Archive for the ‘Architects’ Category

Service of Living in Place Even If You Don’t Want To Think About It

Monday, October 17th, 2016

young person in wheelchair

I attended a program for interior designers and architects. Subject: living in place. It scotched myths that I and no doubt many others have about accessible design and aging in place and reinforced what I’ve already known for years: Anyone building or remodeling a home or apartment on their own does well to think twice and enroll the help of experts. People use accountants and CPAs for the same reason: to avoid missing beneficial opportunities.

Fisher & Paykel DCS 48" professional range

Fisher & Paykel DCS 48″ professional range

The speaker was Dawn DeLuca of Camille Rossy, a cabinetry and design company. The title of her presentation: “Designing for Independence & Dignity Without Talking About It.” We gathered in the Fisher & Paykel ExperienceCenter, a welcoming space for such informative meetings and a showroom with many of the appliances that address accessibility issues.

Here are some highlights that DeLuca, a certified Living in Place Designer, shared:

  • Accessible design in not ugly. A quick look around the showroom at the handsome, sleek pullout dishwashers—lower than the counter–and stoves with knobs in front that DeLuca had identified as appropriate for people with disabilities promptly put to rest the fable that it is.
  • Did you know that the average American home is built for males aged 35?
  • People live in one home for some 13 years and over a century, the lifecycle of a home, 20 will live in it and in the period, 6,000 guests/visitors will cross its threshold. Of these, 1,000 are at risk of injury.
  • The bill for falls in the US in 2013 was $34 billion and is projected to reach $68 billion by 2018. This does not include indirect costs lost in work productivity and the need to move if the home can no longer accommodate the injured person.
  • Living in place is not exclusively about the elderly
  1. People with disabilities are not just older adults
  2. Designers and architects should consider making homes safe in the initial design rather than focusing on fixing a place to accommodate an injured resident
  • DeLuca asked if any in the audience used a “disability assistance device.” When she gave the example of eyeglasses, many hands shot up.
  • Designers and architects should assemble collaborative teams such as a
  1. medical advisor and physical therapist to detail needs of a disabled person and to address safety issues for that disability
  2. child proofers
  3. contractor familiar with code  
  4. home inspector
  5. Specialists for autistic spectrum childproofing to counsel about elevating light switches and electrical outlets for example and confirming that TVs and furniture are secured to walls. Every two weeks a child dies because a TV falls on him/her.
  6. Structural engineers for people over 250 lbs.
  • Proactive design includes
  1. Installing outlets at the top and bottom of a stairway regardless of the age and physical dexterity of current homeowners. Should anyone in future need a stairway chairlift the installation savings are considerable.
  2. Contrasting colors for stair flooring is essential.
  3. Shower grab bars should be on top of shower controls and installed to withstand 250 lbs in all directions
  4. Kitchen appliances need a landing place either next to or behind them.
  5. Never place a cooking surface under a window that opens. Heat can break a window and with a gas stove, wind can cause fire
  6. Consider raised flowerbeds for gardeners who can’t bend over
  7. While all things shiny are in fashion, reflections cause problems for people with eye issues and the aging
  8. Single leaver faucet controls are cleanerdoor handle with return
  9. Lighting inside cabinets and drawers literally shedding light on what’s inside
  10. All levers should have a return not only to address stability but to avoid catching—and ripping–clothes
  11. Reverse door swings: Doors should open to the hallway in case the homeowner faints so rescuers can get in the house/apartment/room to help.
  12. Motion-censored LED strips under handrails

    Dawn DeLuca

    Dawn DeLuca

  • Denial about potential injuries is rampant in the land. “That won’t happen to me,” most people say when hearing of a friend or relative’s accident. Statistics prove otherwise. DeLuca said that one in five Americans have disabilities and fewer than 15 percent are born with them. 63 million have disabilities and 11 million need daily personal assistance.
  1. Five percent of kids 5-17 have disabilities; 10 percent ages 18-64
  2. 3.6 million people use wheelchairs

Because so many prefer to avoid discussion of the inevitable of potential accidents, future medical diagnosis of a family member or natural aging, DeLuca suggests interior designers and architects slip in many of the proven precautionary options as a matter of course. Much can be done seamlessly without giving a doomsday speech. So while at first I thought poorly of this approach, it has grown on me. Your thoughts?

