The Loci Blog

A few years ago, I co-founded Gowanus by Design. This was before the Gowanus Canal, a heavily contaminated post-industrial waterway in Brooklyn, New York, was designated a Superfund site. The canal has became a symbol for the urban planning challenges facing us in the early part of the 21st century that are a direct result of misguided 20th century industry growth. The Canal’s future remains still in doubt. Will the clunky vision proposed by developers such as Lightstone justify Spike Lee’s disgust with the gentrification of Brooklyn? Or will the hard work of many community based organizations, coupled with “Bridging…

In “The City in History,” Lewis Mumford described how the first great cities of Athens and Rome succumbed to the disparity of a city’s subcultures and accumulation of wealth for the privileged classes. Three weeks ago an article appeared in the New York Times about the developer David Lichtenstein; I started to wonder if the sunburst over Brooklyn will fade as those with similar track records and motivations determine its fate. Mr. Lichtenstein’s company, The Lightstone Group, has taken over a project on the banks of the Gowanus Canal originally put forth by Toll Brothers. The city granted Toll Brothers…

As I start to write this, I am sitting in my darkened office on lower Broadway two days after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our city. There is no power in Lower Manhattan, the subways are not running, and my staff is scrambling to take a computer offsite. I am grateful for the battery power stored in my laptop. My wife, two sons, and I walked down to the Gowanus Canal the day after the hurricane swept across our city to survey the storm’s aftermath. Though the waters had receded slightly, there was ample evidence marking where the canal’s waters…

A few weeks ago, Sam Schwartz, traffic guru and the former New York City Traffic Commissioner, presented his Equitable Transportation Formula [ETF] at the monthly Institute of Urban Design breakfast club. With a series of images punched up with bold graphics, Mr. Schwartz laid out the pitfalls of the congestion pricing plan proposed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2008; gave us a brief historical snapshot of the East River toll rates for horses, pushcarts, and automobiles at the beginning of the 20th century; and presented his solution for increasing transportation revenue to support infrastructure development. Part of the current challenge with…

Using the new software proposed in Mr. Kurutz’s article is no different than going into an automobile showroom and picking out the color of a new car after it has been engineered and tested by industrial designers to meet safety and performance standards. Architects are trained to integrate the more arcane aspects of building, such as code requirements, building envelope technologies, structural and mechanical systems, and cost, with a creative vision that considers context, cultural values, and environmental impact – this is true design. Our best clients talk intelligently about the effect of design on their lifestyles, community, and budget.…

NYU recently announced that it would reduce the size of its proposed expansion by almost 20% in an attempt to overcome the surrounding community’s strong opposition to the plan. By reducing the development’s size, it hopes to win approval of the Community Board and the Department of City Planning who will determine if a zoning variance should be granted. NYU faces a unique challenge in traditional campus planning since its campus is spread around Greenwich Village, occupies a short stretch of First Avenue, has an outpost in Abu Dhabi, and has recently taken over Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. I first…

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a German-American architect. He is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modern architecture. His work can be seen in Europe as well as in the United States where he emigrated to in 1938. One of his early projects is a multi-family apartment house at the Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart, Germany. The Weissenhofsiedlung (Weissenhof Settlement) is a housing estate built for an exhibition in 1927.  Besides Mies van der Rohe, other internationally renowned architects such as Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Peter Behrens contributed projects to the exhibition. The architectural style that was seen at…

Besides my penchant for architecture and anything of the sort, I have always had a fascination with aviation. Civil aviation to be more precise. I like to fly, and it is often the best part of any trip that I take. Whether it is the plane, the view at 36,000 feet or the bustle of an airport, I enjoy this facet of our society. For anyone who knows me, these experiences become the more tranquil parts of my life. More recently, I began to have a curiosity about the economic dystopia occurring in the European Union. I like to keep…

In this past Sunday’s New York Times Real Estate section there was an article titled “Everybody Inhale” describing the challenges that our city faces with the expected surge in population over the next couple of decades. However, it is a rich irony that planners sit over beers in a Brooklyn bar contemplating how Manhattan should grow larger and taller with nary a mention of the city’s other four boroughs. This sadly supports a long held cultural view that New York City is solely defined by Manhattan. Last summer the poster for the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s “RETHINK NYC” exhibit reinforced this…

The Francis Kéré lecture hosted by the Architectural League of New York on February 9th gave me a thought about the complexity of architecture. Francis Kéré’s work in Burkina Faso is extraordinary for its social impact, use of local resources and pureness of aesthetic. It is also extraordinary how simple and transparent his work is. Mainly centered in his home village of Gando, he provides new school facilities and teacher housing for the community. Born to a father who was chief of the village and given the opportunity to study in Germany, Kéré is able to blend Western architectural thought…