10 Reasons to Love Architecture Inspired Fashion Catwalks

As a young fashion executive in NYC, life was fascinating and extremely hectic. Traveling around the world was a major perk and of course wearing the latest classic trends wasn't a bad deal either. I was living the great fashion fairy tale...well sort of.

One of the most stimulating experiences in the business was attending Haute Couture Fashion Shows. The designer collections, models and music were part of the show, but the drama surrounding the show made iconic moments in fashion history. From fairytale settings to absolute minimalist, famous fashion designers find magnificent runways from around the world with unlimited budgets!

 

1- The Oscar Niemeyer Museum - Louis Vuitton makes a statement in Rio. Vuitton was the first European brand to bring its catwalk to this country.

2 - Palais Royale - Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld launches a space-inspired collection at the Palais Royale.

3 -Great Wall of China - Considered the most memorable and most expensive, Karl Lagerfeld made history by staging a Fendi show on the Great Wall of China (built in 221 BC to preserve China's borders). It is the longest catwalk in history at over 1,500 miles. The spectacular show was estimated to cost $10 million.

4 - IM Pei's Miho Museum - Models emerged from a forested mountain side providing a dramatic backdrop for the Louis Vuitton show.

5 - The Bay's Skyway in Singapore - Jessica Minh Anh’s J Spring Fashion Show goes sky high.

6 - Dongdaemun Design Plaza - Chanel hits the catwalk in Seoul in a spaceship-like structure designed by Zaha Hadid and South Korean-based Samoo Architects.

7 - Marc Jacobs' Escalator Runway in Paris - The runway show for Louis Vuitton was memorable for its large escalators, making the models appear doll-like.

8 - Vanishing Point - White lasers used to define the catwalk area, building an illusion of architectural forms.

9 -  Louvre’s Cour Carrée - Louis Vuitton fantasy presentation at the Louvre's Cour Carrée, one of the main courtyards of the Louvre Palace.

10 - Empire State Building - Harper Bazaar and Tiffany & Co. exhibited their most celebrated images on the Empire State Building spanning 42 stories.

After the collection is designed, the show will pull out all of the stops creating a theme that transports the audience to another world. Although most of what you see on the runway is never produced, the show gets the buyer in the door!

Helen Z.

Helen Z.

 
 

Somebody’s Gotta Do It

I am a recycling tyrant. Ask anyone at One New York Plaza. I am that person who will remove a soiled salad container from the garbage, lament loudly about how Mother Nature is watching, warn of instant karma, and then rinse the damn thing dramatically before throwing it in the recycle bin.

Yup. Risking my co-workers cooties, weird looks, and alienation, I am that person. Can you blame me? I grew up watching this guy weeping for crying out loud!

And now, despite his tears and us knowing the effects of our instantly gratified, disposable culture on the environment, we have the Great Pacific Garbage Patch­­­­­—a micro plastic soup between North America and Asia in the North Pacific gyre (a gyre is large system of circulating ocean currents). Micro plastics are less than five millimeters in length, about the size of a sesame seed.

There are five major gyres—North and South Pacific, North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean…all of them collecting our garbage!

The largest patch of garbage is the Great Pacific (gee, great). Here is what the National Geographic has to say about it: “About 80% of the debris comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia.

The remaining 20% of debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from boaters, offshore oil rigs, and large cargo ships that dump or lose debris directly into the water. The majority of this debris—about 705,000 tons—is fishing nets. More unusual items, such as computer monitors and LEGOs, come from dropped shipping containers.

Marine debris can be very harmful to marine life in the gyre. For instance, loggerhead sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellies, their favorite food. Albatrosses mistake plastic resin pellets for fish eggs and feed them to chicks, which die of starvation or ruptured organs.”

plastic_ocean_seabird.jpg

The 5 Gyres Institute (their mission to empower action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, art, education, and adventure) states that there is an estimated 270,000 metric tons of garbage in the ocean. How much is that? Stack two liter bottles on top of each other to the moon and back…twice…that is 270,000 metric tons.

So please, for the love of Mother Nature and all her creatures that we must shepherd, use that ugly mug you got as a gift last year, get a stainless steel water bottle, and please…pretty please…if you get take out for lunch, rinse out your boutique containers before lovingly placing them into that bin that is designated for recycling.

