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Thread: SHoP Architects rise to top of field

  1. #1

    Default SHoP Architects rise to top of field

    SHoP Architects rise to top of field

    Thursday, October 16th 2008, 7:09 PM

    SHoP Architects
    The rendering of new Seaport design contains 11 buildings, including a 42-story, mixed use residence/hotel, a wood-based boutique hotel and two-story retail structures

    David Joseph In 2001,
    SHoP won the Young Architect award for Dunescape, a 12,000-square-foot installation in the courtyard at MoMA's P.S. 1 in Long Island City.

    SHoP Architects
    290 Mulberry has undulating brick panels produced from a computer script.

    In the last eight years, NYC-based SHoP Architects went from winning a competition at MoMA's P.S.1 for Young Architects to designing a 2-mile span of public space on lower Manhattan's East River.

    They've gone from five graduates of Columbia Architecture School sitting around a kitchen table in a Murray Hill loft to one of the best architecture firms in the world, redesigning the Fashion Institute of Technology, building Google's first-ever ground-up structure and transforming the South Street Seaport from an outdoor shopping mall for tourists into a grid-based waterfront neighborhood for actual New Yorkers.

    You know their buildings. At 290 Mulberry, a dark-colored, undulating brick façade stands over Houston St., forming a contextual entryway to Nolita.

    A zinc-clad modern apartment house with slits of light sitting atop a historic, restored warehouse, the Porter House at Ninth Ave. and 15th St. has become the most recognizable architectural structure in the Meatpacking District. In the evening, it glows like a nightclub installation.

    "We thought why not make a cloud of a modern building that hangs over the existing structure," says Gregg Pasquarelli, a founding partner of SHoP, which stands for Sharples, Holden and Pasquarelli. "That idea came from three or four days of sitting around together."

    In a think tank setting, no idea is too outrageous. They once used military material from desert aircraft hangers on a model for a Rector St. covered bridge. That idea came from an employee whose father was an avid sailor.

    What separates them from other architects is that collaboration with material manufacturers and trade contractors gets consideration during the design phase, ensuring that buildings get built and reducing client spending. In a down economy, in any economy, that goes a long way.

    "By getting the builders involved from day one, we ensure that what we're proposing hits no roadblocks," says SHoP partner Christopher Sharples, twin brother to partner William Sharples and brother-in-law to partner Coren Sharples. Pasquarelli is married to SHoP's other partner, Kimberly Holden, creating an atmosphere where late-night creative arguments are met with familial respect rather than disdain.

    "Every person who works here has an equal say," says Pasquarelli, born and raised in the Bronx. "We're an 80-person firm that feels like 30 people but operates as a 300-person company."

    While most architects just hand their designs off to a developer and construction company and say good luck, SHoP researches contracting solutions, materials and building technology to facilitate the construction process. Turning the computer into a skilled craftsman, SHoP delivers software scripts to trade contractors such as brick makers in cases where the shapes of the bricks (or other materials) are generated by a computer program. Rippled panels of different size bricks, as in the case of 290 Mulberry, are delivered to the buildings in shapes that conform to project design.

    "We take everything into account when we design a building," says Christopher Sharples. "If the building is on the waterfront, we can get bigger panels there by boat. If it's inland, we have to take into account the size of the truck transporting it."

    In the past, where material suppliers such as lumber companies would have excess material due to mistakes in cutting or charge inordinate prices for different-size planks of wood, a SHoP project leaves no waste because the exact sizes are output by the computer in the manufacturing process, making their projects environmentally more correct. The exact amount of materials is used with each machine cut.

    "We were known as the ‘avant-cheap' architects for a while," says William Sharples, referring to the firm's early period, when they designed the Manhattan retail outlet for fashion's Costume National. "Hundreds of years ago, materials were very expensive and labor was very cheap. Now it's the other way around. We found a way to work with that."

    At the new South Street Seaport, SHoP beat out some of the world's top architects for the task of re-creating this well-known area. After being awarded the right to design the East River Esplanade by the Department of City Planning and other city agencies, SHoP's work on the Seaport ensures that one firm controls the continuity of design for the entire lower East Side waterfront.

