The Omnibus Roundup – Editing Life, Designing NYCTech, Documenting Social Design, plus Cloud City, Bushwhacking and Walkers at the Point


The video above shows Graham Hill, the sharp eco-entrepreneur behind and those supercool, bodega-chic ceramic cups, describing his new venture, LifeEdited, an approach to sustainable living based on living in smaller spaces with much less — albeit extremely expensive — stuff. To practice what he preaches, Hill conducted an international design competition to make a 420-square-foot apartment on Sullivan Street work with some challenging program requirements: it had to seat twelve for dinner and accommodate overnight guests. That apartment, designed by Catalin Sandu, the Hungarian architecture student who won the competition, is now complete, and The New York Times recently visited to check out the digs and to check up on Hill’s lifestyle, philosophy, business model and plans for world domination.

While Hill is a regular on the global confab circuit (TED Talk? Check.), the video above is from the Making Room Symposium, a day-long conference that showcased the results of a design study the Architectural League worked on with the Citizens Housing and Planning Council to demonstrate how outdated regulations inhibit the design and delivery of housing types that conform to contemporary household demographics and demand. For more background on that project, watch this video.

Morphosis, the architecture firm headed by Thom Mayne, has won the competition to design the first building of the CornellNYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island. The 150,000-square-foot building, the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute, will be the first of several that will eventually include labs, classrooms and public spaces to accomodate 10,000 students, and housing for almost 3,000 students and faculty. The campus, which will cover two million square feet on the south side of the island, will be masterplanned by SOM. According to The Architect’s Newspaper, Mayne sees the commission as an opportunity to advance “a new paradigm” for campus architecture and planning. In their winning bid, Cornell had indicated that the first building would be the largest “net-zero energy” building in the eastern United States. So, as plans for the rest of the buildings materialize, we’ll be watching closely to see if this new paradigm foregrounds environmental performance, becomes a playground for high-level experiments in architectural form, or both.

Premiering today is the first of a series of short documentaries sponsored by the SEED network that “showcase the public value of design and exemplary collaborations.” We’ve shared some of the work and approach of SEED (and of SEED co-founder Bryan Bell) before, and applaud the move to include evocative, audio-visual case studies as a tool in building a movement to foster “the belief that design can play a vital role in the most critical issues that face communities and individuals, in crisis and in every day challenges.” The first video is about Ohkay Owingeh, a 600-year-old pueblo on the Rio Grande whose name means “place of the strong people” in the Tewa language of the Pueblo American Indians. Atkin Alshin Schade Architects, of Philadelphia and Santa Fe, has been working with the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority on a preservation plan and rehabilitation that includes training Pueblo students in GPS mapping technology, collecting oral histories from tribal elders, and renovating adobe homes with modern amenities and traditional mud plaster. Upcoming SEEDOCS, to be released over the next few months, include profiles of a farm in New Orleans, a maternity hospital in Rwanda and a school in Peru.

Cloud City, Installation Photo. Photo by Tomas Saraceno, via domus.


Cloud City, an installation by artist Tomás Saraceno, opened this week on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Trained as an architect, Saraceno taps art, architecture and science to contend with questions about our built environment and how we experience and inhabit the spaces that surround us. Cloud City is “a constellation” of “habitat-like, modular structures,” which visitors may navigate through – for up to 20 minutes at a time – from now through November 4. The faceted surfaces are sometimes transparent, sometimes reflective, presenting visitors with snippets of sky, cityscape and rooftop — all at once and not always where they’re supposed to be. Saraceno, as quoted in Domus, describes the effect: “Upside down, Central Park is a flying garden embedded in a cumulus cloud, mirrored buildings and skies appear under your feet, gravity seems to reorient itself, and people are multiplied in patchworks of cloudscape, forming unexpected interconnected networks.” As with last year’s Big Bambu installation at the same site, climbing through the structure can take visitors up to twenty feet above the Roof Garden. Timed-entry tickets are required, and the museum lists a number of attire and medical restrictions that interested parties should review before arriving. Find more information at

New York City Wildflowers Week is coming to an end, but don’t despair! There is still one more weekend of events that demonstrate the incredible variety of the city’s natural systems, far beyond the landscaped parks and gardens that customarily host our experience of the great outdoors. This Sunday, join naturalist Matthew Wills to explore the mudflat, salt marsh, upland meadow and deciduous trees of the Four Sparrow Marsh in Mill Basin, Brooklyn. Register for the event here, and don’t forget your boots, bugspray and favorite bushwhacking implement. Sunday, May 20, 1 – 3 pm. Meet at the parking lot of the Toys R Us, 2875 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn.

A while back, we spoke with Tamara Greenfield and Caron Atlas about the concept of Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts. That conversation focused on Fourth Arts Block in Manhattan, but referenced a handful of other neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. As the NOCD movement gathers steam and begins to make formal recommendations for recognition, regulation and policy coordination, the Municipal Art Society is partnering with the Naturally Occurring Cultural District Working Group (NOCD-NY) to offer walking tours of many of these ecosystems rich in creativity and local investment. First up, one week from Saturday, tour the “village of murals” in Hunts Point, Bronx. Read more and purchase tickets 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.