Summer Sun & Fun

Now that summer is officially over, we thought it was a good opportunity to share some of our out-of-office adventures from the season. After all, all work and no play makes for dull architects!

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Carlos spent time in his hometown of San Juan, Argentina. He lectured at the National University of San Juan’s architectural school; enjoyed an opera performance in the city’s brand new concert hall; visited a museum where the nation’s seventh president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento was born; and enjoyed good food and wine at the Graffigna-Yanzon vineyard in Valle de Pedernal about an hour south of the city.

Michael Walch and his partner spent most weekends at their house upstate in the Hudson Valley. Between hunting for and refinishing vintage furniture, painting, and gardening, they invited friends over to enjoy local food and wine.

Sunčića travelled to India for a college friend’s wedding. It was a bit of a “study in textures” as she experienced the detail of Mumbai’s airport, danced in sari fabrics, was decorated in henna for the wedding celebration, and caught glimpses of the broad variation of multi-family housing egress stair construction.

Ari used “Stone Age tech” while staying at his cottage in the woods. He built a new deck, added footings and framed the walls for a shed while taking care of some overdue structural improvements on the house. He also let out his inner lumberjack, felling trees and chopping firewood. Luckily, he found a little time to swim, fish, kayak, and take an occasional bike rides.

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Janine welcomed baby Dean with her husband Chris and daughter Ella. The newest member of the ESKW/A fam was born July 31, 2018, and measured 8 pounds, 15 ounces and 22.5 inches! The Golub crew visited the office, however Dean slept through most of it.

Chris cracked jokes at a wedding for an old buddy he’s known since middle school. The wedding was in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his mom grew up, so he got to see friends and family in a 2-for-1 travel special.

wedding in cincy

Kimberly explored the woods with her family around her place upstate and finally succeeded in getting their dog to join them on the paddleboat.

Ruth canoed the “lovely Lake Sebago” at Harriman State Park. In the past, she explored the wilderness by canoeing lakes in the Adirondacks and Ontario with her family. Early this summer, she had a chance to see a late 19th-century atrium modeled after shopping arcades in Milano and Brussels. This one, alas, was in Cleveland,.

Jon Mark went up to Maine for some fresh air and canoeing of his own—and apparently prefers landscapes to selfies so we must trust this is really his vacation photo and not a stock photo titled “beautiful/peaceful lake.”

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It was a good summer for everyone, but of course, we also did a lot of work: breaking ground on 3500 Park Avenue, taking a tour of the Sharks! exhibit, and following the construction of the Bedford Green House. We closed out the summer in traditional ESKW/A style with an office party in Brooklyn at the end of September, so check back soon for a photo album of the season-ending soiree!

 

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Meet more of the Team

ESKW/A has added several new team members over the last year or so. Get to know them in a series of meet-and-greet interviews.


Sunčića Jašarović

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Sunčića ESKWA

Sunčića on a site visit

Sunčića: I was born in Bosnia. My parents and I are refugees. In 1993, everyone in our refugee camp was on our way to Portland, Oregon. There was a layover in Chicago and we said, “We’re not getting on another plane!” My great uncle lived there. (He was a leather salesman who traveled all over the world but then shifted to engineering and became an elevator consultant. So it makes sense now why he was really excited about me pursuing architecture; he showed me his work consulting for SOM on the Hancock and many other buildings!) But then we moved to Des Moines, Iowa, and I went to school at Iowa State University.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Sunčića: It’s not always easy in this field for women, and the destruction of neighborhoods due to gentrification was diminishing my love for buildings. So when I learned about ESKW, their work, and their staff, I knew this is exactly where I wanted to end up. I learned a lot about Jane Jacobs and her activism in school, and here I discovered that Judy Edelman (one of the founding principals of ESKW) was kind of a kindred spirit.

I also have this intense professional drive and the sense that practice makes perfect. That might come from my grandfathers. They were both civil engineers, but over in Bosnia and Croatia that basically means they’re the master builders in charge of everything. In high school I was in ACE (Architecture, Construction & Engineering), an after-school program; my mathematics background (my father was a mathematics professor at the University of Sarajevo) pushed me into engineering. But when I tried architecture, it presented this huge challenge to create spaces that people can enjoy and be comfortable in. It’s mind-blowing, and at the end of the day that is our responsibility.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do on weekends?

