New York City’s Transforming Storefront Facades

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Photo: James and Karla Murray, via Facebook

Change doesn’t have to be dramatic.  The creep of rising rents and shifts in demographics of a neighborhood can alter the fabric of the city as much as a wrecking ball and zoning laws.  One of the most noticeable examples can be seen when a Chase Bank, Rite Aid or Starbucks takes over a storefront commercial area previously held by a local vendor.

When this happens much more than the goods offered inside become homogenized and safe.  Often the façade and feel of the building gets smoothed out as well, the rough edges rounded off into nice, palatable shapes and forms.  The new architecture lends a clean layer of respectability to the stores, no need to question the quality of the coffee at a local shop, Starbucks serves the same cup from the mall down the street to every corner on Manhattan.  Not only that they make sure all the shops look pretty much the same as well. Storefront_2

315 Bowery Street, New York City, NYPhoto: James and Karla Murray, via Facebook

Beginning in the early 2000’s the photographers James and Karla Murray chose to document the disappearing storefronts around New York City. The duo wanted to capture the idiosyncratic and iconic nature of the facades in and around Manhattan before they disappeared for good.  The images were shot between 2004-2007, collected and published in 2008 in a book titled “Store Front – The Disappearing Face of New York”.

Recently the pair picked up the project again,  returning to the storefronts they shot ten years ago,  and photographing them once more.  The difference in the photographs shows the change that has occurred throughout New York, with unique facades giving way to corporate symbols and generic buildings.  At times it can be tough to tell the difference between Manhattan and the Midwest, the same stores with the same architecture can be found in both locales.

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Photo: James and Karla Murray, via Facebook

In an urban area with some of the fastest rising rents in the world it is particularly telling to see a high end fashion designer grab at some rock and roll credibility by occupying the same physical space where punk rock was invented.  Instead of the Ramones skulking around in white t shirts skin tight jeans and leather jackets there are consumers waiting to buy the latest version of this look propagated by John Varvatos.  Venerable neighborhood institutions such as the 2nd Avenue Deli, a restaurant that defined and fed generations of inhabitants in the Lower East Side, have also been pushed out by landlords wanting to raise rents.  In the case of the deli rents were raised astronomically, making room for another bank.Storefront_1

Corner of 2nd Avenue and East 10th Street, New York City, NY. Photo: James and Karla Murray, via Facebook

The change is neither inherently good or bad, gentrification has occurred in cities since the time of the Romans.  However the images produced by Karla and James Murray give us a chance to see what kind of city we’d rather live in, the New York of ten years ago, or the New York of now.

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Architectural Spaces For Living And Working On Art

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Outpost by Olson Kundig Architects, Idaho

Architecture and art production have been inextricably linked since primitive humans began to paint in their caves. Artists need large, functional work areas that don’t encumber or restrict their creative endeavors—particularly when they’re creating, sleeping, and living in one space.

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01-390 House by Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS, architects & engineers, Brussels, Belgium

The prominent minimalist and land artist Walter de Maria’s studio in Manhattan has just hit the market—asking price: $25 million. A former power company substation, it has many of the attributes artists desire in their live/work situations: large ceilings ranging between 13 to 25 feet; a vast open floor plan that can fit monumental sculptures or paintings; large windows that flood the space with natural light. A bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom, while modest, gave De Maria an area of respite from his daily artistic undertakings.

Continue reading here.

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Hendee-Borg House by William O’Brien Jr. LLC, United States

Illuminated Architecture

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Chanel HK LED Concept Design by 2×4, Inc., Hong Kong

As daylight fades and nighttime begins to envelop the city, the built environment transforms into a hulking monochromatic whole. This dance of night and day has inspired poets and artists for centuries, and—with the advent of technology—has motivated architects and designers to experiment with incorporating lighting systems into the facades of their buildings.

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Rising Moon by Daydreamers Design, Hong Kong

One way they do this is through LEDs. Developed in the 1960s, LEDs (short for light-emitting diodes) function as a semiconductor light source. Essentially electrons are passed through a device and allowed to recombine at certain points, which releases energy from photons. This effect is called electroluminescence, and it produces different color lights depending on the energy of the photon. The color and duration of light can be controlled by the bandwidth of energy sent through the device, giving LEDs one of their hallmark attributes: the ability to be modified easily.