It’s a dirty job, but…

 

Kristen Persinos, Marketing Director

 

What Happened? A Tale of Two Islands.

Larry Marner on Shivers Island

My husband and I have been rowing on the ocean in northern Maine for years. We row on the oldest water trail in the United States, the Maine Island Trail, a 375-mile water trail for small boats extending from the New Hampshire border to Canada. The trail includes 200 islands available to members of the Maine Island Trail Association for day use and camping.

The islands have a rich recorded history dating as far back as the 1600’s. With names such as Hog, Hay, Hurricane, and Little Hen, these islands were used in the 1800’s for pasture, farmland, and granite extraction. Our Maine island journeys every summer have piqued my interest in what it was like to live there 100 or even 200 years ago. Two settlements are particularly intriguing and tell a tale of two communities. In one resourcefulness ruled and a family was able to retain control of their island by taking on the government of Maine. Another community, just as resourceful, had circumstances stacked against them.   

Baker Island

Like the rest of America, Maine during the Revolutionary War years was primarily an agrarian society. Farmers in Maine, tending to farms that averaged between 50 and 100 acres, faced formidable challenges: poor soil, dense forest, unpredictable weather, and geographical isolation.  “Mixed husbandry”—the cultivation of both crops and animals—helped to overcome these obstacles and became a popular and lucrative form of farming. Supplemental trades such as logging and fishing also complemented traditional farming. A great example of this resourcefulness is found on Baker Island.  

John Gilley and his wife Hannah settled 130-acre Baker Island in 1809. John was a fisherman on nearby Acadia Island but aspired to be a farmer and have his own land. In the early 19th century, islands like Baker Island were inhospitable, remote, and often not the property of individuals. They were there for the taking. John and Hannah were able to settle the island and claim it as theirs. Hannah, like all pioneering women during that time, was a highly resourceful multi-tasker. She even home-schooled her 12 children, teaching them reading, writing, and arithmetic.  (Somewhat unusual for a woman of her times, Hannah attended school until the age of 13.)  A biography of the Gilley Family describes Hannah and her first years on the island as follows:

“She already had three little children and she was going to face a formidable isolation for a considerable part of the year; even to get a footing on the island—to land lumber, live stock, provisions, and to build their first shelter—was no easy task.”

Due to good health, hard work, and good luck she and John prospered, owning cows, chickens, and over 50 sheep to provide them with food and clothing. The forests were cleared and flax, vegetables, and wheat were grown. Seafood was plentiful and the family built a successful business smoking herring and shipping it to New York City. 

The family’s prosperity enabled them to buy other islands and to endow their children with money with which they built their own careers. Although the Maine government intervened several times to evict the family and take ownership, in the end the Gilley family was granted permanent residence on the island for as long as any family member survived and remained on the island. The last family member left the island in the 1920’s. Today many of the buildings and a family cemetery have been preserved. 

Malaga Island

On Malaga Island, the outcome for its equally industrious and resourceful residents was quite different. Malaga Island is also 130 acres and is located in Casco Bay. Casco Bay had a wealthy summer home community dating back to the mid 19th Century. Malaga Island is deserted today but was once home to a community which at its peak had 42 residents.

The island was settled in the mid 1800’s, about 40 years after the Gilley Family settled Baker Island. Like the Gilleys, Malaga’s settlers also came from the mainland with a desire to have a better life. But unlike the Gilleys, these residents had obstacles that proved impossible to overcome. 

The island they settled was not in a remote part of northern Maine but close to the growing wealth of the Casco Bay mainland. “Malagites”, as they became to be known, were poor with limited education and therefore could not advocate for themselves. Their homes were more “makeshift".  And perhaps most significant, Malaga’s residents included people of color, an anomaly in a state that then was 99% white. Malagites did succeed in making a successful community supported primarily by fishing and some farming, but the island was perceived by the state of Maine as a blighted community. In 1917 the governor of Maine declared the island to be a ward of the state, calling it a “no man’s land”. 

The state evicted its residents while providing no help with resettlement. Some Magalites strapped their homes to rafts and drifted up and down the coast looking for a spot to resettle. Others, who lacked the means to move, were sent to the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded in Pineland, Maine where they remained until their death. 

This diaspora of the Malagites remains a dark chapter in the history of Maine and fortunately is the exception. Descendants of the island still live in the state and a formal apology was made to them in a ceremony in 2010. 