Photo: dailymail.co.uk

 

Service of Strings Attached

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

 

Ball of string

Most of the things we buy we own and can do with what we wish. Art isn’t one of them, especially works by famous, living people. If they didn’t know it before, the developer planning to convert the Sony Building on Madison Avenue to a hotel and luxury apartments knows it now.

Sony commissioned Canadian artist Dorothea Rockburne to create two fresco murals for its lobby in the 1990s. The Chetrit Group, that bought the building from Sony in 2013 for $1.1 billion, has her to deal with according to Peter Grant in his Wall Street Journal story, “Artist Skeptical Over Murals’ Fate.” 

Robert A.M. Stern, architect

Robert A.M. Stern, architect

Grant wrote: “The fate of [the] murals has been uncertain since earlier this year when Ms. Rockburne set off a furor in the art world by saying they were being endangered by the conversion project. That led to a series of meetings in February and earlier this month between Ms. Rockburne and Joseph Chetrit; his son, Jonathan; and their architect, Robert A.M. Stern.”

Rockburne wants control over lighting and doesn’t want the murals moved. Grant wrote that her “artwork is grounded in astronomy and mathematics” and that the murals were “designed in part to reflect their exact locations in the cosmos.” As for the lighting, “getting it wrong would be like leaving out a color” she told Grant. “It can’t be seen unless it’s lit by me,’ she said.”

Architect Stern told Grant “that his firm is making sure that the lighting and other design elements complement the murals, which will ‘give this lobby a wonderful glow and make it something everyone will want to enjoy and experience.’ He added: ‘I am the architect and interior designer for the project and not Dorothea.’”

Rockburne, whose work is found at topflight museums such a MoMA and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, didn’t care for photos she saw of the model lobby—due to be completed in 2018—because high desks “obscured the view of the mural.” Rockburne posited, “Would you put desks in front of the ‘Last Supper?’”

Picasso "Le Tricorne," Photo: LA Times

Picasso “Le Tricorne,” Photo: LA Times

Developers have crossed swords before over artworks in buildings they’ve bought. Grant reminded readers of Aby Rosen who caused a kerfuffle when he removed Picasso’s “Le Tricorne,” from the Four Seasons restaurant when he bought the Seagram Building 16 years ago. Grant reported that the Picasso stage curtain is currently on display at the New-York Historical Society.

I’m not a lawyer but a quick scan of Google made clear that artists—especially high profile ones still living—own copyrights to their works which limit what those who have commissioned their work can do. Goodness knows whether there was legal mumbo-jumbo between Sony and Rockburne which covered what happened to the works if they sold the building or what, if any, control current laws give this artist. Grant wrote that she has asked the Chetrits’ for a contract in which they agree to preserve the murals, which leads me to believe the fate of Northern and Southern Sky isn’t as buttoned up as she’d like.

Do you think Rockburne—or any artist–should be able to direct furniture and lighting placement in the lobby of a building they don’t own? Should a developer/new owner have any rights when it comes to work that comes with a building? Would you be slow to commission artwork from a top-selling artist for a building you own because of potential future complications?

copyright

Service of Questions

Monday, February 1st, 2016

questions 5

I have two questions that Google doesn’t answer and a third that you might not find on Google for good reason but it’s something you might like to know.

Henny Penny

I can’t remember ice falling from skyscrapers after a storm when I grew up in NYC but that might be because I didn’t live or go to school in neighborhoods with very high buildings. Or maybe I blocked it out.

Henny PennyMy question is: How come architects building structures in NYC today can’t come up with a way to stop this from happening? My office building had staff remove snow from the roof after the recent storm so nobody would get hurt. On the Sunday after 27-inches of snow fell on NYC we took a walk and were surprised by chunks of ice crashing on to sidewalks throughout midtown. This isn’t the first time yet many of the buildings we passed have been built in the last 10 years.

Partnerships

I [and thousands of others] had the looniest time getting on and off NYC busses three days after snowstorm Jonah. On Third Avenue between 43rd and 42nd Streets, ice several feet high lined the curb. Passengers jumped off the bus into deep slush and sloshed from 43rd  to 42nd in the street while oncoming traffic splashed them with icy mire. We couldn’t mount the sidewalk until we reached 42nd and turned the corner. It was as messy as it was dangerous.