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The SOL Dome by Loop.pH, Michigan City, Indiana

The Honeycombed Architecture Of Buildings That Take Inspiration From The Bees

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Image via.

Architects often look to the natural world for inspiration. Sometimes this can result in a project that plays with scale of natural phenomenon, such as Beijing’s Water Cube, which was based on the shape of water bubbles. Other times it can be a more abstract appropriation, as in the case of Bjarke Ingels’s new apartment complex design in the Bahamas, “The Honeycomb.”

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The Honeycomb by BIG, Bahamas, Nassau. Image via.

The design of the project did not call on the geometry of the honeycomb for structural integrity. Instead, the hexagon pattern supplied a motif for the facade, adding some visual interest—and character—to the building’s typical rectangular form. Each apartment also has an ample balcony that includes a pool, providing the inhabitants with a semi-private outdoor area from which to enjoy the view of the ocean and tropical weather.

Continue reading here.

 

The Crowning Achievement Of A Penthouse Addition

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Penthouse auf dem Hochbunker by Amort Architektur, Hamm Westfalen, Germany

Robin Venturi once said that “less is a bore.” Well, in New York City less is plainly not as profitable as more. Developers and architects have taken to pushing against space limits placed on projects by landmark or historical status. One way they do this is by crowning existing buildings with penthouse additions—a trend that has exploded as of late, according to a recent article in The New York Times. penthouse penthouse1

Out Of Sight by Spaced Out Architecture Studio, London, GB

Of course, these additions instantly become the most exclusive and expensive part of the development due to the views and sunlight afforded to the top floor. But they also give architects the chance to make a heroic, dramatic statement. Take Shigeru Ban’s recent proposal for a two-story white-metal glass cantilevered addition to the 132-year-old Cast Iron House in downtown Manhattan, which was unanimously approved by theLandmarks Preservation Commission: penthouse4

A rendering of Shigeru Ban’s penthouse addition to the Cast Iron House. Photo: Hayes Davidson via The New York Times

This practice of placing a building on top of a building takes place all over the world. Sometimes these projects become memes, as was the case for a literal mountain home built on top of an apartment building in China: penthouse5

Image via The Daily Mail.

The story of how a connected Chinese government official built the home over six years bounced around the Internet for a few weeks. And why not? The images are pretty incredible. In fact, the juxtaposition of new and old in these projects is stunning no matter the level of contrast.

Continue reading here. penthouse2 Bondi Penthouse by MHN Design Union, Sydney, Australia

Architectural Projects That Have You Walking On Glass

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Jellyfish House by Wiel Arets Architects, Marbella, Spain

Integrating glass into structural flooring lends an air of drama and tension to architectural projects. From a young age, our interactions with the material are often fraught with danger. Everyone has broken something made of glass, confronting its physical properties, and hazards, head on. Glass is brittle, and when it shatters, it produces a multitude of sharp tiny pieces that are impossible to clean. Clear and nearly invisible, the shards inflict pain and suffering to various degrees.

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PENTHOUSE PPDG by HERNANDEZ SILVA ARCHITECTS, Guadalajara, Mexico

It is clarity and invisibility that make glass the perfect material for many situations, especially for uses that are not load bearing, like a window or façade. It gets trickier, though, when it’s incorporated into something you want to walk or stand on. Regardless of its physical limitations, architects love to play with glass in their designs. The 17 architects below chose to use it as flooring.

Continue reading here.

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Row House in Goeblange by Metaform atelier d’architecture, Goeblange, Luxembourg

 

Nothing Better Than Manifestly Magnificent Cantilevers

cantilever Villa Amanzi by Original Vision, Phuket, Thailand

Ever filled out an online survey that asks the question which super power you would rather have, flying or invisibility? For architects this question probably seems silly, for employing the cantilever in their designs does both those things. It gives buildings volumes that appear to be levitating, walls that disappear, and (bonus!) views that extend to the horizon. cantilever1

Balancing Barn by MVRDV, Thorington, Great Britain (via future-predictor) cantilever3

Statoil Regional and International Offices by a-lab, Bærum, Norway

The physics of the cantilever are pretty simple: One end is anchored and the opposite juts dramatically into space. The structure of the building no longer has to rely on the exterior walls for support; it can essentially disappear. Continue reading here. cantilever2

Caterpillar House by Sebastián Irarrázaval, Santiago de Chile