Throwback Thursday: Water Under the Bridge, Danger Under the Water

This blog post was written by Dan Antonellis in honor of Brooklyn Bridge Opening Day, which was Wednesday! After 14 years of construction, the Brooklyn Bridge opened to traffic on May 24, 1883, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn for the first time in history. Dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world,” the bridge changed New York City forever.

Fill a bathtub with water and find a drinking glass. Flip the glass upside down and push it to the bottom of the tub. The water from the tub won’t get inside the glass because of the air trapped inside. It’s about air pressure, physics and other science-related topics I won’t even attempt to explain in this post.

Now stay with me. Picture tiny people standing inside that glass on the bottom of the tub, chipping away at the porcelain with miniature picks and shovels. The air in that glass will eventually run out, so you’ll need a tube poking out of the top of the glass and up and out of the water so that good air can come in and bad air can get out. After all, these tiny people need to breathe as they continue picking away and digging at the bottom of your tub.

Holding a glass upside down at the bottom of the bathtub is the basic premise behind one of the most intriguing and dangerous feats in U.S. engineering and construction history — the building of the underwater foundations that would lie at the bottom of New York’s East River and support the massive towers of the historic Brooklyn Bridge.

The Great Bridge

The vision for “The Great Bridge” (later named the Brooklyn Bridge) was simple enough — to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn and open travel and trade between the two independent cities. (Brooklyn was its own city until it was annexed by New York City in 1898.) The bridge would eventually span 1,600 feet across the river, connecting two masses of land that had been separated by water for millions of years.

BrooklynBridgeSchematic

An early plan for the Brooklyn Bridge. (Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)

The Brooklyn Bridge was designed like most suspension bridges. While they differ aesthetically and hold distinct places in history, they all share certain visual and engineering characteristics in common. Cables that stretch from bridge towers to the highways like giant spider webs. Roads seemingly suspended in air — many of which can span from 2,000 to 7,000 feet long. And of course, the massive towers that stand tall and strong, anchoring the bridge components to the earth and literally holding it all together. Those towers need to be firmly grounded and dug into bedrock, like any other tall structure.

Back in 1869, long before the days of pounding piles into the ground using sophisticated equipment and heavy machinery, there were men, picks and shovels. And plenty of danger to go around. Continue Reading ›

A park or farm in the last place you’d look

Inventive designs cram bounties of vegetation into unexpected spaces

In dense and growing cities, plant life is at a premium. Urban planners know the benefits of a bit of botany. As San Francisco-based advocacy group Canopy explains, trees suck up carbon dioxide while they pump out oxygen, making our air cleaner. Trees’ leafy cover provide shade, while their roots mitigate flooding. Grassy parks visually break up our concrete streetscape with green space, and they promote community interaction and physical activity. All of this makes city living healthier than it would be otherwise.

But designers have to be pretty creative to pursue these goals in the midst of a development boom. That’s why around the world, architects are finding innovative ways to carve out some elbow room for greenery in the built environment.

green2Pictured above and at right, the Botanic Center in Brussels represents one such solution. The architect, Vincent Callebaut, has proposed dramatically sprucing up a 1977 concrete apartment block with the addition of 274 planter beds to the façade and a striking “Chrysalis” on the roof—a steel-and-glass observation pod filled with a variety of plants and topped with wind turbines and a solar panel array.

From Tapei to New York City, from structures that reach the sky to tunnels that run beneath our feet, here are a few other designs that feature flora in unlikely quarters.


Agora Garden

Another Callebaut creation, this twisting tower in Tapei topped out last November and is slated for completion next September. (Inhabitat has a very cool slideshow of Agora Garden under construction.) As you can see from the above rendering, every one of its 22 stories will be packed with tree- and shrub-laden balconies. And these aren’t simply aesthetic amenities. Callebaut intends for residents to have sufficient outdoor space to grow their own produce. He estimates the plants will absorb 130 tons of carbon dioxide a year. On top of that, the building will incorporate solar energy, rainwater recycling, composting and other measures to further limit its impact on the environment.

Low Line

The Lowline

You may have heard of New York’s High Line, a park running along a disused section of elevated rail tracks. The Lowline takes that idea underground. An abandoned trolley subway tunnel beneath the streets of the Lower East Side will serve as the site for the world’s first underground park. How will the park’s plants flourish? Solar irrigation. A network of mirrors brings sunlight through pipes down into the tunnel, where the sun, normally, wouldn’t shine. The development team built a proof-of-concept Lowline Lab that proved a popular attraction over the past year or so. That bodes well for the full Lowline, projected for completion in 2021.

07_View-of-Southern-space-looking-north-from-Gansevoort-Peninsula_reduced-1400x989

Pier 55

British starchitect Thomas Heatherwick designed this 2.4-acre park to be sited atop an artificial island in New York’s Hudson River. Alternately called Diller Island after its developer, Barry Diller, Pier 55 is slated for completion in 2019. A distinctive element of the island is its support system. Heatherwick designed it to lie upon hundreds of concrete columns rising out of the water to varying heights, for a rolling landscape effect, up to 62 feet. While traditional steel piles have already been driven into the bedrock in the center of the site, the mushroom-shaped columns about the perimeter will be hollow precast concrete piers, to be filled with concrete on site.

