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New Landscaped Roof Spaces Encourage Residents to Stay Awhile

“You would think New York City is the worst place for a garden, but being on a roof here is priceless,” said François Bléhaut, project manager at Gunn Landscape Architecture. “If you work in, say, Midtown, it’s really magical to be able to see the sky. It’s really unique to have space above your head. It’s more magical than anywhere else because of the contrast.”

The same can be said of all things trees, shrubs, grass and flowers in an urban environment.

“This is actually something that has science behind it,” said Gwenn Fried, manager of Horticultural Therapy Services at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation. That’s the use of plants and things in nature as a modality to effect change in a person. Plants, Ms. Fried said, are non-judgmental, intellectually and sensorially stimulating and normalizing. At one of the service locations, the Hospital for Joint Diseases, a terrace garden is currently in construction, to supplement the treatment that includes workshops and trips to nearby parks.  

Landscaped terraces, rooftops and other outdoor spaces have been all the rage in New York City for years, and demand shows no sign of ceasing, according to real estate brokers and designers.

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In Hamilton Heights, A Townhome Reflects the Neighborhood’s History

IMG_4077“Hamilton Grange is destined to be a first-class and exclusive residence quarter,” predicted The Real Estate Record and Guide in September 1890.

Hamilton Heights, the northern Manhattan neighborhood referenced above, was named for founding father and Broadway star Alexander Hamilton, who acquired 32 acres there by 1800. The area remained relatively rural (mansions and farms plus the Croton Water Aqueduct construction) until the 1880s, when the Eighth and Tenth Avenue streetcar lines were extended. Rapid transit inspired residential growth, primarily led by William H. De Forest, a silk importer turned developer turned mental patient.

It was thought that this picturesque area would mimic the East Side, where rows of townhouses reigned, space was running out and land values were high. Tenth Avenue was renamed Amsterdam in 1890 to encourage the uptick. And a subway stop at 145th was in the works.

Mr. De Forest had acquired most of Mr. Hamilton’s land (roughly W. 141st to W. 149th Streets, west of Convent Avenue) and more, divided it into hundreds of lots, and sold or developed them with his son. In 1886, pre-city zoning, he created a 20-year deed restricting new construction to “brick or stone dwellings at least two stories in height.”

That was code for private residences, which was code for unrelated people living under one roof is vulgar, something other ethnicities and races might do. There were limitations on use, too, a condition of sales that were not uncommon throughout the city: no stables, no factories, no bawdy houses and so forth. No manure in my backyard.

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Urban Landscape Designers are Busier Than Ever

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Inside the Interior Foliage Design greenhouse

Since 1733, when Bowling Green was established “for the beauty and ornament of the said street as well as for the of the inhabitants of this city,” greenery has been appreciated for its immediate and long term benefits to New York City’s residents and properties. Street landscaping, according to a comprehensive Department of Transportation design manual, decreases energy costs, subdues street noise (“providing health and psychological benefits”), attracts customers to nearby businesses and increases property values.

This is not news, of course, yet these days developers, building owners and tenants have renewed interest in landscape design.

“We are very proud of our landscaped roofs at 250 Hudson Street and Symphony House (235 West 56th Street), as well as our straight, extensive green roof systems at 255 Greenwich Street,” said John Resnick, on trend to say the least. Landscape architects, designers and gardeners are bustling with requests for green roofs and rooftop gardens, green walls and vertical gardens, terraces, sidewalks, atriums, lobbies and every other imaginable space.

“Landlords realize this is attractive,” said Stuart Schechter, the owner of Interior Foliage Design, recalling the creation of the plant-filled 277 Park Avenue atrium in the early 1980s. “Plants and flowers are part of marketing. Outdoor spaces can reflect what’s inside.”

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First Look at the Broad, L.A.'s Newest Architectural Marvel

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This Sunday, September 20th, more than five years after work began, L.A.’s new contemporary art museum -The Broad- will open to the public. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro the $140-million, 12,000-square-foot building houses some 2000 works of art that comprise Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection.

“We were essentially building a warehouse that happened to have gallery space,” said Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Kevin Rice, project director. “So we decided to use that as a protagonist. Instead of putting storage in the basement we put it in the middle, as an element you’re always moving around, under, through.”

