Strategic design and financial development for individual projects, large developments anywhere in the world.

Architecture and Humanity

Posted: May 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Before returning to ‘Green and Savings’, I’d like to go back to my roots – architecture and humanity, and the idea of Man and Woman and our children.

We love to be in cities, or at least visit them beyond our work for all that they offer. Varied, rich cultures of all kinds exist in larger cities like NY, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco.

These days, cities are struggling to retain excitement as people move out due to cost, density, or other issues like lack of required level of education or places to play for children. This in turn changes local buying power, and creates an issue with diminishing vibrancy of street life with cafes, small stores, small intimate movie houses, etc.

So cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, try to make waterfronts and cultural institutions more accessible. Inner city has turned into day business districts with ever higher looming high rise towers and dull storefronts with mega stores – none green in ANY way due to all the restrictions for the landlord.

Landlords maximize rental income within a zoning envelope (this in turn makes curtain walls thin and are expected to last 30 years, no more! How to replace is a good question.) and there is no local population at night. But these areas too depend on local population and not just visitors. So WATERFRONTS (or PARKS) are truly important last ‘forts’ for vibrancy and for keeping active people in the city itself before they relocate to car culture suburbs (which will be addressed in a future blog).

Our (USA) public image is at stake too as businesses and tourists visit these locations more than others. The fact that our great plans for real linear parks along the water front have withered to mere strips of pedestrian and bicycle paths at most places is still better than it was before. We have access to the river at least.

The common element that keeps the waterfront out of use (by local people or tourists) is access. If public transportation is not close, both housing density changes, and also the usage of the waterfront. The success of Central Park in New York City is because of its size and excellent transportation.

Had New York City built the lower Manhattan Hudson riverfront based on our proposals in late 1988, the entire lower Manhattan would have more families living there longer than the usual early career professionals. This in turn would have created a need for new subway line, better serving waste areas in now off the beaten track areas.

No real parks have been created since Riverside Park in New York City in 1910, one hundred and ONE years ago. Thinking of our children would have been a reason enough to create some. (The attached images from my first prize winning competition serves a quiet footnote to what could have been, and what is).

Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco have also all cleaned up and enriched their waterfronts but the dream where real people stroll every day and enjoy various activities is a gone era.

As a point of reference, within the top 10 cities in the world for livability, 8 of them are on waterfronts that are highly usable. And personally I have to agree knowing most of them well.

Tapani Talo, AIA
NY Super Studio Architects
NY Architecture Firm

Why Green Building?

Posted: May 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: green building | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Cooper Union - A Green Building

Why Green Building?

This seems like such an odd question to me.

Let’s use an analogy from history. About 100 years ago car companies bought canals, trams and train lines in the UK and the USA in order to shut them down as competition to roads and cars.

Today, in some European countries, the governments have decided that since water and rail is 90% cheaper than transport, the NATIONS themselves will benefit from these savings, and thus they encourage this form of transportation mode.

We can think the same about wasting 90% of energy in houses, cars, commercial buildings, factories, roads and public systems (like duplicate bus systems –school buses that can be used to transport both children and the elderly– and list goes on).

Now our ARMY is changing their entire operation to be less dependent on transported fuels and supplies, as it has proven to be an Achilles heel in dealings around the world.

For us here, we are less competitive due to waste. We depend on high power equipment and buildings and roads that suck our energy when not built or maintained with the latest technology. Every corporation looks after their EVERY expense, and where it can be eliminated, it will.

Good Green is MORE comfortable, and less worrisome as fewer things go wrong.

Green Building would employ the sector that is currently most hurt. It can also be retrained, as Green Building does require people who have at least some education.

The most effective and quickest way would be to give people in the US army a continuing 3 months course in Green Building, and thus we would have a driven and motivated people all around US with this new skill set. The army could teach them how to build 80% or better projects, rather than current method of sealing leaky windows and adding new siding or shingles with new building paper for wind break. Even college graduates should have this training regardless of their degree as Green Building affects all of us. Building codes should require builders, mechanical and electrical contractors, and even building inspectors (yes indeed, as most of them do not understand) to pass a test.

What would the value of our country be if everyone participated? With the current oil price, housing would be 200 billion a year, commercial and industrial the same. Transportation related at least the same. This does not include the huge employment and technological advancements and related competitive products that would come out of this for us that we could sell around the world. All told a trillion a year – and what was the current budget dispute? – a fraction of this.

Currently NOBODY builds the right kind of roofs, windows with shades, or walls in US. When I ask about the equipment being installed, or how much energy it consumes there is generally no answer, except on the occasional single project by a very rare architect and client combination. Even on my own projects, I have to create a WILLING construction team myself in order to make it happen.

Tapani Talo, AIA

NY Super Studio Architects, New York provides sustainable building solutions. We are proud to be a part of the Green Building movement. For more information on Green Building, contact us at 914-645-2940.

WTC-Freedom Tower

Cooper Square Hotel

Typical High Power

Gehry's Office Block

Love and How to Start Good Design

Posted: May 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: green building | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Love (personal with couples, artists, intellectuals and general society) is the root of good design. In looking back throughout my career, only clients with this attitude created good designs. Others were projects.

No one (except one person who relocated his job) has sold or rented my residential projects. They love them so much. In commercial designs I have been 100% successful delivering what clients want in my own practice, as well as with masters like Edward Barnes, James Polshek, Philip Johnson, and others at earlier parts of my career. And this has applied to my portrait painting, and photography art.

Now at 60 – almost 61 — and having had a sort of a sabbatical during nursing my late wife through stage 4 breast cancer for 8 and ½ years up until last year, I had the opportunity take a Zen look at what is important and why I‘ve had this fortune.

So yesterday at Shakespeare and Co. Book Store it dawned on me that all my designs and art had a common root. The composition and light feel similar to the works of Rembrandt and Picasso. Because I have the desire and ability to listen to client’s wishes I am able to adopt not just one way of designing but am at ease with almost any look needed for successful designs that fit city or neighborhood – and occasionally become true contemporary art pieces.

The Zen position of design is harmonious and modest –even when the project is hard hitting and contemporary– and it requires respecting every client.

I find that it is also sometimes like a good sentence: short, snappy, vivid, and with character. In architecture,the beginning words of the sentence are “material” (one or two main materials are picked at the beginning of a project), “light” which represents color scheme, and “site” — the views upon which the client’s program gets molded.

The next step in the Pre-Design phase is the most difficult as none of the national contract forms address this correctly:

First, double check the program! Many times huge savings have occurred just by helping the client rethink the initial program.

All designs and art start with taking time to THINK (including time with key consultants). The duration of this time should be 3 months minimum (6 to 9 months or even longer for High Art).

This also applies to GREEN Building and cost effective design. Currently all software, materials, means and methods are changing so rapidly (monthly), that if one does not adopt the best and absolutely latest software in the beginning, the client will lose 20% in wasted contraction costs. For larger firms adopting the latest software is very difficult, as they have to change so many work stations and train staff. NY Super Studio Architects adopts the latest software for each job individually.

Finding the right mix of consultants and contractors who really understand GREEN Design and respect it is even more difficult, as they have to build differently from how they did in the past. Most contractors and engineers do not know how to price this thinking. They don’t know how to change and thus are unwilling to provide customers with what’s new and prefer to proceed only with known methods and suppliers.


Tapani Talo, AIA