Progress at the Thomas S. Murphy Clubhouse

Some of our longer-term fans may recall our excited post from 2 years back at the very beginning of our pool renovation project at the Thomas S. Murphy Clubhouse, in Flatbush, Brooklyn, for the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club.

ESKW/A and the Owner’s Representative LOM Properties brought a photographer on board to snap underwater photos of the kids from the club swimming to be featured in a large-scale tile mosaic mural in the pool room.  Annie Kountz, Project Architect, described her personal connection to the Boys & Girls Club, and we shared a fun video capture of the kids in action.  The project is now in construction, and the tile mosaic has arrived in annotated panels and is being laid out in preparation for installation later this week. We can’t wait for the kids to see the project, and for those who were part of the photoshoot to see themselves immortalized on the walls of their club.

The Necropoli of Sicily

Amanda Royale Sengstacken

There’s plenty for an architecture dork to feast on while traveling in Sicily – the island is home to a plethora of ancient Greek and Roman ruins, many in remarkable condition. In fact, the Sicilians seem to simultaneously harbor deep respect and nonchalance towards the antiquities in their midst: you can find yourself standing on a plain-ish portion of 2,500 year-old mosaic while peering over a protective gate at its more elaborate counterpart and feel a bit concerned about damaging the stones under your feet.

Anyway, ruins are all well and good but I was most taken with the necropolises.

I traveled to Sicily with two friends. One with no Italian heritage to speak of yet enough passion for the land and culture that he’s bought a second home there; the other an American whose last name betrays his family’s Sicilian heritage – in which he has no particular interest.

We two non-Sicilians recognized an opportunity for story making, however, and gleefully force-marched our friend on what was for us an emotional tour of his birthright, packing him into a car for several hours to visit his grandparents’ hometown of Floridia and propping him up against various churches and landmarks for photo ops. We even managed to communicate to a kindly local in a few halting words of Italian that our friend, too, had been born of that very earth, eliciting what seemed to be a very positive if long-winded and unintelligible response.

Finally, with lumps in our throats and our poor friend heaving a sigh of relief, we were headed back home to Ragusa Ibla when we drove past a walled-in cemetery and turned to him once more.

“We have to stop and see if your family is in there!”

Maybe he was finally starting to feel the stirrings of his roots, or maybe he’d learned that there was no deterring us, but our captive half-Sicilian agreed.

Cemeteries in Sicily are elaborate cities in their own right. In fact they seem to be laid out to mirror their associated living town, with identical street names. This we garnered from the caretaker who pulled from his wallet something like a social security card, showing us the address on it and gesturing around to indicate that the address of his birth would also one day be the address of his resting place.

But the feeling of walking through a literal city of the dead comes predominantly from the fact that while some in-ground graves of the type we’re most familiar exist, the bulk of the cemetery is composed of, essentially, mini-houses. We strolled through endless rows of elaborately designed shrunken mansions, each bearing a family name and permanently housing as many as a dozen members.

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On overview of a typical cemetery; the backs of the family chapels are visible to the left.

The architectural styles vary widely, with sections of intricate Baroque designs grouped next to more Brutalist collections. Whether each structure simply reflects the zeitgeist of the moment it was built or whether it was purely a matter of the clients’ taste is unclear, but the necropolis as a whole provides a rich dose of every imaginable phase of architectural history dating back a few hundred years.

We three found ourselves claiming aspects we liked for our own future perma-homes; “I like the ivy in front for sure, but probably not the sphinxes.”

“This one with the skylight, I like the natural lighting.”

Researching online yields little information about these family chapels, and I’m left wondering what the professional process is like. Are there architects whose practice is devoted entirely to these monuments? Are there firms using modern technology to render their proposals, and BIM to streamline the construction? (In this case a Revit family could, indeed, be an actual family … sorry.) For three awed interlopers it was an unusual and thoughtful exercise to imagine in what style we would wish to represent our families for all eternity.

Walton Rises

Last Fall we happily announced the start of construction on the new 60-unit affordable housing building going up in Mt. Eden, the Bronx, under a partnership between Settlement Housing Fund and The Briarwood Organization. 1561 Walton Avenue has progressed steadily ever since and is now more than halfway through plank installation — project team Daughtry, Kerry, and Andrew are very pleased to share a few shots of the progress below.

The building is visually broken up into 4 planes stepping back from the front property line, which will be further articulated with different shades of brick to create a 4-step gradient across the facade.

The project’s anticipated completion is Fall 2017.

1561 Walton Birds Eye

 

Movement and Architecture

by Martin Galindez

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520 W 28th Street, Zaha Hadid Architects

When we think about “movement” we are usually referencing the physical action of a building structure, construction details, façade systems, or any building material. As we know, movement itself can have many definitions depending on the parameters of our research. As Architects, we know it is not only based on the physical action of elements of a structure or space driven by external or internal forces, but can be given by the idea of its “expression.”

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The Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Ohio, Zaha Hadid Architects

Undoubtedly, Architect Dame Zaha Hadid is a great example to bring in as a discussion for this. Her firm in today’s design has expressed movement in many different ways, typologies and scales. Her multiple projects vary from dynamic interiors vs modular exteriors driven by site restrictions. Dynamic structures called “frozen movement” which can be thought of as elements prepared to take action at any time and gently play within the surrounding landscape. And not only has that – her furniture, painting, and fashion designs express liberty, creating her own language over time.

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The Heydar Aliyev Center, Azerbaijan, Zaha Hadid Architects

Essentially, movement can be given through the eye, mind, and imagination of forces to perceive this intention of freedom. On our end, being inspired by her language, it would be interesting to challenge ourselves bringing into consideration an “illusion of movement” hand in hand with time to our projects such as in research of tectonics, common spaces-lobbies, corridor materials and – why not? – lighting.

 

 

Happy Earth Day!

Slash A Earth Day

This Earth Day, we’re taking a moment to look back at one of our favorite eco-friendly projects, the Eco Restroom at the Bronx Zoo for the Wildlife Conservation Society. This was a very fun project, and the restrooms far exceeded their initial goal of providing an eco-friendly comfort station to actually become an exhibit and learning opportunity.

The weather is looking great this weekend – it’s a great time to go check out the Bronx Zoo, and learn a bit about sustainable water use while you’re there.

Photos by David Sundberg for Esto Photography

Architects in Action

One of the many joys of architecting is getting into the field. Here are a few of our favorite Architects-In-Action shots …