Thursday, September 26, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Street Life

Last weekend, I was enjoying a nice bike ride with my family along the Jersey side of the Hudson River, from Jersey City to Weehawken. As I had originally mentioned in my first blog, because I’m an architect, who thinks as an architect and who also has a master's degree in urban planning; when I walk, well in this case bike, in the city, I “feel” the city! I then stop and think to myself, how can urban planners, political representatives, developers and also architects, not have any idea how much we can really help  the people who live, work and  use these spaces? If only we were a little more sensitive about public space!

This is a typical example of what I’m talking about. This building is facing the promenade; with beautiful views of NYC from the sidewalk, but there is nothing else that actually motivates someone to walk along there. 

The street level for this building doesn't have anything that makes people want to walk there. This building has the new “mansion” style apartments, this is the new way to name these apartments that have an independent entrance. Beautiful and large windows on the street level. You can only imagine how nice they are inside, but these apartments are on ground level, the better views are on the upper floors. Why do you think Le Corbusier designed Ville Savoye 9 feet above ground? But also, who wants to be on street level and feel the lack of privacy? Picture it, all the windows will definitely have the blinds down.

Sometimes, this is the way that some developers or architects approach the street life, with a separation through stairs, ramps or baranda. 

Is this what people really want? We need to change this approach. It’s time to start thinking about the people who inhabit these spaces. The street life produce encounters and interactions.
Today we live in a  world where we walk with our smart phones in front of our eyes and it makes sense, if what we have to look at is all these buildings.  I prefer to look at my phone as well. My phone or my tablet give me more interaction than this type of city.

It is time to change.  It is time to create spaces and not non-spaces!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Roof Garden Tour

 Giving a Roof Garden Tour at 93 Bright St. this past week to the        Sustainable Jersey City Organization.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Old Sugar Mill of the US Virgin Islands. (The Annaberg Sugar Mill)


When on vacation, you have time to explore the place where you are vacationing. I was in St. John a few weeks ago and I was surprised to see how well they used the old ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Mill to make a high end restaurant.

These old structure were made of daub and wattle. Daub is a type of mortar made of coral, lime and sand that were fired together and then mixed with molasses and mud. Wattle is a woven structure made of the wood from the false coffee bush.The mortar (daub) was packed into the wattle walls like plaster. The old roof was thatched with sugarcane leaves or palm fronds.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Colors of the Caribbean

A few weeks ago I was on vacation on a Caribbean island. I didn't see any pirates! My little son was looking for them, but we couldn't find them. What we did see was lots of beautiful and colorful architecture.

This island has so much colorful architecture and colorful details. I think there are a few reasons why they use color. One reason is because they are very simple buildings, colors give something to look at. Something that makes them stand out. Also, when people use different colors it is a way to say; "Hey... that house is mine!" It is different from my neighbors, at least for its color. It is unique.  
The summer usually inspires warm colors that give you a feeling of relaxation. So, who doesn't want to relax there?!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Walking in NYC

Walking in NYC is always a surprise. Just a few days ago, I was walking to a meeting and suddenly this post called my attention. 

It is always rewarding to see popular art on the street, like this post on the corner of Broadway and 10th st.!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Walking in Miami...

Walking in Miami, a few days ago, I was in Miami beach for a few meetings. New work by JMA is coming in Miami!!... Anyways, walking on Collins ave, I saw this parking garage on the corner of 7th and Collins ave...

It is interesting to see how this parking garage is hidden behind the green wall. You almost don’t know that there is a parking behind that.
We are usually used to seeing a big concrete structure used for parking garages. Some of them are beautiful and some of them are just concrete structure. Some of them are open and some of them are dressed with precast concrete. 
As an architect, when i walk along the urban space, I feel rewarded to see a nice inclusion on the streetscape of the city. I think this is a great approach to the design element of the city!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Let's talk about urban design and urban planning. Let's talk about how wrong a decision will affect the entire city and it's people.
There are 3 main airports that serve the NYC area - JFK, La Guardia and Newark International Airport which is in New Jersey.
A few years ago, the Port Authority of NY and NJ built an airtrain in both the Newark and JFK airport to make it easier for commuters to get to the airport. Maybe they were trying to imitate many airports in Europe where you can get there by train or subway.

What I want to tell you is how it was decided for Newark airport. The Port Authority of NY and NJ built a new commuter rail station for the AirTrain on the New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor Line. They spent millions of dollars building this new facility.This station is located only 5 minutes away from the existing old Pennsylvania Newark Train Station which is also a big transportation tube.

Every train stops at the old station, including the Path, which cost only $1.50 from Midtown Manhattan. There are buses in front of it, taxis and any kind of public transportation. It is a very beautiful and eclectic building.

The new one is in the middle of nowhere. The only way to get there is with the NJ train which cost $7.50 from Penn Station, Manhattan and not every train stops there. Once you are there you are stuck there - no cabs, no subways, no buses, no car access, nothing. Is it not stupid?!

Many times I was stuck there. I remember once after a big snowstorm all the flights were cancelled. I took the Airtran to go back home after my very frustrated attempt to fly to Florida for a wedding. Once I got to the new station, I realized the NJ train didn 't work, the same reason being the snowstorm. I couldn't call any of my friends to pick me up in that station because there was no car access and the air train was not working anymore. So, I couldn 't go back to the terminal.