Sunčića: Right now I’m studying for the ARE and my friends can’t empathize so they don’t understand why I can’t do anything. Well, my lawyer friends feel my pain. But my boyfriend and I brew beer, and I love the beach—all of them. Croatia has some amazing beaches. That’s one thing I kind of resented about Iowa.

 

ESKW/A: Do you have any exciting trips planned?

Sunčića: I’m going to India next month, because an old high school friend is marrying an old college friend! And actually I’ve got another wedding a month before that in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

 

ESKW/A: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? (Credit: James Lipton of Inside the Actors Studio)

Sunčića: I would hope it’s something about how many people I helped or just made feel good, even if it was just a smile or nod on the sidewalk. That’s why I like buildings. They have a huge impact and a real legacy. It’s a personal thing for me—because I love human beings.

 

Sunčića has been an architectural designer at ESKW/A since the summer of 2016 when she jumped in as a team member and model manager on 3500 Park Avenue for The Bridge. She has managed projects for Clinton Housing Development Company and is currently kicking off a renovation project on Teller Avenue in the Bronx. In perhaps the most challenging role of her career, she managed the renovation and expansion of ESKW’s office, working with some of the most demanding clients imaginable.


Matthew Feis

Matthew Feis ESKWA

Matt’s Pinterest profile picture

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Matt: Long Island and Brooklyn. I always tell people I’m a New Yorker in a nutshell.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Matt: Friendship and community! I was introduced to ESKW/A after playing tennis with a friend who is now one of my coworkers. He introduced me to the firm and I was really impressed with the history of projects in supportive and subsidized housing and the caring nature that the firm cultivates. I am pretty happy as a new employee.

 

ESKW/A: What inspires you creatively?

Matt: I really like collage as a medium. Also, this might be a weird answer, but I find that conflict motivates me. The architect is forever trying to solve multiple problems simultaneously.

 

ESKW/A: What is your favorite place you’ve visited?

Matt: Oh man, the best place has to be the Serengeti in Tanzania. Seeing all the animals, the terrain, the sunsets—simply amazing. Wildebeests, dung beetles, and lions—oh my!

 

ESKW/A: What do you do on weekends?

Matt: Most of the time, weather permitting, you can find me playing tennis or just walking around in Fort Greene Park.

 

ESKW/A: What superpower do you want?

Matt: I am a huge X-Men fan. Personally, I would just want to fly.

 

ESKW/A: What makes you laugh? Or alternatively, gasp or shriek (in fear or disgust)?

Matt: I find humor everywhere. I think it’s funny that I shriek at moths. I hate moths! If you ever go on the offensive, there is nothing you can do. They attack back in the most chaotic manner—they fly left, they fly right, and then fly in your face. It’s unpredictably scary! Plus, when you ever actually kill one, they just poof into dust. Are moths ghosts?!

 

Matt joined ESKW/A in 2017 and is a team member for the Rockaways Retail and Community Development project and has managed projects for Clinton Housing Development Company and BRC. He also looks forward to working with MHANY Management Inc. on several sites for new construction in the Bronx.


Frank Ball 

Frank Ball ESKWA

Frank at his desk

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Frank: In Connecticut, basically suburbia. I went to Pratt in Brooklyn and studied fine arts for half a year in Greece. The sculpture professor there was actually an architect who tried to talk me out of architecture, but I didn’t listen.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Frank: An instructor of mine is an engineer that works with ESKW a lot. So I met Kimberly and started here part-time when I was a student as kind of an intern—it’s not very hierarchical here. When I was done with school, I just joined full-time right away—even skipped the pageantry of graduation. I didn’t want to do the robe and all that.

 

ESKW/A: What buildings or spaces in New York City inspire you?

Frank: I really like riding my bike along the West Side Highway. There’s a great pedestrian path. And there’s tons of new construction going on over there, really cool stuff. And it’s going up at light speed. The Hudson Yards development is supposed to be the biggest since Rockefeller Center, so it’s neat we’re living through that.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do on weekends?