Snow January 2016 004I was horrified on my walk home that night to see people with two choices to reach the steps of a bus. They could drench their feet to above their ankles in an icy soup or walk away from the bus, up the sidewalk to the corner and wobble through foot-high ice with a few footprints made by previous pedestrians and then quickly negotiate a tricky walk down the slippery street, in the dark, to the bus’s door. I realized what was happening when I approached the stop and saw an elderly woman, with a cane, who was attempting the latter option. Thankfully she’d made it by the time I got there.

Six days after the storm I came upon a dozen workers with shovels and a giant snowplow on a little used street. Most of the workers were hanging out [see photo below]. Clearly the city isn’t up to the task.

My question is: Why doesn’t the Metropolitan Transit Authority, with the city’s cooperation,** enroll the help of businesses or landlords to get them to clear/maintain three foot slits in snow/ice at bus stops that are in front of their property and keep it free of slush? **The city would compensate cooperating businesses through tax rebates.

Unintended Consequences

Santa gave my husband a Uniglo Heattech tee-shirt for Christmas to keep him warm. According to the Uniglo website, “The moisture-wicking fabric retains heat and also features anti-odor properties to keep you feeling fresh even when you sweat.”

Heattech T Shirt

Heattech T Shirt

But for him, Heattech, launched in Japan some 13 years ago, does something else that the company cannot promote on Google.

My husband suffers from a rash on his shoulders which itches all the time. A cream called Sarna works for about an hour but then the itching returns. However, when he wears his Heattech shirt, he doesn’t itch all day.

I read that the fabric also contains Camellia oil which according to an article on majoritymagazine.com, stays in the fabric up to 30 washes. This oil is said to help retain moisture. His dermatologist, who had not encountered Uniglo Heattech before, has suggested that if the textile retains moisture, that’s what alleviates the dry skin condition which causes the itch.

According to the magazine, “Due to Japan’s pharmaceutical laws, Unglo can’t officially claim that the presence of Camellia oil helps to retain moisture.” Uniglo probably can’t promote this wonderful health benefit here for the same reason: it would have to put the fabric through excruciating tests to prove and therefore promote such a claim.

Do you have questions that even Google hasn’t answered or surprise benefits of products you like?

NYC snow cleanup team.

NYC snow cleanup team.

 

Service of Common Sense

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Common sense

I tell graduate students I mentor to rely on common sense and share a conversation with a former boss I’ve mentioned before on this blog. He was in the hospital with a mystery ailment, suffering countless diagnostic tests. “Could it be phlebitis?” I asked him, remembering he’d had that when I worked for him years before. Turned out that was the problem, not some exotic disease. You didn’t need a medical degree to come up with that obvious conclusion.

Whistle in the Wind

Bernie SandersSo when I heard of Bernie Sanders’ campaign worker who accessed and copied Hilary Clinton’s voter database I thought, “Is this person tone deaf to this candidate’s clean-as-a-whistle persona?” He parked his common sense in some other candidate’s driveway.

Study the Surroundings

Morgan LibraryOn a visit to The Morgan Library this Saturday, I marveled at a 3-story glass wall in the front hall [at the right of this photo]. The view captured the back of a lackluster apartment building and some serviceable, unattractive separations between unimpressive back yards. This view diminished the impact of the architectural achievement and questioned its purpose. 

In addition, a heavy door to the library and Mr. Morgan’s study opens when you push a knob on the right and surprises as it comes at you. For a distracted visitor or one who can’t back up and out of the way quickly enough, it could be dangerous.

Listen to the Expert

frizzy hairMy hair stylist told me of a mutual friend’s folly. The woman is a recent widow who wanted a different look as her birthday approached and she ignored the stylist’s advice and had a permanent. [She lives out of town and has her hair done locally.] The stylist warned her that the procedure would not enhance her wonderful straight, thick hair. The friend compounded the recklessness by immediately dyeing her tresses, burning her hair and achieving a dramatically freaky effect. The only remedy the hair stylist could suggest was to leave mayonnaise on the hair the day of her next appointment with her coiffeur, though she didn’t hold out much hope. Hopefully the rich oils in mayo would act as a super conditioner.

Is it ego that causes employees or consultants to take actions that conflict with the boss’s approach; an architect to design a project that ignores surroundings or a woman to override an expert’s advice? Can you think of other examples?

Big ego

Service of Bigger is Better

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Bigger better

I don’t believe institutions need to occupy more space to be better, and see few benefits apart from the jobs expansion generates.