Both the residents of Baker Island and Malaga Island had the determination and industriousness to succeed. Unfortunately, geography, racial discrimination, and lack of education and social resources posed insurmountable obstacles for the Malagites. 


Elisabeth Post-Marner, AIA, LEED® AP, Principal

Elisabeth Post-Marner, AIA, LEED® AP, Principal

 

 

 

 

Ha Long Bay

This month marks one year since my trip through South East Asia. I've not traveled outside a 100 mile radius from NYC since then. Although I've been content staying local, I definitely miss the thrill of backpacking. On that note, I thought I would do a "throwback" and focus on one of my favorite parts of the trip. If you haven’t read my first blog, please check it out: Backpacking for the First Time!

When visiting Hanoi City in Vietnam, I took a one-day tour to see Ha Long Bay. Known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by thick jungle vegetation, it was easily my favorite place throughout the entire trip.

In 2012, New 7 Wonders Foundation officially named Halong Bay as one of New 7 Natural Wonders of the World. It is also a member of the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World.

It is said that Ha Long Bay was named after “Mother Dragon." When Vietnam had just started to develop into a country, Mother Dragon and her family were sent by the gods in order to fight off invaders. While defending the country, the dragons began spitting out pearls into the bay which turned into 1,960 islands and islets. This created a protective wall against the enemies’ ships that eventually hit the rocks and never conquered the land.

Today, most of the islands are uninhabited and unaffected by humans. A community of around 1,600 people live on Ha Long Bay in four fishing villages, one of which I got to visit. They live on floating houses and are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture.

Floating Village

Floating Village

The tour I was a part of included a boat cruise to visit caves and the tunnels that run through them. Delicious traditional Vietnamese cuisine was provided.

I got to see Dog Islet, Incense Burner Islet, and Fighting Cock Islet, and explore the Thien Cung Cave. Hạ Long Bay is the center of a larger zone which includes Bai Tu Long Bay to the northeast and Cat Ba Island to the southwest. These larger zones share a similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate, and cultural characters.

Fighting Cock Islet

Tunnel Cave

Although I didn’t have the chance, I would recommend staying at least one night in the area. There are options to stay on an over-night luxury cruise which will allow you to explore more places and experience a sunset on the bay. Overall, this was such an amazing experience, one that I will never forget!

Danielle Kachler, Designer

Danielle Kachler, Designer

 
 

Day Trip: Bannerman Castle

I’ve traveled on the Metro-North line a handful of times on my way to the fun towns along the Hudson for a day or weekend trip. As most riders do, I try to get my seat on the river side of the train so I can take in the Hudson all the way to my destination. Many of you who have been on a similar journey may have seen a little island on the river just before the Beacon stop. This island always catches my eye because there are remnants of what looks like an abandoned old castle poking out above the trees. What some of you may not know, as I did not, is that you can actually visit this island and its ruins, formerly known as Bannerman Castle.

When my sister came to visit from Texas last week she mentioned wanting to do something outside of the city; I took this as the perfect opportunity to book a kayak tour of the island and the castle.

The Bannerman's

The Bannerman’s hail from Scotland, belonging to the Glencoe MacDonald clan, and were traditionally standard-bearers. The Bannerman surname was bestowed upon the family by Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, when one male member of the family saved the clan pennant during the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The tradition of naming the first born son Francis came a few centuries later when the first Francis escaped the massacre of Glencoe and fled to Ireland in 1689. Francis Bannerman VI, the builder and owner of the Bannerman Castle, emigrated from Scotland with his family in the mid-1800s as a small child.


The Business

Francis VI was an entrepreneur and found a niche for himself in the military surplus business. The business operated out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and grew with each new war starting with the American Civil War. By the turn of the century Bannerman was the most prolific military supply dealer in the world and was revered as an expert in weapons, war, and related subjects. With an ever expanding business in an over populated city, Bannerman's biggest problem was how and where to house all of his inventory, including an enormous amount ammunition and black powder. At this point Mr. Bannerman decided to buy Pollepel Island outside of the city and build a giant warehouse.


The Island

Pollepel Island has a history all its own. During the Revolutionary war it was used, fruitlessly, as chevaux-de-frise against British shops sailing up the Hudson. It was also used by early Dutch sailors who would get dropped off on the island if they were thought to be excessively drunk and unruly. When the sailors sobered up they would be retrieved from the island by lowering a bucket from the ship. The Dutch called this a pollepel or ladle and it is likely the namesake for the island.