So, we've learned that traveling with a stroller in the city is complicated, but traveling with a suitcase here is also complicated! Why did these people make this decision?! Every decision made for the city has to be taken with the people of this city in mind. Who are; in the end, the users. It's amazing how such a bad decision can make our lives more complicated. We get used to the idea that the city is not built  to our benefits and this is totally wrong! 

Friday, March 29, 2013

A day with a baby and a stroller in the city...Part Two!

So, in my previous post I started telling you about our journey to the city with a baby and his stroller. That was only the beginning ...

Once we got to the WTC station and after we traveled all over the station taking elevators, we finally reached the street.
We were so happy to find ramps (curb cuts) on every corner of the city. Well, not every corner, but at least most of them.

Unfortunately, our happiness soon ended when we realized that many of the ramps are not maintained. So, we found them almost impossible to use, there was either water or there were potholes everywhere or there were cars parked in front of them. But you know, it's not so complicated to cross a curb. No big deal, at least not for strollers. I don't know about the handicapped, maybe because in this city there are no handicapped people.

We continued our journey through the city. It was time to change the baby's diaper. Our first thought was to use a McDonald's bathroom. Where I am from, McDonald's are very family friendly, very clean and comfortable. Well, McDonald's in NYC is not the best place to do it, at least not the one we went to.

We decided to go to 42nd. street. Of course the best way to get there at 5.00 pm is by Subway. I have to tell you that before making this decision, we waited almost 1 hour to get a cab. I don't know why, there are hundreds of cabs in NYC, but every time you need one, you never get one.

The subway was another complicated journey. No escalator, no elevator, and the turnstiles are the worst! There are emergency exit doors in many stations, also used for the handicapped, but if you open it by yourself, it sets off an alarm. I had to ask an employee next to one of the doors how to use it.
After we finally reached the other side ... more stairs and more work out for us. Well, the trip back home was again a nightmare. But finally.... we were...Home. Exhausted!!!
To have kids or  to live in this city. The two are incompatible!!!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A day with a baby and stroller in the city!

Part One:

I'm the father of a 3 year old boy. The first time we decided to go out and visit the city, he was only a few days old. When I say the city; I mean, "the big City," "The Big Apple,"... NYC. One of the most important city in the world.

So, let's start our journey from the beginning...

Ready to explore the city for the very 1st time!

We live in a very old brownstown in Jersey City, in the area of Hamilton Park. To go to the city, I have to take the Path, which by the way, is really great - very reliable, always on time, and very clean. I have two options, I can take the PATH from Pavonia or I can walk to Grove Street, both are a 10 minutes walk.

We usually like to walk to Grove Street Station. It is a nice walk.
As soon as we get in the entry of the PATH Station, we found that the escalator didn't work, so I took the stroller and carried it down. Once we were downstairs, we realized that the stroller didn't fit through the turnstile. Well, it's good that I am strong men, so we hoisted it again. As soon as we placed it on the floor, a new stair going down appeared. "Where is the escalator???" . Well, dear, there is no escalator, nor elevator, only stairs.

Finally, we get to the train. We took the train to the Work Trade Center site. I knew there was a handicap exit somewhere. I'd read that somewhere before. So we took the elevator at WTC station to the mezzanine level, then we took another elevator to the next level (just a few feet up), and we took another elevator, and finally we took the last elevator to street level.

Four elevators just to get out of the station! At least there are elevators. And it's under construction, so hopefully the new station (by Calatrava) will be accessible for everybody. The NY code requires that every new construction has to comply with ADA requirements.
Already tired of this inaccessible city!

I never realized how complicated it could be to have a child and live in this city. This city is not made for parents with little babies and strollers, nor pregnant women or somebody who broke their leg, old people, nor for people carrying heavy stuff. The city is only for young people, in their fullness of youth, perfectly healthy and athletic.

Thank God, my little boy doesn't use a stroller anymore, so I feel I am part of that group! :-) Other people, keep away from this city!

To be Continued....

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Who I am?!

Hi, I’m Jorge Mastropietro.... Architect!

Since I was very young I knew I wanted to be an Architect. Who knows why.
My favorite thing to play was with blocks, like Lego, but not really lego's, because 40 years ago; Lego's didn’t exist in Argentina and thats where I grew up. I also played with wooden blocks and I absolutely loved it. I used to build towers, castles, and lots of houses.

My father was a Structure Engineer and he used to bring home all his drawing paper and I loved using them as the base of my block projects. So, I don’t know if the Architectural blood just naturally runs inside of me or if in deed it was my father who without knowledge, installed in me the idea to be an Engineer. Well, either way I choose to be an Architect!

Being an Architect makes me see life with  a different eye. I walk in the city and I automatically feel the rush of my Architectural blood kicking in. Growing in Buenos, you learn to walk looking up, because you will always find beautiful domes and beautiful cornices on top of the buildings;
but there are also times you feel you can improve the city. A bad design, a bab planning...

I’m not going to tell you my bio, you can see it on our website.

Now, I’m here working with a beautiful group of people, in which together we want to do something special for the space which is going to be occupied by people.

Welcome to our blog. Hope you enjoy it!