The private school I attended has hired a company to find it a larger building. It currently inhabits a big and several smaller ones. With so many talented architects and interior designers who know how to squeeze the most out of space, getting something bigger seems like a waste of money. Spending the money on teacher salaries, scholarships and upgraded computer capabilities would be a better plan. My checkbook will remain closed when I receive the anticipated requests to support a bigger and better building.

Delaware Art MuseumThen there’s the Frick that’s about to swell and the Delaware Art Museum [photo right] that felt forced to sell artwork to pay for its expansion that, in the end, didn’t positively affect attendance. The latter museum’s administration is being scolded by its peers for selling its treasure, a stopgap measure at best. Deborah Solomonaug covered the intrigue in The New York Times in “Censured Delaware Art Museum Plans to Divest More Works.

Adding to the debate, here are highlights of our recent visit to a bigger–so it must be better–museum.

Guides directed us to a parking lot at the expanded, new and improved Clark Museum in Williamstown, Mass. [photos below left and right] which we’ve visited many times before. Formerly we parked outside the main entrance where the admissions booth was. Where we parked last week clearly wasn’t the main lot. As a result, we began a preposterous trek that helped accentuate the ungainly plan of the  new place.

Clark MuseumWe followed a path to the closest entrance which landed us in museum offices. A helpful administrator jumped up and showed us to a door which led us through a research library. They were expecting company: At the end of the library’s main aisle was a guard stationed to wave us forward and no doubt to watch that we didn’t take a detour through the stacks.

As we left the library he pointed to our next door, which took us outside again. He told us to be sure to admire the new water pools—where the original parking lot was. He mentioned the number of doors we should bypass to get to the cashier. Off we went on another stroll. I couldn’t help think what such a ramble in and out would be like in bitter heat or cold, rain or snow. The guard said we could take a golf cart back to the parking lot. I saw one wandering around the property carrying a large family. The kids enjoyed the ride. It didn’t seem efficient.

We entered the correct door but still no admissions desk in sight. Following an arrow we walked down a long hall passing the gift store and finally, to a gracious foyer at the back of which were information and admissions desks. This was the new part of the museum where additional special exhibition spaces are.

However, to visit the main museum, our old friend, off we went again past the gift shop, down the long hall and into another entrance where, that day, you couldn’t buy a ticket.

Clark museum 2Critics gave the expansion rave reviews. Evidently the media didn’t zigzag as we did. The addition is attractive yet the architect had a lapse when joining the old with the new.

More to the point: Was the expansion practical or necessary? How many people will be able to avail themselves of exhibits in the expanded space? Williamstown is charming but inaccessible by public transportation, though as we left town, we saw a Peter Pan bus parked outside the local inn.

Do you think that institutions must increase their footprints for survival or in some cases, is such expenditure the first step towards doom? What is really behind such expansion: ego and folly perhaps?

Big floorplan

Service of Architects & Designers

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Architect

I have interviewed and admired the work of countless architects and interior designers over years, think that good ones are essential and can save their clients tons of money as well as produce great looking, functional spaces.

There are instances, however, where a client either ignored, or didn’t hire, either one.

Street Smart

sidewalkWe’ve been through a wintery/icy period in New York City which puts the buildings with inappropriate sidewalks on my blacklist. I wrote about this recently. What architect worth his/her salt would specify stone, cement or a shiny finish for a northern climate, in a walking city, where surfaces become an ice rink in sleet or snow?

Gingko tree fruitWhen selecting the sidewalk in front of a building does anyone pay attention to trees, like the Gingko, that shed fruit that stain? Light colors only highlight the blotches. Add foot traffic that discolors and marks the ground and one wonders. Without constant attention to keep it clean, the new sidewalk looks worse than the original one in short order.

Good Intentions

Hospital ceiling artI was in a hospital recovery room and saw wall art on the ceiling. What a good idea for a patient prone on a gurney, reentering consciousness, to see a pretty floral scene above.

Trouble was that the series of ceiling paintings weren’t over the gurneys; they were in the halls above the aisles.  One explanation: That the room had been used for something else and in reconfiguring the space, the ceiling art landed in limbo.

In another instance, the air vent in the patient’s room was over one of the beds. Brrr. There was plenty of room for a vent in the entry hall.

Great Improvement

In new construction, finally, there are plenty of ladies’ rooms in movie theatres and concert halls.

Please share examples of brilliant, uninspired or dangerous interior design or architectural feats.

Architecture

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