Frank: Usually grilling because I have a backyard for the time being, but I’m about to move. It’ll be a blessing and a curse—fewer roommates and no dog accidents on the floor.

 

ESKW/A: Which celebrity or historical figure, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with?

Frank: I would probably have to pick a famous architect. I don’t know though, Frank Lloyd Wright had a concept that the house should be built around the hearth. But I think maybe it should be built around a grill.

 

Frank has been an architectural designer at ESKW/A since early 2017. He is a team member on PS32K for the NYCSCA currently under construction, and 1920 Cortelyou Road which will start construction in the spring. Frank will also be a team member on a renovation project for Catholic Charities in Queens.


Sarah Sirju

Sarah ESKWA

Sarah at the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Sarah: Trinidad, then I moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and visited New York, and the culture and vibrancy brought me here. I just had to live here.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Sarah: I chose ESKW/A because the people—especially Lauretta and Lucille—were just so nice. It’s not a “crack the whip” place at all.

 

ESKW/A: What inspires you creatively or professionally?

Sarah: Just living in the city itself has a motivational factor. People around the world travel here to see the city and the buildings and the culture. It’s the concrete jungle, and we’re in it. It really is like that song.

 

ESKW/A: What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?

Sarhah: Singapore. The culinary culture there is something I’d been drawn to for a very long time. And architecturally it’s very interesting too, with the Gardens by the Bay, and I stayed in the tallest hotel. It had a rooftop pool that was basically just hanging off the building.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do for fun?

Sarah: When it’s cold, I like to stay indoors and prepare comfort meals. But when it’s warm, I like to go out and pretend I’m a tourist, explore, and take pictures. There are so many neighborhoods in the boroughs that are foreign to us.

 

ESKW/A: What famous person or historical figure, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with?

Sarah: Steve Jobs. I like how he started out, and I’d want to ask him how he became so successful.

 

ESKW/A: What superpower would you want?

Sarah: To become invisible, so I can walk around the city peacefully, and maybe bump into a few people so they can see how it feels. Or flight would be cool too, then you could just fly everywhere and not bump into everyone.

 

ESKW/A: What makes you laugh—or alternatively, what repulses you?

Sarah: I guess I kind of smirk or chuckle when bad people get what they deserve. And then I really hate it when people sneeze or cough and don’t cover their mouths! Then we’re all touching the subway poles. It’s like, “Come on!”

 

Sarah is the assistant controller/bookkeeper for ESKW/A and has only been with us a few months, but has greatly eased our financial growing pains in the short time she’s been here. In addition to making sure everyone gets paid(!), she will bridge with senior staff to assist in office operations.


Chris Curtland 

Chris ESKWA

Chris enjoying sushi at an office birthday party, on his second day of employment with ESKW/A

ESKW/A: Where are you from?

Chris: Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s called that because of the Cedar trees and the Cedar River. I went to the University of Iowa for journalism and English and got a job writing about facilities management, and then interior design, at some trade magazines produced there. That’s what got me into this architecture and design world.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Chris: I saw this job on Indeed, and the firm name seemed oddly familiar, like maybe I’d written about a project of theirs before. But I Googled the firm and couldn’t put it together. So then I Googled the firm name and my name and realized that I’d interviewed Joe Sultan about his flooring company after he’d left the firm! It was a wild, small-world connection. I mentioned that to Kimberly, and we also had the Midwestern connection, and we just really clicked. Everyone here is so cool and nice.

 

ESKW/A: What inspires you creatively?

Chris: I really like connecting with people, and I’m also kind of a natural storyteller. So that’s why I’ve been really enthused about working here. The design is awesome, but here it’s not just about making a pretty building, or architecture for architecture’s sake. It’s that this firm really cares about their clients, and the buildings serve those people and have a real function. So I’m inspired to discover those connections and then share those stories with the world.

 

ESKW/A: What’s your favorite place you’ve visited, or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go?

Chris: I’ve always wanted to go to Rome, because I studied Latin in college, and as a tie-in with that, I learned a lot about the classics. I think it’d be really cool to see the Colosseum and ancient sites where they actually spoke this dead, root language. Latin also really helped me as a writer—it expands your vocabulary and teaches you about sentence structure and phrasing, how a word functions in a sentence. Also with the magazine I traveled to Spain to learn about tile and ceramics, and that was really cool. Lots of great food, neat architecture, and some ancient stuff there too.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do for fun?

