DWi-P supports the pedestrian life of Lower Manhattan through sound and movement. DWi-P offers the sound of WaTER, supported by stairs, walkways, and ramps through a transparent community building that welcomes Lower Manhattan visitors to Battery Park City. Sound and a green roof permeated by stairs, ramps and walkways, link the Battery Park City Ballfields to North End Avenue through DWi-P’s WaTER façade: a unique digital artwork, activated through cellphone technologies.
DWi-P’s façade makes an edge to the Murray-Warren Passage, a new parkway link between Murray and Warren Streets. Visitors to DWi-P can walk along the Passage, adjacent to the inscribed score, or move up through the building, using exterior stairs and ramps built into the facade. hMa Principal Meyers catalogs DWi-P and hMa’s collaboration with composer M.J. Schumacher in her recently published book, Shape of Sound (May 2014, Artifice Books London).
DWi-P’s internal program continues the theme of water: the pool room and swim program are the principal program areas in the building. DWi-P is operated by Asphalt Green, an organization that specializes in teaching swimming. Graduates of the program have participated with U.S. Olympic Swim Teams. The program includes visits by previous Olympic team members.
Won Buddhist Retreat is another hMa project with Sound and Movement as part of an overall architectural program. The Won Buddhist Retreat emphasizes sound through a program where sound is programmed. The meditation hall is programmed for silence; other areas are designated for conversation.
At Won Buddhist Retreat, programmed movement is determined through walking paths, courtyards, and shaped roofs. Walking paths include predetermined paths through residential and public courtyards, for silent meditation; and nature paths through meadows, from the residential areas to the public domain of meditation hall and visitor’s center.
Won Buddhist Meditation Retreat’s porches suggest where public walking paths begin. Walking paths suggest mathematically deterministic movements within an open, natural environment. Won Buddhist Retreat presents ‘nature framed’ : an open-ended, natural environment, where subtle distinctions differentiate a series of shaped pathways.
hMa approaches the design of the Queens Library through the idea of the garden. This page shows three different configurations of the garden.
The Hortus Conclusus (Latin: enclosed garden) is an essential aspect of the history of modern western garden design. Hortus Conclusus in the Medieval era referred to an enclosed, private garden.
In Queens, there is a contemporary history of enclosed ‘community gardens’, which are also enclosed gardens. In the Queens gardens, small plots are divided between the community, and each becomes a landscape portrait of its owners.
In 2011 landscape architect Piet Oudolf collaborated on a contemplative walled garden for the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion: a contemporary reinstatement of the original Hortus Conclusus: a walled garden for contemplation.
hMa is designing the Queens Library as a Walled Garden where visitors enjoy peaceful contemplation of ideas, within a garden.
Queens Library : a Hortus Conclusus for study and contemplation
Piet Oudolf designs rivers of grasses. In the Library, we see Rivers of Grasses as Books, with narratives made from letters. Hollis Library begins a conversation between gardens - human cultivations of Nature - and books - human cultivations of Ideas - with walls, floors, and ceilings that reference the walled garden of the Hortus Conclusus. The Garden is referenced
through materials, textures, and colors on the floors, ceilings, and walls.
Queens Library : a repository for books/ an escape from the urban realm
Hortus Conclusus includes pathways for walking, moving and thinking. hMa’s DWi-P opened to the public in 2014: a building that delaminates into gardens with paths that make the building envelop feel invisible on its site. DWi-P gives the sense of walking in nature both inside and outside the building.
At hMa's Queens Library, paths use natural colors to lead visitors from entry, to circulation desk, adult reading room, teens area, children’s library, and to the community room. hMa’s palette is based on an idea of movement through nature, from they entry, and through the library. Visitors are led from entry to the circulation desk by a moss-covered, wood wall that passes from the entry door, through the vestibule, to the circulation desk. The desk is designed to reference colors of flowers and grasses. The Library floors reference nature’s grasses, flowers, tree bark, and earth. Areas in the adult and children’s libraries are anchored as lawns, using ivy (adult’s), and grass (child’s) in the sitting and work areas. In the teen area, seating and work areas are more active, with stripes of flower references.