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Say Grace: Gabriel Kreuther at the Grace Building

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42nd Street Entrance

This June, the Grace Building (1114 Avenue of the Americas), designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the early ’70s, welcomed what many consider the most ambitious new restaurant in the city: Gabriel Kreuther, which is named for its chef. Ambitious here means fine dining, a category all but forgotten in today’s comfort-cheap food frenzy. And all it took to remember was a group of out-of-town private investors represented by Eben Dorros, president of a Jackson Hole, Wyo.-based bakery with a location in Chicago.

Mr. Dorros, who holds both a masters in music and film composition and a MBA in music business from NYU, said he and his partners set out to create something special in New York. “Gabriel’s style is unique in of itself, so the concept was simple: share Gabriel with the world and not under the umbrella of another concept.”

Mr. Kreuther came to New York City in 1997. He worked his way from sous chef at La Caravelle to chef de cuisine at Jean-Georges before taking the executive chef role at The Modern, the position he’s most known and lauded for. Fans will recognize Alsatian themes in the new restaurant’s menu. Think French and expect sauerkraut and tarte flambee.

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When Larry Met Bjarke…

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Bjarke Ingels and Larry Silverstein at 7 WTC

“It’s like in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” said Bjarke Ingels, scrolling through images of gorgeous, multi-masted wooden sailboats on his phone, about to agree with Larry Silverstein who’d just extolled the fjords of Norway.

“Come here,” said Mr. Silverstein, gently interrupting, reaching out his arm, guiding Mr. Ingels away from the reception area and into his office at 7 World Trade Center.

“Can we come?” asked those who remained: a reporter, a photographer and two publicists (one each for Messers. Silverstein and Ingels).

“No,” said Mr. Silverstein. This was to be a private moment for the city’s newest power couple: developer and architect, honeymooning after their engagement was announced.

Last week BIG, the Bjarke Ingels Group, a New York-based design firm birthed in Copenhagen, unveiled its design for a (probably) 80-story, 1,340-foot building at 200 Greenwich Street, the fourth and final skyscraper at the 16-acre World Trade Center site. That’s 2 World Trade Center, the one that was maybe to open in 2016, the one where construction was halted at street level in 2010. The Liberty Bonds and insurance money funding 3 and 4 World Trade Center was not enough for building 2, too. It’s also the one that was originally designed by Lord Norman Foster in 2005.

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2,000 Pound Aerial Art Looms Over Boston

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courtesy of Shawmut Design and Construction

Boston-based sculptor Janet Echelman, recipient of the 2014 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Visual Arts, was selected from a pool of 97 artists to create an installation for her hometown. On display from May to October 2015 in the city's Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway park, “As If It Were Already Here” is a 2,000-pound, half-acre-sized aerial sculpture made of hand-sliced rope and more than half a million knots.

And all it took to install was one 190-ton crane, five 60-ton cranes and 50 people at a time for 20 hours.

Read complete storyand see excellent mini slideshow and installation time-lapse video at InteriorDesign.netJanet Echelman's Massive Aerial Art Looms Over Boston

Whitney Museum Opens May 1, NYC

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On May 1, four years after breaking ground and seven years after initial designs were released, The Whitney Museum of American Art opens its new space at 99 Gansevoort Street, the site of a former meatpacking facility. The museum’s first iteration—Whitney Studio, a place for artists created by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1914—was located at 8 West 8th Street, just a few blocks away. In the new structure's lobby-level gallery, Whitney herself can been seen lounging on a divan, welcoming the eyes of the press who visited the site this week in anticipation of the official opening.

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NYC and Landlords are Going Green

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Spring at The New York Botanical Garden

The word “green” means different things to different people. For many developers and building owners, it’s what fills their pockets. But if you’re an environmentalist, it means something else entirely. However, sustainability is now officially poised to affect everyone in real estate. Last September Mayor Bill de Blasio committed New York City to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. That means it’s time for the industry to reconsider their favorite color.

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The Incarnations of Times Square’s Knickerbocker Hotel

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View of Times Square New Year's Eve Ball from roof of Knickerbocker Hotel

In February, a bit of New York City hospitality history was resurrected with the opening of The Knickerbocker Hotel at 6 Times Square, at 1466 Broadway. The 230,000-square-foot building on the southeast corner of West 42nd Street and Broadway was built in 1906 by John Jacob Astor IV for a hotel of the same name.

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An original column (original paint!) in now-closed subway-level floor of Knickerbocker Hotel