comfy chairs are located below the low ceiling that is capped by a couple skylights from the plaza above.


At the front of the adult area, toward the street, are even more skylights, a row of them along the wall of books.


Back outside, the skylights to below are visible in the sidewalk.


Before venturing to the plaza on the east, here's a shot of a small outdoor space at the back of the library that is accessible from the young adult area, not from the street. I imagine librarians can tell kids there for after-school to head outside if they're being too loud. Whatever the case, it's a great amenity to have in a branch-library.


Just like the opening by the stairs inside, the east side of the library curves in plan. The first floor is covered in clear glass with a frit pattern, while the upper floor is clad primarily in translucent channel glass.


The plaza has the potential to be a great civic amenity (just as the benches at the front are a benefit to people waiting for buses), but it seems to my untrained eye that the library could use a gardener; the sumac and other plantings are a bit wild and thick, so the space isn't as inviting as it could be.


This last photo is a detail of the east side, with the glass pane for the reading-room skylight visible at the bottom.


Although my visit to the Glen Oaks Branch Library was quick, I got the impression that it is a much-loved branch. There were about a dozen patrons in the cellar space (many on the comfy chairs below the skylights) and the interiors were in good shape three years on (I know how much abuse Queens libraries take). Some of the success must be given to the design, which is thoughtful in every aspect, from the way it fits into the neighborhood, to the different spaces and the many surprising details. It's no wonder Queens Library uses the branch in its advertisements.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Queens Builds: EMS Station 50

The second of the five projects I drove by yesterday morning in Queens is EMS Station 50, which opened last month in Jamaica. The building was designed by Dean/Wolf Architects, which calls it the "Restless Response Station" on their website and states:
The Queens Hospital Emergency Medical Services Station reverses the entropy of the existing site and releases the restless response latent in the program. The double bar structure rises up and out of the site countering the downward slope of the topography. The diagonal form pulses with the anticipation of movement, embodying the programmatic need for immediate action, and energizing the community with a sense of engagement. The tension created by the double mirror of the sloping situation paired with the programmatic need for immediate action gives the building its name, restless response.
Setting aside this reaching description, I'll admit it's an attention-getting design and a great addition to the neighborhood:


Yet I can't help – once again – comparing this carefully considered design with a budget to what passes for an EMS station in my neighborhood of Astoria:


I can only hope that DDC (which "builds the city") will make an effort to improve ALL of the EMS facilities, regardless of budget. Bundled construction trailers do little for the neighborhoods they occupy, and certainly less for the people working in them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Queens Builds: New York City Police Academy

This morning I borrowed a friend's car and drove around Queens, checking out a handful of buildings that have been recently completed or are under construction. First in this short "Queens Builds" series is Perkins+Will's New York City Police Academy in College Point.



College Point sits on an peninsula of sorts east of LaGuardia Airport and cut off from Flushing and other parts to the south and east by the Whitestone Expressway. The neighborhood's northern half is mainly residential, but to the south, toward the once-notorious Willets Point, it is primarily industrial. Until the Police Academy, College Point's most architecturally significant building was the New York Times Printing Plant by Polshek/Ennead. The 730,000-sf first phase of the New York City Police Academy – designed by Perkins+Will with Michael Fieldman Architects and completed last year – sits on a large, 35-acre triangular parcel at area's southern tip. [Map]



The building fronts 28th Street on the north and is made up of two main components: the Recruit Academic Building on the west and the Physical Training Building on the east (left and right, respectively, in the top photo). The two parts are linked by a glass bridge that traverses a storm water canal that cuts an "L" in front of the Academic Building and leads to, I believe, Flushing Creek to the south. The water feature was the biggest surprise upon seeing the building.



Visitors must traverse a bridge, just visible in the photo below, that leads from 28th Street to the main entrance of the Recruit Academic Building.



Although I did not attempt to venture inside the building, I like the porosity of the building adjacent to the entrance, seen in the photo below.



