Industry: Architecture

Recently, I attended a selection panel for artwork that will be created as part of the city’s Percent for Art Program for the public school addition we designed for the School Construction Authority. We saw, as examples, the diverse ways artists have responded to the school building setting. It made me think of the remarkably different approach to civic art and architecture that I encountered on another project we’ve recently begun: the Bronx County Courthouse.

Designed by architects Max Hausle and Joseph Freedlander, and built from 1931 to 1934, the Bronx County Courthouse is an imposing show of governmental power, so massive and isolated on its granite plinth. One of its truly special features is the ennobling artwork that adorns its facade and terrace.

Past the heroic sculpture groups flanking each entrance, one is struck by the high relief frieze encircling the second floor. It is the work of Charles Keck (1875-1951), a New York sculptor whose other commissions can be seen at Columbia University, the Brooklyn Museum, Cadman Plaza, and even Times Square (the Father Duffy Monument). Comprising forty-four limestone panels, Keck’s frieze for the Bronx County Courthouse, or the Bronx County Building, as it was originally called (it houses several other governmental offices in additions the courts), depicts three civic themes.

The first theme is the ‘Triumph of Good Government’ showing a series of agricultural and industrial activities whose products are, ultimately, delivered to the Government (one imagines that Keck’s intention was voluntary delivery; how the times have changed). Notably, one panel of industry shows an architect with an elevation of the host building. A secondary topic is war: four panels show the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and the World War. The final and most prominent theme is, appropriately, the law. Each corner of the building features two panels and a dramatic figure facing diagonally outward representing the power, wisdom, protection, and moral force of the law.

The building is a bit, shall we say, severe. Keck’s artwork, despite the grandiose style and chiseled nudes, humanizes it, reminding us that all our various toils strengthen the social bond. I expect that the artwork ultimately gracing the walls of our new public school addition will not be so didactic, but I hope that it is similarly inspiring.

Bronx County Courthouse, North facade (from East 161st Street)

Bronx County Courthouse, North facade (from East 161st Street)

‘Wisdom of the Law’ by Charles Keck

‘Wisdom of the Law’ by Charles Keck

'Protection of the Law’ by Charles Keck

'Protection of the Law’ by Charles Keck

‘Industry: Architecture’ by Charles Keck showing an elevation of the Bronx County Building

‘Industry: Architecture’ by Charles Keck showing an elevation of the Bronx County Building

-by Adam Kaleb Poole

 

what will it be today…?

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what will it be today…?

sketch a building that would stand alone in the deep cold woods, with a vista of the valley at sunset…

a treehouse for the kid that bounces around in one's head with a pocket full of candy…

a rope swing, too easy... made out of driftwood, better… and tied to that tree 40 feet up, best…

a building that shelters the city’s homeless… wait… shelters & educates & cares for…

a bridge that spans the Atlantic… maybe an island in the Atlantic… or maybe a city in the Atlantic, underwater, that rests beside Atlantis….

a villa Palladio started to design that fell in love with the stylings of art nouveau and then fell on the floor at Picasso’s feet…

no wait…. today it’s sandcastles with the kids. perfect.

signed - unknown architect

 

Patterns of Destruction


 

I always imagined that if a building could speak the stories acquired over their lifespans, it would be expansive. I imagine the Abraham Residence especially has quite the story to tell. In its early beginnings it was a hotel that since has become a place to call home for homeless seniors. Tucked away in Seagate, Brooklyn which is essentially an extension of Coney Island it found itself in the crosshairs of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Sandy nearly closed the cover on any of those stories the Abraham Residence had sealed within its walls as the first floor which reached well above grade suddenly found itself 1’ underwater. During my inspection I was told they had prepared for the flooding however, what they were not prepared for was water advancing from the opposite side where it was more vulnerable. Traversing through the basement the story was that of a basement that had fought to stay together just as its inhabitants fought to stay from returning to the streets. While the struggles were many, and the repairs are even more, in the end there is a sprouting sign of hope.

by William Aimi

 

Retrofitting

Back in 2014, CTA was asked to visit a parochial school in south Brooklyn to walk through what would become our first Universal Pre-K project. At the time, Bishop Kearney High School was still an active all girls Catholic school, even though it was not at full capacity. To offset maintenance and operation costs the Diocese put up square footage for lease, and the SCA began investigating space in non-DOE buildings to plug in UPK sites to meet the Mayor’s initiative to provide free Pre-K to all New York City children.
We’ve since designed UPK projects in several other parochial school buildings, retrofitting 1950’s classrooms, libraries, chemistry labs to early childhood rooms to meet Department of Education room standards as best as possible.

Retrofitting is both interesting and challenging. Bishop Kearney was compelling - high school age girls inhabiting one part of a building with 4 years in another.


5 years later, we were again asked to visit Bishop Kearney High School. This time, the gymnasium and auditorium weren’t organized and ready for another school day. Flags of past championships hung half attached, hallways full of boxes of old paperwork, chemistry lab tables covered in containers needing to be disposed of at some off site place, old yearbooks and school sweatshirts being divvied up to alumni. The newly restored chapel, empty. And this time, venturing into the convent - a whole building full of empty rooms, the Sister's rooms, little SRO’s with sinks, a window and a few shelves. And although the rooms are empty, each Sister left something behind.

