Happy New Year From ESKW/A!

From all of us at Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects, we wish you a wonderful 2018!!

2017 was a very full year here at ESKW/A.

We’ve grown our staff by 1/3rd, renovated and expanded our offices, and celebrated Kimberly Murphy’s transition from Associate to Partner.  We’re also wrapping up several projects of which we are very proud — and of course our team is already hard at work on the exciting projects set to debut in 2018.

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1561 Walton is Ready for Residents

If you’ve walked through the western Bronx recently, you may have noticed a newcomer on the skyline: the 11-story, 60-unit subsidized housing building at 1561 Walton Avenue recently achieved substantial completion. Residents have begun to move in, just in time to burrow in for what’s already proving to be a snowy winter season.

The new building is the latest addition to Settlement Housing Fund’s longstanding mission of providing quality permanent housing for mixed income and formerly homeless families.

1561 Walton’s construction milestone keyed a mention from New York Yimby, as well, which can be read here.

Sharks! in the Press

We were excited to see that today’s NYTimes includes an article on the rebuilding of the New York Aquarium post-Sandy, and features the new Ocean Wonders: Sharks! building currently under construction.

As Architects of Record for the new building, we’ve blogged about this project’s development more than once, and it’s great to see it garnering some media attention.

While the sharks will of course be the star of the show, the exhibit will also showcase scenes of realistic shipwrecks, as well as immersive and interactive exhibits displaying a myriad of aquatic life. On the exterior, visitors will appreciate exhibits of a different sort, strolling along the curving ramp promenade from within the park up to the roof deck – offering views above adjacent exhibits, the Coney Island Boardwalk, and out to the Atlantic Ocean. The project is expected to open to the public in 2018.

Read the article here.

Rivington House

Last weekend, the Neighbors to Save Rivington House came together to present to the community stories from the building’s conversion and use as a nursing home for individuals with AIDS. Community members spoke of their personal experiences during Rivington House’s 20-year history.

ESKW/A partner Andrew Knox, a long-time neighbor to the building, attended the forum and spoke to the building’s characteristics and suitability as a nursing care facility.

The event was covered by The Lo-Down; the full article can be read here.

Office Book Club: Devil in the White City

By Michael Kowalchuk

Last week marked the beginning of ESKW/A’s newest tradition: office book club. Four intrepid readers gathered to discuss Erik Larson’s compelling work of true crime history, The Devil in the White City. Larson’s book, though meticulously researched and faithful to fact, reads like a novel. A 2003 New York Times bestseller, the book is especially relevant for architects due to its treatment of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition as a backdrop for Dr. H.H. Holmes’s grisly murders. Even though some of us have already read the book, we chose it for our first book club because of its juicy merging of crime drama and architecture.

Palace of Mechanic Arts

The book details the planning, design and construction of the fair as Holmes commits his crime spree. It was interesting to compare the design culture of the late 1890’s with that of today. We find our working relationship with engineers and landscape architects as collaborative, while the fair seemed rife with rivalries. The nineteenth century inflated egos of the extremely male-dominated profession are happily diminishing in modern practice. One theme that persists in many practices is the perceived dichotomy between the architect as artiste and the architect as businessperson.

The World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair) was fascinating for many reasons: the clash between tradition and modernity was almost palpable, the fair saw the largest gathering of people (during peacetime) in world history and it was one of the first times the United States flexed its muscles on a global stage. The fact that the fair was held in Chicago, “America’s second city,” proved that even places once considered provincial backwaters could pull off an event as stunning as those held in Paris, London or New York.

Larson made clear that darker forces animate the human Ferris Wheel psyche as well. In addition to Holmes’s 12+ confirmed murders (the highest estimates were around 200), the story shed light on the underbelly of Chicago which the fair tried so hard to obscure. Both Holmes and the lead architect, Daniel Burnham, exploited their laborers, though obviously to different ends. Workplace injuries or deaths were common, the eight-hour workday was a dream, and unions were only just beginning to learn their true strength. While the fair’s buildings may have been spray-painted a glimmering white, garbage was thrown down the same staircases used by guests and visitors died in accidents caused by shoddy oversight and a general lack of safety standards. On top of all that, the fair was financed by the city’s ill begotten slaughterhouse wealth and unsavory business practices that put the 2008 crisis to shame.

At the end of the day, however, the human spirit triumphed. Holmes was discovered, first as a fraud and then as a serial killer, thanks to the dedication of a persistent detective and concerned citizens. While the fair wasn’t perfect, it introduced dozens of new concepts, values and products (including PBR!) to the general public. The Ferris wheel was unveiled for the first time, allowing regular people to see the world in a previously-unthinkable way. The so-called White City lives on in the City Beautiful Movement’s neoclassical civic buildings that dot virtually every small town across the country.

World Trade Center Transportation HubOne thing we lamented was the lack of a contemporary event as impactful as the World’s Columbian Exposition. Yes, we have our biennales and dazzling new structures that defy gravity like Calatrava’s transportation hub but it seems like the next analogous experience will exist with the help of the virtual, not the built environment. Pokémon Go was just a small taste of what is possible with augmented reality and future endeavors have the potential to greatly affect millions of lives without corresponding changes to the physical world. We also lamented the lack of comprehensive documentation of the Chicago World’s Fair, as Burnham forbade amateur photography to control the way his masterpiece was viewed by the world.

Most importantly, we had a great time and found yet another reason to socialize out outside of office hours. Up next is Rachel Kushner’s debut novel, Telex from Cuba, a fictional account that chronicles the lives of Americans living in a United Fruit Company enclave on the eve of the Cuban Revolution.

ESKW/A Inaugural Office Book Club

ESKW/A Inaugural Office Book Club

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 …