Walking, Moving, Thinking : transition to : Sitting, Reading, Thinking
a Hortus Conclusus for study and contemplation
Sverre Fehn’s Nordic Pavilion is one of hMa’s typology references for the Queens Library. Nordic Pavilion, designed in 1962, is still used today for gallery exhibits representing Sweden, Finland, and Norway. The Pavilion focuses on nature, with an open grid-roof of criss-crossing, thin, concrete beams, designed to simulate the effects of dappled sunlight passing through tree branches. The neutral whiteness of the concrete pavilion encircles, and emphasizes trees that grow through the roof.
At Queens Library, hMa also applied principles of movement through nature, based on ideas developed in their Master Plan for Battery Park City’s North Neighborhood. At BPC hMa used the the intertwining of nature, through the development of strategically located parks and green roofs, to develop a language of design based on nature and walking paths. hMa called the new grid developed at Battery Park City Woven Fabric. Woven Fabric defines cultivated green areas that weave the North Neighborhood together.
At Queens Library, hMa applies ideas about a woven fabric of nature-based materials through the library as a Hortus Conclusus: enclosed garden. The Hortus Conclusus includes the installation of mirrors above bookcases in the Child, Adult, and Teen reading rooms to create an illusion of a detached roof: the library as an exterior, walled garden.
Sitting Reading Thinking: the Space of Contemplation
Queens Library : a Hortus Conclusus for study and contemplation
hMa’s goal is to create the sense of a walled garden with edges defined by bookcases, and an interior filled with color and light. The Queens Library will be a garden for thinking and contemplation. The library’s walls are a barrier to the busy-ness of the urban street - an envelop that offers the peace and contemplation of the Hortus Conclusus.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines praxis as ‘that through which theory or philosophy is transformed into (a) practical… activity.’ In architecture, praxis refers to the practice of making buildings in critique with theory and the history of ideas. Praxis in architecture refers to a practice that builds with the integrity of theory behind every detail.
If you are an architect and practice, your work encompasses ideas, philosophies of making, and research. I separate the notion of a studio or atelier, from that of an ‘office’. An office references an architectural practice that intersects with commercial interests. Studio or atelier references a more elevated idea of practice as a philosophical and theoretical critique of building, or praxis.
Ring Collar: Investigation by Meyers. Signature is a mirror - homage to Leonardo da Vinci
As an architect who builds, teaches, writes, and produces art, I see architecture as a finely calibrated mirror. Architecture as praxis is akin to building the opposite side of our selves. By opposite, I refer to architecture as a critical operation: a mold or mask that allows us to see ourselves - as a reflection – similar to the ‘oppositional writing’ of Leonardo da Vinci. Architecture, by this definition, is similar to the butterfly’s cocoon or the Halloween reveler’s mask - a formal registration of our selves, at any given moment in time. By ‘selves’, I refer to the common identity of a larger group of citizens of a broader culture, and not to the singular person.
As a practitioner, I have an architectural practice, hMa, that is a reflection of my own mind, calibrated by a partner - Thomas Hanrahan – Dean of Pratt’s School of Architecture. I teach and am actively involved in architectural education. Until 2005 I was the core-coordinator at Columbia’s GSAPP; more recently I was the David Niland Chair at the University of Cincinnati; previously, I was a professor at Cornell’s School of Architecture.
Professional schools cannot operate successfully without architectural practitioners, both as part-time and tenured faculty – due to the necessary requirements of praxis. Without practicing architecture – it is impossible to understand how or what should be emphasized in the instruction of students of architecture. Praxis involves practice, teaching, and research.
Architects build things. Beyond studying the history of architecture, and doing an apprenticeship with a licensed architect, architects learn their craft by going into the field and making things. Architecture is critiqued in the public realm. Until a graduate of architecture has that experience, she or he cannot understand the process of praxis.