The Castle

Francis VI purchased the island in 1901 and subsequently built four arsenals, living quarters for his employees, and a residence for himself. The arsenals served not only as gigantic warehouses but also huge billboards advertising the name of his business.

Bannerman Residence

Bannerman Residence

The architecture was quite grand for surplus military supply storage and borrowed from the Scottish baronial style of Bannerman’s homeland. The island saw its first disaster only 17 years later when the power house exploded and left many of the island’s buildings in ruins. What survived the explosion was effected by a fire some 50 years later of unknown origin. Because of these two violent events, the island’s structures deteriorated, collapsed, and turned into the ruins that we can see today. All of the buildings constructed on the island were designed by Francis and often built with little more than hand sketches.


Drones explore abandoned Bannerman Castle located in the Hudson River in upstate NY.

Thankfully, the island is now apart of the Hudson Highlands State Park and is well cared for by the Bannerman Castle Trust. The Trust hosts guided tours of the island's ruins and maintains the history of the site for future generations. It was a great day trip and I would recommend it to anyone up for a little adventure and history.

 

Amy Jarvis, Associate AIA

Amy Jarvis, Associate AIA

 

New York's Forgotten Century of Terror

Today we observe the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Sixteen years on, we can be proud of the rebuilding effort taking place. New York is a resilient city and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum will ensure that the events of that horrific day are remembered for generations to come. The Museum also commemorates the 1993 World Trade Center bombing which killed six people and injured over a thousand. For the most part, New York has been lucky, with only one well reported event last year, a bomb exploding in a dumpster on 23rd Street slightly injuring 29 people. Unknown to most, this was only one of hundreds, yes… hundreds of terrorist attacks that have occurred in New York in the past century. The movements that inspired these terrorist acts have been relegated to the ash dump of history and New York has persevered as a bastion of freedom and prosperity. Here is a brief history of some of the more notable terrorist events of the past hundred years.

The early 1900’s were a fervent period of unrest with anarchists, left wing radicals, and Marxist operatives carrying out multiple bombings throughout the country.

July 4th, 1914 on Lexington Ave. and 103rd Street. Three bomb makers were killed when an explosion went off prematurely in the apartment where they were assembling the device. Their likely target was John D. Rockefeller Jr., Director of US Steel, and son of John Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil. The dead were identified as members of the Industrial Workers of the World. The intended bomb plot was probably retaliation for the Ludlow Massacre, the killing of nineteen striking coal miners by the Colorado National Guard at a mine partially owned by Rockefeller.

In April of 1919, mail bombs were sent to prominent politicians and government officials throughout the country. On June 2nd of that year, coordinated bombings occurred in eight major U.S. cities. Bomb laden packages were sent to officials and judges responsible for the anti-sedition laws and for sentencing anarchists to prison. In New York two anarchists were killed when they planted a bomb at the doorstep of a prominent judge on East 61st Street. The front of the home was demolished and windows were shattered for blocks around.

September 16, 1920 was a typical day on Wall Street. The bell tower at Trinity Church just chimed for the 12th time signaling high noon. The streets were teaming with stockbrokers, clerks, and office workers heading out for lunch. Nobody noticed the horse drawn cart parked in front of the J.P. Morgan headquarters at 23 Wall Street. The cart, which was packed with explosives and window sash weights, exploded in a massive fireball that tore through the financial district. Thirty-eight people were killed and over 150 severely injured. It was the largest terrorist attack in the United States until the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. At first it was thought to be an accident. Transportation of explosives to construction sites was commonplace. However, it was soon suspected to be the work of terrorists. The Bureau of Investigation, forerunner to the FBI, investigated for years but no one was ever convicted of the heinous crime, although Italian anarchist followers of Luigi Galleani were thought to be responsible. After the FBI reopened the case in 1944, a Galleanist named Mario Buda was identified as the most likely culprit. Buda fled to Italy soon after the explosion and was never brought up on charges. To this day shrapnel damage is still visible in the limestone façade of 23 Wall Street.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s New York was terrorized by a series of bombings and attempted bombings that confounded police officials for the better part of sixteen years. Thirty three pipe bombs were hidden at locations throughout the city such as Radio City Music Hall, Grand Central Station, the NY Public Library, and Port Authority Bus Terminal. Twenty two bombs detonated. While no one was killed, fifteen people were injured. The bomber left notes for the police and to newspapers complaining about Con Edison. The perpetrator was dubbed “the Mad Bomber” and was thought to be a disgruntled ex Con Edison employee. Hundreds of former Con Ed employees were tracked, but the investigation was hampered by false leads, crank letters, and copycats. By 1956 the NYPD embarked on the greatest manhunt in the history of the police department. They employed one of the first uses of psychological profiling in a criminal investigation. The profiler accuratly predicted the suspect’s appearance, personality, motivations, and even the clothes he would be wearing at the time of his arrest. The police followed up on a lead provided by a Con Ed clerk after checking company records and arrested George Matesky in his Waterbury, Connecticut home. It turns out he had a grievance against Con Ed for an accident that occurred in the 1930’s for which he felt he was not adequately compensated. Matesky was convicted of a battery of charges, but was found to be a paranoid schizophrenic and was committed. He was released in 1973.