    "General Growth, the client, came to us and asked what was wrong with the site," says Pasquarelli, who smiles as if that's his favorite question.

    "This part of lower Manhattan is the fastest-growing residential section in the country, but it's the least authentic part of the city. It's a suburban mall at the edge of the water. We came up with a master plan that extends the city grid, takes away dead ends and puts a park at the end of the pier."

    Site owner General Growth Properties holds the lease to Seaport for the next 73 years. They could leave it like it is for as long as they want and charge retailers higher rent, but General Growth's Michael McNaughton sees the benefit of hiring SHoP to breathe new life into misused space.

    "We want to recapture the neighborhood feel," says McNaughton, vice president of asset management Northeast. "There's an emotional rush from being out at that pier on the edge of Manhattan. SHoP partners live here. They're mindful of the visual history and the relevance of this project to New York. And they can get it built."

    At an event unveiling a permanent exhibit of the Seaport's history and new design, sponsored and funded by General Growth, SHoPs partners meshed with the community. Coren Sharples, who comes from a business background, chatted about the tower's terra-cotta siding. Her husband, a former engineer, discussed construction challenges. Pasquarelli, who can describe the firm's projects to laymen with simple metaphors, worked city officials. Christopher Sharples smiled and talked about the importance of sharing the success of every project with the entire firm.

    "It all goes back to us sitting around the kitchen table in our first office, talking about how we're going to do billing or handle a proposal," says Coren. "We all had to wear different hats and we come to every problem with a different set of solutions. Our clients benefit from that."

    So does New York.

    © Copyright 2008

  2. #2

    Arrow Great Architects: SHop

    Thanks for posting the article, this is one - IMHO - of the best firms in NYC.
    Which reminds me: time to check-in on thier current projects on Houston Street and the SS Seaport....thanks again.

    Link to South Street Seaport Project -
    Last edited by infoshare; October 20th, 2008 at 09:26 PM.

  3. #3
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Less Really Is More

    SHoP Architects, masters of post-boom buildability.

    By Justin Davidson

    In the first decade of the 21st century, technology helped architecture become flamboyant, immodest, and wildly expensive. Leaner times need lither designs, preserving spectacle but banishing self-indulgence. The essential firm of the post-binge era is shaping up to be SHoP, headed not by a celebrity but by a half-dozen fortysomething New Yorkers who share a messianic high-tech pragmatism. Having spent a dozen years leapfrogging from youthful novelty to boutique eminence, SHoP is staking its name on the world’s tallest prefab tower.

    The 32-story building with the vitamin name, B2, will rise at Atlantic Yards, that troubled monster where every new move courts fresh opprobrium. Half of B2’s 350 units are designated for low- and middle-income families, which means the developer, Forest City Ratner, needs to allay suspicions that it’s grinding out gimcrack pods for the poor—even as the apartments are made in factories and the whole process is designed to shave as much as 20 percent off construction costs. SHoP’s partners, though, consider prefabrication a designer’s godsend, the key to making housing awesome yet affordable. “Modular construction could radically change what living in New York is like,” says Gregg Pasquarelli, the most voluble of the five original founders.

    Pasquarelli is the P in the firm’s acronym; the S belongs to twins Christopher and William Sharples and William’s wife, Coren, and the H to Kimberly Holden, who is married to Pasquarelli. They all met at Columbia in the early nineties. “We liked each other from the beginning,” says Holden. “We still vacation together.” The sixth principal, Jonathan Mallie, who in 1999 became the firm’s first hire, launched the spinoff SHoP Construction in 2007.

    This genial handful has gathered in the Pasquarelli-Holden apartment in the Porter House, a zinc-paneled diadem they designed for the meatpacking district a decade ago. They’re still young for architects, and their work combines edginess and maturity. “We have the tool kit to pull it off at the highest level in this pressure cooker of New York, and to export it to the rest of the world,” Pasquarelli says, punctuating the self-assessment with a cocky grin: I may be arrogant, but I’m right.

