A New York Year

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) annually presents its MASterworks Awards to recognize outstanding works of architecture or urban design completed in the prior year. The jury for the 2012 awards is a notable list in its own right: it included architects Brandon Haw of Foster + Partners, Claire Weisz of WXY Architecture + Urban Design, and Adam Yarinsky from the Architecture Research Office; journalist Suzanne Stephens from Architectural Record; and the president of MAS, Vin Cipolla. This refreshingly diverse list of winners—a carousel pavilion by Jean Nouvel shares honors with a children’s library in Queens—looks back at an exciting post-recession year for architecture in New York.

Best New Building: New York by Gehry, Gehry & Partners

Courtesy Forest City Ratner.

The highest honor went to Gehry’s shimmering new residential tower at 8 Spruce Street in downtown Manhattan. The jury calls it “a striking symbol of Lower Manhattan’s resurgence,” and its undulating silver façade, standing out among its mid-rise neighbors, certainly makes a dramatic addition to the skyline. Karrie Jacobs wrote about the building in our June 2011 issue.

Best Restoration: New York City Center, Ennead Architects

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Courtesy Ennead Architects

The restoration award went to Ennead Architects’ sensitive treatment of the 1923 neo-Moorish building that has housed the New York City Center for over 80 years. The project provided a much-needed update of the performance venue’s functionality and visitor comforts, coupled with a gorgeous restoration of its ornate interiors. (Ennead Architects was profiled in our October 2011 issue.)

Best Neighborhood Catalyst: Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, Cooper, Robertson & Partners.

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Courtesy Cooper, Robertson & Partners

Cooper, Robertson & Partners’ design for the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College attempts to make the institution’s ideology of transparency and community engagement manifest in the architecture itself. Welcoming public spaces and multiple points of interface with the surrounding neighborhood open up an academic building that could have just as easily turned away from the street.

Best Neighborhood Catalyst: Queens Central Library Children’s Library Discovery Center, 1100 Architect

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Courtesy 1100 Architect

The Children’s Library Discovery Center in Jamaica works with similar ideas of transparency, reinforcing the library’s role as both social and cultural center in its neighborhood. The interior graphics, way-finding, and sculptural iconography are by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, and the playful interiors, by 1100 Architect, strike a deft balance between bright gathering spaces and quieter, more intimate areas for study. The building is in an early phase of 1100 Architect’s master plan for the overall renovation of the Queens Central Library. For more details on the project, click to our April 2012 story.

Best Neighborhood Catalyst, Honorable Mention: El Museo Del Barrio, Gruzen Samton

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Courtesy Gruzen Samton Architects

The honorable mention for this category, Gruzen Samton’s reconfiguration of El Museo del Barrio’s formerly forbidding courtyard, allows El Museo’s activities to spill outdoors and passersby to glimpse the colorful spaces inside. The design is unified by a metal form that loops around the entire courtyard, alternately serving as canopy, seating, and signage.

Best New Urban Amenity: Jane’s Carousel, Ateliers Jean Nouvel

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Courtesy Jane’s Carousel

The MASterworks Awards’ newest category seems tailor-made for the inaugural winner, Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Local artist Jane Walentas spent nearly thirty years painstakingly restoring a 1922 carousel for the waterfront site, and it was installed last year in a glassy pavilion designed by Jean Nouvel. The opening weekend drew a crowd that made for massive queues to ride the carousel, but its prime placement and intrinsic charm apparently outweighed the long wait. It’s proved a consistently popular feature of the park since. Colin Fanning is an MA candidate at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City, studying design history and material culture, and holds an undergraduate degree in interior design. Follow him on Twitter @colinfanning. This post was updated, clarifying details on the Queens Central Library Children’s Library Discovery Center on 6/18/2012.

Cooper, Robertson & Partners’ design for the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College attempts to make the institution’s ideology of transparency and community engagement manifest in the architecture itself. Welcoming public spaces and multiple points of interface with the surrounding neighborhood open up an academic building that could just as easily have turned away from the street.

Categories: Architecture

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