Architecture involves a series of mathematical equations that make space. At hMa (hanrahan Meyers architects), I have built projects, including Infinity Chapel, that reflect areas of human knowledge. Infinity Chapel presents a series of ideas about light, shadow, mathematics, and reflection. Mathematics and the properties of light include E = mc2, an equation that establishes equivalencies between mass, light, and energy.
At hMa’s Infinity Chapel, light-wells frame the walk from an entry at MacDougal Street, through a reading room, through a chapel, to an outdoor garden. Infinity Chapel’s light-wells are holes cut through the concrete floor, manifest as rectangular wood objects of varying heights and shapes at the ground-floor level of the building. The light-wells frame tubes of light that mark the path from street to garden. In the Sunday school below, light-wells appear as illuminated squares and lines in the ceiling. These reflect as formal figures of light on the floor.
hMa’s DWi-P, Digital Water i-Pavilion, is a community center in New York City, opposite the World Trade Center Memorial site. DWi-P is dedicated mostly to swimming, while offering a variety of other community activities. DWi-P’s largest public space is its pool room facing the exterior glass wall. The pools are also visible from a glass wall in the entry to DWi-P, one floor above. DWi-P’s main façade is a 550-foot long, transparent glass wall embedded with a frit pattern, representing a sound-score by New York composer Michael J. Schumacher: WaTER.
DWi-P is a building that unfolds and unravels into the landscape of Battery Park City through a series of ramps, stairs, and glass panels. The building’s roof is a public park with walkways and ramps that lead down to the Ballfields Park, east of the building. DWi-P’s east façade also faces the World Trade Center Memorial site, visible through its glass panels, etched with the Schumacher score.
Part of what defines us as humans is how we move our bodies through space. Contemporary marathons attest to the human capacity to out-run prey in the distant past, not by being faster, but by sustaining a slow, steady run, for days. There are connections for all of us, between walking, thinking, and speaking. As a species, we need to move through space to develop and maintain our brains. DWi-P and InfinityChapel facilitate walking, moving and thinking, through a sound-score at DWi-P, and through light at Infinity Chapel.
By understanding the human walk and limitations of movement, students learn how to detail and create space. The human walk has a certain length, width, and depth. These dimensions determine the basic aspects of building design, including the proper sizing of stairs, openings, and landings. It comes down to the scale of the human body. It sounds mundane; in reality, this is the basis of ephemeral creations, and praxis.
In addition to studies of human movement, light, and sound, hMa pursues the concept of ‘writing’ on/in buildings. Text on buildings captures ideas for future generations. The concept of ‘writing on the building’ partly determined the details of hMa’s glass wall at DWi-P, and the use of light at Infinity Chapel. hMa’s most recent application of writing on built form is a sculpture titled On-In Landscape: a collaboration with noted New York artist, Bruce Pearson. On-In Landscape is literally a constructed text by Pearson: Contains Real Hard Won Insight. hMa’s application of a sound-score to the façade at DWi-P, the use of light at InfinityChapel, and literal text in ‘On-In Landscape’, are examples of praxis.
hMa’s pursuit of praxis includes homage to the ideas of Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. hMa’s linkage between architecture and praxis includes musings on physics, time, and space, cataloged in my book, Designing with Light (DWL). DWL includes discussions with Harvard physicist Dr. Lene Hau whose ideas about light inspired Infinity Chapel. DWL pays homage to the oeuvre and writings of John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, and contemporary composers and artists, including Arvo Part.
Shape of Sound, published in 2014, chronicles hMa collaborations and discussions with sound artists and colleagues, including Stephen Vitiello, Eric Howeler, and Joao Onofre. Sound compositions, like architecture, reflect changing cultural memes. hMa uses sound, light, and text as secondary ‘mirrors’ - or filters - for the architectural process, and we see this also as part of our application of praxis to architecture.
