Oculus - Spring 2012 - (Page 32)
Ten-person Joel Sanders Architect recently teamed up with the 15-employee landscape and urban design firm Balmori Associates, along with lighting designer Domingo Gonzalez Associates as consultant, to create the master plan to turn the Broadway Malls, planted traffic medians from 70th Street to 168th Street, into a linear park. In a city like New York, a linear park can be an especially powerful means to create a heightened sense of connection between a landscape and architecture, according to Diana Balmori, FASLA, principal of the eponymous firm. “It runs through a very dense city, its length creating an active corridor for humans and an ecological ‘green corridor’ for many other species,” she says. “The length of a linear park gives it its ecological value. As a continuous greenbelt, it fosters a great variety of biota, from small mammals to birds and plants.” An urban linear park also encourages pedestrian activity and the development of cafés, restaurants, and residences near the park’s access points, as with the High Line. It’s a phenomenon Balmori playfully calls the “centipede effect” because of the myriad legs of heightened activity along a park’s cross streets.
The median is the message
©Joel Sanders Architect/Balmori Associates
How some small NYC ﬁrms are bridging the architecture/landscape divide
B Y L I S A DE L G A DO
hen discussing the relationship between architecture and landscape architecture, one can easily fall into the language of dichotomies: culture versus nature, indoor versus outdoor, hard versus soft. Too many architects see plantings as little more than a frilly border to architecture as the main event. Landscape architects beg to differ and are helping architects create lush settings that lend buildings greater power and perform such useful tasks as keeping stormwater out of overburdened sewers. Spurred by a surge of interest in sustainable design and more holistic ways of thinking, a growing number of architects and landscape designers are collaborating in new ways to bridge the “landscape/architecture divide,” as architect Joel Sanders, AIA, calls it.
©Joel Sanders Architect/Balmori Associates
Currently in conceptual design development, the Broadway Malls project came about via desigNYC, an organization that pairs designers with non-profits that need work done (see “A Giant, Hardly Sleeping: Pro Bono Sector,” Oculus, Fall 2011). In this case, the client is the Broadway Mall Association, a community organization that maintains the medians. Many of the existing medians are rather bleak and uninviting, with seats facing the traffic, Balmori notes. By contrast, the new master plan envisions plentiful and varied greenery, meandering paths, and seating areas that face inward. Sanders’s and Balmori’s firms focused on creating a “sinuous, integrated approach” to the hard- and softscape, Sanders says. In one potential design, concrete street barriers and benches undulate to echo the curve of a hill. A gradient pattern of dark and light pavers creates a sense of connection to the dark asphalt of the street nearby, and leads the eye forward along the median’s verdant pathway. While the park’s final form may depend on funding, ideally Balmori would like to see every median include pedestrian paths, so the whole stretch of nearly 100 blocks could serve as a walking space. Other design ideas include turbines to capture wind energy from the motion of nearby cars, and reflectors on the sides of the medians so car headlights help illuminate the space at night.
(top and above) Joel Sanders Architect/Balmori Associates/Domingo Gonzalez Associates: The Broadway Malls master plan envisions medians along nearly 100 blocks as varied but uniﬁed landscapes with meandering paths and seating areas. 32 Oculus Spring 2012
Since 2006 Balmori and Sanders have taught a studio together at the Yale School of Architecture on what they call “interface design”: the design of the border where landscape and architecture meet. The ideas they developed led them to co-author Groundwork: Between Landscape and Architecture (Monacelli Press, 2011), and to collaborate on projects, including a house in Bedford, NY, and a 2012 Olympics equestrian facility for Staten Island. (Though the latter was never built because the Olympics went to London, they regard it as an excellent showcase for their ideas.)
Small Firms Doing Big Things
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2012
Letter from the President: Invitation to the Future
A Word from the Editor - Small is the New Big
Center for Achitecture - Center Highlights
Museum Mile Makeover
Opener: Small, Agile Firms Succeed in Lean Times
Public Projects, Small Firms, Targeted Tactics
Small Firm Workplace: The Whole Wide World
Small Size, Big Thinking
Launch Pad to Success
The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age
Last Words - Smaller than a Breadbox
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Spring 2012
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