New York City’s Transforming Storefront Facades


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.


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.


Architectural Spaces For Living And Working On Art


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.

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

Illuminated Architecture


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.


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.


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

The Honeycombed Architecture Of Buildings That Take Inspiration From The Bees


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.”


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.

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Architectural Projects That Have You Walking On Glass


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.



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.

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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

An Exemplary “Model House” In Seoul, Korea


Xi Gallery by Ken Min Architects, Seoul, Korea

The transitory nature of temporary buildings doesn’t always diminish the attention the architects give to the project’s design. The Xi Gallery by Ken Min Architects is an example of a specific type of building in Korea known as a “Model House.” Real estate developers use the structures to display the amenities of their building projects to potential buyers.


Xi Gallery by Ken Min Architects, Seoul, Korea

Economically constructed out of reusable steel and modular panels, the buildings are typically torn down in three to five years. Ken Min Architects and their client used the opportunity to center the project on a public garden accessible to the surrounding neighborhood, addressing the area’s need for available green space. The building also incorporated an auditorium and educational rooms for programs open to the public.

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Xi Gallery by Ken Min Architects, Seoul, Korea

More Than Just A Brick In The Wall




House on Mount Anville by Aughey O’Flaherty Architects, Dublin

Building with brick is similar to walking. Placing one foot in front of the other eventually leads somewhere, just as putting one brick on top of the other ultimately leads to a built structure.

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Beyond the Screen by Office for Beyond Boundaries Architecture, Seoul, Korea

Architects and builders have used brick as a building material for thousands of years. The modular simplicity and relative cost effectiveness are still appealing in contemporary architecture. Curved walls and sun shades, or brise soleil, are made possible with clever applications.

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Lorong M Telok Kurau House by A D LAB Pte Ltd, Singapore

Beautiful Factories That Combine Architecture And Engineering


FRABA Sp. z o.o. by BeL, Slubice, Poland

The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, and the resulting technological innovations, changed architecture forever by producing materials that made construction more efficient, sturdier, and more adaptable. We also saw a change in the construction of the factory itself; pressures for productivity led administration to adhere to “scientific management” practices, placing an emphasis on work flow and environments.

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KOP Warehouses by URA, Puurs, Belgium

This new philosophy on workspace led to the disappearance of cramped, dimly lit interiors and prompted a focus on standardization. Modern factories ushered in open floor plans and a combination of steel, concrete, and glass to allow natural light onto the work floor. These changes in industrial architecture had an effect on residential architecture as well: modernist architects such as Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Buckminster Fuller were influenced by this new factory typology, and the idea of a home as a “machine for living” became an important concept.

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VW AutoTürme by HENN, Wolfsburg, Germany

Buildings Of The Social Housing Paradigm

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Housing for the Fishermen of Tyre by Hashim Sarkis Studios, Abbasiyeh, Lebanon

Publicly subsidized housing provides shelter for some of the most vulnerable members of society, giving them a chance at security. Overarching problems such as inequality and poverty aren’t directly addressed, but having suitable, comfortable living spaces adds “bandwidth” to people’s cognitive abilities, allowing them energy to pursue night classes or pay bills on time.

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Les Arcades du Lac by Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura, Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines, France

Social housing also plays a large role in the general population’s imagination. The narrative of Jay Z—growing up in the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn and rising to the level of celebrity, CEO, and part owner/cheerleader of the Barclay Center—is the 21st century’s answer to Horatio Alger. His “escape” from public housing is the triumph of the story, the buildings of Marcy a physical representation of what was holding him back from reaching his full potential.

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Alegria by Agence Bernard Buhler, Bayonne, France