By Alanna Jaworski

Precious Heirloom

Often we get a chance to work on a gem of Architecture and NYC history. One such gem is the Poppenhausen Institute in College Point, Queens. The building was commissioned by Conrad Poppenhausen, a manufacturing tycoon and philanthropist. One of the building’s distinctions is that it held the first free kindergarten in the entire country in 1870. The spirit of the institute was to educate and train people, regardless of creed, color or gender.

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The structure was Landmarked in the 1970’s, but faced possible demolition in the 1980’s. Locals and community leaders successfully prevented its destruction and it now still stands, albeit in need of restoration, still serving the community, holding classes and providing performances.

There are still remnants of the furniture used by students from over 100 years ago in some rooms!

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In the cellar there are still two jail cells. These were used by the sherif, also in the building, mainly to hold the inebriated ‘guests’ roaming the streets after hours spent frequenting the many breweries of College Point in the early part of the twentieth century.

The main hall has beautiful detailing that is brought out by all the light filtering in from the south through the exceptionally tall wood windows.

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We are working with city agencies and the board of the institute to specify a program of repairs at the exterior that may include replacement of all the windows, some of which are nearly twenty feet tall, double-hung units. The windows are wood units that are in varying states of decay. They are also all single glazed units. We hope to replace them with wood window units that replicate the appearance of the originals, but provides the users of the space better climate control and a more comfortable learning and entertaining environment.

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Working on historic structures and preserving them, while sometimes also modernizing components that can be improved, such as windows, is like taking care of a precious heirloom passed down through generations through the family… like grandma’s knit sweater.

It’s an honor and a joy to be able to do this. The Poppenhausen Institute has always known this.. and for more than a hundred years, they have allowed the professionals that have helped preserve, restore, fix, protect, and revitalize the building to leave their mark in the spacious attic of the building. There are signatures scratched into the attic wall that date back to 1902, and some as recent as last year. There are some names that we recognize on the wall, of consultants we have worked with.

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Soon, with honor, we hope to inscribe CTA Architects onto this wall.

by Shukri Sindi

 

Designing an Accessible Playground

When designing and reviewing submittals for a new ECC (Early Childhood Center) Playground at PS 206Q and while reviewing an existing playground and whether it met accessibility requirements at PS 099K, I began to question what components of playground equipment must meet accessibility requirements and how. With Matt Jenkins assistance, we were able to locate an ADA accessibility guide dedicated to the design of playground equipment and were able to review the existing/proposed equipment at both schools. To my surprise, the existing playground equipment at PS 099K and all of the proposed components at PS 206Q met accessibility requirements largely by use of transfer platforms at both. From the US Access Board: A Summary of Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas, "A transfer platform is a platform of landing that an individual who uses a wheelchair or mobility device can use to lift or transfer onto the play structure and leave the wheelchair or mobility device behind at ground-level.” In addition to these transfer platforms allowing access to elevated play components, any ground-level play components at both schools also met the accessibility requirements.

Although both schools play equipment met accessibility requirements by use of transfer platforms, the guides accessibility requirements are based on the total number of play components and additional requirements must be met for play areas with more components. In case you are curious, here is a link to the accessibility guide: https://www.access-board.gov/attachments/article/1369/play-guide.pdf

^Existing Play Equipment at PS 099K

^Existing Play Equipment at PS 099K

-by Ryan Esparza

 

Skyscrapers in the Background

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When envisioning New York City, skyscrapers are typically the main focal point of the image; they are the foreground surrounded by an abundance of hardscape. But when standing on the roof of this upper west side building, you get a very different perspective of the city. Looking out at the city, in the heart of Manhattan, it’s a sea of green! The trees are lush and seem to go on forever… with skyscrapers in the background, taking a back seat to nature.

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Another gem you get from this roof is, what feels like, a backstage view of the Museum of Natural History surrounded by greenery.



-by Nicole Grosso





 

Don’t Let the door hit ya on the way out!

Sometimes a bike ride is not just a bike ride, sometimes it’s a history lesson. On a recent ride from Owl’s Head Park to Bensonhurst Park along the Brooklyn waterfront, this rider stopped to take a photo of a small sandy beach and pier, apparently no longer used or accessible to the public. Just east of the Verrazano Bridge is where the site lives. Later internet research (thanks forgotten-ny.com) revealed an important and historic site. 

Denyse Wharf (as I learned it was called), was named after Denyse Denyse (sounds like Dutch for Denis to me.. or GoT), a prominent New Utrecht resident in the late 1700s. Denyse ran a ferry to Staten Island from his wharf at this site. "The British and their Hessian and Scottish compatriots under General William Howe chose the Denyse Ferry as the place to land in New Utrecht for a major offensive on August 22, 1776, after massing 437 ships off Sandy Hook by July 12th. The Narrows was relatively undefended since the Americans were expecting a landing at Gravesend. According to legend, a Tory (loyalist) woman waved a red petticoat from Cortelyou’s house to signal the invaders: many New Utrecht residents were loyalists. The patriots had only three cannons on the promontory above the Narrows, and fought vigorously, but the British warship Asia responded by firing a volley that damaged Bennett’s and Denyse’s houses, but curiously, not Cortelyou’s... 15,000 British troops entered New Utrecht virtually unscathed; they were quickly able to overrun Kings County, bivouacking in the various homesteads throughout the locale. Howe himself commandeered Cortelyou’s house. Denyse himself was a patriot. In 1783, when the British evacuated New York City, they left from the Denyse Ferry." -from forgotten-ny.com 



by Rose Bothomley