Oculus - Fall 2016 - 36

Friend or faux? Meanwhile, mini blinds inside the faux street entries are often as not kept closed, defeating the possibility that passersby might get a glimpse of the bowdlerized historic fabric so painstakingly preserved within. Anyway, passersby are not exactly invited to appreciate the entrances, since each glass door sports a "No Loitering" 36 Oculus Fall 2016 ©bernstein associates, photographers security. But this leaves 22 useless stoops and doorways leading from the sidewalk to nowhere, retained to preserve the façades. Bizarrely, what is preserved is not original to the buildings. The stoops are circa-1970 concrete-slab replacements, the wrongness of which is compounded by the fact that they align with neither the detailing of the façades nor each other. In the long view down the block, they seem to twitch like a queue of hyperactive kids. Retained between them are functional but bland railings and areaway gates that in the earlier renovation replaced curlicue originals. These stoops and railings are in decent shape; keeping them might have been a budgetary necessity. But the 22 doorways have been replaced with aluminum-framed glass doors, sidelights, and transoms resembling those installed inappropriately in the '70s. It gets worse. The architects were required by the National Park Service, which arbitrates historic correctness for tax-credit projects, to preserve the footprints of original vestibules and hallways, even though no original interior detailing remains and none was restored - those passageways are quite blank. Dummy doors were required to indicate the openings into the original front apartments; however, the vestibules are accessible neither to residents nor the public (The historic halls and stairways can be accessed - but only by building management, with a key.) Still worse: the 22 original stairways also had to be retained, and at considerable expense, and repaired, although they, too, are not used, not even for emergency egress. Usable internal stairways had to be provided elsewhere. One can imagine the contortions required to lay out efficient apartments given the 43 airshafts in the south side buildings, the preserved vestibules and stairways, and new stairways. (previous page) Randolph Houses' renovated façades. (above) The façades before renovation. sign, and above each stoop are mounted a surveillance camera and a loudspeaker from which occasionally issues forth the instruction, "Please move from the area." The block remains dangerous, possibly exacerbated by the lack of residents helping to reduce crime by sitting on their stoops and contributing their eyes to the street. The useless yet-to-be-renovated stoops invite plenty of loitering, and possibly dealing. While this article was in preparation there was a shooting death there, which resulted in a perpetual police presence. A play space and a landscaped and furnished strip tucked into a side yard and behind the buildings are locked within high fences and accessible only from the basement. This new outdoor area further divorces residents from the street. Did no one involved ask how the new single entries, the forbidding stoops, and the enclosed outdoor space would affect street life and sense of community? What value does the preservation of anachronistic features, or original ones rendered invisible, contribute? Neighborhood historian Michael Henry Adams, author of Harlem Lost and Found, expresses dismay. "Harlem people automatically think of stoops as a welcoming place to congregate," he says, but the security cameras will be seen as "harassment of people while all they're trying to do is to come out and chill." Regarding the odd preservation requirements, he notes these buildings "were created in the 19th century when poor people living in tenement buildings wanted the dignity of buildings that emulated private houses with decoration and ornament. But retaining interior staircases that don't function and vestibules that are superfluous space neither honors that goal of an uplifting architectural environment, nor enhances the lives of the people who live there." A clean, well-lighted place A few intriguing preservation requirements for the renovation can be found. Wherever historic party walls were pierced, the openings were framed in reused old brick. Otherwise, there's little detailing, and only basic finishes. But the apartments are spacious and well laid out, with generous interior halls and closets, and abundant natural light. To anyone familiar with the sort of dark, narrow railroad flats of the dumbbell tenements these once were, the renovated apartments are unrecognizably better. One side of the new five-foot-wide corridors is aligned with a number of the airshafts with windows, which bring in natural light (but that won't be possible in the third building). There is a laundry room on each floor. In the basement are common rooms - computer lab, classroom, exercise room, pantry, and lounge. These are low-ceilinged and unfortunately dreary, Authenticity + Innovation: Architecture Repurposed

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Fall 2016

First Words Letter from the President
Letter from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
Opener: Authenticity and Innovation
Civic Purpose Repurposed: Brooklyn
Civic Purpose Repurposed: Bronx
A Study in Contrasts
WeLive on Wall Street
A Preservation Paradox
Industrial Strength
Innovation Rooted in History
In Print
97-Year Watch
Last Words
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Fall 2016 - cover1
Oculus - Fall 2016 - cover2
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 3
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 4
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 5
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 6
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 7
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 8
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 9
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 10
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 11
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 12
Oculus - Fall 2016 - First Words Letter from the President
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 14
Oculus - Fall 2016 - Letter from the Editor
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 16
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 17
Oculus - Fall 2016 - Center for Architecture
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 19
Oculus - Fall 2016 - One Block Over
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 21
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 22
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 23
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 24
Oculus - Fall 2016 - Opener: Authenticity and Innovation
Oculus - Fall 2016 - Civic Purpose Repurposed: Brooklyn
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 27
Oculus - Fall 2016 - Civic Purpose Repurposed: Bronx
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 29
Oculus - Fall 2016 - A Study in Contrasts
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 31
Oculus - Fall 2016 - WeLive on Wall Street
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 33
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 34
Oculus - Fall 2016 - A Preservation Paradox
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 36
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 37
Oculus - Fall 2016 - Industrial Strength
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 39
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 40
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 41
Oculus - Fall 2016 - Innovation Rooted in History
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 43
Oculus - Fall 2016 - In Print
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 97-Year Watch
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 46
Oculus - Fall 2016 - Last Words
Oculus - Fall 2016 - Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 49
Oculus - Fall 2016 - 50
Oculus - Fall 2016 - cover3
Oculus - Fall 2016 - cover4