George Matesky: the Con Ed employee who became the Mad Bomber and eluded the NYPD for sixteen years.

The 1939-40 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows was the second most expansive World’s Fair held in America after the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. Forty four million people attended the fair and sixty countries from across the globe set up exhibitions and pavilions. The theme was the future and the world of tomorrow, but no one could predict that the fair would be the site of a terrorist bombing that took the lives of two NYPD bomb squad detectives. The bomb was planted in a mechanical room of the British Pavilion. The squad removed the bomb outside and was attempting to diffuse it when it exploded. It was July 4th, 1940, a date who’s significance was not lost on those investigating the crime. Two weeks earlier two bombs exploded in the German Consulate Building at Battery Park and by 1940, England was already at war with Germany. Investigators thought the device was planted by operatives of the American Bund or Nazi Party who were very active in New York at the time or the Irish Republican Army. However, others believe that British intelligence planted the bomb to garner sympathy and help bring the Americans into the war against the Germans. 

After an exhaustive investigation by the NYPD and FBI, no arrests were ever made. The case remains open.

Greenwich Village between 5th & 6th Avenue, an enclave of tidy Federal and Greek Revival style town houses, would not seem to be a likely hotbed of terrorist activity, but for one day in 1970 it was just that. The neighborhood, also known as the Central Village, was close to the epicenter of the counter cultural revolution taking place in the West Village. The townhouse at 18 West 11th Street was owned by the father of a member of a leftist terror organization called the Weathermen, an offshoot of the Weather Underground, a militant faction of the Students for Democratic Society who bombed the Pentagon and the US Capital. On March 6th, 1970, a group was assembling a nail bomb in the basement when it detonated prematurely destroying the building and killing three of the organization members. Two others on the 2nd floor were stunned and bloody but survived the blast and managed to escape. The blast was initially thought to be natural gas explosion, but upon further examination, munitions and bomb making equipment were found. The home was originally owned Charles Merrill, the founder of Merrill Lynch, and was rebuilt in 1978 by Hugh Hardy.

Fraunce’s Tavern at 54 Pearl Street in lower Manhattan is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As the location of pre-revolutionary meetings of the Sons of Liberty and the place where General Washington bid his farewell to arms, it holds a vaunted place in the history of the US. It is also a popular tourist destination, restaurant, and gathering spot. It was probably for those reasons that FALN, a Puerto Rican Marxist terror group, chose it for a bomb attack on January 24th, 1975, killing four people and injuring several dozen more. FALN was responsible for over a hundred bombings in the 70’s and 80’s in their quest for Puerto Rican independence from the US. The bombing was recently in the news as the former leader, Oscar Lopez River, who spent 35 years in prison on terror related charges, was invited by parade organizers to lead the last annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. After several corporate sponsors backed out and political pressure mounted, the parade organizers rescinded their invitation.

So, it seems that the ‘good ol' days’ weren’t always so good. New York has been a hotbed of terrorist activities for over 100 years. The nature of threats to the city is ever changing, but New York is nothing if not resilient and has recovered from every attack that has been perpetrated upon us. Our law enforcement infrastructure is better than it has ever been and are probably safer today than we were for the better part of the 20th century. Thankfully, we have had a relatively low occurrence of terrorist incidents since 9/11. As we commemorate 9/11, let us not forget New York's turbulent history and be cognizant of our our city's vulnerabilities, as well as its visibility on the world stage as a representation of freedom and prosperity.


