All of the Above
Interior = City. A microcosm of the space of the city, the new Van Alen Institute is imagined as a container for dynamic life. As an institution committed to the expansion of the definition of “public architecture” and the processes that shape the public realm, the VAI needs a home that embodies that ambition. Recognizing the dramatic proportions of the existing site as an opportunity, the proposed new Ground/ Work space turns a long skinny ground floor volume into a virtue: it maximizes the street level space, creating a single room - a large “grand hall” - that strives to reach the scale of the street, and extend the life of 22nd Street into the heart of the Institute.
Through the easy manipulation of three mobile components in the space, The Media Wedge, The Bleacher and the Hinge Table, the VAI can be radically transformed by a few employees in a short amount of time. When one asks “What is the new space of the Van Alen Institute; A Workspace, Exhibition space, Lecture Hall, Book/ Media Outlet, Public Forum, Conference space, Performance Space or Party space?” The only suitable answer is All of the Above.
In order to activate and serve the various programmatic needs of the Institute, the two most dominant are treated as spatial "canvases": a smart ceiling and a dumb floor. The ceiling is a shallow volume clad in a lightweight perforated skin. It houses all of the infrastructure (air, light, A/V) necessary to support a 21st century workspace and public forum. Through the thoughtful design of technology strategies, the long-term thinking of “designing for future unknowns” is embraced. The floor is tough; a durable continuous surface is the playing field for a small number of dynamic elements to be variously positioned to establish a defined range of programmatic and spatial settings.
When exhibitions take place at street level, a flex space is activated on the lower level to house the office functions. Once these functions re-emerge at the end of a show, the staff has the opportunity to set their space up differently, experimenting with a variety of layouts. In addition, the seasonal street seat on the exterior creates a “room” on the sidewalk. Defined on one side by the storefront of the VAI and the other by a suspended communal park bench, pedestrians occupy a zone that is intensely public and open, and at the same time part of an extended interior, asking them to pause and consider their role within that public realm.
An inherently sustainable strategy, the flexibility provided here allows for a multiplicity of functions to happen in a limited amount of space. In addition, local design excellence is leveraged as we seek to engage artisans within New York City and the Hudson Valley for the production of this project.
The new home of the Van Alen Institute will be an asset to the public and intellectual life of the city. The space described above, through its balance of design and indeterminacy, will remain poised to support, and indeed participate in, the life of the city. Beyond a mere container for events, the new home of the Van Alen Institute will be an actor in those events. It will participate.
Hayley Eber, Frank Gesualdi, Spencer Lapp, Pat Ruggiero, Ani Ivanova
EFGH is a New York-based architectural design practice founded in 2007 by principals Hayley Eber and Frank Gesualdi. The studio actively engages projects across scales: from the projective design of large urban sites to innovation at the scale of custom furniture, and everything in between. We explore design as an extensive network of interrelated and often competing issues, interrogating them along the way. Our design process reflects an intense curiosity mixed with a drive for experimentation.
An alphabetical amalgamation of our initials and a snippet of something larger, EFGH is neither at the beginning nor the end. We place ourselves directly into the mix of a variety of academic and professional networks in order to bring the best minds to every project we undertake. We are nimble and engage in design processes appropriate to the task: mixing research and experimentation with inventive digital methodologies and the close supervision of construction in the field.
Hayley Eber, Principal
Hayley Eber is an architect, designer and educator. She is currently an adjunct Professor at The Cooper Union in New York and co-founder of EFGH. She received a B.A.S from The University of Cape Town in 1997, a B.Arch from the Cooper Union in 2000, and an M.Arch from Princeton University in 2002. She joined Diller Scofidio + Renfro in 2002, where her experience has ranged from temporary installation and media work, performance, architectural competitions and large scale urban projects. Prior to joining DS+R, she worked at Eisenman Architects in NY on The Arizona Cardinals Stadium and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and at Wiel Arets Architects in Maastricht on the Utrecht University Library.
Frank Gesualdi, Principal
Frank Gesualdi received a Professional B. Arch from Syracuse University in 1999 and a M.S. in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University in 2004. He is currently teaching at Columbia GSAPP and The Pratt Institute. Before co-founding EFGH, Frank was a Senior Designer at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, where he worked extensively on the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts renovation, including the full redesign of Alice Tully Hall, as well as a number of international competitions. Prior to joining DS+R, Frank was Project Designer for STUDIOS Architecture in Washington, DC where he was a lead designer for The Nysmith School, a 22,000 SF school addition in Herndon, VA.