Chris: I do some improv comedy and a little acting every now and again. I started taking improv classes in Iowa because there’s a really well-funded community theater there, and improv teaches you to be very attentive and a great listener, because you have to be able to respond to your partner. It also teaches you to be very open and accepting so you can support your partner’s ideas, so I think it’s just helped me to be a better person, and performing is definitely part of the storytelling thing too. I’m also known to hit a karaoke lounge every so often.

 

ESKW/A: What celebrity or famous figure, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with?

Chris: Elvis Presley. To me, he’s more icon than man, like he doesn’t seem like a real person, so I’d want to just sit down and have a conversation with him. I really wasn’t even a fan of his until I took a class on him in college, for actual English credit! This class came about in the early 90s and Keith Morrison interviewed the professor for something like 60 Minutes, like “Why are you teaching a class on Elvis?” And this professor was from Africa, and he saw and heard all these things in Elvis I never knew existed. Like I always figured Elvis was the guy who ripped off blues and black music, but this professor saw that Elvis was actually paying homage to the original performers in these subtle, interesting ways. He would communicate with them and was very respectful of what came before. So I think I’d have to ask him about that.

 

ESKW/A: What superpower would you want?

Chris: I guess telekinesis would be cool, but I actually have to say telepathy. I think knowing what everyone else is thinking could do a lot of good—well, maybe a lot of bad too. But I think telepathy would help us empathize more with each other, and connect with each other.

 

ESKW/A: What makes you laugh?

Chris: That’s tough because I love to laugh and I laugh at a lot of things. But in any situation, blunt realism really kills me. Ruth [see her interview in the post dated 4/20/18] has been cracking me up lately. She just tells it like it is, pulls no punches.

 

Chris Curtland has only been with ESKW/A for one month and has already launched our official Instagram account, among other promotional efforts. He is the firm’s marketing and communications coordinator, bringing nearly 10 years of professional writing, journalism, and content marketing experience, about six of which has been in the architecture and design industry.

Public Housing & Corduroy Pants

By Frank Ball

If you ask anybody from the undergraduate program at the Pratt School of Architecture who Donald Cromley is, they will have a story for you. I started asking this question to fellow Pratt alumni here at ESKW/A, and their stories spanned the length of his career. He was once the right-hand man to modernist architect Marcel Breuer. At Pratt, Cromley was the department chair, building technology coordinator, and still works as a professor in both history and design. Most are surprised to learn not only that he is still teaching, but that even now in his late seventies, he still leads a walking tour through New Haven. Recently I went on this tour and was moved by what I saw.

On a Saturday morning in March, Donald Cromley’s students gathered at Grand Central. Even though I had graduated, I reached out ahead of time and asked to tag along. We took a New Haven-bound Metro North train to the end of the line and departed at Union Station.

Image by Frank Ball

We stood outside the station and looked at a stocky concrete apartment complex across the street. It was called the Church Street South Housing Project, completed by the late architect Charles Moore in 1969. Moore had been dean of Yale’s Department of Architecture (later the Yale School of Architecture) from 1965-1970, and would be remembered as a pioneer of post-modernism.

At the time when Moore designed Church Street South, his work was experimental. The façade obeyed a classical system, but with new materials. What would later be known as post-modernism essentially borrowed iconography from traditional architecture, mixed it together with modernism, and then reassembled everything into something new. The result was refreshing, and in a conceptual way, elevated Church Street South above a level of just basic housing.

Photo credits clockwise from left (collage by Frank Ball): clipgoo.com | Elliot Brown on Flickr, via the National Trust for Historic Preservation at savingplaces.org | The Museum of the City of New York at collections.mcny.org| Larry Speck at larryspeck.com

“Modernists liked this, you see?” Cromley pointed to the façade and tugged at the leg of his corduroy pants. Like his modernist contemporaries, Cromley also wore a bowtie (because a regular necktie could fall on his drawings and smudge.) Anyway, his point was that Moore used a ribbed block. To be more specific, ribbed block was applied throughout the exterior, except where classical details belonged. The top of the façade is smooth to express a cornice, corners are crisp with reversed quoins, and windows are cleanly trimmed. Everything else is rough and textural ––like corduroy pants.