Marc Gordon, AIA, LEED® AP BD+C, Partner

 
 

Life’s a Beach

One of my favorite places on earth and a great example of successful urban planning is Lynch Park in my hometown of Beverly, MA. Fond memories of riding my banana seat bike there back in the days when you could disappear from your parents all day are bittersweet.

I loved this place so and still miss it.

The Park holds two beaches, a playground, a spooky rose garden watched over by witches, a band shell, and, of course, a concession stand. Many a French fry and ice cream sandwich were had.

Memory Lane:

I frequented the second beach more than the first due to a long path that reaches out for what seems like miles into the ocean during low tide. Finding sand dollars on the beach, snails on and crabs under barnacle ridden rocks was unendingly entertaining.

My mother, when in attendance, preferred a spot on a beach chair in front of the band shell when concerts were held, especially during the Homecoming Week in late summer when all our friends and neighbors would be there as well for…LOBSTER FEST! Corn on the cob and lob-stah to the strains of Bach anyone?

And of course, the bewitched rose garden, which I found more exciting than the playground. “Whoever enters here let him beware—For he shall nevermore escape nor be free of my spell”. YIKES! After braving the entrance with whatever ritual made you safe that day, you had lions to ride, benches to climb, paths to roam, flowers to smell, and a gazebo to commandeer.

Photo 4.jpg

The Falconer is right outside of the garden, additional protection from some “Double, double toil and trouble”. Honestly, I didn’t pay him too much mind as a kid and his role is actually as a symbol of home and memories of good times had at Lynch Park. But hey, he can be both things in an adult’s imagination, right?

Photo 7.jpg

Kristen Persinos, Marketing Director

Kristen Persinos, Marketing Director

 
 

For Your Safety

As the end of August creeps up, many of us are fondly looking back to our summer travels. One thing you may have overlooked while jet setting to some exotic faraway land is something I always look out for: airline safety cards. Sure, maybe some of you take out your headphones during the safety announcement as a courtesy. Or perhaps you check out the safety cards by accident when you reach into the pocket only to realize that Skymall has finally been discontinued. If you’ve ever flown before, you already know the gist of what to do in an emergency.

In all seriousness, the safety card is an interesting piece of media that must delicately balance the feeling of urgency and safety. It has to achieve many things. It must convey crucial safety information that can be understood in many languages while instilling a state of calm for a decidedly stressful situation.

One thing that has fascinated me about airline safety cards is the variety of design types at different airlines. Each card essentially conveys the same message. However, it is the approach of the design at each airline that has piqued my interest. Over the years, I've started to collect the cards I find during my travels. I think it's interesting to compare and contrast the designs while also using them as a token to remember my trip. Here is a sneak peek into my collection. Take a look at the differences in color palette, use of text, and even the amount of realism or abstraction. Each card has its own voice.

Which ones do you think are the most effective?


Air France

China Eastern

Delta

Vueling

XL Airways


Katy Marino, Designer

 
 

Home Renovation

As architects, we are concerned with improving the built environment around us. It is inherent in what we do: designing new or renovating offices, buildings, and, in some cases, homes. Day in and day out, we work on our client’s projects, so it’s rare that we work on something that actually impacts us directly.

Fortunately, I embarked on a substantial home renovation project with my wife nearly six months ago. With construction nearing completion in the coming weeks, I wanted to share a few tips that we abided by that might come in handy for your project. 

1) Building projects are tricky, and building projects in NYC are twice as difficult! I recommend hiring an experienced architect to guide you through the entire process. They can help manage the contractors and navigate the DOB bureaucracy. 

2) Home renovations can be emotional, especially if it's your own. Try to get outside impartial opinions on the design or layout when you can. Don’t take criticism too personally.

1-4.jpg

3) You never know what's inside the walls until you start opening them up. Like most homes built before 1950, the walls were plaster and lath construction. In our case, all the demolition of the existing interior walls took much longer than anticipated. On the down side, you may also come across asbestos in an older house.

a.jpg

We revealed some old penny and hexagon floor tiles during demolition that must have been covered up by the previous homeowner many years ago. While we couldn’t salvage them, we were inspired to install hexagonal tile in the kitchen as a nod to the home’s history.