The curriculum in schools of architecture lays the foundation for future architects. Praxis is an inherent aspect of the discussion within any architecture school. A depth of thinking and intellectual discourse acts as a scaffold for architectural education. Remove the practitioners or the theoreticians, and there is no praxis.
An abbreviated list of studios I have taught over the years cover topics investigated in hMa’s work: Line; Library of the Spoken Word; Time/ PassageWay; S o U n d. My design studio programs present a chronicle of ideas, tested in the academic environment, and applied in hMa’s design studio. For any architectural work to be a serious discourse, it must be pursued as praxis: built work, grounded in the history of ideas, theory, and philosophy.
I would like to end with a quote from a favorite poet, as we reflect on the notion of praxis, and how it relates to education and architectural practice:
‘Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper, or your self-confidence.’ (Robert Frost).
I would also like to end by giving a special ‘thank you’ to Professor Mara Marcu, whose serious and astute study and production in architecture provides an excellent example of praxis.
and there is no praxis., The curriculum in schools of architecture lays the foundation for future architects. Praxis is an inherent aspect of the discussion within any architecture school. A depth of thinking and intellectual discourse acts as a scaffold for architectural education. Remove the practitioners or the theoreticians
Above: Research: Woven Fabric: the operation of taking a photograph of a face, and fracturing it into fragments. The lines that crack the image of the face apart, make a weave, and the weave takes on an equal interest to the original image. It was this approach, of finding a way to 'weave' fragments of parks through the Battery Park City North Neighborhood, that guided hMa's approach and our research into how to design a large urban neighborhood in New York City.
Above: Location maps of the area of Battery Park City where hMa created the master plan for the North Neighborhood.
Above: Diagrams of hMa's approach to their urban design approach at the North Neighborhood - where we start with a complete figure that is being tested by a set of woven forces, and then the resulting condition we came to, where hMa creates a woven fabric for the neighborhood.
To walk you through hMa's project, we will begin at the North Neighborhood dog park, located at the center of North End Avenue, and proceed south, to the Irish Hunger Memorial - a built intervention that is at once a memorial to the Irish famine (by Brooklyn artist Brian Tolle), and also - a park, and also - a building (the hunger library by 1100 Architect).
Above: a view of Nelson Rockefeller Park. This is a park that functions much like the face where we started : as a series of woven green zones that runs the full length of the North Neighborhood, from North to South.
Above: a typical image from Teardrop Park, a park located very near the center of the North Neighborhood. This is a park designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, in collaboration with hMa. The decision was to move huge boulders from upstate New York in order to recreate the sensibility of the original Manhattan landscape, prior to the European settlement, and development, of the Island.
Directly across from Teardrop Park, is the building and Park designed by hMa: DWi-P. Above: hMa's DWi-P facade, an elevation that edges a a walkway devised by hMa, linking Murray and Warren Streets, the Murray-Warren Passage.
Above: Materiality of the park at DWi-P: a steel handrail edges hMa's ramp, which leads to the roof of DWi-P, which is also a park, where parents can watch their kids playing ball at the BPC Ballfields. A wood trellis marks the top edge of the DWi-P roof.
DWi-P: a park that is dedicated to moving, walking, thinking. The glass facade has an embedded sound piece by New York composer Michael J. Schumacher: WaTER.
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Invisible Buildings: architect Victoria Meyers and hMa collaborate to design buildings that 'disappear' - in plain sight. How do you make the 'slight of hand' work when the object you are trying to 'disappear' is a building?
hMa does this at Won Buddhists through details that mask their buildings, and blend the reading of the buildings into landscape. A series of screens act as camouflage, and make building edges that have the thickness and non-specificity of trees. Trees and plants have very complex edges. By studying the biological edges of plant matter, hMa developed a series of operations that screen their buildings from public view.
In addition to non-specific edges of buildings, hMa's roads are gravel, from the original gravel pits on the site. And the landscape plans for the site include the planting of tall meadow grasses and trees to mask the built areas of the site.
