The Omnibus Roundup – Darker Cities, REI, Living Cities, Donnell Demolished, City 2.0 and Psychometric Drawing Experiments

screenshot from The City Dark

The drive to limit light pollution has taken on increased prominence lately, with specialists across fields stressing its importance. The Atlantic Cities’ Nate Berg last week highlighted this growing movement and how one small town, Homer Glenn, barely 30 miles outside of Chicago, through a simple initiative has become a poster-child for the ease with which the problem can be addressed. The simple use of lower-watt light bulbs with light shields directing the light downward instead of upward can significantly make it easier to observe night skies in an urban setting. Light pollution prevents astronomers from doing their work, disrupts animal migratory patterns and simply disconnects us from our night skies. For more on the effects of light pollution on our environment, society, bodies and psyches, look back at our interview with filmmaker Ian Cheney about his documentary The City Dark.

New REI store in SOHO | via

What happens when you mix green architecture with historic preservation to house a outdoorsy retail chain that just happens to be the nation’s largest consumer cooperative? GreenBuildingsNYC took a tour of REI’s new store in Soho and describes in detail the ways the popular outfitter adaptively reused original features of the historic Puck Building, including the steam-engine flywheels that once powered the printing presses of Puck Magazine, the country’s first successful humor magazine (in publication from 1871 – 1918) and the original tenant of the iconic address at Lafayette between Houston and Mulberry Streets.

A while back we looked at the DEP’s comprehensive effort to mitigate the damaging effects of stormwater run-off in Staten Island by adapting the area’s natural wetlands. This week, Fast Company profiles new approaches to stormwater control that combine the kind of low-tech, high-impact methods of the Staten Island Bluebelt with the lastest technological solutions made possible by cloud computing and the “Internet of Things” to create “high performance” infrastructure that can anticipate demand and prepare accordingly — infrastructure that can respond to its surroundings like a living thing.

Architects’ sketch of the Donnell Library | The Library of Congress

The Donnell Library has been demolished. It happened with little public fanfare, similarly understated to the building itself. Designed by Edgar I. Williams and Aymar Embury II (the architect of last week’s featured Orchard Beach Pavilion), the Modernist, cusping-on-Brutalist building had lived across the street from MoMA since 1955, overshadowed by its neighbors. The closing of the library space, famous for housing the original Winnie the Pooh dolls, has infuriated neighborhood residents for years, a sentiment that the new plan for the site — a 46-story hotel and condominium building — is unlikely to assuage. Read more about the demolition at Docomomo and find more information about the history of the Donnell Library in this 2009 piece from The New York Times‘ City Room.

Since its founding in 2005, the TED Prize has traditionally gone to a visionary individual who is granted “one wish to change the world.” This year, the prize is going to an idea: The City 2.0. The $100,000 cash prize will go towards one wish, collaboratively identified by the “many individuals, organizations and companies doing spectacular work” around advocacy for a smarter, fairer, more sustainable city. It’s a decision that some find puzzling, and potentially counterproductive. On Co.Exist, Greg Lindsay points to “a murderer’s row of qualified” individuals who could have received the prize, but, putting that aside, considers some possible directions the collectively-crafted wish could take. Though this reminds us a bit of the year TIME magazine’s person of the year was “you,” we’ll have to wait until February 29, 2012, when the wish is unveiled at the TED Conference, to see the results of this experiment. For now, those who wish to contribute their ideas on behalf of The City 2.0 can write to

Drawing Hands, 1948 | MC Escher | via


AN EVENING OF PSYCHOMETRIC DRAWING EXPERIMENTS, ARCHITECTURAL NON SEQUITURS, AND FREE ASSOCIATION: Studio-X NYC’s Night School series continues this weekend with a free drawing workshop with Sam Jacob of FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste) and Strange Harvest. An Evening of Psychometric Drawing Experiments, Architectural Non Sequiturs, and Free Association “will explore the potential of drawing to generate and represent the spatially impossible, using techniques derived from police artists, psychiatrists, and parlor games.” Bring your own drawing utensils and sketchbooks, and don’t be shy about your drawing skills, none are required. Saturday, December 10, 6:30-8:30pm at Studio-X NYC, 180 Varick Street, Ste. 1610. RSVP on the Studio-X Facebook page. For more info, visit BLDGBLOG.

THE UNFINISHED GRID: Reminder: Tomorrow, Saturday, December 10th, at 4pm at the Museum of the City of New York, Architectural League Special Projects Director and curator of the current exhibition The Unfinished Grid: Design Speculations for Manhattan Gregory Wessner will be moderating a panel discussion about the themes and ideas that emerged from the Call for Ideas that led up to the show. Joining Wessner on the panel will be Amale Andraos, Mark Robbins and Ken Smith. More info here.



The Roundup keeps you up to date with topics we’ve featured and other things we think are worth knowing about.

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.