The New York City Public Design Commission and Mayor Bill de Blasio have announced the 11 projects selected as winners of their 2017 Awards for Excellence in Design. Established in 1983, the award has been bestowed annually to projects from the city’s five boroughs that “exemplify how innovative and thoughtful design can provide New Yorkers with the best possible public spaces and services and engender a sense of civic pride.”
Both built and unbuilt projects are considered for the award. Previous winners have included BIG + Starr Whitehouse’s 40th Police Precinct (2016), Studio Gang’s Fire Rescue 2 (2015), the Louis Kahn-designed Four Freedoms Park (2014), and Steven Holl’s Hunters Point Library (2011).
“The best public projects are purposeful and use design to build a sense of community and civic pride,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We commend the teams behind these critical and creative projects that will help build a stronger, more equitable city and improve services and recreational activities for every New Yorker.”
“The outstanding public works being awarded today support the de Blasio Administration’s commitment to providing quality, equitable, and resilient public spaces to all New Yorkers. By integrating key principles of good design with sustainable practices and materials, these projects will regenerate the city’s natural environment, improve services to the public, and offer inspirational artworks and educational programming,” added Public Design Commission President Signe Nielsen.
Excellence in Design Winners
Bomb Squad Building / Rice + Lipka Architects, Liz Farrell Landscape Architecture
Located in a flood-vulnerable site adjacent to Pelham Bay Park, NYPD’s Bomb Squad training facilities were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. This new 10,700 square-foot resilient structure elevates critical program elements above the floodplain. At the ground floor, cast-in-place concrete walls create a resilient structure and vents allow flood waters to flow through without damaging the building. Energy-efficient mechanical units and photovoltaic panels are concealed by a subtly sloping facade and roof. Where the original structure once was, native plants will be reintroduced to restore the shoreline ecology.
Treetop Adventure Zipline and Nature Trek / Tree-Mendous
The Treetop Adventure Zipline will provide visitors with a new perspective of the Bronx Zoo – from 45 feet above the Bronx River and its surrounding forest. Wooden platforms, one on either side of the river, connect 375 feet of zipline cable. Participants will launch from the west bank of the river, zip across, and then return on a second set of racing zip lines. This active adventure will reach new audiences, build a stronger conservation ethic among visitors by bringing them closer to local nature, and support the Wildlife Conservation Society’s mission to inspire young adults to protect the natural world.
The Greenpoint Library and Environmental Center replaces an existing, outdated one-story library, providing significantly enlarged indoor and outdoor space to house everyday library use and programming for the exploration of the environment. The facility includes reading rooms for all ages, small public meeting rooms, lab space for interactive projects, and a large community event space. Exceeding LEED Silver goals, the center will become a demonstration project for innovative approaches to sustainable design.
Double Sun / Mary Temple
Gracing the northeast and southwest corners of McCarren Park Pool’s dramatic archway entrance, Mary Temple’s installation creates a subtle and elegant visual disturbance. At first glance, the two paintings appear to be bright shards of light, raking the stucco and spreading shadows of nearby trees. However, the shadow-shapes are actually painted translations of Juneberry, Hawthorn, and other local trees that thrive throughout the surrounding park. The title, Double Sun, is a reference to the dual passages of light that can be seen in the archway – an impossibility in the natural world.
Sited at the northern edge of the campus, FIT’s new academic building will reflect a commitment to community engagement and welcome the public into the life of the college. The ten-story, 110,000-square-foot structure will provide much-needed smart classrooms, textile labs, administrative offices, and the first dedicated student life hall on the campus in nearly two decades. The design embodies a transparency that reflects the college’s vision of openness, exploration, and the robust exchange of ideas across many platforms.
Downtown Far Rockaway Streetscape / W Architecture and Landscape Architecture
After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, it became imperative to redevelop the Downtown Far Rockaway central business district and transportation hub. The street reconstruction plan on the Rockaway peninsula signifies a focus on environmental sustainability and resiliency in the wake of extreme weather events. The overarching goals of the design are to reinforce Mott Avenue as a ‘village main street’ with a connection to existing neighborhood assets and recent public improvement projects, such as the reconstruction of the Far Rockaway Queens Branch Library.
Woodside Office, Garage, and Inspection Facility / TEN Arquitectos + W Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Serving as the central inspection location for over 13,500 taxis, the renovated and expanded Woodside facility will provide a welcoming and dignified experience for drivers and other members of New York City’s transportation industry. The project will reduce queuing times and increase inspection capacity by more than 200 cars per day and expands office space for staff.
The project replaces the existing office block with an elevated, louver-screened structure spanning over the existing eight-lane garage. The reconfiguration of the ground level creates additional traffic lanes, reduces congestion, and expedites operations on site while improving traffic flow on the adjacent roadway. Lifting the office block off the ground minimizes the footprint of the structure and optimizes daylight and views for the offices above.
The Cubes Building is a 2,640 square-foot, two-story structure comprising 18 shipping containers that will become a permanent home for Socrates Sculpture Park administration and programming. The innovative design and material choices underscore the park’s history of reclamation and revitalization and its mission of presenting contemporary public art, fostering environmental stewardship, and community building.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD
Upstate Watershed / Department of Environmental Protection Green Infrastructure
New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection is tasked with delivering more than one billion gallons of pristine drinking water to nine million New Yorkers every day. New York City is one of only five municipalities in the country allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency to maintain an unfiltered water supply – a testament to the strength and effectiveness of DEP’s efforts around watershed protection. DEP’s use of green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff in its upstate properties is a critical component of maintaining the high quality of New York City’s drinking water supply.
Recent innovative solutions in upstate sites surrounding the Cross River, Croton Falls, and Kensico Reservoirs, include the restoration of creek alignments and wetlands, construction of drainage swales, stormwater detention systems, and catch basins with filter treatment systems and bypass channels, and the installation of riprap along stream banks. Each project is thoughtfully designed for the specific site context and will ultimately function as part of a larger resilient plan to reduce sediment and pollutants from entering our water supply.
Working in tandem with the ReBuild by Design Living Breakwaters Project, the Tottenville project is one component of a layered shoreline protection system in southern Staten Island. A key programmatic goal of the project is to create an interconnected and seamless waterfront trail along the shoreline of Conference House Park to provide pedestrian access the full length of the beach, even at normal high tide. This continuous pathway will also provide access for maintenance staff to areas that have been difficult to reach in the past.
In the early 1940s, the Work Projects Administration (WPA) commissioned abstract murals by Ilya Bolotowsky, Dane Chanase, Joseph Rugolo, and Albert Swinden for a hospital campus on Welfare Island (now Roosevelt Island). The murals were installed in circular, light-filled rooms on the south side of the buildings. The artists were inspired by the East River views and hoped that their artworks would enliven the spaces and uplift the patients.
Since the 1950s, the murals had been painted over multiple times and were completely hidden. In 2001, the Bolotowsky mural was uncovered and conserved by Luca Bonetti as part of the Municipal Art Society’s Adopt-A-Mural program. In 2013, in preparation for the demolition of the hospital to make way for the Cornell Tech campus, conservators completed a challenging and extensive search for the remaining murals. While they were unable to find the Chanase mural, the Bolotowsky, Rugolo, and Swinden murals were removed and conserved. The Bolotowsky mural will be installed in the Bloomberg Center and the Swinden mural will be installed in The Bridge building. The Rugolo mural will be placed in a future building as part of a vibrant public art program on the campus.
To learn more about the award and see previous years’ winners, visit the Public Design Commission’s website, here.
News and project descriptions via NYC Public Design Commission.