Although the Army Corps of Engineers signed off on the design, the project recently stalled in federal court. However, it has weathered several court challenges so far, and it has the support of the mayor, the governor, and neighborhood groups. In any case, the design suggests the possibilities opened up by building on water—a long tradition in coastal cities. (Stay tuned to this blog for more on artificial island construction.)

0440-0

Mashambas

Skyscrapers are typically found in cities. But the winners of the eVolo Magazine 2017 Skyscraper Competition, Polish architects Pawel Lipiński and Mateusz Frankowski, instead direct our attention to rural, sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 40 percent of people live in absolute poverty. (The United Nations defines absolute poverty as a condition in which people suffer from not only low income but also a lack of access to food, safe drinking water, shelter, and other resources.) To attack this problem, Lipiński and Frankowski imagine a farming and educational center in a temporary, modular high-rise that can be assembled, disassembled, and transported from one site in need to another.

The Polish team’s prize-winning concept, Mashambas (from a Swahili word meaning farmland) would feature a permanent farmer’s market on the ground floor, with elevated “fields” for farming on the floors above. The structure would also contain warehouses—for fertilizer, seeds, drones, and equipment—and classrooms. In the architects’ vision, staff would use those classrooms, as well as the farming modules, to train local subsistence farmers in modern agricultural practices. The farmers would then move on to growing crops in their own fields nearby. Eventually, the community would become self-sufficient, and the Mashambas tower could be dismantled and shipped to the next village, leaving behind the anchoring farmer’s market and one-story warehouses.

To be sure, a vertical farm might work at least as well in a cramped urban environment, but by siting their winning eVolo design in a developing rural region, Lipiński and Frankowski are raising awareness of the struggle farmers there face.

Mashambas interior

This post was written by Suffolk Construction’s Content Writer Patrick L. Kennedy, with additional research by Suffolk Intern Simone McLaren. If you have questions, Patrick can be reached at PKennedy@suffolk.com. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here or follow him on Twitter at @PK_Build_Smart.

New York’s tallest modular, micro-apartment building meets Manhattan’s housing needs

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.33.58 AM

Carmel Place is located at 335 East 25th Street in the Kips Bay neighborhood of New York City.

Modular construction is by no means new to New York City. Neither are small apartment units (see: 90-square foot apartment)But Carmel Place is proof that modular and micro-unit construction can be successfully rolled into one building in the middle of Manhattan.

The $17 million, nine-story structure slated to open in February will be the city’s tallest modular building and first apartment complex comprised entirely of micro unitsBut unlike older buildings with funky apartment layouts wrapped around airshafts and dumbwaitersthe Monadnock Development project maximizes the efficiency of its tiny quarters by being the first micro building in the city built with modern design in mind.

“And by modern design I mean having simple things like an adequate amount of electrical outlets in the room,” Tobias Oriwol of Monadnock Construction told us, “or big, clean walls to put a TV on and space for a queen-size bed or dining room table. Our units are small but comfortable and easily furnishable, which is something that is unique in the city.”

The 55-unit project formally known as My Micro NY will offer market-rate rents ranging from $2,650 to $3,150 for apartments with an average of 304-square-feet.

A 750-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in New York City currently rents for approximately $3,400.

Courtesy nARCHITECTS/Ledaean

Micro units in Carmel Place feature a living space, kitchen and bathroom. Twenty-five of the units come furnished, complete with a Murphy bed. (Photo courtesy nARCHITECTS/Ledaean)

Designed by nARCHITECTS, the building has several common areas such as a gym, small lounge, community room, shared roof terrace, bicycle and tenant storage and an outdoor garden. Most of the floor plans in Carmel Place feature about 240-square-feet of open living space as well as a 30-square-foot bathroom and 30-square-foot vestibule. Twenty-five units come furnished complete with the Murphy bed-sofa combo seen below.

“Much of the project focuses on livability of a space despite size limitations,” nARCHITECTS Designer Tony Saba-Shiber told us via email, “and maximizing usable area through intelligent and efficient design.”

Continue Reading ›

The sky’s the limit for maglev elevators

With the official public opening of the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center in New York City scheduled for Friday, we got to thinking about elevators …

In 1853 at the New York World’s Fair at New York’s Crystal Palace, a 40-year-old American inventor and businessman named Elisha Otis stood on a hoisting platform high above a crowd of spectators anxiously awaiting his presentation. Otis’s next move would be a death-defying feat that would literally change city skylines forever.

Elisha Graves Otis shows his first elevator in the Crystal Palace, New York City, 1853. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Elisha Graves Otis shows his first elevator in the Crystal Palace, New York City, 1853. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Like a magician, Otis astonished the crowd by ordering an axman to cut the only rope that was suspending the platform on which he was standing. The platform fell just a few inches and then froze still, as if suspended in midair. “All safe, gentlemen,” he emphatically exclaimed as people applauded loudly. Otis had successfully demonstrated how his revolutionary new elevator safety brake could prevent an elevator from falling to the Earth if the hoisting cable unexpectedly broke. His ingenious creation allowed for the debut of passenger elevators and safer travel inside multi-floored buildings, but just as importantly it pushed the boundaries of architecture into the blue and paved the way for the construction of modern skyscrapers and cities.

Continue Reading ›