A Quick Note About Reflective High Profile Buildings

Architects and their sponsors have often been guilty of allowing their ambitions to overwhelm their common sense. But these days, technology and ego have combined to produce buildings that approach lethality.

Why, one wonders, does a designer simply ignore the likely consequences of using highly polished surfaces in dense, urban environments? Why does he create a building which cannot ever be watertight, or creates wind tunnels which propell hurricane force winds down pedestrian packed streets?  Why not, if it brings fame and huge fees!

Update, September 6, 16:50: "We'll take care of it."

Forget About Moynihan Station. The Deal Is Just About Dead.

The 1999 SOM rendering. It was beautiful then. It's meaningless now.

Back in 1999, the Clinton administration set-aside funding for the construction of a New Penn Station, to be designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill. The new station would be named after the senator who spearheaded the effort - the late Patrick Moynihan. It was a grand and noble idea - to give New Yorkers a proper West Side train station to make-up for the loss of the original Penn Station in 1960. I don't want to re-tell the whole story, but since then, we have seen the following:

2000-2002: Penn Station receives some renovations. New waiting areas, and a new NJ Transit concourse are built. Also a new speckled floor and escalator tunnels for the Amtrak concourse are installed. (Woo!)

2002: The project to transform the Farley Post Office into Moynihan Station is re-started. The State of New York acquires the Farley Post Office from the Federal Government. A press conference is held (one of Moynihan's final public appearances) to announce that work would soon begin. It didn't.

2005: SOM looses the project, and it is reveled that HOK (the famous stadium builder) has done a re-design. The refreshed project is less technologically advanced than the SOM design, but by then, the estimated cost of opening the new station had surpassed the original $900 Million.

2006: The plan goes back to SOM. A third design is unveiled. We learn that commercial real estate giant Vornado wants to get involved, and include one or two office towers with the station. It didn't work with the basement Penn Station / MSG / One Penn Plaza back in 1964, so why not build another faiulre? The Dolan family (Cablevision) then gets involved (always a bad sign, right?). The Dolans want to leverage the plan to fit-in with their grand scheme to build a new Madison Square Garden on 11th Avenue, just west of the Farley Post Office. Vornado would build its new towers where One Penn Plaza and MSG now stand. Estimated price tag skyrockets.

2006: The project is dealt a huge blow. Amtrak announces that it won't be moving into its new home, because under the proposed arrangements, it would have to pay rent, which it wouldn't be able to afford (for obvious reasons). So now we're thinking about building a world-class train station just for New Jersey commuters? Travellers to and from southern New England will remain with the rats in the MSG basement? This is looking bad.

2007: The project, assumed dead, is briefly resurrected. The proposed towers get higher. How about 1,200 feet? That's about 100 feet taller than the Empire State Building two avenue blocks east. But how would this project, now estimated at $2 Billion, be funded?

Would now be a good time to mention that the $900 Million pledged by the Clinton Administration in 1999 was taken-back by the Republican Congress after The Day That Changed Everything? Yeah. It went to contractors in Iraq or got absorbed by tax cuts.

2008: The project is in its last throes. Time to call it, doctor?

I say, call it. It's a shame. But this is what happens when a project designed to improve the lives of New Yorkers becomes a giant urban planning project no one needs (except the developers and land owners), and then collapses under its own inflated budget and lack of justification for the tacked-on commercial space.

Also, keep in mind the project was intentionally delayed by NY House Speaker Sheldon Silver just to prevent Governor Petaki from ever seeing construction begin or to take any credit for the project while in-office. That just strengthens my argument for New York City to secede from the State and become the District of Gotham. But that's another post for another time.

Live Earth And Other Circle Jerks

By Archetype:

It's official. I will no longer attend ANY "green" events. You know what I mean, these self-important, self-righteous, self-absorbed, do-gooders who want to tell me that either things are really, really bad and I have to change or that they are really really trying hard and here is the evidence in which a 100-slide PowerPoint presentation outlines everything they have done to protect the environment or at least identified the problems that all these other people have the change (as was skillfully pointed out at an EPA seminar on green building I attended this week). Where is the ownership to this issue? Where are the real leaders?

All I have to say to all of them is, GO FUCK YOURSELVES!