    He has to be both. He and his partners have spent years honing a virtuosity aimed at convincing skeptics that a fantastical design is feasible. Consider a high-tech innovation center they’re designing for Bots*wana, which will be assembled from parts designed in SHoP’s Park Place office, fabricated in South Africa and Botswana, and hauled to a field outside the capital, Gaborone.

    When it’s done, a range of low artificial ridges with glass walls will nestle in a gentle depression, wrap around existing trees, and lift above the grassland, supplementing the scarce shade. The complex’s contours are seductively wavy, but the real innovation has been the process that made them cheap enough to build.

    Their first foray into digital fabrication came in the late nineties, with a small project on the waterfront of Greenport, Long Island. The structure housed a late-model version of the old “camera obscura,” a closed chamber in which to see a projected 360-degree view of the world outside. To build it, the architects developed a 3-D digital model, exploded it into thousands of components, and sent the specifications to a computer-controlled milling machine that could cut curves, slices, and angles with superhuman finesse. That kit was shipped to the site and clipped together into a tiny, liquid-looking shed, a wooden teardrop that no carpenter could ever fashion by hand. Like B2, it was prefab, affordable, and forward-looking.

    Many “advanced” architects treat their buildings as oversize snowglobes to be admired from afar; SHoP designs for the sensual experience of being there. At their East River Waterfront Esplanade, a small but triumphant strip of high-*decibel park under the FDR Drive that just opened this summer, you can sit on a bar stool at the ipe-wood railing and contemplate the waves beneath the harp and altar of the Brooklyn Bridge. Nearby is the just-completed double-decker Pier 15, whose upper slab rests on a pair of glass pavilions and is topped with a patch of aerial lawn. Ramps and stairs give it the feeling of a hilly landscape, and its highest point nearly lifts you into the rigging of the tall ship moored alongside. The jetty unfurls its glamour at twilight, when a reddish glow emerges from the slats in the second story’s undulating underside. This is high-level public architecture—a beautiful object, but also a viewing platform for the urban spectacular.

    Eventually SHoP may redesign the entire eastern lip of lower Manhattan, from the Battery Maritime Building to the Brooklyn Bridge. A plan to overhaul the South Street Seaport died from wounds inflicted by neighborhood opposition, the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s hostility to a 40-story tower, and, finally, the client’s bankruptcy. Now, though, the firm is reworking its designs for a new owner, the Howard Hughes Corporation. The project will inevitably be controversial, but SHoP seems to savor a good fight.

    Which explains why it’s working for Bruce Ratner. When the chairman of Forest City Ratner asked SHoP to rescue his Barclays Center arena at Atlantic Yards in 2009, his credibility was, to put it mildly, shaky. Ratner had obtained huge subsidies and then tried to wheedle more; he demolished homes, then delayed much of the project when the economy tanked; he dropped Frank Gehry as architect and turned the arena over to the workaday firm Ellerbe Becket. He caught a lot of flak for that, and hiring SHoP to then gussy up Ellerbe’s characterless shoe box with a fancy façade looked like superficial damage control. (“SHoP has hocked its reputation for the sake of a PR stratagem,” I wrote at the time.) “We thought long and hard about accepting,” Pasquarelli says. “But we believed we could make the best civic neighbor possible.”
    Whereas Gehry’s explosive design for the arena and accompanying high-rises was full of jaunty squiggles and boxes knocked askew, all meant to wow and rattle Brooklyn, SHoP has tried to weave the Nets’ hulking new home (which will open next fall and has suddenly become a visible part of the cityscape) into the urban fabric. The structure is wrapped in a basket weave of weathered steel, giving it a rusty cool. A canopy whose inner rim will display scrolling video and digital signs reaches over the plaza. Is it a huge basketball hoop? For Christopher Sharples, it echoes the embracing colonnades of St. Peter’s in Rome. “That oculus, 35 feet overhead and the size of a basketball court, is like the arms of Bernini: It comes out and greets you.”
    “In a very Brooklyn way,” Pasquarelli interjects, and crosses his arms away from his body, hip-hop style.