4) Floor plans. It goes without saying that a well thought out, functional, and practical floor plan is vital to the success of any renovation project. You can have the most expensive imported marble counters, but if the kitchen work triangle is inefficient, it would not matter. For us, it took many iterations over several weeks to arrive at a floor plan that worked, but even then we made tweaks to it over the course of construction.

5) Think about how you plan on using the space. Are you social and will have guests over all the time? Then perhaps a larger living room/ dining room/ kitchen is in order. Eat out more often than not? Then reduce your kitchen square footage in lieu of larger dining room. 

Understand the Sun! It is important to understand the movement of the sun and how it can impact the locations of rooms in your home. If you have an eastern exposure, you will have bright morning sun. It’s great for waking you up on weekdays but not if you enjoy sleeping in on weekends. If you have southern exposure, you will have strong solar heat gain for the bulk of the day. Plan your window treatment accordingly. If you have western exposure, you'll get views of the sun as it sets. That’s great for evening dining/ cooking/ entertaining. North facing exposures get nice ambient light. This is great for displaying art, but is cooler in the winter. Window treatment is not a necessity as there is never any direct light to filter. 

7) Think of your home in the long run. You never know if you will wind up selling the house years down the line. Therefore, it is best to consider materials and products that can be maintained easily and can help retain your home's value. Adding an extra half bathroom or guest bedroom is great if you can fit it. Trendier splurges, like an in-home spa or built-in fish tank, may be more trouble than they are worth. 

8) Finally – remember that you are the client! You ultimately know how you want to renovate your home – how many bedrooms, how many bathrooms, what kind of kitchen cabinets. Now let your design team, led by the architect, help you bring your vision to life. 

 

 

William Wong, AIA, LEED® AP, Associate

 

Retail Evolution

Having been a part of the Spacesmith family for about 2.5 years now has given me the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the realm of retail, specificially the world of Hermès of Paris. I have been working almost exclusively on Hermès construction projects since I started and it's been an interesting adventure getting to understand the intricate details of high end shopping.

This experience allows me to reflect back on the vast extremes of retail design, organization, and its evolution in other countries. I thought it would be interesting to compare examples of retail sales in a place that is close to my heart, the small town of Ibarra, Michoacan, located fairly close to Guadalajara, Mexico.

My mother immigrated from a small farming village known best for its production of vegetables including avacados, tomatoes, corn, and the list goes on. The population of Ibarra has grown incredibly in the last 60 years giving way to a larger demand for vegetables, goods, and services.

Economic Relationship to Neighboring Towns


A very brief history:

After the Mexican Revolution, land in Mexico, which was once owned by a single elite ruling class, was divided into large lots and given to the people as part of the deal to owners. Land was later illegally subdivided and sold. Irregular settlements like Ibarra were born all over Mexico. Born as a satellite city to Guadalajara and Mexico City, Ibarra is located directly adjacent to Lake Chapala on inexpensive wetland territory. Remotely located, people had little to no financial resources for travel and access to basic necessities. Until a decade ago the town was still informal with little access to running water or electricity. In 2007, the state of Michoacan began to formalize the land by removing dirt roads and replacing them with cement. Running water and sewage for toilets was brought to each home a few years prior. 

As the population grew, farming land was scarce and access to basic necessities was limited. Agricultural output was entirely exported and the people evolved financially using "the creative art of selling".

Evolution of Market

Today in Ibarra the most common means of income is trade and sales. Selling started in the form of an open market. Then, as the need for a common marketplace died, individual families opened up and dedicated small portions of their home to sell goods and services. The need to enter one's home created a scenario that was not visible or inviting enough. Stores expanded onto the street. As families grew and need was higher than demand in the immediate vicinity of the home, sales became mobilized. If you visit the town today, anything you image can be bought and delivered right to your doorstep: food, fresh water, and appliances.

Evolution of Vending Economy - Revival of Market Culture

Much like the American trend, access to the internet can bring you anything you can imagine in a very short period of time! In Ibarra, someone will drive up to your doorstep each day and announce on a speaker: tortillas, sweet bread, vegetables, fruit, cleaning supplies, drinks, mariachi, garbage collection, fresh bread, laundry services, lottery tickets, scrap metal collection, water, gas, caskets, funeral services, flowers, and clothes! 

The art of shopping is literally at your fingertips.


 

Olga Anaya, Designer