"Compiling the data is hard… it takes time"

"Changing behavior is hard… it takes time "

"Changing policy is hard… it takes time "

Nope. None of those are hard. Complicated? Perhaps, but not hard. There are many things about this issue that are hard. But let me share something that is really very easy, simple in fact.

A collapsing eco-system. Very easy.

Doesn't need consensus.

Doesn't need further research.

And now that we continue to sit on our hands with half-measures at best and a whole gaggle of rhetoric, here is another thing it doesn't need, time.

Time is no longer of the essence. As Living Colour once sang, Time's UP!

Look, I like Al Gore, we should be having retrospectives on his two-term Presidency at this point, but he is part of the hypocritical problem. The time is well past. Happy Earth Day, folks. Al and the many disillusioned thousands (millions?) who attended or watched the Live Earth "festivities" all must face some facts here. We, the people, do not have a say in our future. The rich and, subsequently, the powerful, which have always had that say, will determine our fate. And they give less than a shit about state of the planet. An inconvenient truth? Indeed. Inconvenient because we fat, lazy citizens might have to walk to work. We might have to drive smaller cars or live in smaller houses or even GOD FORBID, use less electricity. Wait, that sounds strangely like sacrifice. Apparently, all you good Christians leave the sacrifice to sons of God and the like.

Well, we reap what we have sown. And we have sown a wonderful world where nature is going to make it really easy for us in the not too distant future. I love the gun-to-the-head analogies. Hey, that only works if people actually know it's a gun and not a finger with the thumb mimicking a trigger. Nature has the gun and has held it to our collective heads for a long time now. But we all look up and obliviously smile like it's all just a big joke. We all have that Iraq-War-George W. Bush-Press-Conference look on our faces. Well, ha-ha…..BOOOOM. Yeah, fucknuts, that's your brains on that wall back there. Nighty-night.

I am an architect, which puts me on the front lines of this debate. Buildings are the number one consumers of energy (the key player in the environmental debate). This means that I am both the uniter and the divider. I let this shit happen. Why? Because I am too afraid to confront superiors and clients with cold hard realities. More of that truth stuff there. Superiors have benndoing this stuff a hell of a lot longer than I so they know what's best for me and world at large. And Clients do not want to pay for innovation. Well, good design needs not innovation. A well thought building will cost the same to build as a less thought one, but will greatly reduce the cost of operation of that building over the life of it. Well hey, clients don't care about later, they have a budget now to worry about. All in due time, right?

I am also a LEED accredited professional. That sounds pretty special, no? What that means is I have taken an exam given by the United States Green Building Council (I know you all are ware of such an organization, right?) regarding my aptitude in their LEED rating system, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Do you know what it really means? Nothing. More than half my current firm are LEED Accredited Professionals. Know how many know really what a green building would look like? Very few. That is the problem. There are so many in the know about these things, but they do the least amount of the actual built work. In our wonderful little profession comes the term "value engineering". "Value engineering" is the art and craft of taking a building that works perfectly and cutting out all of the things that architects and engineers agreed would make the building work effectively and cut those things down so that the price (that some less than expert contractor has priced to build) will be reduced. Inevitably the first things cut from a construction budget? You guessed it, the "green stuff". Why? Because we pussy-architects cower at the clients and their devil-on-the-shoulder contractors wim. Where are the Samuel Mockbees and the Glen Murcutts of the corporate architecture realm? Suppressed and encourage to adhere to the old adage, " young designers should seen and not heard."

Hey, all you mentors in the architecture field….please read the passage starting with the 123rd word of this blog and ending with the 126th. Thanks for your precious time.

So whether its Architects or Should-Be Presidents or even scientists or climatologists, they all say the same things. We need to change. And sure, change is coming slowly. But the fact remains true to a saying that has become my mantra,

Less Bad, Is NOT Good.

Less bad. More Sustainable. They both say the same thing. Our demise is merely slowing. The problem is at what rate? No one can quantify that. How convenient.

So enjoy Live Earth 2, enjoy Leonardo DiCaprio telling us what car we should drive, enjoy being less bad. I will be avoiding these self-congratulatory circle jerks and other back-patting or finger-pointing events and meetings in order to draw up some new plans about impacting real change that is so desperately needed. I will take care of this, I wouldn't want all y'all to be inconvenienced.

- Archytype, July 26th 2007, 13:00 EDT