Meyers is in discussion with artist Mary Temple, about possibly painting one of Temple's shadow paintings, on one of the buildings to enhance the aspect of 'invisibility' - by creating false shadows, to further mask the built form on the site. Below: artist Mary Temple produces one of her famous shadow paintings, for Rice University.
Mary Temple, artist, installing 'invisible trees' - through shadows - at Rice University, above.
Won Buddhist Temple: wood column as a tree.
Won Buddhist Retreat: wood column as a tree.
Won Buddhist Retreat: wood buildings sit among trees.
Trees + buildings blend. That blending = invisibility. Invisibility = Infinite Bleed of Edge. Infinite Bleed of Edge increases the perception of the 'space' of the retreat - to an infinite horizon.
It is the 'infinite horizon' that hMa was seeking in their development of the Buddhist project.
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At Won Buddhist Retreat, hMa focused on an idea of invisibility and how invisibility is related to zero carbon footprint. But also literally - a series of wood buildings, placed on a wooded site, possibly the way to make them disappear is by installing wood screens in front, to blur the line between building and trees - using Asplund’s Woodland Cemetary as a precedent, for this procedure.
Let’s look at wood screens, and - what hMa refers to as: ‘Infinite Bleed of Edge’.
In 2014, Brooklyn based artist Bruce Pearson invited hMa to collaborate with him, and to develop a concept for an architectural armature for Fractal form, with a Text-based formal investigation. The image above shows one of Bruce Pearson's paintings of text, based on fractal form. The painting above is a 4' x 6' fractal rendition of the words: 'Relationships Physics Sleep Tragedy and Plant Life'. Pearson simultaneously sculpts his paintings into fractal form in blue foam, and then paints the same text, again in a fractal format, shifted, on top of the original bas-relief text.
Above, a photograph of Bruce Pearson, next to his painting, Encyclopedia III. Bruce explains his work as splicing text into visual compositions. His paintings feature hundreds of fragments, with his texts woven through the fragments. In 2014, Bruce invited hMa to collaborate on a 3-dimensional version of one of his texts.
The hMa - Pearson collaboration is a system of design based on mathematical form. I am showing, above, hMa's plan for the sculpture, based on two interwoven spirals, next to hMa's model, or maquette, for the final sculpture. 'On-In Landscape' will be 8' tall, with a plan based on an algorithmic degeneration of a circle - two interwoven spirals 8' tall, laser-cut in steel.
We started our collaboration with Pearson's drawing of his text: 'Contains Real Hard Won Insight' - a series of letters broken into fractal forms.
The project involved finding a way to construct an architectural armature, capable of supporting fractal forms, without disrupting the experience of the fractals, or the text.
Above: hMa's maquette, or model, of the sculpture, as a 9-square grid.
Pearson Studio's 3-D model of the project, with a scale human figure. hMa's work is very involved with the concept of 'walking, moving, and thinking' - as the primary experience of Architecture. We overlaid this over Pearson's fragmented text.
Above: the Pearson - hMa collaboration, as it appeared at Pearson's one-man show, at Feldman Gallery in 2014.
Architecture itself Is education and references ideas by its existence. For education, we present work by hMa Principal Victoria Meyers' students at the University of Cincinnati. Above: Images from Meyers' Seminar, 'Sound Urbanism/ Sound Ecology', at the University of Cincinnati. Meyers' seminar spent Spring 2014 ‘mapping’ sound sections through significant neighborhoods in Cincinnati.
Above, top of the image: student drawing of the Bridge over the Ohio River, separating Ohio and Kentucky. This is an area of intense industrial activity and shipping. Below, left side of the drawing: the Viaduct that crosses train tracks that lead to the main train station in downtown Cincinnati. When the Mid-West was a center of industrial manufacturing, there were hundreds of trains /day passing below this viaduct. Today there are a few trains/ day, and the train station is a museum. The sounds generated by trains coming through Cincinnati are different than they were 100 years ago.