    For the Nets arena, SHoP’s archi-geeks spat out specifications for 12,000 panels and 940 composite megapanels—every one slightly different. “Our first reaction was to say we couldn’t do that,” says Jeff Fisher, the project executive for Hunt Construction Group. In traditional construction, the process of “value engineering” whittles out frills—straightening curved walls, substituting standard cabinets for custom. SHoP claims it can cut costs far more by controlling the process from brainstorming session to final rivet. “It’s all about using technology and entrepreneurship to further the art,” says Pasquarelli. “Otherwise, these buildings would be dumbed down into really mediocre stuff.”

    Atlantic Yards offers the ultimate test of that philosophy: the chance to construct a whole apartment building—and eventually, more—in a nearby factory, pack it up in chunks with wiring, toilets, and flooring pre-installed, and truck it to the site, where two or three pieces per apartment will fit together. The goal is to make simple elements cohere into a complex result. The design has a Lego-like feel: Hunks of various hues and sizes interlock in a rhythmic assemblage, so that a huge structure feels like a collection of smaller ones.

    That’s the hope, anyway. Factory-made housing has a venerable but erratic pedigree. In 1906, Thomas Edison proposed one-piece concrete houses that could be poured in a few hours.

    More recently, architects have experimented with flat-pack single-family homes and live-in shipping containers. But an unforgiving market and the abiding stigma of “prefab” have usually scuttled those dreams. The great advantage of Atlantic Yards is that it’s huge enough to create its own demand. “With fifteen buildings, we can feed a factory,” notes MaryAnne Gilmartin, the Forest City Ratner executive in charge of the project. Proposing a forest of modular high-rises might seem at first like a bargain hunter’s strategy to get something—anything—built at a troubled site. Unions are already upset at the prospect of shifting traditional construction jobs to lower-paying factory work. In the end, though, the move could help alleviate the city’s perpetual shortage of reasonably priced housing—and bring back some manufacturing as well.

    SHoP’s founders argue that the synthesis of digital technology, prefabrication, and design is a perfect New York endeavor. “We’re all under pressure here,” Pasquarelli says. “We’re banging heads every day. Only on this island do finance and art crash into each other so constantly.”

  4. #4


    290 Mulberry should be an embarrassment to SHoP. Never has so much effort resulted in such an ugly nothing.

  5. #5


    Well, they did manage to rise "to top of field".

    Anyway, regarding the B2 project, this prefab building is unlike any other tall building built in NYC in terms of project delivery methods. This project will be fascinating to watch if in fact they actually do construct Atlantic Yards Towers using prefabricated
    Last edited by infoshare; November 22nd, 2011 at 08:37 PM.

  6. #6


    Designs for the the first residential building at the Atlantic Yards project in New York revealed what would be the world’s tallest prefabricated tower. The B2 condo building, sitting next to the Barclays Center, will be 32 stories tall and make up 340,000 square feet of residential space.

    Modular construction reduces material waste, costs, and time, and is energy efficient. But the system loses economical advantages in tall buildings since towers require lateral bracing (to protect from wind shear and seismic forces), which means more structural material and more waste.

    To arrive at the decision to build modular, the design and engineering team, ShoP Architects, Arup engineering, and XSite modular, developed two parallel building designs, one using a modular system and one in pre-cast concrete. The team found the modular option would cost 15 to 20 percent less than a traditional pre-cast system and produce 70 to 90 percent less waste. Reduction in energy use was calculated at 67 percent.

    The modular, prefabricated design includes 950 steel frame modules, complete with electric and plumbing hookups. One innovation to the modular process is placing the structural connections on the outside, allowing for easier assembly. The design team’s biggest challenge is to devise the modular bracing system.

    Forest City Ratner, the developer, expressed every confidence that the team would “crack the code” of building a tall, modular residential tower with adequate yet economical bracing.

    2012 is the targeted groundbreaking for B2, with an ambitious completion schedule of 18 months.

    ShoP Architects focus on design and development projects that consider not just the physical but also the economic context. The architects have also been shortlisted for Chicago’s Navy Pier development.

  7. #7


    Another type of change in project delivery methods in the AEC industry: integrated-practice, design-build, information-sharing or call it what you will...
    Last edited by infoshare; November 26th, 2011 at 04:05 PM.

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