Image found at newhavenurbanism.org

Once upon a time, the complex was painted with bright super graphics; there were architectural follies and sculptural elements, all early characteristics of Moore’s work. Today, the Church Street Housing complex is scheduled to be razed. We happened to visit on a day when the demolition crews weren’t working, and some buildings waited patiently to be torn down.

Paul Rudolph’s Temple Street Parking Garage

Image by Frank Ball

We continued on our tour. New Haven has an abnormally high number of parking garages. One such garage is Paul Rudolph’s Temple Street Parking Garage.

Image by Frank Ball

“Pay attention to the fenestration.”

We gathered around an elevator vestibule in the parking structure. Rudolph’s office designed the glass wall with simple off-the-shelf parts. The system doesn’t hold up to modern energy codes and has been replaced in other parts of the garage. But because the space inside the vestibule is actually unconditioned, it was allowed to stay. Cromley said these window mullions were originally used in other Paul Rudolph projects, including his namesake: Rudolph Hall.

One corollary of the modern movement was the use of as few materials as possible. As we walked out of the garage and looked back, the concrete streetlights on the upper deck were visible. Yes, concrete streetlights.

“Thank God he didn’t try concrete mullions!”

So why were there so many modernist architects working in New Haven anyway? Cromley told that it was an example of the town versus the gown. In the 1950s the president of Yale, Alfred Griswold, decreed that all significant construction on campus would be avant-garde, freeing Yale from the collegiate-gothic tradition. The amount of courage that it took for an Ivy League president to suggest this, let alone to convince a board of trustees to go along with it, is remarkable. Not to be out done, Mayor of New Haven Richard Lee said the same of municipal construction. Because so many modernist architects were already working on projects at Yale or were in the academic circle, they enjoyed easy access to New Haven projects. As Cromley put it, Griswold simply gave his list of approved architects to Lee.

There are examples of this quirky reciprocity throughout the City of New Haven:

Architect

Yale

New Haven

Paul Rudolph Rudolph Hall, 1961-1963 Temple Street Garage, 1961
Marcel Breuer Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center, 1968-1970 Armstrong Rubber Co, 1968
SOM Beinecke Library (Gordon Bunshaft), 1961-1963 Conte School, 1962
Charles Moore Dean of Yale’s Department of Architecture, 1965-1970 Church Street South, 1969

Please make no mistake, there are plenty of examples of architects working in New Haven before working at Yale, and by no means did an architect have to build in either locale to be considered successful. It also didn’t hurt that New Haven had been designated a “Model City” and benefitted from federal funding for urban renewal.

Yet I found other examples of the relationship between buildings at Yale and New Haven that are more complex. For example, the ribbed block on Charles Moore’s Church Street South Housing Project was invented by Paul Rudolph’s office. The concept had essentially been prototyped on Rudolph Hall. This was also a nice homage on Moore’s part, as he became dean immediately after Paul Rudolph but ran the department very differently.

Image by Gunnar Klack

I couldn’t help but reflect on another part of my education while thinking about Donald Cromley’s tour. At about the time when I graduated, Reinier de Graaf, an architect and partner at the firm OMA, published the ominously titled article, “Architecture is now a tool of capital, complicit in a purpose antithetical to its social mission.” The title pretty much sums up the point I’m trying to make, but what happened?

Moore, whom I mentioned earlier, was hardly the first famous modern architect to take on housing for the social good. To name a few, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, and Louis Kahn all stamped their names to various forms of housing for those who could not otherwise afford it. In a way, low-income housing was a perfect corollary to the adage that “less is more,” because these architects had to work with less.

Today it’s hard to escape the feeling that architects primarily serve a privileged class (and that’s part of why I’m so proud to work where I do), but I want to see architecture at large return to its humanitarian past.


Frank Ball is a graduate of the Pratt School of Architecture and currently an architectural designer at ESKW/A. Among other things, he is currently working on the new construction of 76 units of supportive and affordable housing at 1921 Cortelyou Road.

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.