In addition to drawings, students also made sound recordings of each section. The goal was to generate sections that explore visually and through sound, areas that register significant change to Cincinnati.
Above: Meyers' 2012 Graduate Studio at the University of Texas: Manhattanville M(w)EE. Students were asked to design a new Subway Station for the 125th Street Subway Stop in Manhattan. This is an area where the NYC Subway is elevated above ground. 125th Street is the lowest elevation in NYC.
This has become a significant stop on the # 1 Train because Columbia University is building a new Campus here. Students were asked to design a subway stop capable of handling 10,000 people /day. Each Student also developed a program to go with their stops.
We show two projects: one imagines a new Bio-Engineering Lab as a linear bridge over the elevated subway. The other project is a translucent Cube - an arts building - that hovers around the stop, with the subway passing through the base.
Meyers' Spring 2014 Studio, above. Meyers asked students to design a ‘Hacker-Maker’ building in downtown Brooklyn. The studio concentrated on the design of roofs, and open spaces for working.
The project from Meyers studio above, has a roof with fractal openings, where crystalline shaped skylights drop through the roof into the Hacker-Maker space. Hacker-Makers get randomly placed cubes to work in. The interface between two systems of form: the formalism of cubes and rectilinear space, juxtaposed to fractals and crystalline forms - creates a dynamic space for creative work.
Research is how we test our environment. It is ultimately - how human cultures grow. We are showing, above, hMa’s project - DWi-P - opened in 2014. DWi-P is a building that presents a complex overlay of Sound Composition / Glass// and Cell Phone Technology. DWi-P's glass Wall has a score etched on it, is embedded with Bluetooth, and has an App. The DWi-P App will read where visitors are in space, and visitors can point cell phones at the wall, and play the Schumacher composition, WaTER, etched on the glass as a frit pattern.
The image above shows Dr. Lene Hau, at Harvard. Dr. Hau is a Physicist doing research on the speed of light at Harvard. In 2006 hMa Principal Meyers wrote ‘Designing with Light’. For research on DWL, Meyers had several conversations with Dr. Hau.
hMa continued our conversations, and Dr. Hau had great influence on how hMa designed Infinity Chapel.
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Victoria Meyers: Designing With Light
New York Architects Victoria Meyers and Thomas Hanrahan believe that architecture is an environment, 'pure space', manifested in nature. The principals of hanrahanMeyers architects (hMa) have established themselves as unique visionaries, incorporating light and sound into their arresting designs of pure forms. Founded in 1987, the firm specializes in residences, art centers, and community spaces. They design spaces from a vision that connects visitors with the natural world.
Victoria Meyers: Shape of Sound Architect Victoria Meyers analyzes the shape of sound; architecture and sound; form; materiality; windows; the urban sound scape, its politics, aesthetics and social character; reflection; virtuality; sound art; and silence.
Shape of Sound on Amazon
Victoria Meyers: Shape of Sound Victoria Meyers architect (Los Angeles, Ca.), principal of hanrahan Meyers architects (hMa) explores sound as it effects architecture, urban spaces, and landscapes. Contributors include hanrahan Meyers architects (featured on the book cover), Stephen Vitiello, Michael J. Schumacher, David Mather, Neil Denari, Bruce Pearson, Howeler and Yoon architecture, and Joseph Ketner.
hMa : Green Initiatives / Sustainable Architecture
The Conservation Fund As part of our nature based vision for architecture, hMa gives a percentage of the firm’s annual revenues to nature initiatives. This year, hMa funded ‘Wildlife Corridors’, through the Conservation Fund. ‘Wildlife Corridors’ provide natural zones through cities and towns that link animals with adjacent nature preserves. This initiative is one of several cutting-edge planning initiatives that forward thinking architects will be adopting as we seek to harmonize human habitats with nature and create sustainable development.
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