Although the Police Academy has carefully articulated facades, a good deal of glass, and the occasional opening, the huge project is basically a compound walled-off from the public that its occupants serve. The canal may be an environmental measure, helping the project gain LEED Gold Certification, but it can also be seen as a 21st century moat, creating a barrier between the police (in training) and anybody outside.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Today's archidose #916

Here are a few photos of the Vienna DC Towers in Vienna, Austria, by Dominique Perrault Architecture. (Photos: Martin Krause)

kaisermühlen 16-05-06 7915_6_7_tonemapped Kopie 2
kaisermühlen 16-05-06 7960_1_2Enhancer
kaisermühlen dc tower 16-05-06 7921 photomerge

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review: Conversations with Peter Eisenman

Conversations with Peter Eisenman: The Evolution of Architectural Style by Vladimir Belogolovsky
DOM Publishers, 2016
Paperback, 160 pages



Last year I reviewed Vladimir Belogolovsky's collection of interviews, Conversations with Architects, which he started having following the 2002 World Trade Center Competition. This offshoot of that book features three conversations with Peter Eisenman held in 2003, 2009 and February of this year; the first two are unedited transcripts of interviews from last year's book and one that is completely new. Given this fact, I gravitated to the last interview.

The most recent conversation continues with many of the ideas explored in the first two, such as the role of language, the influence of Jacques Derrida, and the City of Culture in Galicia, what should be Eisenman's magnum opus. Although Eisenman admits to not caring about his legacy, he pinpoints a late phase of his career that is marked by projects that focus on facades, unlike the manipulation of the site as in the Galicia project. Unfortunately Belogolovsky does not prod into these projects, instead keeping the focus on Galicia and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, as well as the theoretical considerations Eisenman is known for.

So to decipher the late phase of Eisenman's career, the reader is left to delve into the dozen projects documented with photographs, drawings and models that make up the bulk of the book. These range from the built and unbuilt houses of the 1970s to two in-progress projects in Milan and Istanbul, the projects that fit into this late phase. Missed opportunity aside, the book is a solid collection of words and images that fans of Peter Eisenman will appreciate. It's also a good start for a potential series of conversations on particular architects coming out of Belogolovsky's ongoing interviews.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Book Review: OAB

OAB: Office of Architecture in Barcelona by Carlos Ferrater
Actar, 2015
Hardcover, 320 pages



Nine years ago I reviewed Synchronizing Geometry, a monograph on the Carlos Ferrater Partnership that came out of an exhibition on the firm at IIT in 2006, the same year OAB formed. The very first project encountered on opening that book was the Barcelona Botanical Garden, completed in 1999. Likewise, OAB (an updated version of a 2011 monograph also from Actar) places the same project on the beginning pages, illustrating the importance of the project in Ferrater's career and giving the firm a chance to explore its evolution in the last decade and a half (the firm expanded it seven years ago). The Barcelona Botanical Garden, which consists of a network of triangles laid across the Montjuïc site, is my favorite OAB project, and it is one that clearly inspired other projects; take the AA House (aka Origami House), for instance: square rooms and courtyards in plan resolve themselves as folded triangular planes at the roof.

Looking at OAB's work in the updated monograph in this manner, a number of formal strands can be grasped: triangulation, as in the BBG and AA House; carved volumes, as in the Azahar Group Headquarters and Granada Science Park; grids, which are appropriate for corporate buildings, such as the Mediapro Building; the layered facades of Bilbao's Riverside and other apartment buildings; and the occasional articulated box, such as the Vila Real Public Library.

Yet I find myself gravitating to Ferrater's landscape projects, which also include the Benidorm West Beach Promenade, an OAB anomaly when considered in my categorization of their projects. Instead of triangles, carves, grids, layers or boxes, the promenade curves along and over the beach, the latter through cantilevered prows that provide shade for bathers. From the beach, the promenade is but a sinuous white wall at the base of the buildings across the street, but from above (the favored presentation of the project) it is a colorful path that moves from green to yellow to orange to red to purple to blue.

The in-progress projects, which make up the last twenty pages of the book, indicate that landscapes remain in balance with schools, hotels, office buildings and other building types (the Tangier Promenade is the most obvious example of this.) This could get chalked up to Barcelona's push to improve its public spaces since the 1980s, but to me it seems that Ferrater and company enjoy the freedom that comes with landscapes over buildings. The latter are relatively rigid, yet refined, while the former are upbeat, if systematic. This monograph captures all shades of one of the most important Catalan architecture offices practicing today.